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


28. 27

Even though it was autumn, even though the days should be getting shorter, colder, and less sunny, it was yet another bright and sunny day in Kanto. Though a cool breeze occasionally rustled the mix of green living, and orange and red dead leaves, the day was still pleasantly warm as Ash and his pokémon hiked through the wilderness during the late morning. White clouds bumped into mountaintops that dominated the land, the snow gleaming a bright white as light reflected off of it from the sun.

So how lost do you think Brock and Misty will get? Pidgeotto asked Ash, as she fluttered from branch to branch.

As long as they stick to the main roads or take a bus, they should be fine, Ash answered.

And do you think they'll actually do that? Pikachu asked from Ash's shoulder.

I take it you have a plan to find them after they get lost trying to take a shortcut, Bulbasaur said, walking beside Ash.

Maybe Vulpix could send up a flare? Charmander suggested from Ash's other side.

That would require one of them to admit that they were lost, Pikachu pointed out.

Misty's smart enough to know to stay close to water. We could probably find them by listening to some water pokémon gossip. Squirtle suggested, walking ahead of the group.

I gotta say, that Brock there was darn lucky to just be given a darn pokémon, Primeape said from above, swinging from tree branch to tree branch. Especially one as cute as dat dere Vulpix.

Or to receive a strong bulbasaur, an awesome squirtle, a great charmander, and an overpowered pikachu, Ash said to Primeape. I can't complain about Brock getting a free pokémon; after all I didn't catch most of you guys.

The pokéraised child ducked under a tree branch, tilting his staff to get it under. He quickly checked his hat to make sure it was on alright. Although it didn't seem so, his hat was the only piece of his original wardrobe that he was wearing. Arnold's mother, the woman from HopHopHop town, where the incident with the hypnotism had taken place, had dragged him on a shopping spree to get a new set of clothes that fit. Ash had been able to talk her into getting a bigger version of his current wardrobe. It was nice to have pants that reached down to where they were supposed to again.

Besides, we're assuming that we'll get there first, Pidgeotto told the group. With our luck we'll run into some sort of situation that might necessitate our intervention.

No way, Pikachu replied. The odds of that happening again are basically nil.

Oh really? Let's take a look at what's happened so far, Pidgeotto said before going on to list the unusual events they had participated in, you two, on your first day no less, saved Misty from a flock of killer spearow lead by a crazed, eye hungry fearow. Then the pokémon center you're staying in gets attacked and you have to drive off two skilled members of Team Rocket. These same Team Rocket members later ambush you in both the Viridian forest and Pewter City, where, in the latter city you help to reunite a gym leader with his estranged father. Then there was the Mt. Moon incident, the battle at the Hidden Village, running into the Squirtle Squad, saving Charmander, Team Rocket's attack on the SS. Anne, Team Rocket's attack on the beauty contest, Team Rocket's attack on the butterfree mating flock, and then Team Rocket's attack on Saffron City via Sabrina. After that there were the missing children in HopHopHop town, and then finally, there was what happened back with Suzy and Vulpix. I think it would probably be easier to assume that we're going to run into situations that require our aid.

Actually, four of those last six things had to do with Team Rocket, Ash replied. Plus I'm also being stalked by some skilled members of Team Rocket. I wonder if there's a connection...

Dammed if I know, Pikachu shrugged. I'm saying that it was already improbable that all that happened. The addition of one more event is even more improbable.

Actually, unless there's a connection between the events, the outcome of later events has no effect on the probability of later events occurring, Ash explained. So, the fact that all that improbable stuff has already happened has no bearing on whether or not more improbable stuff will happen. If the earlier events are related to the later ones that might increase their probability of occurring.

So, whatcha sayin is dat we should be ready for sometin strange to happen? Primeape asked his trainer.

No, nothing's likely to happen, Ash answered. I'm just saying that all of the weird things that happened earlier don't automatically make it even less likely that more weird situations will occur.

It was at that point that the group heard a commotion on up ahead. The group instantly jumped into fighting stances, Ash's pokémon rushing in front of him. Sparks danced from Pikachu's cheeks and Charmander's tail as the disturbance grew closer.

Over here, over here, over here! Where is everybody? A high pitched voice shouted. The group soon saw the source of the voice, a thin, brown, dome-like pokémon with a horizontal pink oval for a nose and two black eyes. It was a diglett carving a furrow through the forest floor. It seemed to be running from something. Ash wondered why it didn't simply just burrow away.

He got an answer when a mudkip and a sandshrew burst out of the ground on either side of the small brown pokémon. They must have used Dig to chase the ground type pokémon from under the ground.

Gotcha! The sandshrew shouted, attempting to use Scratch on the diglett. But the pursued ground type ducked underground.

Hey, what's going on here! Ash called out to three pokémon. To the best of his knowledge sandshrew and mudkips didn't hunt digletts. So why were these two pokémon after the ground type?

All three pokémon froze, the diglett halfway back underground, the mudkip ready to pounce, and the sandshrew recovering from its missed attack.

Did that human- the mudkip began.

- just talk properly? The sandshrew finished.

Or are our ears deceiving us? The diglett added.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, heard it all before, Ash replied, rolling his eyes. Can't we just skip this bit and get to the part where you tell me what's going on? I'm pretty sure mudkips and sandshrews aren't predators to digletts.

Uh, well, you see our trainer is helping a construction team drive away or collect these digletts and dugtrios that have been harassing him, the sandshrew answered. Every trainer gets paid about a quarter of the usual gym advancement and the trainer who does the best wins a seven day spa trip.

And why are you and your kin harassing the construction team? Ash asked the diglett.

Long story, but the short version is that their desired dam would have detrimental effects on our own terraforming efforts, the diglett replied. If you want I can tell you more after I escape from these two.

You ain't going anywhere, the sandshrew told the diglett. I'm taking you down right now.

Back off, Ash told the sandshrew. I need to talk to him about what's going on.

Sorry buddy, but our trainer could really use the money, the sandshrew brandished its claws. So you can just go right along before I'm forced to hurt you-

The ground type was interrupted by a greenish blur slamming it backwards. The sandshrew let out a cry of pain as it sailed towards a tree. But before it could hit the tree, two green vines lashed out, wrapped themselves around the airborne pokémon and smashed it into the ground like a rotten pumpkin. The vines then unwound and left the sandshrew lying still in the dirt.

I'd take your friend and leave, Bulbasaur said to the mudkip, who was looking at the bulb bearing saurian with wide eyes.

Yes sir, right away sir, the water type pokémon responded. It scampered over to the prone sandshrew and squirted it in the face with cold water. The sandshrew stirred and the mudkip managed to get under it to prop up the ground type pokémon and help it limp away.

Good riddance, Bulbasaur muttered as the two pokémon left. Honestly it was like he didn't even notice the rest of us.

Well a talking human sort of grabs one's attention, Pidgeotto told her comrade. But, yeah, it was like he didn't even know he was outnumbered, by us and by Diglett's kin. By the way, you can come out now.

Around Ash's group and the diglett that the two pokémon had been chasing the earth surged and about twenty brown heads poked out of the soil.

Wow, I didn't even notice them, Pikachu commented. But then again they are ground types.

Thanks for the save, the first diglett said to Ash, even if it was unnecessary.

You're welcome, if it was unnecessary, Ash returned. So what exactly is happening? What's this about a dam and your terraforming efforts?

The first diglett turned and looked at one of the others, unspoken words being exchanged between the two. And then it turned back to Ash.

As I said it's a bit of a long story. So how about we give you a little show to explain.


Ash and company looked out from the ledge into the wild valley behind the mountain. Not that any human could have guessed that it was wild.

Terraces filled with fresh loamy mud, flowers and saplings being placed with as much care as a mother bird depositing her eggs, streams being diverted to serve as the lifeblood for the birthing botany, it was a marvel of landscaping that was laid out before them. Digletts and dugtrios popped up and down, sometimes carrying plant life and sometimes shaping the earth. The air was alive with calls and instructions, the hustle and bustle of busy pokémon. Appropriately enough there was a rich earthy scent wafting up from the valley.

Wow, Ash repeated. I mean, yeah I heard about what digletts do, Poison Lance told me about it, but seeing it is something else.

No, this is something else, Pidgeotto told her trainer. I've seen a couple of diglett terraforming colonies before when I was hunting by Fuschia City, but this one takes the cake.

Why are there so many digletts and dugtrios in this valley? Pikachu asked. I've also heard about these colonies and this is easily four times the size of them.

It just happened, Diglett answered. You know how these colonies usually form, right? She asked the group.

Wandering digletts and dugtrios stumbled across a suitable habitat and start altering the landscape to encourage the growth of plant life, Ash replied. They also plant the first generation of the flora that will populate the habitat, guaranteeing plant roots for them and their descendants to eat in a couple of years.

The group, plus Diglett, gave him strange looks.

I read a book on the subject once, Ash said, a bit defensively.

Anyway, that's correct, Diglett said. As to how this formed, it's because of the history of this region. From what I've heard from trained pokémon and some electric pokémon at a couple of abandoned power plants, these mountains used to be responsible for a large amount of the power generation for the region around Fuschia City. Everything from hydro power to geo-thermal as well as coal was utilized. The human economy in these valleys was based off of power generation. Then the Great War came and all the power plants and mines became targets, as well as the towns that serviced them. Before the Great War ended the humans had left these mountains. It was then that our ancestors moved in. They repaired the land and the plant-life in various spots, creating habitats for us.

But, then the humans started coming back and resettling these mountains, Diglett continued. Their expansion has pushed us out of these old habitats and deeper into the mountains. Several exoduses found this valley together and that's how this super colony was formed.

Why didn't you defend your former colonies? Bulbasaur asked. I mean you're fighting with the construction workers now so why not -

Because attacking human homes is the surest way to earn a death sentence, Diglett answered. And we didn't attack them then for the same reason two herbivores don't attack each other over food. Land is a resource to compete for, not fight for. It's just that now, they aren't going to be using the land. And it's not just us who will be affected; every pokémon that lives in this valley and in these mountains will suffer if they build that dam.

You're not just thinking about up and leaving? Ash raised an eyebrow. This plan seems to be a bit more long term than wild pokémon usually come up with.

I know, Diglett replied. It just sort of happened with this group. When you have this many intelligent beings working together on something so large, it is inevitable that one acquires some skill with long term thinking.

A though struck Ash.

One second, there's something I want to confirm, Ash said, reaching into the side pockets of his backpack. He took out his pokédex and flipped it open.

"Would you like to register now?" The device said to him. Ash could have sworn it sounded sarcastic.

"Don't have time," Ash selected the register later button. "Uh... let's see, select maps, political maps, show current location... zoom in to confirm... yes we are in League territory." He looked up from the red device. How did they get a permit to build here? There should have been surveyors and they should have been able to tell that building the dam would have humongous negative ecological effects.

The surveyors were probably bribed, Bulbasaur suggested. Some yen changed hands and then whoever wanted this dam built got their permit.

Or they simply didn't find us, Diglett offered. It's not exactly like this is an easy place to find.

Perfect, Ash said, putting the pokédex away. All we have to do is go to whomever's in charge and explain this to them. They'll have to halt while they take another look... or better yet you guys could build the dam in such a manner that it wouldn't flood these valleys. You guys can do that, right?

Yeah, it would only take us about a week with everything we've learned, Diglett answered. But... uh, she winced, we've got other problems.

Beside, Bulbasaur added, your first idea sucked. If they did get the permit via bribery what makes you think that they care about what you have to say? Or that they wouldn't try and quiet you permanently. You're not Brock or Misty, you don't have their official clout. But if Team Rocket is funding this dam with the sole intent of harming the wild pokémon of the valley, your second idea could work. But enough about your idiocy, what's the other problem that we have to deal with?

Remember that contest that the two pokémon chasing me were talking about? Diglett asked Ash. Well that's going on all around these mountains and not every trainer is leaving it at driving us away from the construction site. Some have resorted to knocking us out and even killing us in an attempt to win this competition.

Ash winced. Of course. The digletts were attacking humans. Even if they weren't attacking the people themselves, only the equipment and the dam, it was still a case of wild pokémon causing harm to humans.

Humanity's mastery of lethal force was what kept wild pokémon from attack humans, to either take their food or eat them. Diglett had said it herself, attacking human homes was the surest way for a pokémon to earn a death sentence. Attacking human construction didn't earn an official one, it would seem, but some trainers would feel justified in retaliating in that manner. The fact that there was a contest with a prize didn't help matters much.

Then we best hurry so we can get the guy in charge to call them off, Ash said.

Diglett shook her head.

That won't work, she informed the trainer. There's no communication or anything between the trainers other than the nightly check-ins. We can stop it after today, but that won't help everyone that they're hunting right now.

So what do you want us to do then? Ash asked.

Well, nothing, Diglett replied. You're the weirdest thing to happen to us all day. Just arranging a meeting between us and the humans in charge of construction would be fine.

We can't just let them kill you, Ash protested. There's got to be something we can do!

More than what a couple hundred of us could do? Diglett looked unconvinced.

Well, yeah, I mean I got a team that has a nice type variety and are plenty strong, Ash told her. We can help you with any grass, water, ice, or flying pokémon.

We'll see, Diglett still didn't look very convinced. If we need you before tonight we'll come get you. In the meantime why don't you relax here for a bit?

If you insist, Ash replied, a bit hesitant. He looked around. Where can we set up camp that'll be out of the way?

Over there's fine, Diglett said, inclining her head towards a flat area between where the digletts and dugtrios were working and the pre-existing valley forest. And don't worry about getting in our way, we're not going to get much work done until this situation with the dam is resolved.

Ash and company looked at the terraces skeptically.

Relatively speaking, Diglett corrected herself. Make yourself at home.

Ash and his pokémon set up a small camp and broke out some trail rations while they waited for nightfall.

Remember our earlier conversation about how running into some sort of bizarre situation that required our intervention was improbable? Pidgeotto asked the group as they snacked on their various dishes. Well I'd just like to point out that I was right.

My life is too strange for words, Ash sighed. I mean how come this keeps happening? Is my luck really that weird? I should try gambling sometime to see if I'd always lose or always break the house.

I guess it's just one of the great mysteries of the world, Squirtle shrugged. But its way cool that we keep running into these things.

It does give me plenty of chances to prove that I'm the most awesome electric pokémon in Kanto, Pikachu added. But we can't just dismiss it as one of the great mysteries of the word. We really need to start investigating why this happens at some point.

Well, where should we start? Charmander asked.

Everybody thought for a second, looking upward. And then everyone's heads fell down, as if they were being pushed by black clouds of depression.

I've got no clue, they whined in unison.

"So why did the higher ups want us to help with this dam?" Meowth asked his human companions. The Jessie, James, Meowth, Koffing, and Ekans were sitting around the forest a short distance away from the construction site. "And right now? We just did a bunch of high profile jobs in Fuschia City and to the north. We need a break."

"Evidently the League and the police are still distracted with those cases and they want the dam done before anyone catches on," James replied. "I'm guessing they want to hurry up and rebuild the economy of the region before the good guys can stop them."

"That's why they funded the dam and forged the construction permit," Jessie said cheerily. "So we should do our best and help too. We should find whoever tricked those digletts into attack the dam and kill them."

"And in the meantime we have to drive those digletts away," James continued. "And the best way to is to sneak into the contest."

"But the authorities are going to be looking for a pair of trainers with an ekans and a koffing," Jessie added. "Is there some way we could disguise you two?"

No matter how you slice it, we're an ekans and a koffing, Ekans replied, Meowth translating.

"Then I guess we'll have to leave you two behind and just take Meowth," James said, frowning as he thought. "It's not an optimal-"

Hell no! Koffing protested. You two aren't going anywhere without us!

"Don't worry, we'll have Meowth with us," James tried to reassure his pokémon. "He'll guard our backs."

Nope, not enough, Ekans hissed. You're taking us with or you're not going at all. Are we clear?

"Come on," Jessie pleaded. "It's only covert ops. We could do this asleep."

No way, Ekans hissed. This is one risk we won't take.

Can I talk to you two for a second, Meowth asked. Privately?

Fine, Koffing said, giving James a dark look. The three pokémon left the two humans and gathered together a little ways away.

Why are you guys being so obstinate about this right now? Meowth asked. This isn't the first time they've planned a covert operation where you two aren't involved.

No, but they usually make sure to at least have us with them, Koffing replied. But right now they're planning an operation where we're not in the physical vicinity.

It's not that we don't trust you to keep them safe from others, Ekans told Meowth. But you don't know how to stop them if they get out of hand. You don't know all the little tricks needed to keep them safe from themselves.

They haven't shown any signs of that happening for a very long time now, Meowth replied. They might be completely better now.

I'm not taking that risk, Ekans hissed angrily. Do you know how Jessie was acting when I found her in the wild all those years ago? Like one of those wild non-sentient moving things... animals I think they're called. She was acting like a wild animal. She wouldn't speak, she wouldn't do anything to treat her wounds and burns, and she tried to eat dirt for Arceus sake! Do you know what I had to do to get her to take care of herself, to get her acting like a human being again?

And James wasn't much better, Koffing added passionately. He was just wandering around the swap mindlessly when I found him. He kept walking into trees and things. Then he tripped and simply didn't get up again. He nearly died three times during the first two weeks I spent with him. You have no idea just how bad he was!

I have some, remember, Meowth replied. Ekans you snuck into the city so that you could find me to help with Jessie, remember? And Koffing, we found you in that swamp before you had James talking again. Yeah, I didn't see how bad they were at first, but I was there for a good amount of the work.

And it's your fault that they joined Team Rocket, Koffing growled. Don't forget-

They needed that medical checkup badly and the only way from them to get that was to use that place, Meowth defended himself. I didn't know it was owned by Team Rocket, or that Jessie and James would love the setup, or about their hang up with 'good' and 'evil'. I still say that was the best decision I could have made back then with the information I had back then.

Koffing, just drop it, Ekans told his comrade. Let's just think of a solution to the problem at hand. I don't think it's safe to trick them into quitting Team Rocket yet, but I'm not letting Jessie do this without me. And I know Koffing feels the same way about James.

And you don't think anyone else can keep them both under control, Meowth said diplomatically. We could have them work without each other, but that idea might cause problems of its own. Ergh. If only one of you two was a ditto...

You know, Koffing began. That gives me an idea. He floated over to Ekans whispered something next to his head.

Yes, I think we could pull that off, Ekans responded when Koffing was done explaining his idea. Come on, let's go back to Jessie and James.

Aren't you gonna tell me what your idea is? Meowth asked the two poison types.

You'll see, the snake like pokémon replied.

They made their way back to the humans, who had been making small talk amongst themselves.

"Evidently Ekans and Koffing have come up with a plan," Meowth informed the red haired woman and the purple/blue haired man. "I don't know what-"

He was interrupted by gasps from the two humans, whose expressions were a mix between pained, sad, amazed, and awed. White light infringed upon the edge of his vision. The cat scratch pokémon turned around to see what the commotion was.

Ekans and Koffing had turned into blazing white lights. Their shapes changed, grower larger and adding new features. Ekans elongated and added mass near the head. Koffing swelled and a smaller orb popped into existence on its side.

When the light faded, an Arbok and Weezing were before them.

"You-" Jessie looked on the verge of tears. "-you didn't need to change, not for this little thing."

"Koffing," James said sadly.

It was about time for us to do this anyway, Arbok said, Meowth translating.

You two have been garnering too much attention lately, getting in too many fightsWeezing added via Meowth.

Don't worry, Arbok continued, giving his equivalent of a smile to Jessie. It's still me.

Yeah, it's just a change in form and stats, not who we are, Weezing added, nuzzling James.

"Fine, fine," Jessie sighed, giving a small smile. "You win. You'll come with us this time."

The shareholder's representative, a gray haired man with black sunglasses and a gray suit, looked out over the pokémon trainers busy eating lunch. Some of the trainers that had been hired to take care of the diglett problem had filtered back to the construction site around noon and the idiot head of construction had decided to provide the League scum with a free lunch.

Well, it didn't really matter in the end, the representative thought. So long as the dam got built, on the dollar of a shell corporation that belonged to Team Rocket. As long as that happened the end result would put the mountain area under their control and wiping out the diglett/dugtrio super colony.

When the dam was completed, the local economy would come to depend on the cheap power it provided. Cheap power controlled by Team Rocket. Thus, through their shell subsidiary, Team Rocket would control the local area. They could set up new bases of operation and squash all attempts at investigation.

At the same time the dam would wipe out the ground type super colony. An anomaly like that was troubling. If those monsters could come together and organize like that, they might start spreading those skills, turning them into an even bigger danger than they already were. No, it was better to nip the problem in the bud and exterminate them all.

He scanned the crowd, looking for any sign of his support. The representative had been told that a high level team, the 'Crazies' as they were nicknamed, would be assisting him in dealing with the diglett problem. While he felt that using them in delicate operations such as this one was a bit of a risk, as opposed to their usual job of creating high profile distractions, everyone had to acknowledge their skills. It was only thanks to them that the Saffron City job was accomplished.

Two young blonde women, eating lunch with their pokémon, a meowth, an arbok, and a weezing, caught his eye. He looked at them again and noticed one of them look at him out of the corner of their eye. One of their hands briefly formed a strange shape by their side, a Rocket identification sign, and they returned to eating their lunch.

Interesting, the representative thought to himself, without the hand sign he never would have guessed that those two were the Rockets. Hopefully they would provide some of the carnage they were known to visit on other Rocket operatives.

Diglett carved a furrow through the undergrowth, looking behind him to make sure that the pursuers were just the right distance behind him. He knew that less than fifty yards away a group of his kin was lying in wait.

A growlithe and a vaporeon barked and shouted behind him. Diglett ducked under a gout of flame and dodged to the left to avoid a high pressured stream of water. The thin line of liquid cut a thin line in the ground, slicing through stone and thick tree roots.

It had been intended as a lethal blow.

Too bad that the colony hadn't decided to return in kind.

Well, no, it was best not to bring down the wrath of humanity on the colony. Still it was annoying to have to deal with their lethal attacks without being able to retaliate.

He dove underground, dug forward a couple meters, and then popped back up. There, just ahead, his comrades would be-

He heard cries of pain and vicious cawing. A small flock of pidgeots, pidgeottos, and fearows had descended upon the waiting digletts. The flying types occasionally preyed on digletts and other ground type pokémon and currently they were putting their skills to good use.

Winds carved into the ground, stripping digletts of their protection, and leaving them open to beaks and claws. Drill pecks stabbed into the ground, spearing brown pokémon. Blood flew and digletts died.

Diglett instantly dug deep underground, hoping to escape from the massacre unnoticed. Evidently the slaughter he had witnessed was more tempting to the flying types and his pursuers.

He had to inform the colony of this new development.

"Nice noxious smelling Smog Weezing," James complimented his pokémon as it laid down a cloud of purple smoke that sent digletts fleeing. "That should keep those pesky digletts away until the construction is done."

"Way to get those stragglers!" Jessie cheered on her own pokémon as it chased after the digletts who had retreated underground. "This is pretty easy," the currently blonde woman said to the man disguised as a blonde woman. "I don't know if our help was actually necessary."

"Well, it never hurts," James replied. "Anyway I made sure that the Rocket representative knew we were here. So they can now focus on other issues."

"Maybe we should organize the other trainers," Meowth suggested. "Create an organized effort to get the job done sooner and safer."

"I don't know, how would they determine the winner?" Jessie asked. "In fact, how are they tracking the performances at all?"

"Using these," James explained, holding up a small digital recorder. "The contest is a bit unfair, seeing how filmography skills will factor into the final decisions. I haven't been using it since we don't want any extra attention."

"Well, it's an idea worth looking into," Meowth said. "But you know, I was hanging around by the representative earlier, and I think he might have suggested that to a group.

"We should probably find that group then and join up with them," Jessie suggested. "See if we can get the job done even faster."

The Rockets searched through the forest, making sure to scare off groups of digletts as they went, searching for the trainers working together. Had Meowth bothered to get their scent, the job might have been done easier, but he hadn't thought of it at the time. Thus the group was forced to wander about the mountainside looking for them.

Meowth sniffed the air.

"I smell a lot of blood up ahead," the normal type told the two poison types and the two humans. "I think something may have gone wrong."

Jessie and James nodded, crouching down a bit before moving onward. They continued and came across the scene of the slaughter.

Diglett corpses were strewn about like dolls at a landfill, the space between them filled with blood. There were holes and cuts in the ground. With the blood of the digletts everywhere it looked like the earth itself was bleeding.

"Why would they do this?" Jessie shouted angrily, standing tall and defiant before the scene. "We were only supposed to drive them away from the dam, not kill them all!"

"They were just being mischievous," Jame's hands turned into fists. "This, this is going too far!"

"This won't get them extra points," Meowth said, tapping his chin as he thought, unfazed by the carnage. He had seen worse, both before and after meeting Jessie and James. "There's no reason for the trainers to do this, unless something has changed. But what?"

"The good guys must have infiltrated the construction crew," Jessie exclaimed. "They must have lied to the trainers as they were setting out."

"It looks like we have to abandon this part of the operation then," James stated. "We'll need to go back to camp to find the perpetrator and kill them."

Gary Oak watched Nidorino, Eevee, and Warturtle chase off another group of digletts with sharp eyes. The grandson of the famous pokémon professor was confused about the situation.

Despite the impression he sometimes gave Gary Oak was not unintelligent. Just the opposite in fact. His grandfather had privately postulated that his grandson's strange behavior was due to the intelligence he had inherited.

And currently, his keen mind was telling him that something was wrong with the whole situation. Oh, the idea of digletts harassing humans wasn't that odd; if someone stumbled into the heart of a diglett colony the digletts would drive them away. But most colonies had nowhere near the numbers he had seen thus far. None of the towns he had passed through before hearing about the contests had mentioned any diglett problems. He would have asked some of the other trainers for more information, but almost all of them had come via bus.

And why was their even a diglett colony in the area? It was something that would most likely preclude the construction of the dam. But they had a construction permit, thus implying that a surveyor had been through the area and had determined that the dam would have little effect on the local ecosystem.

Could the diglett colony have moved in recently? Possibly but then they would have probably left the area than compete with humans, And what about their numbers? What was the explanation there?

The purple shirted trainer frowned. He would have to dig deeper into this situation.

So then the dratini goes 'that's not my sister', and then she points at the gyarados that looks like it wants to Dragon Rage me six ways from Sunday, and says 'that's my sister!

Ash and his pokémon laughed. They were sitting around, Ash on a rock he had dragged over, swapping stories.

So how'd you get out of that one? Pikachu asked.

Well, as it turned out- Bulbasaur began.

Hey, Ash! We need to talkDiglett called out, popping out of the ground in the middle of the group. Her sudden entrance startled everyone, causing Ash to fall of his rock with a cry.

Owwwww, Ash moaned, rubbing the back of his head as he picked himself up.

Sorry, but it's an emergency, Diglett said.

What is it? Pidgeotto asked. I thought the colony had everything in hand until tonight.

We did, Diglett answered. And then a bunch of trainers with highly evolved flying types decided to work together to exterminate us.

Exterminate as in kill? Charmander asked, a bit frightfully. Ash remembered that he had the least experience with situations like the current sort.

Exactly, Diglett confirmed. We're sorta stumped at this point.

Give me the details, Ash said, frowning in concentration.

A flock, somewhere between seventeen and thirty-five, consisting of pidgeottos, pidgeots, and fearows, according to the reports. Arial attacks break the group of digletts. Assorted land bound pokémon move in to finish up the fight. Diglett didn't have any more information.

Ash gazed off into the distance as he pondered this information.

I think one of our original assumptions was off, he said, thinking aloud. They do have some sort of communication before nightfall. I wonder if it's not too late to go to the site and get them to call it off...

This is starting to smell fishier and fishier, Bulbasaur stated. And it ain't fun not having the whole picture. We need to know what's changed back at the site and who's behind this damn dam. Ash, we're not going until night when most people there are asleep. It's way too dangerous otherwise.

But we can't just stand here and let them go around killing digletts! Ash protested. And if this escalates, then there's no hope for the colony. We need to do something...

You just had an idea, didn't you! Pikachu exclaimed excitedly, scrambling up his trainer to stand on Ash's shoulder. Come on, let's hear it.

Well, it's mostly Squirtle's idea, Ash told his first pokémon. Remember how we met?

I remember something about your foul mouth, Squirtle smirked. And the Squirtle Squad's awesome trap!

A pitfall trap? How would that even work on a group as large as this? Pikachu asked. And what's it supposed to do to the flying types?

It's not supposed to do anything to the flying types themselves. It's to stop their trainers! Ash answered. If we could somehow fill it with some water to stun them all at once using Pikachu...

The hole would have to be large enough so that everyone has a bit of room, Diglett said, mainly to herself. But constructing an effective pitfall trap that size is pretty much impossible. It'll only catch a couple of the pokémon and trainers.

You're going to have to build it under them, Ash told her. It's going to be a bit dangerous; you're going to have to have a decoy group.

And how are we supposed to do it while under attack by those flying types? Diglett asked. They know how to hunt us.

That's where we come in, Ash informed her. Pikachu here knows Thunder, Bulbasaur and Squirtle have had plenty of experience, Primeape's strong, and Pidgeotto's our ace.

What about me? Charmander asked.

This isn't your sort of fight, Ash told his fire type.

Claws raked at the fading fire type.

A tail flame so weak, fluttering and dying in the wind and rain.

The human patted Charmander's head.

The next gym is supposed to be a poison type one, Ash said to Charmander. You can fight then.

Alright, Charmander said a bit sourly. He was getting stronger thanks to Ash. He'd show him one of these days.

But we should still distract everyone while they start to dig the pit, Bulbasaur told Ash. Lead them on a merry chase and then, when they're nice and tired, spring the trap on them!

Pidgeotto, you want to help me with this? Pikachu asked. We can engage them in the air again.

Sure thing, Pidgeotto replied. It'll be just like at Butterfree's mating flock.

Alright, then it's settled, Ash said. Err, wait, sorry, this plan fine with you Diglett?

I'll have to ask around, but I'd start preparing, Diglett replied. She paused for a second. Just one question? Why are you so eager to help? This could be, probably will be, very dangerous. What's in it for you?

I go where the idiot goes, Pikachu answered.

Helping folks is cool! Squirtle said. Besides, it's a chance for some action!

I've got nothing better to do, Pidgeotto replied.

Pokémon trainers are supposed to help, Ash told her. Besides, it's the right thing to do.

The world is an awful, dark, shitty cesspit, Bulbasaur responded, and I really hate it. Doing things like this is a little bit like hitting it in the face.

... I'm just along for da ride, Primeape shrugged.

I guess those are as good of answers as any, Diglett said with a small smile. I'll go talk to the colony now.

It's too bad we're not doing this at night, Pikachu told Pidgeotto as she rode a column of hot air upward. I could shout my name and say that I'm casting them from my heavens.

You know Pikachu, Pidgeotto said. The sun is technically a star. You could say something like that when we confront them anyway.

Does 'Sparks Between the Stars' really make you think of the sun? Pikachu asked. It's a nice idea, but I don't think it'll work.

So what are you going to say to them instead? Pidgeotto asked, her keen eyes sweeping the skies for any sign of the flock they were chasing.

I don't know, Pikachu admitted. Maybe I'll just stay silent.

You? Pidgeotto in a false shocked tone. You stay silent as some point? Quickly, are the Hands of Arceus tearing apart the world and reaching up to snuff out the stars themselves?

Ha-ha-ha, Pikachu glared at his friend. You're just lucky that we're so high up so I can't risk shocking you.

I know, Pidgeotto replied, somehow smirking with a beak. Anyway I think I've found them. Hang on tight.

The flying type banked and traded a bit of altitude for speed, darting through the air towards a group of dark shapes heading towards them from the afternoon sun.

Get behind them please, Pikachu asked, squinting. I'm not sure I can target them like this.

Remember we're just trying to distract them right now, Pidgeotto reminded him as they closed in on the flock. The other flying types were simply soaring in a circle, no doubt waiting for signals from down below to dive into action. Save the knockouts for when they're lower and after we've got the trainers pinned down.

Gotcha, Pikachu said, keeping an eye on the circling flying types.

What are you doing? A pidgeot asked as the duo flew by. I mean, what good is an electric type going to do against ground types?

Nothing, Pidgeotto replied.

Against flying types? Pikachu's cheeks sparked as Pidgeotto turned around. Everything!

Gary Oak looked over the map his pokédex was displaying. There were actually a couple maps overlaid with each other, the types constantly changing as Gary's fingers danced over the controls. He also tried to remember what the local area, towns included had been like.

Unlike his deceased parents Gary Oak hadn't specialized in any particular field, well other than pokémon training. He had picked something up from everything that had caught his passing fancy. He was putting those acquired skills to good use analyzing the information on his screen.

"How the hell did this plan get approved?" He asked himself.

"Eve eevee e!" his pokémon spoke up.

"War, war, turtle warturtle," Warturtle added.

"I mean if I'm looking at this right, most of these valleys will be underwater if that dam is constructed," the pokémon trainer continued. "I would ask if the head of construction bribed some surveyors, but I don't think he's the sort of guy to even consider it..."

And then there was the sudden use of lethal force by a group of trainers. Gary could understand where they were coming from, but he felt it was far too hasty of them. And it wasn't like the digletts had proven themselves to be dangerous.

In fact why was there a sudden change? Gary had talked with the trainers earlier. They didn't seem to be the type to do that without reasonable provocation. And why had they decided to band together? Considering the contest, it was counterintuitive, and, from his earlier impression of the man, the head of construction would be horrified by the use of lethal force.

What had changed between yesterday and today?

The arrival of the shareholder's representative!

It was purely speculation of course, but it fit. He was the new variable in the equation. If someone really wanted the dam built, badly enough to kill possibly innocent pokémon, then they would also be willing to bribe or forge the permits. And the representative would be the person who had the most contact with every area of construction, from material acquisitions to hiring to the construction job itself.

Gary had no answer to the possible motivations for the representative's suspected behavior, but it couldn't be good.

The Oak boy stood up, putting his pokédex away. Eevee, Warturtle, and Nidorino looked up as he did so.

"Guys, we're going to need to put a stop to this mess," Gary said to his pokémon. "Something's not right. Eevee, do you know where the group is?"

One of the normal's types ears twitched and Eevee gestured with his head.

"Come on, we've got to get them to call it off for now!"

Gary and his pokémon raced through the forest, Eevee leading the way. About ten minutes into their run, they came across their target.

The group of trainers was standing around, trying to figure out which way to go. Maps were out, arms were crossed, and their pokémon were either lying about or playing with each other. A couple of the humans looked over when Gary approached. They looked at him suspiciously.

Gary quickly thought about how to approach the situation. He really didn't want to say who he was exactly. It felt too much like he was relying on his grandfather's reputation. He had no problem saying it before a battle, or before he attempted to do something awesome, but that was him caring for the Oak legacy and creating his own.

But on one hand it might make things easier...

But, on the other, it might seem like pointless bragging and alienate the trainers. Gary decided not to introduce himself.

"Guys!" He shouted to the group. "I need to talk to you all!"

First he needed to find out why they were suddenly killing the digletts.

'What?" One of the trainers replied, a red haired boy. His body was tensed, like he was anticipating a fight. Gary got the impression that he wasn't welcome. "If you want tips you can forget it, it's still a contest-"

"No, no, no," Gary responded, shaking his head. "I need to know why you all decided to go as a group and why you're killing the digletts now."

"Didn't that one guy tell you?" A different trainer spoke, a green haired boy this time, also looking ready for violence. "You know the one with the suit and sunglasses? These diglett have been attacking the towns in these mountains. They've caused rock-slides, mudslides, and directly attacked lone humans or trained pokémon. They're the ones who started the killing, not us." He sounded almost defensive.

Gary frowned. That definitely wasn't true, but there was no way for these trainers to know that. They hadn't been to the towns. But it explained their attitudes somewhat.

"No, I didn't know," Gary replied slowly. "I passed through a lot of the towns around here before I heard about the problems with the dam. None of them said anything about any diglett problems. And why'd you guys form a group? If it's still a contest-"

"Sunglasses guy said that the rules have changed," the red head answered, stepping forward and glaring at Gary. His tone became cold and hard. "Everyone in the group gets the group's total score and there'll be a tournament later to determine who gets the prize."

"Really? I never heard anything about that." Gary's eyes narrowed. "Guys, I'm pretty sure something's fishy about this-"

"Oh, come on!" Another trainer moaned, this time a twenty something young man with golden brown hair. "Are you really trying this old trick? Convince us that something's wrong, get us to stop, and have a different group beat us? Or are you trying to split us back up because you've got the best individual score? Does the fact that these digletts have been killing people and pokémon even matter to you?"

"I'm saying that they haven't," Gary snapped. This was not good. Very not good. The trainers were overemotional, probably due to the misinformation they had received and their battles. For pokémon trainers killing any sort of pokémon was very stressful. It was no wonder they were short tempered and apparently violent. He really should have seen this coming. "Did anyone take a look at-"

"Just shut up!" A black hair girl shouted. They must have been almost looking for an excuse for violence. This was exactly why the League had trained, licensed professionals handle any task that involved killing pokémon. The League knew they could handle the psychological stress. Of course that didn't stop non-official efforts like this one and the consequences that came with it.

"This is pretty low," the black haired girl continued, growling. "Disgusting even. We should teach you a sharp lesson for this shit."

Very not good indeed.

His pokémon rushed in front of him, snarling, bristling, and ready for a fight, but were outnumbered, and frankly outclassed. There were several older trainers in the group with pokémon stronger than Gary's. The odds of him even escaping were not good.

Gary slowly began to reach for his other pokéballs, slowly stepping back while the others advanced, some taking out various weapons...

"Feeeeeeeearooooooow!" There was a painful sounding cry and a crackling buzz from above them. Everyone looked up.

An oddly shaped yellow and brown blur passed overhead, trailing bolts of yellow electric power that snapped out of it like striking snakes. Behind it the flock of evolved flying types gave chase, darting and dodging to try and avoid the electric attacks. They were not always successful; the cry had come from a fearow who had taken three bolts of a Thundershock along the neck, chest, and left wing.

The blur suddenly reversed and dove down through the trees, skimming over the heads of the trainers. The flock was caught off guard by this sudden reversal. No doubt if they only had to worry about flying they would have been able to handle the maneuver. They were highly trained and highly experienced pokémon. But an aerial chase that involved dodging electric attacks? That was something unusual, even for them.

That was why the pidgeots, pidgeottos, and fearows cried out in pain as zig-zagging bolts of yellow light found them. It wasn't enough to knock any of them out of the sky but it hurt them, disoriented them, and they wouldn't be able to function at one hundred percent after the attack.

Gary got a good look at the blur as it went past. It was a pidgeotto and a pikachu. The pikachu looked very familiar for some reason.

It was Aaron's! His rival was here! But what was he up to?

Could he be trying to sabotage this group so that he or his group could win?

No, Gary dismissed the idea right away. His honorable rival would never do such a thing!

Aaron must have realized that something was wrong and decided to also try and stop the contest.

Gary nodded to himself, the thoughts flashing through his head before the wind from Pidgeotto's passage had even begun to die down. Aaron would have a plan, hopefully something that would work better than his own.

Seizing the opportunity presented by the other trainer's surprise, Gary retreated.

"Come on!" the grandson of the Pokémon Professor shouted to his pokémon. They turned tail and joined his flight before the other trainers or their pokémon could react.

He was taking an even bigger risk by doing this, he knew. Those trainers would have no hesitation in attacking him if they thought he was participating in an attack on their pokémon. But he trusted Aaron. His rival would not let him down.

I think that was Gary down there, Pikachu idly commented, before slapping a pidgeotto away with a mild Thundershock.

You mean that weird kid who declared Ash as his rival? Pidgeotto asked, doing a barrel roll to avoid an Air Cutter. Really? Huh, small world.

Yeah, Pikachu replied, hanging on tight and interrupting what looked like a monstrous Gust attack with a Thunderbolt. By the way, one's getting a Hyperbeam ready at seven o'clock.

Thanks, Pidgeotto dove to the left, the wind from her descent forcing Pikachu's ears down, his eyes to a squint, and his tail straight behind him. A few seconds later she and Pikachu were bathed in bright white light as the beam of destructive energy passed overhead. Pikachu glared back and lashed out with tendrils of electricity. The pursuing group was momentarily scattered.

Just saving my tail as well, Pikachu responded. He glanced around. Smoke! It's the signal!

A thin line of black smoke reached upwards from the mountain forests below. Charmander would have lit a small pile of wood when the digletts were ready.

Down! Pikachu ordered. Pidgeotto complied, rolling over and flipping back. She shot downward, forcing the reforming group of pursuers to change course before they could finish reorganizing. She pulled up just above the forest canopy, the air disturbed from her passage knocking off dead and dying leaves.

Do you have enough energy left for the Thunders? The flying type asked the electric type.

Of course! Pikachu replied. I'm not an amateur!

A blast of cutting wind split a tree right beside them. A Hyperbeam cut into the forest floor ahead of them, forcing Pidgeotto to bank left.

Then start knocking them out before they kill us! Pidgeotto shouted.

Fine! A column of electricity corkscrewed upward, engulfing a diving Fearow that was seconds away from spearing them. It shrieked in agony as energy coursed through it, burning feathers, and making its muscles dance a spastic, twitching jig.

There, you happy? Pikachu asked as the fearow crashed into the branches behind them.

It's better, Pidgeotto replied. But there are still a lot of them back there. Can't you do something about them as well?

You're never satisfied are you? Pikachu grumbled. More electricity crackled and buzzed; more flying types fell out of the air. It's always one thing after another.

Down below Gary Oak and his pokémon were running for their lives. Behind them they could hear the baying of pokémon and the angry shouts of trainers. Overhead they could hear the buzz of electricity and the cries of flying type pokémon.

This way! A diglett popped out of the ground and gestured with its head. We heard what you guys tried to do! Tell your trainer to follow us and we'll keep you safe!

Eevee nodded and changed course. Warturtle and Nidorino did likewise.

"Hey!" Gary shouted, scrambling to follow. "What's going on?"

A Bubblebeam shot past his legs, blasting the bark off a tree as it continued onward.

"Whatever works!" He sprinted off after them.

More digletts popped out in front of the other trainers and their pokémon, throwing Mud Slaps at them. A barrage of other special attacks countered most of the barrage, but a couple mud balls got through. People and pokémon swiped at their eyes and growled. The digletts took off after Gary.

Digletts popped in and out of the ground in front of Gary's group, acting like living landing lights. They guided the group over gullies and creeks, over dips and rises, between trees, through clearings, and towards the pitfall trap.

Gary stopped for a second, to catch his breath. While he was panting he turned around. The group of trainers and their pokémon was closing in, fast! And they were covered in scratches, mud, and dirt. The digletts hadn't been making it easy for them to follow.

Come on, just a bit further! A diglett called out to his pokémon. Eevee tugged on his pant legs. Gary looked down, smiled, and nodded. He didn't know how much further he could go or how far it was until Aaron's plan paid off, but as long as his pokémon were with him, he had no fear.

He took off again, muscles screaming, lungs desperately scrambling for air. The digletts were leading them to a large grass covered clearing. Other than the Pikachu and Pidgeotto overhead there was still no sign of Aaron.

Gary took a moment to mentally compliment his rival. A lone Pikachu would have a very difficult time being a threat to a group of evolved flying types. Pikachus had a hard time tacking hits and could only get so many of the flying types with a single attack. The rest would get through and swiftly finish off the Pikachu. If they decided to engage at all that was, they could instead simply stay out of a pikachu's range. But those problems were solved by having a nimble enough flying type carry the electric type.

A singed pidgeot crashed into the clearing as if to prove his point.

There would be no cover in the clearing. He would have to cover as quickly as he could or they would take him down. Gary threw himself into a sprint, throwing his last dregs of energy into the action. For a moment the effort washed away the pain, the tiredness, the lack of breath, everything but the action of running.

Green land blurred around him, vision slowly narrowing due to lack of oxygen. It was for that reason that he missed one of the diglett holes. His foot caught; Gary Oak tripped and fell.

The grass felt so good. The purple shirted trainer just wanted to lie there until his heart calmed down. But the happy shouts and growls of his pursuers reminded him why that was a bad idea.

He pushed himself to his knees and glanced back. A growlithe and a vaporeon had opened their mouths, preparing to blast him and his pokémon with special attacks. His Growlithe had turned around, orange light spilling out of his mouth as he prepared to do likewise. Nidorino and Eevee had turned around, hoping to grab or shield their trainer. None of them would make it in time.

Which was why Gary was very happy to see a hail of leaves slash at the vaporeon and a jet of water fill the enemy growlithe's mouth. Aaron had finally arrived.

Gary felt something wrap around his waist and then hoist him up.

"Gary! Why are you here?" He heard Aaron shout. "And why are they chasing you?"

Special attacks flew through the air as the trainers and their pokémon charged, targeting the source of the voice.

Later! Bulbasaur shouted as he carried Gary off. Everyone, covering fire!

Fire, water, and balls of mud flew from the other side of the clearing. Special attacks from the other trainers flew back. Bulbasaur charged through the crossfire, shrugging off the occasional blast, swinging Gary about to keep the human safe. A fire attack nearly took off an eyebrow, a Razor Leaf cut his shirt, and a Water Gun brushed by his calves, but Gary was kept unharmed.

Bulbasaur reached the other side and stashed the exhausted trainer behind a tree.

It's clear! Bulbasaur shouted. And they're in position! Spring it!

A diglett popped underground.

Five seconds later the clearing collapsed, the trainers and their pokémon falling into the pit. It wasn't too deep; the fall wouldn't even knock the breath out of some of them. But it would be hard for them to get back up. Streams of water began to gush from the sides, splattering all over the pokémon and trainers, turning the dirt walls into mud.

"Pikachu!" Ash shouted skywards, where his flying type and his electric type did battle.

A single Thunderbolt snaked out of the sky into the middle of the pit. Electricity flowed through the running waters and into the wet inhabitants. The pit was filled with yellow light and cries of pain.

"Now, Squirtle! E-Mist!" Ash's voice sounded out again.

Pidgeotto and Pikachu dived down, the remaining members of the flock hot on their tail. They positioned themselves over the pit so that their pursuers couldn't hurl special attacks at them without risking their trainers.

At the same time, Squirtle stepped up to the edge of the pit. He reared back, looked up, and then let out a spray of semi-fine mist, and kept spraying.

Pidgeotto pulled out of her dive, flew over the water type's head, spun around, and then unleashed a Gust attack. The swirling winds picked up the airborne water droplets and carried them upwards, into the diving enemies.

Gary looked at the expressions on the diving flying types. They knew that the next couple seconds were going to hurt.

Pikachu jumped off of Pidgeotto's back. He curled up, cheeks sparking as he built up power, and then suddenly uncurled, letting loose a massive Thunder attack at the same time. The column of electricity let off a buzz that was more like a roar as it spread through the tornado, through the droplets. It followed the path of the winds and ended up passing through the flock.

They joined their trainers in the pit with a series of squelches and splashes.

"Wow," Gary panted. "But then again I expected no less from my honorable rival! This merely proves that I made the correct choice-"

"Why are you here?" Ash asked his oldest human friend. "And why were they after you?"

Gary cleared his throat.

"Like you, I determined that there was something wrong with this set up," Gary explained. "Particularly when lethal force was being used. I confronted the group about what was happening, but they had been lied to and told that the digletts had started the killing first. They accused me of attempting to sabotage their chances of winning the contest and may have used violence on me. But most fortuitously, your Pikachu and Pidgeotto started their attack, and I used the distraction to attack. I think the digletts may have told my pokémon to follow them, but I simply followed my pokémon."

Gary took a breath.

"But what I must ask, is how did you figure out something was wrong?" The purple shirted trainer asked the black haired one.

"Saw a diglett being chased by pokémon who didn't want to eat it, drove them off, had Pikachu talk to the diglett, they took me back to their colony, and then I played a lot of charades," the boy called Aaron and named Ash answered.

"I see," Gary nodded. "You must be pretty close to your pokémon to be able to understand them so well," he praised his rival. "But what exactly is the problem with the dam? Why are the digletts harassing the workers?"

"Because it will flood their home," Ash replied. "I'm going to try and talk to some people at night, try and compromise with them. The diglett can build the dam for them."

"That seems like an interesting idea," Gary slumped against a tree. "Mind if I tag along?"

"If you want," Ash responded, a bit puzzled. "We'll have to wait until sundown though."

The Rocket operative, the shareholder's representative, growled. It was dinnertime and reports had begun to file in. The group he had set about killing digletts had ceased all operation. Individual trainers were reporting little success in driving them off. And he hadn't heard anything from the damn reinforcements!

He paced by the river that they were supposed to be damning. He needed to think of a solution to all these problems or Team Rocket's entire plan would fail-

"It was you wasn't it," he heard a female voice say. Alarm shot through him and he turned on the spot, ready to either fight or lie his way out of the situation.

But before he could do anything he found a foot in his stomach.

Stars danced in his eyes, obscuring his assailant.

"You're the one who tricked them into killing the digletts!" This time it was a male voice and the representative felt the edge of the man's hands hit a rib. It shattered under the blow, sending fiery spikes of pain through his body.

"You're a double agent! You dirty traitor!" The woman again, this time with a knee to the sternum. His sunglasses fell off and he tried to hold his chest. But someone caught his right arm.

And snapped it at the elbow. Before he could even scream though, a heel crushed his throat.

"Thought you were so clever, didn't you, Mr. good guy," the man said again, even as the representative tried to get air into his collapsed windpipe. The man tried to look up, but he felt an arm curl around his neck, a hand grab his chin, a yanking sensation-

James pushed the body down.

"Don't dump it there," Jessie scolded him, "we should toss it in the rivers. We don't want his League masters finding out about his death until it's too late."

"Right!" James replied cheerily. He picked up the body and tossed it into the river. "Now, we just need to report to headquarters."

"I'll write the report," Meowth said quickly. It was what he always did when the current sort of situation occurred. He had to spin the situation in such a way that the higher ups simply wouldn't care. It was easier when they weren't officially assigned to the operation where the casualties occurred then he could just write a report denying their involvement with lots of big fancy words that Jessie and James wouldn't catch on to.

It was a lot of work.

But it was worth it and so much more to keep them safe.

The bus's breaks screeched as it came to a halt by the construction site. The door slid open and Brock and Misty exited.

"So why are we stopping here again?" Misty asked Brock.

"There's been some talk about a problem with wild pokémon, murders, and other events," Brock responded. "Since we're in the area, and Aaron isn't with us, I figured we could take a day to see what all the fuss was about."

Misty took a look around.

"What's with all those news vans?" the red haired trainer asked the former gym leader. "And where are all the workers?"

"Must be a press conference," Brock said, also looking around. "Come on, it must be by the actual dam."

They looked around and found what looked like a heavily traveled trail. The two took it through the forest and came out by an overlooking view.

Before them they could see the dam. It wasn't like any dam they'd ever seen before or even read about. It wasn't made out of concrete, or squared rock, or any human sort of construction material. Instead it was made of stones and some sort of hardened earth. And yet it showed no sign of stress as the river rushed against it.

Brock looked downstream a little and saw a partially completed dam that did look like it had been made by humans.

"I wonder what happened here," he asked aloud. "Come on, let's find everyone."

They continued along the trail for a bit, until they heard voices. Brock and Misty picked up the pace a little and came to a stage, set up by the bottom of the dam. Workers and reporters were gathered all around it and there was a purple shirted young man at the podium. The boy from Pewter City and the girl from Cerulean City recognized him as Gary Oak.

"Of course, while I may have helped with the negotiations between the head of construction, and with pokémon/human relations during the construction," the boy was saying, "all of this was only possible thanks to my honorable rival, who has already left to continue on his journey and would prefer not to be mentioned by name."

Misty winced.

"You don't think," she began.

"No, I refuse to believe it," Brock's eye twitched. "He was just walking to Fuschia City. There's no way he could have gotten entangled in something like this. It was just a couple of days!"

"Yeah," Misty agreed half-heartedly. "Maybe he's talking about some other trainer that he calls his 'honorable rival'"

"His brilliant use of electrical-" Gary continued.

"Arceus dammit Aaron!" Brock and Misty face palmed in unison.

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