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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It was a simple plan, as the best and worst plans often turned out to be. What they assumed was the child and his Pokémon mother were standing outside the main body of the herd. If they could remove the rest of the herd from the picture it would make capturing the child much easier and more efficient. The Safari Zone Ranger and what they assumed were visiting trainers were considered the lesser threat beside the large, violent, and protective Pokémon.

Team Magma decided that the best course of action would be to incite a stampede. If they could get the herd moving, then taking the child would be much simpler. Being Team Magma they had the ability to create explosions on hand.

Barclay had been dispatched. Alice had reasoned that his pyromania balanced with his love for Pokémon would be best suited for the task. He had snuck through the tall grass to get close to the herd, keeping his profile as small as he could manage.

He selected a pair of Pokéballs from his belt. They might not have contained fire types, but Barclay appreciated and loved their contents no less for that fact. They had alternate methods of helping the world to burn.

"Go Bang. Go Boom," whispered the golden haired man. White light blazed within the tall grass and a pair of Voltorbs rolled to attention.

"Boom, I need you to roll twenty meters that way." The human pointed. "And Bang, ten meters that way. Two minutes after you leave I want you both to use Fire Blossom. Don't overdo it and hurt yourselves too much. Then I'll recall you. Got it?"

"Vol voltorb!" Bang replied cheerily, eyes closed and nodding its body.

"Torb," Boom answered, inclining its body in acknowledgement.

"Thanks," the golden haired man smiled. His face softened and for an instant he seemed at peace as he gazed at his Pokémon. It was a natural smile, unlike the one he wore when gazing upon fire, a smile that would not seem out of place on a father, mother, or elder sibling. And then the gentle smile vanished, replaced by his typical insanity.

"Now, go. If we can pull this off we'll be even closer to our goal!" He struggled to keep his voice down.

Neither of the two Voltorbs cared about the goals of Team Magma. They only cared about their trainer and getting stronger. There were other Pokémon trained by Barclay that cared about such things.

They went to their positions as more Pokémon were released and Team Magma waited in the tall grass. The two counted down the seconds as they had been trained to. Time passed until it was their time.

Energy swelled up in the two voltorbs, too much for them to handle, too much for them to safely hold. Yet they held onto it anyway, summoning even more energy. Overloading was the basis behind Explosion and Self-Destruct. If done properly the Pokémon could overload themselves without crossing a dangerous threshold and release the energy without the risk of permanent damage. They would still hurt themselves and would most likely be out of the battle, but they would recover. Despite precautionary measures- either by accident or desperation- they could cross that critical threshold and release an even greater blast. But they would die.

Barclay had worked with his Voltorbs to develop a particularly fiery version of Explosion and had named it Fire Blossom. Fire Blossom was a two stage process where the Pokémon would first perform an Explosion that consisted almost entirely of thermal energy, simply dumping that power into the space around the Pokémon. Then, almost immediately afterwards, they would perform a second Explosion, releasing as much kinetic energy as they could in the attack. It was a dangerous technique to perform. They had trained for years to be able to use it safely.

If there had been an observer watching the Voltorbs in slow motion they would've been able to see the air shimmer and warp around the two as the first stage was performed. They would've been able to see the grass around the two flare, blacken, and wilt in a slow irregular circle centered around each Voltorb. And then they would see each pokémon glow briefly before the world was consumed by light.

Fire blossomed in two places by the edge of the herd of kangaskhans. The shock wave swept down upon the grass and roared a great loud and primal sound that few beings could equal. Twin beams of red light shot out, retrieving the voltorbs as the fires began to spread.

Kangaskhans roared in panic. Instinct took over and the herd moved away from the explosion, picking up speed. Their basic natures told the kangaskhan that they were under attack, that their young were threatened, that they should join together in a living battering ram to crush all those who stood between them and safety.

"Move!" Ranger Jenny shouted, forgetting about the danger from the people she was warning and rushing forward to push them out of the way. In Brock and Misty's case, it was unnecessary. In Tommy's case, World Burning Mother knew how to protect him. Ash, on the other hand, the furthest away from the ranger and the closest to the herd, was unprepared for the stampede.

"Woah!" The pokéraised child exclaimed as he felt the huge mass of kangaskhans rush by. He turned to see what the commotion was all about, not realizing the danger approaching.

Idiot! Pikachu shrieked. He bit his trainer on the ankle to try and get the human to move away.

Ash yelped and jumped away from the pain, but not quite out of danger. That bit was handled by Jenny, who grabbed him and bodily threw/shoved him away from danger. Pikachu darted forward after his trainer, barely escaping being crushed. Primeape and Magikarp dodged around for a little bit, before Ash managed to retrieve his wits and recall the two of them to their Pokéballs.

"Onix, defend!" Brock ordered as he released his Pokémon. The stone serpent bellowed its acknowledgement and swiftly moved between the source of the explosions and the humans plus World Burning Mother, carving a furrow through the tall grass and the earth beneath.

The order came none too soon. A pair of houndooms exploded out of the tall grass, mouths full of fire, eyes shining with a lust for battle. Ash went pale at the sight.

Flames washed over Onix with no effect as the two pokémon tried to worry his flanks. But since the two pokémon hadn't been able to hurt him with the skills they had displayed, the stone serpent made sure they didn't get past him.

Alice and Christopher observed a little ways off.

"The child is staying with the others," Christopher observed. "We can't afford to be careless with our attacks."

"I'll inform Barclay," Alice replied, reaching for a walkie-talkie on her belt. She relayed the information to the pyromaniac and waited for his disappointed response. After receiving it she turned back to her companion. "He and I will distract them with a frontal assault, assisted by your houndooms. Circle around back with your quilava and take them by surprise."

"Yes ma'am." The green haired man began to circle around. Alice watched him advance for a second before reaching for her belt.

"Go Suntongue, Brighty, and Flamewing!" More pokémon appeared her heatmor, her rapidash, and her combusken. "Help the houndooms!"

If we have to, yawned the rapidash, Brighty.

Rock type, could be messy, could be fun, replied Suntongue.

Sure thing Miss Alice, said Flamewing, the combusken, before launching herself towards the rock type, readying a flying punch.

Onix saw the approaching fire/fighting type. With a speed his bulk wouldn't typically suggest he managed to move out of the way of the potentially dangerous fighting type attack. Living rock was more fragile than the non-living kind. It contained more faults and cracks where water could invade, erode, grind, and even shatter, and was a prime target for a disciplined physical attack, such as the ones used by fighting types, to exploit.

"Geodude, Zubat!" Brock shouted as the ground rocked as the herd rushed away. "Time to shine." Pokéballs opened, Pokémon appeared. "Zubat, keep that combusken confused. Geodude, lock that rapidash down, I don't want it speeding around Onix and getting us. Misty, can you escort them out of here? Don't let Aaron fight. I think there was a forest two kilometers back east. We can meet up there. If I'm wrong just head to the nearest ranger station."

"Sure thing," Misty answered, nodding. "Go Staryu!" More white light blazed. "Come on you two. Kangaskhan, are you going to come with us?"

We might lose this opportunity for Tomas if we don't, World Burning Mother bellowed, making herself heard over the stampede.

"Yes!" Tommy relayed. He was settling down in his mother's pouch, curling up on himself in fright. World Burning Mother hunched over to offer him more protection, torn between fear and anger as new enemies came for her child.

"Good. Aaron, stick close to Tommy and his Kangaskhan. Jenny, do you have any Pokémon with you? Any ammo for that rifle?"

"No ammo, but I've got Charlie, my growlithe," the ranger responded.

"You make sure Aaron and Tommy stay safe then," Misty ordered.

"What Pokémon should I get out?" Ash called Aaron inquired.

"None right now. Keep them with you unless you get cornered. As the situation stands right now, you'll only get in the way," Misty bluntly informed him.

"I can-"

"No!" Misty grabbed the front of his shirt and forced him to look her in the eyes. "Stay with the kangaskhan and away from the fight like Brock ordered. Got it?" She growled out the question. Aaron nodded sullenly. Misty shoved him back towards the Pokémon and child duo.

Personally, the red haired trainer would rather have him assist in a limited manner under her direction. But she'd listen to the more experienced trainer and gym leader. She understood his reasoning. If Aaron participated in the battle, he was good enough to turn himself into a target.

Although, under the direction of her or Brock any risk would be minimized, so long as Aaron followed their orders to the letter. And if something unexpected happened, Aaron had proven that he could take care of himself to a degree. Their meeting, the battle at the village, and the brawl at Saffron had shown that.

Yet Misty had been a gym trainer rather than a gym leader, and the youngest sister of three gym leaders who raised her. Her experience was either serving under someone or going it alone. Instinct told her to follow orders, not to take the initiative.

Back at the struggle, Zubat had begun to assault Flamewing with Sonic. Flapping around her head like he was drunk, Zubat kept up the aural assault, avoiding the flames and flailing limbs of the fire fire type.

"Flamewing, Constellation!" Alice Newlands ordered. Abandoning her efforts to strike Zubat, Flamewing instead turned her head upward and let loose a stream of fireballs. Instead of continuing skywards, the fireballs fell back towards the earth and began to orbit around the combusken.

Constellation was a variant of Fire Spin developed by Alice to defend her Pokémon. It was a self inflicted Fire Spin, performed in pulses to create fireballs rather than a solid wall of flame. It was perfect for warding off attacks from small nimble Pokémon. The drawback was that it was still, in essence, a Fire Spin done on oneself. However since it did use pulses rather than a sheet, and since her Pokémon were strong against fire, the damage was bearable.

Armored now by tiny stars, Flamewing ignored the Zubat and rushed forward, still spewing balls of fire. Meanwhile, Geodude and the rapidash struggled together. The rock type had latched on to the fire type, arms clasped around the other's neck, and was choking the horse like Pokémon in an attempt to bring him down to the ground. Brighty, the rapidash, flared the flames of his mane to dislodge the intruder.

The air became hazy, grass wilted, and the area around Brighty was engulfed in roaring orange flame. Yet Geodude held on, forcing the fleeting fire type to fall to the ground. The two bodies rolled together, struggling to be the one that ended up on top.

Suntongue was slower than his two compatriots, but he made his way unmolested, so he was able to reach Onix. The large rock type was still trying to corral the two houndooms. He didn't need orders to know what to do next.

Yellow light shone and intensified as Suntongue readied his attack. In a move that Alice had named after him, Suntongue gathered fire in front of his mouth, maintaining an ever-hotter yellow mass of fire in front of his mouth. It was the anti-rock type attack that the two of them had developed. Given enough time, Suntongue could eventually use the Suntongue move to melt boulders.

Here he'd have to settle for wounding and possibly killing an onix.

Houndooms barked as they attacked. Onix roared as he was forced to expose his flank to stop the dark/fire types from reaching the humans behind him. Suntongue moved in for the telling blow-

Fire flared. Pokémon cried out. A mass of confusion.

-and was repulsed by the tip of Onix's tail. The living rock creature had jabbed at the fire type with the tip of its tail while it dealt with the houndooms. Rock had been charred and the very tip had melted, an excruciating experience, but he had managed to repel all three attackers. No, he had done better than that. A houndoom had been swatted by the stone serpent. One its legs had been broken and its partner had abandoned the fight to guard it.

Brock grimaced. He just needed to hold off this attack, most likely a diversion, long enough for the others to fight their way through the probable ambush. He didn't need to win here, not that he was sure that he could with the numbers the way they were. But his Pokémon would suffer...

"Charlie, take point!" Ranger Jenny cried out, throwing a pokéball and releasing her growlithe. Ash-

barking. Dark shapes baying, fires roaring. Screams, blood, smoke and fear

- shied away from the fire type. Charlie scampered ahead, attempting to sniff out anyone ahead of the group, which jogged behind him.

Things ahead at eleven o'clock! Charlie barked. Fifty meters!

"Enemies?" Jenny asked. "Where are they?"

I just told you! Charlie groaned, pointing with his nose. Something whizzed out of the tall grass and Misty shoulder-checked the ranger on instinct. The two girls went down as an arrow slithered through the air, cutting through a lock of Jenny's hair.

This is why you need to listen! Charlie admonished his trainer, forgetting that she couldn't understand him. The orange-furred Pokémon rushed back to guard his trainer.

"Staryu, Ice Beam that area!" Misty shouted, picking up her head. "Starmie, intercept any more arrows!"

A pale blue-white beam slashed through the general area that the arrow had come from. Ice encased grass and ground, leaving an irregular wall of crystal.

From a different area in front of them came a Flame Burst attack, the ball of fire bursting into multiple orange streaks as it sped towards Misty and Jenny. The two humans dodged the best they could amidst the rain of flame.

Jenny moved too slowly and one streak singed her arm. She hissed and clamped a hand over the suddenly red and black flesh. The pain was immense, she felt tears leaking out of the corner of her eyes, and she was losing her vision as the intense feeling overloaded her senses. She fell to her knees as she struggled with herself.

"Ranger!"

Jenny!

Jenny! Three beings shouted, a mother, her child, and one similar to her child. Despite whatever deception she had pulled on World Burning Mother and her adopted child, the ranger was still a friend. On instinct, the large Pokémon rushed forward, angling herself so that Tommy wasn't facing the direction that the attacks had come from.

Ash also tried to move forward. But Pikachu dashed to the ground and tripped him up, not wanting to try and talk his trainer into staying away from danger like the older and more experienced trainer, Misty, had ordered. "Starmie, Staryu! Winter Defense!" Misty shouted, crouched from rolling to avoid the fire fall. Her Pokémon instantly reacted. Pulses of blue-white light, with coruscating tendrils of similar colored power crackling around the center of each pulse, blasted forth. Irregular patches of ice sprung up everywhere that the pulses hit. No, not irregular, which implied a lack of similarity between the spots of ice. Rather it would be better to say that each patch was spiky and jagged, like overly large caltrops.

There was a clear path for the group to cross, no doubt part of Winter Defense. Misty helped the ranger up and turned back to Aaron, Tommy, and World Burning Mother.

"Come on!" Misty ordered, helping the ranger limp away.

Another Flame Burst erupted, from a new position. An Ice Pulse met it, the differences in temperature balancing and canceling both moves. Evidently, Winter Defense was both an environment altering move and a mode of defense.

"Charlie, how many are there?" Jenny asked, in a slightly husky and pained voice.

Two, two! Charlie barked twice, letting his trainer know as he had been taught.

"Is one of them human?" Jenny asked again, struggling to keep her head up.

Yes, Charlie replied with a nod.

"Sorry, didn't see that. Could you answer again?" Jenny requested.

Yes, Charlie repeated with a nod. At the same time, another arrow slithered through the air, seeking Jenny's heart. Quick as lightning, Staryu blasted it with an Ice Pulse, destabilizing its course. The arrow sliced across Jenny's shoulder before arcing onward and falling to the ground. The ranger let out another hiss of pain.

"Go flush out the human and kill him if you can," the ranger ordered. "Don't try and fight the Pokémon, just fight the trainer."

Charlie nodded and dashed off into the tall grass to begin a game of cat and mouse. Three more nearly vertical Flame Bursts rose from the grass. Staryu and Starmie attempted to cancel out the attacks, but the fires were just out of range. Each burst arced up well above the group before exploding.

More streamers of fire fell to earth, too many for Staryu and Starmie to stop. Ice melted and grass smoked as the attacks blasted the area where Charlie had run to and where the last arrow had come from. Jenny grimaced. That attack was meant to use smoke to hid the human's scent.

More fire flew upward, Flame Burst after Flame Burst climbing above Staryu's and Starmie's range before exploding. Misty and Jenny were forced to dodge once more, Jenny slowed by her burn. Staryu and Starmie were forced to direct their attention to putting out brush fires.

"I didn't want to have to risk this," Misty muttered. "Stupid who-ever they are making me do this. Grrr, if I get my hands on them..." She reached for another pokéball. "I'm going beat them black and blue... Go Psyduck!"

Unusual time of year for bush fires, Psyduck remarked upon release. Usually they're more of a summer or spring thing, not a winter one. Especially not after ice starts forming.

"There's a human out in the grass somewhere," Misty informed the psychic duck, "I need you to locate him."

Aye, aye! Psyduck did a salute and began to waddle away.

"No you idiot!" Misty snapped, whacking him on the head. "With your psychic powers!"

Ah, revving up the headache, Psyduck commented, misunderstanding Misty's intentions for hitting him on the head. One second...

Psyduck opened his mind and reached out with his psychic senses, letting his developing headache lower the barriers around his mind. He 'looked' out, through the darkness of the mental landscape for the hazy light of other minds.

You said one human, Psyduck said to his trainer. But I'm getting three.

"Did you find him?" Misty asked, unable to understand her Pokémon. "Yes or no?"

Which one, there's three of them, Psyduck responded. Get Ash over here so he can translate. Did you want the Team Magma member or the two members of-

A thin blast of extremely high-pressured water lanced through the grass, scything through the stalks that were in its path sending pieces of plant life flying. There was an inhuman screech of pain. Blood spurted, the small amount of crimson liquid barely noticeable in the tall grass, if eyes hadn't been drawing by a thrashing body within.

"Ha! Got 'em!" Jimmy Newlands bellowed. "Attack and kill them all!"

The prinplup on his right shrieked out a war cry. The wingull on his head sighed and rolled her eyes. More streams of water lanced into the grass, seeking the Team Magma Pokémon. All of them missed.

"Right, I forgot," Jimmy slapped his head. "Wingy, get up there. Tell us where they are."

The wingull rose, using her Keen Eye to search for the Team Magma members. A blast of fire rose in response but was blasted by an icy attack from Staryu.

"You didn't tell me there'd be another one of us here!" Juliet Kondo shouted, standing up.

"You idiot, you're supposed to be hiding!" Jimmy shouted back.

"Don't call me an idiot, idiot!" came Juliet's very mature response. "You're the idiot who didn't tell me there'd be another Team Aqua grunt here!"

Water and fire clashed within the tall grass as Juliet's dewgong fought alongside Jimmy's prinplup to hunt down the Team Magma quilava. They were aided by the cries of the wingull overhead. Christopher saw the argument between the two members of Team Aqua and attempted to pierce one of them with an arrow. It whizzed through the air with deadly intent, only to be deflected by a swift Water Pulse from Wingy.

Leave those fools alone! The flying water type cawed. You've got enough to worry about with just us!

Team Magma's quilava was hurled into the air by a torrent of water from Jimmy's prinplup. An Ice Beam from his dewgong caught the quilava before it could come back to the earth, replacing its flames with ice. The fire type hit the ground, large chunks of reddening ice breaking off as it did so. Before it could do anything two high-pressure Water Guns drilled through its flesh, one reaching its brain via its eye, the other tearing through a gap in its rips and through the organs beneath.

"NO!" Christopher couldn't help himself. His professionalism couldn't withstand his grief as his quilava died.

"Deal with him!" Jimmy ordered Juliet with a glare.

"Fine," Juliet grumbled. "Kill that land-shit, Wartortle."

Aye aye, skipper! Wartortle's head was barely visible in the grass as he stood at attention. He let loose with a BubbleBeam at the source of the grief filled shout. The attack blasted the human, impacts breaking bones, rupturing organs, turning him into nothing more than a fleshy rag doll.

"See, he's dealt with," Juliet said with another glare in Jimmy's direction. "Now why didn't you tell me there'd be another member of Team Aqua here?"

"There isn't!" Jimmy contested loudly. "It was just another trainer with water type Pokémon. Where are they by the way?"

While Team Aqua had killed the Team Magma members, Misty and Jenny had managed to sneak the group past their opposition, the two female trainers keeping an eye on the newcomers. They had gained enough distance, that by the time the criminals noticed them, the group was able to simply start running. Water stabbed at the retreating humans but was stopped by ice, water, and the hard bodies of Staryu and Starmie.

When it became clear that they would escape, Jimmy and Juliet began to argue with one another. Wingy landed on Jimmy's head and rolled his eyes. His trainer was an idiot.

Onix roared as Flamewing managed to land a Double Kick. Zubat rushed after her while pushing through the pain of a singed wing. Alice and Combusken had let the Constellation defense fade after Zubat had sustained the injury.

Suntongue and Brighty struggled with Geodude, who was still wrapped around the rapidash's neck. The heatmor was attempting to pry the rock type off enough to try and use his signature attack to finish it off. He was only able to prevent Geodude from strangling Brighty.

Brock was busy trying to figure out how to withdraw. He needed Onix in good shape to make his escape, which meant that he couldn't turn his back on the combusken, especially with the state his tail was in. He'd have to gamble on Onix being able to defeat the combusken without taking too much damage, but if Zubat could just successfully confuse it...

Alice grimaced. This unknown trainer was good. He was able to hold her off, and if he was willing to risk it, could probably finish off her team off. Why wasn't he willing to risk it, though? Was it his small team? Was he hiding a weakness? Expecting more fights?

Or perhaps he was overly cautious? It could be a combination of the last two, Alice concluded. If that was the case she could free Brighty...

"Flamewing, Ultrapunch that geodude!" Alice ordered.

"Geodude, dodge! Onix, attack!" Brock shouted the moment he saw the combusken turn towards Geodude. Geodude gave up on the struggle with the heatmor and rapidash, flipping over the back of the heatmor to break its grip. At the same time Onix's horn plunged towards Flamewing's back-

And the talons of Flamewing were running up his back. The attack, Ultrapunch, had been nothing more than a feint, one that Brock in his cautiousness, had fallen for completely.

Geodude and Zubat retreated back to Onix, everyone's eyes on Team Magma's pokémon. Flamewing and Suntongue crouched down by Brighty, helping the rapidash pick himself up. There was an angry red mark around his throat where Geodude had been choking him. Geodude's arms were blackened by his flames.

Brock mind raced as he tried to think of a way out of his current situation. He needed to keep that rapidash down; it was fast enough to eventually get past his Pokémon and kill him. And he needed to retreat without Onix taking any significant damage. Zubat had his mobility impaired by his injury and Geodude's injuries were minor, but in a very inconvenient location.

It was times like these that made Brock miss his gym. Using gym Pokémon to augment his personal team was a luxury he took for granted back then.

A plan, far too risky for Brock's tastes, came into his head. He wouldn't be able to use Geodude again until he recovered if he went through with it… but if push came to shove...

"Looks like you got started without me," Barclay said to Alice as he joined her. "This guy giving you trouble."

"Some," Alice answered. "He could finish me off, but he's being cautious. Or he thinks he'll run into more trouble down the line or it's just how he is."

"Doesn't matter," Barclay replied, taking out a Pokéball. "The future isn't going to concern him, because he's going to burn right now!"

A Pokéball flew and a charmeleon was released, life flame blazing and roaring a challenge to the world at large.

"Charmeleon, Flameblind the onix when I say," the golden haired trainer ordered.

"Flamewing, after the onix is blinded, use Fire Spin on it," Alice joined in, the two members of Team Magma working seamlessly together. "Then use every fighting type attack you have on it to take it out. Brighty, kill the trainer. Suntongue, you'll get the geodude. Wait for Charmeleon to go first."

Brock winced when the new arrival made himself known. He couldn't hear what they were talking about, but he didn't need to know that the situation had definitely become dire.

"Geodude, on my mark, use Self-Destruct. As powerful as you can make it without permanently hurting yourself." Brock said. "Onix, get ready to make a break for it. Zubat, stay close to me so I can put you back into your ball. Got it?"

Ugh, fine, Geodude grumbled, nodding.

Thanks in advance, Geodude, Zubat said, also nodding.

Anything you say, Brock, Onix said, nodding in confirmation like the other two.

Two groups of Pokémon tensed about thirty meters apart, waiting for orders from their trainers, violence ready to re-erupt in the trampled area of grassland. But before either side received their orders a bone-shattering torrent of water rushed in from the side, speeding towards Charmeleon. The fire type heard it coming at the last minute. He ducked and rolled to the side, moving quick enough to merely have his head soaked by the spray surrounding the torrent.

His roll carried him out of the way of a Dynamic Punch from a descending poliwrath. Earth caved in around the point of impact and the poliwrath glared up at the chameleon that had barely avoided it.

Claws slashed, swift and deadly. Entrails spilled out. The poliwrath's gaze changed from a glare to a look of confusion and disbelief as it clutched at the organs spilling out of the hole in the front of its body. Charmeleon licked his claws once before charging at the wounded water type.

"Zubat, return. Onix, time to go," Brock hopped onto the serpent's back as a golduck charged in, using a Confusion attack to divert Charmeleon away the poliwrath. "Geodude, cover us." The smaller rock type latched onto the larger as it began to slither away, leaving a furrow in the earth as it did so.

"This way," Brock directed, making sure to direct Onix in a direction about twenty degrees off from the path Misty and the others should've taken. He didn't want to lead the attackers to them.

"Do you think those Aquas will make trouble for Brock?" Jenny asked between pants, one hand on a tree as she leaned on it for support.

"I don't know," Misty answered, slumped against a different tree. "I would've liked to stay back and try to keep a path open for him, but I don't know if he's going to come that way."

The group had made it to the forest. World Burning Mother and Tommy were fine, sitting together under a particularly large tree, the little human curled up in the Pokémon's large arms, both emotionally exhausted. Ash was off in the distance, holding on tight to Pikachu, barely keeping in sight.

Misty figured that the fear and stress of this situation was getting to him, even though it wasn't the first time he was in a situation like this. Fear, stress, and all those other emotions could be random in that regard; it was time and experience that gave one the ability to consistently deal with them. Maybe that was why Brock had wanted to keep him out of the fight?

Misty didn't know for certain on either topic. Though if she had known the truth about Ash she would have been able to correctly diagnose what was bothering him. The situation was hitting too close to home for the pokéraised child.

Half an hour passed- thirty minutes of silence. World Burning Mother had to deal with the fact that one of the worst fears of a parent was coming true, Tommy was simply overwhelmed, Jenny had to struggle with her regrets, Misty was replaying the events of the day over and over again in her head trying to think of what she could have done better and how she messed up, Ash was coming to terms about why Poison Lance had instilled a fear of discovery in him and fearing for Brock, and Pikachu... Pikachu was simply being there for his trainer.

A twig snapped and Misty immediately pulled out two Pokeballs. She motioned with her head to Jenny, silently instructing the Ranger to get the others further back. Jenny nodded and complied.

Misty snuck towards the source of the noise, keeping her head down and trying to stay silent. She poked her head around a tree-

A rocky gray hand grabbed her by the face, stifling any sound of surprise, hauled her up-

"It's Misty, put her down!" Brock snapped. Geodude's eyes widened and he let go instantly. Unfortunately this meant dropping her.

"Ow!" Misty rubbed her tailbone. "What was that all about?"

"Just trying to be safe," Brock said apologetically. "In retrospect we probably should've agreed on a signal."

"It sure beats your version of a hands on approach," Misty grumbled.

"Did everyone make it okay?" Brock asked, giving her a hand.

"Yeah, we ran into a member of Team Magma but we slipped away when Team Aqua arrived and they started fighting," Misty explained, getting up. "What about you?"

"Similar story," Brock replied. "Where are the others?"

"This way," Misty inclined her head to indicate the direction. The two headed deeper into the forest. Jenny, having heard Brock and Misty's voices, covertly looked out to make sure it was them, and then led the rest of the group towards the two.

"Brock, you're okay!" Ash brightened up upon seeing his friend.

Brock nodded to Aaron, a small smile on the older trainer's face. He then turned to the ranger.

"They were definitely after Tommy," Brock got right down to business. "Who know about him?"

"A small number of my clanswomen," Jenny answered, "and an even smaller number of other rangers. Eleven in total. They'll probably head here as discreetly as they can when they hear about the disturbance."

"The skitty's out of the bag now," said Misty, "do you have a radio on you or anything? "

Jenny looked ashamed of herself.

"No," the ranger answered. "When I headed out to stop you I panicked and forgot to bring one."

"Just swell," Misty muttered.

"Do the rangers do any air patrols?" Brock inquired.

"Afraid not," Jenny replied, "we don't have the budget. We've got a squad of pidgeots if we need a quick evac but we never patrol with them."

"Psychic monitoring?"

"Afraid not."

"Mystic protection."

"Nada."

"Just what sort of budget do you have?" Brock asked incredulously.

"A very very small one," the ranger answered. "It hasn't been an issue because what little we've had has been enough for basic security, and we've always had the support of the Fuschia gym. And every ranger is required to keep a radio on them at all times."

"A very sensible rule," Misty added. "One I can't imagine anyone would ever break."

Jenny flushed.

"I was in a hurry to try and stop something like this from happening," the ranger said tersely. "I'm sorry I panicked and made a rash decision while a child's life was on the line, something that a perfect gym trainer like yourself would never ever do."

Misty's gaze turned into a wrathful glare. The barb had cut deeply. Oh, how she wanted to deck the older woman...

"Quit it you two," Brock stepped between the ranger and the trainer. "Focus on the situation at hand. Right now we've got what's most likely Team Magma and Team Aqua fighting each other over Tomas. How many members of Team Aqua did you two run into?"

"Two," Misty answered, dropping the forming fight with Jenny. "They killed the member of Team Magma that had been harassing us."

"And their Pokémon?"

"A water/flying type, don't think it's native to Kanto," Jenny began, "named Wingy if that's any help, another bird like water type, don't know if there are any secondary types-"

"It was a prinplup," Misty interjected. "There was also a wartortle and a dewgong. What about you?"

"I saw a poliwhirl or poliwrath," Brock replied. "I don't think it matters because it got disembowelled by a charmeleon before I escaped. I also saw what I believe was a golduck."

"Was it blue, with a spiky crest, a bill, and a small red jewel in its forehead," Misty asked. Brock nodded. "Then it was a golduck," Misty concluded.

"On the Team Magma end of things I saw a rapidash, some sort of Pokémon with a thin head and a flame for a tongue, two houndooms, a charmeleon, and a combusken" Brock continued.

"I miss my gym," Misty commented, thinking about the large collection of strong water type Pokémon back in Cerulean city.

"I would've brought more Pokémon with if I had known I was going to be running into this on a semi-regular basis," Brock sighed. "Well at least Team Aqua and Team Magma are fighting each other-"

"Why?"

"Huh?" Everyone turned to Aaron. The boy was staring down at his feet, face lost in the shadow of his cap. His voice had been unsteady and warbling when he had asked that simple question, like it was ready to break.

"Why are they doing this?" Aaron/Ash asked.

"Because they want Tomas," Misty answered automatically.

"I know,but why are they doing this to get him?" Aaron's voice hitched. The sheer amount of fear he was feeling, was, in its own way, frightening. Fear for himself, fear for his team, fear for those back in the Pallet area, and fear for his friends.

"You mean why they are willing to go so far for him," Brock's tone was understanding. He didn't know exactly why the current situation was so upsetting to Aaron, but he had a couple of guesses. One was Misty's earlier theory. Another was that this was the first time where both the crisis had come out of nowhere and he had to deal with people and dying, and that this was the first time he had time to reflect during the crisis. (He was mostly wrong of course, but that was more a testament to Ash's ability to keep a secret rather than Brock's understanding.)

"Well, it's complicated," Brock began, putting a hand on Aaron's shoulder and lowering himself so that their faces where even.

He knew he should be talking with Misty and Jenny, figuring out what to do next, but...

He had been an older brother in charge of raising younger siblings. It simply wasn't in him to not comfort a child when he could, any more than he could resist trying to court a pretty girl and make her happy.

"Let's start with this," Brock continued. "What do you know about Pokémon?"

"They're Pokémon," Aaron stated, as if that summed everything up. From his point of view it sort of was.

"And Pokémon are?" Brock inquired.

"Uh... they're pretty much people," Ash said in the tone of a student trying to guess which combination of words would please the teacher.

"True, but that's not what I'm getting at. Tell me, what did I used to be?"

"A gym leader?" Aaron was growing confused by Brock's line of questioning.

"And what did I do then?"

"You helped protect the town and did League stuff."

"Good. And what exactly is the League?"

"Uhh... the guys you work for?"

"Technically correct, but not what I was getting at. When people are talking about the League they're either talking about the government of Kanto or its military force," Brock explained. "And there's not much difference between the two. Most member states just govern themselves with little interaction with the League, so the actual government is just a thin layer of paper pushers. The thing is, the Pokémon League's just supposed to be the name for the military branch, and yet many people think that it's the name of Kanto's government. That's because they are so powerful. And why are they so powerful?"

"Their Pokémon," Ash's reply was automatic, with enthusiasm starting to creep into his unsteady voice.

"Correct," Brock tapped the tip of the boy's nose. "As trainers we sometimes forget that Pokémon are more than just our friends. They're power... they're..." Brock struggled for a moment before recovering. "They're pretty important to most things nowadays and they've been pretty important for a long time. A strong Pokémon can be a source of power… and some people will do anything for power."

"But why go so far for Tommy?" Ash asked, still confused. "I mean I get that it would help them get some power, but understanding Pokémon can't be that valuable, can it? Can't they just teach them to read and write?"

"Leaving out some of the crazier reasons like certain cults, there are several reasons that being able to understand Pokémon can be incredibly valuable," Brock stated. "There's talking to wild Pokémon to gain information-"

Which Ash did on a daily basis.

"-which would allow people to ferret out a lot of secrets," Brock continued. "You can't exactly teach them all to read and write. And, yes, before you ask, that meowth that hangs around those Rocket freaks that stalk you could probably do that, but most of Team Rocket would never trust him. Moving on, it's a common practice to use Pokémon to pass on information to other Pokémon about a plan or a tactic. Understanding them would be like breaking a code, you could listen in on what used to be secret information."

Which Ash sometimes did, as well.

"It would vastly improve Pokémon-trainer coordination."

Which it did for Ash.

"And you could maybe teach other people how to understand Pokémon." Brock took a breath. "But those are just some uses, not the most important thing."

"What's the important thing?" Ash asked, fear growing once again.

"A doctor once told me that we don't understand the human body very well because it's so complex. But Pokémon, as a species, are even more complex." Brock stated. "We're told that somehow they're all the same species and yet you've never guess that by looking at them. And we don't really get how their powers work, or how their different bodies work, or how the things they share work. People are studying but there's just so much to look at. How they communicate is one of those things. The way we hear them, just saying one or two words, or even parts of a word, just shouldn't work. "

We're fine with it, thank you very much, Pikachu sniffed, faking offense.

"But it somehow does, between every Pokémon throughout the world" Brock bore on. "There must be more going on. Not every child raised by Pokémon are what we call pokéraised, only the ones that understand Pokémon and talk back to them. Most of those can't do that die, but the rest just end up feral. Why can only certain humans learn to understand Pokémon? What's the ability? And why can't most of them learn to speak a human language? Someone who understands both can unravel that mystery and with that information scientists could learn even more about Pokémon. And with comes power."

"What do you mean?" Ash asked. "How does that give power?"

"At one gym leader conference I had to go to, I ended up listening to a presentation from someone researching dragonites. At one point, he began listing the applications of his research. He talked about new power generators, new cables, new power conduits, and much more." Brock recalled. "If he could just understand a few things about how dragonites generated power. You ever see a dragonite Hyper Beam something? They're really powerful, and if people learned how dragonites are so powerful then we can replicate that power without them. And maybe even do it better."

Ash nodded. He was starting to see. People wanted to study Pokémon through Tommy, and by extension himself. Evil people would kill for that so they could get the power from studying.

Ash could be clever at times. When it came to people that usually wasn't the case.

Though it should be noted that Brock's explanation was not entirely correct. He was implying that there was a guaranteed benefit from the research when in reality research never really guarantees benefits. One did research because of what they did not know, not because of what they did. One might get nothing from research or one might get something beyond their wildest dreams. It should also be noted, that the being many believed to be the creator of the universe, to be god, Arceus, was a Pokémon. Some people were consciously seeking to discover the secrets of god.

And as Brock himself had stated, the gym leader hadn't even tried to cover the various ideological and/or religious reasons one might have for wanting to get someone like Tommy or Ash.

Something from Brock's explanation was bugging Ash- something not entirely related to the situation at hand. He almost dismissed it, but part of him needed to ask.

"Brock, if people are learning how to do all the stuff Pokémon can do without them," Ash/Aaron began, "Then where will that leave Pokémon when they're done." What would happen to Pokémon when people didn't need them anymore, when they were simply in the way?

Brock sighed.

"I don't know," the gym leader answered. "We're still struggling to find an acceptable answer to that. Lot's of trainers have left the League to go find an answer to that question."

"We once had a trainer like that," Misty interjected. "When I was younger. He was a pretty shy guy, but nice enough. He got along best with his Pokémon. I don't remember it too well, but he started talking about the 'future of human Pokémon relations' or something like that. He changed, got more aggressive. Eventually he left to go find an answer. Last I heard, he went off to Unova to start looking."

"The Pokémon League loses plenty of people like that," Brock nodded. "Pokémon extremists of all kinds. People who think we should get rid of civilization and live in harmony with nature, some who think that and that everyone should be a Pokémon trainer. People who believe that we're hurting Pokémon by being trainers, people who think we're enslaving them or oppressing them. People who think we just need to reset the human-Pokémon relationship. We're really lucky that they haven't formed an organization like Team Rocket. Team Magma and Team Aqua are really just local cults, and nobody really knows what's going on with Team Galactic."

"Doesn't anybody like the Elite Fours or old gym leaders have a plan? An answer?" Ash inquired, the unsteadiness leaving his voice.

Brock and Misty shook their heads.

"What about a Pokémon Master?"

"There aren't any Pokémon Masters right now," Brock grinned- a small, wry action. "But I'd imagine in order to find an answer that doesn't boil down to killing most Pokémon or forcing them into more regimented versions of the Safari Zone you'd probably have to become a Pokémon Master."

Ash nodded. That clinched it.

"Then it's decided," the young boy spoke. "I'm going to become a Pokémon Master and find an answer!"

As long as you're at it, Pikachu spoke up, I guess I'm in for the ride.

Yeah! Tommy weakly cheered, a small measure of honest enthusiasm breaking through his emotional turmoil. At some point he and World Burning Mother had moved closer to listen in on the conversation.

"Good plan," Brock clapped a hand on Ash's shoulder. "But let's deal with the current situation first. We should find a defensive position-"

"We should really focus on getting Tommy out of here," Jenny interrupted. "Since we know jack and shit about the enemy's real strength, trying to bunker down and fight them might be suicide."

Brock and Misty looked at each other. Misty shrugged. She didn't feel qualified to comment on either choice.

Brock sighed. He would much rather prefer to take a defensive position, despite the drawbacks, but he recognized the ranger's point.

"Alright, considering how deep we are in the Safari Zone, I think we should try and get Tommy over to his parents," Brock stated. "I know they said they brought a helicopter. Aqua and Magma aren't known for their air power and I didn't see them with any Pokémon that could pose a threat to a helicopter once it's in the air."

"That's the best you can come up with?" protested Jenny. "A plan that relies on the enemy not being able to down a helicopter? When we only know a little about about their strength and abilities?"

"Do you have anything better?" Brock asked, raising one eyebrow.

...

...

...

"Well?"

"Give me a moment," said Jenny.

"Sorry but we're kinda in a really bad situation here," Brock added. "We could try to get him back to the city on foot, but we'd most likely have to fight the whole way back. We could try to get him to the rest of the rangers, but since word of this got out, we don't know who we can trust. We could try and send a decoy, but we don't have the people, and I don't think Kangaskhan would want to be separated from Tomas."

Correct, World Burning Mother said while nodding.

"Fine," Jenny gave in. "But we need to think of a safe way to get him to his parents. And we need to warn them that we're coming."

"You'd stand the best chance of reaching them. We could send you to warn them." Brock suggested.

"I can do that," Jenny agreed. "But how are you going to get Tommy and Kangaskhan there?"

With the herd, World Burning Mother interjected. Every human other than Ash and Tommy turned to her, faces uncomprehending. Tommy, translate for me.

"Momma says to use the herd," Tommy relayed. "We have the herd just charge until we reach the heliopter-"

"Helicopter," Jenny corrected.

"Helicopter," Tommy repeated. "And then Momma and I can get away with human momma and poppa."

"That would work," Brock nodded to himself. "Misty and I can run interference, while Aaron stays close to you on the inside of the herd. Since they're not trying to kill you they hopefully wouldn't indiscriminately attack. Team Aqua and Magma aren't like Team Rocket, so they won't try and hurt the herd for helping you escape."

"So are we going with it?" Jenny asked.

"Yes," Brock replied, clapping his hands together. "Everyone get ready to move out. Ranger, we need to figure out where we're meeting up, everyone else make sure you've got everything, or done everything you need to."

The plan was set. The group was almost ready. It was nearly time for Tommy's fate to be decided.

"Remember, head shots only," Sakura instructed Shinji. "And only if you're sure that the beast doesn't have the child and that the child isn't in the immediate vicinity. And only if the herd can't trace the attacks back to your position."

"Yes, I know," Shinji angrily hissed back over the radio. "Don't worry about me, worry about the Grunts. They're the ones who will be handling the dynamite."

"I've already dealt with them," Sakura retorted. "I'll make sure that none of the monsters have the child before we throw dynamite at a cluster."

"There's still the risk he could be trampled," Shinji looked through a pair of binoculars at the kangaskhan herd.

"It's a calculated risk," Sakura defended her plan. "You couldn't come up with anything better."

"Just wanted my objections on the record," Shinji shot back, reaching for a pokéball. "When do we start?"

"Now."

"And how does each faction fare?" The green haired man asked his comrade in Team Galactic, a man with purple hair. Once more the members of Team Galactic in the Safari Zone stood around the pool, looking at the images the black haired woman cast onto the face of the water.

"Team Magma has lost more humans, Team Aqua has lost more Pokémon," the purple haired man concluded in a monotone voice. "Their respective strength is still equal."

"Team Rocket has the advantage of numbers," the man with dark blue hair spoke up without any emotion. "But not of quality. They pose little threat to any side."

"I cannot tell the true strength of those who have sided with the ranger," the black haired woman added. "A conservative estimate puts their united strength at a level higher than either the group from Team Aqua or the group from Team Magma."

"How do they fare in comparison to us?" inquired the purple haired man.

"Without knowing their truth strength I cannot say," the black haired woman answered. "If I must answer, then I would answer at least equal to our own. But only if they are united and only if they do not take any casualties before meeting us."

"We are not here to fight," the man with dark blue hair stated. "We are here to retrieve the child. Come, let us make a plan to do so, regardless of the strength of those who are in opposition to us."

The plans were set. The groups were almost ready. Soon the die would be cast and Tommy's fate would be decided.

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