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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9. 9

Ash picked his pokémon up from Nurse Joy and put a grinning Pikachu on his head. He decided to exit the building via the back way. Talking with Misty had shown him that letting his pokémon travel with him outside of their pokeball was considered unusual. Seeing as he had no intention of drawing attention to himself, Ash would try to keep his and his team's movements a bit more discreet. He could let them out in the back alley away from any prying eyes in the pokémon center.

Besides, Team Rocket might be watching the entrance.

So, what's the plan? Pikachu asked his trainer as Ash released Pidgeotto and Butterfree from their pokéballs.

We're going back into the forest to train, Ash told his team. Right now I doubt we'd be any good against a trainer specializing in rock-type pokémon, let alone a gym leader.

Oh really? I think we could take them. Nobody expects the cute little pikachu to use Thunder after all.

Aren't rock-types immune to electric attacks?

No, answered Pidgeotto. It's a common misconception since a lot of rock-type pokemon are dual typed with ground which is immune to electricity.

Well, then we can just use you for those pokémon, suggested Pikachu. Flying is super effect against ground, right?

Let me put it this way, Ash began. He was interrupted by a rumbling sound coming from down the street from the pokémon center.

What's that? I wanna go see. Come on guys! Butterfree began to flutter towards the noise.

"Wait for us," Ash called out to his bug-type pokémon. He, Pikachu, and Pidgeotto hurried after the butterfly. The group ended up by the front of the pokémon center where a rather large pokémon greeted them.

Oh holy Arceus... what did I do to displease you? Pikachu moaned.

In front of the pokemon center a dark skinned young man was busy dismounting an onix. A giant burrow in the street marked its path, and the stony leviathan towered over the pokémon center when it reared back after its trainer had dismounted. The merest movement of the onix shouted about the sheer mass of the pokémon, from the the cracking and grinding of the asphalt, to the quiet deep rumble of its breathing.

And then it disappeared in a flash of red light.

Pikachu turned to Ash.

Forget I said anything. Lets go train!

"Lose to Brock already?"

"Nope. Decided to to some more training before I face him," Ash told the bearded man selling rocks. He was leaving the city by the same path that he had entered it.

I'm not going up against anyone in a gym that has one of those rock monsters people call pokemon, Pikachu said, emphatically crossing his arms.

"Do you really think that more training will allow you to beat him?"

"It'll give us a chance to and that's all we need, right guys?"

Nope. Not getting involved with this gym.

Eh, I can always fly away if things get too tough.

Yep Ash! We can take them!

"Well I see your pokémon agree with you at least."

You humans are really stupid.

Alright. So how are you going to be training us to fight those unholy monsters, Pikachu asked Ash.

I'm sensing that you have issues with onixs.

Nope. I've got no issues with giant snakes made of rock that are part ground type, where the only I defence I've got against them is to run away. No problems whatsoever.

You're scared of them.

Terrified.

Don't worry. I'm not planning to use you in this gym battle. This is going to be Pidgeotto's and Butterfree's fight.

Oh, and what training will you give me that will allow me to overcome my weakness to sentient rocks? Pidgeotto asked Ash.

We're going to train you to fight blind.

I still fail to see how that's going to help me against sentient rocks. What was Arceus thinking when he made rock-types?

I thought Arceus simply shaped the world and made the Creation Trio and a couple others. Everything else was the process of physics, chemistry, and natural selection.

But then who do we have to blame? Pidgeottto said. It's easier to pretend that everything weird is all Arceus's is fault. Like slowpoke's evolutions.

You would think that he would be pissed off by all that stuff, Ash replied. And pissing off the Original One does not sound healthy.

Eh, I always figured that he was asleep.

I hope he's a morning person then. Anyway, we're also going to be working on a variation of Sand-Attack. Actually you might be able to win using nothing but Sand-Attack, but I don't want to risk you getting hurt for nothing, so we'll work on this new attack now.

What about me? Butterfree trilled.

I remember Poison Lance complaining about you butterfree's occasionally. He didn't like the fact that your kind were 'psychic butterflies' and thus had type advantage over him.

I have psychic powers? Cool!

So we're going to be working on developing those. Hopefully Brock won't be expecting bugs with the ability to hit things with their minds.

But rock is still super-effective versus us bug-types. How are we going to deal with that?

With the grass-type move that you know. Sleep Powder.

I see. Think that'll work?

Hopefully. All that we really need to do is impress him enough for him to give us the badge and the money-

Money? We're going to be getting money? Pikachu interjected.

Yeah. Misty told me that you get some money for getting a gym badge. Why?

'Cause if we're getting money we can get something else. Something much better than bits of paper.

What?

Monster movies!

...

I learned to like them from this one TV shop. The owner was a great fan apparently.

...

What?

I haven't seen a single movie, other than a documentary in first grade. And here you are, a pokémon, who's a fan of a particular genre. Life is so unfair.

Hey. Poison Lance could've had a TV stolen for you-

And how would he provide channels and power?

Alright. Fine. I'll have to surf the channels next time we stay at a pokémon center so that I can introduce you to the wonderful world of monster movies.

You know, lets just start training now. Pikachu just keep doing the control exercise. When you can hit the stone behind the tree I'll let you starting practising controlling lightning during the next storm. Pidgeotto, wait a bit, I'll need to be there for your training. Butterfree, come with me.

Ash lead the bug-type to a small clearing.

Alright. What you're going to be doing is... meditating!

But I don't know how.

And neither do I. But's it's the best way to describe this plan. You're just going to stay here and try and sense us training over there. Once you've gotten that down we'll try to learn some psychic attacks.

Like what?

Confusion for starters. It's a relatively low level psychic attack where you blast them with a bit of telekinetic and telepathic force, which can confuse your opponent. But that's for after you've started to hone your psychic powers, so get meditating.

Sure Ash!

At least one of my pokémon respects me.

Oi! Idiot! Pikachu called out from where he was training. Get over here and make sure to speak human!

Ash hurried over to where Pikachu had been training. When he got there, Ash saw that the bearded man from Pewter City was there, watching the electric mouse attempt to fire electricity around a tree.

"Interesting training you're having your pokémon do there," the man said to the trainer when he arrived. "Any particular reason why you're having him do this?"

He just walked up here and started asking where you where, Pikachu informed Ash as he unleashed another attack. It scorched some leaves and hit the ground to the side of the tree.

"Just working on control. Don't want him zapping people he shouldn't zap." Ash replied to the man.

"I"m Flint by the way," Flint informed Ash, putting forth his hand.

It took Ash a second to remember the proper etiquette for the situation.

"I'm Aaron," Ash lied. "What are you doing here?"

"I was just curious about what sort of training you might be up to. I used to do a bit of pokémon training myself back in the day."

"Really? Then how would you go about beating Brock with a pidgeotto, a pikachu, and a butterfree?"

"I wouldn't. Go catch a grass or water type pokémon if you want to have a chance. But I'm guessing that you want to do this with your current team?"

"Of course!"

"Then your only hope is too impress him, not beat him."

"Yeah, that's probably how I'm going to get the badge in the end," Ash admitted. "But I want my pokémon to have a chance at defeating him. I owe them that much."

"Really. Then what have you got planned?" Flint asked Ash.

"Well I'm going to see if I can teach Pidgeotto a method to deal with her weakness against rock-types."

"Oh. How are you going to accomplish that?"

"By training her!"

Flint face-palmed at that statement.

"Obviously" Flint's voice was muffled by his hand. He removed it from his face and continued. "But how are you going to train-"

Ash was already walking over to where Pidgeotto was waiting. Flint hurried after the boy.

"Pidgeotto are you ready to start?" Ash asked the flying-type.

You know having other humans around is going to make this sorta thing awkward, Pidgeotto replied.

"You know I can't understand that. Just nod or shake your head."

I can't believe you managed to say that with a straight face. Pidgeotto nodded.

"Alright then, let's begin," Ash said, as he reached into his bag and withdrew a roll of medical gauze. He wrapped it around Pidgeotto's eyes.

"We'll start slow. I'm going to go to a random spot and call out to you and you have to fly to my shoulder. Got it? Just nod or shake."

Of course I got it. I hope that man leaves soon. She also nodded.

"Training her to fight blind? Interesting. But I don't see how that's going to help against a rock-type," Flint said.

"That's part two," Ash replied cheerily.

"You're certainly an interesting kid," commented Flint as he prepared a fire. Ash was feeding his pokémon.

"Thanks, I think," Ash replied confused.

Finally! Delicious food! Pikachu panted as he took an apple from Ash. I'd call you slave driver, except you're training too.

I don't think I made much progress today, Pidgeotto said glumly. I should keep training.

Ugh. The buzzing. I thought I was okay with buzzing, Butterfree complained. My evolutionary line being so close to Beedrill's. But this psychic stuff's worse. I'm not sure if I'm cut out for this.

"You all did a very good job today. I'm proud of you all," Ash told them, smiling.

And the award for 'best generic statement to address concerns that other's aren't suppose to know that you've heard award' goes to Ash Ketchum! Give him around of applause ladies and gentlemen.

Pikachu, that seems like an awfully narrow award category. Isn't it hard to find participants? Butterfree questioned.

Butterfree, I was making a joke, Pikachu replied, giving the butterfly a flat look.

Oh.

"Can you tell me what pokémon Brock uses? Or would that be cheating?" Ash asked Flint.

"Aaron, considering the number of trainers each gym leader fights it would be impractical to forbid trainers from having prior knowledge of the leaders team."

...

"No it wouldn't be cheating."

"Okay! Then what's he got?"

"He's a relatively young and new gym leader so Brock uses only two pokémon for his battles, a geodude and an onix" Flint informed Ash. "Both are very strong and he made sure to train them against their weaknesses. However he can't spend as much time training as he would like. His deadbeat father, the former gym leader, left the family to go become a pokémon master- "

"Wait. Gym leaders can leave?"

"If they arrange for a new gym leader to take their place, or have someone fill in for them while they're gone. Or their can be multiple gym leaders, like in Cerulean City. A bunch of sisters are co-leaders there, three of them, with their youngest fourth sister off traveling the world to train. She's a part of the gym but not a leader. Anyway, Brock's father left his wife and Brock in charge of the gym. He stayed in touch for awhile but eventually dropped out of contact. Then Brock's mom passed away and he's had to take care of all of his siblings ever since. That horrible piece of waste hasn't even dropped by since."

"Why don't you like Brock's dad?" Ash asked Flint. "I mean, if they can't find him anymore didn't he just die? Otherwise he'd of come back by now. He did everything he was supposed to do."

Flint let out a harsh barking laugh.

"The scumbag's probably still alive. Alive and embarrassed that he couldn't become a pokémon master and wasn't there when his wife died. So he stays away from his children and hides from his own shame. The miserable coward."

"You can't know that! No father would abandon their kid like that!" Ash protested. "I'm sure if he had been able to come back he would've of. They wouldn't care if he failed to be a pokémon master."

"They wouldn't care that he failed to achieve the dream that he sacrificed their mother for? Of course they would care. Of course he would run away and abandon it all. You're young kid. And naive. Parents abandon their kids all the time, kids run away from their parents, and people do horrible things to their family for the most petty of reasons. And their shame and their guilt prevent them from ever repairing the damage. No Aaron, the bastard's still out there; wallowing in his own shame and self pity." Flint spat out that last sentence. His face took on an ugly expression which was transformed by the interplay of light and shadow from the young fire into the visage of a hateful gargoyle.

Ash shuddered and turned away.

None of that was true.

It couldn't be true.

The old weedle never would've done anything like that.

"You're wrong Flint. Parents aren't like that."

"Your parents maybe. Aaron, I can guess that your parents would never do that, but not everyone is like that. Don't worry about it. Brock's a strong kid and a good gym leader despite his awful father. You'll need to train hard to get your badge from him."

I can feel everyone! Butterfree exclaimed from the clearing. Ash was training Pidgeotto in a smaller clearing several meters away and Pikachu was still trying to curve his electricity around a tree.

Good job Butterfree! Ash praised his pokémon. You're doing great. Take a break and then try to focus on one being at a time.

Oh, and Flint's coming back, Butterfree shouted.

Acreus dammit, Pikachu swore. You're the only human we can have a good conversation with and this idiot has to keep ruining it. I can't wait to get on the road again.

"Hey Aaron!" Flint called from within the forest.

The man walked into the small clearing where Ash and Pidgeotto where training. For some reason his left fist was wrapped in gauze as was his lower arm.

"What happened?" Ash asked.

"Nothing you need to worry about," Flint responded, not meeting Ash's eyes and putting his hand behind his back.

"So what're you here for?"

"Just wanted to stop by one more time. Want any advice on your training?"

"Nah."

"Well just be sure to stop by and see me after you face Brock. Okay?"

"Sure thing Flint. Are you sure you're okay?"

"Kid..." Flint shook his head. "Never mind. I'll see you after you battle Brock."

You're feeling ... annoyed.

Duh.

And I can feel hatred radiating from you, directed... everywhere?

Only at trees. They're on the same list as bikes now.

Why do you hate trees all of the sudden? Butterfree asked Pikachu.

You'd hate them too if you had to bend your attacks around them for four bloody days straight.

How's it coming you two? Ash inquired as he hurried past, leading a blindfolded Pidgeotto with his voice alone.

I can sense Pikachu's emotions. Without looking that is.

Pikachu was too busy trying to start a forest fire with nothing but his glare.

You know, this gives me an idea for a new attack.

Ash did you just get a new idea for an attack from the new attack you are currently developing with Pidgeotto? Pikachu asked his trainer.

Yeah. Why?

Ash can I dissect your brain. You know, for science?

What do you know about science anyway? Ash asked Pikachu.

It's the stuff that creates the giant monsters that attack cities.

I don't think I'm going to let you watch T.V. next time we stay in a pokémon center.

Puh-lease. You know you want to be a hero and stop a kaiju.

How would I do that without a brain?

The same way you've been doing everything else.

Alright. Now Butterfree-

Speak up Ash. I'm having trouble hearing you. Why are you all so far away anyway? And hiding behind things?

I"m now sure how this is going to work out. I'm attempting to teach you telekinesis and telepathy here.

But all I'm doing is giving a 'sudden push' or 'burst of focus' as you put it.

I don't know how else to describe it. But this could go very bad for anyone caught in the blast.

Why are you assuming there's going to be a blast?

I saw electricity explode once. Ever since then I assume an attack can blow up unless proven otherwise.

Ash can I have my blindfold back? Pidgeotto asked. I'd rather not see this coming.

Guys, I think you're overreacting a bit. Guys. Guys? Guys!

Alright, Pidgeotto said, nodding. Compress my Gusts, keep them low and small.

And remember this move will be exhausting, so if you need to keep it up renew it by parts rather than all at once.

I'm going to do some heavy grooming after every time I use this move. But hopefully it will be worth is.

Alright, give it a whirl, Ash told his pokémon.

Why did I get a sudden sense of foreboding? Pikachu asked Butterfree.

'Cause you're a worry-wart. Hey! Why are you running away- Oh crap...

Two days, then we're off to Brock.

But we've learned the new moves already, Butterfree protested. We can't we go tomorrow?

Pikachu glared at the butterfly and shook some more sand off.

Cause you two are menaces with those moves! The electric mouse shouted at Butterfree and Pidgeotto.

Like you're one to talk, Pidgeotto shot back. How many trees have you blown up this week?

Alright guys, it's the big day. Are we ready to do this?

I'm ready Pidgeotto declared proudly. I'm going in there and doing my best.

This should be exciting! Butterfree trilled.

I'm not getting involved unless there's a storm, Pikachu said. You lunatics can pick the fight with the giant rock snake.

Butterfree, Pidgeotto, get in your pokéballs. I don't want Brock to know what he's up against until there's no choice.

Do you really think that'll really help? Pidgeotto asked.

I'll take every advantage I can grab. Pidgeotto, Butterfree, return!

The Pewter City gym loomed before Ash and Pikachu, Constructed of metal and granite, each piece looming menacingly over the young trainer and his electric mouse. It resembled a great fortress more than any other sort of structure.

"Here's gonna be fun," Ash said gleefully.

There is something wrong in that head of yours, Pikachu said, flattening himself into his trainer's hat.

Ash opened the great doors and walked into the gym.

There was only darkness inside. Ash had to use the illumination from the open door to make his way forth into the gym.

"Anybody there?" He cried out into the dark.

There was the briefest hum of electricity as a light came on with a relatively loud click. A beam of light fell from the ceiling to illuminate a dark skinned young man sitting indian style on top of a raised platform.

"So a challenger appears!" The young man shouted "Are you-"

"Quick question," Ash interrupted.

"What is it?"

"Do you spend all day sitting in the dark or something?"

"No. I have means of telling when a challenger approaches! Now prepare- what is it now?"

"How do you know I'm a challenger? I could be here for some other reason."

"Because Nurse Joy told me all about you Aaron Autumns."

"Oh. Makes sense. From when you stopped by the pokémon center after the Rocket attack?"

"Indeed. I see you are quite astute! But are you prepared to face the stony might of the Pewter City gym! Here we value persistence, endurance, and determination! That's why I use all rock-type pokémon . Ready? Fine. Then show me your best!"

Ash briefly wondered what the word 'astute' meant before he felt the rumbling as the gym transformed. From either side half of a rocky battlefield approached Ash. He calmly walked up to the right and stepped onto the field rather than try to run back to his end before the halves closed.

Brock frowned. Aaron seemed... off. Normally new trainers were scared and confused by his act. But this boy seemed to have traded his fear for an extra helping of confusion. Aaron had gone through the whole thing with a puzzled yet accepting expression on his face. That was unusual. It intrigued Brock. Not that it would make a difference in the end. Aaron was a newbie trainer who had never fought a gym leader before. The odds against him having powerful pokémon or a killer strategy were high. In order to earn a badge he would have to show the qualities of perseverance and a minimum level of cunning.

Aaron reached his side of the field and Brock pulled out his first pokéball.

"Go Geodude!" Brock bellowed and hurled the ball onto the field. With a flash of light what appeared to be a floating stone with arms, eyes, and a mouth appeared.

"Alright, Pidgeotto, this is what we trained for! Go!" And Ash threw Pidgeotto's pokéball onto the field. She appeared in a flash of light and with a challenging caw.

"Pidgeotto Sand-Attack!"

Right! The flying type looped backward to gain speed and altitude and then sped towards Geodude. Using her powers over wind Pidgeotto let out small cutting bursts of air in order to gather sand from the rocky battlefield. She then used more wind to gather it under her wings. It would have been harder for a rattata or some other small pokémon to gather the sand for the move. Was that why Brock had chosen this field?

She banked sharply upward and let loose her payload of sand. Without any instruction from Brock Geodude covered his eyes with one arm and spun around with the other arm outstretched to bat away the sand. .

Did you think that you were the first to try that, the rock-type taunted Pidgeotto. Every newbie trainer tries to use Sand-Attack if they don't have type advantage.

"I see that you thought you could win if you blinded my Geodue!" Brock bellowed. "But I've trained him to be above that common tactic. It's useless. You can't beat Geodude with that pidgeotto"

It was a really common tactic but a good one. It was the only hope for normal-type or flying-type pokémon that most new trainers had to defeat Brock's pokémon. That was why he trained his pokémon against Sand-Attack.

Oh really now? Pidgeotto drawled.

Ash smirked.

"Pidgeotto Sand-Screen!"

Brock jerked his gaze towards the trainer. He had never heard of that attack before. Was Aaron really a newbie? Most trainers did not start inventing their own attacks until much later in their careers. Brock realized that he may have misjudged his opponent.

Pidgeotto repeated her earlier maneuver, but with one difference. Instead of heading towards Geodude the flying-type began to take random paths over the field. In her wake Pidgeotto left what looked like smaller versions of Gust. But unlike Gust, most of these columns of wind did not stray from their initial position. Instead most stayed put and started to grind into the battlefield and expel continous streams of sand into the air. Some however, did not add to the sand, they merely kept the already airborne sand aloft.

Soon the entire battlefield was covered in a haze of continuously shifting sand.

"An interesting move," Brock commented. "Geodude's training against Sand-Attack certainly can't counter this. But you've blinded your pokémon as well and my Geodude is the more experienced pokémon. He'll have the advantage fighting blind."

"Pidgeotto slash and dash attacks!"

All that training better pay off, or this will probably hurt, Pidgeotto said.

What followed was an exhausting battle for both pokémon. Geodude was unable to take the offensive against Pidgeotto in the haze and was reduced to trying to hit the other ppokémon when she came in close. Pidgeotto was able to avoid Geodude's attempts to harm her, but her own attacks had little effect against the rock-type. She also had to occasionally renew some of the wind columns that maintained Sand-Screen. Pidgeotto was tiring fast. The question was would she tire out before Geodude had taken too much damage to continue.

Brock was growing more curious about this trainer. Why had he developed this strategy? Sand-Screen blinded both pokémon. It would be far easier to simply stick with Sand-Attack to reduce the accuracy of his opponent. Then Aaron would not have had to teach his pokémon to fight blind. It was obvious that he had, the pidgeotto carried itself far too well under these conditions not to have trained for blind fighting. But it wasn't like Aaron had known that Brock trained his pokémon against Sand-Attack. Had he picked up some hints from somewhere?

Aaron's Pikachu said something and the trainer's face twitched. More odd behavior for Brock to wonder about.

Brock suggestions please! Geodude called out in pain as Pidgeotto completed another pass.

Hearing his pokémon's pained cry Brock realized that Geodude was not going to win at this rate. His mind frantically searched for solutions. He had an idea. It would be energy intensive, but Geodude wasn't tiring out, he was being beaten up. Pidgeotto should be the one tiring. If he had Geodude do this Pidgeotto should be the first to tire and then Geodude could easily win.

"Geodude Rapid Spin!" Brock commanded.

Gotcha Brock, Geodude replied. Let both arms hang loose the rock-type pokémon began to rapidly rotate until he was a spinning blur within the haze. He began to randomly speed around the field. When he passed through one of Pidgeotto's wind columns he disrupted it and left it weakened when he was past.

"Pidgeotto dodge high and stay there! Don't try to stop him." Ash told his pokémon.

Letting him tire himself out I see, Pikachu commented from Ash's head. Interesting strategy.

Ash I don't think I can put up another Sand-Screen, Pidgeotto shouted to her trainer. I'm getting too tired.

"Pidgeotto get ready to use that we came up with," Ash called out.

We didn't come up with any moves. You came up with two and I came up with one- oh, right. Can't say that in front of the other human.

What the hell are you talking about? Geodude shouted as he finished dispersing the worst of Pidgeotto's Sand-Screen. He came to a halt and shook off some his dizziness. The room was moving all around him and he was extremely tired. He ached all over from Pidgeotto's attacks and he was also covered in sand. This had not been a fun battle for Geodude.

But it was over now. Pidgeotto was just as tired, if not more so, and had no place to hide.

"Geodude Tackle!" Brock ordered.

Geodude sped towards Pidgeotto who was barely able to dodge. Geodude turned around and began to come in for another pass.

"Now Pidgeotto! Flying Toss!" Ash told his pokémon.

"Flying Toss? Wouldn't it just be Sesmic Toss?" Brock asked Ash.

Pidgeotto dodged Geodude's attack by the slimiest of margins. She twisted and grabbed one of the rock-type's arms in each talon. Her tired wings burned as she forced them to move once again, dragging Geodude along for the ride. Speed was of the utmost importance here, the attack wouldn't work on Geodude if he had time to react.

She dove downward to gather speed. Geodude still hadn't grasped what was happening and by the time he started to, Pidgeotto had gained sufficient velocity. Pidgeotto banked upward and entered another loop, hoping to disorient and confuse Geodude. It evidently worked as Geodude didn't struggle. The flying type completed the loop and banked sharply upward once more. This time she let go of Geodude and the disoriented rock-type flew into a wall.

The gym shuddered from the impact and Geodude fell to the ground. Pidgeotto hovered nearby wearily.

Is it over? She asked.

Brock smiled.

"Geodude attack!"

With surprising speed the living rock rose from the floor and backhanded Pidgeotto across the face. Ash's pokémon flew like a shuttlecock across the battlefield towards the opposite wall. Ash leapt up and took the pokémon turned missile to the chest. He clutched her close as he fell back to earth.

Pidgeotto was out cold.

You did really great. I'm so proud of you, Ash whispered to his pokemon as he grabbed her pokéball. Now take a well earned rest. With a flash of red light Pidgeotto disappeared.

Brock looked at his Geodude critically. His pokémon was covered in scratches and other marks of the battle. It was also breathing heavily. It was in no condition to battle again. Brock recalled Geodude.

"That was an interesting battle Aaron Autumsn," the gym leader shouted across the field. "I don't think I've had one quite like it before. But I think it's over now. Go Onix!"

With a flash of light and a roar a stone leviathan appeared.

I'm not fighting that thing! Pikachu cried out, squeezing beneath the back of Ash's shirt.

"I choose you Butterfree!"

It's my turn! Trilled the butterfly as he solidified outside the pokéball.

So Aaron was going to try this old trick.

"I'm impressed that you managed to acquire the evolved d forms of both caterpie and pidgey but it's futile-"

"Butterfree Sleep Powder!"

Brock may have rolled his eyes as Onix fell over snoring. It was impossible to tell.

"As I was saying, it's futile. Onix's defense is too great from for Butterfree's attacks to damage it. Onix will just sleep as you exhaust yourself pounding away at him. Then he'll wake up and defeat your exhausted pokémon. You really should forfeit-"

"Butterfree Confusion!"

"It already knows Confusion!" Another curious thing about Aaron Autumns. He was certainly not your typical new trainer. Brock decided that Aaron would most likely be getting a badge for this battle.

Bits of debris scattered around the sleeping stone snake began to shake as Butterfree unleashed his psychic attack. Onix groaned and shuddered in his slumber.

"Again Butterfree! Put a bit more power into it this time."

This time the debris around Onix rose and vibrated as Butterfree brought his psychic powers to bear. Onix curled up and moaned in pain.

No. No. Not this. Onix mumbled. The telekinetic and telepathic battering were giving him a nightmare.

"Once more Butterfree. As strong as you can make it." Ash commanded.

Brock watched his pokémon, anguish plain on the gym leader's face. It would be a disservice to recall his pokémon now, when it hadn't even had the chance to fight. At least Aaron's pokémon's attacks weren't really hurting it.

"Come on. Come on. Come on. Wake up please." Brock muttered. Shouting was no use; moves that forced pokémon to slumber usually caused a sleep deep enough to endure being attacked. The shouting of one's trainer would have little effect on a slumber that deep.

Butterfree furrowed his brow in concentration and drew his head back, as he gathered the full force of his mind. The entirety of the gym seemed to go still as the power of the attack grew and everything was silent, as if the structure itself was holding its breath in anticipation.

He shattered that still and silent moment in an instant, thrusting his head forward and turning loose the power he had gathered. Butterfree glowed with an ethereal purple light for an instant and then Onix began to glow as well.

Butterfree's attack managed to lift the mass of living rock that was Onix, battering him with wave of telekinetic force from all directions. Whats-more the telepathic blast assaulted his sleeping mind like a battering ram.

No. I don't want to go in the water. No no no NO! Get me out! I don't want to drown! Help me Brock. Onix cried out, in the grip of a nightmare. The rock-type began to writhe and thrash, breaking free of Butterfree's attack. It threw its body around the battlefield, smashing the and destroying everything around it.

"Make it stop!" A high pitched voice cried out from above. It took Ash a moment to realize that it was human. He looked at where he guessed the source of the voice was. A group of children stood on walkway by the upper window, clutching the guard rails; the siblings Flint had told him about.

"Stop it you meanie!"

"Quit bullying Onix!"

"Be nice to my brother!"

No. Cold. I don't want to be cold. Make it stop! Brock! Help me Brock! Onix continued to thrash, slamming his head into the gym walls. His blows shook the building and left a nasty looking mark on his head.

Brock! Why aren't you saving me? I'm sorry for whatever I did. Please save me. Don't leave me Brock! Brooooock!

Onix slammed into the wall beneath Brock's siblings. Many of the children couldn't keep their balance and fell back on the walkway with pained and panicked cries.

The situation was completely out of control Brock realized. And very dangerous. He needed to end it before anyone got hurt. And he needed to stop his pokémon's suffering, he couldn't take it anymore. Brock would've taken the attack in Onix's place if he had known that this would happen. It would probably hurt less than the sight before him.

"I forfeit!" Odd, Brock mused, that didn't sound like his voice. Because it wasn't his voice, he realized, it was Aaron's.

"I give up! Just recall him. Help him!" Aaron shouted, tears in his eyes. He held up Butterfree's pokéball and recalled the bug-type. "Hurry up and help Onix!"

Brock wasted no time in recalling his own pokémon.

"Sssh. It's okay Onix. I'm here now. It's okay." Brock whispered soothing nothings to his pokémon inside the pokéball, until the ball quit shuddering.

With Onix comforted Brock turned to talk to Aaron, but he wasn't there. The only thing in that direction were the gym doors, slowly swinging to a close.

You two did great, Ash told Pidgeotto and Butterfree as they walked down the path away from Pewter City. Pidgeotto was perched on his shoulder, still recovering from the blow Geodude had dealt. Butterfree was fluttering behind them.

Yeah. Butterfree you had them on the ropes! And Pidgeotto, you were overcoming the type disadvantage. Even if you didn't win you still put up a hell of a fight, Pikachu added his own praise.

Why'd you forfeit Ash? Butterfree asked his trainer. We could've won.

It was becoming too dangerous. Brock's siblings could have been hurt. Also...

He didn't like hurting Onix like that, Pikachu finished for his trainer. Ash it was only a nightmare. And Brock's siblings grew up around that pokémon, they would've known to get out of the way. You should have kept going until you won or Butterfree fainted.

No. It was too dangerous for everyone involved. I stand by my decsion. Ash answered firmly. Let's just head on to Cerulean City and get the badge from there. I hadn't known about advancements when I started planning for this journey so if we go by the original plan we should be good. I'll get that badge -

Someone's coming! Butterfree warned.

"Aaron! Wait up!" It was Brock.

Ash stopped and let the gym leader catch up with the group.

"Why'd you leave?" Brock asked as he caught his breath. "I was gonna give you a badge."

"I don't deserve it" Ash returned mournfully. "I messed up and put your siblings in danger. I never- Ow! What was that for?"

"Excuse me. Who's the gym leader here?" Brock scolded. "I am. That means it's my responsibility to make sure that things stay safe during the battle, not yours. Got it? I screwed up when I underestimated you. Had I not done so I wouldn't have let Butterfree use Sleeping Powder and the danger would've been averted. My screw up, not yours."

"Alright. Sure. I was in the right." Ash replied, rubbing his head where Brock had swatted him. For some reason he struck Brock as insincere. But not about it being Brock's job to deal with the danger.

"You're a good kid Aaron, but you've got to learn what's your responsibility and what isn't," Brock continued. "You only need to worry about things that are your responsibility. Trust me, you'll find that to be more than enough as it is," he finished with a bitter laugh that made him sound a bit like Flint.

"What'd mean?" Ash asked.

"I mean you shouldn't go looking for more responsibilities then you have to. You don't want to end up stuck somewhere, unable to fulfill your dreams, because there's something that you must do."

"Huh?"

I don't think he likes being a gym leader, Pikachu told Ash quietly. Make sure to wait a second before showing the look of comprehension.

"Oh. I'm sorry." Ash said.

"Don't be. I should have recalled Onix sooner-"

"I meant about your situation."

"What about it?" Brock asked the smaller boy darkly.

"I heard about it from some old guy. I'm sorry that you're stuck in the gym-"

"Don't be. I mean, sure there are things I'd rather be doing." It sounded like he wanted to do those other things a lot more than he was trying to let on. "I want to become a pokémon breeder for example. But I was only trying to warn you about - No, screw it. You're right. I really don't want to be doing this. I love my siblings and I love the gym, but I want to pursue my own dreams. I don't want to be stuck here, battling every newbie trainer from Pallet Town and Viridian City. Aaron, don't be like me. Be sure to follow your dream. You've earned this badge."

Brock withdrew the Boulder Badge and presented it to Ash. The poké-raised boy took it reverently.

"Our first badge!" He said gleefully, holding up the badge to show his pokémon.

Sweet!

Excellent! Our work payed off!

Cool! I can't wait to get the next one!

"And you've earned this advancement," Brock continued. He held out a bound wad of currency that Ash took and stuffed in his backpack.

"Aaron. Have a good journey. Fulfill your dream for my sake, since I can't."

"Actually, you can fulfill your dream, Brock." A new voice called out. Ash recognized it as Flint's. The old man slid down the ledge by the path's side. His left hand was no longer bandaged. Ash could see part of a long, thin, scar peeping out from under the long sleeves Flint wore. It looked pretty recent.

"I know you from somewhere," Brock said, tapping his chin as he tried to remember. Flint gulped nervously. He looked like a man about to jump into a fire.

"You should." And then Flint took off his gap and revealed his beard to be fake by taking that off as well. Underneath it all he looked like an older version of Brock.

"Dad?" Brock said unbelieving, looking as if he had seen a ghost.

"Yes, son. It's me-" And suddenly Flint couldn't talk anymore. There was a fist lodged in his gut, which made both talking and breathing somewhat problematic. And standing upright. As he doubled over, Flint noted that the arm was paler than he expected. He looked up at the owner, surprised to see that it was Aaron, not Brock who had struck him.

Was it just his imagination, or had Aaron's eyes flicked blue for a second?

Ash was furious. This- This- thing was an insult. It's mere existence was an utter insult.

An insult to the Ketchums, sleeping eternally under stone markers.

And insult to Poison Lance, waiting back in the wilds around Pallet Town.

"Calm down Aaron," Brock cried out, pulling the young trainer back. "It's okay-"

"Honestly" Flint grunted. "I was expecting that from you, or at least you first."

"You- You- You-" Ash was too furious for words. The piece of filth had known everything he was doing wrong and had waited until now to correct it. Disgusting.

"Calm down Aaron. It's okay," Brock told the young trainer, as he stopped Aaron from murdering his father.

"After all the-"

"Considering the little speech I just gave, it would be a bit hypocritical of me to get mad at him for following his dreams. But I take it that this is the guy you mentioned earlier?"

Ash nodded.

"I'm guessing that you've been in the area for a while now then. Too ashamed to show yourself?" Brock asked his father.

Flint turned away, shame evident on his face.

"Yes."

"Then I probably should hit you once for that. But since Aaron already walloped you good, I'll let it pass. I take it you'll be taking over the gym then?"

Flint nodded.

"Great! Oh and the little ones will be so happy to see you too! That's right, I've got to speak to you about some details that you'll need to be aware of."

Ash took the opportunity to calm down. This wasn't his business. He should be going.

"I'll leave you two alone then," Ash said as the turned around.

"Hey wait! I want to come with you," Brock told Aaron.

Ash and his pokémon would have won a synchronized twitching contest, if such a thing existed.

"Uh..."

"What you don't want me to come with? Why not?" Brock inquired.

"It's- It's just- Actually can I have a minute to think about it?"

"Sure. I've got to talk to Flint anyway."

"I'll just be over here," Ash told Brock as he climbed the ledge Flint had come down and went a little ways into the forest.

He's not coming with! Pidgeotto hissed to the group. I'm not going to go through the whole 'Pretending not to understand' charade again. My trainer is one of the few humans I can have a conversation with and I happen to like that.

I don't know, Butterfree trilled. He seems like a nice guy. We could always use another friend.

Then Ash can catch another pokémon!

But this human seems nice...

Actually, guys, we need to look at the bigger picture here, Pikachu interjected.

What bigger picture? Ash asked his pokémon.

The one where you're being chased by Team Rocket. I think we should let him come along.

We can take those Rocket idiots, Pidgeotto declared. We beat them the last couple times-

Just barely, Pikachu responded. We could have a gym leader with us to put the odds in our favor and make sure that no one steals our human. We can still get some time to talk to Ash, just tell Brock that we prefer to train alone or something like that. But if Team Rocket gets him, we may never see him again.

Fine. We can bring Brock I guess, Pidgeotto huffed.

You know, shouldn't this be my decision? Ash asked, rolling his eyes.

Fine. What do you say we do with him then? Pikachu replied, also rolling his eyes.

I guess we take him with....

What an excellent display of leadership, don't you agree Pidgeotto.

Why indeed Pikachu. What an example he sets.

Yeah. Ash is really cool guys!

Butterfree... Butterfree Butterfree Butterfree. We have so much to teach you, Pikachu moaned.

"So why you want to go with that kid?" Flint asked Brock as they waited for Aaron to return.

"He seems like a nice guy. Or at least that's the impression I got from the battle. And since I don't have a planned route I'm just going to wander at first. Since he's got a route I might as well tag along.

"Really that's it? Pretty much cause he's there?"

"That and there's something... off about him. It's odd. I can't quite place what it is."

"Still as curious as ever I see," Flint said with a smile. "That's nice to see."

"And- oh he's coming back."

Aaron slid down the ledge next to the reunited father and son, his pokémon following behind.

"I guess you can come with, if you want," Aaron said, looking down and rubbing the back of his head.

"Perfect! Wait here for a minute while I go grab my things. Then we can leave first thing-"

"Aaron Autumns! You owe me a new bike!"

"Who the blazes is that?"

"A long story that I'm evidently missing pieces of-"

Oh that was her bike, my bad...

"And I'm not sure that I want them filled in," Ash finished as he turned to face the red head running towards him. Her face was red from some emotion that Ash couldn't identify, but from her shouting he guessed it was anger and nothing else. Nothing else whatsoever. Nothing at all.

Well, this should be good, Ash thought to himself, burying his hands in his face.

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