Traveler

Ash Ketchum has been determined to become the best since he was a toddler. He has his eyes set on a charmander, but a twist of fate led him to the humble Nidoran. Note: Mix between anime and the games.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8466693/1/Traveler

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8. Celadon Part 2

"Good job, Dazed!" He called out. Dazed turned back and looked at him for a moment.

Erika took the time to send out her next choice, a large tangela. Ash studied it for a moment before returning Dazed. He saw her look back at him in relief before the energy suffused her and took her back into the pokeball.

Plume erupted onto the field a few moments later, announcing her arrival with a loud shriek. She flew around the confines of the field for a few moments before Ash gave her an order.

"Gust, follow with wing attack." He muttered. Plume quickly followed the quiet commands, blasting the Tangela with a gust of wing. The Tangela managed to keep itself upright and prepared a few of its vines.

As Plume dived towards the Tangela at a high speed, Erika made her own move.

"Vine whip, absorb, and bind." She said serenely. Tangela enacted the orders so quickly that Ash couldn't warn Plume. Its vines snapped out at unnaturally fast speeds and slammed into Plume with incredible force, slamming her into the ground.

It then waddled over to Plume and entangled it with its vines, leaving the bird immobile and helpless. Ash winced as the vines restricting Plume began to glow a bright white, digging into Plume and absorbing her energy. In just a few seconds she was exhausted, unable to do anything despite Ash's pleas.

"Slam." Erika said calmly, her tone belying the brutality of the order.

Plume was knocked unconscious when the Tangela brutally raised her and slammed her into the ground in a scene reminiscent of Dazed using confusion on the Gloom. Ash gritted his teeth and recalled his beaten pokemon, hoping she would be alright and angry that she hadn't been given a chance to really fight.

It was time to get serious.

Nidorino appeared on the field, powerful and strong. Ash grinned as he saw the barbs extend and drip clear venom.

"Nidorino." He called. His friend continued staring at the Tangela, but his large ears tensed and twitched. "Don't hold back. Focus attack."

The large creature growled and tensed up, focusing its strength temporarily to vastly increase its power. Nidorino then charged at the Tangela quickly, leaving none of its power in reserve as it slammed into the surprised Tangela with its horn, jabbing the Tangela painfully and throwing it several feet away.

Ash smiled. Focus attack was a new combo he'd made during their journey to Celadon. It was just a combination of focus energy and horn attack. Perhaps he wasn't the most creative when it came to naming his attacks, but the powerful combination worked well, so it didn't really matter.

Horn attack was powerful enough on its own, but when Nidorino's strength was amplified by focus energy…well, it could do quite a bit of damage.

Erika seemed stunned, perhaps expecting the rest of his pokemon to be a trivial matter to defeat. But she soon recovered and sent out a Weepinbell.

"Razor leaf." She commanded tersely, a bit of anger seeping into her tone. "Then use sleep powder and slam."

"Focus attack." He ordered again. There were plenty of other ways he could have proceeded, but he wanted to finish this up and get Plume to the Pokemon Center. She wouldn't be badly harmed by the brutal attack, but he wanted her to be out of pain as quickly as possible.

Although Erika tried to warn her Weepinbell, it was too slow to avoid the danger. Nidorino charged at it, slamming his horn into the firm flesh and throwing it several feet away. He slammed into it when it wasn't immediately knocked unconscious.

When the stunned Erika recalled her pokemon, Ash congratulated Nidorino. He didn't bother recalling his friend as he stepped out of the challenger's box and walked over to Erika. She seemed annoyed at her defeat, but it was quickly wiped away from her features.

"You did well." She said serenely as she withdrew the Rainbow Badge from a pocket. "You have proven your skill and have shown that you deserve this badge."

Ash carefully took it from her and examined it. The badge was more stylized and colorful than the others he had collected. It was shaped like a flower, showing grass, with rainbow colored petals. He looked at it for a few more seconds before withdrawing his badge case and carefully placing it into the fourth slot.

"By the way," Erika began, "return here one day. I would like a rematch. But for now, I suggest you return to the Pokemon Center. Your pidgeotto suffered quite a bit."

He nodded at the mention of the rematch and had to hold back a grimace and glare at the mention of Plume. Ash just said, "Alright." After that, he quickly left the gym and its disgusting scent. Ash wasn't exactly happy with it right now.

XX

Plume was currently in stasis. She had moderately severe injuries, although nothing that would permanently damage her. But she would be staying in the Pokemon Center for a day as the Nurse Joys did whatever it was they did. After that she wouldn't be able to battle for a week, since the damage she suffered bruised most of her body, which would be exhausted by the healing process anyways.

Ash was annoyed that Nurse Joy wouldn't let him see his friend, but could understand it somewhat. Plume needed to heal, and the excitement and worry that Ash would bring might pull her out of stasis and into consciousness. Still, that didn't mean he liked it. He wanted nothing more than to go and sit by her as she healed.

At least Dazed was fine. She wasn't badly hurt by the petal dance to begin with, so he just had to buy a weak potion to give her. After she'd drunk it she was perfectly fine, if a little tired. In a day or two she'd be back to normal.

Right now, though, he was wandering Celadon in an attempt to forget about his worries. He couldn't do anything about it right now, and sulking wouldn't help anything. Besides, maybe he would find something interesting.

Now that he thought of it, there was supposed to be a Game Corner in the city. It was also supposed to be pretty close to the Pokemon Center, less than half an hour away. While he wasn't supposed to go into places like that – his mom would kill him if she ever found out – it was perfectly legal.

If someone was old enough to wander the world and be around creatures capable of breathing fire and crushing stone, gambling wasn't a big deal.

Despite the silent voice of his mother chiding him for even thinking about gambling, he found himself in front of the Game Corner soon enough. He didn't go in for a while, instead opting to just look at it.

The Game Corner was different than any of the other buildings in the city. It wasn't quite as gaudy as he'd imagined, given the wild stories and descriptions of it he'd heard, but it was still bright and flashy – obnoxious, really.

Flashing lights displayed the names of businesses and people that Ash had never heard of. Bright colors and grinning faces covered the outside, along with the name of it, "The Game Corner".

All in all, Ash wasn't too impressed. It wasn't as though he was about to gamble in the first place – although he had quite a bit of money thanks to his numerous victories, he knew that if he started he would just keep on playing until he had nothing left.

Still, curiosity at what was so appealing about this place made him go inside. He felt a little awkward amongst all the adults venturing freely into the room, but there were quite a few trainers his own age and some a few years older. No one paid him a second glance.

Ash still couldn't see the big deal about this place. It was full of slot machines, which looked somewhat interesting, and tables for other games, but nothing really exciting. He would much rather be battling right now.

Nevertheless, he continued walking around. He recognized most of the games, although a few were unknown to him. Ash didn't bother going up to the front desk to get a Coin Case, instead opting to explore.

After a few more minutes of this, he grew bored. He had found himself in a mostly empty area of the Game Corner, far from the casino and seemingly only existing for employees. Ash was about to return to the outside and find something else to occupy his time when he saw a door, made to look unobtrusive and hidden in a shadowed corner.

His curiosity spiked, Ash checked to see if there was anything that told him not to go in. There was nothing.

Since it looked like he wouldn't get in trouble for entering, he pushed in. Although nothing prohibited him from going in, Ash didn't want anybody catching him. So he was careful when he walked through the door.

It opened into a long hallway that branched off into several others. Ash glanced around as he slowly made his way down the hall. The walls were bare and grey; a stark contrast to the ostentatious Game Corner. He almost wondered if he had gone into a different building.

Ash took the first turn that came up. It led to yet another long hallway. He continued walking down it, wondering where everybody was. Maybe this was just an abandoned section of the Game Corner, or maybe they had just built it. The trainer couldn't think of any other reason as to why it was so dull in regards to the rest of the Game Corner and seemingly empty.

Eventually the hallway reached a set of stairs. Ash hadn't taken any turns this time, realizing that it wouldn't be a good thing if he got lost in here. There wasn't a way to differentiate the areas and he wanted to be able to easily remember his way back.

He cautiously crept down the stairs. It was a rather long flight, but he could see a plain, unmarked door at the bottom. Since he knew exactly where he was, he decided to go down and see what was in the abandoned section.

Ash quietly pushed the doors open and stepped through. The room he entered was far different than the spartan design of the section that he had just left. It seemed more professional; more like an office than the grey walls of the abandoned section or the glitzy casino.

It was pristine. White walls, perfectly arranged potted plants, and an unnerving absence of dirt or grime perfected the image. He looked around curiously for a moment before going on. This must be where the administration was, although he wasn't sure why it was in such an out of the way place.

As he walked through, two men walked in through the only door in the room. They were laughing and talking as they entered, but that wasn't what attracted his attention. What attracted his attention was the black uniforms they wore and the crimson R emblazoned across their chests.

His blood froze. Memories of a pale, limp man huddled into the fetal position flashed through his mind. A sinking cruise ship, a cruel man with blue hair, and the stinking rot of a muk enveloping him took its place an instant later.

"…and then those idiots spend a hundred thousand on a bunch of balloons and really expensive machinery. Can't imagine why the boss granted it – that Michael guy is bad news. His pokemon are strong, but it isn't worth it when one could probably tear this facility down in a few minutes."

"Yeah." The other man said with a nod. "I get what you're saying. Maybe he has a plan for that kid. Or maybe he's just trying to keep those idiots and their talking cat busy and far away from here. It would be great if they all got killed. I mean, if he really wanted those pokemon he could send anyone but the idiots – they'd have a better chance."

The first man snorted. "Damn right. Anyways, have you heard what Proton's up to? He's supposed to be…wait, what the hell is that kid doing down here. We haven't gotten any new recruits."

Ash stared hatefully at the man, anger he had never known before bubbling up to the surface like magma. His fingers gripped tightly around Nidorino's ball.

The second man growled. "Look, kid, take your hand off that pokeball if you don't want to get hurt. Do you really think you can beat us?"

Two bursts of scarlet light was Ash's answer. Common sense was telling him to flee, but the memories of the St. Anne and the burning desire for justice overruled it. The grunts he'd met before weren't particularly impressive, so he figured he could at least overpower these before leaving and heading to the authorities.

"Well, looks like we've got ourselves a hero." The first man grinned. "Don't be easy on the brat, but don't kill him either. I want to know how he got in here. Victor and Hugo were supposed to be guarding the outer door."

Ash scowled at the putrid, oozing grimer that appeared from one of the grunt's pokeball's. A koffing joined it a few moments later, spitting its oily, stinking smoke out.

"Dazed, psybeam on grimer, repeat. Nidorino, protect her."

He'd been careful in choosing his pokemon. Grimer could badly poison anything that came in contact with them since they didn't have the fine control of their toxins like muk. Koffing weren't anywhere near as volatile, but he'd like to take it down from a distance.

Dazed had the psychic power that badly hurt poison-types and could safely disable the more dangerous ones. Nidorino would be completely immune to their toxins and dangerous presence – the chief danger in dealing with poison-types – and could protect Dazed if they got too close.

The Rockets clearly hadn't trained much with their pokemon. Their commands were long, overly complex, and slow to come out. By the time they'd finished telling their pokemon what to do – revealing their entire strategy to Ash in the process – Dazed had prepared her psybeam.

It flashed at the more dangerous grimer, quickly impacting it and blasting sludge all over the room. Ash noticed that it was markedly more powerful than when Dazed had used it on Erika's Gloom, although it wasn't lethal. He was glad – the Rocket's pokemon were broken and abused, he didn't want them to die. It wasn't their fault they were being used like that.

Still, grimer wouldn't be fighting any time soon. It was clearly unconscious, as it was no longer attempting to maintain a form. Instead it was just a large, toxic puddle on the floor.

"Use explosion!" The second one cried out in a panic. Ash froze when he heard the command and saw the koffing concentrate heavily as it prepared to release its energy.

He had nothing to worry about. Dazed had already unleashed another psybeam, which flashed through the air and slammed into the koffing. The small pokemon was deflated and unconscious.

"Hypnosis!" He ordered, the rage at Team Rocket subsiding into a more refined, cold anger. "Don't put them to sleep though, just keep them from doing anything. Nidorino, make sure they don't escape and watch out for the door."

Dazed quickly carried out his orders. Her hypnosis was nearly instant – she didn't have to put as much effort into doing it to humans, especially since Ash didn't want them fully asleep. One tried to run away, but Nidorino was too fast for him. The powerful pokemon charged at the fleeing man and slammed him to the side. He wouldn't be going anywhere for a while, especially since Dazed quickly put him under her hypnosis.

Ash walked over to the nearest Rocket, trusting in his pokemon to keep him safe. The Rocket was completely helpless – the hypnosis made him too exhausted to struggle or attempt to attack Ash, although he was still aware and able to answer any questions he had.

Although he was going to leave soon – he didn't want to be in a Team Rocket stronghold alone and with only two pokemon to use – he wanted to have some evidence to bring to the police. He couldn't let this operation go on.

"What do you do here?" He asked, trying to remember the questions people always asked on those shows his mom liked. Ash kept his voice as calm as possible, letting only a bit of his anger leak through.

The man sleepily looked up at him. He seemed to struggle for a moment, but Dazed raised one of her hands, apparently using some sort of persuasion on him. Ash was very glad that he had a psychic pokemon.

"This is a base that we use to supply our agents in Celadon." He said quickly, as though he had memorized it. "It is also a research facility, where we test experimental drugs and compounds in order to see their effects on pokemon."

Ash's interest was aroused, despite the fact that he knew that he would hate the answer he would be given.

"What kind of drugs?"

"Things that make the little monsters bloodthirsty and full of hate." The grunt said with a nasty grin. His professional, detached tone was gone. Now it was filled with malice. "Drugs that make the monsters go insane, but make them strong. Sometimes they backfire and warp it, but that's only when the spooks mess up. Or when they're bored."

Ash's vision flashed red. He fought back the urge to punch the man in the face. The trainer glanced over at Dazed.

"Put all of them to sleep. Nidorino, push them into that corner."

His commands were quickly followed. Dazed easily forced the grunts to sleep and prolonged the pokemon's unconsciousness. The bodies were quickly pushed into a corner of the room filled with plants.

Ash wasn't sure what to do next. He wanted to just run back to the police and tell them about this place, but he knew that they might not listen to him. Or worse, Team Rocket would just clear out in the time it took to mobilize any sort of force to invade the stronghold.

Still, while he was sure he could take on quite a few grunts with little to no trouble if they were all this weak, he didn't want to be going in without anyone knowing where he was. He was going to do the best he could to defeat the grunts, but he didn't want to just be locked up forever if he was beaten.

Then he remembered the PokeNav. He quickly yanked the useful tool off of his belt, incredibly grateful to Steven at that moment. Ash pressed the blue button and held the tool with nervous hands as the device smoothly unfolded, revealing a small black screen.

He punched in a few numbers and called the police. The PokeNav automatically sent the call to the nearest police force, so, in this case, Celadon City. As an afterthought, he lowered the volume. It was up pretty high so that he could hear his mom in the loud Pokemon Center.

"Hello, how can we help you?" A bored Officer Jenny said. Ash made sure to stand out of the camera's way – he didn't want to be seen by the police. They might ignore him just because of his age.

"There's a Team Rocket base hidden in the Games Corner." He said, doing his best to lower his voice. The result was closer to a comical attempt than a convincing display. That didn't matter though, since it still disguised his voice. "It's in the empty section. Go down the hallway, take the first right, and keep going straight until you reach stairs. Head down the stairs and you'll enter the compound."

Officer Jenny was paying attention now. "Is this some sort of sick joke?" She demanded.

Ash frowned. "No. Let me show you some proof."

He carefully picked up the device and walked over to the pile of bodies. Ash aimed the camera towards the distinctive uniforms. Officer Jenny gasped when she saw them.

"They're still alive." He said, his voice shifting into its natural range. "Just asleep."

"A team will be sent there immediately." Officer Jenny said. Her voice was stern and professional. "Get out of there."

His response was to cut the phone off. He didn't think that they could trace PokeNavs yet – they were new in Hoenn, and almost entirely unknown in Kanto – but he didn't want to take that much of a risk. All Ash wanted to do was do his best to damage Team Rocket and then escape before attracting more attention to him.

"Alright, buddies, let's go."

Nidorino grunted in response and walked in front of him. Dazed kept to his side, prepared to fight any sudden threats. Ash had a moment of uncertainty about this, but the anger at Team Rocket and the memories of their horrible deeds overwhelmed it.

The door opened up into a short hallway. It had the same perfectly clean and professional style of the previous room and had two doors on each side of it. Ash opened up the first door on his right and glanced in. A Rocket grunt was sitting down at a computer.

"Hypnosis." Ash whispered. Dazed quickly raised a clawed hand, focusing her psychic energy and sending out the pink energy. It latched onto the grunt quickly, the overwhelming power of the attack crushing his will and forcing him to sleep.

He stepped into the room cautiously, glancing around. Aside from a few computers, he didn't see anything. When he reached the grunt, he quickly removed the lone pokeball from the unconscious man's belt.

Ash looked for a place to hide it. Even though he didn't think the grunt would be waking up any time soon, he didn't want to be surprised.

Soon enough he found the perfect spot: one of the potted plants. Ash forced the ball down into the soft soil and smoothed it over. It would take a while for the grunt to find it.

When that was over with, he moved on. He quietly left the room and shut the door. The trainer glanced down the hall to make sure there weren't any grunts coming his way. After he was assured that there wasn't, he stepped to the room across from this one and silently creaked the door open.

Two grunts, both at computers. Ash pushed the door open some more and glanced at Dazed. She raised both of her hands and sent the pink energy at each of them. They were put to sleep almost instantly, although one tried to fight it.

When they were unconscious, Ash repeated the same process. Each had two pokeballs this time, so he had to be a bit more creative. Two went into the potted plants in the corner of the room, while he stuffed the others into the small gap between the beams supporting the large desks and the desk itself. When the last two were wedged in tightly, Ash moved on.

The other rooms were much the same – both had two grunts inside, which were easily dispatched. Ash repeated the process of hiding their pokeballs and moved on. He followed the right turn the hallway took, but ran into two more grunts walking towards him.

"What the hell?" One asked in confusion when he saw Ash. He just stared at him oddly until he saw Dazed and Nidorino. "We're under attack!"

Both sent out large, angry raticate. Ash was reminded of Amelia's raticate for a moment, but suppressed it. Now wasn't the time for that.

"Use hyper fang!" The second grunt shouted. His raticate quickly followed the order, skittering towards Nidorino with bared teeth.

"Hypnosis on the back one." Ash ordered. "Nidorino, horn attack."

Nidorino growled before charging the raticate. Although the raticate tried to use the powerful hyper fang attack on the larger pokemon, Nidorino sent it flying backwards with the force of his horn attack. Ash winced as the rat slammed into the ground. It wouldn't be battling for a while.

Meanwhile, Dazed had already put the second raticate to sleep. The grunts tried to pull out another pokeball, but Ash had Dazed use hypnosis. They collapsed to the ground, unconscious.

Ash looked at them in disgust before walking past them. "Let's go. The police should be here soon and I want to beat as many as I can."

Nidorino grunted in agreement before racing a little bit ahead of Ash, prepared to guard the trainer against any threat. Dazed just quietly plodded along behind them.

They took many turns in the large compound, travelling deeper and deeper underneath Celadon. Quite a few Rockets were taken by surprise and disabled by Dazed, saving Ash the trouble of defeating their pokemon. Ash only had to battle five or six of the grunts, and all were easily defeated by Nidorino and dazed.

He was almost disappointed in how easy this was. Team Rocket was supposed to be the most dangerous criminal organization in Kanto, dwarfing and assimilating almost all others. Ash knew that they were dangerous and willing to commit horrible atrocities – his own experiences could attest to that – but on the individual level, they were quite weak.

Maybe these were just the throwaways, he mused as he travelled into yet another room. It seemed to be much larger than the others and much darker – only a few dim lights illuminated the room, and they were all too weak to let Ash see what was going on.

He had a bad feeling about this, and that feeling was realized when he stepped into it. The lights in the room flashed on, lighting the large room.

Ash wished he had never entered this place. He was in the laboratory, or wherever it was that the Rockets tested their horrifying drugs.

There were dozens of pokemon in small, cylindrical containers. The containers were roughly ten feet high – they went from floor to ceiling – and four feet around. They were made of a clear, glass-like material, although Ash knew that it had to be something much tougher.

Some of the pokemon imprisoned and subjected to the horror of this place were rather mundane – small, haggard rattata, pidgey that flapped their wings and attempted to fly through the glass, or pikachu that angrily released all of their power in attacks on the containers.

Others were more uncommon or rare: rhydon raging and thrashing, a lone magmar doing nothing at all, as though it were in stasis, and a single eevee pathetically curled up into a huddled ball.

All of the poor creatures looked as though they were insane or broken. Most of the raging ones had small tubes connected to their body, cleanly inserted. A clear substance was being fed into their bodies, likely giving them the drugs Ash had heard of. Ash gritted his teeth and clenched his hands tightly. This was an abomination.

Nidorino growled deeply at the spectacle, but did nothing. Dazed's eyes began to glow a bit, but she never used her power. Judging from how the other pokemon's attacks did nothing to the containers, Ash wasn't surprised that she didn't waste the energy on attacking the seemingly invulnerable material.

"Let's go." He growled, his cold anger flashing with waves of hatred again. "We can't do anything here. The police will free them."

"I wouldn't be too sure about that." An amused voice spoke up from behind him. Ash quickly whirled around and groaned. Three grunts were behind him, all with their pokemon out. "You won't get out of here fast enough to warn them, brat. In fact, you're going to be down here for a very long time."

Ash scowled, but hid the glee that spiked through him. The Rockets didn't know that he'd phoned the police. They wouldn't be packing up any time soon. Certainly not fast enough to escape the wrath of the League.

"Of course, you seem to be a slippery little bastard." The grunt sneered. "So, I guess we'll just have to alert everyone else regardless."

He pulled out a small device and pressed a large red button. Ash inwardly groaned when alarms began to go off, causing a long blaring sound and making the alarm lights flash a bright red. It looked like he wouldn't be sneaking up on any grunts after this.

"And now, you can either give up peacefully or we will –"

The grunt had no time to finish. Dazed released a powerful psybeam that hit the lead grunt first, blasting him back and leaving him unconscious. Then she swung it towards the other grunts and their pokemon, knocking the grunts out but only weakening the pokemon. Only one was knocked out, a small grimer.

"Huh. Didn't know you could do that." He muttered. "Nidorino take care of that ekans and raticate. Dazed, psybeam."

The raticate growled and ran towards Dazed, apparently seeing her as an easier target. A psybeam directly to the face dissuaded it of that notion, hurling it back and slamming it into the wall. Dazed sent out a second psybeam afterwards, blasting the raticate once more and knocking it out.

Nidorino seemed to be having a bit of trouble with the ekans. Although they had fought the snake pokemon before – they were commonly used around Celadon, so he had battled many trainers with them – this one was particularly fierce and actually posed a challenge. Ash was surprised it hadn't evolved by now.

He didn't bother giving Nidorino commands – they were too close, and Nidorino knew what to do best when faced with close combat. All he would do was slow his friend down. It wasn't as though Nidorino knew many moves he could pull off instantly that would actually hit the fast, evasive ekans.

His friend grunted as the ekans bit him, but his tough hide kept the fangs from penetrating his skin. Nidorino ignored the pain and took the opportunity to jab the ekans with his horn. It didn't actually hurt the ekans – its scales were too hard for the horn to penetrate without momentum – but the force knocked it backwards and stunned it for a moment.

That moment was all Nidorino needed. His friend charged at the stunned snake and slammed into it, hurling the lighter pokemon backwards into the wall. Nidorino wasn't done, however. He quickly ran over to the ekans and reared up before stomping on it with incredible force.

The damage from the attack knocked the ekans out, although Ash could see that it wouldn't die or even be disabled from battling for more than a few days at the most. Still, all he needed was the ekans unconscious. As long as it didn't wake up for a while, everything would be fine.

"Let's get going." He said. "We need to get out of here before more arrive. The police will arrive soon, so let's do as much as much damage as we can."

His friends nodded in agreement. Ash took one last sorrowful look at the lab before moving on. He was getting vengeance on the Rockets – now he just had a few more victims to avenge.

XX

He noticed that it was getting much more difficult to fight through the Rockets when they knew he was there. They were staying in pairs and trios now, making every battle more difficult. The Rockets were also getting more powerful and more disciplined – whether that was because he wasn't surprising them or a real increase in their quality wasn't known to him.

Nevertheless, he continued tearing through them. Dazed and Nidorino were getting a little bit tired, but they were driven by their desire to hurt Team Rocket.

The only battle they really had trouble in was when four grunts ambushed them. All of their pokemon were more powerful than the norm for Rocket grunts, but they couldn't match the combined might of Dazed – whose psychic abilities gave her quite an advantage over the poison-types – and Nidorino, whose raw power and skill enabled him to crush the pokemon that tried to fight him.

Eventually, however, he found that there weren't any more of the grunts. Just a long stream of unconscious bodies and pokemon behind him. Ash was wary of any that were waiting in ambush, but he couldn't find any. Neither could Dazed or Nidorino.

He continued following the single hallway. Although it branched off into many rooms and had many turns, it had never branched off into another hallway aside from the first time. It made finding all the possible Rockets and anything important much easier.

Ash eventually ran into another pair of grunts. These seemed more important though – they didn't wear the masks that made the other grunts anonymous and faceless. They also wore different uniforms, grey instead of black.

And they each had a more powerful and evolved pokemon out, unlike the weak ones used by the grunts. Ash cautiously looked at them. Both were large and powerful looking – a gigantic, thick arbok and a hissing golbat. The grunts glared at him before giving orders to their pokemon.

"Arbok, fire fang." The one on the left ordered. His massive, powerful looking arbok gladly followed his order, quickly slithering to Nidorino with a maw filled with flame.

"Psybeam!" Ash shouted in a panic. "Nidorino, focus attack on arbok!"

Dazed seemed to focus all of her power into the psybeam. The beam was brighter and more intense than what he'd seen previously, and although smaller it was more focused. It slammed into arbok, suffusing the serpent with a multicolored aura.

Although arbok was weakened, it wasn't knocked out from the powerful attack. Nidorino took advantage of its temporary disadvantage to focus its energy before charging at the snake. He impacted the arbok with incredible force, further stunning it but still failing to knock it out.

The other grunt finally acted, apparently realizing the arbok wouldn't be able to win alone. "Hyper beam. Aim for that drowzee and then the brat."

Ash looked for something to hide behind when he heard the order. It wouldn't stop a fully powered hyper beam, but maybe he could make it not kill him. When he found nothing he clenched his fists and got ready to try to jump out of the way.

He shouldn't have bothered. Even as the golbat prepared the incredibly powerful blast of energy, Dazed moved to protect Ash. A psybeam just as powerful as the one that struck arbok slammed into golbat. The golbat screeched angrily as it was hurled backwards, but its attempt to use the hyper beam was cut off.

Ash nodded his thanks at Dazed, whose eyes were glowing brightly in anger. "Confusion on golbat."

Golbat had no chance to resist the psychic attack. Dazed easily took control of the golbat's mind with her mastery of the attack. The bat turned on its former master, hissing and flailing as Dazed awkwardly manipulated its body.

The Rocket had no chance to avoid the golbat's frantic attacks. A wing smacked him in the face with great force, sending him to his back and stunning him. Dazed seemed to lose control of the golbat after that, but knocked it out by forcing it to fly as high as it could and then into the ground.

Ash had kept an eye on Nidorino, but hadn't been paying as much attention to him. His friend was dominating the weakened arbok, jabbing it with his horn and dodging its fast, vicious strikes. By now the arbok was slowing as the numerous injuries inflicted upon it took their toll.

By the time he was able to pay full attention to his friend's fight, Nidorino was already about to knock the arbok unconscious. Ash glanced over at the last grunt, who refused to leave the battle and continued to shout out commands to the rapidly weakening arbok.

"Hypnosis."

Dazed performed her most useful ability quickly, causing the grunt to crumple to the ground in unconsciousness. Ash just glared at the body for a moment before returning his focus to the battle. Nidorino had taken advantage of the arbok's confusion at the lack of commands from its master to jab it painfully with his horn, finally knocking it out.

Ash looked at the bodies of the grunts in disgust before moving on. He wasn't sure how much more Nidorino could take. This was a hard battle for him if the small dents in his hide from the arbok's sharp fangs and the slight sluggishness with which he moved were any indication. Combined with the exhaustion he had to be feeling from fighting his way through legions of much weaker pokemon, his friend would probably be knocked out soon.

One more room, he promised himself. These Rockets were much more powerful than the others he had faced, so he had to either be reaching the end or reaching a very important place. Either one meant that he could strike a real blow against Team Rocket.

If he had successfully cleared an entire hideout by himself, then he could know that he was capable of doing real damage against them and that he had little to fear from the average member. If he managed to take something important or detain an important member, then he could strike a huge blow against them.

Ash gave him and his pokemon a few minutes to rest before entering the room. It looked like he was in an entirely different building. Instead of the clean, pristine design of the other rooms, this one reeked of luxury. He was reminded of the St. Anne.

Large, expensive carpets covered the floor of the room. Paintings and banners with Team Rocket's emblem on them filled the walls. A large, mahogany desk was in the center of the room. On the wall behind it, a small plaque held the Rocket motto.

"Steal pokemon for profit. Exploit pokemon for profit. All pokemon exist for the glory of Team Rocket."

He scowled and turned his attention to the inhabitant of the room. The man was tall, even if he was sitting down behind the desk, and stern looking. Something about the man seemed dark and cruel – his pale skin seemed to have a shadow cast over it and his eyes seemed fake somehow, too dispassionate and blank to be real.

And then everything about the man subtly shifted until it revealed an entirely different person. In the place of the tall, dark man a hunched man with a purple Mohawk appeared.

"Ah, so you're our little intruder!" He said jovially as he stood up. The man gave an awkward little bow. "Welcome to my base. Of course, it was quite rude of you to battle your way here, but I can forgive you. By the way, what did you think of that little trick? It takes quite a bit of practice to pull off that well."

Ash looked at him oddly and took a step back. This wasn't how he'd imagined a Team Rocket leader to be. He had thought that they would all be like Pierce: cold, threatening, and cruel beneath a thin shell of sanity.

The man seemed to pick up on his thoughts. He gave a wide grin. "Ah, I suppose I'm not what you expected, eh? Executive Petrel, Team Rocket's resident master of disguise and commander of the Celadon hideout at your service!"

He just stared at the Executive, taken aback. The Executive smiled again.

"Well, I'm obligated to inform you of a standing offer to join Team Rocket!" He said flamboyantly. "While I'm sure that you won't accept, it's still there. My boss wants skilled individuals such as yourself in our little organization. Age doesn't really matter, after all."

"No."

Petrel smiled and shrugged. "Oh well, I had to try. Anyways, I suppose this is the part where we battle?"

Ash couldn't say anything before the strange man threw out three pokeballs at once. A golbat, koffing, and raticate were revealed as the scarlet energy solidified.

The Executive gave a little sigh. "I'm afraid this group won't give such a powerful trainer much of a challenge. My real team hasn't been sent over from headquarters yet." A grin crossed over his face. "Of course, you could always accompany me there yourself. It would save me quite a bit of trouble."

He didn't have time for this. "Psybeam on the koffing. Focus horn on raticate. Follow with confusion on golbat."

The koffing was instantly knocked out by the psybeam, and raticate barely had time to hear Petrel's calm order to dodge before being hit by the full power of Nidorino's attack. Ash grinned when he saw the raticate slump over in unconsciousness. Golbat was quickly taken control of by confusion and forced to slam itself into the ground.

"Hypnosis." He ordered; glee at so easily defeating the Executive overtaking him. Ash frowned when he realized that the grinning Rocket Executive was still awake and none of the pink energy had been released.

He glanced over at Dazed to see what was wrong, but shrank back when he saw a large floating mass of purple shadow hovering over his friend's frozen body. Two clawed hands were holding his friend in place as a long, wide tongue licked Dazed.

Ash knew what that thing was. A haunter – a powerful, mischievous pokemon that did not mean good things for him. Haunter were susceptible to the emotions and mind of their trainers. If this one had become more like Petrel, well, it was dangerous.

Dazed had no chance against the surprise attack. The haunter's lick sapped her of all energy and almost instantly knocked the tired psychic unconscious. Ash watched with horror as it turned towards him and gave a wide, toothy grin before lazily floating over to Nidorino, who was finishing off the golbat.

"Nidorino, watch out!" He shouted. "It's a haunter."

Nidorino looked back at the haunter, but was suddenly distracted by a large blast of flame that barely missed him. Ash looked at the source of the fire – a small but powerful looking houndoom that had somehow remained hidden. It leapt at Nidorino with bared fangs and a flaming maw, but it couldn't do anything before Haunter had reached the distracted pokemon and grabbed it with its clawed, ethereal hands.

Ash was paralyzed with the fear Haunter brought in its wake. All he could do was watch as it casually restrained Nidorino and gave it a long lick, ignoring the long rows of poisonous barbs. Nidorino instantly froze, although Ash could see him shivering a bit.

Petrel seemed perfectly at home with the sudden chaos. He stepped forward with a silly grin on his face, although Ash couldn't consider him a harmless, awkward fool anymore. Although he didn't show any obvious malice, he was just as dangerous as Pierce. Ash grimaced as the Executive's grin widened.

"Sorry about the deception." He said sincerely. "But I saw some of the security footage with you battling. This was much cleaner than the alternative, as I'm sure you will agree."

He just growled, although his anger faded and twisted into terror as Haunter menacingly floated towards him. Its wide grin – reminiscent of Petrel's now that Ash saw them side-by-side – showed its sharp fangs and its dangerous tongue.

"None of that now." Petrel chided. Haunter shrank back but continued to bare its long, curved fangs at Ash. "Now, I suppose you just knocked out most of my men…and women, of course." He added. "Can't forget the women. Might make Ariana mad."

Ash slowly nodded, confused by whatever reference he was making. Surprisingly, Petrel frowned. Without the silly grin on his face, it was much easier to see him as a Team Rocket leader.

"You should have just killed them, you know." He said casually, scratching the houndoom's ears as it walked over. "Most of them are useless to begin with and now I have to keep on paying them. You'll be worth the whole damn group soon enough."

He scowled. The anger he felt at Petrel's confidence that he would join Team Rocket managed to push the fear Haunter inspired back. "I'll never join Team Rocket."

"Eh." Petrel shrugged, leaning back on his desk. Ash saw a sneasel jump up beside him from behind the desk. "I heard that my boss managed to procure a pretty powerful psychic. It's amazing what people will do after a psychic messes with their head. With how powerful you are, you'll definitely be seeing it. I give you a week, tops."

Ash's fists clenched and he looked down at his unconscious friends. He thought about trying to send out Torrent, but knew that it would be futile. Torrent was far too weak on land to have a chance against any of the pokemon individually, let alone when all three were working together.

Petrel glanced over at Haunter, his dopey grin returning. "Hey, use hypnosis on the kid. Give him a taste of his own medicine, eh?"

Haunter's grin was so wide that Ash thought it would burst outside the corporeal shadow. It raised its shadowy, clawed hands and began to wave them back and forth. The ghost's eyes began to glow a bright, bloody crimson.

Ash felt his eyes begin to droop as Haunter continued to wave its hands. The psychic power it exerted slowly shut down his mind, showing its inexperience with the move. A master of it like Dazed would have dropped him in an instant.

Just as his mind began to grow fuzzy and his vision dimmed, he became aware of a massive burst of heat near him. Suddenly the power of the hypnosis began to fade and his mind began to become more alert. Still, he could barely see anything as he was suddenly pushed out of the way and pulled to safety by a large creature with burning fur, although it wasn't very painful.

He finally regained full awareness as a pair of hands carefully guided him into the hallway he just cleared. Ash's eyes snapped fully open and he struggled to turn back to Petrel's room. All he could see was massive bursts of flame and the familiar blue and pink blasts of psychic energy.

"Wait," he shouted, straining to reach his pokeballs, "my pokemon are still in there! I have to get them."

"Calm down, kid." A stern, feminine voice said reassuringly. "They'll be fine. That Rocket is already beaten. I'm Officer Jenny, and I'm in charge of this force. Are you hurt?"

Ash calmed down a bit now that he knew it was the police, but still wanted to go and personally get his friends. But he supposed that the police would have everything wrapped up soon enough.

He pulled himself free from the Officer and looked at her. She was older than the average Jenny, and looked as though she had seen a lot of things. A massive, panting Arcanine was at her side and stood a foot taller than she did. Ash supposed that the Arcanine had pulled him out of the room. Now that he thought about it, his back did feel kind of wet, probably from the dog's saliva.

Once he reminded himself to wash the jacket at the first opportunity, he answered the Officer.

"I'm fine." He said as calmly as he could, although now the memory of the Haunter's disturbing grin was starting to come to the forefront of his mind. "He was just starting to hypnotize me when you arrived."

She seemed relieved by that, but suddenly grew angry. "What the hell were you doing in here to begin with?" The Officer demanded with a cold tone that reminded Ash far too much of when he got in trouble with his mother. "A Team Rocket hideout isn't a good place for a kid to be."

"I was attacking it." He admitted, aware that it probably sounded implausible to the Officer. Ash couldn't have blamed her either, although the stream of unconscious Rockets and pokemon should prove his claim unless she was completely unreasonable. Which she likely wasn't, since one didn't get to be the head of a team that attacked a Rocket hideout by being blind.

Officer Jenny got a strange glint in her eye that made Ash feel like hiding in a corner. "And why were you doing that instead of leaving it to professionals?"

"I did call you." He said in an attempt to defend himself. "I just wanted to get some of them myself first."

"You got a bit more than some of them." She said drily. "We counted forty-two unconscious Rockets on the way down here. Most didn't even have their pokemon out. Now, aside from the obvious stupidity of you attacking a Rocket stronghold on your own, why didn't you just leave after knocking a few of them out?"

He frowned. "Did you hear about the St. Anne?"

She frowned as well. "Yes. What does that have to – wait." Officer Jenny said, narrowing her eyes. "I thought you looked familiar. You're that kid that survived that damn wreck, aren't you? I get it now." She sighed. "Even if I don't think it was smart."

Ash had to admit that it wasn't the smartest thing that he'd done. He wasn't really thinking, though – he was too busy remembering the horrible things Team Rocket had done and the vengeance that their victims deserved.

A stout officer with a rather impressive beard left Petrel's room and walked up to Officer Jenny. "Captain, we're finished in there. The Rocket leader is unconscious. That nidorino and drowzee have already been teleported to the Center for treatment." He shook his head and sighed. "They'll be fine, but Haunter licks are tricky. If it wasn't taking it easy on them for some reason they probably would have already died."

His blood froze again at the news, although he was overjoyed by the fact that his friends were fine. Still, the thought of them dying was one of the worst things Ash had ever feared. If it weren't for Petrel's mercy – probably so that Ash wouldn't hate him and Team Rocket even more – his best friends would be dead.

He was in a slight daze after the news, but he was aware of Officer Jenny's words.

"Kid, you're coming with us. You have some information that could help us and we need to discuss whatever your award will be." Her lips pursed in annoyance. "What you did was one of the stupidest things I've ever heard of as well as the most unlikely success, but the fact remains that you saved us a lot of trouble and discovered a Team Rocket hideout in a major city."

Ash nodded and allowed himself to be led by Officer Jenny. Her Arcanine guarded both of them as they travelled up through the hideout, flanked by a small group of officers that weren't needed. He kept his head low and wondered what was about to happen. His tired mind idly thought that this seemed like the spot where a story would cut off – a time when everything else had come to a close and only the future awaited.

The rather odd and pointless thought was accompanied by various odd thoughts and fantasies as he was carefully lead to the nearby police station. Officer Jenny made a point of keeping him as out of sight as possible and whispered to him that she didn't want him being seen by anyone. Team Rocket had their ways of finding things out, and she didn't want a ten year old being targeted.

Eventually they reached the police station. It was a bare, practical building that looked more like a fortress than an actual police station. Officer Jenny quickly guided him through it before taking him to a silent, grey room that was empty save for two chairs and a small table.

"I have a few questions I have for you." Officer Jenny said wearily. "I'll make it fast. I'm tired and I have work to do. So sit down."

Ash quickly obeyed her and took a seat. She took the one opposite to his and looked at him.

"Let's get this over with." She sighed.

XX

He was out in two hours. The questioning itself was quick – he was asked for his name, how he had discovered the base, and anything odd he'd seen in the base. After he'd answered the basics, they just asked him what the Executive's name was. Everything else they already knew for sure.

The rest of the time was spent making sure that his identity was obscured. Officer Jenny certainly made it clear that she thought that he was one of the stupidest people she had ever met, but that didn't mean she would even think about letting him be put into any danger.

She had authorized the use of full restores on his pokemon – an expensive service that was one of the few things trainers had to actually pay for at Pokemon Centers – and got all three of them out in just a few minutes. They had already been sent to the station and picked up by him. Ash couldn't wait to let them out and congratulate them on their performance.

Despite the fact that he had his friends back, he would also be staying in Celadon for a few more days. Officer Jenny had to make sure all evidence of his presence was wiped out from all but the most secure documents before letting him go, and there was also whatever reward she would be giving him.

The Officer had already added a small bonus to his trainer card that would give him free access to full restores at any Pokemon Center and a few other minor rewards, but had also mentioned that he would be receiving one of the pokemon that had been rescued from the Rockets. They just had to find one that didn't need rehab and wasn't dangerous.

Ash looked forward to having a new member on his team, although he was nervous about having one that had been subjected to the Rockets' treatment. Still, he wasn't about to refuse it. At least he could give it a better home.

But for now he was just glad that he and his friends were safe and that the Rockets wouldn't be able to hurt anyone else in Celadon. Now he could just get on with his journey and stay far away from the Rockets and their plots.

A smile crossed his face. He would be getting a new member for his team, he had proved to himself that his team really was strong enough to fight, and he had his route planned out.

While waiting to be released from the station, he had decided to head over to Saffron. Ash wasn't sure whether he was anywhere near Sabrina's level yet, but he figured that he should at least try. After all, that was what being a trainer was all about. Finding challenges and pushing your limits until you were the very best.

So he wouldn't be skirting around Saffron anymore. It was time to face a real challenge. Sabrina was waiting for him.

 
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