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.


3. The Sisters Part 1

Mt. Moon was an imposing sight. The massive mountain towered above them, dwarfing even the tallest of the trees a thousand times over. Fearow and other birds cawed at each other from their nests in the rocky sides of the mountain.

Fortunately, they didn't need to go over the mountain. The only fast path was underneath it.

Ash gulped at the thought of being underneath the millions of tons of stone and dirt. He would prefer that there were an alternate way to get to Cerulean, but Mt. Moon was the only real way unless they decided to go back to Viridian again and take some of the side routes. There was a reason that trade between the two halves of Kanto – the west consisting of Viridian, Pewter, and the myriad of smaller towns such as Pallet and the east, which consisted of Cerulean, Saffron, Celadon, Vermilion, Lavender, and Fuchsia – was extremely limited and it was almost entirely due to Mt. Moon.

"What are we waiting for?" Amelia asked, noticing that both Ash and Jonathan had stopped. "Mt. Moon won't take us more than a day to go through and there are plenty of markers."

"Sorry." Jonathan muttered. "But do we really have to go down there? I don't like the idea of being underneath a mountain. What if it collapses?"

Amelia rolled her eyes. "That's not going to happen. The worst that can happen is that we find an overaggressive onix or something. Besides, I bet Rhyhorn will like it."

"Fine." Jonathan said, relenting. "Let's go, Ash. We might as well get this over with."

He gulped again and followed his friends as they neared the mountain's entrance. A Pokemon Center stood to the right of the large entrance, but they didn't bother to stop at it. The group had only been traveling for a week and had plenty of food and water left. Although they had been slowed down considerably – in no small part due to Ash constantly stopping to battle every trainer that they saw, although the others tended to do the same, if on a smaller scale – the travel was still quite fast.

Only Amelia seemed comfortable as they entered the dark cave. Small beams of light shot down from holes in the mountain and kept the cave from being pitch-black. Ash saw a beam of red light flash out from Jonathan's barely visible hand and form into the small, stocky body of Rhyhorn. The stone creature roared in happiness at being released and butted its heavy head against its trainer's leg.

Rhyhorn had been extremely disobedient for a while. When she was first released from her ball she attempted to run back to Pewter, but when Jonathan recalled the rock type and let her out again, Rhyhorn realized there wouldn't be any escape. Instead the pokemon opted to destroy their campsite and charge into trees.

Jonathan – who rarely grew angry with anything, although he was easily annoyed – snapped when the Rhyhorn attempted to charge at Ash and Amelia, who were already releasing their pokemon. He released Charmander and systematically destroyed Rhyhorn until it was so beaten and exhausted that it couldn't attempt to fight him.

Ever since he had defeated it in battle, Rhyhorn had been like a dumb, overly affectionate growlithe. Her massive body and horn weren't ideal for physical affection and had caused Jonathan quite a few bruises. Jonathan didn't seem to mind, however. He kept her out of the ball at night with Charmander and tended to use her to fight off any wild pokemon.

Jonathan paid little attention to Rhyhorn and just pushed her off before she accidently hurt him.

"Make sure there aren't any other pokemon around, alright?" He said. Rhyhorn stared at him dumbly for a few seconds before the meaning of his words sunk in. When the words made sense it nodded and charged into the darkness, roaring a challenge to any other pokemon.

"I hope she gets smarter when she evolves." Amelia commented while Jonathan sighed. Ash just sniggered. They continued along through the cave for hours. Rhyhorn appeared to have scared any zubat away, so they weren't attacked by the dangerous hordes of the bat pokemon that trainers told each other horror stories about.

Still, something seemed odd about the tunnels. They hadn't encountered a single pokemon or trainer since entering, despite the fact that this was the most commonly used route for newbie trainers going to Cerulean or Pewter City. It put Ash on edge, although neither Amelia nor Jonathan appeared to notice anything.

"I'm telling you," Jonathan said loudly, his voice echoing through the tunnels, "A gyarados would beat a dragonite with no problem. It can use dragon type attacks and isn't weak to any of the dragon attacks a dragonite would use."

"And I'm telling you that you're an idiot." Amelia retorted. "A dragonite is a lot more powerful than a gyarados to begin with and could just use a lightning attack. Even if the gyarados could beat it, the dragonite could just fly out of range."

"A gyarados could fly after it." Jonathan objected.

"Gyarados can't fly!" Amelia exclaimed, apparently having gotten into this argument before. "I've been telling you that for years."

"Of course they can." The boy said. "Why else would they be listed as a flying type in the pokedex?"

Amelia groaned and began to retort, but Ash stopped her.

"I can hear somebody." He hissed. Jonathan and Amelia just rolled their eyes.

"Of course you do." She replied. "It's not like this is a restricted area. I'm surprised we haven't seen another trainer yet. We have to be close to the end. I doubt we even have two hours of walking left."

Nevertheless, they stopped and stayed quiet. Ash listened intently for the voices he was sure he had just heard, but nothing surfaced. After a few minutes the others grew annoyed and moved on. He nervously followed him, not liking the feeling that they were going into danger.

Ten minutes later they began to hear loud hisses and cries from further down in the tunnel. The others seemed to realize that something was awry, and when Rhyhorn began to growl – a deep, powerful rumble that reminded Ash of an earthquake – Jonathan cursed and recalled the pokemon. No one wanted to be detected until they knew what was wrong.

As they began to draw closer they each began to develop a painful headache. Ash thought that he could almost hear a sound, but whenever he tried to focus on it his concentration slipped and he found himself walking into a wall or tripping.

"Do you think it's some sort of pokemon?" Jonathan asked nervously as they crept through the tunnel.

"No." Amelia said, shaking her head. "It sounds more like someone's captured a bunch of wild pokemon. You know our headaches? My sister told me that zubat and their evolutions can use supersonic and give people and pokemon headaches and confuse them."

Ash groaned as the pain grew worse. He clasped his hands over his ears in the hopes of blocking out the painful noise. To his surprise it managed to work and he was capable of walking in a straight line as long as his ears were covered. The others followed his example and they began to increase in speed.

The cries and screeches of pokemon grew even louder as they continued and Ash almost lowered his hand to grab Nidoran's pokeball. He didn't want to know what had managed to cause so many pokemon – especially the tough wild ones that had survived in the depths of Mt. Moon – such pain or distress.

Unfortunately his question was soon answered. As they walked through the slowly brightening tunnel – the greater amount of light was provided by electric lamps hanging from the ceiling – the group suddenly saw two adult men in black uniforms with a crimson "R" on the front walking around a turn.

The men saw them as well and shouted something to someone behind them. Ash saw one of them tapping a pokeball and felt panic surge over him. He'd seen those uniforms in various news articles and on TV. Only one organization wore uniforms like that – the notorious Team Rocket.

Jessica's orders to them if they ever saw Team Rocket sprang to mind and he went to obey them. Although being one of the valiant heroes that fought the villainous group sounded quite appealing when he was far away from the danger he found that being in a potential confrontation with them was much more terrifying than he would have ever dreamed.

"Run!" He shouted before taking off back into the tunnels. Ash kept his ears covered – his running wouldn't do him any good if he couldn't go straight – and glanced behind him. Jonathan and Amelia were quickly gaining on him, although the Rockets were running after them even faster.

He turned his head back and tried to stop when he saw a glimpse of a very large set of fangs a scant foot ahead of him. Ash cried out as he tripped into the gaping maw of the massive golbat – presumably owned by Team Rocket – but Nidoran's pokeball suddenly shook of its own volition and released the small creature, who hissed menacingly at the golbat.

The others had run into their own foes – a coiled ekans that was hissing at Jonathan and a koffing that menacingly grinned at Amelia. Ash pulled away from the golbat at the last second, narrowly avoiding its sharp teeth.

Suddenly he heard a loud hiss and a sort of squelching noise. Ash turned his face – pale with fear – back to the golbat, which seemed to have collapsed onto the ground. He saw the familiar form of Nidoran pulling his small horn out of the golbat's stomach and turning back to Ash.

His face grew even paler as he saw the red blood on Nidoran's horn. Nidoran's red eyes glinted with rage and determination as he turned and charged to aid Charmander in his battle with the ekans. Bulbasaur was mercilessly whipping the koffing with its powerful vines, forcing the helpless koffing to the ground.

Ash fought the urge to vomit as he saw the brutal fight. He glanced at the golbat and was relieved to see that it was getting back up, although it wouldn't be able to fight for a while. Even if the golbat was Team Rocket's that didn't mean it should die.

He had heard of pokemon fighting like this in defense of their families or trainer. It was something that every child knew. Pokemon could be dangerous. Even the weakest could easily kill a human, but all but those that were most overwhelmed by hatred were naturally against taking a life except for food or necessity.

But this was more terrible than anything he could have dreamed of. He knew that it was necessary – Team Rocket were real criminals, not the harmless ones on cartoons that made overly complicated plots and failed at doing anything – but it was still horrible.

Suddenly it was all over. The Team Rocket pokemon were unconscious and bleeding, although they wouldn't die. Their pokemon had turned towards the two men that had been chasing after them. Nidoran in particular seemed to be preparing to attack them with his horn and inject poison into their veins.

Just before Ash feared Nidoran would snap, a massive, moving pile of purplish goo pushed past the two Rockets and formed into a muk. Ash couldn't hold down the wretch that resulted from the muk's horrible smell – it was like someone had mixed rotting corpses, old garbage, and every other vile smell in existence and made a pokemon out of it – and spilled his breakfast onto the cavern floor. Amelia and Jonathan had similar reactions. He managed to place Plume's pokeball in his jacket's inside pocket as he did so.

"Recall your pokemon." A cold voice suddenly ordered, breaking the tense silence that had resulted from the muk's appearance. Ash closed his nose with one hand and turned his burning eyes towards the source of the voice.

The man who had spoken was a tall, handsome man with cold eyes and proud features. He had an air of haughty sophistication about him and spoke in icy, cultured tones. His long hair was a deep blue, so Ash assumed that it was dyed.

"My name is Executive Pierce." The man said as he walked up next to the muk. "Although I must say that your pokemon are most impressive, they couldn't hope to defeat my muk. Certainly not in their pitiful forms."

Nidoran and Charmander growled while Bulbasaur stayed silent. Ash gritted his teeth and fought back the urge to lunge at Pierce.

"Hand over your pokeballs or we will kill your pokemon." Pierce continued, delivering his ultimatum. "It would be quite the shame to waste such fine specimens of their breeds, particularly when two of them are quite rare."

The group was too petrified to resist the two Rockets as they came up and pried the pokeballs from their hands. Ash was grateful that he had hidden Plume's ball, as the Rockets didn't thoroughly search the group.

Nidoran shot a regretful look at Ash before one of the Rockets returned him to his pokeball. Ash's throat and eyes burnt as he realized that he might never see his friend again. The thought that he might be killed by the ruthless group never even crossed his mind.

"Thank you very much for your cooperation." Pierce said condescendingly. He motioned for the other two Rockets to lead the group behind him. The muk gave a horrific mockery of a grin at the children as they were roughly pushed behind Pierce as he briskly walked down the tunnel.

"Your pokemon will not be returned to you. They are my, ah, organization's now, although you will be freed when our operation here is over. We have no interest in detaining children."

"Why don't you just let us go right now?" Jonathan asked nervously, his normally jovial voice high with fear. "It's not like we could do anything without pokemon."

Pierce smiled humorlessly as they were led into a large cavern. Dozens of wild pokemon of all sorts – geodude, clefairy, paras, zubat, and golbat were the most common of the breeds - were in cages far too small for them and were making a racket.

Twenty Rockets were injecting something into pokemon – these seemed to be trained, since they were much quieter and seemed to be aiming much more precise attacks at the Rockets than the random violent outbursts of the wild pokemon – that Ash assumed to be some sort of anesthetic since the pokemon went limp afterward.

Pierce seemed annoyed by the racket and pulled out some sort of remote from his pocket. He had a smile on his face as he pressed one of the numerous buttons on it. All of the pokemon cried out in pain as their cages sent thousands of volts through their bodies. Many of them were knocked unconscious. All were silent.

"Now that we can be civilized, I will give you several options that will decide your fate." Pierce began; completely unfazed by the torture he had just put nearly a hundred creatures through. "You can put up some sort of futile resistance. That unwise course of action will result in your deaths, or at least permanent maiming."

Amelia squeaked in fear. Ash paled even further and his hands started shaking. Pierce just smiled again.

"Did you think that we would spare you because you are children?" He said, shaking his head at their foolishness. "We have eliminated quite a few of the older trainers that have resisted us already. However, that would be a waste. Your second option is to be quiet and complacent. That will result in your release. Of course, there is a third option, one that will allow you to ascend to greatness and fight for the greater good of all."

Pierce seemed to have a fire in his eyes now, and his words were almost maniacal in their conviction. It was a far cry from the cold, sophisticated man from before.

"You are each capable trainers." The man said softly. "Your pokemon were quite powerful for such weak forms and could only grow more powerful in time. And there is a way to get them back, you know. You," he said, pointing to Jonathan, "could have your Charmander back. You," he repeated, pointing to Amelia, "could have your Bulbasaur back. And you," he concluded, pointing at Ash, "could have your Nidoran back. All that I ask is that you join us."

All three of them blanched and couldn't hide their disgust. Pierce frowned – the strongest expression Ash had seen him use so far – and began speaking again.

"I understand your concerns." The man began softly. "You likely believe the unfortunate misconceptions of the masses that we are," Pierce's face twisted in revulsion, although Ash got the feeling that it was all an act, "criminals." The man spat out. "But we are so far beyond their judgments. We are making a better world for all! Are humans not the most intelligent and resourceful creatures on this planet? Are we not deserving of complete mastery of this world? Shortsighted men claim us to be criminals, but they cannot see that we are fighting for a better future, a future in which the monsters that walk the earth are under humanity's control and no longer pose a threat! Is that not a goal that you would desire to attain?"

There was silence for a brief moment after Pierce's speech. Jonathan broke the silence in his blunt manner, his disgust and annoyance overriding any semblance of self-preservation.

"Hell no!" Jonathan said. "Not if it means that I'll be as stupid as you, you psychotic jackass."

Ash hid back a groan at Jonathan's retort. He had the same idea, but that didn't mean he was going to voice it. They were all going to die now.

Pierce's face drained of blood and his green eyes blazed with self-righteous indignation.

"How dare you speak to me that way." He hissed, storming towards Jonathan before thinking better of it. "I offer you life and a chance to unlock your true potential, and you dare to disrespect me? I have done things that you cannot even dream of, thing so great that they will soon be recorded in the annals of history forever. Unfortunately," he said, his rage morphing into cold satisfaction, "you and your friends' deaths will not be amongst those records. Muk, kill them. Painfully."

The group tried to run away, but the muk was upon them in a second. Its heavy, disgusting body completely covered them and Ash thought he would pass out from the horrible smell. Ash began to cry out in pain as he felt the toxic body begin to mold around him in an attempt to melt him down into the muk's body, and suddenly everything went black.


His eyes snapped open and the memories of the muk's thick, squishy body covering him with its poisonous burn flashed to the forefront of his mind. Ash quickly pushed himself up in a panic and searched for the muk or Pierce.

Instead of the terrifying Rocket Executive or the muk that had almost killed him he was treated to a sight that was quite possibly worse. He was in a cave that appeared to have been transformed into a makeshift hospital. Several unconscious pokemon – most appearing to be the poison types favored by the Rockets, although a sedated growlithe was also there – were being tended to by a Nurse Joy and his friends were laid out on small cots. His friends seemed to be awakening as well. None of those things were what he was paying attention to.

A gigantic steel creature with a lighter, silvery x across its face stared at them with bright red eyes. It looked as though it were taller than Ash and was made up of a metallic blue metal. Four powerful, molded legs with clawed "feet" kept it on the ground.

Ash stared at it in fear, afraid of the powerful creature. Suddenly, he heard a strong, confident voice coming from on top of the creature. He looked up and saw a man – no older than twenty-five – with messy, silvery hair slide off of the gigantic pokemon's "head". The man wore a strange looking suit that seemed to give him good mobility and had strange purple lines on the front.

"Hello." The man said calmly and in a friendly manner, "I'm Steven Stone."

He pushed himself up on weak, trembling limbs. The slight burn of the muk's poisonous body was still there, but its strength had greatly diminished and it was now little more than an uncomfortable tingle. Ash saw that the others were doing the same.

"Easy there." Steven said calmly. "You've had quite the experience."

"Where am I?" Ash choked out through his dry throat. Steven didn't answer for a moment, instead walking over to a small, rolling table next to Ash's bed and grabbing a water bottle off of it. He handed it over to Ash – who greedily began to drink from it – and began to explain.

"You're in the same cavern that the Rocket's were operating in." The man began, taking a seat on one of his unmoving pokemon's powerful legs. "A group of League officials and I were investigating the Rockets and took action when we saw the muk attacking you. You and your friends were knocked unconscious by the muk, but my friend here," he said, patting the monstrous pokemon's metallic leg, "threw it off before it could cause any further harm. After that I had you and your friends pulled out of the battle before you could be hurt."

"Thanks." Ash mumbled. Suddenly he remembered that Pierce had taken his pokeballs. "Wait! Where are my pokemon?"

"Calm down." Steven said soothingly. "We found your pidgeotto's ball in your jacket pocket. It's on that table. What other pokemon did you and your friends have? We're still trying to identify their owners."

Ash sighed in relief and collapsed back down, his arms unable to support his weight any longer. He struggled to pull himself up so that he could speak to Steven.

"I had a Nidoran. Amelia had a Bulbasaur and Rattata. Jonathan had a Charmander and Rhyhorn."

Steven nodded and had a look of concentration on his face. "I know they found a Nidoran as well as a Bulbasaur, Charmander and Rhyhorn. No Rattata though. Did your friend manage to hide the pokeball?"

"Maybe." Ash replied, a frown on his face. "I wasn't able to keep an eye on her though."

"Don't worry about it." Steven said. "No one should have to be prepared for this. All of you did well. The Rockets that you fought at the beginning told us that you were skilled."

"Not really." Ash replied, blushing a little. To distract himself from the curious eyes of Steven he turned to the table and grabbed Plume's pokeball, holding it tightly. He never wanted to let it go again. "I was useless. It was Nidoran that did everything."

"Don't sell yourself short, Ash." The man told him. "You couldn't have done much. The fact that you raised your pokemon to be strong enough to defeat Rocket pokemon with barely a scratch on them speaks volumes to your skill. Particularly since you've only been training for a few weeks."

Ash blushed again at the praise, but had a question.

"How did you know how long I've been training. Or my name?"

"Jonathan," Steven began, nodding at the unconscious boy, "has already woken up and told us what happened. Plus we examined your pokedex. It serves as an ID."

"Oh. Will you need to ask me any questions?" Ash questioned. Steven nodded, his face growing slightly hard for a moment before it relaxed.

"Just one. What did the leader of these Rockets call himself?"

"He said he was an Executive." Ash said with a furrowed brow as he tried to remember the minutes before the muk had enveloped them in its shapeless body. "But his name was Pierce."

"Thank you." Steven said before standing up. Ash thought he could see the beginnings of a scowl on the man's face. "I'll leave you to rest. Nurse Joy," he said, attracting the redhead's attention, "will give you a final examination and if you're good to go you'll be cleared for travel."

With that the man walked out of the room, his gigantic pokemon levitating up and following him. Ash stared after him for a few moments before turning his attention to Nurse Joy, who approached him with a smile. What he didn't miss was the rather large syringe that she had in her hand. It was filled with a pale purple, watery liquid.

"Why do you have that?" He asked cautiously. Nurse Joy glanced at the syringe for a moment before returning her eyes to him.

"Oh, don't worry about that." She said sweetly. "It'll just clear away any toxins left by the muk. It won't hurt very much."

Nurse Joy sighed when he continued to stare at the syringe in horror.

"Why are they all afraid of needles." She muttered. "It's not that big." Nurse Joy looked him in the eyes and began talking in a louder, persuasive voice. "Listen, if you don't take this quickly you might have to go to a hospital. I'm sure that would set you back a long way on your journey."

Ash reluctantly nodded, keeping his eyes on the needle. He had had to have shots a few weeks before starting his journey in order to keep him from getting sick – whether from natural causes like bacteria in the water or from some of the more common poison types in the region – and they had hurt. But he would rather go through a bit of temporary pain than have to wait around in a hospital for a week.

The Nurse Joy smiled – rather sadistically, Ash thought – and pulled out some sort of stretchy looking material and tied it around his arm, causing one of his veins to protrude from his skin. She took a moment to examine the skin and determine the best area to inject. Ash hissed in pain as she slid the cold needle under his skin, although he noted that it wasn't nearly as painful as the last shots he'd had.

Whatever liquid was inside the syringe was cold as it entered his bloodstream. Ash unconsciously shivered for a second as it flooded into his blood, but soon it was over and Nurse Joy smoothly removed the needle. She quickly placed a small bandage over the injection site before stepping back.

"Was that really so bad?" She asked with a smirk. Ash rolled his eyes, although he yawned before he answered. He seemed to be very tired all of a sudden.

"No." He mumbled nearly incoherently before collapsing back onto his cot. The world was spinning and was beginning to blacken and he was tired enough to have run a marathon. "What's happening?"

"Don't worry." Nurse Joy said soothingly. "It's just to put you asleep while I perform a few other tests. When you wake up you'll be free to leave."

That was all Ash heard before he fell into unconsciousness.


"Are you guys ready?" Ash asked Jonathan and Amelia as he swung his backpack on. They had been unconscious for nearly a day while Nurse Joy gave them a cocktail of drugs that would temporarily boost their immune systems and remove the last traces of the muk's toxins from their bodies. Apparently they had all been affected much worse than previously believed, although they were completely fine now.

They had been given their pokeballs back when they had finally awoken. Ash had nearly cried when he got Nidoran's ball back, realizing that it was just good fortune that the Rockets hadn't instantly transported his ball to wherever their headquarters were.

"Let's get going." Jonathan replied from his position near the exit. He stood out of the way of the League officials as they went about their business, although he exchanged friendly greetings with most of them. "I'm tired of this mountain."

Ash and Amelia nodded in concurrence and began to walk out. They had already told Nurse Joy that they were leaving and they didn't want to stay here any longer. Of all of them, Ash wanted to get to Cerulean City the most. He had realized that he hadn't called his mother at all, too enraptured with travelling and the wonders of the world he was experiencing to even think about something as mundane as his mother.

He gritted his teeth at how much of a jerk he had been. His mom was probably worried sick, and would probably be pretty mad at him as well. Not that he didn't deserve it, he bitterly reflected as he walked out into the bright sunlight.

As they all stopped for a moment to squint and let their eyes get adjusted to the sunlight, they heard someone calling out, "Wait!" from behind them. The group turned around curiously and despite their state of near blindness, they were able to make out the tall form of Steven.

They stopped and watched as the man hurriedly jogged up to them. His suit – Ash wasn't sure how it hadn't gotten even a smidgen of dirt on it – didn't seem to inhibit his movement in the least.

"I'm sorry for holding you up like this," Steven apologized as he came to a stop, "but I just heard that you were about to leave."

"What do you want?" Amelia asked hoarsely. She had gotten the worst of the muk's toxins and was still slightly weak, although she was fit for travel.

"I realized that there might be groups of Team Rocket waiting in ambush." Steven explained. "The League has everything under control in there, so I figured that I wouldn't be of any use to them. You are all still vulnerable and I know that the Rockets will be trying to regain their losses."

"Oh." Amelia said weakly. "Thanks."

Steven just nodded and looked to the other two members of the group. They grinned and welcomed him along. Both realized that Steven was an incredibly strong trainer and welcomed the opportunity to pick up any tips.

With that they began to walk down the unkempt path that would take them to Cerulean City within three or four days.


They all sat around their campfire, huddling around the warmth. A cold front had come in while the group had been recovering in Mt. Moon and it had added a new degree of difficulty to travelling.

Jonathan was holding onto Charmander and taking in the fire type's body heat. He was in the best situation out of the trio. Ash was stubbornly refusing to admit that he was cold and sat silently about a foot away from the fire. Amelia was so close to the fire that Ash thought she would burst into flame and looked like she was turning blue.

Steven was the only one that seemed perfectly fine. He seemed to be used to this sort of weather, as he was lazily reclining against a tree a few feet away from the fire and amiably chatting with the trio in an attempt to distract them from the icy air and cutting wind.

"So, Jonathan," he began, his voice barely heard over the howling wind, "what are your goals? I know you've just started out, but surely you have something you want to achieve."

Jonathan yawned and pulled himself up. "Hey, Charmander, go over and help Amelia out. She looked like she's freezing." Amelia coughed out her thanks as the lizard wrapped around her, bringing warmth to her cold body.

"Sorry." Jonathan said to Steven. "Anyways, I just want to get some experience in before I set any goals. I want to know if I'm any good or not before I try to achieve anything. I'd rather not get disappointed if I fail."

"I suppose that makes sense." Steven said. Ash thought he heard an undertone of disappointment in his voice. "How about you, Amelia?"

"As long as I get to the Indigo Conference this year, I'm happy." She said through chattering teeth. "But I want to win the Indigo League one day. My sister and parents placed pretty high in it, but none of them ever managed to win."

"How high did they place?" Steven asked interestedly, leaning forward. Ash listened curiously as well. He knew that Jessica was a good trainer, but he didn't know how good. Amelia grinned proudly – despite being battered by the weather – and replied.

"My parents both got into the top eight and my sister made it to the top four." She stated. "They only tried once, but I'm going to try as long as it takes to win."

The silver-haired man nodded. "Your persistence is admirable. I hope you succeed. What are your goals, Ash?"

Ash felt a sudden reluctance to divulge his dream. He didn't have any problem telling it to his friends, but they were just newbie trainers like him. They didn't know how skilled any of the other two would become or how far they would rise.

But Steven obviously wasn't a new trainer. He practically radiated quiet self-confidence and had an aura of authority that Ash had only encountered in Professor Oak before. Besides, anyone capable of controlling that monster of a pokemon that he had seen Steven riding around had to be powerful. And, even barring all of that, Ash had the strange feeling that he had seen Steven before.

Despite his doubts, Ash hesitantly spoke up.

"I want to be a Pokemon Master." He said, feeling slightly embarrassed just to admit it. Hopefully Steven wasn't able to see his light blush in the dark.

"That's quite the goal." Steven commented lightly. Ash was just glad that the man didn't laugh at him. He didn't even sound skeptical, just curious. "How are you going to accomplish it? Are you going to become a master of a certain type, or are you going to take one of the other routes? Any of the ways takes at the very least a decade, and becoming a true Pokemon Master is a lifelong mission."

"Well," Ash began, losing some of his nervousness, "I want to become one. But I don't want to master a single type of pokemon. That wouldn't give me a good enough variety to take any of the other routes."

"That's not true." Jonathan interjected from his spot by the fire. "Most of the Elite Fours and Champions are a master of a single type. And they're all Masters by default. I mean, Lance hasn't even had a challenger come close to beating him in years and those two Hoenn Champions – Wallace and that steel guy – are all Masters of a single type."

"I don't think that I would do good without any variety." Ash admitted. Even as he spoke he attempted to remember the name of the Hoenn Champion that abdicated his position about a year ago. "Anyone can win against me if they have a type adv— wait, you're Champion Steven! I watched your match against Wallace before you left Hoenn."

"Wait, what!" Jonathan shouted as he pulled himself up and stared at Steven. The man had a silly grin on his face as the group realized his identity. "You mean – what – really?" He finished weakly.

"Yes, I'm the steel guy." Steven said, still grinning. "I'm surprised you recognized me. Hoenn is pretty far away."

Jonathan's jaw dropped. "Are you kidding?" He cried. "We watch all the Champion battles!"

The conversation went on like that for a time. Jonathan seemed to be determined to ask everything he could possibly think of, and Ash wasn't too far behind. Amelia was the only one who was quiet. She had a small frown on her face and seemed to be thinking.

Finally, after what seemed like hours of unrelenting questions by the two boys, she broke into the conversation.

"If you're the Champion of Hoenn, why are you here?" She asked. "Shouldn't you be at home?"

"Former Champion of Hoenn." Steven corrected. He seemed glad to have a break from the curious boys. "I got tired of being the Champion. It just…wasn't for me. Instead I decided to explore new areas and look for rare stones."

"But…but you were Champion." Ash said weakly, clearly not understanding why anyone would want to leave such a prestigious position. "That's what every trainer dreams of."

"Dreams aren't always as exciting as you'd think." Steven said lightly. "Listen, you're all going to go somewhere. Maybe one of you will even become Champion. You'll understand then. But for now," he smiled, "does anyone want some tips?"

All of them grinned excitedly and began to pepper the Champion with questions. It was a long time before they finally went to bed, leaving Metagross – Steven had told a curious Amelia its name and some basic information about it – as the guard.


It wasn't until the next day that Amelia questioned Steven again. She wasn't quite as star struck as the boys, although she was still amazed that they had a Champion travelling with them. Amelia just couldn't believe that he had been at Mt. Moon right when they had needed help the most.

So when they stopped to take a break – all of them were tired from the aftereffects of the muk's toxins, although Ash constantly forcing them to stop for battles with other wandering trainers exhausted them as well – and even Ash and Jonathan were too tired to pester the Champion with questions, she took her chance.

"There has to be another reason why you came to Mt. Moon." Amelia said as they sat at one of the numerous tables the League had set up on the routes throughout Kanto. "I mean, wouldn't all of the rare stones be taken by now?"

"You're right." Steven admitted as he leaned back in his chair. "Most of the stones are gone, but I was investigating another stone from some of the old folk tales around here. Tell me," he said as he leaned forward and clasped his hands together on the table. "Have any of you heard about the Moon Stone?"

"I've heard about moon stones." Jonathan said. "They're supposed to be really rare though."

"Oh, they are." Steven responded. "They're the rarest ones of all. Their rarity is why there aren't many nidoking wandering around." He seemed to direct this at Ash, who was idly scratching an exhausted Nidoran behind the ears. Ash perked up and listened closer. "But they aren't what I'm talking about. I'm talking about THE Moon Stone."

"What's the difference?" Ash asked. Jonathan and Amelia nodded their agreement.

"Well, it's supposed to be a gigantic moon stone." Steven began. "People used to worship it, at least according to this weird scientist I found down there. He thought that the clefairy used it as a space ship."

None of the group had a response to something that stupid. Steven laughed.

"That's what I thought. Anyways, I was trying to find it when I noticed that all of the wild pokemon were gone and I was getting a supersonic migraine." Steven grimaced at the memory. "Lance warned me of Team Rocket, so I made sure to call the League once I'd located them. By the time we were ready you three were getting attacked by that muk."

"Oh." Amelia said. She felt rather foolish for being so suspicious. The group was quiet for a while before Steven stood up.

"I think we've been sitting around long enough. Let's get going. Cerulean is only a few days away."

The group eagerly nodded and followed the Champion. They were all eager to reach Cerulean City. That was where their journey would truly begin.


"Sorry, but I have to go." Steven said to the group. He had just told them his plans – to go back to Mt. Moon to find the Moon Stone and then explore Kanto some more – but they didn't want him to go. The Champion was awesome in every possible way, and he'd taught them things about training and pokemon in general that would have taken them months to learn on their own.

"Couldn't you stay until we leave?" Jonathan pleaded desperately. He was the one most enthralled with Steven – the man was practically his idol now.

"Sorry." Steven repeated. "But I'm sure we'll meet again. All three of you are going places – I know it. Hopefully one of you will be ready for a battle by the time I see you. Good luck."

"Thanks." They said in unison, each practically glowing at the praise he'd given them. Ash, of course, was more interested in the possibility of battling Steven. That would be incredible!

"I'll see you all again one day." Steven promised before releasing Metagross. The gigantic creature allowed Steven to climb up on top of it before folding its legs to its chest and levitating down the road at an incredible speed. They watched them leave for a second before turning to each other.

They were at the gates of Cerulean City. Quite a few curious onlookers had gathered when Steven had released Metagross, but they were already walking away. Ash grinned as he looked at his friends.

"What are we waiting for? Let's get to the Pokemon Center!"

The group nodded and quickly found a map of the city. Although they were slightly intimidated by its size – this city was much larger than Pewter and Viridian, and positively dwarfed Pallet Town – they adapted to it rather quickly and reached the Center within half an hour.

It only took a minute to check in thanks to the Center being rather deserted, but once in they quickly went to their rooms and cleaned up, taking advantage of the wonderful showers. All of them had practically forgotten how wonderful it felt to be clean, although their empty stomachs brought them down to the small cafeteria the Center possessed.

Since there were only a few other trainers in it – Ash only counted three others there – they were free to be as loud as they wanted. They were aware of a few annoyed glances being sent their way by the staff and other trainers, but they were far too glad to finally be in civilization again to worry about that.

"So who gets to challenge them first?" Amelia asked as she devoured the hot food they had been given. All of them had abandoned any sense of propriety when they had seen the wonderful aroma and sight of the food.

"I've already had my turn." Ash said, not even looking up from his massive plate as he tore into his noodles. "One of you can go first."

"Thanks." Amelia and Jonathan said in unison before glaring at each other.

"Rock-paper-scissors?" Amelia asked confidently. Jonathan glared back and nodded.

In the end, Jonathan ended up becoming the one who battled the Sensational Sisters first. He seemed rather pleased about this for some reason that Ash couldn't quite fathom and had a silly grin on his face as they ventured to the gym.

Much like Pewter, the gym was only a few minutes away from the Center. Unlike Pewter, however, the gym was practically bursting with people – most of them teenage boys and young adults, Ash noted. Very few seemed to be actual trainers, so Ash assumed that they were just here for one of the Sisters' shows.

As they walked in a teenage girl in a uniform walked up to them, pushing through the crowd with ease.

"Are you here for the show?" She shouted, breaking above the clamoring and cheers of the large crowd.

"Gym." Ash and Amelia told her. Jonathan, however, seemed to be more excited about the show.

"Sorry." The girl said. "But the gym's closed right now. You can come back after the show. It's on until four."

Ash and Amelia groaned in disappointment. That meant that they had to wait at least three hours before coming back. Jonathan seemed fine, however.

"How much is a ticket?" He asked eagerly. The girl smiled at him.

"Just fifty poke." She replied. Jonathan grinned and began to dig around in his pockets. In just a few moments he had pulled out a few wads of cash and handed them over to the girl. "There are still plenty of seats available. Just walk in and one of the attendants will bring you in."

"You guys go on." Jonathan said as he was led away. "I'll meet you guys at the Pokemon Center later."

As he walked away and disappeared into the thick crowds Amelia turned her head to look at the dumbfounded Ash.

"…What just happened?"

Ash just helplessly shook his head. "I guess we should come back later. We probably can't find Jonathan even if we did want to buy tickets."

Amelia shrugged. "Let's get going then. Maybe we can find out where some good pokemon are. I hear Cerulean has some pretty powerful ones nearby."


They were rather tired by the time they returned to the gym. The duo had spent most of the day at a nearby café where trainers tended to congregate and learned a lot about the area around Cerulean. Both had already bought a small map and marked out likely areas for powerful pokemon to stay at and were eager to search around.

Cerulean City was the home of the water gym for a reason. It was surrounded by rivers, lakes, and ponds that held massive amounts of water pokemon. Most were weak – magikarp, golden, and krabby were the most common – but they were quite good for beginning trainers to raise. Aside from the legions of weaker pokemon that made the area their home, there were also formidably creatures such as kingler, seaking, staryu and even the monstrously powerful gyarados. Ash just wanted one of them to diversify his team.

But now they were back at the gym. It was mostly empty, save for a few stragglers from the performance that were standing around and chatting to each other. They searched for Jonathan, but couldn't find him. Ash and Amelia assumed that their friend had decided to go ahead and challenge the Sisters and followed a few signs that brought them to a massive room dominated by a swimming pool that was probably larger than some villages. A few strips of land ran through it, allowing non-water pokemon to have a chance.

As they walked in, curiously glancing around and searching for any possible advantages in their upcoming gym battles, Ash spotted Jonathan walking over to them with a proud grin on his face. Three tall – and beautiful, Ash noticed, causing him to blush in embarrassment – teenage girls in swimsuits were circling around the edge of the pool and going to the opposite side.

"You guys got here just in time!" Jonathan shouted excitedly as he neared them. "My battles just about to start. I was about to send you a message over the pokedex."

"We can send messages through our pokedex?" Ash asked. He shook his head and ignored whatever answer his friend was about to give to him. "Nevermind. How are you going to battle them? You don't have anything that'll be really effective against a water gym."

"Well," Jonathan said as he nervously glanced over his shoulder, staring at the massive pool, "I had been planning on having Charmander turn the water into steam, but I don't think that'll work too well anymore. I'm just going to keep them on the land and try and keep on the defensive."

"Good luck." Amelia said before giving him a light smack on the head. "And that's for leaving us to go see that stupid show. Make sure to win."

Jonathan gave a shaky grin and waved them away. After the duo had taken their place in the observer's station – a raised platform with thick, clear walls that would protect them from most stray attacks – he took his place on the challenger's platform. The Sister that was facing him – the only one with a natural hair color, a rich, golden blonde – took her position and waved for the referee to explain the rules.

Ash didn't really pay attention to the referee. He knew it would just be the standard rules – as many pokemon as the challenger had against the same amount of gym pokemon, and they would go until one of the opponents' pokemon were all knocked out or one of them forfeited.

Both of the friends were tense as the Sister sent out a large seel. It didn't look like much of a battler, but all of them knew that appearances could be deceiving. Behind the happy grin on the seel's face could lay a hardened veteran of many battles. The seel happily leapt into the water and began swimming in a small circle to warm up.

Jonathan didn't seem nervous at all, although Ash knew he had to be. He released Charmander, who lazily got up from his curled position and looked around his surroundings. Ash had to hold back a snort as the Charmander realized that it was surrounded by water and began to glare at Jonathan. The trainer merely shrugged guiltily and pointed at the seel, who had jumped out of the water and was now happily looking at Charmander with its tongue lolling out of its mouth.

Charmander's normally lazy and sleepy personality vanished as he saw his opponent. Even from the distance they were at Ash could see the small lizard's tail flare up and his body tense up. The tension in the moments before the battle began was thick.

When the referee finally called out for them to begin, the seel quickly followed a short whistle from its trainer and dove into the water. Jonathan called out for Charmander to run out to the center of the pool, where a large island provided more protection.

As the lizard slowly shuffled towards the island, the seel suddenly burst out of the water near it, startling the poor Charmander. Ash winced as the small creature slammed into Charmander's side with its sharp horn before leaping back into the water. He wasn't sure if Jonathan could win this one.

"Smokescreen." Jonathan shouted from his platform. Charmander heard and shook off the surprise attack. Smoke poured from its wide jaws and began to hide him from view. Some of the smoke seemed to settle on the water's surface and stain it a dark grey.

Seel didn't attack for another minute. It was only when Charmander had finally run out of the smoke that obscured him from view and the Sister gave a sharp whistle that it burst out of the water and splashed Charmander with a large wave of water.

As Charmander was distracted, the seel opened its mouth and fired a beam of multicolored energy that strongly reminded Ash of pictures of the aurora borealis that he had seen. He recognized it as an aurora beam and gave a sigh of relief when he realized that it probably wouldn't knock Charmander out.

Despite the attack's power – Ash knew that the seel had probably perfected the move – Charmander weathered it and listened to his trainer's frantic shouts to recover. Seel had taken advantage of the lizard's pain and was charging at him.

"Smokescreen!" Jonathan screamed from his position. He looked desperate as he realized that Charmander could be easily taken out by another attack.

Fortunately for them, Charmander reacted quickly enough to blast copious amounts of pungent smoke right into the charging seel's face. Ash saw the seel miss Charmander by nearly a foot before the two were obscured from his vision.

"Metal claw and slash!" Jonathan commanded desperately. Ash supposed that he was just giving Charmnder moves to use. There was no way he could actually see the brutal battle going on in the smoke.

Suddenly the Sister whistled sharply again, this one a different pitch than the others. Seel pulled itself out of the melee as soon as it was able, although Ash saw Charmander chasing and slashing at it with glowing claws. Most of them connected with the seel, slowing it down and letting Charmander get a few more good hits in.

Ash was amazed that Jonathan had actually managed to do that much damage. He'd honestly expected a complete domination by the Sister, but his friend had actually managed to pull out a small victory. The seel couldn't take too much more damage after the beating it had just taken. Of course, the victory hadn't come without a cost. Charmander was limping from something and had discolored areas all over him.

The Sister seemed to realize that seel wouldn't be able to escape if Charmander was allowed to continue his brutal attacks and whistled again, this time at a very low pitch. Everyone was surprised when seel turned around and opened its small mouth, releasing yet another aurora beam directly into Charmander's chest.

Amazingly enough, the lizard remained standing, although it looked like anymore damage would knock him out. Jonathan realized that as well and quickly took advantage of Charmander's last reserves of strength.


Charmander's tail blazed in one last show of defiance as he ran at seel and slashed at it with glowing claws. Seel cried out in pain as the attack impacted, although it was cut short as the tired creature fainted.

There was silence for a moment from all sides of the arena. Even Jonathan didn't believe he had managed to win that round.

A moment later Ash and Amelia burst into cheers and were loud enough that Jonathan turned towards them and gave them a thumbs up. His attention was pulled back to the battle when the referee announced that the battle would be starting up again.

Charmander didn't seem impressed when the Sisters sent out a small, pink heart-shaped pokemon. Ash had never seen it before, which was quite surprising considering how many foreign battles he watched. He aimed the pokedex at it, but nothing came up except a screen saying, "Scanned pokemon not found in regional database. National Pokedex upgrade required. Please see your pokedex supplier for more information."

Ash frowned and put the pokedex away. Maybe Professor Oak could get him that upgrade. He put the matter out of his mind and focused on the match.

The pink pokemon was already in the pool and proved to be exceptionally fast. Charmander was halfheartedly blasting the surface of the water with embers, but none of them even came close to hitting the water type. Its attacks got weaker and weaker as the pokemon drew nearer.

"Luverin, finish it off!" The Sister shouted from her platform. A moment later the pokemon leapt out of the water by Charmander and shot a water gun at Charmander. It impacted square in the lizard's chest and knocked it unconscious.

He could see Jonathan frowning as he returned Charmander. A second later Rhyhorn's pokeball landed out on the strip of land and released the stone creature, who grunted as it saw the water surrounding it. When the match was continued, it was still until it heard the Sister's whistle.

For some reason the whistle caused it to panic and frantically search the area despite Jonathan's attempts to calm it.

"Rhyhorn!" Jonathan shouted. "Calm down. Nothing's going to hurt you."

It slowed down in its search, but Rhyhorn continued to sniff at the ground. Suddenly, Luverin erupted out of the water next to Rhyhorn and shot a water gun at the scared creature. Ash and Amelia groaned as the pokemon went berserk and charged straight at the area where Luverin had attacked it from.

Jonathan never even had a chance to calm his pokemon before Rhyhorn fell into the water. Ash and Amelia shouted in fear the moment they saw it, and Jonathan looked terrified as he recalled Rhyhorn just a second after it sunk into the water.

"Challenger Jonathan forfeits the match!" The referee cried. Ash and Amelia groaned and stood up. They both felt awful for Jonathan – he had managed to win a battle with Charmander, but victory was torn from him in the second half of the match before he even had a chance.

Their friend was waiting for them by the time they had left their box. He was morosely staring at his pokeball with a blank expression, although he didn't seem to be angry. Ash wasn't quite sure how to approach him – he knew that Jonathan didn't take losing very well, a trait that he shared.

Fortunately, Amelia was more adept with these matters. She walked up to him and gave him a hug. Jonathan gave her a small smile and returned it.

"You did good. A lot better than most people would have done."

"I know." He mumbled. "But I thought I was actually going to win after Charmander did so good. I guess I'll just have to train some more. He'll do even better when he evolves."

Ash nodded, although he was too uncomfortable with the situation to say anything. He wasn't very good at comforting people, plus the interaction between Jonathan and Amelia reminded him just how much of an outsider he was in the group.

His thoughts were interrupted when the Sisters walked up. The blonde one that Jonathan had just battled was in the lead. She seemed rather happy.

"That was, like, totally incredible!" She said in congratulations when the Sisters grew near. Jonathan blushed slightly.

"I still lost." He muttered.

"That doesn't matter at all!" The Sister said. "You still put up a better fight than most people would have. So I'm giving you the Cascade Badge."

Jonathan looked up hopefully, although he had a bit of confusion mixed in. "Wait, what? You're giving me the badge?"

"Of course!" The Sister said cheerfully. "It's not like you actually have to win to get the badge. The gym leader just has to think you deserve it. And I think you deserve the badge."

His friend grinned as the Sister pulled out a small, metallic case with the Cerulean insignia inscribed upon it and opened it, revealing several rows of gleaming badges shaped like a rain drop. The Sister carefully withdrew one of the badges and handed it to Jonathan, who proudly took it in his hand.

"There you go." The Sister exclaimed. She suddenly seemed to notice Ash and Amelia. "Oh, are you here to challenge us too?"

"Yeah." They said in unison. For some reason the Sisters frowned, although it was quickly wiped away and replaced with their former cheerfulness.

"Both of you can have a badge too. Our pokemon are pretty tired out from our show and won't be ready to battle for a few days. The only one left is Luverin."

Ash was surprised, but shrugged it off. Even if he'd been looking forward to battling the Sensational Sisters, it didn't really bother him that he'd be getting the badge for free. A badge was a badge, after all.

Amelia, however, was more scrupulous than he was.

"Could I just fight you in a one-on-one battle?" She asked the lead sister. "Luverin only battled for a minute or so and didn't take any damage. It should be fine."

"He." The Sister corrected before sighing. "Fine. Get up on the platform."

Amelia nodded and waved back to her friends as she moved up to the platform. Jonathan and Ash waved back and called out, "Good luck!" before moving back into the observation platform.

A few minutes later everything was ready. Amelia had already released her choice – Bulbasaur, who was eager to fight after being cooped up in his pokeball for so long – and the Sister – or Daisy, as Ash had learned from a swooning Jonathan – had released Luverin. They were just waiting on the referee.

Mere seconds later the referee announced the rules and sounded her whistle. Daisy quickly blasted on her own whistle, which caused Luverin to dive into the water.

"Get in the middle of that island and keep your vines out!" Amelia shouted. "Try to get the fish onto land if you can."

Bulbasaur grunted in understanding and extended its powerful vines. He warily glanced around the pool in preparation for Luverin's attack. Ash and Jonathan tried to find the pink blur that would give Luverin's location away but found nothing. It was probably deep under the water.

Suddenly the pink pokemon burst from the water and shot a high powered jet of water at Bulbasaur. It did little damage to the grass type. Bulbasaur reacted quickly and wrapped its vines around Luverin with supernatural speed.

"Smash it on the ground." Amelia ordered. Bulbasaur gladly complied and repeatedly slammed the helpless pokemon against the ground. Despite Luverin's frantic squirming and bites, Bulbasaur refused to let it escape and quickly knocked it out.

Ash and Jonathan were slightly disturbed by the tactic Amelia had used, but put it to the back of their minds as they went down to congratulate her. Daisy sighed and returned Luverin before walking over to them with her sisters.

"Good job!" Jonathan said as he gave her a high five. Ash nodded in agreement with a smile on his face.

"Here's the badge." Daisy said from behind them. Amelia grinned widely and eagerly took the shining rain drop from the older teen's hand. The Sister looked at Ash. "By the way, unless you want to wait a few days you can have the badge now."

"Sounds good to me." Ash replied as he began to take the badge from her hand. Suddenly his hand was batted away by the referee. He looked up in annoyance.

Now that he actually got a good look at the referee – he didn't bother to before, other than a quick glance – he was able to recognize her as the girl that he'd beaten in the first few days of his journey. Her eyes displayed just as much annoyance as he felt and her hand was on a pokeball.

"Aren't you that girl that I beat my first day as a trainer?" Ash said, feigning stupidity. Maybe he could rile her up. If she wanted to battle him then he could distract her enough to where she made stupid mistakes.

The Sisters snickered as the referee blushed. Ash smirked as her face twisted in anger.

"Shut up!" She growled. "I'm challenging you to a pokemon battle. As a gym leader here, I don't think you're ready for the badge."

Ash stared at her in confusion. "But I already beat you. On my first day as a trainer."

"Shut up." She repeated. "I wasn't taking you seriously. Now let's go. Get up on the challenger's platform."

The trainer shrugged. He supposed that Plume could use the experience. Only Nidoran had been training very much over the last few days. Besides, it had been too long since Plume had stretched her wings.

Both of his friends wished him good luck before going back over to the observation platform. The Sensational Sisters groaned in annoyance and went with his friends. Ash expected that Jonathan wouldn't be paying attention to the battle.

One of the Sisters stayed behind in order to act as a referee. Ash placed a hand on Plume's pokeball as he stared intensely at his opponent, barely listening to the rules. He knew them by heart.

He only reacted when he heard the Sister yell out, "Begin!"

Plume screeched out a challenge as she erupted from the pokeball. Her chest was proudly puffed out and she spread out her wings in an expression of dominance. Ash smiled at Plume's antics, although he was more focused on his opponent.

The girl sent out a starmie. Ash supposed that it was just the evolved form of the staryu he'd faced in their last battle. He instantly began to analyze what he knew of starmie.

It could rapidly spin its back star in order to propel itself out of water and through air for a short period of time. He also knew that they had powerful psychic abilities and could fire weak energy beams from their jewel.

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