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.


36. The Storm Part 3

"We need to hurry." Surge grunted as they entered the town's limits. It was quite small, consisting of only five thousand residents, but it was still larger than Pallet Town. "We're supposed to meet Brock at the Pokemon Center. The kid's probably about to get punched out by Nurse Joy."

Ash nodded and followed Surge's massive form as he confidently strode through the grey streets of Berge. It was quite empty, despite being one of the last bastions of civilization before the wilds of northeastern Kanto began to encroach. Only a few passerby greeted them, and even then they walked past the outsiders at a fast pace.

"And here we are." Surge announced with a boom. Startled passersby looked at them oddly before they continued on their way. Ash grinned and shook his head. While he and Surge didn't talk that much on the road, he'd learned a lot about the man, if from body language and unspoken communication rather than concrete conversation.

Surge was loud, brash, and could be cruel to trainers he deemed weak. Ash had noticed that even at the gym, but after seeing him challenged by trainers on the road that didn't recognize him, the gym leader simply had Raichu blast their pokemon until they were nothing but a smoking heap. After that he took as much of their money as allowed and sent them on their way. The gym leader had no time for games.

But he could be quiet and contemplative at times. It wasn't a common thing, but sometimes Surge turned his thoughts inward. He'd revealed quite a bit about the other gym leaders to Ash, who devoured the information about the important figures.

None of it was really important, and Ash doubted if Surge even meant to say much of it. Most of the information just slipped out, like Brock's father being absent, or Blaine being involved with cloning research a few years ago. It was rather interesting, nonetheless.

He snapped his thoughts onto a more important topic when the two entered the Pokemon Center. It only had three or four people aside from them in it, but everyone's attention was focused at the counter.

A tall, broad shouldered teenage boy was on his knees. He clasped a bemused Nurse Joy's small, slender hands into his own and serenaded her with flowery words. Nurse Joy blinked helplessly, but her blue eyes lit up when she saw Surge. The nurse glanced at Surge hopefully before she nodded at Brock.

"This is how you handle an idiot teenager." Surge growled in amusement. He cracked his knuckles. "Make sure I never have to do this to you."

Ash watched with disbelieving eyes as Surge casually strode up to the unaware Brock and picked him up by his collar. Brock froze, and Ash suspected that the rock-type gym leader knew exactly who had arrived.

"Hey, Lt." Brock laughed nervously. It was a far cry from the stoic, strong teenager that Ash thought he'd known. "You're a bit earlier than I expected."

"Yep." Surge leered. He twisted the hanging form of the teenager around and stared Brock right in the eyes. "What did I tell you about annoying the good Nurses?"

Brock barely smiled. "Don't?"

Surge nodded with a horrible grin on his face, the one that terrified most of the trainers that had challenged his gym. "Raichu, will you do the honors?"

Raichu rubbed her paws together in glee as she jubilantly nodded. She whipped her tail around, which sent sparks flashing through the air, and touched the live wire to Brock's shoulder. The teenager twitched violently as a small current of electricity passed through his body, although it was only enough to jolt him. It would leave him in pain for a while, but Surge wouldn't actually hurt him.

The gym leader dropped Brock to the ground, where he landed with a dull thump. "A pleasure doing business with you, Macy. I'd hoped to get here before he could bother you."

"Thank you, Lt." Nurse Joy smiled demurely. "I've heard plenty about him from my cousins. He doesn't mean any harm."

"It's not befitting of a gym leader. Even a hormonal one." Surge grunted. He lightly kicked Brock, who groaned miserably. "Get up, you baby. I bet the runt over there would be tougher than you."

Ash grinned as Brock groaned and mumbled something unintelligible in response. Surge shrugged and walked over to him. He called back to Brock, who was starting to stand. "We'll be waiting at the gates for you, lover boy!"

Surge waved a goodbye to Nurse Joy before he walked out the door. Ash obediently followed, barely able to repress his laughter before he left the building as well. Even the gray veil of clouds that only allowed the dimmest of light to reach the earth didn't hamper his amusement.

"He'll learn one day." Surge grunted. He cracked his knuckles and laughed maniacally before he scratched Raichu behind the ears. She chattered and licked the side of his face. "At the very least he'll stop messing with women like Macy."

"You know her?" Ash asked. Sneasel poked his head out of Ash's pack in annoyance when he felt a few raindrops go through. He hissed and plugged the tiny hole in Ash's pack with a thin layer of ice before he vanished back into the dry interior. It was barely large enough to fit him anymore, but the dark-type made due.

Surge glanced at him as they started walking down the long, straight road. "Of course. She's in Vermillion's territory. I know all of the Nurse Joys and Officer Jennys." His eyes hardened. "You've got to know the people fighting for you."

Ash nodded. Surge had imparted several lessons like that on him. Know your troops, be fair with punishment, and stay resilient in the face of the worst calamities tended to be the main ones.

"We need to pick up supplies." Ash stated as a Poke Mart came into view. Tangrowth was consuming much more food than usual. He wasn't able to make up for it with his photosynthesis anymore. The never ending wall of dark clouds was responsible for that. Infernus couldn't even come out anymore thanks to the constant threat of rain. It wouldn't exactly hurt him, but it was pointless to release him when he would be so badly weakened.

"We've got time." Surge grunted. "Brock won't be able to reach the gates for about twenty minutes. Raichu put a little more juice in than necessary."

Ash laughed at Raichu's smug expression as they entered the store, which was quite warm and dry. It was probably the busiest building they'd seen in the small town, and it looked as though everyone was trying to stock up for the storm. From what Ash had heard, most of the scattered homes and tiny settlements in the wilds of northeast Kanto had lost power. The storm was dangerous, and on top of that the electric-types that swarmed the area had no regard for the humans.

Sneasel shattered the thin layer of ice covering the bag and stuck his head out suspiciously when he detected the new area. He sniffed a few times before he hissed in annoyance. Ash soothingly reached back and pet his thick black fur, despite the awkward angle. It calmed the dark-type down enough for them to stay inside.

"I'll get medicine." Surge growled. "You get the food. My team will eat anything. They took to the broth about as well as you did."

Raichu shuddered, and Ash gave her a half amused and half pitying look before he walked off to fight through the mass of people in the store. It was too bad that they needed to separate. The crowd fearfully backed away from Surge wherever he went, even if they didn't recognize him.

He sighed and shook his head. This needed to be done quickly.


"Did your rodent have to shock me that hard?" Brock complained as he walked up to the two at the edge of town. His hair still stood straight up and his mouth was set into a frown. The gym leader froze when he saw Ash. "What are you doing here?"

"Lance wanted me to come along." He explained. Brock nodded in understanding. The rock-type trainer didn't seem too surprised. "I guess he wanted some variation."

Brock smiled and extended his calloused hand, which Ash gladly shook. This was the Brock he remembered. "Well, it's good to see you again." He directed a dirty look to Surge. "It's definitely better than meeting that maniac."

"Don't blame me for what you brought on yourself, brat." Surge said with a dangerous grin. Raichu crossed her stubby forelegs and sparked threateningly in tandem. "Maybe if you stopped acting like a love-struck punk I wouldn't have Raichu jolt you."

Ash watched in amusement as Brock colored, although the older boy grinned as well. It was clear that their words didn't have too much of an effect on each other.

"Let's get going." Surge growled. He took charge of the situation whenever possible. The man was a natural leader, and Ash wasn't about to get in a squabble with the man over that. Surge actually knew where they were going.

They started off at a good pace, although Brock struggled to keep up at first. As the electricity left his body, his movements grew easier and easier, and the strength built up from long days of traversing the rugged territory of Pewter became apparent to Ash.

For the first few minutes it was silent. They were just focused on moving as quickly as possible. After that, however, Surge finally broke the silence. "So, how's that useless old man of yours?"

"He has the gym." Brock replied bitterly. Ash paid quite a bit of attention. It felt as though he were listening in on something private, but he just wanted to learn. Knowledge was power. "It'll probably be in ruins by the time I come back. There's no way he can control the kids."

Surge grunted with what Ash thought was an annoyed tone. "Kick his ass, then. Get some of that pent up anger out of your system."

Brock just laughed, and Ash figured he'd stop listening. This definitely wasn't any of his business.

He just focused on the road. There would be plenty of time to get to know his two travelling companions. Right now it was just time to move.


Three days, later, they reached the edge of the storm. It was nothing but light rain, but there were other threats that went along with it. A few hours after reaching the steady drizzle, they met their first pack of roving electric-types.

Raichu hissed to Surge, who raised his hand for the group to freeze. He whispered, "Electric-types."

Ash responded immediately by releasing Nidoking, Torrent, and Dazed. Nidoking roared uncomfortably as the rain pattered against his thick armor, but didn't complain too much. He just took up a defensive position next to Ash. Torrent, who would be able to manipulate the rain to his advantage if necessary, took up Ash's other side. Dazed calmly raised shields around the vulnerable humans. Sneasel leapt off of Ash's back and prepared to viciously attack whatever threatened them.

Brock released a large Rhydon and Golem. Ash supposed that the narrow path they were on was just too small to safely release Steelix.

"AET." Brock ordered calmly, even as the silhouettes of dozens of electabuzz and elekid became visible on the sides of the road. Both rock-types snorted and took up their positions on opposite sides of the road without hesitation.

"We don't have time for this. Raichu get them to back off." Surge snarled. Raichu, whose cheeks crackled with energy, hissed and shot tiny threads of electricity toward the electabuzz. One, who was much larger than the others, although not bulky enough to be an electivire, stepped forward and shot a blast of electricity back, although Raichu prevented it from harming Surge.

Ash wasn't quite worried. That was simply how electric-types that weren't of the same species tended to communicate with each other. Electricity held a language foreign to none of their kind.

"Get ready." Surge grinned wildly. His eyes were screaming for a fight. "It's about to get fun."

Everything disappeared in a flash of brilliant light a moment as the herd attacked. Rhydon was the primary focus of the attack, thanks to the attracting materials that made up its horn. It disappeared for a moment as thousands of volts were discharged at its body, but Rhydon simply grunted in annoyance before its smoking body became visible.

A sudden glimpse of inspiration flashed through him as Raichu, Golem, Rhydon, and all of his friends save Dazed rushed into battle, although Nidoking stayed close by. They were outnumbered at least ten to one, but it was still a horribly uneven fight against the herd.

He glanced at the ground which showed that Dazed, who was focused entirely on keeping herself and the humans shielded from the unnaturally strong electric attacks burning through the air, had extended the shield to cover the ground underneath her charges in a shimmering veil.

After Nidoking easily shrugged off the combined blasts of electricity from a number of electabuzz and elekid, Ash called out, "Earthquake!"

Nidoking bared his fangs and grunted as he stamped on the ground. The earth rippled like water as energy travelled through it and carved small fissures in every direction. Their foes collapsed as the powerful attack hit, which was precisely what Ash needed.

Ground-type attacks tended to do quite a bit of damage to electric-types. The tremors and powerful force that accompanied most of the ground-type attacks tended to interfere with their ability to manipulate and discharge electricity. As a reflexive action, they accidentally lost control of the organs they stored their electricity in and release dangerous amounts of electricity into their own internal organs, where electric-types' resistance to electricity wasn't effective.

Combined with the fact that most ground-types possessed a thick hide that either dulled the shock or had specialized systems that channeled electricity through their hide or armor and out of their body, ground-types were by far the most effective weapon against the dangerous electric-types.

After the herd was temporarily stunned, their pokemon made short work of the large group. Torrent casually took small groups of the aggressive pokemon down with his powerful Blizzard or Dragon Pulse, while Sneasel casually raced amongst the young, unpracticed elekid and preyed upon them. Nidoking wasn't capable of doing much without potentially hurting their allies or killing members of the herd, so he acted as a sponge to keep the bright, oddly powerful blasts of electricity away from the other members of the team.

The humans simply sat in the middle, protected by Dazed's powerful shields. Ash and Brock let out a steady stream of orders, but Surge just laughed uproariously as Raichu casually took on three of the larger electabuzz at once. Every now and then one of the herd would fire a potentially lethal blast of electricity toward them, but it didn't affect Ash aside from blinding him for a moment.

By the time a minute had passed, most of the herd had been defeated. The prideful pokemon fought on, however, until only four of the electabuzz remained.

Ash saw his friends encroaching upon the conscious electabuzz and noted that Sneasel was nowhere to be found. He whistled loudly to attract the dark-type. While Sneasel was handling his puberty quite well, without supervision he might give in to the predatory instincts so prevalent in his mind.

Sneasel suddenly appeared beside him in a rush of darkness. His friend made sure to keep away from the psychic shields lest he disrupt Dazed's attempts to protect the humans, but Sneasel's appearance attracted the attention of one of the remaining electabuzz.

The trainer squeezed his eyes shut as an immense blast of electricity, unrefined and driven by pure rage, incinerated a path in the air before it made contact with Dazed's barrier. Ash went deaf as a thunderclap rolled through the world, although he heard a strange sound like the shatter of glass beforehand.

He didn't have time to ponder his thoughts before he was thrown to the ground amidst an explosion of energy. Ash's back slammed to the earth as the sharp aroma of ozone shot through the air, a result of the electricity's ionizing path. The trainer's heart sank when he realized that the new, much more powerful smell was due to the fact that Dazed's shield had shattered under the power of the lightning strike.

Ash opened his eyes and pulled himself up, but froze when he saw an Electabuzz hurtle toward him in a blur of motion. It was clearly using Quick Attack, and was so fast that none of his friends could have stopped it before it gained some measure of vengeance against the humans that had devastated the herd.

None of his friends aside from Sneasel, anyway. The dark-type was just as fast as he bravely leapt in front of Ash. His sharp, hooked claws were unsheathed and raised. Ash's eyes, still somewhat weak from the explosion, were able to make out a slick red substance on the deadly instruments.

He didn't have time to think about that, however. Electabuzz didn't stop as it rushed toward Ash, and simply slammed into Sneasel. Although the dark-type did his best to sink his claws into the electric-type's thick fur and the flesh beneath, Electabuzz made an odd whirring noise and released an immense discharge of electricity from her body. Sneasel held on for a few moments, but the energy released into his frail form was just too much.

Sneasel's distraction had given Ash and his pokemon time to react, however. Even as the large Electabuzz stood over him and raised one of its large fists, which was alit with dancing arcs of electricity, an Ice Beam from an enraged Nidoking and an exceptionally powerful Hydro Pump from Torrent slammed into the feline creature.

Ash had a wild grin on his face as he saw the powerful Electabuzz crash to the ground several feet away. It scrambled to its clawed feet and beat its chest. Electabuzz growled defiantly and shot large bolts of electricity toward its attackers, although it barely affected either of his resistant friends. He noted that Surge and Brock had realized the situation was under control and were finishing off the last of the enraged electabuzz.

His eyes widened in fear as he saw a very angry, very protective Nidoking rush toward Electabuzz with his long horn lowered. Poison bled from the tip, each drop enough to put a pokemon like Electabuzz in the Pokemon Center for a day. Torrent was far more calm, but still angry enough to decide against stopping Nidoking.

So he put his own plan into action. Just before Nidoking would have gored Electabuzz through the chest, Ash hurtled one of his five remaining Ultra Balls at Electabuzz. The rainy area was briefly alit with a bright flash of scarlet light as the helpless Electabuzz was sucked into the powerful device.

Normally, Ash would have been worried. Electric-types were notoriously difficult to capture since their natural charge was enough to disrupt the delicate mechanisms of the pokeball during the capture process, but Electabuzz had been badly stunned by Nidoking and Torrent's attacks. It probably wasn't even coherent.

He wiped some of the mud off of his forearms as he watched the Ultra Ball anxiously. Ash grinned happily when the device finally clicked, signifying that the capture was a success. Nidoking roared at the device furiously, which caused the mud and earth to shake violently.

Ash's eyes widened as Nidoking snorted and lowered his horn to the Ultra Ball. Just as he began his attempt to destroy the device and the Electabuzz contained within, a sharp command from Ash cut him from his rage.

"Nidoking, calm down!" Ash snapped. The haze that turned Nidoking's warm eyes into animalistic slits vanished instantly. Nidoking breathed heavily, but was calm enough so that Ash could put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "It's alright, buddy. I'm fine."

The poison-type grunted and nuzzled Ash affectionately, although he took care to keep his deadly horn away from the trainer. As his adrenaline faded, the poison secreted by glands throughout his body stopped production. Rain quickly wiped it away, although Nidoking and Ash ensured to keep contact to a minimum. It was dangerous to even touch during or after a battle, but in this case it was necessary.

"Thank you." Ash said with a soft smile. "But please don't do that again. I don't like seeing you like that. You aren't you."

Nidoking growled understandingly and nodded, but Ash wasn't sure if Nidoking would actually try and keep that vow. His species had a highly developed protective streak to begin with in order to keep their herd safe, and Nidoking was more devoted to Ash than most would be. No matter what Ash said, the trainer knew that Nidoking would always respond to situations that threatened Ash's life with lethal force.

Torrent levitated over, and Dazed shuffled to him as well. Ash smiled and nodded to them in thanks before he picked up the Ultra Ball. He examined it for a moment before he looked to Torrent. "Could you wash this off for me, please?"

The dragon-type nodded, although he seemed to think the task beneath him. Torrent gently sprayed a stream of clear water onto the device and removed the mud that clung to its underside. Ash thanked Torrent before he clipped the ball to his belt. It had come with four additional spaces just in case a trainer needed to reach for a pokeball at an instant's notice.

He would speak to his newest teammate and introduce it to his friends later. Right now he needed to make sure everyone was okay.

"Nice catch." Surge said approvingly. He looked over at the numerous unconscious elekid and electabuzz with disdain. "What a bunch of weaklings. They could have at least given us a good fight. I would only use a few of them in my gym."

"Why were they so strong?" Brock questioned as he walked over. His Golem and Rhydon seemed to have been recalled after they defeated the last of the electabuzz. "Even the elekid packed a fair punch."

Surge shrugged. "The storm. They seem a bit stronger than they should be even with the storm powering them up, though. I don't like it."

"I thought you said they were weak." Ash remarked with a raised eyebrow. He didn't speak that much around the others, so they paid him more attention than usual when he did.

"They are." Surge growled. Raichu nodded in agreement. "They weren't effective. This must be a new herd. Their attacks weren't coordinated well. An experienced herd with an electivire at their head would have shattered through those psychic barriers like they were nothing. Idiots didn't even think to take out the trainers, even with all that extra power."

Dazed's eyes narrowed at the perceived slight to her abilities, but she calmed down when Ash placed a soothing hand to her shoulder. He squeezed it slightly, and received a smile from Dazed's eyes in response. She still glared at Surge, though. The gym leader didn't care or notice.

"What should we do with the herd?" Brock asked. He stood up from where he was examining a particularly beat up elekid. Ash frowned when he realized it had a few gashes in its small body, clearly from Sneasel.

He glanced around for the dark-type. In the excitement, he'd forgotten his friend. Ash felt a bit guilty, but just recalled the unconscious Sneasel when he spotted him, with his fur straight up and smoking slightly, on the ground next to Nidoking.

"I'm recalling you, alright?" He told Torrent and Dazed. They nodded understandingly before they disappeared in a flash of light. Nidoking stood at his side, the friendly presence comforting to Ash.

Ash tuned in to the gym leaders' conversation again.

"Leave 'em. None of us did lethal damage." Surge sneered. Raichu snickered and whipped her cordlike tail around, which only added to the sharp smell of ozone. "They'll probably disband. I think the Runt caught one of their leaders, or at least one of their strongest fighters. It held out against ground-types, which gives it a point in my book."

He frowned at that, but shrugged it off. Sneasel probably didn't have time to actually kill any of the elekid, although he hoped that his friend would have adopted some sense of ethics to stop himself as well. That was unlikely, to say the least, but he could hope. The worst he could spot was a few cuts on their small bodies.

"We need to move on." Surge growled. "The fighting will've attracted other pokemon. I don't want to battle a swarm of supercharged magnemite."

Ash repressed a shudder at the thought and shouldered his pack. Brock did the same, and they fell in line behind the powerful gym leader.

Magnemite not be all too impressive on their own, but in groups they could be devastating. They were generally harmless, but every wild pokemon he'd seen in the storm had been aggressive, if not intent upon injuring the trainers.

He frowned. It almost reminded him of the Seafoam Caverns, although to a lesser degree. While the pokemon that hid in those deadly halls of stone and ice were monsters that attempted to kill him at the slightest provocation, the pokemon here simply seemed annoyed.

Surge had mentioned that storms and all of the charged energy in the air made electric-types more aggressive. It played with their emotions, so it was only logical that a storm this massive would have a huge effect on the wild pokemon exposed to it. Still, a few suspicious thoughts flashed through his mind as they set off down the ravaged road of mud.


"We're going to look for people toughing it out through this storm." Surge shouted to Ash over the howling din of the wind outside. The storm had unexpectedly picked up as night fell, so they were forced to take shelter in a cave. It was large enough to comfortably hold all of them, but small enough that Infernus' mere presence would keep them comfortably warm.

Ash nodded and began to stand up, but Surge raised his hand. "You stay here and get to know that Electabuzz. Your life might depend on it when we get further in, so make friends. But we've got to get the order to evacuate out. Communications are shot."

The trainer frowned, but accepted it as the two gym leaders walked out the cave's maw. He couldn't say he was too disappointed in being passed over. It didn't look like a fun job.

He gave a last wave to match Brock's before he stood up and moved to the back of the cave. All of his friends were already released, so he didn't have to release them and give them orders. They knew what to do.

Nidoking and Dazed took up their positions by his side, where he faced the end of the cave. Plume couldn't move around in the cramped quarters of the cavern, so she simply cooed softly at him as she pecked at the pile of food he'd given her. Nidoking automatically adjusted himself to protect Plume from any stray bolts of electricity that might be hurled around. Dazed had already raised a shield in front of Ash.

Tangrowth gurgled happily as he walked over next to Dazed. He tapped her on the forehead with a vine and hugged Ash. While Ash just laughed and squeezed his rubbery arm back, Dazed's glowing eyes flashed with annoyance. She normally had a good tolerance for Tangrowth's antics, but not at the moment.

It probably didn't help Tangrowth's case that Sneasel was standing on top of the grass-type's head, supported by several of the thick vines. Sneasel snickered and pointed at her, only to receive a minor jolt from a watered down Thunderbolt by Nidoking.

Infernus snorted and casually punched Sneasel off of Tangrowth's head as he passed, although Tangrowth caught the dark-type before he fell and gave Infernus an uncharacteristically dark glare. He'd never really forgiven Infernus for that prank he'd played on the grass-type when they first met.

Torrent levitated behind Ash, his regal presence meant to dissuade Electabuzz from even thinking about attacking. He could fire a powerful Hydro Pump and knock her out cold in an instant. The sheer force behind the blast of water would probably cause some bruising, even if he made it as weak as Ash had ordered.

"Alright. Try to look nonthreatening." Ash said sternly. Infernus blew a plume of fire and smoke in amusement. The trainer just rolled his eyes and sighed. "Here it comes."

Electabuzz was mostly recovered when it emerged from the Ultra Ball. It growled cautiously, but didn't attack when it realized just how badly outmatched it was. Ash knew it had power, but it wasn't stupid. He knew that Electabuzz likely had a temperament similar to Infernus, although more irritable and less prone to unprovoked violence. Perhaps his same method would work on Electabuzz, although he doubted it would be easy.

"Hi. My name's Ash Ketchum. Do you know what's happened to you?" He began. Electabuzz nodded and growled back, a deep, powerful noise that was quite impressive. Ash could see why Surge had pointed it out as a leader. "I'm going to scan you with a device, alright? Don't worry about it. It won't hurt you."

Although Electabuzz eyed the pokedex suspiciously and sparked a bit, it didn't try to pull anything. It was more focused on the friendly vine Tangrowth had extended so that he could touch her. Tangrowth had a rather weak sense of sight, but his sense of touch was very developed. Most of his vines had little to no feeling, but a few of them were specialized to allow Tangrowth to feel out his environment.

"Give Electabuzz some space." Ash chided gently. Tangrowth gurgled as he sadly recalled his vines. Now that Tangrowth wasn't blocking his view, he raised the pokedex.

"Electabuzz, the Electric Pokemon." The cool, mechanical voice droned. "It is normally found near power plants, where it feeds upon electricity. They can wander away and cause blackouts. Electricity runs across the surface of its body.

This Electabuzz knows the moves: Quick Attack, Thunder Shock, Low Kick, Swift, Shock Wave, Thunder Wave, Thunder Punch, and Thunderbolt. Its ability is Static, which will cause the opponent to become paralyzed when they make physical contact with the pokemon."

Ash whistled. Surge was right. Electabuzz was tough, even if it was probably behind the rest of his friends. Aside for Sneasel and Seeker, anyway. Bruiser would probably have a tough time fighting it as well, especially with Static. He'd seen it in action a few times before, and it could be worse than being poisoned by Nidoking or burned by Infernus.

"I know you probably aren't happy about being separated from your herd, but I'll try and make it up to you in any way that I can." Ash said softly. Electabuzz nodded slowly. It didn't seem particularly attached to the herd it had left behind. "I don't mean to sound arrogant, but I'm a pretty strong trainer. One of my friends can teach you a lot, and I'll do my best to make you the strongest you can be. Will you join me?"

Electabuzz nodded with hesitation. Ash held back a sigh of relief. He glanced over at Dazed, who barely nodded at him. That meant Electabuzz wasn't just playing them like Infernus had done. Thanks to Infernus' fledgling psychic abilities, Dazed wasn't able to understand his emotions or intent. His newest friend lacked that resistance.

"Well, I'll make introductions." He began. Ash pointed at Nidoking. Electabuzz's eyes narrowed as it recognized one of its attackers. Nidoking glared back. The poison-type wasn't happy about Electabuzz's position on the team. "That's Nidoking."

"Plume." He said. Nidoking reluctantly stepped out of the way so that Electabuzz could see the flying-type, who cried out in greeting. Electabuzz whirred softly. It was a much better reception than with Nidoking.

"Torrent." Ash directed. Torrent blinked in acknowledgement at Electabuzz, who dipped its head. It was clearly caught up in Torrent's regal aura. Electabuzz seemed much calmer than before, he noted. Perhaps being away from the influence of the storm had helped return her to normal.

"Dazed." The psychic-type nodded at Electabuzz, who whirred back. Although it was a short interaction, at least they didn't seem to have a problem with each other. Dazed didn't even seemed annoyed at the electric-type for breaking her shield.

"Infernus." Ash said softly. Infernus snorted and roared at Electabuzz, who whirred back angrily. As Infernus shot a stream of flame toward Electabuzz, the electric-type shot a huge bolt of electricity back in return. The trainer scowled and motioned for Dazed to stop it. She casually erected a psychic bubble around both of the attacks and easily snuffed them out.

Ash scowled. "That's enough. Infernus, I expected better from you."

Infernus growled, but dipped his head in what Ash thought was the closest his friend had ever gotten to shame. He snorted disdainfully at Electabuzz, who whirred back furiously but had a cooler head than the fire-type. Ash would have to keep an eye on those two once they were done with this job.

"Tangrowth." He said after taking a breath. Tangrowth happily gurgled as he snaked a few vines over to Electabuzz. Although the electric-type seemed a bit annoyed by the way the vines curiously poked and prodded her, she kept calm and let Tangrowth finish his inspection. Ash smiled gratefully at Electabuzz, to which it whirred back softly.

"And Sneasel." Ash pointed. Electabuzz took a moment to realize what he was pointing to, but cocked its head oddly when it saw Sneasel happily standing on top of Tangrowth's shell of vines. Sneasel hissed a greeting. The trainer assumed it was somewhat insulting, because Electabuzz shot a spark at Sneasel, which caused all of his fur to suddenly stand on end. He growled angrily and did his best to fix his fur, although Tangrowth helped with his grooming as well.

What tipped him off more was that none of his friends attempted any sort of retaliation.

"There are two more members of the team, but they aren't with us." Ash explained. Electabuzz nodded. He looked at it thoughtfully for a moment. His most recent teammates hadn't received nicknames for whatever reason.

Tangrowth couldn't remember his and he wanted Sneasel to grow up before giving him the option. Sneasel would only pick once he had fully developed.

But Electabuzz seemed fine with being a member of the team, happy even. Like most of his early friends, he thought that it was ready right now. If Electabuzz wanted one, of course.

"Say, do you want a nickname?" He asked. Electabuzz frowned for a moment before it nodded hesitantly. Sneasel suddenly stopped his attempts at grooming and stared at Electabuzz with jealousy.

He took a moment. There were plenty of generic names for electric-type pokemon that he wanted to avoid. Jolt, Bolt, Shocker, and everything similar was rather boring.

So he tried to think of what his first impression of Electabuzz, aside from the explosion and thunderclap. The harsh scent of ozone flashed in his memory, aided by the constant strikes of lightning outside. It was sharp and strong, just like Electabuzz.

"How about Oz?" He suggested. At the very least it was better than some of his other nicknames. Electabuzz shrugged before it nodded. Ash grinned. "Well, we've got a while before my friends come back. I guess you can just talk to the others, if you want."

Oz nodded, but stood around awkwardly for a few moments. Torrent and Tangrowth finally took pity on her and walked over. Nidoking, normally one of the most welcoming members of the team, just eyed Oz with distaste and stuck by Ash.

He frowned. That might be a problem. Ash would work on that later. But for now, he realized that he'd forgotten something extremely important.

Ash glanced at the pokedex's scan of Oz. He'd forgotten to check the gender. The trainer sighed when the pokedex identified Oz as female.

"Oz, do you want to change your name?" He called out. She glanced over at him oddly. A current of electricity passed through her fur as she squinted at him. Ash elaborated. "I didn't know you were a girl."

Oz shrugged and turned away. Ash blinked. Apparently she liked her new name.

He saw Sneasel sneak a glance at him and realized that he had another problem to take care of. Ash whistled softly, which automatically brought Sneasel over to him. The dark-type easily leapt off of Tangrowth's head and dashed over, although he looked at Ash with slightly hurt red eyes.

"You're disappointed you don't have a nickname?" Ash said softly as he kneeled. He looked Sneasel in the eyes. The dark-type nodded hesitantly, obviously uncomfortable with communicating his emotions. As a rule, dark-types were loners. They usually didn't have strong bonds with each other, even amongst pack based pokemon like houndour or sneasel.

Ash put a hand on Sneasel's small, muscular shoulder. The dark-type eyed him carefully. "Listen, you'll get a nickname if you want one. I just want you to be mature first, so that you can pick one you'll like for the rest of your life. Does that make sense?"

Sneasel nodded and growled his understanding. He seemed a bit happier, if more thoughtful. Ash smiled at him as Sneasel ran off and tried to sneak up on Infernus, who had curled up in the corner of the room. The trainer didn't even have to watch to know how that would end.

He walked over to one of the stone walls and took a seat, suddenly tired. It had been a long day, but at least he had a new friend. Nidoking curled up beside him, and Ash absentmindedly ran his fingers over Nidoking's rough plates of armor. The poison-type rumbled happily in response, although every now and then he would shoot dangerous glares at Oz.

Ash sighed and ignored it for now. They could fix this if it turned into a real problem. Nidoking was mature enough to get over it himself, given time.

For now he just had to wait. Surge would probably give him a few tips for training Oz. After seeing the man's Electivire in action, Ash would be glad for the help.


In a week and a half, the trio had almost reached the Power Plant. The storm had become so violent that their progress had slowed to a snail's pace, and even Surge wasn't able to tough out the powerful winds and heavy rains. What they'd been in when Ash caught Oz was just the outer shell, and it was barely comparable to the horrible storm they faced now.

The storm hadn't been the only thing slowing their progress. They spent quite a bit of time spreading word of the evacuation to anyone stubborn enough to brave the storm or unable to leave without assistance. Two days had been devoted to gathering several dozen trainers and settlers they'd found lost in the wild and sending them to Vermillion. It just wasn't safe to be out here. At least the settlements could pool resources. Several Rangers they'd found were assigned to the group.

They faced about a dozen attacks a day, although the powerful trainers always managed to fight the pokemon off. Most weren't as strong as Oz's herd, but were still dangerous. As they treaded further into the storm the electric-types seemed to get stronger and stronger.

Fortunately, the same applied to Surge's pokemon and Oz. Raichu was probably capable of levelling a small town without too much trouble and Oz grew more and more wild. She just didn't have the discipline that Surge's pokemon did, and Ash was eventually forced to keep her in her pokeball. It just wasn't safe for the half-mad pokemon to be out. Her normally calm disposition had soured to the point that she'd attack anything in sight.

In contrast, Infernus was pathetically weak now. Ash would only let him out in a cave, but the sheer amount of water and the huge floods that drowned the area meant that he could barely keep the cave warm. He eventually kept his friend in his pokeball. The trainer wouldn't let Infernus suffer like that.

Despite the miserable experience, Ash managed to learn a bit about training electric-types from Surge. It wasn't much because the group had become practically silent over the grueling journey, but at least he had some information. Most of it consisted of Surge telling Ash how to find legal ways for Oz to feed, how to let her discharge excess electricity outside of battle, and exercises that would increase her already impressive endurance. While it was basic, it was important. Ash wasn't sure he would have retained much else. The days blended together monotonously.

"We have to finish this tomorrow." Surge said tiredly. They were around a tiny campfire Raichu had lit for them with a few sparks. It was horribly smoky and inefficient thanks to the wet wood, but it was warm. A miserable Plume cleared the smoke out every minute or so. "The storm's too bad to survive if we don't hit the power plant tomorrow. There's no way we can make it on foot."

"I think it's time for Steelix." Brock coughed. They'd all suffered a bit of sickness from the terrible conditions. There was plenty of effective medicine that kept them from feeling too cold and promoted blood flow, but the cold and wet was just too constant and strong.

The teenaged boy was shirtless, as were the others. Ash had already changed into his fresh set of pants and his laundry was laid out next to the campfire with the others. It would smell awful, but he could just buy new clothes with the hefty paycheck Lance was giving him.

Surge had them drying out their shoes each night as well, as well as their clothes. He'd told them both horrible stories about moisture in boots causing flesh to rot off after extended periods, although Brock seemed to already know about it. Drying their clothes was just common sense.

Lightning struck again, but they barely noticed it. It was common enough thanks to the sheer density of the bands of electric-types and the power of the storm. Ash didn't bother counting how many times it struck in the course of a minute anymore. He would have lost count by thirty seconds.

"Yeah." Surge grunted. He was the only one that didn't shiver. Raichu cuddled into the man's chest, desperately seeking warmth. "It wasn't able to get through the mud last time without freaking out. You'd better make sure it grows a pair and digs deep. We won't survive the winds about five miles in. I know Castform won't make it."

Sneasel growled and burrowed into Ash's side. Although he loved the horribly cold temperatures the storm brought with it, he hated how wet it was. Aside from trying to get dry, Sneasel had taken it upon himself to keep Ash as warm as possible with his thick fur. Of his pokemon, Ash only felt comfortable releasing Sneasel and Torrent. If there was any other way to get the smoke out, Plume would still be in her pokeball instead of in the cave.

"How will we know where to surface?" Ash chattered. The heat from the fire warmed his skin, but his bones felt like ice. He hadn't been this cold since the Caverns, although this was nothing compared to them. Overall it was just as miserable, however. At least the Caverns didn't have rain and wind.

Brock glanced at him in concern, which made Ash frown. While Ash toughed it out as well as the gym leaders, the trainer knew he couldn't keep it up for much longer. He had a strong will, but his body was far weaker. He had been lagging behind a bit, and he was sicker than the others.

"Drink some of this." Surge growled as Brock reached for the medicine. He reached into his pack and withdrew a silvery flask and a blanket. Ash caught the flask and stared at it with an odd expression. The trainer wasn't exactly sure about drinking the liquid inside. He gratefully accepted the blanket, however, and Surge handed another one to Brock. When Surge caught Ash's hesitance, he sighed. "It'll make you feel better."

Ash shrugged and unscrewed the cap. He waterfalled a small mouthful of it and his eyes widened. The alcohol didn't exactly taste good, but there was something in it that made warmth shoot through his body. While he knew it was mostly an illusion, since alcohol restricted the blood vessels, he didn't care. It made him feel truly warm, and he almost took another drink.

Brock plucked it out of his hand before he could, however. "You don't need any more of that." He said sternly. By now, Ash knew better than to go against him. Brock had quite a bit of practice dealing with his younger siblings and would always win the argument.

"Thanks." Ash said. He sounded normal this time.

"I'm not going to let you die on me." Surge said with a half grin. "Not after the shit you've survived. You'll go out in a better way than hypothermia."

Ash blinked, but laughed a few moments later. Sneasel climbed up into his lap from under the blanket. "So, how are we going to get into the power plant?"

"Steelix can detect electromagnetic fields." Brock explained. "The power plant should be full of electric-types that aren't tough enough to survive easily out in the storm. They'll produce enough to be like a second sun to Steelix. We'll just go up through the floor. There's no way we can remain outside."'

Surge grunted in confirmation. "If worst comes to worst, we can surface and use Castform. Little bastard's been a great help so far."

That was definitely true. While any attempt Castform made to change the weather was instantly neutralized and replaced by more dark clouds, the creature was great at causing lightning to strike far away from the group, although Ash didn't understand the exact mechanics behind it. He'd mostly learnt biology from the pokedex archives, and even that he only had a tenuous understanding of.

"Go to bed." Surge said exhaustedly. The effort to lead them and keep them on the right path was showing its wear on the ordinarily exuberant man. Even giants had limits, it seemed. "I'll put out the fire."

Ash nodded and walked over to his sleeping mat, which was next to Plume. She cooed worriedly at him and nuzzled his shoulder before he smiled at her and recalled the flying-type. He didn't want her to worry.

Sneasel whined as Ash recalled him. While he was sure that the dark-type and his thick fur would be nice, the blanket would suffice. Besides, he was already stressed and tired out. He didn't need nightmares as well.


"This sounded a lot better on paper." Ash muttered as he stared into Steelix's gaping jaws. He'd only woken up a few minutes ago, and now he was having to do this. Brock looked at him from inside the steel-type's cavernous mouth.

"Just get in. We have to get moving. There are twenty miles to cover, and Steelix is going to be hurt by the end of it." Brock replied irritably. Ash sighed and climbed in, helped by a boost from Surge.

It was surprisingly dry. Ash supposed he shouldn't have been too surprised. Steelix ate earth, metal, and stone. The behemoth's massive jaws just had to be open to obtain its meal, which went straight down to its stomach. Steelix had an alien physiology, the details of which Ash wasn't sure of. Steel-types tended to have quite a few additional organs to accommodate their diet.

When Surge climbed in, Steelix closed its jaws. Ash breathed deeply as they were entombed in total darkness. The world suddenly rumbled as Steelix began to move. There was a bit of resistance that sent them backward, and for just a moment he worried that they would fall into Steelix's stomach. With the kind of acids required to dissolve metal, that wasn't a place he wanted to fall into.

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