Essence

Ash has always wanted to be a pokemon master. When the time comes for him to pick out his first pokemon, he shocks Professor Oak with a peculiar request. One thing leads to another, and he ends up with a loyal Growlithe. How will this unique situation affect the boy's destiny?

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11113835/1/Essence

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7. Kanto 3 Part 2

As if the world was listening in on his reflection, Ash's internal rumination came to an abrupt end, as he was smacked back into reality by Growlithe's menacing growl. He paused; Growlithe only behaved in such a way when he was either surprised, or they were threatened. The present circumstances seemingly leaned towards the ladder.

"What is it Growlithe?" asked Ash, in an edgy tone.

The puppy Pokemon darted his eyes back and forth, ostensibly scanning their surroundings.

Ash used his eyes to follow Growlithe's lead. He didn't see anything.

He anxiously turned to Clefairy. "Do you sense something?"

The fairy type's ears fidgeted, before she nodded her head in affirmation. She used both of her stocky arms to visually portray to Ash that they were surrounded.

He hoveringly drifted his hand over Pidgeotto's pokeball. If they were dealing with a multitude, the flying-type's widespread attacks would come in handy.

He waited anxiously, as everything perceptually muted for a split-second.

…The surprise ambush had been initiated.

Ash chuckled - apparently, the region of Kanto was using divine means to show its enthusiasm towards his decision to pass on its primordially selected starters.

With both hands, he firmly grasped Pidgeotto and Bulbasaur's pokeballs, as he watched a troupe of squirtle frenziedly flood around them.

The gaggle of turtle-pokemon came to a sudden halt. They raised their guard, as they witnessed the release of a momentous Pidgeotto, and an inconvenient grass-type. Since their foolhardy blitz was on momentary pause, Ash was able to make out the oddest component of this random encounter. Every single encompassing squirtle was wearing…black sunglasses.

"What the hell?" questioned Ash, to no one in particular.

His pokemon outwardly surrounded him, in preparation to protect their trainer.

Growlithe settled into a defensive crouch, loading a high-temperature ember in his barely open maw. His ability intimidate activated, in attempt to place fear in the hearts of their water-type adversaries.

Pidgeotto leant over and glared like a hellion. Ash wasn't quite sure if the behemoth was being protective, or truculent.

Clefairy raised both of her fists, showing her alertness and readiness for combat. Ash knew her well enough at this point that he could tell she was mulling something over, most likely her plan of attack. Unlike her more instinctual-styled male counter-parts, Clefairy's battle style was much more analytical.

Bulbasaur growled, as he protruded his retractable vine-like appendages. He triggered chlorophyll, using the light from the sun to boost the strength in his leg muscles. Squirtle were fast… he intended to be faster.

The gang of squirtle hastily grouped together, organizing themselves into an arching defensive formation. Ash counted eight. He carefully watched, while one of the eight squirtle barged its way towards the head of the formation.

The ten-year old boy perceived that the assumed leader was almost a whole-foot taller than the rest of its comrades. Ash wasn't sure if it was genetically a larger specimen, like Pidgeotto, or if it was simply nearing evolution. The boy also took into account the alpha's different styled sunglasses. The frames' upper edges were pointed, unlike the rest of its pals who wore standard round frames. The dark-haired boy was not so foolish as to think that it was a coincidence - the leader was obviously trying to stand out amongst the rest.

While emitting a sonorous battle cry, the leader used one of its fists to pompously pound upon its shell-encased chest. The rest of the squirtle troupe raised their fists, as they mimicked their audacious leader.

Ash's body subtly twitched, as he internally became restless. He wanted it. Any pokemon that could extract that kind of response out of its kin was awfully enticing to train. Ash detached an empty pokeball from his belt. He was going to try and catch the final member of the Kanto region's "original" elemental trio.

Anticipation for a battle was brewing on both sides.

"Wait until they make the first move," said Ash quietly. "Pidgeotto… go after the big one."

Nearly a minute went by without any movement, before…

The troupe of squirtle charged.

Ash's team fearlessly prepared for retaliation.

The gaggle of squirtle howled - their voices blended together, constructing a vicious tenor-toned choir.

"Go get em!" bellowed Ash.

Bulbasaur, Clefairy, and Growlithe used the fast-twitch muscle fibers in their legs, to propel themselves forward at a tremendous rate. Bulbasaur and Growlithe left after-images, as they dashed towards the right half of the eight-turtle brigade. Clefairy tapped into the lunar essence stored in her wings, while she smoothly glided towards the left-side of the squirtle-formation.

Pidgeotto launched himself into the sky as fast as a comets tail. With both wings he prepared a powerful violet-tinted twister, with intention to crash it on top of the leader's head.

While they were on the move, all eight squirtle conjured a highly concentrated water-gun. They patiently let it rest in their gullets, waiting for the right moment to strike.

The two sides were about to clash, when...unexpectedly…

In response to a loud, overbearing, collection of police sirens, both groups of pokemon came to a sudden stop.

Ash briskly turned his head around. He watched, as a sextuplet of black and white police cars raced towards the scene. A cloud of dust followed, their tires ruthlessly spewed the trail's gravel in every which direction.

Ash covered his eyes to protect them from the airborne dirt, as the six police cars braked and slid, before coming to a gradual halt. Ash briefly glanced back towards the battlefield, watching as the troupe of squirtle madly scrambled back into the brushwood. His Pokemon let them flea, unaware of his plan to catch the leader. The leader emotionlessly looked back towards Ash, before following his comrades into the woods.

Ash scowled, as he disappointedly cursed under his breath. He'd let it get away.

He gestured Growlithe and Clefairy back to his side, before returning Pidgeotto and Bulbasaur to their pokeballs without saying a word.

He turned around to face the flood of oncoming police officers. He had a feeling this was going to be one of those days.

At the center of the squadron, was Officer Jenny. For a fraction of a second Ash thought to nonchalantly say hello, but then he remembered that "this Jenny" was probably one of the "original Jenny's" identical relatives.

"What were you doing with the Squirtle Squad boy?" asked Jenny rudely; her eyes hidden behind a pair of dark-tinted sunglasses. "Are you an accomplice?"

"No…we were battling," said Ash curtly. "They ambushed me and my pokemon while we were walking down the trail."

Officer Jenny grimaced. "Dammit!"

"What?" asked Ash, in a confused manner.

"The friggin' Squirtle Squad's resorted to attacking traveling trainers," ranted Jenny. "This is a new low for them."

Ash raised an eyebrow. "Wait…the Squirtle Squad, that's their name?"

"Yeah, they're a friggin' nuisance!" growled Jenny. "They've been terrorizing our town for the past year."

"Your town?" asked Ash curiously. "There's a town around here?"

Officer Jenny sighed, clearly annoyed. "Why is it that no one knows about it?"

"Is it on the map?" heckled Ash. "Because that could have a lot to do with it…"

Jenny sarcastically rolled her eyes. "We don't qualify. Our town's too small to be on the official Kanto map."

"Really?" asked Ash. "They count populace for something like that?"

Officer Jenny sadly frowned. "Yeah…unfortunately the league isn't perfect."

One of the other five male police officers interrupted Jenny. "Should we pursue them?"

"Don't bother!" commanded Officer Jenny. "Once they reach the woods, they're impossible to track."

"I could help," inserted Ash. "My Growlithe could probably use his nose to track them down."

Officer Jenny crossed her arms, physically showing her frustration. "The station has a growlithe too. Unfortunately, tracking them by scent doesn't work."

"Why's that?" questioned Ash.

"They escaped into their territory," said Jenny. "They've booby-trapped that part of the woods with all kinds of hidden traps."

One of the other accompanying officers spoke up. "That place is impossible to safely maneuver around - it's like a makeshift minefield."

"Well then let's draw them out," said Ash. "We can battle them head on."

Officer Jenny skeptically tilted down her sunglasses, as she used her amber-red eyes to stare deep into Ash's soul. "Why are you so interested in the Squirtle Squad kid?"

"I want the big one," answered Ash, honestly. "It would be a good addition to my team."

"Pshhh… you think you can train that thing?" queried Jenny. "That friggin' bastard's as unruly as they come."

"I'd like to try," said Ash, ignoring Jenny's crude mouth. "That 'thing' practically oozes potential."

"Well I can't really complain," sputtered Jenny, as she squinched her face. "If you think you can take that degenerate little beast on, who am I to stop you? Besides…it would help us out."

Ash knowingly smiled. "So we'll work together?"

Jenny readjusted her sunglasses. "Why not…? If we can lessen their gang by one, it would be worth it - especially...if that one, is that damn leader of theirs."

"Awesome," said Ash, as he bent over and pet Clefairy behind her ears. "But we need a plan."

"It shouldn't be too difficult to draw them out," said Jenny, as she placed her hands on her hips. "There are certain things that those little vandals can't resist."

"It sounds to me like you already have a plan," said Ash.

"Roughly," replied Officer Jenny, with a smirk. "Let's plot out the rest back at the station."

"Sure," said Ash with a shrug. "Sounds like a good idea to me."

Officer Jenny gestured towards her black and white police car. "Hop in. I'll give you a ride."

XXX

The police station was located in a quiet place on the outskirts of town. Ash wasn't able to get a thorough feel for the rural town, because of the short direct drive and its outmost residential location. However, he was able to decipher that the unmapped establishment was probably somewhere around the same size as his small hometown of Pallet.

The station was medial-sized; its exterior was rather contemporary compared to the rest of the town's more rural surroundings. It was an odd cylinder shape, painted beige, with a protruding blue semi-circle jutting out of its face. The top-half of the building portrayed a Kanto police hat, distending out from the structures right-side was a massive garage sealed with a retractable green, steel, door.

Officer Jenny reached above her head, clicking a button on the face of a tiny apparatus that was clipped to the edge of one of the vehicle's sun visors. In response, the station's green garage door retracted, making it possible for the squad to safely park their cars inside.

After they parked she led Ash, Growlithe, and Clefairy, through a side door into the station's main department. It was cluttered with about a dozen cubicles. Half of them were idle - Ash assumed that they were the workstations of the officer's that were following in behind them.

Clefairy got a lot of interested stares, as Jenny led them toward her private office. Growlithe looked anxious. Ash wanted to help his puppy pokemon squash his fear of large groups of people with a little dose of exposure therapy. They were in a controlled environment, so Ash figured it would be a good time to try something. The dark-haired boy didn't want Growlithe to go through life debilitated by social anxiety.

Jenny's office was small, tidy, and businesslike. The only evidence that it belonged to her, was the chrome nameplate and framed photograph that sat on her desk. Ash examined the picture; it was a family photo, consisting of herself and a handful of her identical relatives.

Officer Jenny relaxed into a comfortable looking swivel chair. She gestured Ash to sit down in one of the two stationary chairs positioned opposite of hers.

"Growlithe and Clefairy, you should go ahead and get comfortable," suggested Ash, as he eagerly sat down.

Growlithe and Clefairy both listened to their trainer, and found a comfortable spot on the ground adjacent to him.

"Alright kid, before we come up with a plan… are you really sure you want that squirtle?" asked a no-nonsense Officer Jenny.

"Yeah, I'm definitely sure," affirmed Ash with a nod.

"Okay, in that case… I'll tell you what I know about him," said Jenny. "That way you have an idea of what you're getting yourself involved in. It's actually quite the story - you see…he showed up about a year ago."

"With the rest of the Squirtle Squad?" interrupted Ash.

"Just let me friggin' talk kid," scolded Jenny. "If you still have questions at the end, feel free to ask em."

Ash gulped. "Okay…"

"Alright… so it was about a year ago, when that big, bad, squirtle, showed up in tears, dragging his unconscious trainer into our town's local hospital."

Ash raised his eyebrows, while Growlithe and Clefairy listened attentively.

"The squirtle's trainer was immediately rushed into the hospital's ICU. He was in pretty friggin' bad shape; one of the most gruesome scenes I've seen in my ten year career. His body was covered in deep bruises and nasty lacerations. He was missing several fingers, one of his eyes was gouged out, and the rest of his face was heavily disfigured."

Ash made a wry face, while visualizing the scene.

"No matter how hard the doctors tried to get the squirtle out of the way," said Jenny. "He wouldn't leave his trainer's side."

Clefairy and Growlithe nodded to themselves. If something like that were to happen to Ash, they knew that they would behave the same way.

"The doctors back at the hospital deduced that the boy was attacked by an angry flock of spearow. The damn birds mutilated his flesh and left him to die."

Ash and Growlithe scowled, thinking back to their run in with the flock of pissed-off spearow on the first day of their journey. If they hadn't come across that basin back then, something similar would have probably happened to them.

"The doctor's didn't think he'd make it," continued Jenny. "But miraculously… he came out of a coma about a week after his final surgery. By this time, his parents had long since arrived on the scene. The doctor's wouldn't let them see him until he had finally come out of unconsciousness. It might sound kind of backwards, but the surgeons were having a difficult enough time working around the immoveable squirtle."

"And what happened when they saw him?" blurted Ash, unable to control himself.

Officer Jenny excused his interruption, before carrying on. "Obviously they were devastated. Their ten-year old child was barely recognizable. Wild Pokemon attacks weren't necessarily unheard of, but one of this magnitude, well...it was pretty disturbing."

Ash nodded, he could only imagine.

"As hard as the parents took it…the boy's reaction was much worse. He could hardly look at himself without vomiting. His new reflection haunted him. He grew to hate pokemon, labeling them as evil. His parents tried to explain that not all pokemon were corrupt, but he wouldn't listen. And the saddest part of all…was that he took all of his newfound anger out on the squirtle that had preserved his life."

Ash frowned, he had a feeling Squirtle's story was going to go this way...

"The boy wanted nothing to do with pokemon. When he was well enough to leave the hospital, he exterminated his trainer-account, before hatefully releasing every pokemon he had ever caught…including squirtle. He abandoned all of them right outside town-limits. In the part of the woods that you saw the squirtle squad escape through earlier today."

Clefairy sorrowfully looked down at the ground, while Growlithe quietly whined.

"All of his pokemon were heart-broken," said Jenny. "But one-by-one, at their own pace, they all went their separate ways. However, ever since that day, Squirtle's never left. Some say, it's because he still hopes his trainer will someday come back for him. But I don't think so. I think that at that moment in time, his confusion turned into a grudge. He began to hate humankind, because the only person he'd ever come to love hated his kind. He decided to take out his twisted anger on our little town, probably because the only attachment he has to it involves malice and mistrust."

Ash sorrowfully looked down at the ground, before he thought curiously about an important detail.

"Where did the rest of the Squirtle Squad come from?" questioned Ash.

"I'm getting there," grumbled Jenny. "Dammit kid, you're more impatient then a preschooler."

"I'm Sorry, I'm sorry!" babbled Ash, as he waved his arms back and forth. "It won't happen again."

"Well anyways," continued Jenny, slightly amused by Ash's frenzied display. "The rest of the squirtle gradually started to show up over time."

Ash gave Jenny a peculiar look, while Clefairy and Growlithe perked up with interest.

"My guess…is that he's recruited other abandoned squirtle with a vendetta against humans," explained Jenny. "But there are other theories out there. No one really knows for sure."

Ash remained silent, as he patiently waited for Jenny to continue.

"That's all I got kid," said Jenny. "You can ask questions now, although I can't promise I'll have answers."

Ash honestly thought he'd have some. But he didn't. Officer Jenny had pretty much explained everything he wanted to know. The rest was most likely just fluff.

"I'm good," replied Ash. "Thanks for sharing."

"Good," stated Jenny simply. "You handled that story pretty well…most people don't."

"I've had an interesting week," heckled Ash.

Jenny raised an eyebrow, before excusing the comment. "Well anyway, I think we should talk about this plan."

"I agree," retorted Ash. "Now what do you have in mind? If you can draw them out and help me distract the other seven squirtle, I'll gladly take on the leader."

Jenny squinted, as she racked her brain.

"The Squirtle Squad is awfully predictable when it comes to food," said Jenny. "If we throw a banquet, they'll doubtlessly show up."

"You really think it'll be that easy?" asked Ash. "I mean, hasn't the gang been wreaking havoc for like a year? Shouldn't they be a little more difficult to reel in?"

"Oh…yeah," answered Jenny. "They're almost guaranteed to show up; but don't let your guard down. Trust me, they'll have a plan… the bastards always do. Remember, just because they're easy to find, doesn't mean they'll be easy to catch."

Ash nodded his head. "So our plan's a banquet?"

"Yup," replied Jenny. "It's going to friggin' work too, trust me."

"If you say so..." said Ash skeptically.

"Just worry about catching the leader kid," suggested Jenny. "I'll take care of the rest."

"That sounds like a relatively simple strategy," retorted Ash.

"The difficult part is going to be executing," said Jenny, waving her finger back and forth. "The little devils are tricky."

"I'll take your word for it," said Ash, standing up out of his chair. "Now let's get this show on the road."

Growlithe and Clefairy hopped to their feet, ready to trigger the plan.

"Hold on a second kid," sputtered Jenny. "Before we do anything, I got a question to ask you."

"What is it?" asked Ash curiously.

Jenny looked at Ash with a straight face. "What the hell's your name?"

XXX

The town was wild, as the majority of the populace had disregarded whatever they were doing in order partake in the rambunctious party. Ash observed, as hundreds of people swarmed together, looking to enjoy the impromptu festivities.

It was Officer Jenny's idea to hold the banquet at the town's event-center. The pavilion was situated in the center of town. It was expansive, occupying around fifty-thousand square-feet.

Ash was impressed by the setup. With less than a day's notice, Jenny and the rest of the police station had put together an extremely entertaining banquet. There was pleasant music, fun games, and a plethora of different food options. The ten-year old boy had to admit, he was enjoying himself…

After explaining to Clefairy that it was inappropriate to stand on the buffet table, they both sat down to eat with an elegantly dressed up Officer Jenny. The food was delicious, but they were careful not to overeat. If things went according to plan and chaos unfolded, they didn't want to be running around with bloated stomachs.

"Where's your Growlithe kid?" asked Jenny. "I was under the impression that you kept him outside of his pokeball."

Ash shrugged. "He doesn't do well around a lot of people."

"Oh really," said Jenny. "Social anxiety?"

"Yeah," replied Ash. "I've been trying exposure therapy, but releasing him under these circumstances would be cruel."

Officer Jenny laughed. "No…it'll be cruel if you don't destroy the phobia before the league tournament."

"Why's that?" asked Ash

"Do you know how many people watch a league match, kid?" questioned Jenny.

"Crap," retorted Ash. "I didn't think about that."

"Well you better friggin' start thinking about it," said Jenny. "Social anxiety can be as debilitating as the most potent thunder-wave. You don't want your Growlithe freezing in front of the whole region, do you?"

Jenny had a good point. He'd have to start taking Growlithe's phobia a little more seriously.

Ash's rumination was cut-short by an ear splitting shriek that came from somewhere behind him. He knowingly eyed Jenny, before shifting his gaze back towards the howl. A middle-aged woman was frenziedly pointing in the direction of the buffet table, her facial expression portrayed fear.

Ash used his eyes to follow her line of sight - he didn't see anything.

"They're here," whispered Jenny. "I told you they wouldn't be able to resist."

"I don't see anything," said Ash. "How do you know?"

"Trust me…they're here," warned Jenny. "Those bastards are the only thing that could trigger a reaction like that in this town."

Ash tried to stand up, but Jenny firmly grabbed him by the arm before he had the chance.

"Dammit Ash, be patient!" hissed Jenny. "This is my job. Focus on figuring out how you're going to take out the leader."

Ash shot Jenny a glare, before obediently sitting down. "Fine…"

"I like your spunk kid…" whispered Jenny. "But what's the friggin' point in a plan, if you don't carry it out."

Ash nodded, while Jenny playfully patted him on the shoulder.

Jenny proceeded to extract a palm-sized walkie-talkie out of her seemingly expensive, black, leather purse. Ash watched, as she held down a button on the side of the device.

"Begin the operation," ordered Jenny. "Surround the pavilion. Don't leave any holes to breach. The Squirtle Squad has entered the venue."

A few seconds passed by before feedback came through. "Affirmative boss, should we proceed to evacuate the guests?"

"Let me handle phase two unless I say otherwise," answered Jenny. "I've got an idea."

"Roger," replied the male voice on the other end of the walkie-talkie.

Officer Jenny stood up from the table. "Stay here kid…I'll be right back."

"Sounds good boss," heckled Ash, while he stroked Clefairy behind the ears. "We'll do as told for now."

Officer Jenny smirked. "You better friggin' catch it kid. If you don't, I'll make you pay back every single penny the department spent on this damn party."

Ash sarcastically chuckled. "If you do your job, I'll do mine."

"Oh…I'll do my job," said Jenny, as she swaggered away. "Just watch brat."

Ash did as told, watching as Officer Jenny's long dark-blue dress entrancingly waved back and forth, as she strutted in the direction that the wailing lady had pointed to earlier.

"Come one, come all!" bellowed Officer Jenny. "Outside of the venue we are holding a very exciting raffle!"

Ash caught on to what the amber-eyed woman was doing.

"We'll be giving away all sorts of pokemon apparel!" yelled Jenny. "Pokeballs, t-shirts, hats, movies, stuffed animals, gift-cards, and cash prizes! If you can think of it, we got it!"

Officer Jenny headed back towards Ash, as the mass of people began to flood out of the event-center in a high-paced frenzy.

"Well that was easy enough," said Jenny with a smirk. "Nothing gets people moving faster than free crap."

"Well done," said Ash. "It looks like you've cleared out the venue."

"Hell yeah," replied Jenny. "I gave the Squirtle Squad the perfect opportunity to make their move. At least...that's what they think."

Ash smirked. "We'll see if they take the bait."

It took a couple of minutes for everyone to clear out. Ash was surprised - he didn't think her plan would be so 'friggin' effective. The venue was quiet. Other than Officer Jenny and himself, no one else was visible. They waited anxiously. If Officer Jenny's plan worked, the Squirtle Squad could make a move towards the buffet table at any moment.

"Can you pick up on their movements?" asked Ash to Clefairy.

Clefairy used her enhanced hearing, like a colander, to remove all of the sounds that didn't match a squirtle's signature movement pattern. She zeroed in on them, deciphering eight distinctly similar movement patterns over by the buffet table.

Ash watched, as Clefairy pointed over to the long, far-reaching, buffet table.

"Yeah… I know that's what they're looking for," said a confused Ash. "But where are they right now?"

Clefairy continued to insistently point at the buffet table.

Officer Jenny rolled her eyes. "Yeah we already know that the foods what they want."

Clefairy vigorously walked the long-distance towards the buffet table, frustrated that she wasn't being understood. When she was close enough to make her point, she crouched down towards the ground and pointed underneath the table. The lengthy table was decorated by fine black linens; they draped over the side, concealing the window of space between the table and ground.

"Oh…" said Ash and Jenny simultaneously.

"So how should we approach this?" asked Ash.

Jenny lowered her eyebrows in thought, before taking the walkie-talkie out of her purse for the second time. "I've got it covered."

She pressed the button on the side of the device and spoke into the walkie-talkie's microphone. "Is phase three complete?"

"Roger," replied the rough male voice. "We're ready for the final phase on your command."

"What was phase three?" asked Ash curiously.

"We had to inform the town's people what was going on," explained Officer Jenny. "Now they won't interfere."

"Smart," replied Ash. "I was wondering how they'd respond to the commotion."

Officer Jenny nodded, before speaking into the walkie-talkie again. "Standby, wait for my command."

"Roger."

"What do you say, want to get a little friggin' messy kid?" asked Jenny, directed towards Ash. "I'll give you the honors."

Ash followed what Jenny was saying. "I've got the perfect pokemon for the job."

He released Pidgeotto from suspended animation. The flying-type immediately leered in the direction of the buffet table. Apparently, Ash didn't need to explain the situation. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed the baffled stare on Jenny's face, as she admiringly gawked at Pidgeotto's monstrous size.

"Do you want a big mess, or a slightly smaller mess?" asked Ash.

Jenny shook the surprise off of her face and shrugged. "This party's as good as over. We might as well go big."

Ash smirked. "You heard her Pidgeotto, twister it is."

Pidgeotto's eyes turned savage, as he used both wings to draw upon the atmosphere's rich draconic energy. The surrounding air shrieked like a banshee, as it interacted with the controlled draconic vortex.

Ash tightly held on to his hat, careful not to let it get caught up in the carnage. Jenny's hair went wild in response to the windy ruckus. Clefairy stood firm, not allowing the behemoth's power to overthrow her balance.

The dark-haired boy looked straight ahead. He watched as one of the squirtle peak its head out from behind the linen. Its jaw dropped, as it witnessed the source behind the sound. It concealed itself back within the cloth and reemerged seconds later, accompanied by seven more squirtle heads.

Ash giggled, as he noticed the blotches of food smeared all over their faces. Apparently, they'd been having a feast under the buffet table the entire time. He zeroed in on the leader, who tilted his sunglasses to make sure he wasn't seeing things.

Out of his peripheral's, Ash watched Pidgeotto violently propel his purple-tinted twister. It streaked across the pavilion as fast as a raichu, sucking up various objects along the way. The Squirtle Squad scampered expeditiously, barely clearing the atrocious attack. The buffet table was turbulently ripped from the ground and launched a far distance. The twister mindlessly catapulted the food in every which direction, resulting in an unappetizing mess.

Ash frowned, disappointed by the outcome. He was hoping that at least one squirtle would get caught up in the raging tempest. The dark-haired boy watched the Squirtle Squad, as they jetted towards the edge of the pavilion in attempt to escape. The troupe moved like a calculated machine, following their leader in what appeared to be a pre-planned formation.

"Initiate the final phase," commanded Jenny, as she spoke into the walkie-talkie. "The bastards are on the move!"

Ash hastily released Bulbasaur, wisely inviting him in on the fray. The saurian's elemental advantage would come in handy during the battle to break-up the Squirtle Squad.

"Pidgeotto, go get the leader!" bellowed Ash. "Clefairy, Bulbasaur, give Pidgeotto support!"

Pidgeotto wasted no time. He went airborne, tearing through the pavilion's available sky. Ash could tell he craved battle by the devilish expression on his face. The raptor-like avian left mayhem in his wake, as a result of the harsh subsequent air-current he created during flight.

Bulbasaur hastily sprinted after his comrade, protruding his vines in preparation to assist. Clefairy followed his lead, taking a well-analyzed pursuit-angle in order to quickly cover the distance between herself and the squadron of squirtle.

Jenny cursed impatiently. "Where the hell's my damn squad?"

Right on cue, a dozen police officers barreled into the pavilion. They were accompanied by several pokemon. Most of them were either normal, or grass-types. Ash spotted several gloom and oddish, along with multiple raticate, and one rare eevee. The short little fox pokemon was the first of its species that Ash had seen on his journey. It was excruciatingly cute; the fur on its body was a glistening light brown, complimented nicely by the off-white-colored tuft around its neck.

"Surround them, don't let them get away!" commanded Jenny.

The myriad of officers efficiently encompassed the eight panicked squirtle. They hastily closed in on them, doing their best to carry out Jenny's orders.

Pidgeotto combatively collided with the leader, who wasn't prepared to take on the airborne assault. Pidgeotto clawed at Squirtle's withdrawn body, using his immense talons to heave the leader out of the chaotic skirmish.

"This time you can't let it get away!" yelled Ash. "I'm going to catch him!"

Pidgeotto nodded and engaged in combat. He menacingly darted his eyes towards Bulbasaur, who tried to interfere with a vine-whip to the leader's shell. Ash saw this and changed his plan of action. It was obvious Pidgeotto wanted to take the leader on one-on-one.

"Bulbasaur, Clefairy, let Pidgeotto take on the leader!" barked Ash. "Go help subdue the rest of the squad!"

Clefairy and Bulbasaur hesitated…before dashing off in order to follow orders. Ash proudly observed, as Bulbasaur jumped into the massive brawl using his vines to hammer down one of the subordinate squirtle. With a powerful pound, Clefairy used her fists to engage another squirtle. When it came to physical combat, Ash's fairy-type definitely wasn't one to be underestimated.

Ash moved his attention back to the main event. The leader was no longer withdrawn. It accurately shot several highly condensed water-guns in the direction of the airborne Pidgeotto. The leader had an unfeeling expression painted across his face, as he tried to hit Pidgeotto with a barrage of whistling water-guns.

Pidgeotto meticulously dodged, using his quick attack to repetitively avoid the turret-like assault. He joined the long-ranged shoot-out with some high powered gusts. As fast as squirtle could fire, he still needed to take a breath to reload.

Squirtle changed his approach, surprising Pidgeotto with a widespread bubble attack. The highly concentrated buoyant solution exploded upon contact, causing legitimate damage. Pidgeotto grimaced, as he endured the elemental strike. Because Squirtle's unexpected attack utilized identical form in comparison to water-gun, there was no tell of a shift in strategy.

The flying-type shook it off and hastily conjured a devastating twister. He flung it at the leader, sadistically looking to inflict pain. The scope of the cyclone was too commodious for the leader to dodge. He withdrew into his shell in attempt to shield himself from a direct attack. The impact was harsh, the explosive contact the twister made when it hit the ground sounded like a meteor hitting the earth's surface.

When the dust cleared, Squirtle was still standing strong. There was some damage, but not much. It appeared that his sturdy shell had somehow diminished the brunt of the attack. The one notable difference in the leader's image, was that his glasses had been knocked off. Squirtle's eyes were cold and distant, bearing the full weight of the hellish life he had endured.

Ash briefly changed his focus. He proudly smiled as he saw Clefairy and Bulbasaur wreak a noticeable amount of havoc, amidst the already chaotic battlefield.

"'There are five squirtle left excluding the leader," said Jenny. "Your' Bulbasaur and one of our gloom each took a squirtle out. Clefairy's close to beating another."

"Thanks for the update," replied Ash. "keep em coming…"

"I'm not a friggin' league broadcaster," retorted Jenny. "But I guess…I'll try."

Ash laughed at Jenny's comment, as he turned his attention back towards his avian. The leader was doused in pidgeotto's down feathers. Ash immediately came to the conclusion that Pidgeotto must have performed feather-dance, while his focus was elsewhere. Unfortunately, Ash didn't think that it would make a big difference in the outcome of the battle. Feather-dance really only lessened the damage of physical attacks. Squirtle were known for their long-ranged elemental combat ability. The species didn't usually learn to fight with its body's until the wartortle stage. Regardless, it was nice to see Pidgeotto's progress. He was getting a handle on the unique status technique faster than originally anticipated.

Squirtle desperately continued to try and hit Pidgeotto with his water-gun. Every so often he'd change it up and spit-out a bubble attack, but he'd already used that trick on Pidgeotto once. The avian wouldn't let it happen again.

The flying-type viciously used both wings to consecutively impel gusts down on the leader. Ash could tell Pidgeotto was enjoying himself - the flying-type's expression was boarder line euphoric.

The clashing of Pidgeotto and Squirtle's inherent elements, created a wildly concise hurricane. Squirtle's countenance remained cold and bitter. His knifelike eyes were as sharp as a samurai's blade. Ash wondered if the sunglasses were meant to conceal his icy violet gaze. Squirtle's species' purple irises were known for their beauty, Ash was flabbergasted by the indisputable physical toll of corruption.

Pidgeotto shackled his wings, abruptly using quick attack to dive in close to Squirtle. The leader showed emotion for the first time, surprised by Pidgeotto's decisive move into a closer proximity. He fired two high-velocity water guns; one barely missed to the right, the other trimmed a feather off of Pidgeotto's intimidating face.

Pidgeotto chortled malignantly, as he met squirtle face-to-face. He used his right wing to thrust an authoritative gust at squirtle, sending him flying across the pavilion. Ash saw a slight scowl from the leader, before the turtle pokemon enshrouded himself within his shell. His durable biological shield smashed into the ground, leaving a long streak of dug up gravel in its wake.

Ash's focus was broken by the sound of Jenny's voice.

"Four of his subordinates remain," said Jenny. "Clefairy just finished one of them off with a bizarre combination. Bulbasaur and eevee are working together to take on another one."

"Disarming voice and double slap?" asked Ash. "It's surprisingly very effective."

"That sounds about right," replied Jenny. "Damn…Bulbasaur just threw his body at that squirtle!"

Ash transferred his line of sight over to the brawl. His saurian grass-type was shaking off the inconvenient recoil of an aggressive take-down. The poor squirtle lied on its back unconscious, spinning slowly on its shell.

"Now there's only three," reported Jenny. "I'm impressed by your pokemon kid."

Ash gave no response, as he was once again centralized on Pidgeotto's battle. Squirtle was back on his feet, the tough turtle finally showed visual signs of damage. Regardless, he still had fight left in him. He responded to the close-ranged gust by ferociously charging Pidgeotto. His arms were extended behind him, as he leaned forward, using his thick scull to pierce through the resisting wind like an arrow punctures its target.

Descending at an incredible rate, Pidgeotto met the leader head on. He restrained his wings and hardened his neck muscles with intention to create a percussive collision.

Right before contact, Squirtle withdrew into his shell. He skillfully slid underneath the flying-type, catching him completely off guard. When he conclusively cleared the avian's underside, the water-type erupted out of concealment. Using his momentum, he skated across the gravel with his cold violet eyes planted on Pidgeotto's backside. He ruthlessly unloaded, showering Pidgeotto in a battery of pressurized water.

Pidgeotto shrieked as he painfully crashed to the ground. The flying-type turbulently rolled across the earth's surface, squawking throughout the entire agonizing process. Ash dolefully winced throughout the crash. Dust went everywhere, causing the boy to cover his eyes to avoid irritation.

When the cloud of dirt dissipated, Pidgeotto was standing exhaustively. He was in bad condition. His body was bruised and battered. Ash grimaced; he hadn't seen Pidgeotto in this kind of shape since his battle with Growlithe back in the Viridian Forest.

Squirtle gave Pidgeotto a deadpanned smirk, impressed by his own handiwork. He then mockingly glared at Ash, intentionally trying to get under his skin.

Ash broadly smiled; this kind of attitude actually intensified his desire to catch the leader. Besides, if Squirtle was under the impression that he had won, he was in for an unfortunate surprise. Squirtle's benumbed arrogance would lead to his bungling demise.

Ash observed, as the leader turned back around to shockingly find Pidgeotto within arms-reach. The bird's minacious eyes were primitive and ruthless; lost behind the dishonorable image of Squirtle mocking his trainer. One in each wing…the raptor-like avian created two highly concentrated diminutive twisters. With a scowl on his face, he subsequently smashed the flustered Squirtle in-between the two howling tempests. The draconic energy in both cyclones clashed, emitting an ear-shattering screech. Intermixed with Squirtle's howl it sounded like a steam engine with a faulty blast-pipe.

"Check-mate," said Ash, as he detached an empty pokeball. "It's good to be confident, but cockiness…well it usually leads to clumsiness."

Squirtle's form was revealed as the binary-twister deteriorated. He lied on the ground unconscious, uncomfortably sprawled out on his belly. Pidgeotto hovered over to Squirtle's feeble body, overwhelmingly satisfied with his victory. The avian proceeded to discharge a triumphant outcry, before walking off to the side to preen his filthy feathers.

Ash smiled while launching the empty pokeball at the leader. It smoothly made contact, before engulfing the impressive Squirtle in a radiant red light. Squirtle's body was converted into pliant energy that was instantly consumed by Ash's pokeball. It roughly fell to the ground, and clicked, indicating a clean capture.

Ash turned to Jenny and sarcastically winked. "I told you I'd catch him."

"Shut up," jested Jenny. "Now go thank your Pidgeotto. He did all the work."

"Good point," said Ash with a shrug. "But don't forget, he's the one that didn't want any help. I was only respecting his decision."

"Psht…whatever you say kid," ragged Jenny. "By the way, Bulbasaur just knocked his third squirtle out with another friggin' nasty vine-whip. And his poison-powder was partially responsible for another K.O. that our station's eevee just delivered."

As Ash neared Pidgeotto, he tuned into the one-sided brawl, just in time to watch Clefairy knock the final remaining squirtle out with a vicious double-slap. The dark-haired boy grinned, happy that all of their recent hard work had paid off. The fruition of training was clearly evident throughout today's battle.

"A little tougher than usual," said Ash, as he approached his flying-type.

Pidgeotto softened his eyes in response to his trainer.

"That variance on twister was pretty creative," said Ash.

Pidgeotto cackled sadistically, as he resumed the preening of his feathers.

"I say we come up with a name for that one later," laughed Ash. "I'd like to add that to your repertoire."

The avian delightedly nodded his head, before using his bruised wing to point towards Squirtle's idle pokeball.

"I'll get it in a second," replied Ash. "I just wanted to thank you. You battled hard today."

Pidgeotto gave Ash an affectionate look, before unexpectedly bending over to tap the button on his pokeball. The flying-type was in pain from the battle and deeply desired suspended animation, until Ash could apply a potion. The raptor-like avian's personality never ceased to be amusing. The ten-year old boy giggled, as Pidgeotto was instantaneously vacuumed into the pokeball fastened to his trainer belt.

Ash proceeded to retrieve his freshly caught squirtle's pokeball. He internally celebrated, extremely thrilled over his latest capture. With squirtle on his team, he now possessed all three "original" Kanto starters, an accomplishment he wasn't expecting to achieve when he left Pallet Town. He also had his first water-type, which would greatly balance the dynamics of his team.

Moreover, the former leader of the Squirtle Squad was a highly talented specimen. He didn't think Squirtle would be technically classified as a giant. Nevertheless, he was large for his kind. Ash couldn't wait to start training him. Even though, he had a feeling that the stony-eyed turtle was going to be a hassle to get through to. The young trainer didn't mind though. Ash had yet to have a significant challenge to attain a pokemon's loyalty. He'd have to be an idiot to suspect that every pokemon's allegiance would be soeasy to persuade.

While handling Squirtle's pokeball, Ash joined Jenny over by where the brawl had taken place. Bulbasaur and Clefairy scampered over to his side, both of his pokemon had a few scrapes and some small bruises, but neither had taken any consequential damage.

"I heard that you two put a whooping on the Squirtle Squad," said Ash, as he crouched down to praise his friends.

"They sure did," blurted a random officer. "Five in total, our eevee managed to get in a knock out though."

"Don't forget Gloom," inserted a rough looking officer. "She took one out with a mega-drain attack."

"Which gloom?" asked a female officer.

"The one that I always use," replied the officer. "You think I'd be bragging about somebody else's gloom?"

"Shut up you two," grumbled a bulky man with a familiar voice.

It took Ash a moment to sort out why the man's voice sounded familiar, but he eventually figured it out. The course voice belonged to the man that Jenny was communicating with over the walkie-talkie. The boy also recognized the middle-aged man as one of the silent officers that was accompanying Jenny when they first met.

The officer that Ash assumed to be second in command turned his attention to Jenny. "Officer Jenny, all seven subordinate squad members have been detained. I didn't get a chance to take my eyes off of the donnybrook, but I assume the leader has been captured?"

Officer Jenny placed a hand on Ash's shoulder. "He sure has. The friggin' kid defeated that bastard a couple of minutes ago."

Ash once again ignored Jenny's vulgar language. He figured she didn't mean anything personal by it.

"Yup," said Ash, as he held Squirtle's pokeball out to show the force. "He's right in here."

Bulbasaur picked Ash up with his vines in celebration, causing the town's police department to erratically break-out into an uproar. Ash couldn't help but react with laughter, as his usually serious Bulbasaur hoisted him above the celebrating crowd. Out of his peripherals, he saw Officer Jenny's joyful smile. His initial thought was that she was smiling at him. But then he noticed that she was locked onto the pokeball in his hand.

Ash assumed she did beforehand…but now he knew for sure. The smile on her face confirmed it…

It seemed the no-nonsense Jenny, had a soft spot for the "bastard" leader after all.

XXX

"What are you going to do with the rest of the Squirtle Squad?" asked Ash, as he sat down with Officer Jenny in her private office.

"Hmmm…" she replied. "We've actually put a lot of thought into what we're going to do with the rest of em…"

"And…?" questioned Ash.

"Well...they were detained using our league customized pokeballs," explained Jenny. "So they're no longer considered wild pokemon."

"League customized pokeballs?" asked Ash. "What are those?"

"You ask a lot of friggin' questions kid," complained Jenny.

Ash smirked. "I'm a curious kid, what can I say?"

"Just be careful out there," warned Jenny. "If you ask the wrong people the wrong questions, you can get yourself into trouble. The world doesn't always respond well to nosy people."

"I'll keep that in mind," answered Ash earnestly. "But you're not the wrong person…so can you please tell me what the customized pokeballs are?"

Jenny sighed, while rolling her eyes. "We call them snare balls. They're basically pokeballs designed specifically for the league's police section. They automatically register a pokemon into league custody - which is very convenient. On top of that, they can override a trainer's registration, allowing an officer to temporarily confine a misused captured pokemon."

"Interesting," said Ash. "Are they stronger than a standard pokeball?"

"Um… A little bit," replied Officer Jenny. "In terms of potency they probably range somewhere between a pokeball and a great ball."

"Gotcha," said Ash. "So that means that the other Squirtle Squad members are now league property."

"Essentially," replied Jenny. "But we're still debating protocol. The buggers have a pretty lengthy rap sheet. However, it doesn't make sense for us to report them to league HQ, especially since we're allowing their leader to get away pretty much scot-free."

"What other options are there?" asked Ash.

"Well there's a few…" said Jenny. "But I don't really feel like listing all of them off. Instead, I'll just tell you which one were leaning towards."

Ash nodded. "Fair enough."

Officer Jenny huffed, as she rested her chin on her palm. "We've pretty much settled on some type of probation. As for severity and length...that's still relatively up in the air."

"Probation?" asked Ash. "How does that work with pokemon?"

Jenny leaned back cozily in her swivel chair. "It's pretty simple. They'd basically assume roles as squad pokemon, until they've either completed their probation sentence, or been released back into the wild due to good behavior.

"So the town's dreaded Squirtle Squad would become your ally, eh?" laughed Ash. "Kind of ironic don't you think?"

"In a way," retorted Jenny. "But if irony is what it takes to straighten those bastards out, I'm all for it."

"I bet," giggled Ash.

"So what are your plans, Ash?"

The dark-haired boy smirked. "I'm headed towards Vermillion City. I plan on taking on Lt. Surge."

"Surge, eh?" said Jenny, while sitting up perkily in her chair. "Tell the bastard I say hello!"

"You know him?" asked Ash confusedly.

"Hell yeah I know surge!" bellowed Jenny. "He's an old drinking partner of mine."

"Small world," replied Ash. "I'll make sure to mention you."

"Don't friggin' forget," answered Officer Jenny. "I haven't seen him for a while. I'd like him to know that I'm doing well."

Ash's facial expression portrayed seriousness. "Don't worry, I've got you covered. Do you have any pointers?"

"I'll tell you one thing…you better friggin' be prepared kid," said Jenny. "Surge isn't a joke."

Ash broadly smiled. "I know…raichu and a voltorb right?"

"Yeah, that's his league registered team," answered Jenny. "Most people don't have too much trouble with his voltorb. But Raichu…well let's just say I wish you good luck."

"Gee thanks…" replied Ash sarcastically. "I'm glad you have so much faith in me."

"Cut the sarcasm," grumbled Jenny. "It's starting to get annoying."

"Yes mam," Ash jested, with a salute.

Officer Jenny grumbled something under her breath, before changing the subject. "Alright kid. So how are you planning on dealing with the leader?"

Ash placed a hand under his chin. "That's tough, I'm not quite sure yet."

"At least you're honest," replied Jenny. "He is gonna be one tough cookie to crack."

"I know…" said Ash. "But I can be patient. Squirtle's for the most part a luxury catch, so it's okay if he doesn't come around for a while."

"That's a good way to look at it," said the female officer. "You're a smart kid."

"Thanks," answered Ash, while scratching the back of his head bashfully. "That actually means a lot coming from you."

Officer Jenny smiled. "No problem kid, just stating the facts, that's all."

Ash's corresponding smile was cut-short by a yawn. "Well, it's probably about time I get going."

"It's going to get dark in a little bit, you sure you don't want to crash here at the station?" offered Jenny.

"It's an enticing offer," replied Ash, as he stood up from his chair. "But I think I'd rather use up the rest of the sun, and cover as much ground as I can. I'm afraid if I keep getting distracted I'll never make it to Vermillion."

"If you say so..." said Jenny.

Officer Jenny proceeded to stand up from her chair, before leading Ash out of the station. There was still plenty of light from the sun. Ash figured he probably had a couple of hours until he'd be forced to set up camp. Officer Jenny explained to Ash the best way to get back onto the main path. He always had the satellite synced GPS map on his pokedex, but getting directions every once in a while from another human being was quite refreshing.

"I'll make sure to say hello to Surge for you," said Ash. "I can't guarantee when though…"

"Well it's about a four and a half day walk from here," replied Jenny. "But I take it you tend to get distracted."

"That's an understatement," laughed Ash. "My journey's always entertaining. Four and half days without being side tracked would be a miracle."

"Well you better get moving then," said Officer Jenny. "It sounds like you need as much spare time as possible."

"You're probably right," said Ash, while shaking Jenny's firm hand. "Thanks for everything."

"Take it easy kid," replied Jenny, with a smirk. "I'll be looking for you on the television during the league conference."

"And you'll find me," said Ash.

"I friggin' better," ragged Jenny. "I expect you to at least make it to the top sixteen."

"We'll see," retorted Ash. "Anyway, I really should get going. If I'm ever around this part of the region again, I'll make sure to stop by."

"Sounds good kid," replied Jenny. "Next time I see you, I expect you to have an obedient beast of a blastoise on your team."

"Obedient…?" Ash mumbled. "More like manageable."

"Psht…when it comes to that bastard," said Jenny. "Manageable is good enough."

XXX

"You two battled great back there," said Ash, as he walked down the trail accompanied by Growlithe and Bulbasaur. "That kid didn't stand a chance."

It was early morning. A couple of days had gone by since the incident with the Squirtle Squad. They had only packed up camp about an hour before Ash was challenged by some annoying brat. The arrogant boy wanted a two-on-two match. Ash complied, mostly in order to deflate the boy's humongous ego.

The cocky kid's first pokemon was a pretty sorry weepinbell. Its clumsiness led Ash to believe that it had probably just recently evolved. The pathetic grass-type didn't land a single attack.

Growlithe's intimidating leer, followed by a tenacious bite/ember combo, made quick work of the outlandish flycatcher-pokemon.

Bulbasaur's battle was just as easy, but way more entertaining. The brat used a geodude - which had a super-effective disadvantage against the rare saurian grass-type. All Bulbasaur had to do was activate chlorophyll and plant a leech seed on the rock-type. Ash found it incredibly amusing to watch the frustrated kid repetitively stomp his foot in frustration, while Bulbasaur made geodude "it" in his energy draining game of "tag".

The aggravating kid left in a tantrum. Ash, Growlithe, and Bulbasaur had been on the go ever since. The dark-haired boy decided to let Bulbasaur stay outside of his pokeball. He figured the grass-type would enjoy the verdant scenery.

The trail was gradually getting greener, as they continued to near the southeastern coast of Kanto. The air was crisp; it reminded him of the alluring fresh air that dwindled about amongst the surrounding routes of Cerulean City.

"We should reach the ocean sometime today," said Ash. "From there we can basically follow the coast all the way to Vermillion."

Bulbasaur and Growlithe nodded with a smile. Growlithe had already experienced a large body of water before. But this would be Bulbasaur's very first time seeing the ocean. Ash could tell he was excited for the upcoming experience.

Ash looked down at Bulbasaur, as the light from the sun caused the seed-pokemon's bulb to glisten. "Did Melanie tell you anything about the ocean?"

Bulbasaur grunted, as he responded with a positive gesture.

"She must have told you how amazing it is," said Ash.

Bulbasaur continued to react excitably.

"You're going to love it," said Ash. "There's the smell of the air - the sandy beach - the humbling reality that you are so small compared to the vastness of the water."

Bulbasaur couldn't wait. It was just one more new thing that he was going to get to experience with his self-descried, chosen, trainer. Melanie had told him so many stories about how the ocean was seemingly limitless, and that there are so many pokemon that could be found within its expansive depths.

"I can't wait to show it to you," said Ash.

Bulbasaur secretly smiled at Growlithe, who knowingly beamed back.

Yup...they had the best trainer the world.

XXX

"Beautiful, isn't it?" questioned Ash, as they walked across the soft sandy beach.

Growlithe, Clefairy, Charmander, and Bulbasaur answered amicably in their own language, while soaking in the captivating view. The grand body of water was magnificent enough in its own right. The fact that it was sublimely enriched by the sky's ravishing sunset was frankly icing on the cake.

"What do you think Bulbasaur?" asked Ash. "Is it everything I made it out to be?"

Bulbasaur happily nodded, as his scarlet red-eyes glimmered amidst the cogent orange sunlight.

"Good…I'm glad," said Ash. "What about you Charmander? What do you think?"

Charmander delightedly squealed. His tail-flame shined the same tangelo-orange that was painted across the darkening sky.

"This is so great," commented Ash. "There's nothing quite like being able to walk along the beach with your friends."

Growlithe playfully howled in response to Ash's statement. Clefairy eagerly fidgeted, she was just excited for the converging night.

"We should probably head back to the main trail though…" suggested Ash. "The sand might feel nice on my feet, but it's not very kind to my muscles."

All four pokemon confirmed their approval with an acquiescent grunt.

Ash arduously led his pokemon off of the beach and back up onto the main trail. They traveled the path for nearly an hour, all the while the light from the sun gradually languished. Just when Ash felt that it was about time to set up camp, Charmander spotted a revolving light aimlessly illuminating amidst the inky horizon.

"What's that?" thought Ash aloud, as his eyes followed the vertiginous beam.

The dizzying light came from the direction of the ocean. In order to distinguish the source, he beckoned his pokemon to follow him back down to the beach. When they emerged from the lush brushwood, back out onto the oceanfront, they spotted a tall ominous lighthouse situated on a cliff-side. The cliff-side protruded from the upper mainland, out and across the beach like a pier. It held the lighthouse like a pedestal; the eerie tower projected the lustrous beam from its upper kerosene lamp.

Ash swiveled his head with a smile, looking at his four released friends peculiarly. They knowingly glanced at each other, clearly seeing the desire in their trainer's eyes.

"We've got to go check it out!" implored Ash. "I've never been to a lighthouse before!"

Growlithe, Charmander, Bulbasaur, and Clefairy simultaneously shrugged. They didn't see a problem with the request...It was on the way.

However, Growlithe internally giggled. His best-friend was so predictable.

XXX

The eerie lighthouse towered over them, as they stood out front of its colossal front entrance. The large stone double-doors were artistically designed, engraved with numerous hieroglyphic-like images of rare pokemon. Like a blind-man reads brail, he gently ran his fingers over the ridges that outlined the different illustrations: arcanine, clefable, venusaur, electabuzz, scyther, gengar, alakazam, Articuno…etc.

"These are amazing," said Ash aloud, as he carefully inspected the detailed enchasing.

Like a torch, Charmander dutifully held up his tail flame, thus allowing his trainer to get a better look.

"Oh look here," said Ash towards his lizard-pokemon. "Here's a charizard. One day you'll look like that buddy."

Charmander's eyes gleamed, excited for what the future beheld. The image of the charizard was stoic - it stood atop a steep mountain, with its dragon-like wings unfolded. Erupting from its powerful jaws, into the vast sky, was an awe-inspiring pillar of fire.

"Can't wait, eh?" questioned Ash, with a smile. "I know I can't..."

The fire-lizard was enjoying this moment. He'd never dreamed with a friend before...he most certainly never dreamed with Damian.

"I can see you eyeing that arcanine picture," said Ash to Growlithe. "One day buddy...but keep in mind that we still have a lot to learn before then."

Growlithe dejectedly pouted. He wished the hurdle of time would cease to exist. His yearning desire to become a regal, strong-flamed, arcanine grew exponentially with every passing day.

"It's for the best," said Ash. "We must be patient in order to maximize your potential."

Growlithe didn't necessarily like it, but he understood that his trainer knew what was best for him. He wouldn't complain, at least not yet.

"Clefairy look up there," declared Ash, as he pointed towards an engraving etched into the top right corner. "There's one of a clefable too."

Clefairy nobly curtsied, honoring the abstract image of one of her evolved kin.

"Should I knock?" asked Ash, once the boy and his three released pokemon were finally finished looking at all of the engravings.

Charmander responded by moving his tail flame, enlightening a bright red doorbell that was situated on the face of a medial black apparatus. The electrical box was neatly fastened into the wall; it had dozens of tiny holes divided into it. Ash assumed that it also worked as a short-distance call box.

"Why knock, when you can ring a doorbell?" jested Ash. "Good find Charmander."

Charmander placed his hands on his hips and puffed up his chest, proud that he had helped his trainer.

"You're a funny guy," Ash chuckled. "But I'm always proud of you no matter what you do, just so you know."

Charmander gave Ash a toothy grin. The boy said things that made him feel special. All Damian ever did was tear him down, making him feel like dirt. He had gone from having the worst trainer in the world, to having the best. He made an internal promise to himself to always cherish the way Ash treated him.

Ash readily pressed the doorbell. The call box buzzed, emitting a signifying ring from the speaker. There was a momentary pause, before Ash heard the sound of a sophisticated male voice.

"Hello," said the disembodied voice. "Who goes there?"

"My name's Ash Ketchum," he replied cheerfully. "I'm a traveling trainer. I was passing by and saw the lighthouse. Mind if I come check it out?"

"Godsend!" exclaimed the well-cultivated voice. "I don't usually permit random trainers…but I've gotten myself in quite the predicament. Come on in; the doors automated so don't let it spook you."

"Sweet," replied Ash. "What's your predicament?"

Before Ash could get a wanted response, the call box promptly shut off. He waited anxiously, while the engraved doors slowly creaked open. Ash was excited, judging by the lighthouse door the owner was most likely some kind of pokemon enthusiast.

When the double-doors finally came to a halt; Ash, Growlithe, Clefairy, and Charmander entered the lighthouse. The entrance hall was dark and commodious. There were a few lit-up lamps throughout the corridor, but only enough to safely maneuver about. Ash examined about as much as he possibly could. However, the severe lack of light made it difficult to attain a decent feel for the caliginous lighthouse.

With the help of Charmander's risen tail-flame and the limited number of illuminated lamps, he was able to discern that the llighthouses' floor was coated with fine, crimson-red, wool, carpeting. Every so often, as he and his pokemon sauntered down the linear hall, he was able to make out an exquisite piece of furniture, or a dazzling article of décor. On the occasion, Ash would jump at the sight of a shadowy statue. The long corridor was littered with life-sized stone sculptures of various sparse species of pokemon. At this point, Ash was awfully interested in meeting the owner of the luxurious lighthouse. Whoever it belonged to was more than likely wealthy beyond reason.

"Where do you think this guy is?" asked Ash, to no one in particular, as they continued their way to the end of the crepuscular hall. "I'd feel kind of silly if we had to apply tracking methods in a situation like this."

Charmander decisively veered off to the left, once again using his tail-flame to unveil the composition of a long winding staircase. It appeared to lead up to a second floor. Ash shouldn't have been surprised; the lighthouse was an extremely tall structure, multiple floors were inevitable. Besides, there had to be a way to access the assumed to be, kerosene lamp, at the top of the tower.

"You're on a roll today," praised Ash, directed towards Charmander. "Let's go up."

Charmander responded with a dainty smile, before leading them up the dark enclosed staircase. Ash watched, as Charmander used his claw to carefully secure his blazing tail-flame.

The dark-haired boy perceived the constant twitching of Clefairy's ears - her auditory receptors indicated that there was activity coming from above. He also noticed Growlithe's distinct train of focus. Ash could tell he was in the process of reaching out with his aromatic awareness. The boy inwardly cackled, his friends couldn't help but always be on guard.

At the top of the staircase was an abbreviate passageway. The shadowy walls were decorated with a few intricately framed photographs. Unfortunately, Ash was unable to decipher the contents of the pictures, because of the hall's limited light-source. Furthermore, the passageway's primary feature was without a doubt the acutely crafted wooden door that most certainly led onto the next floor.

"Shall we see what lies behind the door?" asked Ash, with a creepy voice and a contorted face.

His pokemon looked at him with a blank stare, blinking rapidly throughout the awkward silence.

"Psht…it looks like no one understands good humor around here," said Ash.

Growlithe shook his head in embarrassment, before beckoning his trainer to open the door with the gesture of his head.

"Fine…" said Ash, as he reached out to grab the door knob. "We'll work on your sense of humor later."

He opened the door; Ash was nearly blinded by the abrupt change in lighting. He rubbed his eyes in attempt to soothe the sudden contraction of his pupils, caused by the bright light.

"Geez," complained Ash. "I definitely wasn't expecting that."

As his vision gradually shifted back into focus, he noticed the squinched look on all of his pokemon's faces. Apparently, the rapid light change affected them in a similar way. Once he was able to see clearly, the ten-year old boy dizzily walked through the doorway out onto the second floor.

"Holy crap," mumbled Ash aimlessly. "That's a lot of books."

The lighthouses' second floor was basically a library; it was packed, disorganized, and musky. There were tens of thousands of books littered throughout the entirety of the corridor. Maybe half of them were neatly situated in their respective shelves, but the rest were disarranged all over the place: on the floor, on the tables, underneath the tables, stuck in between the cushions of a couch, wedged behind a shelf, etc

From what Ash could tell, every single book had something to do with pokemon. He briefly scanned numerous titles like: Evolutionary Physics of Pokemon, Elemental Energy, Selective Habitats in Kanto, Genetic Reconstruction, and Legends.

Ash flipped through the pages of some of the displaced titles. Every single one of them was thoroughly annotated by the same sloppy handwriting. Ash tried to decipher some of the explanatory notes, but couldn't make out the, boarder line, illegible handwriting. Ash moved on, curiously picking up one of the shelved books for the first time. It was unmarked. He picked up another shelved book; it was also unmarked. Ash came to the conclusion that the library was in fact organized after all.

It was clean chaos. The disarranged books had been read, and the shelved books hadn't. In Ash's opinion, it was actually a rather simple system. Obviously the lighthouse keeper wasn't bothered by a mess, that is, as long as he knew where everything was located.

Growlithe, Clefairy, and Charmander waited patiently for Ash to finish his investigation, before resuming their search for the lighthouse keeper. Ash led the way, as they continued to rummage through the book-filled corridor.

"What do you guys think?" asked Ash, to his pokemon. "The guy's got to be a researcher, or something along those lines. I mean...no normal human writes that much commentary for the hell of it, right?

His pokemon once again stared blankly, not understanding the meaning behind the question.

"Don't worry about it," Ash sighed. "I guess I'm talking about stuff that you guys wouldn't understand. Either way, thanks for listening to my babbling. It shows that you at least care about what I have to say."

All three pokemon authentically nodded - of course they cared about what Ash had to say. He was there leader after all.

As they persistently trekked through the corridor, the ten-year old boy noticed that the piles of books were gradually getting larger. He wondered if it meant anything. Perhaps more books meant that they were getting closer to the keeper. It sort of made sense…maybe.

Situated behind the final row of shelves, was a beautifully constructed lounge. Unfortunately, its current condition made it look like it had been used as a playground by a barrel of mankey. The red carpeting was completely concealed by a layer of scientific journals and opinionated literature. The comfortable looking furniture was occupied by hundreds of scribbled on pieces of paper. Ash guessed that the unkempt lounge was where the lighthouse keeper studied.

Ash suddenly paused...

His body momentarily went stiff, in response to the unexpected appearance of a large bizarre creature. It creepily plodded out from behind a book shelf. He recognized it - its existence was baffling.

Growlithe instantaneously crouched into a defensive position. He snarled menacingly, while confusion crept up into his thoughts. Why had he not picked up on its scent earlier? The canine pokemon reached out with his aromatic awareness once again…

Charmander's eyes boiled blood-red and his tail-flame grew. He showed his teeth in attempt to intimidate the strange pokemon. The lizard-pokemon raised his claws, prepared to protect his trainer.

Clefairy remained relaxed. The creature's signature movement pattern didn't match its frame. She chuckled internally - it wasn't what it appeared to be.

Ash drifted his dominant hand hoveringly over Bulbasaur's pokeball. From what he'd read on the primordial creature, the grass-type would have the best shot at taking it down.

All of a sudden, two of its yellow pointed claws frantically waved back and forth. "Whoa there chap! whoa there! It's just a costume. Please don't do anything rash!"

"My stars is that a Clefairy?"

Ash recognized the kabuto's voice. It had the same inflection as the one that transmitted over the call box. The fact that it talked would typically erase any suspicion, but ever since the boy's encounter with the elder clefable at Mt. Moon, he couldn't be completely sure.

"A costume, eh?" asked Ash. "How can I be sure?"

The brown-shelled creature's red eyes realistically blinked. "Observe your pokemon young man, do they appear to be hostile?"

Ash glanced down at his three pokemon. Growlithe and Clefairy both appeared to be relaxed. Ash trusted their judgment - their uncanny senses were nearly always accurate. Charmander was still slightly on edge. But that was to be expected. The lizard-pokemon didn't possess any special perceptual abilities.

"Fair enough," replied Ash. "But why…?

"Sometimes the only way to get to know a species better, is to spend some time inside of its own skin," said the lighthouse keeper. "Kabuto is as far as we know extinct. I figured it would be fun to study the species as one of its own."

"Okay…" said Ash. "That makes sense, I guess."

"Yes it does," retorted the man in the costume. "Unfortunately, I designed the bloody thing sloppily."

He waved the kabuto costume's moveable claws back and forth. "The damn arms are too short. I can't reach the bloody release button. The costumes automated, so I can't take the thing off unless I press the bloody button."

"Is this the predicament?" asked Ash, slightly disappointed.

"I'm afraid so lad," answered the keeper. "Now please, help me get out of this poxy costume."

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