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?


20. Kanto 6 Part 4

There was a moment of peace as Team Rocket desperately tried to process their appearance, which was much needed on account of the after-effects of Yin's large-scale teleportation. Until, all of a sudden, there was a loud outcry that was put forth by one of the many grunts.

"Shit, it's the League!"

Simultaneously, within the blink of an eye, Ash, Austin, Kent and all of the trainees released whatever pokemon they had been previously handling in their pokeballs. There was an immense array of effulgent, white light as a multitude of pokemon exited their personal capture devices.

Appearing directly in front of Ash were Squirtle and Ivysaur. Both elemental starters peered forward as they tried to come to grips with their current whereabouts. Instantly, upon recognition of the frantic Rockets, Ash's two newly released pokemon looked back at their trainer with knowing eyes before entering a defensive stance. In immediate subsequence, Growlithe stepped forward in order to stand beside his two teammates. The pup emitted a series of barks and grunts, clearly trying to fill his peers in on their present circumstances.

To Ash's left, Austin's golduck and a large, bulky nidoking had materialized. The dark-haired boy felt a sudden surge of relief as Golduck immediately tapped the red jewel that was embedded into his forehead, causing a shimmering, purple-tinted light to surge out of nowhere and safely envelope them.

Nidoking instantly shot his gaze down at Austin, desiring clarity. The chiseled faced teenager looked up at his fully-evolved poison barbed friend with an adamant expression.

"Knock out anybody that's wearing black!" bellowed Austin with an underhanded smile on his face, "smash any pokemon that gets in your way!"

Over Austin's blustering exclamation, Ash was able to hear the sound of numerous other trainers giving their pokemon orders. One of which was Kent, who was to his right. By the time Ash had swiveled his head around to look, Arcanine had already taken off with what the ten-year-old boy assumed to be Extreme Speed.

Extreme Speed was an incredibly formidable technique that allowed a pokemon to reach speeds even greater than what Agility had to offer. It was one of the few attacks that a well-trained arcanine could learn after being exposed to a fire stone. Ash had never actually seen the move in person before now. But, judging by the way it nearly forced Ash's hat off of his head, due to the aftermath, the dark-haired boy knew that Kent's arcanine was a master of it.

Ash could hear the panicked screams of Team Rocket grunts as Arcanine powered through their forces. At this point, some Rockets had managed to release pokemon, but so far Ash hadn't noticed anything arduous: just some ekans and zubat, heedlessly trying to protect their evil trainers.

The dark-haired boy quickly diverted his attention back to his pokemon as he tried his best to focus on what was in front of him. "Squirtle, Ivysaur, Growlithe listen up! I need you to knock out as many Rockets as possible! They should all be wearing either black or white! Use whatever means necessary, in regards to their pokemon; just don't kill them! Haunter is protecting me, so I'll be fine! I'll give you commands when I can, but don't expect too much. Right now, I just need your strength! I'll be releasing the others as well! So, try and help each other out whenever you can!"

Squirtle, Ivysaur, and Growlithe emitted low, acquiescent grunts before exploding out of their individual stances. All three took off at different angles as they zeroed in on their selected targets. While he watched Ivysaur close in on one of the grunts, Ash watched Austin's nidoking engage the enemy in the same general area. The fully-evolved poison-type was a monster, using his fists to ruthlessly swat several zubat out of air like they were nothing but a nuisance.

Next, the ten-year-old boy quickly diverted his line of sight to Squirtle, who was already mercilessly using Rapid Spin to knock out a couple of misfortunate grunts. Ash had to admit, he was pretty impressed by how fast his friend had gotten the hang of the new technique. Even though Ash's turtle pokemon had more of an affinity for close-ranged battle than others of his breed, it was still rather awe-inspiring.

Ash noticed that Growlithe had been bombarded by a wall of rattata and raticate as the pup neared the mass of Rockets. Ash caught a glimpse of Ivysaur debating with his eyes to double back, in order to provide Growlithe with support. The seed pokemon decided it wasn't necessary when a trainee's long-legged hitmonlee and another trainee's muscular machop came barreling forward in order to help manhandle the brigade of rodents. It took the advantage bearing fighting-types only a couple of minutes to incapacitate the normal-types. However, they were soon caught in a bind as a trio of drowzee fumbled onto the scene out of seemingly nowhere.

The three yellow and brown furred psychic pokemon used their powers to disable the hitmonlee and machop. Their stubby trunks quavered, and their eyes glowed blue, as they forced the two fighting-types to the ground. Ash was just about to open his mouth – in order to send out Haunter – when a black, horned canine, Ash recognized as a Johto native houndoom, used a series of techniques that consisted of the dark element to make quick work of the drowzee.

It was after this short-lived exchange that Kent gave his first command since entering the hideout. "Release the dark-types! Incapacitate all psychic pokemon! They're our number one threat!"

In immediate subsequence to Kent's orders, there was another accordant outburst of pokeball releases; one of which happened right next to Ash, when Kent released an ominous looking umbreon.

"Umbreon, take out as many psychics as you can," said Kent in a quiet, but stern, voice. "I'm counting on you."

Ash watched as the jet black eevee evolution stretched both of its muscular legs before taking off in a black blur. For the first time, Ash noticed the surplus of psychic-types clustered up together behind him. It was apparent that they had been working on some type of psychic protective barrier, because they instantly dropped their guard the second that they noticed the gaggle of dark-types charging towards them.

Within the squadron of Rocket controlled psychics, Ash saw multiple drowzee and exeggutor. He thought he spotted an outlandish jynx, or two, amidst the skirmish, but he couldn't take the time to find out. His part of the mission had nothing to do with the psychics. His pokemon didn't have any mental barriers, so he had no way to defend against them. He had to leave the psychics to Kent's umbreon and the other trainees' dark-types. For now, he needed to focus on his pokemon.

Ash swiveled his head and instantly tried to track down Ivysaur. It didn't take him long to spot his grass-type, who was currently engaged in combat with a rather baneful looking golbat. The golbat's small eyes never ceased to remain planted on Ivysaur, and it continuously emitted a vehement hiss out of its oversized mouth.

The golbat was the first formidable Rocket pokemon that Ash had seen throughout the beginning of the fight. He would be worried, but Ivysaur had a good matchup. The grass-type had the type advantage and seemed to be holding his' own. Anytime the golbat tried to get in close, Ivysaur would fight it off with his Vine Whip. And whenever the golbat tried to hit him with long-ranged attacks, such as Sludge Bomb or Supersonic, Ivysaur was quick enough to dodge. It would probably be a tough battle, but as long as nobody interfered, his grass-type would be just fine.

After using his eyes to check up on Ivysaur, Ash desperately tried to hunt down Squirtle's whereabouts. Over by a plethora of unconscious Rocket bodies, Squirtle was presently fending off two ekans. Both of the purple snake pokemon were trying to viciously strike at Squirtle with their fangs, however, anytime they lashed out, Squirtle either effortlessly dodged or withdrew into his shell. It was rather obvious that Squirtle would eventually come out as the victor.

Now that the rattata and raticate had been taken care of, Growlithe was currently battling by Austin's nidoking's side. Nidoking was taking on another golbat nearly identical to the one Ivysaur was facing off against. Whereas Growlithe was using Ember to shoot as many zubat out of the air as possible. They were also getting help by some trainee's poliwhirl, who's Water Gun rivaled Squirtle's in terms of accuracy. One by one the zubat fell to their demise as they were shot out of the air by an enfilade of fire and water.

All of a sudden, amidst the sea of Rockets, three more golbat were released into the dark, underground enclosure. Ash instantly reached for Pidgeotto's pokeball as his eyes shot over to Austin.

"Do you see those golbat?!" shouted Ash, trying to be heard over the cacophony of chaos.

"Yeah, I do!" Austin blustered as he waved a pokeball in front of Ash's face, "let's find out if Pidgeotto and Fearow can work together!"

"Gotchya!" howled Ash with a nod.

The dark-haired boy proceeded to face the direction that the golbat had been released. The egregious creatures hissed and shrieked as they flew towards the group of trainees. Ash wasted no time. He quickly pressed the release button on Pidgeotto's pokeball, releasing him on the ground right next to his side.

Pidgeotto's eyes instantly shifted in the direction of Austin, who had just released his overpowered fearow. Ash's avian immediately puffed up his chest and disembogued a nefarious squawk. It was blatantly obvious that Pidgeotto was debating whether or not to lash out. His disdain for Fearow hadn't lessened since the last time they saw each other.

"Now's not the time!" scolded Ash as he pointed forward towards the forthcoming golbat trio. "We're up against Team Rocket! You can settle your feud with Fearow another day! Right now, I need your help! Take out those golbat! When you're done, help the others and knockout any humans wearing black! Also, I won't be able to give you frequent orders, so act as you see fit! Can you handle that!?"

Pidgeotto's eyes shot forward as he seemingly searched for his teammates. Ash watched his flying-type's line of sight pivot between Growlithe, Ivysaur, and Squirtle before the disgruntled flying-type made a decision. He shot his eyes back at Fearow, who emitted a malicious chortle that reminded Ash of the flock of spearow he had escaped from at the beginning of his journey. There was a brief moment of tension, as the two birds of prey glared at each other, before they both abruptly burst into the air with only a few vicious thrusts of their wings.

In a matter of seconds, Pidgeotto and Fearow had collided with the three golbat. Pidgeotto initiated the action with a coercive Quick Attack. Ash could hear the collision from his present position as his avian knocked golbat down to the ground with a turbulent strike. Simultaneously, Fearow used a skillful combination of Agility and Aerial Ace to quickly dismantle another one of the golbat.

"We've gotta keep a close eye on them!" bellowed Austin. "They could be at each other's throats in a matter of seconds!"

"Agreed!" howled Ash in attempt to be heard. "I think they're good for now, though!"

Austin nodded his head in agreement before reaching for one of the remaining three pokeballs that were attached to his belt.

Now that the trio of golbat had been accounted for, Ash brought his line of sight back down to ground-level. It appeared as if everyone was doing just fine. Ivysaur was still engaged in battle with the same menacing golbat, although it appeared as if his grass-type would be coming out on top relatively soon. The golbat looked exhausted and beat up, whereas Ivysaur appeared to be as good as new.

Growlithe, and the poliwhirl that he had been battling beside, were finished shooting down the zubat and were now facing off against a duo of crazed meowth. The malicious felines repetitively lashed out with their claws and fangs, in attempt to catch Growlithe and Poliwhirl with either Fury Swipes or Bite. A small smile creeped across Ash's face as he watched Growlithe respond by turbulently barreling into one of the meowth with his Flame Wheel. The feline hissed as it was immediately knocked out. After Growlithe had finished his meowth off, in order to provide support, he diverted his attention towards the meowth that the poliwhirl was taking care of.

Not far from where Growlithe and the poliwhirl were taking on the meowth, Austin's nidoking was in an intense battle with some Rocket's golem. The hardy, spherical rock-type was actually a rather impressive specimen, switching between various physical ground and rock-type moves that Ash didn't recognize.

The dark-haired boy didn't have all that much knowledge on golem's typing. He didn't have a rock or ground-type of his own, so the majority of his knowledge was from his prerequisite studies with Professor Oak. Either way, regardless of the golem's skill, Nidoking was in control. Right before Ash shifted his attention, Austin's nidoking had buried his horn into the golem's hard exterior with a devastating Horn Drill. Judging by the screeching golem and the battered, unconscious golbat that was lying close by, it was rather apparent that Nidoking was one of Austin's strongest pokemon.

Over by where Ash had last seen Squirtle was Kent's monstrous arcanine. The beast was wasting no time with the grunts' lightweight pokemon, completely bypassing them in order to take out the real threats: the grunts themselves. Left in Arcanine's wake was a surplus of unconscious bodies. The fully-evolved Arcanine ripped through the Rockets' shoddy defenses as easy as a machamp rips apart tissue paper.

While Ash was following Arcanine's movements, he coincidentally caught sight of the tail end of Squirtle's battle with the two ekans. One of the snake pokemon had already been thrown into the corner of the underpass; it was dripping wet and deep into involuntary comatose. The other ekans was currently being pelted by an array of chemically induced bubbles. Without a fraction of an expression on his face, Squirtle used the barrage of bubbles to knock the ekans out before using his short stubby arms to dispose of the reptilian pokemon in the same corner as its partner.

In the thick of all of the chaos, Ash's attention was suddenly grabbed by the sound of two new pokeball releases on both sides of him. To Ash's left, Austin had released his intimidating marowak. The fully-evolved, skull wearing, ground-type hoisted its oversized bone over its shoulder – like it was nothing – as it scanned its surroundings.

"Go knock out as many Rockets as you can!" commanded Austin.

Marowak used both of its hands to get a firm grasp on its bone before charging forward with ill-intent in its eyes. The dark-haired boy had seen enough of Austin's marowak, throughout the SS Anne tournament to know that it was an absolute beast when it came to close combat battle. Now that it had been released from its pokeball, Ash was sure of one thing: a lot of Rocket's would be waking up from unconsciousness with excruciatingly brutal concussions.

To Ash's right, Kent had released a black, pearl-like pokemon known as cloyster. Ash had never seen a cloyster in person before, so he was instantly intrigued. Its main body was encased by a light gray shell, which was surrounded by a second jagged, blue-violet outer shell casing. Cloyster had several conical horns that came out of its outer shell, and it had a long, barb-like spike that protruded out of the top of its head. However, despite all of the protection, Cloyster's most distinguishable feature was its blatantly mischievous expression and fierce angled eyes that appeared amidst its pitch-black, interior mug.

"Stay here and watch the boys!" ordered Kent as he gestured over to Ash and Austin. "I'm going out there! Also, if you can, try and cover me! Use Ice Beam on anything that comes after Electivire and I!"

As it gave its trainer an acquiescent look, Cloyster disembogued a peculiar noise that was somewhere on the spectrum between a whinny, gargle, and snort.

After addressing his cloyster, Kent proceeded to shoot his gaze back toward Austin and Ash. "Listen! You boys should stay back here! Command your pokemon from the main group and stay safe! Keep an eye on all of your pokemon as well! Rocket pokemon have been known for their demented ferocity! They will not hesitate to kill! Once one of your pokemon is on the cusp of unconsciousness, return them! Do not risk what is unnecessary! We are already in control of this battle!"

"Whatever you say, boss!" retorted Austin with a goofy grin.

"Gotchya," replied Ash with a nod.

"I'll be right back!" Kent blustered, "I'm just going to go tip the scale a little more!"

Kent's yellow eyes gleamed before he took off straight ahead in a canter. His dominant right hand was at his waist as he used his stellar hand-eye coordination to detach a great ball from his belt. Ash cringed as a trio of ekans shot high-velocity Poison Stings at Kent. The Ace Trainer, as smooth as a ninetails, avoided the barrage before pressing the release button on the great ball that was within his grasp.

There was a quick ray of white light before a massive, yellow and black furred monster was instantly sprinting alongside him. The beast needed no warning, whatsoever, as it precipitously pounded its fists together in antecedence to throwing a gargantuan lance of electricity at the ekans. There was an abrupt explosion as the unidentified technique collided with the ekans. When the explosion fizzled out, three charred and unconscious reptiles lay convulsing in the middle of the battlefield.

"Damn, did you see that, Ash!?" bellowed Austin with wide-eyes. "What the hell was that!?"

"No idea!" blustered Ash while keeping his eyes fastened on the action, "It must have been some kind of self-invented move, because I've never seen anything like it!"

Ash was unable to hear Austin's reply as he watched Electivire enshroud itself within a coat of electricity. It proceeded to use its fists to Thunder Punch two heedlessly aggressive raticate – that were trying to slow the electric-type down – prior to barreling into the crowd of Rockets, with his trainer close behind him. Ash felt a rapid wave of anxiety as Kent was almost hit by a flanking rattata's tackle; but within the blink of an eye, it was shot out of the air – mid jump – by a piercing beam of ice. It took a moment, but when the dark-haired boy felt a brief surge of frigidness, he eventually realized that the Ice Beam had come from Cloyster's barb-like spike. The water/ice-type had an impish expression on its face as it continuously hit any pokemon that got too close to Kent.

Ash watched in awe as the bipedal electric-type discharged its coat of electricity into the crowd of Rockets. There was a collection of high-pitched squeals while roughly fifteen Rockets and some of their pokemon dropped to the floor temporarily paralyzed. Ash recognized the technique Electivire used as Discharge: an electric based move that he had studied back when he was getting ready to face Lt. Surge.

Even though Electivire had just taken out a significant number of Rockets, and many more had already been incapacitated, it was rather blatant that they had barely put a dent into Team Rocket's underground forces. When devising the plan, they had definitely underestimated how many grunts would be down here. In regard to their half of the mission, it didn't necessarily matter. They had the advantage, so far, and were winning. However, he couldn't say the same thing in reference to Wallace and Sabrina. Hopefully, the warehouse base didn't house more grunts than expected; otherwise, the operations success would be in jeopardy.

After watching Kent and Electivire disable a few more Rockets with a potent Thunder Wave, Ash did a brief scan of his four battling pokemon. Going off of the fact that Ivysaur was now thrashing at a duo of raticate with his Vine Whip, Ash figured that he had soundly defeated the golbat from earlier. Ash had to admit, he was incredibly impressed by Ivysaur's newfound strength. Prior to evolution, Ash didn't think that his grass-type could have defeated the Rocket golbat and if he did, he wouldn't have had any fight left in him afterward. Evolution had given the saurian a significant boost in strength. Ash couldn't wait to find out what Ivysaur would be capable of with a little more training under his belt.

In subsequence to watching Ivysaur finish off one of the Raticate with Sleep Powder and the other with a violent Vine Whip/Take Down combination, Ash caught site of Pidgeotto's aerial battle. On account of the action pertaining to Kent and Electivire, Ash had missed out on the majority of the carnage that Pidgeotto and Fearow had wrought. However, there was a massive pile of unconscious golbat and zubat in the same general area as Pidgeotto and Fearow and Ash didn't see any other powerful pokemon within a close proximity, so he figured that the pile consisted of the two avians' victims.

Presently, Pidgeotto was using his Feather Dance to weaken an average looking machoke's powerful punches, while Fearow was involved in an aerial battle with a smaller member of its species. Pidgeotto was the stronger specimen and had the type advantage against machoke, so Ash figured he would win rather easily. Fearow's match didn't seem like it would be a tight one either. Just by eying the other fearow, Ash could tell that his Pidgeotto was stronger. And Austin's Fearow had easily handled Pidgeotto back on the SS Anne, so the Rocket fearow would probably be a cinch.

Meanwhile, Growlithe and the trainee's poliwhirl had defeated the two meowth before splitting up. Now, Growlithe had reunited with Austin's nidoking as they took on an angry vileplume. The large, floral pokemon's main target appeared to be Nidoking. It continuously tried to douse Nidoking with all kinds of status powders; however, the poison-type wasn't having any of it.

The barbed beast disregarded the multiple attempts that vileplume made at inflicting a status condition before driving his fists into the top of the grass-type's head. Vileplume was simultaneously hit in the side by Growlithe's Flame Wheel which caused the outlandish flower pokemon to shriek in pain. Howbeit, despite the powerful combination, the vileplume remained standing, ready to fight until it ran out of strength.

"Growlithe, hit it with an Ember barrage and then follow it up with Flame Wheel!" howled Ash at the top of his lungs.

Somehow, amidst the ruckus, Growlithe heard Ash's command. The orange and black pup dug deep into his internal furnace before putting forth an enfilade of powerful flames. They shot through the air at an incredible speed, not giving the vileplume, who was focused on Nidoking, enough time to dodge.

Vileplume emitted an ear-shattering shriek, in response to the impact of the Ember barrage, as Growlithe enveloped his entire body in a wheel of fire. As expected, the grass-type shifted its attention toward Growlithe after the barrage of fire had weakened it even more. Although the vileplume was aware of the pup's impending approach, all that the exhausted flower pokemon could manage was a weak attempt at a Mega Drain attack.

Growlithe tore through the grass-type technique, like a knife cuts through butter, before colliding with the vileplume head-on. Simultaneously, Nidoking mercilessly stabbed the vileplume in the back with the horn on its head. The horn was emanating a bright, yellowish green, which gave Ash the impression that Nidoking was using Megahorn: a highly advanced bug-type move that causes an immense amount of damage to those that are at a disadvantage to the technique's typing.

Vileplume didn't even make a sound as it instantaneously crumbled to the floor. The combination of Flame Wheel and Megahorn had knocked the poor creature into a coma. It was rather apparent that Vileplume had been severely injured. Ash hoped it wasn't too bad, though. Regardless of the vileplume's affiliation with Team Rocket, it was still a pokemon. Few pokemon were inherently evil, especially in regards to the oddish line. Ash knew that it was more than likely Team Rocket's fault that the specimen was so corrupt. Who knows, with the League's help, maybe some of Team Rocket's pokemon could be rehabilitated to garner their natural personalities?

Now that the vileplume had been taken care of, Ash took his eyes off of Growlithe and looked for Squirtle. Throughout the process, he noticed that Kent and several of the other ACE trainer trainees were wreaking havoc within the crowd of Rockets. The dark-haired boy estimated that nearly half of the grunts had been defeated.

Ever since a portion of the team had made the decision to attack more aggressively, grunts had been dropping like caterpie. Nearly all of the psychic pokemon had been knocked out of the battle, which allowed a lot of the trainees with dark-types to stray away from the main group and incapacitate even more of the grunts.

Ash hadn't been able to pay too much attention to the trainees, but up to this point, he was relatively certain that their side hadn't lost any significant casualties. On account of some of the cursing and words of disappointment amongst the main group, Ash knew that there had been some losses. However, he was positive that neither, Austin, Kent, or himself had been forced to return any of their pokemon.

Austin's nidoking, marowak, golduck and fearow were all in great shape, contributing their power in a multitude of different ways. Nidoking was probably the worse for wear, having been involved in the thick of the battle from the very beginning. Nonetheless, he still had plenty of fight left in him and was nowhere close to unconsciousness. Outside of the vileplume and golem, the beast had hardly been challenged. The grunts' pokemon weren't that powerful after all, even their fully-evolved specimens weren't very well trained in comparison to Nidoking.

Kent's pokemon were absolutely demolishing Team Rocket's forces. Arcanine had probably gotten rid of close to a quarter of the grunts by himself, choosing to focus his energy on the trainers rather than the pokemon. Ash hadn't seen much of Umbreon, but he was sure that the dark eevee evolution was responsible for most of the dismantling of Team Rocket's psychic pokemon. The trainees were strong, but only a master's pokemon could rid of a conflux of psychics that fast. Umbreon was most certainly trained by a master. Therefore, it was more than likely responsible for the psychics' demise.

The yellow eyed ACE trainer's Cloyster had provided an ample amount of long-ranged support for Kent, as well as the main forces. The water/ice-type had been picking off Rocket pokemon like it was a breeze. It had hardly exhausted a fraction of its energy, yet so many pokemon had fallen victim to its acute, overpowered Ice Beam. Cloyster's support had pretty much allowed Kent and his electivire to run free, dismantling the Rockets and their pokemon by the handful. Many had fallen prey to Electivire's numerous paralyzing electric techniques, which the Rockets weren't even close to coming up with an answer for.

Anyways, just in the nick of time, Ash finally located Squirtle in the midst of a very dangerous situation. In the back of the dark, brick-walled, underground alcove; his emotionless water-type was cornered by a ferocious persian and an infernal arbok. Unlike the other fully-evolved Rocket pokemon that Ash had seen, these specimens looked well-trained.

They also appeared to be commanded by a tall, brawny Rocket. Judging by his powerful looking pokemon and slightly altered uniform – which included a couple of pristine, silver badges that were clipped to his jumpsuit's Rocket emblem – Ash guessed that he was a higher rank than the rest of the feeble grunts. He didn't appear to be an executive, but Ash could see him being in charge of supervising the grunts. His posture and demeanor itself seemed much more powerful and sophisticated, albeit just as evil.

From Ash's current vantage point, he could only manage a shoddy attempt at lip-reading the ranked Rocket's commands. The Rocket was too far away to perceive audibly, and Ash's line of sight only allowed for him to get a visual roughly half of the time. It only took a quick examination of Squirtle's current circumstances to be able to tell that, if Ash didn't make a move, his friend wouldn't stand a chance. There was no way that Squirtle could take on the two robust, fully-evolved Rocket pokemon by himself.

As Ash watched the corrupt persian unload a battery of golden stars and witnessed arbok spray a significant amount of acid at Squirtle, the ten-year-old boy used both of his dexterous hands to unclip his Charmander and Clefairy's pokeballs. He quickly released both of them, by his side, as he anxiously observed Squirtle dodge the splurge of Acid Spray before withdrawing into his shell, in order to protect himself from the widespread Swift.

"Charmander, Clefairy!" blurted Ash, frantically, as he gestured towards his cornered Squirtle, "Squirtle's in trouble! He needs your help!"

Both Charmander and Clefairy quickly shook off the after-effects of a long rest before peering ahead with worry filled eyes. As they processed their surroundings, Ash could see the potent effect that their natural adrenaline had had on their dispositions. Charmander's eyes turned feral, and his tail-flame rapidly pulsed. Clefairy's wings started to glow a faint blue as she pounded her fists together.

Charmander and Clefairy gave Ash a brief look of reassurance before darting off at full-speed. The fire-lizard used his compact leg muscles to scamper across the concrete floor of the underground hideout. He pumped his short, stubby arms for extra power as he tried to sever the proximity between himself and his friend. Along the way, Charmander was briefly ambushed by a couple of rattata, but the fire-type used a couple of quick-fire Focus Punches to make quick work of them. Despite the rattatas' lack of strength, it was an exciting feat. Getting to see Charmander use Focus Punch so easily, in live battle, put a smile on Ash's face.

Clefairy moved across the battlefield a lot faster than Charmander. It wasn't because Charmander was slow, but rather on behalf of the fact that Clefairy was using some of her stored lunar essence to hover across the battlefield as briskly as possible. A couple of pitiful zubat tried to intercept her, but the fairy-type easily grounded them with a couple of well-timed Pound attacks.

While Charmander and Clefairy desperately tried to come to Squirtle's aid, Austin turned his attention away from his marowak's battle with a grotesque, sludgy, purple grimer in attempt to check on Ash.

"Do you need help!?" blustered Austin, with an intense expression painted across his face, as he reached at his belt for one of his last two remaining pokeballs. "I can send Meganium!"

Ash noticed a look of respect in Golduck's eyes as his trainer mentioned Meganium's name. Ash had never actually met Austin's foreign starter, but he had heard plenty of stories concerning her aboard the SS Anne and while they were on the road, to know that Austin's meganium was one of his most powerful pokemon.

"Help would be aweso—" managed Ash before being interrupted by a miraculous display.

As Charmander and Clefairy approached the scene, Squirtle, who was beat up, exasperated and cornered, all of a sudden erupted into a surging, white light. Some of the surrounding pokemon, Rockets, and trainees stopped to watch as Squirtle's faint, but visible, form started to change within the illumination. Ash could barely contain the excitement welling up inside him as he watched the spectacular display.

"He's evolving!" cheered Austin as he took his hand off of his meganium's pokeball and placed it on Ash's shoulder. "Perfect timing, wouldn't you say?"

"Yeah…" mumbled Ash, completely mesmerized by the obscure light that encased Squirtle's evolving form.

The dark-haired boy's joy was abruptly torn apart, by the feeling of fear, as he watched the persian and arbok lash out with contempt filled eyes, in attempt to interrupt the evolution. Ash instantly went into panic mode. When disrupted, the evolutionary process was unpredictable. If Squirtle was attacked, the shock could completely bastardize the reshaping process. Simply put, if Arbok and Persian managed to reach the turtle pokemon, they could cause permanent damage and disfigurement.

Ash had to force himself to keep his eyes open as arbok and persian were about to make contact. The persian was leading with its claws, probably in preparation for a Fury Swipe attack, whereas the arbok had its mouth agape and fangs ready, fully-prepared to sink its poison bearing teeth into Squirtle. Ash mumbled a silent prayer under his breath, begging an unknown deity for help. Charmander and Clefairy weren't close enough to intercept the merciless Rocket duo. Unless something unexpected happened, they were going to disturb Squirtle's evolutionary process.

That's when it happened...

Two blurs, moving at an inconceivable speed, cut off both of the callous Rocket pokemon. They collided with the persian and arbok, sending them flying into the alcove's brick-wall. There was a nasty duet of squeals that was emitted from the two infernal creatures as they were heavily damaged by the assault, as well as the unforgiving wall.

At the moment of impact, one of the two high-speed obscurations was unveiled. It was Kent's Arcanine, who was clearly using Extreme Speed to protect Ash's evolving Squirtle. After knocking the ranked Rocket's arbok into the wall, Arcanine came to a skidding halt before dashing over to the coruscating light that was still encasing Squirtle.

In subsequence to the collision, the other breakneck blur shot up into the air before unshackling its wings and coming to a precipitous stop. Ash couldn't believe his eyes. The obscure form unveiled itself to be a giant pidgeotto. Pidgeotto had come to Squirtle's rescue, using a technique that was, without a doubt, Agility.

With blood red eyes, Pidgeotto used both of his wings to conjure Twin Tempest, which captured the eyes of many of the battlefield's occupants. As the two massive, purple-tinted twisters formulated in the air, Pidgeotto used his breath to separate them. The howling sound of the duel-twisters caused Ash to cover his ears in order to protect his eardrums. Twin Tempest had proven itself to be the most powerful technique amongst Ash's pokemon, however, the ten-year-old boy had never seen it quite like this. It was at least twice as powerful as normal. Ash could tell Pidgeotto was formulating it based off of pure rage. The avian wasn't holding anything back. At this rate, it was likely that Persian and Arbok would be killed.

If Ash could, he would stop Pidgeotto. The last thing he wanted was for his friend to be labeled a killer, but all he could do was watch. At this point, there was no way to talk sense into his barbarous avian. Regardless of Pidgeotto and Squirtle's less than friendly relationship, they were teammates. And it was rather apparent that Pidgeotto would come to the aid of any of Ash's pokemon, even Squirtle. The fact that Persian and Arbok had tried to disrupt something as sacred as evolution was despicable and dishonorable. Pidgeotto planned on making them pay for their insolence.

As Pidgeotto unleashed his Twin Tempest, Ash saw Kent and his electivire out of the corner of his eye. The yellow eyed Ace trainer and his electric-type were sprinting desperately in order to reach Pidgeotto's powerful attack. While it came screaming down from above, Kent gave two booming commands.

"Electivire, stop the Twisters; Arcanine, take care of the Persian and Arbok!"

At a speed almost impossible to follow, Electivire, covered in a jacket of electricity, jetted over to the action, leaving a trail of blue lightning in its wake. Electivire came to a sudden halt in front of the fast approaching Twin Tempest before initiating a trickle of electricity from its antennas. Within a fraction of a second, the trickle of electricity grew into a highly condensed Electro Ball. With no time to spare, Electivire catapulted the Electro Ball into the, now merging, twisters. Almost instantaneously, the Electro Ball caused an elemental reaction as it forced the tempests to disperse. There was a sudden, widespread, blast of wind that shot its way throughout the entirety of the underground alcove the moment Twin Tempest was nullified.

Ash had to admit, he was relieved at the outcome. Pidgeotto's Twin Tempest had been stopped, which meant that he wouldn't have to live with the guilt that his flying-type had killed two pokemon, no matter of their affiliation. The dark-haired boy had also noticed that, in the thick of all of the chaos, Arcanine had knocked out both Persian and Arbok: a much deserved punishment for their ambush of Squirtle, but a lot more humane than what Pidgeotto had planned to do to them.

In addition, Squirtle's evolution had been completed. A wartortle now stood, slightly dazed and disoriented, in the middle of the battlefield. Wartortle stood about two feet taller than he did while he was in his primary squirtle form. He was a lot more muscular than he used to be, and his pigmentation was an indigo-blue which was a whole shade darker than the squirtle species' light-blue color.

Wartortle's eyes were brown, and he had a dark blue streak of reptilian skin on each of his cheeks. The newly evolved turtle pokemon had two sharp teeth that protruded from his upper jaw, and his fingers had grown sharp, white claws. The bluish white fur that was already starting to grow on Squirtle had completely flourished and now covered the entirety of Wartortle's long ears and tail.

Despite Wartortle's many changes, he still wore the same blank, emotionless expression. However, even though Wartortle's expression remained hard to read, his overall body language projected clearly that he was at least slightly delirious. When evolution is triggered during the middle of battle, it usually results in one of two prototypical responses. Either the adrenaline from the evolution gives the pokemon an initial surge of energy, which typically provides them with a chance to finish out the battle, or evolution results in a temporary exhaustion of all of their power, similar to the after-effects of Torrent. It appeared as though Squirtle was reacting in a way that closely resembled the latter.

Therefore, Ash proceeded to do the only thing that he could: return Wartortle. The ten-year-old boy hastily detached his wartortle's pokeball from his trainer belt before quickly pressing down the button on the face of the capture device. A scarlet red stream of light emanated from the pokeball, shooting through the air in precedence to connecting with its target. Up until Wartortle dematerialized, he stared blankly in a confused manner. Ash couldn't wait to find out how powerful Wartortle had become after evolution, but that would have to come later. Wartortle needed some time to get used to his new form, and he wouldn't be able to do that until after the mission had been resolved.

Anyways, as much as Ash wanted to take a moment to reflect on Wartortle's evolution, his present priority was to focus on the rest of the mission. Although some of the battling had temporarily ceased on account of Wartortle's evolution and Pidgeotto's display, the majority of the chaos was still in full motion.

The ten-year-old boy knew he couldn't risk getting sidetracked. Just because they were being protected by Golduck and Haunter didn't mean that they were invulnerable. Team Rocket had some decent pokemon. If a Rocket pokemon caught them off guard, and was strong enough to break Golduck's barrier, it was possible that Ash and Austin could take damage.

Ash's attention instantly shot back to where all of the excitement had previously taken place. Pidgeotto was squawking angrily at Kent and Electivire, probably on account of the fact that Electivire had nullified his Twin Tempest in order to preserve the lives of the persian and arbok. Ash wasn't surprised by Pidgeotto's attitude; the bird had never responded well to humiliation. And although most pokemon wouldn't see it as that, Pidgeotto most certainly did.

His most powerful technique had been dismantled like it was nothing but a mere Gust. That wasn't something that his Pidgeotto could simply disregard. No. Pidgeotto would more than likely be pissed off for the next couple of days which didn't really bother Ash. His avian had showed something that completely blotched out any qualms regarding his barbarous attitude: a need to protect his teammates, regardless of his relationship with them. No matter how much Pidgeotto and Squirtle disliked each other, Pidgeotto saw him as one of them and, therefore, he came to his rescue when it was necessary.

Ash also had to admit, he was extremely thrilled when it came to Pidgeotto's evident use of Agility. Ash thought that Agility was a technique that they were going to be stuck on for weeks, however, maybe that wasn't the case. Pidgeotto had been forced into a state of mind in which he mentally willed himself to transcend his prior concept of his own speed. Of course, it was possible that the effects were merely temporary, and Pidgeotto had yet to find a way to consistently tap into Agility. Nevertheless, Pidgeotto's brief use of Agility was a good sign. He was a lot closer to mastering the essential move than Ash had originally anticipated which was exciting to say the least.

The only thing that worried Ash about his Pidgeotto's display was how quickly the avian was prepared to kill. It was possible that Pidgeotto was using the full-extent of his power without thinking, but that was rather unlikely. Pokemon were typically very good at guesstimating each other's present stamina. The avian had to have been aware that persian and arbok were already in pretty bad shape due to his and Arcanine's assault. Ash wasn't necessarily surprised; Pidgeotto had always been extremely rough around the edges.

Out of all of his pokemon, the avian would probably be the least guilty after killing an enemy. Pidgeotto was a bird of prey after all. In the wild, Pidgeotto killed caterpie and weedle for sustenance. Therefore, even though the hunting of a bug-type wasn't necessarily of the same ethical principle, it was in Pidgeotto's genes to kill for self-preservation and the preservation of family. Regardless of his disdain for Squirtle, the turtle pokemon was family. Pidgeotto deemed it essential to save the turtle pokemon, no matter the cost. Death of another pokemon wasn't an exception, and quite frankly even though it sickened Ash, he didn't expect anything less. His avian was an especially bloodthirsty specimen. To be honest, Ash was just happy that he was on his side...

Nonetheless, despite Ash's understanding of Pidgeotto's current behavior, now wasn't the time to throw a fit. There were still a lot of Rockets left, and the giant avian was becoming a distraction for Kent, even though the ACE trainer's disposition didn't convey it. For now, it was probably best that Ash returned his friend. His power was no longer imperative. The majority of the golbat had been taken care of, and Pidgeotto had already wrought a significant amount of havoc to the enemies' forces. Besides, nothing was stopping Ash from re-releasing Pidgeotto if he had to, although, going off of the fact more than half of Team Rocket's underground forces had already been defeated, the chances of that were slim.

Ash proceeded to retrieve Pidgeotto's pokeball, which was fastened around his waist, before briskly returning him. Right before the scarlet red light from the capture device made contact with Pidgeotto, Ash thought he saw a look of agitation shoot across the flying-types face. Ash disregarded it, though. He'd deal with Pidgeotto's brief animosity towards him later. At the moment, his other pokemon needed his mind focused and alert in regard to their current circumstances.

Once he finished returning Pidgeotto, the dark-haired boy tried to relocate Charmander and Clefairy. The fire-lizard and the fairy pokemon had just recently entered the battle, and Ash wanted to make sure that they were doing alright. Throughout the process of searching for his two newly released pokemon, Ash witnessed that Kent had taken complete control over Electivire and Arcanine. The ACE trainer led both of his elite level pokemon with authority and confidence, taking out Rockets like it was as easy as catching a wingless pidgey.

After spending a second, or two, mindlessly admiring Kent's powerhouses, Ash recognized a familiar duo of pokemon. Tompkins' bulky male arcanine and Trish's lean female arcanine were working together in order to incinerate a group of atrocious grimer. Ash hadn't noticed too many grimer, but their presence was significant enough to accumulate a horrible smell that, without a doubt, belonged to them and wafted throughout the entire underground base.

Not too far from where Tompkins' and Trish's arcanine were scorching the quartet of grimer, Ash caught sight of Charmander. The fire-lizard was wrapped up in a battle with a tandem of raticate. Despite Charmander's Focus Punch attack, taking on two aggressive raticate, by himself, was a tall order. Raticate weren't exactly the most powerful fully-evolved species found in Kanto, especially the Rocket grunts' poorly trained rodents, but Charmander had a long way to go until he could adroitly battle two pokemon at the same time. The fire-lizard had one of the highest ceilings, in terms of potential, out of all of his friends, but that didn't change the fact that he was Ash's weakest member of the team.

Thankfully, Charmander wasn't forced to take on the two feral raticate by himself. He had the help of some trainee's raichu. The electric rodent wasn't of the same level as Lt. Surge's beastly specimen, but it was still an adept battler. With the raichu's help, Ash felt confident taking his attention away from Charmander for the moment. He and the electric mouse wouldn't have any problem defeating the normal-type rodents.


Ash's thoughts were suddenly jumbled and jarred by the impact of an unforeseen attack. The dark-haired boy used his eyes to scan through the, now rippling, psychic barrier that Golduck had raised to protect them.

"What was that!?" stammered Ash as he tried to gather himself after the unexpected surprise.

"It was a koffing!" groaned Austin as he pointed at a bizarre looking, spherical, levitating, pokemon. "I think it just shot a Sludge attack at us!"

"Damn..." drawled Ash while placing his hand over his palpitating chest, "I didn't see that coming!"

"That's why we've got Golduck with us," said Austin as he watched his water-type shoot the koffing out of the air, through the translucent barrier, with a broad, high-velocity surge of water.

"Thank God," muttered Ash as he observed the purple poison eat away at the hard, stony floor of the underground hideout, "Otherwise, we would have been goners."

"I wouldn't necessarily say that," said Austin with a smirk. "Look down."

With a curious expression on his face, Ash looked down at the ground directly in front of him. What he found was scary, albeit reassuring. The top of Haunter's head was protruding out of the shadowy floor. At first, Ash couldn't see the expression depicted on Haunter's spooky face. However, after leaning forward in order to get a good look, Ash caught the gist of Haunter's demeanor. The poltergeist's mouth was still concealed within the ground, but his eyes could be seen. They were blood red, and his pupils were no longer visible. If Haunter wasn't his friend, he would be terrified. In that moment, the gaseous ghost wasn't the laid-back, hilarious apparition that Ash knew and loved. Instead, he was an outraged, barbaric demon that was ready to hunt down whatever had tried to hurt his master.

Ash followed Haunter's general line of sight only to expectedly find koffing's unconscious, spherical body spewing out all sorts of different toxins. While Ash had been observing Haunter, Austin's golduck had been busy hitting the koffing with Hydro Pump after Hydro Pump in order to ensure its defeat. It looked as if Golduck had gone slightly overboard, but it was better that the water-type had taken care of the koffing rather than Ash's Haunter. In Haunter's current state, he probably would have killed the poison-type.

Ash didn't know what he did to make his pokemon so protective of him, and each other, but he would have to have a talk with them after the mission in regard to boundaries. The dark-haired boy wasn't upset, in fact, he appreciated that he could abide in their protection, but that didn't change the fact that killing was wrong and immoral, and Ash would rather not condone such actions under any circumstances. Team Rocket killed for their twisted cause, Ash didn't want to reciprocate them in anyway. Even if it was for self-defense, he and his pokemon would find another way.

"It's okay, Haunter, relax," crooned Ash to his ghost-type, "we're in the middle of a battlefield; I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner. Go back in my shadow, for now, and be prepared for another attack."

There was a brief moment of uncertainty as Haunter continued to stare forward with murderous eyes, but after a couple more seconds the apparition's angled eyes defogged and went back to normal. The ghost-type looked back at Ash with an expression of deep-rooted concern before nodding his head and receding back into his trainer's shadow.

"That's gotta be the most loyal act I've ever seen from a ghost-type," said Austin. "He's special."

"I know," replied Ash with a smile on his face, "although we're going to have to talk about boundaries. I thought he was going to go and kill that that koffing."

"Eh, it happens," retorted Austin with a shrug. "He'll learn. When my Nidoking first evolved, he wanted to kill anything that so much as looked at me wrong. Now...he just wants to hurt them."

"Okay..." drawled Ash with raised eyebrows, "I guess that's encouraging."

"Hey, I can sense the sarcasm in your voice, Ash," said Austin with a furrowed brow. "Believe it or not, that's a huge step forward. You should have seen him, man. One time he tried to rip a jigglypuff in half because it gave me the stink eye after I fell asleep during her performance. I mean, who tries to hurt a jigglypuff? There so freaking cute."

"Dude, what is it with you and small, pink pokemon?" queried Ash. "First my clefairy, now jigglypuff, I'm starting to see a pattern here."

"Hmm...I don't know," mumbled Austin as he raised his hand up to his chin, "If I had to give you a reason, I'd say it all started when—"

"Whatever!" interjected Ash as he suddenly remembered where he was, "We're in the middle of a battle! We don't have time for this!"

"Good point," retorted Austin with a shift in his countenance, "but we're going to revisit this topic after the mission."

"Suit yourself," replied Ash as he chimed back in on his surroundings.

Now that he'd gotten a visual of Charmander's current status and whereabouts, Ash did a quick scan of the battlefield in search of Clefairy. It didn't take too long to find her, due to the fact that she was battling in close proximity to Ash's fire-lizard. Clefairy was fighting against a rare scyther and pinsir. The majority of her attention was planted on pinsir, whereas scyther was being handled by Austin's marowak.

The pinsir was average. It was most certainly stronger than the pinsir that Samurai had used back in the Viridian Forest, but it wasn't nearly as skilled as Austin's pinsir. In fact, compared to Austin's pinsir, the pinsir Clefairy was up against was rather weak. Nevertheless, the stag beetle pokemon's pincers posed a problem. No matter how adept the specimen was, a pinsir's horns were dangerous. Clefairy would need to be smart about how she handled the weaker opponent.

Austin's marowak appeared to be having a tough time against the scyther. Even when poorly trained, scyther were extremely dangerous. They were nothing like the other frail bug-types in Kanto. Scyther were highly skilled warriors in the wild; their tenacity and thirst for battle went uncontested in the thick forests and woodlands that they occupied. Their adroitness at battle is what made Ash want one so bad. A powerful bug-type was rare in Kanto, and scyther's evolved form, scizor, was part steel—which was another rare typing in the region.

From what Ash could see, it appeared as if Clefairy was quickly taking control of her battle with the pinsir. Clefairy's evasive skills were just way too good for Pinsir to overcome. Every time the stag beetle would get close to connecting with its giant pincers, Clefairy would either use Minimize or just dodge them outright. Pinsir also tried to land various other physical techniques such as Brick Break, Vital Throw and Double Hit, but they were easily dodged by Clefairy's adept evasive abilities.

As the battle went on, Pinsir was becoming more and more reluctant to strike. Clefairy was tearing pinsir apart every time he missed with either a precipitous Double Slap or a hard-hitting Pound. Every once in a while, Pinsir would use Harden to enhance its defenses, however, that would come back to bite it pretty soon. Clefairy had been charging Stored Power for practically the entire battle, and Ash knew that by the time Pinsir realized it, it would be way too late.

The battle between Marowak and the Rocket Scyther was incredibly intense. Marowak was much better trained, but it was also exhausted. Austin's ground-type had been battling for quite some time now and had gone up against some of Team Rocket's more formidable pokemon. As things stood now, Ash wasn't sure who would come out on top. They were trading blow for blow, using their own natural weapon of choice to hack away at each other. Marowak used its giant bone to leave nasty bruises on scyther's segmented body, while Scyther had left a couple of shallow cuts across marowak's arms and chest with its biological scythes.

Ash had glanced over at Austin a couple of times, who was also watching the battle. The teenager didn't seem too worried, but Ash did notice that he was paying extra attention to Marowak's battle compared to the others.

But, then again, the others didn't need his active attention. Nidoking was a monster, and even though he was tired, the beast just kept on decimating opponent after opponent. Ash's guess was that Nidoking would make it throughout the entirety of the fight. The only reason Austin could be forced to return him is if Nidoking was too tired. Damage wouldn't be an issue. Outside of the single ranked Rocket's few remaining pokemon, the grunts didn't have anything left on the battlefield that could harm Nidoking.

Fearow's role in the battle had dwindled now that all of the Rocket's flying-types had been defeated. He was the last avian in the available airspace and had also proven himself to have been the best. Despite the underground facilities tall ceilings, it wasn't exactly the best place for pokemon species that relied on flight. However, Fearow had shown just how good of a flyer he was throughout the battle, having grounded a good chunk of the Rocket's flying-types. For the most part, the bird of prey now just provided aerial support by throwing powerful gusts of wind down on land pokemon and grunts.

After observing Austin's pokemon for a short while, Ash tried to track down Ivysaur and Growlithe, who had been battling hard since the very beginning of the invasion. It took him a little while to track down Ivysaur, who was busy knocking out a few cornered grunts. From Ash's vantage point, he could tell that Ivysaur was exhausted and had taken a significant chunk of damage, albeit he could still battle. The saurian's stamina had greatly increased after his evolution, and the majority of his fighting had been done using status powders and his Vine Whips. Ivysaur was built for long, grueling battles, and he had definitely shined throughout the entirety of this one.

While Ash was using his eyes to survey the alcove, in search of Growlithe, he spotted Kent at the tail end of a battle against the ranked Rocket. Ever since his persian and arbok had been defeated, the ranked Rocket had been battling with a massive, muscular, four-armed machamp and a nasty, feral flareon. His pokemon were impressive; they were definitely light years ahead of the rest of the grunts' pokemon. But, just because the ranked Rocket was skilled didn't mean that he stood a chance against a trainer of Kent's caliber. Ash's guess was that the brawny Rocket could probably take on the majority of the trainees one-on-one, but Kent was just too powerful.

Kent battled with Electivire and Arcanine, who hadn't taken a hint of damage throughout the entirety of the mission. They'd been battling non-stop, not taking a break for anything, and they didn't have a scratch on them. Ash couldn't even fathom what they were like when pushed to their limits. Thank goodness that Kent was on their side; he made victory a sure thing before the battle had even begun.

During his brief viewing of Kent's battle against the leader of the base, Ash had noticed that almost all of the Rockets had been knocked unconscious. There were probably less than fifty still standing, and they were dropping by the second. Cloyster had played a major role within the main group, using his Ice Beam and Water Gun, like a turret, to mow down the enemy. Once Electivire and Cloyster were released, less than twenty minutes ago, Team Rocket didn't stand a chance. They were just way too powerful.

Going off of what Ash had been able to see of Growlithe throughout the battle, he'd say that his puppy pokemon fought well. Other than Vileplume, Growlithe had primarily gone after pokemon that were within his league battle wise. The canine was getting stronger, but he was still young. What made him effective in the battle were his wits. Growlithe had battled where he could do the most damage, taking on grass-types and the grunts' pokemon that were in their primary form. With the help of the Poliwhirl from earlier, Growlithe was currently finishing off the last of the rattata and raticate within the hideout. His canine looked tired and beat up, but Ash was pretty sure that he could make it until the conclusion of the mission...

In between blinks, Rockets were being sent into a motionless comatose. There were now only a handful left, and the yellow eyed ACE trainer had almost subdued the lone ranked Rocket. The last of the Rockets' pokemon were trying to protect their trainers, but it was of no use. There were just way too many trainees, and the amount of trainee pokemon nearly tripled the grunts' last remnant of battlers.

As the main group converged on the remainder of the grunts, there was nothing that the enemy could do but back away and allow themselves to get cornered. A few grunts tried to sneakily escape, but their attempts were futile. Either one of the trainees' pokemon knocked them out, or one of the trainees themselves used their hand-to-hand combat skills to immobilize them.

Ivysaur, Charmander, Nidoking and about two dozen other trainees' pokemon were attacking together in order to finish of the last of the Rockets' poison-types. Of course, it wasn't a tidy assault: there were some normal-types, bug-types and grass-types intermixed within the group. However, their main objective was to get rid of the last fragment of poison-type pokemon.

Ash managed to catch the tail end of Clefairy's battle against the pinsir, when she finally used the Stored Power that she had been saving up throughout the entirety of the battle. The explosion of energy was emanated at point-blank range, completely catching Pinsir off guard. The menacing stag-beetle was sent flying into the hard brick-wall. Ash wasn't exactly sure whether the pinsir blacked-out upon impact with the Stored Power or the wall. Either way, it was out cold.

Austin's marowak hadn't been able to defeat the scyther on its own. Marowak was just too worn down to finish off scyther and had to rely on Fearow to help ensure victory. Ash could tell that Marowak was a prideful pokemon, but this was a mission...not a league match. Victory is what mattered. By working together, Marowak and Fearow were able to finish off the barbarous scyther with a devastating Double-Edge and Drill Peck combination.

The remainder of the rattata and raticate had been defeated, so Growlithe was helping the majority of the trainees' pokemon immobilize the last of the grunts. They were working fast and their task would be complete any moment now. The grunts were few and cornered; the battle was coming to an end.

The ranked Rocket desperately tried to fend off Kent, but Ash could tell by the look of despair on his face that he knew his attempts were frivolous. His flareon was unconscious, and the only pokemon that he had left was his machamp. Arcanine had left the battle to help the trainees' disable the last of the grunts. Arcanine's Extreme Speed would have the grunts utterly defeated in a matter of seconds. Ash didn't even need to watch the battle against the grunts anymore. He decided to just focus his attention on Kent and Electivire.

"Electivire, finish it off!" howled Kent with fire in his eyes.

The monstrous fully-evolved electric-type burst forward while discharging electricity in every which direction. He forced the machamp onto its heels as he got in close. The four-armed humanoid pokemon tried to defend itself with a couple of heavy haymakers, but Electivire effortlessly dodged all four arms before connecting a Thunder Punch into Machamp's gut. The superpower pokemon spit saliva everywhere, after having the wind knocked out of it.

Electivire didn't give the onlooking trainers a chance to cringe at the blow, though, because he instantly began to unload Thunder Punch after Thunder Punch on machamp's muscular body. The machamp cried out while being pulverized by Electivire's electricity doused fists. Once Electivire was done, he stepped away with a large satisfied grin on his face as Machamp heedlessly fell onto its back with vacant eyes.

Ash stared ahead with wide-eyes and a slacked-jaw. He couldn't believe what he had just seen. Electivire had manhandled the machamp like it was a newborn machop. Kent's pokemon were on a level that Ash could hardly comprehend. Much like Wallace and Sabrina, there weren't very many trainers that could hold a candle to his skill level. Kent was amongst the cream of the crop, he was a master at battle. Without Kent, this mission may have gone differently. With Kent, it had been utterly one-sided.

As Kent had Electivire quickly use Thunder Wave to temporarily paralyze the ranked Rocket, Ash felt a sudden surge of movement within the main group. When the dark-haired boy pivoted his eyes to see why everyone was hastening forward. He realized that all of the grunts had been knocked unconscious and their pokemon had all been defeated. The base had been conquered, and the battle was over. They had won. Their part of the mission was complete. Team Rocket's main forces in Saffron had been defeated.

Like the rest of the trainees and Austin, Ash cantered forward in order to shower his pokemon with congratulations and thanks. They had fought well. They deserved the praise.

As he ran out towards his friends, and bypassed the lot of unconscious Rockets and pokemon, one by one his exhausted pokemon spotted him. Growlithe was the first to approach, followed by Clefairy, Charmander and finally Ivysaur. They looked up at him with exhausted expressions, especially Growlithe and Ivysaur, who had been his only pokemon that had endured the entirety of the battle. Outside of Haunter, who had dwelled within Ash's shadow throughout the battles complete duration.

Speaking of Haunter, the ghost-type exited Ash's shadow in order to greet his teammates. Ash had to admit, having Haunter's incorporeal form bound to his shadow throughout the battle had given him a lot of security. Although, other than the lone koffing that attacked Golduck's barrier, he had never been in actual danger. Ash now knew that if he were put in a situation in which his life was in jeopardy, Haunter would protect him. The way Haunter had behaved in response to the koffing's Sludge attack had proven that the apparition was more than reliable.

Although they were incredibly thrilled that the battle was over and that they had been reunited with their trainer, Ivysaur and Growlithe were having a tough time showing any kind of emotion other than exhaustion. Now that they had a second to breathe, the full-weight of the battle had caught up to them. They could barely stand because of how much energy they had exerted.

"Growlithe, Ivysaur, you two were amazing," crooned Ash as he handled both of their pokeballs. "Words cannot describe how proud I am of you. But, I can give you praise later. For now, take a break. You've earned it."

Prior to the return, Ash thought he saw a look of relief sprout across their faces. Once the red light from the pokeball had receded back into its place of origin, Ash attached Growlithe and Ivysaur's pokeballs back onto his trainer belt before addressing Clefairy and Charmander."

"How are you two feeling?" asked Ash in a curious manner, "I'm sorry I didn't release you earlier, but things were kind of hectic. I could only do so much at once. I'm proud of the way you battled, though. Charmander, your Focus Punch was awesome. And, Clefairy, the way you handled that pinsir was really impressive. I couldn't have asked for a better effort out of you two."

Since Charmander and Clefairy weren't nearly as exasperated as his starter and saurian, Ash could actually see the bashful expressions that they had accumulated while he was complimenting them. Charmander had even proceeded to latch onto the ten-year-old boy's leg, which was his most frequently used method of showing affection.

As Charmander hugged Ash's leg, and Clefairy and Haunter visited amongst each other, Ash caught a glimpse of Austin and Golduck steadily approaching him out of his peripherals.

"Well, what do you think?" questioned Austin as he clipped one of his pokeballs to his belt. "I knew we'd win, but that went better than expected."

"Right," replied Ash while he gently patted the top of Charmander's head, "the element of surprise really did them in. They definitely weren't expecting us."

"It was a good plan," said Austin with a slight look of guilt on his face, "I shouldn't have been so skeptical."

"All of your concerns made sense," answered Ash. "Besides, we still don't know what happened with Sabrina and Wallace."

"True," retorted Austin with a shrug, "I'm sure they're fine, though. Speaking of Wallace and Sabrina, we should probably see if Kent has gotten an update on their status. I'm sure he's heard something by now.

Ash and Austin surveyed the destroyed underground hideout in search of Kent. After a brief struggle to track him down, they finally spotted him a fair proximity away from the conflux of unconscious bodies and trainees, speaking to someone on a black and red pokegear. They wasted no time as they signaled for their pokemon to follow them before they briskly jogged over to Kent. As they approached the yellowed eyed ACE trainer, he had just finished up his conversation over the phone.

As they neared Kent, the Ace trainer flashed them a large grin prior to using both of his rough hands to pat them on their heads as if they were his little brothers. "Good job, boys. You kept your composure and battled well. I'm glad that you came along. It's nice to see that your generation has some trainers that are willing to throw themselves into the fire. There are not many kids, like you two, out there anymore. Gives me hope."

"Thanks," answered both of the boys with humongous smiles stretching from cheek to cheek.

"All of your pokemon were impressive," said Kent as he placed his hands on his hips, "but, Austin, your Nidoking really caught my eye. He battled like a true warrior. You trained him well. And, Ash, despite your Pidgeotto's lack of self-control at the end there, it was an impressive specimen. The way it came to your wartortle's aid was admirable, although, you might want to address the concept of mercy."

Both boys nodded their heads as they continued to listen to Kent's unexpected evaluation.

"Also, Ash, I want to point out that your Growlithe reminds me of Arcanine when he was a pup. Their battle styles are very similar. Your Growlithe is going to be one special arcanine when it evolves. Keep training him hard."

"Really?" asked Ash, flattered, "maybe that's why Arcanine has taken an interest in him."

"I guarantee it," retorted Kent with a grin. "Anyways, I just got off of the phone with the Saffron Police Department. After Officer Jenny gets over the shocking news that Team Rocket has returned, they should be on their way to help detain the grunts."

"That's good news," replied Austin with a nod, "have you heard any news from Bill yet? What happened on Wallace and Sabrina's end?"

"Yeah…" added Ash, "they're okay, right?"

"I haven't gotten any word yet," answered Kent as he shook his head, "I was just about to call Bill before you guys came over here."

"You can call him now," replied Austin with a shrug, "don't mind us."

Ash nodded his head in agreement as he waited for Kent to respond.

"Will do—" managed Kent before his pokegear interrupted him.



Ash caught a glimpse of the pokegear's external screen as it lit up: it read Bill Montgomery.

"I guess Bill beat me to it," blurted Kent before flipping open the pokegear and pressing the talk button. "This shouldn't take too long boys."

Ash watched as Kent proceeded to walk a short-distance away from them, with the pokegear held up to his ear. He paced back and forth as he listened to whatever Bill had to say. Ash's anxiety spiked as he watched Kent's disposition go from relaxed to alert and disturbed. His body language and facial expression explained it all...something had gone wrong.

The dark-haired boy couldn't hear what they were talking about, but he could make out the indisputable tone of agitation in Kent's voice. Whatever Bill was reporting to him didn't make the yellow eyed ACE Trainer happy. When their conversation was over, Kent carelessly closed his pokegear and stormed over to the boys.

"What's wrong!?" questioned Ash as he felt Charmander's claws cling onto his pant leg.

"What did Bill say!?" queried Austin with worry in his voice, "did something go wrong?"

"Ariana is on the run!" bellowed Kent, "There's not enough time to explain the rest! We've got to go! Time is of the essence! Sabrina and Wallace need our help! Follow me!"

Ash gulped as images of the deceitful Ariana flooded his mind. It appeared as though their role in the mission wasn't over after all. Wallace and Sabrina needed them. The streets of Saffron weren't safe. Ariana had escaped the warehouse and it was up to them to help bring her down.

Ash didn't know where they were going, but one thing was certain. There was going to be another battle and it more than likely wasn't going to be pretty.


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