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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25. Kanto 8 Part 1

"How does it feel to finally get some fresh air?" asked Ash as he and Austin stepped out of the backseat of the taxi that had taken them from the Pokemon Center to Silph Co. headquarters.

"Pretty damn good," retorted Austin while stretching his muscles after the short ride. "I thought I was going to go crazy in that freaking place. I'll never look at pokemon centers the same. A week in that place was overkill."

"Makes sense," said Ash with a shrug while shifting his line of sight over to the gargantuan skyscraper that stood before him. "A couple of days were enough for me."

"Lucky bastard," answered Austin, clearly jealous. "You were at the gym getting special training from Sabrina, while I was in a hospital bed twiddling my thumbs. It's instances like this where I am reminded that the world definitely isn't fair."

"That's for sure," muttered Ash, thinking back to the conversation that he had partaken in with Wallace right before he left for Hoenn.

After his discussion with Wallace, involving the information Sabrina had ripped from Ariana's mind, the ten-year-boy couldn't help but blame destiny for allowing Team Rocket to create a weapon capable of scaring even the likes of Wallace and Sabrina.

It wasn't fair. It simply wasn't fair that evil was brewing within Kanto's shadows and even some of the strongest trainers in Kanto didn't know how to put a stop to it.

It was wasn't fair that Ash was one of the few people in the region that knew about Team Rocket's plot, and he wasn't even close to being strong enough to do anything about it.

It pissed him off; the world was downright unjust. He had learned that just a few months into his journey.

All he could do was strive to get stronger and pray that everything would eventually work itself out. Obliviousness would have certainly led to their demise. The fact that they were now aware that Team Rocket was in possession of a creature that was probably as strong as a Legendary, meant that they could come up with a plan.

Potential for a plan gave Ash hope, and as long as there was a sliver of hope, the ten-year-old boy would keep his head up.

"Is that crap about Team Rocket's creation still bothering you?" asked Austin as they weaved their way passed the confluence of people that were passing by Silph Co. headquarters.

"Yeah," said Ash with a sigh, "I can't stop thinking about it…"

"I was like that all day yesterday," muttered the teenager while diverting his gaze toward the ground.

Prior to watching Ash's gym battle, Wallace had told Austin about the abomination while saying goodbye to him back at the Pokemon Center. Apparently, the Champion had deemed the information that Sabrina had ripped from Ariana's mind essential for both of them to know.

Either that, or destiny had revealed to Sabrina that they had to know, and she made the decision that Wallace was the most suitable person to tell them.

Whatever the case may be, Austin was now also aware of Team Rocket's abomination, which meant that he was currently in the middle of processing the same gut wrenching truth that Ash was.

"How are you coping, now?" asked Ash with curious eyes. "You seem to be handling it better than me."

"I'm just trying not to think about it too much," retorted Austin with a shrug. "I realized yesterday that worrying is useless. Until we know more, we can't do anything to change the situation."

"True..." drawled Ash as they approached one of the skyscraper's automatic, revolving front doors, "but if we don't think about it, how are we going to stop it from happening?"

"I'm not saying that I'm not going to think about it at all," said Austin as he looked Ash in the eyes. "I'm just saying that there is a time and place for everything. Right now, there is nothing the two of us can do. As soon as we get more information from Sabrina, I'll revisit the topic. But, for my own sanity's sake, I'm going to enjoy this tour and then focus on getting back to Johto."

"Gotcha'," said Ash as thoughts of his own journey popped up in his head, "I guess there's only so much we can control."

"Exactly," said Austin with a wink before gesturing towards the door. "Now, what do you say we go inside?"

"Yeah," retorted Ash with a smile and a nod, trying to take Austin's advice and suppress his thoughts about Team Rocket, "let's go."

XXX

"Welcome, boys!" exclaimed Robert as he greeted them in the copious, bustling lobby.

To Ash and Austin's surprise, Robert was sitting in one of the first floor's, luxury lounges, enjoying a cup of coffee with Bill, Sabrina and roughly a dozen straight-faced, intimidating men and women wearing pristine, red ACE trainer uniforms.

The lounge was located right inside of the front entrance, so it hadn't taken all but a minute for the head of the Montgomery family to track them down.

"Hey, guys," retorted Ash with a look of befuddlement on his face.

Austin barely managed a wave while a confused expression formulated upon his mug.

They hadn't been expecting Robert to meet them down on the first-level. Both of them figured that with everything that had gone on over the past couple of weeks, Robert wouldn't want to make an appearance on one of the floors that was available to the public.

Under normal circumstances, a public appearance by Robert Montgomery would draw a ton of attention. Given that less than a week ago, Silph Co. had revealed to the world that their CEO had survived the SS Anne catastrophe when everyone in the world thought he had been killed, things would be even crazier.

Ash figured that the public levels of Silph Co. headquarters were always busy, but it was rather evident that the first floor's current status was far from the norm.

There were thousands of people crowded together a short ways away from the lounge. Their eyes were glued on Robert as he gave them no mind, keeping his attention centered on Ash and Austin.

The onlookers were being kept at bay by a plethora of ACE trainers, who were dressed in the same red uniforms as the people sitting around Robert, Bill and Sabrina. Each one of them appeared to be armed with at least six pokeballs fastened around their individual trainer belts. Ash wasn't sure, but he assumed that at this point Silph Co. was being guarded by authentic ACE trainers and not mere trainees.

After the precedent events, there was no way that the League hadn't sent out some of its best to guard their beloved Robert Montgomery.

"Come and sit down while I finish my coffee," said Robert as he stood up from his seat and pulled two chairs over to the small table that he, Bill, and Sabrina currently sat at. "Don't mind the people. We've got some of the League's finest looking after us."

Ash and Austin did as Robert suggested and sat down at the table. However, at least in Ash's opinion, it was hard for him to ignore the echoing sound of all of the people looming around them. It was even more difficult to disregard all of the bright flashes that were being emitted by the multitude of cameras operated by the Kanto media and paparazzi that were doing their job amidst the chaotic assemblage.

"How do you put up with this?" questioned Austin, clearly annoyed as he settled into his seat.

"Yeah," added Ash, "it's kind of overwhelming."

"What—the people?" queried Robert before giving them a nonchalant shrug. "You sort of get used to it, I guess."

All of a sudden, Bill let out a fake cough, impolitely signifying that he was going to interject. "Psht! Only you, Father. I've never gotten used to this kind of scene."

"Neither have I," added Sabrina. "Quite frankly, I can barely stand situations like this."

While being blown away by the fact that Bill and Sabrina were actually agreeing about something, Ash watched as Robert gave Austin and him a jovial smile.

"Well, I guess everyone's different," said Robert before taking another sip of his coffee. "Anyhow, would either of you two like a drink before we tour the building? I put this little coffee shop in earlier this year, the baristas are highly adept when it comes to making lattes."

He paused as he took another sip of his drink.

"They're to die for…" murmured Robert with a look of bliss on his face.

Ash looked at Robert blankly while Austin simply shook his head as courteously as possible.

"Dad…" drawled Bill while rubbing his temples contemplatively, "they're ten and thirteen years old, I doubt they would enjoy the taste of coffee."

"I guess you have a point…" mumbled Robert as he rubbed the hair underneath his chin, "sometimes I forget how young these lads are."

Undeterred by the fact that Robert had just offered him a cup of coffee, Ash took his comment about their age as a compliment. He was happy that he came off as older than he actually was to the billionaire CEO. He always tried to act mature for his age. He had to if he wanted to become a pokemon master one day.

The world that they lived in didn't leave room for immaturity. Of course, that didn't mean that he had to be serious all of the time, but if he wanted to be a master he needed to carry himself with a special kind of demeanor. It took a mature trainer, capable of demanding the respect of a plethora of different personalities, in order to become a master.

Immaturity was a crutch for most beginner trainers, causing them to get left behind in comparison to the trainers that took their training seriously. Most beginner trainers didn't make it to the League tournament because they were too immature and didn't use their time efficiently to train and come up with applicable strategies.

Ash never wanted to be one of those trainers that got lost in their first year. Rather, he desired to be a trainer that found himself in his first year and set a solid foundation for a promising career. So far, in his opinion, he had done that. All he could do now was keep it up, which would become more and more difficult as the grind of travel wore on him.

He had faith in himself, though. Better yet, he had faith in his friends.

Ash's thoughts were put on hold as Austin asked an interesting question. "Why didn't you just have us meet you on one of the upper floors, where Silph Co. headquarters goes from public to private? Wouldn't that have been way less troublesome?"

"Maybe," retorted Robert with a smirk, "but then I wouldn't be able to give you a thorough tour. The bottom floors are just as much a part of Silph Co. headquarters as the top floors, and I want to be here to show you them. Besides, one day, both of you will be famous trainers, and you'll have to get used to this sort of attention. Think of it as practice for the future."

It was Robert's last comment that made Ash think of something critical that he had previously overlooked. He and Austin had just gotten put on blast by a profusion of photographers. Before today, they had flown under the radar. However, being caught in a friendly photo with Robert, Bill and Sabrina was sure to garner people's attention.

Not just any startup pokemon trainers got to sit down and exchange in casual dialogue with the Montgomery's and Sabrina Marvil. When those photos got out, people would most certainly be asking questions about the two mysterious kids that kept exorbitantly famous company.

Before Ash got an opportunity to delve deeper into his thought process, Robert abruptly stood up from his chair, snatching the attention of everybody around him.

"Alright, coffee's gone!" blurted Robert as he tossed his disposable coffee cup into one of the nearby cylindrical trash cans. "There's no time to waste. I know you two want to get going, so follow me."

Ash, Austin, Bill, Sabrina and the dozen, or so, ACE trainers stood up from their seats in subsequence to Robert's words before beginning to follow him.

As they congregated toward Robert, the Ace trainers formed a circle around them, creating a formidable barrier of protection. Each one of them removed a pokeball from their trainer belt in preparation for the unexpected.

Although Robert Montgomery was, for the most part, adored by the region of Kanto, the world was littered with psychopaths willing to throw away their lives in order to exterminate someone as famous as the head of the Montgomery family. Therefore, when in public, Ash assumed that it was required that Robert was always under the protection of the ACE Corps, especially now that the region was aware of Team Rocket's ascension out of the shadows.

Now, going off of the fact that this was the first time Ash had ever seen Robert with this much protection, he was pretty sure that the billionaire CEO broke this rule a lot. Robert was the kind of guy that did what he wanted when he wanted to. It was pretty evident that he would get frustrated by the strict nature of the League's protection.

Once they made their way out of the coffee shop and into the vast, busy first floor, the ACE trainers spread out, forming a wider scope of protection. By doing this, the ACE trainers also gave Ash and the group a lot more breathing room, allowing them to see much more of the lofty floor's features than if the their protectors were to sever more of the space in between them.

The first thing that came to Ash's mind as he used his eyes to scan the spacious first floor was surprise. For the most part, the first floor consisted of strictly restaurants and miscellaneous, non-pokemon related shops. He had been under the assumption that Silph Co. headquarter's public floors would bear primarily pokemon apparel.

Silph Co. was the monopoly of pokemon merchandise after all. It only made sense that headquarters would consist of their products. However, so far, that wasn't the case…

"By the look on both of your faces, I'd say you two are confused," said Robert as he centered his attention on the two boys.

Both of them nodded in response to Robert's comment.

The billionaire CEO smiled before proceeding to turn his attention to Bill, "Son, why don't you explain what is going on here at ground-level?"

"Very well," retorted Bill as he drew closer to Ash and Austin. "Unless you have prior knowledge of Silph Co. headquarters, it is rather predictable that you would be confused."

He paused with a shrug.

"The first three floors of Silph Co. headquarters make up the second largest shopping mall in all of Kanto, trailing solely the world famous Celadon Department Store."

Both boys' eyebrows lifted as they listened to Bill's explanation.

"My mother designed them," laughed Bill. "She loves to shop and wanted to give the non-trainer a reason to visit headquarters. Leave it to her to come up with something so brilliant. Five years ago, this floor was the only floor available to the public, and all that resided in it was an oversized pokemart."

He took a breath as he pointed towards a pair of colossal escalators that lay in the center of the spacious room, serving as the primary way to travel from floor to floor.

"We moved all purchasable pokemon apparel up to the third floor," informed Bill before using his hands to gesture towards everything that was around them. "The first floor was transformed into a food court and a shopping center, consisting of different vendors that we sponsor."

Ash looked around while keeping what Bill had just said in mind. He didn't want to take the time to acquire an exact count, but the ten-year-old boy estimated that, between the various shops and the tiny cafeteria restaurants, there were roughly fifty different businesses operating on ground-level.

Ash knew that Silph Co. had an outrageous amount of influence, but that many sponsored businesses on a single floor was unbelievable.

"So, you're telling me that Silph Co. sponsors every single one of these companies?" asked Austin inquisitively, saving Ash the trouble of asking the question himself.

"Precisely," replied Bill. "We have more clout over some than others, but more or less, we have a say within all of the different companies that operate on this floor."

"Even the restaurants?" asked Ash curiously.

"Yup," retorted Bill with a shrug, "even the restaurants."

"As a matter of fact," interrupted Robert enthusiastically, "a lot of these restaurants were started by my wife. Not only does Margaret have a good sense for fashion, but she also has a solid understanding of the restaurant business. More than half of these food establishments were founded by her."

"Like?" asked Austin.

As they walked around the first floor, Robert began to point towards several of the food establishments that were founded by Margaret Montgomery.

"That one over there, House of Ramen, is one of my favorites," said Robert as he pointed at a tiny sit-down restaurant in between two causal clothing shops. "Margaret came up with the concept, the name, the restaurant layout, and even the menu. I promise you won't find better ramen in all of Kanto!"

Ash's mouth started to water at the thought of savory ramen. His mother always made it for him growing up, and it was one of his favorite meals. Although he had a tough time believing that any ramen could be as good as his mothers, he trusted that the ramen in "House of Ramen" was good, especially since its recipes had been put together by a member of the Montgomery family.

"This one to our left is another restaurant started by Margaret," said Robert melodramatically as he pointed to another small, busy restaurant. "It is called, Sushi Deluxe. I swear there isn't a single roll on the menu that isn't delicious."

Although it didn't sound nearly as appetizing as House of Ramen, Ash could tell by the glee in Robert's eyes that it was good.

"They make good sushi, eh?" questioned Austin with critical eyes. "I'll have to check it out sometime. I love sushi."

"It's the best sushi you'll ever have," inserted Sabrina, speaking up for the first time in a while, "I am highly critical when it comes to my sushi, and I have never been let down by Sushi Deluxe."

"Interesting…" drawled Austin while holding a hand up to his chin, "I think I'll stop by after the tour."

"You won't be disappointed if you do," retorted Robert as they continued to explore the first floor.

After the conversation concerning sushi simmered down, Robert continued to point out the restaurants that his wife had installed, and every once in a while he would mention something regarding one of the non-pokemon related shops. For the most part, he seemed to talk about the stores that had the most draw, such as a few of the clothing, electronic, and specialty stores.

However, when Robert talked about the shops, the tour came off as rehearsed. Ash could tell that Robert didn't have a lot of passion for what he was talking about. Although Robert was a billionaire and always wore nice clothes and fancied finer things, he wasn't as materialistic as most would presume.

Robert was passionate about pokemon and products that revolved around them. The stuff that he truly cared about would be on the upper floors. For now, he was just trying to be a good host.

One of Ash's favorite things up to this point, besides the building itself, was the look on all of the ACE trainers faces as they listened to Robert speak. Ash could tell that they were enjoying the tour as well. Most of them had probably just recently been transferred to Silph Co. headquarters, and even if they hadn't, they had certainly never been shown everything firsthand by the CEO himself.

He also got a kick out of all of the spectators that were following them from all directions. At the beginning, he had been overwhelmed by them, but as time went on, they simply became a source of amusement.

They cheered and screamed for Robert like he was a glorified god, and there were times where it was hilarious. Every once in a while, one of the many females would call out to him in a suggestive manner; when that happened, Ash couldn't help but burst into laughter, especially when he saw the look of disgust that was delineated across Bill's face.

Robert was his father after all, which probably made it hard for him to hear some of the ways that people talked about him.

Speaking of Bill, there were plenty of people in the crowd that were fans of the young billionaire. Sometimes, Ash forgot just how famous Bill was. At this point in time, he had gotten so used to seeing Bill as a close friend that it was hard to remember that he was one of the most famous people in all of Kanto.

Sabrina also heralded a lot of attention. There were several people calling out to her, and she seemed to attract the gaze of many of the encompassing men. Ash wasn't necessarily surprised by that; Sabrina was extremely attractive. Besides, despite her impact on the city, Ash had a feeling that Saffron's general populace didn't see her very often.

In just a short amount of time, Ash had gotten to know Sabrina pretty well. One thing he had definitely come to understand was that Sabrina was naturally introverted. She loved the people of Saffron, but that didn't mean that she liked to be around them. Large confluxes of people made her uncomfortable, and rarely do people like to feel uncomfortable on a frequent basis.

Ash couldn't see her showing herself in public like his very often. It just didn't seem like something that she would do…

Of course, not everything about the glob of lively people was amusing.

The thing Ash liked the least about the crowd was the awkward, jealous glares that he and Austin were on the receiving end of. For a good number of the populace, it would be a dream come true if they got the opportunity to meet a member of the Montgomery family, let alone become friends with them.

The fact that two no name trainers, like Austin and Ash, were engaged in friendly conversation with Robert and Bill, clearly pissed people off. The jealous onlookers were likely asking questions like, why them, or who the hell are they?

However, despite the fact that Ash disliked the looks that he was getting, he didn't get mad. If anything, this was just a reminder of how messed up the world could be, which was a realization that he had accepted a long time ago.

Anyways, once Robert had shown them everything that was noteworthy on the first floor, he took them on a brief jaunt up to the second floor. For the most part, the second floor was an extension of what was on ground-level, consisting of primarily non-pokemon related shops.

It wasn't all that interesting, and it didn't take long for Robert to get bored and take them up to the third floor, which was the first floor that actually caused legitimate excitement to stir within Ash.

As he stepped off the escalator and on to the third floor, Robert used his hands to dramatically gesture toward everything around him.

"As Bill said earlier, on the third floor we have the biggest pokemart in all of Kanto—even larger than the pokemart in the Celadon Department Store!"

Ash's eyes widened as he looked out at all of the pokemon apparel that was in front of him. There were rows upon rows of merchandise neatly extending throughout the entirety of the floor. With one look, he could see just how stocked the aisles were. They were full to the brim with just about every Silph Co. Product that pokemarts were allowed to carry.

If Ash were by himself, he wouldn't even know where to start. Thankfully, he wouldn't have to make that decision, since Robert was the one responsible for showing them around.

"If it's sold in a pokemart, you can find it here!" bragged Robert with a bit of pride in his voice as he led them over to the far left side of the store. "The number one draw about this mega pokemart is that we never run out of anything. Our staff works on overdrive to make sure that the shelves are always fully stocked, and we have the best customer service in all of Kanto!"

He paused as he pointed behind himself toward a surplus of busy check-out stations, "We have over thirty check-out stations and at least fifteen of them are always manned. With that many people working the counters, it's almost a guarantee that you will never have to wait in line!"

Ash watched as a gaggle of Silph Co. employees worked their tails off to ensure that the shoppers got out as fast as possible. The cashiers scanned any items being purchased efficiently and quickly, whereas the baggers placed the items in plastic bags like their life depended on it. It was actually rather impressive. The mega mart operated like a well-oiled machine, displaying a perfect image of exuberant productivity.

"There are essentially twenty-two aisles that make up the entirety of the store and each one of them is fully-loaded with the type of items that it is designated to hold," said Robert as he turned his attention away from the check-out area and pointed up towards the signs that were suspended above each individual aisle.

"Just like every other pokemart in the world, underneath each aisle's designated number, we have specified what it contains," continued Robert while pointing to the large, square sign that was suspended over the aisle furthest to their left. "Our busiest aisle is Aisle One, which is where all of our potions are located. All up and down Aisle One, you can find various types of potions."

Ash used his eyes to quickly scan the entirety of the store, and he noticed that Robert was right. Even as he spoke, Aisle One was definitely the busiest of all of the aisles. It didn't really surprise Ash, potions were a hot commodity amongst trainers. It was considered idiotic to travel without them, so virtually every trainer in Kanto frequently purchased them.

"Do you need to restock your supplies?" asked Austin as he nudged Ash in the side. "Might as well get everything you need while we're here. That way, you can head straight to Celadon from here."

"I'm actually good," said Ash, "I've got tons of potions and all of those full-restores from the SS Anne tournament."

"Well, is there anything else you need?" interrupted Robert. "Aisle Two is where all of our pokeballs and great balls are. Aisle Five is where you can find our status healers. Aisle Eight consists of all of our repels, and there are tons of other things you can get here. Do you need any food? Aisles fifteen through twenty-two make up our grocery section."

Ash racked his brain as he tried to think of something that could be useful to him during his trip to Celadon. His backpack was loaded with all of the essentials, so there wasn't really anything he necessarily needed. However, maybe there was something that would come in handy. He was at the largest pokemon center in all of Kanto. It would be a shame for him to not take advantage of his visit somehow.

"Your backpack looks like it's heavy," said Austin. "What about some depository cases?"

Ash's eyes brightened up at the brilliant suggestion. His backpack was starting to get heavy. Even though his bag was specially designed with specs similar to a pokeball, in the way that it could shrink all of the items inside, it couldn't do anything about an item's weight.

Professor Oak had designed it, and although the professor was an excellent pokemon researcher, he didn't specialize in the area of technology. He was adequate enough to design a device capable of manipulating an item's size. However, it took an expert to diminish density.

Silph Co. had scientists that made a living off of creating technology that denied the natural laws of physics. Not only could depository cases shrink an items size, but they also diminished the weight and density to that of a feather. The idea of lessening the strain on his back by purchasing a surplus of depository cases sounded amazing to the ten-year-old boy.

"That's a great idea!" exclaimed Ash as turned around and surveyed the signs above the aisles in order to track down where the mega pokemart kept its depository cases.

"Aisle Ten," informed Bill, using his eccentric voice for the first time in a while. "That's where we keep all of the items pertaining to storage."

"Gotcha'," said Ash as he began to shuffle his way toward Aisle Ten, "I'll be back in a second!"

"Hold up!" blurted Austin as he took off in a jog in order to catch up with Ash. "I'll help you pick some out. There are a lot of different sizes. If you've never had anyone explain them to you, you'll get confused."

"Thanks," said Ash as he heard Bill, Robert and Sabrina snicker behind them.

Simultaneously, he watched out of the corner of his eyes as a quartet of ACE trainers ambulated around them, providing a barrier of protection. Ash was a little bit confused by it at first, but then he remembered all of the bizarre looks of contempt that he had gotten from some of the bystanders.

As long as they were within close proximity to the likes of Robert, Bill and Sabrina, they would need some level of protection. Jealousy could make people do crazy things, and nothing made people more envious than situations such as this one.

"So, how much stuff are you trying to store in a case?" asked Austin as they made their way over to the storage aisle.

"Err...let me think…" muttered Ash while mentally sifting through everything that was in his backpack, "Well, my highest priority is all of the really heavy stuff."

"Well, what's the heaviest thing that you have in there?" asked Austin.

"My moonstone," answered Ash. "It sucks lugging that thing around."

"How much do you think it weighs?"

"Somewhere between twenty and thirty pounds," retorted Ash. "It's pretty heavy."

"Yeah, that's a lot of weight to put on your back," said Austin. "However, that's not that much weight for a depository case. Even the smallest size can handle fifty pounds."

"Fifty pounds, really!?" blurted Ash. "How much can the biggest one hold!?"

"A couple tons," replied Austin with a shrug, "which is more than enough to transport a car without breaking a sweat."

"Damn…" drawled Ash with an astonished look on his face, "technology is crazy."

"That's an understatement," said Austin with a smirk as they passed underneath the massive, blue sign that read: Aisle Ten.

Ash simply nodded in response to Austin's statement before using his eyes to examine all of the different objects that were being displayed around him. There were tons of different products such as backpacks, storage compartments, ordinary containers, badge cases, etc.…

He was kind of overwhelmed by how much stuff was jam-packed into a single aisle. It wasn't until they reached about the middle of the aisle that Ash finally spotted where they were keeping the depository cases.

Located on both sides of him was a surplus of black and grey boxes. All of them had the words "Silph Co. Depository Caseson the sides of them, which was adjacent to the total amount of cases in each box, as well as the weight capacity of each individual case.

They were sold in all sorts of different bundles. Ash saw some that were packaged with solely small fifty pound cases, whereas others consisted of only massive two ton cases. There were even variety packages, which included all sorts of different sized cases.

"Since the heaviest item in your bag is only about thirty pounds," said Austin as he pointed towards a box of depository cases on the bottom shelf, "it would make the most sense to get a twelve pack of the small ones."

"True…" drawled Ash, "but what if I need to carry something heavier in the future?"

"Like what?"

Ash used his brain to filter through possibilities, "Maybe a saddle. I have to get one for Pidgeotto when he evolves."

Austin scoffed, "Dude, you're crazy if you think a pidgeot is going to need a fifty pound saddle. Fearow's saddle is barely twenty pounds, and it's made out of tauros' hide. The only aerial pokemon that require saddles thick enough to add up to fifty pounds are dragon-types, and that's only to protect the rider from their sharp scales."

"I guess you're right," said Ash. "What do people usually use the larger depository cases for then? I mean, how many people travel with things that weigh more than fifty pounds?"

"Eh, they're typically used for things that you wouldn't be able to carry without them," retorted the teenager. "Depository cases have opened the door for all sorts of options that were previously impossible. You can use them to carry an abundance of evolutionary stones. Some people use them to carry their entire wardrobe. I've even known people that have traveled with a full-sized grill. Honestly, the possibilities are endless."

"Gotcha'," answered Ash. "I can't really see myself carrying anything that big. However, I might as well get one of the variety packs. You never know what might come up. Besides, it's not like it'll hurt."

"The variety packs are a lot more expensive, though," muttered Austin as he pointed at the most reasonably priced variety pack. "Look, the cheapest variety pack is three-thousand pokedollars; that's expensive as hell. A twelve pack of the small ones is only one thousand pokedollars, which is a freaking bargain."

"Money's not really an issue right now," said Ash with a smirk.

"Oh, yeah," replied Austin with bright eyes. "I forgot about the prize money. Say no more. Get a variety pack, my friend."

In subsequence to Austin's words, Ash reached down and picked up the variety pack that his teenage friend had previously pointed out.

"Let's see…" drawled Ash, "it says right here that it contains four fifty pound capacity cases, three one-hundred pound capacity cases, two two-hundred pound capacity cases, two five-hundred pounders, and one massive one-thousand pound capacity case."

"Yeah, dude," said Austin, "you're never going to use all of that space, but at least you have options. Go for it."

"I'm going to," retorted Ash with a smile. "I may not use all of the space in these cases, but that's okay. They'll come in handy."

"Gotcha'," said Austin with a nod. "So, do you want to keep looking around, or should we head back over to Robert and the others?"

"I say we head back over to Robert and the others," replied Ash. "For the most part, this place is just a really big pokemart. If there is anything else important to see, I'm sure Robert will show us."

"I agree," answered Austin, "let's go back."

It only took the boys a couple of minutes to get back to the rest of the group, and when they did, Robert immediately started raving about the cases that Ash had picked out.

"Great choice, Ash, great choice," said Robert while patting Ash on the back. "That is probably our best option as far as depository cases go. Lots of brilliant options in that box, that's for sure."

"Thanks," drawled Ash. "I figured it was. It seems to be the most well-balanced of the variety packs. I think I'll be able to put most of it to good use."

"You most definitely will," answered Robert.

"Yeah," added Bill, "now you don't have to be so frugal about what you purchase or find during your travels. Also, it's the perfect thing to have before going to the Celadon Department Store. Now you won't have to hold back."

"That's what I was thinking," replied Ash with a small smile.

All of a sudden, Sabrina interjected, "Did you see anything else you liked, Ash Ketchum?"

"Err…yeah, but nothing I need to get right now," said Ash. "I'd rather get on with the rest of the tour. Besides, I have a feeling that I'm going to be doing a lot of shopping in Celadon. I don't want to overdo it right now."

"Understandable," retorted Sabrina with vacant eyes and a nod.

"What about you, Austin?" asked Bill. "Need anything?"

"I'm good for now," answered Austin. "As far as supplies go, I have plenty."

"Splendid!" exclaimed Robert. "Let's go to the next floor then. There's a guarded elevator in the back. That's how we'll get to the fourth floor. From here on out, the rest of the floors are restricted to Silph Co. staff only. So, it will no longer be necessary for all of these ACE trainers to follow us around."

Excitement started to boil within Ash as he anticipated the rest of the tour, but there was one thing that he thought Robert was forgetting about.

"Hold on…" said Ash, "before we go, shouldn't I check out?"

There was an awkward moment of silence before Robert and Bill looked at each other and laughed.

After a brief chuckle, which confused Ash and Austin, Robert ceased his laughter and looked Ash in the eyes.

"Come on, Ash…" said Robert with a massive grin, "the Montgomery name is on every product in this store, and you put your life on the line to help save me. You can't possibly think that I would make you pay for that?"

"Wait, are you saying that I can have this for free?" questioned Ash with a look of astonishment. "But, it's three-thousand pokedollars."

"I fail to see your point," answered Robert with a puzzled expression.

"Dad," inserted Bill with a nudge, "three-thousand pokedollars is a lot of money for most people. Don't be an ignorant billionaire."

"Oh...of course," replied Robert with an embarrassed expression on his face, "sometimes I forget."

"Completely understandable," said Austin, chiming back into the conversation. "With the kind of money you have, I'm sure it's hard not to lose sight of its value every once in a while."

"That my friend is an understatement," replied Robert as he fixed his expensive, designer suit. "Anyways, let's get going. Next stop is the fourth floor."

"Alrighty!" exclaimed Bill.

"Sounds good," said Austin.

Sabrina answered affirmatively with a nod.

"Thanks, Mr. Montgomery," stammered Ash as he ruminated about the free gift that he had just gotten from the billionaire CEO.

"No need to thank me," answered Robert with a shrug. "It's not that big of a deal. You're a friend, lad, and I take care of my friends."

"Hey, old man!" interjected Bill with a sour expression. "Ash is my friend, not yours!"

Ash laughed as he watched Robert chuckle at his jealous, overdramatic son.

"Bill, Bill, Bill…" jeered Robert. "We're all friends. Don't be so envious."

Bill responded by sticking his tongue out at his father like a disrespectful child, causing everyone in the group to burst out into laughter.

Ash had to admit, this was a scene he had never expected when he left Pallet on his journey. I mean, how could he have?

He had formed legitimate friendships with so many amazing people in just a few months. It almost felt like someone, or something, was watching over him from above, blessing him in unimaginable ways.

He couldn't wait to find out what other unbelievable things would happen to him throughout his travels.

Later today, he would hit the road again. It would just be him and his pokemon, trekking Kanto in route to their next destination.

However, for now, he had the rest of Silph Co. headquarters to see. His thoughts about his forthcoming adventure could wait until later. He wanted to soak up every last moment he could with his friends.

Most likely, after today, he wouldn't see them for a while.

XXX

Floors four through ten were rather boring and didn't take that long for them to explore. They consisted of solely office space, and everyone, including Robert, wanted to pass through them as fast as possible.

Ash wasn't quite sure why Robert found it so essential to show them every nook and cranny of Silph Co. headquarters, however, it was pretty clear that even he didn't enjoy the floors that he had just shown them.

They did get to meet some semi-important members of Silph Co. headquarters' staff, although now that they were exiting the elevator onto floor eleven, Ash had already forgotten their names.

"Floor eleven is our manufactory floor, which is where we manufacture all of our goods on a large scale," explained Robert as they walked out into the momentous room.

The first thing Ash noticed was the hiigh-reaching ceiling. It was at least three times as tall as the rest of the floors' ceilings, giving the room a much more voluminous feel. If Ash had to guess, he would say that the manufactory floor took up at least three, maybe four, floors worth of space.

"Essentially, this is where we make all of our purchasable capture devices, potions, repels, etc.…" said Robert. "Anything that has grounded instructions, or a formula that is set in stone, is produced here in tremendous quantity."

"Gotcha'," retorted Austin, "so this is basically where you make all of the basic items."

"Yeah, pretty much," answered Robert. "To give you a better idea of what I'm talking about, I'll tell you some of the things that aren't produced here."

"Like?" asked Austin as he used his eyes to scan over his surroundings.

Ash did the same as he tried to process everything that was going on around him. The floor was flooded with busy workers wearing hard-hats, goggles, work clothes and thick gloves. As they walked by, they tipped their hats or gave a courteous wave. However, Ash could tell that they weren't overexcited by Robert's presence, signifying that the CEO most likely made plenty of trips to the manufactory level.

There were conveyor belts that were packaging a multitude of items, while the workers tinkered at their designated stations, making sure that whatever products they were working on didn't have any fallacies.

Ash noticed several different heavy pieces of equipment such as forklifts, robotic work cells, wire strippers, vibration wielders, torque tools and conformal coating equipment. The eleventh floor was a fully functioning factory.

Ash never would have guessed that something like this existed within Silph Co. headquarters, especially on a floor as high as the eleventh floor. It would be one thing if it was underground. It seemed much more logical to have a manufactory in a basement than on one of the upper-levels.

But, then again, who was he to question Silph Co.? He was just a ten-year-old kid after all. Robert probably had a perfectly sensible reason for putting a manufactory on an elevated level…

"Well, for starters, we don't make any of our items that aren't sold at a pokemart here," said Robert, breaching Ash's thoughts with his impassioned voice. "Things like ultra balls and full restores are made in the upper labs?"

"Upper labs?" queried Ash, clearly intrigued.

"Yeah," replied Robert as they watched a conveyor belt carrying finished great balls bring them over to a high-tech packaging machine, "there are five labs occupying floors twelve through sixteen. In those five labs, we do all of our experimentation as well as produce some of our rarer items."

"Interesting…" drawled Austin as they left the great ball conveyor belt and walked over to an assembly line of workers that were checking the packaging on some super potions. "Is each lab responsible for a specific item?"

"More like a field," replied Bill for the first time in a while. "Each lab is dedicated to a specific type of item."

"What do you mean?" asked Ash.

"Hmm…" murmured Bill as he raised his hand to his chin, "basically, they're distinguished by departments—medical, storage, capture devices, tools and TMs."

"Oh, I get it," retorted Austin. "So, if they are classified under one of those five categories, they would have essentially been created by that department."

"For the most part," said Bill. "That's how they are designed. The whole point of our labs is to discover new scientific breakthroughs. Once they complete one of their products, and get approval from my father, they send the instructions or formula down to this floor, so that it can be mass-produced."

"That's really cool," said Ash. "We'll get to see the labs, right?"

"Absolutely," answered Robert with a smile, obviously flattered that Ash had taken such an interest in what was going on at headquarters. "Like I said earlier, I'm going to show you everything. Thorough means thorough; you will see the entirety of the tower."

"Awesome," said Ash with a massive grin.

"Shall we proceed to the next floor, Robert," inserted Sabrina, who like Bill had been relatively quiet since the beginning of the tour, allowing Robert to do the majority of the talking. "The boys' minds say that they're eager to ascend to the labs."

Ash couldn't help but smile at how Bill and Sabrina were acting. It was clear how much they cared about Robert in the fact that they were allowing him to have his moment with Austin and himself.

Robert had been anticipating this tour for a couple of days now, and it was evident that it was important to him. Sometimes, the best way to show how much you cared about someone was to not get in their way. Right now, Bill and Sabrina were trying their very best to do that.

"Is that right, boys?" asked Robert. "Are you ready to move on?"

"Yeah!" exclaimed Ash with bright eyes. "I can't wait to see the upper labs!"

"I'm ready," replied Austin with a smile, "unless there's still something cool to see on this floor?"

"You've pretty much seen it all," answered Robert. "Everything is out in the open. The eleventh floor is one of my favorites, but that's only because of its significance and production. All of the truly fascinating things are above us."

"Alrighty then," said Austin with a shrug. "Let's go up."

"Back to the elevator it is then," replied Robert as he adjusted the expensive looking watch on his wrist. "It's time to see the fun stuff."

XXX

The first couple of labs were fascinating. Between the Medical Lab and the Storage Lab, Ash would have to say that he preferred the Storage Lab.

While the Medical Lab was interesting, it was also complex and hard to make sense of. The scientists and fancy equipment were entertaining to watch at work, but unless Robert explained things to the group, Ash had no idea what they were doing.

The scientists used way too much medical jargon to decipher what they were talking about, and there was no way to figure out what they were working on based off of the visualization of the different chemicals that they were handling.

It was also an awkward environment. None of the scientists paid them any mind. It reminded him of Lavender Town due to the overall lack of acknowledgement, albeit It wasn't quite as eerie, since the only reason the scientists were ignoring them was because they were overly engrossed in their work.

Nevertheless, it was perplexing. How could such brilliant people lack so much awareness when it came to their surroundings?

Despite the fact that he couldn't understand a vast amount of what was going on around him, the information that Robert shared with them was incredible, especially their development plans.

Apparently, Silph Co. was working on a product called Full Revive, which when finished would be able to not only wake a pokemon up from unconsciousness, but it would also be able to fully replenish a pokemon's health like a full restore.

Obviously, like a full restore, it wouldn't be permitted to be sold at pokemarts. However, it would be very beneficial for the League officials that would be authorized to use it, especially now that Team Rocket had emerged from the shadows.

Standard revives were a hot commodity to those that could afford them. Ash could only imagine how popular a full revive would be amongst the League…

Other than the fact that Ash could make a lot more sense of what the scientists in the Storage Lab were saying, there were a lot of things that he really liked about the Storage Lab.

First of all, the scientists were kind and attentive, taking the time to acknowledge them. Some of them even introduced themselves to Ash and Austin, which was a major positive after being ignored by all of the scientists in the Medical Lab.

Ash also enjoyed listening to them speak about how all of their products worked. They didn't use nearly as much jargon, so Ash could actually understand what they were saying as opposed to the scientists in the Medical Lab. In addition, he actually preferred physics over chemistry. In his opinion, it was way more interesting.

The fact that modern scientists could bend matter to their will blew his mind. He could get way more into that than the formulas that scientists in the medical field used to create their products.

Of course, as a pokemon trainer, he had to have a general knowledge of both types of sciences. In the world of pokemon, there were just way too many components of each field to not be informed of both…

Nevertheless, all thoughts of the first two labs were put to rest when they arrived on the fourteenth floor, which was where the Capture Device Lab resided.

He had never seen so many capture devices in his life. Pokeballs, great balls, ultra balls—there were thousands.

Scattered amidst the expansive room were hundreds of cubicles, and at each cubicle there was a tech specialist that was tinkering with a pokeball, great ball or ultra ball. Piled on their desks were several more capture devices, which were either finished or pending to be fiddled with.

As Robert led them away from the elevator and further into the room, they had to watch their step in order to avoid tripping on a plethora of mechanical spheres. The ground was littered with red, blue and black as pokeballs, great balls, and ultra balls were scattered about like mines in a minefield.

"Dammit, this place is a bloody mess again," groaned Robert as he stepped over a large pile of great balls. "Leave it to the techies to be able to function in such disarray."

"Does this happen a lot?" queried Austin as he used his foot to clear a path through an extremely cluttered section of the room.

"Enough for it to be annoying," spat Robert with a scowl. "This room is full to the brim with some of the most brilliant tech specialists in the world. Unfortunately, their type tends to be content to be disorganized. I may love this floor, due to what is accomplished here, but I can't spend too much time up here. The clutter irritates me."

"Gotcha—" managed Austin before getting cut-off by an old, nasally voice.

"Boss, what brings you to the fourteenth floor on this fine day?"

The owner of the voice looked to be in about his sixties and had a very peculiar appearance. His hair was long, grey and shaggy, resembling that of a homeless person. It covered his eyes, so that they were hidden from the world. He wore a big, black t-shirt with an image of a pokeball in the center of it, as well as a pair of tattered black sweats that looked about as old as he did.

Last but not least were his two bright, yellow slippers that both resembled a pikachu. Ash had to admit, they looked comfortable, albeit they weren't even close to being appropriate for a work environment.

However, after a second glance around the room, it didn't appear as if any of the techies were wearing proper work attire. The majority of them were dressed in t-shirts and either sweats or pajama bottoms. It was pretty clear that they abided by their own set of rules.

"Hello, Sebastian," muttered Robert while adjusting his suit. "I'm here for a tour."

"A tour?" questioned Sebastian. "For Sabrina and Bill, but they've been here hundreds of times? What's the point?"

"It's not for us…" muttered Bill while rolling his eyes and gesturing toward Ash and Austin, who Sebastian had somehow failed to notice up until now, "it's for the boys."

Reacting to Bill's words, Sebastian turned his head in the direction of Ash and Austin. If the dark-haired boy was able to see his eyes, he would assume that they would be looking at him in a confused manner.

"Hmm…" drawled Sebastian as he suddenly raised his hand to his chin before turning his head back toward Robert. "Boss, what do I do? I'm not good with children."

"Treat them like adults, and introduce yourself," retorted Robert, slightly amused. "These childrenare very dear friends of mine and deserve your utmost respect."

"Really?" replied Sebastian with a bit of bewilderment in his intonation. "But, they look like regular kids to me."

"Well, they're not," said Robert in an edgy tone. "They happen to be one of the main reasons that I am standing here right now. If it weren't for them, I would probably be dead."

"Hmm…I see, I see," said the shaggy, old man as he scratched the back of his head. "So, you kids saved the boss?"

"We helped," answered Ash with an awkward smile.

"We just did what we could," retorted Austin, slightly flustered. "A lot of people helped."

"Hmm…" mumbled Sebastian, "you two both seem like a couple of earnest young men…"

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