September 21 – Kanto***
The sun shone bright and clear over Celadon City. Pidgey fluttered through the skies and weaved through the streets looking for food. Stray Rattata and Meowth wandered the streets. But there was something off about the city; the streets, normally packed with people and pokémon were completely deserted. Garbage littered the streets and blew with the wind. It appeared that several stores had been looted by previous survivors… or pokémon.
Suddenly, a group of four strode through the streets. The sound of broken glass crunching underneath their feet echoed around the desolate avenues.
“We’re wasting our time; this place is empty!” one of the figures said. She brushed aside a lock of magenta hair as she surveyed the desolate streets. She adjusted the strap across her chest. The strap in question held a 12-gauge pump shotgun pilfered from Kaiza, the Safari Zone warden. Several shotgun shells were clipped onto her belt like poké balls.
“No Jessie. We don’t know that until we search this whole city,” another figure replied. He pulled his cap over his eyes to shield his eyes from the sunlight as he surveyed the ruins. The Pikachu on his shoulder looked around as well.
Suddenly, the third figure, a Meowth, spoke up as he turned to the youth in the baseball cap. “Ash, I know you’se want ta save as many as ya can but sometimes ya gotta accept that we can’t save them all,” he said. He kicked aside a discarded can of cola as he followed them. A thought crept into his mind; when was the last time he – or any one of them, for that matter had actually been able to enjoy a luxurious meal?
“What good is searching for survivors if we die in the process!?” Jessie snapped.
Ash sighed as Jessie’s words sank in; she was right, searching the whole city could lead to their deaths. “All right,” he said. “I’ll compromise.”
He then bought up the holographic map of Celadon City from his pokéglov and zoomed in on their rough position. “We’re close to the Celedon Gym. We’ll search there and a little bit of the surrounding area. If there are survivors, that’s the most likely place we’ll find them,” he said.
“Well, if Erika and her gals are still dere, I hope dey aren’t mad at us for trying ta blow up dere gym,” Meowth said. He shuddered to imagine what would happen if they had a grudge and used their undampened pokémon to attack them.
“We can always explain.”
The fourth figure said nothing as they trekked to the gym. She adjusted the two holsters around her thighs that held two semi-automatic pistols and four spare magazines. A flick of her head moved a stray lock of cerulean hair out of her line of sight.
On their way there, they passed by an abandoned sandwich shop with its front window smashed and its sign resting on the sidewalk. No sooner did they pass the shop’s door did a large pack of wild Meowth led by a Persian emerged from an alleyway. The Persian bared its teeth and growled something as the Meowth blocked off the street.
“Meowth, what’s it saying?” the fourth figure asked. Her hands rested on her twin pistols. She did not have them out yet but was ready to draw them.
Meowth gulped. “Dey are saying dat we are not welcome here,” he said. He turned around to move when another hiss tore through the air. “And they won’t let us leave.”
“Well, just great!” Jessie growled.
“Dawn, Jessie, get your pokémon and guns ready,” Ash whispered.
The Meowth and Persian glared at the interlopers. The tension in the air seemed to thicken.
Suddenly, a Meowth lunged at the nearest target – Ash. Almost immediately, Pikachu jumped off his master’s shoulder with his tail a steely grey color. A quick spinning slash sent the attacker’s head flying and splashed drops of blood on the others.
Almost immediately, Yanmega, Prinplup and Lopunny appeared from the pokéglovs of their trainers. At the same time, Jessie and Dawn’s guns leapt into their hands
The wild pokémon stared in astonishment at the decapitated Meowth at their feet. Suddenly, they charged.
A pale blue beam shot from Lopunny’s mouth as she struck a Meowth with Ice Beam. Before it could defrost, it was reduced to hunks of frozen meat as Jessie pumped two shotgun rounds into the ice sculpture.
A Meowth leapt at Dawn only to seemingly freeze in midair and crash to the ground in a pool of its own blood as Dawn’s precisely aimed bullets crashed into its head and body. Meowth cowered behind Jessie as she continued pumping round after round into the pack. A smoking shotgun shell landed by his feet. He looked at the battlefield and saw a Meowth’s head practically explode in a shower of brain and bone as it took a shotgun blast at near point-blank range. He fought back nausea as he saw Prinplup bisect a group of Meowth with Water Gun, using the thread of pressurized water like an aquatic blade. The fact that these were Meowth – his own kind – made the feeling worse; he now started to understand how Ash felt when he shot Kaiza.
Meanwhile, Pikachu parried a Scratch attack from a Meowth with Iron Tail. A quick spin left the Meowth with two bloody stumps and a quick Thunderbolt reduced it to a charred carcass. He ducked under another Scratch attack and countered with Iron Tail. Ash backhanded a Meowth that leapt at him. The pokéglov protected him from injury and added power to his blow as he heard something inside the Meowth break.
Jessie screamed as a Meowth latched onto her leg and began scratching her, leaving bloody gashes on her leg. She dropped the shells that she had in her hand and tried to shake the Meowth off.
Meowth reacted instantly, tackling the offending Meowth and attacking with Fury Swipes. His razored claws tore through flesh and fur, spattering blood all over his coat and Jessie. Unfortunately, he had little experience in combat compared to these street-tough Meowth and he was quickly overpowered.
The victorious Meowth’s claws were wreathed in a purple glow as it prepared to deliver the finishing blow with Night Slash. Suddenly, the Meowth stiffened and toppled over onto the bloody pavement.
Meowth looked up at his savior. It was Dawn; one pistol was trained on the now dead Meowth. Almost nonchalantly, she put a bullet into the brain of another Meowth with the other pistol. She had no idea how to explain it, but it was like some force guided her hand, letting her fire her twin pistols like she had been practicing all her life and then some.
He got a look at Dawn’s face. She no longer had the happy, go-lucky expression of the coordinator he had met long ago. Her face had the weather-beaten appearance of a hardened warrior. Her face made her seem older than her ten years. Her features and actions seemed cold, mechanical. She said nothing nor made an expression as she moved, aimed and fired. Dawn successfully landed a perfect headshot on a Meowth lunging towards her with one pistol and the other pistol caught another Meowth in the leg, crippling it.
Dis girl would make a Remoraid jealous. Meowth thought as he watched in awe of Dawn’s sharpshooting abilities. This was quite a complement as Remoraid were well known for their extraordinarily accurate projectile attacks.
By now, the Meowth were starting to get hesitant about attacking, seeing as many fell by either the trainer’s pokémon or their guns. Many of them hung back but the Persian hissed encouragement. One of them timidly stepped forward, only to be completely reamed by a Hydro Pump from Prinplup, leaving little more than its flaccid pelt on the ground. Another Meowth met a shattering end, courtesy of Lopunny’s Ice Beam and Yanmega’s Sonic Boom.
A Bug Buzz from Yanmega caused several Meowth to screech in agony. Blood streamed from their ears as the intense sound perforated their eardrums. They continued forward but a SonicBoom tossed them against the concrete. They stepped forward, vomited blood and then keeled over – the internal damage produced by the SonicBoom was too much.
Jessie picked up the shells she dropped and slid them into her shotgun. As much as she tried to deny it, she actually enjoyed this somewhat. She had a bit of a violent streak and she enjoyed battling. She tried to hold it in but she failed; the adrenaline surging through her veins came out in an excited whoop as she pumped her shotgun and blew out the brains of another Meowth.
Dawn on the other hand seemed to be in a trance. She mechanically ejected the spent magazine from her right pistol, grabbed the magazine from her holster and slid it into her gun. She chambered a round and shot another Meowth. She seemed not to notice the gashes on her legs from the Meowth that had made it past her lethal shots.
The last three Meowth were all frozen and shattered by a combination of Prinplup’s Ice Beam, Yanmega’s SonicBoom and Jessie’s shotgun.
The Persian, seeing the group decimate its pack stepped forward. Enraged, its body began to crackle with yellow lightning as it prepared to use its secret weapon - Thunderbolt. But before it could react, several bullets crashed into it. It teetered back slightly, its electric corona flickering weakly then fading into nonexistence as it collapsed in a pool of its own blood.
Jessie slung her shotgun across her back. She wiped off a bead of sweat on her forehead. “Okay, how about we leave before we get killed by more pokémon?”
“Not until we get to the gym,” Ash said. “Besides, we’ll have our pokémon out to protect us.”
Dawn was panting heavily as she slid a new magazine into her now empty left pistol and picked up the other magazine that she had dropped during the battle. Her arms trembled as she slid her smoking pistols back into their holsters.
“Can you walk?” Meowth asked Jessie.
Jessie nodded. “I’ll be fine; it’s just a few scratches.”
Ash surveyed the surroundings, completely ignoring the dead pokémon around him. He finally spotted the distinct Vileplume shaped building that was Celedon City’s gym only a few hundred meters away. “There!” he said, pointing to the building.
The group then headed towards to the building. The Rattata and Pidgey mostly ignored them, being more concerned with their own survival than Ho-Oh’s mandate. They did encounter a few stray Meowth but Meowth was able to persuade them to leave the group alone and if they persisted, a warning shot from Dawn usually did the trick.
When they arrived at the building, they were struck at how badly damaged it was. While most of the buildings in the city had superficial damage like broken windows, small holes punched in their facades or destroyed signs and doors, the gym looked like it had been through a war. Pieces of concrete from the roof lay scattered around the gym’s exterior and the Vileplume flower on the roof was so badly damaged it was barely recognizable as a flower anymore. Not to mention, the gym looked like it had been set on fire – multiple times.
“Wow, dis gym is in even worse condition than when we tried to steal da secret perfume formula,” Meowth said, gazing upon the ruined structure. He was referring to the time Jessie and James attempted to steal Erika’s perfume formula, which resulted in them blowing up half the gym and nearly burning it to the ground.
Ash went up to the door with Dawn and Jessie covering him. The doors stayed shut at his approach.
“Great, power’s out,” he muttered. He then wedged his fingers in the gap between the doors and tried to pry them open but something prevented it from opening more than a few inches. He then picked up a nearby piece of concrete and hurled it at the glass, leaving a giant crack but still not breaking it.
Jessie rolled her eyes, grabbed her shotgun and put a round through the door, causing it to explode into a pile of tiny glass fragments. She then used her gloved hands to sweep away the glass still remaining in the frame and stepped through with Dawn and the others following.
They were now inside what used to be the lobby. A potted plant – or the pile of ceramic shards and dirt that remained of it – lay in the left corner of the room. All the chairs and the elegant wood table had been smashed to pieces. The computer on the service counter was completely gone. A group of bullet holes pocked the front of the counter from Jessie’s shotgun blast. The only light in the room was the sunlight that filtered in through the shattered door and the grimy windows. A fine layer of dust coated everything.
Dawn sniffed the air. She wrinkled her nose at the stench of neglect and the faint scent of death. She returned Lopunny to her pokéglov.
Meowth shivered despite how warm it was inside the gym. His voice wavered as he spoke, “Guys, let’s find Erika and da others before we run into something we can’t handle?”
Ash looked around the ruined lobby. “He’s right; we need to move.”
He then noticed that there were two entrances. “All right,” he said. “We split up. Dawn, come with me. Meowth, go with Jessie. I want you all to check in with me every five minutes. Look for survivors, if there are no survivors, take supplies. Food, water, medicine and weapons. We meet up in the lobby in twenty minutes. Got it?”
Dawn nodded. Ash’s orders made sense but she did have to chuckle inside at his last item he requested. Weapons? As if Erika and her fellow trainers kept a stash of weaponry in their gym? How ridiculous!
Jessie and Meowth nodded their affirmation. As soon as that was done, the group split up and headed down the two passageways.
Dawn and Ash were walking along the deserted hallways of the gym. The air was dank and humid with the odor of decay. Since the power was out, the only light they had was from their pokéglovs.
Ash panned across the walls with his light. The walls were deeply scored with scratch marks and they were marked with assorted graffiti and streaks of what appeared to be blood. A few decaying corpses and bones of Rattata were scattered around. He shuddered; this place was extremely creepy but as a leader, he had to show no fear.
Dawn had only one of her pistols out as she kept the hand with her pokéglov free to serve as a flashlight. She tried to calm her racing heart but the darkness of the area spooked her.
A noise in front of her made her scream. Instinctively, she trained her pistol on the source of the noise.
She took a deep breath as she realized what the source of that noise was. It was only Pikachu.
“Don’t scare me like that!” she scolded. She took a few seconds to try and calm her panting breaths and racing heart.
Pikachu’s ears lowered as he returned to his position alongside Dawn.
Jessie and Meowth were in a dilapidated hallway much like the one that Dawn and Ash were in.
“J…Jessie, dis place don’t look too inviting,” Meowth said. Yanmega flew overhead, giving him sense of security but the streaks of blood on the walls and floor did not bode well.
“Quit your yapping!” Jessie snapped. She stopped by a door and tried the handle. Locked.
Meowth extended a claw. “Allow me.”
In a few seconds, he had picked the lock, allowing the group entrance.
They were met with a storage room completely in shambles. The crates were smashed open and the shelves overturned. Broken vials of perfumes lay scattered all over the floor. The rear window had been smashed. All signs that looters had gotten here first.
“Nothing,” Meowth said.
Jessie then exited and headed down the hallway, looking for survivors.
Dawn and her Prinplup were standing by another locked door. Ash had left to go fetch something to break down the door with.
Dawn nervously clenched her pistols, taking care not to accidentally fire them. Every sound carried with it fear; fear of wild pokémon; fear of hostile looters. She nervously chuckled; she could take them? Right? After all, she took on the swarm of Cloyster on the bridge and lived.
A noise made her turn around with dual pistols at the ready.
“Easy Dawn, it’s me” Ash said, backing up from the twin .45 caliber pistols only a few feet from his face. He carried a fire ax that he had evidently pilfered from somewhere in the gym.
“Don’t sneak up on me!” Dawn snapped, her body trembling. She lowered her pistols but did not holster them.
“Sorry.” Ash then got to work chopping away at the door’s hinges and lock while Dawn stood guard.
After a few minutes, he was done. He put the ax aside and kicked down the door. The battered door fell inwards with a loud crash. He was immediately rewarded with the nauseating mélange of rotting vegetation, stagnant water and decaying flesh. The stench immediately struck him like a Giga Impact to the face, forcing him to stagger back.
Suddenly, his pokéglov’s phone rang. He opened the phone. “Hey Ash, this is Jessie. We’re currently outside a room labeled ‘Scent Lab'.”
The rancid stench threatened to make Ash hurl but he fought the bile rising up in his throat. “What did you find?” he said, his voice sounded rather unusual thanks to the fact he was holding his nose with his free hand.
He was interrupted by the sound of Dawn vomiting around a nearby corner. He rolled his eyes; then again, the hallway was covered in graffiti, streaks of blood and carcasses; a little vomit was insignificant.
“A first aid kit but nothing else. Jessie out,” Jessie said just as the connection was terminated.
Ash closed the phone and ran to help Dawn.
Meowth and Jessie were outside the scent lab. The door had been hastily slammed shut behind them.
“You just had to open that door, didn’t you?!” Jessie snapped. She was trying hard not to vomit from the stench of the broken vials of perfume ingredients, most of which happened to smell revolting at high concentrations.
“Well, where else can we go?” Meowth countered. He was tasked with holding the first aid kit.
Jessie’s eyes caught sight of a door labeled “Main Garden and Arena”. She said nothing but opened the door.
She immediately stepped back as the stench of decay and death wafted out. “What is that odor!?” she shouted, clamping a hand to her nose.
Meowth took a deep breath and stepped into the room. The room used to be the garden that Erika and her fellow trainers used for gym battles. The Kanto sun streamed through the shattered windows of the greenhouse that enclosed the garden. The sun shone over a wasteland of dead and dying plants.
Yanmega flitted overhead, looking for threats.
When Dawn was finished, Ash approached her. “You okay?” he asked.
Dawn nodded as she spat a few times. “I think so.”
“Good, now let’s go.”
The two then entered the garden. They tried to breathe through their mouths but the odor was so strong it still found its way into their nostrils.
“Wow, this is sure different than my last visit here,” Ash commented, glancing around at the dead vegetation and broken glass that littered the ground.
The two rounded a corner and found themselves in front of a decorative pond. The pond in question used to be crystal clear for people and pokémon to swim and relax in. Now it was a disgusting black cesspool with garbage, dead plant matter and even a few Pidgey and Rattata carcasses floating in it. A horrid odor wafted from the pool.
“Gross!” Dawn said.
Ash ignored her and continued looking for survivors. He parted a bush and gasped at what he saw.
Dawn came running up behind him with her pistols at the ready.
Her eyes widened at what Ash saw.
The decomposing corpses of Erika and her fellow trainers. All of them were sprawled out with their dead pokémon. From the looks of things, it looked like they tried to put up a last stand but they failed.
Ash bowed his head in respect for the fallen trainers. Dawn followed suit.
“There’s no survivors; let’s go,” he said.
Suddenly, Yanmega, Meowth and Jessie burst through another bush.
“Funny meeting up with you guys here,” Meowth said.
“We’re leaving,” Ash said. “Everyone’s dead and it seems like other looters got here first.”
The group remained silent as they exited the gym turned tomb and returned to the deserted streets of Celadon.
When they returned to their campsite, they were greeted by the smell of Brock’s cooking. Samurai was busy practicing his swordsmanship while Duplica practiced her imitations, entertaining Lt. Surge and some of the pokémon. James and Misty were sitting at a table cleaning their weapons, Kaiza’s Thunderbolt revolver and a submachine gun respectively. Thanks to Lugia’s wish, a few hours of shooting transformed James and Misty from total newbies to veterans of gunplay. They still could not match up to Dawn, yet.
Ash, Dawn and Jessie released their pokémon to keep watch and to interact with each other.
Ash went over to watch Duplica while Dawn and Jessie headed over to the ammo cache.
Dawn said nothing as she cleared her pistols and popped out the magazines. She sat on the ground and opened a box of pistol rounds. She sighed as she slid them into the magazine.
She looked at the twin pistols in front of her. This was the second time that she had taken lives with them. Her heart churned. Yes, the guns turned her from a liability to a valuable asset but she did not want to be an asset solely because of her killing potential. At the same time, she felt valued. But it seemed like she was valued for her supernaturally sharp vision, reflexes and her twin pistols – and nothing else.
As she finished reloading her pistols and spare magazines, she stood up and adjusted her holster. She doubted her mom would approve of the things she had done in the past few weeks. Hell, she doubted if she would approve of anything that the group had done in these past weeks. She fought back tears as she thought about her mother.
She was interrupted from her ruminations by Brock’s call for lunch.
As she ate Brock’s Pidgeotto stew, she thought back to the carefree days that she had traveled with the three without risk of death. She reached down and adjusted her holsters slightly.
She thought back to the two ribbons that she had won. She suppressed some tears as she realized that there will never be a Grand Festival, not when pokémon attacks were capable of reducing someone to a red mist; no one wants to go to a contest and end up witnessing a massacre.
As she ate her Pidgeotto stew, she wondered. What would the future bring? Would she be able to become “Champion Coordinator Dawn” or will she forever be saddled with the title “Dawn, the Gunslinger”?