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  1. #106
    A black and white world Blackjack Gabbiani's Avatar
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    Rockety goodness and grand plots! What more can a Blackjack ask for?

    (although "bawled" indicates crying. You might wanna look into that)

  2. #107
    Religion is a club Every Breaking Wave's Avatar
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    And here we are with the next update. You must all be enjoying this unusually quick-paced schedule. But hey, four uploads in just over a week beats four updates in the last six months (which is what I had been doing through 2008 up until this point, sadly). Anyways, on with the chapter! And like always, please review!

    Chapter 36: Truce


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    Drew opened his eyes. His body burned with pain, his cheeks were damp and scarred, but for the first time in over two years his mind was clear. And he knew then, fully for the first time, what his lust had cost him. He closed his eyes, trying to suppress a few tears. It was obvious to him, now, what had happened. And he knew too what had saved him.

    He saw Max lying in the earth several yards away, unmoving as he gazed at the stars. Drew would have thought him to be asleep where it not for his wide, staring eyes, and the soft sounds of remorse he made. Leaning next to him in concern was his Gardevoir, her body shaking with fatigue and an inner pain. But the moment that Drew approached, she raised her head and glared at him, moving her arms into an attack position. Noticing this, he decided that the best tactic would be to stop moving and try a vocal approach instead.

    “Max?” he called tentatively, and when there was no response he tried again a little louder. “Max?” This time the young trainer seemed to have heard and he slowly turned his head towards the Coordinator, although his eyes were unfocused and staring.

    “You’re alive,” Max stated. Drew said nothing, waiting for him to continue. “I thought I’d killed you,” Max went on, more to himself than to Drew.

    “You didn’t,” Drew answered, and another uncomfortable silence followed for several minutes.

    “How are you feeling?” Max asked. Drew let out a short bark of laughter.

    “Better than I have for over two years,” he admitted. This caught Max’s attention, his gaze becoming sharp and attentive as he got to his feet.

    “You were hit by a Stage-3 Psychic,” he said. “I tortured you with it. You should be lying on the ground in pain, virtually incapacitated; not standing here saying that you feel fantastic.”

    “My body is burning with the pain,” Drew said bluntly. “I feel like I should be dying from it. I am in agony right now physically. But I haven’t felt this good mentally for years. Max; you’ve saved me.” Max was taken aback by this.

    “I don’t understand,” he muttered.

    “I was obsessed,” Drew said. “Years ago in Kanto, I fell in love with your sister. But my love faded and was replaced by lust. I became obsessed with her body, and couldn’t get her out of my mind. I lied to her, I deceived her, I played with her mind; all to try and get her to be with me. I didn’t care about the way she felt, I forget she had her own feelings. I manipulated her into doing what I wanted, because what I wanted was her body.” He noticed the stony expression covering Max’s face and hurried on.

    “Barely a week after she agreed to be with me, I met up with another girl. She was different from May in a couple of ways. For one thing, she was obsessed by me and was willing to do anything I wanted her to, no matter how despicable it was. For another thing, her body was even more attractive than your sister’s. My lust switched almost overnight, from May to this new girl.”

    “Brianna,” Max said coldly.

    “Brianna,” Drew agreed. “And then, right when it seemed that everything was going in my favour, Brianna turned up with Harley and dumped me.”

    “Which you deserved,” Max snarled.

    “It drove me insane,” Drew shot back. “I lost my mind and swore vengeance on both of them for what they’d done to me. And then I remembered your sister and fell in love with her body all over again. I was desperate to have her back, but every time I found her... she rejected me. It drove me deeper and deeper into despair and longing.”

    “I don’t understand what you’re trying to say,” Max said after a moment.

    “I went insane, mad, nutty, crazy, mental, whatever word you want to use! I lost my reason, my rationale. I lost my mind, Max. I can barely remember anything that’s happened in the last year. Max, by attacking me with that Psychic... Every wrong thing that I’ve ever done, every person I’ve hurt, I saw it all again. You may have hurt my body, but you did much more than that. You freed my mind.”

    “So you’re saying that by torturing you, I got rid of your insanity?” Max asked.

    “That’s exactly what I’m saying,” Drew affirmed.

    “And I thought it was usually the other way around,” Max muttered before looking Drew in the eyes. “I still hate you for what you’ve done to my sister,” he said.

    “It’s impossible for you to hate me more than I hate myself,” Drew answered, holding out his hand. “Shake?” Gardevoir hissed in distaste but after a moment of appraisal, Max took the proffered hand and shook it once, just once.

    “Come on,” he said, recalling his Gardevoir and turning away. “If you’re truly sorry then you can start earning some forgiveness by doing something for me.”

    “What’s that?’

    “I need your help.”

    “With what?” Drew persisted. Max halted, looking in the direction of Mount Silver.

    “What do you know about Deoxys or Team Rocket?” he asked.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    “Meowth!” Jessie screamed again as a second Salamence circled overhead several times before flying off around the side. For a brief moment there was silence and she feared the worst. But then, as the dust began to settle, there was a great hacking cough and Meowth became visible, standing frozen between the fallen Salamence’s neck and wing.

    “Dat was too close,” he moaned, before hacking out another cloud of dust. Jessie ran forwards in relief, ready to hug and berate the life out of him, but came to a screeching halt when the massive dragon-type stirred. It climbed slowly to its feet, and to the greatest surprise of both Jessie and Meowth revealed the shape of a man who had pinned underneath it. His eyes burned with anger as he looked in the direction the second Salamence had gone.

    “I will get her back for what she has done,” Silver swore, climbing painfully to his feet. “She won’t know what hit her.” And then he noticed the open-mouthed Jessie standing mere feet from him, the red ‘R’ emblazoned on her white shirt. “A Rocket, eh?” he roared, grabbing hold of a second Poke Ball as he shifted into a fighting stance. “I think it’s time to play some more!”

    “Mime! Mime-mime!” a little voiced squeaked, running past the angry Silver and throwing itself into Jessie’s arms. “Mime mime mime!” Silver stared at the little Mime Jr. in astonishment, the Poke Ball in his hand forgotten.

    “That’s your Mime Jr.?” he asked. “It saved my fall when we fell by using Reflect; stopped us from hitting the ground as fast we would have done and it stopped Hunter J’s goggles from finding us in the dust. So is it yours?”

    “I... eh... ah...” she stammered.

    “Jessie, dis is Jimmy’s Mime Jr.!” Meowth realized. He turned to Silver, sliding out his claws. “Alright, start talkin’! What did ya do with da rest of James’s Pokemon?” he snarled. The heavy breath of the Salamence on his neck quickly made him remember his manners. “Please?” he asked, retracting his claws with a blush. Silver stared at him.

    “You can talk!” he said incredulously.

    “Dat, or you’ve gone loopy,” Meowth answered. "Personally, I prefer loopy."

    “It was a pretty high fall,” Silver muttered to himself. Then he shook his head. “Let’s move,” he ordered. “Team Rocket hasn’t seen us yet, but they will do soon enough now that the dust has cleared. Into the woods, go.” They traipsed into the forest for several moments before Silver judged them far enough away for the moment.

    “Feahhh, Fearow fee,” a small Fearow called down to Mime Jr. from a nearby tree.

    “Mime-mime, miiime!” Mime Jr. answered.

    “Meowth, what are they saying?’ Jessie asked, noticing that the normal-type was listening attentively.

    “Dat Fearow is asking Mime Jr. if it knows us,” Meowth answered. “Mime Jr. told it dat we’re James’s best friends, and not to worry about us.”

    “Why would the Fearow want to know that?” Jessie wondered, puzzled.

    “Because James caught dis Fearow,” Meowth answered, listening hard to the conversation between the two Pokemon. “It wants ta know if it can trust us.”

    “James caught a Fearow?” Jessie asked, surprised.

    “I’ve been working with a Pokemon owned by a member of Team Rocket?” Silver asked, even more incredulous than Jessie. “Why would it work with me to destabilize Team Rocket if it’s owned by a Rocket?”

    “If ya’d just let me listen to da bird, I’d be able to let ya know,” Meowth said to him a little crossly. “Right start at da beginning,” he told the Fearow. Training its attention on Meowth, the Fearow began to caw out its explanation. “Okay, so James caught ya when ya fell out of a tree after a mean trainer with an Electivire attacked da nest,” Meowth repeated. “He seemed like a nice guy so ya decided ta follow him around and be one of his Pokemon. Den one day you’d stopped and dat nasty trainer sprung a trap on James. He got taken away by a bunch’a Grunts and his other Pokemon were taken too. They didn’t get you because they didn’t see ya up in a tree.

    “When ya followed dem, ya heard ’em say dat he was gonna be killed, just like dey tried ta do wid me an’ Jessie. Dey took him inside an’ you waited outside for a coupla days, butcha didn’t see him again. Den one day dis man ran outside chased by a buncha Grunts. So ya decided to help him out, cause by dis time ya hate dose Rockets, and you been helpin’ him up till now.”

    “Wait,” Jessie said, beginning to panic. “So does that mean James is still inside? Or is he already...” She couldn’t finish the sentence, but Silver took over.

    “He wearing a white uniform like yours – minus the skirt – and have blue hair?” he enquired.

    “You’ve seen him?” Jessie gasped.

    “They put him in my cell,” Silver answered. “Then one guy – a nasty trainer with an Electivire – called him out of the cage, saying he had one last chance to save his life and to go with him. Then he shocked me and left, but forgot to lock the cage door. That’s how I was able to get out and escape. Your friend is alive, but for how long I have no clue; any inkling as to why they want him dead?”

    “Not a clue,” Jessie answered. “They sent two of their Grunts – who were coincidentally our biggest rivals – to kill me and Meowth. We’d be dead if a kid and his Tyranitar hadn’t stopped them. I’m guessing that this guy with the Electivire found James and tricked him into going back to the base.” She sighed. “Meowth and I can’t go back; we’ve got a price on our heads and if we return we’ll be killed. We aren’t Team Rocket anymore.”

    “If you can’t go back, then why are you standing right outside the base?” Silver asked her accusingly.

    “We were looking for da north coast,” Meowth answered, glaring daggers at Jessie. “Someone can’t navigate.”

    “I said I was sorry!”

    “You never said anything like!”

    Silver sighed, watching them bicker. “You can’t return, so it’s no good just standing around here,” he said, glancing back in the direction of the headquarters. “Your fellow Rockets want you dead?”

    “The boss and Cassidy do at least,” Jessie answered.

    “Then you can help me,” Silver said bluntly. “There’s something suspicious going on inside your HQ. I was in there earlier today to get back my Pokemon and a Moltres suddenly came from nowhere and blasted its way out of the castle. It got caught again, thanks to Pokemon Hunter J, but...”

    “You tink dere may be more dan dat Moltres being held,” Meowth realized.

    “Right,” Silver nodded. “If we work as a team we can sneak inside, free the legendary Pokemon, and cripple the Rockets plan!”

    “Sounds dangerous,” Jessie muttered, and Silver grinned wolfishly.

    “Danger is my middle name,” he said.

    “Yeah? What’s your first?” Meowth asked.

    “Silver,” he said. “Now if you’re gonna help me out, come with me; I’ve know a place we can hide while we plan. If you’re not, well,” he shrugged, “best of luck to you.” He turned and began walking deeper off into the trees.

    “Do we go with him or go north?” Jessie asked Meowth.

    “If we go wid him, we ain’t gonna get lost at least,” Meowth answered, following the gigantic man into the forest.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    “So the Wobbuffet’s doing okay?” Ash asked.

    “Better than okay,” Brock said, shaking his head in amazement. “I’ve never seen a Pokemon so near death recover so quickly! It’s incredible. That Wobbuffet is already walking around; if its trainer happened to pass by today, I think it would be ready to travel by tomorrow.”

    “That’s great news,” Ash said, leaning back against his chair and closing his eyes.

    “So Rey’s still training?” Brock asked.

    “Mmmhmm,” Ash answered, his eyes still closed. “Dawn went down about an hour ago to train with her; it’ll really help Rey to go against a Contest style since she’s never battled a Coordinator before.”

    “Ash,” Anabel called, walking onto the balcony. “There’s a phone call for you. It’s Professor Oak.”

    “Thanks, Anabel,” Ash said, opening his eyes and swinging his legs over the side of his chair. “I think I know what this is about.” He tried to get up and realize he was stuck in his position. “Uhh, little help?” he asked.

    “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Brock sighed.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    May was already at the phone when Ash arrived. “Anabel told me on the way up to you,” she explained. “It’s about the infection that I had.”

    “I thought it might be,” Ash said, sitting down on the bench next to her and looking at the video screen. “Professor Oak; what’s the news?”

    “Well, you were partially right, Ash,” Professor Oak answered, his face a little pale. “It isn’t the Pokerus, but it’s very similar genetically. We aren’t sure what it is; nothing like this has ever been described before. It’s possible May was the first person ever to be infected by it.”

    “So you don’t know anything about it?” Ash asked.

    “Nothing for certain, but we can guess quite a bit by drawing on our knowledge of the Pokerus.” Professor Oak said. “For instance, one of the side effects of the Pokerus in a Pokemon is increased power and strength. So...”

    “So you mean I could be as strong as a superhero?” May asked, her voice rising in excitement.

    “Well, no,” Professor Oak said with a smile. “A Pokemon’s strength is increased gradually over the 24 hours of infection. You were only infected for two hours tops, and the fever would have killed you if it had been any longer than that. My guess is that you’ll be stronger than you were before, but not by too much.”

    “Oh,” May said, disappointed.

    “Cheer up; it means it’ll be easier to do housework and move heavy objects,” Oak said.

    “Great,” she grumbled.

    “Professor,” Ash interrupted, “when Latias was infected, you sent nearly everybody outside since she was contagious. Could May have passed on the disease to any of us?” Oak shook his head.

    “I don’t think so,” he said. “If the disease had spread to any of you, you’d have shown the symptoms days ago. You don’t have anything to worry about there.”

    “That’s a relief,” Ash said. “Oh, I almost forgot; Lt. Surge gave me some sort of rock to give to you. The Zap Plate, or something like that?”

    “Yes,” Oak said, frowning. “I was meaning to ask you about that. You see, I had fifteen other plates in my basement lab, but they’ve all been stolen.”

    “What?” May asked, surprised.

    “Yes, it was a nasty shock. We discovered it the morning after Paul threatened Delia,” Oak said. “Tracey thinks that the two events may be connected.”

    “So Paul isn’t travelling alone?” Ash asked with a sinking heart. May gave him an ‘I told you so’ look.

    “That could well be the case,” Oak answered. “We know Paul’s after the GS Ball, but we had no clue about the Plates. It’s possible that they were stolen by somebody entirely different, but...” he paused. “I’ll do some research to try and see if there are any historical connections between the GS Ball and the stone Plates. I’ll let you know if I find anything out.”

    “Right,” Ash nodded. Professor Oak gave him a long, searching look.

    “Be careful, Ash. Paul wants the GS Ball, and he knows you have it. If he is after the Zap Plate and finds out that you have that as well... It’s imperative that he doesn’t get either one.”

    “I understand, Professor,” Ash said quietly. “I’m going to leave the Battle Tower tomorrow and keep going west. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours to reach Tohjo Falls, and then I can cut south and back to Pallet Town.”

    “Hopefully you’ll lose him on the river,” Oak said. “Be careful, Ash.”

    “I will,” Ash answered, and the connection was terminated.

    You’re leaving tomorrow and then you’ll cut south to Pallet?” May echoed. “You know damn well that I’m going with you, Ash Ketchum.”

    “Of course,” Ash said with a smile.

    “And I doubt that Brock, Rey, or Dawn will want to stay behind either,” she added. “Stop trying to get rid of us.”

    “I’m sorry May, and I’m not trying to do that,” Ash said. “It’s just... I’m worrying about Paul, and whether we can find a way to destroy the GS Ball.”

    “You’ll find a way,” she said softly, putting an arm around him and resting her head on his shoulder. “I know you will.”

    “But at what cost?” he asked, returning the gesture.

    "Ash," May said, looking him in the eyes. "You have the GS Ball for a reason; you're the only one who can protect us by keeping it away from Paul. And if, to protect us, you have to destroy it..."

    "Then that's exactly what will happen," he finished. They were silent for a moment, and then...

    "Ash?" May asked softly.

    "Yes, May?"

    "When you were battling Cynthia... At the end of the ten-minute break, I was feeling kinda down. But then Anabel told me that you were wearing half-a-ribbon around your neck, and it cheered me up." She hesitated. "Was it... was it our ribbon?" Ash nodded.

    "Going into that match, I knew I'd need all the inspiration I could get. And that's why I wore the ribbon."

    "I don't understand."

    "You're my inspiration, May," he said tenderly. "I wore it because it reminded me of you, and it gave me the strength I needed. Having that ribbon there with me... it was like having a part of you there by my side. You inspired me to battle, and you inspired me to win. When I was out there against Cynthia, I wasn't battling for myself, or for a title. I was battling for you."

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    “Team Rocket and Deoxys?” Drew repeated. “Almost nothing, besides the fact that Deoxys helped to destroy my hometown and terrorized some of my friends; why?”

    “Team Rocket is a really nasty criminal gang who steal Pokemon,” Max answered, still moving towards Mount Silver. “They’re always trying to get stronger and stronger Pokemon; why they want or need them, I really have no idea. They mainly operate in Kanto and Johto, but they started to spread into Sinnoh a few years ago.”

    “And Deoxys?”

    “Deoxys is a legendary Pokemon that came from another planet,” Max said. “There are three on the planet that I know of; the two that were in LaRousse City, and one that was revived here in Kanto.” He hesitated a moment before continuing. “The one in Kanto is my friend. I was supposed to meet it around lunch today, but it never showed up.”

    “So what does that have to do with the Team Rocket?” Drew asked. Max pointed in the direction they were heading.

    “From my, ah, past experiences in this region, I happened to find out that the Team Rocket headquarters are somewhere around Mount Silver.”

    “They’re that close to civilization?” Drew asked, frowning.

    “I wouldn’t say they’re that close,” Max answered. “The Battle Tower is just over a day’s walk away, but apart from that there’s wilderness for miles and miles. Even the toughest trainers generally shy away from this area, since the Pokemon here are so dangerous.”

    “So you decided to meet with Deoxys in a dangerous and inhospitable area, only a couple of hours away from Team Rocket headquarters?” Drew asked.

    “Okay, it was a stupid idea. I came up here to challenge my abilities, and I never thought Deoxys would just disappear.”

    “So you think Team Rocket may have captured it?”

    “Deoxys has never let me down before, and it’s the kind of Pokemon Team Rocket would love to get their hands on.”

    “So what are you going to do?” Drew asked.

    “Break into their headquarters and free Deoxys,” Max answered fiercely. Drew paused.

    “Are you sure you don’t want to think of a better plan?” he asked.

    “Like what?”

    “Like actually sitting down and coming up with ideas on how to do this,” Drew said. “When Flygon and I crashed, it was because a woman on her Salamence had beaten us in a fight in mid-air.” Max nodded.

    “I saw the battle.”

    “Then you also saw how badly I did against her,” Drew said. “I’m not sure if she was a Rocket or not, but she was stealing my Pokemon. In a one-on-one fight with her, I lost. Now, imagine the two of us going up against all of Team Rocket. What do you think is going to happen?”

    “Do you have a better plan?” Max challenged.

    “As a matter of fact, I do!” Drew shot back. “Now if you’ll just spare your most hated enemy five minutes to talk, we might just be able to get in and out of Team Rocket’s base alive.”

    “Five minutes, Drew,” Max said, stopping and turning to face him. “Start talking.”

  3. #108
    Henshin! Kamen_Fanatic's Avatar
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    Well, that answers the Did Silver and his Salamence survived the free-fall? question. Nice, bringing back Max and Drew. That was a very sweet thing Ash said to May, considering he's very dense when it comes to love. Then again, a lover's near-death experience will do that to any person. So THAT'S why Drew dumped May - because of his hormones. There is a reason why Lust is one of the 7 Deadly Sins.

  4. #109
    Religion is a club Every Breaking Wave's Avatar
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    Sorry for the lack of updates again; I was busy entertaining a friend for a week, and had work after that. It's been hard finding time to write, and I've also been immersed in a relatively long manga called I''s. It's quite the interesting story; I might skip making a sequel and just go straight into an I''s fanfiction instead! But for now, here's the next update.

    Enjoy!

    Chapter 37: Encounter


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    “Are you sure you don’t want to stay another few days?” Anabel asked desperately. “It seems like you just got here.”

    “I’m sorry, Anabel,” Ash answered. “I’d like to stay a while longer; really, I would. But I need to get the Zap Plate back to Pallet Town for Professor Oak.” She nodded and looked down, a strand of her violet hair shielding the sadness in her eyes.

    “Hey,” Ash said softly, lifting her chin with a hand, “I’ll be back soon, okay? I really wanted to stay longer... Once I’ve given it to Professor Oak and checked in on my Mom, I’ll come back. I promise.”

    “Thanks, Ash,” Anabel said with a small smile. “Take care, okay? Don’t let Paul catch you up.”

    “I won’t,” he assured, “but I should go now. The others are all waiting outside already.” Anabel opened her mouth to respond, but was forestalled by a cry.

    “Waaaaba, Wobba Wob!” the Wobbuffet shouted, running around a corner and crashing into Ash.

    “Hey, easy,” Ash laughed. “Feeling better, huh?”

    “Wobba wobba!” the Wobbuffet nodded, clinging to Ash’s arm. Ash lowered his head and examined the Pokemon closely.

    “You’re Team Rocket’s Wobbuffet, right?” he asked. “Did you get separated from Jessie or something?”

    “Wob...” the Wobbuffet said, tears in its eyes.

    “Well... if you wanted to, you could come along with us, I guess,” Ash said. “Jessie, James, and Meowth generally seem to find us every few days, so we could probably get you back to them before too long.”

    “Wha?” Wobbuffet asked in amazement.

    “No, it doesn’t bother me at all,” Ash said, shaking his head. “I know how upset and worried I’d be if one of my Pokemon went missing; I may not like how they try and steal my Pokemon, but I’d never keep one of theirs from them.

    “And besides,” he added softly, “I know how you’re missing them too.”

    “Wobba... wobba...” Wobbuffet began, tearing up again.

    “I’ll see you soon, okay Anabel?” Ash said, straightening up. Anabel nodded.

    “Hurry back,” she said quietly as he began to walk away.

    “You know it,” he answered, flashing her a grin. Then as she watched, he and Wobbuffet rounded the corner and were gone.

    “Be careful, Ash,” she whispered.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Namba glanced dourly at Sebastian as he walked calmly on a nearby computer in the lab, his fingers a blur as he simulated several possible variations of the Perporus. It was a glare that Sebastian could hardly miss, and it was difficult for even his calm and collected persona to ignore the outright hostility radiating from the shunned Rocket scientist.

    “Professor Namba, you might find yourself earning a little more forgiveness from Giovanni if you were to actually do the work he has assigned you,” he said.

    “My work has been usurped!” Namba said loudly, balling his hands into fists. “You sabotaged my research to discredit me, I know you did!”

    “I did nothing of the sort,” Sebastian said flatly. “I have better things to do than be stuck in this dingy lab with only you for company. My research is far more important to me than the mutation of a virus, and I would much rather be testing some of my theories than fixing your errors.”

    “But-”

    “Giovanni told you several days ago to investigate a possible connection between the legendary Pokemon,” Sebastian interrupted. “The Deoxys that crashed was infected with your variation of the Pokerus; an impossible situation, given that the Perporus has never left these facilities and that at the time we had not yet captured a Deoxys. You need to find out how the Deoxys was infected, if there is a connection between legendary Pokemon that can lead to the transmitting of disease, and how we can apply this in our own interests.”

    “I’m not doing the same work twice!” Namba shouted.

    “Twice?” Sebastian asked with a raised eyebrow.

    “I already finished that research,” Namba growled. “I did it after he told me the first time. He just forgot and gave it to me again.”

    “And what were your results?” Sebastian asked.

    “Like I’m telling you!” Namba spat. “I’ll tell you what I found, and then you go swanning off to Giovanni with all my research!”

    “I am not going to claim your research as my own and present it to Giovanni,” Sebastian stated. “I have ethics. Besides, Giovanni would not be pleased if I were to present your research to him, as it would mean that I was not doing my assigned job. I have no wish to wind up in the same position as you. Now; your research, please.”

    “Just why should I give it to you?” Namba challenged. “What do you want with it?”

    “This is getting tedious,” Sebastian muttered to himself before addressing the question. “You and I are both aware that no research is considered valid unless it has been corroborated by another individual within the scientific community who was not involved in the study. For your own sake, show me the research and explain what you have discovered.”

    Grudgingly, Namba reached down towards a briefcase by his legs and withdrew a stack of papers. He handed them over to Sebastian, who looked over the research with a raised eyebrow.

    “Interesting,” he mused. “Can you explain this further?”

    “Legendary Pokemon have several things in common,” Namba said. “For one thing, they are exceedingly rare and powerful types of Pokemon. For another, they are intimately connected with one another. They-”

    “This research isn’t all yours, is it?” Sebastian asked. Namba looked down, a crimson shadow crossing his face.

    “I hacked remotely into Professor Oak’s computer shortly after his lab was destroyed by the Rayquaza that Bashou and Buson managed to capture,” he muttered. “Most of this information is from there.”

    “I thought I recognized his style of writing in this,” Sebastian sighed. “Really, Professor, you could have at least endeavoured to make it sound like something you’d write.”

    “But!”

    Sebastian turned to his desk and grabbed a thick magazine that was hidden beneath several calculations. “Let me read you an excerpt from this page, Professor, which was originally written by Professors Samuel and Gary Oak as an article on the Pokerus: ‘The Pokerus is an infectious illness spread amongst Pokemon. This illness is not very well studied, mainly as a result of both the rareness of the disease and the danger of studying a Pokemon who has contracted it. What is known is that it is not caused by a virus, but by microorganisms that take a Pokemon as their host. Hence the name ‘Pokerus’ is actually a misnomer.

    ‘Once infected, a Pokemon undergoes a period of instability and insanity over a period of 24 hours; after this time has elapsed the microorganisms will die, and the Pokemon cannot be infected again. The Pokerus will, however, leave behind some beneficial side effects that will remain with a Pokemon for the remainder of its life. These side effects include increased physical strength and stamina.

    ‘It was thought that the Pokerus could be spread only through physical contact. Recently, however, an infection was witnessed where this was not the case. It occurred during the attack by a Rayquaza in the midst of a Championship Pokemon battle. The Rayquaza was infected and, despite the fact that there was no physical contact between the two, it somehow managed to pass the disease on to a Latias in the midst of the battle. How did this happen? The answer is through their connection.

    ‘Everything on the planet may be connected to everything else... living creatures are more closely linked to other living creatures than they are to a rock. And it divides again; humans connect on deeper levels to each other than to Pokemon, and vice versa. But in Pokemon, the divisions continue; a Ralts will connect more easily to other Psychic Pokemon than to a Ground type; within the Psychic grouping, it is closer to those in its own evolutionary line than it is to Hypno. And of course, a Ralts will always connect best to another Ralts.

    ‘There is one group of Pokemon where these connections don't work. This group of Pokemon is unique - there are over 30 different species, and they represent nearly every type. Some of them are ancient in origin, so old that they are considered myths. Others are so rare that they are nearly one of a kind; legendary Pokemon.

    ‘Legendary Pokemon are intimately connected with one other; at all times they can sense the presence of other legendary Pokemon, as well as how they are feeling. When the collector Lawrence III infamously tried to capture the legendary birds in the Orange Islands, they could sense what was happening. When Zapdos felt Moltres's absence, it claimed Fire Island as its own. The guardian Lugia sensed Moltres's capture and went to try and free the legendary Pokemon. There are other examples, too. How did Rayquaza know that the Deoxys was hiding in LaRousse City; how did the Deoxys know that the core of another Deoxys was being kept there? Why did that Rayquaza suddenly appear in the midst of a Championship battle and attack only a Latias?

    ‘It all boils down to the connection that legendary Pokemon share with one another. Legendary Pokemon are so closely linked that they don't need physical contact to pass on the Pokerus. If this theory is correct, it means that other legendary Pokemon could also be infected. It is unknown how close they would need to be in order to pass on the disease through their connection, but if it is of any great distance then there could be looking at an epidemic of unimaginable proportions.’


    Sebastian rumpled the papers into a ball and threw them away contemptuously.

    “No,” Namba whispered, his face ashen. “No, it can’t be!”

    “You don’t even deserve to be called a Professor after this, Namba,” Sebastian said in disdain. “What you have done is unethical.”

    “You’re talking to me about unethical?” Namba retorted. “After the experiments you have devised? Controlling the minds of Magikarp and Gyarados? Torturing Raikou? Commissioning the cloning of Mew? If anyone is unethical, it is you!”

    “I have standards!” Sebastian roared, finally losing control of his calm persona. “My experiments may be a bit more dangerous to the subject than those conducted by other scientists, but it is the reason why I have learned so much more than any other individual in this field! I have never broken my vow of scientific honour, and I would never plagiarize another respected scientist!” He glared at Namba, his chest heaving. “You are nothing but a thief,” he hissed, “a worthless, petty thief who takes the accomplishments of others as his own. You disgust me.”

    “I am not a worthless thief,” Namba whispered.

    “Every scientist knows about the connection between legendary Pokemon,” Sebastian said flatly. “You were just the last to know.”

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    “Are you sure this will work?” Jessie asked, dubiously eyeing the black outfit that Silver was holding out to her.

    “Absolutely,” Silver said, thrusting the outfit he had stolen from the Grunt towards her. “You don’t even have a black uniform, do you? So if you show up they’ll expect you to be in white. You can lead me and Meowth down into the lab, saying that you captured us outside. There are bounties on the two of us, so there won’t be any questions.”

    “I’ve got a question,” Meowth interrupted. “Maybe dey won’t recognize her by dat uniform, but her hair is a dead giveaway.”

    “Hmm... yes, I was just coming to the hair...” Silver said slowly. Jessie backed up nervously.

    “Hold on a moment; what we’re doing is incredibly dangerous, and you want me to get rid of my hair?”

    “If you don’t want us to be found out, then yes.”

    “Nobody touches the hair,” she warned as Silver came closer. “Cut it and I’ll kill you.”

    “Dis ain’t gonna be pretty,” Meowth said, covering his eyes with both paws as he turned away.

    There was the sound of a snap, a scream, and Meowth opened his eyes, fearing the worst. Silver stood with an almost comical look on his face as Jessie clawed at the back of her head in a panic. Max stepped out from the bushes behind her, a pair of scissors in one hand and a large tuft of red hair in the other.

    “I’ve always wanted to do that,” he said with a huge grin on his face.

    Twerp!” Jessie screamed, whirling and lunging at the young trainer. She was quickly stopped in midair as Max’s Gardevoir burst through the bush and barred her way with a Confusion long enough for Silver to grab the enraged red head from behind and hold her securely.

    “Was that really necessary, Max?” Drew asked as he pushed his way out behind Gardevoir. Max shrugged.

    “They wanted her hair cut, so I did it for them,” he said, looking at Jessie. “Consider that payback for all the times you tried to steal our Pokemon.”

    “I’m gonna kill you for that,” she growled in return.

    “Enough,” Silver said to her sternly before looking at Max and Drew. “What are you two doing here? This is a dangerous area-”

    “With her I’m not surprised,” Max muttered.

    “-and you shouldn’t be wandering around willy-nilly. Team Rocket headquarters is only a short distance away,” he finished.

    “Can you give us directions?” Max asked.

    “And why would you want to go dere?” Meowth asked him shrewdly. “I’d a thought dat would be da last place you’d wanna go, Twerp.” Max hesitated.

    “Why should I answer someone who’s involved with Team Rocket?” he asked. “More likely than not you were involved in it.”

    “Jessie and Meowth are no longer members of Team Rocket,” Silver broke in. “Giovanni wants them dead. They are risking their lives by going back in. You don’t have anything to worry about with them.”

    “Except for my hair,” Jessie muttered.

    “I was supposed to meet up with my friend, a Deoxys,” Max said, and Silver let in a sharp gasp of breath.

    “Let me guess; you think Team Rocket managed to capture your Deoxys friend?” he asked.

    “That’s right,” Max nodded.

    “Then we may as well go in together,” he said. “Team Rocket captured me, but I escaped. I went back in to get my Poke Balls earlier, and a Moltres broke out right next to me.”

    “Deoxys and Moltres,” Drew mused, interrupting. “So you think Team Rocket is capturing legendary Pokemon?”

    “Right, and that’s what we’re going in to find out,” Silver said. “If they are, well...” he showed his teeth. “Team Rocket is gonna get the shock of their lives when they all get broken out.”

    “So what’s your plan?” Drew asked.

    “Simple,” Silver grinned. “Meowth and I go in as captives, you three go in as our captors.”

    “How will we know where to go?” Max asked.

    “If dere are legendary Pokemon in dere, either Professor Namba or Professor Sebastian will be examining dem,” Meowth said. “Anyone asks any questions, just say dat we’re being taken ta one of dem. Let Jessie do da talking, she’s really good at dat.”

    “I don’t know whether to be insulted or flattered,” she muttered, still trying to struggle out of Silver’s grasp.

    “Ready?” Silver asked. “We may as well go now before second thoughts or doubts come into our minds.”

    “Drew and I don’t have a uniform like Jessie does,” Max protested. “What are we supposed to do?”

    “New recruits with tough Pokemon,” Silver said, giving Max’s Gardevoir a cursory glance. “You’d best recall your Pokemon now; we don’t want her spotted and taken.” He took his own Poke Balls and gave one each to Drew and Max. “They’ll be suspicious if they see any Poke Balls on me,” he explained, and then looked up at the Fearow perched on a branch overhead who had so far remained silent. “You’ll have to stay here for this one, okay?” he asked.

    “Fee,” the Fearow nodded.

    “Good,” Silver said, loosening his grip on Jessie as he sensed it was finally safe enough for Max to let her go. “Let’s move out, but tie me and Meowth up first.”

    “Do you have any rope?” Drew asked.

    “In my bag,” Silver nodded. “Don’t worry about the tightness of the knots; I can break out of any rope without a sweat.”

    “Be gentle wid me,” Meowth begged as Jessie looped some of Silver’s rope around his paws.

    “Stop complaining,” she retorted. “If anyone has a right to complain, it’s me! My poor hair...”

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    “Hunter J,” Giovanni said, “you recaptured the escaped Moltres and put an end to Silver. I’m very impressed; he was quite a thorn in our side.”

    “Unless you’re planning on giving me a bonus for it, cut the crap,” J responded, completely unimpressed. “I have the last specimens for you; Kyogre, Manaphy, Jirachi, three Deoxys in normal, attack, and speed forms, as well as the fragment of Soul Dew. The only one I could not find was a Latias.”

    “Where are they now?” Giovanni asked.

    “The Pokemon are all being unloaded by my men into your laboratory facilities,” J responded. “I thought it best to give you the Soul Dew in person.” She reached into her pocket and withdrew a fragment of what appeared to belong to a sphere, although its composition was unlike that of any other material she had ever encountered before. A mysterious blue aura pulsated through the shard, although it felt cold to Giovanni’s touch.

    “Yes... this is it,” he said softly. He looked up at Hunter J. “Do you know why it is called the Soul Dew?” he asked her. Without waiting for an answer, he ploughed on. “The Soul Dew contains the essence of a Pokemon known as Latios,” he said. “Several years ago, the city of Alto Mare in Johto was under threat from a tsunami. Latios sacrificed his life for the city, and when he died his soul was left behind in what is known as the Soul Dew.”

    “So, that blue aura is...”

    “Yes, it’s Latios,” Giovanni answered. “And I will use this fragment of the Soul Dew to bring him back to life.”

    “And just how will you do that?” J asked, with raised eyebrows. “I know you’ve made huge strides in cloning Pokemon over the last few years, but what you hold in your hands is part of a Latios’s soul, not its DNA.” Giovanni grinned and reached into a desk drawer in response.

    “Ten years ago, my scientists created a device that allows a person to see and battle Ghost Pokemon,” he said, fingering the delicate object lovingly. “It’s called the Silph Scope. Its use goes beyond merely seeing ghosts, however. All it takes is to install it in a specialized machine.”

    “Are you telling me that this Silph Scope can bring Pokemon back from the dead?” J asked.

    “That’s exactly what I’m saying,” Giovanni said, looking her in the eyes. “It’s the reason I commissioned the creation of this device when I assumed control of Silph Co. a decade ago. Using it to find and battle Ghost Pokemon was just a reason to market the device and make a profit.” He looked down at the Soul Dew clenched in one hand and the Silph Scope in the other.

    “With this, I can bring Latios back to life,” he murmured. “And then, I will need only Latias and Ho-Oh to begin.”

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    “So you want to return Wobbuffet to Team Rocket?” Brock asked. Ash nodded.

    “I know that they aren’t exactly considerate people, but I know what it feels like to be missing a friend,” he said.

    “They’d never do it for you,” Dawn warned.

    “That’s what sets me apart from them,” Ash answered.

    “Umm, guys?” Rey called from further up the path, “we have a slight problem here.”

    “What is it?” Ash asked, as they rounded the corner.

    “This massive cliff,” Rey answered, gazing up at the towering escarpment only a few feet away.

    “It’s not exactly a problem,” May said. “All we have to do is use our flying Pokemon to get up there.”

    “Flying?” Rey asked, a little faintly. She took several steps backwards into Brock. “Why don’t we walk around it instead?”

    “This cliff is the first outcrop of the Tohjo Mountain Range,” Brock answered. “Beyond this there are some foothills and then the actual mountains. At the dead centre and on the border between Kanto and Johto is Mount Silver. Walking around it would take days.”

    “Besides,” Ash added, “the quickest way to go is over this cliff. Once we’re up there it’s only a couple of hours to Tohjo Falls, and then we can follow the river south to Pallet Town. We’ll save a lot of time.”

    “Well then, can I walk around and catch up to you guys later?” Rey asked nervously.

    “Hang on,” Dawn said, frowning. “I remember when we were going through that secret passageway near Viridian City with the Frontier Brains; you were terrified of getting in and out of it. You had to be calmed down by a Sweet Scent.” She took a breath and looked the older trainer in the eyes. “Rey, are you afraid of heights?” she asked.

    Acutely aware that everybody was watching her, Rey blushed, pulled the rim of her hat down to shield her eyes and muttered, “Yes.”

    “But you were fine before, when you got Wobbuffet to the Battle Tower so quickly,” Brock pointed out.

    “I was so worried about Wobbuffet that I didn’t even think about it,” she admitted. “Plus, my eyes were closed.”

    “Close them again?” May suggested.

    “Wobba!” Wobbuffet agreed.

    “But all I’ll be able to think of this time is that I’m in the air and flying?” Rey said, her eyes wide. “What if I fall off?”

    “Don’t,” Ash advised, calling out Staraptor. “Take her up and hurry back!”

    “Starrr!” Staraptor nodded, flapping into flight and grabbing Rey’s bag with its talons.

    “Hold on tight to his legs, Rey!” Ash shouted as Staraptor soared upwards.

    “No! No! Let me down!” she screamed. “Put me back down right now! I’m going to kill you, Ash Ketchum!” Ash laughed as Staraptor soared over the face of the cliff, reappearing only a moment later with Rey conspicuously absent.

    “Ready, everyone?” he asked, calling out Charizard and Pidgeot.

    “Of course!” Dawn said brightly. “I’ve always wanted to ride a Pidgeot!”

    “Then I’ll go with May and Wobbuffet on Charizard,” Brock said, patting the fire-type on the wing.

    “You can handle another trip, right Staraptor?” Ash asked.

    “Starap!”

    Ash swung his legs over Staraptor’s back and held on tightly to the crest. “Let’s go!” he shouted, and Staraptor immediately beat his wings with an almost frenetic fury, so great was his joy to be flying for even such a short while. Ash whooped and let go of the crest, holding onto his Pokemon with only his knees as it accelerated at an incredible pace. They burst over the edge of the cliff, Staraptor’s belly just clearing the soil, and landed in a flurry of wing-beats in the midst of a clearing.

    Ash dismounted and stretched, noticing the forest that stretched out around them and towards the foothills. “That was fun, huh?” he asked Staraptor as the flying-type to the sky once more.

    “Ash!” Rey screamed, storming over to him. “You’d better run, because if I catch up to you.”

    “Easy, easy,” Brock said, jumping off of Charizard as Dawn arrived on Pidgeot. “We’re up here now, so it’s really nothing to get so angry about.”

    “Agreed,” May said as she walked over to the edge to see how far up they’d flown, holding onto a nearby tree for safety. “It really wasn’t all that bad.”

    “It was horrible!” Rey shouted.

    “It’s about to get worse,” a cold voice said. Paul dropped out of the tree May was holding, landing lightly and grabbing the Coordinator by the arm. Breaking her grip on the bark, he manoeuvred her stunned body so that she leaned precariously over the edge.

    “Hello, Ash,” he said in an almost friendly tone. “Long time no see.”

  5. #110
    Where the miis are at. Lil' Psycho.'s Avatar
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    I was surprised when paul walked in. I thought you would take your time, but its all good.

  6. #111
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    I like the updates, although I still think I need to re-read the story to refresh everything that's happened. Keeps making me want to start a story that I've had in my mind for 8 months or so, but it's getting hard now, with Senior year coming up and me needing to get working on a bunch of college app stuff (including increasing my cumulative GPA), but that's another story. If only I wasn't such a perfectionist when it comes to things that interest me. Anyways, hope to read more soon.
    ...

  7. #112
    Religion is a club Every Breaking Wave's Avatar
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    And here we go, likely the last chapter for quite a while (see my most recent [Bulbagarden] blog post for why). Please don't ask me how I got this done so fast, because I honestly have no idea. I just hope that you'll all enjoy it; most of this chapter is one big battle!

    Chapter 38: Betrayal


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Ash felt his insides turn to ice at the sight of May dangling precariously over the edge of the cliff. He couldn’t think, he couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t move. He could barely hear. All he could see was May, her face pale, her eyes swimming with fear.

    “Hello, Ash,” Paul said, sounding almost friendly. “Long time no see. How’ve you been?”

    “What do you want?” Ash asked, and Paul quickly dropped the facade.

    “You have something I need,” he said, steel in his voice. “Give me the GS Ball and I won’t drop her. It’s as simple as that.”

    “What if I don’t have it anymore?” Ash asked. “I might have given it away, or buried it somewhere.”

    “The very fact that you ask that question in that tone proves that you do have it,” Paul responded. “Drop the act, Ash; it’s pathetic. Give it to me now.” He noticed Dawn reaching slowly towards a Poke Ball at her waist and shook his head. “Don’t any of you bother trying to take out your Pokemon,” he said. “James! Cover them!”

    James dropped out of a tree on the edge of the forest and approached slowly. “This isn’t what I agreed to do,” he said to Paul. “You told me that you needed help capturing some Pokemon. If I’d known this was what you would resort to, holding a girl over the edge of a cliff... I would have rather stayed in that cell and died like you planned me to when you betrayed me.”

    “That wish is my command,” Cassidy shouted. At the sound of her voice, everybody turned to the cliff edge to see Cassidy, Butch, and Damian clambering over the side, the latter two exhausted.

    “What are you doing here?” Paul demanded of Damian roughly. Damian raised an eyebrow.

    “Is that any way to talk to your brother?” he asked. “We’re after the Plates, and your blue-haired friend here happens to have one of them; the Insect Plate if I’m no mistaken.” James gaped.

    “How... how...”

    “You practically told us yourself,” Cassidy snarled. “’I hope you find that green plate of yours’; none of us said what it looks like!”

    “You bastard,” Brock said in a deathly quiet tone that nevertheless managed to capture everyone’s attention.

    “Who, me?” Damian yelped, realizing that the breeder’s eyes were fixated on him.

    “So you work with Team Rocket... I should have known that would be all you ended up good for after the last time we met,” he growled.

    “We’ve met before?” Damian asked, confused.

    “Brock, who is this guy?” Ash asked, his eyes not straying from May’s terrified face.

    “Don’t you remember, Ash?” Brock asked. “Think back to the very start of your Pokemon journey. You, Misty, and I were walking through the forest towards Vermillion City when we found a stray Charmander on a rocky outcrop. Its trainer had abandoned it there, and was bragging in the nearby Pokemon Centre of how many strong Pokemon he had to compensate for it.”

    “Why does everyone have to keep bringing up that weak little Charmander?” Damian asked in frustration. “First it’s James talking about it, and now you! It was ten years ago, give it a rest already. That Charmander was the most pathetic -” He didn’t get any further. Charizard let out a bellow of rage and flew straight towards him, shooting out intense streams of fire at his old trainer, his eyes crimson with rage.

    Taking advantage of the interruption, Cassidy leapt out of Charizard’s path and sent out both Raticate and Houndoom. “Attack him!” she screamed, pointing towards James. “Kill him now!” Dazed by Charizard’s sudden attack and his own foolishness in admitting his possession of the Insect Plate, James didn’t even realize that his life was in danger. In the corner of his eyes he caught sight of a tinge of red, turned, and saw the intense Overheat shot from Houndoom’s jaws about to consume his body.

    Fortunately, Brock, Dawn, and Rey were far more aware.

    Two blasts of water intercepted the flames, reducing it to steam mere inches from James’s body; he instinctively covered his eyes and turned away, the steam still hot enough to scald his bare skin.

    “James, move!” Brock roared as Dawn’s Empoleon leapt back to her side, its Aqua Jet finished. “Get behind us now! We’ll keep you protected!”

    Almost unaware of what was happening between Charizard and Damian, Cassidy and James, Ash ran. To his racing mind, it seemed as if he was moving in slow motion as he charged towards Paul and May, desperate to save the girl he loved. Paul’s eyes caught sight of his movement, and his gaze shifted from that of Charizard and Damian towards Ash.

    “Not a chance,” he said softly, letting go of May’s wrist. “Bye bye.”

    Ash!” she screamed, terror clouding her voice as she scrabbled desperately at the loose rock before plummeting out of sight.

    “May! No!” he shouted. He moved almost without guidance; as one arm dealt Paul a devastating blow to the jaw, the other reached towards his belt. “Bulbasaur! Bayleef! Use your Vine Whip and catch her! Staraptor, use Quick Attack and get below her now!” As Staraptor shot downwards, Bulbasaur and Bayleef appeared, their vines already extended as they sought to catch sight of their target. May screamed as the rock face shot by, still trying to get a purchase on the cliffside but now tumbling head over heels.

    And then it was over.

    Two sets of vines wrapped securely around her body, halting her fall abruptly. Staraptor supported her weight from below as Bulbasaur and Bayleef reeled their vines in, slowly pulling her back up the cliff. She gasped hoarsely, her limbs trembling with fear and adrenaline at her near miss.

    “It’s okay, May, I’ve got you,” Ash reassured her as he reached over the edge, grabbed her hand, and pulled her back onto the ground. “Are you alright?” She nodded, unable to speak, her heart still pounding.

    Paul climbed slowly to his feet, wiping a dribble of blood from his mouth. “You knew it would come to this,” he said to Ash quietly. “You’ve known it since Oak told you I’m after the GS Ball.”

    “And I’m ready for it too,” Ash retorted, moving May away from the cliff edge, his hand reaching towards his Poke Balls.

    “Let’s say three-on-three, type-on-type,” Paul said, grabbing a Ball of his own. “There won’t be any doubt over who the stronger trainer is this time.”

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    “Raticate, use Hyper Fang on that Swampert!” Cassidy screamed.

    “Beat it back with Razor Leaf, Venusaur!” Rey shouted.

    “Hitmontop, stop it with a Triple Kick!” Butch commanded.

    “Use your Drill Peck on Hitmontop, Empoleon,” Dawn shouted.

    “Flamethrower! Empoleon is part steel!” Cassidy shouted at her Houndoom.

    “Knock them all away with a Hydro Cannon, Swampert!” Brock ordered.

    “There’s too much going on, too many Pokemon involved!” Butch shouted to Cassidy frantically. “I can’t keep track of what I’m supposed to attacking or countering!”

    “Your battle skills need work!” Brock shouted to them both. “You don’t have a chance!”

    “My Houndoom is stronger than any Pokemon you have!” Cassidy screamed back, looking almost deranged.

    “It isn’t about strength; it’s about teamwork and heart!” Dawn called back, Empoleon demonstrating her words as it took Raticate out of the battle. Cassidy saw her opening as Empoleon moved too far forwards.

    “Houndoom, get it back with your Faint Attack!” she shouted. Houndoom lunged forwards viciously and was promptly flattened a Seed Bomb from Rey’s Venusaur.

    “I told you; teamwork,” Dawn grinned as Cassidy looked at her two defeated Pokemon, absolutely flabbergasted.

    “Hitmontop, use Mega Kick!” Butch shouted.

    “Sludge!” James shouted, calling out Weezing.

    “So, you’ve stopped hiding behind them, have you?” Cassidy taunted.

    “I don’t need to hide from you,” James growled. He looked back at Brock, Dawn, and Rey. “Thanks for saving me,” he said softly. “I’ll take her on from here.”

    “But,” Dawn began. Brock grabbed her arm and shook his head.

    “This is James’s fight,” he told her.

    Cassidy grinned as she recalled her Houndoom and Raticate, fingering the last Poke Ball on her belt. “I’m going to enjoy this,” she murmured. “Sableye, let’s go!”

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    “Charizard, back off,” Ash ordered. “I hate Damian too, but at least give him the chance to see how strong you are in an actual battle against other Pokemon.”

    “Brave words,” Paul sneered. “You’ll need everything you have to go against my Pokemon and win. And since your Charizard is busy with my brother... Magmortar, go!” The massive fire-type burst out in a blaze of red light, roaring a challenge towards Ash.

    “I’m disappointed in you, Paul,” Ash said. “You’re taking advantage of my Charizard destroying your brother in battle? I expected more. But since you’ve chosen a fire-type, I’ll go with Cyndaquil!”

    “Cinda,” Cyndaquil said, sniffing the air and igniting the flame on its back. Paul burst out laughing.

    “You’re battling my Magmortar with a Cyndaquil?” he said. “Are you really that desperate to lose?”

    “We’ve got some techniques ready for you,” Ash shot back. “Bayleef, you’re in there too!”

    “What do you mean ‘Bayleef is in there too’?” Paul snapped.

    “It’s a three-on-three battle, isn’t it?” Ash asked. “You’re not saying that you meant one at a time, are you? Where’s the challenge in that?” Paul grimaced.

    “At the same time it is then,” he growled. “Torterra, come on out!” Then a truly evil grin split across his face. “No matter what you do against Magmortar and Torterra, you’ll never be able to beat my last Pokemon,” he said, holding up a violet Poke Ball that was crossed with jet-black streaks. “The Dark Ball takes the power of a Pokemon and increases it to the highest level possible. And what better power to use than that of a legendary Pokemon?” He smirked as the colour drained from Ash’s face. “Celebi, let’s go!”

    Ash watched aghast as the once pure and gentle Time-travel Pokemon emerged, a dark aura pulsating around it. He clenched his fists in anger as he glared across at Paul. “What you’ve done... it’s just evil,” he hissed.

    “I do what I need to do,” Paul said with a shrug. “What’s your response? Bulbasaur?”

    “Bulba!” Bulbasaur said fiercely, springing forward fiercely.

    “Not this time, Bulbasaur,” Ash said, holding the grass-type back. “I have the perfect counter for that Celebi, and her name is Latias!”

    “Latias?” Paul said sharply as the legendary Pokemon burst from her Poke Ball. “So that’s where she went to... No wonder we couldn’t find it.”

    “Ready, Paul?” Ash asked, snapping him out of his brief reverie. “Cyndaquil, let’s show why you’re the perfect match for Magmortar! It’s time!”

    “Cyndaaa... QUILLLL!” Cyndaquil screamed, its entire body beginning to glow with a pulsating white aura. Its body slowly lengthened, its pointed snout becoming rounder, and the flame at the centre of its back began to migrate towards the top of its head and the end of its back, all covered under the glow.

    “No way,” May whispered.

    “Quilava!” the Pokemon shouted, throwing away the last vestiges of luminescent light.

    “Perfect,” Ash said with satisfaction. “I knew you were ready to evolve.”

    “We have even started battling yet,” Paul growled. “This doesn’t make any difference at all! Flamethrower!”

    “Smokescreen!”

    “Razor Leaf!”

    “Vine Whip!”

    “Fire Punch!”

    “Lava Plume!”

    It was a battle like May had never seen before. Scarcely had one attack been called when another was ordered. The Pokemon ducked and weaved, attacking at every opportunity and ducking away at the last moment before launching a counter-offensive. The action was a blur, and how Ash and Paul could keep track of what was happening with each Pokemon she had no idea; she could barely follow it herself.

    Ash called for a Flamethrower from Quilava, and merely a second later ordered it to use Smokescreen and then Quick Attack. In the brief moments between commands, Paul took advantage and ordered his Magmortar to use Fire Spin, followed up almost immediately by a Confuse Ray and a Thunder Punch. And yet, Bayleef and Torterra were still battling too. Each Pokemon moved with a sinewy grace, the other’s attacks barely sliding by before they launched a reciprocal attack. It was impossible to keep a track of, the absolute speed and ferocity of each attack, yet none seemed to make a hit.

    “Flame Wheel, Vine Whip, Swift, Body Slam, Smokescreen, Headbutt!” Ash shouted without taking time for a breath.

    “Lava Plume, Wood Hammer, Faint Attack, Leaf Storm, Karate Chop, Giga Drain!” Paul shouted.

    Each seemed to anticipate the other’s moves before they were launched, and so they ordered a perfect counter-attack before being put on the defence again. By some unspoken agreement, both Latias and Celebi were not being ordered to battle at this time. May thought she understood why; the battle with two Pokemon was confusing and hard enough to deal with; three would have been impossible. Then Ash finally saw an opening and seized his chance.

    “Quilava, Flame Wheel-Flare Blitz combo,” he shouted.

    “Flamethrower,” Paul ordered. The fiery stream of flames shot from Magmortar’s mouth and smashed into Quilava; exactly what Ash had been aiming for. The Flame Wheel was blown away by the ferocity of the attack, but it acted as a protective shield for the Flare Blitz underneath. The remaining Flamethrower enshrouded Quilava and its Flare Blitz, causing the attack to be even more powerful than it would be normally. With the power of two attacks in one, Quilava smashed into Magmortar, sending it reeling backwards where it collapsed.

    But in the time it had taken Ash to order the dual attack, Paul had seen his own opportunity. Bayleef was waiting for a command that was not forthcoming, and she was hit by a consecutive combination of Wood Hammer and Leaf Storm. Both Bayleef and Magmortar collapsed, unable to go on any further.

    “Great job, Bayleef,” Ash said softly, recalling her. “You did great; I couldn’t have asked for more.” He turned to Quilava, whose four legs were trembling with exhaustion and whose flames had shut off; the fire-type looked as if it was about to collapse. “That was fantastic,” he said, gently lifting the tired Pokemon in his arms. “You proved just how strong you really were to him. I’m incredibly proud of you.”

    “Quill...” Quilava murmured, for a moment sounding like a Cyndaquil again.

    “Take a good rest,” Ash said, recalling the fire-type. He turned to Paul, who had recalled Magmortar and Torterra without comment. “And now the real battle begins,” he said.

    “Your Latias is no match against a Dark Pokemon,” Paul scowled. “Give up now.”

    “Fortunately, Latias has a power you don’t even know about,” Ash said. “It’s amazing what a Pokemon can do after they’ve recovered from the Pokerus.” Paul scowled again.

    “Leaf Storm!” he ordered.

    “DragonBreath!”

    “Confusion!”

    “Psychic!”

    “Perish Song!” Paul shouted. He looked across at Ash. “It’s now or never,” he said as a cacophony of screeches filled the air. “Think you can defeat this?”

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In contrast to the furious and fast-paced battle between Ash and Paul, James’s battle against Cassidy seemed almost boring. But for James, it was no less important than the triple battle only a few feet away; his very life depended on the outcome.

    “Sludge,” James ordered. Cassidy laughed.

    “Your poison attacks won’t even dent my Sableye,” she chuckled as the attack hit her Pokemon. “You’ve got no chance against me. Sableye, use Shadow Ball and follow it up with a Zen Headbutt!”

    “Nyai,” Sableye grinned, launching a black ball at Weezing and using it as cover while it ran towards Weezing, the top of its head glowing blue.

    “Weezing, stop that with a Sludge Bomb!” James cried out desperately. The two attacks collided and nullified against each other, but through the debris of fused attacks, Sableye launched itself straight at Weezing. The powerful psychic attack smashed directly into the poison-type, and Weezing crashed to the ground in pain.

    “Follow it up with Shadow Claw,” Cassidy said indifferently, and Weezing roared in pain as the attack hit its mark.

    “This is bad,” Brock said in a low voice to Dawn and Rey. “Weezing can’t keep going like this. One more attack and it’s finished. Get ready; we may have to step in and save James.”

    “Finish it off with Power Gem,” Cassidy ordered.

    “We aren’t finished yet!” James shouted. “Weezing, use Pain Split!” A red beam shot out of Weezing and smashed straight into Sableye. The ghost-type gasped and fell to its knees as a massive surge of pain tore through its body, draining away its strength.

    Weezing, on the other hand, suddenly felt significantly more powerful and rested. Its body seemed to crackle with energy, and it was able to regain the air.

    “Much better,” James grinned. “Time to turn this around, Weezing! Use your Will-O-Wisp and follow it with an Assurance!” A massive blue ball of fire sped towards Sableye; it tried to escape, but the sudden shock of losing so much energy prevented it from moving. The flames enveloped the ghost-type, causing it to scream in pain. Weezing burst through the fiery mire, its body coloured black, colliding with Sableye and forcing it out of the flames. The ghost-type struggled to its knees and collapsed, unable to move.

    “Assurance... it doubles the power of the move if the opponent was damaged just before the attack was launched,” James told a stunned Cassidy. “Your Sableye never had a chance.”

    Damian staggered over towards Butch and Cassidy, his clothes singed and his entire body reeking of smoke. “That Charizard just took out all of my Pokemon, one after the other, without even getting a scratch,” he gasped. “I’ve never seen anything like it; it destroyed me, and it wasn’t even being commanded!”

    Charizard snorted with disdain as it stomped over towards Brock, Rey, Dawn, and James. Its eyes continued to glow fiercely as it glared at Damian, and it let out a roar that caused everyone’s heart to skip with fear.

    “You see what your ignorance has done?” Brock asked him quietly. “In your desire for strong Pokemon, you cast aside the strongest Pokemon of all. You lost the chance to grow and learn with your Pokemon. It’s obvious that you and Paul are brothers. Neither of you take the time with your Pokemon.”

    Further comment was forestalled by a massive explosion from the battle between Latias and Celebi. Everyone coughed as a massive cloud of smoke blew across them, and when it cleared they saw that both Latias and Celebi were unmoving on the ground.

    Ash’s and Paul’s eyes never left each other as they silently recalled their fallen Pokemon. Almost in unison, they both slowly backed away, neither one daring to turn their back to the other.

    “Come on, guys,” Ash called, moving slowly towards the cliff. “This battle is over. We’re going back to the Battle Tower.”

    “Back to Headquarters,” Paul ordered Damian, Cassidy, and Butch. “You get the Plates back to Giovanni, and I’ll give him the Celebi.” His eyes bored into Ash. “This isn’t over,” he warned. “I won’t stop until I get the GS Ball.”

    “And I won’t stop until it’s destroyed,” Ash replied as he released Pidgeot and climbed onto its back. Paul eyed him a moment longer before turning and vanishing into the forest, followed by Damian, Cassidy and Butch.

    “What about you?” Brock asked James as May, Dawn, and an unusually pensive Wobbuffet climbed onto Charizard’s back. “What are you going to do now?”

    “I don’t know...” James answered miserably. “I can’t ever go back to base; they’d kill me on the spot if I did. As of this moment, I am officially out of Team Rocket.”

    “Come with us,” Dawn offered. “We’ve got your Wobbuffet, and I’m sure it’ll be glad of a friendly face.”

    “Wobba wobba!” Wobbuffet agreed, throwing James a makeshift salute from its perch on Charizard’s back.

    “You can ride on Staraptor,” Ash said. “It’s only a short flight, so try not to fall off.”

    “What are you two going to ride on?” James asked Brock and Rey, hesitating to take the last flying Pokemon.

    “I’ll just get my Sudowoodo to use Mimic,” Brock said, sending out the rock-type and recalling Swampert.

    “And I have a Xatu I can fly on,” Rey added, switching her Venusaur with it.

    “Over your fear of heights then, I guess?” Dawn asked, watching her beadily.

    “It doesn’t really seem all that important at the moment, in light of what’s just happened,” Rey said, avoiding the young Coordinator’s eyes.

    “Ready to go, everyone?” Ash asked. “Pidgeot; back to the Battle Tower!”

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    “What? He’s captured a Latias?” Giovanni exclaimed incredulously. Paul nodded.

    “I battled it with the Celebi I just gave you. It’s been trained to an amazingly powerful level, and it even drew against the Dark Celebi. I think he said it was infected with the Pokerus before.”

    “And they were heading this way?” Giovanni asked.

    “They were,” Paul answered. “For now, they’ve gone back to the Battle Tower.”

    “Then we have to go and retrieve it immediately,” Giovanni decided.

    “No,” Paul cut in quickly. “As much as I hate to admit it, he’s an incredibly powerful trainer; on par with Cynthia. And it’s not just the Latias we need from him. He has the GS Ball too.”

    “What?” Giovanni asked quietly.

    “And one of his companions has the Insect Plate,” Damian added.

    “Who?” Giovanni asked.

    “The guy Paul captured and then took with him,” Damian said with relish. “James has the Plate.”

    “I wanted him killed,” Giovanni said to Paul quietly. “Now he’s escaped, and with a Plate to boot!”

    “If I hadn’t taken James with me to Hoenn, the Insect Plate would never have been found,” Paul said defensively. “It fell out of a tree, and James was the one who decided to take it with him. I didn’t recognize it for what it was, since I was never told what the Plates look like! If I had been given that information, I would have taken it from him easily.”

    Giovanni stood and began pacing. “So this trainer has a Latias, the GS Ball, and his companion has the Insect Plate,” he mused. “Yet you say that we shouldn’t go to the Battle Tower and take it from him; do you have an alternative, Paul?”

    “I do,” Paul answered. “I know Ash better than he realizes; he was on a course straight for Tohjo Falls. He knows that going to Tohjo Falls and then following the river south is the fastest way to the coast. My guess is that he’ll head for the river again, but this time he’ll go around the cliff.”

    “North or south?” Giovanni asked.

    “North,” Paul said without hesitation. “He’ll circle the cliffs north until he reaches the river and head south from there. We can trap him there; the river is only a few hours away from here. We circle the path, surround him, and take Latias and the GS Ball away from him. Then we confiscate his Pokemon and bring him back here.”

    “And then I will only need to clone Latios, capture Ho-Oh, and find the Zap Plate,” Giovanni murmured.

    “What about the Unknown Plate?” Damian asked in surprise. “We didn’t have it with us.”

    “The Unknown Plate was found in the ruins of Pokemopolis,” Giovanni answered. “It is now stored with the other plates.”

    “Only Latios and Ho-Oh?” Paul interrupted. “There’s one more, isn’t there?”

    “One more?” Giovanni repeated, puzzled. “No, I have all of the other legendary Pokemon; Hunter J, Bashou, Buson, and a lucky pair of Grunts saw to that.”

    “Ah, but you wouldn’t remember, would you?” Paul said softly. “Your memory was lost.”

    “My memory was lost? What are you talking about?” Giovanni asked.

    “Over ten years ago, you commissioned a group of Rocket scientists led by Dr. Fuji to clone Mew.”

    “Yes, I remember that. The experiment was a failure; the lab exploded, every scientist was killed, and we abandoned the project,” Giovanni said.

    “You’re wrong,” Paul said. “The experiment was a complete success. You cloned Mew and created a new legendary Pokemon; Mewtwo. Check your files, if you don’t believe me.”

    “How am I supposed to check files that aren’t there?” Giovanni asked in exasperation.

    “Go into the secret database and enter the password ‘Mewclonealpha’,” Paul said. Eying his son suspiciously, Giovanni nevertheless opened the monitor of the computer and dubiously typed it in.”

    “What the?” he shouted in surprise as dozens of files began popping up.

    “Happy reading,” Paul said, turning away.

    “But how did you know?” Giovanni asked.

    “Simple,” Paul answered. “Mewtwo wiped your mind; not mine. Damian, let’s go; I want to take a look at the legendary Pokemon we have.”

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Just an observation but I found it interesting how, everywhere I posted this story, people seemed most interested in the Ash vs. Paul battle. Yet nobody gave any consideration to the fact that Charizard could meet up with its old trainer.

    As ever, please review!

  8. #113
    A black and white world Blackjack Gabbiani's Avatar
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    Very interesting...and the part I find most interesting is that Paul managed to get Celebi IN A DARK BALL, just like in the fourth movie. Of course that's partially because I think Vicious is horribly underused in fics, so it's nice to see *any* remnant of that.

    I'm wondering why Paul kept the memory a secret from his father for so long. And how Paul knows but no one else does (since not everyone had their memory wiped, only people who were at the lake).

  9. #114
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    This is epic! The last few chapters are simply amazing, there's no other way to put it. It's advancing from a simple shipping story to an amazing tale spanning almost everything from the Pokemon anime. It seems you rushed a bit in your latest chapter, though, as you made a few mistakes. The one I caught was having James regret giving away that he had the Meadow Plate, although you'd stated earlier that Team Rocket already had it. I'm almost positive you meant the Insect Plate.

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    Religion is a club Every Breaking Wave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlazikenEX View Post
    It seems you rushed a bit in your latest chapter, though, as you made a few mistakes. The one I caught was having James regret giving away that he had the Meadow Plate, although you'd stated earlier that Team Rocket already had it. I'm almost positive you meant the Insect Plate.
    You're right, I did. And thinking about it, I'm pretty sure I've made the identical mistake in the last few chapters as well. Damn. Thanks for catching that; I've fixed it in this chapter.

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    This chapter was actually completed over two weeks ago, but I've been waiting before uploading it. Why? Well, the first chapter of Final Challenge was posted on September 6th, 2007. And I plan to end it on September 5th, exactly one year to the day after it was begun. To me, there's something meaningful about that. And it makes sense to post the final chapters relatively close together so that I don't keep you unfairly hanging. Sorry to keep you all waiting for so long with this update. I'm writing the final chapter now, but I'm running out of time to complete it. It basically has to be done by the 30th since I'll have no time to write for at least a week after that. Anyways, on with the chapter!

    Enjoy...

    Chapter 39: Revival


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Beast flew, rage still clouding its heart as it searched for its child. The child stolen by humans for a second time. Its speed was so great as it passed over land and sea that it seemed to those who saw it from below to be no more than a silver streak of light, a trick of the dimming light perhaps. Where its child was it knew not, but it sensed that the distance between them was shrinking. But it was more than desperation to be reunited with its progeny that drew the Beast onwards.

    As it flew it felt a great longing, a desire, an unavoidable pull in the same direction it sensed its child. As time passed, the pull seemed to become stronger and stronger. Others were in danger too, not just the child.

    The urge to help was irresistible.

    And that was when it saw it, in the dimming light of twilight.

    The Golden One.

    Its rival, its friend, its enemy, its companion, its equal; the Golden One seemed to shine with a light that the failing sun did not possess. It amplified the area, bathing its surroundings in a beautiful and radiant glow. The Beast slowed its speed and began to circle cautiously, one that the Golden One quickly joined into. They circled each other, gazing at their equal and their opposite, communicating through their eyes.

    And then the Golden One broke away, gaining height and moving in the same direction that the Beast was drawn.

    The Beast hesitated for only a moment before turning and following. Where they were bound, they knew not. But the Beast was determined to help its child, and there were the others who were also in danger. Yes, the others, the ones that the Golden One was bound to help.

    They were rivals, true, but in this act they would be allies. The Beast and the Golden One united.

    None could stand before them.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Anabel sat at the desk in her small house that lay only a short distance from the Battle Tower, wondering whether her hair was long enough to attempt putting it into a ponytail for once. She had only just grasped her hairbrush, when a knock came at the door. She sighed and placed the hairbrush back on the desk before standing and leaving her bedroom. “Come in,” she called as she began to descend the stairs. “It’s not locked.”

    The door creaked open and she ran down the last few stairs in delight, throwing her arms around the man who stood in the entranceway. “Noland!” she shouted. “What are you doing here?” He laughed and twirled her around once before stepping into the house.

    “When was the last time any of us visited one another?” he asked. “The last time we were all together was at that Press Conference, and before that it was the match between Ash and Cynthia. I can’t even remember what the time before that was.”

    “Neither can I,” Anabel admitted. “It was probably either at Ash’s induction ceremony, or at Spenser’s retirement party.” She let go of him and stood back. “Well don’t just stand there, come in! Do you want a drink or anything?”

    “I’d love a glass of Sitrus Berry juice,” he said, and Anabel made a face.

    “Ugh, that stuff’s too sweet for me,” she said. “I can get you some Oran Berry juice though.” Noland cocked an eyebrow.

    “Oran Berry? I guess you really like that blend of sour and spicy. But I may as well; it’s been a while since I tried it. Who knows, I might like it this time around!”

    “I’ll be right back,” Anabel promised as she moved towards the kitchen. “Make yourself comfortable if you like; do you have any bags with you?”

    “Just the rucksack on my back; it’s got a change of clothes in there among some other things,” he answered, moving to take a look at the pictures that adorned the walls and cabinets situated around the room. A sad smile crossed his face as the memories they preserved seemed to leap into focus around him. There was one of Anabel battling Lucy, the last match she’d needed to win before becoming a Frontier Brain. Another showed Anabel grouped with her six Pokemon; Alakazam, Hypno, Metagross, Espeon, Xatu, and Grumpig. There was one portrait he cast a fond eye over that depicted her with the rest of the Frontier Brains, Spenser, Ash, and Scott included. That had been a fantastic day of fun at the Battle Colosseum just after its construction had been completed, he recalled.

    His eye was drawn to another photo standing on the mantelpiece a few feet away. It depicted Anabel standing next to a tall man he did not recognize, their arms on each other’s shoulders, and big smiles on both their faces. He took a closer look, intrigued. The man had a likeable air about him and there was genuine warmth in his eyes. A Staraptor could be seen, barely visible over his shoulder. He heard footsteps and took a step back, turning as Anabel entered the room.

    “I’ve got your juice,” she said, sliding through the doorway and trying not to accidentally bump against the wall with the tray she carried. “I brought out some cookies too; I hope you don’t mind Digestives, they’re all I have in the house at the moment.”

    “Digestives sound great,” Noland said with a smile, settling comfortably into a nearby armchair.

    “Here’s your juice,” Anabel said, passing over a tall glass filled with a sparkling blue juice.

    “Thanks,” he said, taking it gratefully.

    “So what brings you out this way?” Anabel asked. “I have a hard time believing that it’s just to see me for a few days.”

    “Believe it or not, that’s exactly why I’m here,” Noland replied, helping himself to a cookie. “I’m bored of being on my own at the Battle Factory, and challenges have been pretty thin on the ground recently. It’s been ages since I went to see some friends, so I figured why not just head out and meet up with some people? I hope you don’t mind me showing up so unexpectedly.”

    “Not at all!” Anabel beamed. “I’ve been feeling kind of lonely too, recently. It’s been so long since somebody stopped by for pleasure as opposed to a battle. Ash and some of his friends were actually here yesterday, but they only stopped for a night before leaving this morning. He promised to stop by again after dropping something off at Professor Oak’s lab though, so I’m hoping to see him again soon.”

    “Looks like I just missed him then,” Noland said. “Too bad he was in such a hurry; I’d like to show him how much stronger Dugtrio has gotten already.” He took a tentative sip of his juice and immediately pulled a face. Anabel giggled.

    “Looks like you’re still not a fan of it,” she said, taking the glass from him. “Would you like some Miltank Milk instead?”

    “Like it? I’d love it!” he exclaimed. “It’d go perfectly with those Digestives! Why did you bring in that juice if you had the milk?”

    “I just wanted to see the expression on your face,” she grinned, backing into the kitchen. Noland sighed and sank back into the chair, closing his eyes briefly.

    “Hey, Anabel,” he called, his eyes still shut.

    “Hmm?”

    “Who’s that guy you’re with in the picture on the mantelpiece?” he asked. Anabel poked her head back around the door, curious about what picture he meant.

    “Oh, that picture,” she said. “That’s my cousin, Reggie; he lives in Sinnoh. I only met him the one time, but he was a really nice guy and a fantastic Pokemon breeder. That Staraptor behind him is the first Pokemon he captured. I never met his other family members; he didn’t seem to want to talk about them all that much.”

    “Oh... that’s too bad,” Noland said, opening his eyes and turning to look at the picture again. “He seems like a really likeable guy. Which side are you related on?”

    “Well his dad was my dad’s brother,” she answered. “They had a big falling out before I was born, and my Dad cut off contact with him. When he died, Reggie somehow heard about it and sent a condolence card. He was the only one on my Dad’s side who did. I have no idea how he managed to find our address or anything, but I sent him a reply thanking him. We’ve kept in touch since then, and when I toured Sinnoh last year I arranged to drop in at his house. That’s when we got the picture taken.”

    There was a knock at the door, and Anabel looked at it in surprise. “Two in a day?” she asked almost wonderingly.

    “I’ll get it,” Noland said, standing and stretching. “You finish getting rid of that disgusting juice,” he added with a wink. Anabel laughed.

    “Sure, whatever,” she chuckled, heading back into the kitchen. As she rinsed out Noland’s glass she heard him opening the front door, followed by a few indiscernible whispers. There were footsteps and then a knock on the kitchen door. She turned and shrieked, dropping the glass by accident.

    “Hi Anabel,” Ash said sheepishly. “Mind if we stay for a bit longer?”

    “Chahhh,” Pikachu groaned, having leapt off of Ash’s shoulder in an attempt to catch the glass which was now firmly wedged between his ears.

    “Oops,” Anabel said, blushing slightly. “Sorry about that Pikachu, and thanks for catching it; this glass is one of my favourites.” She reached down and gently took it off of Pikachu’s head, scratching him quickly behind one ear in thanks.

    “So what brings you back here so soon, Ash?” she asked. “I thought you were going to Tohjo Falls and then Pallet Town before visiting me again.”

    “Paul caught up to us,” Ash answered. “He was waiting for us on the cliff.”

    “Did... did he get it?” Anabel asked, almost afraid to know the answer.

    “No,” Ash answered, shaking his head. “He challenged me to a battle over it, which we drew. If it wasn’t for Bayleef, Quilava, and Latias...”

    “Sit down, sit down,” Anabel urged, ushering him back into the sitting room where Noland, May, Brock, Dawn, and Rey sat, chatting. James stood slightly to one side, a little unsure of what he should do, Wobbuffet by his side. Anabel raised an eyebrow when she saw him. “Looks like you’ve got another friend with you,” she observed.

    “‘Friend’ might be a little too nice a term,” James said.

    “What do I call you then?” Anabel asked.

    “Friend is fine,” Ash interrupted. “We’ve saved each other’s lives a few times over the years. And you’re allowed to sit down, James.” James nodded and moved slowly over to the couch where he sat slightly hesitantly next to Dawn, an emotion that Ash couldn’t identify sparkling in his green eyes.

    “Your friends were just telling me what’s been going on, Ash,” Noland said as Anabel returned to the kitchen. He leaned forward, scrutinizing Ash closely. “Are you okay? You’re looking very stressed and tired.” Ash nodded.

    “I’ll be okay,” he said. “The battle today was really draining, and I was so worried that I might lose May when Paul was holding her over the cliff. I just need some sleep, that’s all.”

    “And what will you do then?”

    “I’m heading out again tomorrow,” Ash answered. “Paul knows we’re here; no point in just hanging around waiting for him to show up. It would be putting you and Anabel in danger, not to mention all of Anabel’s staff at the Battle Tower.”

    “You’re not going the same way again?” Noland asked, his eyebrows shooting up.

    “No; Paul knows we were trying to get to Tohjo Falls, and he’s bound to have some people watching that location for us.”

    “Some people?” Anabel asked as she re-entered the room with a fresh tray of drinks. “How many people are travelling with this guy?”

    “Paul’s part of Team Rocket,” James said. “He has been since he lost in the Sinnoh League. Giovanni, the leader of Team Rocket, is his father.”

    “So basically Paul could send any amount of people to Tohjo Falls to try and intercept us,” Dawn said.

    “That’s right,” James nodded. “Obviously Giovanni trusts his sons more than he does most others; it’s why Paul was sent after the GS Ball and Damian after the Plates.”

    “Makes me wonder how Reggie turned out so nice,” Ash muttered, reaching forward to take a glass. “I knew he’d cut off contact with Paul after the Sinnoh League, but I didn’t know it was because Paul had joined Team Rocket.”

    “So if you’re not going to Tohjo Falls, where are you going?” Noland asked.

    “Circling north,” Ash answered. “We can get to the river and follow it south from there. We won’t be going over the Falls; there’s a smaller distributary not many people know about that we can go along. It’ll take us further into the Mount Silver area, but it goes in the same general direction.”

    “Well then, I’m going with you,” Noland decided.

    “Huh?” Ash said.

    “What?” Anabel asked. “You just got here!”

    “Anabel, I’m sorry. But Ash and his friends will need as much help and protection that can be given. The Silver Highlands are full of dangerous, wild Pokemon, and it’s rumoured that Team Rocket Headquarters is somewhere in that area too. I have to go.”

    “Then I’m going too,” Anabel said, her face resolute.

    “No,” Ash said quickly.

    “It’s not an option,” she said, stubbornly crossing her arms.

    “It’s likely we may run into danger,” Noland said, choosing his words carefully. “That’s why we need you here.”

    “Oh, you think I can’t handle it?” she shouted, jumping to her feet in anger.

    “You could probably handle it better than most of us!” Noland barked, and then took several deep breaths in an effort to calm himself. “You have to be here in case we need to be bailed out,” he said more gently. “Call the other Frontier Brains; tell them to come here as soon as they can. If we’re in trouble and need help, I’ll signal with my modified Poke Ball.”

    “Modified Poke Ball?” Dawn asked.

    “Remember when we were outside of Viridian City?” Noland asked. “I let the other Frontier Brains know I’d found you by sending a green light into the air with a Poke Ball I’d modified. I’ll do the same thing this time if we’re in danger and need help.”

    “And what if they don’t come?” Anabel asked.

    “They will come,” Noland said simply, and she nodded; the Frontier Brains were such close friends that none of them would hesitate to help another if the need so arose.

    “Then I’ll stay here,” she said slowly. “The other Frontier Brains will need to be told what’s going on.”

    “Thank you,” Noland said softly.

    Ash looked away towards the couch where May, Dawn, Wobbuffet, and James sat, taking a big gulp of his juice as he did so. He gagged on reflex as the foul-tasting liquid splashed down his throat, pulling a face that caused Dawn to roar with laughter.

    “Sorry, Ash,” Anabel sighed, looking around to see the cause of the hilarity. “Looks like you got the Oran Berry Juice.”

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    “Dere’s no way dey’re gonna be fooled by dis,” Meowth gulped nervously as Jessie, Max, and Drew led him and Silver out from under the trees and into the clearing.

    “Quiet,” Silver hissed, “act as if you’re beaten, not scared. Have faith in Jessie; it’s up to her to get us in.”

    “Yeah, no pressure,” she muttered, jerking Meowth’s rope sharply and making him stumble.

    “Hey, what was dat for?” he whined, barely keeping his balance.

    “Zip it, Meowth,” she snarled. “You’re being taken in for questioning over the location of your partners, Jessie and James. Any more smart-mouthing and you won’t be offered this fabulous deal Giovanni has come up with. Understand?” Meowth was about to give a very testy reply when he realized that they were already within hearing range of two Grunts standing guard by the entrance. His mouth went dry as he realized that they were watching the group intently; the closest had an air of cleverness and trickery about him, while the other seemed slightly brutish and dull.

    “I asked if you understand!” Jessie shouted, yanking the rope harshly and knocking Meowth to the ground, where he was dragged for several feet alongside Silver.

    “I understand,” he muttered, climbing to his feet and lowering his head in submission. Jessie didn’t deign to give him a response, turning instead towards the two Grunt guards.

    “S34, reporting in,” she said to the closer of the two, throwing a swift salute and managing to remember her supposed identify without glancing at the tag on her black uniform. “I apprehended a known fugitive and an escaped prisoner with the help of these two new recruits.” She nodded to each side as she spoke, pointing out both Max and Drew.

    “Why aren’t they wearing their uniforms?” he guard asked shrewdly. Jessie tapped him lightly on the head with her fist.

    “Didn’t you hear me?” she said, rolling her eyes. “They’re new recruits. That idiot tailor hasn’t made their uniforms yet; he gets lazier and lazier each time.”

    “Tell me about it,” the second guard nodded, completely taken in by her story and showing off his too-small uniform. “This thing shrunk a month ago, and I still haven’t been given a replacement. I’m getting tired of waiting.”

    “Whatever,” the first guard said, sounding bored. “Scan the escaped prisoner. Any Poke Balls on him?”

    “Why would a Meowth have Poke Balls?” the second asked, confused. The first groaned and turned on him.

    “Idiot!” he seethed. “Everyone was put on the lookout for Silver after he escaped, and this is that man!”

    “Well the alert was pulled after that Pokemon Hunter put paid to him,” the second Grunt said sulkily. “How was I to know?”

    “Hey, that’s right!” the first said, whirling back to face Jessie. “Pokemon Hunter J reported his death; how come he’s here right now?”

    “His Salamence was killed when they crashed, but Silver survived,” Jessie bluffed. “He was injured pretty badly, but managed to crawl into the woods underneath the dust cover. We found him unconscious in there.”

    “Then where did the Salamence go?” he asked cunningly. Jessie seemed to hesitate a moment, but quickly covered it with a haughty expression.

    “He didn’t know the Salamence was dead, so he recalled it,” she said. “When he realized that it had been killed, he buried the Poke Ball in the forest.”

    “Scan him,” the first guard ordered the second. He nodded and took out a calculator-sized device with one small screen and a curved edge which contained the scanner. The guard ran it up and down Silver’s torso, over the arms, and down the legs before repeating the manoeuvre at the back.

    “He’s clean,” he reported to the first, who nodded before taking a closer look at Jessie.

    “You know, S34, you look very similar to another fugitive; one who was partnered with this Meowth,” he said softly.

    “This isn’t good,” Max muttered to himself. Jessie let out a horribly false laugh.

    “That vain woman?” she chortled. “Hah, I met her once. I’ve never met somebody so obsessed with her hair before; she’d never even cut it short. I remember hearing once how a Seviper bit the end off, and she almost killed it with her bare hands!”

    “Check her,” the first guard ordered. “Check her, and then check the recruits. See what Pokemon they have on them.”

    “Skorupi... Carnivine... Mime Jr.” the second guard reported. “Only one match with the fugitive, and that is Skorupi.”

    “And the others?” the first barked. The second guard checked Drew first.

    “Roselia... Flygon... Furret... Masquerain... Absol,” he reported. “My, what a powerful bunch of Pokemon you have!”

    “Don’t worry about that, what about the last one?” the first guard ordered. “If he has a Salamence or a Seviper on him... well, we’ll just have to find out, won’t we?”

    Sweat began to gather in beads on Max’s skin as the second guard examined him with the scanner, checking him extra carefully. He swallowed nervously as the guard checked his back.

    “Gardevoir... Mareep... Grovyle... Claydol... Chikorita... No Salamence or Seviper.” Max’s eyes shot open in surprise.

    “Are we clear to go yet?” Jessie asked impatiently. “We need to deliver them to Professor Sebastian.”

    “Go on then,” the first guard said, waving them by. “Get yourselves inside.”

    Max waited until they were well past the guards before giving in to the temptation to sigh in relief. “I thought we’d be caught for sure,” he said.

    “No kidding,” Silver agreed, “I’m glad we decided to leave Salamence in the forest in case it gave us away.”

    “I don’t particularly care about your Salamence,” Jessie said, sounding extremely upset. “What happened to Seviper? Where did it go?” Meowth reached a hand into his mouth, retched, and pulled out an extremely slimy Poke Ball.

    “I thought dat dey might be suspicious if dey found a Seviper on you, since it’s your best known Pokeemon,” he explained. “I snuck it in my mouth off of da twerp’s belt when dey weren’t looking. You really oughta wash dem more often,” he added to Jessie. “Dey taste terrible; like a bunch of varnishes and perfumes mixed tageder.”

    “It’s not from me,” Jessie huffed.

    “Which way do we go?” Drew asked.

    “The laboratory is below ground,” Jessie answered. “I’m sure that Moltres and Deoxys would be somewhere nearby to it. Follow me.” Then she caught sight of a Grunt rounding the corner as he moved towards them. “Hurry up,” she snarled, yanking viciously on Meowth’s rope again. “You’ve got some beans to spill, and the boss is waiting for you.”

    “I never realized Jessie was such a good actor, what with the way she was treating you,” Silver whispered to Meowth once the Grunt had passed them by. Meowth looked at him wryly.

    “Acting?” he asked.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Giovanni paced through the holding area, looking at each legendary Pokemon but not really seeing them. He had a pounding headache; the long-lost and seemingly unknown password and files that Paul had revealed to him had caused cracks in Mewtwo’s memory wipe. Now, they were struggling to break through the curious blankness that had covered that part of his mind since the incident occurred.

    He had always been confused and suspicious of what had actually transpired; his memory was both prodigious and formidable, but the events he recalled never made sense. One moment he was sitting at his desk, vaguely excited about the prospect of finding... something. He remembered the phone ringing, reaching for it, and then inexplicably standing in a large pile of rubble, a very confused Domino by his side. It did not make sense.

    Now at last he knew the reason for this; Mewtwo had wiped his mind. But despite reading all of his old files, he still did not fully comprehend. What was Mewtwo? How had it managed to blank his memory? Had it turned against him, or was it uncontrollable from the start? There were only two things he knew for sure. Mewtwo was extremely powerful, and it had beaten him.

    Giovanni did not like to be beaten.

    These lost memories straining through the cracks were the key to understanding this creation, of that Giovanni was convinced. The trick was getting to them. Oh, there were brief flashes to be sure. An image of it enshrouded in metal plates... a Nidoking flying through the air... two machines exploding...

    How had Paul kept these memories, he wondered. Why had he not forgotten? It was no surprise to Giovanni that Damian lacked knowledge of the creature; to all intensive purposes he was an idiot, a showman with little real talent. Damian would not have been told of Mew’s cloning. And Reggie was already estranged from him when cloning had commenced; although he had maintained a very cordial relationship with his youngest brother until recently, he had not contacted his father since informing him he had bought a house in Sinnoh.

    He massaged his temples, grimacing. The memories would come in time, he was certain. And when they did, he would have the advantage; Mewtwo would not suspect that his memory wipe could have been lifted. But until those memories were restored, there was work to be done. The cloning of Latios, for example.

    He left the holding area and moved down the steel passageway, heading towards the location where Moltres had caused so much havoc when it broke loose. He slipped his hands into his pockets as he moved, reassuring himself with the cool touches of both the Silph Scope and the Soul Dew. He wondered briefly what his mood would be like if the restoration machine had been destroyed by Moltres. The thought was quickly shaken from his mind; he was relieved that it had not been damaged, and it was no use brooding on what might have happened.

    At the reinforced steel doors, two grunts stood at attention; they sprang a smart salute as Giovanni passed by, ignoring them completely. He typed his personal code into the keypad at the side, causing the doors to slide open silently. He walked through the doorway and found himself in the massive room where the Moltres had broken free; heading towards a large machine bolted securely into the wall he paid little heed towards the room’s other occupants, choosing instead to slot both the Soul Dew and Silph Scope into place, a task he entrusted to nobody else.

    “Sebastian!” he shouted, steeping back from the machine, and the scientist emerged from the opposite side.

    “Giovanni, sir,” Sebastian acknowledged.

    “You know what I am after, correct?” Giovanni began. “You understand why I have sought the stone Plates and the legendary Pokemon?”

    “Yes; it is all a part of your quest to obtain and control the most powerful Pokemon the world has ever seen, is it not?” Giovanni nodded, then hesitated before phrasing his next question.

    “To summon this Pokemon is an incredibly difficult task,” he said. “It requires the combined power and influence of the legendary Pokemon and the stone Plates; the Pokemon to call it into our world, and the Plates to anchor it here in a physical form.” Sebastian waited without responding, knowing that Giovanni was not just engaging in an idle chat.

    “It has come to my attention that a legendary Pokemon may have been improperly cloned, creating a new species,” he said carefully. “Who, how, and why are not important at this time, but the resultant species would seem to be just as powerful – if not more so – than the species from which it was created.”

    “You mean to say that a new species of legendary Pokemon has been created?” Sebastian asked.

    “Yes,” Giovanni said. “At least, I think it’s legendary. I don’t know for sure. What I would like to know is, since the ancient texts we are following state that one specimen of each species of legendary Pokemon must be present for it to work...”

    “You want to know if this new, human-created legendary Pokemon would need to be there as well,” Sebastian completed, frowning in thought. “That is a puzzling situation you have brought up, and I can’t give a definitive answer ... On the one hand, this Pokemon did not exist on the prior occasion, but on the other it is a legendary Pokemon...”

    “What do you suggest?” Giovanni asked. “Give me your best hypothesis.”

    “I do not believe it makes that much of a difference,” Sebastian said slowly. “Since it is of human conception it may not be necessary, but it would not hinder you if it were to be captured and brought here.” Giovanni nodded, deep in thought, before turning to one of the Rockets working along the far wall.

    “Cassidy!” he roared, and she hastened to his side. “Find Paul,” he ordered, “I need him down here now. And get Damian to contact Hunter J; tell him to give her the psychic fingerprint in the third drawer on my desk so that she can track and capture the creature that emits that frequency.”

    “Yes, sir,” she said, snapping a quick salute before hurrying off. Giovanni turned back to the machine, looking at it for a brief moment. With this he could bring back the dead. With this, his dream could be fulfilled.

    “With this, you will be mine,” he whispered.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The steel doors opened just as Jessie was reaching for the keypad; she looked up and locked eyes with Cassidy. A dead feeling swooped through her stomach and she quickly looked away, averting her gaze. But Cassidy seemed not to have noticed any of them; her eyes were glazed as she swept past, intent on finding Paul and Damian as quickly as she could in an effort to get back in Giovanni’s good books.

    Jessie and Meowth both gave silent sighs of relief when the golden-haired woman had passed. “Dat was too close,” Meowth muttered.

    “You know her?” Silver enquired.

    “She was da one who tried to kill us,” Meowth answered. Jessie tugged sharply on his rope.

    “Come on,” she hissed, “let’s go before the doors close!” Silver stepped nimbly through the doorway as it began to slide shut, followed quickly by Drew and Max. Jessie turned away to get her bearings and froze when she saw Giovanni several feet away, his back to them as he contemplated the incredible machine that stood before them.

    “Quick, behind dere!” Meowth urged, pointing out a maze-like tangle of barrels and pipes alongside the far wall that was only head-high.

    Trying not to be noticed by Giovanni, Professor Sebastian, or one of the dozen or so Grunts that were at work, they snuck over quickly to the structure. Silver had never felt so exposed, his large size an incredible eyesore. He knew that if even one person turned and saw them...

    But they made it, without a single person looking around. Max, Drew, and Meowth were all able to stand comfortably, but Jessie and Silver both had to sit to remain hidden.

    “Okay, so now we’re in,” Silver whispered. “Where are the legendary Pokemon, and how do we get out without being spotted?”

    “I knew we’d forgotten something when we came up wid dat plan,” Meowth grumbled. Drew opened his mouth to respond, but a crackling in the air prompted him to close it again. The hair on their bodies slowly began to stand on end as the static electricity washed over them, and for the first time Jessie was actually glad that her hair had been hacked off; even she knew that a mass of frizzy red hair would probably look out of place among the silvers and greys of their hiding place.

    “We’re ready to begin, sir,” they heard a Grunt report. “The machine is on and in standby mode.”

    “Start it up,” Giovanni’s voice answered. “The sooner Latios is brought back, the sooner the real project can begin.” None of them could resist; Jessie, Meowth, Silver, Drew, and Max all poked their heads over the top of the structure, wanting to see exactly what was happening.

    The machine Giovanni had been looking at when they entered had activated. Several antennae dotted around the structure were revolving at high speed, generating the incredible power that was needed and causing the room to be awash with static. Between the antennae blue streaks of electricity conjoined, bathing the whole area in a ghostly glow, a glow so blue that it seemed almost white. A massive, thick beam of that light shot out from the machine; upon encountering the Silph Scope in its path it narrowed, focusing its power and imbibing the strange power that the device held.

    The light struck the fragment of Soul Dew; it began glowing in response, casting an almost deathly pallor across the faces of those who watched. The Soul Dew then turned red and an acrid smell began to fill the room; Jessie and Max had to suppress a gag, but of those present in the room only Silver, Giovanni, and Sebastian recognized the stench of a decomposed and rotting carcass.

    A high, keening scream echoed throughout the area, the distress call of a creature in considerable pain. It came from the Soul Dew, a quavering cry that filled everyone’s hearts with a desolate sadness and pierced their souls. Tears filled their eyes, and they clutched at their chests as they seemed to feel that palpable pain as their own. Only Giovanni seemed unmoved by it all.

    The Soul Dew’s glow intensified and grew. Now they were forced to avert their eyes, shielding their retinas from the blinding glare being given off. And so they did not see as the shape of the Soul Dew within the light began to contort and expand, the jagged edge of the cut and the soft smooth curve of the sphere morphing into definitive features. Arms and legs sprouted from the underneath of the object as two stiff wings grew out of the sides; a head and neck appeared and suddenly the keening came not from the inanimate glass-like object, but from vocal cords.

    And then the glow vanished. The light that illuminated everyone’s faces so brightly was gone and the keening died, leaving only tears frozen to the cheeks of all who had witnessed it. In the machine the Silph Scope lay smoking, twisted and burned beyond recognition, destroyed by the intense light that had been generated. Further down, the fragment of Soul Dew had vanished. In its place was the shuddering form of Latios, his eyes closed in obvious pain but lacking the strength to give even a whimper.

    “It’s badly hurt,” Sebastian observed. “I don’t think the Silph Scope lasted as long as was needed; Latios looks as if it may die again at any moment.”

    “Then I’ll preserve it,” Giovanni said, withdrawing a Dark Ball from his pocket. “I only need it kept alive for a short time, and the Dark Ball will keep it in a static state until then.”

    “You brought this legendary Pokemon back to life just to let it die again?” Sebastian asked softly, incredulously.

    “I brought it back so that I can use its power,” Giovanni answered sharply. “When I’ve done that, I’ll have no further use for it.”

    “Dis isn’t good,” Meowth muttered from behind the structure as everyone slowly withdrew their heads. “Now dey’ve got Latios, and in a Dark Ball too!”

    “Its soul is gone,” Jessie said, a haunted look on her face. “Nothing can save it now...”

    “What about the other legendaries?” Silver asked. “We can still save them!”

    “It’s no use,” Drew said, shaking his head in anger. “If they have one Pokemon in a Dark Ball, the others probably are too.”

    “You mean Deoxys is gone?” Max whispered.

    “But we don’t know that!” Silver said impatiently. “Latios was badly injured, Giovanni had no other choice! But we still have a chance to save Moltres and Deoxys! We can’t give up.”

    “You saw how much security dere was on da way down,” Meowth snapped. “We don’t got no chance of getting by dem, freeing da legendaries, an’ den getting outta here alive! I don’t tink we can even get outta dis room, unless you have some way to make da two of us invisible so we can sneak past da Boss an all dem Grunts!”

    “Keep it down,” Jessie hissed, looking nervously over her shoulder. The colour in her face died. Standing only a few feet away, Butch looked at her in wonder.

    “Jessie,” he said softly to himself. He opened his mouth to shout a warning, but Drew glanced over and, seeing him standing there, launched himself at the member of Team Rocket. It was a perfect tackle, knocking Butch onto his back; he let out a grunt of pain and Drew quickly clamped a hand over his mouth.

    “If you say a word, we’re all dead,” he hissed. “Do you really want our deaths on your conscience?” It was the right thing to say; Butch’s eyes filled with tears and he slowly shook his head no. Cautiously, Drew removed his hand and Butch looked away, refusing to meet anybody’s eyes.

    “I never wanted this,” he said hoarsely. “I never wanted things to end this way. I’m a thief; I can’t help that. But I’m not a murderer, I’m not!” He shuddered, trying to suppress the tears in his eyes. “Ever since Giovanni called Cassidy and me into his office and told us he wanted us to kill you and James... I’ve known since then that my life is over. I don’t want to die, but if you’re alive I’ll be the one killed. But if I kill you, I won’t be able to live with myself.” He let out a short, humourless bark of laughter. “Either way I die; but what can I do? There had to be more than this, there had to...”

    As he trailed into a miserable silence, Jessie looked at him with an expression akin to pity. She put her hand softly on his shoulder, and surprised at the touch, he inadvertently looked at her, locking eyes; hers were filled with a compassion he didn’t know she had.

    “Help us get out of here,” she said gently. “Help us escape and come with us; life with Team Rocket is no life at all. Save our lives and live your own, free from all this death and despair.” He looked at her a moment longer, reading the sincerity in her eyes. Then, slowly, he nodded.

    “I’ll help you,” he whispered.

  12. #117
    Henshin! Kamen_Fanatic's Avatar
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    Wow, that was.. emotional. Keep up the drama! Can't wait for the next chapter of this great series!

  13. #118
    Religion is a club Every Breaking Wave's Avatar
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    Here we are; the penultimate chapter. It's been a lot of fun writing this, but now it's time to say goodbye. This will be my last author's note for Final Challenge, since the final chapter is coming up immediately after I put up this one. But there are some things I would like to say about this story first.

    Over 45 000 views on this story, and 300+ reviews submitted. Wow. It's just incredible. I never expected this story to get such a reception. It's unbelievable. You've been reading since I started a year ago and kept on coming back despite the very long breaks in between updates this year. When I first started writing this, I figured I'd aim for something around half the length of May's Crush, so about 17 chapters. It's now at 41 chapters, not including the April Fools day chapter (and over 150 000 words!). So you can imagine my surprise at stretching it out to this length. And yet in some ways I still feel as if I've rushed through parts of this story, and not paid attention to details that I should have. Ah well. I guess it's too late to remedy that now.

    There is one thing I would like to make clear. From the moment I began writing Final Challenge, it was a story about the end of Ash's journey as a roaming Pokemon trainer, as opposed to a shipping story. The shipping is certainly an element, yes, but it always took a backseat towards the actual plot. It's a shipping story without the shipping, if you will. And to be completely honest, I think this was the right thing to do.

    I was inspired to write this story by reading May's Crush and PKM Rangers: Rise of the Dark Gems. I recognized that the authors of both had put a tremendous amount of work and thought into it all. I've always loved writing, and I've been told numerous times that I have a natural talent for it. So I decided to use these two stories as the benchmark of my own. If I met these benchmarks, great. If I exceeded them, fantastic. If I didn't, I would just rewrite the chapter. It seems to have paid off. I've had at least one person tell me anonymously that they think focusing on a plot the way I did, as opposed to allow the shipping to drive the plot, made Final Challenge a more enthralling and entertaining read than May's Crush. Are they right? You'll have to be the judge on that. Did I meet or exceed my benchmarks? Again, you'll have to be the judge. All I will say is that one of my aims with this was to write a story containing AdvanceShipping that would excel May's Crush; so I was very touched and pleased to hear that even one person thought so.

    Now I just want to give a shout-out to the people who have been reading and reviewing for so long now; a major thanks to LuciferIX, the Dark Fiddler, Blackjack Palazzo, Amphlosion, EmeraldDragonite, Mayziken, Pors, XAOTL, Jb, DavetheFishGuy, Sp1derp1g, Praetor, betagold, BlazikenEX, Moka, DragonWarrior3000, Psychopath, and anyone who I've missed out (I'm sure there's quite a few, so many have reviewed this story!) And of course, I have all of you closet readers to thank as well!

    Anyways, I guess that's enough of an author's note for this story. I hope that you've enjoyed reading this, and that you'll enjoy these last two chapters. There are some unexpected twists ahead, and I'm sure that some (many) of you will hate me for the ending. As always please review, and I'm more than happy to answer any questions you may have over PM or in a response here.

    Thank you all for reading (and please forgive me over these multiple posts, but as this is the end of the story it really must all be posted together),

    Matthew
    (Matkin22)

    Chapter 40: Final Challenge (Part One)


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Dawn moaned as her foot squelched deep into the mud, the cold ooze closing around her foot. “This idea sucks!” she exploded, struggling to pull her foot free from the mire. “Why do we have to go through a swamp?”

    “The distributary is on the other side,” Noland said, helping her to free her foot. “The reason not many people know about it is because of the swamp; almost nobody comes to this area, even though it’s the best place for water- and bug-Pokemon in all of Kanto. When we get across Tohjo River the ground will firm up a bit and we’ll hit the woodlands.”

    “So why do we have to walk through this?” she insisted. “It would be so much easier to fly across.”

    “Flying is too visible,” Ash called back as he carefully skirted a pothole. “We could be seen for miles around; going through the swamp is much safer.” Dawn grimaced at his answer and sighed in frustration as her foot was sucked into the mud again.

    “Oh, this is just too frustrating,” she growled, reaching for a Poke Ball at her belt.

    “Don’t bother,” Noland said as he helped her out of the mud again. “Any Pokemon that can carry you would just sink into the mud and get stuck.”

    “Wonderful,” she grumbled.

    “Relax,” he said, talking her arm and holding it out at arm’s length. “Look were I’m pointing your arm; see that sliver of blue?” Dawn stared for a moment, and then a wide grin split across her face.

    “Tohjo River!” she exclaimed, dashing towards the river and straight into the pothole Ash had carefully avoided.

    “And again,” Noland sighed as she let out a yell of horror, moving forwards to pull her out for the third time.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    “When the Moltres escaped, it broke its way through the headquarters to get outside,” Butch explained. “Quite a few walls and floors collapsed because of it.”

    “How does that help us?” Max asked. “That’s a really steep climb.”

    “Exactly, and we’re not going out that way,” Butch said. “We want to avoid that completely. Everyone who isn’t out on a mission is being forced to repair the damage; including Professor Namba.” A satisfied smile crossed his face for the briefest of moments.

    “I still don’t get it,” Silver frowned.

    “Don’t you?” Butch asked. “If everyone is at work repairing the damage...”

    “Then there are fewer people in between us and an exit,” Max realized.

    “Exactly,” Butch grinned, “and I know the perfect way out.”

    “Where?” Meowth asked before sneaking a peek around a barrel, noticing that Professor Sebastian was heading towards the steel doors they had entered the room through.

    “Through the lab,” Butch answered. “Cassidy and I spent a lot of time working with Namba; a lot more time than was good for our sanity, probably. I know that lab better than I know my own face, and there is a way we can all get out.”

    “What is it?” Drew asked.

    “An air vent; the lab was built against solid bedrock for stability, but there had to be good circulation in there to get rid of any noxious gases from experiments,” Butch explained. “Most of them lead to an air purifier a couple of floors up, but one goes straight through the mountainside and ends pretty much at ground level.” Silver did not look enthused.

    “This air vent... am I even going to fit inside, let alone climb through it?” he asked. Butch frowned.

    “I don’t know,” he said slowly. “It’ll be a very tight squeeze for you...”

    “Well then, forget about it,” Silver said cheerfully. “You guys have fun going through the air vent; I’m going the same way that Moltres did.”

    “What? No!” Jessie hissed. “You’ll be caught and killed!” Silver shrugged.

    “I’m a fast guy, and nobody would be foolish enough to stand in my way if they saw me charging straight for them,” he said, before turning to Max. “I’ll take my Chikorita now, if you don’t mind,” he said, taking the Poke Ball from Max’s belt.

    “But... but...” Jessie blustered, unable to find words appropriate of her dismay at his decision.

    “This is a distraction,” Silver said firmly, his gaze brokering no more arguments. “You all get out of here and get as far away as you can. I don’t know what Giovanni is planning to do, but you don’t want to be caught up in it. Wait a couple hours for me at the river; if I don’t show up by sunset, go north and don’t stop until you reach the coastline.”

    “How are you going to get down?” Butch challenged. “I saw the hole that Moltres made. If you jump from that high up, you’ll be killed.”

    “Don’t worry about me,” Silver said with a wink. “I’m a survivor.” Without waiting for a response, he stood up to his full height and calmly strolled around the side of the barrels and pipes. Jessie, Meowth, Max, and Drew watched with bated breath as he strolled across the room towards what appeared to be a square-shaped hole in the wall that was riddled with scorch-marks, an air of supreme calm and confidence radiating from his body. He was three-quarters of the way across the floor before a Grunt turned from his work and saw him walking with an expression of polite interest on his face.

    “Hey... hey you!” he shouted, catching Giovanni’s and Sebastian’s attention as he did so. “What are you doing down here?” Silver sprang into action at the exact moment that Giovanni looked around curiously. He thundered towards the opening his eyes fixed on the height as he calculated what kind of jump he would need to make.

    “Stop him!” Giovanni roared, and for a moment several Grunts appeared to be considering it. But one look at Silver’s resolute face and incredibly muscular frame bounding towards them quickly changed their minds. All but one scattered, diving out of the way to avoid being hit by the charging man, clearing Silver’s way completely save for a lone man, the Grunt who had first noticed him approaching.

    Whether it was bravery or stupidity, Silver didn’t know and he didn’t particularly care either. The Grunt held out a single trembling hand, evidently hoping that Silver would stop.

    He didn’t.

    He ploughed over the man without slowing down in the least. The Grunt bounced off of Silver’s dense, muscular body, crashing into the wall and already unconscious.

    “After him!” Giovanni shouted, running forward himself as Silver leaped easily through the open space, catching hold of the steel window-frame and swinging himself upwards with ease onto the next floor. In a matter of moments the room became deserted as Giovanni disappeared after Silver and the Grunts hastened to follow their leader.

    “Wow,” Max said, blinking once.

    “Wow,” Drew agreed.

    “And he did it with style,” Jessie said.

    “So, now dat he’s gone running off shouldn’t we get to dat air vent?” Meowth asked.

    “Air vent... uhh, right!” Butch said, snapping back to reality. “Follow me and stick close!”

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Silver moved at a ferocious rate, alternately running along twisted metal and singed wood and climbing upwards on bent bars. The pursuers behind him were far more agile on the treacherous route than he, but his astonishing physical strength and stamina were enough to keep him ahead. Surprised Grunts ahead tried to get out of his way as he charged towards them; those that were not quick enough impacted off of his shoulders and lay dazed on the ground, tripping up the Grunts that followed.

    Boards of plywood were stretched out every few levels, providing secure footholds for the Grunts repairing the walls and floors; they were no obstacle whatsoever, smashed easily aside as he hurtled upwards. The metal and wood creaked and groaned beneath his feet, but he dared not slow down; to do that, he knew, would risk the damaged floors collapsing beneath his weight. But no matter how fast he ran and climbed, the Grunts chasing after him came slowly nearer. And then he could run no further.

    The open air stretched before him, a slight breeze ruffling through his thick grey hair causing it to blow about his face. He gazed briefly downwards and knew immediately that he had gone as far as he could; if he jumped, he would not survive the fall. At the edge of the forest, he saw what might have been Max vanishing into the undergrowth, and he felt a moment of gladness that his companions had successfully escaped. He heard a brief sarcastic clapping behind him, and Silver slowly turned to see Giovanni at the front of at least twenty Grunts, all of whom held a Poke Ball in their hands.

    “Well done, Silver,” Giovanni called, “you are a remarkably resilient man. You survived Hunter J, even though she reported you dead, and you managed to sneak into our facilities and break into the most secure room we have, all without being noticed by a single guard or Grunt.”

    “What can I say?” Silver asked, trying to regain his breath from the fast-paced climb. “I have a knack for doing what others would call impossible.”

    “Indeed. But I’m afraid this is the end for you,” Giovanni said. “You have nowhere to go but down. Tell me; how does it feel, knowing you are about to do?” Silver grinned and took a step back, cocky at the end.

    “I don’t know,” he shouted, “you tell me!” There was a dazzling flash of violet light, a roaring noise, and when Giovanni and the Grunts finally cleared the bursting stars from their eyes, Silver had gone. Giovanni stood there, unmoving, rage and disbelief clouding his features. He strode forwards towards the hole in the exterior wall and looked downwards, not expecting to see Silver’s body on the ground and unsurprised that he had indeed vanished.

    He turned back to face the Grunts, his face reddening and a vein pulsing heavily on his forehead. Sensing the danger the Grunts scattered, none of them wishing to be last in Giovanni’s sight. The enraged leader of Team Rocket threw his head back and roared his anger at being foiled again into the sky.

    “SILVER!”

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    With a bang and a flash of violet light, Silver appeared in the midst of the forest. He swayed dizzily for a moment before his knees buckled. Four pairs of hands and one set of paws reached out to steady him, catching him just before he hit the ground. But even the combined of efforts of Jessie, Meowth, Max, Drew, and Butch were barely enough to sustain his huge frame.

    “I thought I told you to not to worry about me?” Silver challenged, waving them off as his balance returned.

    “Well, when we saw you trapped at the hole, we decided that we had to save you somehow,” Max answered.

    “You’re the reason why Meowth and I are still alive,” Jessie said.

    “And why we got out of there without being seen,” Butch added.

    “You’re the reason we made it so far this afternoon,” Drew said. “You kept us motivated and focused, and you were going to let yourself be killed to save us; we couldn’t let that happen.”

    “Yeah, well, thanks,” Silver grunted, genuinely touched although he didn’t let it show.

    “Don’t tank us,” Meowth said, “Tank da twoip’s Gardevoir; she’s da one who teleported you outta dere.”

    “Really,” Silver said after a pause, turning to look at the Psychic-type. “Well then, thank you for saving my life, Gardevoir.”

    “Gahr,” she answered, shaking her head to indicate it was nothing. “Voir garde.”

    “Gardevoir says dat it was da least she could do since you saved her trainer’s life,” Meowth translated.

    “Great,” Silver said, looking around distractedly; “where are we?”

    “In the woods outside Team Rocket’s headquarters,” Max answered. “We’d better get moving; I have no doubt that Giovanni is sending out people to look for you as we speak. The stream’s in that direction,” he said, pointing in the opposite direction of the sun. Silver nodded in acknowledgement, but didn’t move.

    “What is it?” Jessie asked.

    “I hate leaving those legendary Pokemon,” Silver answered. “It doesn’t seem... right. They’re meant to live free, not be captured and hang around until it’s decided they’re expendable.”

    “I don’t like it any better than you do,” Max said softly. “But there’s nothing any of us can do. How long will it be until Giovanni thinks to interview the two guards we passed and finds out that there were four others with you? You’ve escaped death twice now; I don’t think you’ll be as lucky the third time.” Silver nodded slightly, recognizing the sense of his words but a far-off look in his eyes.

    “Yeah,” he said, before snapping back to attention. “Alright then, we head back to the stream. We’ll rest there for a few minutes and then head north for Sinnoh. I’ve been in these parts before; I know the way to the coast.”

    “I’m going south,” Max announced suddenly; everybody looked at him. “Sorry,” he said, “but I don’t have a death penalty on my head. Team Rocket doesn’t know what I look like, and I’m not going to cut off contact with my family and just vanish into the wilderness like that. I have a dream to follow.”

    “I’m going south too,” Drew said. “I have places to go and... and people to apologize to.” He cast a half-glance over at Max as he said this. “Maybe I’ll end up in Sinnoh one day, but not right now. I still have my life to live, and it isn’t in mortal danger right now.” Silver nodded, clasping both their hands in understanding.

    “Then the stream is where we’ll part,” he said, his voice thick.

    “Well, no point in just hanging around,” Jessie said, casting a nervous glance back in the direction of Rocket headquarters.

    “Yeah, da four of us aren’t exactly welcome in dese parts,” Meowth said, indicating Silver and Butch. As they began walking almost silently towards the stream Silver took a careful look around, preserving the memory of what he saw.

    “I never thought I’d be forced to leave my home... to leave Kanto,” he muttered to himself.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Dawn emerged from Tohjo River, dripping wet and seriously ticked off. She kept casting malevolent glances at Ash’s back as he rested from the swim, a gesture hardly missed by Rey and Noland.

    “Take it easy,” Noland said, trying to calm her down. “He’s doing the best he can, and you should be used to this kind of travelling by now.”

    “Yeah,” Rey added, “and at least the swim washed all the mud off your shoes!”

    “I think I’d prefer the mud,” Dawn muttered rebelliously. “That water might have ruined my skirt and shoes.” Overhearing, May sighed and sent out her little Charmander.

    “Charmander, can you warm us all up?” she asked.

    “Char!” the baby squeaked excitedly; closing its eyes, the little fire-type concentrated on focusing the energy within the flame on its tail. In a matter of seconds the tail began to burn with an unfevered brilliance, sending a welcome wave of warmth throughout the area that quickly dried everybody’s sodden clothes.

    “Thanks, May,” Brock said, “and thanks to you too, Charmander.”

    “Yeah, thanks,” Dawn said.

    “Char!” the Pokemon answered eagerly and, smiling, May recalled the fire-starter.

    “Thanks, Charmander,” she said to the Poke Ball, returning it to her belt. “That may have just saved Ash from a lynching by Dawn.”

    “Are we ready to go then?” Rey asked. “It’s just along that side-stream, right? Where the trees are?”

    “Right,” Ash nodded. “The trees anchor the earth, so the ground isn’t swampy. Do you see those trees over there?” He pointed towards a line of green, perhaps half an hour away. “The stream goes west for a while, but when it reaches those trees it turns south. Once we reach that we can go into the forest and head straight south; that way we aren’t going in as much of a zigzag pattern as the stream.”

    “Are you sure that’s the best way to go?” James asked.

    “Why do you ask that?” Brock frowned. James pointed towards the mountains a few hours away.

    “See that really tall mountain? That’s Mount Silver,” he said. “And if you look to the left, about five mountains over; see that smaller mountain that’s closer to us? That’s where Team Rocket headquarters is. There’s a stream about a three hours walk away from there; I’m not positive, but I think it may be the same stream as this.”

    “The last thing we want to do is walk into Paul’s clutches,” Brock said turning to Ash, who appeared to be in thought, his lips moving soundlessly as he stared at the sky.

    “Ash?” May asked curiously, and then more loudly: “Ash!”

    “Huh?” he asked, snapping back to attention.

    “Are you alright, Ash?” she asked in concern. “You weren’t saying anything.”

    ‘Sorry... I was just trying to think,” he explained. “I trained in this area with Infernape, Gallade, Floatzel, and Sceptile in between Elite 4 matches, and I was trying to remember the geography. I think James is right,” he added, causing the blue-haired trainer to twist in surprise.

    “You okay, James?” Noland asked.

    “Yeah, I’m just not used to hearing that I’m right,” he said with a wry smile. “So... where do we go now?”

    “If I remember right,” Ash said, “The stream goes straight south for a while before heading back east and then south again. We can just go straight south instead of towards the mountains.”

    “It’s still really close to Team Rocket,” Rey observed.

    “It’s far enough away to make me feel safe,” he responded. May sighed and began moving towards the stand of trees that sheltered the stream.

    “Well, if you think that we’ll be safe going that way then it’s good enough for me, Ash,” she said. He looked at her, trying to meet the eyes hidden by her fringe. He may not have been able to read body language that well, but he knew May well enough to see that she was nervous about travelling so close to Team Rocket headquarters. He felt a sickening tightening in his stomach. If he was wrong...

    “It’s good enough for me too,” Rey said, following May towards the trees. “I mean, the closer we get to danger the farther we are from harm, right? Who’d expect anyone to be so brazen as to walk past a national crime syndicate’s headquarters?”

    “That’s very reassuring, Rey,” Dawn said. “For the record, I actually do know one person who’d do that.”

    “Three guesses on who that is,” Ash grumbled, striding past them quickly as he hurried under the shade and cover provided by the trees.

    Had it not been the sense of ever-present danger that hung over them like a cloud, the walk would have been both relaxing and pleasurable. The area was wild and almost completely unexplored; a light breezed cooled them from the back, and the stream gurgled peacefully beside them. They moved at a brisk pace, the trees around them breaking up the heat and light from the hot sun above and casting a beautiful array of shadows on the ground before them.

    Yes, it’s certainly tranquil, Ash realized. If it wasn’t for the relative proximity to Team Rocket... His musings were interrupted when in front of him May moved over a small crest, stopped, and uttered one word.

    “Max?” she asked.

    “May?” he gasped in equal surprise, turning away from Silver, Jessie, and Meowth whom he had been bidding farewell to.

    “Jessie?” James wondered aloud as he too reached the crest.

    “James!”

    “Meowth; dose are da names!” the cat-like Pokemon said happily, rushing to be reunited with his blue-haired friend. He was bowled over by what appeared to be a streak of blue lightning, racing towards a stunned Jessie while crying out ‘Wobba, wobba wobba!"

    “Wobbuffet!” she gasped, falling to her knees in shock as she reached out to embrace the Pokemon she thought had been lost. “Oh Wobbuffet, I thought I’d never see you again!” she gasped, unmasked tears in her eyes.

    “Uncle Silver!” Ash and Dawn both shouted simultaneously, recognizing the hulking man. There was a brief moment of stunned silence as their words reverberated through the trees. Then they turned to each other, looks of complete shock on their greying faces. “Uncle?” they asked the other, aghast. Silver sighed.

    “This is going to be a long and unpleasant story,” he muttered.

    “Forget dat story, it’s da twoip!” Meowth shouted excitedly, lunging forwards. “Get dat Pikachu!”

    “Who are we going to give it to once we’ve stolen it?” Jessie asked him, sighing as she trapped his tail under her boot. “We’re out of Team Rocket, remember?”

    “Oh yeah,” he said sheepishly before looking towards Ash and Pikachu. “Sorry; force of habit. Even dough you are a twoip.”

    “A twerp who helped save your Wobbuffet’s life,” Rey said unsmilingly. Jessie and Meowth both looked surprised.

    “Really? But why did you do that?” Jessie asked.

    “I’d have done it for any Pokemon,” Ash replied, “and so would any of the people here.” Dawn continued to stare at him.

    “Uncle?” she repeated.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Silver leaned against a sturdy oak as he gazed down at Ash and Dawn, trying to think of what to say. May, Max, Brock, Rey, Drew, Noland, Butch, Jessie, James, Meowth, Wobbuffet, and even Pikachu had moved away to give them some privacy. Out the corner of his eye he could see Brock and Noland discussing the best ingredients for Ghost-type Pokemon food, while Rey and Pikachu appeared to be listening half-attentively. Drew was trying to say something to a clearly uninterested May while Max watched on, his face turning red in suppressed anger. Jessie, James, and Meowth were all arguing apparently just for the sake of it while Butch sat nearby, head in hands. Silver groaned and stretched his back against the bark, aware that Ash and Dawn were both watching reproachfully.

    “It’s not a pleasant story,” he growled.

    “I don’t care,” Dawn said stubbornly. “We’ve been travelling together for five years; and then we suddenly find out we’re brother and sister? What gives?”

    “Why didn’t anybody tell us?” Ash asked, sounding upset. “Why didn’t our Moms...” A sudden thought struck his head. “They didn’t know, did they?” he asked softly. “Our Moms... they didn’t know.” Silver contemplated him for a moment.

    “No, they didn’t,” he grunted. “Delia never found out about Dawn, and Johanna never knew of you. I was the only one who knew, and your father swore me to secrecy with his dying breath.”

    “He’s dead?” Dawn asked, stunned. “I didn’t know...”

    “I did,” Ash said, glancing over at her. “I remember the day you came over to tell Mom the news, Uncle Silver. I’d never seen her so upset before. It was a rock fall, wasn’t it?”

    “That was a lie,” Silver said. “I couldn’t tell her the truth; knowing what really happened to him would have killed her, and you couldn’t be left all alone like that. I’m no parental figure, and I was the only other family you had left.”

    “Except Dawn,” Ash pointed out. Silver grimaced.

    “I’m not going to get out of this, am I?” he asked.

    “No, you’re not,” Dawn said. “Tell us what happened; the truth. Why did he cheat on both of our mothers? Why didn’t you tell them? How did he die?”

    “You’re asking for answers that I don’t have!” he said, exasperated. “Why did he sleep with both of your mothers? The only one who knew the answer to that was him, and he can’t tell us anymore. But he didn’t cheat,” he added. “Your father wasn’t a married man. He wasn’t content to just settle down with someone, the road was always calling him onwards.”

    “I know that feeling,” Ash muttered.

    “I don’t know if he would have ever settled down,” Silver continued. “He was loved by many women, and he loved them in return. He gave at least two the greatest gift he could; a child. Whether he had any more kids, I really don’t know. My brother and I were as close as siblings could be, but we both had secrets we would never tell each other. I don’t think he even knew he had a daughter.”

    “What do you mean?” Dawn asked, upset.

    “When he died Ash was only five,” Silver said, “and let me tell you, I’d never seen him so excited and happy as he was when he found out he had a son. Two years after that he went to Sinnoh, and that’s when he met Johanna. They got very close, but he left for Hoenn after two years of the Sinnoh League. As far as I know, he didn’t go back to Sinnoh in that last year before he died.

    “I went to tell Johanna the bad news because I knew how close she had been to him, and she deserved to know he was dead. I was shocked when I saw you then for the first time, Dawn, and then Johanna told me that you were his daughter. So far as I know, he didn’t even know about you. I was the only one who knew he had two kids. Johanna didn’t know about Delia, and vice versa.”

    “So why didn’t you tell us?” Ash asked

    “Now that would be a pretty random conversation, wouldn’t it? ‘Hi Ash, just stopped in to say hi and now I’m going off to see your sister who you don’t know about; so long!’”

    “Alright, I get the point,” Ash grumbled. “And you couldn’t tell us this before because this is the first time you’ve seen the two of us together, right?”

    “Right.”

    “How did he die?” Dawn asked, and Silver fixed an unblinking gaze on her.

    “Do you really want to know?” he asked. “I was there when it happened; it’s hard... even now, just thinking about it...”

    “We need to know,” Ash said. “For fifteen years I’ve thought he died from a rock fall. Now I find out that was a lie. Dawn never even got the chance to meet him. We both deserve to know what really happened.” Silver sighed, squeezing his eyes shut.

    “If you really want to know, then I’ll tell you,” he said finally.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    15 years ago...

    Silver opened his eyes. The sun was quickly setting; indeed, it was almost entirely dark within the forest they had set up camp. It was difficult to see much detail now, but that didn’t deter him. A familiar wolfish grin spread across his face as he noted the positioning of the early stars and turned over towards his brother. They had slept for the majority of the day, eager to stay up for as long as was possible on this night.

    They were at the eastern-most end of the Celestial Mountains, whose most famous peak was Mount Moon far to the west. Tonight they would witness an event that occurred only once every fifty years; the simultaneous passing of mated Butterfree, Venomoth, Beautifly, and Dustox. While it was true that each species mated every year, normally it happened at different times of the year. But every fifty years the mating season for all four species overlapped and they would travel together over the ocean, going east to lands that were yet to be discovered.

    Seeing the migration of just one species was often described as a wholly beautiful sight. But seeing the four together was simply exceptional, their scales glistening with both moonlight and an early dew as they travelled. It was the rarest of the Pokemon migrations to see, and from their vantage point here in the mountains they would have an unparalleled view as the Pokemon passed overhead; it was even possible that they would be the last people in Kanto to see the beautiful sight.

    So it was with a wide and expecting grin on his face that Silver reached over and began to shake his brother into wakefulness.

    “Come on, time to wake up; you don’t want to miss the migration, do you?” he asked.

    “Five minutes...” his brother muttered, burying his head into the heather.

    “And what happens if they pass by in four?”

    “I’ll come back in fifty years,” he yawned, refusing to open his eyes. Silver sighed and got to his feet.

    “Alright. If that’s what you want,” he said, appearing to give up and walk away into the trees. He was back only second later, a large pail of water in hand which he then sloshed over his brother. He shot into wakefulness immediately.

    “Agh! What was that for?” he shouted.

    “It was your idea to come and see the migration, and now you won’t even wake up for it?” Silver asked. “Come on, this is something you’ll never see again. Enjoy it while you can.”

    “You didn’t have to soak me,” his brother grumbled. “Besides, I will see it again. I’m going to be the first one who follows the Butterfree, Venomoth, Beautifly, and Dustox across the ocean.”

    “Sometimes I forget that you still dream like a child,” Silver sighed, looking down on his younger brother.

    “Only because you grew up so fast,” he shot back.

    “I grew up fast because I had to look after you,” Silver retorted. “You can’t even make a stew; where would you be without me?”

    “Probably still holed up in the Viridian City Pokemon Centre,” his brother chuckled, looking around the trees. “It’s so dark in here now; do you remember where the cliff is?” Silver nodded towards the sky, which was now free of the sun’s vestigial rays.

    “Just follow the stars,” he said.

    “I can’t do that either.”

    “Then follow me.”

    The two brothers walked silently for a while, Silver tracing a path from the night sky and his brother close in his footsteps. The air was crisp, fresh, invigorating. Silver sucked in a deep breath of the cool air and sighed in pleasure; this was what he lived for.

    “Did you hear something?” his brother asked suddenly, pausing and cocking his head intently. Silver stopped and listened intently. He could a tiny breeze ruffling a few leaves by their feet, and the almost inaudible squeaks of hunting Golbat. A branch overhead creaked slightly, and a brook burbled somewhere nearby but out of sight.

    “Nothing out of the ordinary,” he replied, beginning to walk towards the cliff again. But perhaps because of his brother’s slight unease, he found himself feeling more cautious and restless. His senses, having long ago attuned themselves to the intricacies of nature, went into overdrive as almost unconsciously his eyes began scanning every dark shadow and his ears strained for even the tiniest sound. He moved more slowly, every reflex stretching, taking no chances. In this darkness it would be foolish to take chances.

    And then they both saw it; through a break in the trees there was a slight golden light, quavering slightly as they peered at it.

    “It’s on the cliffside,” Silver muttered, recognizing the locations of some of the nearby trees.

    “A campfire do you think?” his brother asked. “Maybe some other people are waiting for the migration too.”

    “Maybe... But I don’t like it,” Silver muttered. “Something feels... wrong.”

    Without expressing another word they began to creep slowly towards the light, taking advantage of the shadows to keep themselves hidden. It was a lengthy progress, as they moved with as much silence as they could. Years spent in the wilderness tracking rare Pokemon came in handy here; both could travel for long distances, leaving barely a bruised leaf as a reminder of their passing presence. Reaching the final trees in between the light and them, Silver took a quick glance at his brother and then peeked out between a few low-lying limbs. He gasped at what he saw.

    A half-dozen men scuttled around a large golden bird, shouting orders and instructions to one another. The bird itself was tied down securely, a massive gash spread across one wing. He looked away, feeling sick, and made eye contact with his brother. The revulsion on his face told him plainly that he too had seen the gigantic bird lashed to the ground, apparently close to unconsciousness and in great pain.

    Taking another look, Silver thought that he had never seen anything sadder; yet somehow it still seemed majestic. For the injured bird, despite being in such a bad condition, shone golden with a multi-coloured aura hovering across it’s beautiful feathers. Its face had a certain nobility to it, even through the suffering. It was undoubtedly a Ho-Oh, and from the glimpses of red he saw splashed across the men’s black uniforms, Silver guessed that it was Team Rocket who had found and captured it.

    He heard a low click to his side, and with a feeling of dread turned towards his brother, seeing as he had feared a Poke Ball enlarged in his hands.

    “You can’t take them all,” he hissed.

    “Then you’ll have to cover me,” his brother responded simply before charging out of the trees and screaming like a madman. Silver stood still a moment in disbelief, swore, and then followed his younger brother out onto the cliffside.

    His brother was already in battle, his Kangaskhan swiping at a stunned Rocket with a roar and knocking him out before turning to face a charging Pinsir sent out by a second Rocket. Sending out his Shelgon, Silver began moving in the opposite direction of his brother in an attempt to get to the Ho-Oh’s other side. A Grunt who had been moving towards his brother spotted him, compared the relative size and apparent ferocity of the Kangaskhan with the Shelgon, and ran towards Silver instead. Before the Grunt could even make a move for a Poke Ball, Silver had reached him and levelled a punch into the man’s gut. The Grunt gasped and doubled over; Silver knocked him out with chop to the back of the man’s neck.

    “Two down!” he shouted.

    “Make it three!” his brother shouted back from beyond his range of vision. Silver grinned as he turned to face a second Rocket Grunt, who had wisely chosen to send out a Pokemon as opposed to taking on Silver himself. Shelgon gazed up at his titanic opponent, a massive Nidoking.

    “Swat that puny thing away with your tail!” the Grunt ordered. Silver grinned.

    “Shelgon, Protect yourself and counter with Hydro Pump!” A glowing green sphere of light enveloped the dragon-type seconds before the Nidoking’s tail impacted. The Nidoking grunted in surprise as its tail bounced off, spinning the poison-type awkwardly. Protect normally stopped an attack, and didn’t reflect it back; to the Nidoking, it was obvious that this was an unusually powerful opponent it was facing. Unfortunately, it had little time to contemplate this before Shelgon’s Hydro Pump blasted into its stomach, knocking it down immediately. The Grunt gaped, dumbstruck as his Nidoking tried to struggle to its feet.

    “How... how did you...”

    “This is quite a special Shelgon I have,” Silver said, rubbing the top of his Pokemon’s thick protective shell fondly. “It knows a lot of moves that it shouldn’t; Hydro Pump was a move it inherited from its father, a Gyarados. I tell you, it was damn near impossible to breed a Salamence with a Gyarados, but I managed it.” The Nidoking collapsed, unable to stand up and Silver eyed the Grunt distastefully.

    “Four!” his brother shouted.

    “Five now,” Silver replied, before looking at the Grunt again. “Get the hell out of here. If I see you here again tonight, I’ll throw you over the cliff myself.” The Grunt’s eyes opened wide and, without saying a word, he recalled his defeated Pokemon and slunk off into the trees.

    “Time to get you away from here,” Silver said softly to the unmoving Ho-Oh, approaching slowly. He reached down to the side of his pants and drew a large knife from its sheath; although he normally used it to help cut up firewood or whittle shapes from any fallen branches as they moved, now he would use it to free the Ho-Oh.

    The majestic legendary Pokemon opened its eyes a crack as he approached, letting out a baleful moan. Silver stared straight back; there was a deep sadness in there that said the bird already knew its fate, and in his heart Silver knew it too. But if it were to die then it would be free and unrestrained, not tethered to the ground. The cords that lashed the Ho-Oh to the ground were tough and strong, but they yielded easily to Silver’s well-honed knife.

    His brother came panting from around the far side of the Ho-Oh, his Kangaskhan already recalled. “That’s all of them,” he said. “Kangaskhan took all four down.”

    “Good,” Silver replied, sawing away with his knife, “they weren’t as tough as I expected.”

    “Tough enough,” his brother replied, before looking and seeing that Silver was already three-quarters of the way through the cords. “That’s impressive,” he said admiringly.

    “The cords just stretch across the Ho-Oh,” Silver answered, severing another bond. “Once this side is done, the others should just slide off when it gets into the air.” Blinding pain enveloped the back of his head; he roared and jumped away, clutching at the agony that spread across his body, falling down, the world swirling in front of him in shades of gray. Dimly, he felt a scrabbling by his hand, a crushing pain from his wrist, and then there was a high-pitched scream.

    Struggling to regain his senses he took several great breaths, still clutching his head as fire danced across his skull. A great, golden light rose into the air in front of him and, rotating to face him, opened its jaws and allowed intense purple flames to escape. He barely had time to draw a shocked breath before the fire washed over him; this was, he knew, the most powerful and dangerous fire attack of all and Ho-Oh’s most powerful weapon; Sacred Fire.

    But something wasn’t right. Although he could feel the intense heat around him and the flames licking his body, there was no pain. His body did not catch. Instead, the flames seemed to pursue something else, something behind him. He turned, his head pain forgotten, and cried out at what he saw.

    His brother stood in the midst of the violet vortex, looking dumbly down at his chest. Protruding firmly from his pectorals was Silver’s knife, a dark stain spreading rapidly from the injury. He reached up towards the knife, pulled firmly, and drew it out of his own body. For a moment he stood there, the slick knife in one hand and blood gushing out of his body to the ground below. He looked up, his eyes meeting Silver’s, and collapsed limply into the dirt as the Sacred Fire ended.

    Silver ran to his brother’s side, his heart pounding in fear and despair as he dropped down beside him. He knew it was too late. His brother’s breathing was already fading, and his eyes were sightless. It did not seem as if he could even talk. Silver tore the knife out of his brother’s hand, throwing it blindly away with a scream before grasping his brother’s hand, tears pouring out of his eyes.

    Metres away from the pair lay the charred and smouldering corpse of the second Grunt Silver had defeated, his life consumed by Ho-Oh’s Sacred Fire. For Ho-Oh had seen the man sneak up behind the pair, smash Silver on the back of the head with a hefty branch, pull the knife from his stunned grasp, and stab his brother in the chest. Now, seeing his death complete, the Ho-Oh crashed back to the ground, its wings lacking the strength for even one more beat. The two dying beings lay next to one another, their fates intertwined. Silver drew great shuddering breaths in his grief, beholding the great legendary Pokemon and the brother he loved so dearly, both labouring to draw even a breath.

    His brother’s grip on his hand suddenly slackened, and Silver cried out in loss. Tears streaming from his eyes, he kissed his brother on the forehead and laid his arm to the ground, unwittingly brushing the Ho-Oh’s wingtip with his brother’s finger as he did so.

    A blinding glow lit up the area, a light so pure that it could be seen for miles. Silver was forced to look away, shielding his wet eyes lest they be blinded. A dull hum spread from the very ground, quickly escalating into a roar before culminating in the screech of a legendary Pokemon. The very air seemed to reverberate with the force of it; to Silver, it seemed almost as if the universe was collapsing in on him.

    And then it was just gone. He stood there blankly, surprised by the sudden end of both light and noise. That was when he noticed his brother’s body was gone. The blankness turned to shock, and then he noticed that Ho-Oh was also gone. He sank to the ground, weeping. He wept for what felt like hours, weeping for his loss and for the loss of the legendary Pokemon. When no further tears would come to his red eyes, he rolled onto his back, staring at the stars. He noticed with little interest that the migration of Butterfree, Venomoth, Beautifly, and Dustox had begun, their scales flashing in the moonlight. It was indeed beautiful, but compared to the death of his brother it all seemed so trivial.

    But while the migration held no interest for him, one sight behind it did. Following the migrating Pokemon was a golden light that seemed to shine with the seven colours of the rainbow. It couldn’t be. It was impossible. It was.

    Ho-Oh trailed the bug Pokemon. It moved slowly, keeping to their pace as it followed them over them mountains, over the sea.

    Towards undiscovered lands.

  14. #119
    Religion is a club Every Breaking Wave's Avatar
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    Chapter 41: Final Challenge (Part Two)

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    “Uncle?” Dawn repeated. As Silver seemed to wither under the sharpness of her astounded and reproachful glare, May and the others decided it would be most tactful to leave them with some semblance of privacy by moving off a short distance. As Brock, Rey, Noland and Pikachu drifted off in one direction, May grabbed her brother’s arm and dragged him further along the stream. To her utter annoyance, she saw after only a few steps that they were being followed by Drew.

    “May; can I have a moment?” he asked hesitantly.

    “No,” she growled with a ferocity that surprised even Max. “I gave you every moment that you needed, and you threw it back in my face.”

    “May...”

    “Would it really be so bad to hear what he has to say?” Max interrupted. May shot a surprised look at him.

    “Yes, it would! You know what happened, Max. Whatever he has to say, I’m not interested.”

    “I’m sorry,” Drew said quickly before she could draw a breath. May rolled her eyes and threw her arms up in exasperation.

    “Oh, here we go,” she said rudely.

    “I am,” Drew said with as much sincerity as he could. “I fell in love with your body more than I did yourself... I... I became something that I’ve always loathed when I did that. I lost track of who I was.”

    “You were never in love with me, Drew,” May shot back. “All you ever cared about were my breasts.” Drew winced, deeply hurt by the comment.

    “I’m trying to apologize for what I did,” he tried again, but May wasn’t having any of it.

    “An apology. Right. So you think that makes up for cheating on me, for ripping my heart in two, for stalking me around Johto and Hoenn, and for trying to kidnap me? For the last two years all I’ve ever heard from your mouth is ‘I’m sorry’. And you think it makes a difference?”

    Max had only heard one word in the last tirade. “Kidnap?” he repeated looking at Drew accusingly, his face turning red with suppressed rage. “You never told me that you tried to kidnap her!”

    “Why would he, Max?” May asked scathingly, casting her former rival a withering glare. “The only things he has ever cared about are himself, and how he can turn a situation to his advantage.”

    “I saved your life and you thank me saying how I’ve freed your mind from an insanity you’ve had since May rejected you when you went back to her!” Max shouted at the Coordinator. “In everything that you told me you did, you didn’t mention that you tried to kidnap her!”

    “I...”

    “Let me make this very clear for you, Drew,” May seethed, twisting so that she stood eye-to-eye with him. “No matter how many times you apologize, no matter how “sorry” you are, no matter how much time passes... I will never forgive you for what you’ve done to me. Never.” Without another word she turned and walked away, Max following after giving Drew a look of deepest disgust. The Coordinator stood there alone, blinking back solitary tears. He’d known it would be futile, known that it would be thrown back into his face like that.

    But he had tried. And perhaps because of this, despite her words, somewhere down the line May might forgive him.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The sun was fading, casting an almost surreal array of shadows on the ground. The fading rays illuminated Silver’s craggy face as he faced Ash and Dawn, his tale complete and waiting for them to speak.

    “I don’t understand,” Dawn said at last, watching Silver keenly. “He died and his body just vanished?”

    “Yes and no,” Silver answered, looking away to gather his thoughts. “After seeing Ho-Oh die and be reborn... I went to Ecruteak City in Johto, its ancestral home, to learn as much about it as I could. Tell me; have either of you heard about the legend of the Brass Tower?” Dawn shook her head, but Ash spoke up.

    “I have; it was said to be the home of a Lugia hundreds of years ago, but it was destroyed by a mysterious fire. Three Pokemon were trapped and died in the flames, but Ho-Oh resurrected them and they became the legendary trio of beasts: Raikou, Entei, and Suicune. Since that day of the fire, all five have roamed the world and are almost never seen.”

    “Accurate in the basics,” Silver nodded. “Without delving into the whole subject of Ho-Oh’s mythology – which would take you years to learn, and even then your knowledge would still be incomplete – you should understand that Ho-Oh possesses a talent that no other species of Pokemon does. When a Pokemon dies, Ho-Oh can bring that Pokemon back to life.”

    “How?” Dawn asked.

    “Nobody knows,” Silver replied. “Maybe it’s best that way; can you imagine how crowded the world would be without death? But it is an ability that Ho-Oh has. Whether it can be used on humans too, who knows? In all of my research, the only known instances I’ve found where Ho-Oh has brought a Pokemon back to life are Raikou, Entei, and Suicune.”

    “I don’t quite see what this has to do with our Dad,” Ash said, frowning.

    “Ho-Oh can bring Pokemon back to life because when it dies, it can regenerate itself,” Silver said. “Ho-Oh is unique in that it is the only Pokemon – legendary or not – that does not need to breed to ensure the species survival. With the exceptions of Dialga, Palkia, Giratina, Groudon, Kyogre, and Rayquaza who are immortal, every legendary Pokemon has some counterpart in order to keep the species alive; true, the species may be exceedingly rare to find, but that has only added to their mystique. However Ho-Oh is the lone member of its species, and it is not immortal. To survive it has to regenerate itself.

    “But there’s one thing you should both understand. When Ho-Oh revived Raikou, Entei, and Suicune, it gave up a part of its own life energy in order to do so. That is why the legendary trio of beasts are often said to be ruled by Ho-Oh; it brought them back to life, and they contain a part of Ho-Oh inside them. Ho-Oh can’t give its own life to regenerate itself, however.”

    “Why not?” Dawn asked.

    “Because when Ho-Oh’s life needs to be renewed it can’t use itself,” Ash replied, his eyes fixed on Silver. “If Ho-Oh dies then there is no life left in its own body. Reviving Raikou, Entei, and Suicune took some of Ho-Oh’s own life. If Ho-Oh has no life left, how can it revive itself?”

    “You catch on pretty quick,” Silver nodded. “This is mighty complicated stuff; I’m not sure if I’m explaining it well enough, to be honest.”

    “So then... for Ho-Oh to be revived it needs some other Pokemon’s life,” Dawn realized.

    “That’s it in a nutshell,” Silver confirmed

    “Seems kind of... savage,” she said with a shudder. “Ho-Oh steals the life of a Pokemon to keep on living? That’s just like murder.”

    “It’s nothing of the kind,” Silver corrected her, looking straight into her eyes. “When Ho-Oh is dying, it does not murder another being. It seeks out another who is also dying and then their two fractured lives meld together to form one whole; Ho-Oh is reborn from that, with the spirit of the deceased beast carried inside it.” Ash started as he realized what Silver was getting at.

    “You said that when our father died...” he began, his voice trembling. “At the... the moment of his death... his arm touched Ho-Oh’s wing. And then... then after that happened there was this massive burst of noise and light, and his body disappeared. Does... does that mean...” His voice broke, unable to control the emotion any longer.

    “It does,” Silver nodded, struggling to control his own emotions now. Memories of his brother’s death crashed into his consciousness, rising up to the front of his memories and threatening to unleash a flood of tears. Even now, after 15 years, he still remembered it and felt the grief as sorely as if it were the day after.

    “It does,” he repeated, winning the fight to control the overwhelming sadness for a little longer at least. “It means that Ho-Oh is your father.”

    “Ho-Oh is?” Dawn asked wonderingly. Ash stared, seemingly into space, his mind drifting.

    “All those times I saw Ho-Oh,” he whispered. “The end of my first day as a Pokemon Trainer, and then later when it pointed me towards Hoenn, Sinnoh, and eventually the Elite Four challenge... I always thought it was a sign of where I should go next. I- I never thought...”

    “He’s been watching out for you, Ash,” Silver said quietly, his eyes sparkling. “He hasn’t forgotten about his son. He still cares... about you.”

    “A touching story I’m sure,” a familiar voice sneered, and Ash felt the hairs of his neck stand on end as he turned slowly. Paul stepped from the shadows in front, a satisfied smile on his face. “You moved just as I expected you to,” he continued. “You’re too predictable. It’s almost pathetic. Seize them!” Ash made a move for his belt, but before his hand even came close to the nearest Poke Ball he was tackled roughly to the ground.

    Dawn screamed when the two Rocket Grunts burst from the bushes behind them, knocking Ash to the ground. Silver roared and made towards them, but Paul was quicker. In three strides he had reached Dawn, spun her around, and held a serrated knife to her throat, cutting her scream short.

    “Do it. I dare you,” he hissed, his eyes glittering dangerously. “One move and her life comes to an end. Do you really want that on your conscience?” Silver stopped, his face torn in agony as he beheld the sight of Ash struggling helplessly on the ground and Dawn’s wide fearful eyes looking imploringly at him. He knew there was no way out of this. Not without risking Dawn’s life, which was a gamble he would not take. His own perhaps, but not hers. Sighing, he lowered his gaze, nodding in defeat.

    “You’re outnumbered, Paul,” a voice called, and he twisted his head slightly to see Brock, Rey, May, Max, Drew, Jessie, James, Meowth, Butch, Pikachu, and Wobbuffet standing several feet away. “You and two Grunts against all of us?” Brock continued. “You don’t have a chance, even with Dawn.” Paul smiled, a dangerous leer that spoke of hidden knowledge.

    “Two Grunts and myself?” he repeated. There was a rustling sound and thirty Grunts charged out from the surrounding forest. Before Brock could blink, they were completely surrounded. “I think not,” he said softly, thrusting Dawn contemptuously away towards the closest Grunt. He nodded towards the trainers, his voice hard: “Take their Poke Balls and bind them up,” he ordered.

    They were helpless, unable to do anything to stop them. Two Grunts went to each trainer, ripping their Pokemon away and throwing the Poke Balls into a container. A surprised Pikachu was flattened by a woman wearing a rubber outfit, and stuffed into a rubber bag by another. They took no chances with Silver, six Grunts cautiously clamping his hands together as they removed a solitary Poke Ball from his waist.

    “Just the one Poke Ball?” Paul asked, scanning it to reveal Chikorita inside. “What happened to your Salamence?”

    “I told your Grunts when we broke in,” Silver said harshly. “My Salamence was killed by the fall.” He raised his steel chains, jangling them roughly. “I’m the only one worthy of the steel, I suppose. I’m flattered.”

    “You won’t be breaking out of those chains,” Paul said with obvious relish. “Those were designed to hold a Latias. And speaking of Latias...” He turned to Ash, still held tightly on the ground as the Grunts picked Poke Ball after Poke Ball from his belt.

    “Here it is, sir,” one of the two said suddenly, having scanned a Poke Ball. “Latias is inside this one.” Paul took the Poke Ball from the Grunt, affixing it to his own belt. He nodded to the two holding Ash down and he was hauled upright, spitting dirt out of his mouth angrily.

    “It’s over, Ash,” he said softly. “Latias was the last Pokemon we needed, and now I have her.”

    “It’s not over,” Ash said defiantly. “You don’t have-”

    “Sir, the GS Ball!” another Grunt exclaimed, pulling it out of Ash’s bag and holding it in the air triumphantly. Paul took it reverently, holding it up closely to examine it in what little light was left.

    “The GS Ball... for centuries you’ve lain forgotten by even the descendants of those that made you. Isolated... alone... your secrets lost... Then you were found and people tried to unleash the power contained inside, never realizing what it is that you hide. No wonder they were not successful; you were forged in Ho-Oh’s flame, and the power of Ho-Oh protects what you hold. Only one who has read the tome of the last King of Pokelantis would know how to break that powerful protection...” His musings were cut short when he noticed a glint of yellow protruding from a split wrapping in Ash’s bag. He ripped the wrapping away and actually took a step back in shock as he beheld the object.

    “The Zap Plate,” he whispered. “So that’s where it went to... and that means we only have one left to get...” James trembled as Paul turned towards him, his eyes flashing. “Get it,” he ordered, pointing to the Rocket closest to the former member.

    “With pleasure,” a familiar voice snarled. Cassidy ripped the bag from James’s shoulder and pulled the Insect Plate out in one fluid motion. She handed it out to Paul, locking eyes with Butch as she did so. “I’m surprised, Butch,” she said, shaking her head. “I never would have thought you’d desert Team Rocket for these three losers.”

    “Losers?” Jessie snarled. “You and me, one-on-one in swimsuits; that’ll show you who the loser really is!” Surprisingly, Cassidy didn’t rise to the bait, her gaze boring into Butch. He looked back at her unflinchingly.

    “You’ve changed, Cassidy,” he said softly. “I don’t know you anymore. What happened to the woman who said ‘I don’t think I can become a murderer; I’ve always hated that arrogant Jessie, but not to the point where I could kill her’?”

    “No life is worth more than my own,” Cassidy replied. “And in case you forgot, we take their places if we don’t kill them. Don’t you feel the same?”

    “I don’t want to die,” Butch answered, “but I’d rather end my own life than take someone else’s.”

    “Enough of this,” Paul said impatiently, dropping the GS Ball into his jacket pocket. “We’re bringing them with us.”

    “To headquarters?” a Grunt asked in surprise.

    “To the marked clearing,” Paul replied. As they were marched off struggling – Silver strangely quiet – he turned to Ash. “All we needed for our project were Latias, the GS Ball, and two Plates. And you delivered more than we could have hoped.” His eyes glinted. “You’ve lost, Ash,” he said. “Now nothing can stop us, and Cyas will be ours.”

    “Cyas?” Ash asked. Paul’s expression did not change, although he was inwardly furious with himself for that slip of the tongue. But then he reconsidered; nobody outside of Team Rocket knew of their goals, and by the time anyone found out it would be too late. So it was with a particular pleasure that he answered.

    “Cyas; the Ultimate Pokemon,” he revealed. For a moment Ash’s expression was blank, and he stared after his friends and companions with defeat in his eyes. That was when he realized that they still had a slim hope.

    “You’re wrong, Paul,” he breathed. “It isn’t over yet; not until I say it is.” Paul’s eyes hardened. He levelled a punch into Ash’s midsection, doubling the trainer over with a gasp. Groaning in pain, Ash was dragged backwards into the rapidly darkening forest by the two Grunts who held him, Paul following a short distance behind, his eyes clouded.

    As they vanished into the shadows, Noland jumped down from a tree and re-crossed the stream, a frown of worry stretching his face taut as he stared after them. His hand slowly drifted down towards his belt; there would be only one way to get them out of this.

    Ash raised his head, gritting his teeth in pain. His stomach hurt like hell, and his arms felt like they were being pulled out of their sockets. But he was the only person facing back the way they had come, and so he was the only one able to see it. A satisfied grin spread across his face at the sight of a bright green light shooting into the sky from beyond the treetops, its brilliance amplified by the darkening sky. He had been right.

    Help was on the way.

    But that was not the only thing he saw. In the far distance a golden glow appeared. It was faint but beautiful, and Ash felt his heart race at the sight of it as it drew slowly nearer. Paul followed his gaze and stopped dead, awe momentarily crossing his face. With a piercing shriek that chilled the blood of every Rocket there, Ho-Oh flew overhead. The legendary Pokemon flew so low that it seemed as if one could almost reach up and touch its feathers. The GS Ball in his pocket seemed to glow hot in a sudden response to the cry, and he felt a shiver as he stared at the night sky.

    It was not alone.

    Following the Golden One at a much greater altitude was a gleam of silver, night’s stark contrast to Ho-Oh’s day. The legendary Lugia trailed its great adversary, its equal, its opposite, its ally; still in search of its stolen child. The feeling in its heart grew stronger and stronger as it moved into the mountains, passing the stunned humans below. Its child was near; very near. And it would do everything in its formidable power to free it.

    Paul watched silently as the two passed by overhead. Awe was on his face, but hatred and fear bubbled in his heart. There was a certain nobility and pride in the two beasts, qualities that he knew he, his father, and his brother would never possess. They were here because of the connection they felt to the other captured and distressed legendary Pokemon, not through his own sheer fortuitous luck; in the case of the Lugia, it was here because it could sense its child, the young Lugia named Silver, was here. Hatred welled even deeper as he caught sight of his greatest rival watching the two legendary Pokemon with an expression akin to the look on his own face.

    He despised him for it.

    What made Ash, a weak trainer who won through luck instead of strategy, worthy of seeing the legendary Ho-Oh so many times? Why had Ash, a trainer who had lost to him in every battle save the one that mattered most, been fortuitous enough to see every legendary Pokemon when he, a real trainer, had only ever seen them under his father’s orders? How did Ash gain Latias’s trust so much that she would consent to capture when there were far greater trainers she could choose?

    He owed Ash a great deal, not least of which being revenge for the Sinnoh League. Tonight, after the ceremony, he would usurp his father’s control. Then Ash would learn what a pitiful being he truly was. His fingers lightly played with the GS Ball in his pocket as he thought and smiled. Just a few more hours and his world would be right again. Just a few more hours...

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    Giovanni held the ancient book carefully; he had read it numerous times now, preparing himself for what had to be said and done in order to summon Cyas back into the world. Now at last he felt himself ready; the passage was memorized, the legendary Pokemon had been captured, and the stone Plates were almost all accounted for. Now, there was only one thing left to deal with...

    “I want my fee,” Hunter J said impatiently, her arms crossed as she gazed down at him from the far side of his desk. “I captured over half of the legendary Pokemon you now possess, stole a fragment of the Soul Dew, and disposed of one your greatest enemies.”

    “Silver did in fact live, and he even managed to break into our Headquarters,” Giovanni pointed out. J waved this off.

    “It was your Grunts who were negligent in stopping him. I detected no life forms, and it was the responsibility of your Grunts to check his status after I knocked him and his Salamence to the ground. My priority was ensuring that the Moltres was returned to you properly. In any case, his Salamence died in the fall. The guards did not find a Poke Ball with a Salamence in it, correct?”

    “They scanned the entire party and there was no Salamence.”

    “And I did a scan of the surrounding forest when I was informed by your son; no Salamence showed up on the display.” Giovanni was less than impressed.

    “Forgive me, but the scan was conducted with the same technology you used when you searched for life after “killing” Silver, was it not?” he asked. She bristled at the insinuation, but Giovanni ploughed on. “You understand that I may be leery of any results from the scan you conducted.”

    “That scan is the sole reason why you now possess the legendary Pokemon I have captured for you,” she answered coldly. “I checked the records; there was an unusual burst of Psychic activity at the exact moment that I probed the dust. Something cloaked their vital signs from my scans.”

    “And why would you have not noticed this sudden burst at the time if it was so unusual?” Giovanni asked.

    “My scanning device is the most powerful there is,” J replied. “I can attune it to type, meaning a wide spectrum. Or I can attune it a specific Pokemon if I am searching for something specific; a Meowth will radiate a different amount of energy than a Persian, and at a slightly higher frequency as well. I can also choose to attune it to heart-rate, body temperature, and vital signs. When I scanned, it was set to vital signs; since Psychic activity is a completely different plane, it didn’t register.”

    “How do you attune it to a specific Pokemon?” Giovanni asked abruptly.

    “I input the Pokemon’s name and the scanner limits itself to that specific spectrum,” J said, a little thrown by the sudden tangent in the conversation.

    “Can you find a Pokemon by inputting the spectrum?” he asked.

    “I could, but there is no need,” J answered. “Every Pokemon is pre-programmed; I only have to search for the name or index number to find the Pokemon I want.”

    “What if you are missing a Pokemon?” Giovanni queried, and a taut smile spread across J’s lips.

    “Every Pokemon that has been discovered has data recorded into this,” she said. “I can assure you that no Pokemon are missing.”

    “Do me a favour,” Giovanni said, turning to his monitor and calling up a file. “Input the spectrum value PSY1001AZ42, and tell me what you find.”

    “Nothing that powerful exists,” J said dismissively. “The PSY indicates something in the Psychic spectrum, and the numeric value of 1001 means that the Pokemon is legendary; and I have every legendary Pokemon’s spectrum value memorized. The power of each field only goes up to AZ45, and you’re asking me to search for an AZ42? Celebi and Jirachi both have values of AY44, and the more powerful Deoxys and Cresselia are registered at AZ26. Even Mew only has a value of AZ40. No Psychic Pokemon has a value greater than Mew’s PSY1001AZ40.”

    “Humour me,” Giovanni said. J looked at him suspiciously for a moment and then entered the value he had given here. Her goggles whirred momentarily as they processed the information and covered her eyes, and then her vision disappeared as the goggles attuned themselves to the spectrum. Her sight returned almost immediately, although the colours were slightly faded now.

    “I suppose that now you want me to scan?” she asked.

    “Please,” Giovanni said with a smile. J rolled her eyes – an action hidden by the lenses – and rotated slowly on the spot. As she faced towards the door and into the mountainside there was no change in her vision; exactly as she had expected. But when she faced the window she let out an involuntary gasp. She instantly regretted the moment of apparent weakness, but Giovanni did not seem to care much about it other than to ask “you see it?”

    “What... what is that?” she asked.

    “That, Hunter J, is the most powerful human-created Pokemon,” he answered.

    “Amazing... its spectrum is almost identical to Mew’s; it’s only a hair off,” she murmured.

    “That is because it is a clone of Mew,” Giovanni answered. “We call it ‘Mewtwo’.”

    “How unoriginal,” she said. Giovanni ignored this.

    “We cloned it from the cells of a Mew,” he said. “Unfortunately, our laboratory exploded after several months; we assumed it had died, along with the scientists who created it. As you can see this turned out not to be the case; but it’s fortunate that Mewtwo survived because it will be our final piece of the puzzle.”

    “I’m not capturing it,” J said flatly, as she turned her head to look at him. “If that’s what you brought me here for, forget it. My limit is AZ40; anything above that and you’re on your own.”

    “I’ll double your entire fee, just for this one Pokemon,” he offered.

    “The answer is no, Giovanni.”

    “I’ll triple it.” J hesitated.

    “I want my full payment plus half for this one Pokemon now,” she said.

    “Deal,” Giovanni answered. She turned and looked out the window once more.

    “You do realize that this creature is moving in our direction/” she asked. Giovanni nodded.

    “I expected it,” he answered. “Legendary Pokemon can sense when other legendaries are in distress. Mewtwo, while cold by its nature, will be unable to resist the pull exacted on it from this distress. I can tell you exactly where Mewtwo is going, because we have made it that way. You won’t even need to search for this Pokemon, J. In fact, if all goes to plan your service won’t even be needed; consider yourself a failsafe.”

    “And my fee?” J asked instantly.

    “You’ll get it regardless of whether you are needed,” Giovanni answered. There was a bleeping noise on his monitor.

    “Expecting a phone call?” J asked.

    “Yes, actually,” Giovanni answered, turning to the monitor and clicking the flashing phone icon. “Paul; do you have them.”

    “We do,” Paul’s voice answered. “I took Latias, the GS Ball, and the Zap Plate from him.”

    “He had the Zap Plate too?” Giovanni asked incredulously.

    “Surprisingly yes, and it’s good that he did. Who knows how long we would have had to search before finding it?” Paul said. “One of his companions had the Insect Plate, as Damian and Cassidy reported. That means that we now have everything we need to summon Cyas.”

    “Excellent,” Giovanni murmured. “So all we have left to do is wait for Mewtwo and Ho-Oh.”

    “Ho-Oh passed overhead only a few minutes ago,” Paul answered. “It was moving in the direction of the clearing we created specifically for the summoning. It wasn’t alone either.”

    “What do you mean?” Giovanni asked sharply.

    “There was a Lugia flying with it,” Paul said. “It was quite a bit higher, but there was no mistaking it; no other Pokemon captures the light of the moon like it does.”

    “Why would a Lugia travel with a Ho-Oh?” his father wondered. “The two are polar opposites; even though the Lugia is undoubtedly attracted to the captured legendary Pokemon just as much as Ho-Oh, it should have travelled a different path. Or so Sebastian said.”

    “I think this Lugia may be our little Silver’s parent,” Paul replied. “That’s the only reason I can think of. Its enmity, or its child? No Lugia would choose the former.”

    “That’s true enough,” Giovanni muttered.

    “There’s more,” Paul said. “You won’t believe who we captured along with Ketchum.”

    “Oak? Archie? Maxie? Reggie? Please tell,” Giovanni said, sounding bored now.

    “Jessie, James, Meowth, Butch, and Silver,” Paul answered with relish. Giovanni was instantly alert.

    “What? All five?”

    “Yes; it was quite the surprise. Now all five can be there to witness the creation of their destruction,” Paul said. Giovanni nodded.

    “Good; meet us at the clearing. We’re going directly there,” he said. “I’ll give the order to move the legendary Pokemon.”

    “They’re all infected?” Paul enquired.

    "Half," Giovanni replied, "the rest are either frozen in stone or caged."

    “With Sebastian’s variation that doesn’t infect humans?” Paul went on.

    “Again, yes,” Giovanni answered, reaching towards the disconnect button. “I’ll meet you at the clearing.” The screen went blank and he turned back to Hunter J. “Ready?” he asked.

    “Lead me to the clearing,” J answered. “I want to know the surrounding terrain so that I can pick the best vantage point for Mewtwo.”

    Giovanni nodded and stood. He eyed the ancient and near-decrepit book in his hand a moment, but decided that he did not need to bring it with him; the passage was memorized and he knew how the ceremony was conducted. Although he had read the book dozens of times there was one last page he had barely glanced at. But then, it was in an almost illegible handwriting that differed from the rest of the book, and the page was both badly torn and of a different quality of parchment; no doubt some sod’s poor idea of a joke. He dropped the book onto his desk and left the room after Hunter J without giving the text a second glance. He had no need for it now.

    And so it was that he never saw the vital information which would have prevented what was to come. Information that could have made him realize what a folly it was to summon Cyas. For what was to come would have astronomical consequences that would not be fully realized for yet another decade. Tonight would be the final challenge for all who would be present – survival.

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    My name is Sullivan; I was once a knight of the kingdom of Pokelantis. That kingdom is no more. As I write this note, the last vestiges of our small empire are under attack. At any moment the gates will give and we will be overrun. I am desperate to record this last piece of our history so that perhaps one day in the future, what has truly happened would be known and we will earn our places in history.

    The king is gone. I was there with a party of knights and casters on the far side of the meadow where it happened; we all saw it. He was pursued by Ho-Oh and tripped. And in that instant he vanished in a violet glow. Ho-Oh flew off and we approached cautiously. The king was gone; in his place was a smooth spherical stone. This device is unlike almost any other in existence. It has the ability to capture objects and hold them inside. We can only surmise that when he fell the King tried to capture Ho-Oh, but found himself imprisoned instead.

    We returned the stone to the castle and placed it securely on a pedestal in the lower levels. And it was only a week later when our brethren and closest ally, the kingdom of Pokemopolis, attacked. Why, I do not know. But our defences are crumbling, and I fear death is our only option. Before the King vanished he managed to capture the entity known as Cyas – the creator of our God’s, Durga and Purga – within a magnificent metal sphere that shone in silver and gold. I do not know how this happened; Cyas consumed the King and when that occurred we ran. He cheated death once that night; perhaps it was inevitable that he would not cheat it a second time.

    The device Cyas was captured in vanished along with the King. Some of the men have lamented this, claiming we could summon Cyas and use its power to vanquish the forces of Pokemopolis with ease. They are fools. I am the nephew of the man who forged the device. I know how it works, and it would not be controlled by any one man.

    Ho-Oh was the King’s greatest enemy. But one day in the midst of an attack, a portion of its flame was caught and kept alive. My uncle imbibed the power of this flame into the device. Ho-Oh therefore has some power over it, and it is by Ho-Oh’s will that the device remains sealed. I believe that the only ways to reopen it would be to capture Ho-Oh or to recreate exactly the conditions in which Cyas was caught; both of which are almost impossible feats.

    It is perhaps for the best. There is an ancient legend which states that Cyas may be summoned, but it is only in a situation of absolute desperation where the fate of the world hangs in doubt that one should do so. To do otherwise would provoke Cyas’s rage, and it would destroy the world as vengeance. The King did not understand that. He disregarded the legend and called Cyas to try and control its powers. Folly. Now Cyas is sealed, and if it should ever be unsealed its rage would return. The world would turn to ruin, and all that we hold dear would vanish.

    They have broken in; I can hear them now. I must hide this book, the records of the King of Pokelantis, before they discover me and burn the information I hold now. Brothers turned against brothers... I fear that the time of absolute desperation the legend spoke of has begun, cause by Cyas’s untimely summoning and that the world has become unstable because of it. If it has, then only Cyas may repair what damage has been done. But Cyas is locked away, and to unleash it would be to unleash its rage. I am afraid for the future. But I will not be a part of it. The men of Pokemopolis will kill me; of that I have no doubts. My end is nigh, and I welcome it. To avoid what I fear will come... that is indeed a blessing disguised as I curse. I end this now, hoping that one day in a happier future it will be discovered. Read it carefully; all that you see is true. Know what has happened and be prepared for what may yet be to come.


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    Ash wrestled against his captors with all his might, but the Grunts’ grips on his bound arms were unyielding. He was at least now facing in the direction they were travelling; the Grunts had shown him that courtesy at least. Directly ahead he could see May, her head bowed and her feet dragging. Rage filled him at the sight of her red skinned wrists, the flesh taken away from rubbing against the tight rope bonds. He desired nothing more than to take that rope and throttle the one who had put them all into such a situation.

    But then, who would he be throttling? Paul, or himself?

    A sick feeling replaced the rage, and he hung his head. It was, after all, himself who had insisted that they travel in this direction. It had been himself who felt so sure that he could outwit Paul’s fiendish mind enough so that they could slip past him. But Paul had read him easily, had anticipated him, had been prepared. It was inevitable that they would meet again; he should have been ready, he had should have been expecting it. If only he had double-guessed himself, instead of being so sure of his initial plan...

    If only, if only! He had tried to outsmart Paul and ended up playing right into his plans. He had no one to blame but himself. He should have listened to his friends; they had understood far better than he. But he had gone ahead regardless, and it was because of his stubbornness that they were now trapped. Bitterness overcame the sickness as he realized what his arrogance had gone. Now Paul had the GS Ball, two Plates, and even Latias; poor Latias! What would he use her for? Ash shook his head, trying to fight back tears at the thoughts that overwhelmed him. Paul’s favourite word sprang into his mind, and Ash knew at last that he was worthy of that title.

    Pathetic. He didn’t deserve any of his Pokemon after this; not even Pikachu. He didn’t deserve his friendships. Brock, Rey, Dawn, May, Max, Silver... even Jessie, James, and Meowth! He had betrayed them all through his pigheadedness, and now they were all in danger for it.

    “You’re wrong, Ash,” Dawn said in a loud clear voice. Startled, he looked up, and his eyes met her firm and steady gaze from several feet in front. To his surprise, he realized that they had stopped at the edge of a large clearing; he had not noticed his feet cease movement.

    “It’s obvious enough, what you’re thinking,” Rey said from beside her. “None of this is your fault; you couldn’t have predicted this would happen.”

    “I-” he began, but was swiftly cut off by Brock.

    “They’re right, Ash,” he said. “We would have been trapped either way; I overheard the two who dragged me talking. There was another large group waiting further down on the riverbank. It was inevitable; we were always going to be caught.”

    “Enough yapping,” Cassidy snarled, stalking up to them. “The Boss is coming; get around the circle.”

    “What circle?” Drew asked.

    “That one,” Cassidy said, pointing into the clearing. “There are stones dotted around the ground in a circle. Spread yourselves out between them.”

    “What about us?” one Grunt asked, and Cassidy rolled her eyes as if he was an idiot.

    “You’re all going to stand with them,” she said. “What if they try to break loose? Giovanni wants them present – to see the cause of their demise.” She finished the last sentence with a sick leer towards the four former Rockets, all of whom stared back at her boldly and without fear.

    “If you want to scare us, you’ll have to better than that,” Jessie said with a brazen yawn. Cassidy bristled, but kept her temper in check.

    “Oh, you’ll be scared; no doubt about that,” she contented herself with saying, before walking off. “Staring your death in the face tends to do that to people.”

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    Hidden away in the forest, beneath a thick clump of ferns, a slight movement could be seen. A passing Weedle in a nearby tree looked down at the plants curiously. What was in there, it wondered. A Caterpie? Another Weedle? There was a massive burst of red light and a gigantic... thing appeared, roaring towards the sky as it erupted from the fronds. The Weedle stared at it a moment, shocked beyond belief, before fainting in terror; it had never seen anything as large or fierce as this creature in its life before.

    The Salamence sniffed the air, barely noticing as the Weedle dropped from the tree to the ground at its feet; its master and his companions had gone on a dangerous mission, and it had to be left behind. The Salamence did not like that, but it understood why.

    But its master had promised to be back by sunset; now it was nearing midnight, and he still had not returned. The Salamence did not like that either. Something was wrong; its master never broke a promise. Now, it was time to track the master down, and rescue him from danger if need be. It took a great whiff of the air and, somehow, managed to isolate the scent of its master. It was faint, but it was there nonetheless.

    An almost wolfish grin spread across the Salamence’s reptilian face. It was time to go hunting.

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    “I don’t want to die,” Max whispered, the shadow of the young child he still was at heart crossing over his face.

    “Neither do I, Max,” May said softly, moving as close to him as the Grunts would permit. “There’s so much more I wanted to see and experience... all the new Pokemon I haven’t seen yet... settling down... starting a family...” She smiled sadly at Ash, and he could barely bring himself to respond.

    “I don’t fear death,” Silver murmured, and everyone’s gaze was drawn to his massive figure. “I’ve lived my life, and I doubt I have more than few years left in me anyways.”

    “You aren’t that old,” Dawn objected, and Silver laughed, surprising everyone with the noise.

    “I’ve lived a hell of a lot more dangerously than anybody else I’d care to name,” he said. “Underneath these clothes my body is scarred beyond belief. I’ve spent almost my entire life secretly battling the Rockets; perhaps it’s right that I die by their hands.”

    “Your life isn’t over yet,” Dawn insisted. “None of ours are.”

    “I don’t see how dat’s true,” Meowth interjected. “Jessie, James, Butch, Silver and I all have bounties on our heads, tanks to da former Boss. Da way I see it, we got maybe an hour until we’re all killed.”

    “That’s not a very positive thing to say!” Dawn snapped. “Maybe you’ve given up, but I haven’t!”

    “She’s right,” Rey interrupted. “Or have none of you noticed that Noland isn’t here?”

    “Who’s Noland?” one of the surrounding Grunts asked.

    “Uhh...” Rey began, looking at the others helplessly.

    “Alright, get them into the circle,” Cassidy ordered as she strode back towards them, unwittingly saving Rey from having to answer. “The Boss and that Hunter are here, and the Pokemon will be soon too. Move!”

    Without a word, the Grunts hauled their captives away; feisty as ever, Rey managed to sink her teeth into the hand of a Grunt who had accidentally brought it dangerously close to her breast; he yelped and backhanded her in the head with his other hand, momentarily stunning her. Dawn tried to kick one of her captors between the legs but, expecting a move like that, he caught her by the heel and tugged her onto her back.

    With a great deal of difficulty, the many Grunts finally managed to drag various members of the group to different locations in between the stone Plates. Ash struggled as hard as he could, but the Grunts held him tightly and he was unable to move anything but his head. He looked to one side and saw his sister glaring almost fearlessly at the two who held her, although he noticed that she was wincing a little from being manoeuvred so violently to that Plate. Beyond her he saw Brock, Butch, Meowth, Rey, Silver, Jessie, Drew, Max, James, Pikachu – still tied securely in the bag – and May on his other side.

    The Grunts stood stiffly to attention as 18 people moved past them and continued into the centre of the circle. Once there they turned swiftly and began moving away again, each person moving in a slightly different direction; one person for each Plate, Ash realized. Once there, each person stooped and lifted their Plate into the air; from the colouring, Ash guessed that the Plate the woman nearest him held was the Insect Plate.

    Then an almost deathly hush spread across the field. Four people were striding out of the trees, and they passed through the circle of Grunts to stand at the centre of the field. They stood there awhile, discussing something quietly. Then two of them, a tall young man with a sneer across his face and an even taller woman, separated themselves from the other two men and began walking back the way they had come, a path that took them very close to Ash. To his surprise he saw that the people walking towards him were Damian and Hunter J.

    “You!” he blurted out after recognizing the lithe Pokemon Hunter. She raised an eyebrow and stopped, turning in his direction.

    “Ah,” she said, recognizing him; “it’s you.” A thin smile curled across her lips. “It’s too bad really... I’d hoped to deal with you personally after all the trouble you caused me in Sinnoh. And just think of that strength you’d have! On the road to becoming the Champion! Perhaps you’d have been able to give me a decent match... for once.”

    Ash’s eyes flashed and his hand instinctively lunged towards his waist. J laughed. “It’s too bad that Giovanni’s son has already claimed your fate for his own... but at least I’ll be there to watch.”

    “You’re sick,” Ash said softly. “You take pleasuring in separating friends, in breaking bonds, in other people’s pain. You are the most twisted person I have ever known, and you will die the way you lived; take my word for that.” Her eyes hardened; for a moment she looked as though she would slap him. Instead she swept past him without further comment, Damian trailing her; although the Grunts would not permit him to turn his head, he felt her glare burning into the back of his skull.

    You are in grave trouble, a voice in his head observed. Do you really need to endanger yourself even more against her?

    I do what I have to do, he answered. It’s all I can do; if our fates are sealed already, then what difference does it make?

    The voice was forestalled from answering by the sounds of heaving grunting and gasping from the winding trail behind. The Grunts holding him turned in curiosity, and he was able to see down the path. Hunter J was gone, vanished into the forest. But something incredibly large was coming towards them.

    His heart quailed at the sight. The Palkia that approached was enormous. Even in this dim light, he could tell that its eyes were unfocused, but it moved forwards at a steady pace. Behind it came the Palkia’s greatest enemy; but the Dialga was not moving of its own free will. The legendary Pokemon was completely immobile, its expression of rage frozen in the stone that surrounded its body. No fewer than forty Grunts struggled to move what might have been a statue towards the clearing; had Ash not been familiar with Hunter J’s handiwork, he would have assumed it was nothing but a carving.

    And more followed. Some he recognized with a jerk of surprise as being Pokemon he had met personally in his decade of travelling; others he did not, although he was intimately familiar with each of the species. Groudon... Azelf... Zapdos... Heatran... Celebi... His stomach jolted as he found himself staring into the eyes of an Articuno that looked at him pleadingly, and he knew instinctively that it was the one he had defeated in battle against Noland. A great stone Kyogre was carried past, and he saw a relatively small Lugia looking around fearfully as it was carried in a heavily reinforced cage. When it saw him it warbled in recognition, and he realized that it was the baby Silver from the Whirl Islands. Regirock, Regice, and Registeel all passed by next, and he had the eerie feeling that he knew them too.

    Then a cry tore from his lips at what he saw; a stone Latios being carried next to a freely moving Latias. He could tell simply by looking into her glazed and unfocused eyes that it was his Latias, the friend Paul had taken from his belt and pocketed. A Grunt pulled her into position behind him, her frozen brother at her side, and he at last recognized the look on her face. There was no doubt. He had seen it there before, and in May’s eyes as well. In the brief time in which they had been separated, Latias had been infected by the variation of the Pokerus that had nearly killed May.

    He was so stunned by this realization that he did not notice when the last of the legendary Pokemon left the path and formed around the rest of the group. Giovanni and Paul stood alone at the centre of the clearing; encircling them were the 18 Casters who held the Plates, then his companions held by the Grunts, and finally the legendary Pokemon. The two holding him jerked him back around, forcing him to look towards the centre of the clearing.

    If you need help, now would be the time to ask, the voice said in his mind.

    Giovanni nodded to Paul, and the young man left the circle, walking past the legendary Pokemon without fear.

    Will you really risk that recognition? Ash asked.

    “We have the Plates!” Giovanni shouted, his voice booming around the open area. ‘We have the Pokemon! And most important of all, we have the GS Ball!”

    You did not recognize me, the voice pointed out.

    “Contained inside it is Cyas; the Ultimate Pokemon!” Giovanni roared. “Cyas was captured millennia ago, but every Pokemon will obey its master! I am that master now! Cyas will obey me, and I will use its power to seize control of this world!”

    “He really likes the sound of his own voice, doesn’t he?” Jessie said brashly, her voice carrying over even Giovanni’s. His eyes raked across to settle on her; she couldn’t help it. She flinched when his gaze landed. Giovanni’s response was distracted, however, by twin sparks of light appearing in the sky; one gold and one silver. A smile played across his face as they drew nearer and nearer.

    “Gold and silver... the GS Ball,” he murmured. “How fitting...” He stooped and placed the GS Ball on the ground, in the dead centre of the clearing. Stepping back, he spread his arms wide and shouted:

    “Behold the sky; it is Ho-Oh, the last piece of the puzzle! 400 years ago when this ceremony was last conducted, it was the final arrival; and so it is again!”

    Now! Ash cried mentally as violet jets of light shot out from the centre of each stone. They flew over Giovanni’s head and collided exactly above the GS Ball; a mysterious purple aura began draining away from each of the legendary Pokemon that encircled the stones.

    A blur of white light shot from nowhere in the sky towards the Grunts on the ground below. Several dived out of the way with cries of panic as the shape of Mewtwo became visible to their eyes.

    “So... after all these years we meet again,” Giovanni said casually to the creature as it came to a halt mere feet away from him. “It’s been a long time, Mewtwo.” Mewtwo was taken aback that his former master recalled him, but he did not let it show in his voice.

    For too long you have harmed the world around you, the Pokemon snarled. For too long you have meddled, stolen, and destroyed what should not have been touched. I will now do what I should have done the last time we encountered one another; your existence is at an end! He raised a paw, an obsidian sphere forming in the palm. This ends here! he roared, shooting it directly at the man.

    The attack dissipated before it reached Giovanni, and Mewtwo gasped as he felt a sudden weakness seize him. His vision began to fade as the colours he saw were replaced by a violet tinge. He fell to his knees, unable to support his own weight.

    What... is... happening..? he moaned.

    “Exactly what I expected to happen,” Giovanni said softly. “You are indeed a legendary Pokemon; and that means you were the last pawn in play, my old friend. Because you appeared here so valiantly this night, the world that you know will be no more. And I will rule over all.”

    He looked away from the fallen Pokemon, satisfied. The jets of light continued to shine from the plates and connect above his head; now, a large orb had formed from the fused energy, an orb that slowly grew larger and larger as the power of the legendary Pokemon surrounding them drained into it. A dull throb was emitted from the swirling violet mass, a sound that quickly escalated into a roar. In the sky above both Ho-Oh and Lugia circled overhead, momentarily out of reach of the power from the orb. But they were legendary Pokemon; they could not resist the plaintive cries of their distressed brethren any longer.

    The Lugia somehow picked out the cries of its distressed child above the roar from the orb. Its heart filled with rage and it let out a chilling screech as it folded its wings and dropped rapidly to the earth. Almost instantly a purple aura began to drain from the beast’s body; unable to sustain its flight, the creature let out a cry of surprise before impacting heavily. A massive cloud of dust spread and when it cleared the parent Lugia was seen unmoving on the earth, its energy still draining away.

    Ho-Oh hesitated; it could not ascend and leave its brethren, but nor could it go lower and risk that immobility and helplessness. The decision was soon taken away. As the orb grew in energy, so did the range of its attraction. Ho-Oh felt the pull on its wings and tried to wheel away, but to no avail. It was trapped by the strength and energy of its brethren, and no force was strong enough to break away from that.

    “At last!” Giovanni shouted triumphantly above the roar of noise as he witnessed the violet light draining away from the Golden One and into the orb. “Ho-Oh’s power has been captured! And now I shall use that power to break the seal on the GS Ball and summon Cyas back to the world!” He seemed to almost cackle in delight at the idea. He stood back, spreading his arms grandly and beginning to recite the ancient words. The dialect was unfamiliar to all who heard it, but they somehow understood it nonetheless. The words sent chills down Ash’s spine, and he felt an incredible sense of foreboding at the recitation.

    From the land and the sea, mine power flows from thee
    From the earth to the sky, the wet and the dry
    I rule land, air, and sea.

    Spirit, will, and thoughts
    Life, death, and dreams
    I come when I am called
    Awakened with a scream.

    When hearts are blackened by power corrupt
    And hatred taints the will of the free
    My energy is used only to disrupt
    Call me in a desperate plea.

    Take with you the strength of my sons and daughters
    And my mortal ties to the earth.
    I require earth, wind, rock, ice, fire, and water
    For this world to give me rebirth.

    But heed me now and heed me well;
    I give and I take away.
    The arm that created your world and your life
    Has the hand that shall take it away.
    Meddle not in the ancient powers
    My wrath cannot be controlled;
    If called before the day my presence is required
    Naught but chaos can unfold.

    If worst comes to worst with the end drawing near
    My rampage causing naught but harm
    There is but one way to stay your fears
    Self-sacrifice stills these arms.


    He repeated the verses several times until, with a blinding glare, the stone Plates glowed a brilliant white. Every Caster yelped in surprise, instinctively letting the Plates go in order to cover their eyes. But the Plates did not fall and break; rather, they levitated a slight distance towards the orb and turned so that their inscriptions faced the violet sphere. Giving the slightest of wriggles, the GS Ball slowly began to rise into the air.

    Giovanni smiled and stepped back as the most ancient of Poke Balls moved into and was enveloped by the now gigantic orb of violet energy. A small prick of white light appeared in the centre of the orb, growing larger in almost miniscule increments. And it was when the light appeared that all hell broke loose.

    With a screech, Silver’s Salamence burst from the trees only a short distance away. It blinked momentarily at the violet light and, seeing its trainer, dived towards him joyfully. Hunter J leapt out from behind a rocky outcrop and trained her weapon on the Salamence. But in the darkness her aim was slightly off, and the burst that would have turned the dragon-type to stone whistled harmlessly past its foreleg.

    The sight of his beloved Pokemon seemed to fill Silver with a hope and heart he had lacked from the moment of their capture. He roared and jerked his hands apart with as much force as he could; to the greatest surprise of every Grunt guarding him, the chains snapped with ease, so great was his strength. They stood there a moment, staring at the freed Silver in fear. Then he sprang into action, swinging the chains that dangled from his wrists with a fury that no Grunt could match. Within two seconds, each one of the six Grunts had been knocked unconscious.

    Everyone stared stunned at the sight of Silver standing there with the six fallen men around him and his Salamence coming in to land at his side. So taken aback were they that nobody noticed the subtle shifting of earth that occurred directly behind Brock, nor the Dugtrio who had popped out of the ground and moved swiftly to one side. But it was a bit more difficult to oversee the Rhydon that erupted out of the ground behind the Dugtrio, its eyes flashing angrily at the sight of the captives and its horn spinning at a rapid pace.

    The Grunts holding Brock let go of his bonds and instantly jumped away to the side, hoping to avoid the behemoth that had appeared so suddenly. Brock himself barely had time to scream before the rock-type was upon him; but instead of attacking him, the Pokemon instead ducked its head and quickly severed the ropes that held his hands together. Brock slumped to the ground in shock as the Rhydon whirled and roared, charging straight towards Dawn. The Grunts holding her did not even wait for it to begin moving before turning and running towards the trees. A jet of water blasted from the undergrowth and knocked one of the men straight back to the waiting Rhydon, who pirouetted and smashed the flying man across the head with its heavy tail. He flew again the opposite direction at a much more rapid pace; but this time there was nothing to halt him save the trees.

    The second Grunt hesitated upon seeing what had happened to his comrade, but was saved further thought by a blast of blue electricity that enveloped his body. He collapsed to the ground, completely paralyzed from the high voltage. Side-by-side, a Golduck and Manectric leapt out from the forest, rushing towards the circle as the Rhydon freed Dawn from her bonds. But by this time, Giovanni and the rest of the Grunts had recovered from their initial shock. Streaks of red light shot into the sky as the Grunts released wave after wave of Pokemon in defence, abandoning their captives and running as a group towards the Pokemon.

    “Pokemon; get them!” Giovanni roared, pointing at the three Pokemon who stood alone within the circle of legendaries. Those that were not caged or frozen in stone began moving, but sluggishly; their energy not yet recovered from the massive effort required to form the orb that called Cyas. The Rhydon was able to take a few steps towards Ash, but before it could move too far it was obstructed by a Zapdos.

    The burst of weak electricity it unleashed did little more than tickle the immune rock-type, but the threat it posed by actually being able to use an attack was enough. If the legendary Pokemon are starting to use their attacks again, that means the orb has drained enough power, Ash realized, thinking furiously. And if the orb doesn’t need their power anymore it must have enough energy built up to sustain itself while it summons Cyas from the GS Ball. But if that’s true, then it means there is no way to stop them; Giovanni and Paul have already won.

    It works both ways! Mewtwo roared, struggling to its feet. With a massive effort, the psychic-type spread his arms wide, throwing off the remnants of the draining aura entirely. Still feeling weak he aimed blinding, forming and shooting off a jet-black orb. It was a lucky shot. The attack blasted into the Articuno’s cage, shattering the bars. With a screech of freedom, the ice-type climbed out of the steel remnants and spread its wings, jumping into the sky. The Articuno wheeled, trying to gain height, and then dropped into a steep dive as a powerful Ice Beam shot from its mouth. The Zapdos screeched in shock and pain as one wing was frozen along with a portion of its back. Awkwardly, the furious electric-type tried to turn cumbersomely and retaliate with a Thunderbolt. Seizing its chance, the Rhydon leapt into the air and dug its toes in deep upon landing. The ground trembled a moment and massive pillars of rock shot skywards, trapping the deranged legendary Pokemon inside.

    “Stay still, stay calm,” a voice said from behind Ash, and he realized that Noland had snuck up behind him during the brief battle between Articuno, Zapdos, and Rhydon. “I signalled for Anabel; all the Frontier Brains and Cynthia are here. They’re attacking from the opposite side right now. Do you have any Pokemon on you?”

    “No, they took them all away,” Ash said, trying not to wince as he felt Noland’s knife begin to scrape against his skin as he cut away at the knots.

    “We’ll have to make do with what we have then,” Noland said grimly. “That Articuno... it’s my friend. I didn’t know it had been captured. Hopefully the legendary Pokemon that Giovanni isn’t controlling will fight by us just like Articuno.”

    “You bet they will!” Brandon roared as he charged past towards the three caged Regi’s. “None of them will stand for being used like that!”

    Ash felt the ropes part and he rubbed his wrists quickly to re-establish circulation. “Well right now it’s only Articuno against all the legendary Pokemon Giovanni is controlling,” Ash said as he ran with Noland towards May. “Unless we can free the other Pokemon in the cages, we have no chance.” Noland nodded, and turned his head back towards his three Pokemon who still stood grouped nearby Dawn.

    “Rhydon, use Flamethrower and Golduck, use Hydro Pump! Break those cage bars!” he ordered before skidding to avoid a wayward Hyper Beam from the Rayquaza and pulling May down with him.

    Ash moved to imitate him, but something hard smashed into his back; with a cry of pain he fell to the ground, tumbling slightly across the grass. His head feeling dizzy, he tried to turn over onto his back and found himself staring into the red and angry eyes of Latias.

    “Lati-” he began, but got no further. She reared back her head, a slightly pinkish sphere forming in between her lips. He couldn’t speak, he couldn’t react, he couldn’t do anything but watch. She launched the attack and he felt the force as it exploded on impact with something mere centimetres from his face.

    Move! Mewtwo roared, dismantling the protective shield he had cast in between the attack and Ash before swooping in and smashing into Latias head-first. She screeched and retaliated by lashing out with her weak arms. Mewtwo winced as the sharp claws pierced his skin, but spun and smashed his tail into her flank. She responded by firing off a Psychic, and Mewtwo responded in kind. Ash watched, dazed, as the two attacks collided feet from him, growing and growing in intensity until the entire world seemed to be filled with the uncompromising and powerful Psychic energy.

    I said move, Mewtwo growled, sparing a minute portion of his energy to broadcast the thought at Ash. Latias seized the moment of distraction and pushed her Psychic to the limits, overwhelming Mewtwo’s defences. He cried out in pain as his body was overwhelmed by the attack; helpless, he could not move of his own volition and Latias used her control over his body to send the Pokemon flying backwards towards the slowly lumbering Palkia. The controller of space saw him coming and raised an arm. Mewtwo had no means to avoid the attack, and Palkia smashed his body into the ground at an incredible force.

    “Mewtwo!” Ash shouted, but there was no response. Latias screeched in victory and returned her attention to Ash. He knew what was coming. An indescribable, seemingly eternal pain blasted through his body and he knew he was going to die, knew that this was all there was, that there was nothing that could end it.

    Through his travels, he had learned an incredible amount about Pokemon and their attacks. Like Max, he knew about the three variations on the move Psychic and the power contained in each. From the pain blasting through him, he knew that Latias had attacked him with the most powerful variation there was; the Stage-3 Psychic of a legendary Pokemon. But it was a pain beyond tha of any Stage-3 that had ever been cast before. For Latias’s natural power and strength had been increased from her exposure to the Pokerus. And now, infected with the Perporus, they had been increased yet again. No Psychic attack cast had ever been as powerful as the one she used now, an unheard of and unprecedented Stage-4.

    He screamed with the pain, a scream that echoed around the clearing and brought a temporary reprieve to the battling between the Pokemon under the control of Giovanni and the ones who fought against them. His scream was filled with a pain that none of them had ever experienced, and knew they never would. It chilled them, unnerved them, struck them where it mattered most; their hearts.

    He screamed for the pain
    He screamed for May and Pikachu
    He screamed for his father
    He screamed for his mother and for Dawn
    He screamed for his friends
    He screamed for the freedom of the Pokemon
    He screamed for Mewtwo
    He screamed for Latias
    He screamed for the fate of the world
    He screamed and screamed until he no longer had a voice, and even then his mouth remained open in silent anguish. His body contorted, his limbs jerking as the pain tortured him.

    From behind red and merciless eyes, Latias watched his suffering indifferently. He was merely an obstacle to her, one that had to be removed. But even behind the effects of the Perporus she could hear his pain; it seemed to echo within her consciousness, and within her heart she felt a strange stirring. Unbidden memories sprang to mind as she watched his suffering. His being pulled along a dark and narrow canal as they avoided a Kabutops and Aerodactyl... waking from a fevered sleep to find him by her side... the joy she felt as she moved into a Poke Ball... the two of them swinging together in a moment of absolute bliss... a kiss under the setting sun...

    She was unaware that her attack against him stopped. She blinked her eyes once, and when they reopened they were alert, clear, and filled with tears. Latias threw off the effects of the Perporus easily in her sorrow, the infection that ran through her blood killed by the simplest and yet greatest of all emotions.

    Her love for him.

    She moved closer to him, her eyes sparkling as she nudged his stiff and prone body. May crept in next to her, taking Ash’s hand and squeezing it tightly. He was still breathing, but it was laboured and painful. Brock ran up next, his hands already digging into his bag as he moved, trying to find something, anything, to alleviate Ash’s pain.

    “This is ridiculous,” Hunter J muttered from the back of her Salamence as it hovered twenty feet of the ground. “Salamence, use Flamethrower; take them all out.” The dragon-type let out a scream and shot the fiery jet of flames towards the small group. Brock and May both looked up and saw the attack bearing down on them. There was no time to react, and even if there had been time no Pokemon they owned could have dispelled that attack. But there was one that could.

    Silver and his Salamence moved in unison; from the moment that they had seen J enemy call out her Pokemon while the rest of the field was halted by Ash’s pain, they had been steadily making their way towards her, Silver on his Salamence’s back. They swooped in between J and her prey, and the Flamethrower was countered by a raging DragonBreath. From that close a range, Silver could feel the heat of the Flamethrower blistering his skin. He knew that Salamence would be okay even this close thanks to its thick scaly skin, but he wasn’t so sure about himself.

    “Full power!” he roared. “Blast that attack away and show her what a real Salamence looks like in battle!” His dragon-type grunted and dug deep, tapping into the furthest reaches of its strength to overcome the power of the Flamethrower. Silver caught a glimpse of blue light out the corner of his eye and ducked his head, avoiding the Ice Beam as the battle between Giovanni’s legendaries and the other Pokemon reconvened, spurned into action by the fight between him and J.

    Salamence screeched, and with a mighty effort the attack was finally blown away. J stared down at them impassively.

    “I thought I killed you before,” she said. “This time I’ll finish the job.”

    “You can try!” Silver jeered. “Salamence! Attack!”

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Jessie, James, Meowth, and Butch ran from one area of the clearing to another, frantically trying to escape from the confused frenzy of battle but being confronted at seemingly every turn by a legendary Pokemon.

    “This is insane!” James shouted, dodging in between a battling Azelf and the Dark Celebi. “How are we supposed to get out of here?”

    “I don’t know, you tell me!” Jessie screamed, taking refuge behind the stone Kyogre.

    “Aren’t you guys used to being blasted off?” Butch asked.

    “Not by a demonically possessed legendary Pokemon!” Jessie retorted, ducking as Raikou’s Thunderbolt flew past her head.

    “Ahhh! Save me!” Meowth shouted, running away in a panic from a Giratina who weaved in the air behind him. His foot encountered a heavy bag lying on the ground and he tripped over it. He groaned as the Giratina swooped inches over his head in pursuit of Cresselia. A small object rolled out of the bag and clinked gently against his cheek. Trembling, Meowth opened his eyes and stared at the small object.

    “Say, what’s dat?” he wondered aloud, reaching out to touch it. The object seemed to explode with red light and he jumped back in sudden fear as it dazzled his retinas.

    “Lade!” the Gallade rasped, flexing its blades in a stretch before abruptly noticing the battle.

    “Well whaddya know,” Meowth smiled. “Lookie what I found.”

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Dawn screamed as the Entei bore down on her, its fangs gleaming with flames. A solid blast of water shot past her head, impacting the Entei on the muzzle and sending it reeling backwards. Empoleon jumped back from the Aqua Jet to stand protectively in front of her, flippers crossed in warning.

    “Empoleon!” she shouted. “But... how?”

    “No need to thank us,” Meowth shouted, dashing past her in Ash’s direction with a veritable horde of Pokemon behind him. “We found all dose Pokee Balls dat were taken away from you; never say da former Team Rocket didn’t do anything for you!”

    “Meowth...” she murmured in surprise before Entei’s snarl caught her attention again. “Okay then Empoleon; use Whirlpool!” she commanded.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Ash opened his eyes groggily. He was surprised he could open them at all, considering the horrific amounts of pain he had just endured. The first thing he noticed was that Latias was staring down at him. The second thing he noticed was that her eyes were clear and filled with remorse.

    “Ash!” May shrieked, throwing her arms around him in the tightest hug he had ever received. “I thought... I thought...”

    “We thought you’d died,” Brock said, putting away several used Potions. “How do you feel?”

    “Like I was hit by a Rhydon,” Ash rasped, his voice hoarse from the screaming. He reciprocated May’s hug tightly and looked at Latias. “Thank you,” he said softly. “Thank you for stopping. I know that you weren’t under your own control when that happened.” Latias cooed, turning her head away. It was obvious enough that despite what Ash said, she blamed herself for not being able to stop the effects of the Perporus sooner.

    “Pika pi!” Pikachu shouted, dodging around a running Grunt and throwing himself towards Ash as fast he could.

    “Pikachu! You got free!” Ash exclaimed, seizing the electric-type and hugging him closely.

    “Pika,” Pikachu nodded, his cheeks sparkling with an incredible amount of electricity.

    “Whoa... where’d all that come from?” Ash asked in disbelief, looking at the electrical output.

    The Plate Pikachu was closest to was the Zap Plate; I recognized it from where I was standing,” May said. “Lt. Surge said it was the traditional inheritance of the Vermillion Gym; maybe it somehow boosted Pikachu’s power?”

    “I hope so... we’ll need every volt of it we can to get out of this,” Ash muttered, looking around the battlefield with a sinking heart. Pokemon were everywhere, whether they were battling, frozen in stone, or immobile on the ground. He saw Brandon running past with Regirock, Regice and Registeel in tow as he charged towards a massive Regigigas. Lucy and Anabel were working in tandem, as they held off Groudon with their Milotic and Metagross, Noland’s Articuno stumbling towards them to help despite one wing being held limply. Noland himself was nowhere to be seen, but Ash let out a shout of joy at the sight of Meowth leading all of his, May’s and Brock’s Pokemon towards them.

    “Guys! You’re all here!” he shouted, finding the energy to get to his feet and run to meet them, carrying Pikachu in his arms.

    “Ash, look out!” May screamed as one of J’s Salamence’s Hyper Beams missed its target of Silver’s Salamence and flew directly towards him. There was a burst of dust as the attack hit the ground and May heard a scream. Her heart stopped as she, Brock, and Latias darted towards the dust, and when it cleared she saw only portions of his hands and legs visible in between blackness. For a moment she feared the worst, but then the darkness shifted slightly and she realized that it was in fact Cynthia.

    “You really need to be more careful than that, Ash!” she scolded, climbing to her feet. “If I hadn’t pushed you away...”

    “Thanks, Cynthia,” he muttered, climbing to his feet sheepishly. “I didn’t see it.”

    “That much is obvious,” she said, brushing the dirt off her black outfit; in the pitch black of night she was almost invisible. Only her long golden hair could be seen. “We’re losing,” she said matter-of-factly. “The legendary Pokemon are powerful, but the ones Giovanni is controlling are even more so. If we don’t figure out a way to stop them soon...”

    “It’s already too late,” Ash said, deflating what little hope remained. “Giovanni only needed the legendary Pokemon to make that purple orb so he could summon Cyas – whatever that is. That stopped taking energy from them ages ago. Giovanni’s succeeded; there’s nothing we can do.”

    “Maybe there is,” Cynthia said, a spark in her eyes. “Giovanni is the key to this whole thing; he’s the one who’s controlling the legendary Pokemon and summoning Cyas. If we take him out...”

    “Then the legendary Pokemon might stop battling, and Cyas might not appear,” Brock realized.

    “Exactly,” Cynthia said. “I’ll take out Giovanni; Ash and May, you two cover me, okay?”

    “What about me?” Brock asked.

    “Find Noland,” she said. “When I saw him last he said that some of the legendary Pokemon had been captured with and were being controlled through Dark Balls. You know what Noland’s like; once he has one project in mind, he won’t stop tinkering around with it. Well he’s still experimenting with Poke Balls and he says he’s found a way to remove the effects of the Dark Ball with something he calls a Pure Ball. Find Noland and help him free any Dark Pokemon you find.”

    “Got it,” Brock nodded, running off almost instantly with his Pokemon in tow.

    “Let’s go,” Cynthia said simply.

    “Do you know where he is?” May asked.

    “He’s under the orb,” Cynthia said, pointing towards the centre of the field.

    “Right,” Ash nodded before turning to his Pokemon. “Guys, go off and help whoever you can against the legendary Pokemon. May and I will be fine with Cynthia and Pikachu.”

    “You too,” May said to her Pokemon. “We’ll be okay; you just do what you can to help everyone out.” The Pokemon all nodded and moved off, leaving Ash, May, Pikachu, and Cynthia alone on the field.

    “Ready to go?” the Champion asked.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Two of the legendary Pokemon had not yet entered the conflict. Ho-Oh and Lugia circled above the field, the former looking for an opportunity to attack Giovanni and the second in desperate search of its child. Lugia scanned the field in a near panic, trying and trying against all odds to spot its child. At last it was able to do so.

    There was one cage that remained unbroken; Noland’s Rhydon and Golduck were desperately trying to get it so they could free the young Lugia inside, but their path was obstructed by a snarling Suicune. Rage blossomed in the Lugia’s heart; nothing would prevent it from rescuing its child, and especially not one of Ho-Oh’s creatures. It dived towards the ground with as much as speed as it dared and then some, moving for the second time that night in a bid to recue its child. The Suicune saw it coming, but too late; the Lugia unleashed a powerful Aeroblast that ripped the air as it travelled. All it took was one hit, and the Suicune went down.

    The Lugia landed heavily next to the cage, trying to nuzzle its child, Silver, through the bars. Joy sprang through its body at their reunion, but confusion reigned as to how the cage could be opened. The Rhydon and Golduck approached, but Lugia hissed dangerously and they backed off quickly; it would not risk any possible harm to its child, not even through one of its own carefully controlled attacks.

    The lock on the cage door suddenly clicked into place and the door creaked open. The Lugia was surprised, but it spared little thought for how it had happened; all that mattered was the one that it cared about most had been freed. The parent Lugia nuzzled its child gently and, after making sure no attacks were heading their way, spread wide its wings and took to the air. Silver followed suit, and the two Lugia climbed high into the sky before turning to look at the battleground below. The parent Lugia spared time for one last parting Aeroblast towards a Rayquaza who dared follow them, and then they vanished into the night.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Mewtwo hovered hidden in the air; his body shook with pain and exhaustion, but he was glad that he had escaped a worse injury from both Latias and Palkia. As he watched the two Lugia fly away, a strange and unfamiliar emotion reflected in his eyes. They had each other, and always would. He had nobody. He was the sole member of his race. What future did he have to look forward to?

    He quickly shook the sentimental thoughts from his head. There was no place for them in this kind of situation. He was pleased that his injuries had not restricted his mental abilities in the least, and that he had been able to free the young Lugia by using that strength to push the lock’s mechanism into place. His gaze returned to the battle below as he began wondering what Pokemon he could attack of help next. Greta’s Medicham being attacked by an Uxie caught his eyes, and he charged downwards to intervene.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The two Salamence’s collided belly-to-belly, their legs scrabbling at the other’s thick hides, trying to gain an advantage. Silver gritted his teeth angrily. His Salamence was slightly smaller and faster in the air, but J had that weapon which turned Pokemon into stone. With every opening she shot a burst at them, and his Salamence was forced to use every ounce of its manoeuvrability to avoid them; it was wearing down quickly, and he knew that this battle had to end soon if he were to win.

    “DragonBreath!” he ordered.

    “Flamethrower!” J retaliated. The two attacks melded and burst apart, sending fragments of green and red flame flying in every which direction.

    “Okay, Salamence, climb and use Dragon Claw!” he shouted.

    “Counter with an Iron Tail,” J said calmly. The two attacks collided, but Silver’s Salamence came off slightly better, halting the Iron Tail with one arm and striking with the other. J’s Salamence let out a cry of surprise and wobbled slightly in the air, falling below them. This was the chance they had been waiting for and Silver seized it.

    “Salamence, grab hold and use Crunch on the neck!” he ordered. J’s eyes widened in surprise, but Silver’s Salamence didn’t hesitate. It lunged downwards and the teeth found purchase along its foes neck scales. J’s Salamence struggled helplessly; in flight its neck acted as a rudder, and with the ability to turn it gone it was unable to fly at all.

    The two Salamence scrabbled against each other but Silver’s kept its head and remained on top, positioning itself so that it was almost straddling the back of J’s dragon-type. His eyes burning ferociously, Silver reached over the side of his Pokemon and grabbed J by the arm. She struggled of course, but for all her cunning she was helpless against his raw strength.

    He pulled her onto the back of his Salamence, ripping her weapon out of her grip as she tried to fight him off. “Hold on,” he growled venomously as his Pokemon rolled in mid-air and delivered two powerful Iron Tails in a row to the back of her Salamence’s head. Its eyes closed lazily and Silver’s Salamence relinquished its grip on the neck. J watched helplessly as her Salamence fell to earth and crashed heavily below. Silver grabbed her by the neck and spun her around so that they were face to face. Her eyes were inches from his, and for the first time in her life they were filled with fear. His held no mercy.

    “I’m no murderer,” he breathed, “but dropping a statue from this high up isn’t murder, is it?”

    “No!” J had time to scream before that fear was permanently etched into her face. Silver raised the weapon and fired.

    “It’s not a bad statue,” he said to his Pokemon as he examined his handiwork, “but it leaves a lot to be desired. The museum would never go for this. He sighed theatrically and tossed the frozen facsimile of the Pokemon Hunter J into the air. He watched as the stone statue that had once been the most feared woman in existence plummeted to earth before finally smashing on the hard ground below.

    “Goodbye, Cousin,” he said softly.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    “There!” Cynthia shouted, pointing as they ducked under the tail of the stone Dialga. May, the last to step under, let out a shriek as the rock seemed to melt away from the Pokemon’s body. Ash and Cynthia both turned and gaped as Dialga stretched and roared its anger to the sky. More of the frozen Pokemon now seemed to rid themselves of the rock, as they began moving across the ground in search of another to battle. Dialga trained its sights on Palkia and shot into the air, moving in to attack. The world seemed to shake at the force of the impact.

    “No need to thank me!” Silver roared as he shot past them on his Salamence. “It’s amazing what this weapon of J’s can do! I twist a knob and all of the frozen Pokemon are unfrozen and battling the Pokemon Giovanni is controlling; how’s that for you!”

    “Silver, you may have just won us this battle!” Cynthia shouted after him as he disappeared into a throng of Grunts battling against Tucker and his Pokemon. “Come on,” she added to Ash and May, “we have to get to Giovanni!” Ash and May nodded before turning and stopping dead.

    Giovanni was now only a few feet away from them; he stood directly beneath the orb which had now lost the majority of its purple colour. The small prick of bright light that had appeared after Giovanni’s recitation had grown; it had now become a massive gleam that seemed to tear out their retinas. It had a decidedly equine shape, and the top of its head was now only inches away from the boundaries of the orb. At the centre of the orb they could still see the faint outline of the GS Ball, a slight shade of grey on the gleaming white. They felt frozen at the sight of it, and Giovanni began to laugh madly at the sight of them.

    “You fools; you can’t stop me! Cyas has been called and nothing can prevent it from coming. In minutes your world will be torn apart and my ambition will be complete! When its head breaches the orb, I will have control of the most powerful Pokemon in existence!”

    “You’ll have to battle with me to prove it true,” Cynthia said with authority, stepping forwards with a Poke Ball in hand. “Do your worst, Giovanni!”

    “My worst?” he repeated with a mad grin. “Why ever not? Nidoking and Tyranitar! Let’s go!”

    “Lucario and Garchomp; Battledance!” Cynthia shouted, releasing her two most powerful Pokemon in the familiar blast of red light. “Ash, May,” she said in a low voice. “You have to get past us; do whatever you can to stop Cyas. We’re almost out of time.”

    “What can we do to stop it?” May asked.

    “Whatever you can,” Cynthia answered. “Attack it with your Pokemon, pull the GS Ball out, just whatever you’re able to.”

    “Right; let’s go May,” Ash said, grabbing her by the hand and pulling her around in a circle towards the opposite side of the orb.

    “Oh no you don’t!” Giovanni grinned. “Nidoking; Horn Drill on the two of them!”

    “Garchomp, Dragon Rush!” Cynthia ordered. The dragon-type launched its attack just in time; it hit the Nidoking with only feet to spare, sending the poison-type reeling backwards. “GO!” Cynthia roared before dancing in close with her Lucario to deliver a devastating Force Palm against Tyranitar.

    Ash pulled May with him back into the darkness, electing to take a slightly longer route in order to avoid being seen by the mad leader of the Rockets. Dialga and Giratina clashed just above their heads, the former having taken care of the tired Palkia. Latios flew past slowly, his body still weak from the revival as he frantically searched for his sister.

    At last they made it around. The top of Cyas’s head was almost brushing against the surface of the orb and Ash knew that they had only seconds left. But they were not alone in their movement towards what would be their destruction.

    “Going somewhere?” Paul’s cold voice rang out, bringing Ash, May, and Pikachu to a halt. They turned to see him standing there, Electivire at his side.

    “You aren’t going to stop us this time, Paul,” Ash said authoritatively. Paul’s eyes seemed to burn with a fire as he stared at his enemy.

    “This time there will be no tie,” he said. “I will use Cyas to destroy your body; but not before I destroy your spirit! Electivire, Thunder!”

    “Pikachu, Thunderbolt!” Ash retaliated, and the two electric attacks collided before fusing and exploding in midair.

    “You have no chance!” Paul shouted, his face as mad as his father’s. “There is no way to stop Cyas!”

    “There’s a way to stop you!” Ash roared, Paul’s words reverberating through his mind. “Pikachu, Volt Tackle!”

    “Electivire, Thunder Punch!” Paul countered. The two Pokemon ran towards each other at full speed, Electivire’s fist gleaming yellow with stored electricity and Pikachu’s entire body covered in a brilliant golden glow that left a trail of sparks behind it. Electivire swung its fist downwards but Pikachu dodged the move, running instead towards Paul. He opened his mouth in shock, but before he could saw a word Pikachu smashed into him. He screamed as the stored electricity in Pikachu’s coat, amplified by his presence to the Zap Plate, coursed through his veins. Ash’s greatest enemy shook and collapsed, unable to move.

    “There is a way to stop Cyas,” Ash said, breathing harshly as he glared down at his fallen enemy. “There’s always a way... There has to be a way...” And then it came to him. Giovanni had unwittingly told them all the method himself. And though the proposition filled him with dread, he knew it was the only option.

    If worst comes to worst with the end drawing near
    My rampage causing naught but harm
    There is but one way to stay your fears
    Self-sacrifice stills these arms.


    He turned to May and grabbed her tightly. Tears coursed down his cheeks and she stood there confused, not understanding what was going through his mind.

    “Ash, what’s wrong?” she asked, patting him awkwardly on the back.

    “Goodbye, May,” he said with as much strength as he could muster, forcing the dampness back. “I’ll never forget you; never.”

    “Ash, what-?” she began, but he had already turned to Pikachu.

    “Take care of her, Pikachu,” he said softly, hugging his best friend close. “Take care of them all for me, okay buddy?”

    “Ash, you’re scaring me! Stop this!” she begged. He turned back to her and kissed her on the lips.

    “I love you,” he whispered, breaking away. “I love you so much.” He looked deeply into her eyes for one last time before wrenching his gaze away and turning to walk towards the last vestige of the orb that held Cyas. There was a screech from above and, with its blazing golden light, Ho-Oh shot down from the sky towards the orb as well.

    It suddenly struck May what Ash intended to do. She stood there dumbly, her mind racing as Giovanni’s words now echoed in her own mind.

    Self-sacrifice stills these arms.

    Ash, NO!” she screamed, leaping after him.

    There was a massive roar and an explosion as Ash and Ho-Oh moved together into the orb; May was thrown painfully backwards from the force, her world tumbling end over end before she hit the ground hard. It seemed to her scrambled mind that the universe was coming to an end. The earth shook, trees were uprooted, and vision failed entirely. The air crackled with energy and strong winds blasted from every direction. There was a scream, a roar, and then there was nothing.

    May crawled painfully to her feet, looking blindly in the direction of the orb. It was gone. Cyas was gone. Ash and Ho-Oh were gone. They were all gone. The scorched and blackened ruins of the GS Ball fell to the ground and rolled to a halt at her feet as Giovanni’s legendary Pokemon looked around in confusion before fleeing en masse, the Perporus wiped entirely from their systems by the death of Cyas. By the death of...

    “No!” May screamed, leaping upright and staggering towards the scorched earth that marked where it had all ended. Her vision failed again, this time from the masses of tears that poured from her eyes. She scrabbled desperately at the black earth, screaming with such agony and loss that it brought tears to all who heard.

    “No! No! Ash! ASH!

    But her only answer was the gently blowing breeze.

  15. #120
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    Epilogue

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Ten years later...

    May looked up from the sink and out of the window, sighing. In the backyard she could see Glaceon and Pikachu curled up together, and both Bulbasaur sleeping nearby. In a distant corner Munchlax was poking its nose inside into the hedge, obviously searching out something to eat, and she caught a brief flash of brown as Noctowl flew past the window.

    Her heart heavy, she returned to the dishes, vainly trying to scrub off a persistent stain. At last giving it up as a bad job she left the pan in to soak, dried her hands, and sat down on the couch to wait. She wasn’t waiting for long. A loud crash echoed from upstairs, and then she heard footsteps thundering down the stairs. She turned just in time to see the figure of her slightly clumsy daughter, Alex, dashing towards the front door.

    “Bye, Mom!” she shouted, wrenching the door open. “I’ve gotta go, I don’t want to be late!”

    “Don’t you at least want some breakfast first?” May called after her receding figure. Alex appeared to have not heard, and May sighed. “She’s as impulsive as her father,” she murmured as Pikachu walked in through the still open door and sprang on to her shoulder, nuzzling her cheek.

    “Well good morning, Pikachu,” she greeted him warmly. “Are you ready to see her off?”

    “Pi!” Pikachu agreed. May returned to the kitchen and wrapped some buttered toast in a napkin before heading to the door.

    “Come on then,” she said, “we may as well go now. I doubt she’ll want to stay at Gary’s lab for too long before leaving. Glaceon!” she called, and the ice type came around the side of the house and fell into step at her side. Closing the door securely behind her, May turned and headed up the path towards the lab. Her thoughts churned as she walked, and she couldn’t help but feel a pit of loneliness in her stomach.

    It had been a gut-wrenching ten years. Since Ash’s death outside Mount Silver, so much had changed. She had carried their daughter for nine months before giving birth. She had felt a little strange for the weeks preceeding the first bulge of her waistline, and had been very surprised when the doctor told her she would be having a child. She hadn't even known she was pregnant, and realized that it must have happened on that night in the Vermillion City Pokemon Centre. She fely slightly teary-eyed every time she recalled the moment of birth; Ash's last gift to her. Thankfully it had been relatively easy.

    But the birth had been shrouded in much sadness. Shortly after the battle ended, May returned to Pallet Town with Brock, Dawn, and Silver. Delia had been very pleased to see them at first, but broke down when Silver told her what had happened, and the truth about what hd happened to her husband - he conveniently neglected to tell her that Dawn was her step-daughter. Distraught at the knowledge, Delia had lost the will to live. She became a shadow of her former self, sunken in grief, not caring if she lived or died. She had held her granddaughter for only a few moments before she died in her hospital bed. Barely two years later, Professor Oak also died. Unlike Delia, his passing was peaceful. He had simply gone to bed one night, claiming he was tired, and not woken up again.

    Latias suffered almost as much as Delia in the year following Ash’s death. She had transformed into her human state after so she could express her grief more freely, but was unable to transform back later. She stayed with May for a time, but never seemed to be able to control her sorrow and guilt. She was often listless, unmoving, and tears never seemed to be far from her eyes. A month after Alex’s birth, she quietly left one morning and did not return. Nobody knew where she had gone. May contacted Lorenzo and Bianca of Alto Mare City several times, but they were never revisited by the legendary Pokemon, although Latios had returned to their greatest surprise. It was only later that Brock revealed to her how Latias’s father had sacrificed himself to save lives, just as Ash had. That in combination with the feelings he suspected Latias had secretly harboured for Ash had cost her deeply, he theorized. It made a vague sense, but May wished she could have at least said goodbye to the legendary Pokemon; she suspected that Latias had gone to Ash’s grave and kept an undetected vigil there ever since.

    It had been a much happier time outside of Pallet. Her brother had won a League and become the Petalburg Gym leader after their father retired. Rey had finally claimed the last three Kanto badges she needed and competed in the Indigo League, where she placed second. Following that she had decided to travel the world on foot, travelling through Johto, Hoenn, and Sinnoh. Three years ago Rey fell out of touch with all her old friends, although they all tried to contact her frequently; May hoped that wherever she was, she was happy. Brock and Dawn certainly were; Brock had met Holly in a chance encounter at the Viridian City Pokemon Centre. A short time later they had married, and only the next day Dawn and Forrest were also wedded. It was the only time May had ever seen Silver cry, although he’d said it was because, as Dawn’s closest living male relative, he’d had to foot the bill.

    Tears began filling up in her eyes as the memories came back to her, good and bad alike. But forefront among this was the realization that, for the first time in her life, she would be alone. After Ash’s death she had been surrounded by his friends and family, and when they began to disperse she had her daughter to look after. Now Alex was leaving on her own Pokemon journey, and May would be alone in the house.

    “Maybe I should become a Frontier Brain,” she said aloud, surprising Pikachu and Glaceon. “After the Battle Colosseum was rebuilt Scott said that the position was open for me if I wanted it. It’s not too far away from town, and it would give me a chance to get my battle skills back into shape. What do you guys think?”

    “Pika pi!” Pikachu agreed

    “Grai!” Glaceon nodded happily.

    And then Pikachu’s ears twitched.

    “What’s the matter, Pikachu?” May asked, noticing his sudden attentiveness.

    “Pika pi!” Pikachu shouted, pointing behind them. May turned, dropped the toast, and almost fell over. Her body felt frozen at what she saw. It was impossible... It couldn’t be...

    Moving slowly, a Ho-Oh soared overhead, its glittering golden body eschewing a rainbow stream as it moved by. It flew over her and let loose a piercing cry as it passed, a cry that brought tears to her eyes. She felt its eyes following her as it flew directly over her before moving on, heading in the direction of Gary Oak’s lab. And in that one instant, all the doubt and fear that she had over her daughter’s journey was lost. Alex's father was watching over her.

    “Ash...” May whispered. And then, with a blink of her eyelashes, there was a second tremulous cry and it was gone.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Is it just me or did the ending in Chapter 41 seem a bit rushed after all? That despite the fact that it was 25 pages long in a 10pt Times New Roman font on Word... Ah well.

    Thank you all for reading this over the last year. Thank you all so much. I hope that you enjoyed it. I'll take this final moment to drop two pieces of advice:
    1) Never be afraid to write;
    2) Dream out loud.

    Thank you, everyone.

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