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Loving with Heart and Soul: A Pearlship

Discussion in 'Shipping Fics' started by Jerda Foks, Jun 23, 2012.

  1. Jerda Foks

    Jerda Foks Ponyville Author

    Hey everybody, fellow pearlshippers especially. This will be a multi-chapter fic, so please, read and check back until it says, the end, at the bottom. Comments and constructive criticism welcome! Please post to your heart's content, but no flaming please.
    I do not own pokemon or any related characters or terms. I own all of my OCs and plots.
    The whole fic is now R rated.

    It was far too early in the morning for her to be hearing anything. Unfortunately, life was imperfect, and she rolled over in her bed with an irritated moan to try to block out the rock music coming from outside. Finally, she was unable to bear it any longer and sat up. A quick, reluctant glance at the clock only confirmed her opinions about proper waking hours. She yawned, stretched, and looked around the small, cozy room blearily. Her pokémon were, amazingly, still asleep in their beds. Hoping she would not wake them, Dawn slipped out og bed onto the hard wood floors. As she opened the closet for her usual apparel, the song outside ended, bringing a flood of seemingly unnatural silence. She was about to breathe a sigh of relief when the next tune began. Louder than its predecessor, she swore the noise would crack the glass pane. Shaking with barely controlled irritability, she stiffly dressed, a sour look permanently plastered to her face. And still, her pokémon slept on. The fact that they were undisturbed only added to her growing mood.

    She moved through the motions of the morning routine mechanically, all the while thinking of how to confront the culprit who had ruined her sleep. When she finally made her way downstairs, she was unsurprised to find Brock already awake, though barely. “Morning,” he said dubiously, clearly having been woken by the music as well.

    “Where is he?” she asked her friend, her bad mood brushing away all remnants of grogginess. Brock lifted a limp finger to point to the back door of the Pokémon Center. Maybe if he’s training I won’t… she thought to herself, opening the door. Any meandering thoughts of forgiveness vanished in that instant. For there before her, rocking out to a stereo and air guitar, with Buizel and Pikachu as conspirators, was Ash Ketchum. The song reached a high note, at which Ash screamed out with the singer, and Dawn could not control the complete disintegration of her earlier attitude. It always happened this way, Dawn being unable to be mad at Ash, at least where her pokémon were not concerned. The song ended, also ending the album, and Ash turned to his pokémon congratulating them on a job well done.

    “Great pace guys,” he said to them, patting each on the head. “We’ll practice our battling after lunch.” He stood, recalled Buizel and allowed Pikachu to rejoin him on his shoulder. “Oh, hey Dawn. I’m surprised to see you up so early.”

    “No thanks to your music,” Dawn said sarcastically, still slightly bitter.

    “Aw, come on, it can’t be that loud,” Ash replied. Dawn merely rolled her eyes.

    “I’m surprised Oshawott wasn’t with you,” Dawn began as they walked back into the Pokémon Center lobby. “He always seems to want to do that sort of thing.”

    “He does,” Ash replied, “but that’s our early morning warm up.”

    “Emphasis on ’early’,” Dawn said in a continuing streak of sarcastic remarks.

    Ash paid it little mind and continued, “Buizel was the only other one up besides me and Pikachu, so he joined in.”

    “Who is that artist anyway?” Dawn asked, as they sat on the sofas to absently watch the morning news report before heading out.

    “Who? John Haley?” Brock answered for Ash. “You’ve never heard of John Haley?” For once, it was Ash and Brock lecturing Dawn on something in pop culture, rather than the other way around. Dawn smiled at the irony. “He’s one of the biggest rock stars in the world.”

    “Rock music really isn’t my thing,” Dawn half-giggled.

    “But John Haley’s the best,” Ash implored her. “He’s done some softer stuff too you know.” There occurred a pause in their conversation as all three carefully watched the weather forecast. “You know Dawn,” Ash said idly as they all moved back up the stairs for those pokémon still asleep, “what kinda music do you like. You’ve never really said.” Dawn did not immediately reply. She knew Ash would not question her silence, as they were trying to wake the pokémon so they would return to their pokéballs, but Dawn was secretly wondering how he would react to her answer. “So,” he said as Pachirisu disappeared into the ball, “what kind of music is your favorite?”

    “I really don’t have a favorite,” Dawn said awkwardly. “It’s not that I don’t like music,” she said hurriedly in response to the shocked look on Ash’s face, “but I really just decide what I like on a song-by-song basis.”

    “Weird,” Ash said half to himself. “Okay then…” But he was cut off as Brock rushed up the stairs, fear darkening his face.

    “Get back up the stairs!” he shouted at them. The authority and real concern in Brock’s voice caused Ash and Dawn to run hurriedly back to her room. “Stay away from the windows.” Brock told them.

    “What’s going on Brock?” Dawn asked, her voice becoming tinged with worry.

    “Pikachu, Piplup, you two had better get under the bed,” Brock told the two pokémon.

    “Pip!” Piplup protested to Dawn, Pikachu doing the same to Ash.

    “No go un…” she began to order her prideful pokémon, when she was stopped mid-sentence by an explosion of brick and glass coming through the window. “Go!” she screamed to Piplup. Both pokémon now obeyed.

    “So what’s goin’ on Brock,” Ash re-asked Dawn’s question breathing heavily after the explosion.

    “There’s a heavy fight outside,” Brock said, now beginning to calm down now that he knew they were all okay. “Some sort of trainer battle, but not like any I’ve ever seen. They’re not battling for fun, that’s for sure.” True to form, Ash carefully pulled away the shredded curtains to see the outside.

    “Ash,” Dawn said worriedly, suddenly more concerned for him than she ever had been before. The feeling made her blink in surprise, but it was quickly overlapped by their very real peril.

    “One of ’em’s got a Meinshao,” Ash whispered to them. “I think its Swift is what hit the window.”

    “What about the other guy?” Brock asked.

    “Nothin’,” Ash said. “His pokémon must be unconscious or - ooh!” Ash winced.

    “What, what!” Dawn hissed, trying to be as quiet as possible, while feeling a resurgence in her earlier feeling. “Are you okay?”

    “No need to worry,” Ash said, using her common phrase. “That guy tried to fight the Meinshao on his own.”

    “Not - smart,” Brock annunciated.

    “Do you think it’s okay to go outside?” Dawn asked.

    “Should be,” Ash said, holding out a hand to help her up. He had done so numerous times, but for some reason, Dawn blushed and felt quite giddy despite the circumstances. She took his hand anyway, though she turned her head to keep him from seeing her blush. “C’mon Pikachu,” Ash said, urging his pokémon out from under the bed. The electric pokémon slid out, Piplup close behind.

    “Let’s go,” Brock said once both trainers and their pokémon were settled. “I need to talk to a trainer that would allow his pokémon to strike another human.”

    “Gotcha Brock,” Ash agreed. “If he’s some sort of criminal, I’m sure the three of us can deal with him.” Dawn did not voice her own opinion, despite it concurring with her two friends’. She was too busy contemplating the strange sensation she had experienced upon taking Ash’s hand. It was unlike any other, and to be honest with herself, she had a sneaking suspicion about its source, though she would rather not admit it. Of course Ash was handsome, cute too, and of course she had thought so from first meeting him, but that had never flowered into anything. At least, not until now. “Dawn,” Ash said coaxingly. “I thought you were coming.”

    Dawn shook her head, if only to clear it of confusing thoughts that would best be sorted out later. “You alright?” Ash asked.

    “Sure,” she said, “no need to worry.” For once, she honestly did not mean it. Her thoughts were drifting to her possible feelings for Ash once again before they even exited the Center doors. Once they did though, those thoughts were thrown by the wayside by the Meinshao’s trainer. He could not have been older than eighteen, just two years older than her and a year older than Ash, but he had the weirdest aura about him. It was of course helped by his grey trench coat, all black suit, and grey fedora, but he gave off this sense of otherworldliness that Dawn could not quite latch onto. He had not seen them yet, as he was busy handcuffing his opponent.

    “Shao!” his Meinshao, now revealed as a girl, yowled. She pointed an arm in their direction, and his head followed its lead. Dawn and her friends stopped dead, for no other reason than uncertainty.

    “Oh,” he said, sounding genuinely surprised. “Who’re you guys?” His voice was deep, and had a strange, menacing gurgle in it. However, this was completely contradicted by his friendly tone. Dawn let her confused surprise show with an arch of one eyebrow.

    “Who’re you?” Ash asked aggressively. “Did you know you hit the Pokémon Center?”

    “And why would you let you Meinshao hit a person?” Brock added in, though not as fervently.

    “Sorry if you’re confused,” the trainer said, “but you’re seeing this all out of context. He’s a career criminal, having stolen just about every kind of valuable at one time or another.”

    “So you’re a member of the International Police,” Dawn said, fondly remembering the eccentric Looker.

    “No,” the trainer said flatly. “Though the IP did give me the contract.”

    “So you’re a bounty hunter,” Brock said, realization dawning in him.

    “Sort of,” the trainer replied. “I’m actually a pokémon trainer first and foremost. I just do this sort of thing to keep my skills honed.”

    “Really?” Brock said in disbelief, not of the stunned kind.

    “Mm,” the trainer replied. “So now I’ve answered your queries, who are you guys?”

    “I’m Ash Ketchum, from…”

    “Pallet, in Kanto,” the trainer said suddenly, and becoming rather cheery. “I know you. Well, I know you by reputation anyway.”

    “Me?” Ash said in confusion, pointing to himself.

    “Pika?” Pikachu repeated.

    “And you,” the trainer said, nodding toward Dawn, “You’re Dawn Berilitz, from Twinleaf in Sinnoh.”

    “Wait, how do you…” Dawn yelled, bordering between shock and confusion. She was already becoming irritated by this trainer’s overbearing manner, and by Ash’s frown, so was he.

    “And you are Brock from the Pewter City Gym,” the trainer finished, pointing at Brock. “I am Jerda Foks, and have been trying to find the three of you for two weeks now.”

    “Wait, what?!” all three of them said. Jerda sighed as his Meinshao came up, unconscious criminal in her arms.

    “Professor Oak is a good friend of mine and when he couldn’t get a hold of you, he called me and asked me to look out for ya, being I was in the area and all,” Jerda said.

    “Is the professor in trouble?” Ash asked, concern lacing his every word. “He wouldn’t try so hard to get into contact with us unless there was.”

    “Oh no, nothing is wrong, quite the opposite actually,” Jerda replied. “Why don’t I tell inside the Center. I’ll need to call Officer Jenny for the bounty and wait up there anyway.”

    “Sure, if Jenny’s gonna be there,” Brock said, his voice melting like usual.

    “Ignore him,” Dawn half-laughed when Jerda eyed Brock like one would a mental patient. “He’s always like that.”

    “Don’t worry,” Ash joined her, “his pokémon won’t let it go anywhere.”

    “To each his own,” Jerda shrugged, walking between Ash and Dawn while Brock and Meinshao followed.

    Once in the Center, Brock, Dawn, and Ash took some couches well away from everyone else, making sure to save a seat for the mysterious Jerda Foks. Both Dawn and Ash kept peering over the back of the sofa to watch him as he made his phone call, though it yielded no result. “Come on you two,” Brock said, calling them both back to the moment. “Surely you don’t think he’s that interesting.”

    “No, it’s just like, aw I dunno,” Ash began but ended lamely.

    “Me too,” Dawn said, and upon agreeing with Ash, noticed how close she and he were sitting. That same jolt of passion attempted to redden her face, but Jerda saved her by coming over to their corner.

    Everyone was diverted to him as he said, “Well, Jenny’s on her way, and by the sound of it, I should be able to tell you why the professor asked me to come calling.”

    “Sit down,” Brock motioned courteously to the seat across from the sofa. Jerda thanked him with a nod, but before lowering into the chair he laid six poke balls out on the table between the furniture.

    “Would rather not sit on them,” Jerda replied in response to their faces. He made himself comfortable, smoothing out his coat before continuing. “I would like to reiterate, for you Ash,” he began, “that nothing has happened to the good professor. I wanted to make sure you understood, since you seem to care about him a great deal.”

    “I do,” Ash said. “Without Professor Oak, I wouldn’t be here on my quest to become a Pokémon Master.”

    “A Master, hm,” Jerda contemplated, “Well, if that be the case, it’s no wonder the old man sent me to find you.”

    “C’mon,” Dawn said, frustrated. “Would you just tell us already?”

    “Guess I have been beating around the bush,” Jerda said, mildly embarrassed. “But enough of that. Ash my friend, I would like to formally invite you to one of the greatest gatherings of pokémon trainers in the world: the Pokémon Consortium!”

    “Huh,” Dawn said, the dramatic effect Jerda had intended completely flying over her head.

    “NO WAY!” Ash hollered overly loud. “Brock, Dawn, you know what this means?”

    “Yeah!” “No,” Brock and Dawn replied respectively, and in completely different tones.

    “Dawn, you’re a Coordinator only, right?” Jerda asked, even as Brock and Ash began to grow huge grins of excitement.

    “Uh-huh,” Dawn said, still confused.

    “Then I’m not surprised you’ve never heard of the Consortium,” Jerda answered. “Only hardcore Gym and League challengers know anything about it.”

    “Dawn,” Ash butted in, unable to contain himself any longer, “the Pokémon Consortium is an awesome event for only a select few trainers. Just being asked to come is like when you and Buneary were asked to be Pokéstylists with Paris!”

    “Oh wow!” Dawn burst out, “That’s great Ash!”

    “Will he be battling at all?” Brock asked Jerda, the quickest to gain control of himself.

    “It’ll be entirely his decision,” Jerda said, “unless of course he is asked to explicitly.”

    “Do you know where it’s bein’ held?” Ash asked Jerda in a rush of excitement and energy.

    “ ’Course,” Jerda said rather smugly, “since I’m going too.”

    “Wait, you?” Dawn asked, unbelieving. “I’ve never even heard of you, and the way Ash is talking, I would have heard of you somewhere if you were to get invited.”

    “I don’t have to get an invite,” Jerda waggled a finger at them, sounding exasperated. “I’m one of the founders.”

    “Whoa!” all three shouted at once.

    “And, I’d like to travel there with you,” Jerda continued. “The old professor usually doesn’t make recommendations, so when I heard your invite had come via his suggestion, I had to take the measure of you myself.”

    “That’d be great,” Ash said. “You gotch yourself a deal.” They shook on it, and Jerda excused himself to check on Officer Jenny’s arrival time.

    “This is just great Ash,” Dawn said. “You’ll actually get to learn from someone like, well, how strong is a guy like him supposed to be?”

    “Wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise by tellin’ ya,” Ash replied. “Let’s just say I wouldn’t expect to win our first battle, if we have one.”

    “As a founder of the Consortium, I’d say he’s probably stronger even than Champions,” Brock added.

    “Is that even possible?” Dawn asked. She, during her travels with Ash and Brock, had met both Sinnoh’s Champion, Cynthia, and its Elite Four members. To think there were trainers even more powerful than that was difficult to even fathom. “But why have a Meinshao?” she asked after a pause in their conversation. “I can name a few other fighting-types that have more raw strength.”

    “Meinshao is famous for speed,” Brock explained. “A trainer that uses a Meinshao isn’t going for pure power, though I admit, it would be difficult to use a fighting-type not based in overwhelming strength.”

    “Do they hold contests at the Consortium?” Dawn asked tentatively. She was more than thrilled to be traveling to a gathering of strong trainers, but the fact remained that she needed to keep her skills up outside of simple training.

    “I dunno,” Ash said, genuinely concerned for her sake. “I really never thought about it before, since it’s mostly about regular battles.”

    “Hey!” Jerda shouted at them, far more commanding than he had been since they had met him. “Officer Jenny’s about to arrive, and to make this as quick as possible, I would like it if you were not talking.”

    “What’s that got to do with…” Dawn was about to protest, since she saw no good reason to have to be silent, but Ash pulled her down by the shoulders. The gentle, yet firm, grasp of his hands on her skin completed melted any resistance she might have provided, and she came down with a thump.

    “It’s alright Dawn,” he said in a whisper. “I’m sure there’s a good reason.” She was staring into his eyes, so pure and brown, and was unable to look away. “Dawn,” Ash said, moving to the side in an attempt to jolt her out of whatever she had fallen into. The whole while, his hands never left her shoulders. His eyebrows were furrowed, adding to his charm, when the moment faded. “Oh, sorry…” he laughed, removing his hands and blushing from both her reaction and his lack of understanding. It did not escape Dawn that Brock was smiling in a pleased way after watching their exchange. When she turned to see his expression more closely, he winked in a knowing way and stood up to stand by Jerda.

    Officer Jenny entered the building as formally as Dawn had ever seen her. Ash and Dawn rushed over to stand by Jerda on his other side, as much to control Brock as to be ready when the turnover was complete. Luckily, the former was not necessary, as Brock was controlling himself all on his own. It was impressive for him, Dawn thought, even with the twitching and shivering. “Officer,” Jerda politely saluted Jenny. “Did you not bring a member of the IP with you?”

    “It wasn’t necessary,” Jenny assured him. “The representative at our station gave me your pay.” She extracted an official looking envelope, bulging slightly, and handed it over to Jerda. He gazed at it for a few seconds, then without even opening it, looked up.

    “Everything seems to be in order,” he said. “Thank the IP for the contract for me.”

    “Will do,” Jenny replied. “Where is the culprit?”

    “In the back with Nurse Joy,” Jerda promptly answered. “He tried to resist, and well, ended up with three broken ribs, broken chin, broken knee, and let’s see, am I missing anything? No, I think that’s all.”

    “Dang,” Ash whispered to himself, echoing Dawn’s thoughts.

    “Alright, thank you for taking such a wanted man off the list,” Jenny said, going to the back.

    “Well, I’m done here and now we’re wasting daylight,” Jerda said to them. He retrieved his pokéballs, then taking an easy stride, led them off into a soon to be dusk sky.

    From then until they made camp, no one spoke. Dawn could feel Jerda’s odd atmosphere blanketing their whole group, and it was this feeling that kept her quiet. She assumed this was also the case with Ash and Brock, especially since even Pikachu and Piplup were silent. However, she could not say the silence was entirely unwelcome. It allowed her to dwell and ponder over her true feelings for Ash, whatever they were. She finally came to the conclusion that she did indeed have feelings for him, but was at a complete loss at how to express them. She considered asking Brock for advice, but was quickly reminded of the all too frequent results of his method of approach. Still, he remained her best option for advice between her three traveling companions.

    So when Jerda finally stopped walking, she was relieved for more than one reason. “This clearing should offer enough cover for a camp,” Jerda said, mostly to the air. “Come on out,” he said after a pause in which he retrieved a pokéball. From within the capsule, a Flareon was revealed. “I’ll go collect some firewood,” Jerda said. “Don’t worry about that till I get back.”

    “Sure,” Brock said, sounding easier than Dawn felt. “Don’t take too long though. I’ll start getting us some dinner, and it’ll be better the sooner I get it warm.”

    “ ’Course,” Jerda replied, motioning for his pokémon to follow him deeper into the woods. When Dawn felt he was finally out of earshot, she let out an audible sigh and fell back onto the ground.

    “You can say that again,” Ash agreed wearily, falling onto his back next to her. Dawn idly thought how beautiful the stars were tonight. “I thought I was gonna explode,” Ash continued. “What is up with that guy?”

    “I keep wondering that myself,” Brock mentioned, his head still bowed over his dinner prep. “His name rings a bell somewhere in the back of my head the more I think about it, but I just can’t place it.”

    “At least his pokémon seem happy,” Ash said. “I only put up with him ’cause of that.”

    “Does he remind you of Paul a bit?” Dawn asked him. It had finally come to her who he was most like. His air of being definitely matched Paul’s.

    “Eh,” Ash shrugged, unsure.

    “I would say it’s the other way around,” Brock said. “Paul imitating him, rather than him imitating Paul.”

    “When you put it that way, it makes sense,” Ash said. “How do you think he’ll battle? I can’t get a read on him yet.”

    “Hard to do when he won’t speak,” Dawn said. “But he seems the type to plan four or five steps ahead before making a move.”

    “When on the level he is, that can backfire,” Brock said. “I once saw a short, TV Consortium match. Jerda wasn’t in it, but the two trainers that were battling were forced to constantly focus on the present because of the battle’s ferocity. The pace simply forbids thinking too heavily about the future.”

    “Well, that ought to suit Ash,” Dawn said, bumping him on the shoulder with her own. “He always battles in the moment.”

    “Thanks Dawn,” Ash laughed, “I think.” Their talked drifted to more inconsequential topics until Jerda returned. His presence was announced by snapping twigs and leaves as he emerged from the forest just as Ash was about to ask her a question. They all immediately became silent, and watched as he set his load of logs and kindling off to the side of the camp.

    “You all could do with easing up around me,” Jerda said as he prepared the wood. “What were you going to ask Dawn, Ash? Don’t worry, I was listening to your conversation for a good five minutes before I came out.”

    “Why would you do that?” Ash asked, suddenly furious. He stood up, postured aggressively.

    “We do have a right to privacy you know!” Dawn stood up as well, as much to support Ash as to better see the exchange.

    “So this is how you want it?” Jerda asked nearly surprised, as he drew a pokéball. “I listened because I am interested in your character.”

    “You could have just asked!” Dawn said, horrified to think what Jerda might have heard if she had gone with her gut and confessed her feelings to Ash only moments before.

    “In my experience, people never give you truthful answers right off the bat,” Jerda countered.

    “That doesn’t change anything,” Ash said, drawing his own pokéball. “If I don’t tell you something, it means you aren’t supposed to hear it.”

    “A battle will be the only real way for me to read you anyway,” Jerda said. “I should have asked for one far earlier.”

    “You speak my mind!” Ash shouted. “Let’s go Torterra!”

    “Good choice,” Jerda said, “but so is mine. Knoma, show ’em how!”

    “What!?” Dawn yelled, confused on Jerda’s type match-up, Knoma being a Floatzel. “He could have chosen anything, but he went with a water-type?”

    “Jerda knows what he’s doing,” Brock said lowly and concerned. “Not only does he throw Ash off his game with an odd match-up, but he shows his knowledge of pokémon as well.”

    “How so?” Dawn asked, curious.

    “Wait a moment,” Brock told her, then cupping his hands so Ash and Jerda could hear him, asked, “Do you want me to referee?!”

    “No!” Jerda spoke first. “Ash, this is a no-holds-barred, one-on-one. Give me your best shot.”

    “I would anyway!” Ash said. “Start off strong! Energy Ball!” Dawn watched as Jerda did nothing, then gasped as Knoma leapt out of the way of the spinning Energy Ball in the nick of time. What was even more amazing, Jerda had not even given a command.

    “See,” Brock said, “Jerda knows Torterra is a slow pokémon, so he countered with the super-fast Floatzel. Never mind that Foatzel can learn some powerful ice-type moves that will really hurt Torterra even in a single hit.”

    “Come on Ash,” Jerda taunted him. “There was no way Energy Ball was going to hit and you know that. The move itself was impressive, but stop wasting time trying to intimidate me and Knoma. If you want to do that, actually land a blow.” Dawn was expecting Jerda to give a command next, but he did not. Nevertheless, Knoma activated an Aqua Jet, surging toward Torterra with unmatched speed.

    “Why is he letting her just fight without commands?” Dawn asked, shocked that so strong a trainer considered commands irrelevant.

    “I don’t think he is,” Brock said. “Look closely, that stance is not one of a trainer that doesn’t care. No, I think he might be like Annabel, Kanto’s Battle Frontier Battle Tower Frontier Brain. She was psychic and could speak to pokémon mentally. I think Jerda can do the same thing. If Ash can’t figure it out, he’s sunk.”

    “Ash!” Dawn shouted at him, “Jerda’s psychic! He’s talking to his pokémon in their minds!”

    “Well no wonder…” Ash said. “Thanks Dawn!” He finished, winking at her before returning his attention to the battle. In that simple gesture, Dawn thought she was so warm in the face, Brock would think he was next to a heater. “Torterra, watch that Floatzel’s every move. We won’t know what’s comin’ until right before! Take the Aqua Jet!” Torterra groaned audibly as Knoma made contact, something Dawn had not been expecting from the massive pokémon.

    “That Floatzel must be super strong,” Dawn said, more to herself than Brock.

    “Retaliate with Razor Leaf!” Ash said. He was confident now. Knoma was too close to dodge, and he could not help but smirk when the first Razor Leaf connected. But his smirk quickly faded as it was the only one to connect. As soon as it could, Knoma dropped on all fours, allowing the attack to pass harmlessly over her head.

    “Now we can go on the offensive,” Jerda actually spoke, “Use Aqua Tail on the legs!” Knoma obliged, smashing the powerful physical water move onto all four of Torterra’s limbs. The massive pokémon, unable to regain balance, toppled onto its side.

    “Ah! Torterra! You have to get back up!” Ash urged his pokémon.

    “Now finish it,” Jerda said, before Knoma leaped onto Torterra, then struck with an Ice Fang on Torterra’s exposed belly. The large pokémon bellowed from the attack, then slowly faded into unconsciousness. The moment she knew her opponent was defeated, Knoma jumped away, back to Jerda’s side.

    “Torterra,” Ash comforted his pokémon. “You did your best, we just weren’t able to adapt fast enough.”

    “Is Torterra alright, Ash,” Dawn asked him, as she and Brock had come over as fast as they could at the battle’s end.

    “Good job girl,” Dawn heard Jerda say to Knoma, and turned to watch him. He was down on the pokémon’s level, stroking her back and muzzle in praise.

    “Raar!” Knoma replied happily, nudging her trainer with her snout.

    “Yes, I love you too,” Jerda answered. “Now, go and introduce yourself to Ash.”

    “Ash,” Dawn said, calling his attention to the approaching Knoma as he was still occupied checking Torterra for any serious injuries.

    “Mm,” Ash said, looking up for Dawn.

    “Raa!” Knoma said for Dawn, holding out a fore paw for Ash.

    “Hi,” Ash said, taking the paw. “You’ve got a neat name ya know.”

    “Your Torterra is fine, I’ve already checked,” Jerda said, following Knoma. “So now you know. I have earned my right to do as I see fit. In time, I imagine you will as well, but for now, you must still train and grow.”

    “Thanks for the battle though,” Ash said, having already lost interest in the reason for the battle. “Your Floatzel is awesome. Where did you come up with her name?”

    “Not sure,” Jerda replied. “She’s actually only one of two of my many pokémon with a name.”

    “Are there any tips you could give me for battling?” Ash inevitably asked.

    “I could, but I’d rather wait until later,” Jerda said. “It’s always best if the trainer has plenty of time to think over the battle himself before receiving advice.”

    “Sure,” Ash replied. “So…you want some help with getting the fire ready?”

    “If you want to help,” Jerda answered. From then on, it seemed the battle had been the key to breaking open the barrier between Dawn and her friends and Jerda. While they ate before turning in for the night, he talked openly with them about some of the more memorable battles he had been a part of, as well as the more difficult training trials he had had over the years. When Brock suggested they all let out all of their pokémon for the night, Jerda agreed, save for his sixth ball. The five he did let out were Flareon, Knoma, Meinshao, a Luxray named Degh, and Porygon2. All were friendly with the exception of Degh, who chose to stay close to Jerda rather than associate with the other pokémon. Jerda was not only interesting to listen to, he was a good listener. He was interested in many of Ash’s battles with various Gym Leaders, often citing differences from when he had battled them. He did not know as much about Contests, to Dawn’s disappointment, but was just as interested in how certain matches had played out.

    But even with much of the wall down between them, Dawn still went to sleep uneasy. Along with refusing to allow his sixth pokémon out and not saying what it was or why, there was a definite aura of half-truth about him, like he was only telling part of the story. She couldn’t complain though, as he was now far more engaging than when they had first met. But just before falling into true sleep, Dawn’s final thoughts were of Ash, and how she would definitely ask for Brock’s advice on approaching him with her feelings.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2012
  2. Jerda Foks

    Jerda Foks Ponyville Author

    And so the second chapter begins. Still PG-13, probably won't be R until much later, so if you are expecting anything that would warrant that rating, you'll have to wait a bit. I still didn't get any replies to those of you who viewed this story. (anger anger, grrr, grrr) I guess no news is good news, but compliments are nice to see. With this second bit, please comment!

    The next morning, Dawn awoke to the sound of Starly and Pidove in the distance. It was barely her name sake, far earlier than she normally woke up. That could only mean something in her surroundings was wrong. She rubbed her eyes blearily, looking first at Ash, then Brock. They were both sound asleep, no sign of being disturbed. All of their pokémon were equally deep in their dreams. When her head turned over to where Jerda had chosen to lie for the night, her eyes narrowed. He was gone. With a quick brushing of her hair to make it somewhat presentable, she shook Ash. “Wake up,” she hissed. “Ash, hurry, wake up.”

    “Meh,” Ash mumbled, eyes blinking open. “Dawn? Why’re you up so early?” He punctuated his question with a massive yawn.

    “Jerda’s gone,” Dawn whispered as loud as she dared. “The grass where he slept isn’t even matted.”

    “Huh?” Ash said, now waking more fully and sitting up. “Dang,” he said when he saw what Dawn was saying was true. “Where would he have gone, and why?”

    “That’s what I wanna find out,” Dawn continued to whisper. “And keep your voice down. If he’s around, it’d be bad if he could hear us.”

    “Should I wake Brock?” Ash asked as he slipped out of his sleeping bag and tied on his shoes. “He’ll worry if he wakes up and we’re not here.”

    “Sure,” Dawn said. “You do that and I’ll call the pokémon back.” Ash nodded, handing her his own pokéballs for the task. To muffle the sound of the recall beam, each ball had to be stuffed within Ash’s bag, lengthening the time to recall each pokémon. However, it was worth the wait, as Dawn doubted even the most sensitive pokémon would have heard them. By the time she had finished, Brock was up and had clearly been informed of the situation. They remained silent as both she and Brock slipped on their shoes (in her case boots), and stealthily crept into the woods by finger pointing from Brock. Navigating a forest of fallen twigs and rustling branches was no easy task, even in single file. It was worst for Dawn, being in the back and unable to see anything but the back of Ash’s morning head. Both Piplup and Pikachu were tense, prepared for battle at a moment’s notice.

    “Hold up,” Brock hissed, putting up his palm. “I …don’t…believe….it,” he whispered in utter awe and shock.

    “Whaddya? No…way,” Ash added, as he peaked around Brock’s side.

    “Will you guys let me through,” Dawn muttered, shoving her way around Brock’s other side. What she saw made her put her hands over her mouth to keep her gasp from being so audible. There before them was a ledge leading out over the remainder of the wilderness below. Upon said ledge was Jerda, sitting cross-legged before a pokémon Dawn had only ever seen once, and had wondered if she would ever see again. Darkened and contorted by both shadow from the rising sun and its own coiled sleeping body, was a Giratina. Dawn at first tried to convince herself it was something a little less fantastical, like maybe Rayquaza, but there was no mistaking that arrow-shaped head.

    Once the initial shock had passed, Dawn could hear Jerda talking to Giratina. Though she could not hear the words, the tone was unmistakable. It was the tone a trainer used when speaking to a pokémon he had known and fought with for a long time. The tone Ash used with Pikachu, a tone of friendship and trust. “Is that even possible?” Ash breathed.

    “It shouldn’t be,” Brock said, equally amazed. “But I don’t see any other way to explain it.

    “That must have been the pokémon inside his sixth ball,” Dawn posed. “No wonder he wouldn’t tell us.”

    “But, even disregarding the impossibility of a catch like that,” Ash said, “I’ve never heard of a trainer using a Giratina. There is no way I wouldn’t have either. It would make world headlines.”

    “He’s got a lot of explaining to do,” Dawn said.

    “Gosh you guys are nosy,” said an all-too familiar voice behind them.

    “Zo-mph!” Dawn almost shouted, before both Ash and Brock shielded her mouth.

    “Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that,” Zoey said in a completely normal tone. “He probably knows you’re here anyway.”

    “But…but…” Ash stumbled, confused.

    “How long have you guys been traveling with him, he didn’t say,” Zoey asked.

    “What do you mean, ’he didn’t say’?” Dawn asked. “Do you know him, Zoey?”

    “More than that,” Zoey said, subtly fondly. “But what about my first question.”

    “He joined us less than a day ago and didn’t actually talk until yesterday evening,” Brock answered.

    “Mm,” Zoey said knowingly. “That explains a lot. Okay, how ’bout I go get him and we can both then do some serious question answering.”

    “I’m so confused, I’ll follow any plan that’ll give clarity to the world again,” Ash said wearily.

    “Okay then, stay here for a sec,” Zoey said, stepping over them and onto the ledge.

    “Oh, it’s too early for this,” Dawn moaned, putting her face in her hands.

    “It’s too early period,” Ash commented, yawning once again.

    “No! Stay there!” Jerda’s voice rang out commandingly. “You’re too big to come into the camp and you know it. This should only take a little while.” Thereafter, an odd keeling sound emanated from the ledge, a sound that only a creature like Giratina could make. “Well, I now see why you got caught up in the Galactic Plot,” Jerda said to them, now hovering over where they sat. “You seem to be a magnet for all things not your business.”

    “Don’t we know it,” Dawn replied.

    “I’ll come back with you to the camp to explain, but we’ll wait till Giratina has fully woken up and exercised. Zo should come back once he’s done.”

    “Wait, was that a pet name?” Brock asked suddenly, referring to Jerda’s calling Zoey, Zo.

    “Yes, and I’ll explain that too,” Jerda said stiffly. “I’m following you.” The short walk back to their camp and the ensuing wait time was even more tense than when they had all been traveling the day before, and the only thing Dawn could think about were the words, ’pet name.’ Leave it to Brock to spot the little things that made all the difference. Zoey returned a good solid hour after they had broken down the camp. She held a masterball in her palm. Its contents were not exactly a mystery. With her usual casual swagger, Zoey strode over to Jerda to give him the ball. Upon giving it over, she sat down next to him, put an arm around him, and leaned her head on her shoulders.

    Dawn, who was sitting directly across from them, closed her eyes and shook her head vigorously to clear the hallucination she was seeing. But when she opened her eyes, they were still there, Jerda now having an arm around Zoey and she now with an amused grin at Dawn’s bewilderment. In her mind, Dawn was still having trouble wrapping her mind around the two of them as a couple when Ash said, “Wellll…I guess we don’t have to ask that question, Brock.”

    “Guess not,” Brock replied, his tone betraying his own shock.

    “Amazing,” Jerda half-laughed. “I could be an evil, vile mad man intending to release the renegade pokémon upon you all and the world, and the most you can think about is the fact that Zoey is my girlfriend.”

    “Oh…for the love of…” Zoey said, raising her head and looking at Jerda. “How many times do I have to say not to use the term, ’girlfriend’?”

    “But it’s true,” Jerda said lightly, pecking her in the process.

    “It just rubs me the wrong way is all…” Zoey trailed off. When neither Dawn, Ash, nor Brock made any attempt to start a badly needed conversation, Zoey rolled her eyes exasperatedly. “C’mon,” she said. “Is it wrong for me to be in a relationship or what?”

    “Yes, especially when I can’t,” Dawn heard Brock mutter to himself.

    “It’s just weird is all,” Ash said for them all. “I guess I wouldn’t have put you two together.”

    “Good thing it isn’t your decision then,” Jerda said. “Now, since you obviously need some assistance asking the truly important questions, I’ll tell you how I came into the possession of Giratina.” He cleared his throat, then started off on a likely-to-be-long tale. “I was very young when I ran away from home to be a trainer, too young. I was barely seven years old.” Dawn was struck to hear that, but then again, Jerda did have a very grizzled trainer look for being only seventeen or so. “The first pokémon I met was a Shinx that eventually became Degh. I had not been alone for very long, and I often wonder if I had not met Degh then, if I would have survived on my own. Degh kept me alive, helping me forage my way across the countryside. Eventually, I wound up outside Undella Town during the height of the tourist season. At that point, Degh was truly and wholly my pokémon, ball or no. It was then that I met Cynthia and her parents. Even though I was young, I had enough sense to not say I had run away from home, and made up a story about being homeless and without parents. Even at that age Cynthia and I were decent battlers, and seeing a kindred spirit in me as was in their daughter, her family took me in. I traveled back to Sinnoh with them, and soon set out with Cynthia on my journey.

    During this time, we ran across the brilliant scientist Charon Plato. And yes, the same that would later join Team Galactic. Even then he was insane, at that time trying to uncover the hidden mysteries of Giratina. Both me and Cynthia were already beginning to develop an interest in the possibility of Sinnoh myths being more than myths, and so, in our naivety, we took up positions as two of Charon’s best operatives. We still battled Gyms in order to gain entrance into that year’s League, but the majority of our battles were against trainers Charon deemed interference. We began to realize Charon’s true nature when he ordered a pair of trainers we had disabled robbed of their pokéballs and the balls smashed with the pokémon still inside, killing them.”

    “How evil can you get?” Ash wondered aloud.

    “Charon is nothing compared to someone else I know,” Jerda replied. “But I’ll get to that in a minute. After having Cynthia distract Charon, I helped the trainers and their pokémon escape. From then on, I plotted to ruin Charon’s plan to control Giratina in the worst way possible. I made my preparations through Charon’s connections to Team Rocket, and kept my plan hidden from Cynthia. She was already participating less and less, and I knew she would try to stop me if she found out what I was attempting. Luckily for me, she officially fled Charon before he actually discovered the Distortion World, leaving me with one less person to be sneaky around. Once we had invaded Giratina’s home, he, predictably, attacked.

    Now, you have to understand, a masterball can catch any kind of pokémon without fail, but pokémon as powerful as Giratina and others like him are capable of resisting the initial plasmatic burst that sucks them inside. I knew that the only chance I had of keeping Giratina from resisting that burst was to gain its trust first. The moment he appeared, Degh, Knoma, and I turned on Charon and his goons. We were so practiced, they stood no chance, and we soon had them piled in a groaning heap with Giratina looking on. I apologized to him for their intrusion, paying respect to the ancient creature. It was in that moment, my psychic communication ability activated. Giratina actually turned it on by thanking me for my assistance, but since then I have not been able to turn it off. I was hesitant to ask if he would join me, but when he agreed, it was one of the most ecstatic moments of my life. Here I was with a legendary pokémon, probably one of the only trainers with such a pokémon.

    But even so, everything I built in my life collapsed from there. Little did I know that Cynthia had plotted her own plan for Charon’s demise. She had determined the location of the Distortion World’s entrance before him, left us, then told the IP to be ready to take him down upon exiting and to free Giratina to boot. I didn’t know it, so when I came out, the IP officers identified me as a scout sent by Charon and attempted to take me down. The thing was, I had just won over the heart of a super-powerful pokémon that would not let its newest and only friend be taken away from him. Before I had even reached for Degh’s and Knoma’s pokéballs, Giratina came out of his and proceeded to kill several of the officers and their pokémon. Let me tell you, in that moment, I questioned what I had done, bringing a pokémon that had been exiled from his world for violence back into it. But what was I to do. The remaining IP fled, and I had only one choice. I ran.

    I knew the only way to clear my name would be to counter my actions with Charon with noble ones. I knew most about Team Rocket, so I escaped to Kanto with nothing but my clothes and three pokémon. When I arrived in Kanto, I never thought about it, but I must have arrived only days after you started your journey Ash.”

    “Why would you think that?” Dawn asked, completely enthralled by the tale Jerda was expounding. “You didn’t meet Ash ever did you?”

    “No,” Jerda said, “but when I met Professor Oak, he appeared rather haggard, and told me he was just then overseeing the beginning of a new trainer’s journey.”

    “It sounds like Ash,” Zoey added, “doesn’t it. Hounding the professor to no end.”

    “Okay, I’ll admit,” Ash said, embarrassed, “I was a little insecure back then.”

    “Anyway,” Jerda continued, “when I came to Pallet, I knew I had to assume a new identity. The best way for a trainer to do that is to use a different pokémon. When I first told the professor who I was, he thought I had been sent by Charon to strong arm resources and information out of him. When I finally convinced him of my predicament, he offered me a rejected Charmander as his only way to help. I was desperate and took it without questioning why it had been rejected. I would find out later, and pay for it dearly.” At this point, Zoey squeezed him tightly as if to comfort him. “It’s okay,” he said to her. “I settled with the consequences of my carelessness long ago. You see, the Charmander hated humans, for a reason I have still yet to understand. Eventually, as a Charizard, he changed, but not for a while. Even with his intense dislike of me in particular, the Charmander and I battled well together, and I soon went around conquering Gyms with him alone just to draw Team Rocket’s attention. My tactic succeeded, but not without repercussions. Rocket operatives were sent to ambush me and take me out of the equation before I became a threat. Suffice it to say, they nearly succeeded. In the mayhem of the ambush, Charizard, he had evolved by then, perceived me as the one orchestrating the attack and torched my body with a Flamethrower.”

    “How did you survive?!” Brock exclaimed. “A Charmander’s fire isn’t too terribly hurtful to people, but a Charizard can completely incinerate humans with little effort.”

    “He shouldn’t have lived,” Zoey interceded. “It was only because of Professor Oak that he’s here with us today.”

    “Let her tell this part,” Jerda said to them. “She was there on a visit to a sick relative and knows more about what happened than I do.”

    “Well,” Zoey began, “if you had told me that the same Charizard that guarded that burned boy was the same one that attacked him, I would have told you to stop lying and be serious. Charizard seemed to have realized it had probably killed the only person that had only ever cared for him, and it was mourning him by protecting his body. Luckily for all of us, Professor Oak was able to save his life with an extensive, three day long surgery.” She looked up and Jerda. “You should show them.”

    “A serum derived from Venomoth DNA allowed them to peel away the skin and grow it back rather quickly, but they could do nothing to save my eyes.” At this moment, Jerda leaned his head done, fingers grasping then pulling something away from his face. When he showed them his features again, the visage had completely changed. Where normal orbs should have been, metallic gray inserts were instead. They had no clear pupil or iris, only red, blue, and yellow lights blinking or constantly over the surface in random places. Dawn could only stare, paralyzed. Unconsciously, she gripped Ash’s arm from fear. She was beginning to question Jerda’s humanity now.

    “It’s alright Dawn,” Ash half-laughed for her, and drawing her closer. “He’s not a ghost or anything.”

    “Some might say that’s worse,” Brock commented, obviously mesmerized.

    “It’s eerie,” was all Dawn managed to say.

    “But not all,” Jerda said. “All of my organs are either replaced or amplified with components like this. It was the only way to save my life, and I would not trade this for death. Besides, these eyes give me so much more to see than my old, organic ones. You see, I learned to tinker with them after I recovered and built in an advanced Pokédex scanning system as well as a general scanning system. Virtually anything I need to know about something or someone I can find out.”

    “That’s how you knew your pay from the IP was full,” Ash realized. “Speaking of the IP, what happened after your surgery?” While Dawn had overcome her initial spark of fear from seeing Jerda’s mechanical eyes, she did not pull away from Ash. She let him continue to hold her, and as Jerda began his tale again, laid her head on his shoulder, imitating Zoey’s show of affection earlier. Ash jerked awkwardly, seemingly at first unsure of how to respond, then adjusted himself so she would be more comfortable. So as Jerda continued, Dawn was bursting with utter happiness.

    “With Charizard now my complete and utter ally, we decided to show Team Rocket who they were dealing with and get revenge for my eyes. We stormed their stronghold in Viridian City, flattening the defenses until we came to Giovanni himself. He was of course waiting for us, and told us so. He asked why we had come, other than to settle a score, and I told him that we were toppling Team Rocket for our own sakes and names. He seemed impressed for some reason, then, as all men like him are prone to do, asked me to join him in his efforts. He would have been very convincing to a lesser mind, I’ll give him that, but our hearts were already set. In a few, well-chosen words, I told him to go…well, I said no. He laughed and we began our battle. Charizard was so much stronger than his pokémon it was hardly a fight, but he had one card left to play that forced me to go on the run once again. He revealed his control over a Mewtwo. The ensuing battle between it and Charizard completely turned the tables. Charizard went down quickly, and Giovanni then began to taunt me. Saying that I was a fool, trusting only a single pokémon, and that I should learn from him. At that point, I had no choice but to reveal my other pokémon, including Giratina.

    I must admit, despite having to flee Kanto afterward, being able to use Giratina against Giovanni was worth it just for the look of horror on his face. With their combined power, my three cleaned up Mewtwo and had Giovanni in what we thought was a corner. Turned out, he was always ready for people like me, and with the simple press of a button, he escaped on a drone helicopter. But Mewtwo, he was the true reason I had to flee. Mewtwo was no longer under Giovanni’s control, and if any of you have ever seen a Mewtwo, you will understand that if a person does not teach it restraint and control, it can rampage with little to stand in its way. Mewtwo still had a burning rage for Giovanni and shot off after the helicopter. Giratina and I chased him not to stop him from taking out Giovanni, we couldn’t have cared less about that, but to stop him from doing whatever he would once Giovanni was finished. He was still weak from the our battle, so Giratina had no trouble knocking him out of the air, and as soon as I was sure he was secure, we angled far south toward the ocean.

    My next home of exile was Hoenn, though the circumstances could not have been more different than my Kanto experience. I lived in the wilderness, helping Mewtwo recover while training with my other pokémon. It wasn’t long before Mewtwo, like Giratina before him, became one of my own. At this point, I was beginning to worry. I mean, it seemed as though wherever I went, I ran into legendary pokémon and ended up becoming their trainer. While I was in Hoenn, I met a girl that has become one of the most villainous trainers still alive today. Her name is Arrow Minnow, and I doubt you’ve heard of her.”

    “Yeah, you’re right,” Ash said. “Brock and I traveled Hoenn and her name was never mentioned by anyone we met.”

    “That’s because Arrow is Hoenn’s dark horse of trainers, but also its darkest secret,” Jerda said. “You see, while traveling, she stumbled upon my makeshift camp. As you can imagine, I was panicking, already trying to decide where to flee to next. But she was fascinated by Giratina and Mewtwo, and asked if I would travel with her and teach her, since I obviously knew so much about pokémon. And by the way, those were her words not mine.” Dawn chuckled inwardly, but said nothing. “I agreed. There was nothing I could do about it anyway. She would undoubtedly tell someone about me if I let her go. It was in my best interests to keep an eye on her. As we traveled, she earning badges and such, I found out she was obsessed, and I mean that literally, with Rayquaza. I didn’t think much of it, especially since I knew from my own research that Rayquaza were rare on the surface. Well, she was so obsessed with the pokémon that she turned a double agent for two criminal organizations hoping to bring forth Groudon and Kyogre. She furthered the causes of both in the hopes that Rayquaza would appear to stop their rampage and thus give her the opportunity to catch it. As you can imagine, I was horrified when I discovered her dual identity, but it didn’t stop me from trying to stop her. I chased her to the clashing point in the middle of the ocean, only to realize she could not even hope to catch the Rayquaza at her level of power. To save her, I captured it with the help of Giratina.”

    “Holy!” Ash shouted, suddenly sitting erect.

    “Again, I was facing a dilemma, but rather than flee somewhere, I stayed. Arrow had become volatile beyond belief, taking control of the two organizations and rebranding them as Team Arrow. She was determined to catch a Rayquaza, even if that meant brushing me aside. Hoenn was in turmoil for several years, as both of us rallied followers. The conflict actually spread to Sinnoh, when Arrow decided to seek a Giratina to match mine.”

    “We never got caught in any sort of conflict,” Dawn said confused. “If this was as big as you say, I’m sure we would have.”

    “You did, or so Cynthia told me,” Jerda said bluntly. “Team Galactic was a splinter group from Team Arrow. Once they had acquired resources from her, they split, hoping to take control of Dialga and Palkia. As I understand it, you three helped stop that crisis.”

    “Sort of,” Ash said, showing signs of embarrassment.

    “He’s being modest,” Dawn said, nudging him. “We were there.”

    “Well, as my fights against Arrow and her minions escalated, my name came to prominence once again, this time in the good light rather than the dark. Cynthia forgave me, and became my first associate in the war. Several others followed, though I hope you’ll all get to meet them at the Consortium. You see, the Consortium is just a cover for our operations against Arrow. Zoey knows it.”

    “Yeah,” Zoey said. “They have this huge underground communications outpost, and this…” She trailed off, eyeing Jerda with an amused laugh. “I guess it would be better if they just saw it.”

    “Does that explain my past enough?” Jerda asked, not roughly, but with enough authority that Dawn didn’t think about challenging his story.

    “You’ve been through a lot,” Brock said, wiping a hand over his forehead to clear away sweat.

    “True, but I’ll congratulate you all for having gone through some of the same tense experiences,” Jerda said. “People can be pushed away from one another during things like that. I’ll just say I’m glad to say the same isn’t true of you two.” He nodded to Ash and Dawn, and she suddenly moved away from him blushing.

    “I…I…,” she stuttered, unable to lie by saying their relationship wasn’t like that.

    “Well, I…” Ash managed a little better, but then shocked Dawn by stopping just like her. Did that mean he felt the same way about her?

    “We should get moving,” Jerda said, completely breezing over the awkward moment as if it was normal. “The Consortium ought to be only a day or so away if we keep up a good pace.”

    “Dawn,” Zoey said to her while the boys packed. “I get the feeling you’re having one of those ’need to talk’ moments.”

    “Huhhh,” Dawn sighed in a sort of confirmation.

    “How ’bout you let it all out on the flight. Nobody except me’ll be able to hear you,” Zoey said comfortingly.

    “That’s great Zoey, thanks,” Dawn said relieved that she would actually be able to talk to someone other than Brock. “But what do you mean by ’flight’?”

    “You aren’t afraid of heights are you?” Zoey suddenly asked nervously.

    “No it’s just…” but she was interrupted when a pokéball opened and Giratina was revealed. “No,” Dawn said shaking her head. “You can’t be serious.”

    “He can carry all of us with no problem,” Jerda said, having overheard Dawn’s disbelieving tone. “Zo, would mind showing her how the harness works?”

    “No prob,” Zoey said. “You readying him for multiple passengers?”

    “Yeah,” Jerda said, “it’ll take a minute to reconfigure it.”

    “Come over here you lot,” Zoey said to Brock and Ash, who joined Dawn. “Okay, Jerda has this harness system for Giratina to keep inexperienced riders from falling off.” She pointed to her belt, and for the first time, Dawn noticed it had the oddest buckle. With a practiced flick of her fingers, Zoey extracted a hiking carbiner from the buckle. She pulled it out, but it was held onto the belt by a retracting steel cable. “See, it’s the same on the back,” Zoey explained. “Jerda will hook onto the harness, and everyone else will form a chain from him.”

    “Sounds simple enough,” Ash said, grabbing a belt that Zoey handed him. “No need to worry, right Dawn?”

    “Yeah…” she said sheepishly, taking a belt. Truth be told, she didn’t mind heights at all. The difficulty she was having was with Giratina. The creature was other worldly and was consequently not bound by the many of the laws of nature. The speed which he might attain was unpredictable, and as they would be out and exposed to the air, she was nervous about being able to maintain a sense of safety. She had been in balloons and helicopters, but in those situations, she was either moving slowly and steadily or could not really tell how fast she was going. There would be no holds barred on Giratina.

    “Dawn, you want some help?” Ash asked her, seeing as she was standing with the belt in her hands, staring off into space.

    “Thanks,” she said, handing the belt off to Ash. “You aren’t nervous?” she asked him as he looped it around her waist.

    “Just a bit,” Ash laughed. “But remember, I was thrown out of Jay’s ship from who knows how high. Compared to that, this’ll be nothin’.” He tightened the belt, suddenly bringing her closer to him than she had ever really been. Her emotions were racing out of control now, completely forgetting the harrowing ride they were about to have.

    “Ash…” she whispered, not really sure if she had said anything or not.

    “Oi!” Jerda suddenly shouted at them, completely ruining the moment. She and Ash moved away from one another to face him, Dawn scowling heavily. “Save it for the tent!” Jerda continued rather ungraciously. If Dawn was embarrassed before, now she couldn’t even look anyone else in the eye.

    Giratina was lying on the ground, completely straight. In this position, he did not look as intimidating or as large as Dawn had thought. This helped in a small way to make her more calm. Jerda climbed on first, clipping his belt to the simple harness Zoey had talked about. Dawn was surprised to see Giratina look at him when he did, as if questioning the action. There was clearly a mental message coming from the pokémon, as Jerda’s grin began to grow larger and larger. “No, no, no,” he finally said aloud. “I don’t need it, and neither does Zoey. However, we have three passengers that have never flown like this before.” More thoughts came from Giratina, and Jerda scowled this time, though he sounded amused. “Just because they won’t be able to hang on doesn’t mean they deserve to be dropped into oblivion.”

    “What!?” Dawn yelled. “What kind of attitude is that?”

    “He won’t throw you off,” Zoey consoled Dawn with a pat on the shoulder. “See, amazing as it is, Giratina has a sense of humor.”

    “Oh great, that’s all we need,” Brock moaned.

    “Okay, Ash,” Jerda said, “you’ll be the second on. Ash stepped forward, somewhat unsure how to mount the worm-like pokémon until Jerda offered a hand and hoisted him up. “You won’t be able to straddle him obviously,” Jerda said, “but you should never sit either. You have less control over your body. Instead, you’re gonna kneel like this, put one hand on Giratina and the other on the cable.”

    “Got it,” Ash said, mimicking Jerda’s pose. He clipped on his belt, and the rest of the ascended in short order. Brock was behind Ash, Dawn behind him, and Zoey behind her.

    “Here,” Zoey said to Dawn once they were secure. She handed her a small earpiece, which Dawn quickly attached. “You won’t be able to hear me talking to you otherwise,” Zoey explained, inserting her own piece.

    “Check your cables and carabiners,” Jerda’s voice came from near Giratina’s head. They all yanked then gave a thumbs up. “Okay, hold on tight, Giratina does not know the meaning of ’slow’.” It was like waiting for a rollercoaster’s first dive Dawn realized as Giratina stayed motionless for a few seconds more. In the next moment, all she could do was scream, scream high and loud. She wasn’t the only one either. Brock was bellowing and Ash was shouting, but it seemed as if Ash was shouting for joy rather than terror. Aside from screaming, Dawn gripped her cable with as much strength as she could muster. She was about to come over the shock of take off when Giratina banked sharply, rotating his body almost a full ninety degrees. This elicited fresh hollers of terror from all three of them, Ash’s joyous shouts turned to real fear. She could even hear Pikachu wailing away. The moment the turn was over, Dawn was thrown backward as Giratina accelerated beyond the speed of sound.

    “Now you see why we wouldn’t be able to talk without these,” Zoey’s voice cracked in the earpiece.

    “Heh heh, huhhh,” was all Dawn managed to breath. “This pokémon’s insane,” she added after a few moments, allowing her heart rate to slow slightly.

    “If it’s any consolation,” Zoey said, “I was worse than you on my first ride.”

    “Really?” Dawn asked curiously, “That doesn’t seem like you Zoey.”

    “It’s true,” Zoey nodded. “Jerda thought it was hilarious. And in hindsight, I probably was a laugh.”

    “Why?” Dawn asked.

    “Well…” Zoey tried, then scratched the back of head from nerves. “It’s kinda embarrassing, to be honest.”

    “C’mon,” Dawn pleaded. “It’s not like I would say anything if it’s really that bad.”

    “Okay,” Zoey said quickly. “I screamed pretty much the whole time, and well, I never let go of Jerda until we had landed again.”

    “Ohh,” Dawn said, unsure of how to reply.
    “But enough about my embarrassing moments,” Zoey quickly turned the tables. “What’s up with you and Ash.”

    “Um…I…Oh, to heck with it,” Dawn stuttered. “I have no idea.”

    “Are you sure?” Zoey probed, almost knowingly.

    “I mean, I have feelings…” Dawn said. She was incredibly uncomfortable saying any of this, even to Zoey. It felt like she was exposing some dirty secret, though she knew better.

    “But Ash is being his usual dense self,” Zoey finished, quite accurately.

    “I wouldn’t say that,” a different voice came over the coms.

    “Jerda!?” Zoey said, surprised. “Have you been listening this whole time?” she asked reprimandingly.

    “No,” Jerda’s voice said nonchalantly, “but it’s not too difficult to figure out what you two’er talking about.”

    “You’re goin’ to give your two cents anyway, so I’ll ask, what do you think?” Zoey said, both amused and irritated.

    “You said Ash is rather dense,” Jerda said, “and while I’ll agree to that to a degree, he didn’t look so dense when he was so close to you Dawn.” At this point, an audible click came through the earpiece, Jerda having disconnected from the line.

    “See, he can be sensitive too,” Zoey said to Dawn’s impressed raised eyebrows.

    “But what do you think I should do Zoey,” Dawn asked, becoming serious once again. “How do I say I have feelings for him without making a fool of myself?”

    “The atmosphere has to be right,” Zoey said, almost like she was explaining contest appeal. “You can’t just blurt it out. You have wait and be patient. Wait for the right moment. And if you’re thinking you might miss it, you won’t. You’ll know before hand.”

    “Is that how it happened for you?” Dawn asked hopefully.

    “Sorta,” Zoey replied. “Jerda confessed first, but I could feel something special that night that was way different from any other. Does that help?”

    “I just wish there was a tried and true formula for this sorta thing,” Dawn sighed. “But yes, that helps a lot.”

    “Go for it then,” Zoey said cheerfully, slapping Dawn on the back for reassurance.

    “Land!” Ash exclaimed the moment he was able to collapse onto soft grass. As he lay there, he could think of several, very poignant words to use to describe Giratina. However, as he was not the sort of person to swear, he kept the comments to himself.

    “Ash! Look…!” Zoey said suddenly from atop the massive pokémon. Ash’s eyes snapped open, but too late. Dawn screamed slightly before falling full out and landing painfully atop Ash’s gut. “…out.” Zoey finished to an amused grunt from Jerda.

    “You shouldn’t have,” Ash heard Jerda say. Zoey did not reply, but Ash hardly cared. Dawn was leaning up, groaning from her fall, and he had one inescapable sensation of how perfect the moment would be if he was alone with her. As it was, he was denied any sort of way to share how he felt about her.

    “Sorry Ash,” Dawn mumbled, standing up completely.

    “Well,” Ash said, trying to forget what her skin felt like, “at least it was me and not the ground.” Dawn nodded in agreement before moving off to find a comfortable place to sit. Upon doing so, she immediately took out her brush and began straightening out her hair.

    “Ash,” Jerda said, “why don’t you help me with the harness while Zoey and Brock get dinner ready.”

    “Sure,” Ash said. “Pikachu, why don’t you go and see if Brock needs anything.”

    “Pika,” his pokémon replied before leaping away.

    “Whaddya need?” Ash asked, looking up at the faintly appearing stars to see Jerda.

    “Giratina, would you rear up for him?” Jerda asked, and the pokémon obliged, raising the first third of its body to its normal pose. “Okay Ash, you should see one buckle in the middle and four smaller ones in the corners.”

    “I see’em,” Ash replied. “Which one comes first?”

    “Take the upper left, then lower right, then the upper right, and finally lower left,” Jerda instructed. It took a moment for Ash to get a feel for the size of the buckles, but once he had undone the first, he quickly undid the others.

    “It’s all good,” he said.

    “Now very carefully undo the middle buckle,” Jerda said. “And by very carefully, I mean don’t let any part that is not touching Giratina touch him.”

    “Why not?” asked Ash, following Jerda’s direction all the same.

    “Giratina are very receptive to touch, not much else,” Jerda said. “If you flick something onto his skin without him knowing it, he might freak.”

    “Got it…” Ash said to himself, warily eyeing the six large tentacles that apparently allowed Giratina to fly. One the delicate task was done, Jerda hoisted the harness off from his side, showing an incredible amount of strength in the process. “How’d you do that?” Ash asked. “Your aren’t built, that’s the only reason I ask.”

    “During my surgery,” Jerda said, breathing heavily as he dropped the harness onto the ground, “so much of my body was damaged that the only way to make sure I wouldn’t be incapacitated was to combine what was left of many of my muscles with artificial equivalents. A fortunate side effect was increased lifting power.”

    “It’s awesome,” Ash said absently, then realizing what he had said, quickly back traced and said, “I mean, that you can lift heavy stuff, not that…”

    “I understood,” Jerda said, “just remember next time.”

    “Sure,” Ash said as they joined Dawn and the rest around the cook fire Brock was building. “What’s for dinner Brock?” Ash asked almost subconsciously.

    “The regular old Brock Original,” Brock said proudly.

    “He means soup,” Dawn informed Jerda, who nodded in understanding.

    “What kind of pokémon food do your pokémon like Jerda?” Brock asked him once he had set water of the fire to boil.

    “Pokémon food?” Jerda asked, completely confused. “Your pokémon eat that stuff?”

    “Yeah,” Dawn replied. “What else would they eat?”

    “What nature intended,” Jerda answered simply. “Nothing more, nothing less.”

    “Oh great,” Zoey sighed. “Here we go again.”

    “So you mean your pokémon only eat berries and grass?” Ash asked. He had always thought it an intriguing prospect, and certainly a noble effort to follow, but the practicality of it had always worn on him. He preferred pokémon food on the grounds that he never had to worry about there never being the right food for his pokémon in the wild.

    “Yes, that is what many of them do,” Jerda answered, “but do you honestly believe a pokémon like Giratina eats grass?” Ash took a look at Giratina, all curled up like he had been earlier that morning. In his sleeping position, he looked incredibly docile for a pokémon of his size.

    “No,” Ash finally said. “But that means he only eats berries.”

    “No, simple humans,” a deep, guttural and reverberating voice echoed within Ash’s head. “I prefer Stantler whenever possible, though if things are scarce, Eevee do.”

    “What!?” both Ash and Dawn yelled at the same time. “You heard him too?” Ash asked Dawn first.

    “Yeah,” she said, and turned on Jerda. “You let him eat other pokémon?!”

    “Even if I disliked it,” Jerda said, holding up his hands in defense, “not to say that that is the case, but even if it didn’t appeal to me, I would not stop him. It is his natural diet, along with hundreds of other pokémon. Nature will take care of itself on its own, so I see no reason to fight against that.”

    “Cool it you two,” Brock stopped Ash and Dawn from retaliating. “As barbaric as it sounds, how do you think pokémon in the wild feed themselves?”

    “Thank you Brock,” Jerda nodded appreciatively to him.

    “It’s why I have only herbivorous pokémon,” Zoey spoke up. “It’s not something I even have to deal with.”

    “Send out your pokémon,” Jerda said to Ash. “I’ll tell you which ones actually need meat if they don’t eat pokémon food.”

    “Come on out guys,” Ash said, though somewhat reluctantly. “Why don’t you do it too Dawn?”

    “Really?” Dawn asked him, then said, “Let’s go.”

    “Ash’s first,” Jerda said, eyeing all of the pokémon like a critic might. “Pikachu, herbivore,” he began. “Torterra, again herbivore. Swellow, same case. Ah! Here we are, and one of my favorites too.” He was stopped right in front of Buizel.

    “Bui?” Buizel wondered, looking stiffly into the new trainer’s eyes.

    “Buizel are omnivores,” Jerda said. “They’ll do just fine on a plant based diet, but a little hunting would do him good. Now let’s see, Oshawott too.”

    “Whoa!” Ash darted out, blocking Jerda. “Wouldn’t touch him or look right in his eyes if I were you,” he said rather sheepishly.

    “Prickly pokémon are you,” Jerda said to Oshawott, who was peeking around Ash’s pant leg. “Well, that aside, Oshawott and Buizel are very similar. Aside from the water-type similarity, both are omnivores.”

    “That’s strange,” Dawn said to Ash. “Oshawott is such a cutie, I never thought he might eat other pokémon.”

    “Oh he wouldn’t be able to hunt much,” Jerda explained. “They usually eat Shellder and other pokémon that size.”

    “I don’t wanna hear what’s next,” Ash said, looking to his final pokémon, Infernape. Its teeth, fire-type, and general demeanor left no doubt in Ash’s mind that he was a carnivore.

    “You might be surprised,” Jerda said, scratching the underside of the pokémon’s chin. “Infernape are herbivores. The ferocity and physiology are for battle only.”

    “Ya know Ash,” Dawn said, “its really kinda funny. Your cutie is the hunter, while your fierce pokémon is a gatherer.”

    “I guess you’re right,” Ash chuckled, patting Infernape on the back.

    “I have a prospect for you Ash,” Jerda said, once he and Dawn had finished laughing. “But let me take a look at Dawn’s pokémon.”

    “Line up nice and straight you guys,” Dawn urged her pokémon, actually having to shove Mamoswine to get him to move.

    “Do you mind who I start with?” Jerda asked her.

    “No, go ahead,” she said.

    “Right, now Piplup,” Jerda said thoughtfully. “I have to say Dawn, your cute pokémon is also a meat-eater.”

    “What!?” Dawn screeched, overly horrified in Ash’s opinion. “But Piplup has never showed any want to eat other…things.”

    “That’s because you keep it on a consistent diet,” Jerda said. “Many compliments Brock.”

    “Mm,” Brock replied, concentrated on the soup.

    “But yes, Piplup is a carnivore through and through. Its whole evolutionary family is,” Jerda continued. “You will be happy to hear though,” he directly addressed Dawn, “that your Pachirisu is a herbivore.”

    “Thought so,” Dawn said, visibly calming down. “My poffins are all made with fresh fruit, so I guess that’s why Pachirisu likes them so much.”

    “Mhm,” Jerda nodded. “I assume then that Mamoswine, Lopunny, and Ambipom are all the same.”

    “Mamoswine more than the others,” Dawn replied, clearly unsure whether this was a good thing or not.

    “That only leaves Quilava,” Jerda said, bending down to see the fire-type better. “Out of all your and Ash’s pokémon, this little guy is the most skilled hunter.”

    “That’s cool…I think,” Dawn said, adding her last bit as an afterthought. “But Quilava loves to eat berries. Why would he if he’s a carnivore?”

    “Omnivore,” Jerda corrected, “again, I’ll complement Brock for making such excellent pokémon food. I’ve met trainers with Quilava who could barely control them if they smelled something tasty, even on a steady pokémon food diet.”

    “Scary,” Ash said, eyeing Quilava in a completely new light.

    “Not to worry,” Jerda said to them all, “if he hasn’t tried anything yet, he won’t anytime soon.”

    “But what was your offer?” Ash asked, remembering Jerda’s earlier comment.

    “Oh Ash, you complete idiot,” Zoey sighed, making it quite unclear whether she was jesting or really meant what she had said. “Jer has been talking to you about carnivore pokémon and you don’t know what he wants to do?”

    “Heh,” Ash mumbled. “Now that you put it like that…” he trailed off, hoping to lessen the damage he had already done.

    “My offer still stands,” Jerda said, very like a salesperson. “All of my pokémon on hand are hunters except Porygon2. They are going hunting anyway, so I was wondering if you would mind if any of yours went along.”

    “Are you kidding me?!” Dawn looked at him nearly angry. “I’ve already dealt with a disobedient pokémon and I’m not eager to repeat the experience thank you.” Ash turned and smiled at her, understanding her position completely, but finding her fervent protest amusing. His feelings for her played a role in the smile, but to what extent he was neither sure of nor did he want to admit.

    “Ash?” Jerda asked again.

    “It’s up to them,” Ash finally shrugged. “If you Buizel and you Oshawott wanna tag along with Jerda’s pokémon, I won’t stop you.”

    “You can’t…be serious Ash,” Dawn said.

    “Sure I am,” Ash replied. “It’s their decision now, just like it would be their decision in the wild.”

    “Sometimes Ash,” Dawn said from mild frustration and walked off to see how she could help Brock.

    “Bui bui!” Buizel shouted excitedly, pointing to Giratina.

    “You’d be underwater,” Ash chuckled. “Not in the air.” Oshawott had still not come out from behind Ash’s pant leg, a clear indication of how he felt about leaving.

    “It’s no trouble Ash,” Jerda smacked him on the back. “If Buizel wants to fly with Giratina he’s welcome, just so long as he pulls his own weight in the hunt.”

    “Buii!” Buizel affirmed, running over to the worm-like pokémon’s side.

    “That’s settled then,” Jerda said to himself. “Come out all you guys,” he said, releasing his pokémon. “Ash’s Buizel’s comin’ with ya’,” he told them. “Show him how to hunt, as it’s his first time.” They all saluted Jerda in their own unique ways before bounding off in multiple directions. Buizel climbed atop Giratina, then with an apparent swift mental statement, the legendary creature accelerated into the air, Buizel’s hollers of terror lingering after him.

    In Ash’s mind, Jerda’s pokémon took a worrying amount of time. When he mentioned them staying out past dinner, Jerda assured him that sometimes they didn’t come back till well after midnight. Ash realized later, after talking with both Zoey and Dawn, that he probably wouldn’t be so concerned if Buizel wasn’t with them. Having talked so much that morning, Jerda remained silent through most of dinner, occasionally adding a quip or two. Eventually, Ash got a chance to talk alone with the person he trusted most. While Dawn, Zoey, and Jerda conversed around the campfire, to which Jerda continually supplied fuel, he and Brock talked over cleaning the dishes. Brock was the first to speak up, for which Ash was grateful. “Somethin’s on your mind Ash,” he said. “What’s up?”

    “Dawn,” Ash answered blankly, though truthfully.

    “Pika?” Pikachu looked up at him from stacking a plate, both curious and confused.

    “I’m sorry buddy,” Ash said to him. “Weird isn’t it. It’s usually Gym battles that’re on my mind.”

    “Pika…” Pikachu affirmed, almost as if such talk was wearying for him.

    “What about Dawn?” Brock asked, though it was clear what answer he expected.

    “C’mon Brock,” Ash complained. “Don’t ask questions that are that awkward to answer.”

    “Well, admitting it is the first step toward confessing it,” Brock said, as if he was a counselor.

    “That’s the problem,” Ash said. “I know how I’d like to tell her, and there are tons of things that I’ve thought of in the past that would be really romantic and stuff. The big roadblock is the first stinkin’ step.”

    “You don’t sound like you’re having such a problem with step one,” Brock replied, handing off a cup.

    “Okay, then it’s step two, I guess,” Ash grumbled. “It’s just one of those stupid hormone things. I think of the perfect way to tell her how I feel, but I can’t even rehearse to myself without stuttering. I wouldn’t get two words out in front of her.”

    “Well if you need advice on that front,” Brock said knowingly, “I’m actually the wrong go-to guy.”

    “C’mon Brock,” Ash said sarcastically. “You? Having a problem talking to girls? Please.”

    “That’s the thing,” Brock said. “It’s never been an issue for me. I can’t really help ya ‘cause I’ve never had your problem.”

    “Dang,” Ash realized. “You’re right.” After a pause, “But who would be a good go-to guy? I mean, I would never in a million years ask Professor Oak or Mom.”

    “I wouldn’t either,” Brock said, his voice shaking as he considered the odd reactions such questioning would entail. Then, returning from his reverie, answered, “What about Jerda?”

    “No,” Ash said pointedly. “I don’t even know him for one. And secondly, who’s to say his advice would be any good. I mean, look at the stuff he’s gone through. I doubt that makes for good romantic advice.”

    “I’m only speaking from what I see,” Brock said.

    “What?” Ash wondered confused.

    “Zoey,” Brock pushed, astonished Ash hadn’t picked up on it. “She seems happy with him.”

    “That’s your evidence,” Ash raised an eyebrow. “To be honest Brock, I’d go to someone super-mushy like Wallace before going to Jerda.”

    “Just my opinion,” Brock replied. “And by the way, I wouldn’t go so far as to call Wallace super-mushy.”

    “He’s a stinkin’ hearthrob,” Ash snorted. “That makes him mushy by default.”

    “Okay then,” Brock shrugged. “But really, talk to Jerda. I’m not saying follow what he says,” Brock insisted from Ash’s irritated look. “But maybe he’ll reveal one thing that’ll be helpful.”

    “But there’s also the question of whether or not he’d want to answer,” Ash contemplated, sitting down from the cleaning.
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2012
  3. Jerda Foks

    Jerda Foks Ponyville Author

    ...this post continues chapter two, as it was too long for a single....

    “Ya know Ash,” Brock said, plopping down next to him, “you keep going on like this and I’ll think you don’t want to be with Dawn. Take anything where you can get it.” Ash frowned and breathed audibly, crossing his arms over his chest in thought. He was watching Jerda and Dawn both. Jerda was sitting silently, eyes darting between Dawn and Zoey as they talked. The observant quality in his eyes slowly made Ash reconsider his capability in this complex area.

    Then there was Dawn. Nothing much passed through his mind when he looked at her. He didn’t even concentrate on what she was saying. All he could see was what he wanted to see, and it happened he was content to just sit and see. “Wake up Ash,” Brock nudged him, attempting to hold in a snicker. “Methinks it would just be better if you talked to her, no advice to be had. You’ll be more genuine for one, and man, if your dreaminess is anything to go by, your mind is only playing tricks on you when you try to psych yourself up.”

    “To heck with it Brock,” Ash said finally. “I’m taking her on a walk tonight and if I don’t saying anything then, it means I’m not meant to be with her. What time is it?”

    “If you wanna get a decent rest, I’d go now,” Brock replied.

    “Alright,” Ash said, standing up. “Pikachu, shake for luck?”

    “Pika!” his pokémon said encouragingly, holding out a small paw.

    Ash grabbed it, then after a second or so said, “See you guys tomorrow morning.”

    “Go for it and good luck,” Brock said as Ash strode toward Dawn, Zoey, and Jerda.

    “Hey guys,” Ash began, just as felt the tentacles of fear begin to creep into his gut. Jerda didn’t look up at him, staring blankly into the fire, but both Zoey and Dawn turned to see him. “Dawn,” Ash pushed forward, suddenly feeling the uneasiness melting away and being replaced by a strong, almost unnatural drive to speak his mind. “Would you come on a walk with me?” Dawn tilted her head, confused and dazed, like she was trying to decide if she had heard right. Jerda remained impassive, but Zoey turned away and glared at him. “Did ya hear me Dawn?” Ash asked, hating having to repeat himself. Just once was hard enough.

    “Huh, oh, yeah…sure, I’ll go with you,” Dawn said, standing, brushing her skirt of stray bits of grass. Past Dawn saying yes, Ash really hadn’t planned what to do. She looked at him curiously as he stood blankly and stupidly, trying to decide where to walk. “Ash…” Dawn giggled, “do you know where we’re going?”

    “Uhhh…” Ash faltered, unable to decide whether the truth was the best course of action.

    “No, he doesn’t,” Jerda finally spoke up. “But you could take a walk west,” he continued pointing. “It’s pretty clear, and there’re plenty of landmarks for you to find your way back.”

    “Thanks,” Ash said, and with what felt like monolith rigidity, he moved off in the direction Jerda had indicated, Dawn following close beside him.

    “What did you do?” Zoey asked Jerda the moment Ash and Dawn were well out of earshot. “You never get like that unless you’re concentrating on something difficult.”

    “What’s wrong Zoey?” Brock asked, coming and taking Dawn’s vacant seat.

    “Wrong is in the eye of the beholder,” Jerda said silkily, rather unlike his normal tone or style of speech. “Shall we say I simply pushed things in the direction they were bound to follow in time?”

    “Who are you?” Brock asked, cautious for Jerda’s sudden personality shift.

    “Jerda Foks,” Jerda answered. “More than you realize, I have heard much of Ash Kectchum’s exploits. I understand, for example, how he tends to judge a person based on a first meeting.”

    “What does that have to do with anything?” Brock asked, his protective nature activating without his conscious effort.

    “I think I’ll take a walk too,” Zoey suddenly said, standing. “Keep it as polite as you can Jer.”

    “For you,” Jerda said to her, kissing her on the cheek before she left. Only when Brock and Jerda were alone did Jerda resume speaking. “You see Brock, the Jerda you are seeing now is the true face of Jerda Foks. Do not misunderstand, I can be engaging just as I have been before you and your companions, but it is not my normal attitude. I needed Ash to trust me, so for that, I adopted a different persona.”

    “So how can we take anything you have said as truth?” Brock asked, not sure whether he was more shocked or surprised.

    “You cannot,” Jerda said simply. “You can only, as I mentioned, trust. Beyond that, while I encouraged Ash and Dawn’s departure for their own sakes, it is also vital that I speak with your alone.”

    “Don’t you think I’ll just tell Ash and Dawn everything you say to me?” Brock asked.

    “Right now, yes,” Jerda answered calmly, strangely not bothering with threats. “Not once you hear me out. Brock, Unova is in a state of turmoil, hidden from the eyes of the public true, but in turmoil nonetheless. Arrow’s organization has moved into Unova, with the singular goal of conquering the region.” He held up an authoritative hand when Brock began to open his mouth. “She caught a Rayquaza long ago, and now aims to consolidate the power now under her heels. My people have attempted numerous times to thwart her in her efforts, but she has begun to outwit us. We have, unfortunately, obtained a measure of predictability. While we can, to a certain extent, counteract this effect, but to truly bring Arrow to her knees for good, we need someone completely new and one Arrow has never heard nor seen.”

    “Ash…” Brock realized. “But you can’t,” he said an instant later. “You can’t manipulate someone into this. I’m sure he’d help you if you just asked.”

    “But therein lies the problem,” Jerda said. “If he knew, he would gain a measure of predictability that Arrow can anticipate with honed precision. Fighting the good fight entails a number of characteristics that Arrow has unveiled and exploits. No, for my plan to succeed, Ash Ketchum must be motivated by something other than pure heroism.”

    “I’m not sure what else you think could cause Ash to topple a sinister organization,” Brock lied for both his friends’ sakes.

    “Yes you do,” Jerda smiled at his attempted farce. “I have seen enough to confirm what my spies already told me. Ash and Dawn have feelings for one another, and it is upon those feelings I will place my plan. Of course, it will strengthen their bond in the long run, or so I hope. Zoey has already verbally bruised me on the callousness of the plan, so you need not as well. Do not think I made this decision lightly either. I myself am in a relationship with a beautiful and caring woman and I can only imagine how I would react were the same to happen to her that will happen to Dawn. If the plan tears them apart, I will personally take responsibility for the destruction of a relationship that should never have been broken.”

    “But what you’re talking about is extortion and blackmail, if I think I know what your plan is,” Brock said alarmed. “Do you seriously mean to use Dawn as bait and motivation?!”

    “Yes,” Jerda answered. “She can take it and so can Ash. Besides, Arrow has an odd mercy for her sex. She won’t harm Dawn seriously for that trait alone.”

    “You’re sure?” Brock asked.

    “Partly,” Jerda replied. “Arrow is unstable at best, deranged at worst. She is capable of anything.”

    “No, absolutely not,” Brock insisted, standing up. “I refuse not to tell Ash and Dawn about this so called ’plan’. Did you really think I would go along with it?!”

    “No,” Jerda answered plainly. “But you will nonetheless. As you said yourself, Ash would help us if I asked. I am only choosing to ask in a rather unorthodox manner. Consider yourself lucky. You are the only one aside from Zoey and another that know of the plan. Expose it, and you will have destroyed a month’s worth of preparation.”
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2012
  4. Yuppirox

    Yuppirox hello

    Okay, first of all, I just want to say that I'm enjoying what I'm reading so far. I love it when a Shipping fic integrates heavy plot into the story and this one is no exception. The dialogue is smooth and can be followed easily, and it does not get redundant or boring at all throughout.

    So far I'm liking your OC, Jerda Foks, and his back story is indeed interesting. I was a bit surprised when it was revealed that Zoey was his girlfriend though. Do you plan on expanding upon that soon? I hope so, since that seems to have come completely out of left field. I'm usually not too keen on pairing up OCs with characters from canon, and I hope there is a reason behind their relationship.

    Now, onto the real juicy stuff: Pearlshipping. First off, if there's one thing I love about SatoHika, is the sweetness of the pairing in general. The innocent relationship they share, the unconditional trust and reliability they have in each other, their bond... You managed to capture the elements of the Ship pretty well in your story. In here Ash is aware of his feelings for Dawn, and though that wouldn't be considered in-character by canon standards (since he's, well, 10 and dense), I think it fits here since they are in their teens (15-16 I'm guessing?). The fact that you focus more on Dawn's feelings during the first part rather than Ash's is also a nice touch since she is more likely to express her attraction than he is.

    Anyway, I'm really intrigued by Team Arrow and how this story is developing so far. I have to say, Jerda's plan seems risky and I have a feeling the need for the R rating will be explained as the plot thickens. I came for the Pearlshipping and I'm staying for the plot (and of course the SatoHika as well hehe :D) Oh, and one more thing:

    This made me laugh xD

    By the way, don't be disheartened by your lack of reviews. As you can probably tell the Shipping Fic subforums is not the most active part of the community, so if you see that nobody has commented it's not because your story is bad, but because of the general inactivity of this section.

    This is a great story and I'm glad you're putting so much effort into it. I'm eagerly awaiting an update :)
  5. Jerda Foks

    Jerda Foks Ponyville Author

    Alright, number three is here. Special thanks to Yuppirox for the first comment. Fic is still PG-13, enjoy.

    Ash sat back on a small knoll outside the small grove Jerda had indicated to him. Dawn lay next to him, staring equally peaceful into the night sky. They had remained silent all through their walk and even once they had chosen to take in the night lights. Truth be told, Ash was mind bogglingly nervous. It was not a normal feeling for him, being confident in nearly anything he attempted. But in the area of his personal feelings for Dawn, he had no control. So, in his mind, it was best to remain silent and not destroy the sense of peace and wholeness between them. Speech would only create an unwanted awkward situation. “Ash,” Dawn murmured softly, breaking his thoughts. Her voice was unnaturally quite, as it often is when one does not use it for extended time in the quiet beauty of nature.

    “What?” Ash asked, equally softly. His heart told him to turn his head to see her while his brain screamed no, that that was the most foolhardy idea possible. Whether for good or ill, Ash’s heart won out. His head rolled to see her, and was but a little shocked to see her the same way. Her brilliant blue eyes almost shining on their own. “Your eyes are beautiful tonight,” he said, realizing what he had said only after the words were out of his mouth. Dawn flushed and did not reply.

    “Ash,” she finally said, “I have to ask you…how do you feel about me.”

    “Aw…man,” Ash groaned, rolling back to see the stars. Of all the questions she could have asked him...

    “…I mean,” Dawn stuttered at his rather prolonged silence, “…if you don’t really want to say…”

    “No…I know how I feel,” Ash said, screaming aloud in his head from tension. Only his practice at controlling himself during Gym battles allowed him to maintain his composure. “I like you a lot Dawn,” he said, turning to face her again. “More than a friend would. Way more.” Ash had actually been expecting stunned silence, Dawn’s mouth slightly agape and whatever else comes with hearing what one wants to hear but is not expecting to hear it. What he was not expecting was for Dawn to move closer to him, put a hand over his chest, the other in his hand, and kiss him full on the lips, then close her eyes and sigh contentedly. All natural reactions to this pointed to a body rigid from bafflement. But Ash could not be rigid with tension, not when Dawn’s soft, petite hands were touching him. Instinct took control then, and he slowly stroked her hair with his other hand, eliciting amused hums from her.

    They laid like that for a good half-hour, nothing interfering, nothing changing. Ash could not have imagined a more perfect way to end the day, and so was rightly confused when he saw a shadow cut across the massive moon. He sat up involuntarily, Dawn yelping a bit for lack of warning. “Ash?” she asked. “What’s wrong?”

    “See that?” he asked her, pointing out at the moon. The dark shadow was zipping back and forth in the same spot, criss-crossing over the moon’s face. Not only was it too far away to identify, but it was moving too quickly.

    “I can’t tell,” Dawn said, squinting. “Not sure what it is, but it could be dangerous. Maybe that Arrow lady is following Jerda.”

    “Dang!” Ash swore at the possibility. “We’d better get back. Whatever it is, I’m sure Jerda can tell. I sure will feel stupid if it’s nothin’ though.”

    “I don’t think that’s nothing Ash,” Dawn said, sprinting after him into the woods. “I don’t think Pokémon can move that fast.”

    “Maybe,” Ash muttered, cursing whatever it was for ruining a perfectly beautiful evening with Dawn. He was going to find out what it was for that alone. They emerged into the campsite clearing to Zoey reading on her laptop and Brock stoking the fire.

    “Back you guys?” Brock said, looking up. “It’s good timing, I was just about to close up for tonight.” Then, upon seeing their concerned faces asked, “Wait, what happened?”

    “Somethin’s over the forest,” Ash said. “I couldn’t really tell what it was with it being so dark, but it was moving way too fast for its size to be a Pokémon.”

    “We think Jerda might know what it is,” Dawn said. “It could be something of Arrow’s that’s come for him.”

    “It’s not that,” Zoey said idly. “It’s just a messenger drone.”

    “What?” all three of them asked at once. “Hey where’s Jerda?” Dawn suddenly asked, realizing the trainer was not in the clearing.

    “Jerda left about ten minutes ago,” Brock answered her. “He was going to set a beacon so Giratina could help all the pokémon find their way back. But what about a messenger drone Zoey?”

    “We, well, Jerda’s group, use them to relay messages to one another,” Zoey explained. “They fly until they can beam us the message, then circle erratically while it’s downloaded. That’s probably what you saw.”

    “How do you know that’s what it is?” Ash asked, curious.

    “Because I just received a message,” Zoey said, looking up. “It’s what I’ve been reading.”

    “Oh…” Ash and Dawn said, looking at each other embarrassingly for their overreaction.

    “Trust me, I was just like you guys when Jerda first told me his story,” Zoey said, bending over her laptop again. “You’ll get over the ghost-story jitters eventually.”

    “Well, at least it got you guys back in time,” Brock said cheerfully.

    “Whatever you say Brock,” Ash said, grabbing his PJs and heading into the woods to change before going to bed.

    “What is it?” Jerda asked gruffly. He was standing on a cliff overlooking the remainder of the forest. In the faint distance, made harder to see by the night, was Maximus Town, home of the Consortium. He had been speaking to another man who stood farther out on the ledge, the moon light making him nothing more than a silhouette.

    “The drone was sent just as you asked,” the man answered. “Zoey should have received its data by now.”

    “All of it?” Jerda asked severely. His plan was intricate to say the least, and it would not do to have it flounder so early. “She must have direct control of every system at a moment’s notice. I will not be able to fly the ship otherwise.”

    “I looked over the transmission myself,” the man answered. “Everything is in perfect order. How did their companion take it?”

    “Horribly, as we thought,” Jerda answered grimly. “Though he assures me he can keep his composure around them.”

    “Good, by the way,” the man added suddenly, before leaping off the ledge, “We have all come home, and just in time by the looks of it. They are all in a bit of a mood, being kept in the dark.”

    “They’ll just have to live with it,” Jerda said. “Now go, and tell everyone back home they will understand my design in time.” The man nodded, a subtle motion made even more so in darkness, and leaped off the ledge. Jerda turned away, walking back toward the camp to the sound of wings carrying his friend and confidant away.

    Ash stirred in his sleeping bag, then sneezed. It was morning once again, but today, dew had collected on him, thus the reason for his sneeze. However irritating it was at first, it took away all of his usual early morning grogginess. He sat up, eyes sweeping the camp. He was extremely relieved to see Buizel back, along with Giratina and the rest of Jerda’s pokémon. He crawled out of his bag, and with practiced hands, rolled it up into a tight bundle before strapping it securely. His first order of business was to dress, which he did shakily. The memory of last night was still fresh in his mind, and the thoughts of what might have happened if not for Jerda’s stupid drone had beaten him all night. Maybe he and Dawn would have kissed again. That feeling was one he was sure to never forget. So soft, yet so full of passion and devotion. He hated the idea that they might have had more of that. Of course, his dreams had been wild, all of them involving Dawn and them alone in her tent. Occasionally, he had awoken sharply from one of these dreams and considered going to her tent and trying just what he had dreamed. He was not sure what had stayed him, but now in the clear light of morning, he was glad he had done nothing. It was supremely odd how the night changed his way of thinking. Reason it seemed, took to sleeping at night as well.

    When he came back into the camp, fully dressed and PJs put back in his pack, Brock and Jerda were up, warming a kettle of hot water. “Morning, Ash,” Jerda said, taking the now squealing kettle and pouring its steaming contents into a mug. His voice was as approachable as ever, but for some reason, Brock scowled heavily at him. “Tea?” Jerda asked Ash, “I have plenty of water here.”

    “I’ll take some, the usual,” Zoey said, rubbing her eyes as she stumbled into a seat at the table. Ash was shocked at her appearance, having never really seen her in the morning. Her vivid orange hair, during the day somehow kept spikey and swept forward, was now fallen all around her face. It was barely shoulder length in the back, with her bangs hanging haphazardly in the front. “What?” she asked Ash, seeing his expression.

    “…your hair…” was all Ash managed to say.

    “Yeah, I know,” she said, brushing away some of the bangs. “It’s not usually so bad, even when I let it down. But c’mon Ash, surely you’ve seen Dawn with a bedhead.”

    “Hasn’t and won’t!” Dawn’s voice yelled out from inside the tent. “Piplup, will you?” The bubblebeam bounced around the inside of her tent.

    “She uses bubblebeam to straighten it out?” Zoey asked bewildered.

    “Since day one,” Ash said, almost proudly. He loved it that Dawn had that connection with Piplup, identical to the one he had with Pikachu.

    “Okay,” Dawn breathed, stepping out the tent, dressed and hair proper. “What’s for breakfast?”

    “I wouldn’t eat too much,” Jerda advised. “The Consortium is only a hop and a skip away, and they have some pretty decent fair.” He added agave and milk to Zoey’s tea, much like his own, and slid it to her. “Giratina’s tired from carrying all of us at such a high speed,” Jerda continued, “so I’ve asked Maximus Town, that’s where the Consortium is stationed, to send a transport for us.”

    “What kind of transport?” Ash asked. He was curious that Jerda had not just said they had sent a car.

    “Not a clue,” Jerda said, standing and emptying the dregs from his mug. “It’ll be whatever’s on hand.”

    “When will they be here?” Dawn asked.

    “I would start breaking your stuff down,” Jerda advised.

    “Here, let me help,” Ash said to Dawn, coming to assist her taking down her tent. She really did not need it, seeing as she had taken it down dozens of times on her own, but Ash was feeling a little more obligated to be more of a man for her now that they had confessed their feelings for each other.

    “Thanks Ash,” Dawn replied sweetly, and they quietly dismantled the structure. Jerda was quietly talking to Giratina, something about flying ahead, for the massive pokémon streaked off soon thereafter. However, it happened that Jerda’s estimate for the speed of the arrival of the transport was inaccurate. They were all packed and ready to go, and had been sitting in the grass for at least an hour before the roar of a car engine announced the transport’s arrival.

    Blasting up the road with a billowing dirt cloud behind it was a rugged jeep of some kind. It was splattered with mud, dirt, dust and pretty much every other kind of natural filth imaginable. Beneath it all, Ash could see it had once been a shiny metallic blue. But, for him, because of the filth, Ash thought it was definitely the coolest thing to arrive to the Consortium in. It bespoke his rugged nature, a thing that had seen him and his friend and girlfriend through countless dangers.

    To counteract the appearance of the jeep was its driver. He was somewhat portly, with round glasses sitting just at the end of his nose. Ash privately wondered how they managed to stay on during the ride in the jeep, being it would have been so jerky over rough terrain. But neither his build nor his glasses were so out of place as his attire. He was dressed in a full suit and tie, all black, lending him a professional and intimidating figure. His face was not hard like the suit might have suggested, but his mouth was thin, irritated. “Jerda,” he said curtly to the man next to them. However terse his greeting, it was clear he still held an immeasurable respect for Foks.

    “Is that John’s jeep?” Jerda asked back. “What did it take for you to get him to lend it to you?”

    “I’m late aren’t I?” the man answered, still short. Having spoken so little, it was only after this statement that Ash caught the distinctive accent. It came from an island that no longer existed thanks to a rogue Lugia in the past, but its people still retained their heritage strongly.

    “Where are all the other SUVs?” Zoey asked the man. “Not that many are on deployment are they?”

    “Yes they are dear,” the man told her, lightening his sharp tone when speaking to her. “They have been on constant patrol since yesterday.”

    “Oh crap…” Jerda swore lightly, then, “Ash, Dawn, Brock, I should introduce you. This is Maxwell Evans, our COC , or Covert Operations Coordinator. Evans, these were the three I was telling you the old Professor mentioned.”

    “Pleasure,” Evans said, holding out a hand for each of them. Ash shook it firmly, admiring a man that had somehow kept a war out of public eye.

    “It’s nice to meet you, sir,” Dawn was saying. “Do you remember my Mom, Johanna Berilitz?”

    “You know him?” Ash asked her, bewildered.

    “Not really,” Dawn half-laughed. “Mom told me about him. He was her manager when she became a star and helped her retire without a fuss.”

    “You are Johanna’s daughter?” Evans said, interested. “Well yes, now that I look at you, you do resemble your mother. I would ask how she is doing these days, but we have an appointment with this bloody monstrosity John calls a car.”

    “Tell me how you really feel,” Ash muttered to himself. Dawn heard him however and giggled lightly.

    “How’re we all going to fit?” Brock suddenly asked, just as Jerda was climbing next to Evans.

    “I’m staying behind for a while,” Zoey answered for him. “There’s some stuff I need to do out here first. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. I’ve walked to the Consortium from here dozens of times.”

    “Well, see ya later Zoey!” Dawn waved at her as the jeep roared back to life.

    “Yeah, see ya!” Brock and Ash shouted to her. The jeep was turning around now, and as soon as it had, Evans apparently mashed his foot down on the accelerator. In a spray of dirt, the jeep flew down the rough mountain road. Ash was privately glad that both he was in the back and that Dawn was sitting between him and Brock, and not on the edge. Even so, she shrieked short and sharp every time a severe bump sent them all out of their seats and their heads above the roll-cage bars. And there were many such bumps. Evans either knew nothing about driving a jeep, or was just a plain crazy driver. He spun around corners at speeds that nearly threw Ash out the side and sprayed dust at seemingly every opportunity. Proximity to trees didn’t seem to bother him either, as Ash soon learned to shield his face if they ever drifted too close to one side of the road.

    Finally, they emerged onto the streets of Maximus Town, and here Ash expected Evans to slow down, at the very least for pedestrians. No, he continued careening through the town, heedless of people. Even though no more bumps or sharp, nearly rolling turns presented themselves, Ash found himself even more tense with this portion of the drive. He could barely breathe, sitting straight and stiff as Evans narrowly missed passersby. Dawn was similarly affected, gripping Ash’s shoulder tightly and wincing at every near miss. The culmination of the ride was in complete character of the rest of it, Evans slamming on the brakes and sending all three of the companions into the seats before them. “Dang it Evans!” someone was yelling. “That is a special piece of equipment. You can’t just go around treating it like it’s invincible. I’ve already had to repair her once because of you!” The voice was somehow vaguely familiar to Ash, despite the fact he was sure he had never met someone with such a voice.

    “If you were that bloody eloquent all the time,” Evans was retorting as they all piled out of the jeep, “maybe you could go into real music.”

    “Why you little English prick…!” the jeep’s owner was fuming. And now Ash could see him and was nothing short of stunned. Standing before them all was John Haley, best rockstar ever born. Hayley was tall and extremely thin, and his clothes amplified this. He wore tight fitting black jeans and T-shirt, and over the shirt was a loose silver leather vest. His wrists were covered by spike studded bracelets and his lanky brown hair was mixed with dull violet locks.

    “Cool it you two,” Jerda said commandingly. “There are too many things to discuss in too little time. John, could you please gather all of the invitees at the podium. Maxwell, please make sure the family are ready in conference room number seven.”

    “Sure man,” John Haley answered, while Evans only inclined his head. “You guys from the old man up in Pallet?” Haley asked Ash, Dawn, and Brock.

    “I…I…I am,” Ash stuttered, rather unlike himself. The fact that he was face to face with Haley was more than he had prepared for.

    “Okay so who’re you guys?” the musician asked Brock and Dawn.

    “Good friends,” Brock answered for them both. “Jerda said it wouldn’t be a problem.”

    “Oh no,” Haley waved his hand. “Right, climb back up.” He seated himself comfortably in the jeep.

    “Seriously…” Dawn muttered, clearing not completely recovered from their first ride. “I’d rather go on Giratina again.”

    “I’m not gonna be an idiot like Evans,” Haley said, motioning friendlily to them. “Besides, it’s only a short drive.”

    “Not like we have much choice,” Ash said, climbing into the back again with Dawn while Brock took the passenger front.

    “So,” Haley began after they had pulled back into the street. He was indeed driving normally, and Ash relaxed involuntarily. “I hear Jerda went and found you himself.”

    “Yeah,” Dawn replied, and Ash saw Brock twitch uncomfortably. “He was arresting this guy when he found us.”

    “I wonder if it was Dempton…” Haley murmured, then, “Well, who cares. You’re here now, I should induct you. I’m sure you’re aware how the Consortium works Ash, right?”

    “Sorta…” Ash trailed off. Despite his being a huge fan of Haley’s, the man gave off such an infectious air of casual that Ash found it difficult to be star-struck around him. “I know there are defined matches, but that challenges can occur at any time.”

    “That’s about all there is really,” Haley nodded. “The most intense part about the Consortium is being prepared. You can never think that just because you won one of your pre-determined matches that you are safe until the next round. It becomes rather hectic as you ascend and fewer and fewer people are left. It’ll test more than just your battle skill. When I first came, fatigue got the better of us. We just couldn’t keep up with the pace and finally forfeited. That’s how a lot of trainers are gonna go down.”

    “Do they get any rest at all?” Dawn asked, worried.

    “Depends on how you define rest,” Haley said darkly. “I mean, there is a mandatory waiting time of fifteen minutes after any match, but that’s only barely enough time for you to get your Pokémon healed in a Pokémon Center.”

    “We can take it,” Ash said confidently, Pikachu quickly affirming this.

    “That Pikachu some sort of pet of yours?” Haley asked after a time. Despite his assurances, the drive through the large town was taking a rather long time. This was however, due to the insane amounts of pedestrian traffic.

    “NO!” both Ash and Dawn retaliated at once. They turned to one another, somewhat embarrassed at first, but it was soon replaced by a sort of gratification in Ash. If there was any sign that they ought to be together, the fact that she knew his answers to questions as well as he did was as sure a sign as one could hope for. Whether or not this was Dawn’s train of thought, Ash could not tell, but she smiled nonetheless. In a sudden urge, Ash took her hand in his, just lightly, and he then understood why that show of affection meant so much. She squeezed on his hand ever so slightly, affirming her consent, and they turned back to Haley’s eyes in the rear-view mirror.

    “No?” he said in disbelief. “What…wait…you mean to battle with that little thing?”

    “Sure do…” Ash answered almost defiantly. “Pikachu has always pulled me out of tough spots, and he’s done so always as a Pikachu.”

    “Please tell me your other Pokémon are evolved,” Haley said. Ash almost said yes, but stopped. From the moment of hearing that he would be competing in the Consortium, he had decided he would be using his Sinnoh team. They were by far the most powerful Pokémon he had trained, except that Buizel was still, well, a Buizel.

    “No,” Ash replied. “I’ve still got a Buizel I’m gonna enter.”

    “You two, especially you girl,” Haley addressed Dawn and Brock seriously, “say your prayers for him. A Buizel and Pikachu in this field are going to be laughing stock, no offense.”

    “I already do,” Dawn replied.

    “Same here,” Brock said, “but I see what you mean.”

    “Here we are,” Haley suddenly said. They had stopped before a house, or, at least, some people might call it a house. To Ash, it was nothing short of a palace. It had been constructed of stone, in the style of a gothic cathedral. Upon entering into the iron bar gates, they were greeted with a narrow cobblestone path lined with alternating rosebushes and marble statues. Each statue was of a different trainer and Pokémon, always in a unique and intense battle pose. Their pedestals had brass plaques that gave the name of the trainer, a list of a full Pokémon team, and a year. “These are all the winners of the Consortium,” Haley said fondly. “Over here.” He led them off the path and into the grass, upon which were arrayed rows of fold-down chairs and a large stage with a single mike. Already, hundreds of the seats were filled.

    Ash could easily discern between the trainers themselves, and their friends and family. It struck him at how odd it was to see a trainer with his companions. Most of them were surly looking and sat alone, separated from even each other. Not a single seat in the front row had been taken, so Ash, Dawn, and Brock took the middle three seats. “Thank you for being so patient everyone,” Haley said into the mike after tapping it. “We are just waiting for a few more trainers now. Thirty minutes tops.” He left the stage, exiting out the gate. They heard his jeep start up then drive away. Ash had expected murmuring to break out among the trainers, but many of them stayed silent as the grave.

    “Freaky…” Dawn said, looking around at the crowd. “You’d think they’d be excited to be here.”

    “I sure am,” Ash said, his normal voice sounding like a shout in the near silence. He pumped his fist enthusiastically, but stopped when a shadow fell over him.

    “Keep your enthusiasm to yourself kid,” said a girl’s voice. It was rather haughty, though kinder words might call it self-assured. They all turned to see a girl standing before them, being around Jerda’s age. She was much like Cynthia in build, but had bleach white hair ponytailed tightly. Her eyes were also a piercing blue, made even more dramatic by her colorless hair. “This is a serious competition, not just some regional conference.”

    “I am taking it seriously,” Ash fought back, his spirit rising. “I just don’t see why these guys don’t relax. It’ll be easier for ‘em on the battlefield if they do.”

    “You’ve got no idea what they’re competing for this year do you?” the girl clearly mocked them.

    “If you’re so smart,” Dawn said, standing beside Ash, “why don’t you tell us.”

    “The victor this year will be personally coached by Jerda Foks and his associates, a plethora of the finest the world has to offer,” the girl said. “That is a prize some are willing to die for, literally.”

    “That’s not worth dying for,” Ash retorted. “Besides, I prefer to train myself to be strong, rather than let someone else do it for me.”

    “I see…” the girl answered, tilting her head to the side as if he and Dawn were interesting specimens in a petri dish.

    “What’s your name? Are you competing?” Brock asked her. It was odd for him not to have gone berserk over her, though Ash was not complaining at this point.

    “Nova Gersperchi,” Nova replied, pushing back some bangs that fallen into her eyes. “And yes, I’m competing.”

    “Hope to see you on the field,” Ash said aggressively.

    “There will be no need for that,” Nova said, just as she turned away. “I’ll mop you up before you can disgrace our official field of combat.”

    “Why you…!” Ash growled, about to take a step forward. He was stopped when Dawn gently placed her hands around his arm. She shook her head slowly, eyes closed, convincing Ash it was not really worth it.

    “Hmph,” Nova almost laughed as she strode off proper.

    “She’s horrible,” Dawn said as they sat back down. “It’s amazing how people like Jerda can be as powerful as her, probably more, and yet he’s rather decent and she isn’t.”

    “It takes all types Dawn,” Brock commented, staring straight ahead. Now it was Ash’s turn to be concerned for his long friend. Just as Brock could tell when he was bothered or occupied, Ash could see it in Brock’s face when the cogs of his brain were either spinning or jammed. If he was seeing right, they were currently stuck.

    “Somethin’ wrong Brock?” Ash asked.

    “I just don’t think Jerda is telling us the whole truth, that’s all,” Brock said, choosing not to elaborate.

    “I don’t see what you mean,” Dawn said. “I mean, he practically laid his life out for us.”

    “It’s just a feeling,” Brock muttered to the air. “Maybe I’m wrong, but…I don’t know.”

    “Cheer up Brock,” Ash slapped him on the back encouragingly. “I need you in the right state of mind to help my Pokémon if the center is full.” What Brock’s reply would have been was drowned out by Haley’s jeep pulling up. All three friends turned in their seats to see who he would bring in. When the gate opened, only two people entered, and Ash, Dawn, and Brock knew both. Saturn Orlay, former commander of Team Galactic, and, Ash was not surprised, but neither was he happy, Paul Griffin, his long-time and most intense rival.

    “Is that Paul and Saturn?” Dawn whispered in his ear.

    “They don’t look like anyone else I know,” Ash whispered back. Paul, whether or not he saw Ash, took the lead of the other trainers, sitting silently and gloomily apart from the rest. Saturn, however, made straight for them, taking a seat directly in the row behind them.

    “Long time no see, eh, Ash Ketchum,” the man almost hissed in his careful, refined tone.

    “Go to hell, Saturn,” Ash swore. He wanted this criminal mastermind to know he did not want anything to do with him. Besides, the man had nearly helped cause the destruction of the world, something he should, by all rights, go to hell for anyway.

    “At least you have grown up a little,” Saturn rebuffed mildly, sitting back in his chair and not speaking again.

    “Alright, could I have all your attentions please!” Haley’s voice boomed out over the lawn. Every trainer lifted his or her head to see the stage. “Good, okay, now whoever brought you should have inducted you into the rule system we have here, off and on the battlefield. In case they didn’t I’ll go over them again. He proceeded to list off the battle format and rules of engagement, then delved into a new set of rules Ash had not yet heard. “First, this building behind me will be your home, training ground, medical center, and Pokémon Center, and one-stop-for-food for the duration of your stay. Second, any attempts to sabotage a competitor will be met with extremely harsh punishment. We here at the Consortium do take kindly to cheating. You got in on your own talent, so show that you can win on your own talent. That being said, you’ll need to make sure to keep your Pokémon away from each other unless you know one another. Pokémon hold grudges longer than us, and will not regard any anti-brawling rule we put in place. For your and your competitor’s sakes, keep them at a distance from one another. Third, there are seventeen basement floors in the house. Do not under any circumstances access them. They require a special code, and if you do not enter the right one in thirty seconds, you will be arrested.” This sent chills up Ash’s spine. What was in the basement levels that would cause them to take such extreme measures? “I’ll be your commentator and MC in the rounds to come,” Haley continued, “so you’ll see plenty of me tomorrow. Until then, go in, check in yourself and any friends and family and you will receive your room keys. Make sure to take care of any Pokémon switches before you sign up, because using different Pokémon than those on your sheet will disqualify you. Thank you.” Haley descended from the stage and the lawn became a slow rousing entity of motion. The trainers kept their distance from another as they all made their way to check in, and Ash was supremely glad he and his friends were first, being that they were not surrounded on all sides by brooding contestants.

    Jerda was fixated on the pinging red light. It was the only such dot on the radar scanner, and the only thing in the whole room the operators were interested in. “Keep up on your work!” Jerda shouted at them not for the first time since he had come back. She was coming, there was nothing they could do, now that the plan was in motion. Of course she was coming, how could she resist. Every year, the Consortium was forced to drop its protective energy shield around Maximus Town for the ease of arriving contestants and guests come to watch. They usually erected the shield again within a day, but not this time. No, this time, the shield was, on paper, broken. In truth, it just was not operating. Jerda knew she would be unable to resist so clear an invitation no matter how much her advisors told her it was a trap. Just like she could predict his actions, he could predict hers, this time, perfectly.

    He could not tell what ship she came in, the base’s sensors were not that advanced, but he knew it would be large, probably a landing craft of some kind. This irked Jerda slightly. He and Zoey would have to play their moves very carefully if the transport was to escape Maximus Town. Were this not an elaborate trap, such a vessel as hers would last only a few minutes against their onslaught. No matter in the long run. She would accept any victory they gave her.

    The trick, it seemed, would be to separate Ash and Dawn with specific groups. He knew the one person she would go after aside from his own person, and he had to be sure Dawn was with him and Ash was not. Nova, he hoped, would see to that. The girl still had much to learn, to be sure, but he was confident in her ability to pull off this simple assignment, even if she did not understand its purpose nor the events surrounding its action.

    Jerda sighed. Night was closing in, and there was little that could be accomplished mentally or physically just staring at a slowly approaching dot. He would give Zoey, stationed on the cliff over the town, a call before slipping into his own modest home. Talking to her ought to calm his nerves enough to get a decent night’s rest.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2012
  6. ChloboShoka

    ChloboShoka Writer

    As I said on over PM, but I'm really liking the story because you did a job job at portraying emotions and you have some interesting OCS in here. As already mentioned, the shipping forum hasn't been so active lately so there hasn't been as many reviews despite the high standards. So don't let them get you down.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2012
  7. Jerda Foks

    Jerda Foks Ponyville Author

    Chapter four is PG-13, but tomorrow will reveal the fic's change to R.


    When Dawn awoke the next morning, she was surprised she did not immediately sit up in anxiety for the day ahead. Check-in had not been overly complicated, but upon entering their rooms, she, Ash, and Brock had discovered lengthy programs on the nightstands. They had spent a considerable time examining and dissecting the timetable for their day in Ash’s room, and quickly became overwhelmed. Aside from the clear fifteen minutes Ash would receive after any match, (he received a timer programmed by their referee after the battle to keep careful track), there was not a single moment of the day the trainers would not spend busy, meals also excepted.

    These, they had all been pleased to discover, were excellent. Nothing rivaled Brock’s cooking in Dawn’s opinion, but the Consortium house fare was pretty darn close. But Ash, oh she could not help thinking of how ragged Ash would be by the day’s end. The trainers would be required to be up at six in the morning, they and their Pokémon finished with breakfast by seven, and ready to accept challenges at seven-fifteen. From then on until lunch, the trainers were to be engaged with one another in full battles. Any eliminated during this time were to have their names taken down by the referee for later sorting. Lunch would be at noon, and would last until one-thirty, giving trainers and Pokémon time both to eat and time to relax and prepare for the upcoming official matches. The official matches would pit the survivors on conference-style battlefields in full, team battles. The winning pairs would be safe until the next day, while the losing pair were forced to battle against one another for a final loser.

    Through all of this, guests such as herself were allowed to do as they pleased. Whether to cheer for their favorite, or to tour the town, or simply enjoy the small activities the Consortium had prepared for guests. Dawn would be cheering for Ash in her cheerleading outfit of course, but only during his morning matches. “Look Dawn!” Ash had pointed out to her yesterday evening. “They have an unofficial contest here during the conference-style battles. You should definitely enter. It would be great practice, and maybe there’ll even be a reward. Besides, if one of us loses, the other can win it.” She had tried to protest, saying she wanted to cheer for him all the way, but Ash had flatly refused to allow it. “I’ll be psyched just knowin’ you’re having a good time as well,” he had said. She had consented, but was still fighting over it when she had looked in her room’s closet that evening.

    If Ash had not been able to convince her to enter the contest, that closet sure had. The Consortium had truly thought of everything, as over a dozen outfits were arrayed in all different styles, with seven accompanying jewelry boxes and matching shoe sets. She had spent an overly long time trying each outfit, marveling that the Consortium knew enough about her to determine the proper size for her clothes. She had then narrowed her choices down to three, and, unable to pick between them, had decided to ask Ash. Even if she had not been competing in the contest, Dawn would have loved to show Ash the clothes just for the look on his face. Of course, he had seen her in dresses before, but those had been only what she could afford, never anything as grand and wonderful as these. “Wow,” or something like, was what came out of his mouth for each outfit. She twirled around before him each time, allowing him to see each one, until finally coming back in her traveling getup. “Have you decided?” she had asked.

    “They all look great on you Dawn,” Ash had begun, “but there was that white one with the black pearl earrings and necklace… You looked great in that one.” Dawn thought back to the dress, a sleeveless sheath dress, tied around her neck, with contoured black and pink lines that tapered into sharp points with a definite oriental influence. It was the most radical of the dresses she had tried on, and come to think of it, the one she had thought Ash would like the least. Only he had not, so if he felt so confidently about her in it, she was definitely going to wear it.

    But that would not be until later today. She slipped out of bed, showered, and donned her cheerleading costume. She was tempted to do the same for her smaller Pokémon, as she often did, but held off. If they were busy cheering all morning, they would have no strength left for the contest. Best to just leave them in their pokéballs until then. Piplup followed her out into the hall, only to see Brock already heading down the elevator. She checked her pokétch, and nearly yelled out at the time. It was already six-thirty, leaving her little time to be with Ash before he began his fights. “Brock! Brock! Wait up!” she said as she ran down the halls. He jumped before realizing it was her, then obligingly held the door for her. “Is Ash already eating?” she asked.

    “He was up and ready to go even before six,” Brock mentioned. “I only know because his shower woke me up.”

    “Sorry for you,” Dawn said genuinely. “Did he get all his Pokémon from Professor Oak?”

    “Yeah, no problems,” Brock assured her as they stepped out of the elevator into the mess hall.

    “Where is he?” Dawn asked curiously. She could not see her boyfriend’s trademark cap, his defining feature in a crowd.

    “Right over there. See Pikachu?” Brock pointed, walking her over to a table. The closer she came, she realized it was indeed Ash, but he was the most handsome she had ever seen him. He was wearing a long-sleeve maroon button-down shirt; black slacks, black suspenders with pokéball clips on the back; and finally, a black fedora with a maroon hat band and brown feather. She was amazed, to say the least, that Ash had even considered changing out his usual attire.

    “Well,” she said, leaning on his shoulders and kissing him lightly on the back of the neck, “somebody’s looking sharp this morning.”

    “Is it a bit much?” Ash asked nervously.

    “NO!” Dawn replied fervently. “You look hot Ash.” He blushed, but now looked rather pleased with his new getup.

    “Have you seen Paul Ash?” Brock asked gravely.

    “Yeah…” Ash said gloomily. “He knew he could look any kind of good huh?”

    “What’s he in?” Dawn asked, interested now.

    “All white suit, tie, and slacks,” Brock elaborated. “I saw him this morning when I went out to give Chansey some fresh air.”

    “He’s got his hair slicked back and in a short ponytail,” Ash said, almost mocking in his chuckle.

    “Don’t forget the diamond earring in one ear,” Brock laughed with him.

    “He sure knows how to look like someone from the mob,” Dawn added, compiling the image together in her head.

    “You can say that again,” Ash said. Turning to her, he said, “We all got stuff in our closets, but nothin’ said we had to wear it. I wonder if anybody will stick to their old standbys.”

    “Saturn will, no doubt, minus the yellow G badge,” Dawn answered. Ash nodded his assent, and all three settled into a standard cereal and OJ breakfast. Pikachu and Piplup enjoyed their share of Pokémon food Brock had prepared in advance late last night. He had fed the rest earlier that morning, while Ash had been showering.

    Dawn broached the subject of Ash’s upcoming challenges only after he had seemed to be relaxed into his normal self again. “Do you think that Nova girl will challenge first?”

    “Eh,” Ash shrugged. “I really don’t think she cares who she challenges first, so long as she wins. It could be me or any other newcomer for all she cares.” Brock was about to open his mouth, but was interrupted by the scream of microphone feedback.

    “All trainers and guests please take a seat!” Haley’s voice boomed out a moment later. “We are about to begin the fifteen minute wait time, and we need all trainers to understand where they will be headed. Guests, unless you know the trainer to our satisfaction, you will not be present to watch these matches, sorry.” Haley did not sound sorry, but then, he was just making announcements he had probably made several times before. “Those guests that do know the competitors, well, you will proceed out into the back-lot with your favorites. Trainers, once you get into the back-lot, half of you will get a referee, half of you will not. Those without will be challenged, while those with referees will be challenging. This has already been decided by lot, so just find a referee with your name on their vest. If you don’t see one like that, you are going to be challenged. Now, out to the lot!” The massive sound of scraping chairs, clattering silverware and porcelain, and general mumbles among the trainers combined into an atmosphere of dissonance. Dawn reconciled herself to this, as it was almost certain the noise generated by the upcoming battles would be far louder than this. The trainers and their close guests were ushered out into the lot with way-point signs, and through the whole march, Dawn noticed Ash fingering with the five pokéballs on his back with increasing agitation.

    “You’ll be great…” she whispered to him, as much to reassure herself of the fact as him. When they emerged onto the open air lot, Dawn was nothing short of stunned. Of course she had seen her fair share of massive landscapes, but those were wild, not owned and tamed by men. To see the acreage of land before her controlled by a single entity was beyond comprehension. Battlefields in rows of two seemed go on continually, each separated from its companions on all sides by over three yards. As the trainers fanned out, the referees stepped forward, looking for their respective trainers as much as the latter did the former.

    “It’d be awesome if you got a referee Ash,” Brock said. “You would really be able have the battle in your favor before the fight began.”

    “I know,” Ash said, looking around, “but I kinda don’t want a referee for the same reason. I mean, I like overcoming adversity with strength and faith in your Pokémon. It’s what battling is all about.” Dawn was about to agree with him when a shadow fell over all three of them.

    “Are you Ash Ketchum?” a referee asked from behind.

    “Yeah,” Ash said turning, only mildly startled.

    “I’m your referee, congrats,” the man said, holding out a hand. “My name’s Kaleb, by the way.”

    “Good to meet you Kaleb,” Ash said, taking his hand. “This is Dawn, and this is Brock,” he said, motioning to her and Brock.

    “You guys his fans or something?” Kaleb asked, taking each of their hands in turn.

    “Somethin’ like that,” Dawn smiled, while Brock only grinned with understanding.

    “I see how it is…” Kaleb replied knowingly, then turning back to Ash, said, “Do you have anybody in mind you’d like to challenge?”

    “Saturn Orlay,” Ash said without hesitation, surprising Dawn. She would have thought his first pick would have been Paul, or even Nova. “He doesn’t deserve to be here, after all he’s done.”

    “Saturn it is then,” Kaleb said, glazing over Ash’s last comment. “I know for certain you can challenge him, so let’s see if we can find him.” As the four of them moved through the fields, trainers were already beginning their matches. Even from the outset, these were intense, massive power being displayed in the first move. “Be sure to give your opponent a good scare in your first move,” Kaleb commented. “You want them to know what they’re dealing with, puts them off their game.”

    “Thanks for the tip,” Ash said, “but I prefer to just go with the flow of the fight. I don’t waste time with intimidation.” Brock nodded approvingly, while Dawn was reminded of contest battles. The first display in such a battle was always designed to impress both the crowd and the opponent. She smiled when she thought of how much Ash would confuse the long-time veterans of the Consortium.

    “Oi! Saturn!” Kaleb shouted suddenly, tearing off to catch the former Galactic member. Ash, Dawn, and Brock tore after him, and only caught up after Kaleb had made the official greetings.

    “I am not sure whether to be honored or disgusted by this request of challenge,” Saturn said in his haughty way. “But the Consortium has its rules, will this battlefield do?”

    “All the fields are the same doofus brain,” Dawn said angrily to him. Just like Ash, Saturn had a way of rubbing her the wrong way just in speaking. The man only smiled and moved to one side of the field while Ash took the other. Dawn and Brock took to the bench, Kaleb in his referee’s position. “I hope Ash beats that stupid smirk off his face so badly,” Dawn growled as each of them chose their first ball.

    “You aren’t the only one,” Brock agreed.

    “The Consortium battle between Ash Ketchum of Pallet Town in Kanto and Saturn Orlay of Veilstone City in Sinnoh will now begin. This is a full, six-on-six battle, and substitutions are allowed on both sides. The battle is over once all six of one side’s Pokémon are unable to battle, or one side forfeits. Reveal your first Pokémon and let the battle begin!”

    “Go!” both Ash and Saturn said in varying states of intensity, while Dawn was only able to watch, her nails in her mouth from nerves.

    Ash let his choice ball fly, having Pikachu wait at his feet. He only knew a maximum of two of Saturn’s choices, Toxicroak and Bronzor (which in any case might be a Bronzong by now). Either Pokémon was a force to be reckoned with, but Ash had made his choice with both in mind. Infernape, with its diverse move set, would be able to match either one. The fire/fighting-type materialized from within the ball to face with Saturn’s own fire-type, a Simisear. “I imagine your strategy was to take out my ace-in-the-hole,” Saturn nodded to himself. “Toxicroak is only for my assured victory. I will not sully him to fighting needless battles.”

    “Don’t let him get to you Ash!” Dawn shouted from the side of the field, and when Ash turned to see her, she was doing an impromptu cheer dance. That sight alone was enough to snap him back into this moment. Even if he was not already fighting these battles for his own honor and reputation, he was fighting them for her.

    “Let’s show ‘em Infernape!” Ash bellowed confidently. The Pokémon growled affirmation and gave Ash a thumbs-up. “Take it! Mach Punch!” Infernape’s fist glowed blue, and he surged forward faster than the eye could follow.

    “Flame Burst,” Saturn said calmly. Simisear put its palms close together, a ball of burning power forming there. In the moment before Infernape’s fist would have connected, Simisear released its Flame Burst directly into the Mach Punch. Infernape howled viciously, jumping back and away, clutching its injury. “Offensive becomes defensive,” Saturn said, “a talent all trainers should learn relatively quickly.” Taking Dawn’s advice, Ash refused to allow Saturn to drive him into anger. If he let even one vestige of emotion take control, he would lose to Saturn’s more calculating demeanor.

    So instead, he asked, “Infernape, you okay?” Infernape nodded, and turned to face Saturn once again. “Flamethrower!” Ash bellowed. He could use Dig at any time, dealing Simisear massive damage, but Ash wanted Saturn to underestimate him. Best to simply draw him in at first.

    “Mm,” Saturn mumbled, “a respectable move. Flame Burst again!” The two fire moves collided in an explosion of dust and smoke, blinding both trainers and Pokémon.

    “Dig now!” Ash said, realizing his chance. He heard Saturn swear on the other side of the field, though the specifics escaped him.

    “Rock Slide!” Saturn suddenly yelled, moments before Infernape was to come up. Simisear raised its hands above its head, the jagged boulders forming from the pokémon’s energy. What is he doin’? Ash wondered to himself. “Now, on the ground around you!” Saturn commanded, and the rocks came down, effectively creating a barrier around Simisear.

    “That’s not gonna help Saturn,” Ash laughed. “Infernape’s not comin’ across the field.”

    “Ignorance is bliss it seems,” Saturn said slyly, just as Infernape burst from the ground. His powerful arms pummeled Simisear, dealing out the damage Ash had intended, but as they were coming back to the earth, he saw Saturn’s intent. When Infernape had burst from the ground, he had dislodged all of the Rock Slide boulders, flinging them into the air. Now they were coming back down, raining damage upon both Pokémon. Saturn’s eyes narrowed angrily, having not thought the rocks would damage Simisear as well. “No more stalling,” he said, teeth gritted, “Simisear return!”

    “What?!” Ash wondered aloud. He had considered Saturn’s pride above in-battle substitutions. “Stay alert Infernape!”

    “Nape!” the Pokémon assured Ash.

    “Now Bronzong!” Saturn yelled, revealing the steel/psychic-type. Of course, Ash was confident in Infernape’s fire moves to deal out damage to Bronzong, but he was also worried about the reverse happening with Bronzong’s psychic moves.

    “We’ll just have to get it done first!” Ash decided. “Go for broke, Flare Blitz!”

    “Stop it!” Saturn hollered as Infernape became cloaked in glorious orange and red flames. “Extrasensory!” Even as Infernape careened in Bronzong’s direction, Ash could tell something was wrong. His Pokémon was weaving wildly, no longer on course for Saturn’s Bronzong.

    “Snap out of it Infernape!” Ash hollered, hoping his voice might be enough to dilute Extrasensory’s effects. But it seemed he was too far away, as Infernape’s Flare Blitz collapsed pathetically, the fire-type skidding in the dirt.

    “Now use Hypnosis,” Saturn said confidently. In that moment, Ash remembered one of his more fateful full battles. It had taken place on the Acuity Lakefront, against Paul. In that battle, he had let his emotions get the better of him, allowing the then-Grotle to stay out against Paul’s Honchkrow when he knew full well he should have substituted. It was the same now. He wanted Infernape to win, both for himself and his Pokémon, but the simple fact remained that Saturn had the advantage.
    “Infernape, return,” Ash said, holding out the pokéball and retracting Infernape just before Hypnosis would have hit. Saturn’s eyes narrowed, but he made no switches either. Ash could not concentrate on that though, nor could he concentrate on Dawn’s excited jumping up and down, cheering him on, no matter how much he wanted to. There was a battle to win. Saturn was just another opponent, nothing more. He was just another battle along the Master road. Bronzong’s a serious tank, Ash thought. There’s no way I’m just breaking through on power alone. I need speed, since Bronzong’s also slow as molasses, and I know just the guy for that job. “Alright, Staraptor, I choose you!” Ash yelled, revealing his second Pokémon. Saturn’s eyes widened for some reason, as if he had been expecting something else, and Ash saw his chance. “Arial Ace! Go!” he commanded. Staraptor curled up into the air gracefully, back-winged, and was instantly careening toward Bronzong at demonic, aggressive speeds. “Yeah! Go!” Ash bellowed encouragement. There was nothing Saturn could do. His Bronzong could not dodge, and Extrasensory’s powers of dissolution would not work on Arial Ace. Saturn gritted his teeth as he allowed the move to connect, trying to preserve Bronzong’s strength for something useful. Nevertheless, Staraptor was strong, knocking Bronzong onto the ground with its impact.

    “What!?” Saturn screamed out, the first sign of emotion Ash had ever seen him really display. As Staraptor ascended back out of range again, Ash took the luxury his flying type would give him to examine Saturn and his Bronzong. Saturn was wearing a look that Ash had both worn before, and had seen other trainers wear countless other times. It was the face of fear. The face that reveals that the battle is not going according to their preconceived strategy, and that they are struggling to find a way out of it. It was a weakness to seize upon.

    “Do it again Staraptor!” Ash said, just as Bronzong was beginning to regain its normal levitating height.

    “I will not let his happen!” Saturn growled angrily, “Return, Go!” In the same motion, he retracted Bronzong and sent out a third Pokémon. Ash could not tell what it was until Saturn gave the command: “Thunderbolt!” The electricity flew from the Raichu’s tail, smashing into Staraptor and stopping it cold. Ash’s bird fell from the sky, smoking from the damage and unable to even lift a wing.

    “Staraptor is unable to battle!” Kaleb announced. “Raichu is the winner!”

    “Welcome to the big leagues Ketchum,” Saturn sneered. “This is not some battle where sheer good luck and powerful allies can help. You are on your own pathetic two feet. Continue only if you want defeat.”

    “I came here because of invitation!” Ash retorted as he cradled Staraptor in his arms. He recalled the Pokémon and stood. “I may not be the strongest here,” he continued, “in fact, I know I’m not. But I’ll be darned if I’m not the only one that knows the true meaning of being a trainer.”

    “You tell him Ash!” Dawn yelled from the bench.

    “Lay it out there!” Brock added, equally stoked.

    “How very sentimental,” Saturn continued to mock. “You will, I think, find that sentiment only goes so far in this world.”

    “Torterra!” Ash bellowed, wanting to continue the fight if only it would shut Saturn’s mouth, “Leaf Storm!” Saturn swore, having not anticipated so overwhelming a move. The grass move completely enveloped Raichu, causing it to cry out. Ash was sure he might have actually scored a one hit KO when the Leaf Storm ceased. “Don’t let up!” Ash decided, more determined than ever to beat Saturn. “Rock Climb!” He had decided on the move not only for its power, but for its confusing aspect. So many events occurred during the move, very rarely was an opposing trainer or Pokémon able to compensate. The pillar arose, Raichu looking around wildly, and Saturn was too late with his command. Torterra’s blow landed, sending the poor Raichu flying to the ground, crying out.

    “Pathetic lump! Get up!” Saturn hissed at his Pokémon. “You will not embarrass me like this!”

    “Razor…” Ash was about to say, but noticed Saturn’s furious scowl and Raichu struggling to stand. “Hold it,” Ash whispered to Torterra, putting a hand on his shell.

    “Terra…” his Pokémon moaned low, understanding exactly what Ash was seeing and feeling.

    “Get up!” Saturn continued to berate his Pokémon. “They’re being stupid now, get them.” He was unable to continue, for Ash had calmly walked onto the field and bent down to Raichu.

    “You okay?” he asked the electric mouse. He laid its head in one hand, allowing the other to stroke one of its ears. “You a boy or girl?” he asked, checking the tail for its flat or pointed end. “Girl huh,” he said upon finding its cut-off look. “Why don’t you come over here with me, and we’ll say you’re unable to battle.”

    “Rai….” the little girl breathed, nuzzling her cheek into Ash’s hand. When Ash looked up, there could not have been more hatred coming from Satun’s eyes. His lips were thin, his brows were only slightly furrowed, but that much scarier for it.

    “Give…her…back…” he breathed, the closest Ash had ever seen someone to a complete outburst.

    “If you were any kind of trainer,” Ash fought back, refusing to budge on his stance, “this would be completely avoided. Anyone can see she’s suffering, but all you can see is a Pokémon that isn’t strong enough for you. Get a grip, not all Pokémon will be powerhouses. Since you can’t accept that, you don’t deserve to have her.”

    “Raichu, return!” Saturn commanded, igniting the ball’s recall beam. Ash knew the consequences of his next action, but his instinct was not to be reasoned with. He turned his back, allowing the beam to hit him instead. It was pain unimaginable, sending jolting waves of agony at first through his spine, but then through his whole body. He cringed, even crying out, but did not drop or let Raichu go. “You insolent brat!” Saturn hissed. “You have no right to take my Pokémon from me!”

    “I do,” a commanding and calmly irate voice said from across the yard. All sounds of distant battles ceased, and Ash was only able to look up for Dawn’s supporting and caressing hands on his back. Striding down the lane of battlefields was Jerda Foks, arrayed behind him an entourage of trainers that must be his chosen few: those trainers that had joined him in the fight against Arrow and her minions. “How dare you Saturn,” Jerda said, his reverberating voice shaking from barely contained rage. “I assured the prison on my own name you would not cause trouble, nor that you would cause need for harm. How dare you violate that trust I had given you. Keep this up and your place in the Consortium will never be reestablished.”

    “But my Raichu…” Saturn said lamely.

    “I don’t give two craps about your Raichu,” Jerda said. “In fact, I’m sure Ketchum had good reason to take her from you. Am I right you two?” Ash saw Dawn and Brock nod affirmation. “I told you not to continue in Cyrus’s methods. It seems you lied when you said you were off them.” Saturn did not reply, a first so far as Ash could recall. “Ash?” Jerda asked, holding out a hand so as to help him up. He took it, one arm still holding the sleeping Raichu. “You are in no shape to battle, not after a plasma burst to the back.”

    “Don’t I know it,” Ash winced, lances of pain still darting throughout his body.

    “Would you mind if I finished your battle?” Jerda then asked, eyeing his Torterra and Pikachu. Ash did not immediately answer, giving over to the satisfaction of seeing Saturn’s face pale at this prospect.

    “Take him out,” Ash said, holding out a hand. Jerda took it calmly, then unhooked Ash’s pokéballs for himself. “You’ll need to know their moves,” Ash said suddenly, as Jerda stepped into the field. The young man tapped the side of his head, and Ash remembered his mechanoid eyes. They were undoubtedly able to determine a move set.

    “Pika?” Pikachu asked Ash, amazed he was even considering allowing another trainer to command him in battle.

    “It’s okay buddy,” Ash told him confidently. “We’d have beaten him anyway. He was getting angry. Besides it’s not like you guys aren’t winning. I’m just not the telling you what to do.”

    “It’ll be good practice,” Dawn added. “Maybe you’ll learn something new.”

    “There’s that,” Ash nodded. “Don’t worry I’ll be watchin’ the whole time. Don’t you think if I’d step out onto the field for another trainer’s injured Pokémon I wouldn’t step out for you?”

    “Pika pika,” Pikachu shrugged, moving over to Jerda’s feet.

    “This’ll be interesting,” Ash heard him mumble, looking over each pokéball, examining its contents. “Okay Saturn, we’re starting from ground zero, five each. Referee.”

    “Begin!” Kaleb announced, albeit a little bewildered by the turn of events around him.

    “Bronzong!” Saturn brought him out again.

    “Infernape, show ‘em how!” Jerda bellowed. “Flamethrower!” Speed born from years of training had the command out of his mouth in perfect sync with Infernape’s materialization. To Infernape’s credit, he kept pace, spewing the singing flames across the field. Saturn growled, unable to defend Bronzong quickly enough.

    “Return!” Saturn said once again. “Rhyperior!”

    “Dang I wish I could be in there!” Ash said upon seeing the Rhyperior. An opponent like that was of the sort all trainers wished they could battle on a daily basis. His excitement seemed to have brushed away the pain, as he was now standing.

    Brock did not seem to think the same way, saying, “Ash, you’re hurt, you need to sit down.”

    “No, I’m getting in there,” Ash gritted his teeth, having had a spasm of pain. “Take Raichu for me Dawn.”

    “Sure,” she said, cradling the Pokémon without any attempt to hold Ash back.

    “INFERNAPE! MACH PUNCH!” Ash bellowed out as he ran to the trainer’s square. “I can’t sit by Jerda!” he explained to the man’s questioning gaze.

    “I understand completely,” Jerda replied. “Take him down. The fact that your Infernape is so well trained as to use a move upon immediately coming out is a testament to your training skill.”

    “Thanks,” Ash replied, then, “Do it Infernape!” His Pokémon was about to land, when Ash noticed Saturn’s stance.

    Just as Saturn shouted, “Horn Drill!”, Ash anticipated him.

    “Jump over him and land it behind his head!” Infernape executed it perfectly, leaping just as Rhyperior’s Horn Drill destroyed the ground where Infernape had been standing. His Mach Punch made a resounding crack as it connected. Rhyperior stumbled forward from the power, barely catching itself with its arms. “Mach Punch again!” Ash said. “Don’t give him time to turn around!”

    “Fabulous!” Jerda said, watching the fight.

    “Rock Wrecker!” Saturn retaliated.

    “Change to Flare Blitz!” Ash said, and Infernape followed through, his massively strong fire move breaking through the Rock Wrecker and landing with enough power to knock Rhyperior on its back, unconscious.

    “That is what I’m talkin’ about!” Haley said from within Jerda’s entourage.

    “Rhyperior is unable to battle!” Kaleb announced. “Infernape is the winner!”

    “That was an excellent use of Blaze,” Jerda said as Saturn chose his third. “To use the damage from Flare Blitz to bring in Blaze for the final push, quite an accomplishment.”

    “Thanks,” Ash said, “but Infernape’s pretty beat now. Infernape return.”

    “Pika!” Pikachu said aggressively, motioning for the field.

    “I feel ya,” Ash said. “Get in there buddy!” Pikachu ran into the field just as Saturn revealed Simisear. He doesn’t want to reveal all of his cards, Ash realized. Let’s see if we can’t change that. “Okay Pikachu, use Thunderbolt!” Pikachu, like Ash, now charged with resolve and intensity born of Saturn’s cool insincerity, loosed a massive bolt.

    “Dodge,” Saturn commanded, and his Simisear followed through, leaping out of the way just in time. “Flame Burst.” The speedy move was launched with Saturn’s usual calculation, giving Pikachu little time to move out of the way from just having used Thunderbolt. But Ash had long ago learned how to counter the effect, by using it as a way to lead into Iron Tail.

    “Deflect it back with Iron Tail!” Ash said. Pikachu weaponized his jagged tail, waited, and at the perfect moment, twirled to smack the Flame Burst like an expert batter. The move screamed back at Simisear, colliding with its chin.

    “Saturn is being sloppy,” Jerda commented quietly. “You seem to have thrown some guilt onto him. It’s definitely having an effect on his style.”

    “Finish with Electro Ball!” Ash chose. Pikachu decided the fight then, blasting the already weak Simisear. It collapsed in short order.

    “Simisear is unable to battle!” Kaleb said. “Pikachu is the winner.”

    “Half-way there,” Ash said, more to himself. “Need to finish this in time for lunch.”

    “Way to stay positive,” Jerda said.

    “You’re doing great Ash!” Dawn yelled out. “Keep going!”

    “Pikachu, com’ere,” Ash said. “Infernape can’t battle and Staraptor is unconscious. That means only you, Torterra, Buizel, and Gliscor are up. If we’re gonna make it through this, we’ll need to conserve everyone’s strength. Let Gliscor take his next one.”

    “Pika,” Pikachu assented.

    “Okay Gliscor, I choose you!” Ash shouted, bringing out his rather absented minded Pokémon. His luck could not have been worse, as Saturn had brought out a Vanilluxe. Of course, he could have made a worse choice, as Gliscor did at least have speed and Steel Wing on his side.

    “Ice Beam!” Saturn bellowed, wasting little time, and consequently giving Gliscor little time to gain much needed altitude. “Keep it up there!” Saturn commanded. “One will eventually hit.” Unfortunately, Saturn was right. Gliscor was a close-range fighter, and coming in close range would mean certain damage and possibly a one-hit KO.

    “Dive! Gliscor dive!” Ash said suddenly, a strategy having revealed itself. “Skim the ground and use Sand Attack!” It was his only way to give Gliscor a chance to move in with Steel Wing, and he was going to take it. Saturn swore again, giving Ash the necessary time to call out the attack. “Steel Wing, but keep a watch!”

    “No, Ice Beam, scatter it!” Saturn countered. Ash could only watch as Gliscor entered his self-created dust cloud, brightly lit a moment later by the glow of several Ice Beams. Despite this, he still heard the satisfying smash of Gliscor’s Steel Wing connecting. There was still hope, but it was eroded when the dust cleared. Both Gliscor and Vanilluxe were lying on the ground. Dang, Ash swore to himself. Kaleb announced the results Ash already knew to be true.

    “Gliscor, return,” he said. “You did your best, it won’t be wasted.” Now only two of….

    “Send out Infernape again,” Jerda’s reverberating voice echoed around him. “Calm down, I’m just talking inside your head. Listen, Infernape’ll need a trip to the Center regardless, so best to use him to his fullest and throw Saturn off a bit.” Ash shrugged to himself as Jerda’s presence left. Saturn only had Bronzong (damaged already by its many fights) and Toxicroak, his self-professed ace-in-the-hole. He had led with Infernape to counter those two to begin with, so why not use the strategy in surety.

    “Let’s go Infernape, last time,” Ash said, calling out his fire type once again.

    “We must finish this Bronzong,” Saturn said. So now it was between the two damaged Pokémon. This fight was about to get interesting.

    “Flamethrower!” Ash called out. The further he could keep Infernape away from Bronzong, the happier he would be.

    “Break through with Gyro Ball!” Saturn said. Bronzong activated the move, and the rotational force not only broke the power of the Flamethrower, but curled its remnants around Bronzong’s body, adding to Gyro Ball’s power. Ash heard Dawn gasp at the combination, and he had to admit it would have been beautiful in a contest, but he had not the time to think of the implications for Dawn’s upcoming competition.

    “Dodge! Dig!” Ash yelled. He knew Bronzong could have one of two abilities, Heat Proof and Levitate. By the way Saturn had ordered his already weak Pokémon into the flames, he guessed it to be Heatproof. Bronzong sailed over the hole Infernape had made, and its combination move fell apart. It stopped, looking down into the hole. Seconds before Infernape burst through the ground, flames erupted on Bronzong’s surface, and slowly but surely, it fell to the ground with a resounding gong.

    “A burn!” Brock was exclaiming over Kaleb’s official declaration of Bronzong’s defeat. “A burn from trying to use Ash’s Flamethrower against him!” Only Toxicroak now, was all Ash was reveling in. He recalled Infernape.

    “Pikachu, your turn to finish it,” Ash said, allowing his first Pokémon to take the field.

    “Toxicroak!” Saturn bellowed, louder than Ash had ever heard him. “Dark Pulse!” If it had not been obvious before, Saturn’s anger was boiling over and onto everything around him. The Dark Pulse fired before Ash had even registered it as an attack, and Pikachu was carried off his feet with a surprised scream. He landed in the dirt, hurt, but not defeated. He hopped back on his feet as Saturn screamed, “Brick Break!”

    “Okay, Iron Tail!” Ash responded just as quickly. The moves met perfectly, their energy discharging in smoke, sound, and light as both Pokémon leaped away. “Thunderbolt!” Ash said. “Don’t slow down!”

    “Poison Jab!” Saturn yelled, “both spikes!” His Pokémon surged forward furiously, both fist spikes glowing violet with the virulent move. The first came forward, cutting the Thunderbolt clean in half, and the second moving forward to catch Pikachu.

    “Pikachu!” Ash shouted as the he saw Pikachu’s eyes widen in both pain and realization of the move’s power. Toxicroak sped on past, having made a perfect strike. Pikachu lay on the ground, a mark of glowing purple on his side: poison.

    “Two can play at this game Ketchum,” Saturn said smugly. It was amazing how he could go from infuriated and uncontrollable to calm and smug. At least Paul never lost himself, except that once in his ill-prepared and ill-timed fight with Brandon. Ash ran out to Pikachu, scooping him up and laying his moaning body next to him. There was no way he was allowing him to battle with a poison effect in play. He would fall faster than one of Toxicroak’s moves could land. Infernape was out of the question as well, being so badly hurt, and well as Torterra. That poison would hurt him worse than even Pikachu. That left only Buizel, the one Haley had warned would be pounded into pulp because of his pre-evolution state.

    But Ash had no choice, never mind his faith in the always battle-ready and aggressive Buizel. “Okay Buizel, you’re the last line. Don’t let me down!” Ash said, revealing him.

    “This is going to be easier than I thought,” Saturn laughed, throwing his hand out. “Dark Pulse!”

    “Sonic Boom!” Ash retaliated. The ranged moves met, detonating, but one ring from the Dark Pulse made it through, clipping Buizel in the neck. He flew back and down, landing on the ground hard. “Buizel, keep stro….” Ash was saying, but stopped. Buizel was glowing, that bright, all-consuming light that signals evolution.

    “Would ya look at that,” Ash heard Haley murmur.

    “Stop it Toxicroak!” Saturn yelled. “Stop the evolution, Brick Break!”

    “Keep your moves where they belong!” Jerda exploded, furious. His arm was out and hurling a pokéball as fast as Ash had ever seen, and Charizard revealed himself. The flame on his tail surged in power, and he blasted a Hyper Beam at the ground immediately before Toxicroak. “Saturn, you are disqualified from the Consortium matches for attempting…”

    “NO!” Ash yelled out, for Buizel had finished evolving and now stood as an intimidating Floatzel, glaring menacingly at Toxicroak. “Let’s finish it!”

    “Of course,” Jerda replied, completely consenting. He and Charizard stepped out of the way, and Floatzel surged forward.

    “Aqua Jet!” Ash hollered, and Floatzel obeyed with a confident growl. But as the speedy moved neared Toxicroak and Saturn called out that his Pokémon use Dark Pulse to stop it, the move broke apart. Only, Ash could tell nothing was wrong. Floatzel was now in the air above Toxicroak, the water from the Aqua Jet coalescing around Floatzel’s tail. In a second, more, the immensely powerful Aqua Tail slammed down on Toxicroak’s head, its eyes squinting rather comically as it fell on the ground, no longer able to battle.

    “Toxicroak is unable to battle!” Kaleb shouted. “Floatzel is the winner, so the victor is Ash of Pallet Town, Kanto!”

    “Yeah! WHOOOOOOO!” Ash broke out, Floatzel rushing over and bumping a paw with Ash’s fist. He and Floatzel did the same with Pikachu, who, while still weak from the poison, had enough strength to be excited about the victory.

    “Arrest him boys,” Jerda commanded his people, who immediately rushed the disarmed Saturn.

    “Ash!” Dawn said, rushing over, the Raichu holding her hand as they came. “You were brilliant Ash!” she said. “Absolutely wonderful! That was such a fight!”

    “And I still had Torterra, Pikachu, and Infernape in reserve,” Ash added, choosing to glaze over the fact that none of them would have been fit for the fight with Toxicroak. “And Buizel evolved,” Ash said, ruffling his new comb. “Never would have pulled it off without that.” Floatzel winked smugly, crossing his arms. Dawn giggled.

    “Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same,” she said.

    “Ain’t that the truth,” Brock added.

    “Ash, your timer,” Kaleb said, coming over to them.

    “It’s not necessary Furlow,” Jerda came over. “Lunch will be in twenty minutes and no battle of any decency can be decided in five.”

    “You’re the boss,” Kaleb said, shrugging.

    “Congrats Ash,” Jerda said, shaking his hand for good measure. “You definitely deserve to be here, I’ll admit. I’ll have Haley take your Pokémon to the Center so you can go and get nice and cleaned up for the arena. Do you mind?”

    “Go ahead,” Ash said. “Just have them up to my room by the time I’m ready to leave.”

    “No prob,” Jerda assured them. “I wouldn’t dream of trying to keep such determined Pokémon from their trainer for too long.”

    “What about this cute little girl?” Dawn asked, bending down on the Raichu’s level and flicking her nose until she squinted happily. Jerda’s countenance instantly darkened.

    “I am not giving her back to Saturn, you need not worry,” he said. “Normally, I’d take her myself until I could find a suitable trainer, but you and her seem to have hit it off pretty well. Why don’t you take her?”

    “Me?” Dawn asked in surprise.

    “He was talking to you,” Ash nudged her. “C’mon, it’d be great, a new member of the family.”

    “Okay,” Dawn decided without hesitation. “I guess I’ll send you off with Ash’s Pokémon. You look like you need it.” The Raichu nodded, looking over some of her ruffled fur.

    “Haley!” Jerda shouted over the ruckus of the battlefield clean-up crew.

    “Boss,” Haley came up promptly.

    “Take Ash’s Pokémon and Dawn’s new Raichu to the Center so he can have some time to clean up for lunch,” Jerda said. “Have them back in time.”

    “Not a problem,” Haley said, gathering Pikachu in one arm and taking Raichu’s paw in the other. “You go and let Dawn there give you some TLC. Ya look like ya need it.” Ash blushed as much as Dawn, but he could not deny that the handsome outfit he had chosen was in a bad need of a wash and he was in a bad need of a shower. They walked back to the house in high spirits from Ash’s victory, only one of their company having his mood darkened by the knowledge that soon, very soon, chaos would be upon them all.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2012
  8. Jerda Foks

    Jerda Foks Ponyville Author

    Chapter five is here, and is the first chapter that gives the fic its R rating. This is, so far, my personal second-favorite (six is first) chapter. It answeres a lot of questions you may have, and I hope it keeps you all on the edge of your seats.

    Ash sat heavily in the single chair in his room. With his battle complete and the accompanying adrenaline dying off, the pain from the plasma burst was increasing with every passing second. He winced sharply as a particularly potent lance stabbed him in the back, climbing through to his head. “You okay?” Dawn asked from the bathroom. She was there preparing a warm, refreshing bath for him.

    “Yeah,” Ash lied, suffering for even speaking.

    “It’s almost done,” Dawn replied reassuringly. “Why don’t you com’ere and get ready.” Ash stood rather clumsily, his legs not wanting to obey through the pain. He limped awkwardly to the bathroom, and was struck by the sight of Dawn. She was not doing anything remarkable, only sitting on the edge of the tub, head turned and hand outstretched to test the warmth of the water, but for Ash, it was an image of pure beauty. There was nothing that said Dawn had to help him with his bath and he had not even asked her for help. She had done so out of her own free-will, and Ash now understood why people always said it was the little things that mattered. “Hey, you need some help?” Dawn asked once he came into the bathroom proper.

    “With what?” Ash asked, perplexed. “You’ve already gotten my water ready. What more is there to do?”

    “Um…” Dawn paused awkwardly. “Your clothes. Don’t you think it’ll be just a bit difficult to get them off with your injury?” Her tone was innocent enough, but the words sent tingles up and down Ash’s spine that were in no way connected to pain.

    “Well….I…I mean I don’t think….” Ash fumbled, then, “yeah.”

    “Okay…um…try not to move too much,” Dawn said, her voice remarkably calmer than his own. She maneuvered around to his back, undoing the suspenders first, then coming back around to the front to remove them completely. She had turned away to throw them off to the side when Ash was seized by a sudden urge. As she came back up, he grabbed her shoulders and kissed her fully and passionately. She tensed at first, but immediately relaxed, allowing her arms to gently curve around his back and head. They kissed for as long as the other could breathe, then broke away, unable to speak, only able to stare into one another’s eyes. Ash brushed his hand softly against her cheek, and as they came toward each other again, Dawn’s hands were jerkily undoing his shirt. She was nervous, judging by her shaking hands, but Ash did not care. Words were pointless now, unable to truly grasp the love he had for her. It was so much baser, deeper than the physical world could comprehend; a primal feeling that guided itself. He shrugged off the shirt, the pain in his back once again receding, though not from adrenaline this time.

    Slowly, passionately, savoring every motion, they undressed the other, until they were both ready to slip into the water. Ash was only able to marvel at Dawn’s naked beauty for a moment, but it was enough. They stepped into the tub never ceasing to kiss and feel each other. Ash felt the warmth of the water add to his already wild emotions. “Ash….” Dawn whispered as her hair became slick with water. She said nothing more, but Ash needed to hear nothing more. He whispered her name back, and came ever closer to her, in more ways than one. They disturbed the water in their ecstasy, knocking waves over the rim, but they neither cared nor noticed. They were only wrapped up in each other, and Ash had never felt more alive.

    It all ended rather abruptly, though with the greatest surge of pure pleasure Ash had ever experienced. They sat together in the water for a long while, breathing heavily from their intensity. It had all happened so fast, so spontaneously, Ash was beginning to wonder whether it had even been real. Dawn easily corrected this assumption, stepping gracefully out of the tub, smiling and winking at him. “I’m gonna go get dressed now,” she whispered still. “You were amazing.”

    “You were amazing yourself,” Ash answered back. “I’ll never forget this.” She giggled then, wrapping a towel around her body before leaving for her own room.

    It took a moment for Ash to compose himself after their session together. Once he finally began breathing normally, he grabbed the soap and scrubbed. He only did this half-heartedly though, as his mind continuously drifted back to the kissing, the sex, and everything in between. He had honestly not intended for it to go as far as it did, though he was not complaining in the least. What was more surprising was that Dawn had not resisted, rather she had encouraged it. He smiled at this thought, glad that Dawn was just as crazy as he was at times.

    His bathing finished, he stepped out, growling audibly as the pain slowly returned. He quickly dressed in a maroon T-shirt (maroon for some reason having been chosen as ‘his’ color) and black vest with his regular blue jeans. He donned the new fedora as an afterthought, liking how it rested on his insane hair. The pain in his back had now returned full force, but the only article in his way now was his shoes. These were, however, proving difficult as he had to bend over to tie them up. Dawn came back in the room just as he was leaning back up in hissing agony. She had on the dress Ash had said looked so beautiful on her, and he was now reminded why. She appeared so elegant in it, not to mention stunningly gorgeous. “Hang on,” she said lovingly, bending down to tie the shoes. By some sort of strange, unspoken natural rule, he kept silent about their session in the bathroom. “There you go,” she said, looking back up at him. “Ash…”

    “Don’t…” Ash managed to say. “I love you Dawn.” She leapt on him then, arms wrapped tightly around his back and head resting gratefully on his shoulder.

    “I love you too,” Dawn said as Ash hugged her back. “We’ll make it work, no matter what.”

    “No need to worry right?” Ash asked amusedly.

    “No need to worry,” Dawn agreed smiling. She helped him stand, and walking became much easier with her arm in his. They left Ash’s room and met Brock, now in a traditional suit and tie, in the elevator.

    “Man you two look sharp,” Brock said.

    “Thanks,” Dawn blushed. “Oh, what’s that?” They had emerged onto the lawn and just outside the iron gates was a massive float. They rushed to it, only to have Evans stop them. “Hey, what’s going on?” Dawn asked.

    “Mr. Ketchum,” Evans said, completely ignoring Dawn. “Please get on the float. You were late!” Without waiting for Ash’s protests or any words for that matter, he grabbed him and led him onto the float. Now that he was up atop it, he saw all the other trainers, minus those that had been eliminated that morning. “This float will take you to your lunch,” Evans said to him over the roar of the crowd they were now surrounded by.

    “What about Dawn and Brock?” Ash yelled back indignantly. “They were gonna come with me.”

    “They have their own concessions,” Evans said. “Besides, your lunch room leads directly into the stadium, not the stands.” Ash shrugged Evans off, irritated he had so abruptly and rudely separated him from Dawn. He wandered the float, eyeing both the remaining contestants and the screaming crowd of Maximus Town. All of the citizenry jumped up and down, hands raised or holding signs of support for a specific trainer. Most of these signs Ash could discern little from, as he knew an equally little amount about his fellow trainers. As he lingered on a sign with writing so convoluted he could barely decipher it, his peripheral caught shoving movement. Haley burst through the crowd, acrobatically jumping atop the rolling float without so much as a hint of effort. Ash reflected that it probably did take little effort, being that he was a rockstar and would have leapt on and off stages throughout his career. Pikachu was on his shoulder, eagerly searching the mass of trainers for him.

    “Pikachu!” Ash shouted to him. The mouse’s ears immediately sat on end, and Ash was to him before Haley had even registered his presence. Pikachu happily jumped to his traditional place on Ash’s shoulder, nuzzling his trainer in greeting.

    “Oh hey Ash,” Haley said mildly. “Here, these are yours.” He handed Ash six pokéballs. “Well, one’s Raichu’s, but, ya know.”

    “Thanks Haley,” Ash said, strapping the balls to his belt, memorizing the placement of each. “Why did Evans separate me and Dawn and Brock?”

    “He did?” Haley asked surprised. “That bastard…Okay, I’ll go get them. You’re allowed one guest on the float. You want Dawn right?”

    “Yeah…” Ash said, attempting to keep the color out of his face.

    “Hey,” Haley said, patting him on the back good-naturedly. “She’s a beautiful lady. You got nothin’ to be ashamed of.” The musician dismounted the stage, weaving through the crowd following the float like a scythe through ripe wheat.

    “So you’re with Dawn are you?” a surly voice asked from behind. Ash spun around to see Paul, still confidently in his white suit and slicked hair. “I’m surprised it took you so long.” Ash growled quietly, unable to lash back without possibly embarrassing himself and Dawn. Paul sniffed, a smug smile resting on his lips. “You’re still the same clueless guy I met back in Sinnoh. Age doesn’t cure some things I guess.”

    “Hold it Paul!” Ash burst out. “How can you call me clueless when I’ve been invited to the Consortium and won my first battle? Tell me!”

    “Because…” Pau said. “You stay the same wherever and whenever you go. No ingenuity or development in three years. Pathetic.”

    “Get lost Paul,” Ash gritted his teeth. “We’ll settle this on the field.”

    “And if I am forced to fight with you? What then?” Paul asked legitimately, though his voice was rising in temper.

    “You won’t do what you did at Hearthome will you?” Ash asked.

    “No,” Paul said, “not that that has any…”

    “Then we’ll just deal with each other,” Ash said. “You keep off my toes, and I’ll keep off yours.”

    “Fair enough, though I’d rather be eliminated before battling with you again,” Paul said, turning his back.

    “Arghh!” Ash screamed, unable to reconcile himself to civility in Paul’s presence. “I’ll show you,” he whispered to himself. “You just wait, I’ll show you.” He was still mentally abusing Paul when he heard Haley climbing onto the float again.

    “Hey Ash,” Dawn said, coming to his side. “Haley told me about Evans’ stupidity.”

    “I’m just glad he found you? How’s Brock?” Ash asked, her very touch easily melting away all anger Paul had raised up.

    “He’ll be okay,” Dawn smiled. “A little jealous of you and me, but he’ll be okay.”

    “Oh, here ya go,” Ash said, giving Dawn Raichu’s pokéball.

    “Thanks,” Dawn said, directing it to both Ash and Haley. “When does this thing end?”

    “At the stadium,” Haley answered, “about twenty minutes from now. You’ll have an hour to eat before the pairing and battling starts.”

    “What about the contest?” Dawn asked. “I’m entering and haven’t seen anything else about it except in that little program.”

    “Dang,” Haley muttered. “Uh…ah…dang. Okay, I’ll get your there after lunch. It’s actually not too far from the stadium, but they had to move to a different location after so many people expressed interest.”

    “Realy?” Ash asked, interested. “I’m just surprised, this being a battling event an’ all. I’d have thought the contest would be kinda overlooked.”

    “It’s a new thing this year,” Haley said, “and a lot of the trainers eliminated during the first battles have entered for lack of anything better to do.”

    “Man, I’m gonna have my work cut out for me then,” Dawn breathed. “No need to worry though.”

    “Yeah, it’ll be great,” Ash said. “It’ll be like you actually have serious competitors rather than a bunch of amateurs.”

    “If they’re such hardcore battlers like you keep saying,” Dawn nudged Ash playfully, “then in the contest ring, they’ll still be amateurs.”

    “Point taken,” Ash said. They talked less and less as the stadium neared, not from nerves, but from the sheer magnificence of the stadium.

    “May I present Maximus Stadium! Home of the Pokémon Consortium!” boomed Haley’s voice from a microphone he had seemingly procured from thin air. It, in Ash’s eyes, definitely deserved the honor. Its entire shape was in that of a hexagon. The walls were imposing, having been constructed entirely of stone and glass and standing as straight as a skyscraper’s walls. Columns formed the walls on the lower levels, these having been carved from marble to set them apart from the rest of the structure. Embossed in the upper portion of the stadium walls were figures both ancient and modern: trainers that had distinguished themselves over years and years of history. The guests, now enthralled by the stadium before them rather than the float of trainers, flocked to the entrance. “Okay trainers, gather round, gather round!” Haley shouted at them, mercifully without his mike. “The lunch room is directly below us right now, so if you’d please follow me…” He bent down and tugged mightily on a handle Ash had previously not noticed in the floor of the float. The hatch swung open and Ash could see a ladder descending into the street. “Ladies first boys,” Haley almost smirked as several trainers made to get amongst the women.

    Ash was about in the middle of the line, and thus had no difficulty finding which way to go once he had descended into the warmly lit tunnel of steel. He followed the rest of the trainers until they came to a set of free-swinging double doors. Beyond them, Ash found himself in a kitchen, booths set up around the space. Chefs busied themselves with what appeared to be every ingredient known to man. Already trainers were seating themselves and being served. It seemed they had little choice in the fare, but it all looked so delicious to Ash that he really did not care what he received. Upon finding Dawn, he joined a table already filled with her, a buzzed-blonde boy he did not know, and Nova Gersperchi. He groaned inwardly at having to sit with Nova, but maybe her companion was pleasant. He sat comfortably close to Dawn without being too forward, and she took his hand under the table. “Oh, you her trainer?” the boy asked. He sounded easy and relatively laid back, but unlike Haley, who pulled off the demeanor with no effort, this guy’s personality seemed forced.

    “If you’re meaning, she came with me, then yes,” Ash answered. “What’s your name? I’m Ash Ketchum, Pallet Town.”

    “Dawn Berilitz, Twinleaf Town,” Dawn added.

    “Huh,” the boy looked over them, then realizing he had been asked a question replied, “Oh, yeah, um, Xavier Zizorox.” Before Ash could even speak, he raised up a hand and said, “I know, I know, horrible name, but what can ya do?” Ash only shrugged. It took a moment before the conversation was restarted, this time under Dawn’s direction.

    “So have you been to the Consortium before?” she asked Xavier.

    “Oh yeah, as a spectator,” Xavier huffed. “Never as a contestant, and I have to say, I respect them a lot more now.”

    “How’d you get in?” Ash asked. Xavier was around his own age, and he was curious about what he had done to gain Fok’s recognition. “I got recommended by Professor Oak.”

    “Wow,” Xavier replied, “ya know, that carries a lot of weight with Jerda. No wonder he let you in. As for me, my uncle was supposed to come, but he’s kinda a recluse, so he put me on his plane instead. Jerda said he wouldn’t have if he didn’t trust me, and I guess he was right. I did make it through my battle this morning.”

    “Who’s your uncle?” Ash asked, curious. The name Zizorox was not ringing any bells as far as famous trainers went.

    “Tobias Vindy, from Sinnoh,” Xavier replied cooly. “He’s famous for his Darkrai.”

    “No kiddin’, I fought him in the Sinnoh League,” Ash said, now interested in conversing.

    “You were that guy that finally put down his Darkrai!” recognition dawning upon Xavier’s face. “Great to meet ya!”

    “Likewise,” Ash said, shaking his hand.

    “Oh please,” Nova sniffed. “Tobias’s Darkrai is nothing to take out if you’re skilled like me or Haley. Stop making it out to be something it’s not.”

    “You know,” Dawn glared at her, irritated, “you and Paul would make a perfect match, the way you act.”

    “Griffin is as much a pansy as the rest of you,” Nova smirked, but was unable to say anymore as they were then presented with their food.

    “Enjoy,” the chef said, “but be quick, thirty minutes on the clock before the battles.” Ash wasted no time, digging into something with pasta and pesto with his usual gusto. Dawn rolled her eyes amused, Xavier stared openly, and Nova raised her head haughtily. Ash cared for none of this, even enlisting Pikachu and Piplup’s help in finishing the meal in time. It was undeniably good, to be sure, but Ash really was unable to savor it. Haley was moving toward them just as Ash slurped up the last noodle.

    “Ash, Nova, Xavier,” he said, “take the door to the far right, and you’ll see your own individual locker rooms. Take some time to psych up yourselves and your Pokémon and get ready to hear the pairings.” Ash stood and gave Dawn a long kiss before leaving for the locker rooms. As he closed the door behind him, he heard Haley ask Dawn to come with him quickly if she wanted to be on time. He smiled, remembering, in hind-sight, how amusing many of Dawn’s contest delays had been. They would be fighting their battles for each other, and Ash was sure that even if he could not make it to the top in the Consortium, Dawn would definitely clinch a contest win.

    The door to Nova’s locker room banged shut, but unlike all the others around her, hers did not lock. With practiced efficiency born of training under Jerda’s second, John Haley, Nova opened her locker, revealing a single ear-com. She adjusted it slightly before speaking into it. “Consortium authorization code Delzard 405419006, NG.”

    “Code authorized,” an operator at the other end confirmed. “Welcome aboard Nova. Your mission is a go, I repeat, your mission is a go. ETC, twenty minutes.” That was unexpected, and she realized her time frame had shrunk to near impossibility. However, she would never graduate into the official Consortium ranks unless she could fulfill a simple escort assignment. She opened her doors as cautiously as possible, scanning for trainers whose doors may have malfunctioned and were peeking out. None were present, but her hand flew to one of her pokéballs when she heard a materialization nearby. It must have been Ash, she thought irritably. With no one now in the way, she sped out of Maximus Stadium. The float that had previously guarded the secret underground entrance was gone, and she easily escaped the tunnel into the afternoon light of the town. She lived in Maximus Town permanently, but even in the slow tourist season, she had never seen the streets so like a ghost town. The only noise was from the stadium; everything else eerily still. “Altaria,” she called her Pokémon. “Time for our test. Get me to the prison.” She climbed aboard the elegant yet powerful dragon, and they climbed to just above the stadium’s height. From here, she was more easily able to survey the town, and her sense of apprehension was increased. Not a soul was to be seen.

    Altaria easily angled toward the Consortium House, landing her just outside its first elevator room. She recalled her Pokémon, entering the metal box. Her dexterous fingers flew over the command pad, entering the nine-digit code to take her down to the lowest level of the House. Nova had only ever been to the prison once, and it had been empty then. Now it was filled by grimy cages containing equally filthy prisoners. The men among them whistled at her body, but she simply raised her chin, taking the hoots as compliments rather than insults. The women in cages only looked at her with pure hatred. Even down here, it was known she was the newest Consortium recruit. The final cage held the only decent looking person: Saturn Orlay. “This is unexpected,” Saturn said clearly. “Are you here to try to wrangle information out of me before Foks is forced to send me back to the jail he rescued me from?”

    “Keep your trap shut,” Nova lashed out. “I’m just taking you somewhere, nothing more.”

    “Then it seems Jerda is actually stepping up and doing the dirty work himself,” Saturn mocked them all.

    “We’re going to the Contest Stadium,” Nova replied, hoping pure surprise would keep him quiet.

    “What?” Saturn asked, truly perplexed, which was near enough Nova’s intent that she did not argue further

    “Shut up,” she said, unlocking his cell. As she led him out of the prison, the remaining Arrow prisoners spat at him, cursing him and calling him traitor. Nova and Saturn ignored all, having both heard the like before, if they had never actually been directed at Nova herself.

    Altaria carried her and Saturn, now cuffed, to the center of Maximus, where a sort of small stage had been set up around the square. It was here the contest was taking place, and Nova was surprised to see the substantial crowd, given the battles happening not so far away. Altaria took them to the outskirts, touching down with grace so simple not a soul noticed their arrival. “What now apprentice?” Saturn asked silkily.

    “We watch,” Nova answered truthfully. “Well, I watch and enjoy. You watch and shut up.”

    “So unfriendly…” Saturn sighed at her, though he said no more.

    Dawn was in the back of the makeshift stage, making sure Lopunny’s new vest was properly in place, as well as having Ambipom pose for her. “That’s great Ambipom,” she said cheerily. “You need to make a good impression for Raichu.” She smiled as she said it, watching the new, seventh member of her team gaze wonderingly at all her other Pokémon. Mamoswine had made the greatest impression on her it seemed, as she was still staring wide at him. She giggled at the little mouse’s inquisitiveness, glad that she was her new trainer rather than cold Saturn.

    She okayed Lopunny’s vest and sat heavily on a bench. Though this was not a real contest by any means, she was still getting her pre-show jitters. She had long ago reconciled herself to the fact that these were unavoidable, and thought of the only thing that could ever calm her: Ash. These thoughts were particularly fond now, especially after their late morning together. She breathed in deep, remembering every moment. Already her heart rate was dropping. She opened her eyes, confident in her skill to win. Ash was fighting his finest, so Dawn would as well, prize or no. She stood, waiting once again for her call number when she heard it.

    Outside the stage a woman screamed, loud and high pitched. Loud murmurs of fear followed, and Dawn and those coordinators and Pokémon still inside the tent stepped out onto the stage. The people were all scattering, screaming and hollering, some still pointing and waving up behind her. She turned to see and the sound blasted her ears. She winced and covered her offended appendages, only half-able to look up. But when she did, she nearly screamed herself. There, cresting the mountains surrounding Maximus Town, was a flying vessel, roaring through the sky at a crawling pace. It was a roughly X-shaped monstrous machine, and smaller craft of similar design were spewing out of unseen openings in its sides. The only thing Dawn could compare it to was J’s ship, but this was easily a hundred times larger, and far more menacing. She recalled all her Pokémon to their balls, save Piplup and Raichu. She needed to find Ash, that much she knew already. She was moments from leaving the stage in that train of thought when the earth shook violently. She tripped and fell, tangling in her dress and scraping her exposed arms on the stone. She was bleeding now, but it was not overly serious.

    A quick glance revealed the source of the small quake. The vessel before her was spewing energy of some form in short, powerful bursts. She watched as one descended into the town, and was only just able to brace for the impact. It shook her worse this time, and even with advance warning, she still fell again. “Rai?” Raichu bent down to her worriedly.

    “I’m okay,” Dawn winced as she stood again. “We’ve got to find Ash, and see what we can do. Okay, Raichu, do you know Maximus Town pretty well?” Her new member nodded confidently. “Good then, go and try to find Ash and hurry!” Raichu set off and dead run, expertly weaving between screaming and running people. She was about to set off toward the House when one of the smaller craft smashed down directly before her. It sent dust and rocks spewing into her face, causing her to cough and shield her face. When her vision cleared, the craft’s wings had folded down into landing stilts and a Lucario was before it. Without any audible command from a trainer, it launched an Aura Sphere at a running civilian.

    What happened next, Dawn screamed for. Rather than just impact the person and send them flying, the sphere clipped his arm, and took it clean off. The arm collapsed on the ground, bleeding red into the stone street while the maimed man cried out in agony and shock. He fell onto the ground and the Lucario wasted no time in impaling him with its fist spike. “NO!” Dawn screamed out. She had never before seen a Pokémon used for such violence, and it shook her very essence. “Quilava, stop that Lucario!” she shouted, bringing out Quilava, its heart seal still active. She could not care about that now, as the Lucario was now giving her attention. At another wordless command, it launched another Aura Sphere. “Jump out of the way!” Dawn yelled to her Pokémon, barely dodging the incoming projectile herself. “Use Flame Wheel!” Quilava gladly obeyed, transforming into a whirling vortex of heat and flame. The fire struck the Lucario, sending the opposing Pokémon reeling. “Follow that with Flamethrower!” Dawn commanded, now fully in the battle. Lucario seemed ready this time, cleaving the Flamethrower in two with Metal Claw.

    “Altaria! Dragon Pulse!” came the only vaguely familiar voice of Nova Gersperchi. The incredible move rushed past Dawn, fluttering her ornate hair. It smashed Lucario to the side, clearly doing far more damage than even Quilava’s Flame Wheel. “Stay out of the way Berilitz,” Nova hissed upon coming up to her. “This is Arrow. Now run and get yourself somewhere safe!”

    “I’m staying!” Dawn said defiantly. “Ash would never back down from something like this and neither would I!” Nova was unable to reply, as a pokéball descended from the fighter craft and deployed a Galvantula. It spewed Electro webs immediately, the first streaking past Dawn and roping a now screaming man behind her. The second missed Nova by a hair, but the third and fourth, Dawn and Quilava were caught and electrocuted. She yelled out in agony and fell to her side, her body bouncing as another explosion rocked the town. She was losing consciousness, that much she knew, and her last sight was of two more ships descending, taking Nova away and lifting her into one of the craft. Even if these were her last images, her last thoughts were of Ash, and the hope that he remained safe, and that Raichu would find him.

    “Ash! On your left!” Haley’s determined voice howled in Ash’s ears.

    “Torterra, Razor Leaf!” Ash answered, taking action against the approaching Quagsire. The Team Arrow Pokémon fell, but it was easily replaced by many more. “Earthquake!” Ash bellowed, knocking them all onto the ground and giving him time to regain his sense of place. His fight in the stadium had only begun, teamed with Xavier, when Arrow and her forces had arrived. Immediately, Haley and the rest of the inner Consortium had taken action, herding the frightened and crazed spectators out of the stadium. They had not been quick enough though, as Arrow’s X-fighters had descended and begun attacking. The Pokémon deployed from these craft, or rather the pilots, showed no mercy to anyone, trainer or guest. Pokémon tore through people, killing them gruesomely and reddening Maximus Stadium with blood and gore. Ash had yet to see Arrow’s mothership clearly, but its perpetuating and all-consuming engine roar was enough to indicate its size.

    He was now on the field, accompanied by Xavier, Haley, Paul, Evans, Brock, and several other contestants and Consortium members. Battlers stood in the stands as well. “Come on!” Paul yelled out, “Thunder Punch!” His Electivire slammed its charged fist into a Magmar, crushing it into the field.

    “Close Combat!” Ash shouted at Staraptor, high in the air, battling with a Gliscor. “Floatzel, Sonic Boom!” The move sailed through the battle, impacting on a Salamence wreaking havoc on nearby Pokémon and people. Even with the Sonic Boom, the Salamence continued its rampage, blasting a running human into a spray of blood with a Hyper Beam. “How are they doin’ that?!” Ash shouted at Haley, then ordered Torterra to use Earthquake again to stall for time. “Pokémon moves aren’t strong enough to blow people to smithereens!”

    “Yes they are!” Haley shouted back. “Thunder Jolteon, clear the skies!” He turned his attention back to Ash. “Your Pokémon might be nearing this level of power, but at a certain point, Pokémon become powerful enough to generate moves that completely destroy our protective auras. Most Pokémon moves simply cause that aura to ripple.”

    “Oh….Dang! Haley get down! Aqua Jet!” Ash said, sending Floatzel speeding over Haley’s head to impact a Golem. “Brock! Girafarig on Chansey’s left!”

    “Got it,” Brock replied. “Chansey! Egg Bomb!” Ash could not stay to watch the outcome, as more and more Pokémon were being spilled from the ever arriving Arrow fighters.

    “Someone has to take out that Salamence!” Paul yelled to the field. “It’s going to level us all!”

    “Paul!” Ash shouted, strategizing on the fly. “Have your Torterra use Earthquake with mine and we can clear a path!”

    “Done!” Paul replied. “Earthquake!” they both roared, and their Pokémon obliged, unleashing a devastating shock wave that literally ripped the ground around them to pieces. Arrow’s minion’s Pokémon were quickly cleared away by the combination, and Haley and Xavier took their advantage.

    “Psychic!” Haley ordered his Metagross, while Xavier called out,

    “Stone Edge Gigalith!” Both moves smashed into the Salamence and in keened as it fell in defeat. But Arrow’s united enemies could not rest, nor even savor their victory. Already those they had pushed out of the way were being replaced, and the brutality of the battle continued to escalate. A Bouffalant speared a man before throwing him off; a Yanmega sliced a woman into shreds with Night Slash; and an Ampharos burned a hole through two people with Signal Beam.

    “This can’t go on!” Ash shouted to Brock. “We have to win, or more people will die than will be saved!”

    “But they just…Arggh!” Brock growled, having been clipped by a stray Swift.

    “Is it bad?” Ash asked concerned. “Aqua Tail, Razor Leaf, Arial Ace!” Ash ordered his deployed Pokémon, for three openings had revealed themselves.

    “I’m okay,” Brock replied. “Croagunk, Brick Break!” Brock’s vicious Pokémon cut in two a move of some kind that would have crushed Floatzel. The battle was degenerating now, and not in their favor. There were simply too many Pokémon and their respective trainers. Ash and the others gradually gave ground, attempting to put down as many of the enemy as possible in the process.

    But as they retreated, Ash began to be peppered more and more frequently with gore. He knew of at least three people that had been sliced or blown up who had spluttered blood onto him in copious amounts. His arms were red with the gore, sometimes filled with some sort of organ part, and his hands were stained so heavily that his pokéballs no longer had a white half. No one else fared much better, and many, like Brock, were injured. “LOOK OUT!” some unknown voice echoed from high in the stands. Ash turned to see one of the streaking bolts of energy from Arrow’s battleship strike the upper stadium wall with a resounding crack. This was followed by an ear shattering explosion and cascade of rock and dust. Ash was thrown to the ground, along with Floatzel and Paul. Boulders rained around them, crushing more people and even more Pokémon. Ash could not hear, only an intense ringing pervaded his senses as he slowly sat up, vision blurred. Haley was in front of him, his mouth moving but Ash unable to hear him. He was motioning for Ash to stand, and hurriedly.

    Ash attempted to get up, but dizziness overtook him, and he fell back to the earth. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew he ought to be up, commanding his Pokémon, and that if he did not, they and countless others would die. Worse, if he did not find the strength to stand, Arrow’s forces would invade the whole of the town and possibly hurt Dawn. This singular thought spurred Ash in the side, and he stood to hear his sense of sound returning. “……..un! Run Ash, run! Retract your Pokémon and run. Jerda’s coming!”

    “Whuh?” was all he managed, still dazed from the explosion.

    “Oh for the love of…” Haley swore, grabbing Ash’s pokéballs and recalling Torterra, Floatzel, and Staraptor.

    “Pika pika!” Pikachu urged him, appearing from where he had been helping Xavier. Ash put one foot in front of the other, attempting to run, but he was too slow. An Ice Beam from some Pokémon grazed his leg and he fell again, this time crying out. Haley swore again, grabbing his arm and supporting him to help him escape the stadium. Ash looked back to see the remaining trainers and spectators lined up before Arrow’s Pokémon and trainers, then brutally slaughtered by the trainers’ knives at the harsh and barking command of an officer. Ash turned his head, unable to watch.

    “That’s it,” Haley urged him. “Keep moving. Keep moving.” He kicked open a door and led them out into Maximus Town’s streets. These were even more terrible than the stadium had been. Mutilated and bloody corpses littered the stone, and the remains of others plastered the walls and streets. Arrow’s fighters were scattered about, their pilots and Pokémon still engaged with the more resilient trainers. “Don’t stop!” Haley shouted at Ash. “We can’t be anywhere near the stadium!” Ash turned his head to the sky at the sound of a higher pitched engine roar. Flying at combat speeds from the Consortium House was a perfect replica of J’s ship. Only this one was painted dusk blue and gray, with the Consortium’s elegant symbol plastered on its nose. It surged toward the stadium, opened its cannon ports, and blasted the interior with every one, generating a shocking explosion that knocked Ash and Haley to the ground with its power. Haley cursed, attempting to pick both himself and Ash back up. The mysterious ship was not finished though, and it circled back around, never slowing, and blasted its cannons again at Arrow’s massive X-shaped vessel. Explosions of fire and metal appeared on the craft’s side, and it immediately began to list. “Go Jerda!” Haley shouted encouragement at the ship. “Here Ash, get down here, we should be safe!” He kicked open the tunnel from the float to the stadium, and helped Ash lower himself into it.

    “Dawn,” Ash gritted his teeth through the pain. “I have to find Dawn.”

    “You can’t Ash,” Haley protested, “You’ll be killed and you’re no good to her dead. Get in the hole dang it!” Ash could not argue the point effectively, but he still felt too strongly to let it go.

    “If I can’t then, you do it!” he winced, dropping onto the tunnel floor. “You make sure she’s safe!”

    “Can’t do that either,” Haley replied, more calmly than Ash thought normal. “If I don’t get that leg of yours taken care of, you’ll be dead by tomorrow.”

    “NO!” Ash shoved Haley’s hand away. “You can treat it later. Take Pikachu and go! I’ll be fine!”

    “Dang it Ash!” Haley shouted at him now. “I can’t go because….” Whatever Haley might have said was drowned out by a blast of some sort impacting the ground directly above them. Ash’s head was knocked against steal wall and unconsciousness took him.

    Jerda registered the complete destruction of Maximus Stadium’s interior. Zoey confirmed this with a quick scan that revealed no more life forms. He curved around sharply, and unleashed blind shots at Arrow’s battleship.
    “Zoey, engine four is burning out,” Jerda said from his command chair in the Anubis, his own battleship. “Can you reroute the cooling from engine five?”

    “No can do, Jer,” Zoey’s voice came over the com. “From my readings, you’re already pushing him as hard as you can.”

    “Dang, okay, give me another target set. I’m coming back around,” Jerda answered. He quickly plotted the course and the Anubis flung himself back at the Miasma, the monstrous Arrownian flagship Jerda had not been anticipating. Zoey’s control of the majority of the Anubis’s systems from her laptop showed as the target HUD flashed with six more points of attack. They turned a glaring red once Jerda was in range and he aggressively punched the fire button. From his view in the cockpit, the blasts streaked just below him and impacted the still unshielded Miasma. “Her shields are still down,” Jerda reported to Zoey. “It’s like Arrow is waiting for something.”

    “Well, if you’re plan is working, she is,” Zoey berated him sarcastically.

    “Not now Zo,” Jerda said. “Dang it I’m taking flak damage. Her cannons finally locked me.”

    “Jerda…!” Zoey’s voice became anxious and fearful over the com.

    “Zoey?! What’s wrong?” Jerda asked, “What happened?!” As if in reply, all of the systems Zoey had been controlling shut down, leaving Jerda to fly the ship blind. The coms remained open though and Jerda heard Zoey scream an attack for one of her Pokémon before screaming in agony. “ZOEY!” he bellowed both from anger and fear for her safety. Nothing came in reply at first, but Jerda’s brief lapse in concentration cost him dearly. Warning lights began blaring just as his ship was slammed by intense flak. His engines were dying, his only choice now an emergency landing more likely to be a crash.

    “Listen carefully Jerda Foks,” the com whispered in the crazed, high, but smooth voice of Arrow Minnow. “I have always controlled this game, and now I will let you play your final hand, just to see your doomed face one last time.” The com connection cut, and Jerda was gone to the shattering of glass, the crunching of steel, the burning of fuel fire, and the darkness of unconsciousness.
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2012
  9. Dawn and Piplup

    Dawn and Piplup Piplup+Pikachu Fan

    great sotry although I have only just read the first chapter and it has a good plot too!
  10. Jerda Foks

    Jerda Foks Ponyville Author

    Dawn and Piplup, you should keep reading. If you think the plot was good after the first chapter, then you'll be drooling over the rest (sorry author bragging is almost mandatory here)
    Thanks for a new review too, hope you have more to say the more you read. :)
  11. Yuppirox

    Yuppirox hello

    Oh dang, that recent chapter was intense. I did have myself sitting on edge the entire time, haha.

    The only qualm I have with this chapter is that I think it was a bit too early for Ash and Dawn to have sex. I mean, I know they're teenagers in love and all, but with the heavy focus on emotions and imminent danger I imagined it could have waited for a bit longer. At this point of the story Dawn has been kidnapped, so the chances of that happening during this period of time are basically none, but maybe if it had occurred after they reunited then the outcome of the experience would have had a more lasting and heartfelt impact on the reader. This is all my opinion however and for all I know, them having sex this early was a way of symbolizing the moments and time they had together before their inevitable separation.

    What I did like about that scene however was how simplistic and vague it was. You did not have to resort to describing the experience between the two in detail like other Shipping writers do. It just...happened. Considering Ash and Dawn's personality and their innocence in general I'm glad you did not detail their actions. It felt surreal and like a blur, something that makes you think "Did that just happen...?" directly afterward, which is exactly the train of thought Ash had. I liked that.

    Now, onto the subject of Paul, I think you characterized him decently. He's still a jerk I see, but after everything he's been through with Ash in the anime I find it kind of hard to imagine that he's still calling him pathetic and treating him badly. After their final battle at the league it seemed as though Paul grew more respect for Ash so seeing him still act like his early DP self felt like a step back for his character. Also, even though Ash had a knack of blowing his top off with Paul, after the league he also had respect for him as well. When you wrote them together it still felt like the original Paul and Ash, not the developed Paul and Ash we came to see at the end of DP. You did however bring that in when they started working together for their survival so I'll give you a point back for that.

    Again this is all just my opinion. Either way this was an amazing chapter and even though I was a bit shocked by the blood and gore I believe it was for the sake of setting the tone for the rest of the story, a dark and serious tone to signify the beginning of the real plot. Sorry if this review was long, I just wrote what I was thinking. =P
  12. Jerda Foks

    Jerda Foks Ponyville Author

    Hey Yuppirox, really long reviews is what I like, lol. As for Ash and Paul's relationship, I did think about their ending in DP, but the antagonism is sill there, even if there is a grudging respect and that is what I wanted to portray. As far as Paul calling him pathetic, that was in direct reference to his suppossed 'stagnat' level of power, not to Ash as a whole. I'm not trying to defend myself or anything, just trying to make it clearer.

    Thanks for your compliment on the bathroom scene, as it was one of the most difficult things I've ever written and I was unsure of how it would be received.

    Hope you're not turned off by the gore or the thematic elements because those aren't going anywhere any time soon.
  13. ChloboShoka

    ChloboShoka Writer

    Sex scenes can be really hard to write, and people expect them to be very well written and I think you did a lovely job on it. I admire your passion and hard work for this story because it really does show in the chapters.
  14. Jerda Foks

    Jerda Foks Ponyville Author

    Morning everyone, and welcome to chapter six. I really need to stop saying the next chapter is my favorite, becasue it turns out that the next chapter will probably always be my favorite (ie, I'm really liking seven right now). Anyway, enjoy this chapter, and thanks to C.Gholy for understanding my difficulty and complementing my passion for writing.

    Ash was only awake for a few seconds before he began coughing. He threw his hand out to clear what appeared to be a fogged lens, to no avail, as his eyes were the ones hazy. He blinked several times upon realizing this, and coughed more violently. In the air was smoke and the heavy stench of fuel. He made to stand up, but his injured leg gave out beneath him, sending him toppling face first onto the steel floor. He gingerly raised his body with what strength remained in his arms. His eyes were clearing, but his ears were still screaming from a recent explosion. When he could first take in his surroundings, he noticed Haley, trapped beneath a massive pile of metal, concrete, and sewage from broken lines. His torso was all that stuck out, his whole face bloodied and slicked with sweat and refuse. Pikachu was near Haley, not buried, but still unconscious.

    Still unable to stand, Ash dragged himself over to the man and Pikachu. As he did, he finally looked up. Half buried in the street was the ship he had seen attacking Arrow’s mothership. It was sparking and mangled in every way possible, fuel pouring out of hundreds of cracks and impact points. If Ash was seeing it properly, its front port-side engine block was completely beneath the surface, the remainder sticking into the air outside. He cried out and dropped onto his stomach as it sparked particularly violently, raining embers over his body. None caught on his clothes, all dying on the steel around him.
    Ash continued his purposeful crawl to Haley. Every motion he had to carefully think out, as his body seemed intent upon not obeying even the simplest commands. He reached Pikachu first and shook him awake while enduring another bought of coughing. “Piiii….” Pikachu murmured as his eyes slid open. He, like Ash, was dizzy from being beneath the crash, but seemed to recover much more quickly. He at least was not injured terribly.

    “Climb up and see what’s up there Pikachu,” Ash managed. “Try to find someone to help us.”

    “Pika pi!” his Pokémon answered fervently, carefully navigating his way out of the crash crater in leaps and bounds. Ash was sure Pikachu had escaped when he alighted atop a bent part of hull plating from the ship. Somehow, his minute weight shifted the balance of the ship and it screeched and groaned as it slipped further into the crater, closer to crushing Ash and Haley. Pikachu immediately jumped away from the plating, but the damage had already been done. The ship was continuing to sink, and soon the street would give way completely.

    “Hurry!” Ash shouted, paying for his urgency with involuntary hacking. “And try to find Dawn. I need to know if she’s okay.” Pikachu vanished from the lip of the crater, but returned only a second later, this time with Raichu: Dawn’s Raichu. “Raichu?” Ash asked. “Is Dawn alright?”

    “Rai rai,” the Pokémon shook her head and raised her paws. Dawn had clearly sent her away before anything might have happened. Ash growled to himself, and with no other choice, began trying to shake Haley awake.

    “C’mon Haley!” Ash shoved him. “Hey! Wake up or we’ll be crushed!” He continued to jostle him until fatigue overtook him along with heavier, more prolonged coughing. As his throat burned with the fumes of the dead ship, Ash’s companion awoke.

    “ARGH! DANG!” Haley bellowed out. “Dang! Even my arms are….Oh double dang!” He had found the ship, hovering precariously above them. “Ash, you okay?”

    “No,” Ash answered, giving up a third attempt at standing. “I can’t even stand up. Pikachu and Raichu are above us, but nobody seems to be around.”

    “Of course nobody’s around!” Haley swore. “Anybody nearby was killed when Jerda crashed.” He shouted and turned his face as an explosion racked the ship on the surface, sending loose rubble and fuel onto the pair of them. Ash covered his head with his hands, feeling the fuel add to the collection of fluids coloring them.

    “I have to get you out of here,” Ash said to Haley, refusing to give up. “We have to get out of here.”

    “Not gonna happen,” Haley breathed, squinting as he attempted to move the slabs covering him. “None of this is gonna budge, and that ship’ll come and kill us before we die of exhaustion and dehydration.”

    “Think a little me positively!” said a voice from above. Ash turned to see Xavier’s head peeking into the crater. “We’re comin’, just hang on!” As the trainer’s head receded, Ash could hear the wonderful sounds of sirens. Tires squealed to a stop and men shouted, water spraying Jerda’s doomed vessel soon thereafter. “Okay, we’re comin’ down! Don’t move whatever you do!” Xavier said as a ladder was lowered into the crater. He descended first, followed by the fire crew.

    “Where’s Dawn?” was the first and only thing Ash could ask Xavier when said trainer hoisted him up, supporting him over his shoulders.

    “We don’t know,” Xavier said gravely. “The dead haven’t even been numbered, but Saturn and Nova are both missing as well. We really don’t know what happened to her.” As fire-fighters helped Ash and Xavier out of the crater, all his mind could think of were the worst possibilities. Horrible images of Dawn maimed and dying on a back street somewhere flashed through his mind, followed quickly by her dead body being destroyed by one of Arrow’s Pokémon. He shook his head to clear it, no matter how much it hurt to do so. He could not give up on her, else she was already dead. He had to believe she was alive, and until reality proved him wrong, he would continue to believe it.

    Medics swarmed him and Pikachu the moment he was standing on solid ground, strapping him to a stretcher and loading him into an ambulance before he had even registered surgery already beginning on his injuries. Anesthesia overpowered his thoughts, sending him into dreamless sleep until he was able to move freely once again.

    When Jerda awoke, only one thing initially registered. Arrow took Zoey, was all that seared through his mind. Rage like he had never felt before exploded within. It sat him straight up, unhooking his safety harnesses. But rage had an inseparable quality with it; lack of reason. The awkward angle of the Anubis’s half-buried hull sent him tumbling into the view port glass. He hit the surface hard, causing the first layer to spider-web violently. The jabbing, bruising pain relinquished him from rage’s hold, though his mind was still swirling. He managed stand, his eyes literally scanning the integrity of the command room. He grasped his right visual receptor then, for the details of the scan were displaying only on his left side. A quick brush of his fingers against the cybernetic part told him all he needed to know. The eye was shorted and smashed, completely inoperable. He dare not pluck it out without the proper tools to disconnect it from his nerves, but it could also be leaking deadly operating fluids into his system.

    Zoey’s plight threw his issues with his eye into a far, unimportant corner of his mind. Arrow had taken Zoey, personally and purposefully. His whole plan to disarm Arrow at the hands of an unknown had completely backfired, ending in his own loss. There was no telling what horrors Zoey was presently enduring at Arrow’s hands, and Jerda was powerless to prevent it. He stumbled off the viewport, glancing down at his legs and cursing. They were sparking madly, their cybernetic parts nearly crippled. Nearly every display or command console was throwing sparks wildly as well, and even relatively separated from the rest of the ship in the bridge, Jerda could tell it was unstable.

    He had grabbed a pokéball, Degh’s to be exact, so that his trusted ally might help him break through the viewport, when he was thrown roughly to the opposite wall. A post-crash explosion had rocked the Anubis, and it was now sending him down into whatever crater now housed him. Jerda shook his head and deployed Degh, who looked around critically before noting Jerda’s mangled appearance. “Get us out of here,” he breathed heavily, leaning against a console. “Zoey was taken, and it is all my fault. If anything happens to her…” Degh ignored him for the most part, casting only a sympathetic look before shattering the viewport glass with a Discharge. Degh leapt out gracefully, but Jerda followed with a resounding pound on the exterior hull. His legs had now given out completely, immobilizing him. He was about to pull out Charizard’s ball to carry him off the Anubis’s remains when the welcome sound of sirens greeted his ears. He rolled onto his side, now able to see the damage not only around his burning ship, but to Maximus Town as a whole.

    He cursed himself, for Zoey’s sake, for the town’s sake. He had failed miserably, his worse defeat at Arrow’s hand by far. Maximus Town was little more than a smoldering ruin now, smoke columns billowing from nearly every property. Those streets and surviving buildings still intact were streaked with the dead, the dying, and the blood of the innocent. Both men and women howled with tears as they cradled horribly mangled loved ones they could yet find. Children not yet three years old wandered the gore ridden streets, crying out for parents that were likely dead. Pokémon randomly appeared, either comforting their trainers in a loss, or nosing a dead companion, both human and Pokémon, unable to fully comprehend what had occurred. Maximus Stadium was a crumbling ruin, its stones still crashing into its center from the blasts it had been dealt. To complete Jerda’s image of despondency and failure, stakes bearing Arrow’s standard had been left behind, fluttering horribly in the little wind that carried the smoke higher.

    “Over there!” a man shouted, and Jerda was soon being lowered from the hulking wreck by fire-fighters. Spray from their hoses splashed against his smoke-blackened features, bringing physical relief, but none of the emotional kind. Failure to Zoey was all that perpetuated his thoughts; his audacity had billed him the greatest cost to be had, and his failure in the plan itself only added to the burden. He was lowered onto a stretcher, Degh never leaving his side.

    “We have to find her, Degh,” Jerda said, raspy. It was a strange sound for even him, with his mechanically altered, reverberating voice still present. “We have to avenge them all for our complete stupidity.”

    “Please keep quiet sir,” the fireman said to him, though he could not have heard the words. “The less you talk, the better your throat.” Jerda submitted to him, unable to say anymore in the turmoil of his mind. He silently gazed at the roof of the ambulance, its freakish white the last he saw before an anesthetic was administered to his arm.

    Ash woke to the melancholy, repetitive beeping of a heart monitor, his heart monitor. He sat up with a sharp intake of breath. Wherever he was, he had never seen it before. It was easily a hangar, designed for a massive vessel of some kind and catwalks leading from doors on the upper levels. He looked on either side of him to see one bed empty, another holding Haley. The empty bed had all the medical equipment previously attached to its occupant strewn about, and Ash clumsily followed suit. Not all of his senses had yet returned, and his fingers fumbled with some of the smaller tubes. When he had finally disconnected himself from the devices, he let his bare fee touch the ice-cold concrete. This place was underground, that much he was sure of, as the sun would have warmed the space were the opposite the case. His feet smacked on the stone as he surveyed the lines of the many ill and maimed. The physicians had done a remarkable job cleaning away blood and mercifully amputating limbs so heavily damaged as to be unrecognizable. Nearly every person was still unconscious like Haley, but there were those awake. They had the one privilege Ash was seeking: the comfort of a loved one. Dawn’s soft face and beautiful blue hair were nowhere to be seen, even though he circled the cordoned off medical station of the hangar five times. Pikachu joined him on his third round, but even his more acute senses could not find her. When he hollowly asked a passing physician for a list of the dead, the man could not oblige him, as the list was still being slowly compiled. His walk was now as one dead. The idea that no one might ever know Dawn’s fate shook his soul with such force that he was only able to stare blindly without a single thought flowing through his head. So dazed was he that he abruptly ran into someone as he crossed the medical bay.

    “…Ash…” Brock said sympathetically, for it was indeed Brock. His arm was in a sling, though the rest of him looked relatively unmarred. “How are you Ash?”

    “Dawn’s gone, disappeared, vanished,” Ash said heavily, sitting against a cabinet with Brock. “No one knows where she’s gone, and I can’t even remember what I said to her last.”

    “If no one’s found her, that doesn’t mean she’s gone,” Brock comforted him. “She could be being brought in right now.” Though his words were calming, his tone was tight and concealing, even deceptive.

    “Do you know what’s happened to her?” Ash asked aggressively. “Brock, I can tell. You know somethin’. Tell me! Anything, anything butt his agony of waiting.”

    “I…Ash….” Brock stuttered.

    “Ash,” Jerda said, coming up to them. Both stood, horrified at Jerda’s new appearance. His clothes were all repaired and normal, but his vestiges of humanity had seemingly been stripped away. His face, where skin ought to be, was now revealed to be scored with countless wires of circuitry, and his mechanical eyes were now devoid of their fake coverings. He presented a ghostly figure that matched perfectly with the devastation around him. “Ash,” he said again, his head falling. “I have been stupid, terribly stupid, and have paid a dear price for it.”

    “Arrow could have attacked at any time,” Ash said. “How can you say it was your fault?”

    “Because I arranged it!” Jerda growled, his brows furrowing over his mechanoid orbs. “Dang it Ash, I thought I could use you to bring Arrow down. I intended to bring Arrow into an elaborate trap, and it turns out, I was the one caught.” He proceeded to expound upon the plan, Dawn’s prearranged capture, their separation from one another for that purpose, Nova bringing Saturn to the contest so that Arrow’s goons would be drawn there in the first place, and how they had undoubtedly taken Dawn away, just as he had planned.

    “You damn bastard!” Ash roared uncontrollably. “You might as well have kidnapped her yourself, or killed her for all its worth!” He could not control his body any longer, words were not enough. His fist clenched and it socked Jerda in the jaw, not once, but three times. He would have beaten him more if not for Brock pulling him away.

    “Ash!” Brock yelled at him. “That won’t help anything! You can’t help Dawn by hurting him!”

    “I can at least give him what he deserves!” Ash growled, pulling against Brock’s grasp to get at Jerda once again.

    “I’ve already been dealt my sentence!” Jerda replied, equally loud. “Zoey was taken with them! Do you think that means nothing to me! She was my life once I met her; I’m sure you can understand!” Jerda wiped blood away from his lip, still glaring at Ash. “Don’t think that I haven’t already paid in full! If she were still here, do you think I would have told you of this ‘plan’? No! Things would still be running smoothly, you hot on Arrow’s heels for revenge!”

    “Pikachu! Thunderbolt!” Ash cried, unable to strike Jerda himself. The bolt slammed into Jerda, sending him down on one knee, his mechanical parts surging with excess power.

    “Are you finished Ash?” Jerda asked standing. “I failed, and I’m admitting it. The most we can do now is regroup, begin the chase after them.”

    “You know where they are?” Ash asked, hiding his true emotions of eager intensity behind a wall of barely contained fury.

    “Get dressed and I’ll have someone bring you to a conference room,” Jerda answered, cooling much faster than Ash. “We can discuss our next move there.” He stalked off, and even if he portrayed an air of tactical coolness, Ash could tell he was still suffering from his own loss, and the foolishness that had led to it. It was only this visible strain in Jerda’s gait that kept Ash from rushing after him for more beating after Brock released him.

    “Here, these are yours,” Brock said, throwing him a plain set of clothes from beneath his bed. Ash slipped them on, a white T-shirt, black pants, and the old-black suspenders with pokéball clips. As he handled the suspenders, images of Dawn removing them so lovingly, then their kiss, imprinted themselves on his mind. When he finally returned to the present, his hands were shaking.

    “Did you know Brock?” Ash asked weakly, still staring blankly at the suspenders. “Did you know about Jerda and his…”

    “Yeah,” Brock confessed, turning his head to the ground. “Yeah I knew. I could’ve told you guys, but I actually trusted Jerda when he told me nothing severe would happen. How wrong we both were.” Ash threw off his hospital drape, now ready to leave the massive hangar-like space. Before he and Brock were escorted out, Ash watched as Haley was helped into a wheelchair, his legs amputated and yet to be fitted with cybernetic prostheses. Amazingly, he cruised easily in his chair, catching up to Ash and Brock despite their brisk, stiff pace.

    “I would like to offer my apology Ash,” Haley said. “I was Jerda’s only confident aside from Zoey, so I knew that Dawn was going to be taken. I did nothing to stop him, nor did I tell you, so that you might stop his madness.”

    “Has anybody been truthful with me lately?!” Ash burst out again. “Did everyone want Dawn taken?!”

    “I said only Zoey and myself knew,” Haley said again, maintaining his composure. “No one else. And I’m beginning to wonder if Jerda isn’t slipping into the same brand of insanity that has gripped Arrow for so long. Surely he knew Maximus would be devastated…”

    “You really think it’s insanity?” Brock asked.

    “Now that I see the consequences,” he sighed, motioning both widely and nodding significantly to his stumps. “I am finding it harder and harder to dispute. The old Jerda would never have considered this plan, with the hundreds of possible casualties involved. He is becoming incredibly bent on victory over Arrow.” They entered an elevator, Haley waving away their escort. “And now we can add Zoey’s capture to that instability,” he continued. “He will follow Arrow to the ends of the earth to get her back. But more than that, he will not hesitate to kill and maim to get to her.”

    “It sounds as if he’s becoming more and more desperate,” Brock said.

    “Arrow generally has that effect,” Haley said darkly. Ash took in all their conversation, and he found Haley’s explanation of Jerda’s actions the only one he could accept. He would never be able to reconcile himself to the man if anything other than insanity were responsible for his strategies.
    As the elevator ride was taking longer than usual, he idly glanced at the button panel. He nearly did a double-take when he saw their departure point, the lowest floor of the House. So it had been a hangar of some sort, no doubt the hangar for the ship burning and sinking into the street in Maximus Town. But even more startling, Haley had pressed both the first and second floor buttons for their ascension, and the digital display of their current floor now showed nine. Ten, the highest floor in the House was reached, then passed, moving to eleven, and finally twelve. The doors binged open, and the threesome emerged into a room barely large enough to deserve the name ‘conference’ room. It was however, furnished more grandly than most of its brethren. Light wood paneling lined every wall, even the elevator door, save for the back side, which was taken up by a large HUD display. It was currently blank. The table in the center was of darker wood, probably cherry, and in its center was an elevated, three dimensional carving of the Consortium emblem. Six, high-end office chairs lined either side, with a thirteenth at the head of the table. Jerda was slumped miserably in this chair, and if Ash had not currently hated him, he might have felt pity for him. Well, in actuality, Ash’s character did feel pity for him, but it was simply overshadowed by his anger at the man’s near unforgiveable crimes.

    Sitting around the rest of the table was Evans, looking as sour as always, though this time he had a reason; Xavier, reclined heavily in his seat and looking all but spent; Paul, staring straight ahead, with hollow eyes that bespoke a man shaken to his very being by the brutality he had witnessed; two other men that appeared to be ranking members of the Consortium of some kind, though Ash had never seen them; and finally Mars, or more properly Izzy Loraine: the same girl that had once belonged to Team Galactic. Ash could not comprehend why she was here, and her face revealed much the same surprise and confusion. He only recognized her by her hair, as she had foregone the Galactic dress in favor of tight gray leggings and an equally tight white T-shirt.

    Jerda made no motion to invite them to sit down, but Ash and Brock took seats near Haley, who had shoved a chair away, and Evans. “Is this everyone you wanted Jerda?” one of the unknowns asked. His voice was commanding and stiff, and Ash was further opinionated about his being a commanding officer of some sort.

    “It’ll do,” Jerda said, standing and activating the HUD behind him. The moment it flared to life, scenes from around Maximus Town were displayed. The gore had still yet to be completely cleared and people still mourned openly, but Maximus was already in a sort of recovery mode. Seven of the cameras were filled with images of resting formations of the J ships, at least six formations of four craft. This display of Consortium of strength thus explained Arrow’s hasty retreat. But Jerda seemed uninterested in any of the images. A quick tapping on a remote opened a file of four images. Ash’s stomach lurched. There among the images was a beautiful picture of Dawn, smiling happily out at the crowd. Ash could have sworn she was about to squint in glee. It sent waves upon rolling waves of guilt and drive through his body. If it was the last thing he ever did, he would get her back. But Ash was unable to concentrate upon Dawn for long, for three other images rested with hers. Saturn, Nova, and Zoey were also displayed, with only Saturn scowling. Nova’s cheery smile seemed awkward on her face, as Ash had only ever seen her snobby and superior. “Arrow took these four people yesterday,” Jerda said, his voice wavering only just enough for Ash to catch it. “Three were intended, one was not, but that matters little now. I have called you all here now to give new sets of orders.” Ash jerked involuntarily, and he heard Pikachu growl on his shoulder. They were in no way going to take orders from Jerda, not after what he had done. “Haley, Evans, Admirals Thager and Asmaad, you are staying here in Maximus Town. It needs to be protected and rebuilt before Arrow thinks she has a chance to strike again. Feel free to send small parties out on tips, but the majority of the force stays here.” Haley and Evans nodded, the Admirals saluting. “Paul, Xavier,” Jerda addressed them, and in response, they both turned their heads to face him. “I need you both to return to Sinnoh and find Cynthia and her branch of the Consortium. Tell her that Arrow has struck us a severe blow, and that she may become bolder now.” They nodded like Haley and Evans, but Paul was still expressionless.

    “And what of our families?” Paul suddenly asked. It was the last question Ash had expected, least of all from Paul. “They need to be warned, especially if Arrow finds that we are working with the Consortium.”

    “Admiral Asmaad can send a ship to pick up any family members you need brought here for safety,” Jerda answered. “Just tell him and be done with it.” His last statement was almost bladed, and Ash could feel the resentment emanating from Jerda. His family clearly held no dear memories for him, being that they had not bothered to find him after he ran away. “Brock,” Jerda turned to him, after several murmurs about retrieving family members circled around the room including a request from Ash about his mom. “I need you to go back to Kanto. You and Ash are from there, so Arrow might decide to hit it hard for that. Gather a group of skilled trainers for its defense. You’ll be on your own, as the Consortium has no presence there. Can you handle that?”

    “Sure,” Brock answered to Ash’s surprise. “I already know several people that can help.”

    “Good, now, Ash, Izzy,” Jerda said, his voice now so laden with guilt it was palpable. “I have failed you both as well as myself in this endeavor. I can only attempt redemption, never forgiveness, but I cannot do it alone.”

    “If you’re going after Saturn and the rest, then you’d better believe I’m in,” Mars, or rather Izzy, said.

    “If you think I’d say anything different…” Ash started, but ended without finishing. There was no need he realized, to say more than was necessary in this. “I’m in. When do we start chasin’ her?”

    “As soon as you and your Pokémon are ready,” Jerda replied. “Meet me on the south lawn.” With this final statement, Jerda dismissed the conference room. “Izzy, Ash, wait a moment,” he held them back. They obeyed, albeit reluctantly, but Ash was encouraged by the subtle nod from Brock as he disappeared behind the closing panel of wood. “We will need more than our hands and pokéballs if we are to rescue Zoey, Dawn, Saturn and Nova,” Jerda said. He flipped some sort of switch beneath his end of the conference table, and all the wood panels rotated around. Mounted in an impressive display was every type of weapon imaginable. Ash had only ever seen a gun once, and he had discovered since then that owning one was illegal in Kanto and had been since an ancient event known only as the First and Last War. By the way Jerda’s devices were hidden, he guessed it was illegal for Jerda to possess any one of them.

    “Now this is the stuff,” Izzy said, stepping forward to one wall.

    “Take your pick,” Jerda said, “I’ve already got mine.” He shoved past them both, entering the elevator without a further word.

    “You know how to handle any of these beauties Ash?” Izzy asked, never turning to him as she spoke and delicately took one weapon from the wall.

    “No, I’ve never needed to,” Ash answered almost defiantly. “And I never will. My Pokémon are and always will be enough.”

    “No they won’t,” Izzy replied flatly. “You’ve seen the sort of technology Arrow has at her command. She’ll have these things all over the place, and like it or not, you’ll need one yourself.”

    “No I won’t,” Ash reiterated. “I won’t stoop to her and Jerda’s level.”

    “Please,” Izzy said, “Arrow is far below Jerda in the stooping ladder.”

    “He arranged their capture you know,” Ash felt it necessary to say. “He wanted Dawn to be captured and Saturn was just bait.”

    “It doesn’t surprise me, if that’s what you were aiming for,” Izzy said. She finally turned to face him, having selected a rather large handgun and its accompanying ammunition. She already had it tucked into the back of her pants. “Jerda has orchestrated the downfall of two other organizations, even if one fell just short of success. You don’t think he hasn’t done something like this before?” Ash was unable to reply, and Izzy took an opportunity to continue, “Of course he has. I mean, I’ll admit, this one was his riskiest yet, and everyone in Maximus paid for it, but it’s not like this sort of operation is his first rodeo. Now pick a gun and get onto the south lawn.” She departed huffily, refusing to look at Ash as the elevator closed.

    Now he was alone in the room, the only sound the near-silent buzzing of the HUD. He should have taken Izzy’s advice, choosing a gun and hurrying onto the lawn, but his eyes alighted on Dawn’s picture, so happy and carefree, and he found himself slumping, defeated, into a chair. For the first time since the battle, he let his tears of mourning fall. She was not dead, so he could not entirely explain the tears, but the fact that she was gone, captured by a maniacal woman more than capable of ending her life before he rescued her, tormented him. Ash did not sob, he was not so upset as that, but tears wet the dark cherry wood as he stared at her picture. “Pika pi,” Pikachu said to him, placing a small paw on his hand in comfort.

    “You’re right Pikachu,” Ash said, standing and wiping the tears away. “I have to stay strong for her. I’ve got to. C’mon.” He motioned for Pikachu to rejoin him on his shoulder. “We’re comin’ Dawn,” he said to her picture before swiftly choosing a small handgun and making his way down to the first floor.

    Once Ash descended into the House proper, he found himself hard pressed to walk in a straight line. Consortium soldiers lined every hallway, every outdoor path. They all wore at least three pokéballs, as was to be expected, but well over half also belted visible firearms like the one Izzy had taken. None of the civilians taking refuge in the only surviving building took any offense, as these trainers were their only hope of survival. They administered medicine, food, patched up small wounds, and comforted the mourning with their pokémon’s assistance. If Dawn were still with him, he imagined both of them would be doing exactly the same thing, and he realized how natural Dawn would seem at the task. He was about to tear his eyes away to make for the south lawn when a familiar voice beckoned him. “Rai!” Dawn’s Raichu yelled out, urging them to stop. Ash spun on his heels, waiting for her to make her way through the feet of the heavy traffic.

    “Hey Raichu,” he said heavily to her, patting her on the head. Raichu sent waves of relief through him. She was his last connection to Dawn, and her mere presence helped ease his growing weariness.

    “Rai rai!” she said, suddenly defiant and putting a paw over her chest.

    “Pikaw?” Pikachu replied, having understood details Ash could not.

    “Raichu,” Raichu growled affirmatively stolid. Ash understood her then.

    “You can come,” he said to her. “You’re Dawn’s only Pokémon that wasn’t captured, so you deserve the chance to rescue her as much as I do.” Raichu saluted to the best of her ability, a comical sight by any standards. A smile lit Ash’s lips despite the daunting task before him. Raichu was already lifting his spirits and earning her way into the rescue mission. She bounded along by his side as they walked around the Consortium House’s lawns, ending on the south side. It so happened that the south side was also the field of arenas, perfect for an unassuming departure as no one would be wasting time and energy with pointless competition. At about the middle of the rows rested a vehicle Ash had never seen. It was roughly the size of a large car, but was clearly meant flight, not terrestrial travel. Straight, rectangular wings protruded from its rear section, while additional angled rectangular canards adorned its front. It had no canopy, the cockpit and passenger seats exposed to the air. It’s general design was reminiscent of the sharp design of the Consortium battleships, prompting Ash to wonder whether they were produced by the same manufacturer. Upon coming closer, Ash could tell it could seat four.
    Jerda and Izzy were busy around its back end, loading a few packs into the belly. Ash’s mood was put down again when he saw Jerda hoist a massive, tubular launcher into the cargo hold. A mechanical whirring announced the closing of the hold’s hatch, and Jerda and Izzy made their way around to its side. “Move faster, Ash,” Jerda said bluntly. When he examined Ash more closely he asked, “You aren’t bringing any more than that gun and your Pokémon?”

    “Do I need to bring more?” Ash asked, climbing over the vehicle’s relatively high wall and dropping into a rear seat. Raichu plopped in the seat next to him, Pikachu taking a position between them.

    “No,” Jerda answered. He too entered the vehicle, Izzy taking an overly lady-like stance to climb down next to Jerda. “Keep your hands inside, and take your cap off,” Jerda said before punching a button. Ash obliged him in the area of the hat just as a gurgling, whining, and flame-roaring engine exploded behind him. Another button press and two gun barrels extended from the nose of the vehicle. They were riddled with holes Ash assumed to be battle-damage. Finally, Jerda pulled on a stick between himself and Izzy, increasing the engine’s whine as it lifted the airship off the ground. They cleared the protective wall around the Consortium House and Jerda’s other hand slammed a horizontal handle forward, rocketing the airship forward at insane speeds.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2012
  15. Jerda Foks

    Jerda Foks Ponyville Author

    Welcome fans of this fic and pearlshippers. Chapter seven is here. Please comment on this chapter, as I've taken a direction in the setting that might not have been expected. Still, enjoy.

    Dawn’s eyelids fluttered when she finally regained consciousness. Her first reaction was to check her injuries, but when she rubbed her hand over the torn skin, it was as smooth as a newborn’s flesh. This jolted her fully awake and she jerked her head to confirm that there was indeed no mark upon her arm. Even with her eyes saying the same as the nerves in her fingertips, she ran her hand along her upper arm twice more, just to confirm she was indeed unharmed. With this revelation past, her other sense began collecting vast amounts of information from her new, hostile environment.

    She was in a cell, and a small one, with barely enough room to lay and stretch out in. Its height was similarly claustrophobic, loose strands of her hair brushing its ceiling when she stood. Everything was built or painted, she could not determine which, in a dull metallic gray that was blacker than a shadow when one crossed it. Bars composed two of her walls: thick, concrete bars that her petite hands could not even wrap around fully. With their large size, she could barely fit her fingers through the other side, let alone have enough room to see clearly beyond the cell. A camera with a blinking red light followed her every move from its perch in the upper corner of the two solid walls.

    Her feet had been stripped of her heels, the metal oddly warm, almost hot, beneath her soles. The sounds around her only became pronounced once she had carefully taken in everything she could with her eyes. While her feet created a patting, like a drop of water falling into a small pool, a subtle blasting noise permeated everything. It roared without any signs of wavering, and soon began to drive Dawn’s mind to the brink. She simply could not think with its constant bellow. Covering her ears did nothing to drive it away, as it disturbed the very air around her, creating a slowly building hum in her head if she blocked her ears for too long.

    Two thoughts managed to penetrate the incessant roaring. The first, all of her Pokémon were gone to who knew where, and the second, Ash. Nothing accompanied this simple thought, only memories of the young man she deeply loved. In a way, she was glad of the noise, as it prevented her from dwelling on what might have or might be happening to him. She finally relented to her imprisonment, leaning heavily against one of the solid walls, her head turned to one side and her eyes staring off into empty space. It was this staring alone that seemed to hush the roaring of Arrow’s battleship, though it allowed her nothing else. She sat like that for how long she could not know, but hunger brought her gratingly out of it.

    She clutched her stomach as it pinched and gurgled, unable to do anything to distract from the pain. She winced and bent down, trying to suppress it, but it only grew in intensity. With this added discomfort, the blasting of the engines also seemed to gain volume, further adding to her discomfort. “I need food!” she finally wailed, unable to bear it any longer. She hoped the camera transmitted audio as well as video, but hours passed and no one came. In the ensuing solitary confinement, Dawn began to break apart. At first it was nothing more than a simple tear, but this released a floodgate of emotion born of exhaustion, hunger, fear, and anxiety. She did not cry openly, she did not have the energy, but her tears rolled none-the-less, creating small puddles on the floor that seemed unable to absorb any liquid. As tempting as it was, she did not drink her salt-saturated tears, though the presence of water of any kind only heightened this need.

    If her tears accomplished anything, they drained her of her last reserves of strength, allowing her lay across the floor in peace, eyes closing for sleep. It did not take long, her roaring prison actually lulling her into dreams that never happened. But the moment she had fallen asleep, she felt she was being woken. This was of course not the case, as she had regained some energy. What had brought her back to the waking world quickly revealed itself. There was quiet beeping occurring in evenly spaced intervals until a rapid string of rings announced success. The two imposing walls of bars slid one into the floor, the other into the ceiling. What awaited her made her gasp audibly.

    Three men, faces impassive, came forward, bearing two cushions and a tray of delicious, gourmet dishes. They all wore the same uniform, unlike Jerda’s Consortium trainers, who only identified themselves with a necklace bearing a pendant of the Consortium symbol. The uniform itself was as drab as the prison around her, a light grey suit with black tie, light grey slacks, lopsided black beret, and acid green patches of varying size and shape. They were clearly a more organized military force than the Consortium, which might explain their victory in Maximus Town. But Dawn was not given the opportunity to linger on this subject, for the tray and cushions had been set for two, not one, and her guest soon revealed herself.

    Arrow Minnow was everything Dawn had not imagined her to be. She was incredibly tall, taller than the soldiers around her, and incredibly feminine. She wore a long, flowing violet dress with frilly white hems and white dress gloves. Her face was not lined or scarred, in fact, it was near flawless. This amazed Dawn only for a moment, and she remembered how she had somehow healed the wound on her arm, not a trace of the injury left. This unnatural beauty aside, Arrow’s face was soft; pearly silver eyes seeming to light the dull room in which she stood. Her lips smiled with faint purple lipstick, and her hair was a curly, jade-like green, flowing around her face. She sat comfortably on the cushion opposite Dawn, delicately removing her gloves and laying them ever so neatly to the side. “Well come here and sit,” she said lightly. Her voice also flew in the face of Dawn’s assumptions. It was incredibly high pitched, causing Dawn to jump in surprise. Beneath this girlish sound though was a silky smoothness, a refinement beyond any voice Dawn had ever heard. But with this careful formality came the unmistakable layer of insanity. Even if Dawn had not been in Arrow’s presence, not known it was Arrow speaking, she would have assumed the voice to be that of a mental patient. So alien it was, that Dawn stayed well away from Arrow, despite the luring smells of warm food. “Am I overdressed?” Arrow asked when Dawn had still not come to the tray. “I assumed since you looked so nice it was only proper I should try to be just as pretty.”

    “Stay away from me…” Dawn breathed, forcing herself farther into the opposite corner; eyeing Arrow with fear and apprehension.

    “Mm,” Arrow murmured, glancing at Dawn once again before taking her knife and fork to begin eating whatever was on the plate. “You really should take a taste of this,” she said, just as she swallowed her third, dainty bite. “I had it shipped to me just for this little occasion.”

    “What is it?” Dawn asked, if only to give herself more time away from Arrow.

    “An ancient bird,” Arrow answered. “It lived in abundance in the times before Pokémon, but is now a delicacy wherever you travel. I do unfortunately forget the name.”

    “It’s meat?” Dawn asked, horrified and disgusted. No one ate meat in modern times. It was unfathomable, slaughtering a Pokémon simply for food. Then again, Arrow had said her meat was not of a Pokémon, not that Dawn believed her.

    “Yes it is,” Arrow replied. “You should come taste some. My chefs did a remarkable job with so rare an ingredient.”

    “No,” Dawn said simply.

    “Well,” Arrow said, clearly disappointed, and more quietly dangerous because of it, “I guess we should skip right to the point then.” Dawn held her silence. She was not, under any circumstances, going to help Arrow wheedle information out of her, no matter how inconsequential. “You are a smart girl Dawn,” Arrow said, crazy mirth gathering in her tone. “But I am smarter. For instance, I know that you are very close to that boy, Ash Ketchum.” She smiled evilly as Dawn’s face contorted from dread. Arrow was sticking the dart in the bulls-eye without any effort. “Yes, you are very close to him,” Arrow repeated, chuckling openly now. It was a distorted laugh, brought about by joy in suffering rather than joy in happiness or love. “I also happen to know Jerda will help him come after you, and I know where, when, and how they will fail.” She stopped to study Dawn’s face, but she kept it as blank of emotion as possible, despite the raging inferno of feelings inside her. “You can help them though,” Arrow continued, her smile smirking for a moment. “If you obey me, do what I say until that moment,” Arrow paused, allowing Dawn to be tortured by her words, “then I will not kill you before them. I will do it somewhere…private.”

    “You can take your offer to hell when Ash sends you and your whole army into the ground,” Dawn replied as fiercely as her empty and starving body would allow. “You don’t know Ash, and you never will.”

    “You are so wrong sweetheart,” Arrow said sweetly, taking Dawn’s chin in a firm grip impossible for such slim fingers. “I know everything about revenge.” She threw Dawn’s chin to the side, barked an order for her soldiers to clean away the tray and cushions, and left as inconspicuously as she had come. Her soldiers obeyed immediately, and Dawn was once again locked away with only the roaring engines for company.

    Ash adjusted his oxygen mask again for what seemed like the billionth time. The instant Jerda had rocketed the small airship forward, he had climbed into the thinner atmosphere, forcing all present to use the masks. Pikachu and Raichu had more difficult with theirs, especially Pikachu, as the mask was almost as big as half his body. But Ash could not deny how uncomfortable they were, even for him, what with the way they suctioned around his face and strapped to the back of his head. In reality, the masks were the least of his discomforts. The chilled and blasting wind ate his face red and raw, forcing him to wince with even a slight motion of his head. The cold itself was numbing, even with the heated seat he occupied. Adding to all of this was Jerda’s stoic manner and Izzy’s completely opposite chattiness.

    The masks had receivers in them, while a single earpiece allowed them to hear one another. Every few minutes, Izzy would ask either of them something, and while Ash attempted to oblige her at first, he gradually took Jerda’s stance of silence or limited responses. He was sick of them both only two hours into the flight, and had no idea when or where they would be touching down. Night descended and they had only landed to relieve themselves, immediately climbing again to the chilled altitudes. Jerda was merciful in one respect; for when the sun no longer provided them what little warmth was to be had, he increased the heat generated by the seats. Ash supposed this was just enough to keep them from freezing over, but he welcomed the extra warmth nonetheless.

    The night provided Ash with no rest, and his hunger had increased beyond its already incessant desire for food with pinching pains and loud gurgles. When the sun finally appeared on the horizon, Jerda spoke up. “Take some syringes from Izzy and hit yourself and those two Pokémon with the meds inside,” Jerda’s already distorted voice crackled in the earpiece. Ash fumbled to move smoothly as Izzy passed the needles back to him, not completely trusting his own ability to inject himself or the Pokémon properly.

    “Oh lord,” Izzy’s voice was magnified by the coms, as she sighed upon seeing Ash’s shaking hands. “Give them here,” she snapped, snatching the syringes away. She was faster with the process than Ash had anticipated, and he yelped slightly as the needle burrowed under his skin. Pikachu and Raichu were better prepared, not even wincing as Izzy gave them the injection. Whatever concoction was in the needles, Ash adored it. It carried an intense heat through every blood vessel in his body, warming him from the inside out. However, this appeared to only be a welcome side effect, for within seconds of its entering his system, Ash’s hunger vanished and his vitality began returning.

    “What is that?” Ash asked, not caring whether Izzy or Jerda answered.

    Predictably, it was Izzy who spoke up, “It’s a nutrient mix that carries all the nutrients you need for a day as well as a chemical that fools your stomach into thinking its full.”

    “Why don’t more people use it then?” Ash asked, amazed that such a miracle solution was not given out to people in need of food.

    “Because it doesn’t stop your stomach from producing acid,” Jerda nearly growled, as if this was common knowledge every person should understand. “And unless you put food among that acid, it will eat through your stomach lining and kill you.” Ash chose not to reply, if only not to hear Izzy or Jerda’s voices any longer. Another mindless hour passed, another hour of freezing pain, and Ash was finally drifting off to sleep when the airship angled sharply to the right. Jerda was rotating the vehicle a near ninety degrees to make the turn, eliciting an angry and shocked scream from Ash. He could feel his entire body attempting to fall from the craft, only the harness keeping him secure. The engine whining had also gained pitch, adding to Ash’s sense of danger.

    It was over as quickly as it had begun, Ash’s weight resettled in the seat and the engine returning to a cruising power level. He was about to shout Jerda’s ears off for lack of warning when he caught sight of a massive shadow beginning to eclipse their tiny ship. The shadow blotted out the sun, and Ash was able to look upon its caster. Shaking past them was a monstrous vessel, easily the size of Arrow’s mothership, maybe even larger. It was difficult to determine its color, silhouetted against the sun as it was, and Ash could only just see its shape. Its engines roared so loudly as to shake his entire body, giving a sort of triple vision. The cruiser was roughly shaped like a spear head, no visible viewports or weapons adorning its sides. It was clearly an innocent cargo vessel. “Get used to maneuvers like that,” Jerda said, also stating without words that arguing and shouting at him for them would be pointless and dangerous. “As we come closer to SkyTop City, more and more of those ships will be in our way.”

    “What are they?” Ash asked, watching in amazement as the gargantuan vessel cruised steadily past them.

    “It’s a pizza delivery ship,” Izzy grumbled sarcastically. If Ash had not known better, he would have sworn Jerda hissed into his com. Apparently, Ash really did not know better, for Izzy became rigid as if she had heard it as well.

    “Those are cargo vessels,” Jerda answered Ash after a long pause in which said ship had become no more than a black dot in the distance. “They service the world through the SkyTop Citites, the only docking ports for ships of that size.”

    “And we’re headed to Unova’s?” Ash asked, only for confirmation.

    “Yes,” Jerda replied, clearly ending the conversation. Night came upon them again, and this time, Ash hugged Pikachu close to his body. This was as much for the little electric type’s well-being as Ash’s own survivability. Their shared body heat would have helped both sleep, but Jerda’s word about the increasing presence of cargo ships was true. The constant swerves and dives Jerda made to keep their seemingly insignificant craft from being smashed to bits on the pointed nose of a cargo vessel always jerked Ash awake. They were far apart enough to allow Ash to become drowsy, but too close together to allow his mind to completely rest. Raichu alone seemed to enjoy the roller-coaster-like motions, throwing her paws into the air the moment the ship dived.

    Dawn was just peaking over the horizon the next morning when Ash physically felt Jerda slow their ship. He instinctively leaned to the side to see around Izzy and Jerda, and was silenced by the sight before him. SkyTop City, Unova appeared to be floating lazily in the orange and yellow clouds of dawn. The majority of the city rested upon a circular disk set between two spires, one facing the heavens, the other, the earth. The lower spire was riddled with engines which randomly spouted gushing flames. The upper spire, by contrast, had been built for beauty. It was plated in what appeared to be gold, though Ash knew that to be an impossibility. All along its front surface, a full, single pane of glass extended from top to bottom, vanishing into the city at its base. And yet despite this image of beauty, SkyTop City emanated evil. It was not the sort of evil Ash had come to associate with people like Saturn, Cyrus, or Arrow and Jerda, but the sort that is more a presence than a feeling. The very air seemed infected by whatever lurked within SkyTop City. Ash watched the cargo ships, now appearing dainty beside the sprawling, airborne metropolis. They docked with the edges of the disk, which was home to no buildings other than incredible warehouses. Oversized clamps grabbed the ships as hundreds of ramps extended from their hulls. It finally came to Ash, watching the cargo containers being unloaded by machines and humans alike, what the specific evil he sensed embodied. In a word, it was corruption, and not just of the mental sort. The very air itself was unsafe to breathe.

    As Jerda angled for a landing far removed from any of the unloading cargo vessels, Ash was able to see the city in greater detail. Its underside was riddled with antennae of varying sizes and shapes, the disk thick enough to be two stories tall in its own right, with viewports all around its interior. The buildings in the city proper, while appearing grand from a distance, were far removed from that picturesque scene. They were crippled with rot, dirtied by poisonous atmospheric fumes, and left to die in the sky above the rest of the world. Ash had truly never seen a more depressing sight. Jerda’s airship pulled in atop the disk, alighting on its very edge. Ash was beginning to stand, just being able to stretch his legs, when Jerda grabbed his shoulder roughly and pushed back into his seat. Ash glared at Jerda, throwing all his hatred for the man into his eyes. “There are several things you should know about SkyTop first,” Jerda said, indeed hissing this time. “First and most importantly, never remove your mask. Not when you’re out here, not when you’re inside, not when you’re sleeping. The lack of air combined with the its poisoned state would kill you almost instantly. Second!...” He almost shouted this, as Ash had been about to say all of that was common sense. “Second,” Jerda repeated, moving back to his hushed hissing, “Always wear this.” Jerda tossed him a heavy towel from somewhere in the cockpit. “The disk may be enough to keep you warm, but the sun at these altitudes will burn your face off.”

    “Why didn’t it during our flight?” Ash retorted before Jerda could stop him.

    “Where do you think the heat in the seats came from idiot,” Izzy said, for some reason miffed. “The ship absorbed it, stored it, and released it to warm your body.”

    “There is no such system here,” Jerda said. Ash nodded, though he would have much rather kept his head straight, and threw the towel over his cap, shielding his arms, head, and face in darkness. Jerda gave both Pikachu and Raichu towels as well, and continued speaking while Ash adjusted the makeshift garments on the two Pokémon. “Keep your gun visible at all times. There is no law here other than that of the tooth and fang. Also, you’ll need to wear these since your pokéballs are out in the open.” The moment Ash had finished with Pikachu and Raichu, he was presented with an odd electronic box. It was just large enough to be strapped to his waistband without being uncomfortable, and had two silver wires sticking out either end. “Strap it to the front of your pants and line your suspenders with the wire,” Jerda instructed coldly. Ash did so, discovering that the wires were in some sort of reel on the inside of the box.

    “What do they do?” Ash asked.

    “Electrocute unwanted hands,” Jerda replied before smacking the box and jumping out of the ship. He had clearly turned it on, for as Ash climbed from the ship with the Pokémon close behind, he could hear the faint hum of the wires.

    “Keep quiet,” Izzy added to Ash as the trio began a long trek toward an abandoned warehouse.

    “Only if Jerda holds it together the way I want it,” Ash replied to her.

    “What?” Izzy stopped, turned and asked him, like she could not believe her ears.

    “I’m not in this for Jerda and his war,” Ash elaborated, stopping with her. “I’m in this for Dawn and Zoey. They’re the reasons I came on this mission. I couldn’t care less about Jerda’s problems. Arrow falls into that category. As far as I’m concerned, he can end this thing like he began it, alone.” Ash had finally spoken his true feelings, and it felt like a great weight had been lifted off his shoulders. He shoved a shocked Izzy out of his way, intending to catch Jerda. Of course, not all of what he had said was true. He did indeed care about Jerda’s Arrow problem, but not for Jerda’s sake. He only cared because of the terrors he had seen the woman mercilessly inflict upon Maximus Town. For some reason, he did not despise her for taking Dawn, as Jerda had had thought he might. Arrow took her not to hurt him, at least not at first, but to hurt Jerda. Dawn was such a proficient battler, no doubt Arrow targeted her as a high-ranking member of the Consortium.
    Ash shoved thoughts of Dawn from his head with a shake and grunt. It was too distracting and painful to dwell on her for too long.

    He had by now caught Jerda, who was pulling open the hangar doors single-handedly. It should have been an impossible task for one man, but Jerda’s inhuman strength made it look effortless. The warehouse was spotlessly empty. Ash took this with his usual apprehension. This area of mass storage felt no different than the rest of SkyTop, so he approached it the same way. Jerda seemed equally cautious, his mechanical eyes whirring as they darted from side to side. A quick glance revealed him to have one hand inside his coat, likely on a pokéball, and the other on his weapon. Ash mimicked him after disarming his electric box, though he removed his hand from the unfamiliar gun after only a few seconds of contact. Only when they had entered the warehouse’s center did Jerda relax. “Come out Nickel!” Jerda bellowed. His voice was cut short as a freighter docked very near them. “Come out Nickel,” Jerda repeated, this time with more force. “I know you’re in here! Don’t make me do like last time!”

    “Alright, alright!” a wheezing voice replied from somewhere on the catwalks around the warehouse. Ash’s head spun wildly trying to find the source, but he could not even hear the padding of feet upon wire planks. He instinctively removed a pokéball when the man revealed himself, somehow having come down the staircase without being seen. He was a complete and utter wreck. His hair was white and streaked with excess oil, his face lined and pocked by age and smoking. One eye was blank with a heavy cataract while the other was a dulled green. His gait was definitely of one weary and weak, stooped over almost completely. His attire was grimy, Ash unable to tell what color anything might have been. In his hand was a cigarette, still burning, but on his pant leg was a long knife: perhaps the only thing about his person that seemed well kept. No Pokémon were with him in any form. Somehow, he was breathing without a mask. “No need for you to go burning the place down again,” he huffed, ambling to the best of his ability. Behind Ash, Izzy tutted her dissaproval.

    “You’re not wearing a mask Nickel,” Jerda said to him, cold as he had been since the battle in Maximus Town. “Are you trying to kill yourself?”

    “Yes!” Nickel replied overly loud, evidence to a slight drunkenness. “Im tryin’ to leave.”

    “Well you can’t yet Nickel,” Jerda said. “I need you again.”

    “Not that blasted Arrow girl again!” Nickel burst out, angry.

    “Yes, Arrow,” Jerda answered, unresponsive to Nickel’s drunken outburst. “She has done the unforgiveable one last time.” That sounds more like you Jerda, Ash thought darkly. “I need to find her ship, Miasma.”

    “And you think I can help you…Ha!” Nickel burst into maniacal and hysteric laughter.

    “I know you can help me Nickel,” Jerda said, his tone now becoming irritated for lack of patience. “Does this encourage you?” He unclipped the strap and Ash saw the gun. Jerda’s hand was rising and Ash was glad he now had his pokéball already out.

    “Infernape! Mach Punch!” Ash yelled. Infernape materialized and darted forward, knocking the gun cleanly from Jerda’s hand. “Those are a last resort!” he shouted at Jerda. He hated guns, he now knew beyond a shadow of a doubt. It was something of an irrational fear and hate, but they sent chills down his spine whenever he saw or touched one. Something in them was so calculating and dishonorable; and Ash could not stand it. Jerda’s hand was clenched, furious that Ash had interfered with his methods of persuasion. “Infernape return,” Ash said quietly, remembering that no living thing should be outside for long.

    “Wuzzat a Pokémon?” Nickel stared, completely oblivious to the darts of mutual hatred passing between Jerda and Ash. “Are yoa trainer?” Nickel slurred.

    “Yes, I am,” Ash replied, never taking his eyes from Jerda’s mechanical ones.

    “Strange to see a trainer up this far,” Nickel remarked.

    “What do you care Nickel?” Jerda asked, disengaging his orbs from Ash and retrieving his lost weapon.

    “Must be somethin’ purtty serious for a trainer to come runn’n,” Nickel said. “What’d Arrow do kid?”

    “She took…some people,” Ash answered. If Jerda was driven to threatening this man with a gun, either Jerda was near a complete mental breakdown, or Nickel was more than what he appeared. While the former was not entirely out of the equation, Ash considered the latter when answering Nickel.

    “Hmm,” Nickel nodded, now appearing rather sober. “Tell you what…” he said, attempting to stand and reaffirming that he really was drunk. He stumbled, eyes widening and blinking multiple times as if to clear his head. He shook it, then continued speaking. “I’ll help you guys, but only ‘cause I need to have somethin’ to get me out of this hell-hole so I die faster.” He cackled at his own humor. Ash knew immediately he was lying, and that for some reason, his being a trainer had something to do with Nickel’s change of heart.

    “Fine,” Jerda said. “But you’d better come at the usual time. I won’t send someone after you.”

    “Aw, c’mon Jerda,” Nickel moaned. “Who else has the stuff I got?”

    “I’m sure I could find somebody,” Jerda said, stalking out of the warehouse, Ash following close behind. Izzy cast Nickel one last distasteful look before turning her back as well.

    “Who is he?” Ash hissed at Jerda once they were on a deserted path into the city.

    “Don’t talk to me like that Ash,” Jerda replied wearily. The threat did not escape him.

    “And why not?” Ash asked, deciding to ignore it. “I’ve got more right to talk to you like that than any other being on this planet.”

    “I’d just rather not listen to you right now,” Jerda said, still refusing to look at him. “Maybe I’ll listen when you can keep yourself out of my business.”

    “If you’re talking about the gun,” Ash gritted his teeth, “then you need to get a grip. Like I said, these things are a last resort.”

    “Not here,” Jerda growled, finally looking at him. “Pokémon don’t exist here Ash. They just don’t. It’s too noxious, too virulent. That’s why Nickel changed his mind. Any trainer crazy enough to be up here means that something serious is happening.”

    “But Pikachu and Raichu were out,” he said, motioning down to the two beside him and on his shoulder. “If the Pokémon were the reason, he would have never had to change his mind.”

    “Oh stop arguing you two,” Izzy sighed. “It’s the difference between using a gun and using a Pokémon to get your point across. That’s what changed Nickel’s mind.” Ash assumed this was what Jerda had been trying to say, as it made much greater sense. He glanced down at Raichu and across his shoulder at Pikachu. They were both still breathing easily, but he desperately wanted them both in the safety of pokéballs. If the atmosphere was so toxic as to prevent Pokémon from living here, it was a terrible place to make one’s livelihood. He could barely imagine a world without Pokémon, a world like what Cyrus had been trying to create. Was SkyTop City an ominous beacon of that kind of world? It certainly had a feel of a city devoid of wholeness and perhaps the absence of Pokémon was the source of that feeling.

    Ash continued along this train of thought as they entered the shadow of the grimy buildings. It was better than looking at them anyway. However, as Jerda moved deeper and deeper, Ash was finally forced to examine his surroundings for the stench alone. It was a mixture of fermenting refuse and engine fumes. The mixture was toxic clearly, and even though his mask filtered out the actual contaminants, their smell penetrated. He knew he would vomit before the day was out if he was to be constantly surrounded by this hovel. People were as rare as Pokémon it seemed, for Ash saw not a soul as they wandered through the extensive city streets. No doubt they were all holed up in their homes. Those at least would offer some relief from the tortuous conditions outside. Jerda finally turned down an alley and entered a small door without a mark. It had once been a vivid red, but was now duller than dried blood.

    The moment Ash stepped inside the house, he immediately understood the lack of people outside. The smell still permeated the air, corruption still colored everything around him, and the air still remained toxic, but Ash could remove the towel over his head. He had not noticed how hot it had become over the course of the sun’s rising, but now safe from its punishing rays, he felt cool relief washing over him. Jerda and Izzy also removed their towels, laying them upon a small coffee table.

    However, upon closer examination of their lodging, Ash would have taken the heat of the sun any day. Everything was coated in a layer of dust so thick it was becoming visible like snow. Even the floor shared this attribute. Everything was drab from age, deterioration, and neglect. Nothing came in the form of decoration except the coffee table and four beds. As far as the beds were concerned, Ash would sooner sleep on the floor. But Jerda seemed to care for none of this. He moved purposefully to a portion of what would have been the kitchen wall (it was completely devoid of appliances of any kind) and tapped it. The wall flared to life, bright even beneath its layer of grime. Jerda carelessly brushed this layer of filth away, revealing an HUD exactly like the one in the Consortium House. Only this one did not display security camera feeds.

    Research covered every inch of the screen, some text so small Ash would have had trouble reading it only inches away from the HUD. Schematics of multiple cargo vessels were also present, as well as a detailed layout of Arrow’s X-shaped Miasma. “What’s all this stuff?” Izzy asked, her curiosity getting the better of her. Ash followed her, but decided to let her ask the questions from here on unless absolutely necessary. It seemed that anything that passed between himself and Jerda usually ended in an argument. He did not have the time nor the energy to waste on such ridiculousness.

    “Things you need to study until you’ve memorized them,” Jerda answered. “This in particular,” he added, expanding the layout of the Miasma to cover the entire screen. “It’ll do us no good if you get lost on board.”

    “What’s Nickel for if you’ve got all this stuff?” Izzy asked, her voice preoccupied as she examined the schematic.

    “Nickel can give us access to SkyTown’s logs,” Jerda replied. “Arrow will have had to refuel and repair here before we ever arrived. In order to gauge whether she’s heading further north to Sinnoh or south to Hoenn, I’ll need the logs of her load. Based on what she took on board, it’ll tell us where she went.”

    “But a ship as big as hers wouldn’t go unnoticed, even here,” Ash was unable to hold back. “Surely somebody could just be asked…”

    “This is one of Arrow’s favorite haunts,” Jerda interrupted. “She will have people all over the place that would attempt to mislead us if we asked. Just trust me to find her my way, I’ve done it several times before.”

    “Trust you…” Ash scoffed. “It’s nice to know you really care about Dawn and Zoey. Last I checked, when we ‘trusted’ you, Arrow murdered nearly a whole town and they were captured. Ya know, it wouldn’t be so bad if you’d just admit you don’t love Zoey and that Arrow’s death is your passion.” He had hurt Jerda the most he could imagine, decent pay back for what he had done to everyone around him. Before things erupted into full blown fighting, Ash stalked out of the house grabbing his protective towel, just to have a moment alone. Pikachu and Raichu followed, but Ash did not mind their presence. Jerda really did love Zoey, Ash knew that. He would not be so on edge all the time if that were not the case. But it was Jerda’s request, “Trust me.” That had been the first of many final straws Ash was sure.

    In truth, he had not been expecting anyone save the electric types join him outside. For that reason, he started when the door creaked open. Izzy stepped out, sitting comfortably by him. She said nothing at first, a boon to Ash. “You could at least try working together,” Izzy finally said. “I mean, you and Jerda are looking for the same thing, so it shouldn’t be too difficult.”

    “It’s just him,” Ash confessed. “He…he wanted me to be in pain. He wanted to use it for his ultimate goal. It was only after Arrow hurt him the same way that he told me. Nothing would have changed otherwise…I just can’t reconcile with someone that can watch another person in pain and only see how they can use it.”

    “But he’s seeking redemption,” Izzy said. “That should count for something. That and he does love that red-head.”

    “I know,” Ash sighed. “It’s just gonna take a lot to convince me that he really is sorry.”

    “Give it time, and trust…” Izzy began, but Ash glared at here for using that term. “…and trust,” she reiterated, “that he can find Arrow. As I said back in Maximus, this isn’t his first rodeo.” Ash nodded, acknowledging that she was indeed right.

    “Why did he drag you into this?” Ash asked her after a time. He still was not ready to go back in with Jerda, but sitting in silence stroking Pikachu and Raichu was only calming for a time.

    “Me?” Izzy asked. “I got dragged in because of that dolt Saturn.” Ash was surprised to hear her talk so negatively of Saturn. He had been senior among them, so perhaps she had some jealousy of him, though that did not explain why she would be so critical. “Jerda knows that there are Galactic soldiers still loyal to Saturn,” Izzy continued. “It’s why he has to be locked up at all times, so he doesn’t rally an army. But, in this case, it might be good to have an army on our side with the Consortium occupied protecting Maximus. Jerda thinks I can bring together Galactic soldiers to help rescue Saturn if it comes to that.”

    “You can’t, can you?” Ash asked, reading her face.

    “No,” Izzy said plainly. “I really came to rescue that girl, Nova.”

    “Nova?” Ash asked; now it was his turn to be perplexed.

    “Yeah,” Izzy said. “She’s the only family I have left. Cyrus…Cyrus didn’t like us commanders having any family to distract us, so he had them murdered when we graduated to that rank.” Despite not being surprised, Ash was disgusted by the very thought of the action. “I knew that when I accepted the post. I hated my family then, not so much now that they’re not here anymore. But Nova was related to my mother’s brother. A niece of his or something. She lived here, in SkyTop City, under pathetic foster parents. Cyrus didn’t think it worth his resources to kill her, so she survived. Jerda found her on one of his trips here and saw some sort of potential in her. He took her back with him and gave her over to John Haley for training.”

    “Does she know you’re related to her?” Ash asked.

    “No,” Izzy replied. “I’ve been out on parole, unable to leave my house except with express permission. That’s how Jerda got me out, asking the court for permission.”

    “Does Nova mean a lot to you?” Ash asked curious and unsure of the answer.

    “More than anything else now, seeing as I have no-one anymore,” Izzy replied, a tear leaking from her eye and running down the surface of the mask. At first, Ash was moved with pity, but it was immediately replaced by apprehension. This was Izzy Loraine, Mars, he was talking to. Maybe Nova and her were related, but did not mean she cared anything for it. Izzy was the master of bluffs and deception.

    “Stop cryin’, I know they’re fake,” Ash decided to say, whether he was right or not.

    Izzy swore, the tears immediately stopping, and she looking at him with complete satisfaction. “Well,” she said, “about how much do you think was truth.”

    “Everything up until the tears,” Ash said.

    “You’re getting better,” she said. “But even though Nova and I are related that way, she doesn’t mean that much to me. I came on this mission to escape parole, nothing more. If I’m going to come out this thing alive and with that goal intact, I need you and Jerda to be able to work together. Think about what I said, I meant it.” And she was gone, gone back inside. Ash was still not ready to go back, so he sat, rubbing his two Pokémon between the ears and thinking just as Izzy had suggested.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2012
  16. ChloboShoka

    ChloboShoka Writer

    I thought that both of the new chapters were really good. So intense, I didn't expect Dawn to get kidnapped and I got pulled in by some of the good dialogue and plot twists here and there. It's made me worry for both Dawn and Ash in the new chapters.
  17. Jerda Foks

    Jerda Foks Ponyville Author

    Dawn's kidnapping was something I knew would happen from the beginning, so I'm glad it wasn't completely transparent in the chapters leading up to it. I have to ask, really anyone who reads this, how did you react to my descriptions of Arrow? I knew how I wanted her to be emotionally and mentally, but her physical appearance was something I struggeld with longer than you want to know.
  18. Yuppirox

    Yuppirox hello

    I really like Arrow. Not just her personality but her looks as well. You described her pretty darn well and the image I got of her was of someone with power and grace with a very menacing aura surrounding her.

    Your strong points in writing I must admit is in writing descriptions and it shows, not just with your characters but with your settings as well. SkyTop City sounds amazing. From afar I imagine it looks quite picturesque and awe-inspiring but once Ash and company got closer the stench and toxic air it houses is enough to hazard readers of how dangerous it is to live there. It has to be one of the most original settings I've ever read to tell you the truth.

    I also like how you're fleshing out Mars' character. She's still the same insane Galactic Commander we all know and love (hate? haha) yet there's this small bit of depth to her that's intriguing as well. I'll be honest, I had the same sentiments as Ash: I believed her until the waterworks came. She's so conniving and you captured her perfectly here.

    Oh, and if you're still worrying about if the gore turns me off, I'll just say I've read fics that are just as bad - if not worse - than what you've written. xD;;
  19. Jerda Foks

    Jerda Foks Ponyville Author

    To Yuppirox: Originality is something I'm alwasy striving for in my work, and since I'm a major sci-fi geek, I've got no shortage of ideas in that department. Glad you liked both Arrow and Mars (Izzy Loraine, what'd you think of that real name?), and to you all I hope you like the new installment.
    Ash remained outside for at least an hour more, but this time with purpose. He was trying to convince Pikachu to return to his pokéball. Raichu he could not recall, as Arrow had her ball, but at least Ash could keep Pikachu away from the SkyTop air. Despite Ash’s varied and many methods of approach, Pikachu flatly refused to be sent into the ball. Raichu apparently thought it funny, as she watched their exchanges with an amused expression on her face. “Pikachu,” Ash finally said firmly. “Anything could happen and you could lose your mask. You’d be dead before we could get it back on. I’m not risking it. Besides, it’s only until we get out of here.” Something in what Ash said appeared to placate Pikachu, even if he scowled heavily as the plasma burst sucked him inside the ball. “Okay Raichu,” Ash said, standing, one hand on the door. “Let’s take a look at that ship.” He came back inside the house, wandered into the kitchen, and was met by Jerda. “I’m sorry,” Ash said immediately. “I know I was wrong, just don’t ever ask me to trust you, not after what you’ve done.”

    “If that’s the way you want it…” Jerda replied, holding out a hand. Ash at first thought he meant for him to shake it, but closer examination revealed Jerda to be giving him something. Ash took a data pad, its LED screen lighting beneath the touch of his fingers. “That has all the things that were on the HUD,” Jerda said, and walked into one of the secluded bedrooms. Ash immediately began taking in the layout of the Miasma. He plopped onto the floor, his landing softened by the dust. The ship was a myriad of passages all interconnected for various uses. The halls were labeled per their destination or function, allowing Ash to locate the brig easily. It was strategically placed near the engine room, which was, consequently, placed near a barrack known as PB-24. More haunting, Arrow’s own personal quarters were only three floors above this barrack.

    The data pad had little more than a blueprint-like sketch of the interior, and Ash cursed this simplicity. If he was to be gallivanting around an enemy stronghold, he needed to know the details of a hall, not just its direction. This aside, there was nothing on how the brig had been constructed, how the cells were arranged, or even what security system was used to keep the prisoners inside. These were all things Ash could not second-guess, and he was hoping either Izzy or Jerda knew more than what the data pad showed.

    But beyond the brig and its surrounding levels and barracks, Ash began tracing a path to an exit/entrance. He was dismayed to find that the Miasma had only a single entry ramp, albeit a large one. There was no other way in or out of the ship, and when Ash delved into research on the hull’s weaknesses, he quickly realized boring through the armor plating would be impossible. So Arrow had cleverly created a choke point entrance, preventing enemies from sneaking aboard her prize vessel. However, Ash was not one simply to give up based upon what was presented to him. Battling had taught him to think on his feet and also constantly reminded him that there is never only one solution. He backtracked to his study of the brig, and instead of finding a path that led to the ship’s exit, found one that led to the engine room. He zoomed the image out, hoping that what he was looking for did indeed exist. A quick search proved him correct. From the engine room, emergency access hatches led to the Miasma’s underside, where battle repair technicians could work on the engines even as the vessel flew. They were the perfect way out, relatively unguarded, and easy to slip down. Once out in the air, Staraptor and Gliscor and any other flying types the trio had with them could assist in their escape.

    Ash was feeling rather proud of himself, tempted to show Izzy his find, if not Jerda. He was standing for that very purpose when the shot rang out. It was loud, sudden, short, and sharp. A certain menace of purpose accompanied it, and Ash had no doubt that a gun had been fired. He threw down his data pad, unhooking Floatzel’s pokéball and rushing into the nearest bedroom. Raichu followed, her cheeks beginning to crackle with electric power. Izzy was already in the room when Ash arrived. Jerda was leaning over on the bed, the gun still in his hand and the spent round lying melancholy on the floor. For the briefest moment, Ash thought Jerda may have shot himself, but the bullet hole was in the wall, not a man. “What happened?” he asked.

    “Nothing,” Jerda said, standing and holstering the weapon. “My gun discharged by accident.”

    “Do they do that often?” Ash asked, leery of his own gun were that the case.

    “No,” Jerda answered, striding out of the room.

    “What happened?” he asked Izzy, hoping for a more truthful answer.

    “I think Jerda almost shot himself,” Izzy replied, confirming Ash’s suspicions of the intent. “I think he’ll be alright, at least now that whatever it was is out of his system.”

    “Why would he want to shoot himself in the first place?” Ash asked indignantly. It was a coward’s move, no matter what angle was used to describe it.

    “Because Jerda Foks doesn’t fail,” Izzy answered sharply. “It just doesn’t happen. And from what I’ve gathered, his failures have been mounting lately. It might be that Zoey’s capture has taken him over the edge.”

    “But Jerda isn’t a coward,” Ash protested. “It doesn’t seem like him to do that.”

    “Stress does all kinds of things to a person,” Izzy retorted. “I think he’s over it though.”

    “Touché,” Ash relented. “Maybe he needs somethin’ to think about, I know I do lately.” He left Izzy and followed Jerda into the living room, snatching his data pad as he went. “Jerda, take a look at this,” he said, showing his highlighted path of escape from the brig. “Our Pokémon could carry us away once we were outside.”

    “That’ll only work if we can get on board,” Jerda said, handing the pad back. “And we can’t do that until we know where the Miasma is. There are some maps of Hoenn and Sinnoh in there. Take a look at those and see if you can find any possible landing sites.” Ash did as Jerda asked, but only to keep the peace. He was slightly miffed that Jerda had considered his plan of action all but worthless, and thrown it aside as such.

    However, Ash enjoyed taking in the detailed maps. They offered topography settings as well as a digital substitute system, allowing Ash to place a hologram of the Miasma over a particular area if he was unsure whether the mothership would be able to fit in a particular area. He eventually concluded that Arrow would have to be stupid rather than insane to land in Sinnoh. The region was so mountainous and uneven that finding a suitable location for a ship of that size was near impossible. Hoenn, on the other hand was surrounded by an open expanse of ocean. The Miasma was capable of landing in water, as Ash irritably discovered, and he deducted that the best place for Arrow to make port would be within a small archipelago easily defensible, but also strategically close to the mainland.

    Jerda validated his assumptions by cross-referencing many of Arrow’s known bases of operation in Hoenn. They were all an easy pokémon’s ride from the archipelago, and Jerda began researching the area furiously thereafter. What Izzy’s role in the research happened to be, Ash could not discern. She was always on the data pad, from sunup till sundown, and appeared to be in intense concentration all the while. At one point, Ash took a peek at her pad, only to have her yank it away before he saw anything interesting.

    Food and water, basic sustenance, in SkyTop, was miserable. All water was delivered to occupied homes by a special service. This service operated a single cargo cruiser for the singular purpose of bringing water to the city. Food was scarce as well, and Ash, Jerda, and Izzy all were forced to use the sustenance drug on several occasions. Jerda eventually insisted that everyone’s Pokémon within balls be put into stasis, as they could not be brought out to eat or drink suitably. The stasis ability of the pokéball was new to Ash, as he had never had a need to use it before. The exterior of the pokéball changed from a capsuled red and white, to a chilled solid white color, emanating a halo of blue. The effect was eerie, and Ash soon no longer wore them around with him. Raichu alone was forced to stay out, though she adapted to life above the clouds of the earth better than even the humans around her.

    When he was not memorizing complex hallways or advanced system operation protocols, Ash wished he could walk the city. However, Jerda strictly forbade this, giving only vague hints about robbers and scum as his reason. So instead, Ash decided to work with Raichu. She had been trained for battle, there was no doubt, and Saturn had done a remarkable job with her. There was little Ash could improve, and in some cases, he thought his own instruction might set her back several paces. Nevertheless, Raichu had never been taught morality, something Ash had never actually lectured his Pokémon on. They had picked it up simply by traveling with him, but Ash thought it best for Raichu to learn the basics of right and wrong immediately. She acknowledged many of Ash’s own principles, but retained a stubborn streak in certain areas. In one instance in particular, she could not understand, nor would she accept, the principle of goodwill sharing. She viewed anything given to her as hers and hers alone. Nothing Ash did would budge her from this ideology. “Don’t be so shocked Ash,” Jerda told him when Ash was explaining, or rather complaining, about her unwillingness to give. “She was trained in the ways of the beast, and those habits die slowest of all. They are ingrained in all living things as primal natures.”

    As the days dragged on, Nickel still did not reveal himself. This did not seem to bother Jerda though, and Ash could only guess that the logs were copiously guarded, that or the man was just too inebriated to do anything quickly. He was beginning to lose his naturally thin patience with Nickel, when, on a day he assumed to be Wednesday, someone knocked at their door. Three hard, spaced bangs on the wood announced the presence of a visitor. All three jumped in surprise, but they all recovered just as quickly. Jerda motioned for Ash and Izzy to remain seated as he approached the door, gun drawn expertly. Izzy drew her weapon as well, Ash calling over Raichu. Ash could only just see Jerda from his place in one of the bedrooms, and began counting the seconds till Jerda flung the door open. He never did, losing his state of readiness and ushering in whoever had been outside. “Dang those eyes of his,” Izzy mumbled as she stood. Ash had remembered Jerda’s x-ray vision as well, but was grateful for it rather than irritated by it like Izzy. They made their way into the kitchen where Jerda was waiting with none other than Nickel.

    “Ah, the yung ‘uns,” Nickel said when he heard them enter. While he still looked terrible and smoked a cigarette, his voice was steady and devoid of the influences of drink. He smacked a folder bulging with papers upon the counter, turning back to Jerda. “This’d be all evidence for what I’m tellin’ ya,” he said, putting a solid hand on the envelope. Jerda had been reaching for it, and quietly and overly pleasantly retracted his arm. “Arrow ain’t here boy, hasn’t been ‘n over a month.” His statement was made in confidence, that much Ash could discern, so he was baffled when Jerda stood stiff in anger.

    “She had to come through here Nickel,” he replied, though still steady. “I know how badly I damaged her before she fled. There is no way she would make it to Sinnoh or Hoenn without repairs.”

    “Well, you’re wrong,” Nickel said flatly. “She ain’t here. That’s the end of it. No little fish.” It took a moment for Nickel’s comment to register as a reference to Arrow’s last name. “But at least you got to see me,” Nickel added brightly before cackling.

    “She had to have been here,” Jerda muttered again, grabbing the envelope and tearing out the papers within. He glanced at one only for a few seconds before tossing it aside in favor of another. Whether he really was looking at the documents Ash could not tell, but it was probably best not to disturb him in the exercise.

    “Is there any other place Arrow would have taken the Miasma?” Ash asked Nickel. “We need to know as soon as possible. We can’t have her getting too far ahead. She has to be stopped before she can hurt…” He stopped himself. He had nearly revealed his personal investment in the venture and even Izzy would frown on that. “…any more towns,” he finished, convincingly enough.

    “The only udder place that could take a ship like that is…um…dang…I forget,” Nickel said, eventually trailing off.

    “She never came here Izzy,” Jerda stated. “She took a different route.” Jerda immediately took to the HUD, opening at least seven files simultaneously.

    “The Botanical Menagerie!” Nickel shouted, causing Jerda to curse and Ash to jump. “She’s taken it to the Botanical Menagerie in Sinnoh!” Nickel shouted again.

    “Why would she…?” Ash began asking, confused, but Jerda cut him off.

    “She would never take it there,” he said to Nickel. “Even if she destroyed all the defenses, she would suffer additional damage and the Menagerie isn’t able to do lengthy repairs.”

    “But that’s the only other place in range,” Izzy said. “Fitting you know. First attack your stronghold, then hit Cynthia’s. Her ego’s getting the better of her.”

    “Would somebody tell me what this Menaggery-thing is?” Ash hollered at the lot of them.

    “The Botanical Menagerie is Cynthia’s base of operations for the Consortium in Sinnoh. Its name comes from the myriad of plant species that surround the outpost,” Jerda explained. “We need to alert Cynthia, get to Sinnoh before she does.”

    “But she already has a head start,” Ash said.

    “She’s already there if my calculations on her thrust capacity are right,” Izzy added.

    “Shut up! Both of you!” Jerda burst out. “I’ve already lost Zoey to her, I will not lose Cynthia! Get you pokéballs, take them out of cryo, and get your towels.”

    “There’s no stoppin’ him you yung ‘uns,” Nickel said as Jerda burst out the door.

    “We’d better go before he gets himself killed and we have nothing to go on,” Ash said, taking the items Jerda had indicated. He had no doubt in his mind that Jerda would sacrifice himself needlessly out of nothing more than foolish desperation. Under no circumstances could Ash let that happen.

    “If either of us has any chance of living through this,” Izzy said, flipping her towel over her erratic hair, “Jerda has to stick around.” They darted out after Jerda, the amused cackling of Nickel following them. They began barreling through the empty streets, attempting to catch Jerda, who was as yet, still out of sight. They weaved in and around buildings, bearing no mind of their pace, for no pedestrians were about the noxious city. For this reason, Izzy and Ash flew into a pile with a middle-aged man, poorly clothed and without a mask.

    “Hey!” Ash said upon helping the man up and realizing he wore no breathing apparatus.

    “Get out of my way!” the man screamed, terror burdening his words. “Run while you still can!”

    “That’s what we were trying to do,” Izzy huffed. “Annoying civilians…” Ash was about to insist they pick up their pace again, facing the edge of SkyTop City’s disk, when he saw it. On the darkening horizon was a black splotch, a scar in the beauty of the slowly receding night sky. It journeyed ever closer, revealing its size and also its affiliation. Thick, heavy smoke billowed from wounds in its sides, flames flashing so visibly Ash was unsure if it was normal fire. The Miasma was on course for SkyTop City.

    He and Izzy retreated farther into the darkness of the streets, hoping to avoid attracting the vessel’s attention as the lone people outside. Ash watched, paralyzed as she inched ever closer. When Ash could begin to make out the weapons studding the hull, she stopped. Just beyond the aerial border to SkyTop City, she hovered, like a snake observing its prey in the relishing moments before the lethal strike. In this suspended state, her engines roared more violently, something Ash had not thought possible until that moment. He winced at the pain building in his head, unable to hear anything beyond that horrid, mechanical blasting. So all-consuming was that noise that Ash did not hear the charge building. “Izzy!” he shouted when he realized, its scream reaching that critical point before discharge. He grabbed her roughly and pulled her out into the open of the disk. But he was too late. The laser battery fired, incinerating the top of one building and sending its remains and nearby brethren crumbling to dust. Ash and Izzy planted their faces on the metal as the explosion shook the entire platform. Raichu came up a second later, busily keeping the towels over their exposed skin. Izzy swore as she stood, but it was drowned out as Arrow’s ship fired a second blast.

    This time, SkyTop City groaned, and residual explosions could be heard racking the entire expanse. “We have to find Jerda and get outta here,” Ash urged Izzy, she still wincing from a horrible scrape on her knee.

    “Ash!” she suddenly shouted, eyes widening at something beyond him. He whipped around and gave into more obscenities than he had uttered in his entire lifetime. Jerda was striding across the platform, screaming at the top of his lungs and blasting the Miasma with his gun. It was so pointless, so clearly driven by uncontrolled fury. “Go get him Ash!” Izzy hollered at him, but Ash was already running across the disk. Deep in a dark recess of his mind, Ash knew he would not make it in time. He could already hear another cannon building its power as his feet went on and off the metal of the disk, still yards from Jerda. But in that carefully trained part of his mind that governed battles, there was no way he was going to let Jerda be blasted into non-existence. He reached the man just as the cannon attacked, pulling the unsuspecting Jerda to the ground to avoid the blast. But even if they were not blown into tiny little bits, Ash could no longer hear. An intense, head-splitting whining pervaded over everything around him, all other sounds muted. His intense breathing was the only other noise he could even latch onto, and it seemed to replace so many other sounds he knew should have existed.

    The Miasma unleashed her full fury, all of her hundreds of cannons blasting indiscriminately at SkyTop, and Ash’s breathing replaced the detonations of lasers upon metal, brick, and glass. Jerda was pulling him up now, yelling at him by the look of anger on his face. But as Ash stared at him, unable to hear the words, he could see this anger was not motivated by selfishness, but by something akin to friendship. This feeling was instantly dispelled as Ash’s hearing began to return, Jerda letting him go in a huff. They both went back to their hands and knees as a final blast sent the whole of SkyTop reeling. It began tipping away from Ash and Jerda, slowly at first, but with gathering, doomed speed. “Run!” Jerda ordered, getting back to his feet and sprinting to the edge of the disk. Ash, understanding his intent, followed suit. But now even Ash’s unique optimism could not overcome the revelation he was not going to clear the falling disk in time. “Get him!” Ash heard Jerda command, and within moments, he was scooped up by Jerda’s Charizard. He angled back for Jerda, who hopped atop his back with practiced grace. “Try not to breathe too much Charizard,” Ash heard Jerda say as they stayed within range of the dying SkyTop City.

    “What about Izzy and Raichu?!” Ash asked, grunting as Charizard brusquely set him behind Jerda.

    “They’ll be fine,” Jerda answered, his eyes and voice still mesmerized by the upended SkyTop. Ash dared to look and wished he had not. The age of the buildings showed as whole apartment complexes became dislodged and crashed through the remaining city. Dust and grit, not smoke, rose from the city as did the screaming of its thousands of dying. Just beyond the disk’s edge, Ash could see people falling through the air as if they were no more than the rubble around them. By now, Charizard had carried them well away from Arrow’s harbinger of death, though she still blasted mercilessly at the city.

    “Why would Arrow attack a city that called her friend?” Ash asked. Arrow’s insanity was no longer in question with Ash, though he assumed she must have a reason, if a twisted reason, for destroying SkyTop City.

    “She is on a high,” Jerda growled. “It is not uncommon for her to murder her allies when she has just claimed a great victory. She is so consumed by the thrill of killing that it becomes something of a drug. She wants more and more.” Ash’s face contorted at the thought, the thought that any person could relish in murder. Even Cyrus, who knew he would killing millions, had not been doing it for the simple sake of murder. “There’s Izzy,” Jerda said, pointing in the distance. She was upon them more quickly than Ash anticipated, though he did not complain. Riding a massive Hydreigon with her was Raichu, and Ash was able to breathe a sigh of relief for both of them.

    “I’ve found our ticket out of here,” Izzy said the moment Hydreigon and Charizard were flying in sync. “There’s a ship still held by the clamps up ahead,” she said. “And it isn’t damaged. Can you fly one?”

    “Not that it matters,” Jerda replied. “It’d be our only life boat anyway, but yes, I can fly it.” The ship in question was as one of the gargantuan cargo vessels always cruising around the city, but Ash did not at first recognize it. It was suspended by the clamps, tilting it at an increasingly odd angles as SkyTop City began falling faster and faster.

    “Where is Arrow?” Ash asked, looking back into the higher, more toxic altitudes and failing to catch a glimpse of the Miasma.

    “Worry about that when she’s trying to shoot at us!” Izzy replied touchily.

    “Are any of the ramps open?!” Jerda asked Izzy upon coming ever closer to the collapsing disk. They were back to shouting, as the falling city was gaining speed, and with it, wind noise. The engines at its underside spire did not help matters, as they were still attempting in vain to correct the city’s tumble through the heavens.

    “Over here!” Izzy motioned, Hydreigon angling sharply to curve up to the inside of the ship. Charizard followed in short order weaving erratically and dangerously around the spewing engines, dumping Ash and Jerda rather ungracefully in the cargo hold. While Ash groveled on the metal, Jerda slammed his fist on the emergency disengage. The ramps began retracting, their hydraulics hissing, and the clamps uttered a warning toll.

    “Izzy, stay here and be ready to release those clamps when I give the okay,” Jerda said. “Ash, come with me.” Both Izzy and Ash nodded and either returned a dragon to its ball or followed Jerda through the maze of unloaded cargo. The artificial gravity held them upright no matter what direction the ship faced, but Ash could still hear the groans of stress on its exterior hull.

    The bridge was much more complex than had been the command center of J’s ship. Dozens more monitors adorned the expanse, and with them, hundreds more controls. The only thing that remained identical was the raised command chair. Jerda took this immediately, closing blast shields over the viewport as much to protect the glass as to keep them from becoming sick from dizziness. Upon his taking the seat, the entire ship’s bridge lit with flashing switches and buttons. The HUDs flared to life, giving status reports. “Ash, get over to the far right side and make sure all the switches marked FrBst are on,” Jerda commanded urgently.

    Ash climbed down from the command module, found the console and reported back, “They’re all good to go.”

    “Okay…dang!” Jerda began but ended as red warning protocols flashed on every screen around the bridge. “Ignore those!” Jerda bellowed at Ash. “Next to the FrBst switches are a matching set that say PrBrn.”

    “I got them,” Ash replied, apprehension beginning to lace his words.

    “Throw all six at once on my count,” Jerda said. “Three…” Ash could hear some sort of computer acknowledgement in the background, “…two…” The entire ship shuddered not just from the fall but mechanical whirring all over its hull, “…one…” Outside, he could hear the indistinguishable whine of a charging cannon, “…FIRE!” Ash mashed his hands onto the six switches and was nearly blown back by the force exerted upon everything in the ship. Even in the bridge, well away from the engines, Ash could feel and hear the massive baritone they exerted. Jerda clearly ordered Izzy to release the clamps telepathically, because Ash could now feel the ship righting itself even with the power of the artificial gravity.

    Jerda removed the blast shields and both he and Ash cried out. Immediately before them was the Miasma. It unleashed a withering barrage of laser blasts, all impacting the hull of their new freighter. Ash winced in preparation for the breaking apart of the ship, preparing to be sucked into oblivion. But all that he heard was Jerda, laughing hysterically. His joy was born of victory and Arrow’s probable frustration. “Shoot at me again Arrow!” Jerda laughed again. “I dare you!” Ash was not exactly sure how their meager cargo vessel had withstood the attack, but neither was he about to complain about it. “Come on!” Jerda shouted. But the Miasma was dutifully turning away, its engines visibly surging as it began to streak away. “Ash!” Jerda said, already more cheerful than Ash had ever seen him.

    “Whadya need?” Ash asked.

    “Move over a console and you’ll see another six switch set that says LngDstCrs,” Jerda answered. “Pull down anything that’s on and throw those up.”

    “Gotcha,” Ash replied, performing the required the motions and being rewarded as their new vessel shuddered to gain the speed requested of it.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2012
  20. Jerda Foks

    Jerda Foks Ponyville Author

    (TV announcers voice) And now the continuation of chapter 8. Yeah, believe it or not, this chapter has two parts. The second is later than the first because my computer was being rather stupid about the whole thing.

    Izzy made her way to the bridge only moments after their ship had lurched forward. “How’s Azelf doin’?” she asked upon entering.

    “What?” both Ash and Jerda asked together. They glanced at one another before returning to whatever work they had been at before. For Ash, it was the fuel monitor. There was no point in attempting to chase the Miasma unless they had the fuel to accomplish it.

    “That’s the name of this ship,” Izzy elaborated impatiently. “It was painted on the interior of the cargo hold.”

    “What’s the fuel status Ash?” Jerda asked, choosing to ignore Izzy’s comment. “The Miasma still hasn’t broken this mad dash, and if we can’t do the same, she’ll escape.”

    Finally finding the proper gauges, Ash reported, “Tank one’s completely out. Everything else is full though.”

    “Okay, this is gonna get rough,” Jerda said, his own voice braced. “Izzy, get on the engine settings and monitors. Ash, take the sensors and communications.” They slid into rolling office chairs, bringing their eyes to the hundreds of controls and displays. “Izzy, put us in PrstSpd,” Jerda ordered, gripping two joysticks on either side of the command chair.

    “That isn’t over here. Jerda! I don’t have a pursuit speed!” Izzy began to lose her calm.

    “You have a DblTm?” he asked, anxious himself.

    “Changing now,” Izzy replied, relieved. Ash could feel the engines losing power in the brief second of switchover, but was forced to grab his console to keep his chair from rolling backward from the force of acceleration. A radar screen displayed their current position, marking Arrow as only fifty miles ahead. Before the burst of speed, that number had been steadily rising, but in the span of few held breaths, it stopped and began crawling down.

    “Forty-nine and closing!” Ash shouted up at Jerda. “Pikachu!” he called, releasing his grateful Pokémon from the confinement of his ball. “Get over on those fuel gauges and tell me if anything bad happens.”

    “Pika,” he growled before jumping atop the console and gazing at it intensely.

    “Jerda!” Ash yelled, it now his turn to be feel distress in his words. “Arrow’s giving us some extra company!”

    “Is there any higher a speed on that console?!” Jerda asked Izzy, fierce and driven.

    “The overdrive is still open,” Izzy said, “but on a ship like this, it’ll drain of us fuel faster than we have time to scream!”

    “Fine,” Jerda relented, “keep us on our current settings. Hold on!” He yanked back hard on the yokes, eliciting screaming protest from the already strained engines. But rather than begin to climb, Jerda somehow kept their ship moving forward. His lids were closed over his mechanical eyes, and when they snapped open, Ash knew his plan. He pushed back on the sticks just as hard as he had pulled them, pushing the nose the Azelf down with extreme force. Those of Arrow’s fighters already closing in were crushed in miniature explosions that barely even registered against the vessel’s thick hide. “Let’s end this!” Jerda bellowed, tapping some tiny buttons on the command chair. Warning lights and sirens blared as the boarding ramps were lowered and the cargo bay contents lost to the emptiness of the sky. “Ash!” he said. “There’re gonna be boarders. Get to the cargo bay and get your whole team ready for this fight.” Ash did not question Jerda’s tactic, as he would likely only disagree with whatever insane scheme he had dreamt up this time.

    Instead he called Pikachu and Raichu and bound away to the bay. But before he left the bridge completely, he turned to witness Jerda’s execution. He shouted out upon realizing the extent to which Jerda had gone, holding onto the doorway with all his strength. His shouts of shock and fear were drowned out by the crash. With an almighty heave, Jerda planted the Azelf’s pointed nose into the Miasma’s engines, laughing madly all the while. The force of the collision shook both craft worse than the ground the Miasma fired upon. Fire, sparks, and a massive shock wave cut through the Azelf’s hull and viewport as the Miasma’s propelling devices were crushed, detonated, and otherwise demolished. Whoever was in command attempted to fire the hovering jets, but upon seeing this, Jerda scraped the barely functioning Azelf across the Miasma’s body and rammed his remaining hull against one of the planes that formed the craft’s distinctive X-shape.

    Ash no longer cared for the possible boarders. He saw his singular opportunity and leapt screaming in adrenaline and determination out the shattered viewport. He and his two faithful electric-types hit the Azelf’s hull, rolling across it to break their fall. As explosions ripped its supposedly impenetrable armor to shreds, Ash ran down its length. Heat, flame, flying shrapnel, and deafening sound surrounded him, along with the stench of burning metal and fuel. But he was nearly there, nearly to the Miasma. Dodging a last column of erupting fire and steel, he made an incredible leap into the exposed halls of the Miasma. Floatzel and Infernape were out with Raichu and Pikachu in seconds, ready to face the incoming soldiers of Arrow Minnow. And come they did. The Azelf was now backing away, likely from the damage in had incurred in Jerda’s daredevil run, giving the soldiers the opportunity to come inspect the damage inflicted upon their ship. But there to meet them was Ash and his Pokémon. “Aqua Jet! Flamethrower! Thunderbolt!” Ash bellowed for his four fighters. They responded in legendary fashion, lighting the narrow hallway in the glow of their powers. The Team Arrow soldiers grunted and screamed as they were mowed down by Ash’s pokémon’s superior might. “Pikachu, Floatzel, clear a path! Raichu, Infernape, guard our rear!” In this fashion they advanced slowly but steadily through the halls Ash had so meticulously memorized toward the brig.

    Ash only glanced back when he heard a massive, mind-ripping explosion. It knocked the now severely injured Miasma forward, but still did not send her plummeting from the sky. She is definitely a warship, Ash concluded, to withstand injuries like this and still be flying. He refused to consider where the explosion had come from, though there was only one other vessel in the sky near them large enough to generate such a force. Luckily, the continuing stream of men and their Pokémon kept Ash busy enough to not dwell on the fate of Izzy and Jerda. Many times, Ash had his Pokémon switch places to rest or provide a surer offensive. All the while, they demonstrated their endurance and battle prowess, taking down Pokémon they should in no way, shape, or form have been able to claim victory over.

    Nevertheless, when Ash finally made it to the still intact brig, all of them were beaten and weary. “Return you guys,” he said upon entering, and drawing his gun for lack of any other choice. The hammer clicked back in his hand with quiet purpose as he had Pikachu fry the access control panel for the entrance. He had been expecting guards, maybe even Arrow herself, but no one was present in the room that curved around a central square column. The first thing Ash noticed was not the cages, but the abnormally low ceiling. He had to duck down to feel comfortable. The cages lining the wall were barely large enough for a person to lie in comfortably, but Ash could not find Dawn easily because the bars were too thick to see past. However, control panels for each cell were present, detailing the prisoner inside. The first three were people had never heard of, though the Consortium symbol always appeared next to their profile picture. When he came to the first corner cell, Dawn’s smiling face popped onto the black and green display screens. “Get her out Pikachu!” Ash shouted for his Pokémon, pointing with his weapon at the panel.

    “Chuuu!” Pikachu hollered, loosing his Thunderbolt on the screen. It exploded from overload in a tiny puff of sparks and smoke, the cell bars sliding both into the floor and ceiling. And he beheld Dawn. She lay as one dead in the corner, unconscious, but with a face of agony plastered to her features. Her beautiful dress had been torn and slit, her hair torn out in several places, and her body allowed little or no food and water. She was so emaciated, Ash could clearly see every bone in her thin frame.

    He dropped his gun to the ground, rushing to her and holding her in his arms. Her eyes opened, bloodshot from tears and pain. “…Ash…” she said weakly, a single tear flowing from her face. But that was the only intelligible thing she said, for in seconds, she screamed out, writhing horribly in his soft grip.

    “Dawn! Dawn!” he yelled out over her agony, attempting to calm her, “What’s wrong!?” But she only continued to wail and moan pitifully. Ash’s own tears began falling, unable to understand the source of her pain.

    “She needs her daily dose…” said a high, refined voice behind him. Ash whirled around, the crying Dawn still in his arms. There stood the woman he assumed to be Arrow Minnow, and a more confusing picture he had never seen. She was so elegant, clothed in a beautiful violet dress and while gloves like a gentlewoman, but an insanity was in her very being, something Ash could almost physically feel. His skin crawled at the very sight of her. In one raised hand, she held a syringe. “Heroine,” she said lightly, glancing at the needle. “So simple a drug, and yet so useful for persuasion. It doesn’t hurt unless they don’t have it, so in truth, I do nothing to them. They inflict their own pain. Funny how that works isn’t it?”

    “I’m gonna kill you…” Ash seethed. He meant every word.

    “Oh I’m sure you would,” Arrow said, “but you don’t have this,” she finished bending down and taking his gun in her other hand.

    “I don’t have to use those to kill you,” Ash said venomously. “I’m not like Jerda.”

    “Yes you are,” Arrow said brightly. “You are every bit like him. And you will die like he will.” She tossed the gun and syringe away, extracting a pokéball from somewhere on the back of her dress.
    “HYPER BEAM!” she screamed, her full insanity revealing itself. The Rayquaza appeared in the narrow space, roaring its terrible sound to announce its presence to the world. Amazingly, Ash had been expecting as much, dodging out of the way with Dawn in tow. The Hyper Beam smashed into the cell wall, burning through layers and layers of circuitry, access tunnels, and finally, the exterior paneling.

    “Take Dawn Staraptor!” Ash called forth his bird, laying the incapacitated Dawn on his back. Staraptor leapt obediently out the hole in the wall, gliding lazily to give Ash and chance to catch them once he followed. “Now, Thunderbolt you two!” Ash commanded Pikachu and Raichu. While Rayquaza absorbed the full blow of both attacks and Arrow shielded her face from the light and lancing electricity, Ash dove behind them, grabbing both the gun and heroine. Just as the two electric mice finished their full-out barrage, Ash returned to them. There was no way he could win against Arrow, not in this enclosed space. His only choice was to retreat and hope to get Dawn to a recovery center before returning to tracking the Miasma for the others. “Arrow, see ya,” Ash yelled, running through the hole to the rushing sky outside.

    “NO!” Arrow screamed, “Dragon Pulse!” Rayquaza bellowed upon releasing the move, just as Ash took out Gliscor’s ball. He was about to launch into the air with him when the Dragon Pulse clipped his shoulder, crunching it and detonating on the nearby wall. Ash lost his balance, plummeting to a forest below with Pikachu and Raichu.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2012

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