Chapter Three: Stone Cold

"I need my Pokemon to be healed, please," Ash asked Nurse Joy politely. He placed Pyro and Sobek's Poke Balls on a tray as Pichu hopped off his shoulder. They had just finished their last bit of training for the day. Ash wanted them all rested up for the battle against Brock tomorrow.

Joy smiled back. "Of course. I'll have them ready for you shortly. In the meantime, please feel free to relax in the Pokemon Center."

"Thank you," he dipped his head and made for the room he'd be staying in while at Pewter City. Ash had eaten earlier and wanted to go over his strategy against Brock a few more times.

According to all the information he'd heard about the Pewter Gym Leader, Brock generally used the same two Pokemon when he battled new trainers—a Geodude and an Onix. Both were fairly low level, but Ash had no doubt they were seasoned fighters. He was pretty sure he had them covered, though. It was just a matter of which one Brock sent out first. Against Geodude Ash had full confidence that Pyro, through judicious use of Metal Claw, could pull through. As long as he could avoid getting hit by too many rock-type attacks, Pyro would win.

Onix was quite literally a far larger complication, but it had to have a weakness—there was no way the Indigo League would let Brock fight against fresh trainers with the stone behemoth unless they had a decent shot at defeating it. Ash figured that the best way he could defeat Onix was with Sobek.

His Ant Pit combo would be useful against a large opponent that had limited mobility to begin with. Once Sobek trapped Onix, it would just be a matter of time until the Sandile whittled their opponent's health to zero. With that said, Ash wanted to try and weaken the beast first by attacking it with Dig. He worried it might be able to escape if it wasn't tired out first. Or it might crush Sobek with its incredible weight.

He was as prepared as he could be for Brock. Ash felt like he had a fighting chance. He would win.

Ash stood in front of the Pewter Gym the next morning. The building looked old, but suited the rustic atmosphere the rest of the city possessed. Taking a deep breath, the boy raised his hand and knocked on the doors a few times. Several seconds later, a buzzer sounded and the doors opened towards the inside.

He walked inside and found that the gym consisted of a simple battlefield covered in rocks and a series of stands in case someone else wanted to watch. Ash saw a dark-skinned figure walk out of another set of doors and stopped when the young man began to talk.

"Welcome to the Pewter City Gym. I assume you're here for a battle?"

Ash nodded. "Yeah. My name is Ash. I'm from Pallet Town."

"Nice to meet you," the teen replied. "I'm Brock. Are you ready to…oh? You brought someone with you?"

Ash frowned and turned, blinking in surprise when he saw another boy about his age walk through the doors. He had deep purple hair and intense dark eyes that bordered between stern and angry. Quite frankly, the expression didn't suit someone so young.

When Brock made his comments, the other boy looked across the field and shook his head. "I'm not with him. I came here for a battle as well."

"I see," Brock nodded and gestured to the stands beside the rocky battlefield. "Well, feel free to watch. Forrest!"

At his call, a boy that looked very similar to Brock hurried out of the same door the Gym Leader had come from. He quickly ran to the referee post between either side of the field and cleared his throat. "This gym battle will now commence. Both sides will use only two Pokemon and the battle will be over when either side is unable to continue. Furthermore, there will be no substitutions. The challenger will have the first attack. Send out your Pokemon!"

Brock threw a Poke Ball onto the field and just as Ash had expected, a Geodude appeared. The rock-type was little more than a round boulder with two strong arms that it used to hold itself up. Going according to plan, Ash grabbed Pyro's Poke Ball and loosed his starter.

The Charmander appeared and spat a few embers into the air. He caught sight of Geodude and hissed aggressively, though the rock-type looked utterly unfazed by the fire lizard. As the trainers prepared themselves, Pichu leaped down from Ash's shoulder to stand beside him and watch. The little mouse was trembling eagerly—he couldn't wait to see how the fight would unfold. In the stands, the trainer that had arrived after Ash sat down and paid rapt attention.

Forrest slashed his hand down. "Charmander versus Geodude—begin!"

"Rush it," Ash ordered.

Pyro began to run towards Geodude, giving no hint as to which attack he would be using. That was part of Ash's plan—he didn't want to alert Brock to the knowledge that Pyro could use Metal Claw until his Pokemon was actually close enough to use it. If he gave away his trump card right off the bat, there was a chance that Brock would have Geodude fight from a distance, thus crushing any hope Pyro had of defeating it.

Brock was no fool, though. "Geodude, Rock Throw!"

Geodude's strong hands crushed some of the stone field and then hurled the chunks at Pyro. Ash's Charmander quickly leapt aside, doing his best to avoid the rocks while continuing his charge. Geodude crushed more stones in his other hand and launched another Rock Throw, but now Pyro was close enough to attack.

"Metal Claw! Aim for its body!"

"Brace yourself—Defense Curl!"

Pyro's claws flashed a metallic silver as he ripped apart the Rock Throw to get at Geodude. The rock-type quickly wrapped itself into a ball, bracing itself just as Pyro slashed at it. Ash heard a grunt of pain from their opponent as it was sent rolling away into a nearby boulder, three distinct gashes along its rocky body.

Geodude unraveled itself, wincing after being hit by the super-effective move. Brock whistled. "That Charmander of yours is well-trained. Usually all the freshmen trainers we get with those lizards take a while for Geodude to feel their attacks."

"Thanks, but don't expect Pyro or I to let up on you for the kind words," Ash grinned back.

Brock smirked. "As if. Rollout!"

"Metal Claw! Knock it off balance!"

Geodude curled back up and spun with unexpected speed for such a heavy creature. Pyro only just managed to jump out of its way before it could smash into the fire-type and wasn't able to get in Metal Claw. Growling, Pyro waited as Geodude turned and made to charge him again, anticipating the timing better the second time around.

Ash was also keeping an eye out for the perfect moment to attack and called at the very last second. "Do it!"

Pyro leaped to the side, out of Geodude's path, and slashed the rock-type with Metal Claw while still in the air. Geodude let out a groaning sound and lost control, smashing into another boulder with a painful sounding impact. It tiredly pulled itself up and glared at Pyro.

It was ready to fall. Ash could see it from the way Geodude's arms struggled to hold up its heavy body. Just a little more, and Pyro could take it down.

"One more Metal Claw!" Ash exclaimed. "Finish it!"

Pyro lunged and slashed at Geodude again, but Brock suddenly barked. "Mega Punch!"

Ash's Charmander yelped as the heavy attack collided with Metal Claw and overpowered it, launching the fire lizard up into the air. Pyro hit the ground hard and scrambled back to his feet, wincing from the blow.

Ash grit his teeth. He hadn't really gotten the chance to work on Pyro's endurance yet, so most hits were going to hurt. He hadn't been aware that Geodude could use Mega Punch, but he was kicking himself for it now—Geodude's huge arms were perfect for punching attacks. It should have been obvious.

He decided to change tactics.

"Ember. Circle Geodude and keep it guessing."

Pyro swiftly went into action, running in a quick circle around the rock-type while spitting small flames. Geodude shrugged off the flames like they were nothing, but it had trouble keeping up with Pyro's quick movements while Ember blocked its vision.

Brock had evidently seen Ash's game before and gave another order. "Magnitude."

Ash's eyes widened. "Pyro, jump!"

He barely got the command out before Geodude used its strong arms to throw itself into the air, then smashed down on the field to unleash a small earth tremor. Pyro managed to avoid it by jumping over the ground-type move, but it forced him to stop running around.

"Geodude, one last Mega Punch!" Brock snapped.

Geodude propelled itself towards Pyro with its powerful arms and clenched a fist, ready to clobber the fire-type. However, just as it swung, the Charmander ducked under and caused Geodude to overextend. The rock-type clumsily tumbled over its opponent and landed heavily.

Ash knew Brock wasn't going to give him another opportunity. "Finish it!"

Pyro lunged at the stunned Geodude and slashed at it furiously with his metallic claws. Geodude scrambled to get away, but Pyro just snarled and dug his claws into it with one hand while continuing to tear through the rock-type's armor with his free limb.

Brock recalled Geodude when the stone creature stopped flailing around. He muttered something quietly to the Poke Ball and then looked up at Ash. "I'm impressed by your Charmander's perseverance. It managed to recover from Geodude's Mega Punch. That doesn't happen often."

"Thanks, but to be honest I'm just as surprised," Ash admitted. "I haven't really had much time to work on his defense yet."

Pyro snorted a small puff of smoke and grinned at his trainer. Ash smiled at him and nodded, pleased with his starter's hard work.

"You've done well with him thus far, I'll give you that," Brock praised as he unclipped a second Poke Ball from his belt. "That being said, you'll need more than brute force to beat my second Pokemon."

Ash's eyes narrowed. "Get ready Pyro. Here it comes."

Pyro let out a hiss and flexed his claws, ready for the second round of the gym battle.

"Rock and roll, Onix!" Brock hurled the Poke Ball up and it released its contents a second later.

A tremor went through the ground as a massive serpent of solid rock landed on the battlefield. Onix let out a bellow, a deep sound that reverberated through Ash's whole body. He stared at the behemoth with wide eyes. He'd looked Onix up in the Pokedex and knew that they were big, but reading about their gargantuan size and actually seeing it in person were two very different things indeed.

Pyro was gazing up at his new opponent with narrowed eyes. He let out a barking sound that was probably the closest thing he could get to a roar in his current form. Onix snorted and looked down on the fire lizard with something along the lines of amusement.

Forrest looked from Ash to Brock and shouted. "Charmander versus Onix—begin!"

"Metal Claw," Ash ordered. "Use your speed to keep away from it and attack its flanks."

Pyro darted forward at his command and immediately hardened his claws. Onix watched him approach and let out another deep rumble.

Brock smiled. "Ash, one thing you should learn about gym battles is that the same tricks never work twice. Rock Polish and Bind it."

Onix's body suddenly glowed, blinding Ash for just a moment. When the light faded, Pyro was lunging in to slash at Onix, but the rock snake suddenly whipped away with speed that no creature of its size had the right to possess. Ash gaped as Onix bolted around Pyro, stunning the fire-type with its unexpected speed. It threw stone coils around the lizard and squeezed. Pyro let out a cry of pain as the Bind began to crush him.

He scowled. They were completely unprepared for Onix's speed. He had anticipated Onix to be a slow, lumbering behemoth that made up for that shortcoming with great attack and defense. That it could move so quickly threw a wrench in his plans to defeat it. Pyro had no way of escaping Bind, either. Fortunately, Onix hadn't been able to crush Pyro's arms too tightly to his body.

Ash saw the chance and he decided to go for it. "Use Metal Claw! Slash at it until it lets you go!"

Pyro had his fangs bared in pain, but he managed to harden his claws even as Onix squeezed tighter and furiously cut the stone behemoth's body. Onix winced in pain. So the stone armor wasn't completely full-proof. It was obvious that it would take dozens of Metal Claws for Pyro to have a chance at severely weakening the rock snake, but luckily it seemed like the move's attack boosting properties were starting to take effect. Now and again, Pyro's slashes would cut deeper into Onix, making it twitch uncomfortably and loosen its grip.

Brock must have seen it too, because he decided right then to end the fight. "Slam it!"

Onix roared and lifted the coiled tail which was bound around Pyro, then brought it down on the field like a hammer. Ash winced as the force made him unsteady and actually knocked Pichu off his feet beside him. The little mouse got up and stared at the debris cloud with wide eyes.

He wasn't surprised when the dust settled and Pyro was unconscious. Ash recalled his starter and gently ran his thumb over the Poke Ball. "You did great. I'm proud of you."

Ash took a look at Onix and smiled with satisfaction at the deep gouges in the stone behemoth's thick hide. It was clearly uncomfortable, but he wasn't sure how much more punishment it could take. Maybe this Onix was relatively young and had armor that was thinner than an adult's. That would explain why Brock used it for low-level gym battles.

He grabbed Sobek's Poke Ball and set the crocodilian loose. Sobek immediately locked his onyx eyes onto Onix and let out a ferocious hiss.

Brock looked surprised. "A Sandile? That's a rarity. I can't say I've ever actually seen one outside of my study book on Pokemon Breeding. Where did you get that?"

"He was a gift," Ash replied. "And he's already one of the best Pokemon in my team. Don't underestimate him, Brock."

Sobek hissed agreement, eyes gleaming eagerly to take on the mountainous serpent in front of him. Ash grinned at his excitement—he was pumped up too. The two of them were completely in sync for this fight.

Their opponent only had to look at Sobek's powerful jaws to take Ash up on his suggestion. "I don't think I'll be underestimating teeth like those. Slam!"

"Dig!" Ash ordered.

Sobek wriggled into the ground in the blink of an eye, just in time as Onix's tail came from the side and pulverized several boulders. Brock frowned. "Move around. Keep it guessing your actual position. Rock Polish once again."

Onix's body glowed again and then it darted around the field even faster than before. It was just ridiculous how quickly the massive serpent could move. Ash felt like they were fighting Ekans again—if Ekans was twenty-five feet long and made of solid rock.

He knew Sobek could move quickly underground, but this was pushing it. Ash didn't think the croc could accurately predict Onix with how fast it was moving and decided to go straight into his plan to trap the behemoth rather than weaken it at first. Maybe the damage Pyro had done would make up for the abandoned part of his strategy.

"Ant Pit," he said clearly. He didn't have to be very loud about it. Sobek's senses underground were impressive, and Ash had no doubt that his Pokemon could hear him just fine even if he was several feet below the battlefield.

Onix continued to dart around the field for several more seconds. Ash simply waited for Sobek to make his move. Brock seemed slightly confused by how unworried his opponent was, but then he hadn't heard the last command Ash had given.

As he watched Onix come around again, Ash noticed the ground start to dip and smirked. Sobek had laid his trap.

Onix came around one more time and the battlefield immediately sank under its colossal weight. It bellowed in surprise as it sank into Sand Tomb and wriggled in an effort to escape, but its own heavy build made that nearly impossible. Onix just kept sliding into the pit.

Brock was shouting something, but Onix suddenly roared in pain and the Gym Leader blanched. Sobek had erupted from the pit and punched his hard fangs into the damaged section of Onix's body—the same place that Pyro had slashed with Metal Claw. Cracks extended along Onix's armor, causing the beast's roar to rise into a shriek of grating stone.

"Slam!" Brock shouted frantically. "Get it off of you!"

"Let it go and use Dig!" Ash retaliated. "Unbalance it!"

Sobek let go immediately and wriggled back underground before Onix could crush him. He swam through the sandy pit as if it were liquid and tackled the behemoth's midsection. Onix bellowed as it was unbalanced and wobbled in an effort to regain control. However, the movement brought its head low to the ground and that was plenty good a target for Ash.

"Bite the head!"

There was another furious roar from Onix as Sobek leaped out of the ground and snapped his jaws into the rock serpent's crest. The Sandile heaved with all the strength in his massive head and managed to yank Onix to the ground. Ash grinned as the behemoth thrashed its body to get loose, but it was well and truly trapped in the Ant Pit while Sobek's teeth were tearing through its crest. He didn't care if Onix was made of stone armor—Sobek had bitten through a steel katana in the Viridian Forest. That had to hurt.

A few seconds later and Sobek snapped right through the stone crest. Onix roared in pain again and slumped to the ground, groaning heavily. Sobek spat out the chunk of rock and hissed at Onix threateningly, but Brock recalled it a moment later.

Forrest called it. "Onix is unable to battle! Both of the Gym Leader's Pokemon are incapacitated! The challenger wins!"

Brock pocketed Onix's Poke Ball and smiled across the field. "Well done. It takes a lot to do that much damage to Onix."

"Thanks," Ash frowned worriedly. "Um, its crest will grow back, right? I read that Onix can regenerate, but…"

"It'll be back to normal within a week or two," Brock assured him. "I appreciate the concern, though. Onix has taken worse, but that was impressive. I didn't think Sandile's jaws were that powerful."

Ash grinned at the crocodilian, who had calmed now that the battle was over and merely smirked toothily back at his trainer. "Well, Sobek's got the best teeth in the business."

Brock laughed and nodded. "I don't doubt it. He punched right through Onix's armor like it was styrofoam. I haven't seen that in a while. Anyways, here's your Boulder Badge."

He handed Ash a simple silver badge with an octagon pattern. Ash took the badge and pocketed it for the time being, though it would go into his badge case once he left the gym. He smiled at Brock and held his hand out. "Thank you. It was a great battle."

"It really was," the teenager agreed with feeling. Brock shook his hand and grinned. "By the way, feel free to come back here for a rematch once you get all your badges. I'd be more than happy to fight you with my real team once you get stronger."

Ash grinned back wildly and Sobek hissed with anticipation. "I think we'll definitely take you up on that."

"Good. Well Ash, I'd love to chat some more, but I have another challenger waiting on me," Brock glanced up to the stands where the purple-haired boy was waiting patiently. He called over to him. "I'll be right with you! Come on down to the battlefield!"

The boy nodded silently and got up. Brock turned back to Ash and gave him one last nod. "Get to the Pokemon Center and let your team get healed. I know Sandile didn't take much damage, but Charmander has to be feeling the Mega Punch and Slam it took. Geodude and Onix are low level, but when any rock-type hits something, they hit it hard."

"I will. See you around, Brock," Ash dipped his head and turned away to leave for the Pokemon Center, recalling Sobek and calling Pichu back to his shoulder on his way out.

He couldn't stop grinning. He'd won his first badge!


Joy took his Poke Balls and smiled at Ash when he showed her the Boulder Badge. "Congratulations! It's not easy for new trainers to beat Brock's rock-types. That Onix of his is particularly tricky."

"Yeah, it was a lot faster than I thought it would be," Ash agreed. "But in the end, Sobek managed to trap it. I'm really proud of him and Pyro. They worked really hard."

"I can tell," she agreed. "I'll have your Pokemon healed soon. What will you be doing in the meantime?"

Ash glanced at Pichu, who was practically wriggling with excitement. His energy had been through the roof ever since the battle ended and Ash knew he should probably help him work some of that out. "I think Pichu and I are going out to the practice field to work on Volt Tackle."

"Alright. Remember, we have a charge station here in case Pichu starts to run low on electricity. You're welcome to use it anytime!"

"Thanks, Nurse," Ash smiled and scratched Pichu's ears fondly. "We'll probably use it a few times today."

"That's it, Pichu, keep running!" Ash called to the mouse.

Pichu was currently running back and forth across the training field behind the Pokemon Center, putting the energy and excitement he'd built up from watching the gym battle to good use. He could consistently unleash electricity when he ran as fast as he could, but Ash wasn't sure if it was enough. It was impossible for him to tell if the electricity Pichu discharged was from his primary electric organ or the secondary one necessary for Volt Tackle. He figured the only way to find out for sure was to ask Nurse Joy if she could find out.

Ash thought Pichu was getting close to learning the move—far from perfecting it, but just learning it was enough. Besides, practicing Volt Tackle kept Pichu busy, and the busier he was, the less likely he was to try and shock Ash. He smirked at the thought. Pichu always got a good laugh out of zapping him awake.

He adjusted the hat on his head and paused when the speakers outside the Pokemon Center announced that his Pokemon were ready to be picked up. Ash smiled and called Pichu over, letting the mouse rest from his nonstop running.

Pichu was panting when he skittered over to Ash. He knelt down and scratched the mouse's fur behind his ears. "Good boy. You're working really hard."

Pichu leaned into his touch, then snickered and gave Ash a mild shock. It wasn't meant to hurt or even paralyze him, but it made every hair on his body stand on end. Ash rolled his eyes, though he couldn't find it in himself to be annoyed with the electric mouse.

"Yeah, yeah, very funny. C'mon, let's go get Pyro and Sobek, okay?"

The electric-type clambered back onto his shoulder as Ash walked back into the Pokemon Center. He made straight for the desk and saw Joy waiting with his Poke Balls. She smiled cheerily as he came over.

"Your Pokemon have been fully restored, Ash. Neither of them had any serious problems from the battle," Joy informed him.

Ash nodded. "Thank you."

"I assume you'll be heading for Cerulean City next?"

"That is the plan," he admitted while clipping the Poke Balls to his belt. "I want to try and get through Mt. Moon in two days. I won't be leaving until tomorrow, though. Pyro and Sobek deserve a short break and I want to keep working on Volt Tackle with Pichu—by the way, do you know if there's any way to tell if he's actually using his secondary charge organ?"

Joy looked at Pichu, reaching across the counter to scratch the little electric-type under his chin. Pichu chittered happily at the attention. "I can do a body scan on him, if you like. It should only take a few minutes."

Ash nodded politely. "I'd appreciate it."

Pichu hopped onto the counter and Joy passed the little mouse over to her Chansey. "Right, Chansey will get him ready."

He was about to say something else when someone walked up beside him. "Excuse me, Nurse? My Pokemon need to be healed."

"Of course," Joy smiled at the newcomer, taking the Poke Balls he placed on the counter.

Ash looked at the stranger and blinked. "Hey, you're that kid I saw at the gym, aren't you?"

The boy shrugged. "I guess."

"Did you win?"

"Obviously. Brock's Pokemon aren't that strong. Anyone with a good strategy can win."

Ash frowned. The guy had an attitude, but maybe he was just having a bad day? He shrugged. Either way, the kid was strong enough to defeat Brock. That gave him points in Ash's book.

He felt his stomach growl and figured lunch was in order. He nodded to the kid as he left. "Well, maybe I'll see you around. Let's have a battle sometime."


Ignoring the snappy remark, Ash left for the cafeteria with intentions to feed himself and his hard working Pokemon for a job well done.

That evening as Ash was getting ready to sleep, he reflected on the events of the day. Pyro and Sobek had won him the Boulder Badge—that was obviously the highlight of it all. Both of them had fought well, each of them managing to win one of the battles.

When he released them following their recovery at the Pokemon Center, Ash noticed that Pyro's flame was larger than before and his scales had reddened further. He was close to evolving, so close. Ash felt like he would reach that milestone before they got to Cerulean City or right when they arrived. It was exciting to think about.

He had no idea where Sobek stood as far as his evolution went. The croc was powerful, but his species was still brand-new to Ash. He remembered vaguely from reading the Pokedex that Sobek would get more aggressive and his teeth would get larger, but Ash had a hard time gauging the ground-type's aggression outside of battle.

Sobek was just mellow when he wasn't fighting—not lazy necessarily, but he was calm and preferred to relax. Whenever Ash set him loose, the croc would find the nearest patch of sunlight or the warmest area he could get to and bask. If he stayed in one spot to heat up for long enough, he would open his jaws to release some of the excess heat. It was fun to watch, especially when he fell asleep like that.

Nurse Joy had given him useful information regarding Pichu—the mouse was starting to access his secondary charge organ, but it wasn't yet enough for him to use Volt Tackle. They would have to keep working on it every chance they got, because Ash was sure Pichu would evolve almost the same time as Pyro. Pichu as a breed just grew quickly and evolved fast. Baby Pokemon weren't meant to stay in their current form for a long period of time.

He could already see Pichu's fur starting to darken slightly and his electrical attacks were getting a fair bit stronger. Pichu was still the weakest member of the team, but he was clearly the fastest. Ash had no doubt that would continue when he evolved into Pikachu.

His plan now was to get through Mt. Moon. The mountain pass harbored a variety of Pokemon he had yet to encounter along with many trainers passing back and forth between Pewter and Cerulean City. He would get many chances to battle with his team and make them stronger. Ash was also debating catching another Pokemon while he was in there. It kind of depended on what he saw. Geodude and Zubat were known to be common in the caves and evolved into some powerful breeds, but he wasn't quite sure if he wanted one.

Geodude were strong when properly trained, but they had a whole myriad of weaknesses and very few counters to utilize. Moreover, many of those counters couldn't even be taught until they had fully evolved into Golem. Zubat had the potential to be versatile when they evolved into Crobat. However, both Zubat and Golbat were very sensitive to sunlight and required special training to effectively battle during the day.

He shrugged at the thought. There was still plenty of time before the League Tournament began. If Ash decided to catch a Zubat later in his journey, he would. If not, then there were still many flying or poison-types to capture around Kanto.

Mt. Moon wasn't filled with only Geodude and Zubat, though. There were supposed to be Paras and Sandshrew as well, though neither of them really caught his interest. Paras and Parasect were both fairly weak battlers, though he supposed their variety of spores would be useful for captures. He didn't want a Sandshrew because he already had a ground type—Sobek.

There was no need to capture a Pokemon of the same type as one he already possessed. At least, not at this stage in his journey. He didn't even have a full team yet. Ash figured he would only go to the effort of capturing more than a single Pokemon of any type if the Pokemon in question really caught his attention.

There were also Clefairy in Mt. Moon. He had never thought about capturing a fairy-type before, but he'd consider it. Clefairy and Clefable had a wide move pool and were quite rare. Ash decided if he found one worth catching, he'd go for it. If he didn't, then he'd just keep traveling until he found a fairy-type for himself.

He shifted in his bed and a light grumble made him smile. Sobek's head was on his stomach—the croc apparently found his body heat to be quite comfortable when he slept. Ash was glad Sobek had gotten used to traveling with him so quickly. He had initially thought the Sandile would be difficult to work with, but Sobek was laid-back and at ease around him. At least, he was when they weren't engaged in battle. That was when the infamous aggression of his breed gleefully came to life.

Pyro was nestled by his neck, keeping his tail on a fireproof blanket Ash had purchased earlier that day. He figured it would be safer and more comfortable for Pyro if he had a place to just set his tail that wouldn't burn the Pokemon Center down. The Charmander was sleeping deeply now. He hadn't taken as much damage as Ash had feared from Onix's powerful Slam, but the lizard was still tired from the accelerated healing process that Nurse Joy applied to him. Ash smirked when Pyro made a little snore and twitched.

Ash's little troublemaker was actually slumped over Sobek. The reason for that was because Pichu had a habit of setting off little electric shocks in his sleep that would jolt Ash awake. Sobek's ground-typing effectively nullified the small discharges and everyone got to sleep peacefully.

Pichu was annoyed at first when Ash asked him to sleep with Sobek, but promised that he could sleep normally again once he evolved. The mouse was having difficulty controlling his power now that he was close to evolution, but he would regain dominance over his random shocks once he was a Pikachu.

He smiled at how comfortable his team looked and decided to join them in dreamland. Ash was pretty tired after all the action today.

"Pidgey, Tackle!" Shouted the youngster. His small bird folded its wings and dove out of the air, aiming to take Pichu right in the middle.

Ash smirked. "Jump on it."

Pichu snickered and waited until Pidgey was just a few feet away before leaping straight up. His fall brought him right onto the bird's back, leaving it well and truly surprised.

"Thunder Shock."

Pidgey let out a shriek as its feathers stood on end from the discharge of electricity Pichu set upon it. The electric mouse giggled mischievously and leapt off his opponent, who struggled to stay in the air.

The trainer they were facing grit his teeth. "Pidgey, use Gust!"

Ash watched the bird unleash a whirlwind, but it was pretty weak now. Considering the bird was fairly close to the ground, Ash figured it was a good time for Pichu to try out the move they'd been working on.

"Volt Tackle!"

Pichu started to run and built up a cloak of electricity, picking up speed as he got closer and closer. He leapt up at Pidgey and impacted it, but Ash noticed that the charge had begun to break up just before the mouse made contact. He frowned. They still weren't there quite yet.

As it was, though, the makeshift Volt Tackle was enough to defeat Pidgey. The tiny bird fell out of the air and collapsed. Its trainer recalled it and sulkily handed Ash the prize money he'd earned. Ash watched the kid stomp away and shrugged. He had won that fair and square. The kid could sulk or get over it.

Ash smiled at Pichu when the mouse climbed up onto his shoulder. He scratched the electric-type's ears and smirked when Pichu let out a happy chitter. Pichu had gotten in several fights on their way to Mt. Moon, since Ash suspected he wouldn't be fighting anything aside from the occasional Zubat when they got to the mountain. He wanted the electric-type to get a workout in.

Volt Tackle still frustrated them. Pichu could get the move started and run with the charge, but he couldn't maintain it long enough to make the impact as powerful as it needed to be. Ash pushed that thought aside. They had made progress. Pichu would get it—he was certain.

He continued making his way towards the entrance to the mountain pass. They weren't too far away and Ash wanted to get through part of Mt. Moon while there was still daylight. It would probably take him a couple of days given that there would no doubt be several trainers for him to battle. There was a Pokemon Center stationed on the Pewter City side of the pass, which trainers could use to heal their teams before they made the crossing.

Ash had just spotted the building when he heard someone call behind him. He turned around and blinked. It was the same guy he'd seen at the Pewter Gym.

"What's up?" Ash asked him.

The guy looked serious, just like he had when Ash first met him. "I want to battle you. You were pretty good when you fought at the Pewter Gym and everyone else I've fought along the way here didn't even make my Pokemon break a sweat. I figure you'd be a decent enough challenge for them."

Pichu snickered with delight and Ash grinned. "Those are some fighting words. I'm Ash."

"That's the idea," the kid smirked. "My name's Paul. I'm from the Sinnoh region."

"Sinnoh?" Ash echoed. He'd heard about Sinnoh—it was north of Kanto and a fair bit colder. The region was old, with a Pokemon League as strong and steady as Indigo, although the land under its control was smaller than the Indigo League, which commanded both Kanto and Johto.

"Yeah," Paul shrugged. "I wanted to track down some Pokemon I can't find back home."

Ash was interested to see if any of Paul's Pokemon were from his home region. He didn't know very much about Sinnoh. "Alright, you're on."

Paul smirked. "How does three-on-three sound?"

"Perfect, actually," Ash grinned. "I've only got three Pokemon right now."

"I see. Pichu, Charmander, and that Sandile, right?"

"That's right."

Paul nodded. "I'll start off, then. Nidoran, standby for battle."

He tapped the release on a Poke Ball and out came a large, pink Nidoran. Ash recognized it as the male variety of the species and made a note of the impressive horn. It was small, yes, but Ash had seen pictures of Nidoran before and knew that the horn on this particular specimen was fairly large.

Ash sent out Sobek. The croc hissed when he spotted Nidoran and bared sharp fangs. Nidoran looked unfazed, though his ears twitched and his poisoned barb dripped toxins.

Paul made the first move. "Tackle. Get in close and use Poison Sting."

"Bite," Ash ordered. "Watch out for that horn."

Sobek waited as Nidoran rushed him, hissing all the while. When the small Pokemon impacted him, the croc used his low center of gravity to keep himself steady. He was pushed back a few inches, but then retaliated by snapping his jaws onto Nidoran's head ferociously.

Nidoran squealed and scrabbled to get away. Paul remained calm, however. "Focus Energy."

The poison-type's ears twitched and it stiffened in order to focus its power. Ash didn't know what game Paul was playing, but he wasn't about to let Nidoran stay that close to Sobek while it had a heightened chance of scoring a critical hit. "Fire Fang, then toss it!"

Embers seeped out of Sobek's maw, burning his opponent. Nidoran squealed in pain again before Sobek pulled his head back and hurled the poison-type into the air.

Paul's eyes narrowed. "Come down with Double Kick."

Nidoran righted itself in midair and aimed its large feet for Sobek, who hissed at his foe. Ash recognized the danger of being hit by the fighting-type move, however, and responded fast. "Dig."

Sobek scrabbled his way underground and disappeared a few moments before Nidoran's feet smacked the ground hard. The poison-type's ears quivered warily as it looked around the field. Paul just stood by and watched, eyes narrowed.

Ash waited. It wasn't like Sobek was going to take his sweet time.

That became abundantly clear when the croc burst out of the ground beneath Nidoran and smashed his large head into its flank. Nidoran was hurled away and came to a stop, ears drooping and looking pretty tired. Ash frowned. It wasn't putting up too much of a fight.

"Long range Poison Sting," Paul ordered. Instead of using its horn for Poison Sting, Nidoran opened its mouth and spat a series of venomous needles at Sobek. The croc wasn't far enough away to dodge, so took the attacks and just hissed furiously. Sobek was getting riled up. Ash knew that he wasn't going to let Nidoran hit him again without knocking it out.

Paul appeared satisfied by the Poison Sting and grunted. "Double Kick."

Nidoran made another rush and this time leapt up to try and hit Sobek from the flanks. The croc snarled and opened up his maw, which trickled fire. But Nidoran was apparently trained to aim better than that.

Sobek snapped his fangs on empty air when Nidoran's foot collided with his lower jaw. The Sandile was initially surprised and in pain from the attack, but then glared at Nidoran with sudden fury. Before Ash could even give an order, Sobek rapidly snapped his jaws on Nidoran's body and shook it like a rag doll. When the croc finally threw his foe away, Nidoran hit a nearby tree and slumped to the ground, unconscious.

Ash winced from the impact. Sobek really did get incredibly aggressive in battle. If something attacked him and didn't back off quickly enough, it would pay the price.

Paul recalled Nidoran and glanced at the Poke Ball before setting it back on his belt. Silently, he picked out another one. "Round one to you, then."

"Looks like," Ash replied as he returned Sobek. He scratched Pichu's ears. "Get out there, buddy."

Pichu leaped to the ground and sparked at Paul, snickering. The other trainer seemed to smirk at the rodent and released his second Pokemon.

The Pokemon which appeared was a small yellow creature with short legs, two strong arms, and a pair of horns on the top of its head. It spun its arms while grinning and electricity charged between the prongs.

Ash looked at it with interest. Elekid were fairly rare in Kanto, though their evolved form Electabuzz were only slightly easier to find. They were the kind of electric-type which had traded incredible speed for brute force. When they hit, they could hit hard.

He stated things off this time. "Pichu, Tackle. Run around it and keep it guessing."

Paul smirked. "Charge. Thunder Punch."

Elekid began to whirl its arms again, charging electricity between its prongs. It had only gotten in a few seconds of charge though before Pichu rammed into it with Tackle. Elekid let out a growling sound and built up electricity around its fist, then punched the smaller Pokemon ferociously.

Pichu cried out and was sent flying, but he recovered before hitting the ground and landed safely. Ash frowned. Elekid was a good bit stronger than Nidoran.

"Thunder Shock," he ordered. He knew Thunder Shock wasn't going to be very effective, but it would let him measure Elekid's strength without getting Pichu too close to it. He didn't think Pichu could take too many of those boosted Thunder Punches.

The small bolt of energy hit Elekid easily, but it just took a step back and whirled its arms again before launching a larger charge right back at Pichu. Ash's Pokemon weathered the assault fairly well, though it was obvious who had taken the most damage out of that exchange. He frowned again. He didn't think Pichu would be able to win this with their usual tactics of running circles around the opponent and zapping them.

He decided to go for broke. "Volt Tackle. Put everything you've got into it."

Pichu took a second to tense up and build electricity, then rushed Elekid as fast as he could. Elekid seemed surprised by the blur of speed, but its trainer wasn't so easily fazed.

"Meet it head-on. Thunder Punch," Paul ordered.

Elekid quickly whirled its arms, then swung a fist at Pichu right as the rodent leapt up to crash into it. The resulting impact was rough on both Pokemon—Elekid ended up taking the full brunt of Volt Tackle, (which appeared to have succeeded this time) but Pichu had been struck with Thunder Punch and took the recoil damage Volt Tackle was infamous for.

Pichu staggered back with a whine and sat down hard. Ash pulled out his Poke Ball and recalled him. He was just glad that Pichu had finally succeeded with Volt Tackle. There was no need for him to get completely wiped out—besides, Ash could tell that Elekid would have undoubtably won that round. It was simply stronger and more experienced.

Paul arched an eyebrow at the early recall, but Ash was quick to answer the unspoken question. "It takes a lot of electricity for Pichu to use Volt Tackle. If he doesn't knock the opponent out with it, he's basically empty on power. He can't fight anymore."

The other trainer nodded and recalled Elekid, which was grinning widely from its victory. Ash would admit that the electric-type had surprised him with its strength. Elekid, like other Baby Pokemon, weren't particularly strong, but that one had a lot of potential.

Ash set Pyro loose and Paul gauged the Charmander before sending out his third Pokemon. "Turtwig, standby for battle."

His third Pokemon was one that Ash hadn't even heard of before. It was a small green creature with a large head and a shell on its back. A small plant protruded from the top of its head. He noted the large mouth and decided that would be a good thing to stay away from.

He was curious about Paul's strategy, though. Sending out what appeared to be a grass-type against a fire-type didn't make a lot of sense. But this guy was good enough to defeat Brock, so he was sure to have something up his sleeve.

Ash watched Pyro swish his fiery tail from side to side and muttered. "Ember. Keep it at a distance and figure out what moves it has."

Pyro growled and started to run, spitting flames at Turtwig as he moved. Paul narrowed his eyes. "Evade it. Use Razor Leaf."

Turtwig began to run away from the embers and retaliated by swinging its head from side to side. The twig on its head started to launch sharp blades of leaves at Pyro, who just growled and burnt them with Ember. Both of the small Pokemon exchanged attacks like that fire a little while until Ash figured it was time to change things up a bit.

"Get in close. Metal Claw."

Paul smirked at that. He waited until Pyro was just a few feet away before barking. "Trip it! Pin it down with Bite."

Turtwig suddenly aimed a Razor Leaf at Pyro's foot and knocked the charging Charmander off-balance. Pyro hit the ground harshly, shrieking a second later when Turtwig leapt onto his back and clamped those powerful jaws around his neck. He scrabbled to get free, but the grass-type had him well and truly stuck in place.

Ash paled. There wasn't any way for Pyro to get Turtwig off of him. His arms just weren't long enough to reach the grass-type clutching his back. He raised the Poke Ball to recall his starter.

Suddenly there was a surge of white light and Pyro's form glowed violently. Turtwig's eyes widened in surprise, matching his trainer. Ash gaped as Pyro's shrieks deepened to a roar and his body became to change. A horn sprouted from his head and his snout became pointed. Pyro's arms and legs lengthened as he grew taller, and his claws and fangs grew larger. The light exploded away from him with a thrash of his tail, showing that the flame on the end of his tail was blazing more intensely than ever.

The Charmeleon that replaced Charmander's form was easily twice the size of his previous stage. His scales were a deep red and his onyx eyes took on a hint of bluish gray. Pyro pushed himself to his feet with his larger, stronger arms and twisted his head to glare at Turtwig (who had clung to his neck all along) with blatant fury.

Turtwig yelped as Pyro reached around with his long arms and grabbed the grass-type by one of its stubby legs, yanking it off the fire-type's neck. The Charmeleon held Turtwig upside down and bared his fangs at his bewildered foe.

Ash saw smoldering flames lurking behind Pyro's jaws and decided to try something. "Fire Fang!"

Pyro's jaws lunged forward with a roar and his burning fangs snapped into Turtwig's body. The grass-type squealed and wriggled in an effort to escape, but even newly evolved, Pyro was too strong. The Charmeleon shook Turtwig in his mouth a few times and then threw him across the field. Ash watched as Turtwig bounced along the ground harshly, eventually skidding to a stop. Turtwig slumped over and Paul recalled it, his face expressionless.

Ash grinned wildly. "Pyro!"

Pyro turned and matched his grin with fangs bared in a smile. He spat a flame into the air and growled excitedly, obviously thrilled to have evolved. Ash ran over to him and threw his arms around the Charmeleon. He felt the warm, tough scales under his fingers and exclaimed to his friend. "Congrats, buddy! You evolved!"

The Charmeleon let out a pleased rumble. Ash looked up as Paul walked over, looking unperturbed at his loss. The other trainer dipped his head. "It was a good battle. Congratulations on your Charmander evolving."

"Thanks," Ash nodded back. "Though we'll have to train harder than ever. If Pyro hadn't evolved just then, I'm pretty sure you would have won that."

"No point in worrying about what might have been," Paul grunted. "I'll just have to train Turtwig more. He's close to evolving as well—he should get there by the time we reach Cerulean City."

Paul was quiet for a moment. "You intend to participate in the Indigo League Tournament, right?"

"Of course."

"Good. In the event we don't encounter each other on the road again after this, I expect to meet you there on the battlefield," Paul gave him an even look. "You've got more talent than the other scrubs I've seen here in Kanto. Don't disappoint me. If you can't keep up, I'll knock you out of the tournament before it even gets started."

Pyro let out a growl and Ash's eyes narrowed. "I don't plan on losing."

Paul cracked a smirk. "Good. Make sure you're stronger next time—and I suggest you capture some more Pokemon. The three Pokemon you have now won't be enough to get past any more than maybe two Gym Leaders."

"Don't worry about me," Ash replied. "You'd better work on your own team."

"True," the other trainer agreed. Then Paul left without another word, making his way towards the Pokemon Center.

Ash looked back at Pyro and smiled, scratching the fire lizard at his neck. It was the same spot he had liked as a Charmander and that didn't change in his new form. Ash decided to leave his starter out as they followed Paul to the Pokemon Center. Then it would be on to Mt. Moon and Cerulean City—where Ash would challenge the water-type gym and win his second badge.

A/N: Version 2.0

I think I'll include team updates for each chapter with the rewrite. Might make keeping up with the team a bit easier.

Ash Ketchum current team:

-Pyro (Male Charmander)

-Pichu (Male)

-Sobek (Male Sandile)