It took them three days to get to Pewter City, hauling along the body encased in ice as they went. Misty periodically refroze the body, to keep the ice from melting. It was a morbid package and Ash stayed as far away from it as he could as they went. There were no stops to train, they kept moving except for when they needed to eat or sleep.

It was late morning on the third day when they came out of the forest and saw the city below them, at the base of a large hill where the forest ended. It was a small city, bringing back Ash's faint memories of Violet City, where he had lived years ago. He could see the rising slope of Mount Moon to the east, and the mountains around Indigo Plateau to the north and west.

Going down the hill with their icy load proved to be slightly troubling, but they managed it. As they got closer to the city proper, they started running into people again. People who gave them strange stares and let out gasps as they saw what was in the block of ice.

"I cannot wait to get rid of this thing," Misty said, face flushed after somebody screamed because they had seen the corpse she and her pokémon were pushing along an ice path. "Let's hope someone calls the cops before we have to trek all the way to the pokémon center."

Her wish did not come true.

Instead several men and women in blue police uniforms met them at the pokémon center, led by a woman with blue hair that Ash recognized as a member of the Jenny family/clan. He remembered Poison Lance and Pocket Watch occasionally trading theories about the nature of the mutation that ran through some families that caused a lot of their members to appear identical to each other.

"You couldn't have picked us up earlier?" Misty groused at the Jenny, as she reached into her pocket to pull out some ID cards. "Here's my trainer's license, Cerulean Gym identification card, and League ID."

"We just got the call about a boy and girl hauling a frozen corpse through town," Jenny replied, looking over the cards. "We figured you would be heading here. Well, these seem to be in order. Come on, we can debrief you inside- "

"She needs to see a doctor," Ash interrupted.

"And so does he," Misty shot back, giving Ash a pointed stare.

"We can have a doctor look at you both during the debriefing," Jenny said. "Jenkins, Hikaru, take care of the body."

Ash and Misty were led to separate rooms. A doctor came in to look over Ash. While that was happening, one of the police officers came in to ask him questions about what had happened in the forest. Ash answered as honestly as he could, doing his best to ignore Pikachu's commentary.

The officer left, instructing him to stay in the room until further notice. Soon after the doctor pronounced him healthy and also left. Ash pulled back on his jacket.

Wonder why they had to separate us, Ash idly asked.

Probably to make sure you two tell the same story, Pikachu replied. I'm guessing that gym trainer or not, the police still get suspicious when you drag a body into town.

Oh, Ash said. Well, this could be troublesome…...

Do we need to start planning a prison break? Pikachu asked, ears perking up. Oh, this will be so awesome. First, I'll need to smuggle myself in-

I doubt that, Ash cut him off. If they were planning on arresting me, they wouldn't have let me keep my pokémon.

A little bit later, the office came in and told him that he was free to go. Ash asked if Misty was also free to go, and was told that she was still getting debriefed, and would probably have to stay at the pokémon center for the next couple of days. Ash thanked the officer for the information and then went to the lobby. He gave his pokémon over to the nurse on duty.

Ash then sat back down in the lobby, trying to figure out what he should do while he waited for his pokémon to be examined and healed. There was a TV playing in a ceiling corner, but it was showing boring news, not exciting shows. Maybe he should go eat? But Ash didn't know how exactly pokémon centers worked, other than the free healing. All he had was his caretakers outdated knowledge.

Maybe he should just wait for Misty? She'd probably know what to do. But he didn't know when the next chance to talk to her would be-

Talk? Right! Ash remembered that he should probably give Professor Oak a call. Oak had requested that Ash do so when Ash checked into his first pokémon center.

Ash found one of the centers video phones, looked around for a manual on operation and to see if there was any explanation about costs. Ash found one, confirmed that the call would be free as long it was under ten minutes, and then looked up Oak's number. He placed the call.

Professor Oak's face appeared on the screen.

"Aaron, it's good to hear from you!" The pokémon professor said. "I was starting to worry. Everyone else has checked in already."

"Sorry Professor," Ash said, rubbing the back of his head. "I skipped Viridian City and went straight to Pewter City. And, uh, there was an incident in the Viridian Forest…."

Ash explained what had happened to him in the forest, the attack by Team Rocket.

"Well, at least me and my pokémon weren't hurt," Ash concluded. "We're all okay!"

"Yes, thankfully," Oak replied after a moment, face pale, eyes wide. "I'll have to look up the reports of this incident. They'll probably send out a few ranger squadrons to make sure there aren't any more Rockets in the forest. Have you told your parents about this yet?"

"Uh….." Ash rubbed the back of his head, trying to think of an answer.

"I'll take that as a no," Oak sighed, rubbing his forehead. "You'll want to tell them as soon as possible. I can only imagine what their reaction would be if they had to hear about this from the news or the League."

"I'll try to tell them soon," Ash replied, knowing that there wasn't an easy way to send a message to the middle of the forest.

"Would you like me to pass it along to them?" Oak asked. "If you give me your address or their phone number, I can contact them for you."

"That's okay professor," Ash said as fast as he could. "I'll tell them."

"If you want," Oak replied. "It would be nice to meet them. Do you know that I've met all the other parents of the trainers I gave pokémon out to? You're the only one whose parents I have yet to meet. Maybe I should-"

"Anyway, how's Gary doing?" Ash asked, in a hurry to change the subject.

"Oh, he's been doing well," Oak replied, his face having returned to its normal appearance over the course of the conversation. "He managed to catch several pokémon thus far."

"Where is he now?"

"Actually, he's somewhere around Pewter City last time I checked." Oak answered. "I'll tell him where you are, he might want to visit."

"That would be fun!" Ash exclaimed.

"I'll tell him you said that," Oak replied. "Is there anything else you want to discuss?"

"Just a few questions about pokémon centers."

Around that time Misty also had a video call.

"You did what, you runt?!" A svelte woman with cherry red hair and blue eyes shouted over the phone.

"Misty," a very similar looking woman with blonde hair and green eyes sighed. "Just what were you thinking?"

"I guess expecting you to stay out of trouble was just too much to hope for," a third woman with blue hair and brown eyes commented.

Misty cringed at the comments from her sisters, Lily, Daisy, and Violet. She had not been looking forward to this conversation.

"I screwed up, I know, I know," Misty replied. "I should've called in before doing anything. But I managed to get everyone out unscathed-"

"You were shot twice!" Lily interrupted, leaning forward to glare at Misty through the screen. "That's not unscathed!"

"Without any permanent damage," Misty corrected herself. "Look- "

"There's nothing to look at," Lily went on, gripping the sides of the screen like she was trying to grab Misty through it. "You obviously weren't ready to leave. You're coming back right now miss!"

"Oh, that's crap!" Misty protested. "Most trainers start two years younger than me!"

"Most trainers don't think they can take on a group of Rockets either!" Lily shouted back.

"Calm down Lily," Daisy said.

"Don't let the runt get under your skin," Violet said, putting a hand on her sister's shoulder.

"I didn't intend to take them on," Misty said. "And I didn't know they were with Team Rocket. I thought they were just a bunch of low-life poachers. I thought I could scare them away. I know, I know, I was wrong-"

"Damn right you were!" Lily said, slamming a fist on the desk she was using. "Now, you're getting on the next bus back to Cerulean City and-"

"Lily," Daisy interrupted. "We don't need to do that to her."

"But she-"

"She is old enough to travel as a trainer," Daisy went on. "And while I'm not happy about her recent spat of poor judgement-"

"Or the several previous years of poor judgment," Violet interjected, grinning.

"I think that she's capable of taking care of herself as well as any other trainer," Daisy went on, ignoring Violet. "She did manage to get herself and a rookie trainer out of the situation alive."

"He didn't make it easy," Misty muttered under her breath.

"The fact that the runt was even in that situation in the first place shows that she isn't ready," Lily huffed drawing back from the screen.

"While Misty certainly could have handled herself better," Daisy said, "no one was expecting Team Rocket to be operating in the Viridian Forest, not with all the extra security in Pallet Town. We can't reasonably blame her for that."

"Fine!" Lily threw up her hands. "She doesn't need to come home. She can keep going and get herself killed! If nobody else cares about that, then I won't either!"

"Oh, don't worry!" Misty shouted back. "I'm not going to die and give you the satisfaction!"

"That's the spirit!" Violet said cheerily, earning glares from the rest of her sisters.

"Anywaaay," Daisy went on, rolling her eyes and turning back to Misty. "We still have plenty to discuss about your recent…. adventure."

Misty winced. This was not going to be fun.

Well that was an experience, Pikachu commented as the on-duty nurse gave Ash back his pokémon.

Haven't you ever been to a pokémon center before? Ash asked quietly as he carried his pikachu away.

Nope, Pikachu answered. I was not prepared for what they did with that thermometer.

You mean stick it in your mouth?

Yeah, Pikachu said. I thought you'd just have to hold it against whatever you needed to take the temperature of, not stick the thing in you.

You know, for some thermometers, they have to stick it up your butt.

What!? Pikachu exclaimed. That's just- just- just weird!

I know, right? Ash hooked Pidgeotto's and Metapod's pokéballs to his belt and then let Pikachu scramble up onto his shoulder. Let's go eat.

He went over to the cafeteria. Oak had informed him that a pokémon center would offer visiting trainers at least one day's free room and board a month, maybe more than that, depending on the local conditions. Ash had found an electronic display with the information for the Pewter City Pokémon Center in the lobby. Currently the center was offering a free week, though there was a warning stating that the offer might be terminated without notice. Ash guessed that it must be an off season for the Pewter City Pokémon Center.

He grabbed some food from the buffet and a few bags of poké-chow for his team. There were a few other people in the cafeteria, most of whom were eating with their pokémon. Ash found a booth and released Pidgeotto and Metapod.

Food! Thank you, Ash, I'm really hungry, Metapod exclaimed at the sight of the poké-chow.

Yum, free grooming and food, Pidgeotto sighed. This is the life.

They groomed you? Pikachu asked, as Ash poured chow into three bowls.

Yeah, I was surprised, so I asked about that, Pidgeotto replied, but it's just part of the standard care package for feathered pokémon. Oh, wow, Ash, do humans normally eat that much?

I don't know, Ash whispered after glancing around to see if there were any nearby humans that could overhear him, but I'm going to find out.

His caretakers, always fearful of running out of supplies, had tended to limit Ash's food intake. The school cafeterias had unintentionally done the same thing with their pre-made meals. While Ash had never starved or been malnourished, he had never really been able to indulge in food before. He intended to make the most of his current freedom.

By stuffing as much free food into his mouth as he could, as fast as he could.

There was little talk as he and his pokémon dug into their meals. When Ash was about halfway through his plate, Misty came into the cafeteria. She looked around, spotted him, and walked over to his booth.

"Did they ask you a lot of questions?" she asked, sliding into the seat across from Ash. Pidgeotto scooted over to make room.

"Not really," Ash replied, barely remembering not to talk with his mouth full. "You?"

"I had to fill out a report," Misty groaned. "And then I had to go over it several times with the police, a gym trainer from the local gym, and then my sisters."

"Your sisters?"

"They're with the Cerulean Gym," Misty answered. "They were angry about how I handled things."

"Oh," Ash replied. He had thought she had done a fine job against the Rockets, except for the last part where she tried to hold them off by herself.

"And I'm stuck here for a few days to answer some questions," Misty sighed and then stretched. "Ah, well. I could use the break. So, what are your plans?"

"I was going to stay here and train for a bit," Ash answered. "And then I was going to try and challenge the gym. Do you know what type the gym uses here?"

"They're a rock-type gym," Misty replied and Ash winced. He knew that rock-type pokémon often had a secondary ground-typing, which meant that his current team would have issues. Misty noticed his wince and went on: "Don't worry about beating them. As long as you perform well in the battle or test they have, they'll give you your badge and your advancement."


"Money meant to support you until your next gym challenge, or until the Indigo Conference," Misty explained. "Course the conference is cancelled this year and next year, due to the Kanto-Johto merger that's been all over the news-"

"Err," Ash rubbed the back of his head. This was the first time he'd heard of such a thing. They didn't exactly get newspapers or news programs in the forest. Misty noticed this reaction as well and let her face fall into her hand, rubbing her forehead in exasperation.

"For your information, since you've evidently been living under a rock, the Kanto League and the Johto League are merging by the end of the year," Misty said. "We'll each keep our current Assemblies, but there will be one Elite organization for both regions, and the two Leagues chains of command will be combined."

"But that means there's no big tournament next spring?" Ash inquired.


"Ah," Ash sighed. He had been looking forward to that. Maybe next year.

"Did the doctors find any injuries?" Misty asked.

"No. I was fine, like I told you," Ash replied. "You're the one with the injuries. What did the doctor say about you?"

"You might have had internal injuries," Misty shot back. "Or maybe they poisoned you with something slow! Or maybe the drowzee had done something to you! And, for your information, the doctors thought I did a fine job caring for those crossbow wounds!"

"Well you were wrong about me and I was right Bossypants McBossy! You should've worried more about yourself and less about telling me what to do!"

"Given the stunt you pulled shrimp, it's obvious that you need someone to tell you what to do you-"

Which is my job actually, Pikachu interjected.

"-because you obviously are too stupid to survive on your own!"

She's not wrong, Pikachu commented.

"Oh, like what you did was any better!" Ash shot back.

"At least I had my pokémon with me!" Misty retorted.

The two humans bickered a bit more, while Ash's food cooled. Eventually they ran out of things to verbally throw at each other. Ash returned to his meal, and Misty fetched some food for herself. She sat back down and the two of them silently glowered at each other for the rest of the meal.

Ah, civilization, Pikachu sighed when he and Ash got to their room in the pokémon center. How I've missed you and your free electricity!

Electricity isn't free, Ash said.

I've never had to pay for it, Pikachu replied, looking around for wires.

Don't chew on any wires, Ash told his pokémon. Do you like batteries? After we challenge the gym I can buy you some.

I can't eat the electricity in batteries, Pikachu said. Maybe if you set up a circuit. Why can't I eat the electricity here?

You'd damage the wires and I don't have the money to pay for that, Ash answered. Besides, you've already eaten.

But electricity tastes so good! Pikachu whined. Fine, idiot, I won't eat any of that delicious electricity. Oh, cruel fate, how could you saddle me with such a trainer?

What did I do to get stuck with such a pikachu? Ash replied, rolling his eyes.

You must have done some very good things in a past life to get a pikachu as awesome as me, Pikachu shot back. I'm badass, cool, stylish-



Pikachu unleashed a small electric shock into Ash, causing the human to fall back into the room's bed. Pikachu jumped on top of the prone humans' chest.

It's my victory human! What do I win!

A hug, Ash replied, kicking off his shoes, hugging the pokémon to his chest, and getting under the blankets.

Oh, you're lucky that you humans are so cute, Pikachu said, snuggling into the hug.

I know why we humans find you pokémon cute, but why do you pokémon find us humans cute?

Because you're so big and helpless, Pikachu answered. Or small and helpless if you listen to the bigger pokémon.

Helpless!? Ash protested.

No electricity, no fire, no ice, no poison of your own, most of you aren't psychic, and none of you can do a Hyper Beam! Pikachu explained. I don't know about you, but I'd call that pretty helpless.

Helpless, hmmf, Ash huffed. You know if other humans could understand you, none of them would find you cute.

Oh please, like you don't think I'm adorable.

The next day arrived. Ash slept in until late morning and then got up. He then used the facilities, something that he wasn't sure he would ever get used to after living in the forest for so long. Being able to control the temperature of the water he cleaned himself with was an alien concept to the boy.

By the time Ash was done, it was lunchtime. He and his team headed for the cafeteria, grabbed some food, and sat down. They had barely started to eat when a familiar face burst into the cafeteria.

"Gary!" Ash exclaimed grinning broadly and waving at the other boy. Gary rushed over to Ash's table, sweating and short of breath like he had just run some distance.

"Aaron! Is what Gramps said true? You got attacked by Team Rocket?" Despite the obvious signs of exertion Gary's face was pale. He grabbed Ash in a hug.

"Yeah," Ash answered, returning the hug. "It wasn't nice."

"Did you get hurt?" Gary asked, letting Ash go and examining his rival.

"Only some bruises," Ash answered. "And my team was only exhausted."

And awesome! Pikachu added. Don't forget awesome!

"Oh, thank Cresselia," Gary breathed out, collapsing in the booth opposite Ash, ignoring the squawks from Pidgeotto who had to make room for him. "I almost didn't believe it at first when Gramps gave me the news this morning, but there was an article in one of the newspapers, and I had to get back here."

Ash didn't know what to say to that.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Gary asked after a minute or so of silence.

"Ummmmmm, there's not much to say," Ash answered. "I mean the part where the drowzee nearly killed me was really bad, but Misty saved me then. The tyranitar and her trainer were really scary. The fight against the electabuzz was kind of, uh, fun I think."


"I didn't think it was fun at the time, but looking back, it sort of was. Me and my pokémon had to work really hard to win," Ash replied. "And nobody died or was really hurt. I mean knowing that the other trainer was trying to kill me wasn't fun, but the rest was."

"Okay, fine," Gary sighed. "You can be so weird."

Again, Ash didn't know what to say to that.

"So, this is your team?" Gary asked after a moment, looking at the pokémon. "Are you planning on expanding it, or will you focus on these three?"

"I don't know," Ash shrugged. "If I meet any other pokémon who want to come with me I'll take them. If I don't, then I'll train these three."

"And the pikachu was your starter?"

"Yes," Ash sighed. "He's a handful."

I heard that!

"Yeah, Gramps complained about how he kept shocking him," Gary's smirk returned, and he looked less pale. "My Eevee on the other hand is great! No problems with her!"

"That's cool," Ash said. "We should have a battle."

"Yes!" Gary grinned. "How many pokémon?"

"One on one. Your Eevee versus my Pikachu," Ash said, returning the grin. "If you're up for it, Pikachu."

Sure! Might as well get the blood pumping today. Pikachu grinned, sparks falling from his cheeks.

"Looks like a yes to me," Gary said. "Just don't complain when you lose!"

There were a few lots in back of the center where trainers could have battles. When Ash and Gary went out to use one, they were all occupied. The two of them had to wait twenty minutes for a lot to open up.

In the lot there were two dug-in structures, a cross between a bunker and a dugout from a baseball field. They were meant to be a safe place for trainers stay during the battle, so nobody got accidently burned or electrocuted.

"Go Eevee!" Gary shouted from his end of the field. White light blazed and a brown furred pokémon with a bushy tail and long pointed ears appeared, an eevee.

A battle against your rival! She said, bouncing from side to side. This will be fun!

"Go Pikachu!" Ash shouted and Pikachu ran out onto the field.

Let's do this! Pikachu said, electricity crackling around him.

"Ready?" Ash asked.

"Always," Gary replied.

"Pikachu Speed Burst and Thundershock!"

"Eevee, Fill the Field!"

Both pokémon blurred into action. Pikachu upped his speed, dashing around the lot, and prepared to unleash a Thundershock against Eevee. But, which Eevee?

For, at Gary's command, Eevee had also upped her speed, but was also producing copies of herself, that also began to dash about the lot. Ash figured Fill the Field had to be some sort of combination of Agility or maybe Quick Attack and Double Team.

Pikachu began to shock away, tendrils of electricity seeking the eevees. They dashed around, trying to dodge. Few of the targeted eevees succeeded, but there were so many that Pikachu couldn't get them all. Ash noticed that each illusion moved differently. It looks like Gary had learned something from Ash's tactic from fifth grade.

"Quick Attacks!" Gary ordered. Eevees blasted at Pikachu who suddenly found himself dodging. He would use Quick Attack to dodge an incoming eevee, who may or may not have been real, only to find himself in the path of yet another incoming eevee.

"Don't dodge, just Thundershock!" Ash ordered.

On it! Pikachu replied. Electricity crackled and Pikachu began to blast the incoming eevees. None of the illusions came close.

Ash frowned. Something didn't seem right about the situation. Either the real Eevee should have made her move or Gary should have changed tactics. Ash scanned the battlefield, looking for anything out of place- There! There was a hole dug in a corner of the lot.

"Dodge Pikachu!" Ash shouted. "They're all fake! Eevee's using Dig!"

Crap, Pikachu shouted, jumping forward. He had barely moved when the earth below where he had been standing erupted, Eevee blasting forth. She narrowly missed Pikachu.

"Thundershock!" Ash shouted. Pikachu lashed out with electricity, briefly engulfing Eevee in a crackling yellow current. She cried out in pain and launched herself away Pikachu's attack.

"Fill the Field again!" Gary shouted. Once more a crowd of Eevees began to zip around the lot.

"Agility and Thundershock!" Ash ordered. "Don't stay still!" He didn't want Pikachu to get hit with a Dig attack.

Pikachu dashed around the lot, zapping at illusions, who wove, dashed and dodged, trying to conceal the real Eevee. For her part, Eevee tried to attack Pikachu several times, from both below and above ground, but was either fended off or avoided. The battle continued in that manner for another ten minutes. By the end of it Pikachu and Eevee stared at each other from opposite ends of the lot, panting, and lathered in sweat.

"I think we should call it a draw for now," Ash called over to Gary. "They're both getting tired."

"Fair enough," Gary agreed. He recalled Eevee and left his dug-out. Ash left his dug-out as well and collected Pikachu.

"A draw again," Gary sighed. "I really thought I had you in the beginning. What gave me away?"

"I don't know," Ash rubbed the back of his head. "Something just seemed off. Uh, maybe it's because you looked like you were just copying what I did, and I know you're, uh, better than that."

"Of course," Gary smirked, running his hand through his hair. "I'm Gary Oak after all!"

"I don't know what that's supposed to mean."

"Oh, you will one day. In the meantime, it looks like you and I had similar ideas for our starters."

"Well, Pikachu already had some good special attacks, but I was worried about his defensive options," Ash explained. "So-"

He's had me focusing on doing that awful Speed Burst thing, Pikachu added, not caring that Gary couldn't understand him. Making me run day in and day out. Woe is me!

"I've had him focus on getting faster and dodging," Ash rolled his eyes, ignoring his pokémon. Gary nodded.

"I've done something similar with Eevee," Gary told his rival. "I figured I could have her chip away at her opponents while running circles around them. But it looks like that strategy doesn't work as well against opponents who are nearly as fast."

"Fill the Field is using Quick Attack to move around and using Double Team a bunch, right?" Ash asked.

"Correctamundo," Gary answered. "I'm guessing Speed Burst is similarly Quick Attack and Agility?"


"I actually talked Gramps about this," Gary said. "He says that using Quick Attack as an evasive move is a common fad amongst new trainers. Once you train your pokémon enough, they should be fast enough that using Quick Attack to dodge has diminishing returns."

"Using Quick Attack to dodge has what?"

"Diminishing returns," Gary answered. "The faster your pokémon's base speed, the less useful Quick Attack is. At the highest levels it's actually a hinderance."

"Well, there's plenty of time before we get there," Ash replied. "I can have Pikachu learn Double Team instead. What are you going to do with Eevee?"

"Depends on what she wants to evolve into," Gary replied with a shrug. "Hopefully she doesn't want to be a jolteon. I don't want to end up copying your pikachu. In the meantime, I've also caught a nidoran, a doduo, a geodude, and a vulpix. I hope Eevee ends up choosing something that fills a hole I've got on my team, but only time will tell."

"We should do a full team battle next time. Are you going to be staying in the city?" Ash asked.

"Nah," Gary replied. "I simply stopped by to see how you were doing. Errr….." Gary's cheeks took on a red tint and he looked away from Ash. "You, uh, haven't seen Leaf recently, have you?"

"No," Ash replied.

"She must be ahead of me then," Gary said, seemingly to himself. "I'll have to work hard at getting through Mount Moon to catch up to her." He nodded and turned back to Ash. "Well, I'll smell ya later!"

"See you!" Ash said, waving as Gary walked away.

AN: I'd like to thank BlackCatSpecialist92G10 for beta reading.

PSA: Email notifications for PMs are still disabled

Short chapter this time.

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