"Alright Shortstuff, show me what you see," a woman knelt down by her pokémon while Dave and the rest of the team watched. It was a tiny thing with a white body, a green head with two pink protrusions sticking out, one on the front of its head and one on the back, a ralts.

The ralts nodded and then a gentle purple glow began to emit from its head. A similar glow enveloped the head of the green haired woman from Team Rocket. She was silent for a few minutes and then she spoke.

"I'm seeing that the primary target is on a tauros near the front of the group. I can't get a good look at him, but I think he's unwell. There's either a child or a short person walking next to him, with a pikachu on his head. There was another pokémon with them, but I couldn't make it out."

"Okay, Anne" Dave said, nodding to himself. He went over his mental roster of the pokémon available to their group while Anne and Shortstuff began working again.

"The secondary target is in the middle of their group," Anne said after another minute. "There's what I think is a bug type with her. I can't make anything else out."

"Anything else?" Dave asked, making more plans while Anne conferred with her pokémon one last time.

"There's a group of squirtles in back," Anne told him. "Five I think."

"We counted eleven when we drove them out of the cave," Dave said. "Did you see where the others were?"

"No," Anne replied, shaking her head. "Shortstuff? Did you see any?"

The ralts nodded and there was another purple glow. Anne turned back to Dave and said, "Shortstuff indicates that there's at least one or two mixed in with the other pokémon."

"Which leaves four or five unaccounted for," Dave mused. "They're either with the onix and its trainer or their mixed in with the non-combatant pokémon."

"What's the plan boss?" One of the other members of this team asked.

Dave thought for another few minutes before speaking. "Here's what we're going to do…."

It was early in the afternoon when it happened. Butterfree's head perked up from his perch on Melanie's back as something tickled the edge of his senses.

I sense something! Butterfree shouted.

And then the chaos began.

We've got company! Pidgeotto said, coming to land on Tauros.

"You saw something?" Ash asked, remembering to preserve his cover. His flying type nodded. "Everyone get ready!"

The poké-raised child had barely finished speaking when there was a flare of orange light and the crackle of flames ahead of him. A ball of fire burst out of the trees, heading straight for Bulbasaur.

Mine! Pikachu shouted, unleashing a Thunderbolt attack as a counter. The spear of buzzing yellow power blasted through the center of the fireball, dispersing the attack into rings of falling embers.

"Pidgeotto Gust!" Ash commanded. At his word Pidgeotto flapped her wings and summoned up a small tornado. Winds whipping up fallen leaves and twigs, the attack raced forward into the forest where the fireball had come from.

Something small, grey, and shiny sped out of the forest. Glowing claws flashed and intercepted the Gust attack, dispersing it into wisps of wind.

In the same moment, a brace of needles lanced out of the forest, forcing Ash, Aoba, and Tauros to dodge.

Ash threw himself to the right and under the needles, with no problem. The wounded biochemist, however, lost his grip on Tauros and tumbled to the forest ground. Aoba let out a cry of pain and curled up on his side.

"Thunder Wave!" Ash cried out as he got out his pokédex to identify the attacking pokémon. Pikachu let loose rings of electric power that flew towards the small grey pokémon. But the pokémon ran back around a tree, letting the rings earth themselves in the trunk, and then dashed back the way it came.

Darkai's cruelty! Ash swore. He began to crawl over to Aoba, giving more orders as he did so. "Pikachu, shock the next pokémon that comes out! Pidgeotto I need you to stop any more Poison Sting attacks with your Gusts!"

Wait a moment with those Gusts, Bulbasaur growled. Razor Leaves shot out from under his bulb, a brace of razor-sharp greenery cutting through the forest, felling branches and leaves alike. Ash heard someone swearing and the sounds of something human sized crashing through a bush.

"Pikachu, Thundershock over there!" Ash shouted, pointing in the direction that he had heard the noise.

Tendrils of buzzing yellow power zapped out from Pikachu, twisting around trees and branches. There was a human scream of pain.

An orange blob with yellow eyes, surrounded by a cloak of flames, shot out of the forest, heading right at Pikachu. Pikachu stopped his Thundershock attack and leapt to the side avoiding the charging pokémon.

Ash watched the charging pokémon pass through a tree trunk without issue and realized that it had been a trick using Double-Team and a fire attack. But his pokédex was able to get a brief scan of the illusionary pokémon, reporting that it was a slugma.

"Pidgeotto, Gust again! Bulbasaur, we could use some cover from you too!" Ash ordered, pointing in the direction that the slugma had come from. While his pokémon whipped up another windstorm, and Bulbasaur threw out more cutting leaves, Ash reached Aoba. The man was breathing heavily, covered in sweat and pale from what Ash guessed was pain.

"Come on, we need to get out of here," Ash told the man. "Can you get up?"

"I- I- I can try," Aoba managed to grunt out, hissing the last word. He rolled to his front and let out a gasp of pain.

"Pikachu!" Ash said. "Get over here!"

Pikachu dashed over to him, without comment for once.

"I need you to do something," Ash whispered to his pokémon. "When Aoba stands up, I'm going to have Pidgeotto surround us with a Gust. If they send out that pokémon to attack it again, I need you to Thunderwave it."

Got it, Pikachu said nodding.

"Good, now throw out a few Thundershocks," Ash told his starter. "Make them think that you're just shocking at random."

On it! Pikachu said, dashing away again, cheeks sparking. His Thundershocks joined Pidgeotto's Gusts and Bulbasaur's Razor Leaves.

Aoba had gotten to his hands and knees while Ash was giving orders, panting heavily. Sweat dripped off of his face. He didn't seem to be in a hurry to keep moving.

"Do you need help?" Ash asked, kneeling by the man.

"Yes," Aoba said reaching out an arm, voice thin and strained. Ash took it and then stood up. Aoba let out a strangled noise of pain, letting himself lean heavily on Ash.

"Pidgeotto, surround us with Gust!" Ash ordered as he stood up. A windstorm surrounded the two humans just before another brace of needles shot out of the forest. The thin silver blades were caught up in the miniature tornado and were scattered into the forest.

Ash began to limp back towards the center of the group, struggling under Aoba's weight as he went. Pidgeotto's eyes narrowed in concentration as she flapped her wings some more, using the same control over air that allowed her to summon the small storm to steer it and have it keep pace with Ash and Aoba.

Once again, the small grey pokémon burst out of the forest, claws alight. But this time Pikachu was ready. Rings of electric power intercepted the pokémon, locking down its body and covering it in sparks. Ash quickly had his pokédex scan the pokémon as it crashed into the ground, revealing it to be a pokémon called an aron.

Needles shot out of the forest again, a veritable hail of silvery spikes. Pikachu ducked behind Pidgeotto's attack for cover, with the flying type following suit. Bulbasaur grit his teeth and responded with a barrage of Razor Leaves, taking several needles to the body without flinching.

Another fireball sped out of the forest, finally convincing Bulbasaur to dodge by grabbing a nearby tree with his vines and yanking himself out of the way.

A horned purple pokémon dashed out of the forest on four legs, a pokémon that Ash recognized as a nidorino. It grabbed the aron in its mouth and then turned back the way it came. More fire came from the forest, forcing Ash's pokémon and Bulbasaur to keep their heads down while the nidorino and the aron escaped.

No, you don't! Bulbasaur cried out flinging two Razor Leaves into the air. Vines lashed out, striking the leaves in midair, blasting them forward. They cut straight through tree trunks and branches a like, puncturing a path through the forest.

"Did you get them?" Ash asked, still trying to lead an increasingly unresponsive Aoba away.

I don't think so, Bulbasaur growled.

Pidgeotto renewed her Gust attack protecting Ash and Aoba, but there was no further enemy activity as they made their way back to the center of the group.

Get away from her! Charmander shouted, clawing at the vines that had wrapped themselves around Melanie's throat and wrists. Sap and other juices stained his claws as he cut into the fibers, eliciting hisses of pain from the pokémon hidden in the trees.

Melanie fell to her knees, gasping for air and massaging her throat as the vines withdrew. Charmander turned to look in the direction the attacks had come from. He could make out what looked like a bellsprout hanging from one of the upper branches.

There was some sort of commotion behind him, but Charmander didn't turn around. Instead he opened his mouth and unleashed a stream of small flames. Leaves shriveled and burned on the tree but the bellsprout hopped away from the Ember attack.

More noise came from behind him and Charmander turned to look at what was happening. A duo of zubats hovered on the other side of the group, mouths open as they let loose with their Supersonic attacks. But a glowing Butterfree hovered between them, Charmander, and Melanie. While that was happening, the other pokémon from the village were either fleeing into the forest, running aimlessly, or cowering on the ground.

Charmander didn't know what Buttefree was doing, but neither he nor the other pokémon from the village were suffering from the effects of Supersonic, so whatever it was, it must have been working. The fire type returned his attention to where the bellsprouts had been.

A silvery glittering powder was issuing from somewhere in the trees; a Sleep Powder attack. Melanie drunkenly staggered in the shower of dust, trying to escape.

I said, get away from her! Charmander growled. He desired nothing more than to draw in a deep breath and burn all the powder away from her with a Flamethrower attack. But his Flamethrower was just an imitation of the real thing; It couldn't clear away the insidious glittering powder.

Instead Charmander took a deep breath, held it, and ran over to help Melanie stagger out of the affected area. Vines reached out of the trees once more and Charmander frantically slashed at them while fleeing.

Melanie let herself fall onto her face as soon as they free of the glittering dust, while Charmander panicked. He tried shaking her, but she only groaned.

And then Charmander was yanked off of his feet by a vine around his neck. Choking and struggling, claws digging into the dirt in a futile attempt to gain purchase, Charmander was dragged back into the Sleep Powder.

More vines wrapped around his limbs, immobilizing him. They painfully dug into his wrists and ankles, cutting off circulation. His throat hurt as vines tightened and everything started going faint. Charmander choked and gasped for breath, inhaling Sleep Powder as he did so.

A cubone popped out of the earth, just past Charmander. The fire type could see it raise its' bone club overhead, aiming at the prone Melaine. Charmander tried to do stop it, tried to do anything to stop it, tried to use his claws, tried to use his flames, tried everything he could to escape.

But the vines held firm.

But Cubone's club didn't move. Charmander noticed a faint purple glow around the bone. The cubone growled and began to struggle with the weapon.

Stop that! Butterfree shouted. The two zubats he had been fighting were slowly picking themselves up off the ground. Cubone wretched on its bone club, but Butterfree's psychic grip was unrelenting.

Cubone yanked again, managing to free its club. It held the bone aloft for a moment in victory. And missed the fact that Butterfree was rocketing right for it! There was the thud of flesh hitting flesh and Cubone was sent sliding back, before losing its balance, and its journey continued as a tumble back into the forest.

The edges of Charmander's vision were going dark, his wrists and ankles were circles of cutting pain and he couldn't feel his extremities. He had given up on trying to fight the vines, he just tried to take futile breath after futile breath.

Charmander didn't notice the faint purple glow surround the vines. But he did notice when their pressure lessened and vanished. Charmander collapsed to the ground, face right in the Sleep Powder. He tried to take a deep breath, but now something invisible and somehow intangible was covering his face, preventing him from breathing.

Don't breathe the Sleep Powder! Butterfree cautioned from afar. Get out of there!

Charmander scrambled forward, out of the area with the powder and took in a deep breath, tears leaking from his eyes. He turned around to see two bellsprouts picking themselves off the ground. Evidently Butterfree had yanked them from their perches.

Burn! Charmander cried out in a high-pitched voice. Another Ember attack was unleashed. A stream of small flames engulfed the closest bellsprout, making it shriek in and writhe in pain as it tried to crawl away. The other bellsprout grabbed it with its vines and threw it back into the forest.

Vines reached out for Charmander again, but the fire type turned his attack on them. The remaining bellsprout cried out in pain before retracted the vines and running back into the forest.

Charmander turned back to check on Butterfree. The two zubats had resumed their attacks and once again a glowing Butterfree interposed himself between them and everyone else in the group.

Many of the pokémon from the village had gathered around the prone Melanie. Some were huddled together and crying. Others clung to the fallen woman still on the dirt, crying and keening for her and getting no answer.

Out of the corner of his eye Charmander saw water splash and could hear the sounds of the of the Squirtle Squad, who were guarding some of the other pokémon near the center of their little caravan, fighting. He heard more zubats screeching and the sound of loud, buzzing, wings.

The fire type turned to help Butterfree. He drew in another breath, prepared to unleash an Ember attack at the-

Charmander was on the ground and the back of his head felt like it had been split open. Pain flooded through him and his vision grew dark once again. He tried to move; his limbs wouldn't obey him. The pain was overwhelming.

The cubone stepped past the downed fire-type, bone club in hand.

It drew back its club, ready to hurl it at the bug-type locked in combat with the two zubats.

Once again Charmander was helpless.

Too weak to assist anyone. Too weak to help himself. Too weak to keep friends.

He was worthless! Just like Damien had kept saying!

Charmander let slip a keening cry as he slowly pulled himself forward, reaching out to try and grab the bone club before Cubone could throw it.

The ground type threw its weapon and Charmander knew that he was a failure.

"Pidgeotto go!" Ash shouted when he saw what was going on. He had been helping Aoba back to where Melanie should be when he and the pokémon with him had heard further sounds of battle. They stumbled through the trees and into the fight.

There was no sign of the blue haired woman, just a huddle of pokémon from the village.

But there were two zubats fighting Butterfree and Charmander was on the ground next to a cubone preparing to attack.

Pidgeotto blasted forward, a streak of brown, managing to knock the bone club off course, sending it careening into a tree next to the two zubats. Branches shook, twigs snapped and dead leaves rained down. The attacking pokémon turned to Ash, Aoba, Bulbasaur, and Pikachu.

"Thundershock the zubats!" Ash ordered.

Yellow light flared and one of the zubats was engulfed in buzzing electric power. Singed and limp, it fell to the ground. The other managed to dodge. It opened its mouth, not to unleash a supersonic attack, but instead to shout something.

I'm hearing the order to retreat! The zubat shouted. Everyone get back to your trainers! Cubone, grab Zubat and run!

"Again Pikachu!" Ash shouted. "Don't let them get away!"

Lucky guess! Zubat cried out, trying to dodge into the trees. But Pikachu's Thundershock followed it, blasting it out of the air with a flash of yellow light.

All up to me…. Like usual, the Cubone sighed. Bulbasaur unleashed a brace of Razor Leaves, but the Cubone had already used Dig to dive into the earth.

"Bulbasaur, the zubats!" Ash shouted. "It's going to try and get them!"

I know! Bulbasaur growled, firing off another burst of Razor Leaves. They arced upwards and then shot down all around the two downed zubats. But Cubone was quicker, managing to retrieve the nearest zubat, and escape, leaves almost brushing against its arms before they embedded themselves in the ground. The other zubat was sheltered from Bulbasaur's attack by the canopy of a nearby tree.

Bulbasaur growled and attacked again. Cubone grabbed the other zubat and dashed into the forest. It ducked behind a tree, leaves cutting into the trunk, and then Ash saw dirt go flying. The cubone didn't remerge and Ash figured that it had used Dig to escape.

"We're gong to need to find Melanie" Ash said.

We're going to need to find Melanie! Bulbasaur shouted at the same time. The grass type sprinted forward while Ash gently lowered Aoba to the ground.

Melanie! Bulbasaur shouted from amidst the huddle of pokémon. Ash rushed over to find the woman face down in the dirt, spots of blood on the ground around her head. Bulbasaur's vines were out and he frantically flipped the human over.

The blue haired woman was limp, but Ash could see that she was still breathing.

It's Sleep Powder, Butterfree explained, fluttering over. She should be fine. But you've got other things to worry about. I think our rearguard is being attacked as well.

"We've got to go help them," Ash declared. "Come on, we'll make sure they're alright later."

Squirtles! Bulbasaur roared. The members of the Squirtle Squad that had been previously engaged in their own battles, now were free to rush over at Bulbasaur's command.

Make sure nothing happens to her, Bulbasaur growled. I've got to go take care of your glorious leader.

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

I'd also like to thank everyone who left a review! I generally don't reply unless I think there's a particular need to, but I do read them all and enjoy getting them!

And on that note, don't forget to review! :AN