Author's Note: This is the sequel to my earlier Pokémon story "Dormant Monsters." This sequel takes place post-Hoenn, pre-Battle Frontier. Many, many thanks are due to Etherelemental who contributed greatly to the plotline! Disclaimer: I don't own these characters; most of the trainers showing up are going to be cameos from Season 1 (notable exception being Drew).

"So many badges…" said Pikachu, glancing at the badges mounted on the wall. "We've come a long way, haven't we, Ash?"

"Yup!" the boy replied, with a grin. "And we're not even near the end, either! We're going all the way, Pikachu! Years from now, they'll look back on us and say that we're the greatest team that the world ever knew!"

He punched the air with his fist, knocking the lamp off of his bedside table. Pikachu managed to save it with a diving catch, and both trainer and Pokémon breathed a sigh of relief. Ash placed the lamp back, looking furtively around in case his mother had seen the near miss.

"That was close…" he said.

"Ash?" came his mother's voice, knocking on the door.

Ash froze.

"Uh, everything's fine, Mom!" he said, hastily. "Nothing broke!"

She opened the door, giving him a questioning look.

"What did you say?" she asked.

"Uh… nothing," he bluffed, as Pikachu stifled a laugh.

"I see…" Delia replied, still suspicious. "Well, I just wanted to let you know that you had visitors. May and Max arrived from Hoenn."

Ash and Pikachu went downstairs to greet them immediately.

"Hey, guys!" he greeted them. "What brings you to Pallet?"

"Well, Professor Birch said that Professor Oak had an important message for him," said Max. "And he wanted us to deliver it."

"That's strange…" said Ash. "Couldn't he just mail it?"

"That's what we thought," said May. "But then, we realized that it meant that we'd be able to see you again, so we decided not to say anything." She struck a pose, bringing her fingers together to form a square. "And so begins another installment in the saga of May's Expeditions! Today, we traverse the hills and valleys of Pallet Town to obtain a message of utmost secrecy--"

"Are we going to go, or what?" asked Ash, with a grin, knowing how carried away May could get at times.


Ash, May, and Max (with Pikachu in tow) headed towards Oak's Lab, catching up on old times along the way.

Not too far away in Viridian City, an exceptionally bored Jessie, James, and Meowth had departed Giovanni's office. They had just been reprimanded for their recent failures and debts

"He didn't have to get so nasty about it…" said James, massaging his ear.

"I'm sorry; what did you say?" asked Jessie, removing a pair of earplugs. James stared at her.

"You mean you didn't listen to a word the Boss said!?" asked Meowth, thoroughly scandalized.

"Why would I?" she asked, dully. "I knew what was coming: yells, chidings, put-downs… you name it. That's what we get every time we're summoned to his office. Today couldn't have been any different."

"Jessie, I have just one thing to say to that," said James, putting on an air of authority.

"Oh? What?"

"…Can you lend me a pair of those for next time…?"

Before she could reply, a voice spoke behind them, sounding annoyingly superior.

"Did you three get told off again?"

Jessie scowled, involuntarily.

"Good morning, Cassidy," she said, through gritted teeth.

The blond girl merely smirked in reply, her green-haired associate also sporting a smug look on his face.

"While you were getting yelled at, we just returned from yet another successful mission," Cassidy taunted. "A feat that you haven't even completed even once (and, by all means, correct me if I'm wrong)."

Jessie, James, and Meowth glared angrily at her.

"Looks like you're right again, Cassidy," said Butch, speaking at last.

"Alright, we get the idea…" said Jessie. "And what, pray tell, was your so-called successful mission?"

"That isn't for losers like you to know," she replied, with a toss of her head.

"Let's just say we helped increased the Team Rocket membership drive," said Butch. "After all, we--"

Cassidy nudged him to keep him quiet.

"So you added a few new names to the roster--big deal!" said James, now starting to lose his temper. "That won't help the Team; that only means more mouths to feed, more training classes, more lodgings… and less money!"

"You have no right to talk about expenses!" said Cassidy, now doubled over with laughter.

"And once the registration process is complete, Team Rocket will--" Butch began, but Cassidy silenced him again.

"We owe our account to the Boss, not the likes of them…" she said, loud enough for the others to hear.

The duo headed inside the Team Rocket headquarters and Jessie let out a furious cry of frustration.

"How dare she? How dare she!?" Jessie fumed.

"I have half a mind to speak to the twerps about dealing with those two!" agreed James.

Jessie paused in mid-fume.

"James…" she said. "You're brilliant!"

"…I am…?"

"Yes! That's the perfect way to ruin Butch and Cassidy's record!" said Jessie. "Think about it… why is it that we always mess things up? It's because the twerps defeat us every time! So, all we have to do is dream up some bogus story about what Butch and Cassidy are planning next and tell it to the twerp. You know how he is; he wouldn't be able to resist playing the hero again! He deals Butch and Cassidy a few defeats, they get some marks on their records, and, if we're really lucky, we can somehow grab Pikachu in the middle of everything!"

"…This was my idea, right?" asked James.

She glared at him.

"Come on…" she said, seizing his arm.

"Hey! Wait for me!" yelled Meowth, running after them.

Meanwhile, in a small suburb of Celadon City, a young teal-haired girl was brushing the fur of her contented Vulpix. The morning sun was shining through the glass doors of her shop. Vulpix was sitting right in the beam of sunlight, enjoying the warmth. As she soaked up the rays, her mind traveled to all of the warm, wonderful places she had vested while traveling with her friend, Brock. She missed Brock; never did a day go by when she didn't think of him. And she welcomed the sun, for it brought in the memories that she so cherished. Needless to say, she was slightly annoyed when someone stood in front of the door, blocking the light.

"Oh, come on!" the fox said. "Come in, or move on already!"

Suzie glanced up from her fur-brushing task, and was shocked to see that the visitor was a large Dragonite, reluctant to come in. Vulpix noticed, as well, now slightly humbled by the large winged creature.

"Something's wrong…" said Suzie, and she opened the doors. The creature ambled in, and that was when Suzie and Vulpix noticed that the dragon was injured, and was carrying a large, cloth-covered bundle his arms. "Oh, my goodness! What happened to you?"

The Dragonite indicated the bundle he was carrying.

"I… I don't think I can lift that," said Suzie, glancing at the bundle. Could you just set it down so that I can take a look at your wounds?"

The creature complied, but didn't place his burden on the floor; he carefully placed the bundle on one of the sofas in the waiting room.

"It'll be alright," said Suzie, taking her medicines out to treat the dragon's wounds. "Who did this to you?"

But the Dragonite was too reluctant and too shaken from his obviously harrowing experience to talk. As Suzie tended to him, Vulpix proceeded to inspect the bundle that Dragonite had so carefully watched over. She was most astounded when the bundle moved.

"Suzie!" Vulpix exclaimed. "It's alive!"

Suzie finished bandaging the dragon's wounds and inspected the bundle. Dragonite hovered behind her as she removed the cloak-like cloth from it. Suzie had been expecting a Dratini, or perhaps even a Dragonair, or some other wounded member of Dragonite's brethren. But she was astounded to see that it was, in fact, a human. It was a man, wrapped in his own cloak. She recognized him; the red hair was unmistakable.

"Champion Lance!?" Suzie shrieked aloud.

The man responded slightly at the mention of his name, but he was still too weak to speak out. He flinched in obvious pain, and lapsed back into silence.

"That's it, Lance, save your strength," said Suzie.

But her mind was already running at a hundred miles an hour. Who on Earth could be powerful enough to inflict such damage upon a Pokémon Champion and his prized Dragonite!? Who had the strength!? And who had the utter nerve!? She had to let the word out… and yet, she couldn't leave Lance in this condition. But on whom could she rely?

And then, she thought of him: that genuinely kind-hearted Pokémon breeder from Pewter City. Vulpix spoke about Brock every day; and he might be their saving grace in this situation.

"Vulpix," she said. "I need you to go to the Pokémon Center with these notes…" She hastily scribbled two notes out. "Give this to Nurse Joy and ask her to send you the Pewter City Pokémon Center and contact Brock that she is doing so. Then give this other note to him."

Vulpix's emotions were mixed. She was definitely concerned over Lance and what might be unfolding before them, but her heart soared at the thought of seeing Brock again.

"Right away…" Vulpix began, but paused upon the entry of a green-haired young man.

"I'm afraid that this is a very bad time," said Suzie, trying not to panic because of Lance's condition. "Is it an emergency?"

"Yes, it is," the boy replied in a flat, unemotional voice that made Suzie's eyebrows arch. "I must battle you, for you have seen something that you should not have seen."

"Battle?" asked Suzie, who had never been fond of Pokémon battling. "Do you know what's going on here? What happened to Lance? Please, if you know anything, you have to help."

"Help?" he replied. "I'm not here to help. You're asking the wrong side, and you've seen far too much."

His cold, empty eyes turned towards Lance and Dragonite. Dragonite growled at the new face; clearly, he was one of the ones who had attacked Lance. But the dragon was too wounded to fight back.

"Go, Roselia!" the boy ordered.

Fortunately, Vulpix was more than ready for the walking plant. She defeated the enemy creature. The boy scowled and left, but not before vowing that he would return again.

"You'd better go now, Vulpix," said Suzie. "Don't worry about me; I'll be fine if that boy comes back."

Vulpix nodded and left, keeping an eye out for the attacker on her way to the Pokémon Center. Both notes were clamped firmly in her jaws. She was worried about this sudden upset in town, but she knew that Brock would be able to help. She wasn't sure how, but she knew that he would help. Or, at the very least, he would give it everything he had to try.

With the Pokémon Center in sight, Vulpix sprinted faster. Time was of the essence. Hopefully, Brock would be able to help Suzie before that strange kid with the Roselia came back.