September 8

It was early in the morning; the gentle wind caressed the emerald leaves on the trees. The warm sun was shining brightly, the climate wasn't too hot, but the cool breeze evened it out, making it just right.

Looking around, no one would imagine that something could kill you instantly. That lurking in every large field of grass, something could leap up and take out a chunk of your throat.

It was in the dead center of a dirt road, the ground was soft from the years of walking on it. There, two claws poked through the dirt gently before rapidly retreating into the darkness below.

After a few seconds of silence, a large ball of spikes burst through the dirt, uncurling after rolling a few feet from the hole. Right behind the hole appeared a fingerless gloved hand. The hand gripped the ground; five long lines were made in the dirt as the hand slid across the road, crushing the dirt in the palm of the hand into a finer powder.

With an effort, the hand pulled itself out of the ground, revealing an arm, then a second one and a red cap. Ash was only a quarter of the way out of the hole when Pikachu hopped out and prepared itself for a battle. Menacing sparks flew from its crimson cheeks in hopes that any opponent around would be intimidated and not realize that Pikachu was momentarily blind.

After spending an entire day and a half underground, it could happen to anyone. Ash's eyes pained him, no matter how tightly he shut his eyes; light still squeezed through and burned him.

Despite the pain, he still laughed and smiled, rolling around in the dirt, waving his hands through the air and taking deep, long breaths. Eventually, everyone else began to pop out of the hole, some of them doing the same as Ash.

It took everyone a full ten minutes to get adjusted to the light before they could continue, except for Samurai who didn't seem affected by the change in lighting at all. The entire time everyone relished the feeling of being above ground for what felt like ages. Although their pokeglovs said that they had only been there for around thirty-six hours, they still felt like it had been an eternity underground.

"It's only when you no longer have the things you once had that you start to appreciate them" James sighed.

"I hear that" AJ laughed.

Dawn was still silent, she could still hear the roars that shook them despite the miles of distance they were underground. Being in the darkness had the most effect on her, more than all the things they had been through.

"I hope we never ever meet that thing ever again," Brock said.

"I never thought I'd ever see that thing again, let alone have it almost kill us," Jessie said.

"What does it take to kill that thing, Pikachu's Thunder didn't even make it blink" Ash pondered.

"Where are we?" Misty asked.

Tracy looked at the pokeglov and pointed down the road, "we're only a quarter of a mile from Vermillion."

"Sounds good, we can restock there and find a place to rest" Ash said, walking past Tracy. Brock nodded in approval and summoned his Crobat, the others then summoning their own partner Pokémon.

"Ash wait" Tracy called out, but Ash continued to walk without looking back.

"Don't worry Tracy, I know the way, you guys just have to catch up. It's not like you're the only one with a pokeglov. You can walk and summon at the same time, can't you?"

Something inside Tracy churned uncomfortably inside him, but he couldn't quite understand why. Tracy began to walk as well, summoning Scizor as he did. After a few seconds, he realized that he had broken into a jog. He stopped himself, but couldn't help but want to walk faster and faster until…

Ash was still in front of him; Tracy couldn't pinpoint what was bothering him until he realized that he was now speed walking next to Ash. That's when it hit him; the fact that Ash was walking ahead of him, was leading the rest of the group…that was what was bothering him.

During the past couple weeks that they had been together, Tracy had always been in the front, leading them with the map on his pokeglov. It had given him a sense of leadership, but was it really leadership? Everyone else had a map on their own pokeglovs, he was no more special than they were.

He guessed it was the feeling, the feeling of obedience from everyone. When he gave an order, they followed it; whenever he made a plan, they listened intently. He knew the most about the pokeglov, he was slightly older, and up until now, no one had challenged his leadership.

"Wait? Did I just think that? What am I thinking? No one is challenging me; I don't think that's what Ash is trying to do. He's always been like this; it shouldn't be a problem" Tracy thought.

James looked around, seeing that everyone was a little pale, which was understandable. The lack of sun, the fear of having the tunnels collapse, and the fact that their food rations had ended the other day.

It didn't take them long to reach Vermillion City, as usual they were welcomed by a ghost town. They all decided to split up into pairs seeing that it would be easier to cover more ground. Ash went with Dawn, Misty with Brock, Tracy with Samurai, Jessie with James, and Meowth with AJ.

Brock and Misty checked the docks, seeing that it was bare of any cruise ships, or any boats for that matter. Their memories placed the mirage of the S.S. Anne before them as they left.

Jessie and James did what they did best, and looted houses for rations and supplies. What they found was minimal, it seemed as if the supplies left behind by the inhabitants had already been taken once again, leaving them with the scraps of scraps. All in all, they were able to accrue enough to make a decent improvement on their supply situation.

Tracy and Samurai visited the Pokémon center, Samurai stood at guard while Tracy searched for anything of value. There were times when Tracy saw a group of computers, wondering whether he should bother checking them at all, seeing as how everyone they had come across was broken beyond repair, or powerless. He sighed as he tried each one, realizing that it was a waste of time, but if he didn't try, and overlooked something, he knew he would regret it later.

Meowth and AJ wandered the streets, looking for Pokémon or survivors. Sandslash felt no vibrations in the ground; meaning nothing other than them was under moving, whether it was by land or under the ground.

Ash and Dawn were also checking the houses, but Ash wanted to make a stop at a certain place. Ash stopped before the building, looking at all the damage that was done. It seemed as though every wall had been burnt, holes had been punctured through the walls. The windows had been shattered, leaving the once proud lightning gym building in broken shambles.

"Ash, why're we here?" Dawn asked, clinging somewhat to him. The hairs on the back of Ash's head stood up, he slowly turned to Dawn.

Her face was pale; she had bags under her eyes that at the moment were fluttering open and close. Ash had regained most of the color in his face as had most of the others, it was right now that he noticed Dawn had remained pale.

"This is just the place where I got my third gym badge. Hey Dawn, are you feeling okay?" Ash asked.

"I'm just kinda tired and hungry" she replied weakly, placing most of her body weight against Ash. Dawn hadn't planned that this would happen, her eyes becoming harder to keep open.

Ash was wondering if Dawn even noticed his goose bumps when Pikachu's ears twitched.

Sandslash's back spines quivered in reaction to the feeling of movement, he could sense anything moving the town as long as it touched the ground. AJ knew Sandslash well; there were no words necessary to understand that Sandslash had found something in the town. Without a single question, both darted in the same direction, simultaneously, leaving Meowth clueless behind them.

Pikachu jumped in front of both Ash and Dawn, sparks flying from its crimson cheeks in warning. Something slid instantly into view; it's body three times as large as Pikachu.

His lightning bolt tail flicked menacingly, sparks flew in response to Pikachu's warning from his golden cheeks. His tan fur stood on end, poised in the same attack position as Pikachu.

The connection was instant, too fast for any person to read or comprehend. The sparks suddenly stopped flying. Pikachu and the Raichu relinquished their battle positions at the same times.

"What is it Raichu?" the gruff voice asked from behind the wall, "Is the Pokémon dead already?"

Ash recognized the towering figure before him; the shadow of the colossal man loomed over him.

Lt. Surge turned and stared at Ash, freezing at the sight of him and staring as if Ash had grown three heads. This lasted only for only a few seconds before he regained his composure and laughed.

"I guess I shouldn't be surprised ta see ya alive" Surge laughed.

Pikachu and Raichu turned in unison, feeling the murderous intent heading their way. Sandslash burst through the ground, Pikachu reacting quickly and placing itself between both Pokémon before they could attack.

Sandslash was going to slash and Raichu had just about to unleash an electric attack, but stopped when Pikachu got in the way. At the sight of a person and the sudden stop of the other Pokémon, Sandslash understood that this was a friend.

AJ came only a few seconds after, confusing Surge for a Pokémon at first from the sheer height of the man. Surge took another look at AJ, laughing once more at the sight.

"I guess this world's fair after all" Surge hooted, pressing the palm of his hand against his forehead.

"Wait, do you know AJ?" Ash asked.

"This kid literally beat the crap out of me without even trying," he chuckled.

"AJ, tell your Sandslash to round up the others" Ash said.

AJ nodded, which was all the approval that Sandslash needed to obey the order, diving back into the earth.

"Is yer little friend there okay?" Surge asked, pointing at Dawn, leaning on Ash's shoulder. Ash turned to Dawn, seeing that her eyes were closed and that the entire time; she hadn't made a single comment.

"Dawn? Dawn wake up, are you okay? Dawn!" Ash said, shaking her gently but to no avail.

"Here, let me take her, I have a bed that she can lay down on" Surge offered, Ash and AJ helping Dawn over into Surge's arms. He picked her up like she was nothing, walking inside along with Raichu.

"You go inside, Ash. I'll stay out here and wait for the others," AJ volunteered.

Ash thanked him and entered into the gym, surprised to see that the interior was worse than the outside of the building. Hundreds of crushed cans of beer littered the floor; bottles of whiskey and vodka accompanied them. The stench of booze filled the air; there was a constant clattering as Ash kicked bottles out of his path.

The scorch marks literally painted the interior of the room, it seemed as though not a single inch hadn't been blackened. With little difficulty, Ash found the room where Surge had laid Dawn down.

The bed itself seemed to have escaped the havoc that had ravaged the rooms next door. The smell of burnt and booze still infiltrated the room making Ash decide whether or not it would be impolite to stop breathing while he was inside the gym.

"Ash?" Misty called from the door, Pikachu running over to the door before they could get out of the room.

"More people" Surge chuckled as he and Raichu walked outside with Ash.

Samurai could feel his heart rate accelerate at only the sight of the lieutenant. Tracy felt somewhat intimidated whereas the others had no change in their demeanor having seen this colossal man before.

"I'm impressed to see so many people survive, I recognize some of your faces like the cute girly over there" Surge pointed at Misty.

Misty blushed, hesitant to thank the lieutenant for the compliment with Ash watching; politely nodding instead. Brock changed the subject to Misty's gratitude, "Ash what happened to Dawn?"

"I don't know, she passed out and she was really pale, but I don't think she had a fever. She just said that she was tired and hungry," Ash explained.

"I think I might be able to explain" Jessie interceded, having all eyes turn towards her.

"Me and her usually talk at night and she's been telling me that she hasn't been sleeping very well. She says that she keeps having nightmares of her mother, she's really good at hiding it, but she's actually been depressed for a few weeks now. She's not like Misty who vents through anger and crying, or like the girl in Hoenn who shows her emotions a lot easier. Dawn is the silent type when it comes to this hardship, she's been bottling up inside this entire time" Jessie explained.

"If you knew all of this, then why didn't you tell us" Ash demanded angrily.

"She had me promise not to say anything to you so that none of you would worry about her. She swore that this was only temporary and that she would overcome it soon" Jessie countered defensively.

"I also noticed a few things myself," James added. "Whenever we eat, she's been eating less and less, probably because of her depression. I think another reason is that I've seen her worried about our food supply. She probably thinks that eating less will make our rations last longer."

"And what's your reason for withholding this?" Misty asked coldly.

"It's not like she made me promise her or anything, I just thought that the last few towns we visited would have more supplies and then she could eat without a care. Besides, it's not exactly comfortable to randomly spout things in the middle of our journey"

"So all she needs is food and rest, right? I don't see the big problem, we can get those things easily here I bet" AJ concluded.

"Actually, there really isn't much to scavenge around here" James replied dejectedly

"Well if it's food supplies that ya need, then I got plenty ta spare," Surge announced.

Everyone's mood lit up at the news, "You'd really do that for us?" Ash asked.

"Of course, I'm the one that looted what was left of the town, that's probably why you haven't found anything. I'll go check the stash." Surge said as he entered inside the gym.

"I'll come with you" Brock offered, proceeding inside only to be stopped by Ash's hand.

"Brock, I don't think it's a good idea that you go in," Ash warned.

"Why not?" Brock replied.

"It's…it's just that…well…I guess you'll just have to see for yourself" Ash said, letting Brock go.

The words made Brock hesitant to go inside now, but he went inside anyway. It was only a few seconds that they heard Brock scream, followed by a crunch.

When Ash and Misty went to see if he was okay they saw him sprawled out on the floor. He had slipped on a bottle and landed on another group of them directly behind him and broke them. Both of them suppressed a laugh after seeing that he wasn't hurt. It was after they helped him up that the smell reached Misty, almost making her gag.

She screeched in disgust and left the gym as fast as she could, taking deep breaths outside to clear the smell out of her mouth, throat, and senses.

"That's disgusting, how can anyone live like that? You could get drunk on the fumes in that place if you stayed long enough." Misty ranted furiously.

Brock had the insatiable need to clean the entire area. Everyone thought it would be safer if they stayed outside of the gym while Brock adorned his pink apron and wielded a broom.

Surge came out of the gym soon after, "I have all sorts of food for her to eat, right now let's let her sleep. First of all tell me what's happened to all of you. My story isn't very entertaining."

Once again, the story was being retold, the lieutenant began to hoot and holler in excitement at their odyssey unfold before him. Tracy had actually recorded their battle against the Kingler, which ended right when Ash's Kingler had returned victorious. They were just beginning to tell him the events that took place right after they had escaped from the giant Dragonite.

Ash's mind was a swirling blur of confusion, holding Pikachu tightly in his is arms. Holding in his scream made his chest hurt, forcing him to yell as loud as he could when the pain was too much to bear.

He had fallen from high distances before, but this time it was different. The shifting earth to his sides were moving in blurs. Up above, a large flash of light illuminated the entire abyss.

It was like looking at a miniature sun, growing rapidly in his direction. Ash could feel the heat from the Hyper Beam embrace him; growing stronger the closer the ball of fire came.

Real fear enveloped Ash now, the explosion getting closer and closer to him. The blast abruptly ended, shrouding everything back into shadows and darkness. Ash could no longer see the opening from above them; the rubble from the blast now sealed it off.

Brock felt like he was being flung every which way as he plummeted down and twirled as he went. The Gs were pulling at his face, making him want to throw up. He reached out and could only grab air. He summoned Steelix directly above them.

Steelix hadn't expected to be summoned, let alone being summoned in midair. The giant metal snake descended even faster than Brock, Steelix angling its body so that its side steel pegs didn't hit Brock, or anyone else below them. Steelix did its best to miss everyone that fell beneath it, its swirling body carved trenches into the earth on its sides.

Scizor flung Tracy over his shoulder, his other arm wrapped around Misty. His free claw stabbed into the wall. He felt his arm nearly dislocate from the sudden shock of stopping. It was only thanks to his metal exoskeleton that it hadn't.

Scizor looked up; there was no point in flying back up now that the opening was gone, especially with what awaited them beyond.

Samurai held onto Dawn, unsheathing his blade and stabbing it into the earth as hard as he could. The blade sank in easily, dragging through the sand, granite, and bedrock until he slowly came to a stop. Samurai's heart was beating faster than ever, the exhilaration of seeing something so powerful, something inside him wanted to fight that Pokémon.

At first it was normal, but after a few seconds, weight and gravity began to tug at Samurai's heels, crawling up the rest of his body. As strong as he was, and as much stamina as he had, he wouldn't be able to hold himself and Dawn up any longer. He would not let go of his blade, one of the only gifts he had gotten from his father. Instead, if they were to die at the bottom, then he would take his sword with him.

It was then that the dirt in the earthy wound loosened and released the blade from its rocky sheath. Below them, Sandslash burst out of the side of the earth, spinning across the expanse of the fissure he had created.

Below Sandslash was Steelix, wedging itself horizontally with its steel pegs in between the fissure. Sandslash used Steelix as a road, spinning across to the other end of the endless ravine. It momentarily disappeared into the other side before coming back, and spinning on the center of Steelix's body.

The ground up remains of Sandslash's tunnels were pulled into a vortex as Sandslash used Sand Tomb. Samurai, Dawn, Jessie, James, Meowth, Mr. Mime, Ash, Pikachu and Brock landed in the sandy cushion of the attack made to catch them.

Sandslash waited until they were all in the center of the vortex before undoing the move, allowing everyone to land on Steelix's back. Scizor saw what had happened from above, letting go of the wall and flying safely down to the Pokémon platform.

Something shook the earth, followed by a bellowing angry roar from above. Pebbles and dust began to rain lightly down on them with every shake, each time closer than the last one. Tracy could only guess that the Dragonite was trying to get to them, it refused to be robbed of its revenge.

Boulders now began to fall on them; Mr. Mime moved them out of the way with Psychic. The quakes somewhat dislodged Steelix from its perch; its body slowly being dragged lower.

Sandslash moved quickly, curling up into a spiky ball and drilling through the dirt. It was gone for a few seconds before it returned, motioning for the others to follow it into the tunnels it had created. Ash ran through first, everyone quickly followed, leaving Steelix behind.

Sandslash continued to bore through the ground, the others giving him a wide berth lest they get caught in his spines or get pelted by the shredded stones. The tunnel took a turn and stopped. Everyone moved out of the way as Sandslash walked past them back the way they came.

Misty could hear Sandslash say something to Steelix in Pokémon, watching as Sandslash came back. There was a loud rumble, not from above, but from where they came from. A metallic blur went past them; Sandslash had made the tunnel they had gone into long enough to be safe and away from Steelix as it drilled through the ground.

The others left the divergent tunnel to see the hole the Steelix had left behind. Steelix's tunnel had left something the size of a cave, giving ample room to move in. the Fissure that they had fallen from began to close; the tiny fraction of tectonic plates that Sandslash had wedged slightly open were forcing themselves back into place.

Sandslash disappeared into a hole, coming back a minute later with AJ in his arms. Everyone rushed to AJ as Sandslash laid him down gingerly on the ground.

"Is he alright? What happened?" Misty asked, somewhat surprised at herself for showing honest worry for AJ despite her disapproval of his actions.

Sandslash began conversing with Meowth, Meowth translating only once the entire message had been told to him.

"He says dat dey tunneled unda ground ta escape da landslide, AJ ordered him ta use fissure so dat you guys could get away. He was so tired from runnin he passed out," Meowth explained.

Everyone's impression of AJ changed at that moment, the idea that AJ had wanted to save them made them all feel guilty. They had isolated him from the group because of his cruel actions and crude comments. Now, because of him, they were alive and able to live on for another day should fate permit them.

Steelix returned and explained through Meowth to convey to the others that it had burrowed through a mile of earth. Everyone summoned their plant Pokemon so to recycle the little air that they had. After an hour AJ and Pikachu awoke, being immediately briefed on what was happening after being hugged and thanked.

The only lights they had were from the pokeglovs, and after a while the power for the pokeglovs were running low. Pikachu was too drained to recharge the pokeglov, Dawn summoned Pachirisu in Pikachu's stead and recharged them without so much as a dent from Pachirisu's power reserves.

Samurai politely declined the offers to be helped through the cave with the assistance of their pokeglovs. What he didn't tell them was that he could actually see better than them with their pokeglovs. His eyes could easily pierce the void of darkness that they wandered. He could just close his eyes and focus, every time someone made a sound, the entire cave lit up for him.

Sandslash could create a mental picture in his head of what was happening above ground. He described what he saw to Meowth, explaining to the others what happened above.

Dragonite was using every move in its arsenal, leveling the entire forest and area. What they experienced from the Dragonite was nothing compared to what was happening now. Dust and stone constantly fell from the ceiling, reminding them of the chaos that rained over them above ground. Misty, Dawn, and Jessie eventually gave up trying to clean out their hair from all the dust and rubble.

They walked for hours, eventually stopping for a minute to eat which proved more difficult than they had expected.

The Kingler meat they had gotten needed to be cooked, but to do that they needed a fire. Making a fire in the tunnels would consume all of the air that they had left and were recycling. They were forced to discard the Kingler meat and use the last of the rations that they had saved.

Sandslash couldn't dig a hole for air since directly above them was an entire mile of bedrock that would take too long to dig through in one day. There were times when the tunnel began to completely collapse around them. Mr. Mime came out instantly, keeping the roof of the tunnel up with Psychic. Once they had enough distance from the collapsing area, Ash returned Mr. Mime into his pokeglov.

When they finished, Surge laughed once more, slapping his knees as he rocked back and forth. The entire telling had taken them into night, the moon and the stars out.

"I gotta say, from what you've shown me and from what I've heard, you guys have earned my respect" Surge said earnestly.

"We're done!" Brock announced from the door of the house.

"What did you do with the gym!" Surge yelled in surprise, as he took a step inside.

Ash and the others followed him inside, surprised to find the smell of booze almost non-existent. Nothing could really be done about the holes in the walls, but the charred floors and walls were now spotless. Every single bottle, can, and piece of glass that was on the floor was now gone.

"How did you do this?" Ash asked, his head swiveling in every direction as he looked at the new room.

Mr. Mime levitated all the things on the floor; Crobat blew out the smell through the windows. Misty's water Pokémon pressure cleaned the floor and Carnivine absorbed all the water. Dawn woke up a while ago so Jessie and Misty had a talk with her; she's eaten and feels a lot better. She's agreed to not starve herself for our sake seeing now what it does to her. She cried a little but I think she let it all out after the talk with her, I think it did her some good."

"Why didn't you tell us she was awake?" Ash asked.

"It wasn't necessary for you to come in, besides, the first thing she wanted to do when she woke up was take a bath. I finished off the rest of the cleaning while they all used the baths that were in the gym."

Ash's mind wandered on the thought for a few seconds when Surge yelled out, "let's have a party for the clean house and your survival."

Brock frowned, picturing the house in ruins from the party just after he had cleaned it. Everyone followed Surge to the kitchen, returning all of their Pokémon.

Surged walked over to the fridge in the kitchen, opening it up to reveal that half of it was stocked with beer and other alcoholic beverages.

"Anyone want a drink?" Surge offered; prepared to hand out a beer can.

"We're underage" Misty pointed out, clearly disapproving of Surge's remark.

"Who cares, the world's going ta hell, might as well have a drink or two. No one's gonna tell on you, I don't think anyone would care." Surge laughed.

"Actually, I'll take you on your offer" James said, taking the beer that Surge handed out. Jessie also took one; both of them leaving the room to drink in silence, then go to sleep. It had been a while since they drank anything alcoholic, but now it seemed appropriate, something that would help them forget and get away from all the worries they bore.

"So…what's your story?" Ash asked, watching Surge pull out another can from the fridge, downing it in a single gulp, and crush it into a disk by smashing it with the palm of his hand into his forehead.

"Not much to tell. Raichu went crazy one day, killed the rest of my Pokémon and the people that were here; nearly killed me and almost brought the building down." Surge motioned towards the walls at first but put his hand down now that they were scorch free.

"Same thing happened all over town, all phone connection went down, and not even mail was getting through. People started to worry and decided to take the cruise ship to visit their families. Not everyone left, half the town stayed and that's when the wild Pokémon started coming in. They started attacking the families, when I heard the commotion I sent Raichu out to take care of it. Thing is Raichu was just getting used to his own strength and started doing damage of his own."

AJ nodded, seeing as he had gone through a similar experience.

"People started leaving town out of fear, I had no reason to leave before with the boat. Good thing too, considerin what you told me about your incident, though I probably would've done what you did in the end faster. I ended up being the only resident here, weeks went by and the only form of entertainment that I got from the wild Pokémon that wandered in here was gone. I don't even get up in the morning to tell Raichu what to do. Now that no one's here, I let him go nuts with his moves as long as he doesn't do unnecessary damage. I guess the solitude was getting me depressed so I was thinking that I was gonna drink myself ta death. But seeing as how you got here, I think that there's more fun ways to die out there" Surge laughed.

"So does that mean you're joining us?" Tracy asked curiously.

"I don't see why not. These two over here have gained my respect a long time ago, and the fact that you guys have survived this long has earned you some respect from me"

"Don't a lot of people earn your respect?" Ash commented.

"Look here Ash, just because you've been winning most of your gym battles, doesn't mean that everyone does. It's actually a pretty rare occurrence for gym leaders. For every time I've lost, I've probably won fifty other battles" Surge clarified.

Ash turned to Brock and Misty who were former gym leaders; they nodded in agreement as well.

I'm really only following you cause I have respect for you, to be completely honest, I didn't really have any respect for anyone in this town except for my team mates and the Joy from the Pokemon center. People I respect are people like you, and my Raichu, he's like the son I never had" Surge said, ruffling the fur on Raichu's head. Raichu smiled proudly, trying to show no emotion, blinking away nonexistent tears.

"Ya know though, I think I like it this way, the world," Surge confessed.

Everyone in the room became dead silent, staring quizzically at the lieutenant as if they weren't sure that they had heard what he had said right.

"Don't look at me like that. If you don't agree that's fine, the way the world is now just brings me back to my younger years. Where the weak are killed, and the strong survive. I guess that's just war" Surge sighed.

"War?" Brock blurted out incredulously.

"Don't sound so shocked" Surge replied.

"Sorry, I just…this…"

"What? You don't think this is a war? Boy, take a look outside and tell me what you see. Violence, Death, Destruction, that's all war in my book. If what you told me is right, the wild Pokemon have already declared it. And from what you told me, your victories, that's just humanity fighting back, you guys are just the first. I've seen my share of battles; some were long drawn out fights, others were complete landslide victories. I'll admit that humanity got caught with their guard down, but we'll come back. This is by no means extermination, you've all fought back and won, that makes this a war. I'm no stranger to war."

"So I assume that you're joining us then?" Tracy asked.

"Yep, when do we leave?"

"Dawn" Ash declared.

"Perfect, the sooner the better, I go pack the supplies" Surge excused himself and began walking into a room.

"Ash, we need to talk" Tracy said grimly.

"About what?"

"Come outside" Tracy said, leaving the building and waiting a few yards from the door outside.

Ash followed, unsure of what this was all about.

"What's the big deal?"

"Why did you invite him?"

"What d'ya mean why?"

"Ash, we can't just invite every person that we meet"

"So what would you suggest that we do with survivors we find then?" Ash asked testily.

"I…I don't know, but we can't bring him with us"

"Why not, one more person isn't gonna make a difference, he can-"

"Ash, you said back in Pewter City that we couldn't take Brock's family because they were too many people and would be a big target. You're contradicting yourself right now by bringing him"

"I didn't bring them along because they can't fight, and you know that we need all the help we can get in this world"

"Ash, we're running out of food, one person does make a difference, and it's a big difference. Look at Dawn, she's been starving herself so that we could eat, if she hadn't, we may not have had food down in the tunnels"

"We'll get more food, Surge has a bunch we can jus-"

"Ash you say things and they sound easy, but they're not, this is reality, come back to it. We are straying off task, we went to find a safe place, we-"

"You want to go find a safe place, Tracy. I'm starting to think that AJ was right. But let's say we do find this safe place, what then? Are we the only people that can be in the safe place, the people that you want to give the Pokemon back to, are you just gonna send them off into the world. You said Brock's home was too small, and that was place in my opinion was huge. If our safe place is supposed to be so big, then why not shelter survivors. That's been my mission, I'm gonna find survivors and take them with us. If they can fight, that's great, if they can't, we'll protect them. The way I see it Tracy, a haven is useless if it doesn't protect as many people as it can."

"Who died and made you leader?" Tracy yelled.

The conversation that had started in whispers had escalated into a dull roar and then into shouting.

"I could ask you the same thing, why don't we ask the group?" Ash suggested.

"There's no need, I've been leading this group since Pallet Town, I've made all the plans, I've given the orders and everyone's followed them. We've survived because of me!"

"We've survived because of our Pokemon, most of them being mine" Ash countered. "Tracy, you're telling me that I'm off task. I think it's actually you that's off task. When I do something, like offer a person to join our group, I don't do it only out of kindness. I'm doing it because I know Oak would've tried to save every single person he could. You know he would, you've lived with him long enough to know he's the type of man that would try to save anyone in the face of any difficulty, whether it was food or danger." Ash concluded, turning away and walking back inside the gym, leaving Tracy, standing in silence.

There was nothing Tracy could do to counter Ash's remark with, what he said was mostly true. If it weren't for Ash's Pokémon, they wouldn't have gotten as far as they had now. Ash's mission to save others was more like something that the Oak he knew would do. Tracy's hand covered his face.

"Have I really been the one who's off task Oak?" Tracy whispered into the silent, black night.

Surge opened up a crate, pulling out a combat knife about a foot long and two and a half inches wide. He sheathed it into a slot in the back of his outfit, making sure it was secure, but at the same time, making sure that he could summon it at a moment's notice.

After he was satisfied, he pumped his fists through the air to see if his skills were rusty. Surge took a deep breath, staring at the night sky. This would be the second war he had ever been in, this time it was against Pokémon. With a smile and a chuckle, he headed towards his bed, unsure if he was even going to be able to sleep with the idea of the future battles on the horizon.

For those of you just finishing this arc I feel I must congratulate and apologize to you. Congratulate because you've managed to make it through my writing and reached the end. There's quite a bit of spelling and grammar errors, scenarios that weren't well thought out or had characters act out of character in the way they did things or even spoke. If you've made it to this point, then you're a trooper and I salute you.

My apology is that while you've finished this arc and moving onto the next, the arc you've just read and its sequel are now no longer going to be considered part of the main series of Poke Wars. I'm redoing the series, starting with the Lapidescence (Subsistence Redux). This newer version will keep some things the same, but much of what has happened in Ash's month of the undampening will be different. If you've enjoyed this arc, then I hope the new version I will write will be even more entertaining. I will keep this arc up if only as a way to make a comparison of the plot and my writing style. I look forward to entertaining you all and I hope that I can continue to earn your continued patience.