"Whispers in the Dark"

Chapter I: Return of an Old Friend

By: Crichton55

A/N: This is the first chapter of the first installment in the three-part saga entitled "Whispers in the Dark". This is my first real fanfiction that I really plan on finishing, and possibly continuing, so again, bear with me. Please read and review! I have nothing left to say, so on with the fic! (Italics mean thoughts, unless otherwise implied, with the exception of Pikachu.)

-Ilex Forest-

Ash took off his cap and set it beside the sleeping bag. He yawned loudly and lay down, and Pikachu gave a low groan as he curled up into a small, yellow ball beside his trainer. Misty unrolled her aqua-blue bag and set it down on the soft dirt a few feet away. "Good night, Brock. Good night, Pikachu. G'night, Misty."

"Good night, Ash."

"Pi Pika Pikapi."

"Good night, Ash." Sweet dreams. I love you, Misty thought to herself. She gave him a soft smile before averting her gaze to the night sky. The fantastic array of wispy white smears and glittering dots greeted her stare, and soon she began to feel her eyelids begin to grow heavy.

Ash rolled onto his side and stared at Misty absentmindedly. He did not want to close his eyes, yet his eyelids seemed to only gain in weight. Misty's beautiful bunch of red hair blurred as he fought for consciousness, but at last he gave up, and he felt sleep overtake him. Misty disappeared from view.

Blackness. That's all he saw. Everything around him, dark. There was no sound that greeted his ears, nor wind that blew across his skin. Nothingness. Ash spun around several times, fruitlessly trying to make sense of where he was. He had to be dreaming. He was sure that this black void was not real, merely a figment of his imagination. He looked down and saw nothing. He was standing on absolutely nothing, though he could still feel gravity's grip on him.

Light flooded around him, and Ash found himself in the center of a stadium. He stood in the middle of the white outline of a PokéBall that adorned the center of a brown field. Black stands surrounded the field; beyond which stood a magnificent black tower that seemed to stretch into the cloudy sky.

A lone gray figure glided slowly over to him. Ash stood still, his gaze transfixed upon the creature. Its arms looked like gray bones and looked like twigs in comparison to the size of its abdomen, which looked to be at least a foot in diameter. It's head somewhat resembled a gray skull with two blunt horns growing out the back. A long, thick tail curled behind it, giving it the illusion of a large, deformed cat. Its eyes glowed bright blue as it hovered in front of Ash.

He felt fear pollute him. Who was this? What was this? It had to be some kind of Pokémon; no human Ash had ever seen looked quite as bizarre as this. He tried to run in the opposite direction, but before he could take two steps he found himself on the ground, rubbing his face. What had he run into? There hadn't been anything there to knock him over.

A deep voice greeted his ears. "That's called a Barrier, Ash." Ash got up quickly and turned to look at the gray Pokémon that continued to hover in place. "Wh-what?" he croaked in confusion.

The Pokémon chuckled softly, and the glowing blue color disappeared from its eyes. "I see why Misty calls you 'dense'," it said. "Barrier. It's a kind of energy force-field. No matter or radiation can pass through-"

Ash finally found his voice. "Don't care," he interrupted swiftly. "Who are you? Why are you in my dream?" He felt his voice slowly rise, and he realized that he had raised his hand and had pointed accusingly at the gray Pokémon. His arm trembled slightly as he lowered it.

The Pokémon's eyes began to glow blood red, and a red aura of light encircled around Ash. Immediately he felt a surge of pain all over his body, as though white-hot knives were piercing him. He fell to the floor and felt himself start to lose control of his limbs. His arms and legs flailed around violently, kicking and beating the ground mercilessly. He no longer knew who he was. He only knew pain; he could only think about the burning plague that continued to surge through him.

As quickly as the pain came, it vanished. The feel of the cooler air around him flooded back, and he realized that his breathing was very heavy. He felt sweat slide down his face as he attempted to stand. "What the hell was that?"

"Pain," the gray Pokémon put simply, and Ash gave a loud snicker of sarcasm as he stood up. "Ha! Thank you, Dr. Smartass! I was having so much difficulty figuring that out. Thank you," he blurted out without thinking, but the gray Pokémon did not smile as the scarlet in its eye faded.

"You think this is a joke? That was merely a fraction of the pain you would experience if you do nothing!" it said harshly. Ash shook his head. "What are you talking about?" he asked, eyeing the Pokémon questioningly, as though expecting the act of staring it down would end this pointless encounter. "Who are you?"

The figure's expression remained neutral. "You still don't remember me, Ash?" it said. "I expected as much. Wiping someone's memory tends to have that effect. I am Mewtwo, the strongest Pokémon in the world." Ash sensed a bit of pride in Mewtwo's low telepathic voice, but quickly dispensed the useless thought.

Mewtwo, shaking his head with a look of pity on his face, breathed a long sigh, letting the air expel from his lungs at a slow rate. "This isn't the same world you entered when you started your fateful Pokémon journey a few years ago, Ash. Open your eyes and look around you!" Mewtwo's voice was steadily rising from calm to a harsh, blazing tone with each word he spoke. "Team Rocket is multiplying in number and growing in power, Ketchum! They are now at the point that I myself cannot destroy them single-handedly! Soon they will have grown strong enough to take over the entirety of Johto. To answer your question, human, imagine your friends, your closest allies, coughing up blood from a poison gas attack! Imagine your buddy Pikachu being shot by an assault rifle! (Ash cringed at the very thought.) Or envision the love of your life, that beautiful redheaded girl that seems to follow you everywhere for no apparent reason, being blown up by a roadside bomb! This region is under siege by Team Rocket! Is ANY of this sinking in to that thick skull of yours?!" Mewtwo roared, and Ash saw a hint of scarlet flash across his rectangular eyes.

Ash could not speak or make any type of bodily movement. He saw mental images of Brock's blood on the ground, Pikachu's limp and broken body, and, worst of all, Misty being torn to shreds by a simple C4 explosive. He gave a large grimace at the thought and felt a twinge of nervousness course through him, then anger.

Team Rocket. He had always hated them, hated the organization. That stupid group of thugs had been trouble for him from day one, and this time they had gone too far. He was not going to let them endanger him and his friends, and especially not Misty.

Finally, he found his voice. "What do you want me to do?" Ash inquired. His voice was filled with his hatred of Team Rocket. Mewtwo gave a small grin. "Lie low and wait, Ash Ketchum. Make the most of what little time you have left. I will see you far sooner than you think," he responded with a hint of eagerness in his voice.

Ash opened his sleepless eyes, the endless void of the day lit sky and the faces of Misty, Brock, and Pikachu obscuring his vision. He made no motion to rub the nonexistent sleep out of his eyes. Instead he rose out of his sleeping bag and stood up.

"Once we arrive in Goldenrod, we go straight over to the Pokémon center; we should stay there and lie low. We don't have time to argue, Misty! Just pack up your stuff!" he snapped, seeing that Misty had opened her mouth in protest. Ash grabbed his hat and flipped it onto his head.

The next grueling fifteen minutes were silently spent packing their gear, neither Misty nor Brock even daring to look Ash in his determined and thought-filled eyes while he packed up at previously unrecorded speeds. Pikachu seemed to refuse to go within a three-foot radius of his trainer, and hesitated for a fraction of a second when Ash allowed him back up onto his shoulder.

Questions began to zoom through Ash's sore mind. Who was this "Mewtwo" Pokémon that had arisen in his dream that he expected to be about Misty? Why hadn't he realized that Jessie, James, and Meowth hadn't shown themselves in the past three days? Where were they now and what kind of failure were they planning to assault him and his friends with this time? One thing was for certain: if the creature in his dream was correct, he needed to get him and his friends to the safety of Goldenrod's Pokémon Center, and fast.

A/N: There you have it, the first chapter! Please R&R.