Sorry for the long layoff. Work and girlfriend obligations have stalled me XD
Incidentally, this is the story's shortest chapter, but only because the story dictates it. I assure you the next chapter will be longer.
THANK YOU to all who have taken the time to read!
PLEASE take an additional few seconds to leave a reivew :)
I LOVE YOU ALL! Now...
CHAPTER TWENTY: ROUTE ONE RUMBLE
Four pokéballs flew up into the air, disappearing from view as they sailed into the dark night sky. Four bright flashes of white light then exploded, materializing on the ground in front of the group of teenagers.
Jigglypuff, Golduck, Glaceon and Sudowoodo joined Kirlia, Piplup and Pikachu in standing on guard in front of their respective trainers. The Pokémon and the teens stared across the grassy knoll at their opponents. Of course, these opponents were not competing with them just to win some trophy or gym badge.
The five Team Rocket agents that had been sent to capture Ash stood across from them, looking especially devilish and intimidating as they stood in the shadows. They, along with their own team of imposing Pokémon, had their faces hidden by the midnight darkness. Only the partially hindered moonlight made their silhouettes and this grassy battlefield the least bit visible.
"Isn't that cute?" the male agent at the head of the Rocket team scoffed. "They each have a little Pokémon to protect them!"
The agent's cohorts all chuckled in unison.
"Look, kids," a snooty female agent sneered from the shadows. "We don't want to have to hurt anyone here tonight. Ketchum, just come with us to our headquarters and none of your little friends here have to get killed."
Despite the fact that Ash would have been willing to sacrifice himself for his friends' safety, he was still feeling extremely confident that they could defeat this small team of agents if they tried. What exactly did they want with him anyway? Even despite his strong showing at the tournament, it wasn't like Ash Ketchum was a household name. But he couldn't think about that right now. The electric feeling of adrenaline from before was still pumping through his veins mightily. For whatever reason, he knew they were going to win this fight... he could just feel it.
"Forget it!" Dawn shouted angrily before Ash could respond to the agent. "He isn't going anywhere with you! There's seven of us and five of you! I like our chances!"
"Ariados! Teach that bitch to keep her mouth shut!" a different agent suddenly roared from the shadows. "Use Poison Jab!"
A sickly purple glow began to illuminate the dark area where Team Rocket stood probably fifty feet away from Ash and his friends. The poisonous bug's eight legs looked like they had burst into violet flames. Then, like a cannon ball, Ariados lunged towards Dawn and Piplup. Ash reacted quickly, however, and called upon Pikachu to launch an attack.
"Pikachu! Th– "
Amazingly, Pikachu had also reacted at precisely the same time as Ash. Before the boy could even utter his command, the electric mouse had fired a crackling bolt of electricity from his cheeks, knocking the zooming arachnid-Pokémon out of midair and sending it crashing to the ground. It landed in a crumpled heap about halfway in between Team Rocket and the teens. Ash was a little taken aback at how Pikachu had appeared to have acted on his own accord. It was like the electric mouse had been able to read Ash's mind. He was definitely shocked, but regardless of what had happened, he was glad it had worked.
"Fuckin' kids!" one of the agents bellowed in anger when he had seen Ash disobey their orders.
"These punks are actually going to fight us!" another yelled in a surprised tone.
"Fine with me! The boss did say that if the kid didn't cooperate we should just kill them all."
Ash turned his navy blue baseball cap backwards so his peripheral vision wouldn't be blocked by the bill. His heart pounded. He knew what was coming. It was time to battle.
Instantly, Ash felt the most peculiar sensation tingle down his spine. He looked down at his feet to see his Pikachu looking up at him confidently. The two longtime friends met eyes briefly, and in that moment, they both felt as though they had some sort of mental or spiritual connection with one another. Both human and Pokémon felt the strange synergy at the same time. With a slight nod to one another, both Ash and Pikachu felt as though they were now able to communicate inaudibly, almost as though they were inside each others minds.
"Magmortar! Let's fry these kids with a Flamethrower!" Ash heard one of the Rockets bellow from across the area.
As the boy heard the agent's command, he suddenly felt something in his jeans pocket start to pulsate like crazy. It felt like a vibrating cellular phone against his thigh. But of course, Ash knew right away what it was. It was the coin. And it was getting hotter and hotter, nearly enough to burn right through his pants.
But despite how hot the coin's surface was getting, Ash did not feel pain at all. In fact, strangely, the burning felt good. It felt invigorating, like the prickly heat was energizing Ash even more. The boy felt this energy inside his body building and building like a deep breath.
"Now, Magmortar! Fire!"
A loud roar was followed by the whooshing sound of the glowing flames flying towards Ash and his friends like neon-orange liquid.
Once again, before Ash could shout for Pikachu to do something, Pikachu did something. Ash felt all that pent-up energy from the coin instantly released from his body. He watched in awe as the biggest explosion of electricity he had ever seen erupted from Pikachu's cheeks. Not only did the enormous electric display extinguish the fire attack, but it also took out Magmortar and several of the other Pokémon as well as a few of the agents.
Ash didn't know what exactly had happened. He definitely felt the thunderous attack coming out of him, but yet, it hadn't. It had come from Pikachu.
Ash's friends stood in amazement, as did the remaining Team Rocketeers. Even though the teens all knew how strong Pikachu had become over the years, the amount of power that the Pokémon had just exerted was incredible even for him. Strangely, Ash felt a bit fatigued after the unusual electric attack, despite the fact that he hadn't been the one to conjure it. He could tell though, that Pikachu was feeling the exact same way.
Luckily, Ash's friends – who had since composed themselves after Pikachu's mysterious outburst – jumped right in for their heavy-breathing companions.
"Piplup! Use Bubble Beam!"
"Glaceon! Use Ice Beam!
In graceful fashion, Dawn and May's Pokémon both obliged and fired their respective attacks in the direction of the three remaining Team Rocket agents and their Pokémon. Like a dazzling contest combination, Glaceon's silvery beam of energy zoomed past and through Piplup's stream of bubbles. The subzero energy of the Ice Beam froze them into solid balls of ice. The barrage of ice spheres hurtled towards the agents like rock-hard canon balls.
While two of the three remaining agents were able to dive out of the way of the speeding orbs, one of them was not so lucky. A loud scream was followed by several sickening sounds of ice hitting bone, as it was clear that the frozen bubbles had struck the Rocket's body or head. Ash heard a thud as the bludgeoned agent collapsed unconsciously to the ground.
Moments later, the fallen agent's Pokémon, which revealed itself to be an Aggron when it stomped out of the shadows and into the moonlight, roared in anger at the kids for hurting its master. Without warning, the bulky creature charged the group like a battering ram. It lowered its iron-hard skull as it lumbered towards Ash and his friends, exposing the sharp horns of steel on its head."
"Golduck! Stop that thing with Confusion!"
Misty's web-footed fighter grunted obligingly. Its ruby-like eyes began to flash like strobe lights, and the matching jewel on its forehead emitted a strange pulse of energy. As soon as the Rockets' Aggron locked eyes with Golduck, the steel-type monster began to stumble. Looking hazy and stupefied from Misty's attack, the bulky beast looked like it was drunk as it wobbled uneasily. Seizing the opportunity, Brock called for his Pokémon to finish Aggron.
"Sudowoodo! Use Sucker-punch!"
Brock's towering, log-shaped battler took a running start at the woozy Aggron and reared its club-like fist back before punching the confused Pokémon square in the face. Unable to brace itself under its confounded state, Aggron was immediately knocked out cold.
By this time, the youngest battler of them all, Max, was going toe-to-toe with the final two agents with Ash by his side. Kirlia and Pikachu both had unyielding expressions on their faces as they prepared to do battle.
"You're gonna let that little one die for you, Ketchum? Wouldn't it be far more honorable to just surrender and come with us?"
"Oh, can it, jerk-offs!" Max roared. "I can take care of myself."
The two agents merely chuckled at the foolish child's bravado. Even though the agents' faces weren't discernible in the dark, Ash could tell by their body language that they were done messing around. They definitely weren't going to take it easy on Max simply because of his age.
"You asked for it, kid," one of them said almost regretfully before both agents bellowed.
"Alakazam! Shoot 'em with a Psybeam!"
"Cloyster! Aurora Beam!"
Both beasts obeyed their masters, and fired twin beams of energy towards Ash, Max and their Pokémon. Pikachu and Ash, who were both still acting in sync with each other's thoughts, easily jumped out of the way of the speeding attacks. Max and Kirlia however, weren't so lucky. The eleven-year-old, who wasn't as athletic as Ash, did not react in time.
Ash and Pikachu stared in horror as they watched Max thrown backward like he had been hit by a truck. The blinding explosion of the two attacks had drowned out the boy's brief whimpering as he crash landed on the ground probably twenty feet away. Kirlia lay motionless on the ground as well.
Of course, by this time, the rest of the group had turned to notice what was going on.
"Max!" the boy's sister screamed. The shrill tone of terror in her voice echoed in the night.
May turned and sprinted desperately to try to find where her brother had landed. Ash wanted to follow her. He wanted to make sure that Max was alive. He hoped against hope that he had been able to survive the blast. But the two Rocket agents who were still left standing would not just sit back and wait for them to tend to Max.
"Ketchum! Just surrender yourself. Don't let any more of your friends get hurt!"
Ash's blood was boiling by now. How dare they act so disrespectfully after doing what they had done. He felt the rage building in him. He tried his hardest to not let his anger cloud his judgment. What was the best move here? Should he just surrender himself? Ash pondered for a few seconds. If he just went with the agents, the rest of the group would be able to rush Max back to Professor Oak's lab without resistance. Besides, Ash would have the coin to keep him safe.
Ash's thoughts were interrupted by Pikachu's voice. He looked down to see his friend looking up at him with a stern expression. Defiantly, the rodent shook his head as if to remind his trainer why they had left the relative safety of the laboratory in the first place. And as their strange mental bond continued, Ash realized that Pikachu was right. Lance and Cynthia. Who would be left to try to save them and the other imprisoned trainers if Ash just surrendered? Max definitely wouldn't want him to give up.
"He's alive!" Ash heard May sobbing from somewhere off in the bushes interrupt. "He's bleeding pretty bad though!"
A mixture of relief and fear rushed over Ash. But he had to stay focused. If he wasn't going to hand himself over, he needed to be able to fend off Team Rocket long enough so that they could get Max to safety.
"May! Get Max back to Professor Oak's!" Ash shouted, not daring to take his eyes off Team Rocket.
Without answering, May quickly released a large red-feathered, bipedal Pokemon from its pokéball and commanded it to pick her little brother's bleeding body up off the ground. Then, the two of them, followed by Glaceon, ran off into the night.
Now, so angry that he could hardly contain himself, Ash turned and shot a glare so nasty towards the two men that he swore that he could sense the slightest bit of uneasiness come across them from where they stood. The coin was now burning so hot that Ash could smell smoke coming off his jeans. He felt the same energized feeling as before, only this time, it was must more intense. Perhaps it was coin; perhaps it was rage.
"You..." Ash growled as he gritted his teeth. "... Should not have done that!"
Even Misty, Dawn and Brock were a bit surprised by Ash's uncharacteristic fury. Pikachu stood in front of Ash with his tiny teeth bared and threatening sparks twinkling near his cheeks.
"Who's next, Ketchum? Perhaps the cute red-head?" the male agent taunted, as though he had not seen what Pikachu had done to his fellow agents before. "Who else will have to pay for your stubbornness?"
"You're not going to hurt any more of my friends!" Ash roared, pointing threateningly towards the two men.
Without verbal order, Pikachu let loose another enormous explosion of electricity towards the agents. This one was even more intense and powerful than the last. Again, Ash felt the outburst of energy as though he had been the one to produce it. The darkness of night was temporarily gone as the lightning blinded everyone. The sound of the blast made the agents' screams barely audible.
When the electricity finally subsided and the darkness returned, the final two agents were lying in a motionless heap on the ground, their black blazers smoking from being burned. Ash, again feeling strangely fatigued following Pikachu's uncanny outburst of power, looked all around him. He noticed that Lexi, Dawn, Brock and Misty were giving him suspicious looks. If they had simply shrugged off Pikachu previous Thunderbolt as nothing but an anomaly, they definitely weren't going to this time.
Ash, trying to hide how heavily he was breathing, gave the four teens a nervous smile before walking across the field to check on all five unconscious agents and their fainted Pokémon. Sure enough, they had managed to incapacitate all of them.
Instantly, Ash's thoughts turned to Max. Had May and Blaziken managed to get him safely back to Professor Oak's lab? Was he still... still alive? Ash hadn't even seen how bad Max's injuries had been, and that aura of mystery was terrifying to him. After all, Max was much too young to even be going on a mission like this.
Ash pondered what they should do next. His mother and the professor undoubtedly knew about the teens' plan to sneak off by now. They definitely wouldn't be happy. Especially now since Max had been hurt. Should they just return to the lab and hope that someone else would be able to save Team Rocket's prisoners? But even before he finished asking himself the question, he knew the answer. As Ash felt the gold coin in his pocket gradually cooling in temperature, he knew deep down that if anyone could stop what was going on in the world, it was him.
He knew they didn't have much time if they wanted to get to Viridian City and eventually the Cahill Islands. But Ash felt like they should... like they had to go back and at least check on Max.
"Ash?" Misty spoke softly as though she didn't want to interrupt.
"Is everyone okay?" Ash replied, still thinking about what they should do about Max.
"Yeah," everyone replied, sounding rather somber in the wake of what had happened to their youngest companion.
"Ash," Lexi said cautiously and quietly. "I'm sorry about your friend, but I think we should press on. Lance and Cynthia don't have much time."
Misty and Dawn both glared at Lexi.
"Who cares about that? Ash! Max is our friend! What if he's-"
"I can go back and help," Brock suggested. "May said he was still alive before she left. If they were able to control the bleeding, I can try to stabilize him."
"That's a good idea, Brock," Lexi said with a nod. She took Ash by the hand, much to the chagrin of Misty and Dawn, and tried to pull him along with her down Route One. But Ash's legs remained cemented in place as he was deep in thought.
"No," he said finally. "We're going back. I can't go on without knowing whether or not he's okay. He shouldn't have even been out here with us. It was my fault for letting him come."
Ash took his hand away from Lexi's and turned to walk back towards Pallet Town as Pikachu and the others followed behind. Misty and Dawn seemed relieved that Ash had made this choice. It would have been extremely difficult to concentrate on their task at hand while the well-being of one of their own was unknown.
But before the group could get very far, Ash heard a soft almost musical sound begin to chime from behind them. It was like someone was singing. Almost instantly upon hearing the strange song, Ash's eyelids began to get very heavy. What was going on? What was that noise? Before he was even able to turn around to find out the source of the singing, everything went black and his consciousness was gone.
Lexi stared regrettably at Ash as she watched him and the others fall suddenly asleep and collapse to the ground much as the Team Rocket agents had before.
"Good work, Jiggly," she said as she returned the pink-bodied Pokémon back to its ball.
The long-legged girl walked over to where Ash's body lay, and she gently nudged him with her foot to make sure he was out. When neither the snoring teens nor their Pokémon stirred, she exhaled in relief. Still not daring to take her eyes off Ash, Lexi took a cell phone out of her brassiere and dialed a number.
"I've d-done it," she said meekly with the phone to her ear. "I got him."
The brown-haired girl shivered in the chilly night air as she listened to the response on the other end.
"Excellent," was all the gruff male voice said.
Lexi shivered at the sound of mercilessness in the mysterious man's voice who had contacted her a few nights ago claiming to be the kidnapper of her sister. She had been skeptical at first, but once the man revealed that he knew exactly when and where Kimberly had been abducted, Lexi figured he was telling the truth. And then, when she had heard that same voice on television yesterday during the attack on Sapphire Stadium, Lexi knew she had to follow his orders if she ever wanted to see her sister alive again.
"So, what do you want with Ash anyway?" Lexi said, trying to sound as tough as she could.
"That," the voice on the phone replied, "is not your concern, Ms. Moss."
Even though the man on the other line wasn't yelling or swearing, Lexi could sense the impatience in his voice. She didn't dare try to anger her sister's captor any further.
"Okay, so once I bring him to you, you're going to let my sister go, right?"
The man chuckled before answering, "Once I have Ketchum in my custody and I can get him to cooperate... then yes, Ms. Moss. I will hand your sister over to you."
"Cooperate?" Lexi replied, sounding concerned by the word. "How are you going to get him to cooperate? The agents here almost killed his friends and he still wouldn't go with them. He's not going to just give you whatever you want!"
"Well, for your sister's sake... let's just hope the boy has a change of heart then."
Panic began to set in for Lexi. She could tell by the scary man's tone that Kim's life depended on whether or not he could get Ash to do his bidding, whatever that was. Lexi didn't have any idea of what this guy wanted from some teenage kid, but she assumed it had something to do with what she saw the first night she had met Ash.
Lexi thought about that strange night when she had seen Ash cheat death. She thought about the strange coin that seemed to have the power to make the boy invincible. Was this why the man wanted Ash? Did he know about the coin and its incredible power?
After a few moments of pondering, Lexi concluded that the man must not have known about it. Surely the five agents whom she had been ordered to lead Ash and his friends to would have demanded the coin right away instead of deciding to try to kill them all if that's what they had been after. No, Lexi concluded, there must be another reason this man wanted Ash.
Either way though, as long as Ash had the coin in his possession, Lexi thought, he would be far less willing to 'cooperate' with Team Rocket. She had seen how defiant and willing to fight Ash had been with the five agents sent to capture him. Lexi couldn't risk that the boy whom she figured fancied himself somewhat of a hero would not cooperate, eliminating the only chance her sister had to live.
Lexi then thought about how Ash had saved her from being raped by a very drunk Zak Seabrook that night and how he had been willing to help her save Kim, and instantly she felt horrible about what she had done and what she was thinking about doing... even if it was to save her sister's life.
"Ms. Moss?" she heard the man say on the phone. "Are you still there?"
"Yes, I'm here..." Lexi replied, although her voice trailed.
With a deep breathe of finality or maybe reluctance, the girl walked over to Ash and reached her hand inside his jeans pocket and fished around. Just as she had thought, she felt a small, metal object inside. She pulled out the gold coin, which was glimmering in what little moon light there was. She gazed in awe at its beauty that she had failed to notice a the week before when she had recovered the same coin from Ash's guestroom at the Sapphire City Pokémon Center. The five glittering jewels embedded in the gold looked like Christmas lights the way they seemed to shine.
Perhaps, she thought to herself, if Ash did not possess the coin, he wouldn't have the courage to act so cavalier in Team Rocket's custody.
"Sir," Lexi said finally, although it sickened her to address the man in such a reverent manner. "Where should I take him? He won't stay sleeping forever, and I know I won't be able to overpower him once he wakes up."
"You said you have several Pokémon who know how to use Teleport?"
"Good. Are they strong enough to transport both you and the boy?"
"Excellent. Bring him to Mount Moon. It's not too far away. I'll have someone waiting there to bring you and the boy the rest of the way by chopper."
"Okay," Lexi replied. She was breathing heavily now, filled with emotions both nervous and guilty. But there was no turning back now. She thought about how afraid her big sister must be feeling, and that mental image motivated her.
As Lexi was about to hang up the phone, she stopped. She had been absentmindedly pacing around the sleeping teenagers when she halted right in front of the blue-haired girl in the pink skirt.
An idea popped into her head. She had overheard from Ash's mother at the party about how Ash and this girl, Dawn, had been traveling together for years now. Lexi had seen the jealousy Dawn had looked at her with ever since she had shown up in Pallet Town. Ash hadn't talked a lot about Dawn, but Lexi assumed that he at least felt something for this girl to have been so close with her for so long. Plus, as Lexi realized as she gazed at Dawn's long flowing hair and shapely figure, any teenage boy would love to be with a girl like this.
"Sir, one more thing," Lexi said.
"What is it?" he replied gruffly.
"Well, I have Ash's girlfriend here as well," Lexi said, sounding for the first time the slightest bit devious herself. "Perhaps, I should bring her along as well. She could be useful in helping... convince Ash to cooperate, ya know?"
Lexi couldn't be too careful. Between the loss of his precious coin and the threat of Dawn being harmed, Ash would have no choice but to obey whomever this man was.
The man on the phone paused, obviously pondering what Lexi had suggested or perhaps a bit surprised by her willingness to offer up another hostage after her reluctance to betray the boy. After a few seconds he growled approvingly.
"Perhaps, you are right, Ms. Moss. Good. Bring the girl too, if your Pokémon can manage the extra weight."
"Shouldn't be a problem."
"Excellent. Now hurry to Mount Moon. I want Ketchum in my dungeon by daybreak!"
"What about your agents? They're just kind of lying here. I don't know if they're dead or not, but Ketchum and his friends took them all out. All five of them."
"Don't worry about them, I'll send for them later. Just get moving!"
"What about the rest of Ketchum's friends?"
"Ms. Moss! My patience is wearing! I'm not concerned about some stupid kids. Just bring me Ketchum and the girl, NOW!"
"Okay, okay. Sorry."
Lexi hung up the phone and replaced it under her shirt. She opened her backpack and dropped Ash's coin inside. She again took a deep breath to collect herself. With her arm still inside the opened bag, the girl pulled out a two pokéballs and tossed them to the ground. They popped open upon contact and two Pokémon emerged.
"Xatu. Claydol. Get ready. We need to go to Mount Moon. Can you guys teleport us there?"
Both Pokémon cried affirmatively in unison, looking pleased to be called upon.
"Good. Let's go."
With that, Lexi gestured for her two psychic-type Pokémon to follow her as she walked over to wear Ash and Dawn were sprawled out on the ground next to each other. She bent down and placed a hand on both of the sleeping teens. She then called for Xatu and Claydol to come near to her. Once they made their way over to their trainer and made contact with her body, the girl commanded.
"All right, Teleport! To Mount Moon!"
With a bright flash of light, the three humans and two Pokémon disappeared from the scene. As soon as they were gone, the darkness returned, leaving Brock, Misty and the unconscious Team Rocket agents – along with everyone's Pokémon – to sleep soundly underneath the starry sky.
To be continued...
Thanks for reading! Chapter 21 to follow soon! PLEASE REVIEW :)