Disclaimer: I do not own "Pokemon" or associated characters; that's left to the people over in Japan. However, I *do* own this fic, as well as all original characters and situations mentioned within; said characters and situations are of my own conception, and any likeness to any real subjects of the same content is entirely coincidental and blah blah blah... Just enjoy the fic.

Seven years before Ash Ketchum began his first Pokemon journey, Jason Creight's alarm went off.

Seven seconds later, a hand slapped at the clock and found the OFF switch for the alarm.

Jason Creight rolled out of bed and yawned. "Another day," he muttered, in such a way that sounded as if he was not looking forward to it.

Indeed, he wasn't looking forward to it at all. He knew very well that the Gyarados had been getting rowdy for the past few days, and that there was a thunderstorm coming in this morning. He also knew that he would be charged with the responsibility of getting the Gyarados to relative safety, since he was the one who seemed to have the closest relationship with them, according to his family.

Jason was a healthy eleven-year-old boy, almost twelve now, who had lived his entire life alongside Pokemon. He worked for his family, who owned a successful business called the Creight and Ship Corporation. Their business was entirely in Pokemon.

However, according to some critics, this business was not always honest or trustworthy. The reason was that the business was in selling Pokemon off to other people. Sometimes they would be sold to Pokemon trainers passing through, and sometimes they would be sold as labor workers. It was rumored that the Creight and Ship was partially responsible for helping Team Rocket founder Giovanni in building his considerable empire of money, thugs, and Pokemon.

None of which mattered to Jason. He had a job, and he was going to do it. At least he was getting paid for it.

Jason stumbled into the kitchen as he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. Around the gigantic mahogany table, polished to perfection, sat his family.

His father was of the type that preferred to wear an expensive suit everywhere he went. To Jason, this meant he was almost begging to be robbed in a dark place somewhere, but he never voiced his opinions on such matters. The man stayed holed up in the convenience store most of the time anyway, and only inspected the Pokemon areas a couple times a week. So confident was he in the fences and cages that he felt he didn't need to check on them any more than that.

Jason's mother, on the other hand, preferred to wear something a bit more modest. This was probably because she worked as a hand in the grass Pokemon area, planting flowers and feeding the Pokemon, helping to try and keep them happy. She had a special kinship with those Pokemon, one which could match Jason's kinship with the water Pokemon.

Jason's brother, Daniel, preferred to spend his time with the fighting Pokemon. Jason didn't know whether to call this good or bad; on the one hand, that area could never have too many hands to watch the Pokemon. On the other hand, though, Daniel sometimes had a tendency to treat other Pokemon way too roughly, ignorant of their weakness.

One thing they had to make sure of was that the Pokemon wouldn't get strong enough to escape from their designated areas. The Creights would go out of business in a heartbeat if this happened. As a result, many Pokemon were of a rather low level, and didn't know many moves at all.

However, most of the Creight and Ship's employees made an effort to be as kind and patient as possible to the Pokemon. As a result, the Pokemon felt secure within the confines of their reservations.

Most of them did, that is. Some of them just refused to be happy until they were set free. The Gyarados were an example of these. No matter how hard Jason and other employees tried, the Gyarados would try to escape time and time again. But since their cages couldn't be penetrated by anything weaker than a full Hyper Beam attack, they had no chance of making it out.

"Good morning, son," said Mr. Creight, sounding cheerful.

"Morning, Dad," Jason automatically responded. Then he frowned. His father's expression was usually a frown, as if he had smelled something particularly nasty. Seeing the man smile was rare, and hearing him being publicly cheerful was even rarer. "Boy, you sound happy."

"And how," his father replied. "By the end of the day, we'll have made the deal of the century!"

"How's that, Dad?" Jason inquired.

"You shouldn't pry into Dad's business, squirt," Daniel growled.

"Dad's business is soon to be our business, so we might as well find out," Jason shot back.

"Boys, it's all right," said Mr. Creight. "Jason's right. You ought to start getting to know everything there is to know about the business." He shifted around in his chair, a sign that he was bursting with excitement.

"A month ago, I got a call from someone interested in buying one of every kind of Pokemon we have here. He made an astoundingly generous offer, and we've been trying to push the paperwork through ever since. Tomorrow, it'll all come together, and you boys won't have to worry about finances when you pass the business on to your children!"

"Wait a minute," said Jason. "One of every kind? Sounds kinda weird to me. And real expensive."

"It's not our business what the people do with the Pokemon after them purchase them," his father informed him. "It's only our business to make sure that the customer is satisfied."

Upon hearing the clip in his father's voice, Jason knew that this was the end of the conversation at hand. So he chose to say nothing more, and instead poured himself an extra-large bowl of cereal.

*The more I eat, the less I'll have to work. Hopefully.*


Unfortunately, the Gyarados were being even more uncooperative than usual. Jason had to use all his strength, plus the help of several grown men, to harness the first one in such a way that it wouldn't harm itself. When Nurse Joy finally came by, the only thing she had to say was, "The Gyarados want to be released from the cages, that's all."

Jason knew that his father disliked seeing any of the Pokemon away from their preserves and cages, disliked seeing any of the Pokemon he owned off- campus. But he also knew that Nurse Joy was right; the Gyarados wanted to be free, and they were determined to get out.

As the other hands were harnessing another Gyarados, Jason looked up at the one that had just been tied down. It was still struggling against the bonds. He said, "Tell you what. I'll make you a deal."

The Gyarados calmed down and seemed to be listening. Although most Pokemon did not have the I.Q. most humans possessed, they understood basics, including bargains. Gyarados were among the smarter types of Pokemon, so perhaps this one knew exactly what Jason was saying.

"I'll take each of you off the campus for fifteen minutes. In return, I want full cooperation when I take you out there. You do what I tell you, when I tell you. And you've got to stop trying to break out."

The Gyarados seemed to consider this bargain. Finally, it loosened its rigid posture and went limp in the grasp of the bonds that held it.

"I sure hope that means you agree. I'll be in big trouble if you escape."

The Gyarados did nothing other than emit a low, quiet growl. To Jason, that meant it was an agreement, though the Gyarados were still annoyed.

"Okay, then tell your brothers and sisters to knock it off, right now. That's another condition. You have to prove you can keep a promise."

It grunted again, then grudgingly turned to its relatives in the other cages and roared at them. They quieted down, but they were still growling.

Jason's shoulders slumped. "This is gonna be a really long day," he muttered.

The day was indeed long, but his father finally came aorund for his weekly inspection of the cages and granted Jason a 15-minute reprieve. Jason decided to go to one of the local restaurants to buy a bottle of soda.

As he was making his way across the beach, two boys slightly older than him approached him.

Jason knew where this was likely to go, as he had heard a lot of complaining from people before about how it wasn't right to do what they did to Pokemon. But he decided to play it out anyway. "Something I can help you with?"

But these guys didn't have that customary "I'll get you if it's the last thing I do" look. Instead, they simply looked... at him. Finally, one of them answered his question with a question. "Where are you going?"

"To get a drink," he answered, even as he was wondering why it was their business.

"Mind if we come along?" asked the other.

Jason shrugged. "Fine, but I've gotta get back to work in a little while, so I don't have a lot of time."

"That's fine," said the first one. "We just want to talk."

Jason shrugged again, indifferent. "Sure."

The two boys insisted on not eating or drinking anything at the moment, saying they weren't hungry or thirsty. Jason bought a medium-sized root beer, and then sat down with the boys. As they sat, he caught the distinctive glint of assorted Pokemon capture balls attached to their belts. Some were Poke Balls, some Great Balls, and a couple of Ultra Balls.

Trainers, he thought. Out loud, though, he asked, "What do you want to talk about?"

"We understand that your family runs a business in breeding and selling Pokemon," said the first one.

Jason nodded. "That's right."

"Why did they want to go into that kind of business?"

"To make money, I would guess," Jason answered, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

"But what inspired them, other than money? What made them decide that they wanted to spend their lives breeding Pokemon and then selling them to trainers and collectors?" asked the second trainer.

Jason thought for a moment. "They never really do discuss things like that at the dinner table, but if I had to guess, I would say that they saw a whole market that hadn't even been considered yet. Seeing that, they wanted to get the monopoly on it before anyone else could."

"But there are other companies that do the same thing," the first trainer pointed out.

"Yes, but we make in a year what other companies haven't made in ten," Jason replied dispassionately.

"So what makes people want to buy your family's bred Pokemon?" asked the second trainer.

"We make sure we treat the Pokemon properly," Jason answered. "We need to ensure that they can trust their owner, so we treat them generously. On the other hand, we want to make sure the trainer's commands are obeyed, so we also have to be firm with the Pokemon when necessary."

"You don't allow the Pokemon you breed to learn more than the most basic of moves," said the second trainer, allowing the question to dangle in the air.

"It's so the Pokemon don't become dangerous to the people inspecting them. It's bad P.R. to have a Gyarados blast your customer in the face with Hyper Beam when the customer is willing to pay a lot of money for it."

"Some people could see not allowing the Pokemon to learn moves as keeping them from being able to defend themselves," said the first trainer.

Jason snorted. "What would they have to defend against?"

"What, indeed?" replied the second trainer. "You wouldn't happen to watch your other family members at work, would you?"

"No, I'm too busy with my own."

"Then you don't know how the rest of your family treats the Pokemon they work with, do you?"

"No, but..."

"Have you had any drop-off in sales recently? Or any big increases, for that matter?" asked the first trainer.

Jason thought back. "There's been a steady drop-off of purchases from the ground-type Pokemon, but it seems to be holding for now. Why?"

"Which of your family works with those Pokemon?"

"My brother."

"How does he treat you?"

Jason scoffed. "What business is that of yours?"

"I just want to know," the trainer replied calmly. "If it's personal, I'll leave it alone."

"What, you think the way Daniel treats me is how he treats the Pokemon?"

The trainer smiled grimly. "You said it. Not me. Since I don't know how he treats you, I can't compare."

Jason stared at the two trainers for a moment. His eyes flicked toward the clock above the doorway just beyond the table they sat at. "Gentlemen, I have to get back to work," he said. Without further ado, he picked up his untouched root beer and left the restaurant.

But he didn't go back to the cages. Instead, he stood on the beach, looking out towards the sea, considering what the trainers had asked.

*What if they're right?* he asked himself. *What if I'm the only one who treats the Pokemon with the respect they deserve?

And what if even I don't treat them with the respect they deserve?*

He wanted to find out.

He headed for the ground-type range.


Jason was horrified.

The landscape showed near-absolute devastation.

And Daniel was standing in the middle of it all.

To be precise, he was actually standing near the east perimeter. The range was more of an atoll, and a moderately sized one. Still, it felt claustrophobic to Jason, and he wondered how much more so it would have felt for those Pokemon that could easily be hurt by a single drop of water.

Of course, he thought mirbidly, that was the point. To prevent the Pokemon from escaping by simply crushing expensive fences or digging holes, his family had apparently gone for the option of making the atoll a castle to the oceanic moat. The water around it was only two feet deep at the most.

And it had worked better than anyone could have hoped for.

None of which mattered to Jason at this point.

All he could do was stare at his brother.

Daniel was striding around with his shirt off, showing off his considerable build to the Machop cooped up there. He had a whip in one hand, and as Jason watched, when the Pokemon did something Daniel didn't like, he would lash them across the back.

This normally wouldn't have hurt them any, but Daniel had a bucket full of water in the other hand and was dunking the whip into it before each lash.

Jason watched the whip crack across the back of a tired Sandshrew.



Three times.


Jason ran through the shallow water as fast as he could and rushed at Daniel with all his speed and strength. He lowered his head and charged straight at his brother, instending to slam his head into Daniel's midsection and knock the wind out of him.

Unfortunately, it seemed that the strength-training with the Machop was paying off. Daniel stepped to the side, caught Jason by the back of his shirt, twisted around, and threw Jason straight back into the shallow water he'd just vacated.

Jason stood, completely drenched and gasping for air. Daniel stood there, frowning at his younger brother. "Aren't you supposed to be at the water cages?" he asked in a smug, completely unconcerned tone.

Jason couldn't believe it, absolutely couldn't believe it. "How can you stand there," he asked, "and tell me to do my job when you don't even know what yours is?"

"Grow up, squirt," he said contemptuously. "The only way you can train Pokemon properly is to be as strong as them."

"Have you ever heard of treating them with the respect and attention they deserve?" Jason asked, even as he struggled to regain his breath.

"I do."

"You have no respect for the Pokemon at all, Daniel. I know it, and you know it."

"They don't respect me, either. This is the only way I can get them to listen to me."

Those trainers were right, Jason thought miserably, even as he said, "And that makes you less guilty for the cruelty I watched you commit just now?"

"The Sandshrew wasn't fast enough."

"It was tired, you moron!"

Daniel's face twisted with fury, and for a moment, Jason truly believed that Daniel would get into the water and let both fists fly. But he didn't.

"Get back to the cages before you get into any more trouble," Daniel growled.

Jason stood his ground for a moment, then decided to leave. He turned back around just long enough to say, "Respect is what makes the trainer strong. Which means my brother is weaker than anyone I've ever met."

Jason went home.


"Jason, I can't have you walking out on work like that. I've taught you better than that."

The Creight family was sitting at the dinner table, and Jason was the only one not eating. Instead, he was hanging his head over his rapidly cooling spaghetti. His father was the one chewing him out.

"I also don't need you getting into fights with your brother over his methods of raising Pokemon. His methods are his own."

Jason looked up from his food and stared incredulously at his father. With reckless abandon, he said, "Are you insane?"

His father's head snapped up, and the man's eyes burrowed into Jason's. Jason became acutely aware of his mother and brother staring at him as well.

"I sincerely hope, for your sake, Jason, that that was a joke," said Mr. Creight, slowly and deliberately.

"I'm dead serious." Jason was tired of pretense, tired of being patronized.

His father's response had a clip of anger in it. "I can assure you that I am quite sane, Jason. Now do you mind telling me why you've decided to openly challenge and ridicule me?"

"I watched Daniel out there today, on the ground-type range," Jason answered. "The only way he could possibly show any more ignorance about respect for the Pokemon he voluntarily hurts is if he attached a bumper sticker to his water bucket saying 'I Love Cruel And Unusual Punishment.'"

"It's not your place to question how Daniel should care for the ground Pokemon."

Jason stared at his father, absolutely disgusted. "You are insane. He doesn't care for the Pokemon, he murders them. No wonder people won't buy them."

"Jason, I think that is quite enough," said his father. The man's face had turned red with fury.

Jason saw the anger in his father's face, but he wasn't finished. "No. It's not. By saying it's all right for him to hurt those Pokemon, you're condemning yourself to pay cuts. They won't sell; no one wants a Pokemon who isn't loyal. Loyalty comes through respect, and so far, Daniel has shown no respect whatsoever. How can you expect the trainer to get the Pokemon to obey when the breeder does such a poor job?"

Jason's mother finally stepped into the confrontation. "You have no business criticizing your brother for doing his job."

"He's not doing it properly! Can't you see that?" Jason looked around the table. His father was purple with rage. His mother was backing the man up. His brother was just grinning smugly, leaning back in his chair.

Jason went on, knowing he was in a world of trouble already and deciding just to go the whole nine yards. "Somehow, I was always taught that Pokemon breeding was a careful process, something that had to be done with deliberance and patience. And now I find out that no one else at this table will tell my brother that he's wrong? Am I truly the only sane person in this house?"

"Trainers want Pokemon who are strong," said Daniel.

"They also want Pokemon who are loyal," Jason shot back. "You're not going to gain any loyalty from whipping a Sandshrew to death."

"That Sandshrew wasn't doing what it was told."

"It was tired."

"It was less tired than it looked."

"How do you know that?!" Jason barked. "It was bent over its knees, breathing heavily, and was bruised all over its body. That, to me, is fatigue. What is it to you?"

"A sign that they need to get stronger."

"Whipping them isn't going to endear yourself or trainers to them. It only makes them hate humans, if they don't already--"

"*I said that's enough!*" Mr. Creight screamed, startling everyone at the table. His wild, furious eyes focused on Jason, and he pointed a stern finger at his younger son. "You... will leave the table. I'm suspending your pay and ordering you to take a vacation to your room. Indefinitely."

Jason slowly rose from the table, keeping his eyes on his angered father. "I'll gladly take that vacation if it means leaving a table of hypocrites."

He turned and left the room.

His mother and brother didn't dare speak; his father was too enraged to say anything in response.

Nothing else was said all night.


Two weeks passed before Mr. Creight would allow Jason to go back to work, and yet another two weeks before Jason received pay again. Even then, the pay was absolute minimum wage.

As Jason prowled the cages, he saw the Gyarados and belatedly remembered the promise he'd made to them. A promise he hadn't been able to keep.

For their part, they weren't even looking at him. Their heads were hanging, a sure sign that they believed all hope was lost. Though they knew why Jason couldn't keep his promise, they were still mad at him.

*Great*, he thought. *Just great. I've managed to tick off every sentient being I've recently had contact with. Why don't I just hole myself up in my room for the rest of my life?*

After seeing what he had seen, he had no interest whatsoever in continuing the family business. However, since he was not an only child, in all likelihood, Daniel would ensure that the business thrived if he didn't.

Just then, Daniel and his father came walking past, apparently intent on making a beeline straight through the marina.

"It's a new TM, Dad," said Daniel, grinning. "I'm feeling rather proud of myself for it."

"Well, you should be, son," said Mr. Creight. "Not everyone can make TMs."

"I can't take all the credit. I had a couple of guys help me out."

"Okay, then. What is it, and what does it do?"

"I call it Devastator. It's a TM for one-hit knockouts. It's both a physical and mental attack, so the Pokemon's mind feels it double. Either the physical or mental attack by itself could cause the knockout, but this ensures it."

"Excellent. When will we have it in production?"

"I wanted to run it by you, first. This is just a prototype. Come on, I'll show you..."

*Something needs to be done*, Jason thought. *Something that'll keep the business from ever gaining any customers. They need to see that all our statutes about love and caring and understanding Pokemon is all just one huge lie, because my family has decided not to make love, caring, and understanding a priority.

Something needs to be done.*

And that night, something was.


Well past midnight, Jason snuck out of his bedroom and into his parents' room. They were both sleeping comfortably.

Sorry, Mom and Dad, he silently apologized. It's for the Pokemon.

Then he opened his father's closet, reached up, and grabbed the master keys from the top shelf. He then crept out of the house and headed for the company store on the other side of the marina.

Most of the water Pokemon were day-dwellers, but a few were nocturnal; they watched Jason with interest as he unlocked the front door of the store and made his way through the aisles. Soon, he found what he was looking for.

He took the Technical Machine gingerly and looked at it for a moment. *Unbelievable that this one TM could cause such destruction*, he thought. *I suppose I should be thankful that we have such a well-stocked store.*

He made off with the TM to the water Pokemon cages.

The Gyarados he had made the deal with was resting; not quite asleep, but not quite awake, either. When it sensed Jason's presence, it's massive head rose, and it lengthened out nearly to its full height. It was an awe- inspiring, fearsome sight, indeed.

But Jason had no time for watching it pose. He held out the TM. "Here," he said. "This is for you."

The Gyarados looked at it questioningly, knowing what it was and what to do with it, but unsure of why Jason was giving the TM to it.

"Look, I know you're all real mad at me for not being able to keep my promise. Well, here's something that's even better. With this, you'll be able to wreck the cages and be free. You can even use it to free your fellow Pokemon from their ranges."

The Gyarados just stared at him, unblinking. It wasn't doing anything about the TM.

"I don't have time for this, and neither do you. I don't want this company to continue any more than you do, I see that now. And the only way it'll lose business and free the Pokemon is if you use this TM."

The Gyarados waited a few moments, still searching Jason's face. Jason stared back, unafraid, knowing full well that it just might use the TM and then use the resulting power on him instead of the cages.

But he was willing to take the risk, if it meant getting out of here.

"Do what you have to," he said. "But you'll have to do it quickly. One way or the other."


Daniel was rudely awakened to the sound of explosions. He opened his eyes...

And saw chaos reigning in the marina.

A single Gyarados was swimming around freely in the marina, and energy was boiling out of its mouth and striking the cages. Fire was consuming the entire marina.

His parents both came rushing into his room. "Come on, Daniel, we have to get you out of here," said his father. The man gripped Daniel by the arm and dragged him out of bed.

"I'll go get Jason," said Mrs. Creight, and she ran off through the house.

Daniel and Mr. Creight had gotten out of the house by the time Mrs. Creight came out. She was in a frenzied panic. "I couldn't find him anywhere!"

Suddenly, pieces of flaming debris came roaring out of the sky and struck the roof of their house. The burning ashes tumbled relatively harmlessly off the roof, but then they caught tree leaves on the way down. The trees promptly caught fire, causing the Creight family to move even further away from the house.

All they could do was stand there and watch the horror.

The Gyarados raged on.


"Oh, man..." Jason muttered, as he watched Gyarados wreak havoc upon everything its energy beams touched. The air crackled with the exertion of Hyper Beam attacks. Jason watched as pieces of the marina were sliced away, watched as burning wreckage flew everywhere.

He knew that he would have to do one of two things. Either he would return home and watch his family go down the drain, and himself with them, or he would run.

Gyarados began laying waste to every fence and range there was, allowing the Pokemon to free themselves and run loose in the Orange Islands once again. They would return to their families, if they had any left. They would reunite, and live happily ever after.

Jason realized that he could never do the same thing. For his own salvation, he chose to run from his family, from his friends, and from his home.

And so he ran.

The roars of the Gyarados behind him only prompted him to run faster.


Hours later, as the sun was rising, Jason awoke to find himself in the middle of dense shrubbery. Some Pokemon were standing over him, staring down at him with curiosity. None of them made any move.

Jason sat up and looked around. He could see the shore just past some dense foliage to his right. He crawled through the foliage.

The shoreline was abandoned. There wasn't a soul for many miles.

Well... not human, anyway.

The Gyarados from the night before was lying in the shallows.

Jason wasn't quite sure what to do about it. He finally decided to go out and meet it. He stumbled out to it.

It was staring intently at him.

"I thought you wanted to be free," he said. "Don't you want to be with whatever family you have?"

It didn't even twitch. It kept staring.

"What, do you want to come along with me? Is that it?"

It made a low growl, as if to confirm.

Jason chuckled softly. "I don't know where to go, though."

The Gyarados lifted itself off the surface of the water, rose to about fifteen feet, and made a jerking motion with its head, as if to indicate it wanted Jason to get on.

"You want me to get on?" he asked.

It made that low growl again.

"But where will we go?"

It jerked its head again. It seemed to be saying, *You'll find out when we get there.*

Jason grinned uncertainly, then climbed up onto its back.

Gyarados set out for the horizon.

*Well, I guess that if I'm going to be an outcast*, Jason thought, *there's no better Pokemon than Gyarados to be outcast with.*

Jason Creight rode on.

To Be Continued