Chapter 9

Eight hours of boring school had elapsed. Ash ran and turned Brock on.

"I think I'll get that TM now, but I don't know what TMs can be used on Squirtle," Ash asked.

Brock suddenly began talking in a strange voice. "TM01: Focus Punch, TM03: Water Pulse, TM06: Toxic, TM07: Hail, TM10: Hidden Power, TM13: Ice Beam, TM14: Blizzard, TM17: Protect, TM18: Rain Dance, TM21: Frustration, TM23: Iron Tail, TM27: Return, TM28: Dig, TM31: Brick Break, TM32: Double Team..."

"Wait...stop!"

"TM...zrp...Wha...?"

"How do you know all this stuff?"

"I...don't know. It just sorta...came to me. I guess I just sorta...know."

"...Weird. Maybe Misty programmed that information into you?"

"Maybe, though I wouldn't see why."

"I guess she thought it would be handy." Ash paused again. "OK, how about we go to the store, and when I see a TM I want, you tell me whether Squirtle will accept it?"

"Alright."

They went to the nearest "PokeShop - Your one stop shop for all your Pokemon-trainin' needs" store.

As Ash walked into the "Technical Machine" isle, he learned what TMs looked like. They consisted of a disc about the size of a CD and a sort of metal case. He scanned the shelves, occasionally asking Brock if a certain TM worked on Squirtle.

"TM02: Dragon Claw! That sounds good!"

"TM02: Dragon Claw does not work on Squirtle," Brock said.

"Could you quit the weird voices?"

"I'm trying, but it's hard not to," Brock said. "By the way, Squirtles don't have claws."

"I know that!"

"Then why did you ask?"

"Wasn't thinking, I guess..." He continued looking at the machines. "This TM says it teaches your Pokemon how to use 'Brine'. What's that do?"

"Brine," Brock said, once again in a robotic voice. "Power: 65. PP: 10. Super Contest appeal: Smart, 2 points..."

"Could you get to the point?" Ash said, a bit flustered.

"Oh!" Brock said, snapping back to reality. "Brine makes your Pokemon shoot out thick salt water, and is twice as powerful if your foe has less than half of its original health."

"Hmmmm," Ash said. "I'll think about that one." He looked at another machine. "Secret Power? What's that?"

"Secret Power attacks the foe by using a strange type of energy," Brock replied. "Sometimes it also has a secondary effect, such as making the opposing Pokemon fall asleep or become paralyzed. Which effect occurs, however, depends on the location you're in. Unde the right circumstances, it can also be used to create a secret base."

"That sounds helpful," Ash said. "I'll buy it." He looked at the price tag. "Yowee, it's pricey!" With a pause, he added, "But it's worth it. I want to improve my Squirtle's skills."

"How was your shopping excursion, sweetie?" Mrs. Ketchum asked.

"It was fine. I got a new TM for my Squirtle!"

"That's good, honey. I'm making dinner now." She stirred a pot of soup.

Just then, excessive scratching and banging was heard.

"Ahh, that must be Kabutops and Croagunk! Let them in! Let them in!" Brock said.

"OK, OK, OK! Don't blow a gasket." Ash let them in. "Come in, come in! Mom won't be too happy about what you did to the door!" Ash shut the door quickly. "Say," Ash said, "after I use this TM, can I fight your Kabutops?"

"Maybe, but Kabutops might be a little too strong for you. You should probably try Croagunk first. He's still young, and not very experienced in combat. Now, hurry up and turn the TM on."

Ash inserted the disc into the shiny metal machine. "Now, how do I..." Just then, the machine turned on automatically. With a flash, a screen on the case Ash had not noticed before flickered on. On the screen appeared the text: SCANNING FOR POKEMON. Ash quickly took Squirtle out of his Poke Ball.

POKEMON FOUND: SQUIRTLE. TEACH SECRET POWER TO SQUIRTLE? Ash touched a "Yes" button which appeared on the screen.

A vague picture appeared on the screen. It looked like little more than a blob to Ash, but Squirtle looked at the screen intently, almost as if in a trance. Out of nowhere, a hologram of another Squirtle next to a rock appeared. The new Squirtle glowed pink and held its hand up. His pink aura grew a bit dimmer as the hologram jumped into the air and crushed the holographic rock with its belly. Just then, a holographic rock appeared before Ash's Squirtle, who mimiced the movements of the fake Squirtle almost perfectly.

SQUIRTLE HAS LEARNED SECRET POWER appeared on the screen of the TM case. "Alright, it was successful!" Ash said happily. Just then, the screen turned dark and powerless.

"TMs don't have enough power to work more than once, unfortunately," Brock said.

"Oh well," Ash said. "But Squirtle is my only Pokemon anyway, so it's not too bad. I'll train my Squirtle a little more and then we can battle, 'kay?"

"'Kay. I'll see you then.

"I'm ready," Ash said. "How 'bout you?"

"I'm all set," Brock replied. "Steer clear, Kabutops, Pikachu. Now, Croagunk -"

Croagunk listened intently, ready to obey his master.

"Mud-Slap!"

"He-here goes nothin'!" Croagunk said, drawing his arm back. Soon, his hand mysteriously covered itself in mud, which he hurled at his opponent.

Squirtle toppled over from the impact, but returned to his feet, virtually unharmed, in a few seconds. However, the poor Pokemon found his eyes covered partially in mud, making it difficult for him to aim when Ash ordered a Water Gun. Croagunk ended up dodging the ray of water.

"Croagunk, Poison Sting!" Complying, Croagunk's hand gained a vague pinkish glow, and he then poked Squirtle lightly. Luckily for Ash, the poison didn't get a chance to seep in completely, inducing only minor pain and no serious loss of health.

"Now...SECRET POWER!" Ash yelled a bit too dramatically. Squirtle performed his recent move beautifully, slamming Croagunk with a very hard blow.

"Uh, uh...ow," Croagunk said weakly. "Y-you hit h-hard..."

"Well, that's the general idea," Squirtle replied.

"Now, Croagunk," Brock said, "Vacuum Wave." Croagunk only grunted.

On Ash's command, Squirtle delivered a hard bite to Croagunk's hand. Then, Squirtle blasted Croagunk with a burst of water. Croagunk managed another Mud-Slap, but then Squirtle delivered another Secret Power attack. Lacking bravery, Croagunk began to shy away.

"Croa gunk-gunk?" Croagunk said meekly.

Guessing what his Pokemon was saying, Brock said, "Oh, don't stop now. Can't you go a little longer?"

With a small nod, Croagunk admitted that he had enough strength left to go on for a while still.

"Alright, then, try a Vacuum Wave." Croagunk hurled his fists into the air, and glowing blue wind zoomed towards them. Then, with a small punch, the wind zoomed and knocked Squirtle over. But Squirtle got back up and tackled Croagunk fiercely.

Croagunk closed his eyes and didn't move.

"I WON!" Ash yelled.

"Don't yell, dear," Ash's mom said.

"Yeah, but I won!"

"Yes, you won," Brock said. "Congratulations."

"Dinner is ready, Ash," Ash's mom said.

"Yum!" Ash ran into the kitchen.

As he ate his soup, Ash's mom asked, "You know, Ash, if what Brock said was true, shouldn't we report Robovonni to the police?"

"I did, a while ago. But I haven't seen that Officer Jenny in a long time. I don't know what happened."

"That's strange," Ash's mom said. "I wonder what happened?"

Meanwhile, in Robotropolis...

"I've been thinking, Misty," Robovonni said.

Trying something new, are we? Misty thought.

"How on ROKHIUS did the truth about our organization get out!"

"How would I know?" Misty said, her heart racing.

"Wait...you told the Robospearow to dump the thinking computer in a river, right?"

"Yes..."

"WHAT IF THE ROBOSPEAROW MISSED THE RIVER AND IT'S STILL ALIVE?"

"Oops," Misty said, in a soft, nervous voice.

"The problem with you, Misty," Robovonni said, steaming with anger, "is that you have no brain! If you had one, then you would've dealt with that computer personally! But no, you must ruin everything for me!" Robovonni walked towards the window of his tower and looked at his wretched city. "I'm beginning to doubt your right to life, Misty."

"B-b-b...Master, please!"

"You're a fool, Misty. Now my whole plan is...!" Robovonni sounded as if he was about to say "ruined", but then he stopped and smiled. "Right on track. A few adjustments to my scheme and I'll have this world in no time."

Ash finished dinner. He did wonder what happened to Jenny, however.

He walked over to Brock.

"Ash...I..."

"What?"

"I feel like...like it's slipping away..."

"What?"

"...Life..."

"YOU'RE DYING?"

"No, wait, maybe I'm not."

"What?"

"Check my back."

"Why?"

"Maybe there's a power cord."

"Oh, you mean your battery is dying?"

"I guess."

"OK...ah, here it is." Ash plugged it in.

"Ah, yes, now I'm charging."

"Good. Phew, I was freaking out there."

Ash had just finished another wonderful day of boring classes. He was walking down the classroom when he saw James, a good friend of Brock's, grumbling.

"What?"

"I sent a bunch of letters to Brock, but he didn't reply. Then I went to Robotropolis to see him in person, but when I went to the door, there was this announcer or something who said he was always busy. It just doesn't make any sense." He sighed. "Do you know what happened to him?"

"Well...actually, yes."

"What?"

"Well, um, it's kind of complicated..."

"What happened?"

"Err, it's a long story. Tell you what: come to my house and I'll explain everything."

"Well, OK," said James, a bit confused.

Ash got home and walked over to Brock, who was still being charged up. Ash unplugged the power cord and turned Brock on.

"I'm all charged up now, Ash," Brock said.

"Good." The doorbell rang. "Maybe that's him now!" Ash said.

"Who?" Brock asked, but Ash had already ran to the door.

"Come in, come in," Ash said.

"Alright," said James. "...So, what happened to Brock, anyway?"

"I think someone else should tell you," Ash said, running to the other room and picking up Brock.

"Ash, what's happening?" Brock asked. "I heard you talking with someone. What's-" Ash handed Brock to James.

"James?" Brock asked.

"Brock?" James asked, putting Brock up to his ear.

"Don't do that."

"Don't do what?"

"Hold me like a phone."

"Wh-what? Wait a...that doesn't...er, of course you don't mean..."

"Yes, James. It's true."

"You don't mean you...you...you turned into a..."

"I mean, you are holding me right now."

"...Huh? But how...? That...that's impossible! ...Isn't it...?"

Brock sighed. "Well, it's a long and depressing story. Basically, Robovonni, the leader of Robotropolis tricked me and my family into getting 'roboticized', got rid of our free will, and forced us to work in his factories constantly. Later, he transformed me into a thinking computer, but his servant Misty programmed me so I had my free will again, and delivered me to my Pikachu so I could escape...I'm going to fast, aren't I?"

James looked stunned. "Wa...wait...this...this all can't be true...it isn't, is it?"

Brock paused. "I desperately wish it wasn't true, I wish it never happened with all I am...but it's true, all right, no matter how much I wish it isn't."

"Well...that's something, I...I'm sorry, I had no idea..."

"Oh, you didn't do anything wrong, of course...I just...I just wish it was all a dream, but I suppose it's not."

"I still can't believe...I mean, I'm so sorry that that happened to you...could we talk more about what happened exactly, if that's fine..."

Ash remembered it was about time to feed his Squirtle. He left to do that, thinking it was good to leave the good friends alone.

He looked in his fridge for a berry that his Squirtle might like. He found an ripe, bright-green Aguav Berry in his fruit bin. Then he walked over to Squirtle who was still gloating to Croagunk about his victory.

"Hey, Squirtle, want some food?" Ash said, holding out the fruit. Squirtle nodded furiously, his tongue lolling.

He held it up high. "Water Gun!" Squirtle executed the move proudly, hitting the refrigerator by accident.

"That's good." Ash dropped the fruit. Squirtle skittered over like an obedient dog. He then threw the berry in his mouth and chomped it, penetrating through its tough skin and revealing the inner taste. But, as Squirtle tasted the fruit's flavor, a strange sensation filled his tongue, then his mind. Soon, it seemed like the entire room was spinning - though in reality, only Squirtle's head was.

"Squirtle? Are you OK?" The water Pokemon did not reply, but only flopped down onto the ground. "Squirtle!" Ash panicked. "Something's wrong with Squirtle!" he said, runnning into the room where Brock and James were talking.

"What? What happened to him?" James asked.

"Well, I gave him a berry - I think it was an Aguav - and suddenly it seems like something's wrong with him! Come and see!"

"OK," James said, walking over. He looked at the Squirtle and nudged it. "Get up," he said.

"Squirrr," the Squirtle said. It got up, but swayed from side to side. Then, he bonked into the refrigerator and fell over again.

"This is bad...did you say the berry you gave him was an Aguav Berry?"

"Yeah, I think so."

"Does your Squirtle dislike bitter things?" James said.

"Well, yeah," Ash said.

"Agauv Berries tend to have that effect on Pokemon that don't like bitter tastes," James said. "But don't worry, this should cure it." He took a pink Persim Berry out of his backpack and held it in front of Squirtle.

Squirtle briefly lifted his head up, and, seeing the berry, lunged forward and chomped it, almost taking off James' finger. As he chewed, he seemed to be returning to normal. When he was done, he got up, unscathed, and wagged his tail to show he was all better.

"Wow!" Ash said. "How did you do that?"

"Different berries have different effects," James explained. "That one cures confusion."

"I usually don't think much about different berries," Ash admitted. "I just chose that one from the fridge randomly. I'm glad that you helped. You're pretty good with berries."

"Errr, not really," James said. "I'm kinda good with Pokemon, though."

"Oh, cool! Do you think you could help me capture some? Squirtle is my only Pokemon, but I really want more!"

"Mmm. I guess that would be alright, but you should probably ask your mother."

"Mom, can I go capture James with a Pokemon?" Ash asked.

"Oh, yes, Brock's friend," Mrs. Ketchum replied. "Yes, you may go with him, but be back in an hour or sooner, please."

"OK," Ash said. "Brock, do you want to come with?"

"I guess," he said.

"OK," said James, putting him in his pocket. "There's a forest nearby which is pretty good."

In about 15 minutes, they had made it to the forest.

"OK, how do I find Pokemon to capture?" Ash asked.

"You look for them," James said.

"I knew that!" Ash said.

"Specifically," James said, "you try to be quiet and look for places you might find them. If you want to get a flying Pokemon, for example, look in high places." He shrugged. "It all depends on knowing what Pokemon you want to capture and where to find them, I guess. It's not very hard. There are a lot of them in this forest."

Ash looked for 10 minutes to no avail. He sighed. "Beginner's lack of luck, I guess," he sighed.

"Well, then we can try this stradegy," James said. He flung a Poke Ball. Out came a short, peculiar Pokemon in a steel coat. "Go, Aron!" James shouted. He then pointed to a tree. "Headbutt!" he demanded.

The Pokemon's tiny legs rocked back and forth. The Pokemon tipped its head slightly, causing the hard skull to be in front. Then, the Pokemon hit the tree so hard that it rattled and shook. Soon, a raggedy Spearow tumbled awkwardly out of the tree's branches and hit the ground with a thud. It shook its head madly, trying to regain its composure.

Ash sent out Squirtle. "Now, Squirtle do-"

Just then, the Spearow pecked both Squirtle and Aron madly and proceeded to try to fly back up in the tree.

"No, wait - Aron, Shock Wave!" Waves of blue electricity crackled across the Aron's body, and it bucked up and hit the ground. A wave of electric power then hit the Spearow, causing it to fall back onto the ground.

"Spea-row..." it moaned, seeming to be hurt.

"I gotcha!" Ash threw a Poke Ball, and it absorbed the Spearow. "It looked pretty hurt. I should probably take it to Nurse Joy, huh?"

"Yeah," said James.

"Too bad I'll have to take it to the grumpy one," Ash grumbled.

"What do you mean?" asked James.

"W-well...the one that's nearby who's nice...got roboticized," Ash said.

James' eyes widened. "Well...that's bad."

"Now I have to go to the one who's farther away and who's unhelpful and grumpy." He sat down. "Why does life have to be this way?"

James sighed. "I dunno. But you have a new Spearow now. How about taking it to be healed and then learning what moves it knows, hm?"

Ash sighed too, but smiled a bit. "Yeah, sure."