Yes, yes, to those who are kind enough to have read my other stories, I WILL finish Fang and Metal, eventually. Just give me some time, all right? Yes, I'm lazy, I know.

This is something different for me, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I hope to. Not the greatest title in the world, but I hope the story makes up for that.

Anyway, I'll stop babbling and let you get on with it, while giving you the disclaimer that all I own literature-wise is a lot of unfinished prologues and a heron with anger issues. Enjoy!

There was fire that night.

That's what he would remember most vividly, anyway. The red-orange flames greedily licking against the trees, snapping at each other as if arguing over who got the best bits.

It had been an accident. A Pansear had lost control as they had cornered it, throwing flames in all directions. However, it had mostly missed the Lillipup and Purrloin and instead set fire to the vegetation. Now the embers had become huge, roaring flames that spread through the forest like a herd of Ponyta and lit up Pinwheel Forest in the night. All around, the forest's residents were desperately trying to get away from the heat. Pidove took to the skies, some fighting to be the first to get above the trees and sending grey feathers floating down below. Pansage swung from branch to branch among the trees that had not yet caught fire, chattering to each other in alarm. Some braver water Pokémon, mostly Tympole and Panpour had turned back, trying to fight back the blaze, though it was not going very well.

Benji, however, kept running. He couldn't have helped anyway, and he had no intention of being made into bacon. He skidded as he nearly ran into a Venipede, who shot him a dirty look before turning away again. Benji couldn't blame him. Everyone wanted to get out, and all were moving together as one herd. All reason and control had left as each and every Pokémon fought for their lives. He'd already had to duck a vine whip from an angry Pansage who had been in the middle of a tussle with another of its kind. And who could blame them all for their desperation? It wasn't just the fire they were fleeing. Oh no, there was something else, keeping just ahead of the flames but still intently stalking their prey.

The Grey Men.

They had set the Lillipup and Purrloin on the poor Pansear, and there were several more hunting with them, sniffing out the hiding, leaping out at those who thought they were out of reach. Benji didn't know why the Grey Men had it in for them, but he had no wish to find out.

This time he really did crash; straight into a bewildered Tranquill. This one seemed to have retained a little sanity, however, for instead of pecking him on the snout and moving on, he swept him out of the way of the crowd behind him, and both stood for a minute, gasping for breath.

"Did you see what's going on back there?" He asked.

Benji shook his head. "Didn't see too much. But there are men in grey everywhere, and there's no way they're trainers."

"They had Pokémon with them though, right?" The Tranquill scratched at the ground. "What did we ever do to them?"

"They're humans." A voice said. "Do they need a reason?"

Both turned in surprise. Emerging from the bushes was a tall, deer-like creature, looking down at them. It bent its long green neck until it was at eye-level with them.

"Virizion!" Whispered Benji in surprise. "What are you doing here?"

"Protecting my people." It replied, regarding him with an eye not unlike the flames in colour. "Tell me, Tepig, where are the humans?"

He didn't have to be answered. With a yowl, a purple, cat-like creature sprung onto Virizion's back, clawing wildly. The great Pokémon bellowed and kicked out wildly, trying to dislodge his attacker.

"Purrloin! Not him! We can't hurt him!"

At the sound of the human voice, the Purrloin leapt away from Virizion, scampering back to its master.

"Get away," Virizion whispered to them. "Make sure everyone is out. I'll take care of them."

It sprang forward, giving a few of the Grey Men an unpleasant surprise in the process.

The two smaller Pokémon were not so lucky, however.

Before Benji could open his mouth, he was sent sprawling by a tackle. When he got up, he saw a Herdier growling at him. A Purrloin and several more Lillipup were approaching too, closing the circle.

No way out.

"Tepig!" Tranquill was hovering above helplessly.

"Don't worry about me!" Benji assured him. "Do as Virizion said! Get everyone out!"

The bird hesitated, then, with a final apologetic glance, took off into the darkness.

Benji turned back to his attackers, ears going flat against his head. Not wasting time, he spat a rain of embers at the Herdier, only to have the Purrloin pin him down from behind. He bucked and kicked wildly, but it was no use.

"Please!" He said, desperate now. "Why are you doing this? We're all Pokémon here!"

"It is for a greater good," Said a Lillipup softly. "This is the only way you'll all see."

Then he felt the Purrloin's teeth sink into his neck, and all turned black.