Chapter 15/Final: Ash, Gary y Paul: Los Verdaderos Héroes Americanos
The USS Wisconsin was on their voyage back to the US. After their rivaled victory against Saddler, the heroes and Ashley were picked up by the battleship and none too soon. Ash apparently was in dire straights after his chest was ripped by Saddler in the final fight. He was rushed inside to administer surgery to control the injuries. The captain of the ship approached Ashley with a report. "Ms. Graham, we'll be another day before reach American waters," he informed. "You'll be back before the president's State of the Union address."
"Okay," she accepted the news. "How's Ash? Is he...?" The captain looked over his notes for Ash's condition.
"He's in good condition. He lost a tremendous amount of blood but some food and rest and he'll be up before we dock in Norfolk." Wisconsin was heading to Virginia. Ashley realized that she was almost home. The captain wasn't done. "He's up right now. He's a real sport after the operation. If you want, you can go visit him while I inform his partners."
"Thank you, captain." Ashley started to make her way to the room holding the bed-ridden Ash when she realized that she still wore Ash's blood. "Damn. I forgot about this." The captain heard the first daughter's minor dilemma and had a solution.
"There's a change of clothes for you in the woman's locker. I doubt you want that boy to see his own blood on you." Why not? Did the captain think that if Ash saw the blood on the sweater, he'll think Ashley was there to kill him? Ashley took the advice and changed before seeing a topless Ash with a huge scar on his chest. Wow, Saddler penetrated deep inside Ash. At least he's in bed, regardless if he was wearing pants or not. The covers blanketed anything remotely private.
"Ash?" Ashley called from the doorway.
"Yeah?" Ash replied. Ashley entered, wearing a plain white t-shirt and camouflage pants. Did her skirt have blood on it or just dirt? Well, that t-shirt really showed off how big her pitcher's mounds were. Imagination limited! "How are you holding up?" A snort from Ashley was a way to say she's fine.
"I should be asking you that. I'm not the one who took a stinger through the body and still fought." Ash was a tad embarrassed with his accomplishment.
"Yeah, I guess you got me there." Ashley suddenly felt tearful. Why? Did somebody else go on her behalf?
"When you were skewered and when you passed out on the jet-ski, I thought I lost someone who cared for me more than my father. I mean..." Ash reflected on the misguided journey of blood and carnage throughout the Spanish Countryside. Lives were indeed lost.
"We did lose people. Luis, Leon, the parasite that was in me...let's not forget those on the helicopter shot down by that monster." It's a safe consideration that the parasite wasn't a person but the thought was appreciated. Still, regarding Saddler as a monster would sound like a compliment to him but since he's no more than fish bait, we won't get an answer from him. "I think fate had all three of us trying to work out our differences for the same cause. If we return, we'll become bitter rivals like before." Ashley sensed a conflict with Ash's emotions. Ash wanted to return to the Pokémon world but now that the three were actually becoming buddies much to Paul's chagrin, returning might bring consequences which could hurt the morale.
"Don't you still want that title?" What title? "Gary told me of your undying quest to be a Pokémon Master." Ash was slightly humiliated but not ashamed of his travels being revealed.
"Yeah, but what can your dad do? Does he have a team of scientists that can bring us back home?" Ashley snickered as she pet his hair like he would on Pikachu's fur.
"Well, if not, I'll be happy to have a little man be my secret service guard." Her smile spooked a tad on Ash. The captain came in to tell Ash that food was available.
"How's our patient, this evening?" he asked with a plate of broiled fish and chips. This isn't the England kind, those were Sour Cream and Onion flavored potato chips. "Sorry but we weren't expecting company to be on board with Ms. Graham." Ash wasted no time scarfing down the food.
"Thanks," he praised with his mouth full of haddock.
"I should let you know that there's rooms to separate the three of you while we spend at least another day out at sea before reaching the US. Gary told us about the bickering and disagreements between the three of you." Boy, what hasn't Gary mentioned? The USS Wisconsin was afloat for another day as expected and Ash was actually moving about. At least he wasn't suffering from motion sickness. Only tough men can sail with the best. The following morning, a sight that told the crew on the ship that they were home: a giant lime green female statue wearing a toga, crown and holding a torch high. Ash, Paul, Gary, Ashley and Pikachu marveled at the sight of the statue.
"The Statue of Liberty, boys," she notified. "Welcome to the United States of America." Say hello to America.
"Land of the free and..." Ash recalled that saying from the helicopter pilot...the one Saddler shot with an RPG. He tilted the bill of his cap down, remembering those lost once more.
"So, this is where you're from," Gary theorized.
"As a matter of fact, my family comes from New York City," Ashley corrected. "At least until my father became the president when Bush's parliament was impeached by the Supreme Court and the taxpayers voted after his reaction to the 9/11 attacks where terrorists hijacked commercial airliners and destroyed the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon." It dawned on Ash that America was feeling losses of their own. "Even now, bodies are still being unearthed from the fallen towers. Altogether so far, over 3,300 lives were claimed." That made the losses during the fight against the Los Illuminados look like just a chip. Paul, hearing the details, had an interesting assumption.
"There are people who are pathetic and cowardly, no matter where you go," he murmured. "No society is without them." Ash wanted to criticize the harshness of Paul's tongue...but figured that he had a reason. If people were to die in the form of a suicidal terrorism, they were pathetic and cowards to boot.
"Yet you have no choice but to live with them," he finalized. Harsh realities. After a few mores hours of drifting, Wisconsin found the dock which brought them home in Norfolk. Men on shore got a mobile staircase to a door on starboard. "This is it." As the door was being opened to allow Ashley and the rivals off, vans with numbers and an assortment of letters rolled up, one reading "FOX NEWS, " another having "CBS" and all sorts. "Guess the media wants to get in on the scoop." The military flanked all angles to shield Ashley from the media. A limo rolled up and Ashley was escorted inside. A second limo rolled up where more of the USS Wisconsin crew escorted the rivals for safe transfer. They were shoved into the spacy limo where they received an interesting surprise. A rather young brunette black woman in a business suit and glasses.
"Hello, boys," she greeted with a familiar voice. It took Ash a moment to recognize what the voice reminded him.
"Ingrid?" The woman huffed a chuckle, found out.
"What, you thought it was a middle-aged white woman?" Gary itched his head, Ash huffed an embarrassed laugh and Paul could care less who it was. "Hey, terrific job for a bunch of young boys to take a rather adulterated task in rescuing Ashley."
"Yeah, thanks." Hearing Ash, Ingrid determined this was the boy who had the most communication before entering Ramon's castle.
"So, you're Ash." That's when she studied the other two, Paul not paying any attention. "That would mean he's Paul and you're Gary."
"That's right," Gary agreed. Finally, she spotted Ash's Pikachu, the urge to pet it nearly overriding her job to make sure the boys had the chance to make it to...where were they going? "By the way, where are we traveling to?" This snapped the illusion from Ingrid's eyes.
"Yeah, we're on our way to the White House to meet with President Graham. It might take us a little while since we need to cross into Maryland and then to Washington. By the way, is that your cute mouse?" Pikachu turned to Ingrid on call of what he was. Ash wanted to clear it up.
"This is Pikachu, my first Pokémon and best friend," Ash introduced. Pikachu resounded with a chirp. Ingrid giggled at how adorable Pikachu acted. It had taken a couple more hours but they made it to a white building which appeared like a huge mansion. Ashley waited with members of the Secret Service in sunglasses and black business suits before the boys arrived. When they reached a room labeled "The Oval Office," the door opened to where a grown brunette man in another business suit turned.
"Father!" Ashley cried out, brightening the man's face and tears.
"Ashley, oh my god!" he choked up before Ashley wrapped her dad in her arms in a hug. "Thank god you're okay. I thought I lost you for good." Aw...family reunions can be so touching, even to Ash's and Pikachu's eyes. Pikachu's eyes were leaking tears while only a few shed from Ash's. "After tonight's State address, I wanna put my things aside to spend time with you." That's being rather fatherly of the situation. The president, or Ashley's dad, came to the boys to introduce himself. "You must be the ones responsible for my daughter's safety. Thank you for making sure she's alive. You couldn't imagine what someone in my position as a parent and the president would be enduring." Paul had a look to say that he done what was needed. "As president, I will try to fulfill anything you need. You are in my debt." Paul opted to speak on behalf.
"We just want to return home," he got to the point. "That way, we can return to our lives." At least Paul knew what Ash and Gary wanted.
"I'll see that your travels are met. Meantime, you are all invited to tonight's State of the Union address, as well as a banquet for your rewards." President Graham isn't holding anything back.
"Thanks a whole lot, Mr. President," Ash praised. The president shook his head softly.
"No, thank a whole lot to you." It was great news. At a hotel room moving to the evening, the boys were enjoying the camaraderie benefited by President Graham...well, two of the three. Ash and Gary were in tuxedos in preparation to tonight's State of the Union.
"I don't know why you need to be excited," Gary teased as he helped straighten Ash's necktie. "I mean, it's not like Ashley's gonna be sitting by you." Was this out of jealousy that Ashley had admired Ash? Was it a joke for what they had gone through?
"We're being nationally honored by the president," Ash reminded. "We're not trying to impress Ashley anymore. What's the purpose?" The question should be why wasn't Paul in that monkey suit?
"Hopefully, death by boredom will come," he snorted. Someone was yearning excitement.
"Hey, I'm sure the president will acknowledge you, too. You were an awesome help with fighting The Enlightened. You deserve as much praise as the rest of us." Paul snorted that notion off, not wanting to hear how the president's words would irritate him. Ash and Gary shrugged at his retort. Set, they left for the State of the Union...but before they made it out of their room...
"By the way, Ash..." Ash adjusted his head to the voice. "You were pathetic with that voice when I met you. Hearing this, I consider you a great challenge. I don't want to be disappointed when we return." Ash gave Paul a confident smile before he left, Pikachu not far behind. They arrived at a gala of people entering a town hall like building which looked like a concert hall inside. Joined by Ingrid, Ash, Pikachu and Gary got front row while scores of adults sat waiting for President Graham. It was a sold out crowd. Suddenly, an old man came through the doors.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States of America!" he announced. Graham entered the building getting appraisals from plenty of supporters. He arrived at the podium after a ton of fanfare. After a song was played by a high school band, the president was ready to take the floor.
"It's an honor to be in the presence of those who've helped me during my time of crisis," he applauded. "As of now, I am glad to say that my family's crisis has ended in perhaps the best result expected. Not only has my dear daughter, Ashley, been recovered alive but the terrorists behind her kidnapping and attempt to rid this country have been dealt with the harshest of punishments. Soon, Spain will regain the grounds overrun by these fiends and we wish the same to the number one terrorist cult, al-Qaida and their leader, Osama bin Laden." A huge round of applause deafened the voices in the hall. "Speaking of Spain, there are a couple of young, brave men and one mouse who've performed a task made for men but underestimated by the determination of skill and strategy. They're not old enough to attend high school like our band from this district but proven that age is nothing but a number. I like to present to the podium Ash Ketchum and Garfield Oak." Ingrid turned to the boys amid the clapping from everyone.
"You're needed," she alerted. Ash and Gary rose up and walked up to the podium where there were handed certificates. As they received the certificate, they shook Graham's hand as popping flashes from cameras blinded those on stage while Ashley, now in a more feminine look with a white dress and stiletto high heels watched on. If only Ash knew... As the time passed when the president's best researchers were searching for a way to get the heroes back, they were busy. Paul's working his Pokémon for what's still to come while Ash and Gary went sightseeing throughout Washington. They were also invited to watch the local football team play during the weekend. Their tickets reading "PITTSBURGH STEELERS VS. BALTIMORE RAVENS." The Ravens won that game, making it more awesome to watch and even Ash received a midnight violet football jersey with the number "52" and "LEWIS" on the back. Then one day, Ash and Pikachu were relaxing at a cafe, enjoying tea and milk.
"You know, we've pretty much passed off Pokémon training," he realized. Pikachu wasn't worried about it too much.
("We didn't really need to push ourselves after our fight against Saddler,") he squeaked.
"Well, yeah, I suppose. Perhaps too much stress from a harrowing event would lead to nothing good." He began to wonder back to when it was just walking from town to town, enjoying the journey, catching Pokémon...never saving the president's daughter, killing a city's worth of villagers, stopping a twisted enemy's genocide... "Although, I'm still on the fence about something. Whether to be mad at Team Rocket for that trap that brought us to Spain or glad that they brought us there when the world really needed help." Praising Team Rocket wasn't something Pikachu wanted to feel good about. Then it became awkward.
"I'm more worried about that new voice you have," a female grumbled. Ash and Pikachu turned to see two young people. One was a blue-haired female girl wearing a white beanie hat, black tank-top with a pink skirt and pink boots. In her arms was a blue penguin chick. The other was a tanned brunette male wearing a green/brown traveling vest and cargo pants. Pikachu gawked at who came while Ash had this unusual calm at seeing these people.
"Hey, Brock! Hey, Dawn!" Hearing a rather collected Ash was a bit of a surprise to the two. Pikachu and the penguin were happy to be back together.
("Piplup!") Pikachu cried out to the penguin chick.
("Pikachu, I missed you!") Piplup chirped. It was a happy sight.
"Ash, what happened to your voice?" Brock wondered. "The last I heard it was back in Saffron City after May won her contest with her Squirtle." Ash could blame Pikachu but he did enjoy that voice, an item that even Paul of all people actually preferred.
"Let's just say that what we went through wasn't the easiest to overcome," he tried to sidestep the subject. "Yeah, Team Rocket sent us into this crazy dilemma but it was nothing we couldn't lose to." Dawn and Brock were wondering who "we" were.
"By 'we,' it's not just you and your Pokémon, right?" Dawn guessed.
"Yeah, it was hard to convince Paul to help me and Gary but sometimes rivals bring out the best out of us." To know that Paul helped Ash and Gary despite how much he hated to have around was a shock to Ash's friends. "Let me tell you, the experience of saving the world is exhausting but the rewards are definitely beneficial." Dawn and Brock could only wonder what Ash did to have him say that. Just then, a few young teen girls came around to see Ash, notebooks, pens and ink pads in hand.
"Mr. Ketchum?" one asked for Ash. "Hi, we saw the State of the Union address where you and your friend got certificates for saving the president's daughter. Is it okay if we get your autographs, same with Pikachu?" This was a new look to Ash, being a celebrity. Ash smiled, not really giving the thought of autographs as a negative thing.
"You bet." Ash grabbed the notebooks and wrote his name. To Brock, these were some rather attractive females. He couldn't wait to introduce himself to them.
"Well, you should keep in mind that I helped train him in rescuing people," he tried to swoon the teens. The girls were rather nervous about this young man. "I'm Brock and I put my friend, Ash through the ropes in skill and dexterity. How else was he able to rescue an important daughter of an i-gah!" Brock was silenced by a blue frog jabbing glowing violet fingers into him. Everyone watched as he collapsed, immobilized. Then the frog dragged the blowhard out of sight. After signatures were applied, the girls ran off, sun shining smiles beaming from their young faces.
"Well, since you guys came for us, let's get Gary and Paul and get back to our own world." Dawn and the Pokémon agreed before they walked off to a secret area underground. There, the group was regrouped with Paul and Gary and a swirling portal that was going to bring them back to their world. Never underestimate the brains of US scientists. Joining them was Ashley who viewed this from the back.
"Well, this is it," Ashley announced. "Once you go through the gate, you'll be back to your world." The group was happy to have this chance to return. "Ash, Gary, Paul...for the entire Graham family of past and present, saying thank you isn't enough. To stop a terrorist cult and save the world from a parasitic spread which would've meant millions lost, there's no end to our gratitude. We may never see you again, but we'll never forget you." Touching words.
"That wasn't bad," Paul sincerely acknowledged. "It's hard to think of the words to say on the fly, especially when people leave you for good." Even if it sounded positive, Dawn and Gary didn't believe a word he spoke.
'Jerk!' Gary thought as he entered the portal back home. Brock was dragged back by the frog after another glowing jab. Good chance he tried to hit on Ashley.
"Well, you and your family be careful," Dawn wished as she entered the portal with Piplup. Ash and Paul were left.
"Time to say goodbye, Ash," he advised as he joined the rest. Ash was ready, much to the upsetting fact that he wasn't going to see the United States anymore.
"Ash, listen," Ashley muttered. Ash turned to Ashley as Pikachu bolted through the vortex. "You see... I don't wanna let you go." Ash was a bit surprised to hear that confession from the first daughter. "You've helped me throughout the danger in Spain and I just feel a very..." She was fumbling her words terribly as she sobbed.
"Ashley..." he shuttered. Without warning, Ashley dove onto Ash in a bear hug and cried tears onto his shoulder.
"I love you, Ash Ketchum!" Ash started to understand Ashley's feelings and wrapped his hands to her head. After a minute together.
"Mr. Ketchum, the vortex will close in 20 seconds," a scientist warned. The Ashes broke their hug.
"Farewell," he thanked before dashing into the portal. Once he entered, the portal powered down and disappeared. Ashley could only think about what kind of man Ash was when he rescued her. Ash was clueless when he and his rivals entered but when his voice got altered, so did the name of the game. Now, Ash was back in his home world...and all Ashley could do was nothing.
(Later in the future/Twinleaf Dock)
Ash, Dawn, Brock and Pikachu were at the docks for one last time together. After returning from the other world, Ash resumed his training and competed in the region's tournament: the Lily of the Valley Conference. His old voice carried him further than anyone would've anticipated as he finished runner-up, losing in the final. It was a very close match and he lost against his opponent's last Pokémon. Still, his voice had never left him which was incredible. Paul lost to Ash in the quarterfinals, both down to their last Pokémon. Right now, Ash, Pikachu and Brock were departing for their home region. Brock was carrying quite a few bags for his trip to Kanto. "Thanks for taking us around Sinnoh, Dawn," Ash praised as he wore a black soccer jersey with a blackbird patch which read "DC UNITED."
"I should thank you for helping me with my Pokémon," Dawn greeted. "Though I gotta admit, that scar on your chest and back is scary, even though your story is more unbelievable than how you got to Spain." There's always some back story that gets lost in the transition.
"Well, here's to us meeting in the future." They signed it with a high-five. Pikachu and Piplup copied their humans. That's when one more person came forward.
"This heading to Kanto?" sounded Paul. Same look, same scowl...you'd thought that the adventure through Spain had actually made Paul act or look a little different.
"Yeah," Brock replied.
"Good. There's a matter with Gary I need to settle. I'll be going to Pallet Town to meet and battle him to determine who is the better rival to this trainer." What happened to him saying "pathetic?"
"You're always welcomed to join, Paul," Ash smiled. Paul gave him the look that would silence Ash but he smirked back, not intimidated.
"Just leave me in my suite." Prick. Paul walked up the staircase on board the ferry. Ash and Brock followed somewhat and joined Paul and a lot of people heading to Kanto. Last, the ship was departing, much to the sadness on Dawn's and Piplup's thoughts.
"Dawn!" Ash called out, alerting the blue-haired. "No need to worry!" That brightened her and had her chase the ferry to the end of the dock, waving. The ship sailed into the night with Ash reminiscing the adventure not just through Sinnoh but Spain. He was hanging over starboard.
"How's that injury holding up?" Ash didn't need to look at who was talking.
"Just fine." Paul got to the railing on starboard with Ash. For a minute, neither said a word. "Still thinking about what happened in Spain?" Paul snorted away, not wanting to talk about that or so it seemed.
"I'm still wondering how you were immune to the plagas' effects. You had to have suffered an episode, right?"
"Yeah...after I beat that lizard in that one lake. I had it again when I woke up from that first seizure and Pikachu Thunder-bolted me back to my senses...and old voice."
"And since then, the plagas wasn't an issue. That's pretty pathetic." There's the old Paul.
"What, did I need to put a little pizzazz into it? The truth's not enough?" Paul chuckled a little, frighteningly enjoying this conversation.
"Maybe." There's no pleasing Paul. "Like Ashley giving you a kiss when you two first met or Ashley having some sort of ability to communicate with the plagas." These two appeared to have buried their hatchet with each other.
"Aw...the twerp has a crush with a girl?" sounded Jessie from above. The boys looked up to see Team Rocket, the same buffoons who sent them to Spain. "That's so cute of such an ignorant twerp like you." James and Meowth were rather shocked to see Jessie get into Ash's head.
"Team Rocket, you're aware what time it is, right?" Ash pointed out.
"I know what time it is, alright. Make her scream." Make who?
"Jessie, I don't think this is a good idea," James chickened. Jessie wanted this to happen.
"Do it before I throw you overboard!" Who did Team Rocket have on board their hot air balloon the shape of Meowth's head? It's baffling.
"Let me go!" a familiar voice bellowed in agony. It clicked for Ash on who those dirty Rockets had.
"Ashley?" Wasn't she in the safe company of her father? Before acutally determining that theory, Ash released Staraptor. "Use Brave Bird!" Staraptor charged in, glowing a burning blue. KABOOM! The balloon was destroyed, causing the basket to fall onto the deck. Writhing in a bit of pain and wearing a white dress and stiletto heels, Ashley squirmed out of the basket where Ash reached to untie her. "I gotcha!"
"Thanks, dear." Team Rocket got up and faced the rivals.
"Alright, I would've gladly traded her for your Pikachu!" Jessie dumbly explained. "So where's your Pokémon?" Ash and Paul were amazed at how stupid Team Rocket was. Ashley was a lot more valuable than Pikachu. Let's not forget that he's sleeping with Brock.
"That is so pathetic," Paul reviewed their plans.
"Tell me about it," the Ashes snorted in unison. Jessie didn't like being called pathetic.
"It certainly takes one who's pathetic to know who's pathetic!" she stormed. She snagged a ball while Paul whipped out...an RPG? Talk about overkill. However, Jessie thought the RPG was a fake. "That toy? War games are over, so you can discard that toy." Jessie was so stupid, it wasn't even funny. Paul fired the RPG where Jessie realized...it was real. KABLAM! The Rockets were blown to the sky. "Those things exist?"
"OF COURSE!" James and Meowth snapped together. Jessie's face looked dumbfounded. Well, we won't be seeing them again.
"Looks like Team Rocket's blasting off again!" all three signed off together. Now that they're gone, Ash and Paul could wonder what Ashley's doing here. Heck, where did Paul get that RPG?
"Ashley, what are-" Ash tried to ask but Ashley cut him off with a kiss to the lips. Ashley didn't want to discuss how she's in the Pokémon world. Paul chose not to ask himself and instead looked out to the ocean, thinking about what he remembered from Earth.
"A great philosopher once warned to keep your friends close and your enemies closer," he recalled. "Now that I think about it, the only ones who were close...were Ash and Gary. They were my enemies...but now, it's a trust that bonds us. Protect all from the evil. Ash Ketchum is...a great person." A time in a struggle can do that to the best as the boat carries all to Kanto.