Disclaimer: I do not own pokémon.

Touched this chapter up as of 11:10pm 7/17/2012

Touched up again as of 12/15/2013

More touch ups as of 5/15/2015

Flames licked the sky, dancing upon the ruins of the house. Night had fallen and the stars shone serenely; an effect marred by the false aurora of the orange tongues of fire that sprang from the home that blazed in the forest.

The structure itself was obviously smashed and broken. The flames were just an afterthought, a byproduct of whatever had shattered the building. Perhaps a gas line erupted, or the explosion from a Hyper Beam had ignited something. Maybe it was a fire attack that destroyed the house. It was inconsequential. All that mattered was that the house burned.

A sheep ran from the house; crackling with unreleased lightning, feeling unwarranted shame, he ran because its trainer had ordered him too. He ran with a crying toddler hanging from its mouth. Mareep ran from the Ketchum house with his trainer's son dangling from his mouth.

And little Ash screamed, uncomprehending of the situation. He wanted his mamma and daddy and to sleep on Mareep's soft fur again. He did not want to be bounced around during the night in a strange place, as howling echoed behind him.

Houndooms yelped behind the fugitive as they charged through the flames. Their spiked tails waved in the orange light as they pursued the electric sheep and the son of Delia Ketchum. Mareep panicked as they drew closer, frantically beating through the load in its mouth. Trees flashed past, gnarled and terrifying in the night. Their green boughs blocked the stars, but they could not stop the orange highlights of a burning home from creeping higher upon the scenery.

Nightmarish shapes growing from the earth and illuminated by the strange light assaulted the golden brown eyes of little Ash, as his father's pokémon carried him from the ruins of his happy life. Tall grass whipped his face despite the best efforts of the pokémon carrying him. Far behind them a hydreigon roared from within the flames.

Mareeps were not known for their speed. They weren't notoriously slow, but they had never been the ones to set records. Had there been any other option, he would have stayed behind to fend off the attacking pokémon and their human masters and let another Ketchum pokémon take the child to safety. But it was the only pokémon available at the time. He bitterly regretted that fact as the baying hounds grew closer. He would not be able to bear the child to safety. He had failed all of its friends.

Mareep burst through a bush, tucking its head so that little Ash would not have to deal with the thorns. As soon as they were through the bushes to either side rustled and then the Houndooms were through. They attempted to use Fire Fang and Bite, but the Mareep was too far ahead.

Mareep would not fail his trainer.

It would not fail the small friend dangling in his mouth.

The electric sheep could feel his heart pounding furiously as it pounded through the forest and tall grass around Pallet Town. Mareep longed to turn around and attack the fiery pokémon chasing it, to deliver upon them the same kind of pain and injury that they had helped their human leader inflict upon Ash's parents and Mareep's pokémon comrades. But Mareep knew that the toddler it carried would never survive the battle and little Ash was all that mattered now.

So it ran on. Deeper they dived into the wilderness, the orange highlights of a dying life fading with each step the electric pokemon took. The houndooms were closer now, they shouted out to the Mareep, telling it to stop or surrender or give up. One asked the Mareep to give up the child and they would leave the pokemon alone.

Mareep only ran faster.

By now they were far enough from the house that the forest was pitch black save for the half moon and stars. Mareep dodged its way through the trees, making its pursers to fall in line behind it. A fork in the natural paths of the forest was up ahead. Mareep headed for the left fork that would lead to Professor Oak and safety.

He was almost at the fork when a growlith erupted from the undergrowth to the Mareep's left. The fire pokémon's fangs grazed the clothes that little Ash wore as the snapping jaws closed and Mareep's furiously beating heart picked up its pace.

The loyal pokemon was forced to take the right fork and the purser's baying took on a triumphant tone. They had forced the fugitives away from civilization and therefore safety. Or so they believed.

But Mareep knew better. Mareep knew something that only local pokémon knew. The right path held potential safety just as well.

A houndoom nipped at the electric type's heels and Mareep spared as much energy as it could safely manage while carrying the sobbing toddler in his mouth to unleash a thunderbolt at the dark/fire dog. The forest momentarily turned yellow and the pursing pokemon yelped in pain as the electric attack coursed through it. It fell behind, paralyzed, and was trampled by its fellows.

More special attacks followed, momentarily slowing down the pursing dog pokemon but costing Mareep energy. One more burst of lightning flared out from its tail into the pursers, causing yelps to echo in the forest. And yet their numbers were practically undiminished. In that moment Mareep knew that it would not survive the night.

Instead of despair, a dark and fiery hope filled the pokemon, ironically resembling the typing of his pursers. If he would not live the night, then at least the son of his best friend would. And hopefully no other witness to the night's tragedy would. With nothing left to lose the electric sheep picked up his pace and raced towards a destination deep within the wild forest.

The houndooms and growliths picked up the new pace and the forest turned into a nightmarish tunnel of strange green shapes and misshapen growths. Ash wailed in absolute despair as his young senses were overloaded. His father's pokémon knew that he would be traumatized from this, but by the Primal Spark he would live to be traumatized by this.

Once more thunder crackled in the forest and the fire pokemon were delayed as yellow fury coursed throughout their bodies. Several stopped and fell to the ground unable to move as the attack as paralyzed them. Others shook off the attack and pursued with more vigor, treating their fallen comrades as mere scenery in the way of their objective.

Mareep bleated in fury and despair as it leapt over a root. Where were the signs that would tell him that he was nearing his destination? Where were the signs that told him it was safe to put down the burden and join his dead master in a blaze of glory, the future taken care of? Where was the silk that- and there was piece hanging off a tree illuminated by an inaccurate fire attack launched by an inexperienced purser. It looked like any other piece of caterpie silk or weedle silk that dotted the forest, except for its shape.

Poison Lance! Mareep cried out the name Poison Lance! Please! Posion Lance! Mareep bleated tearfully into the night, the words getting muffled by its precious burden. There was no answer but for a Flamethrower attack that scorched his tail.

One more time electricity illuminated the forest and drove back the pokemon serving evil masters. Mareep ran with the last of his everything, feeling his own heart starting to give out, praying to whatever legendary was listening that the one it sought was there tonight.

Mareep stumbled over a root and was hit by a tackle from behind. The attack sent it flying into a tree trunk, the electric pokemon turning his body to protect the last charge that the pokemon had been entrusted by. Soft wool was of no help cushioning the impact and the shock caused him to let go of little Ash. Pokemon and human fell together at the trees roots. The little human immediately grabbed onto his friend and sobbed into the soft wool.

"Marp" he sobbed, burying his face into the sheep's soft wool.

The houndooms and the growliths drew closer, the chase at an end. They snapped and snarled, and growled and howled. Mareep bleated and wept as it nuzzled little Ash.

Give him, snarled the lead houndoom. Give him and we'll let you go. Our master only ordered his capture.

You'll have to kill me either way, bleated Mareep. If you take him without killing me, I'll pursue him as long as I live. The electric pokémon stood up and moved between his charge and the other pokémon. I'll kill you all or die trying before I let your master have my best friend's son.

There was no verbal answer to Mareep's defiance. Instead over a dozen fire attacks raced towards the electric pokemon as he unleashed lightning upon the attackers. Orange and yellow light blazed in between the trees and there was a malestorm of conflicting energies. Trees burst and cinders were blown about like fireflies from hell. Lightning blazed as if it was the heart of the storm and hounds bayed.

In the end superior numbers won out over even love and desperation. Mareep was struck with a Blast Burn and collapsed in front of his young charge, his fur in flames. All around the two the forest burned and a cruel orange light shone upon the pair.

A good death, spoke the lead houndoom.

Mareep did not respond. Instead it desperately nuzzled the sobbing Ash as the life left its body. Mareep wanted his last moments to be about friendship, as his best moments had been with the boy's father had been. To give Ash one last gift, anything to help make up for the fact that he had failed him.

What is going on here! A pokemon cried out from the dark of the forest. Mareep recognized the voice and in that moment knew that he had not failed.

They and their master killed my trainer and his wife. They want Ash. Please Poison Lance! Save him. Please, I beg you! The dying sheep bleated. Little Ash continued to wail as he buried his face in the wool of his friend.

Stay out of this wildling, the lead houndoom spoke. It does not concern you.

The doings of all pokemon in this area concern me, spoke the voice from the darkness, and the Ketchums were friends to all the wild pokemon in the area.

From the darkness emerged a single small pokémon. It resembled some sort of insect larva; it was yellow brown and segmented with two tine pink feet per segment. It had a horn upon the head segment where there were sat two black eyes and a pink nose and a stinger upon its last segment. It was a weedle, that stood and glared down at them.

Leave now and tell your master that you lost the boy and I will not hurt you, spoke the weedle.

The houndoom and growlith equivalent of laughter echoed throughout the area. They did not bother responding to the bug, instead they leapt towards the boy and the dying pokemon. Ash looked up at that moment and wailed once more.

Out of the night thousands of spikes erupted, glowing a sickly color in the light of the fires. Every leaping pokemon was caught by the unexpected barrage and hurled backward, every last one howling in pain. The barrage kept up, tearing the forest apart, shattering trees, and ripping leaves to shreds. Some of the houndooms and growliths were turned into a mass of needles, others were good enough to partially block the attack with their fire and their dark attacks. They fared no better than their mortally wounded comrades.

Only one was able to counter a majority of the spikes that targeted him, the lead houndoom burning as many of them in midair as he could manage. His comrades yipped and died about him as he landed. The houndoom glared at the weedle that had launched the attack. Fury filled him like his fire and he reared back his head to blast the offending bug. He collected his power, fire roaring in his lungs and his mouth. The hellish light that illuminated the weedle grew in intensity as the houndoom prepared to turn the bug pokemon to ash.

Then the houndoom collapsed, an unexpected weakness overcoming it. His vision blurred and suddenly there were multiple of everything, as if reality itself had used Double Team.

What, he spoke with his failing breath, was that?

Just a Pin Missle attack, replied the weedle. Do not feel ashamed of your loss. I was travelling with a trainer long before your parents were eggs. Instead feel ashamed of your master and your actions. Take that regret to hell as penance for the lives of the Ketchums and Mareep.

With that a glob of silk flew down the Houndoom's throat and closed off its windpipe. The dark fire pokemon tried to yelp but the gag choked off all air and no sound could be made. More silk followed and the houndoom was completely mummified as it suffocated.

The weedle turned to look upon the other pokémon that had pursed Mareep and Ash. Most lay dead, but a small number were attempting to flee, dragging various useless limbs and downed comrades with them.

It is futile, spoke the weedle. It reared back its head and from the horn that crowned it a collection of multicoloured light bloomed. It grew in intensity and size, bathing the weedle in shifting colors.

The weedle unleashed a gigantic Signal Beam. A multicoloured glow illuminated Ash and Mareep as the forest, the enemies, and the land itself were leveled before them. Trees and pokemon turned to black ash that scattered upon the wind of the attack and the ground was smoothed and blackened. In a small part of the forest the night turned to a rainbow day as a local bug type pokemon defended the Mareep and the small terrified human, who had quit wailing long enough to stare up in awe.

Those that witnessed the light from afar were befuddled for the rest of the night as the secondary effects of the attack caught them. Almost no one who witnessed the attack could identify it in their confused state.

There was a pop in the air that turned into a boom and another part of the forest exploded as the attack died. The shockwave rattled the local area and gently shook the nearby Pallet Town. Professor Oak had finally fallen asleep in his lab and such was his weariness that even this could not awaken him.

Only one man in the area could identify the attack. Only one man, who was sifting through the ruins of the Ketchum home, with his hydreigon hovering nearby, could identify the attack.

"Signal Beam?" he spoke incredulously "there aren't any strong trainers with bug-type pokémon in the area and the only wild pokémon that could use a Signal Beam of that magnitude…" his face changed at the thought "Another ditto-born Genesect?"

He grabbed a radio from his belt. "All units retreat. We have an unexpected ditto-born in the vicinity. Drop whatever you are doing and withdraw from all combat and open operations now. Do not engage anyone. I repeat, no engagements period."

Confirmations sounded over the device and he returned it to his belt. He looked down upon the ruins as he recalled his pokemon.

"I guess no one won here today" he spoke and then he turned around and strode away from the home he had destroyed and the lives he had ended.

In a different part of the forest a crying boy cradled a dying pokemon's head in his lap. Mareep bleated bittersweetly. He had saved his best friend's son. He could die now and join him in whatever waited beyond without guilt or shame following him. Mareep nuzzled Ash and licked his face. The sheep then turned to the weedle.

Please help him, the trained pokemon begged. He'll have no one soon and no young one should have to endure that.

Quiet now, responded the wild pokemon. He'll be looked after. Concentrate on saying your goodbyes for now and then go join your friends. You've earned whatever rest awaits.

Mareep bleated in gratitude and turned for a final time to Ash. He buried his face in the humans softblack hair and shed its final tears. Ash hugged the electric pokemon fiercely and wailed even louder than before.

"Marp" Ash wailed. "Marp healthy. Okay Marp" he pleaded. The electric sheep nuzzled him and collapsed before him.

The light left Mareep's eyes and the pokemon shuddered and fell still. Ash wept. And Poison Lance sighed as he looked over his new problem.