Disclaimer: I do not own Pokémon

AN:Ninja Edited:AN

Their strength lay not in pokémon, but rather in humans. Team Rocket drew in all sorts of people; disaffected youths, people angry at the world, people who had lost something to wild pokémon, idealists of the worst sort, hardened criminals, cold nihilistic cynics, people looking for a better life, those whose families were dedicated to the cause, and those who simply hated. That was what had allowed them to fight the newly formed League after the end of the Great War and that was what allowed them to survive and operate after their ideological opposite's victory.

And that was why a man with a crossbow and men with explosives were able to attack the kangaskhan herd. Because Team Rocket tried to use the human solution whenever it could.

Dynamite exploded. A bolt whizzed. Kangaskhan screamed and died.

It is difficult to describe the terror that the pokémon were feeling. Being large grazing herd Pokémon, they were used to being preyed on by the top predators in the area and had the flight or fight instincts for that situation. They knew how to deal with that. The fact that their predators were usually pokémon meant they had the instincts to deal with explosions.

But predators didn't attack the whole herd at once. They didn't attack from multiple directions. They attacked the easiest prey. And they quit once they had their kill and the herd would leave them to it. It was a fear their instincts understood.

This was not that sort of attack. Their instincts couldn't deal with an attack like Team Rocket's. Wild, animalistic panic blazed through the herd. But they were pokémon, they were sentient. They had more then their instincts.

And that made it even worse. This was the second attack today, the second attack from an unknown source for unknown reasons. Children, their children were in danger. Children, their children, were dying in pain and agony. Friends were burning. They were burning as plumes of fire bloomed, waves of heat washed over their skin leaving a tingling uncomfortable warmth, flesh sizzled, the ground, no, their world shook and threw them around.

And beyond that there was their grief. The sudden yawning endless abyss as the realization that one's mother or one's child is now only a lump of rotting meat, that the irreversible, insurmountable, and inescapable change known as death had occurred.

The herd scattered. Team Rocket had carefully surveyed the herd before hand and made sure that the kid was nowhere near the blast zones. Although why they had chosen to use explosives in the first place was a question that only the leaders, who sometimes overrated their competence, could answer.

"Still no sign of the kid," Shinji said into the radio, readying another crossbow bolt as he spoke. He let the dart fly as the radio crackled in response.

"Nothing on this end," Sakura replied. "He's either well hidden or he's not with the herd."

"Look over the fallen," the male leader of the Team Rocket group told his compatriot. "We might have missed him when we were looking earlier."

"If he was in the blast zone then there's still a chance that he's alive," the female leader of the Team Rocket group thought aloud, over "as the kangaskhan would do everything she could to shield him before she died. I'll instruct the men to check each others zones."

The 'and blame everything on the one who missed the kid' went unspoken. If the kid had accidentally been killed both Sakura and Shinji would do their best to avoid any of the blame. And maybe that explained how they got to be in charge of the group and picked explosives to flush out their (relatively) fragile target.

Shinji continued to scan the herd as it milled about in confusion, idly picking off a new born futilely trying to wake up its dead mother, and two kangashkhans who were leading a column away.

"This should be the right herd," Shinji said to himself. "So where's the kid?" It would be a problem if turned out that they had to search the Safari Zone after making such a commotion. The explosion would've been heard for miles. Their plan had been for a quick and loud retrieval and then a quick and silent extraction.

His musing were undisturbed by the groaning, moaning, and dying of the sentient beings in the grass.

"We've got contacts," Sakura's voice suddenly sounded over the radio. "Deploying pokémon. There's only-"

Her words were drowned out by roars and screams and the crackle of flames and finally a burst of static. That was enough to snap Shinji out of his musings. He tuned his radio into the team's general frequency.

"We've got enemy contact!" Shinji bellowed into the device. "Get your pokémon out. I want-"

"To die! Flamethrower Charmeleon!" Rippling orange washed over Shinji who fell to the ground, screaming and rolling. White light blazed as the other members of Team Rocket released their pokémon.

"Knock out the pokémon and kill the Rockets," Barclay ordered his Charmeleon even as he threw one of his homemade explosive weapons. Another member of Team Rocket went down in flames.

Charmeleon nodded and leapt into action. There was fire, the flashing of claws, blood, and screams. And then, almost as soon as it had begun, it was over.

"Good for nothing Rockets," Barclay grumbled, kicking Shinji's corpse.

"They were reckless fools," Alice agreed, walking over. The sleeve of her uniform had been cut, showing the pale skin beneath that was marred with a brilliant crimson line. "Their foolish plan may have made ours impossible. And I'm going to need to ask you to cauterize this so we can keep moving."

"Shouldn't we do something to help them?" Barclay asked, looking at the ravaged herd. He would admit to taking extra pleasure in killing the Rockets just for what they had done.

"The best thing we can do for them is wrap up our business here," Alice told him gently. "Then they'll be out of the crossfire. Now please cauterize this."

Flesh sizzled. Nobody batted an eye. You couldn't be a member of Team Magma otherwise.

"Where are those land shits off to?" Jimmy growled, "I want to finish off my sister once and for all."

"For the hundredth time, I don't know," Juliet snapped back. "We've got to wait for Akiko to tell us."

The two quarrelsome members of Team Aqua looked over to their third member. The brown haired woman was cradling the body of her poliwrath, rocking back and forth as tears streamed out of her eyes. Her golduck, now missing an eye and cradling his mangled arm, was resting his beak on her shoulder, gazing sorrowfully at the body of his comrade. Two more of his comrades rested in their pokéballs; it was unknown if they would ever recover, but they were at least alive.

"She's going to be a while," Jimmy replied. "But if we wait too long they might get away with this!"

"I thought we were here to get the kid," Juliet asked, turning away from their comrade's grief.

"I don't care about the kid," Jimmy snapped back, clenching his fists. "Killing those land shits is more important! Lord Kyogres's triumph would be guaranteed if we wipe out Team Magma. We can get the kid when we're done killing them!"

"Kill them all!" Akiko wailed, standing up with her poliwrath in her arms, her tear covered face set in a fierce brown-eyed glare. "I'm going to kill them all for this!" Her golduck stood at her side, face still sorrowful rather than angry.

"Then it's decided," Jimmy exclaimed, raising his fist up against the world. "We're going to go killing land shits!"

His gaze eagerly searched the horizon as if he expected to see his enemy right then and there. Then his posture deflated, sheepish awkwardness replacing burning passion.

"Uh, how are we gonna find them again?" Jimmy asked the group.

They were silent for a moment.

"Aren't they after the kid still?" Juliet asked.

"So what?" Jimmy snapped back.

"Then we still got to look for the kid," Juliet explained. "We can just kill them there."

"I guess you're right," Jimmy acknowledged, deflating a bit more at the prospect of admitting that.

"It doesn't matter," Akiko's eyes were flat, dead, and hard, like ravaged, drying mud. "So long as they die."

Brock held Geodude and Onix's pokéballs in one hand, between his fingers. He kept low within the tall grass, crouched on one knee and hand. Nervousness ate away at the inside of his arms, of his legs, the uncomfortable tensing of muscles as he automatically, unconsciously prepared for an attack. Stealth wasn't his forte and being forced to play hidden backup during a crisis situation was putting him on edge.

But they couldn't risk Ranger Jenny, the only person who personally knew the Safari Zone, was the best among them at tracking, and was the one who was going to need to sneak off to getting hurt or killed. And since Aaron and Tomas were well hidden in the forest, and Tomas would have Kangaskhan with him at all times, it made more sense to leave Misty with them.

So Brock waited for Jenny to return, call out, or for him to hear the sounds of combat. His original idea had been to wait until nightfall before enacting their plan, but Jenny wanted to get moving before it got dark out. Since she had to figure out the most likely location that the herd had ended up for them, she had wanted to get started during the day. It was a plan that put Tomas, Jenny, Kangaskhan, and Aaron in greater risk of discovery. Brock didn't like it.

And he really didn't like the lack of visibility. He knew that just because he couldn't see them, crouched down in the tall grass as he was, it didn't mean that they couldn't see him. Leave stealth to Koga and his ninjas.

There was a rustling sound in the tall grass to the right of him. Brock focused his attention there, readying his pokémon for release.

"Brock," Jenny whispered softly as she rejoined him. "I think I know where they've gone. Get your map out."

"Can we get back into the trees first?" Brock asked, "We're exposed out here."

"I don't have time if I'm going to go get Tommy's parents," Jenny answered. "I'll be as quick as I can. They're to the south-"

She pulled out a red marker, and began to draw on a Safari Zone map Brock had picked up when they checked in. The ranger quickly explained where it was, the best way to get there, how long it should take them, and what they could expect on their journey.

"That everything?" Brock asked.

"That I can think of," Jenny replied. She glanced around, checking the position of the sun that was beginning to set, spilling streams of orange light all over the terrain. "You'll probably want to wait about seventy minutes before starting out if you want to do most of the travelling after dark."

"I'll keep that in mind," Brock said. "Good luck."

"Thanks," Jenny gave him a nod, and then crawled away, beginning her journey back to the campsite occupied by Tommy's parents.

Brock waited a minute and then slowly made his way back to the forest. As soon as he was in the trees he began stretching, trying to relieve the tension that had built up while he was with Jenny. He sighed.

Of all the luck. Why did all the time he got to spend with that beautiful ranger have to involve danger of some sort? What a wasted opportunity. He'd make Team Aqua and Team Magma pay for this!

Brock made his way back to where Misty and the others were hidden. Misty had put on some of her armor, covering her arms and vitals spots, forsaking the rest for extra mobility in the current situation. Her knives were sheathed at her sides, and she was going over her pokémon, making sure they were as close to one hundred percent as they could be for any future fights. Her face was twisted into a resigned frown and her shoulders slumped as she worked.

Aaron, Tomas, and World Burning Mother were eating. Aaron had gotten out some pokéchow and trail rations and had given them to World Burning Mother and her human child. The two of them were digging with the panicked gusto of the fearful, the pokémon's mouth in the bag, the small human barely pausing to breathe between bites.

Aaron on the other hand, was picking at his food, eyes downcast. He was slumped against a tree, head and shoulders hanging down and forward. Pikachu poked him, squeaked something at him, and then rolled his eyes while Brock was approaching.

Misty glanced up from her pokémon and noticed Brock approaching.

"Hey," she said. "Any news?"

"Jenny pointed me to where the herd is," Brock answered, pulling out the map, unrolling it, and showing it to Misty. "From the looks of this map, we can start now and stick to the forest for most of the journey."

"I've got no problem with that," Misty said, nodding. She turned to the large pokémon and the two younger males. "You guys ready to go?"

World Burning Mother tore into her food with increased ferocity, tearing apart the bag and sending bits of pokéchow everywhere. In seconds she finished, stood to her full height, and shook her head vigorously, sending more food flying from her face.

I'm ready now, she replied to the human's question. Tomas?

The blue haired child stuffed more food in his mouth, until his cheeks bulged like he was a squirrel.

I'm ready now, Tommy answered while chewing.

Misty turned to Aaron, who was still picking at his food, giving no indication that he had heard her.

"Aaron?" She asked again. There was still no response.

Pikachu rolled his eyes and then shocked his trainer.

Remember to speak human when you start shouting, Pikachu told his trainer, who was laying singed on the ground, shocked by the sudden shock of Pikachu shocking him. And try to respond to Misty idiot. You'll get yourself killed today if you don't start paying attention again.

"Pikachu! What are you doing? We can't afford to have anyone injured right now!" Brock admonished the electric type, frowning and glaring at the pokémon. "And Aaron, get your head in the game. Pay attention!"

"Sorry," Ash said without energy. "What were you guys saying?"

Brock and Misty glanced at each other. They both thought that he had bounced back after his talk with Brock. Evidently that was not the case.

"Are you alright? " Brock asked Aaron.

Yeah, Pikachu said. You didn't even get mad at me for electrocuting you just now.

"I'm fine," Ash answered Brock overtly and Pikachu covertly. "I'm just worn out."

"Just stay awake until we get back to the herd," Brock told him. "After that you can rest."

You're not tired, Pikachu countered. I've seen you tired before and you weren't like this. As soon as we get some privacy you're going to tell me what's really wrong.

The group packed up and moved out. Sunlight moved towards the color of blood and the world turned darker. As the light died, traversing the forest became more difficult. Brock and Misty started having trouble avoiding tree roots, large rocks, and other tripping hazards. World Burning Mother, a grazer, was also having difficulties. Pikachu, a forest dwelling pokémon was able to traverse the terrain with ease. Ash, having been raised in a forest-

Was trudging along at the back. When Pikachu noticed this, he rushed to the rear of the group to join his trainer.

Alright idiot, what's up? The electric type asked Ash softly, jumping on to the boy's shoulder. This isn't like you at all.

Ash glanced at Brock and Misty, making sure they were out of earshot for soft speaking before responding.

It's complicated, the pokéraised child responded to his friend's concern in a quiet voice.

We've got time.

Ash sighed.

It's a bunch of things, Ash told Pikachu.

What things? Pikachu pressed.

You just won't take the hint, will you? Ash asked, exasperated.

I simply assume that you're not subtle enough to drop hints. Now talk. Pikachu tapped his foot on the shoulder he was standing on.

Well I've got to figure out what the future of pokémon and humans will consist of, help Tommy reunite with his human parents, make sure that they don't try and take him away from his other mother, worry about Jessie and James messing with us while we're trying to do this, whether or not I should tell Misty and Brock that I'm pokéraised, and I think our camping permit is only good for a couple of days, so I won't have time to meet more pokémon here.

Pikachu gave his trainer a flat, hard look of disbelief.

You can worry about almost all of that later, the pokémon snapped. Right now you need to focus on Tomas. We can get a new camping permit later, we can't do anything about Jessie and James, we can let Brock and Misty handle Momma and Poppa, and you can leave the future stuff to me.

What? I was going to figure out an answer to question posed by the future! Ash protested.

Psshah. You'll eventually wisen up to my obvious mental superiority and realize that the best thing you can do for the world is to be my messenger among humans. Pikachu nodded to himself.

... Is this related to your birthday request for goats and a chariot?

Possibly, Pikachu answered.

Pokémon don't even celebrate birthdays, Ash protested. Why did you tell me that list? Do you even know when your birthday is?

We're among humans now and celebrating birthdays is a human tradition. One should always try and honor the traditions of one's hosts, Pikachu replied sagely, nodding to himself again.

Do you even know when your birthday is? Ash asked Pikachu, narrowing his eyes and speaking in a suspicious tone.

I figured that I'd just use yours.

I don't know when my birthday is- Ash began.

Really? Every other human seems to know their birthday? How'd you forget? Pikachu tilted his head, puzzled.

Well toddlers generally don't know their birthdays and everyone who could've told Poison Lance was either dead or couldn't be talked to, Ash snarked back.

Then I decree that we steal Brock's birthday! Pikachu exclaimed.

Why not Misty's?

Because she's cuter than Brock, Pikachu answered.

And why should they listen to you anyway? Ash asked, glancing back at the group to make sure they were still out of casual earshot. They were, but Brock turned and caught Aaron's eye, gave him a quick glare, and motioned for him to hurry up before continuing forward.

Because I command the lightning!

They don't know that, Ash reminded his first pokémon, mentally thanking providence for that fact. He didn't want to know just how irresponsible teaching Pikachu to harness a powerful force of nature was. The punishment would probably be life imprisonment or being permanently committed to an insane asylum.

They ceased their conversation there, hurrying up to stick close to Brock and Misty. The sun continued to fall from the sky and the colors of the world started to fade in to the grey-black of night. If one were to glance up at that moment, and had a clear view, they would've been able to see the colors edging the sky flow into a deep velvet that turned into the rich darkness of the night sky.

It was because of the fading of the light that they didn't realize what they were seeing when they reached their destination. There was a sickening smell when the exited the forest. The grasslands beyond were filled with strange, large, dark lumps and marred by small craters. Brock looked quizzically at his map, holding it up to catch the last of the light.

"This should be the place," he told the others. "Did they move?"

World Burning Mother sniffed the air.

Someone burned here, she stated aloud, sniffing deeply. The scent tickled something at the back of her mind. She sniffed deeply, straining her senses and memory to try and figure out what she should be thinking about or remembering.

And then it hit her, like a sharp blow to the stomach.

Oh no.

Those who could understand pokémon and even those that couldn't sharply turned their heads towards her when they heard her suddenly broken sounding voice.

Mommy? Tomas reached up and tugged on her elbow, giving his adoptive mother a look that was between concern and fear. What's wrong.

It's them. It's the herd.

It can be difficult for human children to understand, truly understand death. To understand that another being will never touch them again, never again speak, or cry, or play, or love, or eat, or drink, or ever be seen, all of them be seen and not just a lump of rotting meat. Pokémon were different. Death was a constant part of life. Everyone was killed and everyone killed; even herbivores ate certain grass-type pokémon. Death was understood and accepted.

But accepting death didn't mean that one couldn't be hurt by death. All sentient beings who ever valued another's company were hurt by death. And to find out that there had been a massive death of those close to oneself-

That was incomprehensible for everyone at first. It could take minutes for the full realization to sink in. Not the full realization of all the deaths, but rather it was not some generic disaster. That it was the end for them.

Some might take more time for the weight to sink in. Others might be hit with it like a freight train the first very instant that it could. It depended on the individual.

Humans might collapse to their knees. They might go cationic. Their minds would do their best to refuse the truth for as long as they could. Or their minds might try to hide from it. Or they might wallow in it. One could never know. The pain would never fade, it would always stay the same size, the closest it would come to ever shrinking was in proportion to the person as they grew beyond it, as it was buried under new emotions and experiences.

And it wasn't just the pain. Humans were always thinking of the future. An instance of sudden death would make a human realize that it could happen to anyone they cared about in the future. Death brought fear. And thoughts about the future reminded them that death had already taken from them. The future was permanently lessened. Death stole happiness. And in the future that they thought of, the humans would see themselves still hurting, still grieving.

Death brought despair.

And even the past was tainted by death, as each happy memory would bring the knowledge that one of the beings treasured was forever gone.

Death ruined memories.

Pokémon endured the pain. It hurt, but it was a familiar sensation. Pokémon were creatures of the present. There was less dwelling on the past for them, and much, much less thinking about the future. The experience came as close to being forgotten as anything could without actually being forgotten. There was always variation, between indviduals, and between wild versus trained pokémon, but for the most part, the species would continue almost as if nothing had happened after the sudden knife of death had struck close to them. This was because pokémon were naturally creatures of the present.

And that was why humans, creatures of the future, decided the course of the world.

Because of all this, neither World Burning Mother or Tommy did anything along the lines of collapsing to their knees, clawing at the ground, or howling their grief to the world. The kangaskhan simply rocked gently from the shock. The pain was there, but they would endure until it was safe, grieve, and move on.

To pokémon who weren't so involved, it would've been a fearful sight. Those without a trainer, family, or friends in the area would flee as fast as they could. Pikachu felt uncomfortable at the sight of the slaughtered kangaskhans. The grief of World Burning Mother and Tomas, subdued as it was, made him want to go cuddle with them, but the slaughter unnerved him in a way he couldn't describe. Had Pidgeotto been out she would've avoided looking at the scene as best she could. Charmander would've wanted to hide behind Ash, but the fire type would not have done so, not wanting his trainer to think him weak. Primeape would have been confused.

Magikarp's only reaction would be to sigh, if he were out of his pokéball at the time. Squirtle- Squirtle would get mad and swear to do something to redress the wrong. Butterfree, if he were still with them, would have suggested finding the surviving members of the herd and offering to help.

Bulbasaur would have no reaction. Scattered corpses, needlessly slaughtered, burned innocents, children dying before their mothers, mothers dying in front of their children, none of those were things he hadn't seen before.

Brock was a young gym leader from a quiet area. The sight of the massacre was new for him in terms of scope, but his prior experiences were enough to help him deal with it. Instead of shock and sickness, the boy from Pewter City felt only a slow burning rage, like the embers at the bottom of a fire, not as bright as the flames but far hotter.

Misty had only been a gym trainer, and the youngest sibling of the three gym leaders who were also raising her. The Sensational Sisters of Cerulean City would never have let her near anything like the field of dead bodies. She had no prior experience to blunt the knife of fear, dread, and disgust that the sight stabbed her with.

But she did have her training. She did know that she was able to make a difference. She had her pride. And she was stubborn. Together it was enough to turn away the knife, allowing her to swallow the emotions and suppress them.

It was Ash that who came the closest to falling to his knees. It was Ash who came the closest to giving into fear.

He remembered the flames. He remembered the screams. He could vaguely remember the pain of not seeing them again. Even less defined was the memory of the fearful flight and the final death, but it still lurked within his mind, like a shark dwelling in dark waters, occasionally breaking the surface of the waves with its fin and reminding the dry world of the monster in the wet world.

This sight, this mass of death, was something that could happen to his home. The fires, and the screams, and the dark shapes, and the fear, and the death, it could all come back.

His mind was filled with an altered version of the image his eyes were seeing. Instead of the large forms of the kangaskhan, there were smaller forms. Pidgeys, rattatas, nidorans, caterpries, and other types, large and small. In the place of the kangaskhan young, there were his friends, the small pokémon he had played with. And in the center, there was a dead pikachu, a dead butterfree, a dead squirtle, a dead charmander, a dead pidgeotto, a dead bulbasaur, a dead primeape, a dead magikarp, and a dead weedle.

There had never been a point in his life where he had been raised to be a pokémon, unlike with Tommy or any other pokéraised child. Poison Lance had always made sure that Ash was being raised as a human, to be a human. He had taught Ash to think about the future and to value his intelligence.

Thus Ash couldn't simply endure it like a pokémon. The only reason he didn't give into the animal like fear that was ripping and tearing at his mind was that he had to act normal. He had to do his best to avoid attract attention to himself for the wrong reasons.

Poison Lance had given Ash the greatest protections he could. Anonymity and secrecy. They were protections greater than all of Lucas's old team put together. It should have worked. Ordinary trainers did not stumble into the situations Ash had whenever they went somewhere.

Poison Lance had drilled into him the desire to appear normal, to not attract attention for the wrong reasons. And now he had a very clear picture in his head of what could happen if his secret ever got out.

It couldn't. Nobody could ever know. This could never happen. This would never happen.

Ash forced himself to repeat that in his own head, eyes closing tightly, eyelids squeezing together in fear. It would never happen. His secret would stay safe.

Pikachu noticed something was wrong with Ash, as his trainer wobbled and repeated the mantra inside his head. The yellow pokémon quietly nuzzled the black haired boy's cheek.

For several minutes that felt like hours, nobody spoke.

"This was just senseless," Brock said finally. "I can't think of a reason why'd they'd do this. It's not even Team Magma's M.O."

"Maybe it wasn't them," Misty spoke up, pointing. There was a charred human corpse slumped up against a tree. Most of the body and its clothes were blackened from whatever fire had killed it, but if one looked closely, they could make out a discoloration shaped like a large R.

"Team Rocket doing this would make more sense," Brock agreed. "But that's even worse- now we have to worry about them going after Tommy."

What do we do next? World Burning Mother asked, relaying her question through her human child.

"I'm not sure," Brock admitted, resting the side of his face in his palm. "I don't think we're good enough to sneak past Aqua, Magma, and Rocket. Since Jenny doesn't know that Team Rocket's here, we can't count on her safely reaching Tomas's parents."

"We could hide in the forest," Misty suggested. Brock shook his head.

"It would only buy time, and with no guarantee of reinforcements, that's simply delaying the inevitable."

"We could hunt them down first," Misty threw out another idea.

"We don't know their full strength, and we can't effectively protect Aaron and Tommy while attacking them," Brock shot that one down as well.

"What do we do then?" Misty asked desperately.

"Hmmm... Kangaskhan, just do you think you could keep up with an onix?"

"Is it just me, or do we use Onix as a solution to a lot of our problems?" Misty asked Brock.

"Well, if you can't endure until the problem goes away, then you can just smash the problem, and Onix is great at both options," Brock replied. Brock, Misty, and Ash were sitting on Onix, near the stone serpent's head. Ash and Misty were clinging onto the rock type, while Brock was calmly sitting.

Brock turned back to address Aaron.

"Don't tell your pokémon anything that we haven't approved," the dark skinned boy told the younger sternly. "We can't afford any mistakes here."

"Yes Brock," Aaron replied with little trace of life in his voice. Perched on his left shoulder was Pidgeotto, doing a pre-flight preen. On his right shoulder, Pikachu gripped the cloth of Ash's jacket tightly.

Behind them were Tommy and Bulbasaur. Bulbasaur had used one of his vines to tie the blue haired boy onto the rock type pokémon. A second secured Bulbasaur himself to Onix. Another more acted as a tether for Squirtle, who stood near the rear of Onix, ready to discourage pursuit. Between them and Bulbasaur, Primeape clung to Onix using three limbs, using his last to hold Magikarp.

Starmie and Staryu swirled around Onix's head, preparing to defend the rock type against possible water attacks. Geodude floated near Brock, awaiting his trainer's orders. World Burning Mother stood by Onix's side, staying near her son.

"Everybody," Brock spoke up loudly, "our only goal here is to keep everyone alive and get Tommy to safety. No heroics, stick close to the group, and don't die! Everyone got that?"

Nobody touches our idiot or his friends! Pikachu cried out to his comrades.

Anyone who thinks that they can get my son will die! World Burning Mother roared.

There were more cries of affirmation, cries of approval, and nods from Misty and Ash.

Again and again, it never changes, Bulbasuar said quietly, eyes distant as he remembered his past.

"Good. Move out!"

At Brock's command Onix surged forward, carving a furrow in the grasslands. World Burning Mother began to run, pounding footsteps sounding as she kept up with the other pokémon. Pidgeotto took off from Ash's shoulder, gaining height to keep an eye out.

"How long do you think it'll take?" Misty asked Brock, speaking loudly over the sounds of their travel.

"Well it's only between ten and fifteen miles away," Brock answered. He looked towards the horizon, where the last bits of light were falling out of the world. "It should take about forty minutes."

"Should we have Aaron get Charmander out? Extra protection in case they find us."

Brock shook his head.

"His tail flame's too visible at this hour. We'll have Aaron get him out only if we do get attacked."

"If he's too visible, then why use him at all?" Misty questioned.

"He just needs to buy us a little time. We're only trying to get Aaron, Tommy, and Kangaskhan to the helicopter," Brock informed her. "Just because they can see us doesn't mean they can get to us before we drop them off. Once they're safe, you and I will have an easier time getting out of the Safari Zone and back to the Fuschia City gym."

"You're not sending me away," Ash protested.

"Yes we are," Brock shouted back. "You'll be safer there, Misty and I can escape easier, and you can use Pikachu to fend off any flying types that they might try and send."

Ash didn't argue back.

Brock's meager hopes for avoiding discovery were smashed about fifteen minutes into the journey.

Fire knifed out of the blackness, creating an island of orange light in the dark sea of the night. Staryu countered with a brief pulse of ice beam, sending a packet of blue light against the orange. Power clashed and temperatures equalized.

"Aaron, get your last pokémon out!" Brock shouted, shielding his eyes from the stabbing light with his hand. "Geodude, protect the ones in the middle."

More fire bloomed in the night. Brock could feel the dry heat from the flames on his skin, a stark contrast to the chill of the night. Staryu and Starmie countered again, five bursts of cold versus five bursts of heat. White light blazed behind Brock and Misty and a vine wrapped around the newly released Charmander.

"Onix, pick up the pace if you can!" Brock ordered. "Kangaskhan, do your best to keep up. No point in hiding after their light show. Aaron, have Pikachu blind them!"

"Pikachu, don't hit Pidgeotto, use Thundershock!" Aaron ordered. "Bright as you can!"

Sure thing! Electrictricity crackled, tendrils of power erupting from Pikachu as he jumped off of Ash and onto Onix. Yellow-white light flared, eye searing in the night.

More fire answered, but it was inaccurate. Misty's pokémon didn't even bother countering the assault.

And then they were past the sources of the flames. Brock let out a sigh of relief. They were past the first and hopefully only wave.

"Alright, here's to hoping that we don't run into Team Rocket or Team Aqua next," Misty said.

"Well we're about halfway there so we've got a good chance," Brock told her.

Neither of them were giving any more thought to Team Magma. Which was too bad, as Team Magma hadn't been trying to stop Onix, or even hurt him. They had simply want to partially blind the riders and the mount.

Slowly a stowaway crept up Onix's tail. It was careful to keep its grip light; rock types weren't known for their sensitivity. His tail was bothersome, it was a pain to keep it covered even with the special hood his trainer made.

The stowaway used the light from the newly released Charmander's tail observe his targets. He'd need to kill the squirtle first, then the bulbasaur to get rid of the vine tethers, and then he'd grab the human child. After that it'd be a matter of avoiding the Staryu and the Starmie until he could rejoin the Team Magma group.

Claws were readied in the darkness. Muscles tensed-

Enemy on Onix's tail! It's a charmeleon! A voice shouted from above.

Charmeleon moved even as he cursed his misfortune. Claws flashed in the light of Charmander's tail.

Yipe! The claws met only air as Squirtle ducked his head into his shell. Charmeleon turned the failed slash into a spinning back kick. Squirtle was sent flying off of Onix with a dull thump.

"Onix stop! Misty have your pokémon take care of that Charmeleon!" Brock ordered, having turned around when he heard the commotion.

"Staryu, Starmie-" Misty began. But she was cut off by the sound of water and Onix's pained roar. A lance of high pressured water had shot out of the darkness and blasted several fist sized chunks of rock off of Onix.

"Guard Onix!" The redhead changed her order.

"Onix, go left!" Brock ordered. "Aaron, do your best back there! Team Aqua just found us."

"Bulbasaur, pin him down with Razor Leaf and get Squirtle back up!" Ash shouted. "Charmander-"

Before Ash could finish giving instructions the enemy pokémon surged into action. Scrambling over Onix's segments, Charmeleon rushed Charmander, making sure to keep Ash's fire type between him and Bulbasaur.

"Charmander get out of there!" Ash's voice rose sharply as he saw Charmander in danger.

I can't, Charmander managed to reply before being forced to duck back from a slash aimed at his throat. The charmeleon pressed the attack with a headbutt that Charmander fell backwards to avoid. He raised his silver claws to finished off the downed fire type as Charmander tried to scramble backward-

And then the Charmeleon ducked on instinct, a blue blur passing over his head, propelled by a Water Gun attack. Primeape had to duck to avoid being clothes-lined by the vine attack to Squirtle.

Stay down! Bulbasaur warned. He fired off four Razor Leaves. Charmeleon turned them to cinder with a burst of flames. The orange pokémon glanced to the side. He caught a glimpse of movement.

Squirtle came blasting back at the stowaway Charmeleon. This time though, the fire type was prepared. He spun around and lashed out with another back kick, making sure to hit Squirlte from below. Ash's pokémon was sent flying upward until he Bulbasaur's vine snapped taunt. Physics took over and Squirtle path changed to a downward arc. He hadn't had time to react to the sudden change and hadn't quit using Water Gun.

There was a loud thunk as Squirtle hit the ground, the impact jarring him such that his head and limbs popped out of his shell, and a quieter thunk as Squirtle bounced into Onix headfirst. The water type went limp.

Squirtle's out! Pidgeotto shouted. Ash, get him out of here!

Red light reclaimed Squirtle.

"Pidgeotto, Quick Attack!" Ash ordered. "Primeape cover Charmander!"

On hearing Ash call out to a flying type Charmeleon pointed his head upward and used Fire Spin. A spiral of fire sped upward like a predatory tentacle. Pidgeotto Quick Attacked right into it.

She shouted a phrase that children shouldn't hear and then tumbled out of control. Wings angrily flapping, she managed to regain control of her flight even as she burned.

Charmeleon snapped his head back down, ready to deal with Primeape, but a red boxing glove like fist hit him right in the snout. Snout stinging, Charmeleon stumbled back- only to be hit on the side of the head by a magikarp.

The hell? Charmeleon held the side of his face. That was unexpected.

Y'all just need to get off! Charmeleon barely managed to jump back to avoid getting kicked in the stomach. He retaliated with a wide gout of flame meant to force the attacker back. But out of the flames burst Primeape, shielding himself with Magikarp.

Primeape came in with a sweeping low kick, knocking the fire type off of his feet.

The fight should have ended right there and then. But, in a display of dexterity that his kind wasn't known for, even as he was falling, Charmeleon wrapped his tail around Primeape's arm. Charmeleon yanked, fell onto his back on Onix, Primeape's face was slammed into Onix, and the fighting type was barely able to hold onto Magikarp.

Charmeleon lurched upward, getting back on his feet with one violent movement. Primeape pushed himself up with one arm and swept Magikarp forward with the other. Charmeleon kicked at him with one clawed foot scratching up and scraping off several scales.

Ash, get 'im outa here! Primeape shouted, flipping back on one hand and tossing Magikarp back towards his trainer.

Wait! Keep me out here, this Charmeleon might kill me, Magikarp pleaded before a beam of red light sucked him into his pokéball.

Charmeleon had no words for his now magikarpless opponent. He simply lunged forward with a Fire Fang. Primeape bit back a cry of pain as the attack grazed his hand. He used his unwounded limb to backhand Charmeleon, buying space.

Pikachu, do ya think ya could give 'im a zappin? Primeape called back to his comrade.

Ash has me busy trying to zap Team Aqua, Pikachu shouted back. Didn't you notice the lights?

His fire's bright enough thank ya, Primeape retorted, glancing at the wound on his hand. It wasn't too bad; he could still fight with that hand.

The fighting type threw a one-two jab at Charmeleon, with a speed that would be hard to track in the day and was practically invisible at night. The fire type staggered back, recovered his stance, and forced Primeape back with a vicious slash.

Primeape flipped backwards to avoid the deadly talons and Charmeleon followed the attack up with a barrage of fist sized fire balls. Acting on instinct Primeape jumped straight up to avoid the stream of fire balls. Even as he rose, he realized his mistake.

Bulbasaur! Primeape shouted the warning, fearing the worst for his green comrade. A series of super effective attacks streamed under him, with Bulbasaur unable to dodge-

But then again he didn't need to. Charmander countered the fireballs with an intense Flamethrower attack, running forward as he did so. Charmeleon covered his eyes with one arm to shield them.

"Charmander, get back!" Ash ordered, his heart stopping as his Charmander attacked.

Primeape landed behind Charmander as Ash's fire type scratched at his evolved form's leg. Charmander twisted to avoid the retaliatory slash and then tripped, trying to duck a bout of flame. However, in tripping, he avoided the slash that the flames had been a set up for.

"Brock, can't you have Onix buck him off?" Ash shouted.

"After we deal with Team Aqua," Brock answered. "I'm sorry, but you're going to have to just hold on back there."

Charmander bit Charmeleon's leg, the same one he had scratched, and began to tear at it. Charmeleon howled in pain and raised his clawed limb high. They glinted in the light of Charmander's tail as Charmeleon prepared to deliver a fatal blow.

I'm back! Pidgeotto Quick Attacked Charmeleon, slamming into his back out of the dark night. He staggered forward, flesh tearing under Charmander's teeth. With a scream of pain mixed with rage, Charmeleon swiftly slashed at the fire type savaging his leg.

No ya don't! A fist hit Charmeleon's face like a runaway tauros. One sharp tooth came flying out, spinning away into the darkness. Charmeleon clutched at his face.

"Charmander, bite down and stand up!" Ash ordered, voice gone all tight and high as his heart leapt into his throat.

Ash's fire type pushed himself to his feet, wrenching his head to the side as he did so, yanking Charmeleon's leg out from under him. The larger fire type fell, hitting his head on Onix's back, and then was finally flung off the rock type.

Charmander crowed, flush with victory. He had managed to beat a strong pokémon! He felt so full of energy that he was surprised he wasn't glowing!

No, he was glowing! He was evolving!

His crow turned into a roar as the glow consumed him and then grew. Ash's eyes flickered blue for the tiniest moment as he watched Charmander turn into Charmeleon.

I did it! Charmeleon turned to face his comrades and trainers...

Only to be backhanded by Primeape.

That darn Charmeleon's back! Primeape shouted. Everybody get him!

Wait, wait, Charmeleon held his forelimbs in front of his face. It's me, Charmeleon!

Oh. Since when are ya Charmeleon?

Since just now, didn't you see me glowing?

So that's what dat was, Primeape said, pounding the bottom of his fist into his palm.

You went through that yourself, remember, Charmeleon reminded the fighting type.

I didn't know dat's what it looked like on da outside.

While they had been fighting Charmeleon in back, up front Ash, Misty, and Brock had been dealing with the attack by Team Aqua. Staryu and Starmie had been putting their bodies between the water type attacks and Onix's body. Geodude had been acting as living armor for Tommy. The other humans had been trying to locate the points of origin for the attacks so that Pikachu could launch a counter attack.

Fry fishies! Electricity crackled. A pokémon screamed. Pikachu laughed manically.

Now if only there was a storm. I could bring down the lightning on them! Pikachu was dancing on Ash's shoulder.

Ash, when you get a chance remind him that he can't actually control lightning, Staryu said, swooping in to shield Onix's side from a water attack.

I hate to break it to you, but he can, Pidgeotto informed the water type, coming in to perch on Ash's free shoulder. Ash taught him to.

You crazy- I need to make sure Misty learns about this! Staryu said before spinning away to intercept another attack from Team Aqua.

"Charmand- sorry, Charmeleon, please don't do that to me again. My heart can't take it." Ash said.

"Aaron, if that charmeleon is gone, then could you please have Pidgeotto find their wingull?" Misty shouted. "You can bond with your pokémon when people aren't trying to kill us!"

"Right, sorry," Ash rubbed the back of his head. "Pidgeotto try and spot their wingull. Tell Pikachu where it is. Pikachu, don't hit Pidgeotto when you take a shot at them."

Don't worry, Pikachu reassured his trainer and comrade. The 'Lightning Zapper' never misses!


Is that what you're calling yourself? Pidgeotto couldn't help but ask.

"I thought you'd have made progress on the name", Ash whispered. He really shouldn't have done it so close to Brock and Misty, but he just couldn't resist in this case.

Oh shut up you two. I haven't had time to work on the name. Pikachu huffed and crossed his arms.

Pidgeotto took off again. Tense and tedious minutes passed as Ash and co. sought Team Aqua in the darkness, exchanging blasts of water and bolts of electricity. Onix twisted and turned, Brock trying to navigate an irregular course. World Burning Mother kept pace, crooning reassurances to Tommy.

And then brilliant orange flame bloomed within the darkness once more, a crimson and yellow flower of heat and light. Onix rose up to take the brunt of the flames on his underside, shielding his human passengers.

Water lanced out the night, swift and deadly. Instead of blasting Onix, it stabbed into the area where the blast of fire had come from. A Flame Burst soared into the night as retaliation, scattering fire over the location that the blast of water had originated.

Brock wasted no time.

"Onix, that way, full speed!" Brock ordered, pointing in the direction of Tommy's human parents. Everyone riding the stone serpent felt their bones vibrate as Onix made a sound of understanding and took off in the direction Brock had pointed.

Fire and water clashed in bursts of steam, the air was filled with firelight and the sound of hissing as Onix sped away. Team Aqua and Team Magma paid them no more attention. The only thing in their hearts was the annihilation of the other.

Brock wiped his brow and let out a breath, posture loosening as he relaxed.

"Aaron, get Charmander-"

"Charmeleon, actually," Ash said, correcting Brock.

"Get Charmeleon back in his pokéball, we're running dark again," Brock ordered.

Ash blinked in confusion and gave Brock a quizzical look.

"What does Charmeleon have to do with running in the dark?" The secretly pokéraised child asked.

"I said running dark," Brock informed him, giving Ash a look that clearly said 'I am unamused'. "That means we operate without lights."

"Oh," Ash said, understanding. "Right. First though-"

Ash beckoned Charmeleon over. The fire type swaggered over- or tried to swagger as well as one could while riding on the back of an Onix, while being tethered to a bulbasaur.

Ash grabbed his orange pokémon and hugged him tight.

Seriously, Ash whispered. Don't do that to me.

Don't worry Ash. Didn't you just see how strong I am?

I don't care how strong you are. I'd rather you be safe.

Ash hugged a confused Charmeleon tighter.

"Again, can you bond with your pokémon when we aren't in danger?" Misty asked him.

"Heh, sorry," Ash said sheepishly. Charmander turned into red light and then vanished into his portable home.

"It is as you suggested," the purple haired man dressed in the uniform of Team Galactic intoned unemotionally to the man with green hair.

"Yes. Let us all use the example of Team Aqua and Team Magma to remind us of the folly of emotions." The green haired man's speech was just as without feeling. "Having seen all their pokémon, do we believe we have the strength to take the child?"

"If we could stop them, it is probable that we could defeat them in their current state," the man with dark blue hair answered. "However I do not believe that we can stop them with our current strength."

Silence fell as the group tried to think of a plan. The black haired woman studied the scrying pool intently.

"I believe I have a solution," she said finally. "There has been enough blood of enough different kinds spilled here to fulfill the requirements for a spell that will fit our needs. However..."

"However what?" The man with purple hair asked.

"It will require a human sacrifice," the woman with black hair answered, her voice seeming as emotionless as ever. "I am unsure if that is the best use of our resources."

"If we can not stop them as we are, then any option that would allow us to complete our mission is a better use of our resources," the man with purple hair told her. "Remember that all is meaningless until the Mistake is corrected."

"Then who shall be the sacrifice," the woman asked.

"I will be," the man with purple hair told her. "My pokémon would be the least effective in this encounter. "

"Very well," the man with green hair said. "Do you require any help preparing the ritual?"

"I merely require my two pokémon," the black haired woman answered. White light blazed. When it faded a medicham and a clefairy stood at her side.

"Prepare the ritual to invoke Blood Wrath asura," the woman told her pokémon. Her pokémon nodded in acknowledgement, walking away from their trainer so that the three of them formed an equilateral triangle. The woman and her pokémon each drew threw runes on the ground, forming more equilateral triangles around them. Both pokémon closed their eyes and began to chant in the manner of their species.

"Will the sacrifice please step into the center," the black haired woman said while drawing a knife from its sheath.

"I am here," the purple haired man said as he complied. The action was almost as calm and emotionless as all of his previous actions, but a very astute observer could have made out the slight tremble in his legs.

The woman stepped forward and put her knife to his throat.

"Are you ready?" She asked him. The knife barely trembled.

"All is meaningless and condemned to suffer as long as the Mistake persists." The man's eyes were closed tightly and his hands were clenched into tight fists even as he spoke without emotion in his voice. "The only meaning one can have in this world is to correct the Mistake. I am ready."

A knife moved under the thinnest sliver of the moon. Silently, another life ended.

The woman stepped back and began to chant. The body fell to its knees and then tipped forward.

"ចង្អុលឲ្យដើរផ្លូវកណ្តាល មាគ៌ាត្រកាលអាចកំចាត់ ទុក្ខភ័យចង្រៃអោយខ្ចាយបាត់ អាចកាត់សង្សារទុក្ខបាន។" Red blood seeped into the earth.

Glowing red lines formed between the woman and her pokémon even as the three continued to chant, changing phrases and tempos several times as they did so. Blood began to seep out of the earth, gathering around the body. It came faster and faster, far more than one human body could have contained.

The man with green hair and the man with dark blue hair watched without emotion as a monster formed.

"We're three quarters of the way there!" Brock exclaimed happily. "Just a bit more."

"Are you sure we're going the right way?" Ash asked. "I mean you have enough trouble navigating during the day-"

"I think I can handle a short jaunt across the Safari Zone just fine, thank you very much," Brock snapped haughtily, looking down at Aaron.

"I just think that we should try and make sure that we're going the right way," Ash replied.

"If Jenny made it they might have some lights on," Misty butted in. "If we're even headed in the right general direction we should see them."

"I hope so," Ash said.

Their journey continued in silence for around another minute. Then they saw the thing appear before them.

Red light spilled into the night from the creature. Ash's first impression of the creature was that it was like a statue made of liquid. It was solid, defined, but it was translucent, and one could see the flowing and swaying inside of it. The thing looked like a cross between a heavyset man with the arms of a monkey, with fingers that were claws that could be called swords. Its belly was round and large, like it should belong to a fat and content man, but its face was hungry and cruel, twisted into an angry sneer. Black eyes ate away at the light given off by its body and exuded malice in return. It stood taller than a two-story house and cut the earth with its fingers as it walked.

"What in-" Brock began, but then the thing charged.

Onix bellowed a challenge and charged in turn. He lowered his head aiming his horn right for the red creature's chest. The two tore the earth apart beneath them as they rushed to clash together. The humans on his back clung tightly to the stone serpent.

Onix came in low and surged upward, catching the creature off guard and sending it flying. Its chest warped and rippled around the point of impact, like a plate of jello. When it landed on its back it shook the ground. The humans on Onix's back let out little gasps of pain as they were violently jarred by the clash.

"Staryu, Starmie, Ice Beam its hands and feet!" Misty ordered.

"Geodude, tackle its face to keep it down!" Brock joined Misty in ordering his pokémon to attack.

Two Ice Beams streaked out, blasting the downed creature's feet, encasing them in thick sheets of ice. At the same time Geodude quit shielding Tommy, and threw himself at the creature's face, keeping it down.

"Electivire Thundershock," a cold emotionless voice spoke up from somewhere in the darkness.

"Dodge!" Misty shouted. Her pokémon let up on their attacks and moved away from each other at the very moment they heard her command. Tendrils of electricity filled the space they had just occupied.

"Slugma, flamethrower," another voice ordered. Fire streamed out of the night, melting the ice. The creature surged back to its feet.

"Alright, everybody off," Brock said. "Aaron, have Bulbasaur get Tommy to Kangaskhan and then get ready to run when I say so."

"I'm not leaving you," Ash protested.

"Yes you are," Brock's tone brooked no argument. "Now get ready."

The humans and smaller pokémon slipped off of Onix's back. Bulbasaur handed Tommy to World Burning Mother who put him into her pouch.

"Go Magikarp. Go Squirtle. Go Charmeleon" Ash let out his two wounded pokémon. He was sure that they were going to need all the help they could get.

Primeape grabbed Magikarp by the tail even as he materialized, and Squirtle stood, a bit wobbly, but alert. Charmeleon stood tall and proud, tail flame blazing.

Onix bellowed and charged. The red creature stood its ground. They met in a clash that the others could feel through the ground. The mystic monster backhanded the stone serpent and Onix fell to the side, ruining and tearing the earth where he fell.

"Geodude, Rock Blast there!" Brock ordered pointing in the direction that the electivire's attack had come from. A volley of rocks shot into the darkness, eliciting cries of pain.

"Starmie, Bubblebeam!" Misty pointed to the area where the fire attack had come from. A stream of high velocity, high impact, bubbles sped into the darkness.

"Snover Razor Leaf."

No you don't! Hearing the enemy order Bulbasaur jumped in the direction the voice had come from and started firing off Razor Leaves. Slicing leaves slashed at each other in the air.

"Charmeleon help Bulbasaur with a Fireball!" Ash commanded. "Pikachu use Thundershock to show them to us!"

Aye aye! Three bolts of electricity speared upward from Pikachu and then arced downward, illuminating the attackers. The Razor Leaves being fired at Bulbasaur were consumed by Charmeleon's fire at the same time.

There was a green haired man standing by the slugma, with the snover standing several yards away. On the other side of Ash and his friends there was a man with dark blue hair standing by the electivire. They had been standing just outside of the red light generated by their monster. With their positions revealed, they stepped closer, into the red light.

"Snover, Cutting Cold Wind," the green haired man ordered. The snover took a deep breath and then blew forth a sparkling blue burst of air, with sharp shards of ice carried along by the wind. The attack sped towards Bulbasaur and Charmeleon.

Charmeleon unleashed a gout of flame, heat canceling out the chill, and melting the ice. But he was hit by several small blasts of water. His fire had canceled out part of the ice type attack, but it had turned the rest into a water type attack.

"Aaron, leave this to me," Misty told the human boy. "Staryu, Rapid Spin the snover. Starmie strafe and Rapid Water Gun the slugma."

"Razor Leaf and Evaporation Shield!" The green haired man ordered.

Another volley of leaves shot forth as Staryu spun towards the grass/ice type. Staryu jinked and dodged, making its way closer.

Slugma belched up a short but intense gout of fire. Starmie strafed around him, spinning and firing off a brief Water Gun when one of its tips was pointed at the fire type. Slugma turned to keep up with it, its flaming shield evaporating the water before it could come close.

"Geodude take out that electivire," Brock ordered while Misty dealt with the other member of Team Galactic.

On it! Geodude rushed towards the electric type, grass parting from the wind of his wake. He cocked one stony fist back to deliver the punch-

The dark blue haired man put his right hand's index and middle fingers on the side of temple, and his thumb on his cheekbone. He glowed purple for a moment and then thrust forth his left hand. Geodude was knocked to the side by a telekinetic blow.

"Electivire, kill the trainer," the man said as if he was ordering a soft drink. Brock threw himself to the side as a Thunder attack smashed down. He could feel all the hairs on his body stand up from the discharge.

Geodude was being held down by the telekinesis of the dark blue haired man. Zubat had been previously wounded. Onix was struggling with the strange creature. All that Brock had left was a Vulpix, a young pokémon that he hadn't had for very long.

"Go Vulpix!" White light blazed as Brock brought out his last pokémon. An adorable vulpix stood before him, head coming up to his shin.

Yes Brock? The small red pokémon looked up at her trainer expectantly.

"Agility and Fire Spin on that electivire," Brock told her. "Keep it occupied and don't get hit!"

He then ran off to the side as Electivire sought him out with a Thundershock. Vulpix blurred away and encased Electivire in a spiral of fire that turned into a hellish vortex of flame. Bolts of electricity blasted out of the fire, forcing Vulpix to keep moving.

Shouldn't we be helping? Pidgeotto asked, coming down to land near Ash.

You're right, Ash replied to her. "Pikachu-"

Don't, Bulbasaur interrupted him. We shouldn't go barging into someone else's fight. We don't want to hurt Brock or Misty's pokémon, we don't know their plans, and we don't know if there are anymore enemies out there. And that Charmeleon beat us up nicely. It simply ain't the time to be jumping in.

They all flinched as Onix roared in pain. He was suspended in the grip of the red creature, head held in one crimson hand, as the overlong claws of the other stabbed and slashed him again and again. The stone serpent tried to shield himself and strike back with his tail, but the creature was relentless, slapping away the tail again and again, and attacking the wounds that Team Aqua had inflicted earlier.

"Aaron, stay back and help Onix!" Brock shouted upon seeing his pokémon's situation.

"Pikachu, Thunder that thing!" A column of crackling, zig-zagging yellow power shot up and came down on the red thing. It coursed through the creature, yellow light mixing with the red. Small wisps of blood colored steam rose from the thing as Pikachu's electricity boiled it.

But the creature itself ignored the attack and its effects. It continued to tear at Onix as Pikachu electrocuted it.

"We're not done! Squirtle, Water Gun its elbow! Make it let go of Onix! Pikachu, quit Thunder and add a Thunderbolt to Squirtle's Water Gun! Pidgeotto and Charmeleon, Gust Bullet and Fireball on its near leg! Bulbasaur, Leech Seed its body and Razor Leaf its other leg! Primeape and Magikarp, if you see it stumble, try to knock it down!"

Water blasted away at the elbow holding Onix, slowly drilling into the creature, spreading ripples all over the arm. Electricity poured in again, making water and the red creature boil. Fire and wind mixed into a spiraling fire bullet, blasting bits of super-heated blood red substance off of the thing's leg. Slicing leaves cut through the other leg, entering with little resistance and exiting without doing much damage. Seeds sprouted and wrapped around the same leg, leafy tendrils greedily sucking away at it, stealing some of its mass.

Mass that was almost instantly replaced. The attacks of Ash's pokémon weren't even a nuisance to the thing. It was a thing born of mystic power and spilled blood, a potential created by battlefields and realized through magic, where humans and pokémon cursed their deaths, their killers, and even their allies in despair. It was collected psychic energy and magical mystery. Maybe if Onix had been fresh and unwounded he could've dispersed it, torn it apart with main strength, but that was not the case.

The attacks of Ash's pokémon weren't even at the level of a nuisance to the thing, but they could be called an annoyance. It turned to face Ash, still holding Onix. Ash and his pokémon were subjected to its cruel sneer, to the glowing black malice of its small eyes, before it flicked its arm and threw Onix at them.

How 'bout I help ya dodge! Primeape tackled Ash, using his strength to propel the human boy out of the way. Pidgeotto took wing and Pikachu used Agility. Squritle withdrew into his shell and blasted himself away with Water Gun. Bulbasaur lashed out with two tentacles, plunged them into the ground, and used that to yank himself away. At the same time, he wrapped two tentacles around Charmeleon and yanked him along for the ride.

They all barely avoided being crushed by Brock's pokémon. Pidgeotto was clipped by the edge of his body. Squritle's flight path was destabilized by the shockwave and he came down, plowing into the ground. Pikachu was sent flying by the shockwave, tumbling head over heels, and bouncing over the ground.

Bulbasaur and Charmeleon managed to escape completely, landing on their feet, and turning to face their enemy. Primeape landed on his feet, Magikarp still in hand. Ash landed on his butt, skidding backwards several feet, clutching his stomach. Primeape's method of getting him out of the danger zone hadn't been gentle at all.

"Onix! Aaron!" Brock cried out in dismay. The purple haired man took his distraction as a chance to psychically hurl Geodude at his own trainer. Brock folded around the point of impact and went flying backward.

Misty continued her battle. Unlike Brock the enemy hadn't been able to strike at her. She had been on the offensive the whole time, keeping the Team Galactic member on the back foot. She hadn't had to divide her attention, again unlike Brock. And she couldn't afford to now.

Even though they had probably just lost.

Brock managed to roll away from Geodude, before the dark blue haired man could renew his psychic hold on the rock type and use it to pin Brock as well. Onix was weakly stirring, struggling to pick himself up. The red creature was casually strolling over to finish off the large pokémon.

Bulbasaur cut at its eyes with Razor Leaf. Charmeleon blasted away at its center with an intense bar of fire that was almost solid. Primeape stood atop Onix with Magikarp, in a fighting stance, doing what little they could to guard the larger pokémon. Ash weakly gave orders as he recovered. The rest of his pokémon, crawled, stumbled, and dragged themselves back to him, slowly recovering as they went.

Vulpix was tiring faster than the electivire was going down. It was dispersing Vulpix's Fire Spins faster and faster each time, meaning that Vulpix was dealing less damage for the same amount of effort as time went on. Geodude was still pinned and the psychic showed no signs of tiring. Misty had her hands full.

Brock took out his mace. The situation was hopeless. His only option was to rush the psychic and hope to get in a lucky blow. But the odds were against that. The psychic would simply swat him away as soon as Brock got close, or simply hold him still so Electivire could kill him. Then the Team Galactic member would finish off Brock's other pokémon at his leisure.

"Run Kangaskhan!" Brock shouted. "Just get out of here! Take Aaron and run!"

"No!" Ash protested for the final time. "I'm not-"

Shut up and listen to him, kid, World Burning Mother said, running up and grabbing him by the back of his jacket. Tell your pokémon to follow me.

"Carnivine, Lairon, move in," the dark blue haired man called out to the darkness. From the darkness behind World Burning Mother the large steel type and the grass type emerged. World Burning Mother dropped Ash and whirled around to face them. The red creature reached Onix. Primeape jumped at it, raising Magikarp over his head to deliver a mighty blow.

The giant casually brushed Primeape aside, sending him flying like a grey-brown ball. He hit the ground and tumbled to a stop. Magikarp flopped down beside him. The fighting type unsteadily managed to regain his feet, grabbing Magikarp, and stumbling forward once more.

World Burning Mother backed away from the advancing lairon and carnivine. The red giant reached down for Onix again. Brock grunted as the psychic blasted him with pure force. Misty was silent as she kept fighting.

It didn't matter anymore.

It was hopeless.

Dawn didn't come. Golden light from the dawning sun didn't illuminate the battlefield. The sounds of morning pokémon, the chirping of the flying types didn't arrive. The warmth of morning didn't reach them.

Instead it was the white light of a floodlight. Instead of chirping it was the whirring of a helicopter. The warmth of morning didn't reach them because it was still night. Dawn didn't come for them, but something else did.

The red giant turned away from Onix, still ignoring the attacks of Ash's pokémon, and faced the newcomers. Everyone paused as blinding white light fell over them.

"Brock, is that you?" A high-pitched, cultured, male tone sounded out from the chopper.

"Yes!" Brock shouted, hope renewing him. Tommy's parents had arrived.

"Is our son with you?" 'Momma' asked, voice artificially amplified.

"Yes," Brock shouted again. "He's with the kangashkan."

The helicopter moved to a spot over World Burning Mother. A line fell from the helicopter and Ranger Jenny slid down. White light blazed and Growlithe rejoined the fight.

"We've got reinforcements incoming," the blue haired woman called out. "The Safari Zone Rangers are coming. The League has been informed. You can't escape! Make it easy on yourselves and give up now!"

"There is no need," the green haired man responded in an emotionless tone. "You do not have the power to beat us while the spell lasts. Your presence makes no difference. We can escape your reinforcements. We avoided the Kanto League on the journey here and we can do so again as we leave with the child. You may surrender the child now and avert further bloodshed."

"You're not getting our son! Tommy, grab onto the rope quickly!" 'Poppa called out from the helicopter.

"What about Momma-Kangaskhan?" Tommy shouted back. "I'm not going anywhere without Momma-Kangaskhan!"

The red creature surged towards the helicopter, but it shot upward avoiding the thing's grasping claws.

"We can't land and take her aboard," 'Poppa' answered his long lost son. "They'll destroy the helicopter if we try!"

"I'm not going anywhere without Momma-Kangashkan!" Tommy clung stubbornly to his pokémon mother.

Tommy take the rope! World Burning Mother roared, pulling him out of her pouch, and raising him towards the helicopter.

"I'm not going without you!" Tommy was crying now.

There was no safe way to get both the blue haired boy and the large pokémon up to the helicopter, not with Team Galactic ready to interfere.

The battlefield was silent. Everyone's eyes were on the child now, illuminated by the bright white light from the helicopter. Team Galactic had to wait for the right moment to capture him without hurting him. Ash and friends needed to wait to see how they would need to protect him, even if they couldn't.

Several heartbeats came and went in silence, save for the quiet sobs of Tomas.

"Tommy, look up please," 'Momma' said, her voice gentle.

The blue hair boy sniffed, wiped away his tears, and looked up.

'Momma' and 'Poppa' looked back at him, illuminated by the internal lights of the helicopter. For the first time in years parents and child saw each other.

'Momma' and 'Poppa' smiled. There were also tears in their eyes.

"It's so good to see you again," 'Poppa' said. "You look just like pictures of my father when he was your age."

"You've grown up nicely," 'Momma' said. "I'm so happy."

"I wanted to meet you!" Tommy. "I wanted to ask you questions! I wanted to live with you and Momma-Kangaskhan!"

"I'm sorry my boy," 'Poppa', replied, smile turning sad. "I'm afraid we're going to have to let you down there. But we've let you down in so many other ways already, so I doubt my apology will mean much."

"You're the one who found him?" 'Momma' called out to World Burning Mother. "You're the one who took care of him for us?"

I didn't do it for you, World Burning Mother called back, not caring that the human woman couldn't understand her. I did it for him.

"Thank you so very much," 'Momma' continued.

As I said, I didn't do it for you. But you're welcome anyway.

"I'm sorry there's so little we can do to repay you," 'Momma' said to her, the human woman's smile also turning sad. "There's only one thing we can really do. But we're going to have to make a selfish request first. Please take good care of Tommy for us?"

"What?"/What? Humans and pokémon spoke together in confusion.

"And can you make sure to get out of the way," 'Momma said, before ducking back into the helicopter. 'Poppa' followed her. The helicopter rose, and sped off to the east.

What's going- Oh! World Burning Mother stuffed Tommy back into her pouch and ran away from the red creature. Tommy tell them to get away from the red thing!

"Get away from the red thing!" Tommy relayed.

The helicopter turned around.

Ash, his pokémon, and Onix all moved away from the red creature as fast as they could.

The members of Team Galactic began to issue orders, but then the helicopter's floodlights shined into their eyes. The aircraft lost altitude and picked up speed.

"What's going on?" Tommy wailed. He leaned around World Burning Mother to get a better view.

"Goodbye son!" 'Poppa's' voice boomed out of the helicopter.

"Grow up to be happy Tomas Marshall!" 'Momma' called out.

The red creature lunged after the retreating kangaskhan and child. But its cause was hopeless. The wills that drove it were nothing compared to the wills that opposed it. The despair that gave it life was no match for parent's hope.

The helicopter slammed into the creature like a hero's spear, traveling at hundreds of miles per hour. Spinning blades chopped away at the body, eating away at it like fire burning paper. The main body of the helicopter crumpled in the impact but managed to pierce the chest. Sparks flew within the aircraft as it tore itself to piece, some reaching freshly exposed fuel.

A tiny dawn came in the middle of the night, announcing itself with an eardrum-rattling boom. Wisps of red and drops of crimson flew everywhere , dispersing in the air as the giant was torn apart by the explosion. The shockwave bowled people and pokémon over alike, wind flattening the grass for a hundred yards in every direction.

The light brought both grief and hope for Jenny, Brock, Misty, and Ash.

"Now Geodude!"

"Starmie Water Lance! Staryu Rapid Spin!"

"Charmeleon Flamethrower the newcomers!"

"Growlithe Flamethrower those two!"

The psychic was distracted and Geodude was free. Moving as fast as he could, he nearly flew to the electivire. His right hook smashed its face with jaw shattering force, sending teeth flying. He sent the electric type flying into the surprised blue haired man, knocking him over.

How'd you like it! The rock type shouted after them.

Starmie speared the slugma with a thin high-pressured stream of water, making it scream in pain. Staryu spun into the snover, sending it flying.

Charmeleon and Growlithe simultaneously launched Flamethrowers, the super effective attacks roasting the carnivine and overheating the lairon.

"We're not done yet! Pikachu Thundershock them all!" Ash bellowed, getting to his feet.

You're not wanted here! Pikachu threw back his forelimbs and unleash a Thundershock attack that was closer to simultaneous Thunderbolts than any normal Thundershock. Yellow light overcame the night. Crackling, twisting, bright yellow power sought out each of Team Galactic's pokémon. Super effective, not very effective, it didn't matter; everyone hit by the attack screamed in pain.

"Time to withdraw," the green haired man said without emotion.

Red light reached for pokémon as Team Galactic recalled every member of their teams that couldn't be ridden. Lairon sprinted around Ash's group, strides tearing out clumps of earth and grass. The green haired man and the blue haired one ran away, their paths and the path of the Lairon converging. They each grabbed onto a ridge and jumped onto the steel type. It may not have been that fast for a pokémon, but it was faster than a human could run, especially over a long distance.

Ash and his friends watched them run away in silence.

Dawn eventually reached them, golden light illuminating the wreckage of the helicopter. Tommy had cried the night away as he and his mother stood and watched the flames die down. Now they were silent.

Brock, Misty, and Jenny were talking among themselves as to what they would tell the other rangers and the League. Jenny had reported the situation as criminal organization entering the park for unknown reasons, leaving those who were in on the secret to connect the dots.

Not that there were too many of those left. A slaughtered patrol had been discovered in the same sector of the park where the herd had originally been when the whole situation had begun. They had meant to make sure that the boy was safe. Their efforts and deaths had been in vain.

Ash and his pokémon sat back and watched the dawn.

So did we win? Charmeleon asked Ash.

Ash looked over at the now silent Tommy.

I don't think so, he answered. But I don't think we lost, either.

Everyone was quiet again.

It was a good death, Magikarp spoke up. Sacrificing themselves to save their child. I'm envious, I wish I could have gone out like that.

Nobody had anything to say to that.

I wonder what Tommy and his mother will do now? Pikachu asked.

Probably rejoin their herd, Bulbasaur answered.

Will they be safe? Pidgeotto asked.

I don't know, Bulbasaur replied simply.

I think we'll probably leave the Safari Zone, everyone jumped when they heard World Burning Mother speak up behind them. The large pokémon hadn't made a sound when she approached. I don't know how they found him, but if they know we're still here, they'll just try again. We can hide in the wild, become just another kangaskhan herd.

Will the rest of the herd go along with that plan? Bulbasauar asked the mother.

Probably if it's for the sake of one of our children, World Burning Mother answered, gazing into the dawn. But we might decide that it's better for Tommy and I to leave. It'd attract less attention, but they might be attacked again anyway, and we don't like leaving each other. I just don't know how it's going to go.

At least you and Tommy are still together, Magikarp spoke up.

And in the end that's enough, the kangaskhan looked down at her child sleeping in her pouch. She looked at Ash. I've got you and your friends to thank for that.

Ash gave her a wane smile.

When Tommy wakes up I'm going to have to talk to them, World Burning Mother said with a sigh. But while he's asleep I might catch a bit of shut eye myself.

Ash's pokémon murmured their agreements. One by one they drifted off to sleep under the dawning light.

Ash though, Ash stayed awake. All the death, all the devastation, and all the grief he had seen was weighing heavily on his mind. His mind kept reverting to the field of dead pokémon of all types, including a dead weedle and a dead pikachu.

It had all been for a boy like him. All because the secret of a boy like him had somehow gotten out.

He couldn't let his own secret get out.

Ash couldn't.

Jessie, James, and Meowth sat back in their portable lawn chairs and watched the setting sun.

"I can't believe that a bunch of good guys managed to infiltrate Team Rocket like that," remarked Jessie. "We would've had to kill them all if Team Magma hadn't beaten us to the punch."

"Too bad about what happened to them and the other foreign teams," James said, sipping a fruity drink with a little umbrella through a straw. "I would've liked to try and recruit that mystic with Team Galactic."

"And it's too bad we can't try and recruit that kangaskhan kid," Jessie added. "Those good guys made a first impression for Team Rocket too horrible to recover from."

"Plus, I think he's been through enough today," Meowth put in his two cents, sipping his own fruity drink with an umbrella in it.

"True enough," James agreed, "But I would've really like to recruit those three kids in black who showed up this afternoon and killed the remnants of Aqua, Magma, and Galactic."

"Not that it was hard to kill Magma and Aqua while they were fighting each other," Jessie spoke up. "Galactic on the other hand, that was a good fight to watch."

"I've never seen the emblems that the three were wearing before," James told the other two. "You know, that strange shield with a blue letter on it."

"And I'm not sure if I've ever seen the power that they used before," Jessie replied. "And we've seen psychics, mystics, and other weirdos before. After seeing how they could fight directly alongside their pokémon I wouldn't mind having their power myself."

"I wonder why they just up and left after they won," Meowth asked. "Didn't even go near the rangers or the twerp."

James shrugged.

"Who knows why they showed up in the first place," he said. "Maybe it was just practice."

"Or a field test," Jessie suggested.

"Maybe they just wanted to make sure the kid was safe," James continued.

"Or maybe they want him to come with them willingly and left because they thought that was impossible today," Jessie shrugged and sipped at her own fruity drink, with its own umbrella and bent straw. "Though we might want to lay off the twerp until spring."

"After what he's been through today, that's probably a good idea," James agreed.

"The top cat's all for it," Meowth chimed in. "Now we just have to figure out what we're doing instead."

"But first we should decide what we're watching next Movie Night," Jessie said.

And the three of them argued about movie choices while the sun set.

AN: Getting this beta read was a nightmare. Selm told me that they couldn't do it anymore last chapter, leaving PublicMasicator, who's either trying to get in med-school or in med-school now. Needless to say, they were too busy right now. So I had to go get my From Dust beta reader, PhoniexLyric, to beta. And then they had to deal with finals, pushing the release date for this chapter back a second week. Though I can't really get mad at PhoniexLyric, since I press ganged them into doing double duty.

Anyway, I need a new beta reader to replace Selm. PM me if you want post.

I'd like to point out that last chapter I didn't say that I preferred writing drama scenes to fights scenes. I said what I preferred to write was dramatic fight scenes. Less tournament bouts and more rooftop duels during a storm. I was probably just unclear in my last AN.

Anyway, nice to end this arc. Next up is an almost completely original arc, the dark arc I've been warning you about. I'd like to re-iterate, the rating change was for events that had already happened, not what's coming up.

Leave a review. Dissect my writing and point out it's many, many, many, many, many, many, many, numerous, many, many, many, many flaws.


AN:Ninja edit: Fixed some typos and added some small bits:AN