Ash stared up at the nighttime sky, the notion of blinking away the insomnia nowhere to be found. He shot a jealous glance at Brock, who slept like a rock a few feet away from him. Drool dribbled down his chin, his spiked brown hair thrown about around his head messily. A collage of leaves danced off of the trees above them and skittered over them and their blankets.
Bitter cold winds bit at his skin, the heat from Infernape's nearby body quelling them only partially. Ash could do nothing but coil in his blanket and look to the stars for sleep. He chanced upon a shooting star, growing brighter as it tore through the dark sky. He waved it away and closed his eyes to shield himself from the brightness.
But even through his eyelids, Ash could still see the shooting star. Opening his eyes again, he gasped when he saw that the shooting star hadn't faded away, but grew in size and brightness. Mouth hanging open, his eyes followed the star until it crash landed with a small thud several hundred meters away.
A mystifying sensation suddenly washed over Ash. He felt the urge to chase after whatever this thing was, to run for it and take hold of it before anyone else could. Pushing himself to his feet, he broke into a swift stride toward the crash site, which provided the only guiding light Ash had.
He could barely hear Dawn jumping awake behind her. There was no urge to stop and address Dawn when she shouted at him, no urge to do anything but run for this…this thing like his life depended on it.
Reaching the object after what seemed like ages of running blindly in the night, Ash beheld the sight of a white stone, no bigger than a loaf of bread. The crater that surrounded could easily fit the three of them, and probably Pikachu as well. Smoke seemed to ooze from the stone, but Ash couldn't feel any heat hitting his body. The same force that prompted Ash to run for the stone made him pick it up, even against his own common sense; who knew how hot this thing could be?
To his surprise, the stone felt cool to the touch. It was rather heavy, too, about ten or fifteen pounds at least.
"Liquid nitrogen, maybe?" Ash thought. "What else could smoke so coldly like this? None of it exists in space, though. If it's not that, then-"
Dawn's tired voice behind him made him jump. "What is that thing? Where the hell did it come from?"
He turned to see her fatigued figure, illuminated only by the effulgence of the stone. "I have no idea," he replied. "It just fell from the sky. It's some kind of stone, but I don't know why it would give off so much light."
It was the same light that revealed Brock jogging toward them, with Pikachu following close behind. "You couldn't have waited to run off so suddenly without bothering to wake me up first?" he asked sarcastically. His eyes darted toward the stone, swimming with curiosity in an instant. "What's that?"
"You're asking the wrong guy," Ash said. Brock gestured to handle the stone, which Ash handed over with a delicate hand. The breeder examined with a careful eye as the four of them silently trekked back to camp, Pikachu riding on Ash's back.
"I can't say for certain," Brock said when they arrived, "but I think this stone might actually be a Pokémon egg."
Ash and Dawn both looked at him astonishingly. "How does an egg like that survive a crash landing from so high up and give off all of this light?" Ash asked.
"Beats me, but it sure as hell looks like one. The only problem is that it doesn't feel like one. Of all the eggs I've seen, this is the only one that's felt any different. Heavier, too. Even I can't identify it. We'll have to take it to a Pokémon Center tomorrow and see if one of the nurses can do anything about it."
"Where's the nearest one at, though? And how do we know that they'll be able to identify it if a breeder like you can't" Dawn asked, pointing at Brock with an accusatory finger. Worry painted itself over her face, something that never usually happened.
Ash couldn't help but feel concerned as he said, "There's the one in Hearthome City. If we get up early tomorrow, we can be there by lunch time."
"And going there is the only shot we have," Brock said. "In the meantime, we'll just have to keep an eye on it. Something like this shouldn't be left unsupervised, though, so I'll go ahead and stay up with it." He glanced at his wristwatch. "It's almost midnight now, so I'll stay up with it until around three. Dawn, would you mind waking up around that time to keep an eye on it?"
She shrugged. "Sounds fine to me." Her worried expression hadn't gone away at all. She silently wormed her way under her blankets, with Ash and Pikachu doing the same after a moment's hesitation. Brock, meanwhile, sat himself up against a nearby tree with a book in his hand, using the egg as a reading light of sorts.
A million questions raced through Ash's head about the egg, but he resisted the will to ask them out loud. "Dawn and Brock are probably just as clueless as I am," he thought.
If he couldn't sleep before everything had happened, it may as well have been the middle of the day now. No matter how much Ash tossed or turned on the soft, cool ground, he couldn't find sleep. After an hour, he sighed in defeat and turned to the sky in preparation of a long, sleepless night.
Minutes had barely passed before a loud, abrupt ringing awoke Jasper from his slumber. Grumbling, he swiped the phone on his end table and put it up to his ear hastily.
"What is it?" he answered, but all that came out in his grogginess was, "Whuzz?"
"Jasper, its Laina," a voice answered. "Something's happened that requires your immediate and personal attention. We need you to get to Headquarters right away."
He turned to his alarm clock and groaned. "It's three in the morning, Laina. Can't this wait till morning?"
"This is extremely urgent, Jasper. We need you to come in now."
"But Laina!" Jasper complained, but Laina had already hung up the phone. He cursed under his breath as he threw the phone at the wall, shattering it to pieces. His foot found a pair of dirty jeans under his bed, as well as a white undershirt, so he threw those on. They weren't anywhere near his usual Rocket jumpsuit that he wore to work every day, but Jasper didn't care. "That's what Laina gets for waking me up so damn early," he thought.
The walk down the stairs and out of his apartment building was a quiet one. As the head of the entire Rocket Empire, attention naturally followed him wherever he went. He couldn't remember the last time he went to work without a bodyguard.
When he arrived at Rocket Headquarters in Celadon, his face scrunched in disgust when he saw the grunt at the desk had fallen asleep. Jasper didn't know how to buzz himself in, so he had to walk in through the back door and jog up fifty flights of stairs. Fuming, he burst through the doors of the Executive Office, where he effectively ruled over the Eastern Sector of the Rocket Empire.
Laina sat hunched over at her desk, poring over some papers and a mug of coffee. Jasper let out a short cough to get her attention. She immediately stood and turned to face him, but he gestured for her to ease up.
"Was this really so important that I had to come in this early?" Jasper asked, the annoyance in his voice unhidden.
She nodded uneasily. "There are actually a few things that we need to discuss. These couldn't wait, sir, so that's why we called you in so late."
"Well, sit down then, and let's talk," responded Jasper. The two of them proceeded to pull up chairs to the large, round table that took up the entire center of the room.
"So, first off," Laina started, "our men in the Foreign and Extraterrestrial Affairs department detected a small, unidentified object crash-land on Earth about three hours ago. The satellites were only able to capture a still image of it before it flew off, but based on its trajectory, speed, and velocity in which it was going, we think it might've landed somewhere in Sinnoh."
Jasper had an intense look of curiosity on his face. "Bring up the image of the object on the monitor," he said, pointing to a large projector that sat on the table. She walked over to the computer on the wall and began typing furiously on the keyboard.
"Besides that, though, I received word from Mahon, over at Warmaking and Law Enforcement, about the Sinnoh invasion," she said without breaking her concentration.
"And? What did he say?" Jasper asked.
"He said that the Empire's army has fully armed themselves for the upcoming Sinnoh annexation. All we need is your word, and we can send the troops over for the initial takeover," Reported Laina. An expectant look of excitement washed over her.
Jasper went from puzzled to joyous in an instant. "But we weren't scheduled to head over there for another three weeks! This is great news! This is-"
"Sir," Laina interrupted, "there's more to it, though, that'll make all of this even better."
He looked at her with mild irritation. "Go on," he said, struggling to keep the annoyance out of his voice.
"I spoke with Skylar about an hour ago," said Laina. She opened her mouth to say something more, but the doors behind them opened to reveal another girl, just a little older than Laina, striding in.
"Speak of the devil," Laina remarked. "I was just about to tell Jasper here about what you did earlier."
The girl grinned. "He was waiting on me, then?" She raised her eyebrows cockily, her blue eyes glistening in the low light of the office.
"Not quite, Skylar," Jasper said. "But I'm still interested to hear what you have to say. Come, sit."
Skylar wordlessly pulled up a chair and sat in between the other two executives. "I've managed to hack into the central mainframe of the Sinnoh electrical grid," she said. "No one there knows it, but the Rocket Empire now has full access into their central database, as well as all of their surveillance mechanisms and electrical circuits. Once we invade, they won't stand a chance."
Jasper didn't have time to react, for Laina had retrieved the image of the falling object and projected it onto the wall. It appeared to be a blazing white ball of fire, and a small one at that. "Not small enough to be a shooting star, though," Jasper thought.
Laina and Skylar stared at the fireball with a burning curiosity, but Jasper immediately knew what it was: an egg. But since when did eggs just fall from the sky like that?
"Skylar, have your men keep an eye on the surveillance systems tomorrow and see if anyone has found that egg. If they did, it'll be that much easier to track it down. Laina, tell Mahon to keep the army on standby for now. We need to wait until the time is right before we invade."
The two women nodded and got up to leave the room.
"Oh, and Laina," Jasper called. She stayed behind as Skylar exited the room.
"I'm gonna sneak you into Sinnoh first thing tomorrow, to act as a ground spy until we send in the troops," Jasper said.
"What?! No way! You can't-"
"Yes I damn well can, Laina!" Jasper barked. "And I don't want to hear another word about it. I'll have an escort chopper ready to take you out in a few hours. In the meantime, though, I'm going back home, to hopefully have another hour or two of uninterrupted sleep. I trust that you won't let me down?" He smiled intimidatingly, the superiority brimming from his teeth.
A twinge of fear flashed across Laina, if only for a split second. "Yes, sir," she mumbled.
"Excellent. Now, don't bother me anymore tonight unless it's something extremely important. Being woken up once at three in the morning is bad enough."
Laina simply nodded glumly and turned away from him. Jasper ignored her pouts and strode out of the room, the savory taste of Sinnoh's downfall on the brim of his lips.