AUTHOR'S NOTE: First of all, please make sure that you read the first Author's Note made on Chapter 1 - it explains everything you need to know about this project, especially if you have plans to make a comment/review this work. Secondly, goodness! Part 2 is rather long! It beats chapter 1 by almost 2000 words! Wow!

Ah, but part 3...now it's a doosy. On Open Office, Part 2 was only around 21-25 pages of text when first copied and pasted from the RP into the document... part 3? It's about 36 pages. Crazy, I know. So don't expect part 3 for a little while. To tide you over, I'm considering starting up Reckless's [my character] Change story from before he joins the Johto-Kanto crew in this story. I suppose anyone following me will know if I go through with my plan or not yet ha.

NONE OF THIS IS ACTUALLY IMPORTANT OR WORTH READING WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME? ...Sorry for wasting your time! Enjoy the story!


Part Two - Saffron
{Dusky and Deron}

Dusky was getting prepared for another day at the restaurant. She ditched her normal clothes for a tattered old waitress uniform. It was a simple black skirt and red top with a white apron that she tied around her waist. In the small pocket on the front of the apron was her order book. She slipped on her belt and placed the four Pokéballs on it, but not before letting out Growlithe.

"Morning, Growlithe," Dusky said, patting the Pokémon gently on the head. Growlithe smiled softly at the affection and jumped on the small lumpy couch where Dusky spent many restless nights watching TV.

Dusky slipped on her boots and pulled back her hair into its usual ponytail. Finally ready, she headed for the door, picking up the keys as she walked out of her small one-bedroom apartment. Growlithe trotted out behind her and she locked the door and padlock, sticking the key in the front pocket of her apron.

"Alright, time to go," she said, walking down the hall, humming softly. She knew Growlithe always liked listening to her voice, whether it was singing, humming, or just talking in general.

Dusky made her way to the lobby, and with each step came a jingle from the dog tags around her neck. She waved at the manager, a man by the name of Robbie who was in his late forties. He lost his entire family to the Change, his only companion now being his Zigzagoon.

"Heading to work, Dusky?" Robbie called to her as she walked towards the door.

"Sure am, Robbie. I gotta pay the rent somehow," she replied.

"Just be careful; word has it there a few guys causing problems," he warned her. Dusky shrugged at this information.

"Nothing I can't handle," she assured him, pushing the glass door open. "I get off at six tonight, so I should be back around seven o'clock."

"Got it, see you then! Bye, Dusky, bye, Growlithe," Robbie waved to them as they stepped out into the daylight.

The morning air was crisp and cool, just like Dusky liked it. The rising sun promised a warm day, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. This is just what Dusky needed after last night. She had yet another nightmare. The streets around her were littered with garbage, but aside from that, Saffron City was spectacular! The remains of the buildings that were destroyed during the Change were long gone, and empty lots were scattered throughout the city. The sound of children playing nearby was heard, though Dusky couldn't see where they were. Honestly, the city seemed to be getting back to normal after all these years.

Growlithe stuck close to Dusky, refusing to leave her side. After thirteen years, he was still protective of her. It only got worse after the Change when feral Pokémon began to attack. Dusky could recall on more than one occasion where a feral Pokémon had broken into their old house in Violet City in search of food, and each time Growlithe had been the one to save her.

Within moments after her recollections, Dusky arrived at a restaurant called "The Snorlax Diner". It appeared to be a little beaten up, a few cracks here and there, and at night, when the sign was lit up, the letters 'R' and 'X' flickered continuously through the hours of darkness. Aside from those minor problems, however, the restaurant was perfect. She stepped through the glass door into the old eatery where the owner, Sal, was just starting up the grill. At the sound of the bell which indicated there was a customer, she looked up.

"Oh, good mornin', Dusky," Sal said, smiling her toothless grin. Sal was an older woman, around seventy, with long silver hair she kept back in a braid. Her husband, James, was a few years older than her, and he was currently counting the money in the register. Like his wife, all his hair had turned silver, and he also had a toothless grin, which they both made up for by wearing dentures during work hours. They were the sweetest (and oldest) couple in Saffron City, and Dusky knew she was extremely lucky to be working for them.

"Good morning, Sal. Morning, James," Dusky smiled as Growlithe ran in and the door shut behind them.

"How are ya' feelin' this morning?" James asked. He seemed to always know when something was bothering Dusky.

"I, uh, just had another nightmare last night, that's all," said Dusky as she pulled the other Pokéballs off her belt and let out Vulpix, Eevee, and Pichu.

"Well, hopefully today will get yer mind off it," said Sal. She and her husband both had a thick country drawl, and Dusky thought it added to their charm.

"I hope so," Dusky sighed as Pichu jumped onto her shoulder. "I don't think I can stand another restless night."

"Well, let's get you and yer Pokémon some breakfast and we'll start going over today's specials," James said, pulling down a few plates. "Vincent better hurry up an' git here. I don' wanna wait."

As if on cue, Vincent strolled in, his head held high. Vincent was their grandson, who was a few years older than Dusky. He was extremely smart, and he lived with Sal and James. So, in return for letting him stay at their home, Vincent doubled as the cook for "The Snorlax Diner". He had a head full of messy brown curls and dark eyes. His Pokémon, a Pidgey, was perched on his shoulder.

"Hope I didn't miss anything," he said. Unlike his grandparents, Vincent didn't have a country accent.

"You didn', but next time you better hurry up," said James. "Alright, now, let's get to work."

And so the day began.

Around noon was when the restaurant began to get busy. Most people who lived in the city stopped for lunch, happily catching up with Sal and James. A few teenagers ventured into "The Snorlax Diner", sharing the latest gossip with each other. Eevee, Vulpix, and Pichu were the center of attention; the little kids who came with their parents eagerly flocked to the small Pokémon, happy to see Pokémon who weren't vicious. Growlithe also got attention from the little kids, but he stayed by Dusky's side the entire time. The other three Pokémon were happily darting around the restaurant, visiting with the customers. Everyone was friendly, sharing smiles and jokes as if the world hadn't died around them twelve years prior.

Tommy, a small six year-old boy with short blonde hair and big blue eyes eagerly ran up to Dusky as he and his mom entered the restaurant.

"Dusky! Dusky! Dusky!" he exclaimed, hugging Dusky tightly around the waist, which caused her to laugh. The couple she was waiting on smiled.

"Tommy," Dusky said, "I'm working right now."

"I know! But guess what!"

"Hold on a second," she warned him. She turned back to the couple. "So, have you decided what you want?"

"Oh, yes," smiled the woman. "I'll have the Tauros burger."

Dusky cringed a bit on the inside; the thought of eating Pokémon greatly disturbed her, and she couldn't help but feel guilty when she ate meat. She would've become a vegetarian, but after the Change, there were barely any healthy vegetables around. The grass Pokémon greatly depleted, and as a result she hadn't seen a single grass Pokémon in years.

"How would you like that cooked?" Dusky asked.

"Well done," said the woman, closing her menu and handing it to Dusky. She took it and looked to the man.

"And you, sir?"

"The same as my wife," he smiled while handing his menu to Dusky.

She scribbled their order down in her pad and, with Tommy still clinging to her waist, shuffled over to the kitchen and tore out the order, handing it to Vincent.

"Thanks!" said the chef. He looked at Dusky and saw Tommy attached to her. "Hey, you know you have a kid hanging off you, right?"

"Yes, I'm very aware," she laughed. Tommy let go of Dusky, and she saw he was practically jumping up and down. "Okay, okay, okay. What do you want to tell me?"

"My dad is coming home!" he exclaimed. "And he said he has a present for me!"

"Is that so?" Dusky inquired, smiling. Tommy's father traveled all around the Kanto and Johto regions for long spans of time. The last time she saw him was five months ago. Tommy's mother usually worked over at the Pokemon Center, and Tommy spent a lot of time at the diner; he looked up to Dusky like she was his older sister.

"Yeah! Isn't that exciting?" he asked eagerly.

"It sure is!" Dusky said. It was then that Pichu ran past Dusky and into the kitchen, Vulpix and Eevee following him close. Dusky knew Vincent was probably giving them lunch.

"Hey! Waitress! I'm thirsty!" barked someone. Dusky looked up and saw her least favorite person in all of Saffron City: Daniel.

"Alright, Tommy, time to go back to your mom," said Dusky. Tommy happily obeyed, petting Growlithe before bouncing back over to his mother.

Slowly, Dusky made her way over to Daniel. Resentfully she said, "Welcome to the Snorlax Diner. How may I help you?"

"It's about time someone showed up!" he said, his voice loud and arrogant. Daniel was your typical jerk; rude, cocky, and very annoying. He seemed to greatly enjoy pestering Dusky on a daily basis, and he was getting quite good at it. "I think I'll have a soda pop, and I better get it quick. I don't like waiting."

Dusky just rolled her eyes and got him his soda. It was going to be a long day.


Dusky stood in her small apartment kitchen, stirring the stew she was making whilst it began to boil on the stove. Growlithe was lying on the cracked tile floor, waiting for their dinner to be done. Eevee and Vulpix were curled up on the couch, sleeping peacefully, and Pichu perched himself on Dusky's shoulder, which is where he usually placed himself. Dusky cut up the bit of Tauros meat she had been able to afford and cooked it before dropping the small pieces into the stew. A few minutes passed and soon she was pulling out five bowls.

"Time to eat," she said to everyone, though Growlithe and Pichu already knew. She filled a bowl for each of her Pokémon, feeding them first. Pichu was sitting on the counter, and, as usual, looked down at his stew with much distaste. Dusky scooped the rest of what little stew was left into her bowl and gave a hefty sigh as she saw Pichu. "You have to eat."

He looked at her sadly. "Pi. . . ." He pointed to the only picture in her apartment - it was of her brother. A feeling of sadness began to flood through Dusky as she nodded, her throat tightening as tears built up in her eyes.

"Yeah, I miss him, too," she said, her voice cracking, "but that's no reason not to eat, so go on. Eat up. You need your strength. I don't want to lose you, too."

Pichu nodded at her words and slowly began to nibble on some meat he picked out of the stew, likely so that the taste wouldn't linger as long as the taste of the stew itself later.

As they all ate together in comfortable quiet, Dusky remembered how before the Change, she always saw Pichu sitting under the apple tree they grew in their back yard, snacking on apples whenever he pleased (he was a bit of a glutton when it came to apples), so after the Change, he had to grow used to eating meat. Even after twelve years, he still hadn't grown completely accustom to eating meat from Pokémon; then again, neither had Dusky. The other three Pokémon had had very little problems with the change of food, so they never showed any reluctance when it came to eating.

Dusky briefly glanced out the window onto the bare streets of Saffron City. Then a simple thought crossed her mind:

Leave.

The thought of leaving the semi-safe walls of Saffron City had never entered her mind before, not after all the years she spent here. Why would it come to her so suddenly?

Nonetheless, Dusky shook her head, dismissing the thought. She had no reason to leave. Well, not yet. So, after they all finished their food, she peered into the fridge, only to find it bare, not a scrap of food left. She sighed and brushed her hair back into a ponytail and slipped on her shoes. She had no work today, so she decided it would be a good time to head out and get some grub for later before it got dark and extra dangerous. Dusky grabbed her draw-string bag and slipped it over her shoulder. Her Pokémon were looking up from their empty bowls, wondering why their trainer was getting ready.

"Come on, we're going shopping," she smiled. The Pokémon, aside from Growlithe, gave out a happy cheer. Shopping was one of the few things they got joy out of. Growlithe, however, thought it was too dangerous. After all, he didn't trust anyone aside from Dusky, Pichu, Eevee, and Vulpix. But all the same, with Pichu and Eevee on her shoulders, Vulpix in her arms, and Growlithe by her side, Dusky left the apartment and headed towards the small (and only) shop in Saffron City that sold food.

It didn't take long to get to the shop. It was made of wood, and it had an old weathered sign leaning against the front of the shop that said in faded black letters: Market. Underneath it in the same faded black letters read: NO POKEMON ALLOWED! Dusky paused to put all her Pokémon away, even Growlithe, before stepping through the front door. The owner, an older, grumpy man with failing eye sight named Frank, sat behind the dusty counter and eyed Dusky as she stepped through the door.

"Hey, Frank," Dusky said before he could ask who it was.

"Oh, it's you, Dusky," grunted Frank. The man didn't like people, but if he did, Dusky would've been his favorite. "Come in for the usual?"

"Yes please," Dusky smiled, reaching into her bag for her money while Frank walked over to the freezer and pulled out some Tauros meat. "How much will it be?"

"The same as usual," he replied gruffly. Dusky exchanged the money for the meat and just as she was going to turn to leave, someone else walked in. She turned briefly looking over her shoulder, figuring it was just someone else who came in for food. That is, until the person said:

"Do you have any Pokémon?"

Usually, Dusky won't have thought twice about the questions, but the tone of the person's voice was different: demanding, rough, and very dangerous. She pulled her jacket down some to hide the Pokéballs on her belt and turned around slowly. What she observed upon turning was a man with olive skin and jet black hair with dodgy grey eyes. He was tall and had a muscular build, making him look threatening. But what was the most alarming thing about him was the fact that Dusky was staring down the barrel of his gun.

"Uh, no, I don't," she replied, trying to keep her voice even and calm, "I'm terrified of Pokémon."

"Give me your bag," he growled as he let his gun fall to his side.

Not wanting to give the man a reason to shoot her or Frank, Dusky quickly handed her bag over. The man snatched it away and dumped the contents out: her wallet, two empty Pokéballs, and two pictures: one of her parents and the other of her brother and his Arcanine. The man took her wallet and threw her bag to her. It went over her head, so she reached for it, exposing the four Pokéballs on her belt. The man laughed.

"So, you do have Pokémon," he growled, pointing his gun at her face. "Give 'em here."

Dusky felt suddenly courageous and boldly said, "No!"

"Well then," he muttered, "I guess I'll have to take them from you." He put his finger to the trigger and-

BANG! BANG!

The shot rang clear in Dusky's ears and she watched as two holes suddenly appeared in the thug's chest, blood pouring freely from them. He looked at his chest and then to Dusky, dropping his gun as he collapsed to the floor. He was dead. Dusky slowly looked behind her and saw Frank standing there with a pistol in his hand.

"Fr-Frank," she stammered. "I-I…thank you."

"Don't mention it," he shrugged. "Now, pick up that gun he dropped and take your meat. Go home."

Dusky nodded stiffly. "R-right. Again, thanks."

"Like I said, don't mention it," he repeated.

Dusky slowly bent down and picked up the gun, not sure what to do with it. She slowly released the man's grip on her wallet and put her belongings back in her bag, awkwardly holding the gun in her hand.

"Go ahead and let your Pokémon out," Frank instructed. "Okay, go on and get home. Just be careful."

"I will," Dusky said, still short of breath.

She let out Growlithe and she slowly walked around the body. Growlithe growled at the man, but once he realized the man was dead, he followed his trainer as they headed back towards home. Dusky was still shaken. That had never happened to her before. Granted, these were dangerous times, and she'd been mugged on occasion due to them, but be it the good-natured folk of the town bringing it to prosperity despite the dark times they were in or simply dumb, long lasting luck, in Saffron never did a mugger carry anything more dangerous than a pocket knife. Hell, most of them didn't even have Pokémon, and the few that did had nothing bigger than a Ratatta. As she exited the shop the warning Robbie gave her a few days prior rang clear in her mind, only this time it seemed a bit more ominous than before. Man did she wish she took that warning more seriously…

But now she had a gun - she only hoped she wouldn't have to use it. Still, she would if there ever came a time.


Deron was walking down Route 8, his destination lying dead ahead of him. He kept his ears sharp to keep track of his environment, or at least what was left of it post-Change. Although his head was aimed at the dry and dead surface he walked over, his eyes soared from left to right, until suddenly the rustling of dead plants echoed across the area. Deron stopped in his tracks and lifted his head up, the dog tag and shell piece hanging from his neck colliding, providing a slight clinging sound. His hands moved out of his pockets, pulling his jacket open as one hand rested on the knife locked onto his belt, the other running along the collection of Pokéballs hanging from the same strap. In the same instant, he dropped his worn-out, black backpack that was hanging over one shoulder on the ground. "I know you're out there... Show yourself and face me like a man!" He called out into the wind, but no response came. After a while of standing there, waiting for any sign that made him certain it was just his paranoid imagination forcing him to worry, Deron finally convinced himself it was probably the wind…probably not, actually, but no use standing there forever; somebody had to move and it didn't seem to be his pursuer that would first. So he slowly bent down, guard still very much up, reaching for his backpack, then cautiously got back on track. Leaving his hands in place on the knife and his Pokéballs, he continued forward, incessantly shifting his gaze from left to right. Saffron City was right ahead, but whatever was following him wasn't going to let him get there unharmed.

Out of nowhere, it suddenly happened. Two Persians leaped out of hiding, one in front and one behind Deron, growling and hissing menacingly. They were obviously starving and craving a good meal. They circled around Deron as their prey, but Deron, backpack on this time, didn't even break a sweat. His eyes just coldly followed the two feline Pokemon as they circled around him. His fingertips traced along the Pokéballs, picking out one specifically, pressing the button in the sphere's middle. As it grew to full size, he dropped the ball next to himself. It flashed open, causing the two Persians to stumble back from surprise, as a rugged, but rather well-trained Magnemite hovered above Deron's shoulder. Deron's cold eyes met those of the Persian in front of him as he swiftly drew his knife, spinning it in his hand. "Come at me, kitty..." The two Persian collected themselves and rushed forward, claws out as they were aiming mostly for Deron, who swiftly dove to the side. Meanwhile, his Magnemite was somersaulting through the air to the opposite side Deron went, causing the two Persians to smash into each other headfirst, dropping onto the ground beneath them, dazed. Deron didn't even hesitate to call out his next words. "Magnemite. Thunder Wave!" The aluminiferous Pokémon gave off a metallic sound as sparks ignited between the ends of its magnets. Electricity surged through the electric Pokémon, letting waves of electricity burst out, striking both Persians at once with it. As a result, their nerve systems paralyzed them almost completely. Deron walked over to the two, shaking his head, before raising his hand. "Magnemite. Enough." Magnemite obeyed his command without question, and then Deron put away his blade and continued on to the city. The Magnemite hovered by his side as they left the two Persians helplessly paralyzed, unable to move.

Once Deron finally stepped into the city, he let out a sigh of relief, taking out the same Pokéball as earlier. "Magnemite. Return." And with those words, his Magnemite was returned into its ball; thereafter Deron would put the ball on his belt again, only to be startled by two sudden gunshots in the distance. Knowing it was likely to put him in the middle of a mess, his body disobeyed his will as he started rushing towards the origin of the noises. As he rushed through the streets, he stopped at a crossroads, pausing to look around. He didn't know where to go from there… That was until he saw a girl come out of a small shop. He narrowed his eyes at her, spotting something that resembled a gun in her hands. Glaring, he reached for his firearm as he stepped towards the girl on a rapid pace, raising his own gun and aiming it directly at her. "Alright, criminal! I don't know who you robbed or what you just stole, but a smoking gun tells me enough. So make a smart move by putting that gun down and surrendering yourself!" His other hand already had a Pokéball gripped between three fingers, pressing the button so it would grow to full size, obviously being aware of the Growlithe that was accompanying her.

Dusky was stunned as she watched the man approach her. What had she done? Why was he calling her a criminal? But at the mention of the gun in her hand, she realized why he had accused her of such a thing as stealing. The gun he had pointed at her showed her this was no joking matter, and her face paled. So, not wanting to get shot, she laid the gun on the ground. She wasn't much for weapons anyway aside from her knife. Slowly, she returned her hands to her sides, fighting the urge to scream. Her heart was pounding, and Growlithe was growling lowly. He wouldn't attack unless Dusky commanded him or if she was hit first, and it was obvious he was waiting for her to say anything that sounded like a command for him to attack.

"I-I didn't st-steal anything," she stammered. She cursed herself mentally for stuttering but continued to explain. "I live here, and I was just out getting some meat for my Pokémon and myself. When I was in the shop, some guy came in and tried to take my Pokémon-"

As if on cue, Pichu (who had a habit of breaking out of his Pokéball at the worst times), just happened to burst out of his Pokéball, cheering happily about who-knows-what.

Deron narrowed his eyes even further, gripping the gun tightly as he listened to her, his eyes darting to the Pichu as it popped out.

"Pi! Pi! Pichu!" he sang, jumping up and down. Then he saw the man with the gun and quickly fell silent as he took cover behind Dusky's legs, whimpering in fear.

"Uh . . . sorry about that," she said quickly.

Deron replied simply by dropping his own Pokéball, letting it flash open to reveal a Kadabra, which seemed to be pretty worn out, obviously in need of rest. Deron let the Kadabra observe the worried girl and judge the rest of the situation alongside Deron as Dusky continued explaining herself.

"Anyway, as I was saying, he tried to take my Pokémon, and that gun," she said, pointing to the gun that lay on the ground, "was his. I tried lying telling him I didn't have any, but he saw my Pokéballs and demanded I give them to him. When I told him 'No', he was going to shoot me, but the store owner, Frank, shot him first and killed the man. Then Frank told me to take the meat I had come in to purchase and the man's gun and head home."

She drew in a deep breath, now shivering from fear. This had been the second time within maybe a few minutes that she had been held at gun point. Needless to say, it hadn't been a good day. Still, Dusky tried to steady herself and she looked the man dead on. As she looked at his eyes, she saw there was just a trace of sadness, and if it hadn't been for their circumstances, she might have asked him what was bothering him. But Dusky knew this was no time to be courteous to a stranger who was trying to debate whether to shoot her or not. The growls coming from Growlithe were becoming more and more menacing by the second, and Pichu's whimpers were becoming more pitiful with each one he made audible to those standing around him.

"I swear," she breathed. "You can go in there and ask Frank yourself." Her voice was smooth and even as she said this, she could only hope he believed her. She wasn't ready to die.

Deron paused, thinking for a moment, and then turned to his Pokémon companion. "Kadabra… Do you think this girl could be a criminal...?" The psychic Pokémon glanced over to the three thoughtfully, stepping closer to them, holding his spoon up as he observed them closely. He walked closer and closer until he was about a meter away from the three, then he turned shaking his head.

At that, Deron, nodded and lowered his gun, putting it away. "Hand her her gun again." Kadabra nodded, using his telekinesis to carefully let the gun levitate towards Dusky, allowing it to hover until she took it. Dusky simply let out a sigh of relief as Deron lowered his gun and she took her own gun in her hand. Deron then called the tired Kadabra back into his ball, speaking up in a serious but somewhat gentler tone now. "My apologies for falsely accusing you... I just arrived in town and came over here because of the gunshots. But if my Kadabra believes you to be an honest girl, then so shall I."

She was quite relieved he hadn't shot her (who wouldn't be?), but her heart was still racing. Growlithe was standing very rigid and protectively in front of Dusky, a few low growls still coming from him. Pichu was still shaking behind her, so she knelt down to pick him up in her free arm. "You'll be just fine," she told the shivering Pokémon. Pichu, clutched to her arm before quickly making his way to her shoulder, grasping onto the sleeve of her shirt.

Deron looked down at the Pichu. "No need to be scared, little one."

At this, Dusky's Growlithe had now ceased his growling but he still was looking at the man warily. Dusky turned to the man and nodded slightly.

Following her lead, they got back to conversing. Deron turned his attention to Dusky again, eying her over. "Freezing up like that won't help you if you come to face someone less kind. You need to be a bit more self-assured."

"Thank you," she said, "you know, for not shooting me. I didn't mean to freeze up, but after being held at gun point twice in one day… well, that's never happened to me before," she explained, letting out a bitter laugh.

Growlithe was surprised to hear Dusky sound so calm as she spoke. Usually she would have been hysterical after something like that happened, but somehow she was so… pulled together.

Deron nodded in understanding, then let out a sigh, obviously fairly exhausted himself as he looked around. "Can I perhaps ask you to point me in the direction of a Pokémon center? My Pokémon need some rest." His sorrow-filled eyes gazed down at the girl, taking notice of their height difference; he had to be at least a head taller than her.

"There is a Pokémon center nearby, and I can show you the way if you want," she offered. Dusky needed to stop by there anyway, to check on Nurse Joy and a few other things that went on there at the center. "By the way, I'm Dusky," she said, offering him her hand to shake.

Deron nodded, forcing out a slight grin as he brought his hand up to meet Dusky's holding it gently as he shook it. "Deron. And I would be glad to have you accompany me to the Pokémon center." He smiled, nodding as he looked down at the Growlithe, smiling again before he followed Dusky.

They began to walk slowly and silently, occasionally exchanging glances as they tried to think of what to talk about, if anything at all. Deron didn't seem to pay much mind of her, but Dusky kept looking into his irises every time she glanced upwards. His eyes seemed to fill with more sadness and sorrow the longer Dusky looked up into them, and she had to look away, as she began to feel sad just by maintaining eye contact. It was obvious he had experienced some kind of pain, but what it was, she wasn't sure. As a result, her eyes fell elsewhere to the dog tag around his neck, and she saw what appeared to be a piece of shell was strung on the chain next to it. She decided to study the shell instead of looking into his eyes. Dusky wasn't sure how to react to all that sadness.

The fact that she was looking at his dog tag didn't go unnoticed, however, and he rapidly brought his hands up to pull his jacket together again, closing it to hide the shell fragment. Dusky noticed Deron pulling his jacket together, and she felt a bit guilty, having a feeling that her studying the dog tag and shell bothered him quite a bit

He changed the subject before it was even allowed to settle into words, "A very bold Growlithe you have. I'm sure he wouldn't hesitate to catch a bullet for you. Deem yourself lucky to have a Pokémon like that." The tone upon which he was speaking with earlier when he still had her at gunpoint had almost completely vanished, and was replaced with a strong but kind voice.

While they walked, as he complimented her Growlithe, she smiled a little. Even Growlithe, being a very protective Pokémon and very wary of strangers, seemed to appreciate Deron's words.

"Again, I'm sorry for startling you like that earlier. But lately there are so many thugs running around, you just can't be careful enough. You'll need to learn to be able to handle situations like those much calmer, otherwise you're a sitting Psyduck for those who have bad intentions."

Dusky just nodded. He had reminded her lot of her brother when he said that, as Dusky was picked on a lot when she was five and her brother had given her similar advice before. He told her she needed to be strong, not only for herself, but for her Pokémon as well.

They continued walking, and Dusky knew the Pokémon Center should only be a block or two away. She was partly conscious of what was going on, but mostly she was lost in thought about her brother. It had been a while since she thought about him…

As the two were walking through the streets, a small gang of about three men walked out of a nearby alley. They were dressed in rugged leather jackets and looked anything but friendly. The three men stopped in place as they saw Deron and Dusky walk, their eyes seeming to lock on the Pichu and Growlithe as they grinned to each other, stepping forward to cross their paths. One of the guys spoke up quickly. "Well, well... Out for a romantic walk, are we? But for a romantic walk, there should be only two of you... So why don't you just hand over your Pokémon..." The three grinned, pulling out knives. The central one who spoke up also pulled out a gun, obviously being the leader of the bunch.

As Deron's eyes met the three that blocked their path, he pulled himself to a stop and laid a hand on Dusky's shoulder to make her stop in place. He realized that these people would not let the two of them go without a fight, but he alone wouldn't be able to single-handed take on three, especially seeing as most of his Pokémon needed rest.

A sudden hand on her shoulder brought Dusky back to reality, snapping her out of her thoughts. She had been pulled to a halt by Deron. At first, she was a little bit confused as to why he had done that, but then she noticed the three men blocking their way, two armed with knives and the central one sporting a gun. It didn't take a genius to assume these jerks were hoping to take their Pokémon, regardless of if she heard anything when being taken out of her thoughtful haze.

Growlithe began growling again and was about to step forward, but Dusky stuck her leg out in front of him to keep him from moving.

You need to be strong, not only for yourself, but for your Pokémon… Her brother's words echoed in her head, and Dusky, despite hating confrontation, forced herself to remain calm. With that being said, she swallowed back her fear and tightened the grip on her gun before letting out a forceful, "No." This earned a bitter laugh from the three men, as they seemed to be highly amused that Dusky, a young, ostensibly helpless girl, was standing up to them.

"Oh, and do you really think you can stop us?" laughed the central man. His two friends, who would probably be hopelessly lost without their leader, laughed as well.

Dusky was taken aback by their laughter, and she suddenly felt powerless and scared. Pichu was beginning to feel frightened as well, as he was so scared to the point where sparks were beginning to fly off his cheeks.

Dusky knew that, if it came down to it, she could let out Vulpix, seeing as how she and Growlithe would definitely prove useful. She looked at Deron with a look that was obviously silently asking, What do we do?

Deron stepped forward in front Dusky, glaring at the three men, the sorrow in his eyes almost completely gone, now replaced with anger. If there was one thing Deron hated, it was the altitude of low life trash like the thugs in front of him. He reached down for a Pokéball from his belt, pulling it out as he spoke calmly. "How about you let her Pokémon go, and you just take mine, hm? She's just a little girl; how could her Pokémon be of any use to you?" The way he talked made it seem as if he was actually serious about handing his Pokémon in to them, as he stepped forward, pressing the central button to make the ball grow its real size, holding it out to the men. "Go on then. Take it."

Dusky watched, practically in awe, as Deron so calmly handled the situation. How she wished she could be as brave as he presented himself. He boldly offered them his Pokémon, but she knew there was no way he would give them up so easily. She saw something flash in his eyes-for a moment, it was as if all the sadness had left them. Granted, what took sorrow's place was anger, and though it wasn't much better, it was a definite change.

The two men in the back looked confused, certainly not expecting someone to surrender his Pokémon this willingly, but the one in the center merely snickered. "How brave... Too bad, though... We'll take both your Pokémon, or someone's going to get hurt." At that, the two henchmen in the back sniggered, which was answered with a frown from Deron's side. "Okay. If you say so." He'd then just let the Pokéball drop on the ground. As he leapt back, it opened up in a large flash, once more recreating the small, floating Pokémon: Magnemite. A mere instant after he called forth his Pokémon, Deron called out. "Magnemite! Harden!" His Magnemite would immediately obey as he would glow dimly, his metallic layer growing stronger.

Deron let out his Magnemite and he controlled it with such ease that Dusky felt envious of his command over his Pokémon. It's not that her Pokémon wouldn't listen to her, because they would, but she was stunned as to how courageous and powerfully he responded to the situation. She could only hope she could eventually become that strong.

The middle thug simply laughed as he raised his gun at the Magnemite. "A little magnet is supposed to stop us?! Hah!" He'd then pull the trigger twice. Two loud bangs echoed through the air surrounding them, yet the bullets fired merely hit the ground near them, as they ricocheted off of Magnemite's reinforced metal layer. The thugs immediately backed away as the Magnemite remained afloat without even a dent or reaction. Deron would follow up with a new command. "Alright... Now let's lift the weight of those weapons from those folks. Pull them in." Magnemite gave another humming sound resembling his name as he proceeded to create a magnetic field, pulling in the gun and the knives, so that they were now stuck to Magnemite's magnet ends.

Deron then turned to Dusky, smirking in her direction. "Why not let Growlithe heat things up for our guests before they leave?" He smirked at her as Magnemite flew back to the criminals, the weapons still clinging to it. The sadness was again persistent in Deron's eyes, but it was more hidden now, which was obviously because his mind was dwelling on more important things.

Dusky gave a solid nod and looked to Growlithe. "You ready, Growlithe?" He barked, showing Dusky he was more than ready. "Alright then! Let 'em have it! Flamethrower, let's go!"

Growlithe jumped forward, seeming happy that he was finally able to do something. He was going to show Dusky he was more than capable of protecting her despite how aware she already was. Growlithe opened his mouth and let out a powerful flamethrower on the three men. The red, orange, and yellow flames engulfed the men and they let out terrible, horrific cries. Deron simpered as he saw the girl's Growlithe rush into action, just looking over at the three getting roasted. This continued for mere seconds before Dusky shouted over the roar of Growlithe's flames, "Stop!" The puppy Pokémon responded immediately by ceasing his attack.

Laying on the ground were the three men, burnt beyond recognition. Dusky wasn't quite sure whether they were alive or not, and if they weren't, that would make four dead people she'd seen today. The smell of burnt flesh reached her nostrils and she pulled her jacket over her nose, cringing at the terrible scent. "Come on, Deron," she said, walking around them, "I can't breathe." Deron nodded in agreement.

Growlithe stood there, watching the two trainers step carefully around the three men laying on the ground before turning to Deron specifically. Though the fire dog couldn't admit it to anyone (even if he wanted to), he appreciated the way Deron had stepped in front of Dusky. Growlithe was very protective of her, and she was pretty much his entire world. If anything ever happened to her . . . well, Growlithe couldn't even imagine what he would do.

Once they were out of range from the burn smell, he planted his hand on her shoulder, as he'd speak up to her again in his kind tone. "Good job back there." He'd then look over to his Magnemite, who still had the weapons attached to him. "Hold on..." He'd let his Magnemite float over to him, pulling the knives and the gun off of him, stuffing them in the worn out backpack that hung over his shoulder, before pulling it back up, taking out Magnemite's Pokéball again. "Spare your energy, Magnemite. Go rest." He'd then let the metallic Pokémon enter his ball once more, latching the ball back onto his belt, nodding at Dusky to signal her he was ready to move on. "Let's get to the Pokémon center fast. My Pokémon are desperate for some medical attention." He'd then just continue onwards next to Dusky, keeping his gaze set on the road ahead of him.

The jump he made way back when he released Magnemite had caused his jacket to once again hang open, revealing the dog tag and the shell-bit. His hands slid into the pockets of his jackets comfortably, but his breaths were long and deep, obviously trying to find something to break the silence with. When he came to Saffron City, he wasn't expecting to run into a girl like Dusky, even less than he was expecting to get mugged. Occasionally, he would throw a glance down at her, obviously taking in her features a bit further to get a more general idea of what kind of person he was in the company of.

Dusky had her hands in her pockets, watching the street ahead of her. She was hoping, almost praying, that they wouldn't run into anyone else. The Pokemon Center wasn't too far, but Dusky guessed a lot could happen in the short distance they had left to walk.

Eventually, Deron cleared his throat as he spoke up, keeping his eyes locked onto the road ahead again. "So Dusky. You have a Pichu and a Growlithe? The Growlithe really seems like the bold type, while the Pichu seems more like the usual playful type. Do you have any other Pokémon...?" He was actually pretty curious about this since one's Pokémon could tell a lot about the trainer.

She reached to her belt and pulled off the two other Pokéballs that contained Pokémon. "Well, I have an Eevee and a Vulpix," she said, tossing the Pokéballs into the air. With a flash, Eevee and Vulpix appeared from their Pokéballs, looking happy to be free of the capsules.

Vulpix was a very happy and somewhat ditzy Pokémon. When she saw Deron, she happily ran over to him, stumbling along the way, and began to cheer happily. "Vul! Vul! Pix!"

Eevee, however, was a very shy Pokémon. Upon seeing Deron, she leaped up at Dusky, who was ready to catch the skittish Pokémon. Eevee took cover on Dusky's free shoulder, hiding herself underneath her trainer's long orange hair. Pichu watched Eevee curiously before turning his attention back to the sky, where he watched the clouds over head.

"Those are my Pokémon," Dusky said with a shrug. "Growlithe and Vulpix were both gifts from my brother. He gave me Growlithe as my first Pokémon, and then Vulpix as my second. Eevee and Pichu used to belong to him." Deron just listened to Dusky, keeping his gaze dead set ahead of him, then she mentioned the disappearance. "He and his Arcanine disappeared after the Change... All I found left of him were two Pokéballs and his dog tags." As she spoke, Dusky grew more and more solemn. She rarely talked about her brother, as if the mention of him was taboo.

For the first few years after the Change, before Dusky left Eterna City, Dusky cried constantly through out the day, barely leaving her room. If it weren't for the fact that Growlithe went out and hunted down wild Pokémon, Dusky probably would've starved to death. Growlithe had kept his trainer and the rest of her Pokémon alive for all those years...

At this point, Deron's eyes turned to her once more, meeting her line of sight, but she seemed as if she was looking straight through Deron. He decided not to comment about it for the time being, even though that the disappearance of her brother reminded him of his own loss once more.
Luckily for him, his attention was diverted once more as they approached the Pokémon center, his mood easing at the sight of it still functioning, although in lacking condition.

Dusky snapped out of her thoughts. She had been starring at Deron the entire time she spoke. Feeling extremely embarrassed for suddenly zoning out, Dusky looked away from Deron and saw the Pokemon Center laid out in front of them. It had a few cracks here and there, and sometimes the automatic doors would need to be pushed open, but this was one of the few buildings in the city that many of the citizens tried hard to keep open. After all, if it weren't for the Pokemon Center, where else would they take their sick and unhealthy Pokémon?

She came to a slow stop. "Well, here we are," she smiled. "It's a little run down, but Nurse Joy should be able to take care of all your Pokémon." And with that, she walked into the building, her Pokémon following her. She didn't mean to seem rude, but talking about her brother put her in a bit of a funk. Her bright grey eyes had dulled and her usual happy smile had reversed into a frown. Nurse Joy looked up from behind the desk when Dusky walked in.

"Nice to see you, Dusky," Nurse Joy beamed. "Did you come in to check on us?"

"Hm? Oh, yeah," Dusky barely nodded. "Well, that, and I met someone who needed to get here, so I showed him the way."

"You're always so helpful," Nurse Joy chimed.

Dusky forced a smile. "Thanks."

Once inside, he nodded over to Nurse Joy as a greeting when Dusky mentioned him, walking up to the desk and taking out his Pokéballs. "We've been traveling from Celadon City to here, but the Pokémon center at Celadon lost power while they were treating my Pokémon. They're really worn out... Especially Magnemite." He would put the balls onto the desk, smiling over at Nurse Joy a bit awkwardly before turning around to have a seat near the desk to wait for his Pokémon to be healed up. As he sat, he patted the spot beside him gently, inviting Dusky over to sit with him.

As she sat down, Deron continued their conversation from outside. "I know how you feel... About your brother. Losing someone that close to you is a scar that never heals and can always start bleeding again." His eyes dropped towards the dog tag and shell piece around his neck, before he'd lift them over his head, holding them in his hand. "The dog tag is merely a present an uncle gave to me. He was always fascinated by these things, no idea why." He smiled slightly as he mentioned that, but that smile vanished instantly when his eyes set on the shell piece. "And this fragment..." He'd held the fragment out to Dusky. "This is the only thing I have left of my best friend... And my first Pokémon: Blastoise." His eyes began to tear up, and it wasn't hard to see that he had tried his best to hide his sadness.

After taking a moment to collect himself, he continued. "I'm from Pewter City, so it's only natural I was bound to be interested in something involving rock and stone. I found myself interested by prehistoric Pokémon and wanted to capture one for my own. About twelve years ago, I traveled to Cinnabar Island with my Blastoise, Abra, Magnemite and Nidoran. I halted my journey and my gym battles especially for that. I heard that fossils of Omanytes and Kabutos were found at Cinnabar, and I saw it as my greatest chance to try and get one of them. I was already aware of what kind of Pokémon they were, and knowing they were water Pokémon, Blastoise and I dived down near the shores, where we found an underwater cave. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a living and breathing Kabuto there... Isolated from the outside world." He had to take a moment to just stop and let this all sink in. The memories of Blastoise were cutting open the scars of the loss once more.

As she listened, Dusky noticed a few tears rolling down Deron's face. She put her hand on his shoulder, trying her best to comfort him.

He pulled himself together and continued. "Blastoise and I caught that Kabuto and tried to make our way up to the sea surface again, when... it happened. The change, I mean." He closed his eyes, actually picturing the last moments with his Blastoise. "I was blinded, and felt the pain of being stung, of slashes in my flesh at all sides... At the time I didn't know what it was, but I believe it was likely Tentacool and Tentacruel who had gone berserk because of the change... After that... Everything went black for me..." He paused. "When I woke up... I was lying on the shores of Cinnabar Island... But my Blastoise was gone, save for that shard, which was lodged into my hand... My Abra managed to teleport me and the others to safety, but I've never seen Blastoise ever since..." He closed his eyes again, looking down at the ground. Even though it hurt to talk about it, it somehow felt good to have told someone about the experience.

Dusky was struck silent. She hadn't expected to hear that from Deron. Granted, she knew people lost many things during the Change - friends, family, Pokémon - but she didn't know Deron had. He didn't look as though he had lost someone dear to him. But it did explain why his eyes showed sorrow. He hadn't gotten over the loss of his best friend - Blastoise. Dusky had to pause and think about what she would do if she ever lost Growlithe. After a few moments, she realized she wouldn't be able to do anything. The small puppy was her best friend, her companion, and first Pokémon.

"That must've been hard for you," she began, then told him her story. She didn't like talking about it, but Deron had shared his story, so it only seemed fair if she shared her own. Besides, she had never told her own story to anyone. "When I lost my brother, I was only six. I can remember the day like it was yesterday," she said softly. "I was playing in the front yard with Growlithe and Vulpix, completely oblivious to the fact that there was any sign of danger. Then there was a light from Mt. Silver, and it was blinding. My brother and his Arcanine came running out of the house and ordered me to put Growlithe and Vulpix away, so I did. He was rushing me back when he suddenly lifted me up and threw me into the house. It hurt a lot, but I knew he did it for some reason, not to cause me pain."

Dusky was choking a bit on her words as she tried to fight back the tears that threatened to spill. "So, I turned around and saw my brother and Arcanine rushing towards the door and then everything went white. I had to close my eyes. The next time I opened them, the light was gone and - well, you know how I found his things."

A single tear rolled down her cheek, but that's all she allowed as she continued. "It might not have been so bad, losing my brother, if I had had my parents. But two years earlier, my mother and father were killed...My mom's Ninetales went berserk. She burnt them to a crisp. For some reason I'll probably never know, Ninetales hadn't bothered me. Either way, Ninetales went missing after that and my brother raised me. Me and him were really close, and he was the only family I had left. Losing him...it was sort of like losing a part of myself." She'd managed not to cry, but she wasn't far from.

Deron was about to say something about Dusky's story, but stopped short in response to the sudden power outage So for a moment they were left in still and quiet darkness, a little bit of light streaming in through the dirty windows of the Pokemon Center.

Nurse Joy headed over towards them by now, heels clicking louder and louder as they grew closer whilst their eyes adjusted. Dusky was thankful when Nurse Joy came their way. It gave her an excuse to look away from Deron and pull herself together. She hated crying, at least in front of other people. His eyes diverted over to Nurse Joy as well, blinking as he listened to her address them.

"Dusky," Nurse Joy started, "we need Pichu."

"What's going on?" Dusky asked as Nurse Joy turned on a flashlight.

"Well, it seems the generator's on the fritz again, so it looks like we need to borrow Pichu to help keep the equipment going. Otherwise, this man's Pokémon can't rest," Nurse Joy explained.

Dusky looked down at her little friend. "You think you can handle that, Pichu?" Dusky asked the small, yellow mouse Pokémon.

"Pichu!" exclaimed Pichu, saluting as though he were ready for duty, which caused the crew to snicker. It certainly helped lighten the mood after those heavy-duty sob stories.

"Come here, Pichu," said Nurse Joy. Pichu jumped into the nurse's open arms. "We're going to head into the Resting Wing. You two are welcome to come," Nurse Joy said to Dusky and Deron.

The two of them followed Nurse Joy into the Resting Wing.

Following right behind Dusky, Deron looked around. The Pokémon center had a dark and gloomy look without power. It actually managed to send some shivers running down his spine.
When they arrived in the room with the generator, he merely watched as Pichu was wired up and started powering the center's facilities. To do so, Nurse Joy put two petite suction cups on Pichu's pinkish cheeks. Connected to the suction cups were the wires that hooked up to a large generator.

"Now, all you have to do is use your electricity to power that generator, Pichu," said Nurse Joy.

Dusky held out a hand to get the nurse's attention. "Er - Nurse Joy, Pichu isn't very good at controlling his electricity. He could hurt everyone, or worse - himself," Dusky said warily. Nurse Joy shook her head.

"Don't worry, he'll be fine," she assured Dusky. "Now, Pichu, let's get this fired up!"

Pichu nodded and squinted as he used Thunderbolt. It got the machine started, and the lights turned back on. Then the electricity coming from Pichu suddenly flew off him and hit Dusky's arm.

"Son of a -" she stopped herself from finishing the sentence and grasped her arm. The spark had ripped a hole in her jacket and shirt. Dusky had fallen to the ground when she was hit by the electricity, due to the fact that she hadn't been expecting it.

When the sudden spark of lightning flashed out and struck Dusky, he rushed forward instinctively, leaning over to Dusky. "You okay...?"

Pichu looked terrified that he hurt Dusky, but she shook her head. "I'm fine," she told him. "Just take it down a notch."

Pichu nodded and continued to power the generator, but with less juice. He then looked up at the Pichu again as it continued powering the center, pondering whether its control would be better were it to evolve into a Pikachu. Shaking his head out of his own thoughts, he turned his attention to Dusky.

Dusky looked to Nurse Joy, obviously irritated. "Told you someone could get hurt," she muttered. Growlithe nudged her and Dusky patted his head before looking to Deron. "Well, your Pokémon will be perfectly fine now," she smiled.

Deron smiled back. "Yeah, I guess they-...Hang on!" He turned his attention to Nurse Joy. "Nurse! If you would be able to revitalize my Magnemite first, he could help out Pichu. Perhaps even work to keep Pichu's thunderbolts from hurting anyone else." He smirked at his own idea, before looking down at Dusky. "Magnemite is a purely metallic Pokémon, and can be back at full strength after just being powered up for a bit. The magnetic field around him should make sure that none of Pichu's zaps hit anyone who comes close, like a lightning rod." He spoke as if he knew everything about Pokémon, but then again, he knew his Pokémon inside out.

He looked to Nurse Joy again. "Once Magnemite is powered up, hook him up with Pichu. The center will be running smoothly again in no time. I'll help Dusky tend to the wound in the meantime." He didn't even bother to wait for a response from Joy save a nod as he helped Dusky up and walked with her along to the main hall of the Pokémon center. Reaching below the counter to grab a first aid kit, he took out a bandage and some moist gel, which was used on both humans and Pokémon to deal with burns. As he squeezed a bit of the gel onto his forefingers, he warned, "This may sting a little..." He then rubbed some of the gel over the burnt skin before grabbing the bandage and wrapping the small wound up carefully, but tight. Dusky flinched slightly as Deron dressed her wound. It hurt quite a bit, but it hadn't been the first time Pichu shocked her.

Once that was done, Deron smiled at Dusky. There was something about the girl he liked. Perhaps it was just the fact that she knew a loss similar to his.

Dusky then broke the silence, "'Pichu would be able to control his power a lot easier if he was a Pikachu...' I know that's what Nurse Joy will say when she comes back out here." She sounded a bit bitter as she spoke, but then her voice softened. "I probably would've evolved Pichu by now, but something's keeping me from doing it. Sometimes he'll start to glow, and he's about to evolve, but then I just give him this everstone," she said, pulling the grey stone out of her pocket. "He holds it and doesn't evolve. The same with Eevee. I don't know what stops me from doing it - probably the fact that they belonged to my brother. I guess the thought of changing the Pokémon he raised scares me. I don't know why, but I guess they're just some of the few ties I have left with him, and I don't want to sever those ties... That sounds crazy, doesn't it?" she said with a bitter laugh.

Growlithe came trotting over to Dusky. Though he knew Deron wasn't going to harm her, Growlithe still didn't fully trust him.

Deron sighed as he listened to Dusky, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Listen up, Dusky... I can understand fairly well you don't want to change the memories you have from your brother. But clinging to the past isn't going to help. The main thing is: Your brother won't be gone when Pichu evolves. He's still in your heart, and that's more important than any token you have left from him."

His attention was eventually diverted to the doors of the Pokémon center. The entrance opened and a young boy that came in. Dusky looked up and recognized the boy as Tommy, as well as his mother following close behind. When Tommy saw her, he released his mother's hand and came barreling over towards Dusky and Deron.

"Dusky! Dusky! Dusky!" the blonde cheered while hugging her. Dusky hugged him back with one arm.

"Tommy! Tommy! Tommy!" she mocked him playfully.

"Guess what!"

"What?"

"My daddy is coming home today!" Tommy smiled happily. That's when the young boy noticed Deron next to Dusky. He looked at him, obviously confused. "Who are you?" Without waiting for a response he yelled, "YOU'RE DUSKY'S FRIEND, AREN'T YOU?"

Dusky flinched as Tommy yelled but laughed. "Yeah, he's my friend."

"Are you a Pokémon trainer, too?" Tommy asked Deron anxiously. Deron smiled to himself as he just looked at the kid. growing evermore interested about Deron's Pokémon. "Can I see your Pokémon? How old are you? Where are you from? Do you have a Pidgeot?" The questions flowed from Tommy like a river until Dusky interrupted.

"Tommy, why don't you go see if Nurse Joy needs any help?" she suggested. Tommy stopped asking Deron questions.

"You got it!" And he was off.

Tommy's mother, who worked at the Pokemon Center, looked at Dusky. "Why are you here?"

Dusky explained that Deron needed to rest his Pokémon and that Nurse Joy was using Pichu to keep the lights on. Deron, however, was fairly detached from their conversation, not personally knowing Tommy or his mother and thus not having anything to really talk about; Dusky had it covered. So he kept himself busy, reaching into his pocket and taking out a little device, which seemed like some sort of pocket computer. The little gadget was worn out, though, and seemed to be held together by nothing but duct-tape. His attention completely sliding away from the conversation between the two women, he dialed in something, and an image of Mt. Moon before the change appeared, along with text about it. Deron narrowed his eyes as he scrolled down to read the text, seeming to be looking for something specific.

Meanwhile, as Dusky's explanations came to a close, Tommy's mother nodded and said, "Well, it shouldn't be too much longer before we get another generator, and hopefully that one won't die all the time."

Dusky laughed halfheartedly, her mind wandering elsewhere. "Hopefully."

"I should probably go get to work," said Tommy's mother, walking into the back room. Dusky watched her leave and was about to say something to Deron when she noticed he was busy looking at something. So instead, she stood up and walked over to a chair, her three Pokémon following her.

What a day... Dusky thought, letting out a sigh. She hadn't planned on meeting anyone today, especially Deron, nor had she planned on being held at gun point three times. Eevee hopped on to Dusky's lap, demanding attention from her trainer. Dusky complied, stroking Eevee's fur for a few short moments, but soon after put Eevee and Vulpix away. Nurse Joy was walking out with Pichu in her arms, and the power was still on - the generator was working again.

"Thank you for letting me steal Pichu for a few moments," said Nurse Joy, handing the small electric Pokémon to Dusky.

"No problem," Dusky smiled. Pichu looked happy, but when he saw Dusky's bandaged arm, he frowned a little.

"Pi..." he murmured, poking Dusky's arm. She shrugged.

"It's no big deal," she assured him. "I can still move my arm. See?" She flexed her arm several times to show Pichu she was okay. He seemed to be a little comforted at this.

Nurse Joy then turned to Deron and cleared her throat, hoping to get his attention. "Your Pokémon will be all healed shortly."

Deron looked up from his gadget, putting it away as Nurse Joy spoke to him, nodding in acknowledgment as he smiled back politely. "Thanks."And with that, she left.

Dusky looked over at Deron. "Er - want me to stay? You know, until your Pokémon are healed?" Then she realized he probably didn't have a place to sleep that night. "If you want, once your Pokémon are healed, you can come to my apartment. I have a pretty comfortable couch you could sleep on," she offered. "But if you'd rather not, I understand. I think the rooms here at the Pokemon Center are pretty cozy," she added quickly. Growlithe was standing by the door, wanting to leave, but he knew that wasn't going to happen any time soon, so he trotted back over to Dusky and laid down by her feet.

He glanced over with a chuckle at Growlithe as he came trotting back. "Not fond of the center, are you, Growlithe?" Thinking over the offer, Deron didn't mind her company, and it was safer than sleeping in any place public, so why not? "I think I would like that. Sleeping as a guest to someone kind is always more enjoyable than renting a room in the Pokémon center." The two affirmed this, then idolized until Nurse Joy healed Deron's party.

There was a short wait period around five minutes or so, but Nurse Joy was headed back in their direction, chipper as always and baring the gift of healed Pokémon. Deron turned his attention to Nurse Joy as she came closer. It didn't take all that long for his party to get back up to full strength since they were just tired in an overworked sense and hardly even legitimately wounded. Taking his Pokéballs back one by one, latching them onto his belt, he reached for his bag, pulling it onto his shoulder again. He then turned to Dusky once more, smiling rather contently at her. "Shall we then? I think my Pokémon would enjoy some time outside their Pokéballs... That is, if I am allowed to let them out over at your place."

Dusky grinned and nodded. "Yeah, Robbie, the man who owns the apartment complex, is really nice. I'm sure he wouldn't have a problem with you letting your Pokémon out." She told him. Growlithe looked at her, and it was obvious he wanted to leave. She laughed. "Lead the way, Growlithe."

Growlithe happily walked out of the Pokemon Center. Dusky waved good-bye to Tommy and his mom, along with Nurse Joy, and followed her Pokémon, Pichu sitting happily on her shoulder. "It shouldn't take very long to get to the apartment," she told Deron. "It's only about a five minute walk."

She then remembered Vulpix and Eevee, and figured she might as well let them out again so they could walk around and stretch their legs. Pressing the button on both Pokéballs in either hand, the two came out and comfortably found a place to stay; Eevee was at her usual place on Dusky's other shoulder and Vulpix trotted happily by Growlithe's side. Walking next to Dusky, Deron held up a Pokéball of his own to let his Magnemite out once more. Deron smiled as it buzzed merrily, full of energy. "Glad to see someone's happy again." He smirked as they walked the road, looking up at the sky. The sun was already fairly low, so that meant it was late afternoon or early evening. When it got dark outside, that was mostly when trouble started brewing. He shook his head; he had no need for those thoughts anyways. Him and Dusky could handle themselves again if need be.

"Just a heads up," Dusky started as they headed towards her apartment, "it's kinda small, but there will be enough room for both of us and our Pokémon. Oh, and the neighbors are kind of...well, you'll see," she said to Deron.

"Neighbours are kinda...? Kinda what? Do I need to strap myself up in a bullet proof vest?" He sniggered at the joke, although he wasn't sure if it would be taken as funny.

"Well... my neighbors are just... a little...off," she said slowly. "Who knows though, they may be out somewhere else tonight!" I hope... Dusky thought. She really didn't like her neighbors.

On that sentiment, Deron continued, "Anyway, the fact that it's small shouldn't matter much. My largest Pokémon is Kadabra. For the rest I have Magnemite, Nidorino and my Kabuto. They should fit just fine."

A few moments later, they arrived at her apartment complex. Dusky pushed open the door that opened up to the lobby. Robbie was sitting there, playing with his Zigzagoon. When the door opened, he looked up and saw Dusky.

"Hey there, Dusky," he greeted nicely. Then his eyes found Deron and he paused. "And you are...?" He trailed off.

"This is Deron," Dusky said. "He needs a place to sleep, so I offered him my couch for the night... Are you okay with that?"

Robbie just shrugged. "Doesn't matter to me."

Dusky smiled and led the way to her apartment. She unlocked the door then pushed it open, revealing the diminutive housing.

Deron followed Dusky, looking around as he took in the details of her home. It was very plain, with a small table, two matching chairs, a brown leather couch, a small TV, a small kitchen, and two doors, one of which led to the small bathroom and the other led to Dusky's room. Small was the recurring theme around here, but it wasn't claustrophobic, just comfortable. On the little circular table was a picture - the only picture in the entire apartment. It was a photo of a young man in his mid-twenties with a huge Arcanine by his side, a small Pichu and Eevee on his shoulders. Around his neck were his dog tags, and in his arms was a small girl with bright orange hair, a Growlithe and Vulpix sitting by the man's feet. Both the man and girl were smiling, looking as happy as possible.

Deron's lips curled upwards only slightly as he turned to Dusky. "Cozy. Very cozy." He set his bag down beside the door.

"You can take a shower if you need to," she said, walking in and making herself at home. "Are you hungry? I can make something to eat, if you want."

As if on cue, his stomach growled in response to the mentioning of food. "Well... It's been since yesterday since I ate something... So some food would be nice, yes." He patted his stomach. "Though, allow me to help. I don't want to feel like I'm being a burden." He reached for his Pokéballs, letting out his other Pokémon, Kadabra, Kabuto, and Nidorino, who now stood in front of Deron in a neat line. His Magnemite hovered over to the three so that it wouldn't seem like the odd one out. "Enjoy some quality time, guys. You've earned it." Deron then followed Dusky into the kitchen. "Just tell me what to do and where to go, because I'm horrible as a lone cook."

Dusky admired Deron's Pokémon shortly before walking to the kitchen with him, Pichu on her shoulder. Eevee jumped off and she a Vulpix trotted over to the couch and jumped on it, each of them curling up on a cushion and falling asleep. Dusky turned back towards Deron when he asked what he could do.

"Er - I'm not used to people helping me," she said sheepishly. "Um...I have a few vegetables in the fridge. If you want, you could cut those up for me while I cut up the meat," she offered. She pulled out two knives and handed one to Deron. "Because, it's sharp," she joked, laughing lightly.

Deron nodded as he took the knife, then walked over to the fridge and picked out some vegetables then proceeded to chop them up as he was told.

Meanwhile, Deron's Pokémon were already seeing to their own needs. Kadabra settled himself down next to the door, sitting and closing his eyes to relax and focus a bit, a dim psychic aura coming off of him. Kabuto curiously skittered around the room, going from one corner to another to check everything out. Magnemite hovered around Pichu again, still attracted to the electricity the Pokémon practically emitted. Finally, Nidorino headed over to Growlithe, narrowing his eyes at the Pokémon in a territorial way, muttering in a challenging fashion: "Ni... doo..." He wanted to spar with Growlithe to test their strength.

Growlithe, who was laying down, looked up at Nidorino, not very interested in sparring with anyone. He was extremely tired, and personally, he found it quite pointless. So, Growlithe pushed himself up to his feet and trotted into the kitchen, deciding to lay by Dusky. His trainer looked down at him and smiled, bending over to pet him.

Nidorino headed over to the kitchen after Growlithe, blinking in surprise, then walked away rather disappointed at the outcome. He now headed back to the living room and laid down next to the couch upon which Vulpix and Eevee were. Perhaps rest was a better idea anyway.

"You're such a good boy, Growlithe," Dusky cooed. The puppy Pokémon let out a growl of contempt with all the strange Pokémon in his territory, and Dusky just giggled then returned to cutting the meat into small chunks. Deron glanced over at Growlithe with a grin as well. Dusky put the meat she'd cut up into a pan and began cooking it, then turned to Deron. "How are the vegetables coming along?"

Deron turned his attention away from the fire dog and back to the veggies in front of him. "Coming along nicely."

While they both cooked and chopped in mostly silence, Pichu jumped off Dusky's shoulder, running over to the TV with Magnemite hovering close behind, then turned it on. A bit of static was displayed at first, but soon the picture was crystal clear. The movie Dusky had been watching earlier came on, showing a young girl and a Pikachu wandering through the forest, and Pichu pressed his face against the screen, watching the Pikachu, wondering what it would be like if he ever evolved. As the screen got brighter and clearer, Magnemite hovered a bit closer, ever interested in its mechanics. Every so often the magnet Pokémon would get a little too close and cause a slight disturbance on the TV, interrupting the movie with a fairly loud crackling noise. Dusky jumped a little bit at the interference, but laughed at herself for getting scared when she noticed the cause. Before it startled her again with a knife in her hands or something, she decided to go turn off the TV.

As she did this, Deron scolded his Pokémon. "Magnemite. Be a bit more careful." The metallic Pokémon looked over with its typical vacant expression, before hovering away from the TV, going over to linger idly. Pichu was a bit disappointed at no longer being able to watch his movie, but found new entertainment in the Magnemite's company.

Then the two trainers got back to preparing the meal. Deron pondered over certain things while cutting, eventually speaking his mind. "Say Dusky... You said that you have always kept Pichu from evolving because he's your brother's Pokémon, but wouldn't your brother want his Pokémon to develop as well?" He glanced over to her as he talked.

Dusky nodded slowly, "I suppose you're right, but I'm not entirely sure... I know I would if I was in his shoes, but... Every time I think about them evolving, I can't help but wonder if that's what my brother would want too..." She took a deep breath. "Ryan - that was my brother's name - he never really pushed his Pokémon to evolve. The only reason his Growlithe had evolved was because Ryan had a Fire Stone in his bag. He was saving it for an emergency, just in case his Pokémon needed to evolve... Well, one day, while Ryan and Growlithe were practicing their shooting - my brother was in the military - my brother slid off a cliff and landed on a ledge about fifty feet down. He broke both his legs. He had taken off his pack before the fall, and Growlithe wasn't sure what to do. So, he went into my brother's bag, found the Fire Stone and...he evolved. As an Arcanine., he was able to jump down, rescue my brother, and then get him to safety...but Ryan never once evolved his Pokémon purposely. That's why I'm so hesitant to do so with Pichu or Eevee... What if that isn't was Ryan wanted? What if I'm wrong?"

Deron sighed, putting a hand on Dusky's shoulder as she spoke, putting down the kitchen knife for the moment. "Listen... When a Pokémon begins to evolve, that doesn't necessarily mean they are being forced to. Giving a fire stone to a Growlithe forces it to evolve, yes, but if Pichu begins to evolve, it is completely on its own. It won't be forced, nor will it be sad or angry about it. Evolving is like growing up for Pokémon. Just consider it, would you have enjoyed to remain a child all the time? Or wouldn't you want to become an adult as you are n-?"

CRASH.

Dusky and Deron both immediately turned their attention to the living room to see what had happened. It became quite clear as Dusky noticed the new location of her Eevee, the topped over table, and the picture frame on the floor. See, when Nidorino hopped onto the couch, he had frightened Eevee, who was very flighty. Upon being frightened, Eevee leaped off the crouch and tried to jump on the table. She hadn't jumped far enough and accidentally ran into the table, and as a result the table rocked back and forth for a few moments before falling over, the picture frame hitting the ground with it.

Dusky let out a hefty sigh before walking over to the mess. "Are you okay, Eevee?" she asked, picking the small Pokémon up. Eevee was shaking because of the loud sound, but was unharmed. Dusky tried her best to soothe her companion as she picked up the table and then the picture. The picture itself was fine, but the glass protecting the image had shattered. She placed Eevee back on the couch and walked to the pantry, pulling out a broom and dust pan and began sweeping up the mess. "At least no one was hurt," she said with a smile.

Pichu hurried over to help Dusky, alongside Kabuto as he too scurried over to the scene, looking at the mess that was made. Noticing a single fragment that fell a bit further, the Kabuto picked it up with his front claws, carefully scurrying over to Dusky to put it in the pan. He looked up at Dusky with big eyes, hoping to be considered helpful. Deron smiled at this fact, then noticed his Nidorino. While Dusky finished sweeping, Deron's mind was still back on their conversation. They'd continue when everything was clean again.

Dusky smiled and patted Kabuto gently before saying, "Thank you very much."

Pichu would have also helped pick up some glass when he caught sight of the picture. He picked it up and showed Dusky. "Pi...chu..." he said sadly, pointing to the smiling picture of Ryan. It wasn't uncommon for Pichu to become sad when he saw the picture of Ryan. Dusky nodded slowly.

"I miss him too, Pichu, you know that," she said as she finished picking up the glass. She threw away the shards and put the broom and dust pan up before picking up Pichu. "Come on, Pichu, let's finish cooking." Pichu held onto the picture as he sat on the counter, watching Dusky cook. He occasionally gazed at the photo, but would then go back to watching Dusky.

Meanwhile, as everyone else was rather distracted, Kadabra opened his eyes all of a sudden, walking over to a window and peering outside through it, as if he sensed something, his eyes affixed onto something outside. Vulpix watched Kadabra walking over to the window and she jumped off the couch, trotting over to him, wondering what he was looking at. She pressed her paws against the glass and looked through it. What did he see?

Kadabra did not even glance over to Vulpix as he peered down onto the streets. There was just a small group of thugs standing there, talking about random things too far away to be heard. It seemed as if they were up to no good, but if they were it wasn't anything effecting the apartment's inhabitants right then, and was unworthy of drawing the humans' attention to as of now. Kadabra just gazed at the group, narrowing his eyes. "...da... bra.." The two Pokémon kept their eyes on the suspicious crew, prepared to signal their trainers of danger if it seemed necessary.

When Dusky was back to cooking again, Deron continued, "Dusky... Take my Nidorino for example. I caught him as a Nidoran. When he evolved, I was really happy, but if he is to evolve into a Nidoking, I will have to get him a moon stone. Thing is, when I get one, I will leave the choice up to Nidorino on what he wants to do. I don't think it is our right to decide whether our Pokémon should evolve or not." He smiled over at Dusky as he followed her back into the kitchen.

Dusky didn't comment on what Deron said, as she figured it was pretty obvious he was right. She had been holding back Pichu for twelve years, because she was afraid of...of what? That Pichu would become stronger as a Pikachu? There was nothing to be afraid of. She had decided right then and there that the next time Pichu was ready to evolve, she'd let him.

She looked over at Deron's vegetables, chopped almost flawlessly. "That's perfect," she told him, taking the chopped up vegetables and adding them to the pot the stew was cooking in. Deron smiled at Dusky when she commented about the cut vegetables, glad he'd done well. Dusky added a few spices to the pot and then a bit more meat, along with some cream to thicken the stew, and soon the apartment was filled with a pleasant aroma. "It shouldn't be too much longer," she told Deron. "If you anything, just let me know."

Nodding, Deron headed out of the kitchen and now over to his Kabuto, holding his hand out to let it crawl up his arm and onto his shoulder. He then checked on Magnemite, who was just hovering about with his eye closed.

Dusky stirred and tended to the stew for a few minutes, then decided to let it sit for a while and peered back over into the living room. She walked over to the TV and turned it back on. When she pressed play on the DVD player, the movie started where it had left off before it was frozen by Magnemite. She carefully patted Nidorino on the head, hoping the small Pokémon was okay with her touching him. Nidorino's large ears perked up as Dusky sat next to him, blinking at her. As she patted him on the head, he lightly raised his lip a split second, before just resting his head down calmly, deciding to let the girl pat him for now. He peered over to Eevee then, watching as she jumped on Dusky's lap, curling into a tight ball, before Nidorino glanced over at the TV.

Vulpix and Kadabra watched the thugs for a little while until they started to make hand gestures and sneer, formulating some sort of plans together. Noting that they were pointing in their direction, Vulpix tapped Kadabra with her paws. "Vul!" She exclaimed urgently, then ran off. Kadabra glanced over at Vulpix as her paws tapped onto him, before he watched her leave, then turned his attention back to the thugs again after a few seconds. Vulpix made her way over to Dusky and tugged on her trainers shoe lace, striving for her attention. As Vulpix started nagging Dusky, both Nidorino and Deron peered over inquisitively, wondering what the fuss was about.

Dusky, two parts irritated and one part curious, peered down at the small fox-like Pokémon, reluctantly asking, "What is it, Vulpix?"

"Vul! Vulpix!" she growled, irritated that her trainer wasn't alarmed by her actions. She gave a strong tug on Dusky's shoe lace again, receiving a sigh from her trainer.

"Alright, alright, I'm coming," muttered Dusky, holding Eevee in her arms as she stood to her feet. Vulpix, pleased her trainer was following her, led Dusky to the window. Slightly annoyed, Dusky glanced out the window. "What is-" She paused when she saw the group of thugs. They weren't a kindly sort, that much was obvious. Dusky turned slightly towards Deron, keeping her eyes on the men down below. "Deron... Come over here and check this out," she said softly.

Deron walked over to Dusky as she called him over. "What is it...?" He then spotted the group of thugs, who seemed oblivious to them watching. Deron turned his attention to Kadabra now. "Kadabra. Any idea what they are planning?"

The psychic Pokémon looked up at his trainer, before holding out his hand. "Kada..." Deron nodded firmly as he closed his eyes and grabbed Kadabra's hand, the voices of the scene downstairs echoing slightly in the recesses of his mind: "...shouldn't be too hard at all. At least if you don't forget the plan. We break in, kill the trainer, kill any Pokémon and then just start looting. You don't loot until you're sure everyone is dead. Understood?"

Deron heard enough, and let go of Kadabra's hand. Kadabra nodded and walk over to the front door, sitting down behind it and closing his eyes, continuing to rest. Deron frowned as he looked at the Kabuto on his shoulder, before looking at Dusky. "Lock your front door. If you know anyone specific living in these blocks, warn them. Tell them to shut their place down tight. These guys are looters, and that means they won't care for your life a single bit." He gestured to Nidorino and Magnemite, looking at them. "If they get inside, my Pokémon and I can handle them, if that happens, hide." He looked back at Dusky. Deron knew that only his Pokémon would put him at rest, but he wasn't implying that he didn't trust that hers were able to protect them. No, he just didn't want to risk Dusky and her much younger Pokémon getting hurt. Deron glanced over to Kabuto again. "Also. If they get inside, I want you to keep Kabuto with you and keep him safe. Kadabra, Nidorino, and Magnemite can fight, but Kabuto is too small as of yet." He glimpsed outside again. The thugs were gone. They most likely still had some time. Trash like that doesn't strike the lights are out.

Dusky, though still a bit confused, went to lock her door as Deron had instructed, Eevee still in her arms. Honestly, she was a bit scared, though she wouldn't admit it to him. Just as she placed her fingers on the deadbolt, she froze and turned to Deron. "I'm going to go warn Robbie — maybe a few neighbors." Eevee hopped up onto Dusky's shoulder, giving her trainer the use of her arms. She picked up the small pistol she had received from the man who held her at gun point earlier that day and put her hand on the doorknob. She looked to Growlithe, who was laying on the ground, watching her carefully, as if waiting for the words he knew would come. Dusky opened her mouth and said, "Come on, Growlithe, I don't think you'll let me go alone."

As the puppy Pokémon picked himself up off the floor, Pichu jumped of the counter top, letting the picture of Ryan and Dusky float to the ground. He ran right up to Dusky and leaped onto her free shoulder, smiling. Growlithe sat down by Dusky's feet, waiting to leave. "Oh, you're coming?" Dusky said, sounding surprised. She had expected Pichu to stay in the apartment. Pichu nodded and looked down to see Vulpix had also joined Growlithe at her feet, which caused her to smile. "Alright, you all can go."

I'm not really sure if that's a good idea though... Dusky thought to herself as she looked by at Deron and said, "I should be back in about ten - fifteen minutes at most. If not... well, let's hope I'm back before dark." She then turned and opened the door, letting Vulpix and Growlithe out of the room before following them, letting the door swing shut behind them.

"Be careful." Deron called just as it clicked shut.

Dusky carefully made her way down the hall, her finger ready on the trigger. She wasn't sure how much time they had, and she just wanted to be ready - you never knew when danger would strike, especially with the way things were lately.

Within five minutes, Dusky had made it to the lobby, where Robbie was snoozing behind the counter, his loyal Zigzagoon sleeping peacefully at his feet. She glanced out the dirty glass doors and couldn't see any sign of the thugs, so she walked into the lobby, Growlithe and Vulpix trailing behind her. Eevee dug her claws into Dusky's shoulder out of fear, and Pichu was gripping her hair, sparks flying off his cheeks. Vulpix was sticking close to Dusky, so close that her trainer would occasionally trip over her. Growlithe was about a foot behind Dusky, walking so slow and menacingly that it was like he was prowling for his next victim.

Dusky walked up to Robbie and shook him awake. He jumped, startled from being awoken from his sleep and the fact that Dusky had a gun in her hand.

"D-Dusky?! What are you doing?!" Robbie stammered, Zigzagoon jumping to his feet and growling at Dusky in a feeble attempt to protect his trainer. Growlithe, angered by Zigzagoon threatening Dusky, leaped in front of Dusky, his usually light brown eyes having darkened to a foreboding black.

"Robbie, I'm not going to hurt you — the gun is for protection," Dusky explained with a sigh. "Look, Deron and I were in my apartment and—"

"Deron is the boy you brought in with you earlier, right?" Robbie said. Dusky sighed and nodded.

"Yes, he's the boy I brought in earlier, but that's not the point. Anyway, Deron and I were in my apartment and saw a group of thugs outside the building. Deron said they were looters, and I guess that's bad. I just wanted to warn you."

Robbie nodded and Dusky glanced at the clock on the wall. She had only been gone seven minutes, so she had been good to her word. Just as she was about to start walking down the hallway back to her apartment, she remembered Tommy and his mother — possibly his dad. They only lived ten minutes away from the apartment complex — if she ran, she could make it to their house and back in the same amount of time.

Dusky ran towards the door, pushing Robbie out of the way.

"Dusky?! Where are you going?! I'm locking the doors!" Robbie shouted.

"I'll be back soon!" Dusky called out to him over her shoulder. "If I'm not back in at least ten minutes, lock the door!"

And with that, she ran out of the building, Eevee and Pichu clinging to her jacket so they wouldn't fall off. Growlithe and Vulpix were running at full speed, easily keeping up with Dusky as she pushed herself to make it to Tommy's and back before Robbie locked the door.

Dusky prayed that no one saw her as she ran, especially those thugs, but she knew that someone would see her — she was making a lot of noise. Her dog tags were clinking loudly together, and her heavy leather boots were making a loud 'thud' noise each time her feet hit the ground.

Finally, she made it to their house and knocked frantically on the door, her breaths now nothing more than gasps for air. The door opened and Dusky was greeted by the sight of Tommy's father.

"Hm? Dusky, right?" he asked as he peered down at her. Unable to speak just yet, Dusky nodded. "Well, what is it that you want?"

"I...want to...know...if Tommy...and his mother are home yet?" Dusky managed to say between her desperate gasps for air. The man nodded.

"Yes, they just got home, but —"

"Lock the door," Dusky instructed. "Lock the door, grab a gun, if you have one, and hide — there are looters out and about, and I don't know where they plan on visiting."

As she spoke, she no longer felt the need to take a breathe as often, which was a good sign.

"Wh-why are you telling us this?" he stammered. Dusky shook her head.

"Tommy is like a brother to me... I don't want anything to happen to him — understood?" her voice was cold and even, but Tommy's father nodded. Dusky let out a hefty sigh. "Alright then — I'll be going."

She turned and started running back towards the apartments. She hadn't the slightest clue how long she had been gone, but she knew it had been over fifteen minutes since she left her apartment, which meant she didn't have much time. She could only hope the doors weren't locked. To make running easier, Dusky returned Eevee and Vulpix, who were beginning to grow weary from running. She tried to return Pichu, but he refused, and Dusky knew better than to try to get Growlithe to return to his Pokéballs. So, she just kept running, gun in hand, hoping not to run into anyone as she made her way back to the apartments.

Deron blinked as Dusky rushed out, who didn't even give him a chance to object. He sighed as he saw her run off. "Be careful." He called, then turned to his Pokémon, as Nidorino and Magnemite were just looking at him, while Kabuto was huddled up on his shoulder and Kadabra still comfortable next to the front door.

They all just stared at each other for a minute, before Magnemite hovered over to the window, peering outside. The sky was darkening not only by the coming of night, but also by dark clouds looming above. Seemed like tonight was a good night for a storm. If only the water that came down was useful... but most of the time, it was infected with the same toxic substance that infected most of the other remaining water... the substance that took away Deron's Blastoise.

Deron phased out, reliving the memories of his Blastoise in his head, looking down at the shell fragment hanging from his neck, until he got snapped back to reality by Magnemite. "Miiite!" Deron headed over to the window, blinking as he saw Dusky running out on her own. His eyes widened as he gritted his teeth. "Is she insane?!" He knew that if he were to run down the stairs, he wouldn't be able to catch up to her, so instead, he opened up a window. "Magnemite! Follow her! Stay high in the sky and out of viewing range. If she gets in trouble, help her! Make sure she's alright!" The metallic Pokémon nodded firmly, before floating out through the window, soaring off through the air above the city, keeping his eye locked on Dusky.

Deron then closed the window and reached for his gun, checking if it was loaded. "Nidorino. Kadabra. Make sure you're ready for anything. We might get some company if we're not careful." Nidorino didn't have to be told twice, as he always enjoyed a good fight. He instantly jumped down from the couch and started patrolling through the apartment, while Kadabra remained in his position, eyes closed as his focus seemed to be elsewhere.

The group of thugs were just outside an apartment block only a few doors away from Dusky's home. The night had fallen by now, and that was their cover to roam free. They were smoking some self-made cigarettes, and the stench from them pierced one's nose easily. They were dressed in scraggy leather jackets and second-hand jeans, obviously trying to impose themselves as some tough biker gang. One of them spoke to the others. "What time is it...?"

"Do I look like I got a watch, you nitwit?! We sold all the watches we had last time to get some smokes and drinks."

Some more, mostly incoherent, bickering continued, before what could be distinguished as their leader stepped in between them. "Enough, or I'm putting a slug in both your heads. Remember why we're here. That girl that ran out will be back soon, and that will be our ticket into the apartment block."

The others snickered to each other. "And what do we with the girl?"

The leader smirked. "Whatever you want..." Almost immediately, a very obscene discussion erupted. All of them dropped quiet, however, as a rumbling thunder crack combined with a lightning bolt lit up the dark, night sky, soon followed by a wave of rain washing over the city. The water didn't look like your usual blue, but had some more black-greenish tints in it, showing that you didn't want to use this as a drinking water by far. Further, the rain wasn't all that dangerous, but the thugs' attention was diverted to the side as they could hear someone running closer. They knew enough, as they would have expected it to be Dusky returning to her apartment. The thugs pulled out their weapons, mostly knives, except for three of them that carried a handgun each. They walked out into the street and aimed their weapons towards the source of the sound, expecting it to be Dusky, although their vision wasn't very clear yet because of the sudden, heavy rainfall. That's when their leader called out into the rain.

Dusky's feet were pounding hard against the pavement. When it began raining, she pulled up the hood on her jacket, mystified by the discoloration of the rain — how strange it appeared. She looked over to Growlithe, a fire type, and saw he wasn't handling the rain well. Though she knew how tough he was, a Pokémon, no matter how strong, couldn't handle weaknesses perfectly. She pulled his Pokéball off her belt and tried to get him to return, but when the red beam stretched out of the capsule, he dodged it, growling lowly at his trainer. Something wasn't right, it was obvious to Growlithe, but Dusky didn't seem to have the slightest clue.

Pichu hid himself under Dusky's hair and the hood of her jacket, staying protected from the strange rain. He was scared of storms, and the thunder and lightning was worrying him. So much, in fact, that sparks were flying rapidly off his cheeks as he clutched onto her shirt collar like his life depended on it.

"Alright, little brat! If you value your life and that of your Pokémon, you'll do what we say!"

Dusky paused as she heard the voice fill the air, even over the sound of the pouring rain, lightning, and thunder. The grip on the pistol in her right hand tightened as she froze in her place. Squinting through the rain, she could make out a group of men, and she was sure it was the thugs. She muttered a few choice words under her breath — so much for getting back safely. Deron was going to be irritated she got in trouble... if she made it back to him.

Growlithe crouched lowly, the loud growl ripping from his throat, the low glow from the powerful flamethrower attack he was getting prepared giving his mouth a threatening illumination. As if in response to Growlithe's power, the broken Fire Stone in Dusky's jacket pocket warmed up a bit — the stone was a gift from Ryan when she was young. It was so she could evolve Growlithe if she ever needed to.

The leader's eyes turned to the Growlithe however, as he aimed his gun at the Pokémon. "I wouldn't try that, mutt! You're a fire Pokémon in the rain, and a bullet will kill you as fast as any other living being!" He grinned.

"Growlithe... You have better eyesight than me; do you see them, too?" Dusky asked him, making sure she was correct.

Growlithe's eyes narrowed into slits as he slowly prowled protectively in front of his trainer. His eyesight easily cut through the cascading rain to the group in front of them — these sure weren't any little kids. Some were armed with guns, but a knife was the weapon of choice for a few. Growlithe nodded at his trainer and a few more profanities escaped her lips.

Pichu felt the uneasiness coming from Dusky and he timidly peeked out from behind the shield of his trainer's hair, peering at what was front of them. He squinted and saw the thugs. Being so surprised at the amount of weapons facing them, he tumbled off her shoulder and fell flat on his face.

The thugs burst into laughter as the Pichu fell face-first onto the wet soil. "Pathetic!"

"Pichu!" Dusky squeaked. The electric mouse Pokémon stood up quickly and looked up at his trainer. She was nervous. He glanced to Growlithe and was surprised to see that on his face, despite the amount of hatred put on to mask it, Pichu could see Growlithe was worried... that Growlithe was scared.

This hit Pichu hard. Growlithe was the strongest Pokémon he knew, and he was scared?

Dusky hadn't realized how long she had been quiet. The thug — probably the leader — called out again. "Oy! Did you hear me the first time?"

Dusky gripped the gun tighter, her knuckles now white, and stepped in front of Pichu and Growlithe, slowly raising her right hand. "You won't lay a damn finger on them!" she called back over the rain as lighting flashed and thunder boomed in the sky, venom practically dripping from the words she spoke.

The thugs made whispers and grunts of disapproval, but the leader remained calm, just speaking up again after silencing his men. "Now then, brave little brat... We'll consider sparing you and your Pokémon, if you'll be so kind to let us in your apartment block." The leader's tone was a sadistic one, obviously not planning on letting her and her Pokémon live.

Pichu glanced up at Dusky in awe; the nervousness seemed to have left his trainer. It appeared she was going to give her life for them if it came to that. Very slowly, Dusky turned her head to Pichu and Growlithe, keeping her eyes on the large group of thugs.

"Pichu... Jump up and grab Vulpix and Eevee's Pokéball... You four run back to the apartment. Get Deron and then leave. Understood?"

Growlithe opened his mouth to protest but stopped when he saw Dusky's face. It was cold and mean — she wasn't in any mood to argue. Pichu peered up at their trainer. He hadn't seen this side of her before. She was so protective, so caring, and this filled Pichu with joy. That's when he started to glow brightly, cutting through the rain and darkness of the city. Dusky gasped. "Pichu. . . ?"

She was about to reach for the Everstone in her pocket when she remembered the conversation she had Deron had moments before.

She let her hand fall to her side.

They all turned their guns towards her again, before the bright light from the Pichu interrupted them. "What the...?!" Surprised they all looked down at the small Pokémon.

Magnemite, who was hovering above Dusky as ordered by Deron saw what happened, was alarmed by the flash of light. He soared down as fast as he could, already hardening himself once more. He knew humans more than well enough to know they wouldn't let Pichu evolve just like that.

The thugs blinked, before their leader yelled. "It's evolving! Kill it!" They rapidly turned their guns towards the glowing Pokémon and pulled the triggers. They all felt rather confident as their metal slugs exited their guns, but the confidence died as bullets soon struck a solid metal coating, diverting off course as Magnemite rushed down to protect the evolving Pokémon. The leader took a step back, then quickly raised his gun at Dusky. If he couldn't kill the evolving rat, he could always finish off the trainer before she could order her Pokémon to act."You're dead now, you hear me!?"

Meanwhile, up in Dusky's apartment, Deron was just sitting on the couch, frowning. Dusky should have been back by now. The rain obscured the view from the window, so he couldn't see whether she was arriving or not.

Gunshots suddenly rang through his ears, filling the air, and in response Deron rushed over to the window. Noticing a glowing light through the rain, his eyes widening. "Dusky..." He didn't waste any time and immediately began to act, starting by tossing Kabuto on the couch. As the small Pokémon bounced about, he looked curiously over at his trainer as Deron pulled out a Pokéball and called Nidorino back. "Let's go, Nidorino! Party time! Kadabra. Stay with Kabuto!" The psychic Pokémon nodded as his trainer rushed out the door and started sprinting down the staircase. He wasn't going to be able to arrive on time to rescue Pichu, but he might as well try.


IMPORTANTish STUFF: This is a project that I've taken on that is the result of a long, on-going role-play on RPA. I am NOT the only writer/player in this RP, and I DO NOT take full credit for what isn't my work. Check the Author's Note and Credit sections to see credit where credit is due. My project correlates with the Rules of RPA, and I also have received permission from the GM's Potatrobot and Preach on RPA to do this project. If you are one of the players/writers of this RP and you do not want your work involved in this project, feel free to PM me on RPA [my username is CartelSaide] and we will discuss the solution there. Thank you for your patience and understanding.


CREDITS SECTION: The RPA users credited with writing Part Two of Pokemon: The Change are:

RPA Username *other potential info* {character(s) they controlled/Parts they wrote}

Tetsuya *former GM and creator of RP*

DuskingMorning {Dusky; Growlithe; Pichu; Vulpix; Eevee; Saffron Citizens}

E1Alpha {Deron; Magnemite; Nidorino; Kabuto; Kadabra; Looter Thugs}

Preach *co-GM of original RP*

Potatrobot *co-GM of original RP*

CartelSaide *me* {revised and edited everything; reformatted everything from RP to story format}


Pokémon is property of Nintendo.