Author's Notes: Hello, Internet, and welcome to my new mini-fic called "Prelude to Fire!" I was trying to think of a good way to transition from my current major fanfiction, "Pokemon Adventures: AshGray Chapter" to my new fanfiction, "Of Fire and Ashes." I did not want to start releasing "Of Fire and Ashes" at the same time that I was writing "Pokemon Adventures: AshGray Chapter," but I also thought it would be kind of weird if I just jumped into "Of Fire and Ashes" the week AFTER I finished "Pokemon Adventures: AshGray Chapter." So, this is the solution I came up with. This story is a kind of mini-prequel to "Of Fire and Ashes." It sets up a few things for the story and introduces a few of the major characters and concepts before tying directly into it. This prequel is by no means REQUIRED to be read before "Of Fire and Ashes," and if you decide to skip it, you will not be lost or unable to understand the story, but hopefully it can act as some fun and interesting background information. I should also probably mention a few other things while I'm here:
1. This story by no means acts as a direct sequel to "Pokemon Adventures: AshGray Chapter," so it contains no spoilers for said fic.
2. Many of the main characters that appear in "Of Fire and Ashes" will not be appearing in this story. Do not get the idea that the full cast of "Of Fire and Ashes" and the full cast of "Prelude to Fire" are one in the same.
3. This story will not necessarily carry the same tone as "Of Fire and Ashes." So, if you think it is too serious or too dark or something (these are just random examples), then do not assume that "Of Fire and Ashes" will be the exact same way. After all, as I said in [2.], we are missing some of the major characters in this fic.
But with all of that aside, I hope you enjoy this little treat and that it gets you pumped for my upcoming fics. Have fun...
I do not own or have any rights to any part of the Pokemon franchise whatsoever.
Prelude to Fire
Chapter 1: The Kindling
Alexander D. Ward
Head of Organization Oversight
February 18th, 4305
Greg Morrison Director of the Allied Government Covert Investigation Agency; Code Name: G-Men
Allied Government Covert Investigation Agency
Dear Mr. Morrison:
I am writing this e-mail out of concern for your organization. As you know, the International Police has granted you and your men a large amount of freedom in your various projects, and our interactions have been kept to an absolute minimum in favor of your diplomatic immunities and marvelous record of preventing international incidents. However, we have received an uncharacteristic amount of incident reports from your agents lately, and none of them were filed appropriately through the Representation Department. Not only does such an act give major signs of insubordination, but it shows that some of your men do not feel safe using the appropriate method of communication between our two branches. This is a serious problem that could potentially lead to an investigation if not handled properly. I would normally assume that someone in the Representation Department was simply not doing his or her job correctly, but such an assertion raises a few more questions: Why were you not contacted rather than I? Why do so many of these incident reports prefer to use the word "conspiracy" in their descriptions? Why does each report insist that I "probably have not heard about" the incident in question? These signs clearly point to an intentional withholding of information by someone in your organization, and many are apparently aware of said withholding.
Do not take this message the wrong way. I am in no way suggesting that you are covering up some sort of massive conspiracy. I am simply trying to draw your attention to a clear error somewhere in your organization. It would appear as though your men do not feel safe talking to those that you have placed in charge, and as a result, they do not feel safe talking to you. In addition, there is obviously something odd going on in your Representation Department. Either that, or someone is violating an untold amount of laws and protocol in feeding us such misinformation. Whatever the case is, I suggest that you find the problem, remove it posthaste, and submit to us a full report of what happened. I know that this is all an inconvenience to you, but I want to avoid an official investigation just as much as you do. Your spotless record speaks for itself. Your protocol is extraordinary, and you come highly recommended by everyone up here. However, the bottom line is that we need your men to trust you, and we need to be informed of the incidents that escape your jurisdiction. Simply shape things up a bit down there and we might be able to work around any kind of serious confrontation.
Attached to this e-mail are two of the original incident reports that I received from your agents. You will find that they are both very vague in detail about exactly what happened, but the general consensus seems to be that a man broke into one of your research facilities and a legendary was killed. The other reports depict similar situations with occasional alterations, both major and minor, depending on which you look at. We have nine all together, and it is clear that something is going on. If legendaries are really being killed and terrorists are really attacking your facilities, then we need to know immediately. If you have any explanation as to why we might have received such strange false reports or why we might have failed to receive such dire true reports appropriately then please let me know. I look forward to your response and cooperation throughout this odd ordeal, and I hope that we can simply file all of this away as some sort of prank or mail fraud.
- Sincerely yours,
Alexander D. Ward
-An e-mail concerning strange incident reports from various G-Men to the International Police; Sent two days prior to the following events.
The small ship was bobbing across the water at a relaxing speed. The men on board were either chatting up a storm on the deck or chatting up a storm in the cab. Some slower soldiers were still gathering their gear in the lower hull, but for the most part, everyone was ready for the next "big assignment." It was just another day in the life of a G-Man: being cramped onto a small vessel with sixty coworkers after being told you were never allowed to talk about what you were about to do. No one really minded it. It was almost always some sort of retrieval mission or a boring day of mind numbing recon. When they were gathered in groups like this, it was occasionally a guarding job. Either way, the agents were happy to do a service to the Pokémon world. Whatever was going on, they were ready for it. And when it also allowed them to enjoy the lush, natural beauty of the Orange Archipelago, all the better.
But that does not mean that rumors did not start up. Many agents were aware of the strange stories that had been floating around their organization for some time now. There were tales of a super terrorist that had broken into a G-Man facility and killed several agents as a warning. There were tales of an agent gone rogue who did the same. There were tales that the organization was killing and/or capturing legendaries. All kinds of crazy stories. After all, with an organization as secretive as the G-Men, stories naturally started up, even within the team. The unique thing about these stories, however, was that they had all started up and begun to spread around at the same time, which naturally caused a lot of tension, even amongst those who shrugged them off. And THAT caused an untold amount of speculation between the crew on the boat, who were all wondering what exactly their mission would entail.
The fact that they were all ordered to dress in their hazard armor did not make things any better. They were covered in so much metal and plastic that they were just as invulnerable to recognition as they were to bullets. The all-encompassing helmets over their heads only finalized things, and the only unique feature of each SWAT-esque outfit was its wearer's individual code number on the side of the helmet and chest piece. It was something that the agents liked to complain about, especially considering that the hazard armor rarely actually saw any action. They were mostly just safety precautions.
"Well, I think it's a man hunt." Agent 469 said to Agent 872. The two men were standing near the edge of the deck far off to starboard. "Probably a man hunt that has to do with those dead legendaries. I mean, think about it. Why else would we have Hunter G-Men and Pokémon G-Men both on the same boat?"
"There aren't any dead legendaries." 872 replied with a roll of his eyes (though you could not tell through his helmet). "Come on. I don't care how secretive the higher-ups get. You can't cover something like that up. You're buying into nonsense."
"I am not! I heard it from Trenson."
"Who? Code names, 469."
"Oh. Right... 74. I heard it from 74."
"Riiiight... and who did 74 hear it from?"
"Um..." He paused for a second, letting out a gruff moan. "433... I think... Either that, or 438."
"And do you know 433 or 438?"
"Then why are you counting them as credible sources?"
"Oh, come on, man!" 469 finally threw his hands in the air. "It's cool, okay? It's fun to speculate! Why else would the Hunter division be working with the Pokémon division?"
"I don't know about all that." 872 admitted, "But I will let you in on a bigger mystery."
469 did not verbally reply, but he instead just brushed his hand in the air as if to say, "Go ahead."
872 nodded to acknowledge the gesture and responded by leaning forward in a whisper. "Who's leadin' this mission?"
There was silence for a moment. "...What?"
"Seriously! Think about it! Who's leadin' us? Did you see a leader registered ANYWHERE on your assignment?"
"No..." 469 admitted.
"They're sendin' us in dark!" The man continued, "They don't want us to know who's leadin' us until we get to shore and can't leave! It must be someone... controversial!"
"That's your big secret?" he sighed, "You think we might be being led by someone 'controversial?' What a great scoop!" The last bit was sarcastic.
872 chuckled. "Well, hey! It's better than your imaginary story about dead legendaries!"
"It is not!" 469 returned, offended. He crossed his arms to express his disapproval. "I already know who the leader is. You just have to pay attention."
872 stopped his chuckling and looked at 469 dead on. He could not see past the glass front of the helmet, but he could tell the man was serious. "Whaddaya mean?"
469 let out a small grin. "39 is on this ship."
And indeed 39 was. One of the highest ranking field agents in the G-Men's Pokémon division was simply strolling along the side of the ship, watching the surrounding scenery with awestruck wonder and appreciation as the grandiose of the late afternoon sun slowly slipped into evening over the majesty of the Orange Islands. The tides lapped at the hull of the ship from below to add the perfect calming feel to the picture, and as the officer leaned on the railing to observe the beauty, he slowly removed his helmet in order to get a more natural view of the surroundings. His flattened orange hair emerged from its cold prison, and the agent shook his head violently to further scramble the unkempt mess. His name was Lance Grayson. Dragon tamer, Kanto-Johto Champion, G-Man, and all-around Pokémon trainer. He didn't know what the mission was either, but thus far, he had to admit he was enjoying it.
"Someone's breaking protocol!" a sing-song voice erupted from behind as agent 43 came to the edge of the deck as well.
Lance only smiled and turned away from the scenery to confront his friend.
"You know," the voice continued, "just because you're a big shot champion who outranks everyone on board doesn't mean that you can just take off your helmet whenever you want."
The dragon tamer let off a friendly chuckle as he patted his head with the hand that wasn't holding his helmet. "Oh, give me a break, 43. Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to cram my poor hair into that thing? Besides, we both know that no one actually needs their hazard armor on until we get there. It's just another one of those rules the higher-ups put in place to keep us disciplined and on a tight schedule."
"Well, you would know." the soldier admitted, leaning on the railing next to him. "You deal with those guys more often than I do."
"You bet I do." he insisted, turning back around to look at the islands again. "Now, stop trying to get me in trouble or I'll report you, rookie."
"Oh! I'm SO scared!" 43 teased, "Lance Grayson might tell Command that I was following orders!"
"39." Lance insisted, "Call me 39. We're on duty."
"Right, right, right." the agent continued to laugh, "How is it that even when I show up to call you out on violating protocol, you still manage to find something I'm doing wrong?"
Lance actually laughed at that one too. "I guess I'm just that good."
The dragon tamer expected the conversation to end there, but as he leaned over the railing and tried to peer at the scenery again, his view was quickly obstructed by 43's helmet jutting in front of his vision again. "Well, if you're so good then perhaps you could let me in on the objective of this mission? Hmmm?"
Lance turned back toward his friend and sighed, flattening his eyebrows to show that he wasn't happy about the situation. "I know just as much as you do." he admitted.
"What?" 43 asked, "You mean you don't have anything either? You don't know if it's recon? ...Man hunt? ...Anything?"
"No clue..." Lance grumbled, crossing his arms, "And it bothers me."
"I don't like it when knowing an assignment is above my pay grade. I've been here too long."
43 shrugged. "Well, you know what they say: 'There's always someone above you.'"
"Maybe so." he conceded, "But if I'm not being told what a mission is, then there is usually someone who outranks me involved. And if there is someone who outranks me involved, then it usually means that some serious crap is about to go down."
"But..." 43 paused for a minute. "I don't think there is anyone who outranks you on this ship..."
"That just makes things worse." Lance explained, "That means that Command issued me an assignment with full intentions for me to be the leader, but they didn't think I would accept, so they decided not to give me any real information about the assignment until I reached a point of no return."
"Wow... That's dirty." 43 agreed.
Lance sighed again as he backed up and leaned against the wall. "I feel like I've been around too long to be treated like this."
"Aww, don't be like that." the other agent cried before walking up to the man and patting him on the back. "Command is just being greedy about their intel is all. We 'mere rookies' get shafted like this all the time."
"It's not that..." Lance tried, "It's just that... I feel like it's been happening more often recently. These days it feels like I know less and less about every mission I go on, even though all evidence says that I should know more as time goes on."
"Yeah." Lance stood up straight again. "Evidence. I've been running this show for nearly ten years now. I've risen through the ranks. I've earned plenty of recognition. And it seems like as time goes on more and more disasters keep occurring. All of that suggests that I should have more information about missions these days than I used to. Don't you think?"
43 whistled. "Ten years... Sometimes I almost forget that you're about to turn 30, old man."
Lance rolled his eyes and smiled. "I told you to quit calling me that. It didn't make any sense when I hit 21, and it won't make any sense until I'm at least 40."
"Whatever." 43 insisted, pushing the man to lean back against the wall again with a sidearm. "I think you're thinking too much. I mean, when was the last time we had serious threat pop up anyway?"
"Last month." he deadpanned. "A clash between two legendaries nearly tore the planet apart. 987 had to cover the paperwork on it. Of course, again, none of us were on the scene before the whole thing was brought to a stop."
His friend sighed. "Let me guess... Ash?"
Ash Ketchum was a young up and coming Pokémon trainer from Pallet Town, Kanto. Lance had actually met the boy a few times, and while he wasn't anything special at first glance, Ketchum was legendary amongst the G-Men. Half the time, that kid did their jobs better than they did. While traveling the world to train, that boy had single highhandedly resolved several dozen potentially global crises. He stopped legendaries, shut down criminal organizations, and saved the world on a surprisingly regular basis, because while the G-Men had to receive reports or be called into certain areas when disaster struck, Ash Ketchum always seemed to already be there by sheer dumb luck. The boy's roles in these disasters were virtually unknown to the greater public, due to the G-Men and International Police often labeling the events 'Classified', but either way, the name was no secret to most agents.
"You know, I hear he's supposed to be challenging the Nolasii League in a couple of months." The sudden comment snapped Lance out of his flashbacks.
"Oh... You don't say... Didn't he already beat a league not too long ago?"
"Yep." 43 nodded. "If he beats this one too, then he'll have two official leagues under his belt. He might even be a contender for the Master title."
Lance chuckled as he ruffled some of his hair again. "If he wants the Master title, he's gonna have to get in line. That title's all mine next tournament."
"You sure? You'd better watch out, old man. You're almost 30. He can't be older than 17."
Lance shot a smirk at his partner. "Okay, now we're getting off subject. We were talking about my standing with the G-Men, remember?"
"Oh, yeah." 43 began again in a taunt, "You were getting all emotional with me."
"I was not!" Lance defended, "It's just... Think about it." His voice began to waver slightly. "The world is a dangerous place to be. Time is moving by so fast... It seems like every day there is another lengendary out for revenge against humanity or another evil organization out to take over the world, and every time something comes up, we're dispatched to stop it."
"Or Ash." 43 corrected.
"Or Ash... But the point is... We can't keep up this fight forever, right? Every other week there is someone or something threatening to wipe humanity off the face of the planet. Even Ash's luck has to run out eventually... Can the world really outrun something that seems so... persistent?"
43 stood up and turned to face the dragon tamer more seriously. "Well, I think you just answered your own question, Lance."
He only raised an eyebrow to that. "What?"
"Maybe the reason you feel so out of the loop with Command is because they see the same thing you see. Maybe everyone feels and understands that we're constantly headed toward oblivion faster and faster. Command wants to figure out why and how to stop it. They need information, and as a result, information becomes a precious asset. You're not given as much of it because Command wants to feel as powerful as they can. They want to trick themselves into believing that they have control of the situation."
Lance brought an index finger to his chin to think on that one for a second. He had never quite considered such a speculation.
"You see..." 43 continued, "The world may be constantly trying to outrun disaster, but it's also trying to run toward information and- by association- a solution."
Lance began to chuckle a little bit as he moved away from his thinking pose. "Well, what about those of us that were fine knowing what we knew before?"
43 let out a deep sigh before quickly rebuking the rule she had chastised Lance about earlier and lifting the helmet off of her head to reveal long locks of crystal blue hair and a concerned frown on her face as she peered toward her cousin. "To be honest, Lance... I think we're just trying to keep up with everyone else."
Lance buckled out a few laughs before ruffling Clair's hair with his right hand. "When did you become so smart, cuz?"
"Hey!" she protested, grabbing for the man's arm a few times, "Knock it off! I'm a G-Man now too! This is totally unprofessional! Don't forget who helped you get this far to begin with!"
"Shut up. I outrank you."
The captain had been quiet most of the way there, considering the guest he had in the room, but he couldn't help himself as the final island appeared over the horizon and he let out a hearty chuckle. "LAND HO!"
"Excellent." The G-Man behind him finally spoke up. She was wearing a hazard armor just like the rest of the crew, but no number appeared on either the helmet or the chest piece, and she had apparently felt the need to take her helmet off just like Lance and Clair had to reveal her well-kept brown hair, tied back in a ponytail fashion, and her sparkling blue eyes. She stood in a fairly relaxed pose with a slight tilt of the hip and her hands crossed over her chest. She could not have been older than 17. "Did you contact the dock to make sure that all of our 'special conditions' are met?"
The captain nodded his head without looking back and said, "I did."
The G-Man smiled. "Awesome. Omega won't know what hit him."
"Uh... Sorry." she sweatdropped and rubbed the back of her neck accordingly. "Just... thinking out loud."
"Right... Well, ya'll are in for a heck of a treat when we arrive there."
"Shamouti Island is famous for its traditional festivals, ma'am! Why, every year, the residents and visitors participate in contests, Pokémon battles, parades, feasts-"
"Uh... I don't really think we'll be participating in any of that stuff, Captain." Her stomach rumbled immediately after the words came out of her mouth, and she quickly put a hand over her chest piece. "...But for what its worth, I could really go for a buffet right now."
"Right, right." The captain assured. "I know how you G-Men work. Secrets, secrets, secrets. I don't ask many questions, and that's why I always get offered to transport ya."
The island was becoming very clear on the horizon now. They would be there any minute. And to be honest, it did look like a party was going on out there. Tents, huts, and people in large wooden masks stood all over the shore.
"Make sure we dock on the East piers." the agent reminded the captain.
"Don't worry, ma'am. I've got it."
The two were very silent for the next few minutes as the ship continued to draw closer and turn to avoid the crowds of people. The captain eventually broke that silence. "When the greeting party shows up, who should I direct them to for orders?"
"Agent 003." She answered.
That caught the captain's attention. He looked behind himself for the first time in quite a while to give the young girl a curious glance. "Agent 003?"
"I aint never heard of an agent with a zero in the front of their number."
She picked her hazard helmet off of the floor and placed it back on her head with a nod. "Well, now you have. Nice to meet you too."
More AN: Well, I hope you enjoyed that. Tell me what you think in the reviews. Are things looking good? Bad? I know not a lot happened in this chapter, but hey, I'm just trying to set up the characters and environment, you know? I hope you are looking forward to more. Btw, I DO NOT expect to update this mini-fic on a very set schedule. This story will likely update almost randomly. So put it on Alert if you really want to follow it.
P.S. "Pokemon Adventures: AshGray Chapter" will have a new round out after I adjust a few things from the last round. I really did not like how round 27 came out, so I deleted it and am re-tooling it a bit. Rounds 27 and 28 will be out as soon as I can assure the quality is worth reading.