A/N: I first thought of a crossover with Pokémon and One Piece a year or so ago, before I knew enough about One Piece to come up with an overarching plot. Now I am even more in awe of One Piece and Oda's genius for making every little detail in a story arc come together by the end. And I am even more convinced than before that our favorite Pokémon trainers would make a kick-ass pirate crew.
Before we start off, I just want to say one thing about how I envision Pokémon in my story: they are not immortal. When they fight, they are not going to be "knocked out" by a Fire Blast. They are going to become crispy Pokémon toast. But they are magical creatures and, like the One Piece characters, can take a hell of a lot of punishment and pull through. Ash and his crew won't be superpowered, nor will they be weak. Their journey, just like that of the Strawhats, will push them to their limits and beyond, forcing them to improve in ways they might not have foreseen.
Disclaimer: I don't own One Piece or Pokémon. I own a shitload of Pokémon games, but sadly that's not the same thing.
Chapter 1: Stormy Seas
"Wow, look at the size of this room!" Ash Ketchum spread his arms wide and spun around, taking in all the splendor of the main dining room of the S.S. Anne. Chandeliers sparkled high overhead, illuminating the expensive china on the round tables. The white tablecloths were spotless, and heaped with silver platters featuring delicacies from all around the world.
"Yeah," Misty agreed, "this is fantastic! This is just the kind of place to accentuate my beauty and natural grace!" The former Gym Leader rushed off to look at her reflection in one of the shiny, silver trays.
Brock, the Gym Leader of Pewter Town, shook his head at the younger girl's antics. "Gosh, you'd think she'd try to be a little more civilized, since we're in such a high-class estab- hey there, beautiful, what's your name?" He darted away from Ash to chase after a rich-looking woman with bleached white hair.
Ash wasn't at all disappointed to be abandoned by his friends; instead, he sat down at his table and began to eat his fill. The lobster was possibly the best thing he'd ever tasted in his life, though maybe he only thought that because he'd been living on trail rations for so many months. Misty joined him after a moment, chowing down with a will that would have surprised anyone who didn't know the petite, fiery little redhead.
"Arent you… mph… glad that… scrumf… Bill gave us those tickets?" Misty asked around a mouthful of lobster.
Ash chewed and swallowed before answering. "You bet I am! This is so cool. And there are so many cool Pokémon around, too! I want to look around… once I finish eating, that is!"
They continued to stuff food in their mouths as fast as humanly possible, at least until an unpleasantly familiar voice reached Ash's ears.
"Oh, Ashy-boy! I see you got invited, too! I have to say I'm surprised, they only let me in because my Gramps is so important."
Ash turned around in his chair, his eyes already burning with a competitive light.
Ash's rival came over and sat down, ignoring Misty's pointed look of disdain. He flipped his unruly brown hair back with his hand, a gesture that pissed Ash off more than anything.
"How's your Pokédex coming, Ash? I've already caught forty different Pokémon. I thought I'd take a break, and blow off some steam by coming to this party. But the Captain's a good friend of Gramps, so he showed me his Cut technique! I can't wait to catch a Scyther of my own."
Forty kinds? Damn it, how has he found so many?
But Ash didn't dare admit that he only had six Pokémon so far. "Forty's not so hot!" Ash did his best to sneer, but he didn't think it came out as confident as he'd wished. "I've already caught tons of Pokémon too!"
"Yeah, yeah." Gary casually reached over and snagged a bit of Ash's lobster with his fork. He munched happily while Ash steamed. Then Brock returned, wearing a silly smile on his face.
"Lady Aubrey… and Gynette… and Cindy… so many beautiful girls!" He did a little twirl, and stopped when he came face-to-face with Gary. "Oh, it's you. What brings you here, Gary?"
Gary laughed raucously. "I was just telling Ashy-boy here how they couldn't wait to get me on board the S.S. Anne, thanks to Gramps. They've been giving me the star treatment all night."
Just as Ash was about to get to his feet and start a proper shouting match, the floor underneath his feet lurched violently. He slipped and fell out of his chair, landing hard on his butt. All through the room, plates and glasses slid to one side. Some fell to the floor, shattering with a series of tinkling crashes. There were a few scattered shouts of surprise.
Misty helped Ash to his feet, then asked the question they were all thinking. "What the hell was that?"
As if answering Misty's question, a calm voice issued from a speaker somewhere in the room. Everyone grew quiet, listening.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I am sorry for this inconvenience. However, we are heading into some rough water ahead, and I must ask you all to return to your cabins until we give the all-clear. If you are only here for the evening, please find one of the crew, who will direct you to a safe location."
A confused buzz arose in the ballroom, as everyone began getting up and preparing to leave.
"Wait, what is this?" Brock scratched his head. "We just left port a few hours ago. We can't possibly be far enough out to have encountered a real storm."
"That's not important right now," Misty said. "As the only one here who's experienced a storm at sea, I propose we find a crew member like we were told and wait this out."
"Good idea," Ash said. "I just hope they have snacks!"
The three trainers left the ballroom, following a sailor who seemed to be directing the crowd.
Meanwhile, the Captain of the S.S. Anne was having a very bad feeling. He looked over the bow at the storm clouds swooping in, and patted his Scyther on the head, looking for reassurance.
"Twenty years on these seas, buddy, and I've never seen a storm move in this fast. This old tub could be in real trouble."
Scyther looked worried, too, which didn't do anything to make the Captain feel more reassured. His Scyther had been with him from the very beginning, ever since he was a boy growing up in Pewter city. They'd been through a lot together, and if this storm was enough to make his strongest Pokémon uneasy, he was going to be cautious.
There came a knock at the control room door. "Come in," he called absently.
The First Mate entered, his Machoke following close behind. "Captain Wallace sir, all guests are accounted for. Those without cabins are holed down in the theater. All hands are at their stations."
"That's good, Marco. I have a feeling this is going to get rough. We may be able to cope with most storms, but I don't think this storm is anything like what we've experienced before."
"Don't worry, Captain. We won't let you down!" First Mate Marco saluted together with his Machoke.
Soon the storm enveloped the S.S. Anne, and the luxury cruiser began to toss and turn violently. Everywhere sailors ran about with rope, fighting to keep their feet when the ship lurched. Waiters worked hard tying down breakable items, but the Captain knew there'd be a lot to replace once they got back to land.
The Captain saw a strange glowing through his looking glass. With growing horror, he realized that the light came from the water about a league away from the ship. In the midst of the storm, with no clue whatsoever how it had formed, was a massive whirlpool. It was the source of the glowing, as if the water were lit from below by thousands of luminescent jellyfish. The whirlpool loomed larger and larger as the ship came closer.
Captain Wallace wrestled with the tiller, but already the S.S. Anne was caught in the swirling current. His First Mate had joined him, and looked out through his own glass.
"Oh my god," Marco muttered weakly. "What… what is that?"
As the ship grew closer the luminescent glow from the whirlpool brightened, until it was almost too bright to look at. The Captain said a quick prayer, but in his heart there was no hope. The tiller wasn't responding to him at all now, and he knew there was nothing he could do to keep the ship from going to a watery grave.
"Captain, it's been a privilege." Marco had been at sea as long as the Captain, and knew they weren't getting away from that whirlpool.
"Likewise, Marco." The two friends gripped hands and waited for the end. The S.S. Anne seemed to let out a huge groan, as the steel beams deep in the bowels of the ship bent under the assault from the swirling waves. The light was so bright that the Captain and Marco had to shield their eyes. There came a faint sound, which to the Captain's ears sounded like, "Myuuuu."
Then the ship began to spin, slowly at first, then faster and faster. The Captain was sent flying, and hit his head against the wall. Everything went black.
Over fifty people were huddled close together in the theater. There was enough room for them to spread out, but in the face of the looming storm they naturally gravitated together. Human contact was comforting, even if it didn't change their situation.
"Is this normal?" Ash asked Misty. She shook her head helplessly.
"I don't think so. I've never seen a storm come up this fast, and so close to shore."
Brock put his hand on Ash's shoulder. "We'll be fine. We've come through worse than this before."
That was when they heard the steel beams groan, and felt the ship begin to turn.
"What's happening?" The cry was echoed many different people, as they noticed the movement.
"Maybe the Captain is turning around," Brock reasoned. But that hope died when the boat turned all the way around, and kept going. The rotation of the ship sped up, until it was spinning so fast they couldn't move without falling.
Ash gripped Pikachu tightly in his arms, while Brock and Misty held on to him as well.
"We're caught in a whirlpool!" Misty shouted. "The ship will sink!"
But instead of water pouring in the windows, there came a light so bright everyone was forced to close their eyes.
Then, it all stopped. The light receded, and the ship stopped moving. The sound of the wind whipping against the ship, and the rain drumming on the deck above, was gone. It was once again a quiet night at sea, as if nothing had happened. The guests stopped clinging to each other for dear life began to stand up shakily.
"What just happened?" Ash tried to get Pikachu to calm down. The lightning Pokémon was so agitated that it was emitting painful sparks from its cheeks.
Misty looked up, her face expressing her utter confusion. "The storm just… stopped."
"What was that weird light?" Brock asked. "And did either of you hear something? Not the rain; it sounded almost like a Pokémon's voice."
Ash and Misty shook their heads. "Huh," Brock shrugged, "I must have been imagining things."
The Captain's voice came over the loudspeaker.
"Thank you all for your patience. I'm going to ask that you all sit tight for a little while longer. Also, if there are any Trainers on the ship with at least one Pokémon badge, could you please come to the Bridge immediately? Ask a member of the crew to direct you there."
Ash looked at Brock and Misty with surprise. "Should we go?"
Brock nodded. "Yeah, we should. But I've got a bad feeling about this."
The trio got up, and found a sailor standing at the entrance to the auditorium. "We're trainers," Ash declared. "Can you bring us to the Bridge?"
"Right away," the sailor replied.
"Hey, wait for me!" Gary came running up behind them. "Sounds like something's up."
Ash was too curious about what the Captain wanted trainers for to fight with Gary. The four trainers followed closely behind the sailor. He led them to the topmost deck, up ten flights of stairs. The Bridge was located at the front of the ship, covered by glass in the front that shielded him from the elements while allowing him full visibility.
The sailor knocked on the door to the cabin. "Come in," came a tired-sounding voice.
Ash and Gary tried to enter at the same time, and got stuck in the doorframe. They glared at each other and kept pushing, neither willing to back down.
Brock shook his head at Misty, who rolled her eyes expressively. Ash forgot about his rival when he saw the Captain. The man was sitting on a chair, holding a pack of ice against his head. Blood trickled down his face from a nasty gash on his head.
"Are you all right?" Ash cried.
The Captain waved his hand dismissively. "I'm fine, but that's not the issue right now. We've got larger problems."
Brock stepped forward, his face assuming the responsible "Gym Leader" expression that Ash hadn't seen since their last battle in Pewter City. "What kind of problems?"
The Captain regarded Brock with calm eyes, then held out the hand that wasn't holding the ice pack. "I'm sorry, I should have had us introduce ourselves first. I'm Captain Wallace, and this is my First Mate, Marco."
Ash was impressed by both of the sailors. They had rough, callused hands and weather-worn faces that spoke of many years at sea. The Captain wore a simple sailor's cap over his close-cropped brown hair, while Marco had uncovered blond hair that reached to his shoulders. Both men looked to be in excellent condition, even though the Captain was most likely in his late thirties or early forties. The Captain also had a Scyther, which he apparently kept out of its pokéball. It had been standing over him like a bodyguard, but now it examined Pikachu with curiosity.
"I'm Brock, the Gym Leader of Pewter City. This is Ash and Misty."
Gary stepped forward as well, unwilling to let Brock introduce him. "And I'm Gary Oak."
The Captain nodded. "I'm pleased to meet you all. I was hoping for more trainers, but I guess we'll have to make do with what we have."
"What's the matter?" Ash asked. "Why do you need trainers?"
"Because as Pokémon trainers, you've traveled the world and seen a lot of strange things. You're not likely to panic when I tell you that I don't think we're in the same world that we were a moment ago."
The four trainers looked at him in shock. "What?"
"See for yourself," the Captain invited, gesturing to the glass screen that looked out over the ocean. "Look at the stars. They're completely different from what they should be. I don't recognize any of the constellations, and I've sailed all over the world. Kanto, Johto, Sinnoh, you name it. We're not in any of those places."
Ash looked into the night sky, trying to wrap his mind around the idea that it was a completely different sky. His mind couldn't quite stretch to accept that.
"I think it was the whirlpool," the Captain continued. "It might have been a portal of some kind, because it sure as hell didn't do what a normal whirlpool does."
Marco crossed himself fervently. "For which I'm damn grateful, Captain."
"You've got that right. Anyway, when I realized this I decided to call the trainers here. I'm not sure how to proceed. I'm treading, if you'll pardon the nautical pun, in unfamiliar waters here. We could be in danger, and if that's so then you four, along with myself and the crew, are our best hope of getting home safely."
"We'll help you, Captain," Brock assured him. He cracked a smile. "After all, we're all in the same boat." Misty groaned, and smacked him in the back of the head.
"Enough of the puns, ok guys?"
"Hey," Ash called, still looking out at the ocean through the glass. "Why don't we ask those guys where we are?"
"Which guys?" The Captain took out his looking glass, and stood next to Ash. The trainer pointed into the distance, where a light was barely visible. "It's a ship!"
Gary, Brock, Misty, and Marco hurried over to take a look. The Captain lowered his instrument, and turned to the trainers with a grave expression. "We can ask them, but I don't think they'll be very helpful. Because judging by the skull and crossbones on the sail, that's a pirate ship. And it's heading straight for us."
First Mate Marco bolted to a control panel, where his hand hovered over a black switch. "Zeta Protocol, sir?"
The Captain nodded, his weather-lined face very grave. "I think so. Best not take any chances."
Ash scratched his head. "What's Zeta Protocol?"
At the control panel, Marco vented his feelings with an extremely imaginative oath. "It's our defense strategy in case the ship is ever attacked. The sailors with Fighting-type Pokémon guard the passengers, while the ones with Water-types form a perimeter around the top deck to repel boarders. Not that it'll do much good… none of our sailors have ever seen combat, and they always laughed at me when I drilled them."
"No one will be laughing now," replied Captain Wallace. Ash thought he sounded too calm for a man about to face a pirate attack. "Turn on the intercom please, Marco. I have to address the guests and crew. Everyone, if you could remain quiet for a moment, I'd greatly appreciate it."
Marco flipped the switch that connected the Bridge to the speakers located all throughout the S.S. Anne, and gestured for the Captain to speak.
"Attention, please. This is the Captain speaking. All crew members, be aware that Zeta Protocol is in effect. I repeat, Zeta Protocol is in effect. This is not a drill. As for our guests, I must ask you to gather in the Gallery on Deck Two. Members of the crew will direct you there and look after you until I determine it is safe for you to return to your cabins. Thank you for your cooperation."
As the Captain finished his speech, Ash and Gary fought over the looking glass. The pirate ship was growing steadily closer, and it was just possible to make out the black flag flying from the mast. There was a skull-and-crossbones image, but the skull wasn't human. It looked more like…
"Is that a cat?" Ash asked, pushing Gary's face aside with his right hand as he peered through the spyglass.
Gary ducked under and rammed him aside with his shoulder. He looked through the glass and snorted satisfaction. "Yup, that's a cat all right. Weird choice for a pirate flag, don't you think?"
Misty came over and solved the spyglass quarrel by knocking Ash's and Gary's heads together. "Maybe they use cat-like Pokémon," she suggested.
"If there are Pokémon in this world," said Captain Wallace. "We can't assume anything."
"With respect, Captain," Brock spoke up, "where should we go to help with the defense?"
From on top of Ash's head, Pikachu chittered. It was eager to join the fight.
"A man of action," said the Captain, smiling. "I like that. Well, since it's sailing straight for us, our best bet is to position ourselves out on the bow. Think any of your Pokémon can intercept cannonballs?"
Ash swallowed. Pirates were kind of exciting in the abstract, but the sudden image of cannonballs ripping into the S.S. Anne, shredding steel bulkheads like tinfoil, was definitely less pleasant. "I guess we'll find out!" he declared, unwilling to show any fear in front of his rival, Gary. "Lead the way, Captain Wallace!"
The Captain and his First Mate led the four trainers out of the Bridge and up a cramped set of stairs that opened onto the bow area of the topmost deck. They hurried to the railing. Now there was no need for the spyglass, because the ship's Jolly Roger was easily visible in the distance.
"Captain!" Dozens of raised voices captured the Trainers' attention, and they turned to see many members of the crew stationed along the railing as far as they could see. Some stood next to Water Pokémon, mostly Poliwags, and a Squirtle or two.
"What's going on?" the nearest sailor called out. "Are we really under attack?"
"Steady on, men!" First Mate Marco bellowed. "We've trained for this, and we have a Gym Leader and elite trainers beside us. Today we fight! We fight for our homes and our families!"
The blond First Mate struck a valiant pose, mirrored by his muscular Machoke.
"Um… what?" Ash looked at his friends, but they were as confused as he was.
"Don't mind Marco," whispered the Captain. "He's a member of the Vermilion Coast Guard, but he never saw any military action. He's just a little carried away by the excitement."
"Excitement?!" Misty demanded, outraged. "This isn't a movie, for heaven's sake!"
The Captain raised his voice, which carried clear to the other end of the massive cruise ship. "Stay calm, everyone. Do your best to protect the ship, and we'll all come out of this just fine."
"Real convincing, Cap'n," said Gary snidely. "I can almost believe you." He tossed a Pokéball into the air, out of which appeared a massive Fearow with a curved, wicked beak. "No matter what happens, though, I'm taking a few down with me. What do you say, Ashy boy?"
Ash released his own Pidgeotto and Butterfree, and reached up to pat Pikachu reassuringly on the head. "Sounds about right, Gary."
A dull boom echoed from across the water, followed by several more. Small black dots appeared in the air, growing larger as they arced toward the S.S. Anne, until everyone could recognize them as cannonballs.
"Aaaaah!" a sailor cried. "They're firing at us!"
"Fearow!" Gary yelled. "Use Gust!"
Ash gestured to his own Pokémon. "You too, Pidgeotto, Butterfree! Keep those cannonballs from hitting us!"
The three Pokémon formed a triangle formation in midair, with the Bird Pokémon side-by-side and Ash's Butterfree underneath them. As one, they flapped their wings and created powerful currents of wind. The combined force of the Gust attacks created a veritable maelstrom that flung all six cannonballs backward. They detonated harmlessly in midair, the sheer volume of the explosion making many of the defenders start.
The sailors gave a mighty cheer, but the pirates were just getting started. Another volley of cannonfire met their ears, and once again the Flying Pokémon had to summon a windstorm of combined Gusts.
"We can't keep this up forever," Gary told Ash. "Our Pokémon will tire out before those pirates run out of ammunition."
"But what else can we do?" Ash asked.
Captain Wallace answered. "We have to take the fight to them. Their galley is much faster and more maneuverable than the S.S. Anne – she's a cruise ship, after all. If we continue to fight like this, they can cripple us with cannonballs and loot us while we're sinking. We need to send a crack squad to beat them on their own deck."
Ash and Gary spoke at the same time. "I'm in!" They each had a Bird-type Pokémon that could fly them over.
"Don't forget me!" Misty said, looking scared but determined. "My Water Pokémon can get me there almost as fast as your birds, and you'll need all the help you can get."
"What about me?" Brock asked. "I don't have a Water Pokémon, and my Zubat is too small to carry me."
"You stay here with me and the Captain," said First Mate Marco. "Help Machoke and Scyther keep those cannonballs away from the ship. We may have to turn aside a few volleys before your friends can neutralize their cannons."
"Everyone fine with this?" said Captain Wallace. They all nodded, though fear was plain on all their faces, even Gary's. This was not like the adventures they had back in Kanto. Even Team Rocket had only ever wanted to steal Pikachu, not murder them all in cold blood. But this was no time for thinking – it was action that was needed. The Captain surveyed them with appraisal, then nodded. "All right… time to go. Buy us some time, Scyther! Use Cut on the cannonballs!"
Scyther shot into the air, wings buzzing furiously, ready for the next volley.
Gary flung himself onto his Fearow, holding on to the bird's long neck. "Last one there's a rotten egg, Ashy boy!" He took off into the sky.
"No fair!" Ash yelled. "You got a head start!" He leapt onto Pidgeotto, grabbing two thick handfuls of neck feathers. "Sorry, buddy," he whispered. "Maybe we can see about a saddle if this kind of thing becomes a habit."
Pidgeotto squawked unhappily, then shot off after Fearow. Butterfree followed, flying as fast as the Insect Pokémon could. Far below, Misty dove into the ocean, and soon resurfaced holding on to her Starmie. They hovered over the waves and raced to the pirate ship.
Left on the bow, Brock and Marco traded determined looks. They might not be able to fight with their friends on the enemy ship, but they would be damned before a single cannonball touched the S.S. Anne. "Come on out, Onix!"
The giant rock snake appeared on the deck, just in time to swing its tail and hit a few cannonballs out of the air. The backlash of the explosions caught Onix's tail and caused Brock's Pokémon to roar with anger. Scyther sliced up three more, and Machoke ripped off a piece of the S.S. Anne's railing and threw it like a javelin, destroying the last cannonball before it could reach the ship.
"Hang in there, Onix!" Brock cried. His Onix was strong, but a few point-blank explosions would have disastrous consequences.
Meanwhile, Marco saw something very strange floating over the waves. It looked like two people, and – was that a Meowth? They held on to each other in a death grip, awkwardly perched on a Koffing levitating gamely towards the pirate ship.
"What the hell are you doing?" Marco bellowed. "Get back to the ship!"
"Who-" Brock peered over the railing, and caught his breath when he recognized those white uniforms. "Team Rocket! What are you doing here?"
James gave him a shaky thumbs up, then scrambled to get a firmer grip on Koffing's bumpy hide. "We're the only ones allowed to hijack the S.S. Anne!" cried the man who had caused nothing but trouble for Ash and his friends since the beginning of their journey. "Don't worry, we'll teach those pirates a lesson!"
Marco blinked, watching the odd trio riding Koffing like an unwieldy air balloon. "Are they strong?" he asked doubtfully.
Brock shrugged. "They have their moments. And they're more resilient than cockroaches. Who knows, maybe they'll actually be of some help… if they get there before the battle ends, that is."
But the former Gym Leader and the first mate of the S.S. Anne had no more time to ponder the strange spectacle of Team Rocket, because the next flight of cannonballs was fast approaching.
"Machoke! You're up!"
Ash had one very bad moment up in the air, when Pidgeotto corkscrewed to avoid a cannon that the pirates had aimed at them. His legs lifted into the sky, only his tenuous grip on Pidgeotto keeping him from falling hundreds of feet to the ocean below.
It's a good thing I'm not afraid of heights, he thought, as Pidgeotto completed a barrel roll and swung around to zero in on the pirate ship. Gary's Fearow appeared next to him.
"What's the play, Ashy boy? Think your little mouse can even the odds a bit?"
"Hell yes! Pikachu!" Ash called out, making sure his voice carried over the wind shrieking past his face and ruffling his hair. His most trusted Pokémon huddled inside his jacket, only its ears twitching up into the open air. "We're going to dive! See those cannons? Take them out with a Thunderbolt!"
The cannons in question protruded from holes located about halfway up the ship. They were angled upward, the better to send cannonballs several hundred yards away towards the S.S. Anne.
Meanwhile, the deck swarmed with pirates who, from this high up, looked like little insects. They did, however, carry rifles, and Ash was not all that excited about diving into a hail of gunfire.
Maybe he could do something about that. "Butterfree!" he yelled, glad that his insect Pokémon was following close behind Pidgeotto. "Do a sweep over the ship, and nail them with Paralyze Powder!"
Butterfree warbled a response, and shot toward the ship. Ash cheered when he saw the golden powder beginning to fall, but his grip on Pidgeotto tightened when he heard the violent cracks of pistols and rifles. Still the powder descended, and the chorus of painful cries was music to his ears.
Then, horribly, Butterfree seemed to freeze in midair.
"It's been hit!" Gary yelled, while Butterfree began to flap only one set of wings. It looked like a musket ball had torn through the pearly membrane of one of Butterfree's wings. It spiraled out of control, slowly starting to lose altitude.
"No!" Ash yelled, urging Pidgeotto into a dive. He held Butterfree's Pokéball, ready to recall his injured Pokémon when he was close enough. "Get ready, Pikachu! After we jump, hit those cannons with a Thunderbolt!"
They dove lower, like bullets from a gun, until they were barely higher than the mast of the pirate ship. Ash recalled Butterfree into its Pokéball and urged Pidgeotto to level out.
I must be crazy. Am I really going to do this?!
Ignoring his common sense, which was screaming like a little girl, Ash Ketchum pushed off from Pidgeotto's back, spreading both arms and legs and feeling, for a moment, like he could fly. Pikachu had jumped as well, getting some space from Ash so that he wouldn't be fried when the electric Pokémon used Thunderbolt.
Ash turned in the air, watching as a bolt of lightning erupted from Pikachu, aimed straight for the cannons jutting out of the ship's belly. He didn't need to worry about Pikachu missing – the metal of those cannons was better than a lightning rod. The air filled with white light and the screams of injured men.
So much for the cannons… and probably a good deal of the ship, too.
Ash yelled with mingled rage and exhilaration as he hit the wooden deck, skidding and tumbling for a full ten yards before slamming into the mast. He thought he heard Pidgeotto warble apologetically before he recalled it to its Pokéball – he was very proud of himself for not dropping it when he smacked into the mast.
Pikachu landed on the deck just as Gary leapt off of his Fearow. From his painful, crumpled position against the mast, Ash had a perfect view when Gary hit the deck and rolled into a textbook somersault, coming to his feet like a stuntman in an action movie.
He smiled down at Ash. "Rough landing, Ashy boy?"
"Shut up," Ash muttered, climbing shakily to his feet. He quickly summoned Squirtle, Bulbasaur, and Charmander, while Gary earned Ash's envy by producing a Nidorino and a Nidorina. They flanked him like guard dogs, if guard dogs had deadly horns capable of goring a man and pumping him full of poison.
Pikachu jumped atop Ash's head, its cheeks sparking.
Now that he could stand up, Ash surveyed the damage. Pikachu's thunderbolt had gouged a huge chunk out of the side of the ship, and half of the pirates' cannons were sinking beneath the waves. On the deck, Gary and Ash were surrounded by over a hundred pirates. They were a band of scruffy, imposing men wielding a ragtag assortment of weapons ranging from rusty cutlasses to rifles.
Ash was please to see that over two dozen of the pirates were standing stock-still in uncomfortable positions, their faces contorted in agony.
Good work with that Paralyze Powder, Butterfree! I only hope you're ok…
For a moment the pirates only stared at the two intruders, who had flown through the sky on winged monsters and taken out half of their cannons in one hit. Ash and Gary stared back.
"Do you know?" Gary whispered to Ash. "These pirates all seem to be wearing cat ears. What the hell's that about?"
"I don't know," Ash said, though Gary was right. Some of the pirates had even styled their hair into points exactly like cat ears, and those without enough hair wore cat headbands. "But I don't think now's the time to ask, Gary."
"Don't be afraid, men!" one of the pirates yelled, brandishing his rifle. "Captain Jango's on our side! Kill them and their pet monsters!"
"Uh, Gary," Ash said, surveying all six Pokémon currently arrayed in a loose circle around them. "Can any of our Pokémon stop bullets?"
Gary's face turned slightly gray. "Uh… no, Ashy boy, I don't believe they can."
A feminine voice soared over the gruff command.
Ash and Gary yelled reflexively as over fifty firearms discharged with a deafening series of cracks. But the bullets hit a translucent wall of light that sprang up around them. A purple blur appeared in front of them, spinning rapidly and then resolving into the form of a majestic purple starfish with a glimmering gem in the center of its body.
"Starmie!" Ash cried out, ecstatic.
"Did you boys miss me?"
Gary, Ash, and all of the pirates turned to the wrecked side of the boat, where a beautiful sight met their eyes. A jet of water plumed into the air, allowing Misty to hover just above the railing. With her legs half-hidden by the water, she looked like a mermaid, or some beautiful maiden of the sea. The water surged higher, and Misty landed on the deck with a flourish and a bow. Her Staryu followed a second later.
"Guns are dangerous," she announced in a disapproving tone. "You might shoot someone by mistake. Staryu, Starmie – Water Gun!"
Her faithful Pokémon swept each side of the deck with concentrated jets of water, knocking the pirates off their feet and causing most of them to drop their blades and firearms.
Ash cheered, while Gary, who wouldn't stoop to anything so undignified, crossed his arms and adopted a smug expression. "Stay down!" Misty called out.
One of the pirates, still clutching a pistol, tried to regain his feet.
"Double-Edge!" Misty's Starmie once more flew through the air, rotating so quickly it was nothing but a purple blur. It swept past the pirate, flashing right by his head, swooped up and around like a boomerang, and came to rest next to Misty.
For a moment time stood still, as everyone stared at the pirate, who was apparently unharmed. Then his head fell from his shoulders, landing on the deck with an audible thunk. His body crumpled and neighboring pirates scrambled away from the corpse. Ash saw Misty's face turn white as bone, but when she spoke, her voice was steady.
"I told you to stay down!" she cried.
Horrified cries rose from the pirates, until a louder voice cut through. "Enough! We surrender!"
From the terrified, soaking group of pirates emerged perhaps the oddest person Ash had ever seen. He wore red, heart-shaped glasses, and had a red-and-black striped goatee. A wide-brimmed blue hat covered straggly, shoulder-length gray hair, and he wore a blue cape that brushed the deck as he walked.
"No sudden movements!" Misty called out, her Staryu and Starmie bristling next to her.
"Of course not," said the strange man, holding his hands out. In one hand he held a strange pendant, some kind of edged pendulum attached to a string. But it wasn't a sword or a rifle, so Ash didn't think it could be a weapon.
"I'm Captain Jango of the Black Cat Pirates," he said. "We apologize for targeting your vessel. We're wanted men, you understand. We only wanted provisions."
"You really surrender?" Misty demanded. "Just like that?"
The Captain smiled widely. "Just like that. Easy as one, two, three… Jango!"
Ash, Misty, Gary, and all of their assembled Pokémon instantly fell asleep. Once they were convinced it was safe, the Black Cat pirates picked themselves up, laughing shakily and with relief.
"That's our Captain Jango," many said, slapping each other on the back.
"Always gets the job done."
"Haha, and he hypnotized himself, too! What a guy."
This was true – the hypnotist Captain had indeed managed to put himself to sleep, and was snoring every bit as lustily as the Trainers and their Pokémon. The pirates, who knew their Captain well, had closed their eyes in time to avoid the technique.
Two pirates, bigger than the rest and dressed almost as distinctively as Captain Jango, stepped forward. One was thin with green hair, and the other was almost as wide as he was tall, with a strange black patch over one side of his face, apparently intended to make him look cat-like. They both wore gloves with metal spikes protruding from the fingers, like claws.
"Let the Captain rest," said the thin one. "We'll finish the job."
The pirates mustered another hearty cheer. "Hurray for the Meowban Brothers! Hurray for Captain Jango! Hurray for the Black Cat Pirates!"
The Meowban Brothers edged forward with deadly intent, predators moving in on their prey. They stopped, however, when unfamiliar voices reached their ears.
"Prepare for trouble..."
"...and make it double."
"To protect the world from devastation..."
"...to unite all peoples within our nation."
"To denounce the evils of truth and love..."
"...to extend our reach to the stars above."
"Team Rocket blast off at the speed of light..."
"...surrender now or prepare to fight!"
"Meeeeowth, that's right!"
Perched on the railing, declaiming in carrying tones, were Jesse and James, with Koffing, Ekans, and Meowth on the deck in front of them. Jesse pointed her lacquered fingernail at the Meowban Brothers.
"Step away from the puny children and their snoozing Pokémon," she called out, "and nobody needs to get hurt."
The green-haired brother sneered. "Oh yeah? How do you propose to stop us?"
Having concocted a hasty plan before their grand entrance, Jesse and James knew exactly what to do.
"Koffing, use Smokescreen!" The poison-cloud Pokémon complied, shrouding most of the deck in thick, black smoke, avoiding Ash and his friends. Only the Meowban brothers and Jango avoided the attack, since they were closest to the sleeping Trainers.
"Nobody shoot!" yelled the Meowban Brothers. "You'll just hit each other!"
James prowled the border of the smoke, while Koffing kept up its steady use of Smokescreen to make sure it wouldn't disperse.
Meanwhile, Meowth used Agility to put himself between the brothers and the defenseless Trainers. Ekans was just a little slower, and soon coiled up next to Meowth, baring its fangs and hissing with a vengeance. "We're not normally the hero type," Meowth said. "But nobody's going to hurt our Pikachu! We haven't gone to so much trouble to let someone else steal it."
The Meowban Brothers stared at Meowth in amazement. "It talks!"
Meowth sneered at them as it flexed its claws. "That's not all I can do."
It used Agility to appear behind the fat brother, and swiped at his hamstrings with outstretched claws. Blood welled from the brother's chubby legs, though the cuts weren't very deep. Meowth avoided a retaliatory swipe from the green-haired brother, and used Agility again to stop next to Ekans.
"Go!" Meowth waved to Jesse. "We'll hold them off. Wake up the sleeping beauties!"
"My pleasure," Jesse said. As Meowth and Ekans sprang at the Meowban Brothers, she walked up next to Misty. She stretched out her right arm, wound up like a baseball pitcher, and slapped Misty full in the face. "Wake up, cow! ...Oh, that was fun!"
Misty's eyes snapped open. She brought her hand to her face, looking confused. "Wha- Team Rocket?!"
"No time for explanations, girlie," Jesse said. "Let's wake up your friends and Pokémon before more pirates get our of our smokescreen."
Misty took in the situation a second later when she saw Meowth and Ekans dueling the Meowban Brothers. Her confusion disappeared, replaced by resolve. She nodded, and accepted Jesse's hand to jump to her feet. "Right."
They worked their way around the circle of sleeping Trainers and Pokémon, shaking each one awake. They were just in time, too, because Meowth and Ekans were not faring very well against the Meowban Brothers.
Meowth's Agility was effective, but his opponents were much faster than any humans it had seen before, and they protected each other well. One good hit from those claw-like gloves would be enough to put either of the small Pokémon out of the fight for good, so Meowth had to be careful when closing in for a Scratch attack.
Ekans tried to help by spitting Acid at its opponents, but that became just another thing Meowth had to dodge when using Agility.
Just when Ash and Gary were sitting up, rubbing bleary eyes, the tide of the fight changed for the worse. Ekans, summoning its courage, propelled itself through the air at the chubbier brother, wrapped itself around his face and used Constrict. For a second it looked like it might be enough to finish him off, but then he clawed at the snake around his face, and Ekans was slashed by his gloves.
Ekans went flying, and Meowth lost a step when it heard Ekans' cry of pain. The elder Meowban Brother raked Meowth across the back, drawing deep grooves, before the agile cat Pokémon could escape.
Meowth stood over Ekans' limp form, breathing heavily as its blood dripped onto the deck. "I'm not done yet!" it declared.
"That's enough, Meowth!" cried James, abandoning the Smokescreen to stand next to Meowth. "I'll take it from here, with the new Pokémon that I bought on the S.S. Anne. It was really expensive, so it must be strong! Go, Magikarp!"
Now fully awake, Ash was treated to the surreal sight of a Magikarp flopping around uselessly on the wooden deck in front of two strange men dressed like cats.
Is it possible I'm still dreaming? No... not even my subconscious is this weird...
Magikarp flopped some more, and James' face filled with despair. "Oh, no… I've been swindled! I want my money back, you stupid fish!"
He kicked the Magikarp with all his might, and it went flying over the handrail and out of sight.
"No!" Misty's voice rang out, and before Ash could stop her the former Gym Leader dove overboard after the Magikarp.
Ash and Gary jumped up and raced to the railing. "I'm ok!" Misty called up to them, floating in the ocean. "I caught the poor dear."
Sure enough, Magikarp was nestled in her arms, and Misty's Goldeen swam next to them, keeping the Trainer afloat. "There, there," Misty crooned, stroking Magikarp's head. "Everything's going to be just fine. I won't ever abandon you – that's a promise." Magikarp gave a happy sort of flop.
A sudden cackle made Ash turn his head – in his worry over Misty, he'd forgotten about the cat-guys. The one with green hair was laughing like a maniac. "I don't think you'll be able to keep your promise, little girl," he crowed. "You're both going to be food for that Sea King!"
He pointed at a spot in the ocean a hundred yards away from Misty, where a giant, bright-orange creature was emerging from the waves. It looked like a cross between a shark and a serpent, and it was swimming towards Misty with murder in its eyes.
"What the hell is that?" Jesse exclaimed, clinging to James in fright. "It's huge!"
"That's just a baby Sea King," said the pirate, "but it'll eat your friend, sure enough."
It's not like any Seaking I ever saw, Ash thought.
Luckily, it was not Misty's fate to be eaten that day. The Magikarp she had caught began writhing in her arms, and then it began to glow. Goldeen tugged Misty backwards as Magikarp was enveloped by a white light that hurt Ash's eyes.
"It's evolving!" Gary shouted exultantly, the first to catch on.
When the light faded, Misty stood on the head of a very large, very angry Gyarados, its serpentine body stretching sixty feet out of the water. They towered over the approaching shark-snake creature, and when Gyarados let out a roar that shook the very boards under Ash's feet, the creature turned tail and fled.
Misty cheered, and the Gyarados let out a kind of pleased rumble. Then it turned to face the pirate ship, where Koffing's Smokescreen was just now dissipating. The poor pirates, many of whom had already been paralyzed, nailed with high-pressure water attacks, and then choked by bitter smoke, now looked up to see a creature from nightmare looming over them.
"Gyarados, use Leer!" Misty commanded, looking for all the world like an Amazon queen on Gyarados' head.
Even though the attack wasn't directed at Ash or his allies, he still felt the effect of it. It was like a ball of writhing, soul-devouring fear had been shoved down his throat, and he had to fight to stay standing. The majority of the pirates promptly passed out, and even the Meowban Brothers fell to their knees, unable to stand on their shaking legs. "Is that... Haki?!" one of them whispered brokenly.
"Good job, Gyarados," Misty crooned, patting the monstrous serpent on the head. Ash could have sworn it smiled.
After Gyarados had deposited Misty back on the deck of the pirate ship, she turned to James with a sickly-sweet smile. "I forgive you for treating a Pokémon with such cruelty," she said, "as long as you give me Gyarados' Pokéball. Then we can put this whole mess behind us."
"S- su- sure thing," James stammered, trying not to look at the Gyarados he'd abandoned as he handed Misty the Pokéball.
Ash's Pokémon joined Gary's, and they formed a ring around Captain Jango and the Meowban Brothers. None of them besides Pikachu had even launched an attack yet, so they practically quivered with eagerness. Charmander's flame was roaring merrily, and poison dripped from the end of Nidorino's horn. The brothers were very careful not to make any sudden moves.
"I think we've got this pretty much wrapped up," Gary said. "How about I go report to Captain Wallace, so we can figure out what to do with these fools?"
"Sounds good to me," Ash replied. He winked at Misty. "Congratulations on the new Pokémon, Misty!"
Misty recalled her newly evolved Gyarados to its Pokéball and smiled back at Ash. "It's amazing what a little kindness can do."
Later that evening, when the sun was just beginning to set, the victorious Trainers gathered in the Bridge for a war council.
"We won this time," said Captain Wallace, "and with no casualties. It could have been far worse. So… what's next?"
"First order of business," said Misty, pointing an accusing finger at James and Jesse. The Rocket members shrank back ever so slightly, the memory of Misty's Gyarados still fresh in their minds. "What do we do with these scum?"
"Hey!" protested Meowth. "We saved your lives!"
"They have a point," said Gary thoughtfully, sounding very different from his usual snide self. "We were goners when that weird Captain hypnotized us."
"That doesn't mean we can trust them!" Ash pointed out. "They'll still try to steal our Pokémon."
"It would make no sense for them to steal anything right now," Brock pointed out logically. "They couldn't deliver them to their superiors as long as they're stuck with us in this world."
Jesse's eyes bugged out. "In… this… world? Does that mean what I think it means?"
"Oh yeah," Ash sighed. "You guys missed that conversation. Apparently we're in a different world, or dimension, or something. Hey," he said, brightening, "at least those pirates spoke the same language as us! That's a good thing."
"We're in a different world, you brat! Why are you so damn relaxed?" James was well on his way to hyperventilating.
"Everybody, SHUT UP!" Captain Wallace's bullhorn voice cut in. "We have more important things to worry about than your squabbling." He turned to the Team Rocket members. "Mr. James, Ms. Jesse, we sincerely thank you for your efforts against the Black Cat Pirates. We might have lost lives, and instead we're all safe with the added bonus of a stockpile of weapons confiscated from the pirates. Your act of bravery made that possible, and I thank you."
Jesse and James sat straighter in their seats at the compliment. Captain Wallace was the kind of man who didn't bestow praise lightly, and it made the criminals proud in spite of themselves. Meowth muttered sulkily, "What am I, chopped liver?" The injured Meowth was swathed in bandages, souvenirs of its fight against the Meowban Brothers.
"However," the Captain continued, ignoring Meowth, "I refuse to go any further on this journey with comrades I cannot trust. I don't care what you were in our home world – Team Rocket thugs, purple-spotted Venosaurs, or the devil himself, it makes no difference to me. You're skilled Trainers, it seems like, and if we're going to make it home alive, we'll need to rely on you. I will trust you unconditionally, if you give your word not to betray us."
"We promise!" James replied instantly, nodding his head up and down. "We want to get back just as much as you do! Let's be allies."
"So be it. If you try to steal any Pokémon, disobey an order, or commit any other crime, I will see you hanged. Too much is at stake to tolerate mutiny."
All three Rocket members gulped, then saluted. "Sir, yes sir!"
"Very well, then." Captain Wallace looked at all the assembled Trainers and nodded with firm resolve. "Enough of that. Where do we go from here?"
"The most important thing is to find land," put in Marco. "If there are pirates, maybe there's a government that can help us. We need to lay in more provisions and start gathering information."
"What happens if we meet more pirates first?" Gary asked. "The next group might be larger, or more skilled, or even have different powers. That Captain had a strange ability, like a Hypno. Even if there are no Pokémon in this world, that doesn't mean we automatically have an advantage."
"We can get stronger," said Ash. "We can train our Pokémon while we're at sea."
"My thoughts exactly," Captain Wallace agreed. "I'll have my men clear the banquet hall of all tables and chairs – it's big enough for most of your Pokémon, with the exception of Onix and Gyarados. And I'll arm the sailors with the blades and guns we took from those pirates." He patted the saber in the scabbard at his hip. "I may not be a blademaster, but I can teach them not to stab themselves in the foot. We can convert the theater into a shooting range, too."
Marco cracked his knuckles, looking as if he couldn't wait to get his hands on a rifle. "Good idea, Cap'n. Until we know where we are, we have to proceed as if we're at war, behind enemy lines. Our Pokémon are the only defense we have right now."
"I'll pick a direction and boost our speed," said Captain Wallace. "We have enough food stored to last a month, and hopefully we'll find land well before then."
"And even if we do run into more pirate crews," said Misty, "we should be able to handle ourselves. Except for that hypnotist Captain and the freaky cat brothers, they went down real easy."
This was the moment Ash had been waiting for ever since he'd learned that the pirate crew they'd defeated called themselves the Black Cat Pirates.
"Yeah," he exclaimed, "we certainly gave them pause!"
…Nothing. They were ignoring him. Ash tried again. "We gave them pause… come on, guys, like cat paws? Pause? Paws? 'Cause they were the Black Cat Pirates? Damn it, it's just as good as Brock's pun earlier!"
Of the group, only Misty could bear to look Ash in the face – the rest looked off into the distance. She patted him reassuringly on one shoulder. "It's ok, Ash. You deserve points for trying."
Ash sighed in defeat. "I hate you guys."
End of Chapter 1
A/N: So what'd you think? Ash and the gang will continue to run into familiar faces, starting next chapter with a Marine Captain who can chop down trees with his hand. You get three guesses who it is… and the first two don't count :)
Also, I welcome any and all theories about why the Pokémon trainers have been transported to the One Piece world, although I haven't really given you many hints yet. Rest assured, there is a method hidden in my madness – a plot will emerge, and as early as next chapter.
Finally, I have the majority of the story line planned out, from beginning to end. Right now, while the S.S. Anne searches for land, Monkey D. Luffy is floating in a barrel somewhere in the East Blue. The story will end with the Whitebeard War, and if you don't think Ash and his crew will be involved in a big way, well... you're wrong. See you next time!