Diamond 95: Give me Tranquility
Diamond 95: Give me Tranquility
At the Viridian Forest, the Green Gallade, a cargo train belonging to Antilles Oceanus, had stopped. There was a dangerous hostage situation on top of it, with number ten threatening an unconscious Delia. Giovanni and Ash had just arrived on Flygon and Charizard. Jessie, James, Misty and Pixel, who had been riding on the train, were there as well as Comet, who had followed number ten. The train was surrounded by Rocket agents and pokemon, but number ten didn't seem to care.
Giovanni received an urgent message on his cell phone from Luke, 'Dude, Giovanni, Binks like kept saying he like had to like help, you know?' Even in cases of emergency, Luke's speech and writing remained the same, he was so used to it, he simply couldn't communicate in any other way. 'He like says we have to like make ten like go to sleep again, man!' Not focusing on the possibility of Luke being on his way with Binks, instead Giovanni thought of the other piece of information. Noticing the commotion, the bug pokemon of the forest under the command of Queen had surrounded the train as well. The loyal Beedrill flew near Giovanni awaiting his orders.
As Ash watched the scene before him, his mother being held hostage by that unknown, yet familiar looking man, he could almost see something else in his mind. He didn't go find his father; instead he desperately searched for his mother, even if he somehow knew it would be easier to call for help in the search. He had doubts, he didn't know how to face his father, he didn't know if he could trust him. Then by chance he saw the kidnapper with Delia and chased them on Charizard. The timing was different, they were outside of the forest, it had taken him longer to find them. The train was moving away from Viridian City at full speed. Ash's plans to meet Giovanni had been different, the Rocket leader was not there and neither was Comet. The timing and location of several people had varied by seconds, causing an indirect chain reaction like a scene from an alternate timeline that was overwritten.
Ash approached the kidnapper hastily because of how much he wanted to save his mother. Then something in the creature snapped. He threw the unconscious Delia in front of the train and the collision killed her. The mutant then relentlessly attacked Ash and his Charizard. Ash was horrified as he tried to get by the creature and to his mother. The train had stopped, but her body was several feet away, thrown far by the impact. She was dead, killed by an enemy of Team Rocket, killed by a train of Team Rocket's allies, killed by a creature that he knew than and there wasn't human. She died because of Team Rocket. Then as if that pain wasn't already too much to bear, Charizard was gravely injured trying to protect him.
Ash snapped awake and tried to hold on more solidly to the present, to reality. He didn't know where that vision came from. He didn't understand the anger, frustration, pain and distrust that he could sense within himself for a moment, before it all faded into nothingness. He did trust his father to sincerely wish to save his mother, to truly care about her. Was that vision what would have been if he had not gained that trust? Had that mysterious Persian truly changed history? It was as if that vision of the horrors that could have been was something he saw due to his special aura, even if it was something that never happened as far as the current history went.
A soft breeze was felt, but unlike a natural one which came from a set direction, that soft current of wind seemed to circle around in the air. Ash noticed that they were being surrounded by sleep powder. The powder was all around, rather than directed only at him, so number ten didn't realize right away he was being attacked. His pursuers kept the same distance so he didn't react soon enough and began to give into sleep.
"The air currents of the forest..." Ash softly whispered, he was fascinated by the fact that he was surrounded by sleep powder, but at the same time it remained far enough from him to not affect him. The soft air currents around them were enough to create a sort of protective bubble of gentle wind, shielding the Rockets from the sleep powder. "I didn't even know this was possible." Then a thought occurred to Ash, of course the forest would be heavily guarded with well trained pokemon, it was like a shield protecting Viridian City, where the gym was, the gym that truly belonged to Team Rocket.
"I'll keep him distracted, sneak up on him," Giovanni's voice was barely audible and he kept his eyes on Delia. He gave Queen, the Beedrill leading the pokemon army, some more quiet instructions.
Ash jumped off the train, seeing that the bubble of air remained around him. He noticed a younger Beedrill following him; it was Prince, Queen's son. He walked around the train to the front as the mutant fell to his knees and began to lose his grip on Delia. Ash took back his mother and jumped backwards off the train to the ground below.
Ash heard the mutant growl, but he was already too tired and fell asleep, almost slipping off the front of the train. "Delia," to Ash's surprise, Giovanni, who had been on the other side of the wagon not long ago, had already joined him in front of the train.
"It's Zoroark!" Jessie called out suddenly, directing everyone's attention to the approaching pokemon. The Rockets were quick to surround her.
"Wait!" Ash insisted loudly, don't try to catch her, let her come over here.
Giovanni observed the Zoroark with puzzlement, "that pokemon comes and goes in the fall almost every year. She's very hard to catch and has managed to escape every time."
Ash left the unconscious Delia with Giovanni and approached the Zoroark, who was now only a few feet away from them. "There's something different about you. You're definitely not like other pokemon." It wasn't simply the unusual violet coloring of her mane, where normally Zoroark would have red. It was something about her energy; it was different, similar to the energy of a human. The Zoroark looked towards Delia and continued approaching. "I think she wants to help," Ash walked with her back to Delia and Giovanni.
"What could a pokemon do? We need to get her to a doctor," Giovanni was confused by the pokemon's behavior, but he wasn't about to entrust Delia's health to her.
"It's okay," Ash insisted. "We should let her try, I can't really explain it, but there's something very special about this Zoroark."
Giovanni looked at the pokemon again; she did indeed seem to have a distinctly familiar presence. It wasn't simply because she had escaped from him before, this was something else entirely, something that had been all but forgotten, "alright."
The Zoroark placed her right paw on Delia's forehead and emitted a soft glow that surrounded her. Delia's breathing turned deeper and more even, as if she was sleeping rather than knocked out. The Zoroark stepped back, indicating that she was done.
Delia slowly opened her eyes to find that she was safe with Ash and Giovanni. She blinked away the remaining sleep and fully woke up. "Ash, Giovanni, what happened? I remember being taken from Pallet Town and through the forest, then I hit my head, but it doesn't hurt anymore."
"You're okay!" Ash cheered, "dad and I came to get you and Zoroark healed you," he smiled, truly relieved that his mother was alright. "Team Rocket captured the kidnapper, it's okay now."
"You both came to save me together?" Delia couldn't help it but to smile at the thought, her previous worries disappearing for that moment, "thank you." It wasn't just for being rescued, but for Ash and Giovanni to have been able to work together.
It seemed that things were calming down after all, so Misty finally looked at her cell phone that had been insistently vibrating in her pocket the whole time. The call originated from the Cerulean gym. "Hi, I was just on my way back home, but I might take a bit longer."
"Don't come," Violet's worried voice insisted, "all the pokemon at the gym are like sick. The symptoms came slowly and we didn't like fully notice what was going on until now. They're all sick, it's just like in Lavender, Saffron and Vermilion, Fuchsia too, Cerulean is becoming like that."
"Then the epidemic reached that far?" Everyone had been hoping for a cure, some going as far as saying that it was the same epidemic from years ago with some minor changes and that a new version of the same antidote might work. However, the research had thus far proven fruitless. The moment of relief was cut short for Misty by the terrible news.
To make matters worse, number ten suddenly snapped awake, growling loudly. After experiencing being awake for much longer than ever before in his existence, he didn't want to give into unconsciousness again. His angry growls caught everyone's attention as the Rocket agents that were taking him prisoner were harshly thrown several feet away. "Don't let him escape!" Giovanni ordered.
The Rockets that had gathered released their pokemon in a bright display of power. Several different elements crashed against the rampaging mutant, fire, electricity, poison, water, ice, beams of light and darkness. Yet nothing stopped him as he struggled against the elements, breaking free of the nets that were shot at him from bazookas. In the middle of the chaos, number ten spotted his genetic twin. No longer afraid, the mutant ran towards Comet filled with hatred and jealousy. Comet didn't try to step out of the creature's path, instead ready to put up a fight, however, Zoroark jumped in front of him.
Number ten paused and stared at the mysterious pokemon at the same time that Luke and Binks arrived. "Don't be so hasty, Comet," Binks advised, "a human cannot fight a monster alone, being human is both our greatest strength and our greatest weakness."
Luke observed the mutant, he immediately saw the resemblance between him and Comet, "is it like really like our choice..." to say who is human and who is not? He didn't finish his question.
Among the attacks, the chaos, the confusion and the tension, Zoroark stepped forward and in a fast, nearly imperceptible movement, she snatched the mutant by the throat, squeezing him tightly. Seeing their target immobilized, the Rocket pokemon got ready to launch what they hoped was the final attack combining their power. "Wait," They paused upon their leader's voice, "capture number ten, but don't hit Zoroark." He voiced what Delia, Ash and several others would have spoken in seconds had he not given the order first.
Casting one last glance in Binks' direction, Zoroark disappeared; she vanished into thin air, teleporting the mutant away with her. No one was expecting her to do that. The chaos seemed to be over for the time being, but it left behind a feeling of approaching danger and confusing helplessness.
xoxox xox xoxox
For the next few days, nothing was known of the whereabouts of number ten and Zoroark. Binks insisted that Zoroark was the key to ending the new epidemic that affected pokemon. "First you said the cure was with Aayla and now this?" Giovanni clearly had no more patience left for Binks as the group headed away from the train and back to the Viridian Headquarters after their encounter with number ten.
"Zoroark is Aayla," Delia finally stated after a long silence with more certainty than she herself thought possible. "When she healed me I could feel it, she's the same person." Her memories went back to an old program she watched years ago late into the night when she couldn't sleep. Ash had just left in his journey and she had not yet met Mimey. It was a rerun of an old unsolved mysteries show.
That particular episode spoke of a strange creature that resembled both a human and a pokemon, being spotted in several locations at different times. First it was Cinnabar Island, then the area near Fuchsia City. At later dates other locations were mentioned, but the so called evidence was extremely blurry at best. Only the enthusiasts that were obsessed with proving the existence of the mythological part human and part pokemon creatures known as gijinka paid serious attention to such findings. It made Delia wonder if the rumored gijinka was Aayla during the time when she was undergoing her transformation.
Needless to say, Ash and Misty, who had returned to the Viridian gym with Giovanni and Delia, understood little about what was going on, though Ash remembered his mother mentioning Aayla in her stories of the past. Little was explained other than the possibility of Aayla being Zoroark. It was incredible, but with all the unbelievable things that Ash and Misty had seen in their journey, they took the prospect with an open mind. Jessie and James were given some additional instructions to stay alert and sent on their way back to Saffron City for the time being.
Ash and Misty remained in the above ground guest area of the Viridian Gym, while below ground the scientist ran around trying to figure out how to more efficiently fight the illness. Their studies and research had been going on for quite some time, but had so far yielded no definite results. Giovanni was informed about the capture of number three, which remained a secret from most others except Delia and a select few Rocket agents, including Comet and Pixel. Though the doctors in service of Team Rocket tried to keep him alive for research, number three's body had already aged too much, too fast, and could never recover. With his passing, another dark secret of Team Rocket died.
xoxox xox xoxox
The overall atmosphere settled into routine uncertainty, yet there was a certain frightening calm to it. The world seemed to be quiet, but not a peaceful quiet, it was more so similar to the silence of death. It was not the relief of a solution, but the tranquility of resignation. The feeling was not shared by everyone, certainly not by Ash. On a quiet fall afternoon, as the change in seasons began to truly be felt, Ash sat on the edge of the bed in a guest room at the Viridian gym, watching Misty sleep. She had not gone back to Cerulean City, as it was her sisters' and Brock's insistence. She wanted to go and help take care of the pokemon, but dared not risk infecting those that had a chance of escaping from the illness in her current team.
With Givan and Dia gone, so was their influence, thus the cure that could spread much like a virus, was no longer there. As for Aayla's version of the cure, though more powerful, it didn't spread by itself in its current state. Furthermore, Aayla could not muster the energy to call upon her healing powers more than a few times every day. Wherever she may be, as her whereabouts were still unknown, there currently wasn't a lot she could do.
Ash gently brushed a strand of red hair away from Misty's face, softly tracing the line of moisture left by her unconscious worried tears. Regardless of how much power and influence Team Rocket had, what good was it if they couldn't save the pokemon? Plus there was still so much he didn't understand. There were so many missing pieces of the puzzle that he realized he couldn't yet begin to reach a conclusion about what the final picture would be like. He looked at Pikachu and nodded, prompting the yellow pokemon to jump on his shoulders as he left the room. Misty's sleep had been quite uneasy and she was overdue for that afternoon nap. It was her choice not to speak of the situation in Cerulean City to anyone except Ash. She thought it would only bring worries that could not be solved. Everyone already knew how bad the situation was, pointing out that her family was so directly involved in it would only make things worse and summon stress that would not help the situation.
Ash made his way around the upper floor of the gym, hearing his mother's voice down the hall. She held a little black cell phone with a red R as she spoke. "Please try your best there. The communication channels have been set so you can share results with the personnel over here. Let's hope a cure is discovered soon." She must be talking to Professor Oak or Gary, Ash concluded.
Binks, that thin scientist from Team Rocket had gone to Pallet Town. The minds of Samuel and Gary Oak were added to the research team. Though they would not work side by side with the Rocket scientists aside from Binks, the laboratories would be in constant communication sharing results. It was done in hopes that the comparison of two separate and diverse investigations would reveal something that either one alone could not.
After ending her call, Delia noticed Ash standing quietly in the hallway with a somewhat lost expression. "Ash? Are you okay?" She knew he wasn't, no one was feeling okay, but she needed to know how he was handling everything. She thought he would be resting with Misty for a while longer.
"As okay as I could be," Ash honestly replied, "Misty fell asleep, she's exhausted. I've been hearing rumors and news about this now and then for a while," he was referring to the new epidemic. "We never really talked about it much, there was a lot going on and it was such a sad topic. Not talking about it doesn't make it go away. It's ironic when we think that bad things only happen to other people. They could be good people and it could be very sad, but it's different when it hits so close to home, when it happens to someone dear."
"Ash..." Delia hugged her son with one arm, holding her baby Swablu in the other. "Never lose hope, that's been life's biggest lesson to me. Never ever lose hope no matter how bad things may look."
Ash leaned into his mother and allowed her to console him like when he was a small child. She gently caressed his wild dark hair. "It's hard to wait. If I could do something I could at least be kept busy with trying. It's strange, everything is so quiet, but it's not calm, it's..." it's dead, "it's as if everyone is losing hope, I won't..."
"That's right, we need to stay strong," Delia encouraged. She read something in her son's eyes, a mix of curiosity and uncertainty. "Were you looking for your father?"
Ash nodded, "things have gotten so busy that we haven't had the chance to talk more than a little. I understand and I'm glad Team Rocket is doing something about this. I just wish I could help the situation too."
As Delia and Ash were talking, Giovanni appeared at the end of the hallway, heading towards his gym office on the other side. Delia, who was facing in his direction, saw him first. With a few seconds of eye contact she seemed to convey a message that a thousand words could not. "We will all do anything we can," her words were left ambiguous, yet carried a lot of meaning that left room for thought. That was what not losing hope was about, to do all that one could. "It's Swablu's snack time now," with those words, Delia excused herself, giving the father and son time to talk. "Do you want to come too, Pikachu?"
"Pika," the loyal electric companion nudged Ash, who petted his soft yellow fur. He then jumped on Delia's shoulder and left with her and Swablu.
As if following a silent agreement, Ash and Giovanni walked to the office and sat down on the couch. It was the same place where Delia had sat when she returned after so many years. She had given him pieces of a confession and left Giovanni to come up with all sorts of wild theories. Though that time wasn't too long ago in comparison to the distant past of their youth before Ash's birth, those years from long ago somehow felt closer than the time of confusion that happened more recently. He had began to trust Delia again at some point, just like before, or perhaps he gave into the knowledge that deep down he might have never been able to truly forget her. They were together again, but like many times before, new challenges stood in front of them.
There was also the uncertainty and curiosity of Ash. The young man shifted in his seat and observed the office, taking in every tiny detail of it, as if he were trying to memorize it. Giovanni suddenly got up, which made Ash's eyes go from exploring the office, to focus on his father. "Are you busy?"
Giovanni was reminded about how Delia asked him if he was busy. Even if she had things to say, even if she wanted to spend time with him, she would still often first ask if he was busy. "I'm always busy, but you can say what's on your mind." He opened up a tall drawer that looked as if it could contain an assortment of folders. In truth, papers had become rare over the years as technology grew and Giovanni's business ventures became further digitalized. The Viridian gym leader took a red item out of the otherwise empty drawer. The item was not immediately noticed by Ash, the only other current occupant of the office.
Ash considered his words. He knew he wanted to speak to his father, but had so many questions that his thoughts jumbled up into a mess that couldn't be translated into words. He stared at the floor in intense concentration. His train of thought came to a full stop when something was placed upon his head. From the corner of his eyes, he saw Giovanni take a seat on the couch next to him again. Ash almost reluctantly reached for the item on his head and brought it into his view. He smiled at the familiar old red material with white in the front and the old Pokemon League symbol, which had been since upgraded over the years. He found the will to smile sincerely once more and saw immeasurable hope in that small detail, "thank you."
Giovanni couldn't help it but to find a certain fondness in the scene. "You really are a lot like Delia; the smallest things seem to cause such a big change."
"You kept my hat safe for me; you took care of something that was important for me even if I know you don't really like it all that much. I'm happy because that means you thought of me," Ash returned the precious hat to his head. He was feeling comfortable, as if it had an almost magical effect over him. He leaned back on the couch and let out a breath, closing his eyes for a moment. "I just remembered, I haven't thanked you for the car yet, it's really cool. The design is different from other cars I've seen. It's almost like it could be a secret spy's car in a movie."
"Almost," Giovanni agreed, "but your mother would disapprove of I had left the missiles in it, so I had those removed. The mechanism is still there, just without the ammo."
Ash paused, examining Giovanni's expression. The young man blinked twice before his surprised uncertainty turned to knowing amusement. "Can we load it up with fireworks?"
"That's an option," Giovanni agreed, though he knew there were other more important things that Ash wanted to talk about. He seemed to be enjoying the small talk, but that would only cause him to be distracted and not say what he truly meant to say. Ash would leave it for later like Delia or just bottle it up like him. "What was it that you wanted to tell me before?"
"A lot, but at the same time no specific thing," Ash confessed. "I guess I just want to know more. I got to know you as the gym leader first, then as the secret leader of Team Rocket. Both are only a portion of who you are and there's a lot more I still don't know; I can sense it. I feel it, a strong ambition it's something..." Ash paused, looking into his father's eyes wondering if he should go on. Giovanni nodded, prompting him to continue, "it's something mom told me to watch out for. I don't know why I didn't sense it before. Maybe I focused so much on the part of you that you were showing, the part I wanted to see more of, that I missed all your other aspects. Or maybe... maybe it all depends on which part is directed to whom."
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Pokemon.