Categories > Anime/Manga > Pokemon > Awakening

Part 9

by Milia 0 reviews

Category: Pokemon - Rating: PG-13 - Genres:  - Published: 2014-03-13 - 17798 words


Chapter 25: At The Gala

Ashimi slowly woke up to find herself in a hospital room. "Should have called for backup, princess." Laiki spoke in a sing-song voice, not wanting to greet Ashimi in a gloomy way. "Comet and Pixel brought you here."

"Is everyone okay?" Ashimi asked tiredly.

"Ah... Well..." Laiki decided to start with the good news and just roll from there. "The pokemon are all alright, you'll be just fine too. Jonathan, Jessie, James, Dorme and Volt are fine. James' parents had to be given a little extra medical attention, but they'll fully recover."

"Zero," Ashimi sat up on the bed in alarm. "Where's Zero? What happened to him?"

Laiki let out a breath, there was just no avoiding this. "Zero digitalized himself to stop the radio tower's security system. He wasn't meant to ever re-digitalize because of all the bugs in his system. Pixel managed to retrieve him from the tower's servers, but he's not functioning properly. She's trying to fix him."

"It won't be that easy," Ashimi worried. "Zero isn't just a computer program anymore." She only hoped that there was even a little of his aura left, that the reason why she felt as if it had disappeared was because she was too tired to sense it. "Zero... I guess there's nothing more to do than hope for the best, I'll try to think optimistically." She realized that there was one person Laiki didn't mention. "What about Janebelle?"

"She didn't make it, but wasn't she the enemy?" Laiki pointed out, that made it all better from her point of view. To her, a loss was only a loss if she actually cared or was in some way affected.

"Yeah, but..." Ashimi sighed and let herself fall back into the pillow. "I guess she got her wish, it's still very sad though. She lived a hard life."

"Life is what you make of it," Laiki stood up from her bed-side chair. "I'll send a nurse over to run some tests and see if you can be on your way, no need to keep you here longer than necessary, or princey might hear about it and get worried." She referred to Ash, whom she called the prince of Team Rocket, as Giovanni was still king.

xoxox xox xoxox

After the group was allowed out of the hospital, James Sr. and Elizabeth excused the delay for the party and threw it anyway. They were still a bit scared of Jonathan, even if he wasn't serious in his threats. Ashimi decided to remain positive and hope that Zero could be restored. He had been taken back to the Viridian Rocket headquarters, Nidoran went along with Pixel.

It was the night of the gala, and Ashimi had been left with no choice except to hand over her pokeballs at the pokemon center with the promise of picking up her pokemon after the party. Of course, those were only empty pokeballs she handed over and she took hers hidden in her bag. She managed to keep them hidden thus far, but now that she was almost done getting ready, she wasn't sure how she would continue to hide them. She was in the bathroom of a fancy hotel room, as the Kojiros had insisted that the guests should not stay in the pokemon center to get ready, because the pokemon center was, as the name suggested, a place for pokemon and not for proper ladies and gentlemen. Dorme had gone over to her room to offer her assistance with her makeup and only a closed polished wood door separated the two girls. Ashimi examined her dress.

The red fabric of the skirt was too long, though Dorme insisted that it would be just right with her heals on, heals that Ashimi wasn't sure she could balance herself on. Yet Dorme insisted that they had to wear women's dresses not girls' dresses. Ashimi wasn't sure why she let Dorme talk her into this. Yet the most important issue at hand was not the length of the dress, but the fact that it clung to her body and left little room to hide the pokeballs. She wished she had one of those pokeball leg straps so she could hide the capsules under the flowing skirt, the only part of the dress that had a good amount of room. Sadly, she had misplaced her strap and didn't have any time left to find it, or buy a new one. She sighed, reduced the capsules to their smallest size and stuffed the six pokeballs down the top of her dress, hoping no one would notice them. At least the built in corset of the dress, seemed to be enough to hide the individual shapes of the pokeballs.

Ashimi exited the bathroom, still barefoot, holding up her skirt so she wouldn't trip on it. "I'm ready for the face paint," she announced.

"Makeup," Dorme corrected. She gave Ashimi a critical look, then let out a humorous little laugh. "You didn't have to go all out with the tissues, the design of the dress was favorable by itself, but you went through the trouble, so I guess it's okay. Though it's a bit too sudden a change."

"What are you talking about?" Ashimi inquired in genuine confusion, while trying to stay still for Dorme to apply eye shadow.

The older girl rolled her eyes. "Ashimi, please, I know you stuffed tissues into your top."

"No, I didn't-" Ashimi stopped herself in refuting the ridiculous assumption. She did stuff something into the top of her dress, but it wasn't tissues. "I mean... I um... wanted to look... like a real woman?" She offered unsure.

"Understandable," thankfully, Dorme didn't make a fuss about it and didn't question how out of character her assumption sounded for Ashimi.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, at the lobby, Jonathan was becoming frustrated with the game of Battle Zone he was playing on his phone against Volt. The goal of the game was to either capture the enemy base camp or defeat all the enemy units on a map. Each player had an army of pokemon as well as tanks and other weaponry at their disposal. The units could move around the map at a set pace, in whatever pattern the player decided, in groups or separately. Each player only saw their own units, giving the game a sort of Battle Ship style. The camp's location was set at the start and it could not be moved. Naturally, it was a smart move to leave some units behind to protect it, in case the opponent discovered its location. The camp marked the starting point of the units' march as they searched the map for the rival's resources. "What? No way! How do you keep finding my camp, do you have cheat codes or something?"

"I just have a soldier's instinct," Volt proudly declared. "Besides, you always put your camp in a corner or right in the middle of the map, so there are only five places where it could be. All I have to do is send out five scouts and send all my troops to the location of the one that spots your camp. You need to work on your war tactics, soldier!"

"One more round!" Jonathan requested, though just as easily, Volt reached his camp and destroyed it.

"You were desperate to locate my camp and sent out too many units to scout, so your camp was left unprotected," Volt pointed out.

"It wasn't in the corner or the middle this time!" Jonathan defended, claiming what little credit he could grasp.

"No, but it was right on the map's limit. You put it there thinking I would have to march a longer distance, but you forgot that my camp wouldn't necessarily be on the opposite end of the map, neighbor," Volt grinned victoriously.

"Neighbor? You mean your camp was right next to mine? But I sent scouts and didn't find any defenses!" Jonathan pouted.

"My defenses were inside the camp not around it. I know that if you found my camp you'd call back all your units to take it, but since you had sent them in different directions to search for the camp, they would all get there at intervals and the units stationed at the camp would be enough to defeat your soldiers as they came. You really need to learn how to properly organize a battalion," Volt instructed.

Jonathan leaned back on the couch at the fancy hotel lobby, "I give up. You're better at Battle Zone... but I'm better at real battles."

"I must disagree, on my honor as a gym leader, I insist that I am better at pokemon battles!" Volt argued.

"Want to find out?" Jonathan challenged.

"You're on!" Volt agreed.

A tense silence hung in the air, until Jonathan spoke once more, "but we left all our pokemon at the pokemon center, didn't we?"

"Yes we did," Volt nodded.

Jessie and James arrived at the lobby, along with James Sr. and Elizabeth, they were all dressed up for the event. "Johnny, could you tell them to stop cowering, it's kind of..."

James was interrupted by Jessie, "annoying!" She finished for him. Her dress was wedding style, as they were supposed to get remarried for the sake of the Kojiros keeping their promise of celebrating a wedding.

"Grandma, grandpa, you can stop cowering now, I won't kill you, I promise, I was only kidding anyway," Jonathan assured. The elderly couple looked unsure, but finally decided to settle for thanking him for his endless mercy. "Do I really look that scary when I'm mad?"

"I think you look adorable," Jessie squealed, though she was his mother, so she might be a bit biased about it.

James smiled, "you remind me of myself when I was your age."

Jessie rolled her eyes, "yeah, only with a whole lot more guts." James pouted and gave her a look like a sad Growlithe puppy in the rain. "But you were, and still are, adorable," she amended.

"Are we ready to go?" James Sr. asked unsure.

"Ashimi and Dorme are still upstairs, but they should be here soon," or at least Jonathan hoped they got there at some point in the near future.

"What's taking them so long?" Volt wondered impatiently.

"You must never rush a lady," Jessie pointed out.

Elizabeth gasped, as if she had heard something shocking, which made everyone's eyes land on her. "I agree," she voiced in surprise. She composed herself and explained, "I didn't think I would actually agree with anything that a delinquent peasant would say."

"What did you call me!?" Jessie growled, her hands reaching for her mother-in-law's throat.

Elizabeth squeaked and hid behind her husband, who could only tremble as he recalled, "we left Alice at the pokemon center..."

James held back his wife and tried desperately to calm her rage. His mother muttering something about an inherited killer instinct wasn't helping. "Jessie, honey, why don't we go ahead to the limo and have some drinks?"

"Fine," Jessie finally calmed down at least enough to walk away from the scene, dragging James along by the arm. "If I'm going to get through this night without ripping someone's head off, they better have some strong drinks." Elizabeth fainted. James Sr. helped his unconscious wife onto the couch at the lobby, picking up the fancy fan that had slipped out of her hand and fallen to the floor. He fanned her with it for a few seconds until she woke up and composed herself. Then they left to wait at the limo, claiming they could both use some wine. It didn't sound like either party was looking forward to putting up with the other in a sober state of mind that night.

Ashimi and Dorme finally made their way down the stairs, arm in arm, because Ashimi couldn't make it down the stairs in her heals without holding on to something. For all the fuss Dorme made about being seen in her dress for the first time, she wasn't actually paying attention to anyone's reactions. Instead she was focused on her conversation with Ashimi about how cute Zero would look in a tuxedo and about how much they wished he could have been there. "I know what you mean," Ashimi agreed. "He would have looked so cute in a tux with that black piplup gijinka hat we got him."

The girls continued with their conversation, laughing and giggling, making a bee line for the front entrance where the limo was parked, seemingly oblivious to the two pairs of eyes that followed their every move. "They..." Volt began, a light blush creeping over his face. "Look prettier than I expected."

"Yeah," Jonathan agreed, sporting a similar expression. After a silent moment, the boys let out a unanimous sigh, "they completely ignored us, didn't they?"

"Yes they did," Volt undoubtedly agreed.

"Johnny! Volt! Time to go!" Jessie loudly called out to them from the limo and they hurried to get on. Both Elizabeth and James Sr. seemed horrified by the loud volume of her voice.

With the last two passengers in the limousine, the vehicle began to move towards the site of the grand gala. It was then that the conversation between Dorme and Ashimi died down, as Ashimi occupied herself with the tiny gourmet cookies available to snack on. Dorme couldn't shake the feeling that she had forgotten something and checked to make sure she had both her earrings on and the rest of the jewelry she intended to wear. She examined her lavender manicure and smoothed her deep purple dress before the answer was revealed to her, sitting in the very same vehicle. "Johnny! Volt!" She exclaimed, truly seeing them for the first time. The two boys pouted and pointedly ignored her, causing the blond to laugh nervously and gently elbow Ashimi.

"I know, I know, I'm not going to spill anything on the dress," Ashimi popped another cookie into her mouth and picked up a napkin, extending it over her lap to protect the red dress from any stray crumbs. "Better?" Dorme shook her head and pointed at the boys. "Oh... Hey guys, you look great!" Ashimi offered them a compliment, though they unanimously chose to ignore it because it didn't really feel much like a compliment if their mere existence went unnoticed until someone pointed it out to her. Ashimi shrugged and tossed another cookie in her mouth. "You gotta try these!"

Elizabeth sighed and downed another glass of wine, in the fastest way possible while still looking refined. She honestly had enough of unrefined barbaric women and girls for a life time. At least the boys were quiet. James Sr. offered her a comforting squeeze of the hand and reached over to refill her glass, but found that the bottle was gone. He spotted it in the hands of Jessie, who was drinking straight from it. Jessie finished what was left of the intoxicating beverage and set the empty bottle down, grinning in satisfaction at how wide open Elizabeth's eyes were. "My... wine..." Elizabeth gasped. It had been a particularly old and hard to get bottle, as most of those were purchased by Giovanni himself, though Elizabeth was sure he probably selfishly kept them stored in a basement somewhere or something because no one could possibly drink them all. Frowning deeply, she reached for another valuable bottle and began to chug it down in the most unladylike manner.

James Sr. gasped, realizing that his wife must have already had one too many cups of wine if she was behaving like this, "dear... please..." He was ignored. Taking it as a challenge, Jessie grabbed another bottle and began to drink while James looked increasingly frightened.

The limousine arrived at its destination and the occupants headed to the front entrance of the mansion. Because of the delay waiting for Dorme to finish her hair and makeup and do the same for Ashimi while fussing over the tiniest details, most of the guests were already at the mansion. A stage akin to a wedding alter was set up to be used later, while at the present time, the guests occupied themselves socializing and traveling from one snack table to another, hardly eating anything at all, like picky Butterfree in a field of flowers. A live orchestra was playing softly and a few couples were gently dancing to the tune of the classical ballroom music. Both Jessie and Elizabeth made a bee line to the bar with their respective husbands hurrying after them in damage control mode.

Dorme had decided that the boys would start paying attention to her as soon as they saw that she was the prettiest girl at the gala, and went ahead without them. Ashimi watched her go, realizing all too late that she would miss Dorme's help to make her way around. As Jonathan and Volt exited the limo, she called after them, "guys, wait! I really need your support!"

Ashimi sounded so desperate that neither of them could bring himself to abandon her. None the less, the request sounded odd to Jonathan, who knew her quite well. "I didn't think you'd be nervous about being here."

" I don't mean emotional support," Ashimi stumbled out of the white limo, holding on to Jonathan for support in an unexpected hug. Jonathan paused, gulped and attempted to steady her. It was silly that it was so embarrassing, given how familiar they were with each other, but tonight Ashimi didn't even look like her usual self, she looked like a fairytale princess. Ashimi balanced herself on her heals and linked her arm with Jonathan's, doing the same with Volt on her other side and hoping it was enough to get up the stairs and through the front door of the mansion without falling on her face. "Okay, let's go!" She tugged them forward and the trio went up to make their entrance.

Dorme had taken a moment to examine the atmosphere and was waiting for Jonathan to walk up to her and ask her to dance or something. In fact, she'd dance with Volt too if he asked, that would teach Jonathan to play hard to get, and besides, he was looking quite handsome tonight, they both were. Dorme's jaw dropped and a squeak of indignation got caught in the back of her throat when she saw Ashimi enter the party area arm in arm with both Jonathan and Volt, as if they were both her dates. She was saying something about food and directing them to one of the tables which held a variety of miniature desserts on tiny gold rimmed glass plates.

Dorme huffed and felt herself fume, she was too focused on her anger to notice the presence of another girl standing next to her. "She gets all the guys, eh? Neither of them are half bad."

"This makes me so mad!" Dorme grumbled before she stopped to think about who she could be talking to. She looked at the girl next to her and gasped in shock. "Daala?!" She paused and tilted her head examining the enemy's light blue dress. "I didn't think such a scruffy looking enemy could actually clean up like a lady."

Daala felt herself tense with anger at the comment, but forced herself not to blow her cover further. "I can say the same for you."

"Hmp!" Dorme tossed her hair and adopted a self-righteous pose. "I'm always a perfect lady."

"Unlike her," Daala pointed at Ashimi, who was devouring one mini dessert after another, never mind that pointing at people across a fancy ball room was not exactly lady-like either. "Actually, her escorts are not very gentlemanly either, look at the three of them eat!"

Dorme gasped and marched right over to the trio. She refused to let them look like fools in front of the enemy. "Stop it you three! Behave!" She shouted a little too loudly, drawing more attention than the eating did. "Don't you see that Daala is here and you're making her look good!"

Ashimi, Jonathan and Volt paused in their eating. "The vigilante thief?!" Volt exclaimed.

"How did she get in here? What about those two Conkeldurr holding the fancy gold plated pillars at the gate? Why didn't they stop her?"Jonathan questioned.

"She's all dressed up like a lady, so they probably didn't realize she wasn't supposed to be here," Dorme theorized. "With the party being delayed the Kojiros must have feared too few of the people they invited would actually show up and become lax about letting people in as long as they looked like they belong."

"Did she challenge you to a battle?" Ashimi eagerly asked.

"No, and it wouldn't matter anyway because we left our pokemon at the pokemon center, remember?" Dorme reminded.

"Yeah, that we did," Ashimi nodded mechanically. "So what did she want?"

"I... don't know," Dorme realized, she shrugged her shoulders and replied with the most logical reasoning that came to mind. "To cause trouble, I suppose."

"Where is she?" Jonathan looked through the crowd, but didn't see Daala anywhere.

Dorme looked to the spot where Daala was a second ago, but she was no longer there. "We lost her..."

"You mean you lost her, soldier," Volt complained.

"At least I spotted her!" Dorme argued.

"We better go look for her," Jonathan began the search. Agreeing with the fact that a vigilante and thief couldn't be left to run free at the wedding gala, Volt went off to search as well.

Ashimi held on to the table for balance. "I'll be on the lookout from here, since I can't really get around in these heals anyway."

Dorme sighed in exasperation and disappointment. "This is not how I imagined this night to be."

xoxox xox xoxox

In another area of the colossal ballroom, Giovanni made his way through the clusters of guests with Delia on his arm. Though everyone seemed all too happy to see them, he knew that they were terrified of him and jealous of Delia. If she didn't notice, or pretended not to notice, how green with envy people were of how gracefully she aged, Giovanni wasn't sure, but her cheer and positivity made them all the more bitter. The matter of the Kojiro wedding gala was supposed to be attended to by Domino's daughter, but the change of date gave Delia some extra time to convince Giovanni to go. It was neither his nor her first choice of a break, but from Delia's perspective, anything that got Giovanni out of the workaholic environment of his office was good enough.

Delia smiled with delight as she spotted someone she recognized. "Isn't that Surge's boy, over there next to the punch bowl?"

To call the towering General Electro a boy didn't seem fitting at all, but Delia always acted motherly to him, as if he was still a child. "Yes, I believe that's him." He wasn't there by requirement, as he had the night off, so Giovanni could only reach one conclusion. "He's probably here to try to pick up a rich girl."

Delia giggled. "But he's all alone. It seems all the young ladies are being shy. They must not want to approach him because he's a little rough around the edges." Most people would say that Electro, alias Thor, was rough all over rather than just around the edges, but Giovanni decided to humor Delia with a nod of agreement. She mused on the situation for a moment before deciding, "we should help him."

"Help him?" Giovanni was becoming curious, maybe the gala would be amusing after all. He wasn't even sure who exactly was supposed to get married, but he didn't really care. "How do you propose we do that?"

Delia thought about it for a moment until an idea hit her. "We should go talk to him. When people see that we're not afraid of him, they'll go talk to him too."

"I might scare them," Giovanni grinned, not at all disappointed by the possibility.

"Oh," Delia frowned a little. "I suppose that if they see you two talking, they might think you're planning an invasion or something."

"Not that there's anything left to invade, unless I invade my own territory, and that wouldn't really be called an invasion," Giovanni reminded.

"You're right, but it still wouldn't help Electro." Delia considered the options for a moment longer before suggesting another idea. "I know! If I dance with him, the girls will see he's not scary and he won't be short on dance partners for the entire night. You don't mind, do you?"

Giovanni grinned in amusement, the possibilities promised to be hilarious. He could imagine the towering general trying to dance with the delicate Delia. "Go right ahead."

Delia clapped her hands together in glee. "Thank you, Giovanni!" Then she went on her merry way towards Electro.

"This I have to see," Giovanni went off to find a good spot from where to watch.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Hello, Electro, how are you, sweetie?" Delia greeted with a smile, as if speaking to a small child.

"Lady Delia," Electro was visibly surprised at her presence. He knew that there would be someone there officially representing Team Rocket, but he had heard it was Dorme. "I'm fine," he replied a little stiffly. "I assume you're here with Giovanni?"

"Oh yes, he's right over..." Delia looked around but was unable to locate her husband. "It seems he has gone off somewhere."

"So, is there anything you need? Security detail maybe?" Electro asked.

"Not at all," Delia smiled sweetly. "I actually came over here to ask you to dance."

"Dance?" Electro was taken completely by surprise. "Ah... Well... Sure..." He couldn't very well refuse, but he was also terrified of somehow hurting her. She seemed to be so fragile in comparison to him and if she was hurt in any way he'd have the entire Rocket empire to deal with. Strong as he was, the general knew he couldn't possibly survive the full force of the entire Rocket military, he had trained them himself after all.

xoxox xox xoxox

Giovanni watched as Electro stiffly danced with Delia. He couldn't hear their conversation, but she was probably speaking to him as if he was a shy, socially awkward, adolescent boy. The Rocket boss was amused by the show until he heard a familiar voice calling out, "grandpa!"

Before he could stop to think of the consequences, Giovanni turned to look at the source of the voice and spotted Ashimi at a near empty sweet snacks table, waving him over. He hurried to her, "stop that, if you bring attention to yourself here-"

"Giovanni! So this is your granddaughter?"

"What a fine young lady!"

"Why she's lovely! You must introduce her to my son!"

The same people who were gossiping about the young girl in the red dress and calling her a savage glutton with no manners in their quiet whispers, were now just about ready to worship the ground she walked on.

Giovanni began trying to reply to each member of the crowd and laugh at all the right intervals. That lasted for a record breaking time of ten seconds before he recalled that he was the Rocket boss and he didn't have to humor all this gold digger hypocritical non-sense. "Move," he growled rudely. The crowd of aristocratic financial tycoons parted with nervous laughter and Giovanni escaped their entrapment with Ashimi in tow.

xoxox xox xoxox

Ash and Misty arrived at the gala, having been invited by Jessie as part of her plan to spice up the event by getting Ash to battle and make a big ruckus, he had a talent for it in the past years after all. They approached the bar where Jessie and James were at. "Sorry we're late, happy anniver-"

Before Misty could finish her sentence, James shook Ash by the shoulders, pleading and begging. "You have to help us! Jessie and mom got into a drinking contest and they're throwing things and refusing to stop!"

"Please, help us!" James Sr. begged as well. The elder and younger James appeared to have bonded over the rampages of their respective wives. "It's been years since she's done something like this, she hasn't been drunk since James was born. She quit to give him a good example, I didn't think she'd go back to her old ways after so many years. She's only ever had tiny sips of wine in moderation since then. I never could have guessed an extra glass of wine to relax would send her spiraling back to her old ways!" The old man cried.

"I didn't even know that story!" James exclaimed, tears streaming down his face.

"It was a shameful secret, oh the pain!" James Sr. and Jr. hugged each other and cried disconsolately.

"O-okay... I could try to help them clear their minds with the aura, maybe that will sober them up." Ash offered.

xoxox xox xoxox

A few feet away from the crowd, Giovanni let out a breath that was half relief and half annoyance. "We made it out, you can stop clinging to my arm now."

Embarrassed by how she blew her cover, Ashimi smiled sheepishly. At least these were not people that she would run into on a regular basis. "Actually, I can't walk on my own in these heals," she confessed, staring at the floor.

"If they're so troublesome, then why do you wear them?" Giovanni logically inquired.

"The dress is too long, and don't girls always wear heals for fancy parties like these anyway?" Ashimi looked up at her grandfather, then back to the floor upon seeing his disapproving expression.

Giovanni shook his head. "Do you think I was proper back there? Do you think I did what was expected in that situation?" Ashimi looked unsure of what to say and Giovanni continued. "We're Rockets, we don't conform to society, we rule over it."

Ashimi's eyes sparkled with admiration. "You're absolutely right!" She rebelliously ripped off her heals and threw them aside. "I'm going barefoot and if anyone has any problems with it, they can answer to my-"

Ashimi was going to say pokemon, but stopped when she saw Dorme rushing over, calling out, "boss!"

"Fists..." Ashimi finished.

Dorme had her eyes focused on the Rocket leader and her mind focused on the urgent message she had to deliver, so she didn't notice the shoes that lay in her path until she tripped over them and fell flat on her face at the Rocket boss' feet. Recognizing the girl who called out to him, Giovanni inquired, mentally preparing himself for the worse. "What did you do that was bad enough to make you beg for forgiveness on your hands and knees... And face?"

"Ow..." Dorme lifted her head off the floor and whined, "nothing, sir." She stood and examined what she tripped on, her eyes wide in recognition. "You took off your heals?" She gaped at Ashimi as if she had committed a terrible crime. "No matter how tiring it may be, a lady is not supposed to be barefoot in public! A lady's feet are very delicate!" She lectured, so absorbed in her indignation that she completely forgot about Giovanni.

"But you're so good at kicking, you can kick down doors and everything. How can your feet be delicate?" Ashimi shot back.

Dorme gasped and looked dismayed. "That is... That is not the point!"

"I'm a Rocket!" Ashimi proudly declared, "I don't conform to society, I rule over it!"

Giovanni looked proud at Ashimi's declaration and Dorme looked aghast. The blond lowered her head, fists clenched at her sides, body shaking as if she was a time bomb waiting to explode. For a second there Ashimi thought Dorme would punch her, consequences be damned, but instead, she ripped off her high heals and threw them behind her. She felt like she had an epiphany, that badass girls are better than proper ladies anyway. Dorme then turned to Giovanni and saluted like a soldier. "There is an enemy of Team Rocket in our midst, but it is of no concern, I will apprehend her myself!" Dorme rushed off to her mission, realized she would probably need some pokemon power and lifted her skirt to pull a pokeball off the strap on her thigh. A young man whistled as she released Hitmonlee. She walked right up to him, punched him in the face and sent him crashing to the floor with a broken nose. The crowd panicked and stepped aside to grant her passage as she and her pokemon dashed off.

"That pokeball leg strap," Ashimi glared after Dorme. "It's mine! Dorme! I was looking for that! What ever happen to leaving the pokemon at the pokemon center?!" She ran off in pursuit of the other girl and tripped over her long skirt. "Furball, I choose you! Slice this stupid dress down to size!" The feline cut the bottom portion of the skirt to make it shorter and easier to run in, then followed after his trainer as she rushed away.

Giovanni stood there, staring after them, until Delia joined him. She had finished her dance with Electro and left him with a few words of encouragement. "Was that Ashimi? She's so lively, reminds me of Ash at that age." She smiled sweetly as if it was all harmless fun.

xoxox xox xoxox

Ash took tiny sips of his wine to numb the pain of his aching head while Misty tried to console him. None other than Surge had joined them at the bar and he was still laughing. "I never knew Jessie was a master of the drunken fist," Surge joked. His wife was off in Hoenn on official business and he didn't feel like staying at the gym, so he went out without any real plans and ended up there. His military apparel stood out among the tuxedos and ball-gowns, but he was Surge, and no one dared to question his attire. He was glad to be there, the amusement he had gotten so far made it well worth it.

xoxox xox xoxox

Daala bravely, or foolishly, walked up to Electro and glared hateful daggers at him. He gave her a look that would make most people burst into terrified tears, but she remained unfazed. She had heard Jaina, or rather Janebelle died in an murder-suicide attempt that turned out to be only a suicide as far as she knew, albeit she had not seen the younger Rocket boy with the blue and orange hair lately. Daala had confronted Jessiebelle about the death of her friend, and was surprised by what happened, though she couldn't say it was not deserved.

After a staring contest with Electro that lasted several seconds, Daala stomped on his foot with her heal, catching his pinkie toe, then she ran away. Electro hollered in pain, hopped on one foot, then caught himself and roared like a beast. With a plethora of scathing expletives, he rampaged to give chase.

Jonathan and Volt witnessed the event, unnoticed by Electro. "I think I can respect her after all," Volt declared with admiration.

"If she actually has the guts to face Thor, she's worthy of admiration. It would be awesome if she joined Team Rocket," Jonathan agreed. "Thor is so..."

"I know! And he's so..." Albeit neither Volt or Jonathan finished their sentences, the two boys appeared to be perfectly capable of understanding each other. Their eyes shown with the bond of a true friendship based on their mutual dislike for general Electro. They hurried after Daala and her furious pursuer to witness the show.

Daala ducked under a long narrow table. She had no problems fitting through, but Electro's broad shoulders couldn't get through the space between the table's legs. He lifted the table in a furious rampage and threw it across the room as if it weight nothing at all.

Dorme, whose dress was now in a similar state to Ashimi's, saw Daala and ordered Hitmonlee on the attack. "Hi jump kick!" Daala ducked and the fighter pokemon leapt over her, his foot connecting with Electro instead. Dorme squeaked in fright, recalled her pokemon and dashed away while Electro took to chasing her instead of Daala. Spotting Ashimi ahead, Dorme grabbed her wrist and pulled her along, too panicked to question Furball's presence. "Run for your life!"

"What are we running from?" Ashimi demanded to know.

"Thor, duh!" Dorme shouted in terror filled exasperation.

"When I get my hands on you, I'll make you train until your muscles turn to dust!" Electro shouted. "All of you!"

Jonathan and Volt realized they had been seen and included in the threat. They took off running along with the girls, complaining in a chorus, "we didn't do anything!" Yet they knew it was useless to try to reason with Electro when he was angry.

"Let me go! Rockets don't run away! Real Rockets fight!" Ashimi shouted.

"Sorry Ashy, this is for your own good!" Jonathan picked her up and kept running.

"Put me down! We have to fight!" Ashimi argued.

"There's the boss!" Dorme spotted Giovanni with Delia.

"Sanctuary!" Everyone except Ashimi pleaded, as they took cover behind Giovanni. The Rocket boss sighed, people used to run away in fear of him and now they flocked to him for protection. How the times had changed.

Jonathan put the fuming Ashimi down, unaware that she was about to blow up like a bomb. "Poor dears, you look terrified!" Delia showed them compassion, which made Jonathan, Volt and Dorme surround her and cling to her skirts like frightened toddlers.

The loud roar of Electro was heard as he caught up to them. Ashimi had enough, she called out the rest of her pokemon. "Everyone, attack!"

xoxox xox xoxox

Later, Giovanni, Delia, Ash, Misty, Jessie, James, James Sr., Elizabeth, Surge, Ashimi, Jonathan, Dorme and Volt stood in front of the demolished mansion ruins. Daala had disappeared, both Elizabeth and Jessie were fast asleep, several of the guests were sent blasting off, and there was little to salvage of the once majestic mansion.

Electro emerged from the rubble and approached the group. Before he could make any threats, Surge walked over to him and gave him a pat on the back. "That was some party, eh?" He laughed loudly.

There were only two people in the world that Electro feared, Giovanni for obvious reasons, and his father, for reasons so deep and mysterious that Electro himself couldn't explain them. "Yeah..." The general felt he had no choice but to agree and let his rampage die down for the time being, but he would not forget it.

Surge went over to James Sr. and shook his hand, "you sure know how to celebrate!" He looked over at Giovanni, who appeared to be amused. "Are they our allies or what?"

"Yes, they are," Giovanni agreed. "I did enjoy the evening." It was quite a surprise to find out that James' lastname being Kojiro was more than just a coincidence like everyone assumed. James Sr. struggled to find a reply, but instead he fainted. The younger James caught him and set him down to rest next to his mother and wife.

"So, Ashimi, what are you planning to do now?" Ash inquired, making light conversation as if all that had happened was perfectly normal.

"I think I'll go to Pallet Town, then move on to Viridian City on foot, so I can do some training along the way before I battle for my final badge," Ashimi decided.

"You better do a lot of training," Giovanni warned.

"I will!" Ashimi cheered. "For now, we should go back to the pokemon center so you guys can get your pokeballs." Jonathan and Volt grinned sheepishly before holding out their respective pokeballs, which they had secretly brought too.

To be Continued

xoxox xox xoxox


Chapter 26: Misleading Tactics

Somewhere hidden... "Isn't it better this way, Jessiebelle?" Tornado's yellow eyes glowed in the darkness. The woman offered no response. "I blame you for the girl's death and though you are hardly a replacement, you are at least more obedient." He was but a shadow of who he used to be, corrupted by grief and power for years. Jessiebelle still remained silent, her gaze lost. She didn't make a sound, she couldn't form any words or even thoughts of her own, for she was nothing but am empty shell, a vessel whose soul was so deeply entrapped that it was hardly there at all. He sensed the coming presence before Daala approached. "Did you enjoy the gala?" He inquired with sarcasm.

"Nothing of interest happened." She walked past him, not expecting any comments about her wrinkled dress or messy hair, which had been impeccable when she left earlier.

xoxox xox xoxox

A few days later... The afternoon sun shone over the expanse of the Oak land at Pallet Town. Ashimi, Jonathan, Dorme and Volt had released all their pokemon to play with the others that lived with Gary. The Dragonite Ashimi took from Janebelle was there as well, slowly adapting to a life that didn't require constant servitude. "Who do you think will win?" Ashimi asked the toddler sitting at the sidelines between her and Dorme.

The boy was dressed as a Squirtle, which looked absolutely adorable. He looked at her with big green eyes and tilted his head as if in thought and piped, "squirtle!" He was really getting into character.

"Squirtle, huh?" Ashimi looked back at the battle and nodded. "If you say so," never mind that neither combatant was actually a Squirtle. Dorme was watching the battle with such deep concentration that Ashimi wondered if something was wrong. "Dorme? Are you okay? You look like you have a headache."

"I don't have a headache," Dorme didn't take her eyes off the battle, she didn't even blink. "I'm just concerned. Foxtrot is Johnny's strongest pokemon as far as I know, though Nya has some weird power going on for her. His choice of sending Jolteon out to battle makes sense in that his opponents attacks would be less effective on a pokemon of the same type, but still..."

Ashimi laughed lightly, "you're over-thinking it. Let's just enjoy the match."

"How could you even say that? Johnny must defeat Volt and recruit him to Team Rocket!" Dorme dramatically declared.

"Recruiting him wasn't in the deal, and besides, I defeated Volt once before, so shouldn't that be enough to defend Team Rocket's name or whatever?" Ashimi reminded. "Now that I think about it, you have been inviting Volt to officially join really often lately. Why is that? Do you like him or something?"

Dorme sighed, "brutally honest, aren't you? No, that's not it, I still like Johnny best, I just thought that it would even things out if Volt was around, like a double date," she explained.

"Best?" Ashimi questioned the detail, though her question went unanswered.

The girls focused on the battle once more. Raichu's volt tackle just barely missed Jolteon as she dug to take cover underground. "This battle will be over soon!" Volt confidently declared.

"It looks like I have no choice but to use that..." Jonathan mused aloud. "It's a special power that Jolteon has, a mysterious secret power that I cannot hope to understand."

"You're bluffing!" Volt exclaimed.

Jonathan grinned, "not at all... Jolteon, do it!"

Jolteon looked at her trainer and brother, who sat beside him watching the battle. "Jolt jolt!"

Jonathan looked distressed, "what do you mean you can't do it?!" At least he had begun to better understand Jolteon and Vaporeon.

Jolteon let out a breath while Volt erupted in victorious laughter. She signaled to her brother and a short argument between the electric and water eeveelutions followed. Raichu had to pause and stare, because it sounded like Jolteon was asking her twin to attack her. Finally, Vaporeon attacked with a water gun. The move was unexpected and amused Volt further. "Stop it, Vaporeon! Not only is this cheating, but it's cheating against your own trainer!" Jonathan complained.

The water gun finally ceased and Vaporeon huffed, sounding angry over the argument he apparently lost. Jolteon was clean of all the dirt that previously clung to her. She relaxed her electricity, making her golden fur go from spiky to soft. "Looks like Jolteon's just about ready to give up!" Volt was about to sent Raichu to finish her off, but Jonathan's look of relief made him feel as if there was a trap awaiting.

"I get it now," Jonathan smiled. "Although I'm not sure if I should say it's cheating, since the attack is against my own pokemon. I guess I shouldn't have expected it to work so easily after all the digging. Okay, go for it Jolteon!"

"Go for what?" Volt questioned both curious and confused. Jolteon walked slowly and deliberately towards her opponent, her fur still soft, devoid of its usual static. "Be on your guard, Raichu, I think I know what she's trying to do! Jolteon relaxed her electricity so that if you shock her, her coat will absorb most of the hit, then she'll be close enough to attack you physically even while you're releasing your electricity!" That was the only theory that Volt could come up with. Yet he couldn't send Raichu on a physical attack, since Jolteon also had the option of re-spiking her fur and that would be painful. The Vermilion gym leader watched on in alert.

Jolteon continue her slow walk, then stopped a few feet away from Raichu. She yawned and stretched, then got comfortable on the grass, eyes half closed. "Is she using rest?" Ashimi wondered.

"No, that's not it, don't you see?" Dorme got all excited about what she hoped could turn the battle around.

"See what?" Ashimi blinked in confusion.

"You're such a child," Dorme teased.

"What?" Ashimi questioned, but received no answer.

Jolteon tossed her head back, her wet ears falling limp at the sides of her face. She looked right at Raichu and purred seductively. Volt was quite confused. If she dared to take a nap to try to recover her power, he could send Raichu to give her a rude awakening, but she was still very much awake, purring like a feline. "Raichu..." Volt wasn't sure what to tell his pokemon, he couldn't figure out this mysterious tactic. As if in a trance, Raichu approached Jolteon. "Raichu? What are you doing, soldier?" Despite being cautioned, Raichu continued on his way until he was right in front of Jolteon. Jolteon extended her paws as if to hug him and Raichu seemed ready to return the embrace.

Vaporeon had seen enough, his protectiveness took over and he attempted to interfere. Jonathan held him back by the tail. "Stop it, Vaporeon, you can't attack!" The water eeveelution tried to break free with a water gun, which left his trainer soaking wet. Jolteon went on the attack, biting and scratching Raichu, and Vaporeon finally seemed to calm down.

"Raichu! Defend yourself like a soldier, fight back!" Raichu couldn't quite get a hit in, he was fast and strong, but Jolteon ultimately had the speed advantage even if Raichu had more strength. Being attacked so viciously and continually, Raichu didn't have the opportunity to physically fight back and instead tried to break free of the situation with an electric attack. Jolteon's fur became spiky as it absorbed the static and voltage, then returned it point blank at Raichu, who was thrown back by the force of the hit. "Raichu!" The pokemon fell at Volt's feet and very slowly and painfully got up. "That's it, soldier, you're still in this!" Volt glared over at Jonathan, what kind of a secret power was that?"

"I told you, it's a mysterious secret power that not even I understand," Jonathan replied with the same explanation from before.

"What are you talking about?" Volt argued. "It's attraction, she's just being charming and brainwashing Raichu with her... strange female powers... Okay, I guess your description was pretty accurate," he finally agreed.

"You see, I told you!" Dorme bragged, "I so totally called it."

"You did?" Ashimi shrugged, seeing it as no big deal.

"Squirtle!" The toddler laughed.

"Let's finish this battle, Raichu, attack with everything you have, use-" Volt paused and watched his pokemon. "Raichu? What's wrong, soldier?" Raichu whimpered and ran back to his trainer. "Raichu! This is no time to cry, pull yourself together, soldier!"

"Oh oh... You hurt his feelings," Jonathan voiced. Jolteon shrugged as if claiming it wasn't her fault.

"I consider this cheating..." Volt grumbled in annoyance, as his pokemon continued to cry on his shoulder. "Besides, Vaporeon interfered, it might not have worked as well without that bath."

"I guess you have a point," Jonathan admitted. "Want to rest and start over?"

Raichu shook his head pleadingly and Volt frowned. "Pull yourself together, soldier!" Volt put him on the ground and pushed him forward.

"Stop it, Volt!" Dorme left the sidelines and marched right over to him. "Don't you see the poor dear is hurt? Johnny, I do hope you haven't been going around breaking hearts to teach Jolteon this trickery!" Dorme shouted angrily, then added in an inaudible whisper, "or heads will roll."

"What? No! That's Jolt's own natural talent!" Jonathan argued and Jolteon nodded proudly. "Besides, I only thought it would be a distraction, I didn't realize Raichu was so sensitive."

"Raichu is a soldier, he can take anything!" Volt's argument fell short as he noticed that Raichu had taken refuge in Dorme's arms and she was consoling him, talking to him as if he were a child. "Dorme... You're not helping Raichu toughen up. "

"You're being too hard on the poor dear," Dorme picked up Raichu and set him down next to Jolteon. "Now Jolteon, girls like us who have powerful gifts need to learn to use them wisely and in moderation."

"But you don't have any electric powers, do you?" Ashimi interrupted.

Dorme sighed, "how can she be so perceptive for everything else and be so clueless for this?" She asked no one in particular. At least Jolteon seemed to have gotten the message and appeared to be considering it. Dorme gave up on Ashimi and turned her attention back to the two electric pokemon. "Alright you two, shake paws and make friends, go on now." Jolt protested and Dorme looked at Jonathan pointedly.

"She just wants a poke-treat," he explained. "She won't do any tricks like handshakes or rolling over unless you pay her off."

"But I don't want a trick, I want them to be friends!" Dorme pouted. She pointed at Jonathan accusingly, "it's your fault for not teaching your pokemon to be mindful of other's feelings!"

"How was I supposed to know this would happen?" Jonathan tried to argue in return.

"Um, guys..." Ashimi pointed at the two electric pokemon. "I don't think they're listening anymore.

Jolteon was pulling on Raichu's ear, who seemed to be a little upset about it, but her actions didn't appear to be malicious. Vaporeon shot a water gun at Raichu and Jolteon scolded him then continued pulling Raichu away by the ear, while Foxtrot went over to calm Vaporeon and see if they could all make peace. "Look at that, they're already friends. See? Everything worked out in the end!" Jonathan smiled.

"Raichu getting his ear mutilated is a sign of friendship?" Volt couldn't quite believe it. "That Jolteon is a piece of work." A lavender ball of fur rolled down the hill at the bottom of which they stood. Nya looked up dizzily, went up the hill again, and rolled down again. "Your Purrloin is pretty peculiar as well..."

"Nya is... Honestly, I don't even know. I was thinking of getting her a full examination at headquarters," Jonathan admitted. "Since we're here and all, I might ask Gary to figure it out."

Volt sighed and watched Raichu run off to play with the three eeveelution siblings. "Deserter..."

"Give him a break, you're probably way too hard on him anyway," Dorme insisted.

"What about discipline!?" Volt countered.

"What about dango?" Ashimi suddenly interjected. Her question seemed to be so random that everyone looked at her. "We were going to eat the dango we got on the way as an afternoon snack, remember?" At the mention of food, Nya stopped playing and teleported, though no one knew to where.

"But the battle's not over!" Volt watched in horror as everyone followed Ashimi to the research lab to get a snack. "Such an undisciplined bunch they are, what a bad influence." He shook his head and remained still... but only for a few seconds. "Wait for me! I want some sweet dango too!"

xoxox xox xoxox

Soon the group settled outside to eat, but their snack time was interrupted when the sky was darkened by the shadow of a machine that could be described as a combination between a hovercraft and a helicopter. The blades were located under the vehicle, creating a strong wind below it. Jonathan stopped and stared at the machine. "That thing is so awesome!"

"The smooth black surface of the hover-copter had a large green T painted on it. "Check out that letter T, this thing isn't from Team Rocket!" Dorme pointed out.

"A T for Tornado?" Ashimi realized.

"We're right below the enemy, evasive actions!" Volt urged.

"Squirtle?" The small boy looked up at the older kids with curiosity.

"No worries, it's all under control," Ashimi smiled reassuringly. No sooner had the words left her mouth, the wind from the machine increased, lifting them into the air.

"If we get caught on those blades, we'll end up in pieces!" Dorme shrieked.

"Clefable, get us down!" Ashimi called out. The pink pokemon did her best to hold the group down with her telekinesis, but the wind was very strong.

"A slicing and dicing tornado machine, cool!" Jonathan cheered despite the obvious danger.

"This is no time to admire the enemy's resources, soldier!" Volt scolded.

"Pichu, Furball, thunder!" Ashimi went on the attack. The Pichu and the Meowth released their electricity together, but it was absorbed and the blade spun faster. Clefable's psychic grip could barely hold them away from the lethal sharp blades above.

"Nya, now would be a good time to teleport us out from under that thing!" Jonathan called upon his Purrloin, but received no answer. "Nya? Where are you?"

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, inside the laboratory... "What a peculiar Purrloin. I was quite surprised when you teleported like that. Here's some more dango to snack on, now sit still while I measure your brain waves." Gary adjusted the oversized helmet on the feline's head. "How strange, there's not a whole lot of brain activity when it comes to actual thought process, but there are signs of psychic power, I'm not sure what to make of it." He typed a few things into a computer that was connected with the helmet. Everything in the lab was very quiet, as the area was sound proof to help him concentrate on the research.

Both Gary and Nya remained completely unaware of the peril taking place right outside. 'Maybe I should get Ashimi and her friends some pizza, or burgers, or pizza burgers, or something later,' Gary mused. 'I'll tell them to deliver it at dinner time.' He wouldn't have been able to catch up on his research if they hadn't offered to take care of his young son for the afternoon. The boy's mother often worked late, which left the toddler in his father's care more often than not, given that his workplace and living area were in the same building, though that usually meant late nights trying to catch up with his research projects.

xoxox xox xoxox

Outside... "Chari, melt those blades!" The Charizard attempted to do so, but the flames were pushed back by the strong wind. "Wartortle, water gun!" Thankfully, the water pokemon managed to put out the flames before they hurt anyone. "Why is it that everything I try to do just makes things worse?" Ashimi grimaced. Clefable let out a sound of complaint, she couldn't hold them back any longer.

"This is our last chance soldiers, all together, on the attack!" Volt tried to rally the troops. Everyone called upon all their pokemon along with him and they all attacked at once. Ashimi's Pichu, Meowth, Zubat, Wartortle and Charizard, since Clefable was busy with defense, Jonathan's Flareon, Jolteon and Vaporeon, Dorme's Oddish, Hitmonlee and Pidgeotto, Volt's Raichu, Elekid, Magneton and two Electrode. The mix of different elements hit the blades above all at once, sparks flew at them, but they finally managed to overload the vehicle's defenses. The blades overheated and broke apart, the metal just barely missing the trainers and pokemon as they fell to the ground, becoming stabbed in the soil.

Long vine whips extended to the ground, with Daala sliding down on one and Jessiebelle on the other. After landing, Daala recalled her Venusaur from the overloading machine above into the safety of her pokeball. The hover-copter exploded, raining sparks and flaming metal all over the place. "There goes the payment I got for retrieving Johnny."

"You bought that with the money you got for my kidnapping?!" Jonathan fumed. He was also embarrassed, as he knew, though he didn't remember, about being carried around unconscious in his underwear until that creepy Machoke girl dressed him later. Looking at Daala in the face was no easy task.

"I got it at a garage sale in Saffron City," Daala kicked one of the metal pieces in frustration. "And it wasn't cheap!"

"I thought it looked familiar," Jonathan realized. "It must have been one of the Pikachu capture machines that was never used. You just repainted it, didn't you?"

"I covered up the ugly red R," Daala admitted.

"Pikachu capture machine? What are you going on about, soldier?" Volt interjected, confused. "And what's that about a red R? Was that thing originally Rocket technology?"

"Never mind the details!" Jonathan tried to drop the subject, though he would have to call his parents about selling that machine, he would have liked to keep it for himself. "So um... is everyone okay?" No one appeared to be too badly hurt, which was a relief. Gary's son even looked like he ended up having fun. "What are you doing here, Jessiebelle?" Jonathan finally asked.

"I must destroy you in the name of Tornado..." Jessiebelle was in a deep trance, her voice sounding like a monotone. She tossed out a pokeball, its red beam revealing a Florges. "Feel the power of my ultra expensive imported pokemon, granddaughter of Giovanni..."

"You sound like a bad commercial! Zubat, I choose you!" Ashimi didn't need to throw the pokeball since all her pokemon were already out anyway. Zubat seemed a bit surprised as he flew over. "C'mon pal, it's about time I sent you out to battle for something other than a training match! Use acrobatics!"

"Florges, petal blizzard..." Jessiebelle ordered. Zubat flew around the projectiles, rapidly approaching his opponent.

"Am I the only one that finds her monotone totally creepy?" Jonathan inquired.

"You're not alone," Dorme agree.

"Not me, I'm a brave soldier!" Volt crossed his arms in a prideful gesture and stood firm. Dorme picked up a feather her Pidgeotto had dropped in the earlier crisis and discreetly stood closer to Volt. While Volt was watching the battle, she tickled the back of his neck with the feather. Volt yelped and jumped in surprise, causing Dorme and Jonathan to burst out in a fit of laughter, while Ashimi was too focused on the battle to even notice. "I'm just... a little ticklish, that's all!" Volt pouted.

"Sure you are!" Dorme grinned teasingly.

Zubat reached Florges and when he was close enough, Ashimi put the next step of the plan into action. "poison fang!" The attack was a success, poisoning Florges. "That Florges is strong, but we can beat her!"

"Florges, petal dance..." Jessiebelle ordered.

"Zubat, don't stop moving, keep using acrobatics and super sonic!" Ashimi was feeling pretty confident, there was no way that she would be beaten by a pokemon that wasn't even trained by her opponent. Florges got confused and completely panicked. She didn't wait for Jessiebelle's next order and continued throwing petals in every direction. Both her opponent, the trainers and the audience were forced to take cover. "Zubat, fly high and take cover in the sky until she's tired out, I think you might have scared her a bit too much." Ashimi sounded amused. After a few more chaotic moments, Florges began to tire out and her petal dance attack slowed down. "Alright, Zubat, finish her with air slash!" Surrounded by light, Zubat dove. His speed increased as he approached Florges for the finishing blow, and by the time the attack was completed, Golbat had taken Zubat's place. "Evolution and victory! Awesome!"

"Florges, return..." Jessiebelle remained unfazed, as if she wasn't fully aware of the world around her. "Machoke..." She sent out her next pokemon, which turned out to be a familiar one.

Completely ignoring Jessiebelle, the Machoke ran across the designated battle area and trapped Jonathan in a bone crushing hug. "Alice... Can't breathe..."

"I told you not to use that one yet!" Daala scolded.

"Did you get her at the garage sale too?" Dorme asked in annoyance.

"No, I stole her from the Kojiros," Daala shamelessly admitted. "They were at the sale, whining about how unrefined it was. They apparently expected it to be like some kind of art auction for snobs. I'm not sure why they didn't just leave. I didn't feel good about doing business with Rockets so I had to steal something."

Jonathan really needed to talk to his parents about doing business with Daala. He hoped he could remember that even if he blacked out, because it felt like that would happen pretty soon if Alice didn't give him some room to breathe. "A-air..." His face was turning the same color as his hair.

"Hey Daala, when are you going to join in?" Ashimi asked impatiently.

"I don't want to interrupt, battle her first," Daala stood back and watched. "Oh and just so you know, your friend over there is dying."

Everyone looked at Jonathan who was blue in the face. Foxtrot went over to Alice and began an argument, though thankfully she was reasonable enough to let him breathe. She still held him like a plush toy though. "I'm not dead yet..." Jonathan gasped for breath. "The Tornado leader, Janebelle's father, he was the one who brainwashed Jessiebelle, wasn't he?"

"Yes, he blamed Janebelle's death on her and sentenced her to be executed," Daala revealed. A dramatic pause passed and she added, "she was supposed to be executed by Team Rocket after Ashimi's murder, but honestly, being brainwashed stupid as she is there's no way she could accomplish that, especially since she was already stupid to begin with."

"So you decided to help," Ashimi concluded. "Well it won't work!"

"Vileplume..." Jessiebelle sent out another pokemon. "Solar beam..."

"Get ready, Golbat!" Ashimi cautioned. The bat was prepared to dodge at any split-second, but no attack came.

"Solar beam..." Jessiebelle repeated. Vileplume walked up to her instead, speaking in her own language. Though the others couldn't understand her, it looked like she was trying to make Jessiebelle snap out of the hypnotism. "Solar beam..." Jessiebelle repeated again, but all she got was Vileplume's desperate voice in return. "Solar beam..." Jessiebelle continued to echo like a corrupt sound file.

"I can't watch this anymore..." Ashimi walked across the battle area and placed her palm on Jessiebelle's forehead, letting her energy flow into her. Jessiebelle made no attempts to stop her, not reacting at all, as if she didn't notice.

Surrounded by a soft glow, Jessiebelle closed her eyes. Vileplume watched in wonder as her trainer fell to her knees dizzily and finally came to. "What? Where... where am I? Vileplume? Did I fall asleep in the garden?"

"Nope..." Jessiebelle looked up at the voice to find Ashimi, she gasped and stood on shaky legs, staring in shock. "You were brainwashed by Tornado, you're in Pallet Town."

"That man..." Jessiebelle backed away, holding on to Vileplume, the only one of her pokemon that truly cared about her, the pokemon she had since she was a child. "He's after me now, he said such terrible things. He said Janebelle is dead, did he... did he kill her?"

"You idiot!" Daala interrupted in anger. "Janebelle killed herself and tried to take her would-be fiancé, his family and friends with her. But it failed and only she died. Yet the more I think about it, the more suspicious that sounds." She glared at the Rockets. "Why was it only Janebelle who died?"

"I've been thinking about that too," Ashimi admitted. "We all inhaled the poisonous gas, but we lived. She must have really wanted to die..."

"She wanted the filth," Daala pointed at Jonathan, "then she wanted death... It's better than being allied to the Rockets, but..."

"You're lying!" Jessiebelle shouted. "You're all lying! Janebelle can't be dead... I was frustrated because of all that happened in the past, but I never had any ill wishes for her, I just... I didn't want to... I had a reputation and... the scandal... I had to send her away, I thought it was best for both of us that way. I never wanted her to die!" Jessiebelle cried as she held onto Vileplume.

"It's too late to be sorry!" Everything was falling apart, not that Daala believe the plan could work after the vehicle was destroyed anyway. That machine was her only chance, and even that wasn't enough to overpower them. Daala released her Donphan and Houndoom, she whispered something to them and they went on the attack. Donphan rolled towards the group, sending them running to dodge and calling their pokemon to fight back. "Venusaur, earthquake!" Between Venusaur shaking things up and Donphan rolling, that was enough of a distraction for Houndoom to snatch Gary's young son and bring him back to Daala, holding him upside down by the tail of the Squirtle costume. Daala recalled her Donphan and Venusaur, then released her Rapidash. The sudden change made everyone turn their attention to her and notice the squirming boy she was holding.

"I thought you were watching him!" Ashimi, Jonathan, Dorme and Volt pointed at each other.

"I'll make you a deal, let me leave and you get the boy, swear it on your honor as an aura guardian, Ashimi," Daala offered.

"You know the legends? Fine, I have no choice, I swear..." Ashimi agreed. "But next time you won't escape!"

"Here you go," Daala put the boy down and he toddled over to Ashimi in a hurry. Then she recalled Houndoom and rode off on Rapidash towards the fence at the Oak land's limit. The unicorn majestically jumped over it, then they disappeared down the road leading out of Pallet Town.

"At least it's over," Dorme let out a breath. "What are we going to do with her?" She pointed at Jessiebelle.

"She looked pretty shaken, but she is not to be forgiven after all she did!" Volte replied, though Dorme had asked Jonathan.

Jonathan agreed, "what happened with Janebelle was in part her fault," he replied, still trapped in Alice's arms. "Janebelle was creepy and insane, but she didn't deserve such a sad end."

"But it's a lie!" Jessiebelle cried. "She must have gone back to him, back to Tornado..."

"Who is the man known as Tornado?" Ashimi demanded to know.

"Tatsu..." Jessiebelle whispered in a gasping breath, Tatsu Maki, once a humble psychic with a kind heart, albeit a poor peasant at best, but he wasn't malicious, despite his involvement with Team Rocket. They didn't want him though, they said his powers were weak and his kind heart even weaker. So I guess he got rid of his kindness..."

"Tatsu Maki..." Ashimi repeated. "Tell that to headquarters and don't tell them about Jessiebelle, say she's gone if they ask."

"What? Why?" Dorme was ready to send a message, she stopped and looked at Ashimi in surprise.

"Because we're going to let her go..." Ashimi glared at Jessiebelle, "leave..."

Jessiebelle wasn't sure what to say. She still didn't fully believe Janebelle was dead, but Vileplume was pulling her away. She decided to follow the advice of her loyal companion and headed for the front gates. She hurried down the path and saw a cafe not far away, which used to be managed by Delia in the past. She still owned it, but didn't work there anymore. Jessiebelle headed in that direction to call her driver to pick her up.

"Why did we let her go too?" Dorme asked somewhat annoyed. It was bad enough that Daala had escaped.

"As bait, if Tornado goes after her again, we'll catch him," Ashimi explained. "He might be smart enough not to fall for it, but we might as well give it a try. Tell Comet and he'll know who to recommend for the job."

"Gotcha!" Dorme prepared the message accordingly.

"Now that that's over, how about we battle, Volt? I did say I would battle you after you were done battling Johnny, and the dango was blown away, so we can't just go back to snacking. Clefable, do you want to battle next?" The pink pokemon shook her head and yawned, indicating that she would rather nap. "Aw c'mon, I know you have more endurance than that," Ashimi encouraged. Clefable shrugged, then lifted Volt's two Electrode and smashed them against each other with her telekinesis. The two pokemon were taken by surprise and exploded on impact, falling left and right, fainted. Clefable grinned in satisfaction as if asking if that was enough. "That was a fast victory, well done, Clefable," Ashimi commended.

Volt was having a hard time metaphorically picking up his jaw from the ground. "That's cheating! Why is it that no one is playing fair today?"

Ashimi shrugged, "two against one is not fair, but I'm not complaining," she joked.

"Celes... Rodes... You really need to learn not to blow up over everything," Volt sighed. He had nicknamed the pair to better distinguish them, as they were both Electrode, the female was Celes and the male was Rodes. Their names were based on the first and last four letters of their species with an added S in honor of his father, Surge.

"Weren't you in the Indigo League before? Did you make it all the way with just electric types?" Dorme asked curiously.

"No, I had other pokemon with me. My first was Pichu, my father's pokemon is his father," Volt explained.

"That's the same as my Pichu," Ashimi petted her loyal companion.

"He was a Pikachu by the time I went to the Indigo League. Magneton has been with me since those times too, I caught him as a Magnemite. I had other pokemon too, but I've always favored electric types. Even so, I had a balanced team for the league. It was close... But I only made it past the first two of the elite four. After that, my pokemon were so tired they couldn't make it past the third," Volt admitted. "I decided to become a gym leader afterwards, my pokemon knew that would happen sooner or later. I thanked them for their help and let them go. They still visit me at the gym every now and then, but they live as wild pokemon most of the time. I didn't want to keep them if I was going to follow the electric gym tradition and not really battle with them much, that's why I set them free, so they could get stronger on their own."

"Celes and Rodes are still relatively new to the team, I got them after my battle with Ashimi and trained them from Voltorb during the time we spent traveling separately. I already had Elekid when I became a gym leader, though that was after the Indigo League." Volt frowned for a moment without even noticing it. "He was my brother's pokemon. He had two Elekid that he made to battle each other. This Elekid's brother evolved into Electabuzz and Electro said I could have the other one. Then I decided that one day I would help Elekid become strong enough to beat his brother in battle and at the same time, I would defeat my brother too." Volt caught himself and fell silent, he had said too much and yet he didn't really feel like taking it back.

"Then let's do it!" Ashimi encouraged. "Electro probably went back to Viridian City, you should go challenge him!"

"I lost last time, it's not that simple," honestly, Volt didn't quite feel ready.

"Yes it is! You got all the way to the elite four in the Indigo League. Even if you don't have all the pokemon you had at the time, you can train pokemon very well and that proves it!" Ashimi insisted. "If you lose it's because of your own lack of confidence! Be brave and challenge your brother again!"

Volt was still feeling somewhat unsure, but he was not a coward. Ashimi was right, he wouldn't make any progress by avoiding the issue. "I will! I'll go to Viridian City and challenge him right now!"

"I should probably do some training while I'm at headquarters," Dorme mused aloud. "I want to keep getting the attention of the higher ups, maybe try to beat my record at the obstacle course. I'm aiming high after all." She looked at Jonathan, twitching a little at how the Machoke girl was still holding him. She wasn't about to delegate her matters of the heart to anyone, not even her own pokemon, but she knew she couldn't possibly beat a Machoke in hand to hand combat. If anything, she used the scene as a motivation to improve her combat skills. "Johnny, you should probably take a few fast training courses too, or they might sign you up for additional required training if they see you're slacking off."

"Extra training with Thor..." Jonathan shuddered. "Yeah, I think I'll do some training at HQ too."

"I'll catch up with you guys later. I want to walk to Viridian City on my own, like dad did years ago," Ashimi decided.

Gary stepped outside cheerfully, with Nya following him, she had been quite a fascinating research subject. "Everyone, I got you some... pizza... burgers..." His cheerful expression turned to shock when he saw that the ground was cracked, the grass charred, there was debris all over and several very large and sharp looking blades were stabbed into the ground. His eyes searched for his son, who seemed to be perfectly fine, albeit his costume was a bit dirty, which was nothing out of the ordinary for a toddler playing outside.

Ashimi smiled sweetly, "did you mention pizza burgers, uncle Gary?" The researcher could only nod slowly.

To be Continued

xoxox xox xoxox


Chapter 27: Defeat

At Saffron City, though the garage sale they so heavily criticized was over, James Sr. and Elizabeth were still at the city. They stopped by the day care center and Rocket trading post run by Jessie and James to ask the same question they have been asking every day. Jessie knew what was coming and answered in annoyance before the question was repeated again. "No, we haven't heard from Alice."

Elizabeth sighed sadly, "poor Alice, I didn't realize I would miss her this much."

"I say that if she is ever returned to us we should keep her as a pet rather than a bodyguard," James Sr. suggested.

"That's a splendid idea," Elizabeth agreed.

Jessie gave them an odd look. "How is a pet a step up from a bodyguard?"

"Isn't it obvious?" James Sr. wondered if she was seriously asking that question.

"Pets don't have to work, plus they have a team of servants of their own," Elizabeth elaborated.

"Okay..." Jessie rolled her eyes at the odd people. "Anyway, Alice isn't here, so-"

The sound of an incoming pokeball through the trading system was heard from the room behind the counter. Seconds later, the younger James emerged from the back room followed by Alice. "Jessie, we have to call my parents, Johnny found- huh? They're already here?"

"Alice!" James Sr. and Elizabeth exclaimed in unison.

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Jonathan felt a bit odd going ahead to Viridian City with only Dorme and Volt, but Ashimi had insisted on going on foot by herself. That wasn't the only thing that occupied his mind, as he couldn't stop thinking about Nya's unusual element. Surely something like that couldn't have gone unnoticed by Team Rocket, especially since Nya's mother was once Delia's pokemon.

Upon their arrival at the Viridian City Rocket headquarters, the three took their separate ways for the moment to take care of business. Dorme had to report and Volt needed to get an ID created for his finger prints to be identified by the system. He figured he would have to be able to make his way to the training areas if he was going to battle his brother.

Jonathan considered going to the lab, but decided to pay Laiki a visit first. She seemed busy as usual, though glad for the visit. "Hey, did you just get back?" She smiled.

"Yeah, Ashimi isn't here yet though. She wanted to walk from Pallet to Viridian like her father did in the past," Jonathan explained. "I actually came to ask you something about my Purrloin." He released the pokemon from her pokeball. "She's been using psychic abilities, and Gary found that her element is psychic rather than dark."

"Oh yes, the little mutant," Laiki grinned in recognition. "I looked into it when she was born under the pretence of a routine examination. Her mother, a pink Purrloin, was Delia's pokemon for some time and before that, she belonged to Giovanni's mother. At first Giovanni thought the pink was dye, but it never went away. Then he figure it must be a similar effect to those pink fruits from the Orange Islands, but without the need to continuously eat them. He also thought she was unusually stupid, so he had me look into that out of curiosity." Laiki petted Nya, who purred, entirely unaware that her mother was being insulted. "It turns out that the old Madame Boss had gotten her hands on some Mew DNA and used it on her Purrloin. The process was sloppy at best and it didn't actually grant her any power, it only turned her pink. As for her daughter, she doesn't have any legendary power either, though she is actually pretty strong. Her element is psychic instead of dark, so I guess you could use that to throw off your opponents. Other than that, I'm pretty sure the mutations killed her possibilities of evolution, so she'll stay tiny, cute and harmless looking for the rest of her life. I guess you could use that to your advantage too. I should have known Gary would find this interesting, even if it's not all that grand, should have mentioned it to him before. Oh well, so what's new? I heard a rumor that the general's brother was going to challenge him, is that true?"

Jonathan couldn't help it but to laugh, they just got there and already the rumor had spread. "It's true," he confirmed. Laiki's green eyes sparkled with curiosity, some things, such as her need to know everything that was going on, never changed.

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"Thunder!" The flock of Pidgey and Pidgeotto flew away in fright, only for the electricity to continue stretching forward and knock them out of the sky. Ashimi yawned, 'maybe this would have been more exciting if I had done it at the start of my journey.' A Pidgeot landed near by, screeching at her in an angry scolding tone. "Alright! A challenge!" She cheered before realizing that she knew that Pidgeot. "I know you, you were dad's Pidgeot, you remember me?" The bird nodded and extended his wing to point at the Pidgey and Pidgeotto, then made his scolding sounds again. "Aw, I wasn't picking on them, I just wanted to battle!" Pidgeot shook his head and pointed at the road as if telling her to go find someone else to pick on. Ashimi huffed and stomped away. "Fine! C'mon Pichu lets find some real pokemon to battle."

A short distance away, the sound of a Fearow from above caught her attention. "Pichu, thunderbolt!" The Fearow was very high up, so only the very end of the attack reached her. It wasn't enough to knock her out of the sky, but it certainly annoyed her. She swooped down and grabbed Pichu in her claws, then flew away with him. "Come back here with my Pichu!" Ashimi dashed after them. "Pichu, use thunder!" Pichu did so, though it didn't come out too strong because Fearow was choking him. "Don't give up, Pichu, give it all you have!" Pichu tried once again and continued the electric output without pause. The bright lights shone across the sky, until finally, the Fearow had enough. Pichu had been knocked out as well from the effort of the massive amount of electricity that it took to knock down Fearow.

Ashimi tried to recall Pichu into his pokeball as they fell, but they were moving too fast and the red beam could not reach him. Fearow, knocked out but with her claws still entrapping the unconscious Pichu, fell into the pond below. Without a second thought, Ashimi dove after them and hurried to recall Pichu, then threw a pokeball at Fearow. She emerged with the capsule, one of which contained a new capture. "That was a workout..." She got out of the pond and clipped the pokeballs to her belt. She allowed Pichu to rest and called out Furball to continue her training, severely disturbing the peace through the Viridian Forest.

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Later, Ashimi finally made it to the Viridian City Rocket headquarters. She got her pokemon healed and went to inquire about Zero, however, what she found was quite disappointing. Zero was encased in a glass cylinder with machinery at the top and bottom. Comet stood next to it, one hand on the surface of the glass, Nidoran on his other arm, while the virtual boy within thrashed about. Zero punched and kicked the glass wildly, growling like that time when he lost control in Lavender Town. "Sorry little guy... It kind of feels like it's my fault," Comet whispered.

"Of course it isn't," Pixel insisted, from the console attacked to the machinery. Prism, her Porygon-Z materialized out of the computer, looking exhausted. Zero turned into glowing blue code, as if he would disintegrate into nothing, but the machines on his container increased their humming and prevented that. "He's still too unstable, not to mention crazy. I better digitalize him again." Pixel glanced at Ashimi, who was frozen in silence at the door. "Come in."

Ashimi silently walked over to the glass and looked at the wild creature within, she panicked when she couldn't sense Zero's aura at first. Gasping in desperation, she placed her hands on the glass, palms glowing lightly. Zero calmed down for a moment, then went back to thrashing and his glitching intensified. Ashimi let her arms drop to her sides. "Zero..." She sensed the tiniest bit of aura in him, but it was weak and flickering.

"I've materialized him several times hoping he would reboot, but he keeps going into this state. I think his program mistakenly identifies this as a sort of safe mode, though it's anything but. I'll have to digitalize him again before his code gets worse. It's probably best to keep him in storage for a while, the technology available now just isn't enough to help him," Pixel explained sadly.

Ashimi frowned, Zero was her friend and she felt helpless to do anything for him, plus she knew that Pixel was only being gentle with her. "No amount of technology can repair a broken soul." Tears escaped Ashimi's eyes, though she didn't seem to notice.

Pixel continued with the process and saved Zero into a data storage crystal, designed after the crescent moon diamond, a valuable piece of artfully cut jewelry. "I'll leave Zero in your hands, that's the best that can be done, if not for the time spent with you, he wouldn't have gone as far." She placed the crystal in Ashimi's hands.

Ashimi clutched the crystal, wondering if it was truly okay for her to have this. She wanted to keep Zero with her, but would he be safer at headquarters? She looked up at Pixel and Comet. "If the only hope left is the supernatural," Comet voiced, "then he's better off with you."

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Jonathan had gotten up to date with the latest happening at headquarters. The name Tatsu Maki didn't really reveal much, as he had become so anonymous that it was as if he died and continued to exist only as Tornado. Albeit Rocket agents chosen for the mission by Comet were keeping an eye on Jessiebelle, it didn't look like Tornado was going to make another move. He was sneaky and smart to remain under the radar for so long. Besides, Sabrina was still the priority as per Giovanni's orders.

When Ashimi found her friends after taking a moment to calm down, they were at the cafeteria with the green haired boy whose name no one seemed to remember. The anonymous teenager was still bragging about how the princess gave him a pokemon and Jonathan was looking rather grumpy. Dorme was going on and on about how Jonathan wasn't Ashimi's number one Rocket knight after all and that he'd probably get demoted the second the Rocket Kingdom was officially established. She was only teasing him and Jonathan should have known that, but even if he did, he was still annoyed. Volt was simply staring at the far wall lost in thought about his upcoming battle against Electro.

Ashimi approached the group and joined their table, with Nidoran following. She now wore the data crystal on a chain around her neck. She quietly observed as Jonathan looked to be just about ready to reach the very end of his patience and send his pokemon on the attack. "Setzer, I thought you were going to try to be Johnny's friend," Ashimi reminded.

"Princess!" The boy noticed her presence and bowed. "I am! I'm telling him all about the awesome pokemon you gave me!" He smiled widely, then quietly added under his breath, "and my name's not Setzer."

Ashimi let out a breath, "right..." She leaned on the cafeteria table, crossing her arms on top of it and laying her head on them. She felt the chain of the data crystal around her neck and though it was light, it suddenly felt as if it weighed a ton. She would have to focus for her match, but her head and her heart, just weren't in it.

"Now that I think about it, isn't Zero supposed to be here?" Dorme half asked and half stated. "We should go find him." Ashimi grunted and shook her head, her face still buried in her arms.

"What's wrong, my lady? Do you have a headache?" The green haired boy asked with exaggerated concern.

Ashimi straightened in her seat and held up the crescent moon shaped diamond-like data crystal. "Zero is here, but he... He's not like before, he has to stay this way for now..." Her sad expression spoke volumes and no one inquired further. She held the pokeball with her new pokemon and pushed it left and right from one hand to another on the table before her, lost in thought. She couldn't show up at the Indigo League carrying seven pokemon. The limit was removed for her during her travels, but she couldn't get away with that at the league. She considered sending Fearow to stay with Gary, since she was the newest addition to her team and had not been trained as much as the others.

The silence was deafening, so much that Volt, who had been very quiet since they reached Viridian City, decided to speak. "I evolved Magneton," he told Ashimi, Dorme and Jonathan already knew about it. "They have a room here that can emulate the conditions of places like Mount Coronet, so I trained Magneton there and he evolved into Magnezone. He's like a flying saucer now, I can ride on him and everything."

"I've been doing lots of training too and my Pidgeotto is now a Pidgeot," Dorme proudly announced.

Ashimi suddenly jumped to her feet. A thought had hit her about how to clear her mind. "Johnny! Take this pokeball!"

Jonathan blinked in surprise and accepted the pokeball. "What should I do with it?" He wondered what Ashimi's request would be, her sudden burst of energy had everyone staring at her in expectation.

"You should train her of course," Ashimi decided. 'Fearow shouldn't have to miss out on all the adventures just because I can't show up at the Indigo League with seven pokemon. Gary would have taken good care of her, but it might be more fun this way.'

Jonathan nodded, confused, "train her, right, and what else?"

"Fly with her," Ashimi continued.

"Fly, got it, so she's a flying type, um, what kind of pokemon is in here exactly?" Jonathan finally asked, not sure if it would turn out to be too large to release in the crowded cafeteria.

"A Fearow, I just had a great idea thanks to Volt, we should go fly, it'll make everyone feel better!" Ashimi announced.

"Fly?" Volt blinked in confusion, "how was that my id- oh, because I said Magnezone was big enough to ride on. I haven't actually tried to fly anywhere on him before, or hover."

"You gave him a pokemon..." The green haired boy pouted.

Jonathan took the opportunity as his cue to get back at him. "That's right, the princess gave me a pokemon," he imitated, "and it's so awesome!"

The green haired boy pouted, "mine's awesome too."

"They're both awesome, now let's go!" Ashimi ran off.

Jonathan, Volt and Dorme soon followed, while the green haired boy continued to pout. "I don't have a flying type... unless..." He released Beedrill from her pokeball. "Beedrill, carry me!" He held on to her hind legs while the bee pokemon made an effort to gain altitude, though she could only keep her trainer a mere few feet off the ground.

xoxox xox xoxox

The wind blew past Ashimi rapidly as Chari enjoyed the freedom of the skies. It was something she had longed for since her days as a Charmander. She sped up, leaving the rest of the group far behind. Jonathan, Dorme and Volt had been trying to follow on Fearow, Pidgeot and Magnezone respectively. They stopped in mid air, giving up on the chase and settling for watching Chari's acrobatics across the open skies. A bolt of lightning rose from between the trees of the Viridian Forest below and struck Magnezone. The pokemon fought to remain stable and quickly move out of the way of another electric shot. Fearow and Pidgeot soon became alternative targets as the two birds and frying saucer tried desperately to get out of the line of fire.

"Ashy! We're under attack!" Jonathan cautioned, though she was too focused on the flight to hear him.

"There's the source, between those trees!" Volt pointed down below. The spot was where the lightning originated from the ground, but the foliage was too thick for them to see the identity of their attacker.

"Who dares?" Dorme shouted.

Jonathan gave Ashimi one last glance before leading his Fearow downward. "Let's go find out."

Chari finished another of her air tricks and Ashimi couldn't contain her laughter. The rollercoaster feeling of the ride was exactly what she needed to clear her head. She looked around for her friends, just in time to see them disappear under the tree branches. "Where are they going so soon? Chari, let's follow them." The Charizard dove between the treetops and spotted the group in the forest grounds below.

Magnezone looked like he had received a lot of electric attacks while trying to land and the static that clung to Volt further proved it. The pokemon took most of the hit, trying to protect his trainer. Though he too was an electric type, the voltage was so great that it hurt even him, but at least he could still fly. Volt recalled Magnezone into his pokeball to rest for the time being and stepped forward. Left and right of him, Dorme and Jonathan still rode on their bird pokemon, as if unsure if they should stay or escape.

Ashimi landed next to her friends and looked at the tall man standing across a portion of land in front of Volt. He was dressed in Team Rocket military gear, was very muscular and had short blond hair. The man removed his sunglasses, cold gray eyes scanning the area around him. "So we meet again, little brother," he grinned.

"Electro," Volt growled. "I demand a rematch!" He tried to push the nervousness out of his voice.

"Any time, little brother," General Electro agreed, "but you'll have to prove yourself first. I'll meet you at the forest maze." The man known as Thor, respected by many and feared by many more, disappeared into the thick forest.

"The forest maze..." Dorme whispered.

"I've heard about it," Ashimi recalled. "It's like an underground forest themed obstacle course below Viridian."

"Yes," Jonathan confirmed. "It's very advanced and only elite Rockets train there."

"The entrance isn't far, though not just anyone is allowed there," Volt began to walk. "I'm sure Electro has arranged for my passage. I have to go, I need to battle him."

"Right, let's all go to the forest maze!" Ashimi cheered. She hopped off Chari and recalled her. "Thanks for the ride, take a break, I might need to call you again soon." She took a few steps and noticed no one was moving, than backtracked again. "Since it's your battle, you should lead the expedition, Volt."

"You can't all come, it's dangerous and it's my fight!" Volt argued.

Ashimi shook her head. "I know it's your fight, we're your cheering squad."

"When was that decided?" Jonathan asked no one in particular.

"No idea, but I rather not cross Thor's path more than absolutely necessary," Dorme replied.

"Life is for the brave!" Ashimi insisted.

"There's no changing her mind when she gets like that," Jonathan sighed hopelessly. "Alright, let's go, looks like you got yourself a cheering squad after all, Volt."

"If Johnny's going, than I'm going too," Dorme decided.

"You're all crazy," Volt laughed and started on the way.

xoxox xox xoxox

The underground forest was dimly lit by the glow of crystal embedded into the cave walls. Metal arches could be seen half buried under the vegetation, indicating that the cave was made by humans. The trees' leaves were a translucent green as they fed on the glow of the crystals' simulated light rather than sunlight. The foliage appeared almost see-through, yet still thick and abundant, giving off the illusion that it was made of glass. Many of the mutated leaves covered the ground, making plastic-like crunching sounds as the trainers stepped. "We need to be quiet," Volt cautioned.

Dorme looked at the blanket of fallen leaves on the ground all around them. "That's impossible, unless we fly, but I heard that if you call out any pokemon out you'll be immediately attacked by the," a buzzing sounds could be heard deeper in, "Beedrills."

Ashimi felt odd without Pichu on her head, but the others had insisted that it was best to try to get as far in as possible without getting any attention from the Beedrills. She tried to reach out with her aura and her head snapped towards the ground a few feet away. "There!" She pointed.

"What is it?" Jonathan asked. There was nothing but a pile of leaves as far as he could tell.

"Is there a trap under those leaves?" Volt inquired.

"If you really want to battle your brother, you should stand on that pile of leaves over there," Ashimi pointed.

The leaves looked the same as all the others. The semi-transparent leaves were mutated and took a long time to dissolve even after they fell from the trees. As a result there were knee deep in leaves. Though Volt didn't really understand, he curiously walked over to the pile of leaves. Before he could stand on it, the leaves were thrown in every direction as Electro stood. "You should have noticed me without that little aura user's help. You soldiers need a lot more training!"

Mention of extra training with Thor terrified Jonathan and Dorme, and frustrated Volt. "Either way, we found you, so let's battle!"

"You really want to lose that badly, little bro?" Electro released his pokemon with a boisterous laugh. Electivire emerged from the red beam of the pokeball. The pokemon seemed larger and more muscular than the average Electivire.

Volt had not faced that pokemon since he was Electabuzz and he looked a lot stronger now. Even so he tried not to lose hope, "Elekid go!"

"Electivire, thunder punch!" Electro confidently began.

"Watch out Elekid, counter with electro ball!" Elekid managed to dodge Electivire's punch. As if it didn't matter, Electivire punched the ground, leaves crunching under his powerful fist. The force of his electric attack send a shock wave rippling through the leaves that reached Elekid, Volt and the others.

"These leaves conduct energy? I thought there was something about this place," Ashimi voiced. "It makes sensing things easier, but ouch..."

"Major ouch!" Dorme loudly complained, while Jonathan cringed quietly. "Volt, be careful with the collateral damage!"

"I can't do anything about that!" Volt argued back. He didn't like the smug look on Electro's face and he could practically smell Dorme and Jonathan's fear at the sight of it. "Elekid, don't give up!" Elekid tried to defend himself. He managed to make the electro ball, but he paused before firing it. The buzzing of the Beedrill had gotten increasingly louder, closer and angrier since the battle began. An armored Beedrill buzzed out of the foliage above and dove at Volt. He dropped to the ground to dodge the initial swoop, but the Beedrill turned sharply towards him, metal covered stingers ready to strike. Elekid aimed his attack at the Beedrill to save his trainer. The Beedrill hardly seemed affected, his buzzing became ever louder and more armored Beedrill arrived.

Ashimi, Dorme and Jonathan had their hands full dodging the attacks, "we need our pokemon!" Jonathan considered the option that seemed most logical as a form of defense.

"Release them and I'll make sure you regret it!" Electro warned. "Don't be so weak, soldiers!"

Volt couldn't focus on the battle because of the Beedrill attack. Electro punched a Beedrill that dared to make him a target. "We have a battle going on, if you get distracted, you'll lose! Elecrivire shock wave, open up a path and use thunder punch!" Electrivire released massive waves of electricity into the area around him. The Beedrills that surrounded them had no choice but to temporarily back off.

"Watch out Elekid, he's coming!" Volt could hardly defend himself against the Beedrills, let alone guide Elekid. Elekid had wasted too much energy trying to keep the Beedrills away. He was hurt and exhausted, and couldn't dodge Electrivire's attack on time. Elekid was flung across the area and crashed harshly into a tree several feet away, he had already been knocked out from the instant the thunder punch hit him. "Elekid, return!" Volt recalled his pokemon to the safety of his pokeball away from the deadly armored Beedrills.

"You've lost, retreat and come back when you're stronger. If you stay here any longer, I will assume that you want me to be the one to train you," Electro threatened with a mocking grin.

"No way!" Since Dorme and Jonathan knew how stubborn and daring Ashimi was, they grabbed her by the arms and ran off with her. Predictably, Ashimi protested all the way and expressed that she did actually want to try the training offered by the infamous general Thor.

Volt glared back at his brother and quickly left as well. "I'll train on my own and will beat you one day soon!"

xoxox xox xoxox

Out of the underground forest, Jonathan and Dorme finally released the pouting Ashimi. "Maybe his training would have been useful." Her friends could only look at her as if she had said something utterly unreasonable and completely crazy. Ashimi sighed hopelessly. "Let's just call it a day for now. Tomorrow I have to train hard and prepare for my earth badge battle.

xoxox xox xoxox

Ashimi, Volt, Jonathan and Dorme spent the next few days training. Volt only had a temporary Rocket ID which he was able to obtain only because of his father and brother, but to access more training areas he fully joined. His reasoning was that if he wanted Team Rocket to change for the better, he had to be a part of it, it was also Ashimi's logic though she had not been as hard to convince.

The day finally arrived for Ashimi to try to win an earth badge. She stood at the Viridian gym arena on the opposite side of Giovanni, ready to give it her all. "Three pokemon," Giovanni announced, his two Persian sitting beside him. "I'll start with one you're familiar with, Persian."

Ashimi looked at her grandfather's Persian. She had heard many stories about his past battles, but the pokemon had become rather lazy over the years. "Persian?" She asked unsure.

Persian yawned, not really in the mood to fight, but lazily began to make his way off the platform, until Giovanni stopped him. "Not you, the girl." He motioned for the female Persian to go instead. Unlike her beloved, she was still as feisty as ever. Though she had the normal coloring of a Persian, the ruby on her forehead protruded like a horn. She gracefully jumped off the platform and landed quietly, like a skilled hunter stalking her prey.

Ashimi knew she was in for quite a fight. She was planning to save Chari for last. She considered her options and decided to start with Pichu. "Pichu, I choose you!" The little yellow pokemon jumped off her head and took to the arena. Wasting no time, Ashimi began the offensive. "Thunderbolt!"

Purry dodged easily, not even waiting for a command, she kept on the move with a quick attack. "Don't stop, Pichu!" The electric mouse continued trying to stop the feline's advance, but she moved too fast. As she got closer, moving in an erratic pattern, Ashimi knew it was time for a change of tactics. Pichu wouldn't be able to dodge Purry's amazing speed, but he could come up with a very strong defense. "Surround yourself in electricity!"

"Chuuuu!!!" Pichu released a massive amount of electricity in the area all around him. In theory, it should hit Purry regardless of what direction she came from.

"Thunder horn..." Giovanni finally gave another command, though it wasn't one Ashimi was familiar with. Purry's horn glowed with the power of her own electricity. Pichu's electricity gravitated towards it and spun around Purry, forming into a large ball. "Electro ball!" Purry shot the ball of electricity at Pichu.

"Dodge it, Pichu!" Pichu gave up on the attack and scrambled to get out of the way, but Purry used another thunderbolt to redirect the electro ball towards the target. Pichu was shocked by the electro ball full force, at the same time Purry shot another charge of electricity at it and the electro ball exploded. Pichu was thrown several feet back. "C'mon Pichu, get up!" Pichu slowly tried to get back on his feet, but he was slammed hard against the floor when Purry pounced on him. Her horn was an inch away from Pichu's throat and the small yellow pokemon was immobilized. "Pichu!"

"Iron tail," Giovanni had enough of what he considered to be a rather anti-climatic battle. Purry jumped and Pichu desperately tried to escape, but her tail connected with its target and sent him flying.

Pichu fell at Ashimi's feet knocked out cold. "Pichu... return..." Ashimi decided to send out Chari out next, she was her strongest pokemon after all. However, Giovanni was already exiting the trainer's platform. "Wasn't it three on three?"

"That was disappointing, I don't need to see any more," Giovanni exited the trainer's platform, followed by his Persian, the female Persian went off with him as well.

"I can turn this around!" Ashimi argued. "It's not over! I still have two pokemon left!"

"If you have to struggle, you're not strong enough," Giovanni walked away.

'I expected high standards, but...' Ashimi refused to give up. This wasn't the first time the odds were against her. "I'll become stronger! In fact, I'll go ask Thor for training, I heard he's really tough."

Giovanni grinned almost imperceptibly, "do it if you think you can take it, but general Electro, or Thor as he is known, trains people more so than pokemon."

"Some difference," Ashimi insisted. "If I get stronger I'll make my pokemon stronger!"

"We'll see..." Giovanni left with his two Persian, an ominous atmosphere remaining after his presence.

To be Continued

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Chapter 25: The title of this chapter "At the Gala" is a reference to My Little Pony.

Chapter 26: Tatsumaki means tornado in Japanese.

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General Electro alias Thor: Surge's eldest son and Volt's brother. He's 22 years old, tall, muscular, has blond hair and gray eyes. He is often seen wearing Team Rocket military gear. He is feared and respected in Team Rocket and most of the younger Rockets whom he trained are terrified of him. He is very stern with his troops, albeit he is truly talented in polishing their abilities, most simply remember him as being mean and overly critical. Electro only has two fears: angering Surge or Giovanni. Giovanni is easy to explain given all the power he commands, though in Surge's case it's not just about power, but something deeper that not even Electro can explain.
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