Categories > Anime/Manga > Pokemon > Awakening

Part 12

by Milia 0 reviews

Category: Pokemon - Rating: PG-13 - Genres:  - Published: 2014-03-13 - 18505 words


Chapter 34: Risk

The Kyurem shaped jet landed in the north pole and Ashimi, Zero, Jonathan, Volt and Dorme were informed that the preparations for their grand tour were still underway. They were asked to entertain themselves on the jet until they were ready, apologizing that tours were not something they gave often.

"I think they're trying to Ashimi proof the north pole," Jonathan teased.

"Good luck with that," Volt laughed.

"I'm not going to cause a flood," Ashimi pouted.

"We might as well make good use of our time," Dorme announced. "Since I'm done with my hair and Vulpix's hair, I'll work on Volt's!"

"What?" Volt jumped in alarm.

"C'mon, it won't hurt!" Dorme tried to coax him into sitting still. "I'll make your hair as pretty as Johnny's... Or almost."

"Not as girly please," Volt requested with a teasing grin.

"Me next!" Ashimi exclaimed. "I want to look more like a girl than Johnny."

"I don't look like a girl!" Jonathan pouted.

"Alright, I'll do Volt's hair, then Ashimi's, and you too Zero," Dorme gladly agreed. She began to put some berry scented goop on Volt's hair.

"Awesome, make me look cool," Zero gave a thumbs up.

"You got it!" Dorme cheered as she wrapped foil over strands of Volt's hair.

"I hate my hair," Jonathan grumbled. "I'm going to cut it all off."

"Don't you dare!" Dorme threateningly shouted.

"I don't care anymore, I'll cut it off even if I have to spend the rest of my life dodging bullets!" Jonathan countered.

"Ashimi, do something!" Dorme urged in great distress.

"Me? What can I do?" Ashimi was at a loss.

"Pull rank!" Dorme shouted.

Ashimi looked at Dorme, then Jonathan, then Dorme again and switched between them as if it were a tennis match. "Sorry Johnny," she cleared her throat and spoke in her best badass boss voice. "I order you not to cut your hair or you will be declared a traitor to Team Rocket, exiled and forced to spend the rest of your life digging up fossils and evolutionary stones in a deep dark smelly cave in a distant forsaken land!" Ashimi declared with a great dramatic flair.

"Fine!" Jonathan stood with just as much of a dramatic flair. "Since I'm the only one with perfect untouchable hair, I guess there's no reason for me to be here." He exited the room in a huff.

"Drama king," Volt poked at the foil paper on his head until Dorme slapped his hand away.

xoxox xox xoxox

Jonathan made his way down the jet's hallway thinking about what he could do. Who had manly hair that he could copy? Someone who was well known in Team Rocket? He called Laiki to ask for more information.

"Hi! How's the vacation going?" Laiki cheerfully answered the phone. There was some shuffling in the background and a muffled sleepy voice that was not her own.

"Not really started, but I have a question." Jonathan strained his ears in curiosity to try to hear the voice in the background. "Can you tell me who in Team Rocket has the manliest hair?"

"Just the hair?" Laiki thought for a moment. "I didn't used to break it down to that much detail. I mean, I'm just as observant as ever of the general subjects, but I haven't thoroughly reviewed many subjects recently, except one. Alas, I feel that time has gone by so fast. Oh for those days of endlessly chasing a different man each day," Laiki spoke with exaggerated drama. There was a grunt and a sound of protest in the background. "Kidding, kidding," Laiki giggled.

Jonathan was starting to doubt it was such a good idea to call Laiki after all. He didn't want to end up hearing more than he meant to hear. "How about you just tell me who is considered unquestionably manly?"

"Thor, I suppose, I can't give you a personal review on that one, but well just look at him. A worthy successor to the Team Rocket buffet of manliness." There was a scolding whisper and some shuffling as Laiki giggled some more and sounded as if she was keeping the phone out of someone's reach.

'Thor's hair is too much like Volt's and I can't copy the hair style of someone I hang out with often,' Jonathan mused. "Successor? Oh, you mean Surge." 'His hair is too similar too.'

"Oh no, Surge is certainly a buffet of manliness, but he's the buffet of manliness of Vermilion. I wonder of Volt will eventually grow up to fill those shoes," Laiki started to get off topic. "It won't be easy because Surge is-"

"Focus..." Jonathan insisted.

"Oh right, Team Rocket," Laiki went back to where she had left off. "Anyway, in Team Rocket, we had Giovanni, at least until he retired about ten years ago, he was undefeated in the boxing ring to the last. That whole thing about fighting pokemon himself that Thor does, the boss used to do it too. The outfits were pretty nice too, if I was going to give a description, I would say-"

"Thanks Laiki, I can kind of hear that you're very busy, so I won't steal more of your time. Also, sorry for not considering the time zone before making this call. You were really helpful, bye!" Jonathan hung up in a hurry before having to listen to Laiki go on a long tangent about men. He only wanted to know about manly hair, not about every ecchi detail that Laiki thought was manly about every man she had ever laid eyes upon, and as a well known avid man watcher, that was a lot of men.

Giovanni wasn't someone who he had to stand next to particularly often. There was a regular communication going on, since he was still the boss of Team Rocket and all, but it wouldn't look too obvious if he did copy his hair. With a deep breath and a load of foolish courage and determination Jonathan called Giovanni.

The Rocket boss answered quickly and asked, "how bad should I expect the flood to be?"

"Flood? Oh no, Ashimi hasn't done anything, they still have us in the Kyurem jet while they get the tour ready," Jonathan explained.

"What is your report then?" Giovanni asked with less urgency.

"Actually..." Jonathan was started to get second thoughts about making that call. Giovanni's seemingly permanent glare transcended the distance and pierced his very soul through the cellphone's screen. Before he lost his nerve, the teenager decided to just get it over with and say what he was going to say. "Please tell me the secret to having manly hair!"

Giovanni stared, his usual glare turning in a confused look for a moment. "What?"

"Manly hair," Jonathan repeated. "I don't like my hair, it's too shiny, and soft, and pretty, and girly, and I even won a contest with it and Ashy got mad because she lost to a boy. My only consolation is that pokemon think I smell like a man."

Giovanni wasn't quite following the logic behind the influx of information. While his anger built up, because it had become a bit slower to trigger over the years, he suggested, "if your hair is such a bother, cut it."

"I can't," Jonathan dramatically replied. "Dorme threatened to kill me if I cut my hair, but I got fed up with it and decided I didn't care. Then Ashy pulled rank and ordered me not to cut my hair. She said I would be declared a traitor to Team Rocket, exiled and forced to spend the rest of my life digging up fossils and evolutionary stones in a deep dark smelly cave in a distant forsaken land! She sounded really boss when she said it. Risking my life is one thing, but I can't forfeit my honor as a Rocket!"

Giovanni wasn't sure if he should be proud of Ashimi for giving irrefutable orders like a boss, or concerned about her choice in what orders to give. None the less, the threatened punishment did have a classic sort of overkill to it that was worthy of the Rocketto clan.

"How loyal, that's sweet," Delia peeked from behind Giovanni's shoulder and almost made him jump in his seat behind the desk, almost. Sometimes she walked so quietly anyone would think she's a ninja. She soon proved that she had been in the office long enough to have heard the whole conversation. "Johnny, sweetie, you shouldn't worry so much, you're a handsome boy and don't you ever doubt it." She encouraged in a motherly fashion. "After all, men don't define what is manly, women do, by expressing their liking, and vice versa. So if you have girls threatening to kill of torture you if you change your hair, you should take it as a compliment."

"I never thought about it that way..." Jonathan smiled, feeling as if a big weight had been lifted off his shoulders. "Thank you, I won't forget these words of wisdom!"

xoxox xox xoxox

After Jonathan expressed his undying gratitude for the great revelation and hung up, Giovanni found himself shaking his head. "I should have yelled at the boy for calling me over such a stupid reason."

"I thought you were about to," Delia confessed, which brought the reason for her interruption. "This new generation of Rockets are the future, they're the children of Team Rocket and therefore our children."

"Kids didn't used to make such a big fuss about hair years ago," Giovanni grumbled.

"Says the man who never goes out without making sure his hair is covered in gel," Delia laughed. "Speaking of hair, Ash and Misty have been trying to get into the selfie trend for Ashimi's sake, since every teenager is into it and Ashimi is almost a teenager whose closest friends are teenagers. Misty noticed that Ash's selfies focus more on his hat collection than on his face, which brought up the fact that he has been using hats to keep his hair under control for years and it all made him want to look for alternatives again. So don't be too surprised if he shows up for a man to man talk about hair."

Giovanni picked up his phone and spoke to it slowly and clearly, "New note." The phone beeped and began to record what he said on text on the screen. "Figure out how to use selfies to benefit Team Rocket." Because if there was some important place or influential thing in existence, Team Rocket was out to take over it.

xoxox xox xoxox

Later, a woman with waist length pale blond hair and angular green eyes went to find the group at the Kyurem jet. "Lady Ashimi, agents Dorme, Jonathan, Volt and Zero, I apologize for the delay, I'm here to give you the tour." The young woman expected her young guests to impatiently rush to her, but they didn't. She smoothed non-existent wrinkles on her dark green business suit and tugged a loose strand of hair behind her pointy ears.

She looked very much like an elf, though she was a cyborg, albeit only a light cyborg, as her only mechanical implants were the wireless devices in her ears. She heard shuffling behind a closed door and knocked on it.

"You have to let it sit, don't interrupt the treatment!" A female voice urged.

"Just wear the hats," another girl suggested.

A few more seconds passed and the door finally opened. Volt wore a Raichu hat, Ashimi Pikachu, Jonathan Flareon, Dorme Vulpix and Zero Nidoran. Jonathan had super soft and shiny hair already and Dorme said there really wasn't much else to improve. Zero was virtual, so his hair was already as HD as it could get and the suggestion of getting a treatment was only made to tease Jonathan anyway. As for Jonathan, the teasing had no effect anymore, so they dropped it. No one could explain where he got the sudden burst of confidence. Ashimi, Dorme and Volt however, had their own reasons to wear the hats, to cover the foil containing berry goop on their hair. Jonathan and Zero just wore the hats because the others insisted.

Seeing as her guests had finally emerged from the room, the elf-like woman introduced herself as Elf Claus, which was actually her real name. She made no comments about their hats, she had the habit of wearing a red Santa hat herself, so she wasn't one to talk. She directed the group to follow her out of the Kyurem jet and out of the hangar, into the data processing and office area.

"I'm the head of the north pole operations and also oversee the Santa Claus project. As you might know, the project awards video games to those who have a Rocket Fuel account as Christmas gifts from Santa." Elf pointed to a large server that hummed quietly. "This is the current Santa. Before, Santa was actually a person, my grandfather was the last official Santa. Back then, non-virtual gifts were manufactured by pokemon, mostly Jynx, and delivered on Christmas day. As you can imagine, it was an arduous task and not very cost effective, but my family had been keeping up with the tradition through the ages. The whole nice and naughty list was a myth though, that was determined on the spot via Jynx psychic powers," Elf revealed. Her flawless fair skin, rosy cheeks and petite stature made her look like an adorable and quite harmless elf, though she was in fact a fierce entrepreneur who occasionally worked as a general business advisor to Rocket executives.

"After the poles started to melt, Team Rocket took over to stop them," Elf continued. "By then Santa was mostly just a legend and couldn't keep up with producing high tech toys that kids actually cared to have. Since the Claus family had control of the north pole and a lot of ice pokemon at our side, we joined Team Rocket and prevented massive floods from overtaking the planet. Then we rebooted the Santa tradition with virtual gifts that are easier to mass-produce and deliver, since making one means unlisted copies of them and the delivery is only a matter of bandwidth. Plus the kids do actually enjoy these gifts and we were able to extend the program to adults as well, since copies of the games are unlimited."

Elf finished her explanation and moved to another area. "Part of the deal was for the Claus family to continue working at north pole, so the game development area is in part here, though we work together with graphics designers and programmers all over the world in Team Rocket owned companies. As for the really vital operations of the north pole, here we are." They stood at a tall, glass-encased bridge over a large reactor that exuded a thick cold mist.

"This is one of the reactors that keeps the north pole frozen. We are only looking at the tip of the iceberg as it were. This mechanical wonder is much larger deep beyond the floor we're at. There is another a few miles away that serves as an emergency backup system and is put to work when this one is undergoing routine maintenance. The machines in the south are similar, though the base's only purpose is to keep the pole frozen and it is operated exclusively by Rockets," the twenty-five year old woman explained.

"The north is larger than the south pole in terms of ice mass, making the northern hemisphere generally colder than the south in all areas without climate control systems or factors that create weather bubbles. That is to say, contained areas with weather different from that of its neighboring territories that has little effect in the areas around it." Elf concluded her explanation with a public relations smile. The entrepreneur had a few things planned, but other than the basic tour nothing was really a requirement, so she asked, "what would you like to do next?"

Ashimi jumped forward immediately. "I want to see the pokemon battle!"

"Sorry, for safety reasons, pokemon battles are not allowed within the base," Elf informed.

"But they're battling!" Ashimi insisted.

"There can't be a battle going on, unless it's a virtual battle. Let's go see the game development area, shall we?" Elf led the group to an elevator and they went up.

The elevator arrived at a higher floor, located above the sea level, and they exited into an area with desks and computers where there was in fact a battle taking place between a Vibrava and Swasbuck. Elf shrieked at the top of her lungs, "stop this at once!"

"Alright, alright, you don't have to yell." A young man with brown hair and matching eyes in a Rocket uniform smiled confidently, as if he could have done this any time. "Swasbuck, mega horn!" The deer pokemon was in his winter form all year long due to living in the cold of the north pole. He rushed towards his opponent, who desperately tried to dodge. With a good jump, the deer's antlers reached the target in mid air and Vibrava fell to the floor knocked out.

A small group of people in Team Rocket uniforms were looking clearly frustrated as one of them recalled Vibrava.

"Why didn't you end this earlier, Rudolf?" Elf growled with a deadly glare. "Pokemon battles are strictly prohibited inside the base and in its surrounding areas. There's an established minimum distance you have to go from the base to battle. You should all know that, given the fact that you've been living here for years and I remind you all the time!"

"Sorry, boss," the tan, brown haired man called Rudolf had turned around to face the irate pointy eared blond. An energy jewel was visible on his forehead with a light glow and something told the spectators that it wasn't just sitting on his forehead for decoration. He was twenty-seven years old and one of the first to get internal wiring directly in his brain, rather than on the skull near the brain. The energy crystal on his forehead not only received and transmitted wireless signals, but also served to collect excess electrical currents generated by the cyborg enhancements, preventing his brain from being overloaded or damaged.

"Don't you 'sorry boss' me," Elf huffed. "Explain yourselves!"

"The usual," another young man spoke up. He had been typing on his computer the entire time, as if nothing could distract him. He had white hair and blue eyes, distinctly human eyes that indicated the shared colors with Winter were pure coincidence, plus his skin was a lot paler than her, unusually so.

"And why didn't you do anything about it, Frosty?" Elf glared.

"I was coding," the pale twenty-two year old pointed at the computer screen. "Besides, Sawsbuck won without Vanilluxe's help anyway."

"That's not the point!" Elf fumed. "Look at this mess! All of you!" She pointed at the grumbling group that had opposed Rudolf. "Clean this up or else you'll learn first hand how fierce a Jynx can be!"

Complaining under their breath, the members of the Flood Prevention Squad started cleaning. Elf let out a breath, smoothed her clothes out of habit and adjusted the R ruby brooch on her green business suit. She tossed her hair over her shoulder and smiled at her guests, as if recalling their existence after the moment of anger was under control. "Sorry about that, let us continue the tour."

"Actually, this reminds me of my mission!" Ashimi exclaimed. "I'm here to unite the north pole under the Rocket flag!"

Elf sighed, "so am I, and it has me stressed out, I'll admit. Let's talk in my office." She led them through the maze of cubicles into an office at the far end of the room. There they sat to continue the conversation with a little more privacy. "All the members of the Flood Prevention Squad have been transferred here to the north. It is my mission to turn them into productive Rockets. I started by dissolving the squad so that there wouldn't be any title differences between them, but it didn't do much. Most of the people formerly linked to Team Magma expect to be treated differently and blame everything on that. They fail to realize that if they're not given credit, it's because they haven't earned it. I'm not going to acknowledge any so called minorities out of pity or for the sake of making myself look fair, by ironically being unfair. After all, Rudolf was with Team Magma when he was a teenager and Frosty is the son of two former members of Team Aqua, and I can tell you they are now truly loyal Rockets who would never go back. They are so well integrated into Team Rocket that people often forget their past or think it's all just false rumors."

During a quiet moment of thought after Elf was done speaking, the door to the office opened and Rudolf strolled in, followed by Frosty, who held a laptop. "I finished debugging the bonus content, plus members of Rocket Fuel can get it on time with their game. I used Rudolf's graphics as planned," Frosty informed.

"That's great, but you could knock, you know," Elf reminded. "Since I didn't have time," more like patience, "to introduce them before, these two are my top ranked game makers and also part of the security team. Rudolf Rednose, who will probably get mad if you call him by his silly surname and Frosty Von Snowman, who probably wouldn't get mad no matter what you call him, since he's so chill." Elf laughed, the two young men were not only part of the group of people she directed, they were her best friends. "Rudolf, Frosty, you already know who our very important guests are."

Frosty set the laptop on her desk and curiously approached Zero. "Of course I know. My greetings to the future Madame Boss and her friends." He stared into the virtual boy's eyes for a moment then gave Ashimi a pleading look. "Can I borrow your little friend? I have an interest in him as a programmer."

"You can't borrow him, but you can ask him to go with you if he wants," Ashimi replied. She had been keeping up the energy transfer for a while and felt that she could continue with the link as long as the distance between them wasn't too great.

"I guess it's okay," Zero decided. "But there better be sweets!"

"Sweets," Frosty mused aloud, "are candy canes and ginger bread cookies good?"

"Definitely!" Zero agreed.

'Aniki, I want some too!' Nidoran cheered.

Ashimi was tempted to tag along with Frosty as well, since there were sweet snacks involved and she was curious about what he might find about Zero. It was odd, but lately she had started feeling as if Zero's abilities had been projected onto her. He still couldn't use his pokedex functions, but she had detected the battle. Elf's following outburst had distracted them from questioning how she knew there was a battle, or maybe they assumed it was all an aura thing, though this was definitely different. Even so, Ashimi couldn't forget her mission to unite all the Rockets regardless of their past and didn't want to be distracted from it.

Before Elf could suggest another activity from the list of entertainment she had prepared, the structure shook violently. "An earthquake?" Volt wondered. He and the others were focused on the movement and didn't notice Ashimi pale and gasp, as if the life was suddenly being drained out of her.

"There shouldn't be," Rudolf replied in alarm. "There are shock absorbers in place all around this building to protect the equipment. Even if there's seismic activity going on, we shouldn't feel it at all."

"That came from within!" Elf gasped. The tip of her long ears seem to vibrate with the flow of data. Frosty and Zero ran back to the office with the former Flood Prevention Squad members crowding behind him. "Frosty, firewall!" Elf ordered the second she saw him. The group remained at the door while Frosty rushed into the office and grabbed the laptop. "Rudolf, go on site, and see if you can isolate the problem. Stop the virus from spreading, everyone else go with him!" Rudolf and the others hurried out of the office.

Jonathan, Volt and Dorme wanted to ask what they could do, but there didn't seem to be much that could be done without a certain level of knowledge on how the facility worked. "We reinforced every physical barrier in preparation for this visit and we get a virus instead? When I catch who's responsible for this..." Elf began to furiously type on her computer, while giving orders that her integrated wireless system delivered like a cellphone. Images flashed through the screen, some from security cameras near the core components of the pole freezing mechanism and others containing graphs related to possible risks and damage control. In the midst of it all was a Porygon-Z named Jingle.

"Ashimi," Zero took her hand and led her out of the office while the others were focused on Elf's screen. The maze of cubicles had been vacated as all the people previously there hurried away to tend to more pressing matters. "You know what this is, don't you? I can feel it, your energy is flowing into me, and my virtual chaotic energy is flowing into you. Aura techniques don't normally affect machines, but with our link, the distinction is blurred."

"I... I know," Ashimi gasped, her breaths were ragged, her vision was blurry and her head hurt like a Machamp's punching bag. "It's my aura mixed with your virtual energy that's transmitting. It's not a virus, they won't find any files in the system. It's a continued transmission from me..."

"Us," Zero corrected, not wanting Ashimi to take all the blame. "If I break the link between your aura will have no effect on machines," he pointed out, though he knew Ashimi would protest.

"No, I don't want to lose you again!" Ashimi argued. "Legendary, whoever you are, stop this!"

"Legendary?" Zero questioned.

"I didn't bring you back on my own," Ashimi admitted. "A presence that called itself a legend helped me. It felt like it was bad, but it brought you back, so it can't be all that bad!"

"Whatever it is, it's hiding from me, I can't feel it. Look, if this place goes down, it'll be a world wide disaster. We can allow that even if..." Zero came to a realization, "even if I'm being held hostage."

"I'll just stay away from the poles," Ashimi resolved. "My aura is short range anyway, so it'll be fine!"

"I'm going back into suspended animation in the data crystal," Zero announced. "You can call me out again when it's safe."

"If you virtualize again you might become more unstable," Ashimi cautioned.

"I know, but use logic," Zero sadly reminded. "If it's the world or me who has to go, then it'll have to be me." He disintegrated into blue code and returned into the crescent moon shaped data crystal Ashimi still wore around her neck.

Seconds passed until Ashimi felt their connection end. Her aura no longer had a way to become digital and thus could not affect machines. No, it wasn't her aura, Ashimi realized, it was the creature inside her being projected through it. "Legend... Who? Why?" She whispered sadly.

xoxox xox xoxox

"It's gone?" Elf exclaimed as Ashimi slipped back into the office quietly.

"Yeah," Frosty repeated, "the virus is gone and the system is back to normal."

A transmission from Rudolf was heard. "All is clear on my end. We managed to manually override some of the mechanisms to minimize the damage. There were no signs of tampering."

"What was that?" Elf breathe. "Rudolf, conduct a detailed search just in case. "No outside influence was detected. Frosty, reinforce the security and try to figure out what in the world just happened. Jingle, help Frosty and stay on full alert." Once Elf was done handing out tasks, she looked at her guests. "I'm sorry, I need to oversee and coordinate the whole process and I need all the personnel at work. There's not much you can do unless you're engineers specifically trained to work at the poles, and with this place on full alert it's not the right time for fun and games. It's too bad because I had a video game making process tour and a climate control science lecture with one of those funny scientists that actually makes it amusing all lined up, along with a whole bunch of other stuff, even a snow ball fight."

"We understand," Jonathan voiced, he looked at Ashimi, noticing how distraught she appeared. "Maybe another time," he placed his hand on her shoulder. He had a feeling that she was upset about more than just missing out on the snowball fight.

Ashimi snapped out of her daze. "Yeah, another time." She couldn't question Zero's logic. If his presence made her a danger to the world, then one of them had to go. She would offer herself, but then Zero would be gone too anyway. She knew her friends cared about Zero, they were all so happy when he returned. But would they see that logic too? Would they feel that they had no choice but to let him go? Ashimi couldn't accept that, and if it was true, she didn't want to hear it. She didn't want her closest friends to tell her to let go, because she simply refused to let go.

"Where's Zero?" Dorme asked.

Frosty looked around, "he was right behind me when I came."

"He's in the data crystal, for safety reasons," Ashimi vaguely replied. It wasn't a lie, but it was a deceivingly simplified truth. "We'll just go back to the Kyerum jet."

xoxox xox xoxox

Later, at the hangar, "are you sure you want to leave? We'll be on alert until we figure out exactly what went wrong, but I can spare some time to entertain you now that the situation is stable." Elf and a few others stood in front of the Kyurem jet facing Ashimi, Jonathan, Dorme and Volt. Zero was still in the data crystal.

"It's okay, it's best if we leave. We'll come back another time and tell you in advance when that is," Ashimi smiled, but it was forced.

"If you insist," Elf agreed. "I'll make sure to put some extra rare equipment on your accounts when you get your games at Christmas." Frosty, Rudolf were there beside Elf and several others had curiously gathered to get a glimpse of Giovanni's granddaughter before she left.

Ashimi looked at the group before her, recognizing the former members of the Flood Prevention Squad among them, they were the same who were there when Rudolf was battling. Their differences no longer shone in the time of crisis. "Everyone, don't forget it's because of all of you that the world is not facing a watery doom. There are people nearby who..." Her heart ached for Zero, "who would give their very lives so the world has land to stand on, and it doesn't matter where they came from. All that matters is who they are and what they do." Ashimi and her friends boarded the Kyurem jet and headed back to Viridian City. Though she had gone to the north pole with a mission, Ashimi left feeling assured that it was something that Elf would accomplish herself, plus she had other things to worry about now.

xoxox xox xoxox

The night, while the Kyurem jet flew, Ashimi sat in the cockpit while the Porygon-Z in the system controlled the auto pilot. She kept looking at the control panel, waiting for some alarm to go off, but everything was quiet and calm. There wouldn't be much she could do if Legend decided to crash the jet anyway, not that she thought it would, since it was in it, plus she didn't have her link with Zero to turn aura into data.

Ashimi wondered if bringing Zero back at Viridian City would mean an attempt to take over the equipment there, but she thought it wasn't likely. The Viridian headquarters were heavily guarded and probably on alert after the north pole's report was delivered. Plus if any weapons were compromised, they could be disabled or destroyed. The takeover attempt at the north pole was different because the climate control was very sensitive and couldn't simply be shut down.

'You're waiting for the right moment to strike, aren't you?' Ashimi called out in her mind, but received no answer. It wasn't a psychic communication, as she wasn't a psychic, they were thoughts that only resonated in her own mind and only a being that coexisted with it could hear them. She wondered if the thing that possessed her could hear all her private thoughts or if she still had some mental guards against that. She ran her fingers through her soft red-orange hair, Dorme did a great job with it. She kept it down, framing her face and hiding her cracked earrings. It was foolish and dangerous, she knew it, but no matter what, she wanted Zero back, even if she had to deal with that so called legendary thing to keep him.

The door slid open and Jonathan walked into the cockpit. "What are you doing here, Ashy? Can't sleep?"

"I'm not tired," Ashimi lied.

"No, you're exhausted," she looked away and Jonathan called her name, "Ashley," she felt compelled to look at him again and didn't like his serious expression. His looked soften at her worried face. "Relax, princess, you look like I'm about to beat your deepest darkest secret out of you. I know there's something wrong, and I'd like to help."

"I don't think anyone can do anything." Or at least she didn't think anyone could do anything without sacrificing Zero, and she didn't want to risk that. She knew she was being a fool to insist on doing things her own way, but she was both stubborn and an optimist.

"Try me," Jonathan offered.

Ashimi thought about it and chose her words carefully. "If there was a choice between a big risk with a big loss and an assured big loss..." She trailed into silence, realizing that she was setting things up for a bias answer.

"Taking a risk is better than losing, at least there's a chance." Jonathan answered as logically as anyone would, though he didn't understand where Ashimi was going with all of that.

"And if the assured big loss was only big from relatively few people's perspective, but the risk was big for everyone?" Ashimi mentally shook her head at herself, she was only going in verbal circles and not really saying anything of real substance.

"Would you be one of those relatively few people?" Jonathan asked, still with no real clues about the specifics. That talk about an unknown number of people was, if anything, throwing him off the trail.

"Yeah," 'you too, and our friends' she mentally added.

"Then it'll be worth the risk," Jonathan assured.

"You're right," Ashimi thought that in part she might have only been hearing what she wanted to hear, but only in part. Her friends wouldn't abandon Zero and it's not like she had intentions of dancing with danger for longer than needed. When Zero came back, assuming he did, because Ashimi didn't want to think of the alternative, then he could do some serious debugging. Then, after he was stable enough, he wouldn't need her energy to flow into him anymore and she would tell her father everything. Ash would figure out what that legendary creature was and free her from it. Ashimi could only count on that plan and hope for the best.

"I know that look," Jonathan smiled. "The gears in your head are turning and you're plotting like a boss."

Ashimi smiled as true hope began to take root. "It'll be alright." She was still relieved that Jonathan didn't insist on asking about the specifics. She didn't want to talk about it at the moment, but she would tell him later. "So, what are you doing here? Couldn't sleep?"

"What kind of knight sleeps when the princess is all fidgety?" Jonathan laughed. "With Dorme bragging about the results of her hair treatments and lecturing Volt about maintaining his hair, Volt stuck making all kinds of hair care promises and Zero back in his crystal, I guess they all had their reasons not to notice." A realization hit him and Jonathan felt compelled to ask, "Zero is coming back when we get to Viridian, right?"

"Right," Ashimi assured. 'And if you don't allow it, Legend, I swear I'll exorcise you out of me just so I can punch you!' She silently threatened in her mind.

xoxox xox xoxox

When they arrived at Viridian City, Zero did return. He was uneasy about it, but Ashimi insisted that they wait and see what happened. Fortunately, nothing did. The Christmas holidays came and went joyously, especially for Jonathan, who had been excused from his training with Thor that year, so he could accompany Ashimi on her journey. Gifts were exchanged, food was enjoyed and happy memories were formed that Christmas season.

After the new year's celebrations ended, Ashimi knew she better hurry up and get her final badge, she was cutting it pretty close, so she focused on training hard. Her friends joined her, especially Volt, who was determined to defeat his brother in a pokemon battle. Through the seemingly endless training in early January, Ashimi felt uneasy about how calm things were. Pixel tried to study the flow of aura to Zero, but the machines brought up nonsensical results.

Ashimi worried that Pixel might somehow see similarities with what happened at the north pole and... That was when Ashimi would realize her thoughts were not entirely her own. Pixel wanted Zero to live, she, Comet, Luke and Stella were happy to be able to spend Christmas with him, but they were also loyal Rockets. Would Zero be frozen in a data crystal for safety's sake, to await the emergence of more advanced technology that could stabilize him? How long would that take? Was it even possible? Something made her think that Zero would be lost, something like a terrible inner whisper that tried to influence her choices. The creature she had come to call Legend wouldn't talk to her openly, but it was there, it was always there.

To be Continued

xoxox xox xoxox


Chapter 35: Brothers

Ashimi, Jonathan, Dorme and Volt had been training hard since the holidays season ended. The break they took was refreshing, even if Ashimi was cutting it close for her final badge. They were full of determination, but like most optimistic people, procrastination sometimes became a part of their lives. This had not escaped Giovanni's notice and for the delay he imposed a penalty: a choice of either working during the Viridian Gym Christmas party or facing Electro in battle, that is Thor himself, not a pokemon battle. Ashimi wasn't one to back down from a fight, so her first reaction was to arm herself to the teeth to try to stand a chance against the general. The effort lasted until word got to Giovanni that his granddaughter was trying to get her hands on some dangerous weapons. He then proceeded to make the choice she was supposed to have made for herself and declared that she would work during the party. He also firmly ordered her to put the bazooka back where she found it.

As for the part about working during the Viridian party, it really wasn't so bad in Ashimi's opinion. She started eating as soon as she got there, while Dorme shook her head in disapproval. "We're supposed to be tending to the guests," the blond reminded. She was wearing a Christmasy red dress with fluffy white at the ends of the skirt and sleeves, black boots with matching white fluff at the knees and a Santa hat. She looked like she could be the daughter of the classic character. "You're the one that got us into this mess. The boss is making us work because of your delay in winning an earth badge."

"I'm working on it," Ashimi didn't sound too convincing with her mouth full of gingerbread cookies. She was wearing boots and a dress similar in style to Dorme's, but it was green and had little golden bells at the end of the skirt and the tip of the hat. Lightning was on her shoulder, wearing a red Santa hat, with an added golden bell at the end to match Ashimi.

Dorme sighed and went to the entrance of the gym. There she found Jonathan and Volt standing left and right of the doors, looking miserable. "How are you guys holding up?"

"My feet hurt," Jonathan complained.

"Mine too," Volt agreed. They were both dressed as toy soldiers, wielding giant candy canes and tasked with greeting the guests.

"It's just for today, hang tough and-" Dorme spotted Electro about to enter the gym and hurried back inside to do her job. Regardless of what he said after the Rocket League training, she felt it best not to let him catch her slacking off.

"Attention! " Electro shouted. Jonathan and Volt straightened and saluted with one hand, holding the five foot long candy canes in the other. The general proceeded inside the gym, looking amused.

A while later, Comet, Pixel, Zero and Stella arrived after having gone to meet Luke, who also arrived with them. Zero was dressed up as a winter Sawsbuck with a red light up nose. He wished his friends luck in getting through the rest of the evening and went off to find Ashimi and Dorme.

"Standing out here until the end of the party... Things can't get any worse," Volt sighed.

"At least you're not in a gladiator skirt," Comet consoled as the group went in. Pixel giggled as of recalling one such occasion in which Comet found himself in such a situation. Stella began to curiously inquire and Comet silently regretted mentioning it at all.

"He does have a point," Jonathan admitted.

"Yeah," Volt agreed. "We need to make sure Ashimi gets her earth badge before the boss decides to make us the next Viridian gladiators." He honestly didn't want to stand at the gym with an armored skirt, a brush on his helmet and a big axe for hours on end. They shuddered at the thought.

xoxox xox xoxox

Zero spotted Ashimi and Dorme who were supposed to be tending to the guests, though Ashimi was mostly eating the appetizers on the tray she held. She stopped and set the tray on the edge of a nearby table, running off. The golden bells on her outfit alerted Dorme, who turned her attention towards the sound. Soon, she too abandoned her tray and joined Ashimi in hugging and petting Zero while fussing about how adorable he was.

After a while of that, Dorme thought it was time to check on the boys. She wanted to be caught under the mistletoe with Jonathan, but that would be impossible if he was just standing there at the entrance during the whole party. Mont Blanc spotted her first and rushed over to flirt. Dorme tuned him out for the most part, until she got an idea. "You know what's awesome?" She interrupted him mid sentence and didn't bother waiting for him to ask what. "Toy soldier uniforms are awesome. It's the most attractive thing a man can wear. Standing there still as statues," Dorme let out an exaggerated dreamy sigh.

Mont Blanc looked as if he was plotting something. "Dorme, darling, I know you're busy working and all, but would you meet me at the entrance in fifteen minutes?"

"I suppose I can make a little time," Dorme agreed nonchalantly.

"Great, see you there," as Mont Blanc left, Dorme grinned victoriously.

She waited for Mont Blanc to go make Jonathan the offer to take his place, waited for the boys to change clothes and waited for Jonathan to be freed of his duties for the night. Then Volt came by a while later, out of the toy soldier costume and in his own formal clothes. "You wouldn't believe my luck, Mont Blanc just showed up and insisted on trading places with me."

"With you?!" Dorme gasped. "But you're taller than him, wouldn't have Johnny's outfit fit him better?"

"He said something about proving who the best toy soldier was. I'm not sure what that was about, but I'm not complaining," Volt grinned happily and went off to check out the food. He waved at Ashimi and Zero as he walked by, who waved back and continued stuffing their faces. Dorme pouted in frustration and decided not to go near the entrance.

xoxox xox xoxox

Later... "There you are!" A plump lady in a formal dress and an overload of jewelry rushed towards Ashimi, dragging a thin boy by the arm. "You disguised yourself as a waitress to blend in, how clever!"

"Um..." Ashimi backed away slowly. It was clear that this woman knew who she was. "I'm sorry, I don't think we've met before," she tried to pretend anyway.

The efforts were all futile, as the woman only laughed loudly and pushed her lanky twelve year old son towards her. "This is my son, he's been secretly in love with you since he saw you at the Kojiro's party! Right?"

"Yes, mother," the boy replied with little interest.

"Ah, you found her," an older gentleman with a big mustache approached. "I knew you'd be able to spot her," he grinned.

"Back off!" The woman growled. "I saw her first and she's having a grand time with my son. Aren't you?"

"Yes, mother," the boy parroted again, even if the question wasn't directed at him. He didn't seem to have much in the way of personality.

"Lady Ashimi," a couple called. The wealthy man and woman were dragging a twenty-something young man as they walked. "Let us introduced you to our son!" They chorused. "Please accept his hand in marriage!"

"Mother, father, please," the young man protested, "she's still a child!"

"Well she's going to grow up sometime!" The mother insisted.

"I'm afraid you're too late," the gentleman with the mustache interrupted. "Lady Rocketto is betrothed to my grandson!"

"He's a toddler!" The young man's father argued.

"He will grow up," the man with the mustache countered.

"My son is ready to marry at any time!" The plump woman tugged on the boy's arm.

Just as dull as ever, the boy replied with a tired, "yes, mother."

The arguments continued with more people realizing what was going on and joining in. Ashimi didn't want to get into trouble for damaging the gym if she tried to defend herself with pokemon, so instead she picked up Zero and broke into a run. She saw Dorme conversing with Jessie, James, James' parents and a Machoke in a dress whom she recognized as Alice. By then the multitude of gold diggers was in pursuit like a pack of wild animals. "Run!" She warned.

"Eek!" Dorme took off running, not knowing what was going on.

James and Jessie hugged each other, while James' parents did the same and Alice bravely tried to protect them. After the stampede passed them by, Meowth and Purrloin returned from their trip to the buffet table and found them huddled together. "Humans..." Meowth shrugged and kept looking around the party.

xoxox xox xoxox

Ashimi was still carrying Zero and being followed by Dorme when they saw Volt up ahead enjoying some snacks. "Run!" They shouted, but Volt didn't have time to get out of the way before he got caught in the growing stampede and dragged along with it.

A few feet ahead, Electro was waiting for the right moment to casually walk by with the right timing to catch Stella under the mistletoe. Suddenly her stance shifted into a defensive position, she was immovable. Electro reacted just in time and firmly planted his feet on the floor in a similar defensive stance. Ashimi, Zero and Dorme ran by, followed by the stampede of rich people who left Volt flat on the floor as they dashed off.

Stella curiously watched as Volt slowly began to lift himself off the floor. She extended her hand to help him up, which he took before noticing who it belonged to. "Stella..." Volt gasped in surprise.

She pointed up to the mistletoe and Electro's jaw dropped as he watched the scene unfold. Stella gave Volt a kiss on the cheek and continued on her way, leaving him to smile sheepishly. Electro grunted and stomped away, too embarrassed by the fact that his little brother stole his chance to try to scold him for it.

xoxox xox xoxox

Ashimi, Zero and Dorme went out of the gym. Seeing the stampede coming towards them, Jonathan and Mont Blanc wielded their candy canes in defense. They listened to the demands of the crowd while holding them back. "They want to marry Ashy?" Jonathan realized.

"I don't want to!" Ashimi shouted. She clutched Zero closer like a child clinging to a Teddiursa plushie. "I'm already married!" She tried to make up an excuse and it seemed to finally catch the crowd's attention. They demanded to know who it was. "Zero!" Ashimi blurted out.

"Isn't that a doll?" Someone in the crowd asked.

"It's some kind of high tech android," another person replied.

"Maybe he was made to grow up into her perfect husband!" Someone else theorized.

"You can still marry a regular human!" Another person insisted.

"No!" Ashimi shrieked. "I already have two more husbands! Johnny and Volt!"

"Greedy much?" Dorme pouted. "Take Mont Blanc while you're at it!"

"Dorme..." Mont Blanc paused in shock, then grinned big. "If it's okay with you, I'll sign up for the princess' harem, but I'll still be available for you," he winked.

"The scary part is that I don't even know if he's kidding," Dorme breathed.

"Take my son too!" The plump woman yelled.

"And my grandson!" The man with the mustache shouted.

"This is completely crazy, I don't want a harem of random rich boys!" Ashimi yelled.

"What is the meaning of this?" A sudden strong voice interrupted the chaos. Giovanni made his late arrival with Delia. The crowd tried to answer him all at once, then fell completely silent under his deadly glare. "Is there a reason why you insist on pestering this waitress?"

Many murmurs erupted from the crowd until they all merged into one question. "Isn't she your granddaughter?"

"No," Giovanni replied simply, making the mob feel very stupid. "All the gym parties are held simultaneously as per the Pokemon League's tradition. Ashley is at Cerulean City this year."

Embarrassed, the mob went back inside the gym and dispersed. Giovanni stepped inside stopping at the doorway. It seemed that Summer had taken Volt's place at the door, but it didn't matter anyway. "Aren't your shifts just about over?" Without waiting for a reply, Giovanni continued on his way.

Delia smiled with a simple yet meaningful, "have fun," and also disappeared into the party.

Ashimi gave the happenings some thought and wondered in a whisper. "Do you think that rather than a punishment this was so that we could enjoy the party without being pestered?"

"Only you would have been stalked and maybe Johnny if they figure out who he is," Dorme shuddered at the thought. "I hope that never happens. But I suppose we're all in this together, so yeah, I guess that's possible..."

"Either way the point is our shift is over and I finally get to change out of this costume!" Jonathan cheerfully left. "I'll be back in a few minutes."

"This outfit's kind of cute, it grew on me, so I'm keeping it on," Dorme decided.

"I'll stay like this too, better not risk my identity," Ashimi agreed.

"I..." Zero began, but the girls eyed him immediately and he knew they wanted him to keep the Sawsbuck costume light up red nose and all. "Me too, I guess."

"I'm staying in costume too," Summer announced, despite the clothes being too large for him, as they were made to fit the taller Volt. He waited for Dorme to make a comment, but she said nothing as she went back inside, hand in hand with Zero.

Mont Blanc pouted and huffed. "Chibi virtual androids have all the luck."

xoxox xox xoxox

With the Indigo League drawing ever closer, Ashimi's training continued. She took a break only for a short time to watch Volt's battle with Electro. They met up at the underground forest where the engineered trees glowed and the fierce Beedrills attacked anyone who dared to summon a pokemon. "Go Electabuzz!"

"So the little guy evolved," Electro grinned. "Electivire, time for a rematch!"

"He just needed some confidence and to train at a balanced pace," Volt replied as the buzzing of the Beedrills got ever closer.

"Electivire, thunder punch!" The massive pokemon launched forward with a powerful attack.

Volt saw the seven Beedrills coming from the side to attack Electabuzz. "Dodge and use shock wave!" Electabuzz jumped aside to avoid the punch, using his electricity to make the Beedrills back off. Another punch came and he backed away. Volt knew it would be bad if he was caught between Electivire and the Beedrills. "Shock wave, don't stop!"

Electro shook his head, "you're just tiring him out." Then something surprising happened, the Beedrills turned on Electivire. "Shock wave!" The Rocket general hastily commanded, trying to push the Beedrills away. The buzzing insects retreated, though their armor protected them and so far none were knocked out.

As the Beedrills backed away, Electabuzz emerged, charging forward, "thunder punch!" He ran through the group of retreating Beedrills and connected a direct hit to Electivire's face. 'The Beedrills don't see us as the weakest target anymore,' Volt thought in satisfaction, 'that should help even things out.'

The Beedrills regrouped and buzzed around overhead, as if debating who to attack next. They launched at Thor, "electro ball!" The general reacted quickly and gave a command as he turned and punched the first Beedrill that made it to him. Their charge halted and they buzzed away, varying their knocked out companion. Two of the bees carried the fainted one away, while the others buzzed for reinforcements. Five more Beedrills joined the four that remained, and having taken their ally to safety, the two others returned. At the same time, Electivire shot a series of electro balls.

"Shock wave!" Electabuzz used his electricity mostly as a way of defense to slow the electro balls enough to dodge them.

The eleven Beedrills grouped together and decided to attack Volt. They dove at him, sharp stingers ready to strike. "Focus on the battle," Jonathan called.

"Yeah, we'll take care of the Beedrills!" Ashimi agreed.

"Right, you can count on us," Zero added.

"Win this and make sure you post a really good victory selfie with your cool new hair!" Dorme cheered.

"Thanks!" Volt focused on trying to come up with a good strategy. If Electabuzz used up all his energy in the defensive, it wouldn't be long before Electivire knocked him out. Electivire made a small pause after the onslaught of attacks and Volt took the opportunity, "use barrier and charge in!"

Electro was determined to make him regret the bold move. "Focus punch!" The attack, coming from the general's strong pokemon, was known as an instant knock out.

"Iron tail!" With a quick movement, in a split second, Electabuzz spun around and slapped Electivire's fist away. "Rolling kick!" Without stopping the fluid motion, he delivered a swift strong kick.

Electivire stumbled back, the Beedrills decided they had enough of attacking the humans, who determinately fought back, and even managed to knock out another of their troops. The deadly insects instead turned their attention to the pokemon again. They buzzed around, releasing highly toxic dust into the battle zone. The poison affected both Electivire and Electabuzz.

"Thunder, at the Beedrills!" Electro called out with urgency. Electivire roared angrily and released a massive burst of electricity at the armored bees. Two more Beedrills were knocked out, pushing their numbers down to eight. As before, they removed their fallen companions from the battle field before attacking again. "Earthquake!

Just as Electabuzz was about to attack, the ground shook violently. The vibrations seemed to be absorbed by the mutant trees of glowing leaves and they shook, their branches moving as if they were alive. More leaves began to fall, bathing the dim area in brightness. The eight Beedrills flapped their wings, creating a whirlwind that carried the razor sharp leaves over the battle field. "Dig!" Volt and Electro called out at the same time.

The pokemon buried themselves while the humans ran to find shelter, until the wind died down and the leaves fell. The leaves on the ground glowed as if something in them had been activated and they stuck to each other making it very hard to move. "What is this?" Volt dragged his feet over the leaves after the storm had passed. It felt like walking on quick sand.

"A trap, and you fell right into it," Electro laughed. "In this forest, you need to expect the unexpected!" Electivire emerged in the surface, breaking through the barrier of leaves. Tree roots wrapped around him and he struggled to get loose, but finally made it out. "The trees here have been infused with Sudowoodo DNA and sometimes attack when they feel threatened."

"Electabuzz is still down there..." Volt's eyes widened as he rushed towards the battle zone. "Electabuzz, head to the surface, try your best! It's okay if we can't win this time, we'll keep training, just come out alive!"

"He might be alive, but definitely not conscious," Thor explained. "The trees won't release him until they feel he fainted."

The leaves moved and were torn through and Electabuzz's hand desperately reached up to the surface. Oxygen flowed to him through the opening and he could hear his trainer more clearly. "Fire punch to the surface!" The trees might have been infused with Sudowoodo DNA, but they were still trees, so they were more comparable to grass types. The roots that held Electabuzz retreated and he finally surfaced. Both Electavire and Electabuzz were covered in cuts and bruises, their breaths were labored and the poison in their bodies was making their senses fade. "Electabuzz, do you want to stop?" Electabuzz considered it and shook his head no. Volt had understood that pushing him only made him nervous, but taking away the pressure and leaving the choice to fight up to him gave him confidence. "Alright, let's win this!"

"You've lasted longer than I thought, but it's over now!" Electro exclaimed. The battle turned into a fierce brawl with commands being continuously issued, attacks flying out in rapid succession, dynamic punch, hammer arm, brick break, focus blast.

The remaining Beedrills converged overhead and attacked with pin missiles, but the two electric pokemon were too focused on their battle to dodge the rain of needles. "Focus punch!" Both brothers called out at once. The hits connected and the Beedrills stopped their attacks as if they were compelled by an irresistible curiosity to watch the outcome of the battle.

Finally, Electivire fell to his knees fighting against the darkness that overtook his senses. He shot one last blast of electricity that pushed Electabuzz back from their close proximity. Electivire fainted and the exhausted Electabuzz struggled to dizzily stand, only for cold darkness to claim him too. "A tie," Volt breathe as he recalled his pokemon.

"You won," Electro decided as he too recalled his pokemon. Any further conversation was cut off by a very loud buzzing sound. Another armored Beedrill arrived, his armor different from that of the others, he was the king of the underground forest. He buzzed loudly in a rhythm as if sounding off a battle march. Three Butterfree emerged from the trees circling the trainers below. "We've overstayed our welcome," Electro warned. "Let's go!" He hurried to lead the others to the nearest way out, dodging traps as he went.

The three Butterfree princesses flapped their wings and multi-colored dust was released from them, making their surroundings become a psychedelic kaleidoscope. The trainers coughed as the dust reached them just as they got to the exit.

They climbed out through a secret elevator hidden in a hollow tree and found themselves in the surface of the Viridian Forest. The world felt like it was spinning with swirls of color all around, it left Ashimi, Jonathan, Volt and Dorme with no sense of balance. Zero was supposed to remain unaffected due to his peculiar nature, but his connection with Ashimi's energy didn't work in his favor this time, as her dizziness also reflected on him.

Thor was very strong and had a stronger resistance to such chemicals, so he was able to stand. "Looks like you actually managed to do it." Electro voiced, "well done, brother." He left those few yet meaningful words to hang in the air as he walked away and quietly added, "I'm proud of you, Volt."

Volt, Ashimi, Jonathan, Dorme and Zero could only lay in the grass and hope that the world would stop spinning and changing colors soon. Volt thought he heard his brother's voice, but his head was pounding and strange echoes bounced in and out of his ears, so he wasn't entirely sure, yet something in his heart told him those words were real. Electabuzz had won, the pokemon his brother gave him, who had become one of his inseparable companions. Volt smiled as the world spun into oblivion, "Thank you, brother..."

xoxox xox xoxox

Later... Jonathan, Dorme, Volt and Zero watched as Ashimi trained Chari. She was in a chamber with a holographic projection of a Machoke. The hologram was equipped with electrical currents that made the hits feel real. Chari stood with her wings close to her back, as she was not to use them or her fire during the training match. This training consisted of physical attacks only, the elemental attacks had already been practiced and refined in previous training sessions. Ashimi stood behind the hologram with video goggles that allowed her to see from the Machoke hologram's perspective, plus electronic boots and gloves to control the Machoke's movements. The rest of her pokemon were standing in the sidelines a bit beat up from the effort of their own training sessions, but feeling strong and satisfied.

"Again!" Ashimi pumped her fist in the air and the Machoke mirrored her actions. "Here I go!" She began punching and kicking with a fast rhythm. Ashimi only felt a light tap when the hologram got hit, so she could use it as a guide, but Chari would get the equivalent of the full hit. The pokemon insisted on this, so Ashimi could continue training them continuously without getting hurt. The exercise used the principals behind move tutoring, in which a human with a certain level of understanding could teach a pokemon with detailed explanations and training exercises even if they might not be able to perform the move themselves. The fact that these were physical moves made it a lot easier to teach them by tutoring, since the ability to control an element such as fire, water, or electricity, wasn't a requirement.

They continued for a long time until they were both breathless. "Ashimi removed the goggles and checked the time. "We should get everyone healed up and ready, then we'll have just enough time to rest and relax a bit." Chari agreed and tiredly made her way off the platform and jumped into her pokeball, the other pokemon were also recalled, save for Lightning who hopped on Ashimi's shoulder.

The group made their way to the clinic within the Viridian base, talking as they walked. "Feeling ready, princess?" Jonathan asked.

"Yes and no," Ashimi admitted, "I mean, yeah I'm able and willing to face any challenge, but I don't have that victory guaranteed feeling of confidence. But I'm determined to struggle along and win."

"Understandable," Dorme nodded. "But you know, Volt scored a victory with Thor against all odds, so maybe you'll be able to beat Giovanni even if he's battling a lot harder than he would for regular trainers looking for a badge. After all, you're an even stronger trainer than Volt, didn't you beat him twice?"

"Once," Volt corrected. "That second battle can hardly count."

"I think you can do it," Zero assured, "you've been training a lot and all the pokemon have become stronger." That went for all their pokemon, as they too had been training alongside Ashimi.

'Aniki is right!' The newly evolved Nidorino agreed.

"You've been training yourself alongside the pokemon too," Jonathan observed. "That should make you a better strategist and quicker to react."

"Where did you learn that fighting style you used for the hologram?" Volt curiously asked.

"From a book grandpa let me borrow, it was a handwritten book from his years as a fighter, he used to fight pokemon himself and everything. I modified it a bit to fit each pokemon's shape, but it all uses the same basic style," Ashimi explained. "I used the hologram though, because if I tried to do it myself my pokemon would pummel me to dust," she joked.

"At least until you learn to shoot balls of aura energy from the palms of your hands," Jonathan laughed.

"Oh yes, I intend to learn that one day. Then I'll stand on top of Mount Silver and shoot out a huge blast of energy while yelling kamehameha, just for the fun of it," Ashimi laughed. She didn't know that she would end up going to Mount Silver a lot sooner than that.

To be Continued

xoxox xox xoxox


Chapter 36: Battle Royale

Ashimi found herself at Mount Silver, standing at the summit across her grandfather. "This time we battle for real, I expect that you've trained enough to bring a better challenge than last time. There's no need to hold back here. The rules are up to you."

Ashimi was surprised by the opportunity, and thought about what kind of rules she wanted. Nothing too complicated, she had enough to watch out for as it was. "Six pokemon," she finally replied, that should maximize her chances of victory. Though Giovanni would also have the same number of pokemon at his disposal at least she had more choices and the chance to come up with a long term strategy. Then an idea occurred to her. "At the same time."

Giovanni considered her words and a grin spread across his face. "A battle royale," that would be interesting indeed. "Very well then, go," he signaled for the female Persian that stood beside him. Purry stood between the two trainers and was soon joined by five others who emerged from red beams of light out of their pokeballs. The male Persian, who was Giovanni's lifelong companion yawned and sat comfortably at his master's feet to watch the battle. A Rhyperior, a Machamp and surprisingly a Porygon-Z materialized, but that was just the beginning. Aerodactyl appeared, followed by a pokemon that seemed to be a cross between Kabutops and Genesect. It was Giovanni's version of the armored pokemon, which retained noticeable features from the original form, such as the scythes.

'No digging,' Ashimi thought. She had seen what Giovanni's earthquakes could do outside of the gym and this was no ordinary gym battle, the tunnels would collapse too quickly, crushing the pokemon inside. She'd have to come up with an effective defense though, and having all her pokemon out at once made that a little easier.

"Rhyperior, poison jab on the Pikachu," Giovanni began the attack.

"Clefable, telekinesis, Lightning, volt tackle Kabutops!" Ashimi responded. Clefable lifted Lightning over Rhyperior and set him at a course with his target.

"Kabutops, flash cannon!" Giovanni defended.

"Telekinesis! Smoke screen!" In her rush, Ashimi didn't specify who the orders were for, but she didn't really need to. Clefable hurried to get Lightning to safety, while Chari covered his retreat. The beam from the canon was massive and Lightning just barely got out of the way.

Kabutops still retained his original appearance for the most part, but he had the power of Genesect. "Icy wind!" At Giovanni's command, Kabutops called forth a freezing wind that blew away the smoke and chilled his opponents.

"Heat wave!" Ashimi countered. Chari tried to warm the area, while Kabotops continued to chill it. "

"Persian, shadow ball, on all of them," Giovanni commanded. Purry let out a series of attacks in rapid succession. The male Persian sitting beside Giovanni grunted from the sidelines, a bit jealous of his mate. He was supposed to be Persian, she was just girl, as Giovanni never called her by her original nicknamed of Purry from when she was Pixel's pokemon. Albeit the male Persian could understand the reason for the distinction, Aerodactyl was a girl too after all, it still bothered him.

Ashimi knew that simply dodging would be useless. Purry's ruby horn was glowing and the shadow balls flew around in unusual patterns as if homing in on their targets. It was time to increase the defenses. "Everyone, fall back, Clefable, light screen!" The pokemon retreated to surround Clefable and become enveloped in her protection. "Lightning, thunder wave! Golbat, super sonic!" The pulses of electricity disrupted the shadowy projectiles and the super sonic waves interfered with their signal source, Purry. "Clefable, hang back and alternate between light screen and reflect as needed."

So far Ashimi had put on some very good defenses, but Giovanni was determined to break through them. There were several Porygon-Z in Team Rocket's control that were linked to satellites. They all had different code names for distinction. This one was made for battle, "Maverick, satellite beam!"

Ashimi's eyes widened as the skies lit up, "everyone, charge!" She shouted, pointing across the designated battle area. All the pokemon rushed forward and chaos broke loose. Yet it was the only way to keep them safe from the satellite. A large laser beam crashed into the mountain top, leaving a crater in front of Ashimi, where her pokemon stood not long ago. She had to take out that Porygon-Z, and until she did, she had to stay close to the opposing team, so that the weapon would backfire if it was used.

"Machamp, close combat! Persian, night slash! Rhyperior, stone edge! Aerodactyl, iron tail! Kabutops, super power! Maverick, gravity!" Giovanni called out in a hurry, as Ashimi's whole team rushed forward to avoid the hit from the satellite's laser beam.

Being the strongest physically, Chari didn't think twice before charging towards the imposing Machamp. She didn't need to be told what to do, as she had practiced it before. She moved closer, and as the Machamp attacked, she used her wings to quickly propel herself in a back flip and hit Machamp with an iron tail uppercut that made the fighter stagger back.

Furball saw this as an opportunity to prove himself. He had battled his mother before, but she always won with ease and kept telling him to train harder. Yet the Meowth knew he had no advantages. Purry, being a Persian, was bigger, stronger and more experienced, with sharper claws and a ruby horn, rather than a flat gem like Persians normally had. "Furball, toxic and don't stop moving!" The feline took off at his trainer's voice, releasing purplish toxic mist as he went. Purry was quick to give pursuit.

"Double thunderbolt on Purry!" Furball released his electricity just as Purry caught up and tackled him. She was hit with a double charge of electricity, the other attack coming from Lightning, but resisted, yet it was enough to weaken her stance. "Hydro pump!" Wartortle shot a strong beam of water that freed Furball from Purry's grasp and threw her a few feet back. "Keep using toxic, Furball!" With no worries about who got caught in it, Furball continued to spread his poisonous mist.

As sharp stones began to protrude from the mountain, those who could fly took to the air. Clefable scrambled to dodge despite the gravity slowing her movements. It wasn't so bad, since they had trained in high gravity before, but due to the speed of the powerful attacks, Clefable was still unable to dodge and fight back at the same time among the chaos.

"Golbat, shadow ball Rhyperior!" The bat did so continuously until Rhyperior's attack ceased and Clefable caught her breath. Due to the proximity of the combatants, Furball's poison inevitably reached everyone, but he knew that wouldn't be a problem, since Clefable was there to heal their allies. "Clefable, heal bell! Golbat, back her up with shadow ball!" Clefable began to heal her allies of the poison, leaving only the opposing team to suffer its effects.

Aerodactyl dove into the heat of battle and swung her massive tail, which had taken a metallic texture as she attacked. The pokemon on the ground tried to move out of the way of the incoming attacks, but the heavy gravity that came because of Maverick, made it require more effort that it normally would. Even if they were doing alright for now, Ashimi knew that it would all pile up.

"Wartortle, hydro pump and ice beam, on Maverick!" The water pokemon alternated between the attacks, aiming at where Ashimi was pointing, though the Porygon-Z was not in his line of sight, due to the chaos that separated them. With the water being rapidly followed by the freezing beams, sharp shards of ice were formed. The cold projectiles traveled across the battle field, opening up a path towards the target. It was a small opening, but it was enough.

"Golbat, aerial ace!" The bat speedily rushed forward, dodging stray attacks from the chaotic battle royale until he reached Maverick. "Acrobatics and steel wing!" Golbat remained continuously on the move with his fast acrobatics, his wings were covered in a metallic texture as he continued to attack Maverick.

Giovanni shifted his focus to the Porygon-Z. "Maverick, defense curl!" The battle royale was more challenging than he thought, and to top it all up his pokemon were poisoned. Ashimi's pokemon were clearly used to training together and she never really changed her main team, which made them get used to each other. That minimized accidental attacks on allies among the fast paced chaos and increased their opportunities to successfully help each other. Giovanni knew that he had the advantage in power, but Ashimi's defenses had certainly improved.

Since Clefable had finished her part of using heal bell and no longer needed Golbat to watch her back, she could defend herself and contribute to the battle. "Clefable, meteor mash! Chari, smoke screen!" The smoke Chari produced covered not only the area where she fought Machamp, but also where Clefable had rushed in to face Kabutops as he chased after Lightning, rapidly swinging his scythes. Kabutops didn't see the attack coming and it was a direct hit. The prehistoric pokemon angrily blew the smoke away with an icy wind, but went on the attack at the first hint of movement before the smoke had cleared enough to actually see what it was. The sharp tip of his scythe reached Machamp, who angrily fought back. Above them, Chari flew, holding Clefable out of reach as they both chuckled.

"Kabutops, Machamp, stop this instant!" Giovanni's scolding voice made the two pokemon back away from each other. He continued ordering attacks among the chaos.

"Wartortle, spin and use aqua tail!" The move cleared the space around the water pokemon, making the attackers back away momentarily. "Hydro pump, spread it out nicely!" The strategy may seem puzzling at first, as spreading the attack would diminish its power. "Furball, water pulse! Watch his back Lightning." Pretty soon the combatants were all wet. "Retreat!" The pokemon backed away, back towards the crater where the satellite struck before.

Giovanni thought that the opportunity was too easy, but he tried to take it anyway. "Maverick, satellite beam!"

"All out super sonic and double thunderbolt!" Ashimi called out in a hurry. Before Maverick could activate the weapon in the atmosphere, Lightning and Furball went all out with their electric attacks. Golbat joined in with super sonic waves to which the opposing pokemon were more susceptible while being electrocuted. Ashimi sent more pokemon on an all out attack before the opposing team could recover. "Chari, fire blast! Golbat, gust!" Chari's flames blanketed the battle field as she released a series of powerful fire blasts. Golbat's gust fanned the flames, making the attack inescapable.

Through the flames and all, Giovanni's pokemon were still following his orders, attacking relentlessly and charging into the crater. "Satellite hologram!"

The satellite activated again. The pokemon were all too close to each other for the laser attack to be effective without hitting both sides, but it could still be used as a distraction. Holographic images of Maverick, Purry, Rhyperior, Aerodactyl, Kabutops and Machamp appeared, creating confusion with the fake doubles.

"Golbat, super sonic, give it all you have!" Golbat released his super sonic waves as per Ashimi's counter strategy. The holographic images flickered with the interference. The pokemon could tell apart the fakes, but Golbat was kept busy in his efforts.

Giovanni decided that keeping up the hologram wasn't worth it just to keep Golbat busy and Maverick could be put to better use joining the battle along with the other pokemon. "Maverick, electro web!" The Porygon-Z shot electrified nets to try to entrap the other pokemon. He didn't have a clear path to all of them from the ground and Golbat was still disrupting the satellite signal. Accessorizing pokemon with satellites and advanced armor was seen as illegal in official battles, but this wasn't as much an official battle as it was a test, though a badge could still come out of it.

Maverick's electro web shot out towards Golbat, who speedily dodged it. The virtual pokemon then shot at Wartortle, who was too busy fighting off Kabutops to dodge, and instead withdrew into his shell and used iron defense to minimize the damage of the electric web wrapping around him. Kabutops tried to pound on his shell to make him come out, though Giovanni saw a better strategy. "Kabutops, flash canon!"

The armored prehistoric pokemon aimed his canon at the opening on Wartortle's shell. "Lightning, give Wartortle a light shock to free him! Clefable, telekinesis on Kabutops!" Clefable jumped back and focused her psychic powers on Rhyperior and Kabutops at the same time, defending Wartortle and herself. Lightning and Furball had stayed close to compliment each other's attacks. Furball faced Purry, who had been chasing them, to give Lightning some time to free Wartortle. The delay in Kabutops' attack thanks to Clefable was enough for Wartortle to regain his bearings. "Hydro pump!" His head popped out of his shell and he assaulted Kabutops with a strong hydro pump point blank, that pushed him back several feet.

Furball had become trapped and was squirming to escape Purry. 'I can't go easy on you,' she reminded.

'I know,' Furball replied, 'and I'm not asking you to.' He was just as feisty as his mother, though he hadn't been through the battles she had. Dark pulse, water pulse, thunderbolt, nothing worked to free himself.

'Train harder,' Purry advised. She released and electric attack that overtook Furball's senses, but he refused to faint.

Furball heard Ashimi saying something, but he couldn't make out her words. Lightning was there, aiming his thunder attack at Purry. The Pikachu was getting closer in an attempt to free his friend, who remained pinned to the ground. Purry batted Lightning away with an iron tail attack. Ashimi looked across the battle field, everyone was busy, but she couldn't be the first to lose a pokemon, numbers and complementary attacks with team work were her only chance.

"Golbat, use shadow ball, then steal wing and aerial ace on Purry!" The bat hurried off on the attack. The shadow balls were little more than a distraction, then Golbat flew in combining steal wing and aerial ace to collide with Purry with great force, despite the thunderbolt she released as a counter attack. It was enough to make her lose her grip on Furball, and the Meowth hurried to escape.

Golbat dizzily landed, sore and unable to take off fast enough. Purry recovered quickly and used night slash. Golbat was hurt badly, and though Ashimi was urging Lightning and Furball to help him, she knew that reaching him among the chaos was no easy task. "Double thunderbolt!" Lightning and Furball released their full electrical power on Purry, who responded with the same element. Golbat took the opportunity to snap out of the pained daze and take to the air.

Seeing this as an opportunity to get rid of the interfering bat, Giovanni commanded, "Persian, horn attack on Golbat!" Hearing her master's voice, Purry ceased the counter attack despite the electricity still directed at her and jumped to an impressive height that Golbat couldn't have anticipated. Her ruby horn stabbed into the center of the bat's body, glowing with a light water pulse that Ashimi didn't think made sense.

The energy was pushing outward, the water softly rippling out with gentleness that didn't match the attack. Then Ashimi realized what it was. Purry was lethal, but this wasn't a fight to the finish. She was purposely dulling her attack, to make it effective, but not deadly. Golbat fell in defeat, fainted. 'No...' Ashimi thought, she had lost a pokemon and had not been able to eliminate any from the opposing team yet. "Golbat return!" She recalled him before he was trampled in the chaos. "You did well, your efforts won't be in vain."

Purry looked quite at home in the chaos. That was how it was in her time as a Meowth. She was left scarred with even her coin-like charm being broken on one side and sharpened. Yet what past injuries didn't kill her made her stronger after she met Pixel and followed her for the sake of being closer to her secret crush, the Rocket boss' pokemon. Evolution left her looking regal and flawless, except for the deformity of the ruby on her forehead that was a horn instead of a gem. A freak by the standards of a wild Persian, but a rare beauty by human standards and also in the eyes of a more refined pokemon of her kind.

Furball was shocked to the point where Lightning had to nudge him to get him to react. The Meowth wanted to prove to his mother and to everyone that he was strong. Yet his mother's level seemed so unreachable as she fought among the chaos looking like a mythological combination of lioness and unicorn. 'I know it's a high goal to reach, but you can do it,' Lightning encouraged.

'Right, I won't give up,' Furball was determined. He knew that Lightning could relate to him, given who his parents were, and if his friend wasn't giving up, neither was he.

"Maverick, holograms! Aerodactyl, dragon claw!" Giovanni continued the attack. The flying prehistoric pokemon clawed at the combatants below. Lightning and Furball dodged left and right, but Aerodactyl was relentless.

Ashimi was thinking about how she should respond when she realized she shouldn't. She couldn't just fight back, she had to take control of the battle and lead the effort. First she would take out the satellite's controller and get rid of those confusing holograms. The real pokemon were so close to the projections that it was hard to determine which was giving off the living presence, as her aura sense wasn't that precise yet. "Lightning, quick attack on Maverick! Furball, shadow ball on Aerodactyl!"

The Meowth tried to keep the flying dinosaur busy by shooting a shadow ball whenever he wasn't too busy dodging the predator's claws. At the same time, the Pikachu slipped away and dodged the other fighters as he progressed towards the Porygon-Z, making good use of his speed.

"Maverick, zap canon!" The Porygon-Z shot several beams that Lightning speedily dodged. Even the holographic double was shooting and the Pikachu wasn't taking any chances on miscalculating which attack was real. He could figure it out by attacking, but he didn't want to slow his pace.

"Thunder wave!" As Lightning got closer to his opponent, he released his electricity and disrupted the hologram, while creating an opening to attack the real Maverick at close range.

"Zen headbutt!" Giovanni reacted quickly, calling for a change of tactics. Maverick fought back, trying to hit Lightning.

"Careful, Lightning, keep dodging!" Ashimi had seen her grandfather battle before and watched many videos with her pokemon, so his pokemon's movements in close combat were not unknown. She watched for an opening as Lightning made good use of what he had learned in his recent training. "Thunder iron tail!" Lightning flipped suddenly and simultaneously released his electricity while hitting Maverick with his now metallic tail. The attack was very strong and the Porygon-Z was thrown back and didn't get up.

"Aerodactyl!" Giovanni called out. The fossil pokemon noticed what had happened and ceased her pursuit of Furball. She picked up Maverick and set him on the sidelines, then returned to the battle.

'Why not just recall him?' Ashimi quietly wondered in confusion. She didn't have much time to dwell on it though, as the battle was still progressing and she had to decide what her next target would be.

Kabutops was a danger, Ashimi knew he had not shown his full power. It would take all her remaining pokemon to take him out, but if they had to deal with the others at the same time that would make the task even more challenging. Aerodactyl had the air advantage, flying high and low at intervals to attack while staying out of harm's way. Chari could battle her in the air one on one. "Chari, air slash up to Aerodactyl!"

The Charizard took to the sky when Aerodactyl's altitude had increased. The fossil pokemon went higher trying to dodge. "Dragon claw!" Both Ashimi and Giovanni called out at the same time. Chari and Aerodactyl began to claw at each other wildly, the battle was truly fierce!

'I have to be the one to make the first move, to control the pace of the battle, it's the only way I stand a chance,' Ashimi thought, but it would not be easy. "Wartortle, hydro pump and ice beam at Machamp!" The water pokemon's first two attacks didn't quite make it through the chaos of the battle field to hit the target fully, but he now had an ice spear that he could break into a rain of shards or use as a weapon. "Charge!" Using the ice spear to open a path, Wartortle made his way forward to Machamp.

Giovanni switched between looking up and to the area in front of him. Though the pokemon fought and dodged constantly, it was those instances of directly guided battles within the war that made a big difference. "Kabutops bubble beam and scald!"

The arena was flooded with bubbles that made dodging and even seeing beyond them difficult. Then the boiling water attacks came. "Clefable, reinforce the light screen, focus on that! Lightning, watch her back!" By then Wartortle had made it to Machamp, but nothing was left from his ice spear.

Ashimi was taking the lead and soon Giovanni realized that controlling so many pokemon at once wasn't so easy when he had to counter, rather than just make a move. "Machamp, dynamic punch!"

"Wartortle withdraw and hydro pump at the ground!" The turtle pokemon went flying like a rocket and hit Machamp on the face. "Aqua tail!" He turned around in mid air and his tails emerged from his shell, spinning to hit Machamp again. "Chari, fire blitz!" Up in the air, the Charizard began a series of fast fire attacks combined with fighting moves.

"Aerodactyl, iron head!" Aerodactyl went on the offensive again, trying to knock Chari out of the sky.

'That's it, divide your attention, don't focus too much on Kabutops,' Ashimi thought. If she kept up the battle in the sky, Giovanni would be compelled to look up every now and then, and she could use that time to overwhelm with a series of quick strategies on the ground. "Chari, smoke screen and dragon rage!"

"Aerodactyl, blow that smoke away and use aerial ace!" Giovanni called out, but when the smoke cleared, Chari was nowhere to be seen, then in a split second the Charizard dove from above and attacked with a relentless force.

The battle in the sky was the perfect distraction. By all logic the pokemon that was alone would need the more help from the trainer, but the way Ashimi saw it, all of Giovanni's pokemon were fighting alone. They were on the same team and working towards the same goal, but they weren't used to battling together and didn't know how to complement each other like her pokemon did.

"Furball, regroup with Wartortle!" That meant that Purry would go along, since she had mostly been chasing Furball, trying to push him to battle harder, while he mostly dodged. "Lightning, thunder on Aerodactyl!" The electric bolt flew up and caught Aerodactyl, who was kept quite busy by Chari. "Chari, fire blitz!"

"Aerodactyl, giga impact!" Giovanni tried to end the sky battle as quickly as possible, so he could focus on what was happening on the ground. "Rhyperior, hammer arm on that Pikachu! Kabutops, flash canon the Charizard!" Giovanni ordered in a rush.

As Furball charged in, Machamp was still a bit dazed from Wartortle's attack and tried to punch the Meowth away. Furball jumped higher than the Machamp expected. "Iron tail!" Furball spun in mid air, his metallic tail hitting Machamp on the face. The fighter still threw punches at random though the Meowth was landing behind him. Purry ducked to dodge the incoming attacks, though Machamp still cut his knuckles as the punch reached the tip of her ruby horn. The fighter growled and the feline hissed. "Night slash!" Furball didn't give Machamp time to recover before attacking again.

"Lightning, quick attack on Kabutops!" The Pikachu was on the move again, speedily crossing the battle field towards the armored fossil pokemon. "Volt tackle!" Lightning sped up even more, surrounded by electricity and tackled Kabutops just as he was using a flash cannon. The electric mouse scurried between Kabutops' legs and dashed off. Rhyperior tried to chase after him, but Lightning was faster.

The flash canon was thrown off course and hit Aerodactyl instead of Chari. She was knocked out of the sky and crashed into the chaos below. 'The sky battle was a good distraction, I didn't mean to end it so soon, but I guess I might as well.' "Finish Aerodactyl! Chari, fire blast! Lightning, thunder!" Aerodactyl was further assaulted before she could recover and finally knocked out.

"Machamp, get Aerodactyl!" Machamp immediately stopped his current feud and hurried to follow Giovanni's command. He placed Aerodactyl on the sidelines and rejoined the battle.

'Why?' Ashimi wondered in confusion. 'Why hasn't he recalled any pokemon?' She didn't get it, but she had a feeling that it wasn't done in vain, nothing Giovanni did was without a purpose. "Furball, toxic!" Ashimi reinforced the poison to continue weakening her opponents. Again, inevitably some of her own pokemon were caught in the poisonous mist as well, but that was quickly resolved. "Clefable, heal bell!"

Giovanni couldn't believe Ashimi was in the lead, and that poison wasn't helping him either. He needed to end this fast. 'Focus,' he thought, he couldn't allow the chaos to distract him, or the fact that a part of him was proud that Ashimi took to it without being overwhelmed. 'My next target is Clefable,' he reminded himself. Clefable was boosting the others' defenses, with her gone, the rest of the team would be easier to take out. "Kabutops, flash canon at Clefable!"

"Keep the defense up, Clefable! Lightning, thunder at Kabutops!" Ashimi called out in a rush.

"Machamp, focus blast on Clefable! Rhyperior, earthquake!" The ground shook violently, making it difficult for Clefable to stand and lowering her concentration. Machamp's blasts came at random, though Lightning tried to defend his teammate.

"Wartortle, hydro pump on Kabutops!" Ashimi knew that losing Clefable's defensive boost would be very bad, so she tried to defend the psychic pokemon. As Lightning and Wartortle attacked Kabutops from each side, the revived and upgraded fossil took to the skies with a jet pack that emerged from the back of his armor.

"Flash canon!" Kabutops crashed into Clefable's psychic shield after being missed by Lightning and Wartortle's attacks. The fossil cyborg attacked relentlessly until Clefable's shield couldn't hold out anymore.

'I can't allow myself to lose another pokemon!' Ashimi thought. Chari was flying, shooting fireballs at Machamp and Rhyperior. Furball was busy trying to evade Purry's attacks as if they were having a private mother son training session. "Lightning, Wartortle-"

"Explosion!" Giovanni's voice echoed across the battle field, drowning out all other sounds. The flash of light and subsequent release of sound waves and chunks of metal was massive.

"Clefable!" Furball was far enough to take cover and not suffer damage beyond scratches, minor burns and a pounding headache accompanied by ringing ears. Chari retreated high up at the last second and managed to escape the blast unharmed. "Lightning! Wartortle!" Clefable would surely have fainted when the smoke cleared, maybe even Lightning and Wartortle since they were so close. Yet when the smoke cleared out only Clefable was unconscious. Lightning and Wartortle were several feet away from where they had stood, looking refreshed.

Clefable was bruised, beaten and bloody. Ashimi soon realized what must have happened. "Clefable, return! You really made a big difference with your quick thinking." Clefable used her telekinesis to push Lightning and Wartortle away. Then in her final moment of consciousness, she used healing wish to sacrifice what little energy she had left to heal the teammates within her reach, splitting the energy between them. That left her even more exposed to the attack, but she knew she wouldn't be able to resist it anyway, so she gave the last bit of her strength to her companions.

'Kabutops used explosion, so I'm still ahead,' Ashimi tried to focus on the positive. To her surprise something emerged from the rubble next to where she had recalled Clefable. 'Looks like I don't have the number advantage after all.' Kabutops stood up without his armor. There was a certain glow to him that indicated he had used a strong version of harden right before the explosion. The explosion itself had been produced by the armor, which he could fight without, although he would lose the moves exclusive to Genesect.

Giovanni had used a strong move that he wouldn't be able to repeat in the remainder of the battle, but he had substantially weakened Ashimi's defenses and brought the match back to a draw. His pokemon were still weakened by the poison, but they were strong and could resist it. It would be too risky for Ashimi to reinforce the poison again in this close combat, since she didn't have Clefable to heal her own pokemon if they got caught in the toxic mist. "Machamp, brick break on the Wartortle!" The water pokemon had tough defenses that Giovanni thought he better break through as soon as possible.

"Wartortle, withdraw and use hydro pump from inside your shell!" It was a seemingly perfect counter strategy, but thing were never simple.

"Rhyperior, hammer arm!" Rhyperior knocked Wartortle's shell away, causing the hydro pump to miss. "Kabutops, night slash!" The prehistoric pokemon leapt on the attack slashing nonstop with his scythes to no avail, as Wartortle's shell protected him.

"Chari, fire blast!" The Charizard flew over the other combatants, using her fire to defend her teammate.

Giovanni glanced at Purry. "Get in there, girl." She ran towards the intense battle, leaving a tired Furball to wonder what she was planning to do. Surprising Ashimi, the daring Persian charged right in with a horn attack, except there was something different about it, the horn was glowing.

"Wartortle, hydro pump!" Nothing happened and Purry dashed right into the shell, squeezing inside in a way only a cat could. Ashimi's eyes went wide as Wartortle's shell rolled around due to the battle taking place within. She realized too late what the ruby horn's glow meant, 'she can use disable.' It was unusual, but then so was the horn and there were ways to teach pokemon moves that their kind could very rarely learn. "Try a different move, water gun, ice beam, anything!" Purry jumped out of the shell and Wartortle didn't come out. Ashimi could sense his low energy as if he were asleep, but she knew what it really meant, he had fainted. "Wartortle, return! You put up a good fight."

Giovanni didn't waste another second, this battle had gone on long enough. "Machamp, rolling kick on the Pikachu."

"Dodge it, Lightning! I'll tell you when to use volt tackle." Ashimi watched for an opening.

"Rhyperior, rock wrecker, on the Charizard!" Rhyperior continuously threw boulders at Chari, who dodged them in the air and responded with fire blasts. Giovanni knew he had to get her to come down, but she had no reason to at the moment, unless the rest of the team was in danger of being knocked out and she went to defend them. "Cross chop! Brick break! Rolling kick! Dynamic punch!" Giovanni coached Machamp move per move, but Lightning kept dodging as if he knew exactly what was coming. Then Giovanni realized it, of course he knew, Ashimi put his notes to good use after all.

Lightning felt like he was back in the hologram room, training with Ashimi. He knew her voice would come even before he heard her, "volt tackle!" He tackled Machamp with everything he had, throwing the larger pokemon back several feet. "Furball, shadow ball Rhyperior!" Furball was flailing around in the air, Purry had used her own tail to pick him up by the tail and hold him out of reach, but he still managed to shoot a shadow ball in Rhyperior's direction.

The attack bought enough time for Chari break away from the battle for her next attack. "Seismic toss!" Before Machamp could recover, Chari picked him off the ground and gained altitude again.

"Kabutops, hyper beam, knock that Charizard out of the sky!" Giovanni was losing his patience. He had to put that Charizard out of the battle. "Rhyperior, rock wrecker!"

Chari dove full speed, dodging the boulders and beams of energy while Machamp struggled to get free. The seismic toss left the fighting pokemon in a crater on the ground as dust flew up in a thick cloud. Ashimi knew she couldn't take any chances. "Furball, shadow ball at Rhyperior! Lightning, thunder at Kabutops! Chari, fire blast at Machamp!" Ashimi knew there was a very good chance that Rhyperior and Kabutops would dodge, but it would still work in her favor, as her true intension was to keep them busy, so they wouldn't get in the way of Chari's attack, which Machamp wouldn't be able to dodge. The smoke and dust cleared, and sure enough Machamp had fainted.

"Quit playing around!" Giovanni snapped at Purry. She immediately smashed Furball against the ground, still holding him by the tail with her own tail. The Meowth was dazed, but he still continued to flail. He attempted to shoot a shadow ball at his mother, but she shook him in the air so much he missed.

'Machamp is still in that crater, but there are less combatants now, so he's less likely to get caught in the battle,' Ashimi thought. 'I still don't get it, why haven't any of them been recalled?'

"Rhyperior, mega horn on Pikachu!" Giovanni continued on the attack, refusing to give up the lead of the battle. They were at a draw once again, with three pokemon each. Rhyperior went on the attack, Lightning was faster, but he was tired. "Kabutops, sand storm!" Kabutops began to spin as he ran his scythes through the ground in tornado patterns. The dust began to fly until it covered the arena. "Kabutops, hyper beam on the Charizard!"

"Be careful, Chari, go higher!" Chari couldn't see where the beams were coming from on the ground, but at least if she gained altitude, she had more time to dodge. That also meant having a harder time trying to hit any targets on the ground with her fire, but she couldn't see them through the sand anyway, so they were relying on luck and instinct.

Purry smashed Furball on the ground again and yawned. The effects of the poison were getting harder to resist and she was feeling lightheaded. None the less, she withstood it. She knew the poison always felt worse when it was about to fade away, so if she could resist it, she would feel better soon. 'You're really stubborn, aren't you?'

'Almost as much as you,' Furball dizzily replied.

'I bet your father would have already been long since knocked out,' Purry teased.

An indignant hiss came from the sidelines next to Giovanni. 'I heard that!' The male Persian protested. He made a mental note to start training again. He couldn't deny that he had become lazy over the years and he had to remedy that.

"Kabutops, stone edge on Pikachu!" Giovanni shifted tactics.

"Chari, dive!" Ashimi called out in a rush.

"Rhyperior, fire blast on Pikachu!" Lightning was trapped between the two attackers. Chari dove into the area and grabbed Lightning, protecting him from the stone edge attack. The fire blast came from the other side, behind her. She blocked it with her tail and though it still hurt, her flame burned very brightly.

"Night slash!" Kabutops charged at Chari with his scythes at the ready.

"Iron tail!" Chari swung her tail at Kabutops, it was covered by a metallic texture that glowed red as it burned. "Lightning, iron tail Rhyperior!" Kabutops was knocked off his feet and fell back. Lightning went on the offensive, preventing Rhyperior from interfering. "Blast burn!" Chari went all out attacking Kabutops point blank until her tail flame was dim and the prehistoric pokemon had fainted.

Purry continued smashing Furball against the ground. 'Get knocked out already, you stubborn kitten,' she grinned at how strong her son had become, even if she was relentless in her attack.

'No way! I won't give up!' Furball struggled with everything he had, just to remain conscious.

'Looks like Rhyperior's alone against those two, I better join in.' Purry harshly smashed Furball against the ground one last time and ran off to join Rhyperior.

Furball was barely conscious, too dizzy to do much at the moment except lie there. "Furball, I knew you could keep Purry busy, well done!" Ashimi commended. "Stay there and try to recover for now." She turned her attention to the other combatants. They were all tired, Chari and Lightning had just made a great effort, but Rhyperior and Purry had been suffering from poisoning for most of the battle, but it had diminished and faded away by now. Ashimi knew she needed to buy some time for Furball to recover and join in, then it would be three against two. "Smoke screen and retreat!" Chari gave them some cover and they ran off.

"Stop stalling! Persian, Rhyperior, finish this!" Giovanni called out impatiently. "Rhyperior, blizzard!" The cold wind and snow began to blow the smoke away, but when it cleared, there was no one there. Giovanni automatically looked up, guessing that the pokemon would take to the sky. Sure enough, the Charizard was hovering overhead with the Pikachu and Meowth on her back. She was fast to have time to pick them both up. "Rhyperior, throw Persian up there!" Purry jumped, landing on Rhyperior's arm and he threw her as high as he could. "Thunder!" She released a powerful electric attack in the air, which Chari tried to dodge, but wasn't able to. The static clung to her wings and rendered them paralyzed. It was hard just to keep them open to soften the landing. "Rhyperior, stone edge!"

"Chari!" Chari stepped back and jump trying to dodge the attack, but it all came too fast. "Lightning, Furball, double thunder!" They jumped towards Rhyperior and attacked together.

"Persian, night slash!" Purry jumped towards the attacking pair, claws out.

"Fire blast!" Though Chari had not yet fully recovered, she shot a strong flame that knocked Purry away from Lightning and Furball, leaving her with burns. "Dragon rage!" The fire pokemon charged forward full force, unconcerned for the dimness of her tail flame, though Ashimi was certainly worrying. Yet it was now or never, "fire blitz and another double thunderbolt!"

"Rhyperior, hyper beam!" Chari didn't deviate from her target despite the direct hit. Smoke came from her tiny tail flame and she fainted, but Purry had fainted as well.

Giovanni's male Persian watched the intense fight from the sidelines. 'I really do need to start training again,' he quietly thought. He didn't realize just how far behind he had fallen.

"Chari, return, you did great, super brave as always." Ashimi recalled her. She realized that the battle could go either way at this point.

"Earthquake!" Giovanni went on the attack again, not wasting the opportunity to make the next move.

The ground shook violently, preventing Lightning and Furball from making any moves. "C'mon, focus!" They tried to regain their balance with great difficulty. "Lightning, give Furball a boost." Furball hopped on Lightning's back. The two were about the same size, but this way Lightning would withstand the earthquake so that Furball could gain enough balance to jump on Rhyperior. "Water pulse!" Furball landed on Rhyperior's head and attacked with all he had. He was tired, dazed, and barely registered what was going on around him. By the time Rhyperior managed to pry him off, Furball had already fainted. "Furball, return! Lightning iron tail! You did great, Furball, you've gotten very strong." Lightning charged in before Rhyperior could fully recover from the water pulse and hit him with every bit of strength he had left. Rhyperior stumbled back and fell, exhausted and barely conscious. "It's almost over, one more attack!"

"Everyone hyper beam!" Giovanni's sudden command took Ashimi by surprise, as all the pokemon got up shakily to attack one last time. They had rested for a while, so it wasn't all that unbelievable that they would wake up from their fainting, the shocking part was that they were attacking despite their weakened state. Rhyperior struggled to get up and joined in.

Lightning tried to dodge the hits, but there were too many and he couldn't dodge them all. The effort made Giovanni's pokemon faint again as they had not recovered enough to battle. However, Lightning also fainted. "Return!" Giovanni finally recalled all his pokemon.

Ashimi recalled Lightning as well, as he would be a little more comfortable in his pokeball due to its standard healing mechanism that all pokeballs had by default. "You fought to the very end Lightning, it was a great battle." She sighed and walked across the mangled terrain of the battle field. "I guess I wasn't strong enough after all. I should have trained harder during the holidays..."

"Yes, you should have, but you still earned this." Giovanni gave her an earth badge.

"But it was a draw," Ashimi only stared at it unsure.

Giovanni placed the badge in the palm of her hand. "It was only a draw because I used illegal tactics to see how far I could push you. Take it, you've earned it."

"Thank you..." A smile formed on Ashimi's face. "My final badge... I'm going to the Indigo League!" She cheered.

To be Continued

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Chapter 34: The buffet of manliness joke comes from those Meowth fantasy-based Giovanni fan-made motivational poster things. XD Elf, Frosty and Rudolf are alternate incarnations of the protagonists of my original tale "Futuristic Christmas Story." Rocket Fuel is like Steam.

Chapter 35: Ever been in a situation where someone claims to give you a choice, except one of the so called options is near impossible or inexplicably random, but you decide to choose that anyway and totally throw them off? XD

The Beedrill is the one referred to as Prince in Don't Give Me Diamonds, the son of the Queen Beedrill, who was Giovanni's pokemon in the past and guarded the Viridian Forest in Diamonds. The three Butterfree are his daughters from Pretty, the Butterfree that Pixel released in the forest in Diamonds.

Chapter 36: Epic long battle! x.x The Dragon Ball Z mention wasn't just a reference to how timeless it is, but a sign that an epic long battle was on its way. XD

Though Giovanni isn't one to usually name his pokemon, it's kind of a necessity with the Porygon-Z, since there are several that interact with the Rocket virtual systems and it makes it easier to identify them, plus they might need a 'filename' for some of the more technical stuff. Maverick was named after the term used in Megaman X for a rogue robot, though he is in fact well trained and loyal to Giovanni.

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Elf Claus: The 25 year old granddaughter of the last classic Santa Claus and head of the north pole operations. She has waist length blond hair, green eyes, and wifi equipped pointy ears. Her technological enhancements are light by comparison, so some don't consider that she has enough machinery to be called a true cyborg, although what she does have is very useful.

Rudolf Rednose: A 27 year old cyborg, he has brown hair and eyes, tan skin and his most noticeable feature is the glowing red energy crystal on his forehead. He has a very high percentage of technology and is without a doubt a high tech cyborg.

Frosty Von Snowman: A 22 year old hacker and video game programmer who joined Team Rocket in hopes of being able to do both. He has white hair, blue eyes and very pale skin.
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