Gary's Story

Chapter 101

"Well, don't YOU look challenging!"
"You got that right!"
Nidoking leapt at Gastly and executed a Fury Attack, Double Kick and Horn Attack in rapid succession.
Nothing happened.
Nidoking blinked. "You...I can't touch you!"
"Are you always this brilliant, or am I lucky?"
Nidoking's face clouded. "N-no! I've got to be able to hit you! I can't BEAT you if I can't hit you!" He used Earthquake in case it would do anything. Gastly watched the ground ripple under it with mild interest.
Nidoking broke down. "I can't hit it! I can't beat it! I can't win! I can't win!" Pride recalled him.
Sloth pointed at Gastly. "Tentacruel, wash it out!"
"Easy, right?"
"Uh oh..." Gastly only had the upper hand in the last battle because of its immunity to physical attack. It could tell there was real power in Nidoking's moves that would have finished off Gastly if any of them had connected. If Tentacruel was as well-trained as Nidoking, its Water-type attacks could mean Gastly's doom.
Tentacool danced on its tentacles like a wobbly spider, moving around the other five Twins' pokémon. Gastly took advantage of the time it needed to approach, and scored the first hit: a Confuse Ray. Tentacruel bobbled for a moment, then shook off the effects and pegged Gastly with a Water Gun attack that knocked Gastly into and through a tree.
"Glub...ooohh..." Gastly was out for the count. Kate recalled it.
Ivysaur might be able to take Tentacruel...but then, even if Nidoking stayed out, Nidoqueen could probably finish it off. Kate was done for. She couldn't handle this. What would happen now?
"Pidgeot! Find Gary Ford near the city!" Envy clapped a hand on Bill's mouth too late to stop Pidgeot from hearing. A shape rose from the nearby forest and sped southwest.
"You old fool!" Avarice threw in his face. "That bird might have helped you, but now it will never get there and back in time to save you!"
Bill smiled. "I beg to differ. The top flying speed of a Pidgeot with reason to hurry is twice that of sound itself. It would traverse the distance between here and Cerulean City in seconds. In fact, I imagine Pidgeot will already have spotted Gary by now, and once it has explained what's going on up here, Gary will waste no time. He has ways to move anywhere in no time at all, you know. I'd expect him to arrive any second now."
Avarice grew Charmeleon-red. "Never speak to the Seven Deadly Twins in that tone!" She drew back a hand.
In a flash of feathers, something large flew between her and Bill, knocking her to the ground. Pidgeot crowed in triumph as two other figures emerged from a rift in space at one edge of the clearing.
"I am Gary Ford, sworn defender of the people against Team Rocket's evil! I won't allow you to ravage Trainer Valley! Prepare to battle!" The other students cheered.
"I can tell you six have got power, but you won't win this!"
Anger flared up. "That was an insult, wasn't it? Muk, show the spoon-wielding freak who's boss! Give it a Toxic!"
"NO!" Ditto Teleported five feet further from Muk. Bill gasped.
Knowing Gary couldn't risk taking the time, Kate looked up Toxic in her Pokédex after taking it off Quiet mode. "Toxic. The most feared of all Poison-type moves, it infects the target with the deadliest poison known to pokémon, a poison that becomes steadily more deadly the longer it remains in a victim's body. Avoid at all costs."
Muk reared back and spit a glob of livid purple gunk at Ditto. Ditto Teleported out of the way and started using a Psychic attack, but Muk used Toxic again and Ditto had to stop to Teleport. Gary looked at the puddles of purple ooze melting into blackened grass, and realized Ditto as Alakazam wouldn't be much help. He couldn't count on Muk running out of Toxic. He thought he saw another way, though.
"Return, Alakazam!" Gary took up Ditto's Pokéball and recalled him, pulling him out of the way of yet another poisonous blob. Gary picked up a few other Pokéballs, as if weighing his options, and then put back most of them. As he'd hoped, no one noticed the one he then threw was the same one he'd put 'Alakazam' into.
"Go, Ditto!"
"Ready to lose at your own game?"

Chapter 102

"Toxic! Before it Transforms!"
Gary paused, in shock. The command had come, nearly simultaneously, from six throats.
As Ditto swept an eye over them, choosing the one he would become, all six of the Poison-types wielded by the Seven Deadly Twins prepared to attack with that most deadly of pokémon poisons. They were firing from six different angles; to avoid them all would take more concentration than Ditto was willing to spend on something other than strategy.
Now, the true terror of the Twins was revealed. Not only were their pokémon much better trained than some Elites, but they all knew Toxic as well (Gary considered it a fair bet that the Nidoking Kate had defeated would also have it, if the other six did.)
Muk spit out another glob of the stuff. Vileplume and Victreebel shot powder of the same livid purple color, while Weezing sprayed it in gaseous form and Tentacruel sprayed it in a more watery fluid than Muk's attack. Nidoqueen, charging forward to stab Ditto with her poisonous horn, saw all the other attacks hit and decided there really wasn't much point anymore.
Ditto had just begun to Transform when Muk's and Tentacruel's Toxic attacks tagged him. Weezing's gas and the Grass-types' powder settled in as the Transformation continued. The result was a very sickly Ditto/Tentacruel, who nearly fell to the ground as he struggled with the poison.
Kate nearly threw off her backpack and started to rummage through it. "I'm pretty sure I've got an Antidote in here..."
"I don't think he'll need it," Gary said.
Ditto suddenly straightened (as much as a Tentacruel could be said to straighten,) and fired a giant blast of water in Nidoqueen's general direction. Because Nidoqueen was still close to him from her abated charge, she had no chance to dodge his Hydro Pump attack. Knocked back by the water, she slammed into Victreebel before both washed up on the cottage wall.
"It's impossible to poison a Poison-type," Gary explained. "They live with poison in their bodies, so more poison isn't going to affect them. When Ditto became Tentacruel, the Tentacruel poison nullified the poison of the Toxic attacks."
Victreebel, annoyed, used its vine to pull itself upright and away from the fainted Nidoqueen. It looked up again--and saw Ditto, back in its natural state, focusing on Nidoqueen.
The Twins had learned their lesson about poisoning a Ditto. "Now, while it's weak, just nail it!" Anger called, and the others were quick to agree.
Tentacruel's tentacles shot forward to Wrap up Ditto as Weezing spewed Sludge at him. Muk followed suit, and Victreebel used its Razor Leaf attack. Vileplume, going for power and forgetting time was of the essence, began charging its Solarbeam.
All of them were too late.
Ditto didn't have to pick out a target this time. He had known exactly what to do next, and by the time Tentacruel finished Wrapping it held an annoyed Nidoqueen in its tentacles. As Nidoqueen, Ditto was doubly strong against the Sludge attacks of Weezing and Muk, and Victreebel's Razor Leaf attack mostly hit Tentacruel's tentacles.
Ditto knew, though, that Nidoqueen, both strong and weak against Grass-type attack, would get the standard dose of Vileplume's Solarbeam, and the standard dose of that attack was nothing to laugh at. Ditto furiously struggled with Tentacruel's tentacles, and finally managed to grab hold of a large number of them. Vileplume fired its beam of solar energy, Ditto yanked on the tentacles and swung Tentacruel around like a baseball bat, firmly connecting with the Solarbeam!
After Vileplume, seeing what was happening, stopped firing, Ditto began swinging the wounded Tentacruel around faster and faster. It offered little resistance, having come rather close to fainting from the full measure of the Grass-type attack. No one else tried attacking, knowing they were more than likely to hit Tentacruel.
Finally, Ditto threw Tentacruel--straight up. Since it still had Ditto tied up, however ineffective that had proven, it carried Ditto up with it. Gary abruptly realized what Ditto's plan was, and backed up several steps.
In midair, Ditto finally worked free of Tentacruel's tentacles, and threw it downward. The other five Poison-types hurried to move out of the way of the falling Tentacruel. They watched Ditto begin to fall with some nervousness, until they realized Ditto wasn't going to fall on any of them.
That wasn't the point.
Ditto came down in a jarring execution of the same attack Nidoking had used earlier: Earthquake. From the height Ditto had reached, the attack was carried to whole new levels of power. Muk shook like Jello and practically fell apart, finally fainting along with Tentacruel. Vileplume was knocked on its side, where it tried in vain to right itself again. Victreebel was severely wounded. Only Weezing, like Gastly earlier, was immune.
Ditto rushed forward, eager to solve that problem. Weezing, who knew it stood no chance of beating a Nidoqueen, began pumping out a Smokescreen to protect itself, but it was too frazzled to remember the most important step in using darkness as a cover: move away from where you were at first. Ditto leaped and grabbed Weezing right out of the air, carried it down and landed in a powerful Body Slam.
Victreebel finally gathered the strength to attack, again using Razor Leaf. Ditto turned to face the attack, and quickly moved Weezing to catch each leaf on it. Weezing was strong against the attack, but it was too dazed from the Body Slam for that make much difference. Then, before Victreebel could attack again or Weezing could pull itself together and do something, Ditto ran forward and drove Weezing into Victreebel's mouth!
It was a little too big to fit, but Ditto got the desired effect. Victreebel choked and tried to spit Weezing out, but Weezing was wedged in rather tight. Weezing, agitated, shot out a lot of Smog and Poison Gas, which didn't help Victreebel any. Finally, Victreebel fainted, and Weezing managed to wiggle out. Ditto was right there with another Body Slam.
Finally, all that remained was Vileplume, still on its side because of the great weight of its head flower. It saw Ditto coming and frantically waved its arms and legs, trying to move. Powder attacks of all kinds shot out of its flower and made a colorful mess on the ground.
Before Ditto could attack, however, Vileplume glowed red and disppeared into the Pokéball in Lust's hand. "Sorry, I don't think I'm up for a submissive role."
Pride hoisted a sack. "You may have beaten our star pokémon, but I've got something here you won't be able to faint!"
"What's that?"
Pride pulled out a Pokéball and threw it. "Call it a recent aquisition!"
"*GULP* So now I've got to fight for my kidnappers!?"

Chapter 103

Bill gasped. "You're using pokémon stolen from the valley!?"
"That's right. I figure, if you're against us, you're probably for justice and kindness and all that mush, so you couldn't bring yourself to attack these poor, innocent captives, who have no choice but to cream you at our command!"
"Gah...he's right...he's too strong a trainer for me to disobey!"
Gary's face darkened. "I'll find a way to beat you anyway!" He recalled Ditto and picked up another Pokéball. "Go, Gastly!"
"Gastly, Golem is facing us against its will. Don't attack; just let it wear itself out!"
"I can handle that..."
"Th-thank you!"
Pride frowned. "Golem, use every attack you've got! Find something that'll hurt it!"
Golem rushed forward and used Tackle, Rock Throw, Rock Slide, Earthquake and--"OH SHOOT!"--SelfDistruct. None of them touched Gastly, but the last finished off Golem. Pride cursed and recalled it.
After shuffling through the bag for a second, he emerged. "All right, this one oughta do the job!"
"NOW what's going on!?"
Gary blinked. This one was new. He quickly drew his Pokédex and scanned it.
"Rapidash. The fastest sprinter of all known pokémon, it will chase after anything that moves fast in the hopes of racing it. The legs of a Rapidash are sturdy enough to allow it to fall great distances without injury."
Pride pointed a commanding finger. "Rapidash, roast that Gastly!"
Gastly couldn't handle Rapidash. That was painfully obvious. Gary recalled it, and tossed another Pokéball.
"You may be tough, but I'm braver and boulder!"
Wincing from Graveler's pun, Gary called out, "Stay on the defensive, Graveler! Rapidash is a captive; don't hurt it more than necessary!"
"Now wait a minute, I can do some damage when I want to!"
"All right, Rapidash, melt it down!"
"Maybe I will! You and your superior attitude!"
Rapidash charged forward and started galloping in tight circles around Graveler, heightening its flame until it formed a solid ring of fire. Graveler rolled up in the middle of the ring, covering its eyes and waiting for Rapidash's Fire Spin attack to lose its momentum.
Rapidash soon realized its target was not in any pain, and tried a more direct approach, using Ember. Graveler, still curled, didn't even react.
"Uhh...don't tell me you fainted..."
"You kidding?" Graveler uncurled and Tackled Rapidash powerfully to demonstrate just how far from fainting it was.
"All right, that does it!" Rapidash reared up and brought its front hooves down hard in a Stomp. Sparks flew, testifying to the power of Rapidash's hooves.
"Awk! Can I PLEASE bash this guy?"
"Aw, go ahead, it's commited itself." The kids here to learn translating pokémon speech marveled at how easy Gary made it look.
"Joy!" After a quick check to satisfy Graveler that no rocks bigger than itself were nearby, it leapt into the air, turned a backwards somersault, and came down hard on Rapidash's back.
"Aaaugh!" Legs that could protect Rapidash from a fall off a cliff face and gave it a Stomp that could hurt a Rock-type were no help against the same kind of pressure from above. Rapidash's knees buckled, not from the pressure but from pain and wooziness. It fell to the ground, lifted its head briefly and then let it fall again.
Pride recalled Rapidash...and then dug into the bag again, choosing a victim to torture in combat. Gary had an uneasy feeling he would be here a while.

Chapter 104

"This one ought to floor your pokémon before it can attack!" Pride said, throwing his next Pokéball.
"Sorry about this, but I've got no choice!"
"Not if my pokémon is fast enough!" Gary recalled Graveler and threw yet another ball.
"And the crowd goes wild!"
"Charmeleon, you remember how to handle Psychic-types, right?"
"Yeah...hard, fast and physical!" Charmeleon drove forward to Slash Kadabra.
Before it got there, Kadabra doubled over as if it had already been hit. It began glowing, and as Charmeleon screeched to a halt, it started growing.
"It's evolving!?" Gary said, surprised. He scanned the shifting form.
"Trade-Evolutions: Kadabra, among other pokémon, evolve, not with battle experience, but with training experience. Only when it has been owned by two different trainers, most commonly by trading, will it evolve into its final form."
"Wow! This is sure to earn me special treatment from my captors!"
"Yeah, as soon as you wake up..."
Charmeleon stood over the crumpled Alakazam. "Boy, if I evolve during battle, you won't catch me distracting myself over it!"
Pride recalled Alakazam. "That was...interesting...so you like to play tough, huh? All right, I'll play tough! Let's see you beat this little warrior!" He threw yet another Pokéball.
"Grr...if I were strong enough to disobey you, I'd--Gary!?"
Gary's jaw dropped. "That's--you caught my Nidorina!" Kate gasped and an excited murmur rose from some of the other students.
From behind Pride, Gluttony blinked. "How can you tell?"
"How do you think? I suppose you've got Nidorino, too..."
Pride smiled evilly. "As a matter of fact..." he reached into his bag again, pulled out another Pokéball and threw it. "This him?"
"That was fast--Gary!? What's going on here?"
"If you two worked together anyway, you will have the honor of defeating your former master together!" Pride declared. Then he gave Gary an evil grin. "This ought to be good..."
"Uh...what do I do now?"
Gary's mind raced. There was no way he could battle Nidorino and Nidorina. It wasn't a matter of skill; he knew neither of them stood any chance against Gastly. He couldn't bring himself to harm them, even indirectly, the way he'd handled Golem.
Was there a way to get them back on his side?
Gary recalled Charmeleon, opened his Pokédex and made two quick exchanges. He picked up the involved Pokéballs. "You've made a mistake, Pride. I know Nidorino and Nidorina quite well, so I know they'll never resist these."
"What the--"
"Wait a minute--"
Pride's grin faded. "You're really going to take them on!? What happened to not harming the captives?"
Gary threw the Pokéballs. "So who's hurting captives?"
The two pokémon watched the balls fly. "Wait--they're going to--"
"So THAT's it!"
It was Pride's turn to let his jaw drop as the two empty Pokéballs connected with Nidorino and Nidorina. True to Gary's word, the two never even thought of resisting the Pokéballs. The balls clicked shut--and Gary was right there to grab them.
Avarice leapt to her feet. "Hey, we stole those fair and square!"
Gary smiled back. "And I rescued them fair and square!" Then he tossed the Pokéballs back into the field between him and the Seven Deadly Twins. "All right, guys! I know you're on vacation, but how'd you like to get even with your captors?"
"Vacation can wait!"
"This isn't business, it's pleasure!"
"Fine, then!" Anger growled. "We beat them before, we'll beat them again!"
"That was with your main Poison-types, wasn't it? You think you can pull it off without them?"
Pride threw another Pokéball. "All right, let's find out!"

Chapter 105

"Wait, weren't you two in the bag?"
Pride stood there, with a little grin on his face. Why wasn't he ordering Machoke to attack?
Machoke started glowing.
Pride's grin widened. "I thought so!"
Nidorino and Nidorina took a step back as the glow faded, leaving a slightly stunned Machamp.
"Now, Machamp, crush them!"
"I don't think so!" Machamp suddenly did a backflip, landing squarely on all four hands, pushed off and came down on its feet behind Pride. With a hand on each arm and two around his waist, Machamp lifted Pride above its head.
"I'm powerful enough now to disobey you, and I've got plenty of reasons to snap you like a twig!"
"I think I can guess what you just said, but you've forgotten one thing!" Pride twisted his wrist under Machamp's hold and tagged it with the Pokéball's recall beam. "No matter how mutinous, you're still mine now!"
"YOU'LL pay..." Machamp was sucked into the Pokéball, leaving Pride to fall six feet to the ground.
"Ooouff! Ow...all right, note to self: don't use the Machamp. I've still got something that has never evolved, but can dish out a whole lot of pain in a hurry!" He nearly ripped the bag apart in his eagerness to get at the Pokéball he had in mind. "Too bad for you your Nidoran haven't reached their final level! The exoskeleton would have come in handy!"
"About time you used me!"
"I was afraid of that!"
Gary paled at the words of Scyther and Nidorina. "The Scyther's willing to tear you to shreds even though you're a fellow victim?"
"I've been captured by evil trainers! Embarrassing, yes, but it's more action than I usually get! I'm itching for a fight and it doesn't matter who with!"
"In other words, we don't have to be gentle with you!"
"Oh, please don't! Give me all you've got!" Using its wings to help propel it forward, Scyther dashed at Nidorino and Nidorina, arm blades flashing in the afternoon sun.
Nidorino and Nidorina shared a glance, nodded and leapt forward to meet Scyther's charge. This was the last thing Scyther had expected, and it didn't have the time for a proper attack.
Which, to a Scyther, means it tried to smash them with the flat of its blades instead of slicing through them.
Nidorina swung herself into a slight spin, and Nidorino simply raised his horn out of the way, so that all of their bulk met Scyther's arm blades. Their momentum won out over Scyther's, and their sheer weight drove Scyther out of its dash and onto its back. Nidorino moved quickly, knowing Scyther would right itself in almost no time, and caught it in the head with a Horn Attack on its way up. Nidorina was close behind with a Scratch.
Scyther staggered, but remained on its feet. "You're good at this! At last, a real challenge!" It dashed again, but remembering last time, it followed through its slice shortly too early to hit Nidorino and Nidorina had they remained sitting there.
Now that Scyther had struck, Nidorino and Nidorina stopped sitting there. Nidorina dove into a forward roll, and Nidorino leapt forward, pushing off of the blunt top edges of Scyther's arm blades. Nidorino's horn and Nidorina's back spines connected with Scyther at the same time, and the two Poison Stings at once were too much for the Bug-type Scyther.
Scyther drove a blade into the ground as it knelt, feeling the effects of the poison. "Forgot...about that...curse the weaknesses of my type! Looks like this round goes to the rescuers! Er...not that that's...a bad thing..."
Scyther sank further toward the ground, Pride got the hint and recalled it. "So I was right...those two are probably nearly as well trained as our own main pokémon. I'll have to exploit their weaknesses again to defeat them a second time!" The bag was noticably less full now, so he had his next champion ready in no time. "And I've got just the pokémon to do it!"
"Marowak, give them a Bonemerang!"
"Nothing personal, you realize..." Marowak threw the bone in its hand, and it went spinning toward Nidorino. Gary was not familiar with this pokémon or its moves, but he guessed both were Ground-type from Pride's comment.
Nidorina leapt, closely followed by Nidorino. Nidorina caught Marowak's bone in her mouth, and once she was past, with the danger dealt with, Nidorino leapt straight at Marowak, who didn't seem to be much of a fighter without its bone. In no time flat, Marowak was on its back with Nidorino standing squarely over it.
"Nothing personal, you realize. Why don't you save yourself some trouble and surrender!"
"Sounds good to me! Wow, you guys are good..."
"Well, that didn't help!" Pride recalled Marowak. Nidorina spit its bone back at it, and the bone disappeared with Marowak. "This time, I'll use a pokémon with a weapon you can't take from it!"
"Oh, great, Poison-types...I hate Poison-types..."
"Exeggutor, Hypnosis!"

Chapter 106

"Look out!"
"Better yet, don't look!"
Nidorino and Nidorina shut their eyes tightly as Exeggutor's eyes began glowing.
All of them.
Gary had understood Nidorina and been warned. Pride, standing behind Exeggutor and forgetting it was no defense, was not so lucky. He fell to the ground, sound asleep. Noticing this, Exeggutor quickly stopped using Hypnosis.
Envy jumped up and took the Pokéball from Pride's hand. "All right, if Pride can't battle, I will!" He pointed a commanding finger at Exeggutor. "Exeggutor, use your strongest Psychic attack on them!"
"Uh...I just did..."
Envy scowled. "Well? You obeyed Pride, why won't you obey me!? I hold your Pokéball! I am your trainer now! Use your strongest psychic attack!"
"You can't understand me either, can you? I have no other psychic attacks!"
"Listen, you walking pot-plant--"
"It can't do it!" Gary cut in.
Envy turned his stare on Gary. "What did you say!?"
"Exeggutor is saying that it doesn't have any more psychic attacks! It's got Hypnosis and that's it!"
"What!? What kind of idiot would train an Exeggutor and not teach it a Psychic-type attack? Is it that hard to get a hold of a Psychic or Psywave TM? I don't believe this! What a worthless catch!"
"Oh, shut up!" Envy recalled Exeggutor, tossed the Pokéball over his shoulder and grabbed another at random from Pride's bag. "Please be something good, please be something good!"
"Grr...someone better have a good explanation for this!"
"Yes! Primeape, total those two pokémon!"
"What if I'd rather total YOU!?" Primeape turned and leapt right on top of Envy, bashing him senseless. Luckily for Envy, he dropped Primeape's Pokéball, and Gluttony was there to pick it up. She recalled Primeape, and Envy dropped to the ground like a sack.
Bill chuckled. "Primeape do tend to be disobedient at lower levels than most pokémon, owing to their agressive--"
"Ah, shut up!" Anger cut him off.
Pride sat up woozily. "What happened?"
Gary grinned. "Exeggutor put you to sleep, and then Envy took over and recalled it when he found out it didn't have a Psychic-type attack. Then the Primeape you caught beat him up! That's two more pokémon down, and neither of my pokémon had to lift a--"
"Okay, I get the idea!" Pride growled. He looked into the sack, and then upended it. Three Pokéballs fell to the ground. "I'll still beat you somehow...if the physical fighters aren't working out, I'll try special attacks!"
Pride threw one of the three Pokéballs, and a Ninetales emerged. It sat there, darkly silent.
"Ninetales, burn those two to cinders!"
"Fate's funny, isn't it?" Ninetales advanced on Nidorino and Nidorina.
"It sure is." Nidorina stood and walked forward to meet Ninetales.
"If you surrender easily, I won't have to hurt you, fellow captive..."
"I'm not a captive anymore, and as much as I'd like to avoid battling you, I can't disappoint my trainer that way!"
"W-what? You mean he's--"
"That's right. My own trainer has rescued me, and he's fighting to free all of us!"
"The choice is yours, Ninetales. Will you follow your own advice?"
Pride raised an eyebrow. "Follow its--at what point did this become a sermon!?"
"You--you're right...it's for the best that I lose this battle."
"Glad you agree!" Nidorina leaped at Ninetales, flipping it over and then standing over it. "Got to give your captor a convincing show...Good luck getting back to your trainer!"
Ninetales, looking up at Nidorina, was in an excellent position to use a fire attack on her, but didn't. It started wailing loudly and piteously, and pretending to struggle under Nidorina's guard.
Pride worked his jaw furiously. "I don't believe it! Two disobedient pokémon, and now a coward! This is getting embarrassing!" He recalled Ninetales and tossed the Pokéball into the large pile of rejects. Then he looked at the two remaining Pokéballs on the ground. "Curses...nothing left but more physicals! Oh well, maybe they'll tire you out!"
He picked up one and tossed it. "I'll beat you yet, Ford!"

Chapter 107

"Finally...now, what's going on here?"
Gary didn't know this pokémon. He quickly scanned it.
"Tauros, trample the Nidorino and Nidorina flat!"
"Tauros. This Normal-type pokémon prefers charging at any enemy. While charging, it cannot turn and will not stop until it hits something."
Gary and a few students quickly moved out of line with Tauros and either of Gary's pokémon.
After considering the two targets, Tauros beat the ground with a hoof and then ran forward, its three tails swinging wildly. Nidorino and Nidorina tensed as they got ready to jump to either side...and then they relaxed and just stared in surprise. Their heads turned to follow Tauros as it charged right between them, scattering students left and right, and finally slammed head first into a tree.
"Not the brightest calf in the litter, is he?"
"Now here's a fellow who's a few Pokéballs short of a full belt..."
Tauros pulled itself out of the large dent it had put in the tree trunk and turned back toward its targets. "All right, that didn't work..." He stopped to pick one over the other and then charged at Nidorino. Nidorino ran a tight half-circle, dodging Tauros' charge and then tagging it in the side with a Horn Attack. Nidorino got knocked away by Tauros' hind leg and Tauros charged on, its course unchanged either by Nidorino's attack or the fact that it had already missed.
"Wow! Not much sense, but it sure doesn't go down easy!"
Nidorino watched as Tauros barreled toward the Seven Deadly Twins, who scattered, and then finally crashed into the wall of the cottage--which, most everyone noticed, did not buckle as the tree had.
Tauros turned around again and decided Nidorina might be an easier target. It charged forward, Nidorina dodged easily, the students scattered, and Tauros got a good ten feet into the woods before it hit another tree.
"This is going nowhere! How about you just give up, okay?"
"Give up? That doesn't sound good..." Tauros wrenched itself free of the tree again and walked back toward Nidorino and Nidorina.
Everyone heard the snap as the second tree broke. Tauros had gone farther before hitting it, and had built up more speed and power. The tree folded at Tauros' dent and fell forward. Tauros, not charging, saw the falling trunk and ran to the left, avoiding the tree.
The second tree fell right in front of the first tree, and their branches caught. The weight of the second tree made the first break in the same way, and both fell.
Tauros ran back towards the Seven Deadly Twins, forgetting that the second tree would push the first one more in that direction than the way it would fall by itself. The first tree landed right on Tauros' head, and its horns got wedged in the trunk. Tauros scrambled around for a while, trying to break free, and raising a lot of dust, but not actually getting anywhere under the weight of the tree.
"All right, so maybe giving up isn't that bad an idea..." Tauros slumped under the oppressive trunk, and Pride recalled it.
Pride, whose face was by now a fascinating shade of purple, chucked the last Pokéball so hard it nearly clobbered Nidorino. "Fine, then! You want to fool around with me!? I'll flatten you!"
"Great. I've been kidnapped by a megalomaniac. This whole day has just been excellent." "Hey, at least there's never a dull moment with a megalomaniac!" "...and here with my daily leap of logic..."
"Dodrio, use your Drill Peck! Cream those two!"
"Works for me..." In a flash, Dodrio was standing between Nidorino and Nidorina, and one head each was lancing at them, while the center head shouted instructions.
Nidorina frantically worked to dodge each Drill Peck, but Dodrio was simply too fast. Nidorino took a more active approach and counterattacked, but the head pulled back from its Drill Pecks too fast to leave itself open to attack. Soon, Nidorina was staggering, and getting hit more and more often, and Nidorino wore itself out attacking and also got hit several times. Gary recalled each. They had certainly fought well for a while; he was more than willing to send in someone else by now.
"Bwahahaha! I finally beat them! Did you see that!? I AM THE MAst...uh..." Pride's mad grin faded as Gary's next choice emerged from its Pokéball.
"No, I'M the master!"
"Splendid. An Electric-type. And I was doing so well, too..." "Aw, it can't be that bad! Maybe it's level 7 or something!"
"What. Did. YOU. JUST. CALL! ME!?" Pikachu's electric sacs fairly exploded into crackling power.
"NOW look what you did! You got it mad at me!"
Pikachu doubled over, trying to hold more electricity than it safely could, and finally discharged the whole mess in a Thunderbolt at Dodrio. Dodrio was halfway to Pride before the attack hit, and it got no farther.
Pride kicked the unconscious bird, recalled it, spiked the Pokéball into the full pile of rejects and started yelling at the pile, in a voice so strangled with fury that no one could make out what he was saying. Exeggutor's ball caught his eye and he started yelling at it until a nervous Gluttony kicked it and sent it rolling into the pile. Gary and Kate shared a glance, as did Avarice, Anger, Sloth and Gluttony. Envy was still out cold, and Lust looked lost in thought.
Finally, Lust slunk over and whispered something in Pride's ear. He perked up immediately. "Yes, of course, that's it! We'll win yet!"
He and Lust turned to face Gary. "Let's see you beat this!"

Chapter 108

Pride and Lust each threw a Pokéball.
Gary suddenly added two and two and saw how much trouble he was in.
"Now, let's try that again!"
"Ah! A chance to redeem myself!"
Vileplume had been hurt by Ditto's Earthquake, but hadn't been beaten, just rendered unable to battle. Nidoking had yet to take a hit. Now, both of these super-powerful pokémon were a threat again, and both had reason to fight well.
"Uh oh..."
Pikachu, who had taken out the last enemy with one hit, was abruptly useless. Vileplume was strong against its attacks, and Nidoking wouldn't feel a thing. Gary recalled it.
Unlike Nidoking, Vileplume had taken a hard hit and might be easier to finish off. The important thing was to narrow down the number of attackers. Gary made his next choice accordingly.
"Go, Charmeleon! Avoid Nidoking's attacks and focus on beating Vileplume!" Students who had chosen Charmander cheered at the return of Gary's first pokémon, who had done so well against Alakazam, to the field of battle.
"You got it, mon capitan!"
"Hey, wait, that's not very fair!"
"Since when does Team Rocket give a Rattata's tail about fairness?"
"Oh, yeah...that's right...stupid evil trainer..."
"Hey, I'm here, too, you know!"
Lust turned thoughtfully to Pride. "You know, I think the kid needs a good lesson about our power...what say I handle the Fire-type to show him just how good we are?"
Her talk about how good they were finally snapped Pride out of the desperate hysterics he'd built himself into. "Hmm...good idea! Nidoking, wouldn't you like to beat something you're supposedly weak against? That would really prove how strong you are..."
"Eh...fine. Fire's no challenge anyway."
"Says you!"
"Now, Vileplume, attack!"
The niceties out of the way, Vileplume, who was trained well enough to be faster despite both its and Charmeleon's type, opened the attack with a spray of Acid from its head flower. Charmeleon dodged to the right and scored an Ember on one of Vileplume's petals on that side. The fire started to spread, but then a horrible smell filled the air and the fire fizzled out.
Kate gagged. "Gah! What's that smell!?"
Lust smirked. "The poison in my precious beauty's petals puts out flames, with a most potent reminder of fire's failure that lingers in the minds of my enemies."
"Bleh! I'll say! That's horrible!"
"It's all in the diet, my dear. Now, Vileplume, extinguish the weakling, won't you?"
"Hey, I resent that!"
"Then defend yourself!" Vileplume began quickly spinning around, and wove around the field like a top. Charmeleon got smacked a few times by its whirling petals.
Gary used his Pokédex on Vileplume. "Pokémon move: Petal Dance. Only learned by Oddish and its evolved forms, who attack several times with their leaves or petals and are left dizzy at the end of the attack."
This move would weaken Vileplume's fighting ability--as long as Charmeleon survived it. "Charmeleon, dodge the attack! Don't bother fighting back until Vileplume is done!"
"Can do!" Charmeleon worked itself into step with Vileplume's Petal Dance, mirroring its motions so it always stayed just out of reach of the spinning petals.
Finally, Vileplume ran out of gas and its spin slowed to a wobble. "Did...did I beat it?...whoo..."
"Bzzzt! Wrong!" Charmeleon stepped into an uppercut Slash on the nearest petal. Its claws slowly tore into the tough material, while Vileplume screeched in pain.
Lust used a word Gary hadn't heard before. "Vileplume, Acid!"
Charmeleon heard that command and tried to move back, but its claws got snagged on Vileplume's petal. Vileplume, still disoriented, turned in what it hoped was the same direction the pain was coming from, sprayed Acid again, heard no screams in Charmeleonese, and tried another direction while Charmeleon struggled with the petal material.
Finally, Charmeleon yanked its claws free, but too late to dodge when Vileplume finally got the right angle. Charmeleon was covered in hissing Acid, and cried out in agony. Gary hurriedly recalled it.
Vileplume was too good to take on, even wounded and confused. Nidoking, on the other hand, had apparently been left emotionally scarred by its last battle, and might be easier to handle, especially with the power of Gary's best Water-type..."Go, Poliwhirl!"
"Eeny meeny miney...uh...YEAH...the Nidoking, right? Please?"
"Ooh, ooh, I fight, I fight!"

Chapter 109

"Take a rest, Vileplume!" Lust called, and Vileplume stumbled back to her through pain and confusion. While she treated its wound, Nidoking and Poliwhirl faced off.
"I'm gonna beat you to prove I've got what it takes!"
"If you really had what it takes, you wouldn't have to prove it to yourself!"
"SHUT UP! I'll show you!" Nidoking rushed forward for a Fury Attack. Poliwhirl responded with its Hypnosis power, but Nidoking was too fast. By the time the effect began to sink in, Nidoking's view of the spiral was blocked by his own fists.
Poliwhirl flew backward from Nidoking's final uppercut and skidded through the dirt until it fetched up against a tree. It got up woozily, covered in a thin layer of mud.
"Still up? I'll fix that!"
Poliwhirl switched tactics and used Water Gun on the approaching Nidoking. The water splashed against Nidoking's dry exoskeleton and began to sink in, and Nidoking slowed down a fraction, but it still didn't take long for him to reach Poliwhirl and begin pounding. This time, Poliwhirl ducked out of the way, and Nidoking ended up splintering the trunk of the tree that had stopped Poliwhirl.
Nidoking turned, searching out the nimble annoyance. The tree fell and broke over his head. Nidoking brushed off the snapped trunk and spotted Poliwhirl near Gary. Eager to smash, he steamrolled toward Poliwhirl.
Poliwhirl started up its Hypnosis again the moment Nidoking spotted it. It was farther away this time, and had more time. Nidoking, however, was still faster than Poliwhirl expected. He was caught by the Hypnosis just in time to prevent him from attacking, but not in time to save Poliwhirl. Dazed and confused, Nidoking pitched forward and landed right on top of Poliwhirl!
"OOOOWWWWW! Get this big dumb oaf offa me!"
"Poliwhirl!" Gary could tell Poliwhirl wouldn't last long under there. "Use Water Gun to try to wake it up!"
Poliwhirl pushed against the mass on top of it and sprayed as much water as it could at once, getting sprayed itself by the backlash. A puddle quickly formed and started spreading around Nidoking. Nidoking began to grumble and moan in his sleep, until he woke to the water spraying on him and realized he was lying in a puddle of the stuff.
"YYEEEEAAARGGHHHHH!" The unexpected bonus of squashing Poliwhirl was not worth the wetness. Nidoking drove his fists into the ground to push himself up and out of the puddle. His front half looked horrible; the exoskeleton was waterlogged and looked ready to dissolve. Nidoking began using Thrash to shake off as much water as he could. Gary, Kate, Bill, the students and the Seven Deadly Twins all got splashed.
Poliwhirl struggled in the puddle. It could get around the puddle by using its legs to swim, but it couldn't get out. "Darnit...I think something's broken..."
"Poliwhirl?" Gary knelt by the puddle. "How bad is it?"
"I'll be--fine in here, but my--mobility's down quite a bit..."
Gary winced at Poliwhirl's wincing. "I meant the pain. You shouldn't fight in that condition..."
"And who else do you have who stands a chance against that thing?"
Gary thought about that. Charmeleon was covered in acid; if he sent it out now the pain would resume. Nidorino and Nidorina were too weak, and Pikachu was still unhelpful. Even if the Seven Deadly Twins gave Gary a chance to switch his team, Gastly, who could beat Nidoking with no trouble, wasn't strong enough to handle Vileplume, and Graveler wouldn't last long against either. Pidgeotto might have some kind of chance, especially against Vileplume, but Gary could only hope it was trustworthy. Everyone else was too low a level to handle either. Besides, the Seven Deadly Twins were unlikely, to say the least, to give Gary the option.
It was Poliwhirl or Ditto. Either was in trouble here; Bill knew about Ditto, Gary remembered, but with over a dozen unsuspecting spectators, especially the Seven Deadly Twins, Ditto couldn't use any form but Nidoking or Vileplume, and neither could take out both.
On the other hand, it might be able to defeat Vileplume as Nidoking if Nidoking were already eliminated, and as long as Poliwhirl was insisting...
"All right, Poliwhirl, go ahead and try to take Nidoking down, but after that I'm recalling you until I get to the Pokémon Center. We both know you couldn't take Vileplume anyway, right?"
"Yeah, rub it in. AH-on second thought, don't. I should be fine with this scale-model pond to float in...and put between me and him."
Nidoking's Thrash was winding down. It was a lot like Petal Dance in a few ways; Nidoking had gone psycho, flailing in every direction, for some time, and then finally slowed to a halt, looking dizzy. That gave Poliwhirl a better chance here.
From the far end of the puddle, Poliwhirl aimed a Water Gun at the slightly dazed Nidoking. Nidoking roared in protest as it connected.
"Hey, I just finished trying to dry off here!" Nidoking charged for Poliwhirl, but stopped when he realized the large puddle of water was in the way. Fuming, he circled the puddle, but he was still less than stable from the Thrash and had to go slowly lest he fall in. Poliwhirl swam to the other end before he could get to it.
Nidoking knew a hopeless case when he saw one. He could run laps around the puddle until next summer and wouldn't catch Poliwhirl. That, however, was as far as rage would allow him to think things out.
"Fine, then! I'll just leap over the stupid water!" Nidoking charged backwards and then took a running start.
"Hey, hey, big-boned! You're not gonna pull off a leap like that! Hold on a minute!" Poliwhirl frantically started trying to swim right out of the puddle.
"I'm comin' for ya! ...Oh, shoot--!"

Chapter 110

Water was everywhere. The place looked like a mudhole.
Nidoking lay, sopping wet again, in what had once been the puddle. Poliwhirl had been thrown a good ten feet away by the miniature tidal wave.
Nidoking rose groggily. "Ugg...gonna beat you...I can do it..."
Poliwhirl gave up trying to move when it only sharpened the pain, and looked at the staggering Nidoking. "Yeah, like you're--uhh--gonna beat a Caterpie in--ow--that condition..."
"You saying...I can't? You just wait...I'll crush you...I will..." Nidoking stumbled slowly toward Poliwhirl, looking as if the act of taking the next step just might faint him.
"Oh, give it up! You're--aa--the most pathetic disgrace I've ever seen! Owch...you had promise at the start, but now--ergh---look at you, a Ground-type jumping into puddles! Idiot!"
"I'll...I'll show you...you'll be sorry...wow, you're...gonna get it..."
"I am in a lot of pain here, and you are ticking. Me. Off, and that IS NOT SMART!" Poliwhirl smacked Nidoking right in the face with a hard Water Gun. Nidoking fell to his knees, then onto his face, finally out for the count.
Poliwhirl fell back, worn out from the pain. Its eyes fluttered. ".....ow....." Gary quickly recalled it. Poliwhirl would not emerge again until it was in the hands of the Pokémon Center.
Gary wasted no time. He had to make his next move before Pride recalled Nidoking. "Now, Go, Ditto! Transform into Nidoking!"
Pride, nearly in tears, snapped out of it. "Oh, no, you don't!" He raised his Pokéball to recall Nidoking.
"Hey, I need that!" Ditto began Transforming.
Nidoking vanished into Pride's Pokéball. The ball clicked shut.
Ditto finished transforming. "Too late!"
Gary turned to Lust. "Now, if you don't have any more tricks up your collective sleeves, it's just my Ditto versus the Vileplume!"
Lust paled as she realized that her already wounded pokémon was their last line of defense against a pokémon that had already fainted five of their super-pokémon. Then, she steeled herself. Patting the Super Potion-repaired petal, she said, "All right, Vileplume, it's up to you to show him why we dominate!"
Vileplume, no longer confused by now, shot Ditto a dark look. "Good! I came off looking dumb against both this guy and the candle-wick! I need to prove myself!"
"Then let's see what you've really got!"
"Vileplume, put it under the spell of your Sleep Powder!"
Vileplume tilted its head flower slightly in Ditto's direction and a puff of light blue powder emerged from the center, heading for Ditto. Ditto knelt, then quickly pivoted, swinging his huge tail around to meet the Sleep Powder. His tail stirred the air in its wake, causing the Sleep Powder to fly off into the woods. Vileplume's frown at the play grew deeper at the sound of a wild pokémon hitting the ground.
Lust mirrored Vileplume's expression, saying quite clearly that Ditto had just used one heck of a cheap trick. Then she pointed. "Keep sending more Sleep Powder at it, Vileplume! Let's see how long it can keep it up!"
Vileplume began churning out more powder. Ditto couldn't afford to wonder whether or not Vileplume would run out before he grew too tired to spin it away. He put a new twist into his response, spinning in much the same way Vileplume had when using Petal Dance, so that he moved forward while blowing away the Sleep Powder. Finally, he got close enough to smack Vileplume in the face with his tail. Vileplume staggered backwards, dropping the attack...and then dropping off to sleep. Ditto's tail had gotten coated with powder from sweeping it all away.
"No! Curse you and your circus gambits!" Lust stormed back to where Gluttony was sitting on a rock and snatched up her lunch tin, ignoring Gluttony's protests. She opened it, pulled out a Full Heal and tossed the tin back to Gluttony, who scrambled to catch it before any food or supplies fell out. She came back to find Ditto using Fury Attack on the sleeping Vileplume. Lust pointed the Full Heal and sprayed it at Vileplume, who quickly woke to the assault. Running low on Sleep Powder and knowing PoisonPowder would do nothing, it blasted Ditto in the face with Stun Spore.
Ditto reared back, his face covered in the yellow powder. Vileplume backed up, nursing the wounds it could reach.
"Now!" Lust called. "Give it all you've got! This time, you won't miss!"
Vileplume nodded, and its flower seemed to spread wider as it began to drink in the light of the sun.
Ditto was in real trouble. Desperately he went through the moves Pride's Nidoking knew. No speed or evade enhancers, not even among the TM moves. Somehow he wasn't surprised. He probably wouldn't make it behind a tree by the time Vileplume fired its Solarbeam, either. All he could do was choose an attack.
Reaching his decision, Ditto charged at Vileplume, who was still taking in solar power. He moved painfully slowly, under the influence of the Stun Spore, but he made it to Vileplume just as Vileplume stopped collecting sunlight. He drove forward to attack as Vileplume was about to fire.
Pow! Purple, yellow and light blue powder filled the air around Ditto and Vileplume, so thickly no one could see more than the vague shadows of Ditto and Vileplume. PoisonPowder, Stun Spore and Sleep Powder? When Vileplume had been about to use Solarbeam?
Finally, the powder settled onto a very colorful Ditto and Vileplume. Vileplume was hanging in the air, with Ditto's long horn running straight through a flattened petal and poking its main body.
Vileplume had been caught by Horn Drill. All the energy of the ready Solarbeam had found a different escape route when Ditto's horn hit, and blew out of that petal, carrying all of Vileplume's powders with it.
Lust collapsed at the sight of her dangling pokémon. Pride just hung his head silently. Avarice gaped in silent denial. Sloth covered his face in his hands. Gluttony choked on her coffee cake. Anger drove his fist into a tree trunk. Envy just lay there.
Ditto the Colorful Nidoking turned a baleful eye on the group, with the fainted Vileplume hanging from his horn like a forlorn flag. The Seven Deadly Twins had been finally beaten.

Chapter 111

The Battle of Bill's Cottage was the most interesting thing to happen around Cerulean City since a young trainer beat Misty so bad her Golduck was hospitalized. The battle had more effects than anyone realized.

"Notice: Translating Pokémon Speech with Bill the Pokémologist has been relocated due to the events on the first day of class. All students are asked to attend in the Riverside Room of the Pokémon Center. Thank you."

"Go, Kadabra!"
"Uh...heh heh heh...Hi..."

"Mommy, what's lust?"
"Uh...well...um, why, where did you hear that?"

"He left again, huh? Well, there's nowhere he can go from there but here. I'll just wait for him." Brad sat down in a chair in the lobby of the Pokémon Center and waited for Gary to return.

"A valley with a lot of pokémon somewhere near Bill's Cottage, huh? Sounds cool! I'm gonna try to find that place!"

"Hmm...obviously my current security measures aren't enough. I'll have to find some way to make the Valley more secure."

"You failed!?"
"Yes, sir. Ford defeated all of the pokémon we stole, as well as our own trained pokémon. Pride is still suffering from shock and denial."
"This is getting very far out of hand. I will attend to the matter of Ford and Fields myself. You Seven should study the battle, learn from your mistakes, and train yourselves and your pokémon in the event that you must face him again."
"Very well, sir. Avarice out."

"He beat the Seven Deadly Twins!? B-but that's impossible!"
"Yeah, real impossible. How'd he do it then, huh? Wish on a star?"
"That's not what I meant!"
Bonnie slumped, ignoring Clyde and Gastly's blabbering. There was no way they could ever make Gary see them as worthwhile enemies if he could take on the Seven and win. At least it made giving up on those black-suited agents easier; there wasn't any point to defeating them now. But what were they to do now? What could two middle-class Elites and a pokémon mascot do when Team Rocket was being plagued by another Ash Ketchum, someone who could stomp Elites any time he chose and even handle the Seven?

"There's something funny about that Ditto, though..."
"Yeah, sure is, Pride." Sloth sat back and watched Pride going loony.
"You saw it, too, right? That disgusting pink blob of cute Transformed even after I'd recalled Nidoking!"
"Yeah, that was unfair, all right."
"And then it used its tail against Vileplume! Tail Whip, or Slam, or whatever it was!"
"Now that was downright indecent of it."
"Don't you get it!?" Pride screamed, suddenly knocking Sloth against the wall. "My Nidoking doesn't have a CENSORED tail move!"

Kate lay on the bed in her overnight room, staring out the window at the late afternoon sun and thinking.
It was only luck that had gotten her past Nidoking. When she wasn't immune to the enemy's attacks, she had been wiped out easily. Gary, by himself, had defeated all of the captured pokémon, and even against the super Poison-types, his regular pokémon had done better than she had.
It wasn't the first time, either. In Vermilion City, she had been captured by Team Rocket, and Gary had rescued her. The day they visited Diglett's Cave, Gastly defeated her pokémon only to be stopped by Gary's Pidgey. When Bonnie and Clyde showed up in the grass maze, Gary had done all the work of stopping them. In Lavender Town, Kate had nearly lost her chance at a Gastly, but Gary had told her how she could get one even without the Ghost Ball. When they entered Saffron City, she--Kate stopped herself. That had nothing to do with her training ability. It was just bad luck on her part. But it had been Gary who freed both the Fighting Dojo and the Saffron City Gym. Kate had been unable to help in either battle. Later, she had brought down the Team Rocket fighter jets, but those had critical weak spots like the air intakes and wings. The more Kate thought about the Saffron City encounter, the more she wondered whether she really deserved the Marsh Badge she had been given.
Kate stared at her Pokédex lying on the table. She wondered again whether she was the right person to raise the young Vulpix from Route 7, given the life she led. Now, though, she added another worry to that. Was she really fit for the life she led?

"Move in."

Chapter 112

Brad fidgeted. It had been half an hour since he had arrived and heard about Gary Ford's victory at the cottage of Bill the Pokémologist. He'd been assured that Gary had not left the city since he'd gotten back. How long did it take to heal up, anyway? Did he have ten pokémon with gaping head wounds or something?
"Thanks. I'll be back later to see how it's doing." That voice! Brad looked up. Gary Ford was coming out of an emergency room! He'd been in there for half an hour or more? Or had Brad not noticed him going in?
"Oh, that would be great! Your Poliwhirl should recover faster if it knows you're there and you care about it." Poliwhirl? So he still had that Poliwag that had beaten Brad's Charmeleon in Pewter City, back when it was still a Charmander!
Gary smiled toward the emergency room. "Oh, believe me, it knows." Pompous jerk.
The nurse caught Brad's expression. "Oh! I think that boy wants a word with you...I've got work to take care of..." She was gone in short order.
Gary turned to face Brad. "Is something wrong?"
Brad stood. "I challenge you to a battle, Gary Ford!" Heads turned at that fateful sentence, and Brad tried to look tougher for the audience.
Gary's reaction was somewhat less than what Brad had been hoping for. "Another one, huh? Well, I was planning on training now anyway...hm...do I know you from somewhere? You look familiar."
"The name's Brad, and don't forget it! I faced you in Pewter just before you trashed the Gym to get your Boulder Badge! Held me up for a whole day! I'll bet it was you who hurt the Golduck at Cerulean, too, so I had to hang around there 'till it got better! Never did beat that stupid Seadra...and...and you...made all those people so happy in Vermilion! You have any idea how much all those happy people drove me nuts while I struggled at the Gym there!?"
Gary sighed. Yes, Brad, he thought, I did all that, and I also made the hole in Mt. Moon that probably held you up, too, and did you know there was a fire in Route 11 the day I left Vermilion? That happened because Team Rocket was after me... "Sometimes a trainer's life is like that, Brad. The best trainers learn how to deal with the bad times." Someone in the back started writing down that quote.
"That's why I'm here! I'm one of those best trainers! I'm gonna break out of my slump by whippin' you!"
Gary stared in surprise. "You're not doing so well at training right now, so you're going to fix that by facing...me? Oookay..."
"Don't make fun of me! Come on, let's go!" Brad raised a Pokéball right then and there. A clerk got wide-eyed and started to protest.
Gary cut him off. "What, in here? We'd wreck the place. There's a field near here that's good for trainer battles. Follow me."
The Pokémon Center lounge was empty in a minute.

"I've waited too long to catch up with you, Gary! Now we settle it!"
Gary shrugged. "Sounds good to me. You want to choose first or should I?"
It was a good strategic position to choose second. Brad really didn't give a Rattata's tail about strategy right now. "Get'm, Beedrill!"
"The Buzzin' Bomber's ready to nail you to a wall!"
Gary considered his options. Bug-type attacks were strong against Drowzee...and Gastly...Magikarp wouldn't help...it would easily dodge Sandshrew and Rattata's attacks by flying out of reach..."Go, Zubat! Use Confuse Ray!"
"You won't beat me!"
"Beedrill, Fury Attack! Knock it out of the air!"
"Gonna nailya!"
Zubat opened its mouth wide at Beedrill and darkness spilled forth from within to engulf Beedrill before fading away, leaving Beedrill flying a little lopsided. Beedrill went to attack and jabbed forward repeatedly, moving its two front stingers like twin pistons. Zubat would have been knocked out completely--if Beedrill's aim hadn't been about a foot off.
"Hey! Beedrill, attack the Zubat! The Zubat!"
"Zubat? But I'm a Beedrill...err...aren't I?" Beedrill was well and truly confused. Just in case it was really a Zubat, it tried flying with its front legs instead of the insect wings on its back, and fell to the ground.
Gary fought down the wide grin that threatened to overtake his face. "Zubat, Leech Life now!"
Zubat flew down to where Beedrill was just coming to terms with being on the ground, latched onto its back and started sucking. Beedrill came to terms with the pain and shot up into the air again, all question of its basic Zubat-ness removed by the more important matter. It Fury Attacked in all directions, but couldn't reach the Zubat on its back, which also meant it couldn't hit it with Twineedle. Its back stinger wasn't flexible enough to hit Zubat with Poison Sting. Focus Energy? Forget it.
There was only one thing to do. Beedrill flew straight for the wall of the nearby Pokémon Center, meaning to ram Zubat into it, or rip it off by dragging it against the wall or something along those lines. It never got there. Zubat finished its meal a little over five feet from the wall, detached and watched as the drained and fainted Beedrill crashed headfirst into the wall.
Brad recalled Beedrill. "Stupid Beedrill! All right, Geodude, crush it!"
"Me SMASH you!"
Gary recalled Zubat and sent out Sandshrew. "Dig, Sandshrew!"
"Oh, I like this move!" Sandshrew tunneled downward.
"Hey! Trying to run away? Geodude, follow it!"
"Time to SMASH!" Geodude disappeared down Sandshrew's hole. "There you are! Me SMASH now! Wha--hey! Stop! That hurt! Ow! Yow!" Geodude reappeared on the surface, Sandshrew not a moment behind with the final claw. "AAGH!" Geodude fell face-first into the ground and didn't get up. Brad recalled it.
"Wonderful! That was one of my best fighters! All right, next one!"

Chapter 113

"Spearow! Hard 'n fast! Nail it!"
"One of these days I'm gonna bolt something just to see what happens!"
"Sandshrew! When it comes in, Slash it!"
Brad perked up. "Slash, huh? Sounds good...and Sandshrew learns it?"
Gary blinked in surprise. "Charmander learns it. Yours hasn't yet?"
"Gah! Figures!"
Spearow swooped down for a Fury Attack. Sandshrew stepped into an uppercut with its claws. Talons and claws met and clashed for a moment, but Spearow was at a disadvantage from trying to keep from falling to the ground. Finally Sandshrew won out, knocking the talons aside and scoring a Slash on Spearow's midriff.
"Oww! Hey, didn't this happen to me the last time we fought this guy!?" Spearow fell to the ground and got back onto its feet, but didn't fly up again. "Forget it, I'm not exposing myself like that again!"
Brad muttered at Spearow's fall. "Go at it again, Spearow!" Spearow ran forward, meaning to give Sandshrew a volley of Pecks.
Gary made a dangerous decision. "Dig, Sandshrew!"
"*blink* Uhh...if you say so..." Sandshrew tunneled underground just in time to avoid Spearow's flashing beak.
Brad laughed. "Maybe you're not so great after all! Even I know that won't do squat!"
Gary smiled. "Are you sure?"
"Hiding, huh? You've got to come up some time, and when you do...ah, there you--Aagh!"
"Hey, you're still down here! Neat!"
Brad's jaw dropped as Sandshrew floored Spearow. Gary shook his head. "Spearow chose not to fly because it wanted to protect its belly, but in doing so it gave up its immunity to Ground-type attack by staying on the ground."
"How'd you know that!?"
"Spearow said it. Remember those posters I was putting up? Pokémon speech classes?"
Brad gritted his teeth. So Miracle Boy could talk to pokémon, too? Did the wonders never cease? He recalled the fainted Spearow and sent out his last real hope; if Gary beat Mankey, Brad couldn't possibly win with what else he had. "Mankey, pulverize 'em!"
"Battle! Battle! C'mon, c'mon! I'll whupya!"
Mankey leapt at Sandshrew and hit with a hard Karate Chop before Sandshrew could raise its claws in defense. It Low Kicked Sandshrew's legs out from under it, and then started another Karate Chop. Gary pulled Sandshrew out of the way with a recall beam.
"Zubat, you're up! Supersonic!"
Brad groaned. "Not that move again! I had my filla that in Mt. Moon!"
"What move? Whadzis?"
"Oh--oh, th-THAT one...that one...wha...?"
"Now, Zubat, Bite!" Leech Life would be weak against Mankey, and Bite was stronger anyway.
Zubat spiraled around Mankey a few times to fully disorient it, then flapped down onto its back and chomped down. Mankey leapt a good three feet into the air, and just to be cruel, Zubat, still attached, flapped it wings as hard as it could at the top to keep Mankey in the air another second. The disoriented Mankey, expecting to hit the ground earlier than it did, messed up its landing, tripped and fell on its face.
"Keep up the Bite!" Gary called. Zubat, remembering it wasn't using Leech Life and would have to attack again to get more mileage out of Bite, pulled its little fangs out and then plunged them right back in. Mankey frantically started using every move it knew to try to shake Zubat off, moving around so much it very nearly used Sand-Attack on it. Finally, Zubat flew up and back to escape the madly flailing limbs.
Mankey enjoyed its well-earned respite--until it felt fangs in its back yet again. This time, though, Zubat detached again with no fuss. There was no point in staying hooked onto a fainted Mankey.
Brad slumped. Only a miracle would give him the win now. It was hopeless...but he couldn't quit, not so long as he had a pokémon capable of battling. His best fighters had been vanquished; now it was time to send in the clowns. Brad couldn't remember what that was a quote from, but it was certainly appropriate.
"Go, Rattata! Try not to get beat up too badly!"
"*Sigh* Thanks for the vote-a-confidence!"

Chapter 114

"Hey! Do that Rattata-Rattata match again! That was cool!"
Gary and Brad looked at the boy in the audience who had said that.
Brad turned back to Gary. "'Rattata-Rattata match'?"
"Yeah, I battled a lot of local trainers here this morning. In one battle, we both sent out Rattata. Sounds like a good idea to me!" Gary recalled Zubat and sent out Rattata. "Remember this morning, Rattata? Time for Round 2!"
"Hmm, you look like a decent challenge!"
"You bet I am! I'm a lot better than this guy thinks!"
"You'd better win this one at least!" Brad called.
There was just something about Brad that made Gary's eyebrow want to rise. "Are you always so encouraging to your pokémon?"
"Yeah, you tell 'im!"
"I encourage pokémon who have a chance to begin with," Brad pointed.
Gary shook his head. "With an attitude like that, I'm not surprised you've been having trouble. Pokémon are more effective in battle if they get along with their trainer."
"Ah, spare me the mushy love speeches! Rattata, go get'm!"
"Sure thing!"
"All right, Rattata, show him what you're made of!"
"Isn't the idea to keep him from seeing that?"
"! Eww..."
Rattata chuckled, then ran at Brad's Rattata for a Quick Attack. Brad's Rattata, ordered to attack, had spent the last several seconds posturing and threatening and was totally surprised by the attack. The two Rattata rolled from the impact for a second before they got up and squared off, and that easily, the sparse crowd of spectators were left baffled as to which was which.
One Rattata pivoted on its front legs, going for a Tail Whip, while the other darted forward to use Hyper Fang. The tail of the first hit hard in the back of the other's mouth, leaving it choking on fur while the first Rattata nursed its bitten tail.
The Rattata with the bitten tail recovered first and used Tail Whip again, this time smacking the other on the side of the head. Then it Tackled, knocking the other Rattata about a foot away.
The other Rattata finally recovered and used Quick Attack, knocking the Rattata with the bitten tail back some. Then, it went for another Hyper Fang. This time, the other Rattata got it in the side, and reeled.
Both opted for Quick Attack next, but the Rattata who had just used Hyper Fang was faster and got the attack in. The other fell back, then immediately used Quick Attack again, surprising the faster Rattata. The faster Rattata aimed another Hyper Fang at the one Quick Attacking it.
The Rattata collided, both giving and taking damage. They fell back onto the ground and neither moved for a couple of seconds. Then, the Rattata who had just used Hyper Fang pushed the other, fainted, Rattata off of it and walked to Gary, nursing its jaw. "Oww...okay, so that wasn't such a great idea. Spare a Potion for a Rattata with a dental problem?"
"Great work, Rattata!" Gary bent down to pat it while getting the Potion from his backpack. The crowd applauded. Brad scowled and walked to his fallen Rattata.
"I knew it. You're still a worthless furball." Angrily, he kicked Rattata, and it bounced off an onlooker's leg.
"Hey!" Everyone froze at Gary's outburst. "That's no way to treat your pokémon, especially one that's already badly hurt!"
"Well, maybe the weakling shouldn't be my pokémon!"
Gary's face darkened further. "That Rattata fought quite well, a lot better than the one I faced this morning--"
"--But it lost!"
"AGAINST ME!" Gary shouted. "It's not Rattata's fault you sent it out against someone you knew had already won three major battles against a powerful crime ring, while you're struggling for a Gym Badge! If you keep comparing your own pokémon to someone who's out of your league, of course they're not going to measure up! You think Lance the Dragon Trainer kicked his pokémon when he lost to Ash Ketchum?" Brad scowled at Rattata, avoiding Gary's eyes.
"You're strong, Brad, stronger than the average kid our age to last this long against me. But there's something I've learned in my travels, that you've got to learn before you get yourself in serious trouble. No matter how good you are, there's always someone better. I'm not the best trainer in the world, I know that. I've won some of my battles only because the enemy made a mistake, and believe me, I would have been all over the floor if they hadn't. Somewhere out there, there's probably someone who could hold his own against Ash Ketchum. It might be you some day, for all we know. But you're never going to get there if you can't learn to take better care of your pokémon. That means showing a little more faith in them, not insulting them if they lose, and keeping to your own level until you've gotten better."
Brad stayed silent for a moment. Finally, he recalled Rattata.
"Fine, then. Charmeleon wouldn't listen to me anyway. I'll give up this time. But I'll be back...when I've trained until I'm strong enough to beat you!" Brad stalked through the crowd and into the Pokémon Center.
Gary watched. He could only hope Brad had actually learned something from all that. With a sigh, he left the field, heading for Route 4.

Chapter 115

"Hello again."
Gary looked around, surprised by the voice.
A man in a generic black suit and shades stepped out of a nearby alley. "If you're finished with your fascinating public display, we have business with you that we would prefer to discuss in private." Two more MIBs emerged from nearby shadows.
Just perfect, Gary thought. "Okay, I'm gonna guess you don't want my autograph."
"Can the jokes. You know what we're here for."
"Geez, I save one city with the guy and you think we're related! I haven't seen him recently, okay?"
"You've seen him a lot more recently than we have. Tell us what you know about where he might be and we'll leave you alone. It's that simple."
Gary thought back. As far as he knew, the MIBs had never seen Ditto as Tod Frost. He could say anything and they wouldn't be able to disprove it...but would they recognize a lie for what it was anyway? "Well, the last time I saw Tod was in Celadon, a few hours before you met us in Route 7." That's the truth, your honor; he hasn't used his Tod Frost form since.
"Is he still there now, do you know?"
Gary shrugged. "I honestly couldn't say." Because he's actually in Route 4 practicing forms. "I doubt it, if he thinks you're chasing him." And you can bet he does.
The MIB frowned slightly. Whether or not he could detect lies, he seemed close to detecting Gary's double-talk.
"All right, we'll run a search on Celadon...and just in case your sudden cooperation is less than sincere, I'd like to invite you to join us. In fact, I insist."
"But you said you'd leave me alone if I told you!"
"I did, but I'm not convinced yet that you've told me." A gun poked Gary in the back, and he raised his hands, grumbling inwardly.
The sun chose that moment to dim.
Everyone looked up. Gary gasped, but the MIBs were trained never to show this much surprise.
A shadow in the shape of a Beedrill descended on them.
"Wonderful," Gary said. "First the bitter rival, then you nameless whoevers, and now Team Rocket's Public-Display-of-Power™ from Saffron." He mockingly turned to look all around him. "Anyone else want to make a surprise entrance? Now's your chance!" The MIB behind him poked him with the gun again, but was too intent on the Beedrill Jet to tell him to be quiet.
A voice boomed from the Jet. "So we meet again, Ford. I have recieved...complaints from the Seven Deadly Twins that you're not easing on your little holy war as I requested." A pause. "I don't know who your black-suited friends are, but judging by the standard automatic at your back I'll assume they're not bodyguards. I strongly suggest they leave before I am forced to demonstrate just how outgunned they are. Ford is our problem to deal with."
The MIBs looked at each other, then nodded. To Gary's total surprise, they withdrew.
"That's better. Now, I have a proposition for you. Poor Pride has been raving about a Ditto of yours that's too powerful for his liking, and I have found mention in the reports of Elites Bonnie and Clyde, dating back over half a month ago, of an unusually intelligent Ditto that you captured. This Ditto reappears in many of their most dismal failures of late."
Gary frowned to himself. What was the man up there getting at?
In a nearby alley, cloaked once more in shadow, an MIB also frowned. Research had indicated their target had last been involved with Ditto when he was copied and disappeared in the Mewtwo incident. Coincidence? Again the Omastar debacle ran through the MIB's mind. Another genetic mutation?
"I offer this conclusion: you are not as talented as you would have us think. It is this unusual Ditto that does most of your work against us. I offer you a chance to disprove this conjecture. The Seven Deadly Twins ask for a rematch, their star pokémon versus any six pokémon of your choice--EXCEPT the Ditto. The match will be held at noon tomorrow at the junction of Routes 24 and 25. I suggest you make an appearance. If you do not..."
The tip of the Beedrill's left stinger suddenly shot outward and down, dropping something else behind it on its way to the ground. It hit the road leading to Route 4 and violently exploded, ripping a wide hole in the street. Gary stared at the impact crater, and imagined missiles like that hitting Cerulean City two at a time.
Rockets igniting drew his attention to the sky. The Beedrill Jet was leaving, and the object dropped by the missile--a sheet of paper--fluttered down to him. Gary grabbed the paper and read the message written in fancy lettering.
I trust I have made my point.
Gary crumpled the paper in his fist and watched the Beedrill Jet disappear to the east.
For a moment he waited, in case the MIBs planned to return, but they didn't show. Gary began to work his way past the crater. He wouldn't be raising the pokémon he'd planned to after all, but he still needed to meet with Ditto and discuss this.

"I've got it, heading east by southeast from Cerulean City. Over."
"Good. We'll join you soon. Over and out."
"Over and out."
The MIBs raced through the streets of Cerulean City toward their hidden helicopter. Gary had been a most uncooperative lead. Now they had another lead, one who would probably be far more willing to help out. All they had to do was follow the Beedrill-shaped aircraft to its destination. Even if their new target was not there, they would certainly be able to track him down from there.
Pride had witnessed this Ditto in battle and might help confirm the MIBs' latest suspicion: that Gary's Ditto and Tod Frost were one and the same.

Chapter 116

"They're catching on. That can't be good...especially if the MIBs were still in earshot."
Ditto swept Arbok's disconcerting gaze around the hills of Route 4, as if expecting to catch sight of an MIB or the Beedrill Jet.
"But they didn't come back after Vladimir took off."
"They wouldn't have left so easily if they didn't have an ace up their sleeve. They probably stuck around to listen in on you and Vladimir...that name sounds familiar."
Gary shaded his eyes from the light of Ponyta's fire. "Yeah, Bonnie and Clyde mentioned him in Saffron. A Team Rocket big shot, like Santiago."
"Interesting. So are you going to accept the rematch?"
"I don't have a choice, do I?" Gary stared at Lickitung's comic visage. "Do you have to keep doing that?"
"Sorry." Ditto perched on Gary's shoulder. "You could refuse, and then stop the Beedrill Jet from destroying Cerulean."
"That'd be pretty tough. Besides, it would tell them I'm weak and I need you to fight them."
"I suppose that wouldn't do. All right, as long as I'm not invited, how about I stay in Cerulean and keep an eye out for the Beedrill Jet, just in case?"
"Sounds like a good idea."
"Do you think you can defeat them without me?"
"Well, Charmeleon might be able to defeat Victreebel, and Poliwhirl beat Nidoking...but I can't use Poliwhirl because it's still hurt!"
"I think I can take care of that."
"You can?"
"Just get me to it."

"Sir, there's something tailing us!"
Vladimir looked back at the operative. "What sort of something? Police? Army? Spearow?"
The operative looked back at his radar. "Not sure yet...wait...it's been identified as a helicopter of unknown ownership!"
Vladimir arched an eyebrow. "Unknown? Not police or army? How strange. Use evasive tactics. A civilian death would draw more attention to this area than some joy-rider with a wild story."
"Yes, sir."

The Beedrill Jet suddenly turned sharply and dove behind a mountain. The MIB piloting the helicopter frowned. They'd been noticed. He switched the viewscreen to infrared and followed the jet's exhaust trail.

"They're still on us, sir!"
"What!? It can't be a civilian, then!" Vladimir's jet had been playing hide-and-seek among the mountains for ten minutes, sometimes directly away from the base, and that cursed helicopter was still on them. "Some kind of secret agents, maybe?"
"Sir, gunners are begging to shoot it down and be done with it."
"Civilian death, my foot! Very well, then, knock it out of the sky!"

The Beedrill Jet emerged from behind a mountain and paused, facing the helicopter.
A grim smile played across the pilot's face. He had been expecting this to happen.
It was time to play ball with the Rockets.

Gary walked into the Pokémon Center and was quickly surrounded by anxious trainers.
"Hey, what's with the big hole in the street? Did you have something to do with that?"
"That was Team Rocket. The people I beat at Bill's Cottage want a rematch tomorrow or all of Cerulean looks like that."
"You're gonna take 'em, on, right?"
"That's why I'm here. Excuse me." Gary headed for the emergency ward.
"Can I visit Poliwhirl?"
"So soon? Is something wrong?"
"I can only hope not." Gary entered the emergency ward, leaving a confused and worried nurse at the door.

"...and keep at it until the whole thing is dust!"
Pride watched his Nidoking tear apart a small brick building. It had done horribly in battle against Ford and Fields. That reflected on Pride.
From now until the glorious rematch would be solid, hardcore training. Nidoking was going to become the fiercest warrior it could be. Maybe, Pride thought, a few new TMs wouldn't hurt.
Pride rubbed his hands gleefully at the thought of tomorrow's mayhem. Ford was going to pay dearly for today's insult.

Chapter 117

The MIB pilot raised the worn shielding on the helicopter. Dust from countless explosions shifted and blew into the air.
Through the dirty viewscreen, he caught a glimpse of the bruised and battered Beedrill Jet quietly heading east again.
The pilot could also see a thin mountain pass going the same way. He knew his training. Without a word, he opened the door of the helicopter. Two seconds later, the MIBs in the rear were ready. They jumped out of the helicopter and set off through the brush, following the Beedrill Jet on foot.
Once the Beedrill Jet was out of sight, the pilot started the helicopter engine and headed back for the base. If Team Rocket thought they had come out of this battle the victor, their defenses would not be so high for a while. So much the better.

"Hi, Poliwhirl..." Gary looked behind him to make sure there was no one else in the room. "The Seven Deadly Twins are planning another attack. I need you for this one. Ditto says he can heal you."
"Well, as tempting as the invitation ISN'T, it's still better than lying here waiting for my bones to knit! What can he do?"
"Good question...let's go, Ditto!"
"You all set?"
"No problems here!"
"Okay, then!" After Transforming into Chansey, Ditto moved nearer to Poliwhirl. Ditto's egg began to glow, flickering between bright and dim. Gary scanned Ditto with his Pokédex.
"Pokémon Move: Softboiled. Chansey gives HP to another pokémon. Also usable to restore Chansey's own HP."
Gary looked up. Light was flowing from Ditto to Poliwhirl. Ditto's expression began to grow harder, while Poliwhirl's skin tone got brighter.
Gary crouched by Ditto. "How long can you keep this up before you get seriously hurt?"
"Chansey have a ton of HP...and besides, that's not all that's in my favor."
When Ditto looked like he couldn't take much more healing, the light stopped. Then, Ditto's egg began to glow again, and the egg's light flowed into Ditto's body, restoring him. "It's a shame normal Chansey can't switch uses this quickly; they could revolutionize pokémon medicine."
In a moment, the flow between Ditto and Poliwhirl began again. Gary sat down and watched as Ditto alternated giving his health to Poliwhirl and restoring himself.

Vladimir's Beedrill Jet touched down on the landing pad on the roof of his secret Team Rocket headquarters, deep in the northeastern mountain range somewhere north of Lavender Town.
Little did he suspect that he had led some formidable people straight to his hideout.
While one MIB used variable-wavelength binoculars to search for laser security, another used a more conventional pair to watch the security cameras on the roof edges, timing each.
After a few minutes, the MIBs moved across the small valley and to the base, completely unobserved.
Silently, they dispatched the token guards by the rear entrance, and made short work of the door's security system. They slipped into the building and began their search for the Seven Deadly Twins.

"Gary? Hey, Gary!"
"Wha? Oh, sorry, Ditto; these last few days...and nights...have been pretty busy for me."
Ditto and Poliwhirl exchanged a glance. "How are we supposed to beat those guys again if he's dead on his feet?"
"No, I'm fine, really. I can't stop to rest now; we need training if you guys are going to be able to beat them without Ditto in reserve!"
Ditto and Poliwhirl exchanged another glance.
"Tell you what. I'll head back to Route 4 so you can mark me as out of your team. Get your six chosen ones together, meet me there and I'LL train them while you rest and get your energy back."
Gary blinked. "You can do that?"

"Don't hurt me! Please don't hurt me!"
"Pathetic. Are you sure you're one of the Seven Deadly Twins?"
"Hey, I haven't got Tentacruel with me, all right? What do you want?"
"A word with you about a certain Ditto."
The man standing in a hall of Team Rocket's base relaxed. "Oh, you mean the one Pride's getting steamed over? He's out training his Nidoking. Been out for a few hours now. Hey, can I go now?"
The MIBs shared a glance.
"I've got nothin' to say about it that he won't, really."

Pride frowned at the bit of sticker glue on his Pokédex.
There had once been a sticker of a Clefairy on the cover, put there by the girl Pride had stolen the Pokédex from in his earlier days. Darn glue never fully came off.
Pride called up a list of TMs that a Nidoking could use. He wanted the most devestating attacks he could get for tomorrow.
Pride's eyebrow raised at some of the possibilities, and he began to put together his "shopping" list for tonight, after hours, at Celadon Department Store.

Chapter 118

Sighing, Gary hoisted the cardboard sign he had made and walked out of the Pokémon Center. It was probably the only way to avoid the local wanna-be contenders.
When he returned from Route 4, he'd be utterly pokémonless. That was not a fun prospect for any trainer, let alone one of his level. But it had to be done. Gary's pokémon needed training, and Gary needed a break.
On his way to Route 4, he reviewed again the choices he had made. Charmeleon, Pikachu, Poliwhirl, Graveler, Nidorino and Nidorina were the six highest-level pokémon he had. The Nidos were on vacation, though. In seventh place was Pidgeotto. Gary hoped Pidgeotto had gotten to talk over the subject of obedience with Charmeleon and the others. He knew, in any case, that he had to give Pidgeotto a chance sooner or later; otherwise Pidgeotto might think, as it had said in Lavender, that Gary didn't trust it to fight well.
Gary didn't think anyone below Pidgeotto could win against any of the Seven Deadly Twins' pokémon by strength, so he had filled the sixth slot with strategy. The five he had now had advantages over certain of the Seven Deadly Twins' pokémon, and when Gary matched then up in his mind, he realized that all the enemy pokémon except Muk and Weezing were accounted for. Drowzee would certainly have been helpful, but Gary doubted it could be raised high enough to help by noon tomorrow. Butterfree's Psychic powers were useless in a pokémon that was weak against Poison attack. Diglett and Sandshrew would be strong against Muk, but that still left Weezing, who hovered off the ground, unchecked. There was only one other pokémon in Gary's team that was strong against Poison-types, and didn't have such drawbacks.
There were no less than five pokémon below Pidgeotto that were still higher than Beedrill, but Gary put all of his hope in strategy, and reminded himself for the fourth time to remind Ditto to make sure Beedrill, in particular, made some progress.

Gary watched as a Fearow drifted down from the sky to settle on the ground near him.
"This is your glorious expert? A bird?"
"And what is THAT supposed to mean?"
The Fearow eyed Charmeleon, and Transformed into an Alakazam. Its psychic message spread over Gary and the six pokémon near him. I am Ditto, and yes, I will be in control of your training for a while. Do you disapprove? For an instant Charmeleon was staring at a smirking Blastoise, and then, just as quickly, Ditto was Alakazam again, wearing a slight grin.
"Aah...yeah...I suppose you'll do."
Gary chuckled. "I'll see you here at ten tomorrow, then? I'll be going over strategy when I can."
We'll meet you then...and I like the sign. Wise precaution. One of Gary's other pokémon stifled a snicker.
"Yeah, lovely, isn't it? Good luck, guys...we're all gonna need it."
When Gary had started back toward Cerulean City, Charmeleon turned to Ditto. "So, just how are you going to train us better than Gary could?"
"Well, first of all, Gary has been worn down by all of the activity of the last few days, and desperately needs rest. Second, with this form's psychic abilities I can take advan--"
"Uh, does anyone else here feel really strange or is it just me?"
Ditto slowly turned to Graveler. "You're kidding..."

Pride walked out the back door of Celadon Department Store with a sack over his shoulder. Ordinarily, he would have sent a few operatives, but now more than ever he wanted the assurance of a job done right that only came from doing it oneself. The Travel version TMs in the sack would make Nidoking nigh invincible.
Pride paused in midstep. There were three men in black suits surrounding his helicopter.
"Who are you?"
"I don't think that's important right now," one said, as he fiddled with his pistol. He almost seemed laid back. Pride knew better. "What's important is how we can help each other."
"I'm listening."
"We would very much like to get our hands on a certain pokémon of Gary Ford's, because we believe there is something about it that would interest us greatly."
"I imagine that applies to over half the young trainers in the Indigo League. You'll have to do better than that."
The black-suited man's smile lessened. "You want the cards on the table? Very well, I'll spell it out for you. If you help us capture the Ditto which caused you so much irritation recently, we will keep it out of your way permanently. Does that interest you?"
Pride grinned as the power in this negotiation shifted to him. "Why don't you come back tomorrow after the Big Match, and we'll see how much I feel like helping you."
The man's smile faded altogether. "Don't be a fool. Even if Ford accepts your proposal verbatim, he's not going to release the thing. It will continue to be a thorn in your side even if he loses. And what if he finds a way to smuggle it into the battle without you knowing? We have cause to believe the Ditto may have played key roles in both Vermilion and Saffron Cities, though it is curiously absent from all reports of the matters right up until the final brush with Santiago himself."
Pride stopped smiling as well. "How do you know that? Not even I know everything about the Saffron Repulsion!"
The black-suited man's grin returned. "That's not important right now. Do we have a deal?"
Pride frowned. "I believe Team Rocket can handle the Ditto without you."
"Oh, yes, you've had wonderful success so far." Pride scowled at the man's scathing remark. "We could make the same claim...and mean it. However, it would be easier with your assistance."
"What would I get out of this?"
"Think of it this way. Suppose you decline, and we find a way to capture your tormentor without you. Can you really afford to lose your chance at revenge? Could your namesake take the blow?"
Pride stood silently, mulling that over. Though he hated it, there was really only one choice.
"I can see you drive a hard bargain. I hope you have as much skill as you claim...for all our sakes."

Chapter 119

The grass stirred in the soft breeze on Route 15, just east of Fuschia City. The lights and sounds of the glitzy city did not encroach on this quiet path.
From out of nowhere, the silence was broken, with one bright flash and then the sounds of six curious and battle-ready pokémon.
"Welcome to Route 15. There are many Grass/Poison-type and Bug/Poison-type pokémon here, with a few Pidgeotto thrown in to make it interesting. Charmeleon, Pidgeotto, and Beedrill, your task is to cause as much havoc as you please for the next two hours. I will return after that time, or sooner if you get in trouble."
"Now that actually sounds like fun!"
"I'll do my best!"
"Look out Route 15, I'm comin' atchya!"
Charmeleon, Pidgeotto and Beedrill moved into the grass in search of opponents, and Ditto disappeared with the other three.

The flash of Ditto's Teleport reappeared on a path not far from a large body of water.
"That cave in front of you, Poliwhirl, is the Vermilion City entrance to Diglett's Cave. The Diglett themselves aren't much, but bother them long enough and the Dugtrio should come to stop you. Those are worthy opponents."
"Works for me. I don't mind starting small so soon after recovering. I'll look forward to the Dugtrio!" Poliwhirl set off into the cave.
Ditto Teleported again.

Ditto came down again, on a long, thin island with bridges going off both ends.
"And this is Route 17 of Cycling Road, an island chain connected by long bridges to form a path across the bay. Many birds roost here, and several are strong. I think you can handle them, though, especially given the latest...developments."
"Boy, will Gary be surprised when you give us back to him!"
"I don't doubt it. Now go and make yourself the best Golem you can be!" Golem nodded and marched into the grass.
"What about me? I can beat birds any time!"
"I've got an even better place in mind for you." Ditto and Pikachu disappeared again.

The ocean swelled about the small island they landed on next. There was a cave entrance in the hill at the center, and not far from this island sat another that was nearly the same.
"This is your chosen training ground, Pikachu. These are the Seafoam Islands, twin islands connected by a maze of underground passages. Luckily for you, the water does not even enter them until a few levels down. At all levels, however, the place is swarming with a large variety of Water-types, not to mention Zubat and even Golbat."
"Yay!" Pikachu dashed into the cave, and almost immediately there came a bright flash and the sound of a Zubat hitting the ground.
Ditto chuckled, then disappeared yet again.

Deep in the middle of Vermilion Bay, Ditto lay suspended in a bubble of air.
A curious Goldeen swam up, but Ditto never noticed it. His mind was already focused in eight different directions as it was. His thoughts followed the progress of six different pokémon as they traveled through fields and caverns, watching over them in case a trainer came along or they found an unusually strong opponent in the wild. A seventh part of his mind worked to maintain the bubble of air, constantly replacing it with fresh air from the surface, and an eighth stared at a clock in a Vermilion City office building.
Despite the complex exercise, it was relaxing here. Ditto had heard of strong psychic pokémon hibernating underwater, and since this spot fell right between the four places where Gary's pokémon trained, Ditto had decided to try it for the two hours he would be waiting. He now understood the appeal. The gentle flow of the sea around him soothed his worked-up nerves. Gary had been right; the days since the battles in Saffron City had been far too busy. They had been planning on relaxing after Saffron, and what had happened? They had wound up in more combat, first with Cinnabar's MIBs and then with Team Rocket's strongest fighters. For all Ditto knew, the MIBs could be planning an assault even now.
He'd worry about that later, though. After moving Golem out of the way of a bicycler coasting down the north bridge, Ditto settled back in his little bubble and let his body relax while his thoughts circled Vermilion Bay.

Kate sat nervously in her overnight room at the Pokémon Center. The word was all around town by now that Gary would be taking on the Seven Deadly Twins again. Gary had told her, before heading to his own room, about Ditto training his six pokémon. Ditto training six other pokémon meant Ditto wouldn't be fighting tomorrow. Could Gary win without him?
Kate had lost badly against the Seven Deadly Twins at Bill's Cottage, and hadn't been invited to the rematch the way Gary had. Gary hadn't brought up the subject, either, and Kate wasn't sure if that was because he didn't dare make Team Rocket call off the deal and bomb the city, or because it just hadn't occurred to him. Kate's name was in the newspapers with Gary's, but somehow she always wound up behind him.
While Gary slept, Kate lay awake, thinking about everything that was happening. This wasn't the sort of life she had pictured as she left Pallet Town with her new Bulbasaur a month ago. She hadn't seriously expected so much adventure, but even in her wistful daydreams she hadn't expected to be barely strong enough to survive it, and needing Gary--who she'd left behind at first--to save her from certain doom, time and time again. The day Gary had met Ditto had been both a blessing and a curse for Kate.
She was sure of one thing. She couldn't keep on like this. She had to take control of her life somehow. Either make herself strong enough to handle this life as well as Gary did, or find a way to get away from it all and back to the simple trainer's life she'd led before stumbling into the Team Rocket plot in Vermilion City.
Tomorrow, Kate Fields was going to take her life into her own hands, and that was that.

Chapter 120

"Good Luck!"
Ditto's parting words echoed in the rift for a moment as Gary warped to the junction of Routes 24 and 25.
Clearly the brief switch in trainers had done Grav--Golem no end of good, but Gary was impressed with the other pokémon on his team as well. After an evening training session yesterday, and a morning session today, Charmeleon and Pikachu looked ready to take on the world; Poliwhirl, if not so enthusiastic, obviously considered itself ready for both Nidoking and Nidoqueen; Pidgeotto was enjoying the return to active duty; and Beedrill was pleased with the progress it had made.
The switch had done Gary a lot of good, too. He hadn't realized how the last few days had sapped his energy. Now he felt ready for the upcoming confrontation.
Before coming here, he'd discussed strategy with his team. He went over what he'd said for the twentieth time as the Beedrill Jet appeared on the horizon. It all held together. It could work. It would work.
The giant Beedrill hovered lower and lower, suddenly growing back legs to use as landing gear. A door opened in the abdomen, and as the Beedrill Jet touched down, several figures emerged from it.
Standing in front of the Seven Deadly Twins was a large man in a dark red business suit. He spoke, and Gary immediately recognized the voice of Vladimir.
"Glad you could make it, Mr. Ford. Though some of my gunners will be most displeased to see Cerulean City vanish from their list of targets." Vladimir smirked at the reminder of that threat. "I am most curious as to the pokémon you have chosen for this encounter. Why don't you let us see what's in those Pokéballs, hm?"
Gary didn't need the subtle glance Vladimir gave the Beedrill Jet's stingers to guess what piqued his interest. Using Golbatman's famous triangle grip to hold three Pokéballs in each hand, he sent out his whole team at once.
"Let's get ready to rumble!"
"You guys'll take a tumble!"
"We're gonna make ya grumble!"
"And we're NOT gonna fumble!"
"Uh...uh...bumble bumble bumble?"
"Ugh, Shakespeare you guys AREN'T."
Pride's jaw nearly hit the ground. "T-that Poliwhirl! How can it be battle-ready!? It should be in intensive care!" Then he squinted. "Unless that's not really Poliwhirl..."
"Don't be silly, Pride," Vladimir said, waving him off. "No Ditto can remain Transformed in a Pokéball. If Ford's Ditto were here, we would have seen a Ditto." He looked back at Gary. "It will be most intriguing to see how you fare in this encounter. I shall watch with great interest." With that, he passed through the Seven Deadly Twins and reentered the Beedrill Jet.
Well, Gary thought as the Seven Deadly Twins stepped forward, at least Ditto won't have any trouble with the Beedrill Jet in Cerulean City.
"C'mon, let's get this show on the road!"
Gary smirked at Charmeleon's eagerness. "Charmeleon's right, you know. According to the rules of a trainer battle, you're supposed to send out your pokémon at some point."
"Are you that eager for your destruction, then?" Pride answered. "Very well, let the battle begin!" All seven of them threw a Pokéball, and their seven Poison-types appeared in the same battle pose Kate had mentioned yesterday.
"Hey, no fair! You put my target behind everyone else!" Pikachu rushed forward and to the right, charging up a Thunderbolt for Tentacruel. Nidoqueen dove at it, Poliwhirl charged forward with a Water Gun, and in no time the battle was thoroughly under way.
One of the most important points in Gary's strategy discussion had been that Gary's pokémon were to start fights they had a chance of winning. Charmeleon was to attack Victreebel, and to avoid Tentacruel any way it could. Pikachu was to keep away from the Nidos and focus on Tentacruel, and so on. At the moment, Gary could only hope they were doing so. It had swiftly become mass combat, the kind of fight that got covered by a cloud of dust in cartoons. Gary spotted a flash of fire nailing Victreebel in one leaf, but the next moment another landed on Nidoking's armored hide and went practically unnoticed, as Nidoking was busy trying to get at Poliwhirl for revenge from last time. He threw an impressive barrage of physical attacks that Poliwhirl was hard pressed to dodge, but dodge it did, weaving in and out of the crowd of fighters and getting in a Water Gun at Nidoking or Nidoqueen whenever it got the chance. Nidoqueen, getting hit with super-effective attacks, finally gave up trying to pin down the wiley Pidgeotto and joined Nidoking in chasing Poliwhirl. Pidgeotto, deprived of a sparring partner, decided to bother Vileplume instead. Vileplume, who had a clear shot at Golem and was charging a Solarbeam, was none too pleased when Pidgeotto Quick Attacked from high up and knocked it askew. Golem saw the Solarbeam pass a few feet over its head, shouted thanks to Pidgeotto and then resumed its attack on Muk, bounding over it repeatedly to dodge its attacks and using Earthquake whenever it got enough momentum.
In the air above the melee, Beedrill and Weezing were squaring off. Weezing churned out large amounts of various toxic gasses that did nothing to Beedrill, while Beedrill buzzed madly around Weezing, dodging the attacks that would actually do anything and looking for openings to use its Twineedle. Beedrill remained the lowest-level pokémon in this battle, and was dangerously outclassed, but as long it kept up the dodging and didn't waste time dodging the attacks that wouldn't harm it, it had a chance.
At the edge of the crowd, Tentacruel was trying to hit Charmeleon with a water attack, but Pikachu kept giving it Thundershocks that stopped it. Finally Tentacruel turned and Wrapped Pikachu in several layers of tentacle. Muffled cries came from within.
Victreebel, trying to protect its singed leaves from Charmeleon, struck out again and again with its long vine. Charmeleon used its claws to turn aside the Slams it couldn't dodge, and then started meeting the vine with Ember attacks. The Slams soon stopped coming. Instead, Victreebel started spitting Acid at Charmeleon, and Charmeleon found itself in trouble.
It wasn't the only one. Nidoking and Nidoqueen finally cornered Poliwhirl by trapping him between them and Tentacruel, who was still squeezing Pikachu. Poliwhirl looked from one to the other as they slowly advanced, murder in their eyes...and then a crackling noise caught Poliwhirl's attention. Realizing what it was, Poliwhirl quickly started up its Hypnosis power. The Nidos blinked and tried to fight off the effects, and while they did so Poliwhirl leaped, rebounded off Nidoqueen's shoulder and disappeared behind them.
The Nidos looked up, realizing what had happened--and were just in time to watch Tentacruel get thoroughly fried as Pikachu released all the electricity it had been storing up during the Wrap. Tentacruel collapsed and Pikachu, tired and hurt, struggled out of the limp tentacles. The Nidos blinked several times, blinded by the light of the blast. By the time they could see clearly again, Pikachu was out of sight.
Gary searched anxiously through the crowd. Some of his pokémon were doing well, but others were in serious danger. Charmeleon had already taken a couple of Acid attacks and was starting to falter. Pikachu, wherever it had escaped to, was in poor health from the Wrap and would be done for if the Nidos found it. On the other hand, Tentacruel had been beaten, and Muk was not doing well at all.
The battle so far was anyone's game.

Once again, the battle with the Seven Deadly Twins continues on Page 7!