Gary's Story

Chapter 121

Charmeleon was in a bad way.
It was slowly getting covered in Acid, and since Victreebel kept up a constant attack, Charmeleon couldn't get in a hit of its own. Charmeleon didn't look likely to last much longer.
Poliwhirl continued to evade the Nidos, hitting them with Water Gun when it could and taunting them when it couldn't. Leaping over the distraught Muk, Poliwhirl suddenly found itself face to face with Vileplume.
"Vileplume, get that Poliwhirl!"
Vileplume had been quite frustrated lately by Pidgeotto's antics. This was a chance to dominate again. Vileplume grinned as it began its Petal Dance attack.
"Ha ha ha! Sucker!"
Vileplume, lying on its side, glared at Pidgeotto as it soared into the sky again. Of all times for that cursed bird to interfere...now Vileplume was stuck again.
Pidgeotto came in for the kill.
Vileplume calmly took stock of its situation. "Aaaahh! Victreebel! Buddy! Do something!"
Victreebel looked up and saw Pidgeotto zooming toward Vileplume. It was close enough to set Vileplume on its feet...if it had the right kind of limbs. As it was, that feat was beyond Victreebel's skill. Besides, that wasn't Team Rocket's style. Turning its attention away from Charmeleon for a second, Victreebel spit another Acid attack at the oncoming Pidgeotto.
Pidgeotto did a barrel roll to the side and avoided the attack, but also put itself out of range. Deciding it didn't much matter, Pidgeotto looked for someone else to attack.
Victreebel turned back to its target--and got an Ember right in the eyes! Infuriated, Charmeleon struck back with a vengeance. Victreebel readied more Acid, but swallowed it when Charmeleon Embered a sore spot from its claws earlier in the battle.
Now, it was Charmeleon's turn to press the attack, never giving Victreebel a chance to retaliate. What Charmeleon had lost in health, it replaced with adrenaline from its rage. Now it was Victreebel whose position was rapidly looking worse.
Then, things got really interesting. Beedrill hit a tender spot on Weezing with its Twineedle, and Weezing lost it. Determined to hit and to hurt the buzzing menace, Weezing spun rapidly in place, firing off as many Sludge attacks as it could. The Sludge landed all over the battlefield, sometimes hitting a pokémon on either side. One glob of it hit Poliwhirl, bringing it to a stop. Nidoking closed in, but another Sludge attack got him in the back, and as he turned to find out where the attack had come from, Poliwhirl got up and escaped.
After getting hit twice by Sludge, Beedrill buzzed down to the only safe place: directly below Weezing. Weezing couldn't hit it there unless it stopped to think about it, and that didn't look likely; but Beedrill couldn't hit Weezing either, not and keep flying.
Like a comet sped the answer to the problem: Pidgeotto, in yet another Quick Attack. Weezing got knocked several feet away, and stopped throwing Sludge all over the place. Pidgeotto looked down at Beedrill.
"Hey, want some free, easy experience? Go bug Vileplume! Just stay away from the flower's middle! I'll take care of The Blob over here."
"Sure! Thanks!" Beedrill buzzed over to where Vileplume lay grumbling about its lot in life, and prepared to strike.
"Wha? Hey, what are you--OOOWW! You little--" Vileplume threw a shower of colored powder from its flower, which did nothing except to decorate Nidoqueen's left foot as she passed, chasing Poliwhirl. Knowing Acid would do the same, and Petal Dance was just plain impossible, Vileplume tried charging a Solarbeam, but Beedrill's stingers kept breaking its concentration, and it never got enough energy stored up before it lost it all.
This time, there was no one Vileplume could call on for help. The Nidos were too busy chasing the impudent Poliwhirl to help, and everyone else was getting beaten up! Victreebel, under Charmeleon's firey assault, was fading fast. Muk was just about to faint from Golem's miniature Earthquakes. Tentacruel had fainted, and Weezing, like Nidoqueen and Vileplume before it, was getting thoroughly steamed over Pidgeotto's merciless attacks.
"Well, I'm sorry if you don't like it! When I learn a stronger attack, I'll let you know, but for now I'm just going to have to whittle you down like a piece of wood, and you're just going to have to take it!"
"I'll get you yet!" Weezing fired a volley of Sludge at Pidgeotto, who had to stop attacking to dodge all of it. This bought Weezing time, but it couldn't keep this up forever.
In fact, it had less time than it realized. Out of nowhere, it got clobbered by Golem's Rock Throw. On the ground, Muk lay in even more of a heap than usual, fainted from Golem's attacks.
Pikachu looked out from its hiding place. With Tentacruel and Muk fainted, and Weezing already busy, there was no one it could fight well. It couldn't harm the Nidos, and it couldn't do much to the Grass-types even if they weren't already being destroyed by Charmeleon and Beedrill. Pikachu sighed, and retreated deeper into its hiding place to avoid being seen by Nidoking or Nidoqueen. They looked so aggravated from Poliwhirl's taunts and attacks that they would no doubt welcome the chance to pulverize Pikachu.
Gary looked out across the battlefield with relief. Poliwhirl was certainly an agile little trickster; quite a difference from how it had been when he had caught it. It wasn't likely to get caught by the enraged Nidoking and Nidoqueen. The obstacles it wound around were similarly heartening: Charmeleon slowly roasting Victreebel, Beedrill pounding Vileplume with its stingers, Pidgeotto and Golem closing in on Weezing, and Tentacruel and Muk lying on the ground fainted. Gary still couldn't see Pikachu, but apparently the Nidos couldn't either.
Though it hadn't gotten off to a terrific start, this battle was going Gary's way.

Chapter 122

"Enough already!" Envy called out. "Weezing, use Toxic on the both of 'em!"
A chill ran up Gary's spine. Pidgeotto backed away from Weezing, and Golem quickly pulled into its shell.
An insane grin covered Weezing's face just before it blew out a large, livid purple cloud of gas. Pidgeotto started using Whirlwind to blow it away, but Weezing kept the gas coming, and Pidgeotto realized a better solution was needed. It broke off and flew up and over Weezing, trying to escape, but Weezing, sore annoyed by Pidgeotto's earlier attacks, followed it stubbornly and kept blowing out Toxic.
Victreebel's eyes narrowed at the thought of using the same move on Charmeleon, but it knew it wouldn't be given the chance. The Nidos needed to be able to touch the opponent with their horns to use the move, and Poliwhirl wasn't letting them get that close. Vileplume's opponent was a Poison-type and invulnerable to Toxic. Pride, Avarice, Gluttony and Lust were left sitting there, watching Envy's Weezing hunt down Pidgeotto and wishing they could use Toxic on their own enemies.
Gary, frantically trying to think of a way to save Pidgeotto, mentally reviewed everything he knew about Pidgeotto and Weezing. He looked around at the other battlers for some inspiration--and saw Victreebel collapse under Charmeleon's flame.
"Ha HAH! Corrode ME, willya!?"
"Charmeleon! Give Weezing the same treatment!"
Charmeleon looked up and saw Weezing closing in on Pidgeotto, and still pumping out gas of that livid shade of purple that appeared nowhere else on the planet. Gary realized with amusement that he had started thinking of it as "Toxic purple".
"All right, birdbrain, I've gotchya covered!" Charmeleon paused a moment, and then, as Pidgeotto passed by, reared back and blew out a solid jet of flame that hit Weezing dead on! Amazed, Gary scanned Charmeleon with his Pokédex while Weezing's inner gasses exploded in the fire. Charmeleon had gained enough experience from beating Victreebel to learn Flamethrower!
The explosions trailed backwards along the path of gas that Weezing had left behind. Nidoqueen stopped to look up at the fireworks, and Poliwhirl doubled back around Vileplume, caught her by surprise and hit her with a barrage of Water Guns. Nidoqueen fell to one knee, severely weakened, and Poliwhirl took off again before Nidoking could catch it. Weezing landed on the ground, blackened, charred, and fainted.
Nidoqueen, struggling to get up, lifted her head--and stopped, growling at the fainted Tentacruel. "So there you are, you little runt!" She got to her feet and leapt at it in the popular Earthquake style.
"What's she talking about?"
"Well, how many missing little runts do you know of?"
"Pikachu must be hiding under Tentacruel!"
"Yipe! Someone stop her already!"
Nidoqueen fell down towards the ground near Tentacruel, while Pikachu crawled as fast as it could to the other side of Tentacruel's massive body. Then, in its second flying rescue of the day, Golem slammed into Nidoqueen from the side, and knocked her away from the area. The combined strength of Nidoqueen's intended Earthquake and Golem's successful Earthquake made their landing a rough one indeed, and when Golem picked itself up and stumbled away, Nidoqueen did not.
Now Charmeleon, Pidgeotto, Pikachu and Golem were left opponentless. After talking it over, they decided Beedrill, who really wasn't in any danger anyway, should be allowed to get as much experience from Vileplume as it could. As it was, Beedrill would be sharing the experience with Pidgeotto, and Beedrill could use a boost. Charmeleon, Pidgeotto and Golem moved to intercept Nidoking and give Poliwhirl a break, while Pikachu, who wouldn't be much help, reluctantly turned back to Gary. It had only beaten one pokémon here; not a good battle in its opinion.
Poliwhirl leapt over Nidoqueen in its merry flight from Nidoking, and Nidoking stopped when he saw Nidoqueen on the ground. Into that pause came a Flamethrower, a Sand-Attack and then a Rock Throw right to the head. Nidoking, by now quite dishevelled, roared with fury and turned on the three pokémon assaulting it. Poliwhirl flipped over Muk again and joined them.
Pride called out to his favored pokémon. "Nidoking, time to use those new moves I taught you! Show them all who is the greatest fighter on the battlefield!"
"Yeah! Time to show you punks who's boss!"
"Start off with Reflect!" Nidoking put his hands to his head for a moment, and a bright flash left him enveloped in a shining coat of energy.
"Now, open the attack with Rock Slide!" Nidoking turned and dove into a sideways roll towards Gary's team. All the bouncing parts of his exoskeleton made a fair impression of an avalanche.
Pidgeotto took to the sky and narrowly avoided Nidoking's attack. Charmeleon wasn't so lucky, and after all the damage it had taken from Victreebel, this super-effective attack was too much for it. Charmeleon collapsed, the first casualty on Gary's side since the battle began. Golem, however, was resistent to Rock-type attack, and just stood firm and took the blow. Its considerable bulk stopped Nidoking's attack right there.
"Ha! Not a problem! Nidoking, Submission!" Golem gaped, and tried to get away from Nidoking as he rose to his feet, but Nidoking caught up and used the Fighting-type move to knock Golem onto its back. While Golem struggled futilely to right itself, Nidoking casually lumbered up to it, and then put an end to its struggling with another Submission.
Another Water Gun caught Nidoking on the back. Slowly, he turned to face Poliwhirl, who stood defiantly. Pride looked around, smirked and nodded. The risk would be worth it. He called out his next command. "Hyper Beam!" Poliwhirl went three or four shades paler, and started up a Hypnosis to stop the attack. It was too late. Nidoking reared back, much like Charmeleon had earlier, and then shouted a thick beam of brightly flashing purple energy that picked up Poliwhirl and carried it thirty feet into the nearest cliff face, grinding it into the rock for a few seconds before fading.

Chapter 123

Gary watched, mortified, as the purple energy flowed from Nidoking.
Oddly enough, Nidoking himself seemed to be losing some purple from the move. When the Hyper Beam ended, Gary saw he'd been right; Nidoking had gone as grey as the image on an old black-and-white TV, though already some of the color was starting to return to him. Gary didn't need to use his Pokédex to guess that Hyper Beam called for a pause for recovery afterward.
Eager to take advantage of that, Pidgeotto came swooping down. Pride just laughed as it attacked the drained Nidoking--and bounced off of his Reflect armor. Annoyed, Pidgeotto tried again, but by now Nidoking had recovered his energy reserves. "Mega Punch!" Pride called out, and Nidoking stepped into Pidgeotto's dive and connected with the force of a few steamrollers. Pidgeotto fell to the ground.
Nidoking looked around, searching for a new opponent. Pikachu hid behind Gary's legs. Nidoking snorted derisively, then looked back and saw Beedrill rising from the fainted Vileplume.
"W-what happened!?"
"I happened! Hahahaa! You want some?"
Beedrill flew at Nidoking to use Twineedle on him. It never got that close to him. Nidoking fired another Hyper Beam that plastered Beedrill to the cliff face.
Gary had no idea what to do. He could only watch, in despair, as Nidoking slowly returned to life.
"Now then...about that rodent..."
"Yi!" Pikachu ran up Gary's leg and tried to hide in his vest. Pride laughed so loud he startled Gluttony and Sloth.
Nidoking walked to Gary, with an evil smile growing on his face. "If you don't cough up the Pikachu, I suppose I could just attack YOU..."
All eyes turned to a bright flash near the edge of the forest of Route 25. Gary recognized the flash as a Teleport. He also recognized the voice.
"You!?" Pride burst into laughter again. "We defeated you easily at the cottage yesterday! Why should we bother with you now?"
Kate's face darkened. "I may have lost to you before, but you've challenged Gary today, and we work as a team! I demand the right to face you!"
Nidoking looked at Kate's defiant expression, then back at the lump in Gary's vest, then at Kate again. "Hmph. More fun when they're willing." He turned to face Kate. "Bring it on!"
Suddenly, a loud chopping sound arose from the forest behind Kate, and a black helicopter emerged and flew south. Gary watched it fade from view over the Route 24 bridge. "What was that about?" He had a nasty suspicion it had to do with Cinnabar Island...
"Never mind that, we've got a battle to fight!" Pride said.
Kate nodded and turned back to Nidoking. "I've beaten you once, and I'll do it again!"

The helicopter pilot scanned the area for anything out of the ordinary as soon as the helicopter approached Cerulean City.
He was looking for the pokémon that had sent Kate to the battlefield...an Alakazam, most likely. A special Alakazam that was definitely 'out of the ordinary.'
The MIBs in the back prepared the devices they had brought for this encounter: a psychokinetic nuetralizer, to keep the Alakazam from using its psychic power on the helicopter; a set of neural blockers, to keep it from attacking their minds; and a wide assortment of special weapons, including the spoon-shaped Psybeam laser, a Bubblebeam weapon shaped like the head of a Seadra, a twin-barrel Pin Missile launcher shaped like two Beedrill stingers, a device shaped like a Bellsprout that used Mega Drain attacks to power Solarbeams...and a common everyday flamethrower, should they need to use Flamethrower. The wackos in R&D hadn't come up with a pokémon-based design for a flamethrower that suited them. Which was fine with a good many MIBs.
They needed the variety because, after the Alakazam, they could find themselves up against literally anything. The accounts of Pride and the MIBs who had faced 'Alakazam' in Saffron City, together with the reports of Elites Bonnie and Clyde on Team Rocket databases, made a very strong case for the identity and abilities of 'Tod Frost.'
The final touch lay in a satchel near the door, a fitting way to secure their target when he had been weakened beyond battling: five copies of a Silph Co. product never to be released to the general public. Silph Co. thought it had erased all copies of the blueprints, but a team of MIBs had secured a copy in the chaos of the first Team Rocket takeover of Silph.
No matter what pokémon Frost could Transform into, he would never be able to resist the power of the Master Ball.

Chapter 124

"What's going on?"
Pikachu poked its head out of Gary's vest to see what was happening. Gary petted it to soothe its nerves. "Kate just arrived to challenge Nidoking!"
Kate tossed a Pokéball. "Gastly! It's time!"
"And now, the event you've all been waiting for, watch as Fortunato saves the day!"
"You! You made me look like a fool last time, but I've got some great new moves now that are gonna floor ya!"
"I'll believe it when I see it, lunkhead! Bring it on!"
Nidoking charged and leapt at Gastly. Kate dove out of the way as Nidoking Body Slammed right through Gastly and into the ground.
"Ah, yes, quite effective! Tell me, do you train against dirt often?"
"Shut up!" Nidoking quickly righted himself, then threw a Mega Punch and followed with a Mega Kick--with predictable results.
"Marvelous techniques! Now go out there and hit something with them!"
"I told you to SHUT UP!" Nidoking struck heavily with Submission. Gastly yawned its approval.
"All right, maybe THIS'll work!" Nidoking reared back and shouted another Hyper Beam. The purple energy hit--and blew a hole right through Gastly and out the other side!
Kate watched the punctured Gastly with a doubtful expression. As the Hyper Beam faded, the two halves of Gastly's face frowned, and then it pulled itself together again.
"Is that your best shot? Well, then I guess I should take over about now."
"Wait, let me try the rolling one! Maybe that...'ll...work..."
"i DoN't ThInK sO." Gastly's eyes flashed in eerie colors as it fixed a commanding stare on Nidoking and performed its Hypnosis technique.
"No! I knew I should have taught him some special attacks!" Pride cried in despair.
"Uh, now what?"
"Now, Night Shade, rinse, repeat!" Kate grinned.

Ditto stood on the roof of an office building in Cerulean City, watching the battle with his mind.
It had been smart of Kate to suggest he keep watching even after he'd found the Beedrill Jet was staying there, and courageous of her to suggest he send her in if Gary got in trouble. The girl was really showing initiative.
Ditto blinked when he realized his physical eyes were trying to tell him something important. There was a black helicopter on the horizon, heading for the city. He scanned the passengers, and found nothing, not even a pilot, which was enough to tip him off that this was important.
Instead of trying to link with minds in the helicopter, Ditto opened his mind's eye within the vehicle, and saw the MIBs, all wearing neural blockers, and passing out an odd assortment of other things...which included the Psybeam spoon. Ditto took a guess at their nature, and felt a chill. Did the MIBs know? He wouldn't put it past them. He knew better than to put anything past them.
He tried to sabotage some of the equipment telekinetically, but something stopped him. There was an energy field blocking telekinetic power! Ditto felt against it and found the source: a lone cubic machine labelled "Psychokinetic Neutralizer." Must be another recent invention.
Ditto tested the limits of the psychokinetic nuetralizer's field and found it extended past the farthest edge of the helicopter. That meant Ditto couldn't stop them from coming. Hiding would do no good either; they wouldn't stop searching until they found him, so it might as well be gotten over with.
Ditto stood his ground, watching the helicopter approach. It wasn't quite aimed straight at him, but it fixed that shortly after entering the city. Within a minute it was hovering over the building. Ditto kept his eyes fixed in the direction they had come, just to spite them.
MIBs started dropping down cables to the rooftop, with the guns shaped like Beedrill stingers drawn. Probably Pin Missile.
Ditto abruptly realized something, and did a quick check of the psychokinetic neutralizer's field again. As he'd suspected, the MIBs on the rooftop were just barely out of its range. Without turning to face them, Ditto deftly pulled the neural blockers out of their ears and spoke telepathically. Chasing after Frost again?
Trying not to look perturbed by the loss of the neural blockers, one MIB stepped forward. "We don't have to. We've already found you, freak."

"We don't have to look. We've already found one. Your Ditto!"
"You're helping this freak?"

Ditto turned to face the MIBs. Someone else called me that once, and now he can only despair of my power. You've made your second mistake in this encounter, gentlemen. Now that I know you know, I don't have to hold back.

Chapter 125

After all of Poliwhirl's Water Guns in the chase scene, it didn't take very long for Kate's Gastly to defeat Nidoking now that he was asleep. By the time he woke up, he was too weak even to try to attack.
"Uuugh...urk!" Finally, the ungentle giant collapsed to the ground.
"Darn it, we lost again!" Sloth complained.
"No, ya think!?" Anger retorted.
Envy started snickering in Pride's direction. "All-powerful, my a--" he began, only to be silenced by Pride's fist.
"One more comment like that and I will personally see to it that we become the Six Deadly Twins, get me!?"
"But there are seven sins, right?" Gluttony asked.
In the ensuing silence, Pride recalled Nidoking and stormed back into the Beedrill Jet. The others recalled their beaten pokémon and followed.
Pride appeared at the door again. "Another point to you, Ford...and Fields," he said. "But don't think you won't pay for standing against Team Rocket. Eventually, all who challenge us come to regret it...some sooner than others!" Pride's fury-twisted face suddenly broke out into a grin of sadistic glee. The door closed over him, and the Beedrill Jet rose into the sky and flew into the southeastern horizon.
Gary set down Pikachu and recalled his five beaten pokémon. Kate recalled Gastly, Gary recalled Pikachu and they turned to each other, wearing nearly identical looks of concern.
"What do you suppose he meant by that?" Kate asked.
"Whatever it is, he's got something planned for us really soon...that helicopter! It left for the city when you came here, and Pride told us to ignore it! There's got to be something to it!"
"We'd better get back to Cerulean and find out what's going on!"
"Right!" Gary paused. "Um, I hadn't thought about getting back...do we just walk back down Route 24? We might be too late!"
"Ditto was watching the match...maybe he'll Teleport us back when he sees we won."
"Yeah, that'd work."
"Um...so..I'm glad you came. I almost got creamed."
"I know. That's why Ditto sent me."
"Funny that Nidoking lost the same way against you yesterday, and Pride didn't think to give him any special attacks!"
"Yeah. I worked myself stiff this morning raising Gastly to learn Hypnosis. Glad I did!"
"Uh, what if I thought that helicopter reminded me of the MIBs?"
"You, too?"
Gary and Kate stared at each other, then both bolted down Route 24 for Cerulean City.

Ditto could telekinetically stop the Pin Missiles, but didn't feel like taking the effort each time an MIB fired...not when this option was available. He glowed as a Transformation began.
The MIBs, surprised indeed, paused to consider their weapons. None were strong against a Normal-type. In fact, although Chansey's attack and defense were downright pitiful, its special rating was truly a thing to behold, and most of the MIBs' weapons fired special attacks.
That wasn't the end of it, either. Chansey didn't learn any special attacks to use that gargantuan rating offensively, but whoever had raised the Chansey Ditto had met in Trainer Valley had used a TM 13 to teach it Ice Beam, making the Chansey a force to fear. Ditto couldn't imagine why it had been deposited.
Eventually the MIBs pieced together that their Pin Missile launchers remained their best bet. It was too late. Ditto fired the Chansey's Ice Beam in a sweeping arc, and froze their arms to keep them from firing.
Another MIB jumped down from the helicopter, flamethrower drawn, and used it on his teammates to thaw their gun hands. The thawed MIBs opened up on Ditto, and Ditto was punctured by several sets of needles.
With an expression too determined and serious to be credible on a Chansey, Ditto used Softboiled to restore his health. The pins fell to the floor as Ditto's skin healed. Then, pushing himself to the Chansey body's limits, he beat the reloading MIBs to the punch and started freezing them all again.
The MIB with the flamethrower used it on Ditto, trying to stop the Ice Beam before it reached him. Just to humor the man, Ditto stopped and let the heat wash over him. He felt the merest hint of a suggestion that it might have harmed him. With that out of the way, he froze the rest of the MIBs and coated the flamethrower in several layers of ice.
Ditto turned his eyes to the helicopter, as if daring yet another MIB to appear. The pilot answered with the helicopter's weaponry. No longer threatened by Water- or Grass-type attacks, Ditto Transformed into Golem, curled up and let the bullets ricochet off his rocky hide. Eventually, they would get the hint that they couldn't stop him.
While Ditto was curled into himself, one MIB, with a special satchel over his shoulder, began flexing his arms to weaken the ice on them. Quietly, so that Ditto wouldn't hear him over the gunfire, he mentioned to himself that the pilot should keep firing, and keeping Ditto curled, until he could work free and use the satchel's contents. The pilot, wearing the same radio the others wore, heard the comment and slowed the firing to make the ammunition last longer.
Soon enough, another of Cinnabar Labs' little accidents would disappear from the outside world, and this aggravating mission could be ended.

Chapter 126

Gary whipped out his Pokédex in mid-stride and started depositing his team.
Kate looked over at him. "What are you doing?"
"If Ditto couldn't Teleport us back, he's already in trouble. We need to get there faster!" He put in two pokémon and pocketed the Pokédex. "Diglett! Sandshrew! I need you now!"
"Ready for action!"
"What's going on?"
"Ditto's in trouble! Dig us a tunnel forward to Cerulean City as fast as you can! Slope down to avoid the river ahead!"
"Got it!" Sandshrew dove into the dirt. Diglett popped back into its hole, and a tunnel started forming.
Kate had her Pokédex out almost as soon as Gary's pokémon had appeared. In a moment, her Sandshrew and Diglett joined in, and when the four had gotten a fair distance, Gary and Kate slid down the sloping tunnel.

The MIB holding the flamethrower grew tired of waiting. Under the ice on his arms, he pulled the trigger of the weapon. Gutteral noises from the flamethrower told of its failure to start; the igniting mechanism couldn't work in the cold. Frowning, the MIB tried again; just like starting a car in the winter, all it needed was a few tries to warm up.
Twice, three times it failed to fire up, but on the fourth try the fuel ignited. Unfortunately, the firing mechanism had been working right the whole time, and there was a lot of fuel built up in the barrel. The spark caught in all that fuel and the flamethrower detonated in the MIB's hands. The ice shattered, but the MIB was badly burned and not in a position to do anything dangerous for Ditto.
Ditto heard the explosion, realized something was up, and rolled forward out of the barrage of weaponry so he could stick out his head for a moment. He saw the smouldering remnants of the flamethrower and the burned MIB, but he also saw the MIB with the satchel and the cracking ice on his arms.
If only one was doing that, he must have an important role to play against Ditto. Ditto pulled his head back in and rolled backwards out of the helicopter fire before Transforming into Alakazam again. The form certainly was useful.
First, Ditto put a good chunk of power into a Reflect shield similar to the one he had used in the Vermilion City encounter with Team Rocket. This time, though, it was only big enough for him, and only offered protection from above, and of course Alakazam was stronger than Kadabra, so although the Reflect shield was strong enough to stop high-speed lead, Ditto remained able to use his psychic power in other ways...such as freezing the MIB with the satchel fully in place.
Ditto quickly identified the satchel as the only thing different about that MIB, and scanned his mind to identify the contents. Well, I must say I'm flattered that you would go to such lengths to secure me. However, if you are trying to handle me that way, you surely realize that you are technically trying to steal a trainer's pokémon, and are therefore making yourself vulnerable to local authorities. When Gary, as the wronged trainer, gets back here, you fellows will be in a tight spot inde--"Aaugh!"
The MIB at the far end of the bunch, who had gotten the tail end of the Ice Beam, had worked himself free while Ditto was occupied with stopping the MIB with the satchel, and now hit Ditto with a round of fire from his Pin Missile launcher. The pain made Ditto drop his concentration, and the MIB with the satchel strained against the cracked ice and broke free. In one fluid motion, he took hold of a Master Ball from the satchel and lobbed it at Ditto.
Ditto grabbed the Master Ball telekinetically and arced it over his head to land on the rooftop behind him. You'll have to tag me with one of those to get me! he said savagely as he worked to heal the wound he'd taken.

Gary skidded down the tunnel after the four digging pokémon. It was like riding the world's longest park slide, and Ditto was at the other end.
A dripping up ahead caught his attention, and he realized he was somewhere under the river just north of Cerulean City. They'd already slid half the distance to the city, then.
Odd how damp the ground there was, though. The drip couldn't have started too long ago...

"Hey, start leveling out or they're gonna crash!"
"I know, I know..."
"Already? We're not that close to the city, are we?"
"I think we might be..."
"There's a pokémon in trouble. 'Might be' isn't gonna cut it!"
"Hold on, I'll check the surface!"
"Hurry back! We're down to three diggers as it is!"
"How was I supposed to know there was a dip in the riverbed?"
"You're just lucky I managed to plug the leak!"
"Guys, this isn't helping!"

Chapter 127

With only a slight bump, Gary and Kate reached the end of the dirt slide.
Climbing to their feet, they walked the few yards to the last leg of the tunnel, pointing toward the surface in a steep upward slant. "We've got to climb that?" Kate asked, peering upward.
"Yeah. Too bad Cerulean's on high ground. It shouldn't be too bad, though." Gary touched a jutting stone that was surrounded by claw marks, and found it was sturdy enough to haul himself up by. "See? Our pokémon know what they're doing."
Kate followed Gary's lead up the tunnel exit, which wound like an Ekans to seek out the kind of stones they needed for climbing, and before long they were standing in a field next to a street leading to downtown Cerulean City. Their Sandshrew and Diglett were resting nearby.
Gary's Sandshrew seemed to have run into some trouble at the river, so Gary reminded himself to add it to the list of pokémon that needed healing after today. He and Kate recalled their Diggers and looked down the street toward the heart of the city.
"Look! There's the helicopter!" Kate said, spotting the black shape hovering over a building.
Gary turned just in time to see the helicopter sinking to land on the roof of the building.
"It's landing? Wonder what that means..." Gary said as they set off down the street. "The MIBs must already have encountered Ditto when we left the scene of the battle, or he would have picked us up. If the helicopter didn't land until now..."
"...You think they've got him?" Kate asked. "Maybe Ditto beat them, and it's just picking up the beaten MIBs?"
"I like your idea better." Gary dryly noted. "Either way, we'd better go see. Maybe we can still help Ditto!"

Ditto crouched on the rooftop, surrounded in a thick full-body Reflect shield. Pin Missile needles lay piled around him, having bounced ineffectually off the psychic barrier. A second Master Ball lay somewhere in the pile; the MIB with the satchel hadn't been convinced that Reflect would stop it.
Ditto knew the MIBs could do nothing to him now. He waited to see what they would do. They might just give up. However, the genius brain of the Alakazam pointed out a second possibility, one that could be trouble for Ditto, and he could only hope the MIBs didn't come up with it.
The helicopter headed down for a landing. The MIBs moved to give it a wide berth. Ditto watched intently; this could still go either way.
The pilot opened the door of the helicopter, and the MIB with the burned hands entered, seeking first aid. Other than that one, however, only two MIBs went in, and Ditto knew they had hit on the answer he feared. Soon, the other two came back out...carrying the psychokinetic nuetralizer.
Ditto couldn't directly affect the nuetralizer, for the same reason it posed a threat to him in the first place; it blocked all telekinesis in its vicinity. He could still try, though. A large scoop of needles rose up around him and pointed toward the device. Ditto pushed, emulating the Pin Missile launchers, and all of the needles shot forward. He couldn't have carried them all the way to the device, but once they were moving on their own, the psychokinetic neutralizer couldn't stop them.
Needles sank into the arms of the MIBs carrying the device, making them drop it, and it landed hard on the rooftop. However, the needles that hit it just bounced off, leaving nothing more damaging than minor scratches. It seemed to have survived the drop as well, and Ditto had nothing better to toss at it.
The pinned MIBs retreated into the helicopter, and the ones still on the rooftop debated how to get the psychokinetic nuetralizer within range of Ditto to nullify his Reflect shield. Ditto still had plenty of needles around him to fire at anyone else who tried to carry it.
Ditto couldn't attack the psychokinetic nuetralizer, the only threat to him at this point, but the MIBs couldn't use it on him. Until someone thought of a way to solve one problem or the other, the encounter was a stalemate.

Kate anxiously watched the sky above the building she and Gary were headed for. The helicopter did not reappear. Why was it staying there? Whether they had Ditto or were retreating, it should have lifted off not long after settling down.
"Gary, why might the helicopter still be on the rooftop?"
"It hasn't taken off?"
"No, it's still there."
"Hmm...maybe something's stopping them from boarding with Ditto. Or maybe they don't want to have to leave without him. Or maybe the battle's not over, and they needed to get some kind of weapon or something from the helicopter to use on him."
Kate thought about those possibilities as they arrived at the building. Either the MIBs had Ditto, or they were going to give it another try, or they were bringing out the big guns to use on him. On the other hand, either she and Gary still had time to save him, or he didn't need saving. Half full or half empty? Kate didn't know what to feel just then.
A receptionist looked up as they entered. "Good afternoon, may I help--oh! You're Gary Ford and Kaitlyn Fields, aren't you?"
"Yes, we are," Gary supplied. "How would we get to the roof of this building?"
"Why, you could take the elevator to the top floor, there are stairs from there, but why do you need to go there?"
"An old friend may be in a lot of trouble," Gary called behind his shoulder. "There's no time to explain!"

Chapter 128

Ditto could feel Gary's presence in the building below him, and Kate's as well. They were rising toward him.
Gary! Kate! Ditto sent on a tight band that the MIBs would never notice. There's a gang of highly frustrated MIBs up here. Don't barge in unless you have a plan!

Gary paused to consider as the elevator rode upward. "Not a one, can you suggest anything?"

The Alakazam's brain gave Ditto an answer in no time. Gary, your Pikachu is still healthy, correct? If it can overload a piece of equipment the MIBs would like to use on me, they won't stand a chance.

Gary nodded to himself. "Yeah, it can do that...but what about the MIBs? They could cause trouble for it...wait, it's got Agility, never mind..."

A few Double Teams before you get out here probably wouldn't hurt either, Ditto reflected, eyeing the MIBs that weren't contributing to the discussion on how to use the psychokinetic neutralizer. Kate's Jigglypuff could use Flash to provide further protection. Ditto had noted Kate's eagerness to contribute to the team, and sensed her anxiety now.

"Pikachu, get ready for action!"
"What's up?"
"You want to make up for only beating one pokémon earlier, right? Well, Ditto's in trouble and he needs you to save him! When we reach the roof of this building, there's a machine you need to take out with your electric power..."
"What, no battling?"
"...and a group of bad-tempered and trigger-happy humans who'll want to stop you with deadly force. Better?"
"Let's do this!"
Pikachu, this is Ditto speaking from the rooftop. I'll mark your target for you when you get up here. In the meantime, you should get ready by building up Agility as well as Double Team.
"What, in here?"
"We'll be taking stairs for the last part of the trip. You can do that on the way."
Kate put away her Pokédex and took up the Pokéball she'd just emptied and filled again. "Let's go, Jigglypuff!"
Jigglypuff looked around the elevator. "Woah, small..."
"Jigglypuff, we're going on a dangerous mission! Don't do it yet, but when we get to the roof, I'll need you to use Flash to blind all the humans up there!"
"Ooh, that's fun!"
The elevator stopped at the top floor and the doors opened.
"All right, go, Pikachu!"
Pikachu dashed out of the elevator. "Move move move!" It passed the stairs at first, then turned and zoomed up them. Kate picked up Jigglypuff, and she and Gary followed.
A worker watched in surprise from a nearby office, then phoned the front desk. "Hey, you know two kids are up--what? Gary Ford and Kaitlyn Fields!? No kidding, I thought they looked familiar! Old friend in trouble, huh? Hey, get the Sentinel on the horn! Whatever happens, the reporters'll love this!"

Gary stopped in surprise when Pikachu came flying back down the stairs. "Door's closed...", it said on its way down. "Mustn't stop moving...", it said on its way up again.
Gary and Kate reached the top after several stops to let Pikachu pass. The door was impressive, clearly made to stop the unwanted visitor before any other purpose. They dealt with the locks two at a time, and then Gary put a hand on the bar.
Pikachu came tearing up the stairs again, and Gary shoved the door open. "Go, Pikachu!"
The MIBs turned in surprise as the door swung open and a yellow streak shot out. Those who recognized Gary's voice drew whatever weapon appealed to them and tried to hit Pikachu as it flew past, gathering electricity.
"Get'm, Jigglypuff!" Kate tossed Jigglypuff out the door. It landed, bounced with a happy squeal, and burst into light as it fell among the MIBs. Several hands flew up to cover faces, and weapons went off wildly as Jigglypuff continued to bounce among them. The MIBs now had two targets to choose from, and it didn't help that both were moving in a way that made it easy to hit a fellow agent.
Pikachu dodged everything that was hurled at it, though it almost got hit once when it was surprised by a large sign reading HIT THIS appearing above a metal box near the helicopter. The MIBs couldn't see it, since Ditto was projecting the image into Pikachu's mind, so they didn't realize what was going on.
Pikachu opted for some dramatic flair. When it had built up as much electricity as it could hold, it angled for the helicopter and dashed up the side of it and into the air. Power surged around it as it started to fall, and it sent a strong Thunderbolt down at the psychokinetic neutralizer.

Chapter 129

Realizing too late what was happening, a few MIBs fired at Pikachu with Pin Missile or Psybeam. One even thought to draw his pistol.
All missed again, however, when Pikachu's Thunderbolt struck the psychokinetic neutralizer and it exploded, hurling Pikachu upward again. "Wheee!"
In a trice, all of the MIBs, including the helicopter pilot, were frozen in place. Ditto used telekinesis on the destroyed machine from all sides to squeeze it into a cube of scrap metal, and then caught Pikachu on its way back down and eased it to the floor.
Gary and Kate ran out onto the rooftop to meet their pokémon. Ignoring the immobile MIBs, Kate squinted from the light and caught Jigglypuff in her arms. "That's great, Jigglypuff! You did a wonderful job! Can you turn off the light now?"
"Heehee! That was fun!"
"You said it! I want to do that again sometime!"
Gary blinked. "Well, I'm glad you enjoyed it, Pikachu, but if it happens again I hope it's not for the same reason."
Instead of bothering to clear away the pile of pins, Ditto just Teleported out of it. I Ditto that...
"Hey, look!" Kate said from the building's edge. "Someone's coming!"
News reporters, Ditto said after a brief look at the Cerulean Sentinel van parked below. Which reminds me, the MIBs approached me with clear intent to capture a pokémon, so they're guilty of attempted pokémon theft. If we can get the police up here, we'll have several fewer MIBs to deal with.
"Great!" Gary said...but then something hit him. Chasing down the thought, he caught the snag in all this. "I told the receptionist there was an old friend in trouble here! I think the reporters aren't going to be satisfied with my having an Alakazam for an 'old friend'."
You're right. They'll want Tod Frost...and Tod Frost can't hold MIBs frozen in place. Ditto considered the situation, then Teleported all of the MIBs into the helicopter. I believe it's in your best interest to be well away from here by the time the media arrives, correct? Go now...but remember that we stopped you here today, and we will stop you again if you return! After freeing the pilot to guide the vehicle, he Teleported the helicopter to the southwestern horizon.
"Hey, what's this? I've never seen this kind before..." Kate stooped to pick up an odd purple Pokéball lying at the edge of the rooftop. Ditto's eyes widened at the sight.
"What's it look like?" Gary asked, walking over.
I'll show you one. Ditto pushed aside the pile of needles and pulled out the second, bringing it around to hover over his hand. Then he Transformed into Tod Frost, caught the ball as it fell and tossed it lightly to Gary. "I'll explain how they work later, but you'd better hide them for now. I just sensed an elevator full of people coming our way."

It was on the front page of the Cerulean Sentinel the next day.
The newest heroes of the Pokémon League, Gary Ford and Kate Fields, had done it again. Rising to Team Rocket's challenge, delivered from the Beedrill-shaped aircraft that had been spotted earlier in Saffron City, they had once again floored the criminal organization's greatest fighters, and averted a planned missile strike on the city. Shortly after, during a battle on the roof of Seel Networking, they met with Tod Frost, the mysterious scientist who had helped them rescue Saffron City from Team Rocket. Little was known about this rooftop battle, except for the involvement of a black helicopter, devoid of markings, that was sighted by several citizens. Ford and Fields, while crediting each other for both wins, agreed that Seel Networking was not involved.
Tod Frost chuckled at the article. "I'll bet the CEO wasn't too happy about you two battling unknown opponents on top of his building. That statement may have saved his business."
"Maybe now both Team Rocket and Cinnabar Island will leave us alone for a while," Gary sighed.
"It would be nice, wouldn't it?"
"Yeah," Kate threw in. "I don't know how I'm going to do well in Bill's class if I don't get much study time!"
"And I need to raise some low-level pokémon," Gary added. "Beedrill turned out to be a better choice this time, because it was immune to poisoning, but I'm going to want a strong psychic pokémon eventually."
"Oh! Speaking of pokémon training..." Kate felt around in her packback and pulled out the Master Ball she'd taken from the roof. "You said you'd tell us what kind of Pokéball these are?"
"Ah, yes." Tod paused a moment. "That is a very special Pokéball that can't be bought anywhere. In fact, it's the Pokéball that made Team Rocket attempt its first takeover of Silph Co. thirty years ago."
"Really? Wow!" Gary got his out, too, and started looking it over. "What's so great about it?"
"It was called the Master Ball, and it was designed to capture any pokémon, no matter how powerful. It would never fail. You wouldn't even have to weaken the target. But when Team Rocket learned about the Master Ball project, they decided they wanted that kind of power for themselves, so they attacked. Ash Ketchum beat them back, of course, but Silph Co. learned its lesson. The Master Ball was just too good. The project was cancelled, and all notes, models and blueprints were destroyed."
"Or so Silph thought. But a team of MIBs had also learned of the Master Ball project, and they made off with a blueprint in the disorder Ash's battle caused. Now the MIBs are the only ones who can make and use the Master Balls."
"They tried to catch you with these?" Gary asked.
"That's right. The only way to avoid being caught by a Master Ball is to keep the ball from hitting you...and with the technology of the Ball, that's beyond the skills of most wild pokémon. If I hadn't had a form that could use telekinesis, I would have been caught...which was the threat posed by the psychokinetic neutralizer."
Gary worked that out. "The machine Pikachu destroyed...that could stop telekinesis?"
"That's right. I thought at first that the worst it could do was prevent me from using Reflect to block their attacks, or attacking them telekinetically. I see now that it would have been even worse than I realized."

Chapter 130

"See you later!"
Gary waved goodbye to Kate as she headed for the Cerulean City Pokémon Center. She'd missed the second day of Bill's class because she'd been busy with Team Rocket, the MIBs and the media aftermath. She might have some catching up to do.
Gary was headed in another direction. For the third day in a row, he was traveling north of Cerulean City. Fortunately, this time it didn't involve the Seven Deadly Twins; he had chosen to raise his lowest-level pokémon in Route 24 instead of Route 4. Maybe he needed a change of pace, maybe he felt there were likely to be fewer local trainers there, or maybe it was just that the last time he'd headed for Route 4, the Beedrill Jet had blown a huge hole in the street and he'd wound up with five fainted pokémon before the matter was settled.
Gary's mind wandered as he set foot on the long bridge at the north end of the city. The last few days had been Gary's toughest challenges since he'd started pokémon training. Sydney the Scientist came close, but nothing else compared to either battle with the Seven Deadly Twins, or the three battles he'd fought in Saffron...not to mention the Cinnabar MIBs. With luck, they'd all leave Gary, Kate and Ditto alone now that they had been undeniably defeated.
Gary was proud of his team for doing so well against the Twins' poison-types. Charmeleon's new Flamethrower attack had proven its worth with its first use. Pikachu had saved Charmeleon several times, and finally scored the first victory in the battle. Poliwhirl had been exceptional in its handling of Nidoking and Nidoqueen. Golem had done true justice to its evolution. Even Beedrill had done impressively against Weezing until Pidgeotto offered it Vileplume on a platter.
Pidgeotto hadn't actually fainted anyone, but it had never done poorly, either, until Weezing started trying to use Toxic. Gary remembered Pidgeotto's mid-battle comment..."Well, I'm sorry if you don't like it! When I learn a stronger attack, I'll let you know, but for now I'm just going to have to whittle you down like a piece of wood, and you're just going to have to take it!" Maybe it was right. If it had known a stronger move than Quick Attack it might have beaten Weezing on its own. No, on second thought, Envy would just have called for Toxic sooner, but Pidgeotto should have a stronger move anyway. This wasn't the place to raise it, though. It would quickly get bored with the low-level pokémon in Routes 4 and 24.
Gary remembered the talk they'd had later that day, when the reporters were finally done with them. Everyone was depressed over losing so badly to Nidoking, but Gary had gotten them out of that mindset. Charmeleon wasn't hard to encourage; it tended to think highly of itself anyway. Beedrill hadn't really been surprised at losing to Nidoking, but Gary had made it feel better by reminding it of its great showing against Weezing and Vileplume. Golem convinced itself that the battle had been a fluke; it was just bad luck that Pride had thought to teach Nidoking a strong Fighting-type move. Poliwhirl was feeling resentful at Nidoking's comeback when it been doing so well against him until then. Gary managed to shift its resentment towards the strength of Nidoking's Hyper Beam, and then suggested it try dodging the beam next time instead of stopping the enemy from using the attack. He lauded Poliwhirl's acrobatic skill, so far above and beyond the clumsiness of Poliwag, and Poliwhirl's confidence improved.
Interestingly, all it took to get Pidgeotto off the subject of Nidoking was a passing mention of Charmeleon's Flamethrower attack on Weezing, the one that had rescued Pidgeotto from Weezing's Toxic as well as distracting Nidoqueen so Poliwhirl could weaken it. "You came up with that idea yourself, or did you get prompted?"
"Prompted? No, that was my own idea."
"Yeah, I was just happy to get a target for my new move!"
"So it was like those other times..."
"Other times?"
"Yeah! Like, back when I was a Charmander, when you had me attack the FLOOR, and doing that took out a Golem!"
"Remember that Tentacool Caterpie and I beat just before our first evolution? You knew how to make my stinging do real damage to save Caterpie!"
"You even taught me, as a Poliwag, how to handle myself on land! That was impressive!"
"There I was, newly evolved from a Geodude and still smarting from Sydney's Magneton and Electrode. You hadda know I was in a lot of pain, but you let me finish the battle to show Sydney I wasn't down! You gotta love a guy who'll do that for his pokémon!"
"You mean that's why you guys never question me?"
"Yeah, the theory is if you can do that sort of stuff, you've got to know what you're doing. Oh, Pikachu mentioned a Gastly it couldn't beat until you gave it the winning strategy, and Nidorina was all aglow about your kindness toward the Growlithe."
"Wow! I never realized you thought that way about me! ...Hmm, I wonder if I've impressed Nidorino somehow?"
"Him? I don't think he cares who's telling him to smash stuff as long as he gets to do the smashing!"
"Yeah, plus his girlfriend likes you..."
"Oh, is 'girlfriend' still the right word?"
"Ha! Maybe not!"
"Huh? What are we talking about?"
Gary smiled as he recalled the conversation. In the end, despite the loss to Nidoking shortly after, Pidgeotto had conceded that Gary was probably worth listening to. He had thanked Pidgeotto for the reassessment, knowing that was as far as he was likely to get.

Chapter 131

Gary blinked.
His reminiscing had been interrupted by the sight of a small building on the left bank, one that was right up against the cliff in a way that reminded him suspiciously of Bill's cottage. This was no cottage, though, and above the door was a picture of a gleaming golden Pokéball--the sign of the Pokémon League!
Had that been there before? Gary got out his map to look for some mark of it. He found one, but it was an unlabelled star...and it was plainly from his own hand. Now he remembered noticing the building his first time up here...the only other time he'd gone on foot. He'd tried to reach it and failed...because of the river! He'd need to be able to cross the river to reach it, because the left bank didn't make it all the way from the League building to the junction of Routes 24 and 25, where the river went underground.
His curiosity grew even higher now, because knowing about Trainer Valley, he had an inkling this time of what the building was doing here. He also had a way to cross; Ditto could Teleport there from here as easily as breathing. He couldn't see himself having Ditto do that, though. Maybe his travels had matured him since, or something like it, because he didn't feel mere curiosity was a good enough reason either to bother Ditto or to poke into League affairs...especially if they were doing here what he thought they were doing here. The officials certainly wouldn't give him a guided tour. Maybe, if Ditto finished exercising his forms and grew bored here, they might just ask a front desk secretary, if there was one.
Gary paused at what he had just thought. His travels since may have matured him? In two and a half weeks!? Gary sighed. Maybe not just the last few days had been a little rushed, at least in his goals and actions. He counted back, and realized with amusement that he had gone, in less than a week, from fearing the Saffron Situation was way over his head to conquering them in one night. Of course, he had gained an ally in that time, but nonetheless...He'd been quite wary about his chances against the Seven Deadly Twins without Ditto, but when Nidoking flattened nearly all of his team, he'd been disappointed, just as if he'd gone in expecting to win without a whole lot of trouble. Maybe he had gone too far too fast, not just physically but in his goals and expectations as well. Should he slow down a little? Or maybe this pause to relax in Cerulean would be all he needed, as long as it was going to be as peaceful as he hoped.
For now, he wasn't going to be Gary Ford, national hero; he was Gary Ford, pokémon trainer, with some pokémon to train. Since he wasn't anticipating a tough battle with a Gym Leader, he should be wholly free of stress.
Working himself into the role of average trainer, he mentally reviewed his current team. Butterfree, a pokémon who had one weak physical attack, one special attack that needed charging, and a wide range of effect-causing moves. It could use a new attack.
Rattata, a good fighter among the lesser pokémon, but unlikely to be useful in serious combat, not unless the situation called for a Normal-type. That was unlikely, to say the least, but Gary couldn't bring himself to retire the pokémon.
Gastly, a pokémon that could be invaluable for its type advantages...provided it got strong enough to faint high-level enemies before everyone grew bored. It also had attacks to learn that would be helpful, but perhaps the most important thing about raising Gastly would be raising its self-confidence. It didn't seem to think much of itself.
Drowzee, Gary's only full Psychic-type, but not strong enough for the important battles. The focus for Drowzee wouldn't be an attack, or psychological building; just level-ups and the added strength that came with them.
Magikarp, a weakling. There was no other way to put it, and it wasn't just because it was the lowest-leveled of Gary's pokémon. The goal there was evolution, and as a challenge might prove to rank with Saffron both in the attaining and the handling afterward.
Ditto, technically in his party, but not present. He was handling his own "raising." Sometimes Gary wondered what level Ditto was, but it was unlikely to matter.
His party ended there, but Gary's reviewing didn't, maybe because the bridge didn't either. Sandshrew, Zubat, Mankey and Bellsprout, all just a level away from the raising party. Mankey and Bellsprout had the better claim, though, because they were the only pokémon of their type that Gary had. He still had to choose between Sandshrew and Diglett for his main Ground-type; one was the better at attack and defense, the other was faster, and would eventually learn a second Ground-type move. Zubat was much like Rattata: just along for the ride. It had a better chance of being useful, with its unique type, but Gary had no real goal for raising it other than to keep it in step with the others.
Spearow and Diglett, mostly along for the ride like Zubat. Diglett might wind up Gary's main Ground-type (maybe he should just train both Ground-types, and trade back and forth as the situation demanded?) but Spearow had become overshadowed by Pidgeotto. Seeing Kate's in action had made Gary think some more about the value of Mirror Move, and the only other pokémon he had who would learn it would not do so for a long time, but he still didn't think it was the sort of thing you kept a pokémon in the ranks for when it had no other unique talents.
Pidgeotto, quite the fighter already, but not with the strongest of attacks. At some point, it should be raised to learn something better. It would probably like that. It wouldn't like training around here, though. The opposition would be disappointing for a pokémon of its level.
Nidorino and Nidorina. Their fighting skills earned them a place on his team of power players, but their level was far below the others. When their vacation was over, and also when the local opposition was more impressive, Gary should probably do something about that.
Beedrill, who had proven against Weezing and maybe Vileplume that it had potential. That battle, and the training under Ditto beforehand, had raised Beedrill's level to match the Nidos, and high enough, if it hadn't been a Bug-type, to be a challenge for Pidgeotto. It would not be in the raising party for quite some time...unless Gary decided it could hold its own as a power player. He'd have to think on that. Bugs were not the most useful type, and Beedrill lost one of their few strengths, an advantage over Psychics, because it was also Poison-type. Still, Nidorino and Nidorina weren't joining the power players for their type, either.
Charmeleon, Pikachu, Poliwhirl and Golem, the stars of Gary's team--other than Ditto, of course. Gary would be surprised if there were a place with wild pokémon strong enough to challenge them anymore. How had Ditto trained them as well as he had in one day? Gary would definitely have to ask him about that.
Finally stepping off of the bridge, Gary headed for the far bank and the wild pokémon, his mind on nothing more intense than pokémon training for the first time in a week that felt more like a month or two. It was wonderously calming.

Chapter 132

The conference room was quiet as a graveyard, save for the echoing footfalls of the MIB pacing the length of the table. Four others sat at the table, glancing every so often at the objects on the table.
"Not much use now, are they?" The pacer said at last. His gaze fell on the four weapons, and he shook his head ruefully.
"Wait, doesn't Reflect only defend against physical attacks? Maybe Pin Missile is no good, but we might be able to hit him with the others..."
"Special attacks are no way to go after an Alakazam. Its special rating is huge. He would have no problem Recovering such small damage while maintaining his Reflect shield. Besides, we don't know much about the special version of Reflect he used. Maybe it would even stop special attacks."
"Then what can we do?"
One MIB who had begun fiddling with the Seadra-head Bubblebeam gun looked up. "Another psychokinetic neutralizer. If we can find a way to get it near him without him knowing..."
The one sitting across from him snorted. "How to surprise a psychic? Now there's a tough one."
"Well, he's not always an Alakazam. Is there some way we could get the neutralizer to him when he isn't one, and then engage him?"
The pacer put his hands on the table. "Aren't you forgetting something? We've got Ford to deal with, as well. The boy obviously knows the truth about his prized Ditto, the way he fought us from the start. The knowing seems only to make him more determined to keep us from our quarry. We can't just walk up to him and ask to battle his Ditto again!"
"So don't ask." One MIB who had been silent all this time looked up with a thin smile. "We couldn't capture the pokémon, but someone else already has. Suppose we just steal his Pokéball from Ford? Then we wouldn't have to deal with him at all."
Silence reigned again for a moment.
"Works for me."
"How can we tell which is the one?"
"Does it matter?"
"Are we talking cat burglar stealing or mugger stealing?"
"I say we open whichever door opportunity knocks at!"
"Wait, if we swipe it at night he won't know who did it. If he knows it's us he may just come here to attempt a rescue."
"He could figure it out anyway."
"Remember, Team Rocket doesn't like him much either. He won't know whether it was them or us...especially if we frame Team Rocket for it!"
The standing MIB laughed. "Framing Team Rocket! There's one the courts wouldn't believe! Now, how to go about it?"

"You've read the article, I assume?" Vladimir looked over the edge of the newspaper in his hand at Pride, standing on the other side of the room. "Looks like your mysterious friends were no more successful than you."
"We can beat them," Pride said at a slightly higher volume than was tactful. "We beat Fields when we hadn't yet fought Ford. We would have beaten Ford sans Ditto if Fields hadn't shown up. If we could face Fields first, then a Dittoless Ford..."
"...You would make yourselves look like fools for having to arrange it that way in order to defeat them." Vladimir frowned. "No doubt you could lay Ash Ketchum by the wayside if everything went your way. Unfortunately, it usually doesn't." He turned from Pride back to his paper in a way that all but shouted dismissal. "No, I concede defeat to Ford and Fields on the battlefield. We will simply have to rid ourselves of them in another way."
Pride's jaw worked, but there was nothing to say. Nothing that wouldn't get him demoted to operative, or worse. Somewhat stiffly, he turned and left the office.
Vladimir put the paper aside and dialed Samori's private phone. The recent battle proved that all of Ford's pokémon, as well as Fields', were threats, and not just the one. The solution was clear. Simply remove all of those pokémon, and Ford and Fields would be only as bothersome as flies. The Pokéballs wouldn't be enough, the Pokédexes would have to go as well. Stealing was what Team Rocket was about after all; that and a hundred other profitable crimes.
"Lickitung Sushi, Home of the SlurpEms, how may I help you?"
"I'd like an order of Sam's Secret Sauce, with extra Secret."
"Hold on, please. I'll put you through."
Vladimir permitted himself a slight grin. No one knew covert operations quite like Samori. If he couldn't find just the right Elite to handle this job, no one could.

Ditto looked out across the rolling grassy hills south of Route 11. The place looked like the wellspring of contentment at this time of year. Ditto missed contentment.
Something was going to happen, sometime soon. The Alakazam brain had pointed it out to him. When Team Rocket lost fair and square, the most likely thing for them to do was stop playing fair and square.
Ditto, of course, would have to be taken, but thanks to yesterday's battle, they would try to take the rest of Gary's pokémon, too. If they were smart, they'd go for the Pokédex as well as the Pokéballs. They might also go after Kate's Pokéballs and Pokédex.
Ditto would have to guard them during the night. He'd need a form that didn't need sleep, such as Magneton or Haunter. Haunter might be the better choice, because he could hide invisibly, and could dispatch the thieves without disturbing Gary or Kate.
He didn't want to disturb them with any of this, if he didn't have to. Gary didn't even know Ditto was here. He thought Ditto was in Route 4, practicing the valley-full of forms he had gained.
Reminded of that task, Ditto Transformed into a Tauros and started grazing. He was running out of forms he still needed to work with, and probably would have been done by now if Team Rocket had not intervened. Two days ago, after Ditto offered to train Gary's pokémon, he had continuously Teleported to the horizon to put himself as far in every direction as he could get, searching out places to bring the chosen six. Then, of course, there had been the training, that day and yesterday. Today, Ditto was continuing his world explorations, building up the list of places he could Teleport to, just in case.
After trying a few experimental charges, Ditto Transformed back into Alakazam and Teleported to Route 4 again. Gary needed to be able to find him here if something else came up, though Ditto doubted anything would. Team Rocket would almost certainly make pokémon-napping its next move, and wouldn't dare face him while he was alert. The MIBs...well, who knew what they would do next?

Chapter 133

In his overnight room, Gary let himself relax as he sought sleep. Today had been a good day as far as training went. Drowzee had made progress, and Butterfree was getting close to another move, although it wasn't an attack. Even Gastly seemed to be feeling a little better about itself under Gary's care. Magikarp hadn't gained one level, but Gary had expected that. They needed more experience per level than most, and it wasn't easy to find enemies weak enough for them to take while raising other, stronger pokémon. If Gary were just raising Magikarp, he'd probably be back in Viridian Forest now.
In her overnight room, Kate tried to relax as she sought sleep. Today had been a good day as far as her classes went. She still couldn't make head or tail of the speech, but Bill had said she was making good progress for a beginner. She thought she could better understand her pokémon now, their attitudes if not their vocabulary. Sandshrew and Diglett really liked her and enjoyed helping her study, but Vulpix was still unsure, and Ivysaur had been thoroughly uncooperative. Kate wasn't sure, but she thought it would have preferred battling something.
In the hall between their overnight rooms, Ditto avoided relaxing like a plague. Gliding invisibly through the walls, he kept watch over both rooms, wishing he could clone himself to make both watches continuous. Once, he started to scan the surrounding areas telepathically until he realized it wasn't working. He'd become too reliant on the Alakazam form. That could be dangerous.
Entering Gary's room for what must have been the hundredth time, Ditto spotted dark shapes outside the window and floated closer for a look.

The Rocket Elite hand-picked by Samori stopped in surprise when she saw another figure in Team Rocket stealth gear appear around the corner. Using hand signals, she asked, Who are you?

The MIB in stolen Team Rocket stealth gear stopped in surprise when he saw a similarly suited figure already by the window. The figure flashed hand signals at him, but it was not a system the MIB was familiar with. This must be a real Team Rocket member!

Well? The Elite's hands asked impatiently. I'm the one Samori sent on this mission! You shouldn't be here!

The Rocket flashed more hand signals the MIB didn't recognize. Sooner or later she would realize he wasn't getting the message, and would get dangerously suspicious. There was only one way to deal with this.

Without replying, the other figure started striding toward the Rocket Elite. Two possibilities. Either this was an overeager operative who hadn't learned the hand-signals and wanted to whisper to her, or it wasn't a Team Rocket member at all, but someone who wanted to frame Team Rocket for some job--probably the same one she really had been assigned--and would try to dispatch her to avoid being caught.
She gauged his motions and decided he was too good at stealth to be a Team Rocket member, not without knowing the hand signals. She shifted posture in the blink of an eye, and pounced at him, more of a gauging move than a real attack. She needed to know what she was dealing with.

The Team Rocket member leapt at the MIB, obviously having realized he was a phony. He dove and rolled under her, rising and turning to meet her response.

Whatever he was, he was good. The Elite, having lost her original landing site, shifted to meet the ground with her hands and flip from there to her feet. Spinning to face him again, she saw him just doing the same from his roll.

The two combatants faced off again. Ditto floated out into the alley to watch. They wore Team Rocket gear (only Team Rocket would be prideful enough to put their symbol on their stealth gear,) but if the two were fighting, maybe only one was kosher. It all fell into place. This made perfect sense as the MIBs' next action, too, though they would only be interested in Ditto. It was just like the MIBs to be so tricky as to frame Team Rocket for this.
Tricky...Ditto suddenly realized this might just be staged to draw attention while a third Team Rocket member grabbed Kate's pokémon. He flew through the wall into Gary's room, into the hall and into Kate's room, and was relieved to find Kate's stuff in place and no sign of entry. Just to be sure, he glided through the last wall and into the alley on this side, saw no one, and headed back to the fight.
The two thieves, closer now, had switched positions again, and neither looked the worse for wear. Ditto idly wondered which was which. The male was probably the MIB, since the agents of that group were men much more often than not (hence, and maybe even due to, the term "Men in Black",) whereas Team Rocket was more mixed in that regard.
At the same time, the woman threw a high sweeping kick and the man dropped into a low one. The woman missed her target as a result, and lost balance for a moment when the man knocked her other leg out from under her. She half-flipped in the air on the way down, pushed off the ground with her hands again and thrust her feet into the man's chest, pushing off him to gain more control and flip back onto her feet. The man hit the pavement, but righted himself almost as quickly. Now the two were farther apart again, and couldn't use a melee attack again without an approach.
The man pulled out what looked like an open stapler and fired a tiny dart that was probably filled with a tranquilizer. The woman dropped and rolled under it and came up with a matching weapon, hitting the man in the shoulder. Then she launched a pelican kick to the chin while he was disoriented.
Except that he wasn't disoriented. He dodged the kick and struck her leg from the side, knocking her off balance again. Then, while she was righting herself, he hit her in the back with another dart.

The Elite felt the prick, and cursed. He must be immune to the sedative, and must have seen that her dodging the first dart meant she wasn't. Now she had seconds to act before she was slowed too much. Willing adrenaline to make up for the sedative, she pounced on his shoulders, knocking him back, curled backwards to touch the street with her feet and flipped him over her. It wasn't a move she preferred, because it was easier than some other throws to land from without damage, and sure enough, the man caught himself with his feet and hands, and then stayed there, ready to leap at her if she still had fight in her.
She didn't anyway. The sedative had already eroded her timing, and she hadn't exactly made a perfect landing herself. She couldn't be caught! As quickly and discreetly as she could (which wasn't much anymore,) she took up a gas pellet, hoping he wasn't immune to this as well, and a smoke pellet in case he was, and chucked both into the pavement near his head. He snapped back from the gas, and in the cover of the smoke, the Rocket Elite made her escape. This mission was a bust, and now all she could do was get her doped-up self out of the area without being caught.

The MIB stood behind the billowing smoke, waiting for it to dissipate. It was between him and the window. There was no need to hurry at this point; by the sound of it, the Team Rocket member had fled, and the skirmish had been quiet enough so that Ford was almost certainly still asleep.
He plucked the ineffectual dart out of his shoulder. The thing may not have done its job, but it still stung.
With a start, the MIB realized he actually was starting to lose concentration. Was he succumbing after all? It didn't feel like the sort of drowsiness a sedative would cause, though...it felt more like...

Ditto watched the man drop, satisfied. He decided to follow his Hypnosis with Dream Eater. That strategy had made the MIBs nicely docile in Route 7, and docile was how he wanted this fellow now.

Chapter 134

After the failures on both sides that night, Gary, Kate and Ditto were mostly left alone. Team Rocket tried once more, hoping to meet with no interference, but Ditto stopped the Elite who showed up. The MIBs got the hint the first time, when the agent Ditto had floored woke up in a thicket in Route 4 and found his ID had been replaced with a note saying the card would find its way to city officials if the MIBs bothered them again.
Studying under Bill the Pokémologist, Kate gradually got the basics of pokémon speech. This excited her until her first real talk with Ivysaur. "Why didn't you ever tell me I was raising a sadistic Ivysaur?" she asked Gary once.
"Sadistic Ivysaur? Well, I don't see and hear Ivysaur as much as you do. I wasn't there for any of your Gym battles or raising. In Vermilion and Saffron, I had my own pokémon to take care of during our battles with Team Rocket. Ivysaur had already fainted when I arrived at our first battle with the Seven Deadly Twins, and you didn't use it in the second, so I really didn't know. Besides, even if I had, how would you feel if someone came up to you and told you one of your pokémon has a mental issue?"
Kate flinched. "Good point. I don't think I'd have believed it if I hadn't found out myself. Do any of your pokémon have...quirks?"
"Well, I don't know if you heard about my Pidgeotto; from the time it evolved until the second battle with the Seven Deadly Twins, it was this close to disobeying me. The Gastly I caught has low self-esteem, though it's starting to come out of that. I think Pikachu wants to be the strongest pokémon in the League, and Charmeleon seems to think it should be at least as famous as you and I are. Drowzee can act too refined for its own good at times, but that's not too big a problem."
"Wow! Maybe I'm lucky I've only got the sadistic Ivysaur!"
"Well, they're not all bad. Beedrill, for example. Ever since it got to play a major role in the second battle with the Seven Deadly Twins, it's been trying to act worthy of the position. Acting braver, more valiant, that sort of thing. It can get itself into trouble, because it's really not as brave as it wants to be, but it does try."
Kate giggled. "I can see it now: Sir Beedrill the Just, defender of the lowly, terror of the oppressors!"

Gary also made good progress in this calm period. Other than Magikarp, everyone was at a more or less respectable level, and most were ready to try raising in a tougher neighborhood. On rare occassions, Gary also fought fellow trainers, with battle-trained pokémon. The local 'contenders' had gotten their fill of him the first time, but every so often, a trainer would visit Cerulean, most often from Pewter, and some of them jumped at the chance to battle him.
After the news article wherein Gary and Kate credited each other for the win against the Seven Deadly Twins and the victory atop Seel Networking, some people also challenged Kate. She handled herself well against them, though sometimes only Ivysaur among her team could defeat them. Even though she spent most of her time working on pokémon speech and not training, she kept low-level pokémon in her team, except for Ivysaur, to give them a chance at levelling-up from the challengers.
Ditto finished exercising his forms, and decided that while Teleporting all over the Indigo League, he could try searching for the forms he still didn't have. Some of them, like the evolved Dragon-types and the prehistoric pokémon, probably couldn't be found, and others, like the Three Legendary Birds (assuming they truly existed) definitely couldn't be found, but Ditto thought he might be able to track down a Rhydon or Gyarados if he worked at it.
He hadn't found any, though, by the day he and Gary came back from Route 4 and found Kate waiting for them outside the Cerulean City Pokémon Center.
"Look at this!" she said, showing off a shirt pin that read "I Can Talk With Pokémon!" in big letters, inside a circle made by the words "Bill's School of Pokémon Translation • Cerulean City".
"Neat! What'd you have to do for the final test?"
"Bill brought a Wigglytuff into class and it led a game of Simon Says. It was so cute up there!"
"I had to explain to a Doduo why its wings and tail wouldn't work."
"Doduo? But don't they..."
"Yup. No wings, no tail. I think it knew I was being tested."
"Oh, hey! That reminds me! Bill gave me this for you." Kate reached into her backpack and pulled out another "I Can Talk With Pokémon!" button. "He's going to give these to all of his students, and you were the only one who graduated without one, so..." she grinned as she gave it to Gary.
"Hmm, clever of him," Ditto mused as Gary put the button on his vest. "He's got all the advertising he needs in those!"
"Hey, think I could see your new skills in action?" Gary asked.
"Sure! Hmm, who should I talk to...?"
"Oh, I know! You keep Diglett in your party, right? Have you asked it what it said that day we put out the fire?"
"The day we...oh, right! Something funny, wasn't it? Yeah!" Kate lightly tossed Diglett's Pokéball. "Come on out, Diglett!"
"We talk more?"
"Yeah! Diglett, you remember that day we found a big fire, and you and Sandslash dug all the way around it?"
"Yeah! That was fun!"
"When I asked you to say something, what was it you said that Gary laughed at?"
"Umm...yeah! Something! Something something, something!"
Kate giggled. "Something? Something, something something!"
"Something...something something? Heehee!"
"Heh, something! Hahaha!"

Chapter 135

"So, what should we do now?"
Gary and Kate looked up from their drinks.
"Kate's finished with what she came here for, and Gary's pokémon are ready for an area with tougher wild pokémon," Ditto reviewed. "Should we move on? If so, where do we head?"
Kate mulled that over. "Where would we want to go?"
"Two kinds of places," Gary answered. "Cities with Pokémon Gyms that we don't have the Badge from, and places where Team Rocket is up to something."
"I don't think Team Rocket is doing anything right now, right?"
"Not that I know of." There was something Gary had heard once, about Team Rocket hiding out somewhere, but for some reason, it hadn't been important at the time. Now he couldn't remember it.
"I haven't heard of anything," Ditto added. He clamped down on his worries about where the stealthy thief had come from; such things didn't strike him as Santiago's forte, or Vladimir's, but there was simply no way to find out more unless they got lucky.
"So we're looking for our next Badge," Kate nodded. She opened her Pokédex and looked at the four Badges she had: the Boulder Badge fron Pewter City, the Cascade Badge from Cerulean City, the Thunder Badge from Vermilion City and the Marsh Badge from Saffron City. "I don't have Badges from Lavender or Celadon."
"Lavender's just a town, not a city," Ditto replied. "It doesn't have a Gym. Celadon City, on the other hand, does have a Grass-type Gym."
Gary's mind raced. Charmeleon, for back-up. Beedrill, Pidgeotto, Nidorino, Nidorina...plus Ditto made a full team. All four of the main fighters pokémon he wanted to grow stronger. That should work.
Kate thought fast. Ivysaur wouldn't be much help. Neither would Graveler. Gastly might be okay. Pidgeotto would be useful, and Spearow, and Ekans--no, not unless she raised it for a while first. Maybe Butterfree and Beedrill...Vulpix! Maybe she should work on getting to know Vulpix.
Ditto waved a hand between them. "Hello? I guess I'll take that as a yes."

"We're not teleporting there, are we?" Kate asked as they got ready to leave. "I want to train on the way."
"Me, too," Gary said. "I want Pidgeotto to learn its next move first."
Ditto nodded. "I don't think teleporting would be a good idea anyway."
"You don't? Why not?" Kate asked.
"I don't like relying too much on one form...such as Alakazam and that family. Sometimes it's useful to be unpredictable."
"I've got an idea," Gary said from behind his map. He turned it around to let Kate and Ditto look. "See, there's not a whole lot of open space between here and Celadon if we pass through Saffron." He pointed just to the right of Cerulean City. "Suppose we take Route 9, up here, through this tunnel to Lavender, and then west to Celadon? We'll have more training time, and we could check to see how Lavender is doing. Remember the last time we went there?"
"Oh, yeah!" Kate said. "The town was suffering because Saffron City was closed down. I hope they're doing better now...yeah, let's look around!"
Ditto pointed to the tunnel north of Lavender Town. "Wait, what about the Rock Tunnel? I'll bet more Geodude and Zubat live there. Are cave pokémon the best enemies to train against when you want to fight Grass-types?"
Gary thought about that. Beedrill would have a lot of trouble with Zubat. Everyone would have trouble with Geodude. Kate's reviewing didn't look much better.
Gary shrugged. "All right, Poliwhirl for back-up instead of Charmeleon, until we reach Celadon. Besides, pokémon trainers are supposed to seek out challenges, and it's just about the only place in the area we haven't explored."
Kate nodded. "Gastly can handle the Geodude, and Pidgeotto and Spearow should do okay against Zubat. I can raise the others on Route 9, and between Lavender and Celadon."
"All right, then, if you're okay with it." Ditto shrugged. "We all ready to set off?"

"Looks like they're leaving the city, heading east."
"Hey, why are we even bothering? We can find out where they're headed as soon as they get there. It'll be all over the news, both TV and radio."
"Because we've got to play a bigger role now. They waltzed into territory held by Santiago, the political genius, and beat him at his own game. Now, he won't touch them. Vladimir admitted defeat in regular combat after they beat the Seven twice. Now, Samori is trying his hand at them, and that means lots of espionage. We need to know their every step before they take it. We need to know their favorite color, music, and whether they like Coke or Pepsi. We need to dig up their backgrounds as far as when their parents started dating.
"When Samori takes command of an operation, it's us who arm his soldiers, us who make missions possible. The Rocket Spy Network is going to become Ford, Fields and Frost's worst enemies!"

Chapter 136

"Get out of here! You're stirring up the Spearow!"
"Yeah, and we're fainting them for you, too! Now get out of our way or we'll faint you too!"
"Think you're tough, huh?"
"I'll show you tough! Go, Pidgeotto!"
"See? You're looking at tough now!"
The Ekans probably had a valid complaint. There were an awful lot of Spearow hanging around the rocky slopes of Route 9. There were several Rattata as well, and the rare Ekans and Sandshrew, but Gary doubted he could throw a stone in any direction without hitting a Spearow. Kate's Beedrill, one of three pokémon in her party that needed raising, was not having fun. Fortunately, Ekans and Vulpix could deal with them reasonably well.
Gary had Beedrill in his party as well, but at the moment he was focusing on Pidgeotto. Beedrill and the Nidos just needed raising in general, but Pidgeotto wasn't far from learning its first real Flying-type attack, and Gary meant it to learn that move by Celadon, or even the Rock Tunnel. Pidgeotto was having a real blast here; apparently there was some ancient rivalry between the Pidgey family and the Spearow family, and Pidgeotto couldn't faint enough Spearow to please it.
Pidgeotto beat Ekans, and Gary and Kate moved on. It was taking longer than they'd expected to get through Route 9; every so often, a steep slope and a jutting boulder would align to block their path, and they'd have to find a way around. Gary was reminded of Route 11's grass maze; Route 22 had been similarly rocky, but wasn't too hard to get through. It was a good thing the map showed a Pokémon Center by the Rock Tunnel; they'd probably be spending the night there.
Kate rounded a corner and almost ran into a pair of Spearow who were arguing over something. "Whose bright idea was this, anyway? Yeah, let's just throw more at it and see if that helps! Sure!"
"What, you think we can't pull off a--hey, who're you?"
"Private discussion! Get lost before we trashya!" Setting aside their differences, both Spearow rose menacingly into the air.
Kate tossed Vulpix' Pokéball. "Get'em, Vulpix!"
"What, BOTH!?"
"Your Ekans can take one of them," Gary supplied.
"Uh...I guess so...Ekans, come out!"
"Let's even the odds!"
Gary sighed as the two-on-two battle started. Kate was a good trainer, but she was still kind of queasy about sending more than one pokémon into battle at a time. It was cheating against one enemy, of course, but if you were facing several wild pokémon, or a trainer (like Team Rocket) who didn't care about the rules, it was foolish to let yourself be handicapped that way.
Ekans coiled tightly, and then struck at one Spearow, quickly Wrapping around it and pulling it to the ground. While that Spearow struggled against its captor, the other tried to dodge Vulpix' Embers, getting singed a few times.
Kate had given Vulpix the parting words of the older Vulpix from Route 7, and Vulpix took them to heart. Wanting to fit into this brighter world, Vulpix was determined to make Kate proud of it, and since it had spent the first part of its life in the tough neighborhood of Route 7, it had the fighting skills to do so. Now, as it tossed fire at the enemy Spearow, it used cunning to trick Spearow into running into one Ember every time it dodged another. Finally, Spearow settled to the ground to rest its wings, and Vulpix drove for it in a Quick Attack that sent it sprawling.
The Spearow Ekans had Wrapped finally bashed its way out of Ekans' coils and flew out of reach to take a breather. Then, it swooped down for a Fury Attack. Ekans moved back like a whip to avoid the attack, and then sprang forward and gave Spearow a Poison Sting that made Spearow crash to the ground. Ekans finished it off with a Bite attack, then watched Vulpix faint the other Spearow with a final Quick Attack.
Kate was about to recall Ekans and Vulpix when three more Spearow appeared from the other side of the rock they had just passed. The Spearow attacked immediately, as if they had been looking for a battle. Knowing Ekans and Vulpix would need a third teammate, Gary sent out Pidgeotto.
All three Spearow cawed in triumph. "Caughtchya!" "You'll get it now!" "Time for a whuppin’!"
A whole flock of Spearow rose up from behind the rock, cawing challenge.
Kate's eyes grew almost wide enough to meet. "W-what's going on!?"
Gary connected the arguing Spearow's words to the words and attitude of the three that had just arrived. "They must be after Pidgeotto for all the Spearow it's beaten up!"
"That so? If they want a fight, they'll--"
"Pidgeotto, you can't take on that many of them at once! They'll tear you apart!"
"Fine, then gimme some help! Just don't keep me out of it!" Pidgeotto shot back crossly.
"Should we call for Ditto?" Kate asked nervously.
Gary shook his head. "He could be anywhere in Route 9 right now. We'd need to defend ourselves until he arrived anyway. Send out anyone that can take on Spearow!" Grabbing Pokéball after Pokéball, Gary and Kate sent out their whole teams to join in the Spearow-thrashing.

Chapter 137

"You've picked the wrong trainer to mess with, folks!"
"Make that TWO wrong trainers to mess with!"
"Hey, bird of a feather! Glad you could join in the fun!"
"Yeah, like THIS'll be a challenge!"
"We're gonna stomp every one of you flat!"
"Time for a good old-fashioned gang war, huh?"
"I'll help any way I can!"
"You'll regret picking this fight!"
"May the best Spearow win!"
"YAAH!YAAH!" On second thought...Gary and Kate recalled their Beedrill, much to the Beedrill's relief.
The Spearow hesitated at the nine pokémon now facing them, and then charged in anyway. Gary's Pidgeotto advanced to meet them, quickly followed by Kate's. Nidorino leapt in, never one to be left out of a good charge, and Nidorina followed Nidorino as a matter of course. Kate's Spearow quickly disappeared amongst the wild Spearow, while her Vulpix and Ekans looked for stragglers on the edge of the mob to take on. Her Gastly and Gary's Poliwhirl hung back as reserve, ready to use Hypnosis if needed.
If the fighters had tried beating one Spearow at a time, they would have been quickly overwhelmed. Instead, they attacked the flock as a whole. Gary's Pidgeotto Quick Attacked straight through the flock over and over again, knocking aside any Spearow that it happened to catch, while Kate's, who had learned Fly in Celadon City, used a similar tactic, swooping in and out of the flock and pummeling any Spearow in its path.
Nidorino leapt around in mid-air somersaults, scoring as many Horn Attacks and Poison Stings as it could, and before long Nidorina picked up the same strategy. Several Spearow were hit by this unusual attack.
The flock of Spearow whirled, trying to hit everything attacking it. Sometimes a handful of them would fly straight into a rock in their confused attacks, and Gary soon realized that Kate's Spearow was working behind enemy lines to engineer those "accidents". Some Spearow gave up the mass attack idea and struck out alone to counterattack, but Ekans or Vulpix caught them and took them out of the fight.
Some of the Spearow got the brilliant idea to attack the trainers, in the hope that defeating the ringleaders would cause their underlings to flee. Poliwhirl and Gastly met these, each protecting their own trainer, by putting the attackers to sleep.
The battle went on for some time. The Pidgeotto and the Nidos were not as effective as usual, because they couldn't afford to concentrate on any one enemy, and of course there were an awful lot of Spearow to put down. Ekans and Vulpix needed to return to Kate every so often for a Super Potion, and a few times Gary had to help out Nidorino or Nidorina the same way. The two Pidgeotto weren't getting hit much, because they were always either out of range or moving too fast, but they were getting frustrated at the limited effects of their attacks. Gary's began taking chances, staying in among the Spearow longer to knock out a few more in one go. Gary saw this and set aside a Super Potion and a lecture in case of the predictable result.
After a while, it became clear that Gary and Kate's pokémon were in trouble. Quite aside from the damage a Super Potion could heal, they were tiring, and that in turn meant more of the sort of damage that did call for restoratives. Even if the pokémon had been able to keep up this pace, Gary and Kate's supplies couldn't.
Vulpix and Ekans were the first to leave the battle, staying by Kate's side. She offered to recall them, but both wanted to remain outside. Kate's Spearow was finally discovered by the flock of wild Spearow and driven out by a hail of Pecks and Fury Attacks. Kate recalled that one without asking. Not long after, first Nidorino and then Nidorina stumbled back to Gary, too weary to keep leaping about as they were. They accepted the offer of recall immediately.
At that point, Kate's Gastly joined the fray, after Poliwhirl assured it that it could protect both trainers from Spearow attacks. Gastly gave the two Pidgeotto a much-needed assist by moving to the center of the flock and striking with Confuse Ray. Then it started in with Night Shade, while the Pidgeotto continued to drive through the flock.
Kate's Pidgeotto came in for a landing. "Tell you something, that bird of yours is a wild one!" it told Gary before returning its attention to Kate. "I think I've had it..."
"How do you think my Pidgeotto's doing?" Gary asked it.
"Natural born fighter, that one, reeeal rugged...but no one's invincible, and this looks to be the day your bird learns that the hard way."
"Maybe you should recall it," Kate suggested.
Gary looked worriedly at the panting, irritated Pidgeotto as it prepared for another pass. "It really wants this battle. Not just because it likes fighting Spearow. It knows it's the reason this whole thing started."
Gastly, sitting in the middle of the flock of Spearow, had been doing okay at first, because none of their attacks could touch it, but as more and more Spearow shook off the effects of Confuse Ray, they hit on the way to beat it. They began flapping their wings at it to blow it away. Spearow were not terribly talented with wind attacks, but there were enough here to have an effect. Gastly didn't get blown anywhere, because the wind was coming at it from all around, but as the currents fought to shift and squeeze it, it lost its concentration for attacking just trying to keep itself in shape. Pidgeotto, knowing it needed Gastly's help, tried to take out as many of the Spearow plauging it as it could, but it couldn't do enough to get Gastly back on track. Finally, Gastly fainted from the pressure.
With only one opponent left, the Spearow all rushed at Pidgeotto, and Pidgeotto's original tactic was suddenly no good. Poliwhirl tried to use Hypnosis on the whole flock, but they were too intent on Pidgeotto to notice the spiralling pattern.
Finally, Pidgeotto realized it was beaten. Trying to Whirlwind the flock away, and only succeeding in slowing their advance, it turned its head to look back at Gary, and in a tone it had never before used since evolving, cried, "Do something!"

Chapter 138

The irony was simply beautiful.
Pidgeotto was finally fully humbled, and yet Gary could do nothing to help it. All of his other pokémon but Poliwhirl were too worn out from the battle, and not even Poliwhirl could take on all of these Spearow at once.
Kate's Vulpix looked over at her Ekans. "I think it's time...you up for it?"
Kate blinked. "Up for what?"
"Yeah, I can manage!"
Kate looked between Vulpix and Ekans. "What's going on?"
"This is why you two wanted to stay out, isn't it?" Gary asked. "What's the deal, before Pidgeotto gets its wings clipped?"
"We each learned a new move out there from battling the Spearow, and now we're rested enough to use them!"
Surprised, Kate scanned the two with her Pokédex. Ekans had gained the move Glare, which paralyzed whatever Ekans fixed it upon, and Vulpix had learned the move that had been so much trouble for Gary and Kate in Route 7: Roar.
"All right, then," Gary said, nodding to Ekans and Vulpix. He raised his Pidgeotto's Pokéball and recalled the distressed bird. Without Pidgeotto's Whirlwind to fight against, the remaining Spearow suddenly shot forward like bullets until they could adjust. By the time they had gotten their bearings and headed for the enemy trainers again, Ekans and Vulpix had readied themselves for the final repulsion.
"Hold it RIGHT...THERE..." Ekans hit the oncoming flock with a stare that held within it the cold embrace of death. A lot of the Spearow paused, and some of them dropped to the ground, passed out in shock.
"BEEEAAAT IIT!!" Vulpix howled, and most of the Spearow that had avoided Ekans' Glare turned and fled. Some of the Spearow that had hung back joined them.
"Okay, Poliwhirl, shave them down some more!" Gary said.
"No problem!" Poliwhirl jumped between Ekans and Vulpix and started up its Hypnosis power. A handful of Spearow dropped to the ground, dazed or asleep.
By this time, only three of the bad-tempered birds were left attacking. While Vulpix ran to the Spearow caught by Ekans' Glare, to drive them away, Ekans used another Glare and succeeding in freezing another Spearow in its flight.
Poliwhirl knocked one out of the air with a point-blank Water Gun, but the last Spearow was past Poliwhirl before it could repeat the attack. All that remained of the attack force, the one Spearow closed in on the trainer it had seen recall the hated Pidgeotto, intent on causing a great deal of harm.
There was no time to react. Kate got no farther than a nervous look before it was over. Gary had no time to come up with a clever plan to escape. All that got through his mind right then was...
I've stomped Team Rocket how many times and I'm worried about one little bird?
Rising to his feet to meet the attacker, he stepped forward, raised a fist and punched the Spearow in the stomach. The Spearow had not expected the trainer to fight for himself, and was caught wholly off guard. It bounced off Gary's fist, flipped over his head, crashed to the ground and skidded up against a rock before coming to a rest.
Kate looked at the flattened Spearow, speechless. Gary frowned at the small scratch where he'd hit a talon, defying it to exist. He was snapped out of it by an odd sound...Poliwhirl was applauding! With a sheepish grin, he gave it a quick bow.
Ekans glanced sidelong at Poliwhirl. "Showoff."
Vulpix rejoined the group, shaking its head. "Darn stubborn bird...if I'd had the energy to burn it I'd've..."
"Speaking of no energy," Gary cut in, "anyone know how far it is to the Rock Tunnel Pokémon Center? We can't get any training done with most of the team worn out."
"You're not going anywhere, human!"
Gary froze. "Don't turn around," he muttered. "Deny it and maybe it won't happen."
"Sorry," Kate replied. "It's happening."
"I was afraid of that." Gary turned to face the Fearow who had spoken--and his eyes widened as he took in the three Fearow that had glided down from their hidden perch.
"We rule the flock here!"
"You have beaten all of the lesser beaks, and your terror of a Pidgeotto still lives to attack us another day!"
"That will not do! Now we intercede on our own behalf to stop you! Your tame pokémon are mighty, but they are too weak now to stop us!"
"Hey, I resent that!"
"Do you? Care to prove my colleague wrong?"
"Any time, featherhead! Bring it on!"

Chapter 139

"Let's make this a bit more sporting!"
Two of the Fearow flew off to the side. While the one that had challenged Poliwhirl prepared to battle, they started gathering up the beaten Spearow to take them back to wherever the flock hung out.
"Now for a good old fashioned duel, one-on-one! Let's see if you've got what it takes!" The Fearow glided down from the rock to stand in front of Poliwhirl.
Fearow struck first, driving its beak forward like a spear again and again. Poliwhirl backflipped and cartwheeled to avoid the jabs. It tried to use Hypnosis to slow down Fearow's attacks, but both it and Fearow were already moving around so much that Fearow didn't stay focused on the spiral anywhere near long enough.
Physical attacks were not the smartest idea when the enemy was all weapon in front, and Poliwhirl didn't trust its aim with Water Gun while it was hopping about dodging like this. It did one more backflip away from Fearow, paused to orient itself and hit Fearow with Water Gun.
Fearow paused to assess the damage. "Good hit! So you ARE a tough one!" It rose into the air, swooped forward to rejoin Poliwhirl and attacked with its talons.
Poliwhirl rolled forward under the talons, came up behind Fearow, jumped and scored a Body Slam on Fearow's back. Fearow plunged from the added weight, but adjusted for it barely in time to avoid hitting the ground. It turned its head to face Poliwhirl, ready to Drill Peck it off, but Poliwhirl already had its Hypnosis going.
"Ugh...fooled me...drat..." Fearow went under, and fell the rest of the way to the ground. Poliwhirl got off, woke Fearow with a four-hit Doubleslap to the head, and then hit it with another Water Gun.
"Okay, you're starting...to get annoying!" Fearow was not feeling well, but it still had some fight left in it. It raced towards Poliwhirl for another Drill Peck. Poliwhirl backflipped again and again, leading Fearow on, until it reached a nice big rock. Then, it went straight from its last backflip into a forward leap over Fearow, who of course plowed into the rock beak first.
"Oww..." By now, Fearow had pretty much run out of fight. Poliwhirl hit it with one more Water Gun and it sank to the ground.
"Way to go, Poliwhirl!" Gary cheered. He was about to recall it, when he paused. "Wait...where are those other Fearow?" Kate looked behind them, but didn't see any Fearow.
Then, as if out of nowhere, the other two Fearow descended from the flock's hideout. "So, making things a bit more sporting doesn't seem to work out, does it?"
"I think we'd better stop being so sporting if we're going to defend the honor of the flock!"
Both Fearow squared off against Poliwhirl. Gary thought about adding another pokémon to the mix, until he remembered all of his other pokémon were too tired to battle except Beedrill, who really wouldn't be much help. "Poliwhirl, I can't send anyone to join you! Just be careful!"
"You may have beaten one of us, but you'll never beat two at woaAAAGH!" Gary paused as a familiar-looking boulder flew out from behind a ledge and landed squarely on the Fearow speaking. The "boulder" uncurled, and the revealed Golem faced the Fearow it had clobbered.
"I'm sick of watching uneven matches! I say we even the odds again!"
There was really only one pokémon this could be. "Ditto, glad you could join the--did you say watching?"
"Yeah, I heard the commotion and came as soon as I could, but you seemed to have the situation under control, so I've been leaving the experience-earning to the ones who need it."
"Don't need training, huh? Well, aren't YOU a big shot? Let's see you walk the walk, pal!"
"You're challenging a Golem? THAT's brilliant of you...tell you what, I'll make this even fairer!" Fearow's beak dropped open as Ditto glowed and Transformed.
"There, now I'll have to put some effort into this!"
"You have sealed your own doom, fool!" The Fearow lifted and swooped towards Ditto, while the other began its assault on Poliwhirl.
Ditto drew back from his Fearow's repeated Drill Pecks and started throwing Fury Swipes that caught Fearow on the side of the head. Meanwhile, Poliwhirl started frantically dodging its Fearow's jabs. "Don't you guys know any OTHER strategies?"
"Why replace what works?" Fearow said between jabs.
"Hate to break it to you..." Poliwhirl said, leaping over the flashing beak and landing on Fearow's neck, "...but it's not working!"
Ditto flinched away from his Fearow's Fury Attack, then came back with a loud yowling Screech that made the Fearow shudder. Ditto leaped forward then, extended his claws on one paw, and scored a Slash on Fearow that sent it reeling.
Poliwhirl's Fearow tried to get Poliwhirl off its back, but it stubbornly stayed there and started Doubleslapping the back of Fearow's head. Fearow turned its head around to face the back, but Poliwhirl wrapped its legs around Fearow's neck and swung around with Fearow's head. Fearow quickly faced toward the front again before it got strangled, and Poliwhirl resumed its attack.
Ditto's Fearow tried a charging Drill Peck, but with feline grace, Ditto slunk under the attack and then sprang up to Bite Fearow's neck. Fearow squacked, and Fury Attacked Ditto until he let go, but by then Fearow was in pretty poor condition.
Poliwhirl's Fearow finally settled to the ground and rolled over, squashing Poliwhirl under it. Then it got up and lifted off again, mercifully free of unwanted weight. Then Poliwhirl got to its feet and started firing Water Guns at Fearow from the ground, and Fearow had to work to avoid them.
Finally, Ditto put away his Fearow with another round of Fury Swipes, while Poliwhirl's Fearow, with dripping wings, lost its lift and crashed to the ground. Poliwhirl finished it off with a Body Slam.
Gary looked around for a silent moment. No more Fearow appeared to challenge them. Finally, he spoke up. "Okay, gang. Now can we get to that Pokémon Center?"
"Sounds good to me!"
"I'm all for it!"

Chapter 140

"Did you see that!?"
"Yeah, I saw. Nothin' to do but look at the dang screen, how could I have missed it?"
"We've been over this. There was no way I was gonna keep tabs on 'em in the field with the Spearow acting up. Never seen 'em get so P.O.ed before...what is it about these kids that draws big battles to 'em anyway?"
"What gets me is that Ditto we saw, that went from a Golem to a Persian, number one, without a stop in Ditto-form, and number two, without a Persian in sight. Must be the one that kicked Pride's rear to Mt. Moon, huh?"
"Yeah...now there's something to put in our reports."
"We put everything in our reports, brickhead."
"You know what I mean. Maybe Pride was right, and that thing's the real enemy?"
"Naw, the kids beat the Seven again without it, remember? Besides, how smart can it be if it battled a Fearow as a Persian when it could've done it as a Golem?"
"I don't know...I've got a feeling we're missin' out on something important here. If we knew pokémon talk the way they do, maybe we'd get a little more out of this..."
"All right, tellya what. I'll put a call through and see if I can't scrounge up someone in the Spy Network who can tell what they're saying. That makeya feel better?"
"Yeah, good idea. I just know there's stuff here we're not picking up on..."

News seemed to have spread about the defeat of the Route 9 Spearow, because Gary and Kate moved on, without being confronted by any Rattata, Ekans or Sandshrew, all the way to Route 10, which headed south from its juncture with Route 9.
Inside Route 10 was another matter. They got three steps in before a Sandshrew dug up right in front of them. "Ooh, humans again!"
Ditto nodded. "While Saffron was closed, people may have used this way to get between Cerulean and Lavender, but that would have stopped now that they can go the easy way again."
Gary nodded back. "Makes sense. But you," he said, turning back to the Sandshrew, "haven't heard there were humans here? Every Spearow in the area must have mentioned it."
The Sandshrew shrugged. "The Spearow don't come down here. The Robots keep them away."
"Yeah, weird things. They don't bother us Sandshrew, though! Ever since they came and the Spearow left, we rule this place!"
"I don't get it," Kate complained. "What robots?"
"They chased out some mean Flying-types, but couldn't scare Ground-types. What does that sound like to you?"
"Electric, right?" Gary answered.
"Magneton!" Kate exclaimed.
"Wild Magneton here!?"
"Not that, exactly. I believe there are supposed to be Magnemite and Voltorb here."
"The lesser forms? Still, what are they doing in the wild?"
"There used to be an old power plant somewhere in the mountains, but it got closed down. The place was overrun with Electric-types, and sometimes they caused accidents. One of those that finally ruined it for the plant resulted in a large explosion that knocked some Magnemite and Voltorb out of the building. They found their way down to Route 10."
"Hey, I know! Kate, since you missed out on a Pikachu, do you want to try to catch one of these?"
Kate thought on that. "I don't know...if they're robots, they wouldn't have that much of a personality, would they?"
Gary thought back. "Yeah, Sydney's Magneton and the door guard's Magnemite were just drones. The only thing they ever said were system messages. I think Sydney's Electrode was different, though...though I didn't hear much of it..."
"Maybe I'll look for a Voltorb."
"Hold on...Voltorb don't learn any Electric-type attacks. Just Normal-type moves."
"Oh. That's bad, too...but I don't want to raise a pokémon that just takes orders and doesn't...you know...feel like anything..." Kate worried back and forth for a while. "One can't shock anything...the other's a drone...say, my Ivysaur can beat Water-types and Graveler can handle Flying-types, right? Maybe I don't need either of them!"
Gary chuckled. "I guess that takes care of that problem."

The Sandshrew weren't a problem, since the only pokémon with the energy to fight happened to be Poliwhirl, but Gary didn't want to push his already stretched luck with the Electric-types. Ditto moved ahead to scout, and Gary and Kate avoided the wild pokémon in Route 10 until they made it to the Pokémon Center by the mouth of the Rock Tunnel.
"Finally!" Kate sighed as they arrived. "I need a rest!"
"That makes twelve of us," Gary grinned, holding up a Pokéball.
Yawn..."Thirteen," the Team Rocket spy who had beaten them there mumbled to himself at a far table. This was not going to be a fun assignment.

A whole new adventure awaits on Page 8!