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Chapter 15: A Psychics' ShowdownEdit

Ash attempted to look into Gary’s mind, since he was still unable to sense the true arena’s layout, nor could he try peeking into Sabrina’s mind unless he had a death-wish.

The layout of the true Gym arena resembled a tic-tac-toe grid, with a total of nine rooms arranged in three rows and three columns. At the four corners of each room were two-way teleportation pads that whisked Gary from one room to another seemingly at random. Gary got lost in a hurry in the unusually designed maze, having had little true exposure to the psychic power that Ash had confronted when he was on the road to Saffron City.

After each teleportation, Gary had no idea where he was at, but Ash recalled that after the cave-in with the Snorlax the center of this arena had been crushed, demolished, and since reconstructed. But since it had only been a short while the construction had been anything but complete, with a lot of ramshackle components propping up the ceiling (now the roof of the gym). This, in contrast with the polished walls that were characteristic of the gym interior, meant that Ash could, from vicariously viewing through Gary’s eyes the appearance of the room, determine which room it was.

With notebook in hand, Ash began to draw the teleporter layout. Every time Gary teleported, he recorded where that brought him to. And although Gary was now totally lost, Ash soon had the correct path in hand. He figured that since Sabrina had the total advantage with her incredible psychic abilities, it wasn’t really unfair to be leveling the playing field by aiding Gary – psychically, of course. He opened up a psychic channel with Gary.

((Gary!))

OWW!! What the!? Who is this? For a non-psychic, Gary adjusted pretty quickly to this kind of mental intrusion.

((It’s me, Ash!))

Ash, if you don’t have anything good to say get out of my head now, it hurts worse than a migraine!

((I’ll be quick. Take the opposite, then left.)) And then he immediately got out of Gary’s head.

As Ash continued to follow Gary’s moments, he saw that Gary was smart enough to listen. Soon enough, he had reached the central room where Sabrina was waiting. Beside her was her Alakazam, the final stage of the Abra-Kadabra metamorphosis chain.

“Well, you got here just before I was going to disqualify you for taking so long,” Sabrina taunted him smilingly. The sounds came out muffled but still meaningful through the walls.

“Matter over mind,” Gary replied.

“I knew you’d say that for a comeback,” replied Sabrina. “You really want to continue? Well then, use your Haunter, and let’s see what happens.” The next moment Gary had summoned a – you guessed it – Haunter.

“Hmm, you may be a good mind-reader, and no one may be able to read your mind, but psychic types have weaknesses,” said Gary promptly. “Haunter, lick!”

The ghost pokemon put out its gigantic, inflating tongue and proceeded to lick the Alakazam. Even though ghost pokemon weren’t bound to this world and thus couldn’t be affected, they could affect the world through strange ways. For example, suddenly the Alakazam was nearly overcome by a sense of bliss… The warmth and affectionate feelings of the lick almost caused it to lose its concentration.

But it didn’t. Instead, the next moment it had teleported along with Sabrina into another room, leaving Gary in the dark.

Ash immediately picked up where the teleportation had been to. After all, having teleported for who knows how many times with his Ralts-become-Kirlia, he knew the psychic signature of a teleportation spell. In mere seconds he had located Sabrina’s new location, found the shortest path that would lead Gary to her room, and informed Gary.

Thanks Ash, but it still HURTS!! Gary replied promptly before dashing to the teleporter. Meanwhile the Haunter simply Trespassed through the wall, vanishing right into it and coming out the other end, with a monstrous smile on its face.

“You were fast this time,” complimented Sabrina. Without moving her lips she had given an order to Alakazam. It struck out with a Psychic attack, and Gary simply collapsed onto the ground, his mind fruitlessly spinning in circles like a tire stuck in mud would.

Ash concentrated on ‘lending a mind’ and within a few moments had repaired Gary’s thought structure. He stood back up, fazed but unwilling to quit.

Ash suddenly felt a presence in his mind. It was Sabrina: ((I noticed earlier with that Machoke that someone in the audience has been interfering in matches, and I know it can’t be Gary. Might it be you, Ash?)) Ash was suddenly very aghast: his secret was out!

“Haunter, Entrance!” Immediately the ghost pokemon began making all sorts of silly gestures, changing its appearance at will into a translucent cartoon of several blunder head stooges going at each other with clubs. Sabrina looked on solemnly, resisting the temptation to laugh. The Alakazam smiled a bit, until suddenly it righted itself and closed its eyes. The Haunter immediately switched to making all kinds of eerie, never before heard of noises that distracted the Alakazam to no end.

“Go Butterfree!” announced Gary, and the magnificently decorated butterfly pokemon materialized in front of Alakazam. Distracted, the psychic pokemon opened its eyes, and was suddenly swamped with an unfounded phobia for bug pokemon. It backed away, even teleported from the quite harmless Butterfree, at the same time thoroughly disconcerted by Haunter’s lunatic antics.

“Butterfree, sleep powder!” Ash recognized it immediately as the move that Gary had used in the failed attempt to catch the Team Rocket pair that had stolen his pokemon. The Butterfree flapped its wings, releasing a cloud of sleep-inducing spores. Sabrina silently watched the match with her eyes closed as Alakazam generated an invisible barrier of its own that proceeded to disintegrate the sleep powder.

"Well, if ghost and bug types won’t work… “This calls for tougher measures,” said Gary. “Go Mightyena! Shadow Ball!” A black-and-white-furred, wolf pokemon appeared and glared its red eyes at Alakazam. Suddenly it opened its maw, and a spherical pocket of dark energy slammed into Alakazam, sending it reeling in pain as it nearly collapsed. The dark pokemon continued shooting shadow balls at its opponent, sadistically delighting in the pain inflicted.

Nearly.

In response Alakazam, despite the intense suffering it must be in, shot a Psybeam straight at Mightyena. A swift battle of finds then took place, one in which the much more experienced Alakazam was sure to win. The Shadow Ball forming in the Mightyena’s mouth suddenly imploded, knocking out the pokemon.

“Return! Go Misdreavus!” shouted Gary worriedly, summoning his dark-ghost pokemon.

“Don’t you think that’s a bit too many pokemon against just my one Alakazam?” protested Sabrina.

"Don't you think that's a bit too much mind against just my one mind?" Gary retorted.

The next moment Alakazam had shot a Psybeam straight at Gary. Ash, who had been in Gary’s mind the whole time, suddenly felt a third presence join in. Gary reeled in confusion as two strange psychic influences battled for control of his mind.

And, of course, Ash was no match for Alakazam, so his mental presence was ‘kicked out the door’. Alakazam then erected a mental barrier in Gary’s mind preventing Ash from returning, and Ash knew better than to test his psychic strength against that of a psychic pokemon.

Thereafter Gary, acting a bit insane, started issuing a string of nonsense commands to a confused Misdreavus before singing to himself like a lunatic.

“I think this match is over,” said Sabrina nonchalantly as she snapped her fingers. The next moment Sabrina, Gary, and their pokemon teleported out of the arena. There, the audience, who had been informed by the commentator about what was going on out of view, cheered for Sabrina’s very much expected success.

“Sabrina! What did you do to him!?” Ash demanded to know.

“Psybeam, of course. I gave him three opportunities to beat my Alakazam with his pokemon before I did it, so…”

“Fix him up right now!”

A menacing presence entered his mind. ((Don’t tell me what to do, or you’ll regret it.)) Confronted with the threat that Sabrina obviously posed, Ash decided to shut up.

Alakazam then shot another Psybeam at Gary, and moments later Gary seemed a lot more sensible. Meanwhile people began filing out of the gym, the show having ended. Ash was about to leave too, consoling Gary over his loss. There was a tap on his shoulder, and Ash turned around. “What, Sabrina?”

“Come with me, I know something I would like to tell you in private.”

“Huh? What’s it about?”

“Just come with me and you’ll know.” Mutely, Ash followed. Sabrina led Ash (and the Kirlia on his shoulder) to a small room at the edge of the gym. On the wall was a large oval mirror, but other than that and a desk it was mostly empty.

“Well, what’s it all about?”

“Pardon me, but during the matches I had peered inside your mind and looked through your memories—“

“You did WHAT!?” How come I didn't know?

“Well, now you know what it feels like to have your mind violated by psychics,” responded Sabrina with her arms crossed. “Don’t tell me you haven’t done it.”

“I… er…” Ash knew that it was no good lying. “So what did you figure out?”

“Well, it strikes me that with all the traveling you’re doing, and with all the trouble of finding your sister being placed on your shoulder, you must be terribly lonely. What you need is a traveling companion.”

“Well, I have my trio of pokemon for that,” said Ash. “My Kirlia is always on my shoulder, and there’s my guardian pokemon Charmeleon, and my newfound friend Cloyster.”

Sabrina shook her head. “Pokemon have their place. They can’t replace a human companion.”

“What need have I for a traveling companion!?”

“All your life you’ve lived with Kay and Delia. You’ve been out by yourself for what, over a month now? Don’t fool yourself – I know that you have the need, the desire—“

“Okay, that’s enough!” screamed Ash. “I don’t like where this conversation is going!” The Kirlia on his shoulder hunched over and whimpered. “I’ve traveled for this long without there being any trouble, so there!”

“But aren’t you even interested?” asked Sabrina petulantly.

“Well, now that you mention it, yes,” succumbed Ash. “But still, I’ll end up traveling with a stranger. And I definitely don’t want to travel with a psychic atomic bomb like you,” he retorted.

Sabrina looked hurt. “What makes you think I’d even consider traveling with you? Even considered our six-year age difference?”

“Well then, who do you have in mind?”

“Always leave it up to the psychic to get you a blind date,” said Sabrina, before conjuring an image on the mirror. As Ash expected, it was the image of a total stranger. From a single glance Ash could estimate her as a girl about his age, maybe slightly smaller.

“A date!? I thought you were talking about a—“

“Companion, yes, what do you think the word means? Are you so dense?”

What the heck!? “But.. but… WHY!?” roared Ash. “How old do you think I am, that I need to have a girlfriend already!?” He wanted to simply storm away at that moment. I definitely don’t need a girlfriend yet, not while I have so much to do, and any girlfriend I do get I won’t be keeping for long, not at the rate at which I’m losing matches. Right… This random girl, girlfriend to a pokemon trainer whose match record is 0-1. What do you take her for, an idiot!?

“Why?” replied Sabrina. “Because I’m a psychic, and I know these things. You may not like it at all now, but believe me, you will more likely than not fall in love with each other in the foreseeable future.”

“Baloney! I don’t know this person at all! And guess what I’m going to be thinking of when I finally do meet her – ‘this is the person who Sabrina thought would fall in love with me, and I her!’ Do you think after that, that there will be any opportunity for this to work out, since if I’m so sure she will fall for me, I won’t even try to win her favor, and since I won’t fall for her anyway, seeing as how she will simply remind me of the argument I’m having with you right now!?”

“Well, but from your attitude right now you won’t be believing a whit of what I’m saying, so you will still end up trying your best to win her, and trust me, when you get around to meeting her your first thought will not be about this conversation.”

“Look, Sabrina, I don’t care how vaunted a psychic you may be, but you are not me, you do not know as much about myself as I do, so I think I can make my own decisions better than you. And no matter how good a psychic you are, you don’t have a crystal ball, so you’re no good at predicting the future!”

“Yes I am, you’ll see…”

((Actually, no,)) Kirlia chimed in. ((I have been traveling a lot with Ash, and according to me he’s much closer to Lily than he his to some stranger like her. See, even the mention of Lily gets him turning red.))

((You have not got even close as much psychic experience as I do,)) retorted Sabrina telepathically as Ash listened in on their silent debate.

((Well before you go blabbering on about your experiences, you’re a human, how much psychic potential can you have? I’m an emotion pokemon, and the first rule of love is emotion, emotion, emotion! Beat that!))

((You may think that what I’m about to say won’t beat that, but trust me, it will, and basically it’s the fact that I’m a human girl, unlike you, a girl-like pokemon, so—))

((No, the fact that you haven’t yet had a break-up with any boys doesn’t matter, that just goes to show your ignorance in the entire ordeal--))

((Oh you’re fooling yourself if you think Lily and Ash isn’t a deteriorating pair--))

They both attempted to use their psychic power to predict what the other side would say next and thus respond to it preemptively to the point that nothing made quite as much sense to him any more.

“Aargh!” screamed Ash futilely as the pair of psychics continued to debate each other on the merits of their conflicting predictions. He quit following their conversation.

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

Four days had passed since the last day of the Saffron tournament. Ash had since finished taking notes about what he remembered from the individual matches, writing down all the tactics that he knew he would have to get his pokemon used to. He had made a vow not to return home until he had found Kay, dead or alive…

But that wasn’t what was important: for today was September 1st, which meant that it was his birthday! Rushing out of his bedroom, he grabbed the apartment video-phone and called home.

“Hey mom, it’s me, Ash!”

It was just the phone, without the video. Delia’s voice: “Hi honey, so you decided to call back at last! I was getting so worried about you, all out there alone…”

“Mom, are you forgetting something!?”

“Huh? OH YES!! It’s your BIRTHDAY!!--”

“Hooray!” joined in Ash.

“Too bad you couldn’t be here to celebrate…”

“Well, I’m busy finding out as much as I can about my sister Kay’s whereabouts, and I have been learning pokemon tactics so that I will be prepared for when I go face to face with Team Rocket again, so haven’t had the luxury of coming back home. I promise, once I find her, I’ll get back, and leave the pokemon training to others! I’ll never leave Pallet to go adventuring ever again!”

“Well, have you got any leads yet?”

“Err… Not really, Kay seems to have vanished into thin air… But tell you what, I’ve discovered an ability to sense the thoughts of others around me, so if there’s anything people aren’t telling me, I’ll still find out! Don’t you worry, mom!” Ash said in an upbeat tone.

“Umm… Ash…” said Delia a bit solemnly. “How good is that ability?”

“Don’t you remember? What happened when I left?” he asked. Did Delia already forget how he had used his telepathic powers to put her in such a terrible fright?

“Oh yeah, you talked to me telepathically… I remember that frightful experience… It was like.. Well, it’s indescribable, really…”

“Yeah, and I had told you that I would find my sister Kay no matter what, and that I wouldn’t come back until after I had found her!” Ash then mentally hit himself. No, what I meant to say was that I had told you that I was ready to go look for Kay and wasn’t your baby anymore… Instead, I said some stuff about not returning until I had found Kay… something that I had vowed only after the tournament here at Saffron…

“I remember that all too clearly,” replied Delia, oblivious to the white lie Ash had just said.

Which, of course, got Ash very suspicious. “Delia--??”

“What, darling?”

“Why haven’t you asked yet if I change my underwear every day?” asked Ash solemnly.

There was a sigh on the other end of the line. “I think it’s time you were let in on the secret,” Delia replied. The computer suddenly displayed the video of the person on the phone.

“Officer Jenny!?” Indeed, it wasn’t Delia on the phone. It was the town sheriff, with a voice-mutating device in front of her mouth. Her words sounded like Delia’s. “What’s going on!?” screamed Ash, shocked and dismayed.

“Ever since Kay disappeared, I’ve worked with your mother Ms. Ketchum to arrange for ways in which we could somehow trick Team Rocket into getting Kay returned. This was one way, by me speaking in place of Delia. Our plan was to trick Team Rocket operatives into returning to abduct your mother – since it was obvious to us that they would do such a thing to silence Kay’s disappearance and discourage you – and then defeat them in battle – since it was also obvious that Kay would have to come along if they wanted to be successful. That’s why it was set on phone only earlier.”

“Well then, since I’m obviously Ash, let me speak to my mom and stop embarrassing me!”

Officer Jenny sighed really hard this time. “I’m sorry, I can’t do that.”

“WHY NOT!?”

“Because five days ago Team Rocket abducted her.”

All that could go through Ash’s mind was total shock. My mother gone too! As if Kay wasn’t enough for me to lose! Those Team Rocket bastards, they are going to get it from me!

“The good news is that based on our reasoning your mother must be alive and somewhere safe,” said Officer Jenny, trying to placate him. It didn’t work.

“You’ve been keeping all this a secret from me WHY!?”

“It’ll do you no good to know this…”

“YOU!!” Ash shouted, and the police officer flinched.

“The bad news is—“

“Wait there’s MORE BAD NEWS!?” Ash’s mind wanted to protest.

Officer Jenny hung her head. “The bad news is that Team Rocket is probably using her as a hostage to prevent you from attempting to rescue Kay whenever you do locate her.”

Ash hung up the phone in fury. He was desolate, despondent, angry, shocked, dismayed, hurt, terrified, and grieving all at the same time. How could my luck have fallen even lower? Wondered Ash.

He stood up and faced the window, shooting a death glare at no one in particular. “TEAM ROCKET!! GIVE ME MY MOM BACK!!”

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