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Chapter 6: Money MattersEdit

Five more days had passed since Ash and his Ralts had left Viridian City, striking on the road east, and now the skyline of Celadon City was fast approaching. He had decided to go this way for two reasons, one being not wanting to go through the heart of Viridian Forest again and another being that as long as Kay was being held captive somewhere in Kanto, Celadon City would be closer than a corner town like Pewter. Unless, of course, Kay was in Pewter City, but that was minor probability.

Although supplies were running low since they had set out, their prior training had equipped Ralts with the skill to quickly find a small, sharp rock from the ground anywhere they were and to send it telekinetically through the heart of any rabbit or bird that came by. It was almost wrong to be doing such things, since it was to unfair for the hunted to be killed so easily. It wasn’t as if Ralts’s advanced psychic powers allowed any room for missing with something as easily manageable as a rock…

They had spent all the past seven days since leaving Pallet training their psychic powers while constantly venturing forth. Although there was no way of telling just what “level” Ash’s own powers had attained, his were still far, far behind that of his Ralts, and the Poke-Center was coming up…

“Nurse Joy again,” Ash remarked wryly the moment he spotted her working at the front desk. “If this wasn't a hospital I’d be calling this a dynasty and a monopoly.”

“Well, let’s just see about that after I’ve tended to your pokemon,” Nurse Joy replied with a smile as she handed him the obligatory contract of terms.

Ash looked around and spent the wait buying some additional supplies. Good, at least none of the others from Pallet Town had gotten here yet. I bet they all got bottlenecked trying to beat Giovanni or Brock, so zealous are they to get all eight badges in as short a period of time as possible…

“Ralts is lvl. 29. Your pokemon is now fully healed,” said Nurse Joy with a wink.

“Thanks, but it’s still a monopoly,” replied Ash before letting Ralts out (it teleported right onto his shoulders, making Ash almost crumple). As the nurse walked away, he looked upon the little creature on his shoulder with surprise. ((That’s more than double your level when we first met,)) he stated, letting his surprise flow freely through the connection.

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The Celadon department store was one of a kind. It took all of a skyscraper some hundred and forty-six stories tall, each floor dedicated to a particular pokemon native to Kanto. There was a single floor – Ash forgot the number – dedicated to a certain man-made pokemon called a Porygon as well. As he – with Ralts still resting on his shoulders like always – entered the building, he was totally amazed by this place, whose merchandise had already reached a near-legendary status.

On the ground floor (which was named the 0th floor), the basic items were for sale. This included everything he had been offered back at Pallet’s, and then Viridian’s, stores, but had far more. Also for sale were things like extreme lemonade and extreme soda, which were a potent mix of the latest advances in medicine and refreshing drinks. But as they weren’t ordinary lemonade and soda, one look at the price tag was enough to turn Ash off. There was no way he was going to dish out 699.99 plus tax for a glass of lemonade…

Next he moved on to the ball mart. There were a variety of pokeballs for sale: The red-white standard pokeball, the much more expensive gray-yellow great-ball, the even costlier red-blue ultra-ball, and a silver luxury-ball. That last one was new to him, so he approached the salesperson and asked, “could you explain the difference between these poke-balls?”

“Ah yes, good question! You see, the standard pokeballs are good for catching most kinds of pokemon, but it is also the most primitive technology for doing so. If you have stronger pokemon you wish to catch, you can’t possibly use them. Imagine a Snorlax – that kind of giant, blubbery pokemon won’t fit in a pokeball even if you tried for a million years! Yet it can in a great-ball. This awesome piece of technology uses two buttons instead of one; it has the normal white button, but it also has a red button, which is the key to its technology. The great-balls are capable of expanding in your hand when you press the alternate button- ” the salesperson demonstrated the size by putting his hand into a C shape – “and when it is enlarged its digital arrays expand along with it, allowing it to hold and restrain large pokemon. That also makes it ideal for capturing pokemon that are troublesome to catch, those that resist capture, and those that live in the water. A normal pokeball obviously won’t be capable of taking up a big chunk of the water along with it when it tries to catch a pokemon the first time. The great-ball comes in a variety of forms, such as the surf ball, optimized for catching water-type pokemon…”

“What about the luxury ball?” inquired Ash.

“I was getting to that, but please, let me introduce the functions of the ultra ball first for comparison purposes. The ultra-ball expands on the great ball by enlarging to the size of a dodge ball and has the ability to catch the largest of pokemon. It also subdues pokemon; once a pokemon is captured, the ultra-ball steadily adds pain and anguish to the captive to make it incredibly hard for that pokemon to resist for more than a second. You could capture almost any pokemon this way, even capture smaller pokemon without a fight. The ultra-ball also comes in a variety of forms, each optimized for catching a specific type of pokemon.

“Now, the luxury ball. It combines all the aspects of the various ultra ball product lines into one, making it incredibly easy to use. Not only is it slightly better than the ultra-ball because it can deal with a variety of situations, it is optimized against all types of pokemon, so you don’t have to struggle with finding the right pokeball to use against a rare and fleeting pokemon! Not only that, but the luxury ball contains a built-in full revive, which means that the moment you catch a pokemon, it’s ready to fight on your side!”

“Well, thanks for the information!”

“Would you be interested in buying any of these products?” asked the hopeful salesperson.

“I don’t have any money, I came to inspect all the goods and then report to my grandma,” Ash lied flatly. “Thank you for your time!” And with that he departed. There was no way he would be buying any of these… The ordinary pokeball cost 199.99 Y; the luxury ball cost 6499.99 Y. Luxury always came with a price, and a hefty one at that.

And Ash only had 2200.00 Y with him.

After that Ash toured the other parts of the first, and most important floor (which was filled with customers). He didn’t buy anything, for he knew he had to conserve his money or else he would end up starving. And there was no way he would be buying the newest “hot thing”, Rare Candy ™, which was a cool 9999.99 Y plus tax. After he was done he went up to the 5th floor, which was the floor devoted entirely to Charmeleon. Although he had lost his Charmeleon, some part of him told him to still look into this – maybe, just maybe, he would get his Charmeleon back…

In stark contrast with the first floor, there was almost no one there. The entire floor was filled with large machines that most pokemon could easily fit inside. These were the TM’s that made this department store both famous and a skyscraper – Transformational Machines. Each one was made to grant one specific pokemon one specific ability. Assuming there were twenty of these for each pokemon, and there were 146 floors, that was over two thousand TM’s in this building.

((You’re not native to Kanto, so I doubt they’ll have any TM’s or HM’s for you in Celadon,)) Ash mused to Ralts.

The placement of these gigantic machines appeared chaotic at first sight. Although they took up about the same room each, each row had plenty of missing TM’s. It was clear that this was the case because the current state of technology didn’t have a means to give certain pokemon certain truly unusual moves. At the entrance beside his elevator Ash saw that the TM’s were placed into rows based on their primary number – from 01 for Mega Punch to TM50 for Substitute. Taking this opportunity to scan for a good TM, he found a few that caught his attention: Fire Blast, Reflect, and Cut.

Moments later he had arrived at TM38 and read the description for what it would do: “Enhances your Charmeleon to make it fully capable of using Fire Blast, a move it otherwise will not learn naturally. Fire Blast is a powerful fire-type ability whereby the pokemon unleashes a terrifically powerful explosion in every direction away from itself…”

Wow, Charmeleon, this is exactly what we want, thought Ash. Might as well try it to see how this machine responds. He put in his debit card and got a reject. “What? How costly is this thing?” He looked further down the description and saw the price tag at last: ‘4999.99 Y for one use.’

Ash fell onto the ground in his surprise. “It costs THAT much?! All right then, forget it. Next!”

The description on TM33 was “Enhances your Charmeleon to make it fully capable of using Reflect, an ability it otherwise does not learn naturally. Reflect is a powerful special ability whereby the pokemon uses its stored fire energy to force a reversion of most types of attacks directed at it or an ally… 4999.99 Y for one use.’

Ash was on to the next one in a heartbeat. Cut is an HM, not a TM, so it may have a different cost… he reasoned. Cut: “Enhances your Charmeleon to make it fully capable of using Cut. This is a Heuristic Machine and pokemon are able to learn this after undergoing thorough training. Cut is a powerful heuristic whereby the pokemon uses its claws or talons to perform a masterful and precise cut… 2999.99 Y for one use.’

And there he was, totally amazed by the high prices for using all these machines. No wonder barely anyone came to this place, and no wonder Giovanni’s unorthodox Blastoise was totally unexpected by the entire audience. Even though the technology existed, who could afford to pay for it?

Team Rocket could. They had lots of illegally obtained pokemon to sell.

He needed money. And if he wanted to be able to save Kay, he needed it fast. But how could he get so much money fast enough?

"Team Rocket wasn't scrupulous about how they got their money..." Ash mused.

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The poker lounge was smoke-filled in every room. People in business suits and wearing opaque sunglasses looked at their cards and shot everyone else a superior look with a haughty smile, if they did not proceed to taunt each other immediately. The dealers shuffled and dealt out cards smoothly and swiftly, giving the place the aura of an abode where everyone knew exactly what they were doing and could not be taunted.

And Ash was taunted. Though he knew how to play poker, he hadn’t played it an awful lot, always viewing it as a game in which the dealer had an exceptional advantage that precluded anyone else from winning in the long run.

Though this time he had a card up his sleeve…

Ash was ready, his Ralts tucked into its pokeball and hidden out of sight. Just because a pokemon was kept in a pokeball didn't mean that it couldn't be communicated to, and when it came to psychic pokemon, they could sense telepathic messages as well. Upon arriving at the nearest desk, he asked to join in and was accepted as they were just about to begin the next hand. Ash wore what he always wore on his journey (he only had two sets of every clothes with him, and he alternated and washed every day). He looked so out of league with everyone else that two of the other players gave him one look before chuckling. This was going to be an easy game… they'd think.

The dealer shuffled the cards, the next player cut them, and the dealer dealt the cards to each player – two cards each, face-down. Ash took up his cards and looked at them – it wasn't much anything, and combined with the cards out in play, only a lowly 5 matched as a double. Immediately he began sending out his feelers, trying to sense what everyone else at the table was thinking; there were only four other players beside him and his psychic abilities had developed to the point at which he could maintain a scan on the thoughts of each, simultaneously. He knew exactly what cards everyone else had, and knew he was going to lose badly if he bet anything.

The first round saw Ash folding. He thought there was little chance of winning, and besides he cherished his twenty white tokens, which cost him a dear 100.00 Y each.

“You’re not betting?” prodded the gambler to his right. “What are you here for? This is a gambling game, boy!”

Ash knew very well what it was, and in this case it was no gambling game. He politely turned down this offer with “You’re much better than me, I’m a total newbie, so I’ll just sit the first round through and give deference to you.” This left the others with nothing to say to him, so they continued. In the final round the second last person backed out when the last suddenly decided to triple his bet. The winner reaped in six white chips and twelve yellow ones, which amounted to 1200 Y. It was a nice sum of money for getting started.

Hand two. Ash looked at his cards and those face-up and saw an 8 of clubs, 6 of spades, K of diamonds, 5 of hearts, and 4 of hearts. He decided to stay in the running this time, for he saw the possibility of making a lucky break; he bet the one white token everyone else bet. The first round came, and he exchanged the K for a 3 of clubs; he put in two more white tokens, but appeared defensive and edgy. The next round came, and he exchanged the 3 for a 9 of diamonds. He put in another two white tokens, and was aware that he was already gambling a quarter of his money. What if the last one wasn’t what he wanted either? He would be in big trouble with his mother, too, for having gambled away 500.00 Y…

The final round came, and he got his lucky break: the 4 became a 7. A straight. Here was his chance! He sent out his feelers and discovered that no one else had as high a hand sequence. Knowing he would win, he then turned his attention to how much everyone else would bet maximum: 8 more whites, 10 more whites, 4 more whites, and 2 more whites. So if he bet 10, he would earn 10 more than what was so far in the pot; if he bet 8, then 16; if he bet 4, then 12; if he bet 2, then 8.

He pushed forward eight white tokens. As he expected, the other two thought little of him placed their bets, matching him, while the others dropped out. As this was the last round, the others revealed their cards. “Good… good,” he said as he feigned to care about what the others displayed for their cards. He was cutting it close; one had a lower straight and one had a three of a kind. But it didn’t matter, since he knew that before he made his biggest bet.

His return? A whopping 36 white tokens net gain, or 3600.00 Y.

The other gamblers looked at him with dampened surprise, but easily took out another dozen tokens from their pockets. Evidently they had no end of money to play with.

As for Ash, he had enough with poker, the visions of his mother beating him over the head for having gambled still etched in his mind. He went on to a card game that was less risky to a psychic: Bullshit.

The casino was extensive, and getting to the bullshit lounge meant cutting straight through all the bling-bling, cha-ching parts of the casino – the gambling machines. So along the way he traded in all the whites for pinks worth 200.00 each, getting 28 pink chips. He sat down at a table where the players had nearly finished, and then joined.

The objective of the game was to get rid of all your cards. A player plays 3’s first; then the next player can choose to pass or play the next one up (a 4) or multiple. As the cards were placed face-down, you didn’t actually have to play those cards. Whenever someone played a card, anyone suspecting it to be a lie could call out. And if it indeed was a lie, the one who played the card would have to take in the entire pile. Else, the challenger had to pick them all up.

“Let’s gamble five whites,” said one.

“Na, that’s all you’re going to gamble? This game takes quite some time, you know! At least ten pinks,” Ash goaded him. The four players settled on a compromise of seven pinks each.

Ash opened his hand, then watched with interest as the first person played a 3 of spades, face up, as well as four other cards face down. “Five 3’s!”

Bullshit! Thought Ash, except for the fact that there were too many cards in circulation for there to be just one deck. He then sent out his probe – secretly of course – and discovered exactly which cards everyone else had in hand. And it was true, realized Ash as he looked through the first player’s recent memory, that those were indeed all 3’s.

“Two fours!” “Three fives!” “One six!”

“Bullshit!” called Ash.

“Why would you call BS on that?” asked another player, thoroughly baffled.

“Because it is,” replied Ash, flipping over the "six". The one who had played a single six meekly picked up all eleven cards. “Four fours’s!” called out Ash.

“Two fives!”… Back to Ash. “Three eights!”

“Bullshit!” called another player. “Darn…” Ash smiled; this person was clueless.

“My turn again,” said Ash. “One nine!”…

“Two tens!” “Three jacks!” “Two queens!”

Ash feigned confusion. “Four queens—I mean, kings,” he said.

Somebody fell for the bait. “Bullshit!”

Ash burst out laughing and turned his four cards over. They were indeed kings. “My turn again!”

On and on it went, Ash able to shift his cards on someone else every time it came to him, and it came to him every other time someone lied. Not every time, because he didn’t want them to be entirely suspicious, but Ash did pretend to be an excellent eye-reader and memorizer. Soon Ash had discarded everything.

“I win!” he burst out laughing, before promptly realizing that a hundred irritated faces were turned his way. “I mean…” he failed meekly. “Well, that’s winning fair and square for you,” he lied as he picked up his seven chips and the 21 the others had bet. “Another cool 4200.00 Y,” Ash said to himself happily. Now I’ll be able to buy something good for a change. But wait… there’s more! On to the next table!

The next BS table operated under slightly different rules: they were playing with one deck of cards, so everything went faster at this table. And at this particular pro round each person was betting five blue chips (4000 per person), so Ash put in twenty pink chips. Ash rolled up his sleeves and prepared to bloat himself on the money…

The cards were dealt out. Ash picked up his hand, looked it over, and let his psychic potential flow into the minds of those nearby (ie. sitting at the table). This person had these cards, that person had those cards, that person over there…

The third person – the dealer – stiffened up the moment Ash tried to pry into his mind. Ash tried to look into the person’s thoughts, to see what he was seeing… And all of a sudden there was a mental barrier that appeared out of nowhere and blocked him from accessing the man’s mind. Ash tried harder—then disengaged when he heard the dealer shout out so that all could hear.

“Psychic in the house!”

Ash looked around in surprise and fear as everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at Ash with immense distaste, those at the table nearby with a fiery anger when they realized that they hadn’t been beaten fair and square but had been ripped off by a psychic.

Uh-oh…

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