.

Part I: Kanto

- Game: Start! -

"I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was."


February 27th, 2023. Evening. Indigo Plateau, Kanto.

"The battle between the Kanto League Champion Lance Grayson and Elite Four member Ash Ketchum rages on here tonight at the Indigo Plateau! But with both trainers down to their last Pokemon, who will come out victorious?!" The voice of the battle commentator rang loudly throughout the buzzing stadium.

The six-on-six battle between the Kanto Champion and one of his own Elite Four members was one that many fans had been anticipating for a long time—and with just Pikachu and Dragonite remaining on the field, its climax had peaked. Would Lance be able to maintain his title? Or would Ash Ketchum finally defeat him and achieve his long-time dream of becoming a Pokemon Master?

The winter's chilly air caused the hairs on the back of Ash's neck to rise, but the blood rushing through his body from the heat of the battle burned through the cold. He watched with focused eyes as Pikachu narrowly avoided a Dragon Claw attack beneath the blinding stadium lights.

Ash gritted his teeth. Pikachu's movements were beginning to slow down, and his attacks were weakening in power. He was running out of time, and he knew it. But they had come all this way—they refused to stop here.

"Dragonite, use Twister!" Lance commanded.

Dragonite was quick to follow his master's orders, letting out a roar as he leapt into the air. He batted his wings aggressively, whipping up a whirlwind that was heading straight for the small Mouse Pokemon. The attack was moving fast, and Pikachu was too exhausted to manage the strength to dodge. Ash could only watch helplessly as Pikachu took a direct hit.

"Pika!" Pikachu cried, stumbling backwards and landing on his side.

"Pikachu! Are you okay?!" Ash called out to his Pokemon from the trainer's box painted on the field.

Pressing his tiny paws to ground, Pikachu began to make the struggle to rise to his feet again, gritting his teeth together as Dragonite landed a few yards away.

"Pikachu takes yet another hit from Dragonite's Twister attack! It's beginning to look pretty run down! Is this the end of the line for Ash and his Pikachu!?"

"Shake it off, Pikachu!" Ash called, swiping his arm in front of him. "Get back up!"

Pikachu stared dizzily across the field to Dragonite and Lance. His vision was blurred, but he could make out Dragonite curling its claws, beckoning Pikachu to get back up.

Letting out a growl, Pikachu sparked his cheeks and finally rose to his feet. "Pikachu!" he cried with a newfound energy.

"Incredible!" the commentator boomed."Pikachu gets right back up! Its fighting spirit hasn't died yet!"

The crowd erupted into a cheer, many of them repeatedly chanting Pikachu's name. Lance furrowed his brows together, unwavered.

"Good job, Pikachu!" Ash praised, letting out the shaky breath he had been holding. "Now, use Electro Web!"

Obeying his trainer's command, Pikachu sprung upwards, rapidly spinning in a circle as a ball of electricity built at the tip of his tail. "Pika, pika, pika!" Drawing his tail back, he released the ball of energy directly in range of Dragonite. "Chu pi!"

Lance didn't falter as the Electro Ball drew closer. "Dragonite, take it down with your Dragon Claw!"

Taking a step back, Dragonite raised an arm into the air, its claws glowing bright green as they slashed straight through Pikachu's attack before the web could take form.

Ash smirked, pointing his finger forward. "Quick Attack!"

"Pika!" Pikachu cried as it sprinted towards Dragonite, crashing into its abdomen and knocking it off of its feet.

Lance's eyes widened when he saw his dragon-type Pokemon slam into the ground, Pikachu jumping back a safe distance. He was so focused on Pikachu's Electro Web that he hadn't seen it coming.

"What?!"

"Amazing! While Dragonite was distracted, Pikachu honed in with a Quick Attack—knocking it right down!"

The crowd burst into cheers after Pikachu successfully landed the hit, and Ash grinned as Pikachu jumped back.

"If Pikachu is too tired to dodge, then we have to think a little more creatively!" Ash called to Lance from across the field. Lance scolded himself inwardly for falling for such a tactic. He had known Ash long enough that he should have expected him to start pulling tricks.

Dragonite pressed his fist into the ground, letting out a huff and rising to his feet once more. He narrowed his gaze on Pikachu like he was an old rival, and Pikachu sparked his cheeks tauntingly in return.

"We're done playing games!" Lance boomed, pushing the palm of his hand forward. "Dragonite, let's finish this here! Giga Impact!"

Dragonite let out a grunt in agreement, backing up and springing into the air. As soon as was high enough, he dove to the ground. His body became encased in a bright, white light as he poured all of his energy into the attack. Pikachu didn't falter, furrowing his brows together while he waited for his trainer's command.

"Stand your ground, Pikachu! Don't move!" Ash demanded.

Pikachu perked his ears in alarm, looking back at Ash as if he had misheard him. "Pika!?"

"What's this?! Ash is commanding his Pokemon to stay put! What is he thinking?! This might be it, folks!" the commentator said as a confused murmur rushed across the bleachers. If Pikachu took the hit from this attack it was over.

Ash flashed his Pokemon a confident grin. "We can do this, buddy! Just trust me!" His eyes didn't leave Pikachu's.

Pikachu stared at Ash, reading his expression. Noticing the flame flickering in his trainer's eyes, Pikachu felt a burning fire begin to kindle inside of himself.

He smiled understandingly, sparking his cheeks and nodding. "Pika!" Standing firmly on all fours, he turned to face the oncoming attack. Dragonite was gaining speed rapidly, and the white light that encased him only glowed brighter as he descended, Pikachu just mere feet away.


April 1st, 2034. Morning. Pallet Town, Kanto.

The battle froze. Dragonite hovered in midair while Pikachu stared directly into his eyes with a determined gaze.

"Skye!" an angry voice snapped from across the room.

It only took Skylar Ketchum a moment to realize that the battle she was watching on the screen in front of her had stopped. She had been so wrapped up in following every move that she hadn't even heard her mother enter the room, pick up the remote from off of her desk, and pause the television.

"Hey! What gives?" Skye rose from her bed and turned to face her mother. "Mom, unpause it!"

Misty ignored her, putting the remote back down. "You know, I thought I heard noises coming from your room earlier," she started, placing her hands on her hips. "Have you been watching TV all night?"

"Uh, I was not 'watching TV'," Skye objected, sounding less than amused as she crossed her arms defensively. "I was studying battles!"

She appeared satisfied with herself, puffing out her chest with a smug smile plastered on her face. Misty remained unconvinced. The only time she had ever heard her daughter mention studying was, well, never.

Skye continued, holding up a finger, "If I want to be a Pokemon Master someday, then I need to get ahead of the game and start preparing myself!" she explained matter-of-factly before opening an eye and smirking at Misty. "You can't yell at me for doing that."

Misty let out a long, irritated breath as she rubbed her face with both hands. She wasn't going to humor this.

"Please tell me that you got at least a little sleep."

"Not a wink."

"Skylar!" Misty scowled. "You have a long day ahead of you, and now you're going to be exhausted! What were you thinking?"

Skye shrugged her off. "C'mon, Mom! This is nothing!" Grinning, she punched her fist forward. "Once I start my Pokemon journey, I'll be training late into the night all the time! This is all just a part of the preparation! You know, endurance building and stuff!"

"Even great Pokemon Masters need sleep!" Misty snapped, causing Skye to cringe. "Taking care of yourself and resting when you have to is an important part of being a trainer—especially before a big day like this one."

Skye groaned. "But I couldn't sleep even if I wanted to!" She fell back onto her bed and smiled at the ceiling. "I'm getting my very first Pokemon today! I was way too excited to even think about something like sleeping!" She closed her eyes, waving a hand. "Besides, I'm not even tired!"

Misty watched Skye for a long moment until shrugging it off with a sigh. There was no point in pressing the matter further.

"Well, since you're awake, why don't you at least start getting ready and come downstairs?" Misty advised, turning back to the door. "Breakfast should be done in a few minutes." And with that, she left, closing the door behind her.

Skye remained laying on her back until she heard the clicking sound of the door being shut. She smirked to herself, hastily sitting up and jumping out of bed. She grabbed the remote from off of her desk and unpaused the television.

The battle came bursting back to life. Dragonite continued his descent onto Pikachu, who was crouched down defensively, waiting for his trainer's order.

"Now! Thunderbolt!" Ash finally commanded, punching his fist towards the sky.

Dragonite had finally reached the close range that Ash had been waiting for, and the shock on Lance's face was visible as soon as he called out the attack. Lance took a step back when he saw Pikachu pounce.

"Pikachu!" Pikachu cried loudly, releasing an enormous jolt of electricity, striking Dragonite just as it was about to make contact. The collision of Thunderbolt and Giga Impact created a blinding flash of light, followed by an explosion that rang loud enough to send a chill up Skye's spine.

Ash shielded his face from the smoke that gusted his way. Lance stood firm, staring straight into the cloud with a heavy gaze.

Once the haze began to fade, two blackened silhouettes appeared from the smoke, and Lance's eyes slowly widened.

Dragonite lay fainted on the ground. Pikachu, however, shakenly remained standing.

"Dragonite is unable to battle!" the referee called, directing his hand towards Ash. "The victory goes to Elite Four member Ash Ketchum!"

The crowd immediately erupted into a roar, but Ash stood frozen on the field. It wasn't until Pikachu turned around to look for his trainer's approval that Ash bursted into the biggest grin Skye had ever seen on her father's face.

"Pikachu! We won!" Ash exclaimed, running to his exhausted Pokemon.

Pikachu was quick to gather every last bit of energy he had left in order to leap into his trainer's arms. "Pikapi!" he cried happily, nuzzling into Ash's chest.

"We did it, buddy! We really did it! We beat them!" he enthused, laughing and hugging his partner tightly.

"Unbelievable! You saw it here, everyone!" the commentator cried, his voice practically shaking with excitement. "Lance and his Dragonite have been defeated for the first time in almost two decades! Ash Ketchum of Pallet Town is the new Kanto Pokemon League Champion!"

But the voice of the commentator could barely be made out through the wild roars of the audience. The camera turned its focused on to Ash, who was still holding Pikachu close—tears of joy streaming down his face.

Skye felt her chest swell with pride as she watched her father's victory. She had seen it dozens of times before, but today was different. Her father had accomplished his dreams all of those years ago, and now it was finally time for her to start pursuing her own.

Clenching her fist, Skye smiled confidently. "I'm next!" she said, grabbing her gloves from off of her dresser and pulling them on. Watching her father's match against Lance was exactly what she needed to get her blood pumping. She began to run out of her room, grabbing her backpack from off of her desk chair and slinging it over her shoulder on the way out. She didn't bother to turn off the television.

"Champion League, here I com—!"

Skye stumbled forward as something caught her foot. Gasping and eyes widening in shock, she tripped down the stairs, landing face-first into the hardwood at the bottom with a loud 'thud'.

"Ow…" she winced, rubbing her head.

Misty rushed into the doorway as soon as she heard the crash. Her eyes widened upon seeing her daughter sprawled out on the ground.

"Skye! Are you okay?!" Misty asked worriedly.

Skye shook it off, letting out a light laugh as she stood back up slowly. "I'm fine, I'm fine," she assured, brushing herself off.

Her face lit up when she looked down to see what had caused her tumble. "Oh, hey! My soccer ball!" Skye said, sliding her backpack off of her shoulder and crouching down to pick up the ball. "I was wondering where that went," she murmured, struggling to push it into her bag.

Misty groaned, rubbing her face. Skye had always been accident-prone, and Misty couldn't help worrying.

"Jeeze! You need to be more careful, Skye!" Misty chastised, watching as Skye finally shoved the soccer ball snug into her bag. "And learn to start picking up your things!"

"Yeah, yeah!" Skye drawled, slinging her backpack over her shoulders and rising to her feet. "I'll be off, then!" she said suddenly as she began to run to do the door, causing Misty to recoil in surprise. "I'm going to the lab!"

"You're leaving now?" Misty asked, raising her eyebrows. "But Professor Oak isn't expecting you for another two hours! You can't just show up at his doorstep unannounced like that, you know!"

"How come?" Skye asked, putting her shoes on. "I go over to the lab unannounced all the time! Besides, it's not like he's not expecting me!" She turned her head to look at Misty. "I've gotta get there before the other trainers do so I can meet all of the Pokemon!"

"And you'll get to meet all of the Pokemon when you show up on time," Misty assured. "You have to be patient, Skye. Why don't you sit down and have breakfast first?"

"But I've been patient for over ten years! I think that's long enough!" Skye protested, turning to open the door. "Anyways, I'm leavin—!" She paused, a tall figure blocking her exit.

"I'm home!" Ash announced as he stepped into the room, Pikachu sitting faithfully on his shoulder.

Skye took a step back, her eyes widening. "Dad! You're back early!"

Ash had set off to do some weekend training inside of Mt. Moon a few days prior. He wasn't expected to return home until later that day, so Skye hadn't planned on running into him on her way out the door.

Pikachu's face perked up when he noticed Skye. "Pipika!"

"Oh, Skye!" Ash cocked an eyebrow questioningly. "You're up early," he noted. Seeing Skye awake any time prior to 11 o'clock was nothing short of a rarity.

Pikachu jumped off of Ash's shoulder and onto Skye's, nuzzling against her cheek affectionately. "Cha!"

Skye glanced at Pikachu, gently scratching beneath his chin. "I wanted to get to the lab as soon as possible, that's all!"

"And I was trying to tell her that Gary isn't expecting her for another two hours, so the least she can do is have breakfast with us!" Misty interjected, standing behind Skye with a disapproving look.

Cringing, Skye turned around to face her mother. "Mom! I already told you! I don't have any time to waste on eating breakfast! You've gotta let me go!"

"Since you didn't sleep last night you definitely need to eat! You have to be running on something," Misty scolded.

"But—!"

"I agree with your Mom," Ash spoke up, looking down at his daughter. Pikachu returned to his spot on Ash's shoulder. "It would be nice if you ate breakfast with us before you go. The Pokemon will still be there when you finish," he offered, shrugging.

Skye scrunched her nose in annoyance. She didn't want to wait around, but if both of her parents were going to make her stay, then she wasn't left with much of a choice.

"Fine. I'll eat breakfast," Skye conceded, turning on her heel. "But I'm heading out as soon as I finish!" she called, walking into the kitchen.

Misty shook her head, turning to Ash. "I thought you weren't going to be home for another hour. Did you finish up your training early?" she asked, brushing some stray dirt off of his face.

Ash scratched his nose, letting out a small laugh. "Yeah," he started, taking off his shoes. "Pikachu and I wanted to be back as soon as we could. I didn't wanna miss Skye leaving, ya know?"

"Well, it's a good thing that you came home when you did, then," Misty began playfully, reaching over and gently rubbing Pikachu's cheek. "She probably would have gone straight out the door if you hadn't—!" Suddenly, Misty's nose twitched as the faint scent of something burning lingered beneath it.

"Ah! The eggs!" She cried in alarm, turning away from Ash and rushing back into the kitchen.

Ash exchanged an amused glance with Pikachu before stepping into the kitchen himself, Skye already sitting at the table. She was impatiently drumming her fingers against the wooden surface, leaning on her fist with annoyance painted all over her face. Across from Skye sat her two, much younger siblings—both of whom beamed when seeing their father and his loyal companion entering the room.

"Daddy! Pikachu!" Calla exclaimed. "Welcome home!"

"You're back!" Reid enthused, rising out of his seat.

"Cha!" Pikachu squeaked delightfully. He jumped into Calla's lap, who let out a giggle and gently stroked his ears.

"Hey, kids!" Ash greeted, ruffling the twins' red hair. "Were you good over the weekend?"

"We were," Reid affirmed. "But Skye was bad," he added, closing his eyes.

Skye was drawn out of her pouting at the mention of her own name. Sitting up, she shot her younger brother a sharp glare. "I was not!" she retorted.

Reid didn't back down. "Yes you were! You didn't sleep so Mommy yelled at you! And then you fell down the stairs 'cause you don't pick up your stuff!" he taunted, sticking his tongue out at her. "Slob."

Skye's temper flared as she rose from her seat. "You little—!"

"You didn't sleep last night?" Ash interrupted, turning his attention on Skye as he sat down.

Skye faltered and quickly became flustered. She glanced at Ash, plopping back down into her chair. "Well…" The last thing she wanted was a second scolding.

"She was up watching battles on TV all night," Misty interjected, setting plates of less-than-delectable looking eggs, bacon and toast in front of her family before sitting down herself.

Skye glowered at her mother, picking up her plate and piling food into her mouth. She wanted to get it down as fast as possible so that she could finally head out.

"Battles, huh?" Ash asked, leaning in towards Skye with a grin. "Did you watch any good ones?"

Skye blinked in surprise, lowering her plate. "Yeah." She cracked a smile. "I watched your last battle against Lance Grayson! Oh! And—!"

"Ash," Misty said warningly.

"What? I'm just asking," Ash explained, picking up a piece of bacon. "Besides, I don't blame her for not being able to sleep! You've got so much adrenaline pumping through your body! I totally get that!" Skye's face brightened at her father's response.

"Oh? Funny," Misty added with a smirk, bringing her teacup to her lips. "I thought you slept in on your first day as a Pokemon Trainer."

Calla and Reid let out a small fit of giggles at that comment, and Misty looked towards them with an amused smile while she sipped her drink.

"Hey, hey. It worked out for me, didn't it?" Ash defended, glancing down at Pikachu nibbling on a piece of toast. "If I hadn't slept in that day, then Pikachu and I might not be buddies now—right, pal?"

Pikachu's ears perked up when his trainer mentioned his name, drawing his attention away from the toast between his paws. "Pikachu!" he agreed with a nod.

Calla lit up, a thought occurring to her, and she looked to her older sister. "Hey Skye, which Pokemon are you picking?"

Reid's eyes shined at the topic. "Yeah! Yeah! Do you know which Pokemon yet!?" he asked eagerly.

Skye, who was in the middle of shoving an entire piece of toast into her mouth, stopped to look over at her siblings. She finished chewing and swallowed, exhaling. "Nah, not yet," she admitted, scratching her nose. "That's kinda why I wanted to get to the lab early—so that I could meet all of them for myself and then decide!"

This perked her brother's interest. "Oh! I know! Charmander's the best because fire Pokemon are cool! Pick that one!" he suggested.

Calla pouted at Reid's comment. "Nu-uh! Bulbasaur is so cute!" She leaned forward on the table towards Skye. "You have to pick that one, Skye! Then I can play with it!"

Skye let out a small, nervous laugh, glancing between her siblings. Before she could say anything, Misty chimed in with, "You know, Skye, water-type Pokemon are always guaranteed to be a great choice."

"Says the water-type Master of the Kanto Elite Four," Ash teased.

Misty looked at her husband agitatedly. Ash merely snickered under his breath and put another piece of bacon into his mouth.

Skye slumped slightly in her seat. "Thanks for the suggestions guys, but this isn't really helping, you know," she murmured, pushing around the eggs on her plate with a fork.

"Hey, don't worry about it too much," Ash said, placing his fork down. "I think that once you see the Pokemon for yourself you'll just… know!" He shrugged. "And besides, Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle are all great Pokemon—you can't go wrong with any of them."

"Yeah, I know," Skye sighed, smiling. "I can't wait to meet them!" She raised the rim of her glass to her mouth and took a sip of her drink. "And once I pick out my Pokemon, I can finally head off to Viridian City."

Misty watched as Skye worked on finishing her breakfast. "Man, ten years flew by so fast. It's hard to believe that you're heading off on your own today," she mused, glancing over at Ash. "It feels like yesterday that we started our journeys. Has it really been 25 years already?"

"Yeah," Ash chuckled, turning his attention on to Pikachu, rubbing his head. "We've come a long way since then. Haven't we, buddy?"

"Pika!" Pikachu agreed happily. He then jumped onto the top of his trainer's head and began nuzzling his cheek affectionately into Ash's hair. "Cha!"

Ash tilted his head up, trying to glance at his small partner. "Hey! Cut it out, Pikachu!" He laughed, reaching to pet him. "That tickles!"

Skye beamed, watching Pikachu playfully keeping away from Ash's hands. Her father's partnership with Pikachu was one that Skye had admired since she was small. The two were always together, a deep bond connecting them that she couldn't quite grasp or fully understand.

But she knew one thing—she wanted a Pokemon who she could share that with, too.

Putting one last piece of bacon into her mouth, Skye jumped to her feet. "That's it! I'm done!" she declared hurriedly, throwing her backpack back on. "I'm going to the lab now!"

"What?" Misty started, taken aback. "But you didn't even finish your breakfast!"

"Sorry, Mom—I have no more time to waste!" Skye apologized with a grin. "I'll catch up with you guys later! Wish me luck!" she called, running out of the kitchen.

"Skylar!" Misty angrily called, rising out of her seat. "Get back—!" But as soon as she heard the door slam shut, Misty knew it was too late. Closing her eyes, she sighed in frustration. "Jeeze! Does she ever listen?"

"Let her go," Ash laughed lightly, looking out the window with a smile as he watched Skye run down the road. "I mean, a day like this only comes once in a lifetime, after all!"


Mornings in Pallet Town had always been quiet. The streets were empty, the sky clear. Skye made her way up the long staircase leading to the entrance of the Oak Laboratory, instantly ringing the bell upon reaching the front door.

While she waited for someone to answer, she turned around and looked out into the distance. Winter was over, and everything was blossoming with new life. The farmland that Pallet was made up of seemed to stretch on forever, the newly growing crops blowing gently in the spring breeze. Flocks of Pidgey chirped softly nearby, some ruffling their feathers in a small fountain.

The view from the top of the hill was one that Skye had always loved, and one that she knew she would miss when leaving home. Pallet Town was peaceful, and one of the few places in Kanto that wasn't filled with constant hustle and bustle. It would be hard to adjust to at first, but Skye knew the journey would be worth it.

And in the end, she would always have a home to return to.

Another minute passed, and she was starting to wonder if anyone had heard the doorbell ring. She pressed the button again. Still no answer. Raising an eyebrow, she decided to give the knob a shot. When she twisted it, she was surprised to find it was unlocked.

"Hello?" Skye called, peeking her head inside after she opened the door. "Professor Oak? It's Skye! You around?"

Nothing.

Skye scrunched her forehead in confusion, stepping into the lab. "…Anybody home?" she asked, making her way down the hall and into the back room.

Upon stepping inside, Skye's attention was drawn to three Poke Balls laid out on the table in front of her—and she had a pretty good idea of what was inside of them. She pursed her lips, glancing around the room once more.

"Professor…?"

Still nothing.

Her eyes darted back to the Poke Balls spread across the table. She was positive that Kanto's beginner trio were in there—and pretty soon, one of them would be hers. She kept shaking away the urge to go over there and open them for herself while she searched for the Professor. But the further she pushed the urge away, the harder it would come back to her.

Running a hand through her hair, Skye darted her eyes across the room once more before returning her gaze to the Poke Balls. The Professor wasn't here yet, but one of these Pokemon was going to belong to her soon anyways, right? There was no harm in taking a peek.

"They probably want some air," Skye reasoned with herself as she approached the table. She smiled and picked up all three in her hands. "Come out, guys!" she said excitedly, tossing them into the air.

Three blue lights flashed as Charmander, Bulbasaur, and Squirtle all appeared before her eyes.

Skye grinned from ear to ear. "Hey!" she greeted, crouching down a bit to get a better look at the confused Pokemon. "So, you're Charmander, Bulbasaur, and Squirtle, huh?" She put a hand to her chest. "My name is Skylar Ketchum—and one of you is gonna get to be my Pokemon!"

The three Pokemon exchanged curious expressions with one another, not sure what to make of the situation.

"But…" Skye started, scratching her head. "You're all so cool! I dunno how I'm supposed to pick just one of you!"

She leaned in closer, examining them over carefully. She knew she had to make the right choice, so she was going to be sure to take the time and think it over. After a minute of observing them all, she eventually turned her focus onto Charmander. The small Lizard Pokemon tilted his head up at her, opening his mouth happily.

"You know, having a Charmander might be pretty cool," Skye mused, glancing at the burning flame on the tip of its tail. "That fire-power is kinda awesome."

Charmander tilted its head, not understanding. "Char?"

Skye gently pet him on the head. "My dad's Charizard is really strong—and my friend Briar's first Pokemon was a Charmander," she explained. "Having one for myself would be—!" Suddenly, there was a loud crash of something breaking behind her.

Quickly spinning around, she saw Bulbasaur sniffing a broken potted plant on the ground. "Bulba…" he murmured contently, pressing his nose into the spilled soil.

Skye's face fell. "A-ah!" she managed, running towards the Plant Pokemon. "Bulbasaur! What are you doing?"

When she crouched down to see the mess, she winced. The dirt and shattered pot shards were all over the ground, and she could only imagine what the Professor would say when he inevitably showed up.

"Oh, man… The Professor isn't going to be happy about—!" She stopped when hearing another crash—this one coming from her left.

When she turned to face the sound, she saw Squirtle spinning inside of its shell on a nearby counter, knocking over test tubes and petri dishes that had been spread out in an orderly fashion just moments ago.

"W-wait!" Skye stammered, rushing over and stretching her arms out to catch any falling objects she could. She managed to save a few petri dishes from crashing to the ground, but that didn't last long when Charmander began to shoot small spurts of Ember at her feet.

Skye yelped and drew her feet away from the Ember. "Hey! What was that for!?" Skye asked angrily, turning her attention to him.

Charmander put his hands to his stomach, laughing at her as if it were some kind of game.

"It's not funny—!" Skye started, but she didn't have too much time to get mad when she heard another pot crash from behind her, Bulbasaur leaning over the new broken pot and sniffing the plant inside.

"Hey, wai—!"

While Skye was distracted, Charmander made a jump for the bookshelf, pulling books from out of it and dropping them to the ground.

Skye winced at the sight, rushing over to pick up some of the fallen books. "Stop that!" she ordered, attempting to put the books back onto the shelf. "You're making a mess! Professor Oak is gonna be—!"

"Professor Oak is gonna be what?"

Skye dropped the books she held in her hands as her body tensed.

After a moment of hesitation, she turned around. "Oh! Professor! Hey!" she greeted with a sheepish grin. "I was… just looking for you!" She laughed nervously, swallowing. "W-where did you come from?"

Gary appeared to be far less than amused by the situation in front of him. He internally cursed himself for not locking the front door that morning—he should have known something like this would happen.

Putting down the bag of Pokemon food he was carrying in his arms, he turned to Skye. "I was out back feeding the Pokemon." His eyes trailed towards the broken pots on the ground. "I came in through the side door after I heard a crash." Skye stiffened when he turned back to her. "Do you care to explain what happened here, Skye?"

"O-oh! That! Yeah, uhm…" Skye stumbled, trying to find a reasonable explanation for the mess. She pressed her fingers together nervously. "You see, I thought that maybe I could come a little early to get to know the Pokemon! But… when I came inside, nobody was here, so… I thought that maybe I'd let the Pokemon out myself!" She offered a grin before quickly adding, "You know, to save you the trouble and all."

That was explanation enough. Gary scowled, putting a hand to the side of his head. "Leave it to a Ketchum to let something like this happen."

Skye gritted her teeth, scrunching her shoulders apologetically.

Gary walked past her and picked Charmander up from off of the shelf, placing him back onto the table. "And now I have to get this whole mess cleaned up before the other new trainers get here," he groaned, bending down to pick up Bulbasaur as well. After another moment of looking around the lab, he paused in realization.

"…Where's Squirtle?"

Skye straightened out. "Uh… It was here a minute ago," she murmured. Her eyes trailed down the hall to the front door, which she noticed was now fully open. Her face fell and she let out a gasp. "Oh no…!"

"Oh no?" Gary repeated with an edge to his voice.

Skye tensed. "W-well… Uhm…" She coughed. "I may have left the door cracked open when I came in, and it may have gone outside, is all."

"Squirtle is missing?" Gary clarified angrily. Skye felt herself shrink into her shoulders, and Gary closed his eyes, sighing irritably as he ran a hand through his hair. "I don't have time for this," he started, "Those trainers are going to be here in almost an hour." He looked around at the mess. Just getting the dirt and glass swept up was going to take a while, and he wasn't going to risk leaving the lab with Skye and new trainers coming to visit.

Skye pursed her lips, feeling guilty. She looked to the ground and shifted her feet.

Gary turned his gaze towards her and watched her carefully until an idea struck him. He went over to the table, picking up Squirtle's Poke Ball before handing it to Skye. "You made this mess, so now you're going to clean it up."

Skye recoiled, blinking in surprise as she took Poke Ball in her hands. "Huh?"

"I have to stay here to clean up this mess," he explained. "But you're going to go out there, find Squirtle, and bring it back." He pointed towards the open door at the front of the lab. "Understand?"

Skye stared down at the Poke Ball, a little shocked that the Professor would trust her with this task after the mess she had already made. She stayed silent briefly before looking up at Gary with a confident nod. If she caused this problem, then she was going to be the one to fix it.

"You've got it Professor!" she assured, giving a salute. "You can count on me!"

"Good," Gary spat, waving her off. "Now go and get him before the other trainers get here."

"I'm on it!" Skye said, turning on her heel and running out the door.

Once he heard the door shut, Gary removed his glasses, rubbing his face. The day had barely begun and he was already exhausted.

"Only your kid, Ash…" he groaned, glancing through his fingers at Charmander and Bulbasaur, who offered apologetic grins.


Skye exited the laboratory gates, sighing as she looked up and down the dirt road. Squirtle weren't exactly the fastest Pokemon in the world, so she knew that it couldn't have gotten far. Even still, it did manage to get out the door and down the stairs in just a few minutes. Perhaps this would be trickier than she thought.

"Sheesh…. How could one little Pokemon move so fast?" Skye asked herself, scratching her head. She scanned the perimeter, looking for any sign of a trail. "If I were a Squirtle, where would I go?"

Skye continued glancing up and down the road until a stream of rippling water caught her eye. She stared for a moment before it clicked.

The river.

"That's it!" Skye declared, snapping her fingers as she began to follow the water downstream. With Squirtle being a water-type Pokemon, Skye had the lurking suspicion that he may have been attracted to the river. If she just kept following it then she might be able to find him.

"Squirtle!" she called, her hands cupped to her mouth.

Further down the path, Squirtle sat near the water's edge as he contently peered at his reflection. Upon hearing his name being called, Squirtle raised his head curiously in the direction of the voice.

Skye spotted the Turtle Pokemon crouched down at the edge of the water, just as she expected. Putting a hand to her chest, she let out a long breath before running over to him. "Squirtle!" she called. "There you are!"

"Squir!" Squirtle said, rising to his feet.

Skye smiled, relieved. "C'mon. Let's get you back to the lab," she said, pulling out the Poke Ball from her pocket. She pressed the button in the center, enlarging it and attempted to return him.

Upon seeing the red beam heading his way, Squirtle's face lit up and he quickly dodged it.

Skye raised her eyebrows as Squirtle jumped away from the beam before letting out a small laugh. "Funny. Now, come on—get in the ball," she said, attempting to return him once more.

Much to Skye's annoyance, Squirtle jumped away from the red light, this time letting out a laugh and balancing himself on his tail.

Skye only became more and more flustered the longer she spent trying to return him, her temper beginning to flare. "I'm serious! We have to get back to the lab! Professor Oak is expecting us before the other trainers show up!"

Squirtle still refused to listen, jumping away from the light and spinning inside of his shell. He smirked at her when he popped his head out, and Skye was getting the feeling that now he was just showing off.

She scowled, her face heating up. "Okay, fine! If you're not gonna get in that way, then there's only one thing left to do!" she said, drawing her hand back before tossing the Poke Ball at him.

As soon as he saw the Poke Ball heading his way, Squirtle was quick to duck, narrowly avoiding contact. However, his ducking caused the Poke Ball to fly right over his head and plop into the river. Squirtle quickly turned in the direction of the ball, realizing what he had done. "Squirt!"

Skye's face fell, and she instantly felt her gut sink as she watched the Poke Ball begin to float away. "A-ah!" she choked, quickly making her way to the water's edge. "Crap! It fell in!"

Squirtle rushed to Skye's side, looking into the water as well to see if he could spot the lost Poke Ball. Skye gritted her teeth. "It's probably headed downstream!" she started, rising to her feet and beginning to run along the edge of the river. "I've gotta find it!"

Before she could get too far, she heard a splash from behind her. Quickly turning around, she saw Squirtle begin to swiftly swim downstream. Skye gasped, her eyes widening. It was bad enough that the Poke Ball was headed down the river, but now the Pokemon was too.

"Hey! Squirtle! What are you doing!?" she called to him in alarm as she attempted to run after him.

Squirtle came to a halt, poking his head out of the water. "Squirtle! Squirt! Squirtle!" he explained, furrowing his brows together and pointing downstream.

Skye reeled back. "You… you want to help?" she asked slowly.

"Squirtle!" he affirmed with a nod.

She didn't break eye contact with him for a moment. If she managed to lose Squirtle again then she was positive that the Professor would have her head. But at the same time, she knew that she might have better luck with a water-type Pokemon on her side. There wasn't any time left to hesitate.

"Okay!" she said with a nod. "You can move faster by water than by land, so keep a lookout from down there!" She began to jog backwards. "I'm gonna check along the edge of the river!" And, with that, she turned around, running down the path.

With a confident nod of assurance, Squirtle dove under the water and began to swim downstream, keeping his eyes peeled.

Skye continued to run, watching the water carefully so she wouldn't miss anything. For a while, the only things that caught her eye were some stray Rattata and Pidgey taking a drink from the stream—but no Poke Ball. She was starting to feel hopeless, her pace slowing down before a glint of light caught her eye. Turning her head, her eyes widened. A small red sphere bobbed along with the current near the water's edge.

"Squirtle!" she called to the Turtle Pokemon, who popped his head out of the water to listen to her. "Right there in front of you! Grab that Poke Ball!"

Squirtle's eyes followed to where Skye's finger was pointing. His face lit up and he quickly darted towards it, about to grab it before it was suddenly lifted from the water. Shocked, Squirtle looked up and was met with the face of a very large Nidorino holding the Poke Ball in its mouth.

Skye skidded to a stop as soon as she saw the Nidorino dip his head into the water and pick up the Poke Ball with ease. "U-uh…!" she managed to stammer, unsure of what to do now as the Nidorino began to casually walk away—Poke Ball and all.

After taking a moment to get over the initial shock, Squirtle scowled and sprung out of the water in front of Skye. "Squirt! Squirtle!" he angrily called to the Nidorino, who merely ignored him and kept going on his way.

Pursing her lips nervously, Skye watched Nidorino walk further away. She didn't know how to approach the situation. She knew that she couldn't go back to the lab without Squirtle's Poke Ball, but she couldn't just run over and grab it from Nidorino either. After all, that was one big Nidorino in comparison to others she had seen before. But she couldn't back down now.

She exhaled.

"Don't worry!" Skye said to Squirtle, offering him a smile and thumbing to herself. "I've got a way with Pokemon. I'll get that Poke Ball back, no problem!" she explained before jogging after Nidorino.

Squirtle watched Skye run off. "Squirtle?" he said curiously before waddling after her.

"Hey! Nidorino!" Skye called, catching up to the Pokemon.

Finally stopping, Nidorino let out an annoyed grunt as he gazed back at Skye, clenching down harder on the Poke Ball positioned between his teeth.

Skye came to a stop, bending over a bit to catch her breath. She lifted a finger to point at the Poke Ball. "That thing you've got in your mouth there—it's not food," she started, standing up straight and thumbing towards the Squirtle standing behind her. "It's this Squirtle's Poke Ball!" She held out her hand to him. "So, is it all right if we have it back?"

Squirtle nodded firmly in agreement as Nidorino glanced between the two, confused. Skye grinned hopefully as Nidorino seemed to be processing what she said. But after a few moments, he huffed and turned his back to them, walking into a small cavern nearby.

"U-uh…" Skye stammered, faltering. That certainly didn't go as planned. She pursed her lips, thinking. "I guess this is going to be more difficult than I thought…"

Squirtle, on the other hand, curled his fists and growled. Ignoring Skye, he marched straight over to Nidorino's cavern.

Skye paused when seeing Squirtle walk into Nidorino's home. "Squirtle! Hey! Wait!" she called after him, but stopped upon reaching the cave's entrance. The thought occurred to her that perhaps if she wasn't able to talk things out with Nidorino, then maybe a Pokemon giving it a shot would work out better. With that in mind, Skye decided to wait outside and see what the outcome would be.

Nidorino was carefully placing his newfound treasure into his nest when Squirtle came marching in through the entrance of his cavern. His eyes darted warningly toward the Turtle Pokemon, but Squirtle didn't back down.

"Squirtle! Squirt! Squir!" Squirtle cried angrily, pointing to the Poke Ball in Nidorino's nest.

Nidorino's gaze shifted between Squirtle and the Poke Ball a few times, as if he were thinking it over. Eventually, he grunted in annoyance and kicked up some dirt into Squirtle's eyes.

"Squirt!" Squirtle recoiled when the dirt hit him. He winced in pain as he attempted to wipe it away with his hands. Once he was able to open his eyes again, he growled and fired a Water Gun attack directly in Nidorino's face.

When the water made contact, Nidorino skidded back, shutting his eyes tightly and gritting his teeth. As soon as the attack was over, it growled, its temper kicking in. Scuffing its foot against the ground, Nidorino charged head-first into Squirtle with a Take Down attack.

"Squirtle!" Squirtle cried as he was sent flying out of the cavern's entrance and landed on the ground with a 'thud'.

Eyes widening in shock upon seeing Squirtle fly out of the cave, Skye gasped. "Squirtle!" she called, running over in an attempt to help him.

Skye was cut off as Nidorino charged straight past her and rammed into Squirtle while he was in the middle of attempting to rise to his feet, this time with a Horn Attack.

Squirtle let out a cry in pain, landing on the back of his shell. He struggled to roll over and stand, but he was stuck.

Skye caught her breath upon seeing Squirtle being struck again. She had to do something before Nidorino made his next move. Anger bubbling inside of her, she clenched her fists before bending down and picking up a rock.

"Hey!" Skye called, chucking the rock with all of her might, striking Nidorino on the side of the head.

Nidorino stopped dead in his tracks, flinching and wincing in pain before angrily turning to the source of the rock.

Skye stood firm, glaring at Nidorino. "Why don't you pick on someone your own size?"

This only fueled Nidorino's raging temper. Growling and scuffing his foot into the ground, he began to charge towards Skye with another Take Down attack.

As soon as Nidorino made his move, Skye furrowed her brow as she turned on her heel and started to sprint in another direction. She hadn't completely thought this through, but she knew that she needed to give Squirtle a chance to get away. She glanced back at the Nidorino, who was quickly gaining on her—but when she focused forward again, her eyes were met with a large ditch only a few feet in front of her.

She gasped, skidding to a stop. She had to think. She didn't have any time to run around, but if she didn't do something quick, Nidorino would charge right into her. Taking a deep breath in, she swiftly turned around. Nidorino was running straight for her, lowering his head for a Horn Attack. Skye knew that if that poisonous horn pierced her, then it could be a result far worse than just a scratch.

She stood firm, and once Nidorino was close enough, she quickly grabbed him by the base of his horn, pressing the palm of her other hand firmly against his snout. If she could hold him off this way, then at least his horn would be less likely to stab into her. But Nidorino didn't give in, and he continued to push forward, scowling in anger.

Skye gritted her teeth, closing an eye as she struggled to push Nidorino back. Her feet skidded back against the ground, dangerously close to the edge of the ditch behind her. "What's wrong?" she huffed tauntingly. "Is that all you've got?"

Grunting in anger at her taunt, Nidorino pushed harder, and Skye nearly lost her footing. Before Nidorino could give Skye one final push, a Water Gun attack suddenly blasted him in the side. Nidorino stumbled, causing Skye to let go in surprise. When she turned her head to see the source of the Water Gun, Squirtle quickly jumped in front of her, glaring dangerously at Nidorino.

"Squirtle!" Skye said breathlessly, regaining her balance. "Thanks for that!"

Squirtle shot Skye a confident smile and nod. "Squirtle, squir!"

Nidorino slowly rose to his feet. He had had enough of this. While the two were distracted, he turned around and delivered a swift Double Kick attack—first Skye, and then Squirtle, knocking them both into the ditch.

Skye inhaled sharply, the wind getting knocked out of her as she stumbled and fell in. Squirtle was soon to follow, landing beside her.

Nidorino glared down at them from the top of the ditch before snorting and turning away, returning to his nest.

Giving herself a moment to catch her breath and process what just happened, Skye groaned in pain as she rolled onto her side and slowly sat up. "Man, that hurt…" she winced, rubbing her back, before turning her attention onto Squirtle. "You okay?"

Much quicker to jump back to his feet than Skye was, Squirtle nodded. "Squirtle!"

Skye offered him a small smile before sighing and slowly standing. "I guess that didn't work…" She sighed irritably. "How does a ditch show up in a place like this anyways?"

Then again, she thought that she had remembered the Professor saying something about a herd of migrating Sandshrew and Sandslash passing through Pallet Town a few weeks ago—but that didn't matter now. "Whatever," she dismissed. "Let's just get outta here."

Squirtle hung his head apologetically. "Squir…" he murmured. He knew that if he hadn't gone into the cave and made Nidorino angry in the first place, then perhaps they wouldn't have been stuck in this situation.

Noticing Squirtle's change in demeanor, Skye blinked. Offering him a smile, Skye bent down and picked him up. "Hey, don't worry about it. Everybody messes up sometimes," she assured, lifting him up so that he could crawl out. "We'll get this figured out."

Squirtle glanced back at her in surprise as he scuffled his way out of the hole, watching as Skye grabbed onto some rocks poking out of the side of the ditch walls and climbing out with ease. Once she reached the top, she brushed the dirt off of herself and sighed, looking towards Nidorino's cave.

"So, what now…?" she questioned, sitting on the ground. Squirtle sat beside her, looking at her curiously.

Skye leaned back, pressing her palms to the ground. "That Nidorino isn't going to give up that Poke Ball without a fight…. But neither one of us are really cut-out to take it on directly," she mused, glancing towards the ditch Nidorino had knocked them into minutes earlier.

"Squirtle…" Squirtle agreed, hanging his head.

Skye turned her attention back to the cave where Nidorino nested. "And it's definitely too dangerous for one of us to go back into that cave, too…" She didn't say anything for a moment, letting some thoughts run through her mind. But every idea that she came up with only seemed like it would flump.

She sighed, shrugging off her backpack and opening it to pull out a bottle of water. She hadn't realized how thirsty all of this running around had made her. Unscrewing the cap, she said, "Maybe we should go back to the lab and tell the Professor…"

As she put the bottle to her lips, she imagined what he would say to her. She was positive that she'd just be met with another scolding to top off the others she had already received from Misty earlier that day, and that was the last thing she wanted. She scowled, shaking the thought away.

She had to get that Poke Ball back herself.

Putting her water down, she ruffled her hair, letting out a noise in frustration. "No, no! We're gonna get it back!" She pounded her fist into her palm. "We just need a game-plan!"

Squirtle, who wasn't fully listening to Skye, started to curiously rummage through her open bag. He reached inside and pulled out the soccer ball that she had shoved inside of it that morning, studying it curiously.

When she heard the sound of Squirtle going through her things, Skye looked down. "Hey, what are you—!" She paused when seeing the soccer ball in Squirtle hands. Forgetting about the Poke Ball for a moment, Skye raised an eyebrow, letting out a small laugh. "Oh, are you a fan, too?"

Taking his attention away from the ball that he held in his hands, Squirtle looked up at Skye, confused. "Squirt?" he said, tilting his head.

Skye huffed, smiling as she leaned forward as she rested her elbows on her knees. "Guess not," she laughed lightly. She turned her body to him and pressed a finger against the ball. "This ball is used in a sport called soccer—I've been playing it since I was little."

Squirtle still didn't seem to understand, titling his head in the other direction.

Skye continued, "The really basic idea is that you have to kick this ball between your teammates, and if you can get the ball into the other team's net, then you get a point." She shrugged. "And the team with the most points at the end of the game wins." It was a basic explanation that just barely grazed the details and rules of the sport, but she knew that explaining every little thing to a Pokemon wouldn't matter much.

Continuing to study the ball as Skye spoke, Squirtle eventually placed it on the ground. He took a step back and lightly kicked it forward, looking at Skye for approval with a smile on his face. "Squirtle!"

Skye blinked. She hadn't expected Squirtle to understand what she was talking about, but clearly he got some kind of gist of it. Skye laughed, rising to her feet. "Yeah, you've got it!" she praised, walking over to the soccer ball. "Hey, maybe you'd make a pretty good athle—!"

She paused, realization struck her as she picked up the ball before it could roll into the ditch. Her eyes darted from the ball, to the cave, to Squirtle, and finally, the hole. Perking up, she turned to Squirtle with a grin.

"You know what? You just gave me an idea."


Quietly approaching Nidorino's cavern, Skye leaned over to peer inside carefully. Nidorino was curled up in his nest, asleep, the Poke Ball nestled between his paws. Skye grinned and stepped back, placing her soccer ball on to the ground. She gave Nidorino one last look before drawing her foot back and kicking the ball forcefully.

Nidorino awoke with a start when the soccer ball struck him hard in the side. He lifted his head in alarm and looked around for the source of the impact, noticing the ball rolling towards the cave's entrance—and standing right behind it was Skye.

"Morning," Skye greeted with a wave. "Looking for me?"

Upon seeing Skye, Nidorino quickly rose to his feet, snorting and scuffing his foot against the ground warningly.

"Come and get me, then!" Skye challenged before turning around and running away.

Letting out an angry cry, Nidorino began charging after her with a Take Down attack, abandoning his nest.

Skye glanced over her shoulder to make sure that Nidorino was chasing her. When she saw him running in her direction she huffed and smirked, satisfied. She looked forward and continued her sprint, picking up speed to gain some space between herself and the Nidorino.

She made her way around the ditch, and surely enough, Nidorino followed after her. She grinned once running past the side of the hole, turning on her heel to face the oncoming Pokemon. Just another few seconds and…. There!

Skye snapped her head towards the bushes to her left. "Now, Squirtle!" she called loudly.

Just then, Squirtle jumped out of the bushes, taking a deep breath before firing a powerful Water Gun attack at the unsuspecting Nidorino.

As soon as Nidorino heard Squirtle jump out of the bushes, he quickly turned his head to the source of the sound. But it was too late. Squirtle had already hit him directly in the side, knocking him off balance and sending him tumbling to the bottom of the ditch.

The moment that Nidorino was down in the hole, Skye broke into a grin and threw her hands into the air. "Goal!" she exclaimed, running over to the edge.

Squirtle's face lit up when he saw Skye throw her hands into the air. "Squirtle!" he cried happily, running over to join her.

After taking a moment to process what happened, Nidorino blinked lazily, fully coming to. He quickly shook his head before jumping to his feet. Looking up at Skye and Squirtle, he let out an angry cry, ramming his body into the wall of the ditch.

"Looks like I've already caught myself a Pokemon!" Skye taunted, sticking her tongue out at the raging Nidorino. "Nyeh!"

Mimicking Skye, Squirtle stuck out his tongue as well and pulled down on his eyelid. "Squir!"

Nidorino took no notice of their taunts and continued ramming against the ditch's walls.

Skye stood up straight, laughing as she brushed her hands off. "That's what you get for messing with Skylar Ketchum—future Pokemon Master!" she said with a confident smile, closing her eyes proudly.

Squirtle jumped up, balancing himself on his tail and happily clapping his hands together. "Squirt! Squirtle!" he cheered.

Turning her attention onto Squirtle, Skye let out a laugh and pet him on top of the head. "You did a good job, too," she praised. "Come on—let's get your Poke Ball back now!" Nodding towards Nidorino's cave, she began heading in its direction.

"Squirtle!" Squirtle agreed, trailing behind.

Once she got to the entrance, Skye took a knee, picking up the soccer ball that had rolled outside. "Can't forget this," she said to herself, shrugging off her backpack and opening it so that she could shove the ball back inside.

While Skye was distracted, Squirtle walked past her and entered the cave. He made his way to Nidorino's nest and picked up the Poke Ball triumphantly, returning back to Skye and holding it out to her. "Squirt!" he said, getting her attention.

Skye blinked, looking in Squirtle's direction. She smiled when seeing the Poke Ball in his hands. "Oh, thanks!" she said, taking it from him and rising to her feet. "Now we can get you back to the lab!"

She held out the Poke Ball in order to finally return him, but something made her stop. She stared at him and parted her mouth slightly, as if she were thinking. Squirtle was staring up at her, smiling brightly. Noticing her hesitation, he blinked and tilted his head in confusion.

"Squirtle?" he questioned.

After another moment, Skye lowered her hand and smiled. "You know, you're a really cool Pokemon," she started before nodding to the ditch behind them. "I wouldn't have been able to get this Poke Ball back without your help. I think you and I make a pretty good team!"

Squirtle didn't quite understand, tilting his head to the other side.

Skye huffed, smiling as she thumbed to herself. "Squirtle, what do you think about coming along with me on my Pokemon journey?"

Squirtle reeled back, surprised. "Squirt?!"

"If you come with me, then you and I can keep working as a team," she continued, clenching her fist. "We could travel the world, win battles, and even compete in the Pokemon League!" Her eyes were shining with excitement. "I know that you and I could do it together, and have lots of fun, too!" She grinned, holding out a hand to him. "So, what do you say? Teammates?"

Squirtle stared at her without saying a word for a few moments, processing what she had said. His face lit up and he suddenly leapt into her arms, hugging her. "Squirtle! Squirt! Squirtle!" he happily agreed.

Stumbling backwards, Skye let out a laugh and held him close. "I'll take that as a yes, then!" she said, looking at the Turtle Pokemon who offered her an approving nod.

But only a moment later, the pair heard a loud grunt coming from a distance behind them. Blinking and turning around, Skye's eyes were met with those of a dirty Nidorino a few yards away. How he had managed to make his way out of the ditch, Skye had no idea, but she knew one thing for sure: she and Squirtle had to book it out of there.

Skye gasped and Squirtle's face fell as soon as Nidorino began charging towards them. "U-uh…!" Skye stammered, looking left and right to find an escape. "Let's talk about the rest later! We have to make a run for it and get back to the lab pronto!"

Squirtle quickly nodded his head in agreement and Skye started to sprint as fast as she could down the dirt road—Nidorino in tow.


The roof of Professor Oak's laboratory was finally in view as Skye continued to run down the road, Squirtle still in her arms. She slowed down her pace, panting while turning her head to look over her shoulder.

"I-I think we lost him…" Skye said, sighing in relief.

Squirtle relaxed, wiping his forehead as Skye carefully placed him back on the ground. Laughing, she looked at the Poke Ball that she still had grasped in her hand. "I guess we got pretty lucky with our timing, huh?"

Squirtle nodded his head in agreement. "Squirtle! Squirt!"

Skye smiled at him. "So—!"

"Skylar!"

Lifting her head to look at the source of the call, Skye was surprised to see Misty standing in front of the gates of the Oak laboratory.

"M-mom!" she said in surprise before noticing that her father, siblings, grandmother, Pikachu and the Professor were all there as well. She exchanged a quick glance with Squirtle before jogging over to them, Squirtle following behind. "What are you all doing here?"

Ash offered Skye a small wave and Pikachu let out a happy squeak, while Misty stood with her hands placed firmly on her hips. "Professor Oak called the house and told us that you made a mess of his lab and lost one of the Pokemon!" she scowled. "What were you thinking?"

Skye winced, cringing at the reminder of the mess she had made inside the lab earlier that morning. She attempted to offer Misty a small, nervous smile as her shoulders stiffened.

"You don't get it! It's okay! It all worked out and I—!"

"I hope that you apologized to Professor Oak!" Misty snapped, pointing a finger towards Gary, who merely raised an eyebrow in response.

"U-uh…!" Skye faltered, realizing that she hadn't, in fact, offered the Professor a properly apology. She quickly bowed her head, frowning.

"I'm really sorry, Professor. I didn't mean to mess up your lab or let Squirtle get out."

Gary didn't say anything for a moment, staring at Skye as if he were pondering what he should say. He noticed Reid snicker at his sister getting into trouble, and Skye shot him a glare as Calla lightly pushed him in response. Gary simply closed his eyes and sighed, waving her off.

"Well, everything turned out okay in the end—the lab is clean and Squirtle is back, so there's nothing to worry about," he dismissed, causing Skye to let out a relieved sigh. He then glanced at Ash warily and added, "Though, a generous donation from the League to compensate for the damaged materials would be more than welcome."

Ash laughed nervously, rubbing the back of his head. "Yeah…. We'll take care of that. Don't worry." Pikachu tapped Ash on the shoulder reassuringly.

Misty didn't take her eyes off of Skye. After looking her up and down several times, she noticed the layer of dirt that her daughter was covered in from head to toe. She sighed, rubbing her face. "Jeeze, Skye. You haven't even left yet and you're already filthy. What happened?"

Skye faltered. She knew that she couldn't tell them about the lost Poke Ball, the Nidorino, and the ditch. Matters were already bad enough, so she wanted to save herself at least a little trouble. Letting out a small laugh, she scratched her nose. "Oh, it's, uh… kind of a long story," she said, glancing down at Squirtle with a smile. "It's fine though! We made it out okay!"

Putting a hand to her mouth, Delia let out a small laugh before walking over to Skye and pulling a handkerchief from her pocket. "Now, that reminds me of another certain Pokemon Trainer I know," she said thoughtfully, gently wiping some of the dirt away from Skye's face with the cloth. "I swear, you're just like your father when he was your age—always getting into some kind of trouble."

Skye closed an eye, laughing while Ash cracked a small smile.

"C'mon, Mom. Why don't we just focus on letting Skye pick out her first Pokemon?" he suggested, thumbing to the lab behind them.

Gary closed his eyes, adjusting his glasses on the bridge of his nose. "I couldn't agree more." At this point, he was more than ready to just send Skye Ketchum on her way to prevent any further damage. "Why don't you all come insid—!"

"I've already made my choice!" Skye spoke up suddenly.

Ash and Misty exchanged surprised glances, and Delia blinked, pulling the cloth away from Skye's face slowly. Pikachu, Calla and Reid all appeared absolutely delighted at the news.

Gary turned around. "…Excuse me?"

"I've already made my choice," Skye repeated. She looked down at Squirtle with a smile, who stared back up at her. "I choose Squirtle!"

"Squirtle?" Gary asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Yeah," Skye affirmed with a nod. "We already talked about it, and we decided that we actually make a pretty good team!" She looked back to Squirtle, beaming. "I don't need to see the other Pokemon again. My mind is already made up!"

Gary shifted his gaze between Skye and Squirtle before he smiled with a shrug. "Well, that certainly makes my job a little easier," he admitted, standing up straighter. "Somehow, I have the feeling that you and that Squirtle will get along well together."

"I know we will!" Skye grinned at Squirtle, who bounced up onto his tail happily. "We already do!"

"I think Squirtle is a great choice, Skye," Ash commented, crossing his arms. "They're awesome Pokemon to raise."

"I certainly can't disagree," Misty added, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. "Water-type Pokemon are always the right choice."

Pikachu jumped off of Ash's shoulder and onto the ground, scurrying over to Squirtle and holding up a paw. "PikaPika!" he greeted, to which Squirtle happily returned the gesture, and the two began carrying out a small conversation in Pokespeak.

Calla crouched down, smiling as she watched the two Pokemon converse with one another. "Squirtle is so cute, Skye!" she said, reaching out a hand to gently pet Squirtle atop the head. "You picked the best one!" She had clearly forgotten all about the Bulbasaur that she had mentioned earlier now that Squirtle was in her presence.

Reid knelt down beside his sister, looking Squirtle over skeptically. "It's not a Charmander," he started before a smile slowly made its way onto his face. "But it is pretty cool!"

He suddenly shot his head up to look at Skye, grinning. "Hey, are you and Squirtle gonna win the Pokemon League Tournament together?" he asked eagerly. Calla's attention was taken away from Squirtle and directed onto Skye with her brother's comment, a bright smile plastered on her face.

Skye raised her eyebrows before grinning and pounding her fist against her chest. "Yeah, of course we are!" she assured proudly. "You can't expect anything less out of the daughter of a Champion!"

Calla's smile slowly faded as realization dawned upon her. "Then this means you're really leaving, right?" she asked sadly. Reid didn't say anything, but Calla's words seemed to make him realize the same thing as well, and he averted his eyes to the ground.

Skye raised her eyebrows in surprise, quickly darting her gaze between her younger brother and sister. She sighed, offering them a smile as she crouched down to their level.

"Hey, don't be sad," she comforted with a shrug. "We'll still get to talk—I'll call home all the time." She looked between them both, noticing their expressions beginning to lift, even if just a little. "And you guys will come and watch Squirtle and I compete in the Pokemon League, won't you?"

The two younger siblings exchanged glances with one another before smiling and turning their attention back on Skye. Reid rose to his feet, grinning and punching his fist forward.

"Yeah!"

"We wanna see you win!" Calla added, jumping up to join her brother.

"And you will!" Skye said confidently, rising back to her feet and curling her fists. "This time next year, I'll be the Kanto Pokemon League Tournament winner!"

"Squirtle!" Squirtle agreed, punching his fist into the air.

Gary shared an amused look with Ash and Misty before reaching into the messenger bag he had slung around his shoulder. "Skye, here," he started, retrieving a red Pokedex and several Poke Balls from the inside, holding them out to her. "These are your Poke Balls and your Pokedex."

Skye blinked, taking them into her hands and looking down at them as Gary continued. "Your Pokedex is a digital encyclopedia that stores the information of all of the Pokemon that you'll encounter during your travels. But it's also your identification—so don't lose it." He was sure to put a special emphasis on those last few words.

After staring down at her new possessions for a moment longer, Skye flashed Gary a grin. "Thanks, Professor," she said, slipping the Poke Balls into the side-pocket of her backpack and holding up the Pokedex in her hand, giving it a small wave. "I'll be sure to hang on to it."

Gary sighed, shaking his head as Skye slid her Pokedex into her back pocket. He was sure that he'd get a call about a cracked screen in a week or two.

Delia pressed a finger to her eye as she watched Skye accept her new Pokedex, wiping away a single tear. "Oh, Skylar," she started, her voice wavering slightly. "You've grown up so fast. I can't believe that you're really leaving home and going off on your journey."

Misty glanced at her mother-in-law, smiling with just a twinge of sadness before turning her attention onto Skye. "Are you sure you have everything that you need?" she asked worriedly. "Food? Water? Soap? Clean—!"

Skye stopped Misty there, waving her hands around quickly. "Mom, I'm fine! I have everything, I promise." She offered Misty a small smile, shrugging her shoulders with a laugh. "You only made me check five times last night, after all."

Misty pursed her lips, unconvinced. She was sure that she'd find something that Skye forgot laying around the house over the course of the next few days. "Well, okay," Misty sighed, crossing her arms. "But, if you realize that you're missing anything, just let me know and I'll have it sent to you."

"I will, I will!" Skye assured. "But, I promise, I have everything! Really!"

"Not quite," Ash spoke up suddenly.

Skye turned to him, raising her brows in surprise. "Huh?"

Ash slid his hand into his jacket pocket before pulling out a slim, rectangular, blue case.

"Here—this is a case for you to keep your gym badges in," he explained, placing it in her hands. "That way, you can keep all of them together, you know? Every good Pokemon Trainer should have one of these!"

She hadn't been expecting this. Thinking to get something like a badge case was one of the things that had completely slipped Skye's mind while preparing for her journey. Her face lit up upon taking the case into her hands. "Thanks, Dad!" she said with a grin, admiring it. "It's gonna be filled with badges before you know it!

"That's what I like to hear!" Ash said, furrowing his brows, his eyes shining with pride. "Make Pallet Town proud, Skye—get to the Pokemon League Tournament and take it all."

Misty stepped beside Ash, smiling at her daughter confidently. "And once you do, all of us will be there to cheer you on—you and Squirtle both," she added.

Reid grinned, clenching his fists. "You can make it, Skye!"

"Do your best!" Calla encouraged, smiling brightly.

"But try not to push yourself too hard, dear," Delia added with a smile, wiping away another stray tear. "Remember that resting and eating healthy is important, too. So, take care of yourself."

Gray held up a hand, offering a smile. "And you can call the lab if you need anything. I'm always around."

"Pipika! Pi-ka Pika!" Pikachu cried happily from Ash's shoulder, lifting his paw.

Hearing her family's words of encouragement made the fire burning inside of Skye grow stronger. This was finally it—she was ready to go. Gripping the straps of her backpack tightly, Skye looked down to Squirtle with a nod before turning to her family, brimming with confidence.

"You can count on it! Squirtle and I will win it all, you'll see!"

"Then what are you waiting for?" Ash asked with a smile. "Go get 'em, Skye. All of Pallet Town is cheering you on."

She stood there for a moment, quiet. Her father was right. Everyone was cheering her on—her family, her friends, everyone. She couldn't let them down. The time had come for her to start chasing her dreams full throttle without giving up.

She took a deep breath, beaming. "…Right!" She nodded and grinned at the Turtle Pokemon standing by her side. "Let's do it, Squirtle!" she said eagerly, turning on her heel and making a dash down the road, Squirtle lighting up and trailing behind.

She turned her head back to her family as she ran. "I won't let you down!" she called, waving a hand. "Wish me luck!"

"A-ah, Skye! Wait!" Misty called after her, cupping her hands around her mouth. "Call us once you reach Viridian City so we know you made it all right!"

Whatever Skye said next could only barely be heard by Misty and the others as they watched her run further down the road.

And suddenly she was completely out of sight, disappearing into the horizon

There was a long silence that followed Skye's departure, with the exception of a few sniffles from Delia as she wiped her eyes with the handkerchief she held in her hand. Calla frowned, gently gripping the bottom of Misty's jacket as Reid looked down to the ground. Nobody knew what to say. For the first time, Ash understood how his mother felt every time he left Pallet Town as a boy.

"Well, she's gone…." Misty said quietly after Skye's departure had sunk in a little more.

"…Yeah," Ash said, closing his eyes, a small smile on his face.

Gary chuckled, sliding his hands into his pockets as a smirk tugged at the corners of his mouth. "Getting a little teary-eyed?" he teased.

Misty twitched in annoyance before glowering at him. "No," she scowled.

"Oh, come on," Gary laughed with the wave of a hand. "It's okay to cry. You know, even Leaf and I got a little emotional when our boy left home for the first time." He snickered, adjusting his glasses. "I mean, we didn't cry, but that doesn't mean you can't."

Misty sighed in annoyance, pressing a finger to her temple. "I'm not going to cry, Gary," she said shortly. After a pause, she returned her gaze to the path that Skye had run down minutes earlier and she her heart sank just a little. "…It does feel a little sad knowing she's gone, though."

Ash chuckled. "Funny. I was just thinking the same thing," he said, gently ruffling Reid's hair, who looked up at him questioningly.

"It's always sad to see your child go," Delia spoke up, getting the attention of Ash, Misty, and Gary. She paused briefly before looking to her son, smiling softly. "But it's always important to let them chase after their dreams."

Ash and Misty exchanged glances and smiled before looking out to where Skye had left.

Delia closed her eyes before turning to Ash and Misty with a light laugh, putting a hand to her mouth. "Besides, I know that Skylar will be just fine—she has two wonderful parents that she takes after so much," she assured.

Ash and Misty raised their eyebrows in surprise. They both turned their heads to each other and stared for a moment, remembering all they had been through and how far they had come.

The two laughed lightly. "You're right, Mom," Ash agreed, shaking the thought away and looking at Misty with a faint smile. "She'll be all right."

Misty smiled and rubbed Ash's arm. Pikachu gently nuzzled himself against his trainer's cheek and Ash smiled at him. He knew that with Squirtle at her side, Skye would be able to accomplish anything. He looked down the dirt road one more time—the same one he walked down with Pikachu as he left Pallet Town for the first time 25 years earlier. He couldn't help but smile, his chest swelling with pride.

"Good luck, Skye."


April 1st, 2034. Nightfall. Route 1, Kanto.

Skye didn't know exactly where she went wrong. The map must have been wrong. Nothing looked familiar, and with the darkness of the night swallowing the trees, Skye was beginning to feel hopeless.

"We've been off the trail for hours," Skye groaned, rubbing her eye. It was only just past sundown, but she could feel exhaustion catching up to her. Not sleeping the night before was proving to be a bigger mistake than she would have liked.

She rubbed her face with both hands, attempting to push away the weight she felt her eyelids holding. "How did we manage to get this lost?" she grumbled bitterly.

Squirtle looked up at her, tilting his head to the side. "Squirtle?" he questioned before clenching his fists, smiling determinedly. "Squirtle!" He could tell that his trainer was tired, so he pushed her to keep going.

Skye glanced down at him through her fingers before sighing and slowly sliding her hands down her face. "Yeah, you're right," she said as she continued trucking ahead. "I mean, if we keep going straight then we've bound to find Viridian City eventually, right?"

Squirtle smiled and waddled happily behind her, not nearly as tired as she was. She didn't know how, though. They had been walking pretty much all day, and were even attacked by a couple of Pidgey after they had made a sorry attempt of trying to catch a baby one.

They walked in silence for another few minutes until Skye's stomach let out a low growl. She groaned, putting a hand to it. That's right—they hadn't had anything to eat either, considering a wild Rattata stole every last bit of their food supplies while they were being attacked by the Pidgey.

"Man, I'm starving," she groaned. "I'm willing to bet that Mom and Dad are at Grandma's house with Calla and Reid right now having a really awesome dinner…"

She slowly came to a stop, frowning at the ground. It was a common occurrence for her family to go to her Grandmother's house for dinner, many times the Oak family joining in. She was sure that was what they were doing tonight. She wondered what they were eating, what they were talking about. She could imagine her mother scolding her father for eating too fast, while her brother and sister slipped scraps of food to Pikachu. For the first time that day, she started to feel a little homesick.

Squirtle blinked, stopping as well as he looked up at her, tilting his head to the side curiously.

"Ya know," Skye started quietly, "I've wanted to leave home and go on this Pokemon journey for a long time now…" She turned around, looking back in the direction that they came from. "But I've spent my entire life with my family in Pallet Town." Her frown deepened, gripping the straps on her backpack. "I think I'm really gonna miss it."

Squirtle frowned. Though he didn't fully understand, he could tell that this was bothering his new trainer. Wanting to offer some small gesture of comfort, he gently pressed his hand against her leg.

When she felt his touch, Skye raised her eyebrows in surprise, shaking away her thoughts as she looked down at him. "Hm?"

Squirtle stared up at her for a moment before smiling confidently and clenching his firsts in assurance. "Squirtle!"

Skye didn't say anything, simply staring at her small partner. It was clear that he could sense her feelings and was making an attempt at cheering her up. Seeing the determination and understanding in Squirtle's eyes gave Skye the gentle reminder she needed as to why she went on this journey in the first place. It was for her and for her Pokemon. Maybe she was leaving her home behind, but she wasn't alone—she had Squirtle by her side. The two of them were going to make all kinds of new friends and see all kinds of new places.

And when they grew weary from their journey, they would always have Pallet Town to return to.

She sighed with a smile before laughing lightly and rubbing her head. "Yeah, you're right. What am I getting so mopey for anyways?" she asked, looking down at Squirtle. "You and I are gonna have a lot of really cool adventures after all, aren't we?"

"Squirtle! Squirt!" Squirtle affirmed with a confident nod.

She smiled, but before she could say anything else, the two heard a loud rustling coming from the bushes behind them. Skye's head shot up and she and Squirtle quickly turned to the source of the sound.

"What was that?" she asked, furrowing her brows. "A Pokemon?"

Taking a step back, Skye continued to look around the area. The rustling stopped and Skye lost the tension in her shoulders, raising an eyebrow.

"…Guess it was nothing."

Suddenly, a flash of light caught the corner of her eye. Gasping, she quickly spun around to see a pink blur rapidly moving towards them. She stumbled backwards, nearly tripping over Squirtle as it darted straight past them. Skye could have sworn she saw a long, thin, pink tail trailing behind it as it flew up into the trees.

"… O-oh! My Pokedex!" Skye cried as she began to scramble for her new device, pulling it out of her back pocket and turning in the direction it had flown. "I've gotta—!"

She stopped, staring out into trees as she slowly lowered her Pokedex. It was gone.

Inhaling, she shook herself out of it and turned her head to look at Squirtle. "Did you see tha—!"

But when she looked down to where Squirtle had previously stood, she realized that he had wandered on ahead, chasing after the pink light they had just seen. "Hey!" Skye called, picking up the pace to chase after him.

Suddenly, he disappeared into the bushes, only to pop his head out a moment later. "Squirtle!" he called to her eagerly, motioning for her to follow him before he crawled back inside.

Skye's face fell. "Squirtle! Wait! Get back here!" she called as she ran after him, pushing through the bushes until reaching a clearing. She saw Squirtle standing on a path a few feet away, happily pointing forward.

"Squirtle! Squirt! Squirtle!"

Skye blinked. "Huh? What is it…?" she asked, pushing through a few more bushes before stepping onto the path. Her eyes widened and Squirtle looked up at her happily, the lights of Viridian City shining on the horizon.

"Ah…! That's Viridian City!" Skye beamed. "We finally made it!" She laughed, running further up the path to get a better view, Squirtle chasing after her. The city glowed with life against the darkness of the night sky, and Skye took a moment to stare. She had been to Viridian City dozens of times growing up, but somehow it looked different to her now as she stood at the top of the hill.

"Hey, Squirtle," Skye said after a moment, causing her partner to look up at her curiously, "We both saw that thing before, right?"

Squirtle nodded his head fervently. "Squirtle!"

"Well, ever since I was a little kid, my Dad has always told me a story of how he saw a legendary Pokemon fly right over the rainbow on his first day as a Pokemon Trainer," she said, remembering the way her father's eyes would shine while reflecting on the old tale. "He's always said it was one of the coolest moments in his entire journey."

The pages of an old book flipped fuzzily in her mind—a book she had read alongside Briar about a Pokemon long extinct. She pursed her lips into a small smile.

"I think that, maybe just now…" She inhaled, turning to him as her smile grew. "Maybe we saw one, too!"

Squirtle stepped back, surprised at the assumption. "Squirt?"

"Hey, Squirtle—let's make a promise," she said suddenly. Squirtle blinked at the topic change and looked up at Skye.

Skye crouched down to Squirtle's level, smiling. "I've wanted to become a Pokemon Trainer for as long as I can remember," she started, shaking her head. "My Mom and Dad have always been my biggest inspirations. They're amazing trainers who have done all sorts of incredible things for both people and Pokemon."

She closed her eyes and smiled for a moment.

"But, someday..." She furrowed her brows, looking back down at him with a confident smile. "Someday I want to become Champion!" She clenched her fist. "I want to see the world and learn everything I can to become strong enough to challenge the Champion League and take it all! And then after that, I can help and protect Pokemon everywhere! That's my dream."

She took a deep breath, collecting her thoughts. "But I can't do that alone," she added, looking at Squirtle. "Let's make a promise to do it together. Let's promise to travel the world and train our hardest until we make it all the way to the top." She curled her fist, holding it out to Squirtle. "What do you say, teammate?"

Squirtle blinked, staring at her in awe before furrowing his brows and smiling confidently. "Squirtle!" he agreed as he curled his fist and gently bumped it against hers.

"All right! It's a promise, then!" Skye grinned, jumping to her feet. "Let's chase our dream together!" she said, running backwards. Squirtle's face lit up and he quickly began following her lead.

"It's a big world out there, and you and I are gonna see it all!" Skye said enthusiastically. She turned on her heel and began running down the hill with Squirtle trailing right on her heels, Viridian City shining in the distance.

Their dream was only beginning.


And the journey continues!

Thank you for 18 years of adventure. Happy anniversary, Pokemon anime.