"Ash? Are you ready?"
"Coming," Ash yelled back. He thundered down the stairs, only to double back when he realised he'd forgotten his new cap. Mom shook her head fondly as he made it to the hall.
"Its a good thing the professor seems to be moving even slower than you today."
Ash squinted at the clock. Professor Oak had definitely said ten o'clock, and it was five past now. Not much by Ash's standards, but the professor was different. Well, usually.
"I guess he got distracted," Ash said. "Let's go up and meet him."
It would be nice to say goodbye to his Pokémon before they left for Unova. His mom agreed, and with Pikachu on his shoulder the two of them made their way up the hill. They hadn't got far before Pikachu twitched, and pointed to the plume of smoke rising from behind the lab.
"Oh dear," Mom sighed. "I hope they haven't caused too much of a mess."
Ash was already sprinting for the ranch. He vaulted the low fence without breaking stride, and rounded the building to find Professor Oak standing in front of a smoking crater. Bulbasaur was by his side, vines reached out to restrain the culprits, and Ash groaned.
The two Pokémon jerked round at his shout. Ash skidded to a halt next to the professor and stared at them. "What were you two doing?"
Infernape ducked his head, but Sceptile just folded his arms with a huff. Ash looked round at the signs of battle all around them. "You were training?"
They both nodded, and Ash nodded for Bulbasaur to release them. His old friend leaned in for a pat before shooting a final warning look at his fully evolved friends and waddling off to look for more troublemakers. Infernape bowed his head, and Ash moved over to squeeze his shoulder.
"Hey, there's nothing wrong with training. Just, maybe don't go over the top next time."
Both Infernape and Sceptile frowned at that. Ash scratched his head. "Yeah, I guess you kind of have to if you want to get stronger."
Professor Oak coughed. "If I may, Ash, I think some of your Pokémon could use a trip away from the ranch." He gave a slightly strained smile. "Some of them are getting a little bit restless."
"Yeah, you're right," said Ash. After the excitement of the Sinnoh League, he had been getting kinda bored after a week at home. It had to be even worse for his Pokémon. Pikachu chirped a suggestion, and Ash brightened. "Hey, why don't I bring them to Unova?"
Oak blinked, but Ash had taken a fancy to the idea. "There are those battle club things in Unova, right? That would be the perfect place to burn off some steam!" Sceptile hummed, and Ash grinned. "And there's a League there too!"
He'd been itching for a new challenge, and it would be cool to try the Gyms in Unova. Oak frowned. "There is, but I thought you preferred to catch new Pokémon when you travel to a new region?"
"I do," said Ash with a nod. "And I will, but it'd be nice to show these guys Unova too." Both Sceptile and Infernape nodded agreement. Ash smiled at them. "And when I was Sinnoh, it kind of felt like I'd been neglecting everyone else."
It hadn't been until he was training for the Sinnoh League that he realised how little he had used some of his Pokémon over the last couple of years. Nearly all of them had learned moves that he'd never taught them, but more importantly it had been clear when he spoke to them how much they had missed him. Ash didn't want any of his Pokémon to feel like that.
Sceptile shook his head firmly, and Ash didn't need a talking Meowth to translate what he said. "I'm glad you didn't feel that way, Sceptile, but I still should be working with all of you more often." He sighed when Sceptile's frown deepened. "C'mon, you can't tell me you don't want to battle more."
Sceptile glanced round at the impromptu battlefield and shrugged. Professor Oak sighed. "You've been doing your best, Ash. It's perfectly natural to want to focus on your new Pokémon."
"I know, but I could have rotated them a bit more or something." He blinked. "Actually, having them around would be a great way to help train the new Pokémon I catch."
Teaching Energy Ball to Turtwig might have been a lot easier if Sceptile had been around to teach him Bullet Seed first. Ash could think of a dozen other ways his Pokémon could have helped each other. Maybe he should ask Snorlax and Muk to help work out a good strategy for Torterra...
"Over here, Mom!" Ash called. He shook himself; he could work out a plan for Torterra later. Mom joined them and stared at the destruction for a minute, before shaking her head.
"Only your Pokémon, Ash. Is everything all right?"
"It will be," said Oak dryly. "Exeggutor knows Grassy Terrain. So does your Bayleef now, by the way."
Ash grinned. "Thanks." He turned to his mom. "I'm taking some of my Pokémon to Unova!"
Mom smiled at him, and gave Infernape and Sceptile a scratch each. "That sounds like a wonderful idea. Will you be able to transfer Pokémon all the way from Unova though?"
Ash didn't know, but Oak nodded. "We might have to go via Professor Juniper's system first, but I'm sure it won't be a problem. We were meant to be visiting her anyway." He glanced at his watch and winced. "Oh dear, I completely forgot the time." He started towards the lab, then paused. "Ash, you've got five minutes to decide who you want to take, and then we really have to go."
Ash gulped. Five minutes? That wasn't nearly enough! He shook himself and looked at Infernape and Sceptile.
"Okay, do you two wanna come?"
They did. Ash rubbed his chin. "I think I'll take Gible," he said, after a moment's thought. "He was the last one I caught in Sinnoh, and I didn't get to work with him much before the League."
Infernape nodded approvingly, and growled something that sounded like what he used for Piplup's name. Ash laughed. "Yeah, we might even master Draco Meteor in Unova! Now, who else?"
"What about Glalie?" Mom suggested. "You never did end up using him at the Lily of the Valley Conference."
Ash hesitated. Not using Glalie against Conway had been the right call, but it meant the Ice-type did deserve a good adventure. Something in him rebelled against the idea of taking too many Pokémon over though, and he found himself hesitating.
Mom squeezed his shoulder. "Remember, you don't have to take more. You can transfer Pokémon whenever you want after all. Besides, you'll be catching new Pokémon when you get there, won't you?"
Ash nodded, feeling much happier. Having two spaces gave him some options, and he would be swapping Sceptile, Infernape, and Gible out before too long. A wide grin spread across his face. A new region, with new Pokémon and a new Gym Challenge, all with old friends at his side. He couldn't wait to get started.
Ash had come to Unova looking for adventure. He expected new Pokémon and people, maybe an enemy or a rival or two. Legendary Pokémon had not been on the list.
Not that Ash knew for sure that what he had seen was a Legendary Pokémon, but he had met enough of them to know when he was around something special. Of course, he didn't normally run into them within ten minutes of setting foot in a new region. Nor did their meetings usually end with his best friend being caught in some crazy electrical storm and losing control of his electricity.
Ash found it hard to concentrate as Professors Juniper and Oak ran their tests. Pikachu being hurt was bad enough, but Team Rocket was here too and they looked like they had been training hard. Ash would almost be impressed by their persistence in following him halfway round the world if they weren't so annoying.
The Pokéballs on Ash's belt rocked, and he took a deep breath. He had three of his strongest Pokémon with him, and they had all beaten Team Rocket more times than he could count. He turned back to Pikachu in time to catch the last of Professor Juniper's evaluation.
"-kind of electrical storm, but I see no evidence of any problems."
Ash brightened. "So Pikachu must be fine! That's awesome. You're okay, buddy."
Pikachu started leaped for his shoulder with a delighted squeak, only to fall back when Juniper asked him to stay a bit longer. Ash moved to reassure his friend, but the mention of new trainers and starter Pokémon caught his attention. The Unovan Pokémon he'd seen so far had been awesome, and starters were always some of the coolest. Mom caught his eye and smiled.
"Why don't you go and see? Don't worry, I'll stay here with Pikachu."
Still Ash hesitated. "Pikachu, do you mind?"
Pikachu was already leaning into Mom's scratches, and waved a paw. Ash smiled. "Okay, I'll be back."
Half a minute after meeting Trip, Ash was beginning to wish he had stayed with Pikachu. He could deal with unfriendliness, but insulting him just because of where he was from? What was so bad about Pallet Town and Kanto anyway? Infernape's Pokéball rocked, but Ash placed a hand on it. Trip was a bit of a jerk, but Ash could handle him.
Unfortunately, he was so preoccupied with calming Infernape that he wasn't in time to stop another Pokéball from bursting open.
"Where did you get a Gible? That's not a Kanto Pokémon."
"No," Ash agreed. "I got him when I was travelling in Sinnoh last year."
"Oh, I remember," said Juniper. "You used him in the Lily of the Valley Tournament, didn't you? I thought I recognised him from the semifinals."
Trip was so busy gaping that he missed the wink she sent Ash. "Wait. You got to the semifinals of the Sinnoh League Conference."
Ash nodded. "Yep. That was a good battle." It would have been better if he had beaten more than two Pokémon, but those two were Legendaries. He was past it. Really.
Trip continued to stare, until Gible butted his ankle. "Hey!"
"C'mon, Gible, back here," Ash said. Some of his Pokémon got worked up as easily as he did. "Sorry, he's always a bit enthusiastic."
Gible didn't look sorry in the slightest, but allowed himself to be returned without any fuss. Trip continued to stare, and Ash grinned brightly back. Trip was no Paul, and Ash was no good at holding a grudge. He hadn't had the best first meeting with Misty, after all, and look how they had ended up.
Professor Juniper coughed.
"Now then, Trip, are you ready to meet your partner?"
Trip shook himself and turned to her. "Yes, Professor."
Ash watched in fascination as the three starters were revealed. Tepig was tough and Oshawott was adorable, and Ash wasn't surprised when Trip opted for the cool and collected Snivy. Professor Juniper handed Trip his Pokédex and Pokéballs, and the young trainer left without a backward glance. Ash was watching him go, torn between going after him and waiting for Pikachu, when Juniper tapped his shoulder.
"He won't be in town long, you know. That boy isn't one to sit still."
Ash hesitated, then grinned. "Thanks, Professor."
Catching up to Trip was easy. The other teen had a scowl on his face when he turned, but Ash ignored that. "Hey, Trip. Are you going to be challenging the Gyms?"
"Of course," Trip scoffed. "That's basic."
Ash forced himself to ignore that too. "Me too. Maybe I'll get to battle you at the League."
Trip opened his mouth, but whatever he was about to say was cut off by an excited Pikachu. Ash scooped his partner up with a delighted laugh. "Hey, buddy! You okay now?" Pikachu nodded, cheeks sparking happily. Ash hugged him close. "Good. I was worried."
"What is that?"
Ash turned to find Trip holding his Pokédex. "This is Pikachu. He was my very first Pokémon."
Trip glared at him. "You have a Pikachu and a Gible? How many Pokémon do you have?"
"A lot," Ash admitted. "I only brought four with me though, I want to catch more over here." A thought struck him and he grinned. "Y'know, the best way to meet a new Pokémon is in a battle."
Trip's eyes narrowed, then he gave a curt nod. "Fine." He took his only Pokéball. "Snivy, go."
The little Grass-type materialised in a flash of light, and stretched itself out. Ash was on the verge of sending Pikachu out when he remembered he was supposed to be giving his other Pokémon more of a turn.
"Gible, I choose you!"
Gible appeared with a shark-like grin. Trip frowned. "I thought you'd use that Pikachu."
"Gible is my newest Pokémon," Ash explained. "Pikachu has been travelling with me for years, Gible needs the practice more." Pikachu grumbled something, and Ash gave him a reassuring pat. "Don't worry, you'll get loads of good battles, just not now."
"Hey, are you ready yet?"
Gible growled. Ash just grinned. "You bet. Let's go!"
"Huh. Snivy, Tackle."
"Dig!" Ash called, and Gible vanished underground. Snivy skidded across to a halt and glanced round at Trip, who frowned.
"Careful. He'll come up soon."
Snivy nodded, but was still sent flying when Gible burst up from underneath. The Grass-type recovered quickly but she was breathing hard and Trip's hands clenched into fists. "Use Leaf Tornado."
"Lead Tornado?" Ash asked, but shook himself. Sceptile could investigate later. "Block it with Dragon Pulse!"
He watched the results with interest, and grinned when the draconic energy vaporised the swirling leaves. This looked like it would be a good one to work out Counter Shield with. For now though, they had a battle to win.
"Gible, use Rock Smash!"
"Dodge it," Trip yelled, and Snivy sped to the side with impressive speed. "Use Leaf Tornado again."
"Dig," Ash responded.
"Is that all you know how to do?" Trip sneered. "Run and hide?"
Ash glared at him. "We'll show you what we can do. Rock Smash!"
Once again, Snivy wasn't experienced enough to dodge the underground assault. Snivy was sent flying through the air, and hit the ground with a thud that had Ash wincing. Gible glanced back and Ash held up a hand. Snivy tried to rise, only to fall back with a pained grunt. Ash watched it for a moment, then glanced at Trip.
"Snivy can't battle any more, but that was a lot of fun. Your Snivy is really strong."
Trip said nothing as he returned Snivy. Ash eyed him. The last thing anyone needed was another Paul. Trip stared at the Pokéball for a moment, then his scowl relaxed ever so slightly. "He did well, and he'll get even stronger. I want to battle Gible again when we do."
Ash smiled at him. "Sounds good to me." Gible growled agreement, and Ash crouched to give him a scratch. "Gible enjoyed himself."
Trip nodded and set the 'ball back on his belt. "I'll see you around."
Ash watched him head back into Nuvema Town with a smile. Pikachu chirped in his ear, and Ash reached up to pet him. "Yeah, I can't wait for the rematch either."
This felt like the start of a good rivalry. At least Trip didn't tell his Pokémon off for losing. Pikachu nodded and hopped off Ash's shoulder while Ash focused on Gible. "You were great, you know. We'll work on Draco Meteor when we can, and how do you feel about learning how to do Counter Shield with Dragon Pulse."
Gible nodded vigorously, and Ash had to smile at his enthusiasm.
Ash spun round so fast he almost fell over. He'd never heard Pikachu sound that worried outside of a life-threatening situation. "Pikachu? What's up, buddy?"
He saw the problem as soon as the question left his lips. Pikachu's cheeks were sparking furiously but in a way that was very very wrong, and Ash swallowed. "There's something wrong with your electricity? Can you do a Thunderbolt for me?"
Pikachu hesitated, but screwed up his face. Sparks sputtered from his cheeks, then abruptly fizzled out. He tried again, to the same results, and Ash bit his lip hard.
"C'mon, lets get back to the professors."
Something was wrong with Pikachu, and Ash was going to find out what.
Another round of tests, and another freak lightning storm later, Pikachu was back to normal. Kind of.
The attack landed, but Sceptile barely flinched. Ash scratched his head. "Yep, it's definitely weaker than it used to be."
Sceptile was the safest to practice on with his resistance, and how used to Pikachu he was, but he normally felt it more than that. Pikachu's ears flattened, and Ash picked him up. "It'll be okay, Pikachu. We'll keep training, and you'll be back to normal in no time."
Sceptile and the others made various noises of encouragement, and Pikachu finally gave a small smile when Gible started chewing on Ash's trouser leg. Sceptile rolled his eyes, and Infernape picked the little Dragon-type up and shifted him in the direction of the battlefield. Ash took a breath. He would be starting on his Unova journey in the morning. That gave him a few more hours to work with Pikachu before they had to get some sleep.
In the meantime, he wanted Infernape to help Gible get started on Counter Shield. He was just opening his mouth when Sceptile suddenly cocked his head to one side. Ash frowned at him, but remained silent when his friend held up a hand. Silently Sceptile padded over to a nearby tree, then his hand flashed out and he pulled a struggling Oshawott into sight. Ash blinked.
"Wait, are you the Oshawott from the lab?"
The way the little Water-type beamed at him immediately confirmed his guess. Ash smiled and knelt down to pet him. "What are you doing out here?"
Oshawott kicked at the ground shyly. Unable to resist, Ash sat down next to him. "You really are a cute one. We should probably let Professor Juniper know where you are though."
Oshawott pouted. Sceptile raised an amused eyebrow at Ash, while Pikachu nudged him pointedly in the ribs. Ash hesitated, but it couldn't hurt to ask. "Or did you want to come with me - Oof!"
Oshawott had thrown himself into Ash's chest with a delighted squeak. Ash hugged him. "Okay, okay, I'll talk to the professor."
He didn't want to get Oshawott's hopes up, he was meant to be going to a beginner trainer after all, but Ash had a good feeling about this.
Sure enough, Juniper just smiled when Ash explained the situation.
"I thought he took a shine to you. Well, he clearly wants to go with you, and if you're happy then I'm happy to let him go."
"Awesome!" Ash cheered. "Thanks, Professor."
Oshawott was doing a happy dance with a slightly bemused Pikachu and Gible. Ash watched them with a smile as he accepted Oshawott's Pokéball from Juniper. Oshawott was young but he was enthusiastic and that was the most important part. If all the Pokémon he caught in this region were as passionate then this was going to be great.
The next day dawned bright and clear. Despite having stayed up for probably longer than he should have getting to know Oshawott, Ash was awake even before his mom. Gible grumbled a little at the early start, but Oshawott was raring to go. He even tried to climb onto Ash's shoulder, until Pikachu finally lost his patience. By the time Ash settled the ensuing squabble everyone else was awake and it was time to go.
"And you've got your Pokédex? And spare Pokéballs?"
"Yes, Mom," said Ash patiently. He was itching to get going, but he knew his mom would miss him while he was away. He would miss her too. "I'll be fine."
Mom smiled and straightened his cap. "I know, but be careful. You're all ready to go."
Professor Oak cleared his throat. "Actually, Ash, I had a favour to ask."
"Sure," said Ash. "What do you need?"
Oak nodded to Juniper. "Actually, I should say we need a favour. You see, Ash, Professor Juniper and I have been developing a way to transfer Pokémon back and forth while the trainer is in the field."
Ash brightened. "That sounds awesome!"
Not having to wait until he got to a Pokémon Centre would make it much easier to spend time with all of his Pokémon. Juniper nodded. "You're still limited to having six Pokémon in your party, but it could still benefit a lot of trainers. We've got a prototype working, but we would really like to test how it works in the field before we announce it to the general public."
Oak coughed. "I was originally planning on asking Gary, but he's busy with his research, and now that you've decided to start rotating out the Pokémon that you have at my lab-"
"That would be perfect!" Ash agreed. "I'd love to test it for you."
Pikachu leaned down to study the blue watch-like device that Juniper handed him, and Ash buckled it on. "It's perfectly safe, but it might not work in remote areas, or underground, so be careful. And of course it's got all the normal communication features of an Xtransceiver."
"So you've got no excuse for not keeping in touch," said Mom mock-sternly.
Ash grinned. "Got it. Thanks, Professor."
"My pleasure, Ash. I hope you get some good use out of it."
Ash hefted his backpack. "I will. See you all soon!"
"Take care, Ash, and good luck!"
Ash waved, and then set his eyes on the road ahead. Striaton City was just up ahead, and it had been way too long since Ash last had a good Gym battle. He'd barely reached the trees though before one of his Pokéballs burst open. Ash blinked.
"Oshawott? You okay?"
His newest Pokémon beamed up at him, and Ash got it. "Sure, you can stay out of you want."
Taking that as blanket permission, Gible and Sceptile also released themselves. Sceptile nodded to Ash and launched himself up into the trees to explore. Ash glanced down at his belt. "Infernape?"
Infernape appeared a second later. He caught Gible out of mid-air before the dragon could latch onto Ash's head, and only sighed when Gible bit down on his arm instead. Oshawott giggled, and Ash shook his head. "Come on, guys. It's a long way to Striaton City."
Oshawott gave a questioning squeak. "You know about the Gyms, right?" Oshawott nodded, and pointed to himself. "Yeah, you can definitely do the first one! We'll do some training when we stop later."
The Water-type beamed at him. Gible squinted up, and Ash nodded. "Yeah, you too. This'll be your first one as well." He glanced at Infernape. "I probably won't be using you or Sceptile for Gyms, but I bet there'll be a good challenge at the Battle Club."
Infernape shook his head, a small smile on his face. He fell into step with Ash as they made their way down the forest path, but suddenly dropped into a combat stance when some nearby bushes rustled.
"Infernape, what-" Ash began, but he was interrupted by a squeal.
"Look! A Gible!"
Ash watched in astonishment as a girl around his age launched herself at Gible. She caught him up in a hug and started pinching his cheeks. "Ooh, aren't you the cutest thing?"
Gible promptly started chewing on her hair, which only made her giggle. "Oh, be careful of Axew!"
Ash could only stare as a small green dragon poked out of her hair. It made a plaintive noise and scrambled into the girl's arms, and Ash finally shook himself. "Er, who are you?"
The girl blinked at him. "I'm Iris, and this is Axew. Is this your Gible?" Her eyes widened. "And you have a Pikachu and an Infernape too?"
The awe in her voice was more than enough to soothe any ruffled feathers. "Yeah, and Sceptile is around somewhere too. I'm Ash Ketchum, from Pallet Town in Kanto."
"Nice to meet you," said Iris. "You have really cool and cute Pokémon."
She reached up to give Pikachu a scratch, and the Electric-type gave a contented croon. Oshawott folded his arms, and Iris crouched next to him. "Oh, and you're a cutie too!"
Oshawott preened, and Ash smiled. "They're all great friends. Is Axew your partner?"
"Yep," said Iris, with a nod. "He hatched a little while ago, and I'm raising him."
Ash's eyebrows shot up. "He's a Dragon-type, isn't he? That's so cool!"
"Dragons are the best," Iris agreed. "Just like your Gible. What other Pokémon do you have?"
"Lots," Ash admitted. "I travelled around battling all the Gyms in Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, and Sinnoh before, and I caught great Pokémon on each journey. But I wanted a new challenge, so we're doing the Unova Gym Challenge now."
Iris shot him an appraising look. "I see. Are you any good?"
Pikachu and Infernape both drew themselves up, and Ash reached out to stroke them both. "I made it to the semi-finals of the Lily of the Valley Conference, what do you think?"
Iris blinked, then her smile turned slightly sheepish. "Yeah, that is good." She looked at Axew and Gible, who had finally let go of her hair and her brazen confidence seemed to falter. Pikachu nudged Ash, who coughed.
"Hey, is everything okay?"
Iris hesitated, but another look at the two dragons seemed to decide her. "You've had a lot of experience training different types of Pokémon then?"
"I guess," said Ash. "I got Sceptile and Infernape as a Treecko and Chimchar, and now they're two of my strongest Pokémon. I've used all my Pokémon in Gym or League battles so they've had a lot of practice battling."
Iris nodded slowly. Ash watched her. "Why? Is there something I can help with?"
"Maybe," said Iris quietly. She took a deep breath. "You see, Axew really wants to evolve into a Haxorus one day. He wants to get stronger, but we're having trouble mastering any good Dragon moves."
Ash winced. "I know the feeling. It took us ages to get Draco Meteor right." He looked at Pikachu and Infernape, who both nodded, and smiled at Iris. "But I bet if we work together we'll have Axew getting stronger in no time!"
Iris stared at him. "You mean that? But why would you help me?"
Pikachu chirped, and Ash smiled. "Why not?" He held out a hand. "How about it? Want to train with us for a while?"
Iris stared at him for a moment, then exchanged a long look with Axew. The little dragon gave a toothy grin and waddled over to play with Gible, and Iris finally relaxed. She grinned at Ash as she shook his hand. "We're in. I hope you're as good as you seem to be."
Ash grinned. "You bet I am. But do you mind if we train on the move? See, I'm heading to Striaton City, and I want to have a Gym battle as soon as possible."
Iris cocked her head to one side. "It's a few days to Striaton City. I guess we could travel with you for a bit. As long as you don't slow me down," she added with a wink.
Ash laughed, and Iris soon joined in. Travelling was much more fun with a friend. After everything he'd seen and done after just a day in Unova, Ash couldn't wait to see what lay in store.
Thanks for reading! Any feedback would be appreciated.
A few notes, this is one of many fics that I'm using to distract myself from everything that's going on, and so updates are going to be irregular at best. I work in healthcare and we're a little bit stretched at the moment, so please bear with me.
Also, this fic is mostly planned out, but I'm still undecided as to the fates of some of Ash's canon Unova Pokémon. He will definitely be getting Tepig and Snivy, but I'm still thinking about everyone else. Most of his Pokémon didn't get much development in canon, and I'm trying to avoid that.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this start. You can find me on tumblr for more fanfic related stuff.