Ash: 15 Misty: 16   Brock: 20   Duplica: 15
Jamie: 15   Gary: 16    Jesse and James:    21
Richie: 17  Ashura: 15  Commander Slade Morton: 33

A/N: (Gives a HUGE sigh) Whooo, I'm so glad to finally be done with this stupid chapter! Again, sorry for the wait, but my computer went nuts! Hmm, I find that I'm most creative at night. Who knows, maybe I'm nocturnal. Or maybe I'm just weird. Or maybe I'm a VAMPIRE, MWAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! I VANT TO DRINK YOUR BLOOD! 0_0 Anyhoo, I stayed up all night writing and editing this, so I hope you're happy.

Story Recap: Last time on Ash's Gift Ash got his first taste of blood when he
killed that TR Hunter (gross!!). A very troubled group now walks through the
woods, unaware of the mysterious stranger that follows their every step.
Meanwhile, the Cause agents are on a crash course towards Pallet Town, and when
they get there, things are going to get really ugly...

* * * *

"How did this happen?"

This small question started out as a small cut in Duplica's mind. It soon festered into a swelling sore that threatened to drive her insane. And worse, she didn't know the answer.

"God, how DID THIS HAPPEN!!?" she screamed into the darkness.

"Careful, Duplica. You don't want to blow our cover." a voice that copied Duplica's perfectly replied back to her.

Duplica jerked her head towards her voice and sighed when she realized it was only Ditto. About two years ago Ditto had mastered shape-shifting completely, and its favorite shape to take was none other than Duplica. From her wavy green hair down to her well-toned legs, Ditto was an exact physical copy of the Superior girl.

Duplica loved the fact that Ditto could Transform into a human. It was like having her very own twin sister, who knew pretty much every aspect of her life. They talked and acted like sisters, which may or may not have been a good thing.

Duplica, however, was in no sisterly mood. She took on an annoyed tone. "Where have you been, Ditto? I thought you had gotten lost."

Ditto used the same smirk that Duplica would. "I never get lost. You should know that by now."

It brushed itself off briefly before continuing to chide Duplica. "I was checking the area for any campers or rangers, you know, DOING MY JOB. And what have you been doing all this time, hmmmm? Screaming at the air?"

Duplica's annoyed attitude ascended into an angry one.

"Don't tell me you're still thinking about Aries."

Duplica gave it a glare. "His name is Ash, Ditto. Ashton Satoshi Ketchum! Or have you forgotten already about the boy who helped save you?"

Ditto glared right back. "That was all staged and you know it!" It exclaimed. "And that is not his real name! The very mention of that name will get both you and I a one way ticket in front of a firing squad! Aries is he true name, and he DIDN'T really save me, or have YOU forgotten already?"

It was true. A few years ago Duplica and Ditto had been on an assignment to test Ash' strengths and abilities. They had been posted at Site 42b, or the Imitate House.

Duplica remembered the first time she beat him in a Pokemon match. She wasn't, and still isn't, any amateur herself. The boy gave her quite a match, but her vast knoweledge of Pokemon techniques proved to much for him. At first she was ecstatic about actually beating the Ultimate, yet she had the distinct feeling that he was holding back. Later on she learned that he really was.

She smiled when she remembered Ash back then. That handsome face. Those beautiful chocolate brown eyes. His beloved Pokemon League hat. Then she frowned when she remembered the red head that never seemed to leave his side.

Misty Kasumi Waterflower.

How lucky she was for a human, for anyone, to travel with the Ultimate himself. To wake up every morning and wonder "I wonder what crazy feat Ash will pull today?" It wasn't fair.

She remembered how adamant Ash was about "rescuing" Ditto from its captors. Ash was always a sweet caring guy. Yet she still didn't know how it happened.

She still didn't know how she fell in love with him.

Duplica shuddered at the thought of Ashura ever finding out. Finding out that she was, in fact, in love with another; his brother. God, there would be hell to pay.

She turned to her Pokemon. Ditto's expression softened when it saw tears in its trainer's eyes. "It's not like I haven't stopped loving Ashura." she said, her voice shaking. Duplica hung her head down. "But, I just can't deny my feelings for A --- for Aries."

Ditto rested its hand on its trainer's shoulder. "Duplica, you can't love two people." It cradled the softly sobbing girl in its arms. "And you know Aries is out of the question. You know what their going to do to him once they capture him."

"God, don't remind me." she sniffed.

Ditto wiped the tears from Duplica's face. "You know, you haven't cried in the longest time, Duplica. The last time you did was when ... well ... you know."

As if a dam had broke in the misty orbs that were Duplica's eyes, tears gushed forward like Niagra Falls. She began trembling and sobbing violently. Ditto inwardly smacked itself.

<God, I should have NEVER brought it up again! Nice going Ditto, good job opening up old wounds!!>

Ditto began to comfort the crying girl when its head perked up. It heard footsteps: very light ones, but still footsteps. Duplica forgot about her tears and sprung up into a fighting stance. Ditto followed suit.  

"Who's there!?" she shouted. She looked all around the area about her. She saw nothing, yet she could hear the footsteps coming closer. "Show yourself!"

Her heart dropped to her knees when she heard the horrible sound of an energy weapon being charged.

"Put your hands up NOW, Lekarian." a cold voice commanded. "Tell the Ditto to return into its Pokeball, too."

Duplica was horrified. How did he know that it was a Ditto, her mind screamed. And how could she not see him? Oh God, he must have stealth technology. She slowly raised her hands over her head and bit her lip.

"I know that you're fast, Lekarian, or should I say 'SUPERIOR'." the icy voice continued. "But I'm faster. Try anything funny and I will kill you."

* * * *

"There's the dingbat." Ashura said bluntly as a black sports car screeched to a halt before him. Richie leered at him through the windshield. "God does that smirk of his EVER leave his face? Ugh, and that Pikachu of his, what a little terror!" Sparky jumped up onto the dashboard and made a smug face all his own. He put up one of his front paws and began to what seemed like giving Ashura the finger.

"You little yellow pipsqueak!" Ashura raged. "Why don't you come out here and do that to my FACE!?" Richie began to guffaw loudly from inside the car. Sparky cackled madly and made faces through the glass.

The commander thought to himself. Ashura never WAS a man of patience ... or tolerance. But still, his fighting and training skills more than make up for his angry demeanor. His Psionic prowess was probably the best he had ever seen, besides the traitor Jupiter. Ashura was neither just incredibly strong, like Richie, nor just unimaginably fast, like Duplica. He was both. Ashura could outlift Richie and outrun Duplica, which made him the deadliest (and youngest) warrior in The Cause and Team Rocket. Yes, him and his brother will do great things once Operation: Purity went underway.

Richie, however, was a different story. In all his life, Morton had never seen a person as cruel, ruthless, apathetic, murderous, lustful, and overall evil as Richie. Compared to Richie, Ashura's attitude seemed like that of a church-going choir boy. Even though his Psionic abilities were second-rate, his phsyical strength only rivaled that of Ashura's. Richie was known to level entire towns and villages with his Pikachu, Sparky, who was just as bad as him. In his lifetime, Richie had killed a lot of people and raped a lot of women, preferably human.

Morton shuddered involuntarily. Why a Superior like Richie would lust after Inferior girls was beyond his understanding.

The dirty brown-haired boy stepped out from the black sports car with Sparky on his shoulder. The everpresent smirk on his face was wider than usual. The two turned their heads, grinned at each other, and nodded.

Ashura knew this could only mean one thing. "You did it again, didn't you?" he inquired in an angry tone.

Richie pointed to himself. "Guilty as charged." he said smugly. Sparky snickered.

"And I guess in the throes of 'passion' you forgot to pick up Duplica again, didn't you?"

Richie shrugged in a mock-innocent fashion. "Did I do that? Oh well, I guess she'll have to walk, heh heh heh heh heh."

Ashura was about to put ten sizzling holes in Richie's chest when Morton grabbed his arm, just as it was about to unholster his Phase Disruptor.

"Ashura. Don't. Even. Think about it." he ordered. Meanwhile he himself wanted to seriously hurt Richie. I swear, he thought, one of these days Richie's going to say the WRONG thing, and that will be the end of him. Even though Richie was older, taller, and broader than the seemingly diminuative Ashura, Richie was outmatched. Extremely outmatched: Ashura could annihilate him.

Morton's piercing gaze fell upon Richie. "You shouldn't joke around like that with you Tri leader, Richie." he said quietly, but firmly. "Especially with all that talk of you wanting to make a higher rank. And tell me, just why did you have to make that unscheduled detour to that village and 'relieve' yourself?"

Richie's cocky attitude didn't wane. "I was horny, so I went." he said simply.

Ashura turned to face the commander. "Please," he begged, "let me kill him now, sir."

Morton had had about enough. "Alright, STOP IT, you two! Richie, get back in the car, we're going to pick up Duplica and then head for Pallet. Ashura, holster that gun before I break your arm. We're going, KNOW."

Richie only shrugged and climbed into the driver's seat. Sparky hissed at Morton. Ashura reluctantly trudged into the backseat, following Morton.

As they sped off, Morton wondered to himself how those two could be in the same Tri without one killing the other. Morton just shrugged it off and drifted into a peaceful slumber.

* * * *
Two figures jogged through the woods. One had a Pikachu on his right shoulder and an unconscious red-head cradled his arms, plus a tattered old hat on his head. The other had a big, burly twenty year old man slung over his left shoulder and a floating Abra flanked two right.

Ash marveled at his newfound stamina and strength. Depite carrying a one hundred and twenty pound girl and a Pikachu on his shoulder, plus his backpack and everything else, he hadn't even broken a sweat. He smiled inwardly. Maybe there was advantages to this whole Superior thing.

But one thing kept bothering him. What in the hell did Jamie mean when he said "Your mate needs you"?

"Hey Jamie." Ash finally broke the long silence that had gone between the group.

"Yeah?" Jamie asked, a little more curtly than he meant to.

"What's up with this whole 'mate' stuff? And what do you mean by 'me and Misty are mates?'"

Jamie's glowing eyes blinked. "Geez, how many m's do need in one sentence? Oh that? Simple, you smell like it." he replied, like any idiot should know what he was talking about.

"Chu (huh)?

"Oh, well THAT just clears it up!" Ash said sarcastically. "Clear as mud."

"Look, Ash, to explain it to you would require a whole lotta---WAIT!"

Pikachu gave a loud <PIKA!> as the two teens skidded to a halt.

Jamie jerked his head back and forth. "Hear that?"

Ash listened around. He was amazed by his hearing. It was as if he had cotton balls in his ears his whole life and someone had just plucked them out. He could even hear the heartbeats of everybody around him.

Just then he heard it. The unmistakable sounds of footsteps. They were getting louder.

"Abra, Abra (someones coming!"

Pikachu sniffed at the air. His eyes widened as he picked up the scent. "Pi Pikachu (aw crap)!"

"To protect the world from devestation." a sultry, seductive voice announced.

Ash groaned loudly. Jamie only stood their and boiled in his own anger.

"To unite all peoples within our nation." a suave, masculine voice replied.

Pikachu gave a sudden growl that caused Ash to jump a few feet into the air.

"To denounce the evils of truth and love."

"To extend our reach to the stars above."

"Jessie!" A strawberry red-haired woman somersaulted onto the path before them.

"James!" A bright purple-haired man jumped right next to the woman.

"Team Rocket"- Jamies red eyes flared at the name - "blast off at the speed of light!"

"Surrender now or prepare to fight!"

"Meowth, dat's right!"

"Team Rocket." the two boys seethed.

"Pikachuuuuuu (unmentionable expletive)."

"Dat's right, twoip!" Meowth crowed. "And we're here to steal all o' ya ---AAAAAHHHHHHHHH! Wha ... what happened ta yer eyes!?"

Jesse and James quickly noticed this and screamed loudly. "THE TWIRP AND HIS CREEPY FRIEND ARE VAMPIRES!" she shrieked.

"Save me Jesse!" James cried. "I don't want to have a vampire's pasty complexion!"

"PIKACHUUUUU (SHUT UP)!!!" Pikachu shouted as he jumped into the air gave the trio a massive Thundershock. The attack brought them down, sizzling like home-cooked bacon.

"Chu, Pikachu (Mmmm, extra crispy)." Pikachu said proudly as he landed onto the forest floor.

Meowth wasn't so optimistic about getting fried. "Ugh, does dat rat always hafta do dat?" Meowth growled as he struggled to stand up.

Ash was not amused. "Call it a habit." he replied coldly.

Jesse and James finally managed to peel themselves off the ground. Before Jesse could open her mouth to protest Ash cut her off.

"Look, guys, I'm in no mood for your bullshit, alright?" Ash said, his voice low and deadly. "So far I've been having the worst night of my life. The last thing I need is for you idiots to screw it up worse than it already is." Jamie said nothing, however the trio was becoming nervous under the boy's murderous scrutiny. It reminded them of an angry Noctowl looking at them like they had "Oscar Mayer" printed on their foreheads.

"Idiots!?" James echoed, caught off guard by the twirp sudden change in vocabulary. "What do you mean, 'idiots'? Do you mean to tell us that you don't take us seriously?" James gave his best puppy-dog eyes. Ash wouldn't go for it.

"Well, DUH!!!" Ash exploded, the stress of the situation taking its toll over his behavior. "Of course I don't take you seriously, I NEVER took you seriously, and I never WILL take you seriously!" Ash's breathing became steadily faster as he insulted the trio. "You are the most pathetic, stupid, useless, good-for-nothing bunch of LOSERS I've ever seen! You three have been a thorn in my side for years and I never want to see you again. Now do the me and the rest of the world a favor and go JUMP OFF A DAMN BRIDGE!"

Jesse, James and Meowth looked as if though they had been slapped. Deep down in their hearts they had always considered Ash and the Twirps old friends. After hearing what Ash had finished telling them, however, they really did feel like jumping off a bridge.

Ash was taken aback by his own words. What was going on? He would never say something like that, even to Team Rocket. Insulting people just wasn't his way. So why all of the sudden was it so easy to put someone down like that?

"Hey, guy's I ..." Ash began.

"No, you're right, Twirp." Jesse cut him off, a single tear trickling down her face. "You're absolutely right. We HAVE been a thorn in your side, haven't we, guys?" James and Meowth gave small nods. "Always trying to steal your Pikachu, always ruining your day ... hell, I'd hate myself."

She and her other two teammates turned their backs to Ash. "Let's go now, Jesse, Meowth." James said sullenly. "We will never bother you again."

"Guy's, wait!" Ash cried out.

The tro zipped around with big smiles on their faces. "YES!?"

Ash would've anime fell if he wasn't carrying Misty. "You mean that you weren't really -----OOOHHHH!" Team Rocket grinned playfully. Then their grins disappeared when they saw that the brown haired boy was still glaring malicously at them.

"God, how do I say this ... Jesse, James, Meowth, I need your help."

The team's eyes widened. The twirp barely ever called for their help. It was just unheard of! But when he did, it was usually something of great importance. They smiled triumphantly.

"We're all ears, twoip!" Meowth crowed, giving the peace sign. "Let's hear it!"

As Ash explained the situation to them, neither one of them, not even Abra, knew that a black figure hiding in the darkness of the trees was watching them. Waiting for the perfect moment to go for the kill.