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TITLE

CHARACTERS IN THIS FIC...
Tracey Sketcher: Everybody's favourite Pokémon watcher! In this story, he's fifteen, and his hometown is Shiroi Island. He has a mum, a dad, a twin sister, and three Pokémon (Marril, Scyther and Venonat.) He travels with Ash so that he may have the chance to meet his hero, Professor Oak.
Ashton Ketchum: Twelve year old Pokémon trainer. Ash's origins are in Pallet Town, where Professor Oak lives. Ash's only relative (that we know of) is his mother. Ash had many Pokémon but his favourite is Pikachu, who travels around on Ash's shoulder rather than in its Pokeball.
Misty Waterflower: A water Pokémon trainer, twelve years old. She was born in Cerulean City, where her sisters live. her parents whereabouts are unknown at this point in time. She travels around with Ash because he broke her bike and she wants him to pay her back (at least, that's what she's telling everybody.We all know she's really got a massive crush on Ash, it's sooooo obvious.) She is the owner of one of the few baby Togepi in the world and she loves it very much.
Jessie: A member of Team Rocket, seventeen years of age, who for her own reasons decides to help Ash and Misty in this fic, but you'll see why another time. She's got a short temper, but she's smarter than she looks, which why she is underestimated most of the time.
James: Jessie's eighteen year old team mate. He's a lot quiter than Jessie, and a lot more patient. He may act stupid/evil sometimes but there's a nice streak in him that makes up for it.
Meowth: The cunning Pokémon Team Rocket member. There's really not a lot to say about Meowth, except that he's irritating.
Keller Sketcher: Tracey's dad. You'll learn about him later.
Katie Sketcher: Tracey's mother. You'll learn about her later.
Tessa Sketcher: Tracey's twin sister. Yeah, you'll learn about her later too.
THE POLICE OFFICERS
There's a lot of Officer Jennies in this fic, so it gets kind of confusing. Here's a guide to them.
Jenny: She's only twenty-two years old, but she the Chief of the Shiroi island police Squad because she's such a good cop.And plus, the police squad for Shiroi Island is really small and only has like, four cops. She's a good friend of Tracey's, but has doubts about helping him out. She dislikes Tracey's father a lot. Often she has to be the calming influence on her short tempered, excitable younger sister.
Young Jen: "Young Jen" is the fifteen year old sister of Jenny. She's a cadet-in-training so that one day, SHE can be the chief of police. Headstrong, short tempered, and fiercely loyal, she cares very deeply for Tracey, but she wouldn't admit it. At any time, she will be ready to defend or help out her friends.
C.O. Jenny: The strict head-of-police in Scarlette City. It's mainly her fault that Tracey gets in trouble.

 

Epilogue…
In a three-story house in a medium sized town on a small island off the coast of the Beige State, the telephone rang. A tall, burly, middle-aged dark haired man walked into his study where the phone was ringing and answered it.
"This is Keller Sketcher," he said in a deep voice. "Who is speaking?"
"This is Officer Jenny, Mr. Sketcher," said a woman's voice from the other line.
"Oh…er…which one?"
The woman sighed. "This town's, Mr. Sketcher."
"Oh, good!" Keller Sketcher said. He lowered his voice slightly. "Are you calling about…"
"Yes, Mr. Sketcher. There is still no news on your son."
"Dammit!" Keller bought his big fist down onto the table.
"Please stay calm, Mr. Sketcher."
"Stay calm? This is my SON we're talking about! I want him returned to me!"
"We have notified every Police Captain in the world, nearly. Photos of your son have been sent put to every city in the world. Your son will be found."
"When why is it taking so damn long?" roared Keller down the phone. "It's been seven months since he went missing."
"Mr. Sketcher," said Officer Jenny politely but firmly, "Perhaps you should consider the option of letting him go-"
Keller cut her off before she could finish her sentence. "NO! Bring him home! Do all that you can, do whatever you have to, to get Tracey back here!" And with that, he slammed the phone down.
In the police station, Officer Jenny gave the receiver in her hand a dirty look and placed it back in its cradle.
With a sigh, she leaned back in her chair and wondered, not for the first time, if deceiving Keller Sketcher was right. Jenny leaned forward, pulled open her desk drawer and took out two items; a photo, and a letter.
The photograph was of Tracey "Kenji" Sketcher and her younger sister. Before he had run away from home, Tracey and her sister had been the best of friends. Officer Jenny let another sigh escape her throat. She couldn't blame him for running away. His father was he local Gym leader. Secretly, she and her sister called him "The Tyrant". He was a bossy, domineering, selfish man. He had always been at Tracey to take over the Gym, even though his sister was more than willing. Officer jenny frowned to herself. Keller Sketcher was a male chauvinist pig, too.
The letter was from Tracey himself. Asking her to do him a favour…a very big favour. Officer Jenny shook her head.
"Jenny!" she called. From the next room came a younger version of herself. Her fifteen year old younger sister, Jenny. They were exactly alike, right down to the frizzy blue fringe and brown eyes.
"Yes, sis?' she asked.
"Jenny," said Officer Jenny, "I've been thinking, this thing about Tracey…"
Young Jenny's face immediately assumed a pained expression.
"Oh, please Jenny," she said, "Don't tell me you're thinking of turning him in."
"Well, I've always had my doubts about this plan."
"Jenny!" cried young Jenny, "This is not a "plan"…this is just a way of helping out a friend."
"Yes, but…look," said Officer Jenny, massaging her temples with her fingers, "I'm not meant to be doing this. Things are only going to turn out for the worse, little sister, and by helping him hide, I can't help but think it's our fault."
"Bull-twang," retorted her sister. "Tracey asked you to do this Jenny. This is a favour from one friend to another, that's all."
"It would be like that IF I wasn't who I am!" Officer Jenny said, standing up. "I'm a Police Officer, and you're a cadet-in-training. It's our job to uphold the law, and…frankly, I don't know if helping Tracey hide is legal."
"Legal?" repeated young Jenny, "It's legal enough in my eyes! You should see how his dad used to treat poor Tracey, all because he didn't want to take over the Gym…"
"I know well enough how Tracey was treated," said Officer Jenny grimly. Too well she remembered the day before Tracey had run away from home. The yells that came from his house, the look of pain in his eyes, the ugly purple bruise on his face…she of all people knew that Keller Sketcher was not one to control his temper, but not even she could've guessed that he would take it out on his son. She knew that Tracey had not "run into a wall" as he said.
That was when he first came up with the idea of running away. But he had anticipated that his dad would try to track him down. "All you have to do," he had said, "Is make sure none of the Officer Jennies ever try to turn me in. I want you to do this for me as a favour. Please?" he had added, his eyes bright. "I have to get out of here, Jenny, you don't know what it's like…" Encouraged by Young Jenny, she had agreed to tell all the Officer Jennies not to turn Tracey Sketcher in. Every time Tracey was moving on to another town, she would contact the Chief Officer Jenny of that town and tell them not to get Tracey Sketcher.
A simple enough plan…she had called in every favour she was owed, made heaps of promises, explained Tracey's story dozens of times…it was going along flawlessly.
"How long ago did Tracey last tell us where he was going?" asked Officer Jenny.
"He hasn't rung for a week…" Young Jenny looked glum. "I hope he's okay. He's always talking about his new friends…um…Ash and some girl…I forget her name."
Officer Jenny smiled at the jealous look on her younger sister's face.
"Misty,' she said softly.
"Yeah, Misty," agreed Jenny, "Apparently she's a water Pokemon trainer." She gave a derisive snort. "Big screaming deal."
Officer Jenny smiled again. "Don't worry Little sister, Tracey's not forgotten you. Who could?"
"I never said I was worried he would forget me!" Young Jenny said hotly, "I just wish he'd call, that's all. What if someone's caught him?"
"I'm sure we'd have heard something…" Officer Jenny said. But she felt troubled all the same. She had a deep sense of foreboding about the plan, and couldn't help thinking that things were going to turn out for the worse.

CHAPTER ONE: There's Something About Tracey…
And now we take a look at Tracey himself. He had spent the last week in Sanguine City. It had two Gyms of its own, and was so large that he, Ash and Misty had spent the past whole week there.
Ash woke up on the floor of the Pokemon Center, where they had been staying, and stretched. Misty was already awake and feeding Togepi something green and mushy. She smiled at him.
"It's about time, sleepyhead."
"Sleepyhead?" yawned Ash. "What's the time?"
"It's eleven thirty," said Misty.
Ash stopped in mid-yawn and stared at her. She nodded.
"Eleven thirty?" he repeated, "Woah, I've slept in too late!"
Misty laughed. "It's been a big week, Ash. I didn't want to wake you up because you stayed up so late last night at that street festival…"
Ash returned her smile and rubbed a hand through his spiky black hair. "Where's Tracey?" he asked, noticing the third member of their trio wasn't there.
"He went for a walk earlier this morning," said Misty.
"Well then, where's Pikachu?"
Misty stopped feeding Togepi, a puzzled expression on her face. "Hmm. I don't know."
Ash stood up in his sleeping bag. 'What do you mean you don't know?"
"Well, it was here a second ago…"
"It was here a second ago, but where is it now?"
"Pikapi! Pikachu!" said Pikachu, skidding into the room at that moment. His little paws padded across the carpeted floor as he ran towards ash and jumped into his arms.
"Pikachu!" Ash laughed, "For a second there I thought Team Rocket had got you!"
"Pikachu pika!"
"Yeah, never in a million years!"
"So where were you Pikachu?" asked Misty.
"Pikachu pika pikachu pi!"
"Looking for Tracey, huh? And did you find him?" asked Ash.
"Pika pi!"
"Oh, you did, did you? Where was he?"
"Pikachu, pika pi. Pikachu pikachu kachu, pi pikachu pik chu pikapi,"
Ash frowned at what Pikachu had said.
"What?" said Misty.
"That is weird…" muttered Ash.
"What?" said Misty. Ash turned to face her.
"Pikachu says that Tracey went into the Police Station."
"The Police Station? But why?"
"I don't know, but Pikachu says he was talking to an officer jenny."
Misty frowned. "That's strange."
Ash bunny hopped in his sleeping bag towards the door. Misty raised her eyebrows curiously.
"What are you doing?' asked Misty.
"I'm going to look for Tracey."
"Um, yeah, but it might be an idea to get out of your pajamas first." said Misty
Ash looked down at himself and blushed.
"Err, oh yeah…"
***
A little while later, when Ash was fully dressed, he, Pikachu, Misty and Togepi went out on foot searching for the police station.
After about ten minutes Ash spotted an Officer Jenny.
"Let's ask her!" he said, running towards the policewoman, who was strolling down the street. She raised her eyebrows questioningly as two children came running towards her.
"'Scuse me, Officer," said Ash as reached her, "Can you tell us where the police station is?"
"The police Station?" said the Officer, "What do you two kids want to go to the Station for?'
"Our friend is there," said Ash. The Officer pursed her lips. Maybe these two kids were friends with an Officer, or perhaps even someone who had been arrested. Either way she couldn't refuse them.
"Okay kids, come this way."
She led them to the station, where they finally found Tracey. He was sitting behind the desk, talking to an Officer. He looked surprised to see them. But not as surprised as the Jenny who'd escorted ash and Misty to the station.
"Hey I know you! You're Tracey Sketcher!" she at the same time as Tracey said, "Ash, Misty, what are you doing here?"
"Huh?' said Ash, looking confused.
"Never mind, you guys," said Tracey, blushing slightly.
"You're the kid who we were told not to han-" the Officer Jenny was interrupted by Tracey.
"Yes, yes I am, but I was just visiting an old Officer Jenny friend of mine, but now I'm going." He seemed flustered, and embarrassed. He grabbed Ash's arm with one hand and Misty's arm with the other and pulled them out of the station.
"You shouldn't have come," he growled to both of them.
"We just wanted to find you, Trace," said Ash apologetically, a little shocked at his friend's angry tone.
"Why?' asked Tracey.
"Well, I just wanted to know where you were…" explained ash. Tracey stopped dragging the tow of them down the street and glared at Ash.
"Sometimes, Ash, you've just got to mind your own business. Okay?" Tracey snapped.
If it were anyone else, Ash would have got angry with him or her. But it was Tracey. Ash held a lot of respect for Tracey. So he complied easily. Ash nodded and said quietly, "Okay, Tracey."
Misty however, was less than impressed by Tracey's display.
"Hey Tracey!" she said angrily, catching him by the shoulder. "He was concerned about you! No need to bite his head off!"
Tracey didn't look angry anymore, but he was looking at Misty with a strange look on his face. Misty ignored the look.
"I want you to apologize to Ash right now," she said, "It's not everyone who finds a friend who'll be so worried about them."
Tracey sighed, not being the stubborn type. "You're right. I'm sorry Ash,"
"That's okay," said Ash, looking confused between the uncharacteristic display of anger from Tracey, and the uncharacteristic display of loyalty from Misty.
Misty nodded in satisfaction. "Good. And now, I think we should go back to the Pokemon Center, and pack up our things, because we've stayed here too long."
"I agree," said Tracey. "Where to next Ash?"
"Well," said Ash, looking excited, 'I heard about this place which is just through the forest, it's called Scartletté Town. The Gym leader there uses fire Pokemon, and I really want to train Squirtle some more. I think if it beat some fire Pokemon it would help it get ready to evolve…"
"If you say so, Ash," said Tracey. "But right now, I have to make a phone call…"

CHAPTER TWO: The Mysterious Pokemon Watcher
In the Police Station on that same island off the coast of the Beige State on which our story first started, the telephone shrilled.
'I'll get it!" said young Jenny. She hoped to herself that Tracey's face would flick onto the phone screen when she picked up the receiver. "Oh please, be Tracey!" she said aloud without thinking. She closed her eyes as she answered. "Hello, you have reached the Shiroi Island Police Station. How may we help you?"
"Jenny?"
"Tracey!!!"
"Um, why are your eyes closed?"
Jenny opened her eyes and took in Tracey's face. His big dark eyes, his black hair, held back by the adorable bandanna. He gave her a big grin.
"How are you?"
"I'm great!" she said enthusiastically.
"Me too," said Tracey, "I'm still in Sanguine City, this place is so fantastic Jenny, I wish you could see it."
'At the moment I'd just be happy seeing you' she almost said, but bit her lip and stopped herself. "I gather you're calling to tell us where you're going next?"
"Yep. Ash said we're headed off to Scarletté City. He wants to beat the fire trainer over there."
"Oh really?"
"Yeah. He's such a great kid, I wish you could meet him. I've never seen anyone care so much about their Pokemon. He and Misty both, actually. They're both pretty into caring for Pokemon."
"Oh…good."
"You know, I think you'd get on really well with Misty."
"Really?" said Jenny, trying her hardest to keep from looking jealous.
"Yeah," said Tracey, flashing her another grin. "So, would you please tell your sister to organize the police people in that city for me?"
"Umm, yep."
"Great. Thank he so much for me, and give her a hug from me too,"
"Sure, Trace."
He smiled at her. "Jen, I really can't thank you and your sister enough for the stuff you do for me. If you were here I'd give you a big hug too."
She gave a careless laugh. "Whatever Tracey. I'll organize that for ya, anyway."
"Okay, I've-" he stopped and looked over his shoulder. It looked like he was listening to someone else. To Jenny's annoyance, he yelled back, "Okay Misty!" Then he turned back to jenny. "Yeah, I've gotta go. I'll talk to you in a couple of days."
"Okay Tracey- keep out of trouble, alright?" Jenny snapped. Tracey didn't seem to notice her hostile tone.
"Sure jenny, you know I will. Bye!" and then the screen flicked out. Officer Jenny walked into the room, a mug off coffee in her hands.
"Who was that, little sister?'
"It was Tracey," she muttered. "He's headed towards Scarletté City- you ever heard of it?"
"Mmm, I think I might have." She said, "Okay, I'll ring and see what I can do to keep our Tracey out of trouble." She looked at her younger sister's face and noticed something was wrong. "What's up?"
"Nothing!" said Jenny. "I'm just fine."
***
Misty was watching Tracey talk on the phone.
"He does that a lot, you know," she remarked to Ash.
Ash was eating a hotdog for breakfast. He swallowed before answering. "What?"
"Tracey's always talking on the telephone."
Ash shrugged. "So? You and I talk on the phone too."
"Yeah, but he always does it. Far more often than you or I do. It's like he's got to keep in constant contact with someone."
"Maybe it's his mom or something," said Ash, "I would sure hate to lose contact with my mom, you know. And you ring your sisters too."
Misty snorted. "Believe me, I'm trying to lose contact with them."
Ash shrugged, took a bite of his hotdog and then passed the rest to Pikachu, who started licking the ketchup off it.
"Well…" he started with his mouth full, then stopped, chewed furiously, and then swallowed. "Maybe he just wants his family to know where he's going."
Misty looked thoughtful, and then whacked Ash's shoulder. "Hey, you're right!"
"Hey, ow!" said Ash, frowning and rubbing his shoulder. "What am I right about?"
"Now that you mention it, he always makes a telephone call whenever we move onto a different town!" she said, "How strange."
"Not really," said Ash. But Misty wasn't listening.
"I'm going to get to the bottom of this." She called out to Tracey. "HEY TRACEY!" Tracey stopped talking on the telephone and looked at her. "HURRY UP!" she yelled.
"Okay Misty!" he said. He turned back to the phone, finished his conversation quickly and hung up. He walked back over to them with a cheerful smile on his face.
"Okay!" he said, "Are we off then?"
"Yeah," said Misty, picking up the backpacks that she and Ash had picked up at the Pokemon Center while Tracey had found a payphone. As she handed him his backpack she struck a casual tone. "Say, Tracey…who was that you were talking to?"
"A friend," said Tracey. "Come on, let's go!"
They began walking up the street, with Ash on Tracey's left and Misty's on Tracey's right. "A friend?" Misty pressed as they walked along. "Would this be a girlfriend?"
"Um, no," said Tracey firmly.
"Oh," said Misty. She remained silent for a few minutes after that. Tracey gave her a curious look but said nothing. But then Misty started up with the questions again.
"So I guess you must be close to your family."
This hit a nerve with Tracey. He visibly stiffened and gave Misty a startled look.
"Why on earth do you ask that?" he said.
"Just curious. Only you're always ringing someone." Misty said carelessly. Ash gave Misty a warning look over Tracey's shoulder, but Misty ignored him. "And I figured it must be like, family, or whatever."
Tracey was walking quicker now. "My family and I have a normal relationship." he said flatly.
Misty pressed on. "So who is your family then? Do you have any brothers and sisters? What are their names?"
"Misty!" Tracey stopped and gave her a look. "Do you remember what I said before? About how sometimes people should mind their own business?"
"Yeah," said Misty innocently.
"Well, it applies to you!" he snapped. There was a tense silence for a second. They had stopped walking in the middle of the footpath.
Misty was surprised. "Tracey, I'm only trying to get to know you better. We hardly know anything about you. What's the problem with me asking a few questions?"
"Misty," Ash said warningly.
Tracey looked angrier than Ash had ever seen him.
"Misty, just MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!" he yelled. He turned sharply and stomped of down the street.
The other two stared after him in shock.
Ash shook his head. "I've never seen him so angry."
"Me either," Misty said in a small voice. She knew she'd gone too far.
"You shouldn't have pushed it, Misty." Ash said as they continued walking after Tracey.
"Pika pi pikachu!" agreed Pikachu.
"I know. I'll apologize when we catch up." Misty said. "But what," she thought, "Is so bad about Tracey's family?"
CHAPTER THREE: The Hunt Is On…
The telephone rang in the Police Station of Scarletté City.
"I'll answer it," said the Chief Officer Jenny. "Hello, you've reached the Scarlette City police Station. This is Chief Officer Jenny speaking."
Another Officer Jenny's face flicked onto screen. She was quite young, couldn't have been older than twenty-two.
"Hello, Chief Officer Jenny. This is Chief Officer Jenny of Shiroi Island."
"Shiroi island? Why then, you'll be my cousin's sister's cousin's sister's aunt's cousin!"
"Um, yeah, if you say so," said Jenny.
"What's up?"
"Actually, Chief, I was wondering if I could ask a favour…"
C.O.(Chief Officer) Jenny raised her eyebrows. "Yes? I'm listening,"
"This concerns a young boy named Tracey Sketcher. Have you heard of him?"
"Tracey Sketcher? Let me see…"
"He's on the Missing Persons list."
"Alrighty," said C.O. Jenny, opening a drawer in her desk. She took out a large file labeled "Missing Persons" She flicked through it while asking Jenny questions. "How long has he been missing?
"Seven months." Jenny answered.
"Place of birth?"
"Shiroi Island."
"Hair colour?"
"Black, although hair can be dyed you know."
"Duh. Ah, here it is! Tracey Kenji Sketcher." C.O. Jenny pulled a sheet of paper out of the file and looked at it. The photo was of a grinning, boy with his dark hair pulled back by a bandanna. Underneath were all his vital details, as well as the parents' names and a number to call if he was seen.
"Keller and Katie Sketcher," she read aloud.
"Yes, that's his mother and father," Jenny said carefully.
"Well, what do you wish to ask me about this young man?"
Jenny paused. "Well…Chief Officer…he'll be in Scarlette City, probably by tomorrow."
"What makes you so sure?"
"I have…sources."
"Not to worry, Officer Jenny. We'll pick him up and have him back on Shiroi Island within the day."
"No, no, that's the thing…I don't want you to pick him up."
C.O. Jenny stopped. "What?"
"Don't pick him up. Let him walk on by." Jenny said commandingly.
"What do you mean?" spluttered C.O. Jenny. "Are you telling me to just let this Missing Person to walk right by?"
"Yes."
"No!"
"No, but Chief…you don't understand…" Jenny had to make the C.O. see reason.
"Oh? And what don't I understand, exactly?"
"Tracey…can't be returned to his parents," Jenny said falteringly.
C.O. Jenny shook her head. This Officer was crazy! "This is ludicrous," she said, "Why can't he be returned to his parents?
"It's not the best thing for him, Chief. They…don't treat him very well."
"Explain!"
"Well…they…his dad wants him to take over his Gym, only Tracey doesn't want to, and his dad treats him so horribly, and poor Tracy, well he just got so sick of it he just had to go. He doesn't want to go back home, and shouldn't we do what's best for the child?"
"We have to uphold the law."
"No, but, Chief, you don't understand! His parents…they… well, his father…he hit Tracey!"
C.O. Jenny paused. Could the Officer be telling the truth? She hated people who beat children, but…it still wasn't right to deliberately let the Missing Person go. No, she had to do her job. She drew herself up to her full height and spoke harshly to the Officer.
"May I remind you, Officer, that we are supposed to sustain the law. It's my job to see that nothing is out of place. I have to look past these complications and see that justice is done. I have to return this boy to his parents."
"Please don't!" Jenny said. "I know his father well, and Tracey cannot be returned to him!"
"Once the boy is returned we will do a full investigation on his parents. Then we'll see if he can be bought out of their custody." C.O. Jenny said crisply, and hung up the phone. She looked at the poster in her hands.
"I'll get this kid," she said to herself. She gave the poster to her secretary to be photocopied and then have it stuck up around the town.
Once that was done, she turned back to look at the photo. The boy's happy grin showed no signs of repressed fear or a sad home life. He was just an ordinary kid who'd run away from home. That was all. And soon, she would return him to that home.
***
Officer Jenny was still in shock a few seconds after she'd been hung up on.
Young Jenny bounced into the room. "Did you ring the cop in Scarletté, Jenny?"
Jenny placed the receiver in its cradle. "Yeah," she said softly, "Yeah I did."
"And?"
Jenny turned to face her sister. "She…didn't agree."
Young Jenny blinked. "What?"
"She's going to turn Tracey in!"
Young Jenny's eyes widened. "No!" she gasped.
"I'm sorry, I just…couldn't convince her."
"Oh, god, Tracey's in deep trouble!" Young Jenny squeaked. "We have to warn him! Jenny, we've just got to!"
"I know, but how?" said Jenny helplessly, "There's no way we an contact him."
"No, there's GOT to be a way!" Young Jenny said fiercely, "I can't stand by and let him be captured! No!"
"Jen, please calm down," said Jenny, placing her hands on Young Jenny's shoulders. "I'm sorry, but we can't get to him in time."
"Then what are we supposed to do?!" yelled Jenny, wrenching free of her sister's grasp. "I'm not going to let my best friend be returned to that…Tyrant!"
"I'm not happy about it either," said Jenny, "But there's absolutely nothing we can do!"
Young Jenny's rigid angry pose drooped. She knew her big sister was right. Tracey was miles and miles away, with only Ash and Misty to help him.
"But…poor Tracey," she whispered. Her sibling stepped forward and hugged her. "What's going to happen to him, Jenny?" asked Young Jenny, feeling tears behind her eyes.
"I don't know," sighed Officer jenny, "We're just going to have to wait and see."

CHAPTER FOUR: Tracey gets Bugged.
Tracey, Ash and Misty sat around the fire that evening. They had reached the forest and were halfway through. They would reach Scarletté by mid-morning tomorrow, if all went well.
However, it was a tense group that was seated around the blazing fire. Misty had yet to apologize to Tracey. She wasn't used to apologizing to anyone.
Ash was feeling confused and wondering why Tracey was acting so weirdly. He didn't like these complications. He just wanted them all to remain friends, and stop fighting. True, he fought with Misty a lot but that was standard procedure. It was strange for Tracey to be fighting with anyone.
And Tracey had been silent for most of the day. It seemed Misty's questions about his family had sparked an unusual brooding element in him. He wasn't acting like his usual happy self at all.
"Pika chu k'chu," Pikachu said softly to Ash.
"I know, I know, Pikachu," Ash said back. Pikachu, too, was unhappy about the state of things.
Ash didn't like seeing everyone so unhappy.
"Well, I'm sick of this, personally!" he said loudly. Tracey jerked his head up and stared at Ash. Misty did too.
"Sick of what, Ash?" asked Misty.
"This," said Ash, "Why don't you just stop this Cold War thing you've got going on and apologize to each other?" He looked at Tracey, "It wasn't that big a deal, Tracey. Misty was just curious about her friend. Friends tell each other stuff, you know? And Misty," Ash turned to her, "you shouldn't have pressured Tracey after he made it clear he didn't want to talk abut it. You said you were going to apologize, so do it!"
Tracey and Misty looked at each other. Misty nodded.
"Ash is right, this is stupid."
"Yeah," Tracey said, and grinned. "I'm sorry I made such a fuss."
"I'm sorry I was being so nosy." Misty said.
Ash folded his skinny arms and nodded. "Good. Now everything's back to normal,"
"Thanks Ash," laughed Tracey.
"Whatever," said Ash. "Fighting is stupid."
Tracey smiled to himself. "But you fight all the time with Misty."
"I said, fighting is stupid Tracey, I didn't say I was above it." Ash muttered. Tracey, Misty and Pikachu laughed.
"Well I'm glad that's over," said Misty.
"Me too."
"Me three," said Ash. "But now let's go to sleep."
"Yeah," said Tracey, "We've got a big day tomorrow."
Little did Tracey know that it would be bigger than he thought.
***
The group made an early start and kept up an even pace on their walk through the rest of the forest. They were in good spirits today. Ash was whistling, Pikachu was running around their ankles, Misty was hugging Togepi, and Tracey seemed to be very talkative for no apparent reason.
"It's a great day, isn't it?" he said, "Yeah, look at it, it's a great day. I can't remember having a great day like this for ages. Hey look at those cool flowers over there!"
"Cool" Misty agreed.
"Toki breeeee!"
"Pikachu!" said Pikachu. It padded over t the flowers Tracey was talking about and picked one between its teeth. Ash stopped whistling and laughed.
"Look at that! Pikachu likes the flowers too," he said. "And, you're right Tracey. It IS a great day."
"I said so, didn't I?"
"Yeah. Perfect for winning Pokemon battles, I'd say," said Ash, thinking confidently of Squirtle and the new attack it had recently learnt.
"Probably," said Tracey with a nod. "We should be there soon."
"All right!" said Ash.
"Actually, we should be there now," said Misty. "There it is!"
She pointed ahead, and just over the hill was Scarletté City, in all its glory! (Sorry, I just had to add that.)
"YAY!" cheered Ash. "We're here Pikachu!"
"Pikachu pika!"
"Come on! I feel like winning that badge!" said Ash excitedly. And in typical Ash fashion, he ran ahead of the other two.
"Wait up ash!" said Misty. She and Tracey jogged after him. When they caught up, he was standing at the entrance to Scarletté City. The gates were large and red, and a huge icon of a Vulpix adorned the top.
"Why is that Vulpix up there Tracey?" Ash asked of him.
"As far as I know the Vulpix is the town's emblem," said Tracy, "I heard once that wild Vulpix used to live around here. Of course, they're rarely seen nowadays."
"Oh, that's too bad," said Misty. 'Vulpix are so pretty."
"Yeah, I would love a Vulpix." Ash agreed, "But, right now, I'm going to beat the Gym leader."
"Let's go!" said Misty. Tracy had a strange expression on his face, however. He wasn't looking at Ash but past his shoulder. Misty looked where Tracey was looking. There was a poster on the gate. With two quick strides, Tracey stepped forward, ripped the poster off the wall, and tore it into two pieces.
"Tracey!" Ash said, "Why'd you do that?"
"What was on that poster, Tracey?" Misty asked, looking puzzled.
"Nothing," said Tracey gruffly, 'It was just advertising…a movie I hate. Let's go to the Gym."
Ash nodded. "Yeah! Let's go."
They set off trough the town for the Gym. It was an ordinary town with ordinary people. There was nothing distinguishing about it, except perhaps for the unusual obsession with Vulpix the people seemed to have. Other than that, the town was fine. But Tracey wasn't. His good spirits had vanished, and he seemed to have lost his talking abilities too. His eyes darted around, he glared at any townspeople who said hello to the strangers, and twice more he ran up to posters and ripped them off the wall.
"I really hate this movie," he said to Ash and Misty, who were looking at him in bewilderment.
"Pika pik!" said Pikachu. Tracey suddenly spied something over Ash's shoulder, which made him shriek.
"Hide!" he cried, "officer jenny!" Tracey jumped behind a bush. As the Officer Jenny passed she gave Ash and Misty a friendly nod.
"Hi Officer jenny," they chorused. Tracey poked his head out from behind the bush.
"Is she gone?' he asked fearfully.
"Yes," said Ash, "But Tracey, what's going on?"
Tracey shook his head. "I don't know. But ash, can I ask you a favour?"
"Sure," said Ash, still confused.
"If anything…weird happens, I want you to call this number." Tracey handed ash a slip of paper with a telephone number on it. "Okay?"
"Fine Tracey, but you're acting weird already."
"Don't worry," said Tracey, "I'm fine."
"Tracey," said Misty, looking concerned, "If you tell us maybe we can help,"
"Nothing to tell," said Tracey, although they knew he was lying, "I'm okay, really."
"If you say so, Trace."
But he didn't know what was going on twenty meters down the street. The Officer jenny who had strolled past was now speaking into a walkie-talkie, hiding round a corner.
"This is Jenny here, C.O., I have news on the kid," she muttered. "I found him."

CHAPTER FIVE: Tracey gets Trapped.
It was an hour later. Ash had decided that instead of beating the Gym Leader straight away he wanted to find a place where they could get something to eat. Tracey looked worried, and he hadn't touched his sandwich. Something had gone wrong. He knew it the moment he saw the missing Person poser of him stuck up on the gate. Somehow, the plan had stuffed up. The police in this town were looking for him. And with all the posters, someone had to spot him sooner or later. And he couldn't call Jenny either, to find out what had happened. Chances are the call would be traced.
It was so stressful! But he couldn't go back to Shiroi Island, He just couldn't! Tracey put a hand up to his own face and touched his cheek. His father had hit him, he reminded himself. "Just because I hate that stupid, stupid Gym." Tracey thought, "Tessa is more than willing to run it, but, NO, it's got to be me, it's always me, isn't it Dad, always my fault…."
Ash's voice cut into his thoughts. "Hey, earth to Tracey!"
"Huh?"
"I said, are you ready to go?"
"Um, yeah, yeah…"
As they slid out of the booth and Ash went off to pay, Tracey dug around in his backpack. He bought out a pair of sunglasses. Then he pulled his pink bandana off his head and stuffed in in the backpack.
"Tracey…what are you doing?" Misty said.
"Nothing, I just…want a new look." Tracey said nonchalantly as he slid the sunglasses on.
"Okay," Ash announced as he came back, "Let's go find this Gym already!"
"Yeah," agreed Tracey as he pulled a sweater out of his backpack and pulled it on. Ash glanced at him and blinked.
"Tracey, what are you doing?' he asked in the same bewildered tone Misty had asked in.
"He's getting a new look," explained Misty.
"Oh…kay…" Ash said slowly, give Tracey a weird look.
Tracey raised his eyebrows. "Got a problem?"
"No," said Ash quickly, "Let's go, then."
As they walked out of the restaurant Tracey looked left, then right, then behind him. No sign of any police. There was a man with black hair looking at his watch, and a five year old eating a lollipop, and a tall lady with blue hair walking in their direction-
"Oh God," said Tracey, "Run!"
For the tall lady with blue hair was in fact a plain clothed Officer Jenny. As she made her way through the crowd of people towards them with purpose, Tracey felt an indescribable panic grip him. He shoved through the crowded street, with Ash and Misty at his heels.
"Tracey! What's going on?" Ash yelled.
"Don't say my name!" Tracey wailed. He ran as fast as his thick legs would carry him. His whole life depended on getting away suddenly, and he cut across the street right in front of a car. It squealed to a stop. Tracey froze as he thought it was going to hit him, but it missed. Barely. Someone screamed, "TRACEY!" but all he could see and hear was the Officer Jenny (another one!) marching towards him. This one was in uniform, and she looked important too. There was an extra star on her cap and she had a shiny badge pinned to her chest.
"Freeze, kid." the Officer said. Tracey couldn't move, he was suddenly more scared than he'd ever been. His legs were still shaking from the narrow miss by the car. He did the only thing he could think of.
"Go Scyther!" he yelled. Scyther appeared out of its ball, its blades flashing in the sunlight. More Officer Jennies had closed in on him now. Tracey had no time to wonder where they had all come from.
"Scyther…use…use whirlwind," Tracey said. Scyther had no idea why Tracey wanted it to attack the Officer Jennies but it did it anyway.
"Scyther! Scyyyyyyyyyyther!" Scyther spun around and around. Some of the Officer Jennies toppled backwards, but a few managed to keep moving forward. The important looking Officer Jenny took out a Pokeball of her own.
"Go, Vulpix!" she said.
"Vulpix? Oh no…" Tracey moaned. Bug Pokemon like Scyther were always weak against fire Pokemon like Vulpix.
"Vulpix! Vuuuulp!"
"Scyther! Scy! Ther!" Scyther said to Tracey fearfully.
"We'll get out of this." Tracey said reassuringly. He caught a glimpse of ash and Misty hovering around the edge of the circle of Officer Jennies. They looked upset but as Tracey's eyes met Ash's, Ash's face looked determined.
"Tracey!" Ash yelled. "Be careful!"
"We'll help you!" cried Misty.
"Fire-spin, Vulpix!" said the Officer jenny's voice. Tracey turned quickly enough to see a giant wall of flame heading towards him! There was no time to duck…no time to even think, but suddenly he was in a huge amount of pain, he could vaguely hear Ash and Misty screaming his name. He heard Pikachu electrocute something, and then the Vulpix gave a cry of pain. Just before he blacked out, he heard:
"Someone grab that kid! We've got to send him home!"

CHAPTER SIX: Tracey's Secret.
"You've got our friend in there!" yelled Ash.
"Sorry, Tracey Sketcher is in custody."
"He's a fifteen year old boy!" Misty exclaimed. The Officer jenny gave her a critical stare.
"That doesn't mean he can't be put into custody."
"Yes it does!" yelled Misty desperately.
"Look, kids, just shut up," said the Officer Jenny, who was a disagreeable one, "I can't let you see Tracey Sketcher."
After the incident in the middle of the road, Tracey had been bundled into a cop car and driven off to the station. Ash and Misty had since been trying to get in and see him.
"Look, I have to…return his Pokemon, see?' Ash held up Scyther's Pokeball.
"I don't care!" the Officer Jenny said, "I'm just trying to do my job kid, and you ain't making it easy."
"I'll make it easy if you let us see him…" said Ash enticingly.
"No. Get lost," said Officer jenny.
"That's no way to speak to children, constable," said C.O. Jenny as she entered the foyer.
Officer Jenny stood up and saluted. "Sorry, Chief, I was just telling these two kids here that they can't see Tracey Sketcher."
"She's right, kids," said C.O. Jenny. "Why don't you run along now?"
"Oh please, don't patronize us!" Misty said forcefully. C.O. Jenny looked taken aback for a second, but then she gave Misty a commanding look.
"Do you know why your friend is in here, little children?"
"No!" said Ash, "Which makes it even more unfair that you won't let us see him!"
"Would you like me to tell you?"
"Yes," said Ash, glaring at her. In her answer C.O. Jenny gave them a poster, a poster which Misty vaguely recognized as the ones Tracey had been ripping off walls al day.
"Missing," she read aloud, "Tracey Sketcher…" She looked up at C.O. Jenny for some confirmation.
"Yep," she said, nodding, "Your friend has been on the missing persons list for about seven months now. He ran away from his home on Shiroi Island."
"Seven months…" Misty said, "That's about how long he's been traveling with us, Ash,"
Ash blinked stupidly, as if the whole thing was too much for him.
"Since then," said Officer Jenny, pursing her lips, "Somehow, he's been working with Officer Jennies in other towns and they didn't hand him in. I have yet to find out how he convinced them not to." Although, she did have here suspicions about that Officer in Shiroi Island…
"Still, that's no reason to put him in custody." Misty said.
"Ah yes, but he attacked our squadron with his dangerous Pokemon. That's an offence you know."
"Sounds like you're just looking for an excuse to me!" Misty muttered. Ash stuck his hands in his pockets. He felt confused once more. It was so weird to discover that his friend wasn't really who he thought he was. It was weird…
"Hey, what's this in my pocket?" he muttered to Pikachu.
"Pika?"
"Ash pulled out the slip of paper with the phone number on it.
"If anything weird happens, call this number…" Tracey had said. Ash couldn't think of an event that was weirder than this.
"Officer jenny," he said, "Is there a payphone anywhere near here?"
"Yeah, just around the corner."
"Thank you very much!" he said. He grabbed Misty's hand and pulled her out of the station.
"What's going on now?' she said.
"I've got to call this number," said Ash, "And maybe they'll tell us what's going on!"
"Hey that's right!" said Misty. "Tracey told you to cal that number if anything happened!" She stopped and grabbed Ash's arm. "Ash!" she said urgently, as if something important had just occurred to her, "He gave you the number before he got arrested…like he was EXPECTING something to happen. But how could he have known?" She stared at Ash as if waitng for him to give her and answer. In reply, Ash just shook his head helplessly.
"Here's the phone," he said gruffly. He dialed the number quickly. When someone picked it up, and Officer jenny's face flashed onto the screen, except there was something strange about this Officer jenny. She was a younger Officer Jenny. She can't have been older then fifteen.
"Hello, you have reached the Shiroi Island Police Station. How may we help you?"
"Um…" Ash said, at a loss for words. The young Officer Jenny on the screen gave him a weird look.
"Can I help you?" she said again, politely.
"Um, yeah, I hope you can anyway. This is Ash Ketchum…"
"Ash…Ash Ketchum?" The young girl on screen looked surprised.
"Yeah, um, have you ever heard of anyone called…Tracey Sketcher?"
"Of course I have!" said the girl, abandoning her composure. "Are you the Ash that travels with him?'
"Yes!" Ash said, not bothering to wonder how she knew who he was. "Look, something bad has happened to him!"
"Oh, God, NO! I knew it!" the teenage girl cried. Ash was taken aback by how despairing her cry was. "Is he okay? What happened?"
"Well, we were walking down the street and suddenly he started running. And then this woman started chasing him. And he seemed to want to get away from her so badly, and he ran onto the street, and nearly got hit by a car!" Ash gabbled.
"Is he okay?" the girl asked frantically.
"Yeah, well, it didn't hit him. But then all these Officers came from nowhere and they surrounded him. So Tracey sent out his Scyther, but the attack didn't go very well, because you see, his Scyther is kind of weak because it's really old and when Tracey caught it, Scyther had been--"
"Just go on!" the girl interrupted. "What happened?"
"Right, well, this boss lady officer sent out a Vulpix and it sent this huge fire attack at Tracey and Scyther. It was the biggest attack from a Vulpix I've ever seen before."
"What happened to Tracey?"
"He got taken away by the cops. Now he's in custody because he tried to attack a police Officer and they won't let us see him."
"Oh god, no…" the young Jenny looked despondent. "It's finally happened."
"What's finally happened?"
"He's been captured. They're going to send him back here."
"That's bad?"
"Kid…sorry, Ash…you don't know what it's like."
"Well, we're going there with Tracey whether the police like it or not," said Ash determinedly, "I don't know how they're sending him to Shiroi Island but we're going too!"
"Maybe you should stay out of this…" said Jenny, "I mean, you really don't know what his family's like…"
"I can't stay out of it," said Ash, "I'm already involved, don't you see? If Tracey's my friend, and he is, then I have to make sure he's okay!"
The Jenny smiled at him. "That's real nice, Ash."
"I'll see you when we get there."
"Bye, then."
Ash hung up the phone. Misty was looking at him anxiously.
"Did you mean it Ash? What you said about helping Tracey?"
"Of course I did!" Ash cried, "I'm getting sick of this, Tracey's obviously in big trouble and we don't even know what's going on!"
"Me too, I'm worried…"
"Toki? Brrreee…"
They trooped back to the police station. The C.O. Jenny was not pleased to see them.
"Oh what do you kids want NOW?"
"How are you going to get Tracey to Shiroi Island?" asked Ash.
"You'd like to know that, wouldn't you?" she said scornfully.
"Yes please."
"I'm not going to tell you."
"Why not?" Ash said angrily.
"Because you aren't allowed to know!"
"Why not?"
"Just…because! Now, you kids get out of here right now. This is no place for children."
She pushed them out of the door. The other Officer Jenny (the disagreeable one) stood up.
"Um, Chief? How are we going to get the Sketcher kid back to Shiroi Island?" she asked.
"Actually I hadn't thought of that."
"Helicopter?"
"For one runaway kid? Oh please, not even I get to travel in a helicopter."
"How about we drive over the land and ferry him off to Shiroi Island?"
C.O. jenny considered. "Mmm…nah. It'll take a long time to drive, plus there are a lot of mountains and rivers on the way. And that's the quickest route." She sighed. "Nope, we'll have to go by air."
"Pigeot flying?"
"No, too risky. He'll try to get away."
"How about we stick him on a courier plane?"
"Er…is that legal?"
"How should I know? You're the C.O.!"
"No, no…I don't think so…do we have any other options available to us then?"
The Officer Jenny looked thoughtful. "Well…this sounds a bit strange, but how about…hot air balloon?"
"Hot air balloon? Do we actually have one?"
"Yes ma'am, in case of an emergency…"
"Well then," said C.O. Jenny decidedly, "We'll use a hot air balloon. Go and see if the Sketcher boy is afraid of heights, will you? I daresay his parents will want him back in one piece."

CHAPTER SEVEN: To Save a Pokemon Watcher
"Now what are we doing?" said Misty. Ash looked to the left, then to the right, then grabbed her by the arm and pulled her down the narrow alleyway between the Scarlette City Police Station and
"Well we've gotta do something, don't we?' Ash said, "He's in custody right?"
"Yeah so how can we see him?" Misty said, pulling her arm away from Ash's grip.
"Well, if the cop shows that I have seen are accurate, he should be in a cell." said Ash, going still further into the alleyway,
"Well DUH, Ash!" sad Misty, getting more annoyed by the minute. "What's your point?"
"So there must be a window or something around here," said Ash. "Look up the wall, I'm sure it will be higher up."
And Ash was right. There was a small, barred window about three meters up the wall.
"Well, you're right for once," admitted Misty once they had found it, "But how can we get up there?"
"I'm all over it," said Ash confidently. "Snorlax, go!"
There could have been a little more foresight on Ash's part. Snorlax had height to spare but it also had a very ample waistline, and the alleyway was narrow.
"Misty?" Ash said, "Where'd you go?"
"I'm here!" she said in a muffled voice. She was squashed between the wall and Snorlax. Ash grabbed her hand, the only part of her visible, and pulled her out. This took a while.
"Um, are you okay?" he said, noting her furious expression and sweat-dropping. "Look, why don't I stand on Snorlax's shoulders," he said quickly, "Then I can see whether or not Tracey is in this cell."
So while Misty stayed with Pikachu and Togepi on the ground (muttering about morons and thoughtlessness), Ash climbed up into Snorlax's shoulders using its fur.
"Snorrrrrrrr, laaaaax…" rumbled Snorlax. Ash patted its head.
"Don't worry buddy, I know you must be uncomfortable."
He gripped the bars of the window and looked in. It was a small cell, and dark, It didn't look very clean from what Ash could see, either. There was a bed in one corner, and a bench in another. There was a figure seated on the bench, which Ash recognized as being Tracey, but…he didn't look right. Tracey, his usually happy friend, looked so despondent, dejected and miserable, Ash wasn't sure if it was him. His black hair was all over his face, his broad shoulders slumped, his hands swung listlessly by his side. His clothes were all singed from the attack from Vulpix.
"Psst! Tracey?" Ash said. Tracey made no movement. Ash tried again. "Tracey is that you?!" This time Tracey lifted his head slowly.
"Tracey!" Ash said once more.
"Ash?" said Tracey. "Where..?"
"Up here!" Ash said, "The window!"
Tracey looked up, squinting. His face burst into a hopeful grin.
"Ash! I can't believe it!" He ran and stood on the bed so he could get closer. "Thank god!"
"Are you okay?" Ash asked.
"I guess so…I blacked out but they gave me a burn heal and I woke up. Then they stuck me in here." Tracey shivered. "I don't like it." Ash looked down and spoke to Misty.
"He's alright Misty, they gave him a burn heal." Misty said something Tracey couldn't hear, and Ash nodded. He looked back at Tracey again. "Misty says she's glad you're okay and wants to know if they'll put you on trial for the charges."
Tracey shook his head. "No. They're just going to send me…" Tracey paused and gave Ash a shrewd look. Ash nodded.
"We know," said Ash. "They're going to send you back home to Shiroi Island."
Tracey let out a large miserable sigh he covered his face with his hands.
"Why didn't you tell us, Tracey? We could have helped you."
"How?" said Tracey bitterly. "He always wins in the end, my dad does. Always wins arguments, always wins Pokemon battles…he's just a winner. And me? I'm a…I'm a…"
"Don't say it!"
"A loser," Tracey finished desolately.
"You're not!" said Ash defiantly. Tracey shook his head.
"Shouldn't you be mad at me Ash? I mean…I've kind of lied to you."
There was a pause from Ash. Tracey sat down on the bed and waited for his answer. After a little while, Ash cleared his throat quietly.
"Well, Tracey…we're shocked! Really, really shocked… but mad? No."
Tracey looked up, giving Ash a questioning look.
"Tracey, you didn't lie to us," Ash explained patiently, "That's the thing. You never told us anything about your family. You never told us anything about your past. You didn't lie to us because…you just didn't tell us anything. Do you understand what I mean?"
Tracey smiled at Ash. "I do. And I'm glad you guys aren't mad at me."
Ash's face remained serious. "But now Tracey, you do owe us an explanation."
Tracey nodded. "I know. You're probably wondering why I ran away from home."
"Yeah," said Misty. She had left Pikachu on the ground looking after Togepi and climbed up to join Ash.
"Misty!" said Tracey and Ash.
"Are you sure Snorlax can hold both of us, Misty?" said Ash.
"Of course it can."
"Snorrrrrrrrrr!" said Snorlax.
"So tell us now Tracey," said Ash.
So Tracey took a deep breath and finally opened up the secrets of his past.

CHAPTER EIGHT: The Story of him
"I come from Shiroi Island, it's off the coast of the Beige State." Tracey began.
"The Beige State?" said Ash. "Pallet Town is in Beige State!"
"Yes," Tracey said with a nod. "Well anyway, my dad wanted to be a Gym leader. He set up his own Gym and everything, with some help from Grandma and Grandad. By the time I was five, he had finished building and people who passed by Shiroi Island came and challenged him. Unfortunately, it wasn't successful- my dad's a really good trainer you know. No one could beat him. People stopped coming because they knew it was pointless or they thought he must have been cheating. So dad tried something else- he wrote to the Pokemon league and asked if they could make him an Official Pokemon League Gym. Once he started giving out his own badge a lot more trainers started trying to beat him. Even when they lost, trainers came back. Trainers have to be determined, you know, and they all wanted his badge, see?"
"Sounds like someone I know," said Misty, giving Ash a sideways glance. Ash ignored her.
"Anyway, my dad started losing it after a while. Around the time I was eight, he lost his first battle. He was devastated." Tracey's eyes glazed over and he grimaced, as if he was seeing something awful no one else could. "He wouldn't talk to anyone for weeks…then one day, he suddenly went back to normal and took me to the Gym. He gave me a Pokeball." Tracey closed his eyes. "'In here's your whole future, son,' he said, "And it'll be a great one.' That's what he said to me."
"What was in the Pokeball?" Ash asked softly.
"My first Pokemon, Marril. For a while, it was cool…Dad took me to the Gym ever day and when people weren't challenging him he would show me how to train Pokemon. That went on for…two years I'd say. I caught Venonat all by myself, and Dad kept saying how proud he was. It was great. By this time Tessa was staring to grow out of dolls and wanted a Pokemon for herself."
"Wait a minute," interrupted Misty, "Who's Tessa?"
"My sister," said Tracey, "Actually I should say twin sister shouldn't I?"
"Twin sister?" said Misty. "…Goodness."
"Yeah, she's my twin," Tracey continued. "So Dad got her a Pokemon too- a Psyduck. She was so happy and proud of herself. She started training with Dad too. As time went on, her Psyduck got a lot more powerful than Marril. Dad started pressing us into battles. I didn't really care- Marril was finding me lots of new and interesting Pokemon to draw. I lost the battles a lot of the time…" Tracey paused and shrugged. "It didn't matter to me. But Dad got furious. Said I was a disappointment…from then he started making the training sessions longer and harder. Marril and Venonat were exhausted all the time, no matter how many times I took them to the Pokemon Centre…
Eventually I just couldn't take it any more. I tried to tell Dad that I wanted to quit his training sessions…he wouldn't let me. He went insane. He just went and made the training sessions longer still, it was awful. It was practically all I did." He looked at Misty and Ash's faces "I know it mustn't sound that bad to you guys," said Tracey, "But you don't know my Dad. It was around then that I realised Dad was obsessed with the Gym. And the more I thought about it, the more things I remembered…ever since the Gym had been set up, that's all he'd cared about. I went and talked to Mom about it, she was no help. But the way she spoke about Dad…the way she looked…I knew she didn't love him any more. That was around my twelfth birthday."
Misty, moved, stuck her hand through the bars of the window and patted Tracey's hand, which was lying on the windowsill. He moved it away.
"Tracey, don't…" she started.
"It doesn't matter," he said, but there was a touch of bitterness in his voice. "Things went the way they were until I was nearly fourteen. Then Dad finally told us the purpose of the training. He wanted me to take over the Gym. Of course by then…" Tracey gave a short, mirthless laugh, "By then, I didn't want anything to do with the Gym. I didn't even want anything to do with my father. I refused of course. I…said some things I probably shouldn't have said to my own father…and he went…crazy I guess."
Tracey got the look in his eyes again, as though he could see something no one else could. His voice dropped and he spoke in unfinished sentences. "He was running around the house...completely psycho, he smashed a vase.… I swear, I would have stopped him if I wasn't so… there was no time to stop my mother though, she ran in front of him before he got to me…he shoved her out of the way…into the cupboard…it fell onto her. I wanted to help her, but he grabbed me…." Tracey closed his eyes tightly then, as if the image was too much to bear. "…I was yelling and yelling. He looked mad enough to…to…I don't know…shoved me up against the wall… "You'll take over the Gym, my lad, or it'll be hell on earth for you", that's what he said to me…I told him he was hurting me, he said he didn't care. He threw me into the room. Note the 'threw', and I'm being serious. Locked the door. I didn't come for a week. When I did…it was worse. Mum was okay, though…she'd been taken to the emergency room because when the cupboard fell on her, it hurt her…well, with her gone, dad was just…" Tracey trailed off and opened his eyes. He didn't look up at Ash and Misty's faces though. He didn't want to see their reaction. He closed his eyes, and his face was pulled into a painful expression. Misty stuck her hand through the bars and touched the side of Tracey's face.
"Tracey," she said quietly. "Please go on. Talk to us." Tracey jerked his head backwards, shaking it violently. Misty looked stricken. "We're here for you," she cried. Tracey shook his head again, looking down. He looked like he was finding it difficult to speak. When he did there was a catch in his voice.
"So I lived with that for a while, until one day…I was too slow…" Tracey brought his hands up to his face as he had done so before. Suddenly he put a hand up to the bars of the window and used the pother one to shield his face, as if he was too scared to looked at them. "I don't really…I don't really feel like talking…anymore," he said with some difficulty.
"Tracey!" Ash and Misty cried. "Please, Tracey," Misty said. Ash nodded in agreement. "We're hear for you. We want to help!"
"Help?" Tracey whispered. "You can't. Look, I've… already said too much. Please…just go."
"Tracey!" they cried again, but Tracey jumped down from the window, threw himself onto the grubby mattress and buried his head under the pillow. Ash and Misty continued to stay at the window, calling his name, but Tracey wouldn't uncover his head from the pillow. He seemed to be pretending they weren't there. All at once though, Ash stopped yelling at Tracey.
"Tracey, listen to us!" Misty cried again, but Ash put his hand over her mouth.
"Shhh!" he hissed. "Someone's coming!" Misty cocked her head to one side. There were footsteps, coming closer! "Get down!" Ash whispered quickly. "Snorlax, return!". Once again, a little foresight would have helped, because both he and Misty ended up on the ground, rubbing their sore places.
"Oops," said Ash nervously, seeing the murderous look Misty was giving him.
Sure enough, an Officer jenny walked in soon after. Tracey poked his head out from under the pillow. He glared at the Officer resentfully.
"Aww," said the police Office mockingly, "We're in a bad mood, aren't we?"
Tracey narrowed his eyes at her but said nothing.
"Don't worry kid, we're not going to hurt you. You're just going home." The Officer said loftily. Tracey buried his face under the pillow again with a groan. Officer Jenny ignored him. "You got a problem with heights?" the police officer continued.
"Heights?" Tracey said, his voice slightly muffled from under the pillow. "No, of course not. Why?"
"It's to do with the way we're transporting you home."
Tracey had a sudden image of himself sent home in a wooden crate with holes poked in it. Heights he didn't mind, but enclosed spaces did freak him out. "How ARE you transporting me home?"
"Hmm? Oh, by hot air balloon. Tomorrow morning."
The police Officer walked off. Tracey heard, "Snorlax, Go!" on the other side of the wall and then Snorlax rumbling. A few seconds later Ash's head popped up at the window.
"Tracey!" Ash hissed.
"What?" Tracey sighed, removing his head from under the pillow.
"Listen man, we'll get you out of this. I swear!"
Tracey sighed again. "But you can't, Ash. Didn't you just hear?"
"Yeah, I did!"
"How on earth can you get me out of this? Can you think of one possible way that you could?"
"Er…"
"Exactly." Tracey said. He stood up on the bed so he was face to face with Ash. "It's better that you go on with your life and leave me here."
"But we want to help you!"
"Well, you can't." Tracey said flatly. "So forget it."
"Tracey-" Ash stared but Tracey cut him off, shaking his head.
"Goodbye." he said bitterly. "Just…goodbye."
And, once again, he lay down on the bed, covering his face with the pillow again so he wouldn't have to listen to Ash protesting.
"Tracey, we CAN help! You don't understand, we HAVE to help you-"
"Ash!" Misty called from the ground. "Forget it. Come on."
"but Misty…"
"Forget it," Misty said again. With a sigh, Ash climbed down from Snoralx's fur and called it back into its Pokeball.
'Well, that's it," Ash sighed, stowing the Pokeball in his pocket. "How can we help him now? We can't possibly stow away on the police hot air balloon, or get our own to travel in-" Sudden;y Misty luagjhed out loud.
"What's your problem?" Ash said startled.
"Pika kachu pi?"
"Oh come on you guys!" Misty scolded lightly; "You're forgetting something, aren't you?"
"Pika?
"Huh?" Ash said, still clueless.
"Well duh Ash…" Misty laughed.

CHAPTER NINE: The Master Plan
"Are you sure this is going to work?" Ash said nervously.
"Of course it is," Misty said. "I think."
"Pikachu pika pi…" Pikachu said darkly. Ash looked up in the sky, searching for Team Rocket.
It was a few hours after they had talked to Tracey. Misty had formulated a plan, which led them to a field on the outskirts of Scarletté City. The plan was basically this: lure Team Rocket to them and hijack their balloon.
"I really don't know if this will work," Ash muttered. Pikachu, who was going to be used as bait, looked like it agreed as it clung onto Ash's leg.
"You're just jealous because YOU didn't think of it," Misty said snippily. "Come on Pikachu! Stand right here."
"Piiiiiiiiiiii!" wailed Pikachu as Misty attempted to extract it from Ash's leg.
"Come on Pikachu," Ash said unhappily. "I know it's scary but we've got to do this for Tracey."
Pikachu relented. "Pi pi pikachu," it sighed.
"Great, I'm glad you finally saw reason," said Misty. "Okay, now you stand in the middle of the field and attract attention to yourself somehow." She looked up at the sky. "Hopefully that should draw Team Rocket to you." Pikachu shot Ash a pained look.
"Don't worry Pikachu, we'll be right over here!" Ash said, pointing to a deserted shed on the edge of the field. "And when Team Rocket comes, we'll be right out to protect you."
Misty and Ash left Pikachu and ran over to the edge of the field. "How do we even know Team Rocket is going to turn up?" Ash said as they ran.
"We don't" said Misty grimly. "We're just going to have to wait and see. But I've got a feeling…"
"A feeling of what?"
"I think they'll turn up. I just have this feeling they will. I mean, we haven't seen them all day, so they're bound to turn up soon."
"Oh great!" Ash snorted. "We're entrusting Tracey's, Pikachu's and OUR safety on a "feeling"! Well let me tell you something Misty, this plan STINKS! I really think we should call it off and find another way to save Tracey-"
"Prepare for trouble!" Jessie's foghorn voice rang out across the field.
"And make it double!" James bellowed.
"I don't believe it!" Ash said. Misty nodded her head, looking smug. She looked expectant, as if waiting for an apology, but Ash just shrugged. "Lucky guess." He turned his attention back to what was happening in the field. Team Rocket had obviously spotted Pikachu, who was lying down pretending to be asleep, because they were descending swiftly towards it, still reciting the motto.
"Jessie!"
"James"
"Team Rocket blast off at the speed of light!"
"Surrender now or prepare to fight, fight, fight!" James said with glee.
"Meowth! That's RIGHT!" Meowth finished in his high-pitched whine. The balloon touched the ground a few metres away from Pikachu.
"I don't believe it!" Jessie exclaimed. "Pikachu is standing there, unprotected, unwitting, and without the twerp!"
"This is our moment," said James. "Finally this Pikachu is ours."
"Meowth, is this definitely THE Pikachu?" Jessie asked, narrowing her eyes at Pikachu lying prostrate on the ground. "What's wrong with it, anyway?"
"It appears to be asleep," Meowth said. "And yes, this is THE Pikachu."
"Well then," beamed James. "Let's GO!"
With a yell, the three Team Rocket members leapt out of their balloon towards Pikachu, wielding a net.
"NOW!" misty shrieked.
"Bulbasaur, GO!" Ash threw a Pokeball as far as he could. Bulbasaur popped out in a flash of red light. "Vine whip!" yelled Ash, pointing at team Rocket, who, momentarily stunned, had stopped charging. Before they knew it, vines had encircled the three of them together.
"YAY!" Misty cried, jumping into the air. "I knew it would work, I just KNEW it!"
"Oh, stop showing off," Ash muttered. He once again turned his attention towards Team Rocket, who was glaring at him furiously.
"What is the MEANING of this?!" Jessie screamed, outraged.
"How dare you try to trap us!" James yelled.
"TRY?" Ash yelled back. "It looks to me like I've ALREADY trapped you!"
"Confuse us with logic if you must, but these vines will never hold Meowth!" cried Meowth, brandishing a claw.
"Pikachu!" yelled Ash. Pikachu, who had continued "playing possum" until then, leaped up and let fly with an electric attack.
"Now," said Ash, striding up to Team Rocket, who lay frizzled on the ground. "Do you feel ready to listen to us?"
"Hey!" said Jessie. "WE make the demands around here!"
"I don't think you're in any position to demand anything," Misty said as she sidled up beside Ash.
Team Rocket looked about them. On one side, a ferocious looking Pikachu, and on the other, an equally ferocious looking Bulbasaur. James gave a heavy sigh. It didn't seem fair. They always got beaten!
But Jessie stood her ground. "We don't give to anyone or anyTHING!" she snarled.
"Perhaps you'd like to try a little more negotiation with Pikachu," said Ash. Jessie glanced at Pikachu who snarled at her and made its cheeks sparkle with electricity.
"What exactly do you want?" James said quickly, before Jessie could say anything to get them into more trouble.
"Just a favor," Misty said loftily. "We need to borrow your balloon."
"Our balloon?" Team Rocket said in unison. They looked at each other, then back up at Ash and Misty. "WHY?"
"That's none of your business!" Ash said.
"Pika pi!"
"Will you help us or not?" Misty said, folding her arms. James took a deep breath to yell something at her, but Jessie kicked him sharply.
"OW!" James yelped. "What was that-OOOF!" Jessie had elbowed him in the ribs. She gave Ash a grin. "Sure little boy, we'll help you. Just tell us what to do."
***
Back at Tracey's cell, Ash had once again bought out Snorlax.
"What's he doing?" Jessie asked Misty as Ash scrabbled up Snorlax's fur. Team Rocket had tagged along- or rather, they had been FORCED to tag along. Pikachu was holding them hostage.
"He's just going to tell Tracey what we're up to," Misty said, watching Ash.
"Tracey!" Ash hissed once again. Tracey still had his face covered with the pillow. It looked like he hadn't moved at all since Ash left him. "Listen, you've got to tell us if you know where they're sending the balloon off tomorrow."
"What?" Tracey said, sounding muffled.
"Where are they sending the balloon off tomorrow?"
"At Ninetales Square, near the docks." Tracey said, not moving or looking up.
"Are you sure?" Ash asked.
"Of course I am." Tracey said. All of a sudden, he stood up. Ash could see his face was tearstained and his eyes were bloodshot.
"Are you okay?" Ash asked.
"Of course I am." Tracey snapped. He was looking annoyed. "Why did you want to know where the balloon is being sent off?"
'We've got a PLAN!" Ash said, with a grin. "You'll see."
Tracey stared searchingly at Ash for a moment or two, then frowned. "Listen to me. If you try to do anything stupid, like attacking the police or destroying the balloon…you'll get into big trouble. And I mean SERIOUS trouble."
"Oh, we're not doing anything like that," ash said.
"Promise me you won't do something stupid on my behalf," Tracey said sternly. "Because it's not worth it. Okay? Promise?" But Ash shook his head and glared at Tracey.
"Of course it's worth it!" the younger boy snapped. "We'll get you out of this mess, Trace, I promise."
"Ash, you-" Tracey started angrily, but then stopped. He could hear footsteps.
"Someone's combing," Ash said, hearing them too. "Don't worry Trace," he said dropping his voice to a whisper. "We'll see you tomorrow at Ninetales Square!"
And he ducked his head down just as the Chief Officer Jenny walked into Tracey's cell.
"What are you doing?" she asked, seeing him standing on the bed.
"Nothing," Tracey said, giving her a petulant glare. "What do you want?"
"Just thought you'd like to know I've notified your parents of your whereabouts, as well as the police on Shiroi Island. As soon as we land, they will be waiting there to escort you home."
"You sound pretty proud about it," Tracey sneered.
"I am indeed," the C.O. said with a nod. "Right, I'll get you up bright and early tomorrow morning. Seven o'clock sharp. You'd better get some rest."
Tracey waited until she had gone before slamming his fist into the wall in frustration.
"Ow!" he cried, rubbing his knuckles. He looked up at the window, wondering if they were still outside "Ash?" he whispered. "Misty?"
Evidently they had gone. It didn't matter though, because they couldn't save him. Better they should stay away and let him go back to Shiroi Island.
It really was hopeless. Completely hopeless! He was going to be transported back to his home. Back to the Gym. Back to his father. It was too much to bear.
Tracey buried his face in the pillow and sobbed.
y.
Bright and early the next morning, Ash, Misty, Jessie, James and Meowth were hiding in an alley across the road from the Scarletté City Police Station. They were waiting to see when Tracey would be bought out so they could run to the Meowth balloon, which had been hidden near the docks.
"I hope no one's found our balloon," James said nervously.
"I hope Tracey's alright," said Misty. "He seemed awfully upset, didn't he?"
"Just what did the kid DO to get put in a cell anyway?" Jessie asked. "You never told us."
"And you certainly wouldn't expect THAT guy to end up in the police station," Meowth muttered to Ash. "He's even more a goody two shoes than you."
"Tracey didn't do anything," Misty said indignantly. "It's all a mistake."
"Figures," James sighed. "Anything he actually DID wouldn't be against the law."
"Why should we even bother saving some law abiding twerp?"
"Because if you don't, Pikachu will get upset," Ash growled. "And you wouldn't want that to happen would you?"
"Actually," Misty said as Team Rocket looked fearfully at Pikachu, "All Tracey did was attack a squadron of police women."
Team Rocket all gasped.
"No way!"
"Wow!"
"You're kidding!"
"It's true," Misty said, grinning at their amazement. "He blew them away with his Scyther,"
"Wow!" said James again.
"What a man," Jessie said, her eyes glinting with approval.
"Maybe he'd join Team Rocket if we asked him really nicely?" Meowth suggested.
At that moment, there was a commotion across the street. The four people and three Pokemon all turned their attention towards it. Tracey was being brought out of the front doors of the police station, flanked on either side by two Officer Jennies. Another officer Jenny, whom Ash recognized as the one who attacked Tracey with the Vulpix yesterday, was leading them. Two more Officer Jennies brought up the rear. Even from across the street they could hear Tracey's protests.
"Let me GO!" he was yelling. "This is not fair, let me GO!"
People on the street or stall holders just opening up their shops all turned towards the commotion.
"HELP!" Tracey yelled, noticing people were looking. "HELP ME! They're holding me illegally! I haven't done anything wrong!"
The people turned to each other and murmured. A few went up and asked the officers what was going on.
"Citizens of Scarlette City!" the important looking Officer Jenny announced, holding up her hands. "We apologize for the disturbance! This boy," she indicated Tracey. "Is a dangerous and disturbed runaway who is being transported to Shiroi Island today. Please remain calm!" she added as people started gasping and running off. "At this point, he will be sedated and transported safely to Shiroi Island, and the streets will once again be safe to walk in."
There was a cheer from the people on the streets, and they went about their business again. Ash attempted to run at the Officers, but Misty grabbed him and held him back.
"Are you CRAZY?" she cried. "Do you want to ruin everything?"
"She's LYING!" Ash grunted furiously as he struggled to get away from Misty's grip. "SHE'S LYING!"
"I know she is!" Misty said. "But we've got to keep calm, otherwise Tracey could get in even deeper trouble."
As they watched, the Officers that were behind Tracey nodded to each other, then one took something out of her pocket. She emptied the contents (which were some sort of powder) onto Tracey's head.
"ARRRRRGH! LET GO OF ME! LEAVE ME ALONE!" Tracey yelled. But suddenly he seemed to droop. His eyes closed and he slumped in the arms of two Officers.
"Let's bring him home, girls," the important looking Officer Jenny said. Ash's mouth fell open.
"That's…sleeping powder…" he said softly. Suddenly he tried to make a run for it again. Fortunately Misty still had a grip on him otherwise he would have run straight over the road at the Officers.
"Those monsters, they used sleeping powder on Tracey! They have no right to do that!" he yelled furiously. "LET GO OF ME MISTY! What they are doing is ILLEGAL!"
"Ash!" Misty grabbed Ash round the neck. "Calm down, calm down. I KNOW it's illegal."
"We can't just stand around here while they do that to Tracey!"
"Settle down, twerp," said James as he and his teammates ran up to Ash and Misty. He had a grin on his face. "Your friend was certainly putting up a fight."
"Yeah, until the put SLEEPING POWDER on him!" Ash yelled, outraged. Jessie looked thoughtful.
"I wonder if coppers are really allowed to do that?" she said.
"I dunno," chuckled Meowth, "But it sure is a neat trick!"
Misty interrupted. "Why are we standing here when they are dragging Tracey off?! This way!" She pointed down the street where the squadron of police was escorting Tracey's limp body to the docks.
"Quickly!" Ash cried.
Ash, Misty, Pikachu and Team Rocket sprinted to Ninetales Square, a busy part of the city even at seven in the morning. The big blue police balloon was hard to miss; already an interested crowd was forming around the basket. Ash, Misty, Pikachu and Team Rocket hovered around the edge of the crowd, trying not to be seen by the officers.
"Out of the way, good citizens," the important officer said. "This young boy is being taken to where he belongs. Okay girls, bring him in."
The Officers bundled Tracey roughly into the basket. Ash sucked in his breath, but Misty squeezed his shoulder as a warning. As the rope was untied and the basket was let off the ground, Jessie sidled up to Ash and Misty.
"We'd better hurry if we want to keep pace with them," she muttered. "Come on. James and I hid the balloon in a safe place."
Misty nodded, keeping her eyes on the big blue balloon that ascended gracefully into the air. The important officer herself was riding in the balloon, and she waved at the crowd below as the balloon gained height.
"Let's go," Ash said quietly. Misty glanced sideways at him, and his face was still furious.
"I can't believe this happened." she whispered.
"Me neither."
"Pikachu pika pi…"
"Toki! Breeeeee!"
Moments later, Ash and Misty and Pikachu were up in the air. James and Jessie were controlling the balloon with practiced ease, while Meowth was steering. A few hundred metres ahead of them was the police balloon.
Tracey didn't know it but he was starting the longest journey of his life. When he woke up he would be at the place he would be at the place he never wanted to see again. At Shiroi Island.
"Home."

>TO BE CONTINUED…