Curse of the Miasma

"Welcome Back"

The empty highway stretched out before them like a staircase with no end. It's been almost an hour since Ash and Misty left Luna Ranch, and they still haven't reached Toprika Village yet. The paramedics offered them a ride to town, so they accepted. They've been on Highway 31 since. The rest of the ride was quiet except for constant remarks from Misty about their current speed.

Twenty minutes later, the two kids were dropped off in front of the police station. The annoyed paramedics quickly left, dust blowing from beneath their wheels. Coughing and gagging, Ash and Misty walked into the building.

Inside, everything was chaos: police officers were running all over with criminals in handcuffs and K-9 Growlithes were barking at everyone. Ash and Misty slowly made it to the front counter as if they were in the video game Frogger. An Officer Jenny greeted them mid-way.

"Hello children. Is there something you need help with?"

"Yeah, we have two people missing, one of them was a close friend and the other was badly injured." Misty said, stepping out of the way of a running Growlithe.

"I see. Let's go outside where it's not so hectic, and you can explain."

Officer Jenny walked to the exit with Ash and Misty right behind. Once outside they sat down at a nearby table and Officer Jenny pulled out her notebook and pen.

"Why is the station so busy?" Ash asked glancing at the station, where another group of cops entered holding a possible suspect.

Officer Jenny sighed and set the notebook and pen down on the table.

"We've been getting many reports of criminals robbing private homes and Pokémon Centers, then stealing rare pokémon. At first we thought the offenders were a part of Team Rocket, but out of all the evidence we gathered, we highly doubt that now."


"Well, in most Team Rocket incursions, the victims usually aren't paralyzed so badly that they are mistaken for dead."

"Eeesh." Misty exclaimed.
"Yep, but back to your friends. What happened?"

"Well, it actually started a few days ago." Ash began, "We were passing through Sapphire Lake when Brock --- our friend who was kidnapped -- had overheard someone talking about this girl who could heal any pokémon. It sounded like she could understand them on a higher level then find out what was bothering them. My Pikachu had been acting really strange lately, and all the Nurse Joys couldn't find anything wrong with him. That's when we decided to come here and find that girl. We arrived this morning."

"There are many 'Pokémon Psychics' in Toprika, and I doubt they honestly understand a pokémon's problem on a higher level." Jenny sighed.

"Oh no, this wasn't a Pokémon Psychic, this was some girl at a ranch." Misty said.

Officer Jenny's pen fell out of her hand, but didn't seem to notice. She was staring at Misty, her expression frozen.

"A ranch?"
"Um, yeah... what was its name again?" Misty looked at Ash to help refresh her memory, but he was frowning as if the name was on the tip of his tongue.
"Luna Ranch? You two aren't talking about Luna Ranch, are you?"
"Yeah! How'd you know?" Ash asked, glancing up.

Officer Jenny's complexion went pale and she abruptly stood up.
"This girl you're mentioning, is she Samantha Lynn?"
"And is she the other person that was kidnapped?"
"Yes, she's the one who was badly injured."
"Oh God."

Jenny briskly walked through the Station's doors and blew the whistle that hung around her neck. The frenzied room instantly went quiet.

"I need all available units NOW. Code Z, officers, I repeat, Code Z."

Half of the officers in the room looked at Jenny as if she had spoken in a foreign language while the other half jumped into action. Dialing phones and grabbing maps, the officers who knew what 'Code Z' meant and were not already preoccupied with something else, knew exactly what to do.

In ten minutes half of the Toprika Force was racing along Highway 31. Officer Jenny led this team in her two door white Jeep, with Ash and Misty hanging on to dear life from the back seat.

{: | :}

Brock slowly opened his eyes to find a beautiful girl looking down at him. The light in the room was dim, but he could tell that her amber eyes were sparkling with concern. He looked at her for a few moments longer before slipping back unconscious.

She slowly stood up and looked around. They were in a small prison cell with only one tiny window and a big iron door. The air was stuffy and they'd been in there for who knows how long. She looked back at the guy who breathed deeply in the corner. She had absolutely no idea who the heck he was, but he kept mumbling something every so often. He'd wake up suddenly like he was having a bad dream, but would fall back unconscious just as quickly. He had quite a nasty bump on the back of his head. Samantha slowly walked to the window, careful not to upset her wounded side. Despite her attackers' request, she just wouldn't agree to leave with them peacefully.

'Their stupid offer.' She thought angrily, 'Next time I see them, boy are they going to need insurance.'

She looked down, gingerly touching her waist. Her beautiful dress was ruined; the blood stains and the huge tear would be impossible to fix. Through the holes, you could see bandages over her wound. She didn't know when, but sometime between her getting knocked out and her awaking, the creeps cleaned her up. She could feel the stitches in her skin and the blood throbbing against the band-aids. She wondered if she had any internal damage, but knew it would be a while until she got answers, if any. She looked out the window and sighed. The sky was cloudy, as if it could rain within the hour.

'Lets see... If I wasn't trapped in this hellhole right now, I'd probably be listening to Mike give some excuse for being late again. Not that it really matters now. I hope he remembers to feed Zelda --'

Samantha swiftly turned around and studied her surroundings. She knew she heard something, but wasn't quite sure what it was. She glanced over at the guy in the corner, but he was still unconscious. She was really beginning to worry about him; he should've been up and running by now. A small click was heard again in the room.

"Who's there?" She thundered before the door even swung open.

A man in his early twenties named Derek came in, closed the door behind him, and turned on a flashlight. He wore a black uniform with a pale blue 'M' on the front of the shirt. Samantha continued to glare at him.

"Samantha, you've finally made it back! How ya doin'?"
". . ."
"Of course. And your side?"
"Tell Emily and Eric that the next time either of them comes within 100 feet of me, I'm going to tear 'em to shreds."
"Ah, so the pain's about a... seven?"

Samantha glared at him for a moment longer before shifting her gaze to the side.
"Yeah, pretty much." She muttered.
"Right, just checkin'. Want me to bring ya some aspirin?"
"Nah, that's okay. Bag of ice would be good though."

Derek nodded and glanced around the cell, frowning.

"Jeez, I know you and Victor have issues, but he could have gotten ya a better room. And without dead people in it. Sheesh."
"That guy isn't dead. Or, at least I don't think he is. Anyway, I heard that big tub of lard say something about this only being temporary. Apparently all the other rooms were taken."
"Well, Miasma's been busy lately."
"No kidding. What's with the big outbreak? You guys preparing for a war or something?"

Derek suddenly shifted his gaze to the floor, mumbled something about dinner being served in a few hours, and rushed out the door. Samantha listened to the door be locked again and frowned.

"That can't be good."

{: | :}

Somewhere in the house on Luna Ranch, an ancient clock chimed three. Else where, a pokéball quivered and fell to the ground, releasing the pokémon inside. It slithered to the barn, its auburn eyes searching for its trainer.

Officer Jenny drove through the gates of Luna Ranch and followed the dusty trail that led to the house. Ash and Misty were telling her how they found Samantha, but they weren't exactly sure if she was listening. She still wore the same expression from before they left, only with a more focused, hardened glare. Ash and Misty wouldn't dare catch her glance in the rear-view mirror.

Parking in front of the house, Jenny and the other officers exploded onto the scene, half of the team going up into the house, and the other half inspecting the immediate perimeter around it. Officer Jenny leapt out of the jeep, walked to its back end, and pulled out a metal briefcase from behind Misty's seat. Ash and Misty also got out and followed Officer Jenny up the front stairs while watching the other officers warily. It was almost as if they had been preparing for this for quite some time...

When the officers walked inside, they separated into pairs and split up to investigate different areas of the house. Ash and Misty however were greeted by an unfriendly silence and stayed inside the front doorway.

"Hey Ash, did the paramedics turn off the music before we left?"
"No, I don't think they did. I thought you..." Ash looked at Misty questioningly, but she slowly shook her head. They both glanced around, the silence even more unnerving than before.

Officer Jenny took a long look at her surroundings before going into the living room and setting the briefcase on the couch. She then inspected the windows and doors for any signs of break-in entries but didn't find any. All the windows and doors were locked from the inside.

"Hey Jenny, we found something. Can you come here for a moment?" One of the officers said from near the dried puddle of blood.
"What is it, Jake?"

Officer Jake began pointing to small piles of white powder that were encircled by black tape (put there by Jake's partner). "I'll need to take a sample down to the lab before confirming this, but I've got a hunch it's that M93 powder that we've been finding at similar crime scenes."
"Mm, good work Jake. I'll get Jan to take a sample of this down to the lab ASAP."
"Alright. It's strange though; there are so many deposits around here! Almost three times the amount we've found at other sites. I wonder why so much was used?"

Officer Jenny opened her mouth to reply, but paused. A familiar music box tune had begun to play; it's solemn notes piercing the silent house. It took a moment for her to remember that it was the phone that was making that sound. Walking into the office, she reached over answered the phone.

"Hello? Who is calling?"
"Hey Sam, I know I'm ultra late but I--" The young man's voice paused for a moment. "Uh, who is this?"
"I was about to ask you the same question."

Both ends went silent.

"If you're not Sam, then... wait, Jenny is that you? What are you doing at Sam's house?"
"Yup, it's me. Didn't realize you still checked on Sam. Is she home? Can I talk to her?"

Officer Jenny went quiet. 'How am I going to tell him?'

"Uh, Jenny? You still there?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I'm here. Oh jeez. Mike, Sam's missing. I got a report just a few hours ago that she and someone else had been kidnapped, from right here at the ranch."

Now it was Mike's turn to go silent. In fact, he stayed silent for five very long seconds before rasping out a low "what?"

"I've got some of my best men here investigating it right now. We're got some leads, but you know that if you ever hear anything on the streets, --"

"Officer Jenny! Officer Jenny, there's something you should see!" An officer shouted into the office. Jenny nodded to him then turned back to the phone.

"Mike, I've got to go. I'll..." Jenny's voice trailed off as the dial tone caught her attention. Mike had already hung up. Without bothering to give it a second thought, Officer Jenny hung up the phone and jogged out into the living room where the officer from before waited for her.

"Jacob, what's the matter?"
"Jan and I found the point of break-in, upstairs. It's...pretty gruesome, Jen."

Officer Jenny nodded slightly then followed him up the staircase. Ash and Misty, who were still standing near the front door, watched her worryingly. They exchanged glances before slowly heading farther into the house, but stopped when they heard Officer Jenny.

"What the hell happened here?"

She exclaimed, her gaze spanning across the room. The room was actually just a large empty space with three doors that led to a bedroom, a bathroom, and a small porch. Well, the space used to be empty. A sandslash and meowth laid in the middle of the room; both in critical condition and slathered in red. The once white walls were sprayed with blood, and lots of it. Jenny clutched the handrail to steady herself, but continued to look around. Some of the sandslash's quills were sticking out of the walls, and one of the larger windows that faced Wintry Mountain was shattered as if something dove through it.

"Okay, um, Jean and John, can you please come up here?" Jenny shouted down the staircase. From the kitchen emerged the two officers, both carrying professional flash cameras. Jean paused in front of Ash and Misty and gave them a curious look.

"Hey, what are you kids doing here?"
"We were here when Samantha and Brock were kidnapped."
"Really now? Well, if you haven't been questioned already, go talk to Officer Jamie. She's in the kitchen."

With that Officer Jean followed her partner upstairs. The next few minutes were filled with the sound of uninterrupted clicks and flashes that slightly illuminated the stairs. A short while after that, Officer Jenny and Officer Jacob descended down the stairs and out the front door, both carrying a large object wrapped in a towel. Gently placing them in the back seat of her jeep, Officer Jenny told Officer Jacob that she would be back soon, then sped off towards town.

* * * * *

Click here to go to chapter three.

Written by Jade Smith
Orignally July 2000, rewritten Nov. 2002