"Hurry up Ash, you're going to be late to your own match!" Brock and Misty sprinted down a busy street, dodging between people and apologizing when they bumped into someone.

     "C'mon guys, wait up!" Ash yelled as he tried to keep up with his companions. As he wrestled on his vest, he nearly ran down a Rattata and its traininer. "Sorry about that!"

     "Pika pi!" Pikachu struggled to keep up with Ash and the others, his shorter legs forcing him to work harder.

     Misty turned to glare at Ash. "Hurry up! It's your fault were late, how could you sleep in on the day of your match for the Pokemon League Championship? If you hadn't stayed up late last night goofing off this never would have happened" she growled. "If we aren't there in ten minutes, Gary wins by default!"

     Ash's features firmed and he put on a burst of speed that left Brock and Misty gaping. "THERE IS NO WAY I AM GONNA LOSE TO GARY! LET'S GO PIKACHU! Come on guys." Misty and Brock watched in amazement as Ash tore ahead of them leaving a dust cloud trail in his wake.

Dark Master prologue
By Darkness and Light(darkness_and_light@hotmail.com)

Disclaimer: Pokemon, its characters, story and associated trademarks are properties of their respective owners. I in no way claim these characters as mine nor have I made money from it.

     "So you decided to show up after all. Didn't think you were going to make it, did you wake up late again?" Ash gritted his teeth and struggled to maintain control. He hated that arrogance Gary always got when he was talking to him.

     They were in the narrow tunnels that lead to the Pokemon Stadium. Even through the thick concrete Ash could hear the cheering of the crowd.

     "Well let's go Ash, we wouldn't want to disappoint the crowd now would we? Try not to lose to fast, they came here to see a battle." With a casual toss of his wrist, Gary turned and began walking away, his footsteps growing fainter as he faded from view.

     Ash felt a wave of anger wash over him. He had never really understood why Gary disliked him so much His hands clenched, then grew tighter still. Ever since they were little kids, Ash had always been second to Gary. Gary was everything he was not. Confident, intelligent and good looking, the grandson of a world famous Pokemon expert. He excluded an aura of attraction that made everyone like him and gathered a throng of followers. When Gary left Pallet, every girl in town left with him as his own private cheering section. The only people who saw Ash off were his mother and her friends.

     When he was young, he had played with the other kids in Pallet. They had laughed and played at being Pokemon together. Ash's eyes closed as the memories came to him unbidden.

      "I wanna be a Caterpie!"

     "Well I'm a Machop I can karate chop you."

     "Okay I evolve into a Butterfree then. I use confusion. Fighting Pokemon are weak against psychic Pokemon."

     "No fair, you can't evolve. You're cheating!"

     "Am not!"

     "Are too!"

     "Am not!"

     "Are too!"

     A small young boy with spiked black hair walked up to the two bickering boys "Hey guys, can I play too?" They turned to look at him then began to smile.

     "Hi Ash! You can be Jolteon 'cause its hair looks just like yours!" Ash began to laugh, a smile beginning to appear on his face. "Okay, I'm gonna thundershock both of you!"

    The other two boys shrieked and ran away laughing. Ash grinned and chased after them, pretending to shock them. But as he dashed around a corner, a leg shot out and tripped him. Ash felt as sharp pain as he hit the ground with a loud thud. He groaned as he pushed himself up and found a pair of shoes inches from his face. Following the leg up he found himself staring at Gary Oak.

     Behind him he heard scuffling as the other two boys ran over. "Hi Gary, you wanna play Pokemon?" Disdain flickered in Gary's eyes as he looked down at Ash. "No thanks, playing Pokemon is for babies. I would rather see real Pokemon. My grandpa just got a Scyther in his lab." Both of the boys gasped in awe, their eyes growing wide. "Wow! Can we see it?"

     A smirk that would in time become commonplace on Gary's face appeared. "Sure. Follow me!" He paused as the two boys ran off, their voices loud with excitement. "Ash, you look more like a Muk then a Jolteon, and grandpa doesn't let Muks in the lab. Smell ya later Ash!"

     He rejoined his friends and the three boys ran off to Professor Oaks lab, laughing. Ash stood in the now empty grassy field, alone. No one saw his tears.

     As they grew older the other boys began to ignore Ash, isolating him. Until he met Brock and Misty, he had never had any real friends and sometimes Ash wasn't even sure of that. Who was he to them but poor little Ash, unable to do anything without their help.

     The leather in Ash's gloves began to creak under the strain, his hands turning white as he continued to clench his hands tighter. Well he didn't need their pity. This was more then just a Pokemon match, this was his final chance to emerge from beneath Gary's shadow. He would do anything to be the best Pokemon trainer of all time. Only then would he finally be greater then Gary.

     Ash blinked as he heard it again, a soft dripping noise that was magnified by the echoing corridor. His hand trembled as he lifted it to his face, fresh rivulets of blood running down his upraised arm. The movement shook a drop of blood free. It hung there, suspended in the air for an eternity, then fell splashing softly in the rapidly pooling puddle of blood at his feet.

     Ash started at his blood soaked hand in wonder, how did that happen?

     "Welcome to the final match of the Pokemon League Championship! We have quite a match today between two boys from the town of Pallet. The Red trainer, Gary Oak!" The stands thundered as thousands of people surged to their feet to cheer. A chant quickly spread through the crowd, faint at first but steadily gaining strength. "Gary, Gary, Gary, Gary..."
     "And the Blue trainer, Ash Ketchum!" The applause and cheers continued, but was muted. Ash saw several people simply sit down as others began to boos and jeer. He closed his eyes and walked slowly to the trainer stand. A faint smile flickered across his features as he caught scraps of Brock and Misty shouts of encouragement.

     "Let the final match of the Pokemon League Championship begin!"

     Despite what Misty thought, Ash had been up late last night thinking of what Pokemon he would use. He twisted his official Pokemon League hat as he tossed his first Pokeball.

     "I choose you, Bulbasaur!"

     The red and white ball flashed as Bulbasaur emerged. Gary grinned as he expanded and threw his own Pokeball. "Rhydon teach him a lesson."

     The Bulbasaur was dwarfed by the mountain of rock before it. Gary smirked as he pointed at the Bulbasaur. "Rhydon, take down attack."

     "Bulbasaur, use your leech seed!"

     The bulb on the plant Pokemon's back clenched tight for a second before launching a pale green seed the size of a fist at the charging beast. The seed stuck the Rhydon in the middle of its chest, long tendrils errupting and wrapping themselves around the Pokemon's limbs. Gary's Rhydon roared as it ripped though the vines holding it and slammed into the smaller Pokemon. Bulbasaur was launched into the wall below the spectator stands, cracking the stone in a spiderweb pattern, where it fell to the ground unmoving.

     Gary smirked at Ash, his arms crossed on his chest. "That was pathetic, even for you Ash. What other kinds of loser Pokemon do you have?" Ash ground his teeth as he extended the Pokeball. "Bulbasaur, return. "

     "Pikachu, go!"

     "Pika pi!" Pikachu launched itself onto the field, his electric sacs sparking. Gary smirked, "Arcanine, go!" A large snarling Arcanine appeared, wisp of fire emerging from his mouth with every breath.

     "Pikachu, thunder attack!" The electric generators on Pikachu's cheeks flashed a deep blue, bolts of lightning spiraling out in all directions. "Pika!"

     Gary's eyes flashed, his hand closing into a fist. "Arcanine, use agility." The fire Pokemon blurred as it dodged bolt after bolt of electricity. "Now Arcanine, take down attack." Arcanine burst forward in a surge of speed and slammed into Pikachu, stray bolts of energy dispersing harmlessly into the air.

     "All right Arcanine, finish it with flamethrower." Arcanine reared back his head and a gout of fire emerged, a stray burst of flame licking Pikachu.

     "No! Pikachu!" Gary laughed, his eyes filled with contempt, "If you want your Pikachu to survive, then give up the match." Ash hesitated, glancing at his friend. Pikachu was continuing to dodge, but he was burned in several places, smoke rising from dark patches on his fur.

     In his moment of indecision, Pikachu was caught by a flamethrower blast. Pikachu's screams of pain cut through Ash like a knife. "Stop it! You win."

     "Pikachu is out of the match, the winner is the Red trainer, Gary Oak!"

     Misty saw tears fall from Ash's eyes as he turned and walked towards the exit of the stadium. "Ash, hey it was a good try." Ash ignored her and continued to walk.

     "Ash?" said Misty, worry lacing her voice.

     "Ash, what about Pikachu?" Misty watched in horror as Ash peeled of the belt holding his Pokeballs and dropped it. Then Ash turned and walked away.

(End prologue)