Somehow, even though Ember is expecting something to happen–after all, there has to have been some kind of event that made the arguing Ash and Pikachu into the close-knit AshandPikachu she remembers–she is still completely blindsided by the hostile flock of Spearow. Almost literally.
She’s pretty sure nothing seriously bad will happen–Ash is the ultimate protagonist of this world despite Gary no longer being his rival and despite whatever she is–but that doesn’t stop her from being scared and worried. Sandshrew is a ground type Pokemon, and thus essentially useless in this fight against the flying Pokemon, and while Gary and his Squirtle increase their chances–they are still vastly outnumbered.
Pikachu would be most effective, but he’s not listening to Ash, and is attacking the way a wild Pokemon would–instinctively, recklessly, far from strategic.
Squirtle is tired out soon, as well as her Sandshrew, futilely trying to attack with scratch and poison sting, though their tough shells have prevented major injuries from happening. The same cannot be said for Pikachu’s softer fur and skin.
There are still many Spearow left.
One day, they will be stronger. One day, the idea of a flock of Spearows capable of taking them out will be laughable. One day, they will look on this moment with a little embarrassment, a lot of amusement, and the delicate brushstrokes of nostalgia.
But this is not that day. Today is only their first day, and they are outnumbered, outmatched, and simply out of options.
They run until they can’t anymore. Not because they’re tired, but because they fall into a river.
This is not the illustrious beginning to his Pokemon journey that Gary was expecting. Frankly, this is awful. And while the water seems to energize Squirtle enough that he can help tow Gary to the far shore quickly, the same cannot be said for the Ketchum twins and their Pokemon.
“Sandshrew!” Ember splutters, treading water for a few moments and looking around, before kicking down and into the water. Sandshrew is a tired ground Pokemon–a body of water is not the safest place for her to be. Ember’s head breaches the surface again, and even as she’s gasping for air she calls out for her starter.
“Squirtle, find Sandshrew,” Gary says, and the turtle nods obediently before diving back in. Gary hesitates before doing the same himself, he does actually know how to swim and since he’s already wet, and it makes the most sense for him to go to Ember since she seems to be panicking. “Ember!” He shouts, but she’s not paying attention or just can’t hear him, because she goes underwater again.
“Ember,” he says again, once she’s resurfaced, and he pulls at her arm to prevent her from diving back down, “Come on, we have to get to shore.”
“I can’t find Sandshrew,” she says, more afraid than Gary’s ever seen her, “I let go of her! She can’t swim, Gary,” she resists his pull towards land.
“Squirtle will find her,” he assures her, “I promise,” that seems to do the trick, and they both swim their way over to the shore.
They stand, drenched, waiting for their Pokemon to appear; seconds dragging on unbearably.
Until finally Squirtle’s brown shell and blue skin breach the river, further downstream than Ember had been checking. His movement is slow and awkward–and for a horrified moment, Gary thinks that maybe he’s been injured, gotten into a fight with even more wild Pokemon. Thankfully, it turns out that Squirtle’s only using his tail to propel himself forward, because gripped in his his arms and legs is the curled up body of Ember’s Sandshrew.
“Oh thank god,” Ember breathes and walks knee deep back into the river to pull the two Pokemon the rest of the way to shore, “Thank you, Squirtle,” she says with a rush, pressing a quick kiss to his scaly head, then passing him off to Gary.
While Ember and her Sandshrew grip tightly and speak to each other, apologies on one side and reassuring explanation on the other–apparently a well-timed Defense Curl can make a Sandshrew temporarily waterproof though it’ll sink like a stone–Gary smooths a hand over his Squirtle’s head with pride.
“You did well,” Gary says, it’s the truth, but Squirtle still looks pleased.
Now that they’ve reunited, however, there’s more pertinent matters to attend to–“Where are the Spearow?” Gary asks, scanning the sky for the flock that chased them into the river in the first place.
Ember gasps, dismayed, “Where’s Ash?”
Perhaps it’s coincidence, or maybe it’s fate, but Ash meets Misty, steals her bike, and proves his worthiness to Pikachu.
For once, in the aftermath of the storm, Ash sees something Ember does not. A shining, golden bird flying overhead.
A/N: Hm… so I’m mostly looking at the episode synopsis on bulbapedia for this so mreh? Even though it says Ash fell into a pond I figure, with Gary and Ember there, his path is altered enough that they could easily have fallen into a river instead. I guess. Also, ponds are tiny.
I don’t think I want to do a straight up rewrite of the anime–because that would be so boring–but I also don’t know what I would do with this series otherwise?