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September 7th, 2010 (12:28 PM).
Oatmeal? Are you CRAZY?!
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: In the middle of nowhere.
Knowing the dangers of ferries, Belle was a little apprehensive about using one—at least, one that she could afford. She sat down in front of the video phone at the PokéCenter, praying that Cassandra hadn’t told Gerald anything. Charmy wandered off, unintentionally intimidating nearby Trainers.
Calling Gerald’s office phone was usually hit-or-miss; sometimes he was there, sometimes he wasn’t. Luckily, today he picked up, beaming at her through the screen. Belle tried her best to muster a smile, but it felt more like a grimace.
“Hey, Papa G,” she said, almost through gritted teeth.
“Belle! Do you need money?” He frowned suddenly and concernedly, leaning in towards the phone.
“Actually…yes. I had hoped to kind of work into it…”
“You don’t need to worry about that sort of thing.” Gerald smiled and waved his hand. “I know it’s not particularly normal for a girl to call her friend’s father. What do you need it for?”
“Well, I need to get to Cinnabar Island, and there’s a ferry leaving from Vermilion City this afternoon that I can’t afford.” Belle winced slightly. She heard a roar and looked around; Charmy was baring his teeth at a small Vaporeon. “Charmy!” she called. “What are you doing? Get back here! Sorry,” she added to the Vaporeon’s Trainer, a skinny girl with green pigtails. “Sorry,” she said also to Gerald.
“It’s no problem. Charmy’s your—goodness, he’s evolved!” Gerald’s mouth dropped open when Charmy stepped into the frame, bending his neck to peer at the screen. “Last time I saw you, big fella, you where a Charmander!”
Charmy closed his eyes in a smile. He placed a claw on Belle’s shoulder protectively.
“You know, Cassandra’s Fluffy evolved, too,” Gerald said, pulling his wallet out of his back pocket.
“Oh…did he?” Belle bit her lip as she watched him count out bills.
“Sure did. He’s awfully big. Bet his sire was big or something—things like that are in the genes. You didn’t hear?” He looked up, bills in one hand, frowning.
“Um…no. Maybe she just hasn’t gotten around to emailing me yet,” Belle replied hastily. She attempted a smile for Gerald’s benefit.
“That must be it.” Gerald was doing something out-of-frame; he was obviously putting the money in the transfer capsule. “Well, this should be more than enough.”
“I’ll send you the change.”
“Nonsense! You’ll need it! And who knows when you’ll contact me next, eh?” Gerald cracked a grin, which Belle failed at returning. “Be careful!”
And that was how she ended up sitting cross-legged on the deck of a ferry, the only girl in an old sweatshirt and holey jeans among mostly well-groomed teenagers. She leaned her head against the wall, closing her eyes.
She sat there for a few moments before feeling a nudge on her leg; Eevee sat there, looking up at her. Charmy didn’t like water, so he was in his Poké Ball—Belle had wanted someone for company, so she had brought out Eevee, ignoring the snide remarks of the rich kids walking by. Looking down at her now reminded Belle of the Vaporeon in the Saffron City PokéCenter.
“You might need to evolve soon,” she told her, reaching out to scratch the cute thing between the ears. With a chirp of agreement, Eevee ducked her hand and pawed at her backpack. Belle opened it and brought out three small boxes.
In Celadon City, Belle had bought three Elemental Stones—Water, Fire, and Thunder—so that when the time came, she would ask Eevee which one she wanted to become. Now, she opened all three boxes and turned them towards Eevee. “What’ll it be?” she asked. “Vaporeon, Flareon, or Jolteon? Are you sure you don’t want to be Umbreon or Espeon or something?”
Eevee narrowed her eyes at Belle before turning towards the gleaming yellow Thunder Stone, poking it gently with her nose; she was enveloped with a familiar white light as the stone began to glow. Her shape shifted; she grew as spikes shot out from her body.
When the light faded, Jolteon stood before her, looking at her with black beady eyes. Belle smiled. “Well hello.”
“Are those Stones?”
Belle looked up; a girl with her blonde hair fastened back in a bun stood there, a purse dangling from her elbow and a cell phone in one hand. A Roselia stood at her feet.
“Uh—yeah,” Belle replied. The girl immediately began digging in her purse.
“Are you going to use them?” she asked. “How much would you be willing to sell them for? I forgot to make a stop at Celadon City Department Store, and I need them! I have a Vulpix and I’m dying to have a Ninetales!”
Belle blinked. She wasn’t sure what to say. The girl was attracting attention with all her shouting; a few heads were turning. A boy came running up, a Growlithe at his heels, and a few more girls came as well. Suddenly, Belle’s peaceful spot was a barrage of shouting voices as each rich Trainer present tried to buy Belle’s Elemental Stones, shouting higher prices over the voices of each other.
She managed a wicked grin. She had been willing to just give this girl the Fire Stone, but that wouldn’t be fair, what with so many people wanting it. She would have to hold an auction.
When Belle got off the ferry and stepped onto Cinnabar Island soil, she was almost rich. Jolteon trotted at her heels, and only a few other people got off with her.
The island took Belle’s breath away. Although it had a volcano rising in the distance, the grass was lush and green; the small town was quaint. The PokéCenter appeared to have wood sidings, and the PokéMart was made of brick.
Little brick houses dotted the paths snaking around the small town. An old, dilapidated Pokémon Lab could have taken away from the scene, but it seemed rather charming instead. Belle smiled genuinely.
And then she remembered—she was in Derrick’s hometown.
Suddenly, the focus was different. Had Derrick ever been to that house? Had Derrick ever looked at the PokéCenter? Had Derrick ever been to the PokéMart? How often had Derrick walked this particular path? Did Derrick ever go to the hot springs advertised by a flyer posted on the PokéCenter door?
Where was Derrick’s house?
Belle was determined to find it, now that she had thought about it. She entered the PokéCenter and looked around. Not many people were there; a few people Belle’s age sat in the lounge area, sipping coffee and pretending to be cool. She snorted in disdain. Her eye fell on the video phone, and she thought briefly of Swifter, her Pidgeotto—after catching Poliwhirl, she had sent him to Professor Oak’s lab.
“Hi, Nurse Joy?” Belle approached the counter, pulling her Poké Balls out of her backpack. “Um…while you heal my Pokémon…I’d like to ask you a question.”
“What’s that?” Joy took the Poké Balls and placed them in the strange healing device in all PokéCenters. It flashed and made a strange sound almost like music—each device made that very same noise. Belle frowned at it before continuing.
“Well…did you know a boy named Derrick? Derrick Evans?”
“Oh, Derrick,” Joy said happily, handing the Poké Balls back to Belle. “I sure did. Such a bright, cheery little boy, despite all that happened to him…”
“Yeah,” Belle replied. “Um…do you know where I could find his former house?”
Joy smiled sadly. “Yes. But I’ll have to draw you a map—it’s not far from the village, but it’s difficult to find if you don’t live here.” She pulled out a slip of paper and a pen and began sketching lines and roads and buildings. “It’s actually easier if you start here.” She tapped the end of the pen on a path starting behind the newer-looking Pokémon Research Center.
“Thank you,” Belle said, and with map in hand, she set off for Derrick’s house.
Nurse Joy had been right—there were many twists and turns on this little path, and places where it disappeared altogether. If it hadn’t been for Joy’s uncanny rendering of landmarks (such as a random collection of boulders shaped like Kingler) Belle would have gotten hopelessly lost. Soon enough, though, she came to the crest of a hill and looked down at a small valley with a cute little two-story house in the middle, made of brick just like the rest of the houses in the village. There was a small front porch with a porch swing. Belle slowly went down the side of the hill, Jolteon hopping at her side. As she got closer, she realized that something was amiss—the bricks were chipped and faded, and the paint on the porch was peeling. The swing looked weak, as if it was going to break, and a shutter was hanging off one of the windows. The paint on the door, like that of the porch, was peeling severely, and the knob was rusted. This house had fallen into disrepair.
Belle looked around. Derrick hadn’t said his mother had died. Maybe she didn’t live here anymore? Belle made her way around the side of the house, peeking into the tall grass of the backyard. A Rattata scampered away when it saw her. She turned and went back to the front door.
Suddenly, she heard a noise from inside the house—it sounded like a cough. Intrigued and a little scared, Belle went up the sagging porch steps to investigate. She tried to look through the window, but it was dirty and grimy, so she couldn’t see anything.
I’m being rude, she thought, and took a step back, a little sadly. It was when she heard the coughing and hacking that she decided she needed to get inside.
Timidly, Belle grabbed the rusted doorknob. It turned, but it felt strange in her hand; she wanted to wash it. She pushed the door open.
She found herself in a room carpeted with dark blue carpet. An off-white sofa sat against one wall, Venemoth-eaten and dingy. There was a fireplace, and an old rocking chair sat by the hearth. A woman sat on it, bent over her knees, coughing terribly. She wore a white lab coat and had frizzy blonde hair that looked as though it hadn’t been combed in days.
“Ma’am?” Belle asked, stepping into the house. “Ma’am, are you okay?”
The woman’s head snapped up and Belle’s knees buckled; she grabbed at the wall for support. The shape of her face, her eyes, her nose—she looked like Derrick. She couldn’t be…
The woman stood up. “Who are you? Why are you in my house?” Her voice was strange, almost gravelly—her lab coat had a few stains on it of different colors, and a small laminated badge showed her picture and text too small for Belle to make out at this distance.
“I—I’m sorry,” Belle said as the woman took a step toward her. Her eyes—there was something about them, something that didn’t seem…right. “I heard you coughing and I thought—”
“Koffing? You heard Koffing?” The woman shook her head. “That can’t be right. He evolved, he’s a Weezing now.”
Belle didn’t know what to say. The woman turned away from her, muttering to herself, and headed towards what seemed to be the kitchen. Belle took a timid step forward; Jolteon hissed at her in disbelief but followed anyway.
The kitchen was dirty; a baking powder box was overturned on the floor, several food stains were present on the counter and small table, and the microwave was left open, as well as several cabinet doors. The woman began shutting them now, muttering all the while.
A sound, almost computer-like, from behind her made Belle turn around; a Porygon shot down the stairs, its blocky body hovering over the floor. When it saw Belle it stopped and made a strange digital-sounding noise, its green appendages whirling around.
“I—I’m sorry!” Belle said. “I just—I heard her—”
“Porygon!” The woman turned around and rushed over to the Pokémon, throwing herself down on her knees in front of it and wrapping her arms around its neck. “Porygon, Porygon…have you found her yet? My sweet…have you found her?” She closed her eyes, one hand stroking the Pokémon’s cheek. “You’ll find them…I’m sure you will…both of them…” She trailed off into a whisper.
Belle edged closer, trying to peer at the woman’s nametag. The picture on the badge showed a younger-looking version of this woman, with makeup and styled hair. The name—Dr. Angelina Evans.
This was Derrick’s mother.
Belle put a hand to her mouth as tears welled up in her eyes. “How could he leave her like this?” Jolteon, confused, looked up at her—she had never met Derrick. She rubbed gently against her Trainer’s leg.
<Who are you?> spoke a voice. Startled, Belle looked around for the source. She couldn’t find a person, just the Porygon and Derrick’s mother.
“Wh-where are you?” Belle demanded.
<I am right here. I am Porygon CI-4. Who are you and why are you here?>
“You can talk?”
<In a fashion. Because I am an inorganic being, I speak through thoughts. I was made at the Pokémon Research Center in Cinnabar Island, the fourth Porygon made here. Porygon CI-4.>
“Does she…Angelina…Dr. Evans…know you can talk?”
With a sad look, Porygon glanced down at the woman holding it about the neck and whispering. <Sadly, she lost awareness of many things long ago. I no longer speak to her. She becomes frightened and begins to cry. Even now, only you can hear me.>
“Why doesn’t she hear me?”
<She is preoccupied with other thoughts. Once again, who are you and why are you here?>
“I’m sorry…my name is Belle Caldwell, and I…used to be…a friend of Derrick’s. I was just coming to see his house when I heard her coughing, and I thought she might be choking or something, so I came in here…” She trailed off, feeling foolish as the Porygon fixed her with a stern gaze.
<Ah. An outsider. It would be understandable for you to think that.> Porygon CI-4 flipped its appendages—wings?—and Angelina stood up, wringing her hands and looking around. Her gaze fell on Belle.
“Who are you?” she demanded.
“I—” Belle wasn’t sure what to say.
<Say you are Dr. Caldwell from the Research Center.>
“I’m Dr. Caldwell from the Research Center,” Belle spluttered, heart hammering wildly. Angelina looked her up and down.
“Where is your coat?”
“I got a stain on it. It’s being washed,” she replied quickly. Angelina seemed to accept this answer.
“I need to go to work now,” she said. “You can’t stay here.” With that, she turned around and headed toward the front door.
<She’s heading to the Research Center!> Porygon CI-4’s voice thundered. More Pokémon came rushing down the stairs—A Weezing, an Electrode, a Kabutops (Belle gasped), an Omastar (Belle almost fainted), and a Clefable. She pointed a shaking finger at the Kabutops and Omastar. <The Research Center has perfected resurrecting Pokémon from fossils, allowing people to train ancient Pokémon,> Porygon CI-4 offered by way of explanation. Angelina looked over her shoulder.
“You can’t come with me,” she said. “Only Porygon.”
<Clean up a little,> Porygon said. <Follow,> it told Belle, so she did. They walked back up the path to the Research Center, where Angelina let herself in the back door; Belle followed.
She strode across the lobby as if she owned the place. Porygon and Belle dogged her steps, keeping behind her as she turned down a hallway and headed into a specific door. Two men were inside the room with a giant computer-looking thing. Each had a Porygon2 beside them, which they quickly withdrew into Poké Balls as Angelina entered.
“Hello, Angelina!” one man said cheerily. “How are things today?”
Angelina said nothing. She seemed shocked; she stared around the room for a moment, her eyes widening, before suddenly bursting into tears. “Where are they?” she screeched, falling to her knees. “Where are they? I can’t find them, I can’t find them!”
The two men dropped their notes and rushed to her, grabbing her elbows and hoisting her up. “CI-4, if you would get Dr. Anderson,” one man said. They didn’t even take notice of Belle.
<Come with me. Hurry.> Belle followed after the Porygon; they ran down a long hallway and then burst into someone’s office. A woman with shoulder-length brown hair looked up from her desk. When she saw Porygon, she leapt to her feet and grabbed her lab coat off the coat hanger near her desk.
“Where is she?”
<With Drs. Weber and Biggs.>
“Did she see the Porygon2?” They were out of the office, hurrying back up the hallway.
<No. She’s asking for Derrick and Koko again.>
Belle’s step faltered and she stopped. Porygon CI-4 and who she guessed was Dr. Anderson rushed ahead of her, leaving her behind. Jolteon looked up at her, confused, and she sighed and followed at a slow walk. This woman had been driven to insanity by the disappearance of her family, and now she was perpetually searching for them.
Why had Derrick left her?
When Belle arrived at the room with Drs. Weber and Biggs, she found Dr. Anderson calming a blubbering Angelina. Finally, Angelina quieted and, like a child, fell asleep. The two male doctors pulled out a cot and helped Dr. Anderson lay her there, covering her with a faded pink blanket.
“Who are you?” Dr. Anderson asked, fixing Belle with a cool gaze. She then looked over at Porygon CI-4. Belle couldn’t hear anything, but she knew the Pokémon was explaining. Finally, Dr. Anderson nodded and stood from her place at Angelina’s cot. “Come with me.
“Dr. Evans was my superior many years ago, before the deaths of her daughter Koko and her husband Joseph. Has Derrick told you this?” She glanced down at Belle as they walked toward the older woman’s office.
“When these deaths occurred, Dr. Evans became…unstable. It was small at first. Sometimes she would show up late to work, or not show up at all. Sometimes she wouldn’t be dressed properly. She started muttering to herself and losing things. Come in my office.”
Belle did; she sat down at a chair facing Dr. Anderson’s desk as the woman shed her lab coat and hung it up. Porygon CI-4 had stayed behind. “When did it get…like this?”
“Well, when she first showed up late, we thought nothing of it,” Dr. Anderson admitted, leaning on her desk. “It was when she didn’t come one day that we were worried. Dr. Evans only missed a day of work if she was violently ill, or if there was…a death in the family. Derrick, nine years old at the time, called the Center and said that his mother was sick and she wouldn’t be coming in. Then she started getting worse. Derrick would come with her; he never left her side. He gently took care of her, trying his best to answer her every need. I felt sorry for him…he wanted to be a Pokémon Trainer, so it was difficult to watch him dog his mother’s every step.
“There was nothing he could do for her to make her better. I told him that. I told him, just before he turned sixteen, that he needed to go on his Pokémon Journey. He didn’t want to.” Dr. Anderson closed her eyes. “He said it was his responsibility to take care of his mother. But I told him no, it wasn’t. ‘Derrick,’ I said, ‘you don’t need to stay around here. There’s nothing you can do for your mother. We can take just as good a job caring for her as you can. You should go on your Journey. I promise that we will care for her.’” The woman drew in a deep breath. “I bought him a Lapras ride to Pallet Town so that he could get his first Pokémon. I…still don’t know what he got…” Dr. Anderson tried to hide the fact that she brushed away a tear, but Belle saw.
“It was a Squirtle.”
Dr. Anderson blinked and looked at Belle. “Excuse me?”
“His first Pokémon…it was a Squirtle. He offered to let it help me wash my face.”
“Wash your face? Why?”
“I was bleeding.”
Belle told her the story of how they met, allowing Dr. Anderson a bit of a laugh. At the end, Belle pulled up her bangs to show the diagonal scar skirting the edge of her eye, running her finger down it. “It’s…my little reminder.” She let her hair flop back down over the scar.
Porygon CI-4 nudged the door open and came inside. <She is almost awake. I will take her home.>
“No,” Dr. Anderson said. “I will. It’s time I started taking more responsibility…it’s time I fully kept my promise.”
Porygon CI-4 nodded slightly before leaving the office. “I’ll show you out,” Dr. Anderson told Belle, grabbing her lab coat.
On the way to the door, Belle couldn’t help asking, “Why can’t you show Dr. Evans the Porygon2?”
“She becomes confused and frightened,” Dr. Anderson replied. “She is stuck in one timeframe. Since Porygon was the latest version of inorganic beings since Koko’s and Joseph’s deaths, she reacts very badly to the more streamlined Porygon2.”
“Oh. Well, thanks,” Belle said.
Dr. Anderson smiled and gently touched Belle’s shoulder. “No. Thank you. Somehow, you reminded me that I need to keep my promise. Now, when Derrick comes back to defeat Blaine, I won’t be ashamed to look him in the eye.” She squeezed Belle’s shoulder and left.
Feeling guilty for some reason, Belle left the Research Center.
Cinnabar Island is Derrick’s hometown. There are lots of sad reminders here. I almost wish I hadn’t left him like I did.
Cassandra, you don’t have to worry about me. I am fine.
Staying at the PokéCenter tonight. Tomorrow I will challenge Blaine.
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