Chapter Two: Game Changer
The ship was certainly grand, and Talia took to exploring as soon as she’d left her luggage in her room. The top deck appeared dedicated almost entirely to battling. There were on-board nurses along with a rotund pink Pokémon (was it called a chansey? Talia couldn’t remember) to heal injuries, and a few vendors that sold the usual trainer supplies. Inside, there were a few small battle rooms, but towards the ship’s bow were a couple of large open-air battle spaces. Talia excitedly hurried over to watch a match that was just beginning.
A younger boy was facing off against a young man, who was smartly dressed in white trousers and a white shirt, with a light brown ascot around his neck. He delicately tossed a Luxury Ball in the air, and a delcatty was released in a shower of golden stars and deep red hearts. At the same time, the boy opposite released his pokémon, a male frillish. It hovered in place, and trilled happily at its opponent.
The boy pointed melodramatically at his opponent, whilst clenching one fist, and shouted, “Ha! You’ve got no chance with a delcatty! Quickly Nightmare, bubblebeam!”
“I’m unsure if his enthusiasm is charming or irritating,” muttered a red-haired woman who’d stood next Talia to watch.
The frillish opened its mouth and light blue bubbles burst forth. The first few caught the delcatty, but it managed to nimbly dodge out of the way of most of the stream, and its ghost type opponent seemed too slow to catch it – turning hopelessly and releasing further beams.
The rain had become a touch heavier since the match had begun: the smartly dressed man turned his palm upwards, looking at the clouds overhead with a smile.
“Duchess,” he sounded smug as he spoke, “Thunder.”
The delcatty’s fur stood on end as its body crackled with the electric energy, sparks lanced along its body as it leapt towards its foe and unleashed a mighty bolt of yellow lightning. The frillish’s body jerked straight before it quickly fell to the ground. Tendrils of smoke curled away into the air from its prostrate form. It did not move again, and its trainer recalled it before scurrying away.
Talia stood agape.
“You seem amazed.” It was the red-haired woman.
“Most of the battles I actually get to watch are televised. Even then they don’t usually finish so quickly.”
“Clever move on the winner’s part.” The woman stopped speaking to take a drink from a water bottle, and Talia managed a better look at her. Her hair was very long and more of a deep-red than actual ginger. “Still, the kid he challenged was a rookie. That frillish was a low-leveled one. Bit of an unfair fight.” She paused again, seemingly scrutinising Talia. “You a trainer?”
“Yes!” Talia replied, a little too quickly. “Just starting out.” she added, with a nervous smile.
“Going outside of your home region?” Talia nodded. “Brave.” She paused, looking out across the water. “Saying that, I haven’t been back to Hoenn in a long time. Not that it would be wise for me to go back...” She snapped up somewhat suddenly. “Uh, ex-boyfriend issues. Sorry.”
After a short pause, their conversation continued and the amicable small talk put Talia at ease. The woman informed Talia that her name was Chelle.
“So, Talia. Have you had your first battle yet?”
Talia shook her head. “I’ve only had this drilbur for a little while.”
“Hmm.” Chelle grinned. “Come on then, I’ll play Blue to your Red.”
“What? Like in boxing?”
“Unovans…” Chelle muttered. “Never mind, let’s just battle.”
The Ultra Ball felt heavy in Talia’s sweaty palm. She warily tossed it in the air, and when the white light receded the drilbur eyed her suspiciously.
She shrugged and attempted to smile at it. “Ready for battle?”
The pokémon released a huff of sand in her direction, but then turned around and looked almost eager.
Chelle raised an eyebrow in question. “Ready?” Talia nodded. “Alright, then. Just caught this guy, so we should be on even footing, unless you’re disgustingly strong already!” As she spoke, she released an eager looking scraggy onto the battlefield. “Low Kick!”
Talia almost spoke a counter-command then stopped. I don’t know his moves. I don’t know his moves. Sh*t.
Luckily, the drilbur had more wherewithal than its trainer at that moment and had the sense to jump out of the way of the foot quickly approaching it.
What do I do? Talia was panicking.
“Low Kick again!”
The scraggy prepared to attack again. What do I- Wait!
The drilbur extended a claw and globs of mud sprayed in the face of its opponent. The scraggy spluttered and stopped its attack. Without awaiting command, the drilbur then began to spin quickly, claws glowing silver-white. The rapidly rotating pokémon slammed into its opponent, causing the scraggy to cry out.
Talia found herself grinning, and wanting to cheer on her pokémon. My pokémon.
“Faint Attack, now!”
Talia felt her heart sink as she watched the scraggy stumble away from her spinning drilbur, and disappear. The ground type stopped spinning and looked from side to side, growling. The scraggy appeared behind and above the drilbur’s head and collided with it, feet-first, making a dull thump. Taking advantage of its now dazed opponent, the scraggy aimed another Low Kick at it. The drilbur toppled backwards. Both Chelle and her pokémon remained still, waiting. She began to smile, and Talia was about to recall her pokémon, when she noticed a small twitch of a claw and barely perceptible flicker of the eye.
Heart beating quickly, her face almost cracked in two with a confident smile, Talia shouted her command. “Rapid Spin!”
Chelle’s eyes widened and the ground type spun towards her pokémon and knocked it off its feet. The drilbur stopped spinning, hopping back onto its feet and breathing heavily, but eyeing the scraggy with a wicked glint in its eye.
Talia was almost jumping, thrilled by the adrenalin rush. Time seemed to slow, her breaths were short. Claws. “Scratch!”
The drilbur raised its long claws over the scraggy, ready to strike.
The scraggy suddenly snapped up, famously hard heard colliding squarely with the drilbur’s abdomen. The ground type wailed pitifully as it slid across the deck, towards Chelle’s feet. Talia felt a crushing feeling in her chest. She waited a second or so, but it was clear her pokémon wasn’t getting up this time. She recalled the drilbur.
Talia was utterly disappointed, but then she noticed Chelle grinning at her.
“Good match! Not that I expected to lose.”
“It was a good comeback. You’ve got a little fighter there, for sure!” One of the on-board nurses , a woman with pinker hair than Talia (that didn’t appear to have any roots, but people don’t have naturally pink hair...), had seen their match earlier.
“If I’d been training longer-” Talia began.
“You still wouldn’t have beaten me.” Chelle finished. “Shame you’re too young to drink, you could probably have used one after your thrashing,” she teased, prompting Talia to stick out her tongue. “How’s your cocktail, Alanah?”
“Very strong…” the nurse replied, taking another sip. “I’m suddenly glad I’m not on duty tomorrow. Was it Johto you were both-”
“Ooh, it’s starting!” Talia interrupted.
The lights dimmed, and the low lights of faux-candles on the tables of the audience cast a somewhat eerie illumination underneath everyone’s faces.
A voice rattled out of the speakers hidden around the room, “The S.S. Anne presents, for your entertainment, a man known as the Human Hypno, the Great Mesmeraldo!”
“Thank you for the introduction! Ah, but where are my manners? You can’t see me yet, of course!” A plume of smoke and sparkles erupted centre stage and revealed man’s form upon receding, to much applause and sounds of wonderment. He was tall, and dressed in a purple felt suit, that had shiny (gaudy, one might say) silver stars affixed to it here and there.
“I’m going to need a stronger drink aren’t I?” Chelle muttered.
“I can assure you, dear audience, that you are in for a night of much wonderment and amazement!” he began. Then his face suddenly soured, contorting to an ugly sneer. “Ugh. I really can’t be bothered.”
Some chuckled at this, considering it part of the act. This caused the ugly sneer to turn to a wretched smile. The man snapped his fingers and, without fanfare, he was suddenly surrounded by pokémon. Talia recognised the pokémon from news reports, and studies in school. Six drowzee and a hypno. Talia understood the sounds of horror she could hear, and felt someone grab her arm, she assumed it was Chelle.
But it was no use. The man spoke another word, and his voice didn’t sound human, nor did it sound like a single voice any more. More like eight.
The word was, “Sleep.”
Chelle awoke to a severe, sharp headache. The pain seemed to pierce like a needle through the front of her skull and out of the back. She was thankful for the pain fading quickly. The room she was in was vaguely familiar; it was a passenger’s cabin – somewhat similar to her own. She noticed that she was a lot colder than when she blacked out, and realised that her midriff was exposed. She was wearing a black–
She shot across the room to its mirror. Her face paled. Black tube top, denim half-vest, jeans… And a blue bandana with the insignia of Team Aqua emblazoned upon it. Someone had stuck a name tag to the vest that said, ‘Hi, I’m Shelly!’ She tore it off, and pulled off the bandana – throwing it viciously to one side.
Her breathing became ragged gasps. F*ck. They’ve found me. She began to pull on her hair, she could feel tears forming. Why would they do this?
Wait.She straightened up, brow furrowing as she watched herself in the mirror. Why would they? This is the police… I’d be in a cell. And there was that hypnotist. But what if…
She shook her head and closed her eyes, attempted to slow her breathing.
No… This is someone else’s game. She eyed the discarded bandana, with that damned stylised ‘A’ leering at her. They know who I am. They have a hypno…
I don’t want to play.