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Old May 3rd, 2013 (06:36 AM).
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GKkiller
Unquestionable Badass
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Bangalore, India
Age: 16
Gender: Male
Chapter Four brings with it a fight, a mysterious duo, and a lab!

***

hoenn reborn
(the remakes that R/S/E deserved)

/ Chapter Four /
"Of Mudkip and Men"


***

Littleroot Town, Hoenn ~ 6:30 PM; present day

Hazel looked like the walking dead - or, more accurately or and far more believably, like a sleepwalker. Understandable, considering she'd had an extremely unusual day, including such activities as being thrown into a moving van, meeting a guy who refused to speak to her (or, for that matter, anyone), and receiving an extremely rude gesture from an I-don't-even-know-what-it-is Pokemon. Then, after all that, she'd come home and found that Norman was home, as promised. She remembered going upstairs and having a long, hot shower, and then sitting on the stairs and listen to Norman and Angie argue over her.

"You can't do this to her, Norman," Angie had said. She'd heard this and stopped in her tracks, knowing that they were talking about her. When they fought, it was always about her.

"It's just for a while," her father had replied placatingly. "Until I earn enough money to pay everything off. I'm sure we should be fine. The League's tax laws are pretty lenient, they'll let us off with a warning if we pay the taxes off now."

"And how," her mother had said, raising her voice, "do you intend to pay it all off? This came in the mail earlier today, Norman." Hazel couldn't see, but she could imagine Angie handing Norman an envelope, Norman pulling out a letter, his lips moving soundlessly as he read.

Norman had been silent for a minute. Then he said, "Let them come. Let them send the goddamn Elites themselves after me! What the hell is this? They're sending goddamn tax officials after me? I'll whip their asses all the way to hell if they come within six feet of me!" His raging rant died down as fast as it had began, and his voice was gentle once more. He does that a lot, Hazel noticed. "Look, I've got a decent job here. Birch got my credentials through to the League so that my application was approved. I'm a Gym Leader here and a damn good one at that." It wasn't overconfidence; it was simply the truth. Hazel had seen her father battle in Mahogany. His old Sneasel, Freeze (Norman had never been particularly imaginative when it came to nicknames), had decimated one challenger's team of four Pokemon, all fully evolved, one a Fire-type, without taking more damage then a few scratches. The challenger's Rapidash, on the other hand, had broken its leg by slipping on the frozen battlefield.

Hazel had heard nothing for a while, until Norman spoke again. "Look, over the next few weeks, they'll be sorting out the paperwork. I tried getting the Ice-type, but it's off-limits because one of the Elites specialises in it, so I settled for Normal. This region has some good ones, I hear - and once I'm done training up my various teams, I'll be officially sworn in to the League. That'll be a little later - maybe two weeks, maybe a month. Then I'll be able to start earning, and I can make enough within a year or two to pay it all back. We can manage here until then. Right?"

At this point, she'd heard a muffled sob, and decided to stay in her room until dinner.

***

Saffron City Airport, Kanto ~ 7:00 PM

"Attention, all passengers on Flight 19683, going Saffron, URR to Petalburg, Hoenn," the voice over the PA systems blared. "The boarding gates are now open."

"Finally!" exclaimed a woman, sitting in the waiting area. She turned to shake her companion awake; the man snored a bit before rousing himself. The couple attracted some attention due to their odd looks. Both were dressed in monochrome formal attire, but that wasn't the strangest thing about them. The man wore a black tuxedo, black trousers, and a black tie, with black aviator sunglasses, tinted so as to almost be opaque; on the other hand, his hair was as white as a cloud, cut and gelled into a small cloud of spines. It was impossible to discern his age despite his hair; he could have been twenty-five just as easily as a hundred and three, but his posture and the slight, stubbly remnants of a beard shaved off recently suggested he was in his late thirties. The woman, on the other hand, wore a short, snow-white cocktail dress and stockings, her feet enclosed in stilettos and a necklace with a single pearl hanging on her neck. Her eyes were a cold and dead grey, and her hair was so black that it would shame the darkest raven. She had the beauty of an icy queen, elegant, and able to have you beheaded in seconds on a whim. She, too, looked somewhat ageless, a stern goddess in modern times; but an observant fashionista would note that her style was of a young woman, barely halfway through her twenties but yet dressing as an older woman. If they were characters in a suspense thriller, they would be labelled 'the Man in Black' and the 'Woman in White'.

The duo stood and hurried to the boarding gate, occupying the first class queue. As they walked out of the airport and into the connecting tube, the Woman in White asked her partner, "Have you received your mission-specific Pokemon?"

The Man nodded, lifting his coat slightly to reveal a small belt with six small magnetic-lock slots to hold PokeBalls. Two were occupied by the standard red-and-white variety. The third held a differently-coloured PokeBall, black in colour with small green circular markings on it and a red switch; this was the one he had received recently. "What's in it, anyway?" he asked, his voice deep and thick.

"A powerful Pokemon not native to the URR or Hoenn," the Woman said. "Use it only if the target resists and proves to be difficult to subdue in a Pokemon battle. It's quite rare, and you should probably see no need to use it if all goes according to plan."

"Where's yours?" the Man said suspciously. This was the first time he was working with a Kantonian, and, to top it off, she wasn't just a taxation official like him. His boss had told him nothing except that she was a high-ranking 'agent' from Kanto - agent of what, he refused to say. But the Man had his doubts: he'd seen the small tattoo of a coiled snake - a viper - on her left wrist. He knew exactly what it meant, and if she was who he thought she was, he had every right to fear for his life in the event that they failed the mission.

"Mine?" The Woman in White giggled gently; the first expression of emotion he'd seen her display all evening. "I'm a veteran agent. I don't need special Pokemon. I can do all right with just mine."

I bet you can, thought the Man in Black grimly. I bet you can.



Littleroot Town, Hoenn ~ 9:30 AM

Hazel awoke blearily to the unwelcome sight of a Mudkip on her belly chewing what looked suspiciously like a pillow. Reacting as any sane person would, she swatted at the amphibian with a shriek, sending it tumbling to the floor. Mudkip gave her a reproachful look, picking itself up and dusting itself off.

"How did you get out of your PokeBall?" she demanded. The Mudkip simply flicked its fin at her. "Huh, you can't talk, right? Well, you better stay in there from now on!" She dug into the pockets of the jeans she'd been wearing earlier and withdrew Mudkip's PokeBall. Switching it to the off mode caused Mudkip to transform into a glowing blob of energy, which was subsequently absorbed into the interior of the PokeBall.

Hazel dressed quickly, wearing a long red sleeveless T-shirt and black shorts. "I gotta go return you, huh?" she grumbled at the PokeBall. "Well, whatever."

After having some cereal for breakfast, Hazel retrieved Mudkip's PokeBall and slipped it into the waist-bag she always carried. Looking around, she found her mother in the kitchen. "Hey Mom," the brunette said. "I need to go give Professor Birch his Mudkip back. I told you yesterday, right?"

"I remember," Angie said. "Just a sec, I'll tell you where his lab is ..."



It took Hazel just a few minutes to find Birch's lab. Angie had said it was a big white building, and Birch's office would be on the second floor. What Angie hadn't said was that it would be a dump.
Birch's office was cramped and claustrophobic. Stacks of books teeteered precariously on small creaky tables, and the bookshelves on the wall held PokeBalls instead. Tangled computer cables slithered across the floor. Bulky cathode-ray tube monitors sat on empty filing cabinets. Birch's bag was lying on a chair, and the man himself was perched on a beanbag, lazily helping himself to a cup of coffee while reading a celebrity gossip magazine.

"Hey, Professor," Hazel said loudly. Startled, the man looked up, almost spilling coffee on himself. He was dressed in a dirty lab coat and short cargo pants that disclosed the unpleasant sight of his hairy legs.

"Hazel, isn't it?" Birch said, not bothering to greet her. He put down the mug and magazine, and walked over to her. At full height, he was close to five feet and eight inches or so, just about as tall as Hazel herself. "What can I do for you?”

"You can have your Pokemon back." Hazel pulled out the PokeBall, and Birch hit the switch, sending out Mudkip. The amphibian licked its paw like a cat, giving Birch a look. If looks could kill and Birch was a cat, he'd be as alive as Hitler, which is to say, not at all.

"Huh?" Birch looked surprised at Mudkip's expression. "Looks like Doug here really likes you."

"What?!" Both Mudkip and Hazel were horrified. "You can't be serious! He gave me the finger!" Hazel cried. Mudkip proceeded to do it again, this time to Birch.

"Perhaps it was a display of affection in Mudkip terms?" Birch said thoughtfully, oblivious to Mudkip's scathing look. "Anyway, Mudkip are a rare species. I found Doug in a swamp in the wilderness a couple of months ago. He seems kind of unhappy here with me, so I've been looking for someone to adopt him, but strangely, everyone who wanted to at first came back and said they changed their mind after two days with him." He scratched his beard. "I wonder why."

"Whatever! I'm not taking this ... thing!"

Birch snapped his fingers, ignoring Hazel. "You know what? You're sixteen, right? You could get a trainer's license by now! I bet you'd have it by the end of graduation if you applied."

Hazel shook her head vehemently. "No. Freakin'. Way. I am not becoming a trainer. Seriously, who goes backpacking around countries to train Pokemon? And, for the record, I have graduated."

Birch seemed to wilt a little. "Really? Every kid dreams of being a trainer."

"Not me," Hazel said. "I'm gonna be a software developer. Y'know, like the Pokemon Storage Box System."

"That was developed for trainers to use," Birch said. "Why not be a trainer? You know you want to ..."

"Seriously," Hazel groaned. "I'm not being a trainer. Now have your Mudkip, and just let me go!"

"I'll give you three thousand bucks if you apply for a trainer's license," Birch said desperately.

Hazel, who was walking away, stopped. "Three thousand?!" she asked, turning slowly. "Why the hell would you do something like that?"

Birch sighed in relief. "You want to be a software dev, right?" he said. "You'll need to go to a decent college somewhere. And I doubt you'll be able to do that here. Software developing is practically non-existent in Hoenn, so you'll have to go abroad. That'll ramp up the expenses a whole lot, unless your parents move back to Johto - and that's probably not happening anytime soon. So why not build up some money here in Hoenn as a trainer? In battles, you know both sides stake some money on a win, right? Well, training gives good money that way. You'll need the three hundred for applying for the license and for your first couple of battles in case you lose."

Hazel raised her eyebrows. "Why are you doing this anyway? To get me to take your Mudkip?"

"Uh ... would'ya believe me if I said yes?"

Hazel groaned. "Whatever. You do have a point. Anyway, I'll consider it. But here's your Mudkip." She handed him the PokeBall, and left, leaving Birch to look worriedly at her.

Spoiler:
A/N: 19683 is the cube of three cube, in case you're wondering, so my fascination/obsession with the rule of three continues. The Man in Black and the Woman in White are both fun characters to write, and they are my infinitely more capable and far more intimidating replacements of the typical 'grunt duo' (Jesse and James, for example).
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