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October 18th, 2008 (8:22 AM). Edited April 16th, 2009 by Venia Silente.
A Pokémon Fanfic by Solovino88
(reworded from the first announcement)
No one yet
(as of Apr. 2009)
2009-04-17 — Chapter III is up! With dreams and night come some revelations. Story to go on hiatus until Jun. 2009
2009-01-20 — Chapter II is up! Someone is hiding something, and hiding something about that, too...
2008-11-16 — Chapter I is up. The adventure and the mysteriies truly begin.
2008-10-26 — Looking for a Beta ReaderFound!
2008-10-26 — Introductory chapter featuring corrections from An-chan, Xanthine.
2008-10-18 — First published: Preface and Introductory Chapter.
Me owns no Pokémon. If I did, Nidos would get more love. Oh and Trozei would be erased from existence.
The brand, the creatures and the Pokémon World are all © by Nintendo.
Darius, Syd and Lou are Original Characters by me.
Table of Contents
Preface and Introduction (=>This post)
Welcome, my readers, to “Elusive Goals”, my first published Pokémon-related fanfiction project.
As most FF writers, I started as a kid, writing my own OT, and I'm not embarrassed to admit. However, I grew up, years went by, and only recently I returned to the world of fanfiction writing. I decided it would be great to rewrite that childish work to meet the higher standard and practices I had learn through the years, starting by setting a spin-off of my original fanfic.
For this work, and for the rewrite of my entire series as a whole, I have done a lot of research, as I usually do when I write FF for an universe I like, and mostly because the original story was written by a kid version of me, so many years ago. As a reference I can tell you I'm also currently writing FF works for universes such as Bambi, Final Fantasy VI, Pokémon and “24”. Due to the amount of information I needed for quality, I have set up a “wiki” (a software like the one that runs Bulbapedia) to keep everything in order: it allows me to easily manage things such as character profiles and maps, as well as easily detect plot holes and contradictions. But of course that does not mean I don't require external assistance.
For this project, Bulbapedia, the FR/LG series, and the anime have been my main source research. I will try to portray some elements of the Pokémon world in a sensible way, in particular battles, as I'll have to write a lot of them. I'll try to have credible character development, too. Also, as English is not my natural language and my lexicon is mostly restricted to technical terms, I will do my best to do good enough descriptions as well as learn new vocabulary at the same time.
My intention by publishing here instead of FF.net is to get peer review, since my other published works have received no constructive criticism yet. Requesting/hiring a Beta Reader and an Official Artist are some of the plans I have for the future, but right now I want to at least to prove myself worthy of the help by showing what I can do myself; after all, FF and reviewing are done essentially for free.
Before starting, I want to thank in advance the following Pokecommunity users for the help and inspiration provided:
Hiidoran, for welcoming me and directing me to the relevant sections of the site.
An-chan and jeffback, for their counseling and support.
The writers of the excellent guides in the Writer's Lounge, in particular Lily.
An-chan and Xanthine for reviews on the introductory chapter.
Well... enough said. I will let you advance to the introductory chapter, where you will get a glimpse of the story, and, at a wider scale, of my writing style. I will be of course waiting for constructive criticism, as well as questions.
Enjoy your reading.
It was a beautiful morning in Viridian City. The rising sun bathed the city and the namesake, gigantic forest to the north with its warmth, giving its power to countless creatures to face the new day.
In the middle of the hotel room, warmed up by the sunlight beaming through the white curtains, a male figure could be heard snoring. Suddenly, the sound of an old telephone ring filled the hotel room. It took a while for a left hand to appear from beneath the sheets, veering tentatively until it retrieved the golden handset before it could ring for the sixth time.
From the other side of the line came a feminine, quite singular and obviously not recorded voice.
“Good morning, Mr. Mezze. This is the Vaduemur Hôtel's 'Wakeup Service'. It's eight AM in the morning, and you have requested to be awakened this early.”
A low grumbling was heard, as the young raised his other hand and started messing with his curly, blue hair.
“'Mister'--?” the young said to himself. “Come on... I'm not that old.”
Still scratching his head, he slowly moved to a more comfortable position while holding the headset, as he answered.
“Thanks... awww,” he greeted, as he managed to catch a yawn, “... sorry, I guess-- any messages?”
“No messages, Mr. Mezze.”
“Yeah... I see...”
“But VIP Services wants us to remind you about the pickup van for the tour you requested. It will arrive at nine A.M., Sir.”
"Van...?" The mattress revolted and the sheets fell to one side as the young, fairly tall man with tanned skin and a tatoo in his right shoulder, came fully to his senses, complete with the opening of light maroon eyes, which instantly turned over to face the pillow. He searched under to retrieve a white, standard-size envelope. White in colour and marked with a single letter: a red «R», engraved into the seal.
“I forgot... the meeting is today...” thought Darius Mezze as he raised the envelope to have a better look at it. He remembered then he was still holding the headset and stretching its cord, so he hopped from the bed while throwing the envelope towards the nightstand. It fell there gracefully, next to a case.
“Oh... yes, thanks for the call. I will require no further assistance for the rest of my stay” he said.
“Well then, it is our pleasure to be of service.”
“Yes, thanks again. Good bye.”
Darius was about to hang up when the woman to the other side let out what seemed to be a shriek, cut off just as the headset pushed against the phone hook. Almost out of instinct, Darius eagerly drew the phone to his head again.
“What is it?” he yelled. “Is there a problem? Hello---!”
“Sorry, Mr. Mezze,” said the woman, caught by surprise, “but... well, a message had just arrived for you.”
“Yes--? Oh well...” mumbled Darius, relaxing a little. He felt embarrassed and a little disappointed; not that he wanted a damsel to be in peril, but that was not exactly the point.
“What's that about?,” he inquired.
The woman was apparently more embarrassed than he was, and Darius could swear he heard something like coughed up laughter from other women at the other end. Despite that, his interlocutor continued her report:
“A message from the Stables Manager, sir. They thank you for your preference and wish you the best of lucks in the Indigo Tournament.”
Darius smiled to himself and replied with a simple thank you. Then he swiftly hung up the phone and gpt up from the bed, heading directly to the showers, while leering back to the envelope in the nightstand.
Eighteen minutes later, Darius exited the hotel room, dressed in casual attire, consisting of sport shoes, plain sepia cotton trousers, an asparagus-coloured t-shirt, and grey-and-blue jacket. As he walked down the corridor he produced a baseball cap and put it on. He moved quickly yet silently, each door he left behind leading to a still sleeping guest.
“Lovely girl! I'm here!”
The object of the call, a yellow-coloured horse-like creature, lifted her head to meet the voice. A long horn proudly protruded from her forehead, right in the center of the square formed by her hard, pointy-shaped ears, and her jade green eyes, that scouted the yard to fixate on the human figure waving at her. Darius smirked, walking closer to meet this horse who, like all the creatures of her species, had a particular and notable trait: a mane not made of fur, scales, hide or any other substance, but of streaks of perpetual and wild orange-red flames. This was the species of Pokémon called Rapidash.
Darius got closer to the female Rapidash and hugged her, holding her muzzle, his hands and his body impervious to the flames. A mystical attribute of this species that would allow their individuals to burn anything, except that which they deemed trustworthy. In this case, the human who has cared for and raised her ever since he was a child.
Darius grabbed some food from a pot and offered to Rapidash, but she refused, having already eaten plenty. Instead she neighed happily and poked Darius several times with her muzzle; in response, Darius got even closer and kissed her neck. But then he stepped back, producing a spherical, bicoloured object from his belt, called a Poké Ball.
“Lovely, we should leave now... Ready?”
As an answer, the Rapidash neighed and nodded her head. Darius pointed the device towards Rapidash and a red light, emitted from the device, instantly engulfed her body, which apparently dissolved into the light, adding a particular brightness to it. The beam of light then returned to the device, as Darius blinked and nodded to himself while hooking the Poké Ball onto his belt. He then turned heels, for he had only a couple of minutes to say goodbye to the staff of the Stables.
It did not take to long, even considering the fact that Darius kept receiving one present after another, usually in the form of flower buckets, from the older members of the staff. The manager herself parted him with a recommendation letter, assuring Darius that his tips for a better maintenance of the facilities would be “actually kept a secret.”
Loaded with presents, Darius dashed towards the Main Hall, and handed all of them to his designated butler, instructing him to “keep them safe” until his return. Then he headed straight towards the hotel entrance, pondering how this day had come to be.
Darius had always been a person who would struggle to attain his goals in life. His perception of power and success, unlike that of may other people he knew, relied on a potential ability to sit down and enjoy whatever he could have done with his life. And he was noted because of that. Other people back home, regarded “power” as a tool that should be used to achieve greatness, prosperity or immunity, no matter who was crushed beneath: they would not hesitate to use money, politics, or even Pokémon, to achieve their goals. Then there were others, more of a rarity, like a friend Darius once had, who treated “power” as an ironic curse: one they could rid of only by letting themselves succumb into it, clearing their goals with ease and then pondering back, looking for a sense of peace. For Darius it was different: life had offered him many paths, and “power” was simply one of them all.
That is why it surprised and shocked him when, after gaining the Celadon Gym Badge, he was contacted at the very outside of the building by a man in black, wearing a cap and a Gatsby. The man spoke and Darius was offered to become part of something... two words the world associated with mischievous, ruthless, and ultimately evil activities. That man told Darius he was a “fine prospect”, and that he had more choices to make himself to achieve “true power”, and thus exploring this new choice would be the logical path to follow. He only had to pass the requirement of eight Gym Badges and wait for instructions in a specific hotel in Viridian City. Which, out of some form of curiosity, he did.
Darius' mind quickly snapped back to the real world, and his mood was softened by the sunlight and the fragrances of the nearby forest. He hopped downstairs to the main street, and only stopped in the next to last step, when he noticed an exploration van, branded with the flag of the Silph Company, parked nearby. A man dressing in a lab coat and wearing a somewhat large Gatsby was at the wheel.
“Impersonating a research institute? And one of world renown... These guys sure are smart...”
Darius would not hesitate, however: his mind was already set. Smiling to himself, he jumped the last steps and walked across the ground, patterned with a design of marble leaves, towards the door that was now opened for him, to take the passenger seat.
“I don't know why do they want me, of all people. Heck, maybe they got some names wrong,” thought Darius as he fastened the seatbelt, not daring to look at the other man. “Or maybe they did get the name right, and I do have something they want.”
As the car's engine started, one last thought crossed Darius' mind.
“Either way, today I will find out.”
And so Darius departed... to his interview with Team Rocket.
October 18th, 2008 (4:29 PM).
I'm going to "return a favor" to you, as you are my favourite newcomer I'm only saying that because I can. You're really the only one to have come after me and to use punctuation correctly. Anyhow, the plea you made earlier in the lounge section caught my interest (enough to write that super-long answear, anyway) and I noticed in the 'Fanfiction Announcement Thread' that you had started your fic. So, here I am, to constructively criticize you! That is to say, I'm not going to say anything about grammar or spelling, as that's not really my thing. Instead, I'll pop up with every strange word and illogical flow of actions you may have written in there.
Personally, I found the change of tense a bit weird. I would assume we find a reason for that later, if it was like a flashback or a change of narrator or something, but it still struck me as odd.
Also, the chapter could have the more traditional name of 'Prologue'. I find 'Introductory Chapter' a bit long and unnecessary. Thumbs up for the table of contents, though, I realized I should do one only after my first fic had 13 chapters and the second one had two. Smart to do it beforehand. Very smart indeed.
It's funny how I make this out like this chapter had something to complain about when it really didn't. I'd like to point out anything that can be made better so you can better, because that's really what I want people to do for me. Anyway, here comes the overall review.
I liked it.
You make Team Rocket seem like something I want to be a part of And Darius seems like a decent man, although we didn't get to know an awful lot about his personality yet. Also, Rapidash, yay! You seem to have a sense of humour that goes well with mine, you have a nice touch to your writing and you certainly know what you're doing (so I'll keep reading this anyway). Your only problem seems to be that your language is a bit block-ish, you know? You use a lot of 'big' words. They aren't bad, but they always make your text seem more formal.
I do that, too, and I often have to tone myself down a bit not to sound like some old, dusty nerd (which I am, despite my young age ). Expecially now that I have a ten-year-old boy as a narrator. Your hands are free with the style, but long and rare words may cause misunderstandings. (I didn't know what 'veer' meant, but then again, I'm no native English speaker.) It's up to you to choose if you want to sound more informal or stick with your current style, which is perfectly fine, I think. I like this style. I'll just need a dictionary in the future
Overall, I love it, and keep going.
An-chan over and out!
October 22nd, 2008 (8:27 PM). Edited October 22nd, 2008 by JX Valentine.
Apologies for being a couple days late with this one. As per your request, I'll try to be as blunt as possible, but if I go overboard, apologies in advance.
1. Leaving the word out altogether. You haven't given us the name of either place yet, so you can get away with it.
2. Use the word "eponymous" if you're trying to say that the city got its name from the forest. Basically speaking, the word refers to something that lends its name to something else. For example, the Pokémon franchise features eponymous creatures.
3. Use the word "namesake." Same thing as #2 but easier to spell.
Off the top of my head, I can't think of a way to say that the forest got its name from the city without proposing to rearrange the order of the locations so that you mention the forest first. Sorry.
I would highly, highly suggest thinking carefully about what you're saying. Maybe use a dictionary every so often if you're uncertain as to what a word means exactly. A mattress is the part you sleep on – the pad of coils, foam, et cetera to support your body while you sleep. Blankets and sheets go on top of that, and if you're under it, you're most likely dead because you suffocated (which may explain why you're describing this character as a body, rather than as a figure). Or you happen to be weird and are sleeping under the bed.
Such is the case here, which is why I'm bringing up the period trick.
Also, lots of commas in that last sentence that don't serve any function whatsoever. In fact, only the first comma (which separates an introduction word) and the last one (for direct address) really should be here. The others aren't needed.
Also, brown-tanned is actually fairly redundant because tanned skin is brown.
Seriously, though, don't do description like this. It sounds a lot like you're smacking the reader in the face with irrelevant information, which breaks the narration and gives the story a choppy feel. (As in, it feels like you're stopping the story just to describe one little detail. In some cases, it works, but for physical description, it really doesn't unless you really want to draw attention to a specific detail – and even then, doing so tends to give that detail a comical feeling, like how in the show Pete and Pete, attention is always drawn to Pete's tattoo of a woman because it's just that ridiculous.) For example, knowing exactly how many meters tall he is sounds a bit like an entry out of a scientific textbook. Just saying "tall" will actually suffice. Also, introduce the fact that he's tan-skinned so that it seems relevant. For example, you could say the blankets fell off him to reveal his dark, tan body. That way, it won't break the narration.
Unless you mean light for being maroon.
Also, I would recommend italicizing thoughts instead of putting them in quotation marks. Having quotation marks around them causes the reader to think it's being spoken aloud, whereas a sentence in italics generally means that it's internal monologue.
As a note, just because it sounds fancy does not mean that the word is the best one for the job. Look up words like "auricular" before using them to be absolutely sure you know what you're saying.
Also, drop the comma. Doing the period test here reveals that the part after the conjunction isn't a sentence (meaning you can't do a compound here).
Also, no comma here. It serves no purpose.
Also, did you just switch from past tense to future tense? Don't. Maintain one tense throughout the entire work to create a sense of consistency. Warp time, and you'll confuse the reader.
Second, to be anal, Rapidash aren't the only Pokémon with flaming manes. (*motions to Ponyta – as well as the Cyndaquil line and Chimchar line, given the definition of the word "mane"*) That and they usually don't have emerald eyes.
Also, grabbed the food from where? I get the feeling that at this point, you're just half-assing the description so we're only getting a brief glance at what's happening.
I'm not quite sure how a Pokémon would add brightness to the beam anyway. Canonically, the beam just looks about the same when it's drawing in Pokémon as it does when it's seeking them.
Word of the wise: Always reread your work aloud after you write it to hear if it makes complete sense.
Also, a lesson in consistency: If you're going to capitalize the word "Pokémon" and Pokémon species' names when they're used as common nouns, you need to capitalize items (such as "Poké Ball") as well. Likewise, decide if the word "Poké Ball" is one word or two. (Hint: In canon, it's two.) The reason why is for the sake of consistency. As in, everything's formatted the same to establish a grammatical rule in your work. In other words, it just makes sense if you do.
Also, I get the feeling that Darius is heading down the Stu lane. So far, he's got a special Rapidash (apparently, judging by the odd colors), he's tall and handsome, and he's randomly gotten a recommendation letter for seemingly no apparent reason. Normally, odd colors, beauty, and achievement aren't much, but together – and with no explanation – it seems a little off here.
That said, another case of "wrong word, wrong time." You mean handed (or, given the tense, hands) here. Again, look up your words before you use them to avoid odd mental images.
Also, yes, you need the article (the word "a") here to indicate that there's only one.
As you can probably tell, my first and foremost comment is that your use of language is a pretty big problem here. I can tell English is probably not your first language without even being told anything about you because there are a lot of instances where you mix up word order, use the wrong word, or miss phrases common to someone whose first language is English. If you're not, then sorry about insulting you. If I hit the nail on the head, then I highly, highly recommend you get yourself a beta reader who's both patient and well-versed in the English language (and preferably your native one to understand where your train of thought is going) before you go any further. If you keep up these kinds of oddities in further chapters, it will definitely be difficult to take your work seriously, and in some places, it will actually be difficult to understand what you're trying to say.
For that matter, do not use fancy words for the sake of sounding like advanced literature. If you use a word you're not familiar with, you're more likely to say something unintentionally amusing, such as the problem An-chan and I have pointed out about the first sentence. Either that, or you will have a very confused reader, as I've pointed out about the use of the word "auricular."
Furthermore concerning word choice, choose a time period and stick to it. If you're going to start off the fanfiction in past tense, stay in the past tense. Don't just switch to present tense as soon as the scene ends. This is confusing and generally not grammatically correct.
Also, as for the bit about commas, the comma is a tricky mark of punctuation that's often misused, so no, you're not the first person I've ever handed this guide to. However, OWL at Purdue has a handy guide to commas that lists the eleven basic rules you'll need to know about when to use commas (as well as the four rules of when not to use them) along with examples. Read it and keep it as your Bible because there's a lot of comma oddities throughout the entirety of this work.
In terms of the actual writing, I felt it was a fairly slow beginning. The description leaned a little towards purple prose – the kind of writing when the adjectives become so flowery that the reader ends up focusing on them instead of the image. (The asparagus moment, for example.) At times, you neglect to describe what's happening but spend a bit more time than necessary on physical details. (For example, you spend a paragraph describing the Rapidash, but you only give a sentence to Darius receiving the recommendation letter.)
For the latter reason, I feel as if your characters aren't quite as developed. You have Darius, who seeks power but defines it by some almost Buddhist philosophy, who's exceptional and well-loved by his Rapidash, and who seems to charm the people around him (like everyone at the stables). I'm inclined to see him as a Stu because you're essentially putting him on a pedestal above everyone else, leaving basically no characterization for the people around him. In other words, I already feel as if I'm looking at a god instead of a human.
Of course, this is also the first chapter, so it's difficult to say whether or not he's actually a developed character. It just seems as if you're constantly highlighting his good qualities without giving him a chance to either prove to us that he has them or showing us much in the way of a personality. (As in, you tell us that he's exceptional, but all we've seen him do is walk around, answer a phone, and possibly man-handle a butler. You imply that he's kind through his treatment of his Rapidash, but even then, that's to highlight the fact that he's a great trainer who has gained the trust of his Pokémon.)
In all, I just feel like you first need to work on your language. Work out the kinks (and get a beta to read over your work and iron out the oddities), and you're already ironing out most of the problem I've found with this installment. After that, work on your characterization. It seems like a lot of this so far is about Darius, so you really need to focus on building him a personality. Give personalities to the people around him, too. It never hurts, and it'll help you keep Darius developed if you keep developed characters (or at least characters with unique personalities) around him.
Good luck with further installments.
October 22nd, 2008 (10:12 PM).
Really, really thanks, An-chan and Xanthine!
This was pretty much what I was waiting for, what I posted the chapter for to begin with.
Xanthine, you don't have to apologize. I asked you to be "as blunt as you could" precisely because I needed the help you have provided.
I'm taking the corrections home and working on them. I want to answer to some of the comments, through:
I should go to sleep now and work on this the next days. However, one last doubt assaults me:
I guess I should apply the corrections by editing the first post, right? Is there any way (besides me saving it elsewhere) the original text remains stored for comparison? So that other people will be able to see what was corrected. Simply a matter of interest.
Corrections will be made after the weekend, and I'll be lurking the Beta Place by then, to apply for a BR, also.
Thanks to you two for being nice enough to actually give me something, unlike the people where I came from (FF.net); I never got past one measly "want to read more" one-liner review there.
October 23rd, 2008 (9:28 AM).
First off, you're welcome, and I'm glad you weren't offended.
But yes. To give a clearer example, this is what I'm talking about:
"Wow!" said Kim.
"Is that a chicken?" said Mary
"I don't think so..." said Bob.
"No, it is. Look at it from the side," said Larry.
In the first three examples, you've got the ending marks of punctuation already serving as the end marks. In the fourth, the comma's serving as a period, which is why you need it there. If you inserted a comma after all of these, what you end up doing is essentially saying is the following:
Is that a chicken?.
I don't think so....
No, it is. Look at it from the side.
In the ellipsis example, you could possibly have the period at the end, but it's not really necessary because the "ellipsis doesn't serve as a period" rule usually refers to if you're omitting something (which you're not in this case). With the first two, you really can't go either way.
Although, really, this is why I subscribe to the "don't capitalize anything that serves as a common noun" train of thought, so you may want to ask around for more opinions on this.
Alternatively, there are places where you can download the latest episodes. I'd go with Google here.
November 15th, 2008 (7:29 PM).
It's been almost a month, but, finally, here it is. I'm sorry it took so long. Me and my trusty BetaReader got caught in the worldwide conspiracy otherwise known to some as "Real Life".
Before continuing: I think I already warned you, my readers, that I like to write long. This chapter will be over 5K words, as will be the next ones, but by Ch.4 the word count will lower to about 4K or so. I hope the length of the chapter does not intimidate any potential readers.
And, yes, my Beta Reader, Buoysel, suffered a lot! I apologize for the inconveniences, man, and I'm really glad you accepted to help me. He's taught me a lot and I hope further chapters won't be so much of a torture for him. At least in a figurative sense... I also have a BR offer pending from PostOfficeBuddy, but I had completely forgot about it... so, maybe we'll talk later.
But no more excuses. I present you
Chapter I: The Interview
Footsteps echoed in the corridor, its shape and depth eerily revealed, in various tones of blue, by the halogen lights hanging from the roof every ten meters or so. A group of four people were escorted by the nine Team Rocket members in their way to a secluded room. The four of them were tagged with an electronic device in their right ankle and had their faces covered by a mask, but they were no further restrained: they even were allowed one Poké Ball each.
After the group reached their destination and the huge metal doors closed behind them, the masks and the ankle rings were removed and taken away. One of the Rockets, wearing a brown coat and a matching color cap which covered some traces of grey hair, led the four young to a desk, showing them four packs labeled with one name each.
Darius took the case marked with his name and opened it, revealing his three Poké Balls. He proceeded to attach them to his belt, feeling safer now as he had his other three Pokémon with him.
He then followed the other trainers to a row of seats. As the four guests took their positions, most of the Rocket members left the room: the only ones remaining were the man in brown and two shady figures, leaning against the opposite side walls. Darius could hardly distinguish their silhouettes in the darkness, but the situation improved when a yellow light came from a special bulb behind them. Darius noticed one of the two figures was a young and tall woman, of sharp facial features, with long yellow hair parted sideways left and right from the back of her head; the other was a man with light blue hair and a relatively round face. Both of them were wearing a standard Team Rocket uniform.
The man in brown walked to the center of the room and addressed the guests.
“Welcome to Team Rocket's facilities. We apologize for the excess scrutiny, but it was necessary for yours and our safety.”
As he said this, he started walking left and right in front of a projector screen, never turning his sight away from the four guests.
“Call me Syd for the time being. I am one of Team Rocket's top talent scouts. These,” he stopped for a while, stretching his arms in opposite directions and pointing to the two members to his side, “are my assistants today. They will provide you with some important information.”
The two assistants stepped in and handed each one of the trainers a pack containing documents, maps, and a booklet that was titled “History of Team Rocket – the Unauthorized Edition”. Darius could only smirk to himself on the detail.
'Syd', if that was his name, stepped back, letting the yellow light from the bulb to reveal his entire body.
“Before continuing, congratulations are in order. All the time there are a lot of people wanting to become part of our glorious elite. But of the circle of trainers, the four of you are the only ones to reach this point. During your journey of the Kanto and Johto regions, you all have shown determination when chasing your goals, ruthlessness in battle, and a strong sense of self-preservation. You have worked hard to hone those skills. And now we present you with an ultimate test of character.”
The lights in the room dimmed for a moment as a video was projected on the front screen, displaying images of several references to Team Rocket in the Kanto television. Turning his head only a bit, Syd grinned and continued his exposition with a darker tone:
“The media may have fed you the image of 'Team Rocket' as that of a bunch of warmongers who use Pokémon as a tool for their own profit. That is not false, but is still a biased view of our mission. Team Rocket goes beyond the mere 'wealth' and 'profit' as defined by money and riches. We go far beyond, for the sake of mankind!”
Upon saying this, Syd turned towards the four trainers and pointed with his right hand to the case held by the trainer to Darius' left. He then assumed a very informal tone:
“It is unfortunate only the less law-abiding activities of our Elite get attention from the media. But those who do actually ask, can learn a lot about us. Like, for example, if you open now your booklets on page four...”
Darius and the other guests opened their booklets and enjoyed a very artistic performance by Syd, who after looking very formal and well behaved up to that point, turned into some kind of street preacher, gesticulating with his hands, frowning and scowling, and showing himself as a talented one-man theater company as he imparted a more holistic view of Team Rocket's goals. Not just the seek of profit, but essentially, the seek for superiority through the experimental confirmation that humans could, and should, muster the powers of the universe that were made available by the proxies known as Pokémon.
After an exposition that could have perfectly lasted for half an hour, the projector behind the trainers powered off the instant the lamps were turned on. It took the four guests, as well as the assistants, a brief time to adjust to the bright light, after which, the two assistants came to the trainers, this time with one electronic “tablet reader” for each.
“As one cannot simply knock on our door and ask to become a Rocket,” stated Syd with a grin smile, “Team Rocket has prepared four trials for you. Each one consisting of a special operation you must complete for our agents, by using the skills we admire in you.”
The yellow-haired woman positioned herself to Syd's right as she proceeded to explain the nature of the missions:
“Each operation is completely optional: you have the right to execute it or not. If you do proceed, however, there are rules you must follow. It essentially boils down to providing our agents with a service of the highest quality, while at the same time demonstrating your level of commitment with our offer, your resourcefulness in the open, and of course, your personal abilities.”
Syd walked to the leftmost trainer, a brunette girl wearing a hat and a long yellow dress, as well as some kind of wooden ornament covering the upper portion of her ears. He started to talk, as he walked from one trainer to the next.
“The details for each mission are available through the tablet readers. These missions range from hostile acquisition...”, he said, staring at the brunette girl and then walking away, “... defacement,” he continued, as he came in front of a man younger than Darius, with black, laid-back hair who was wearing a wool vest and a band strapped to his arm; “... threat assessment,” continued Syd, as he came in front of Darius, looking down at him with his eyes very open, halting for a moment before walking away, “... and industrial espionage,” he concluded, staring at the person at Darius' right, a short, well built man with green eyes, dressing in what Darius believed to be mainland Johto attire.
The male assistant stepped forward and pointed to the wall, over which some generic instructions were projected as the room light were dimmed again. Then he began a short exposition:
“Your missions begin when you signals us so. Each mission has a specific deadline and has to be reported to a specific agent, the information available in the tablet.” He got closer to the trainers and leaned forward enough for his face to become predominant in the four people's field of vision: “Under no circumstances can you contact each other or search for Rockets' help, unless an unforeseen event strongly modifies the mission profile.”
“Like,” interrupted Syd, smiling, “a meteor strike. Anything short of that, you must handle on your own.”
The male assistant retreated to the screen again, and pointed to a message in the lower part of the screen, as he further detailed the conditions of the missions:
“If the mission is compromised but you still deem yourself capable of delivering your targets, you will contact this number...”, then he proceeded to read a videophone number on-screen, “and one of our Special Agents will arrive to clear you.”
The three Rockets stood motionless for a moment. Darius memorized the number he saw, guessing that the other trainers were doing the same.
Syd spoke again, motioning to indicate to the e-tablets: “Which brings me to the last point: failure is an option. But be warned about the consequences... Should you fail, you'll be retrieved and quarantined for some time to ensure your knowledge or Team Rocket's internals, albeit shallow and minute, does not leak to... um... 'outside forces'.” he explained, while slowly walking in circles in front of the screen. “You will be returned some time later, safely, to your previous lives, under the tacit agreement that you won't do anything to further hamper the... appreciation, we have of you. Is this understood?”
After what seemed a moment of hesitation, all four people nodded at unison.
“Fine then. Please step outside. Your designated contact agent will join you outside to deliver the specifics of your missions. If you truly want to be Rockets, I wish you a glorious beginning.”
The guests sat up and proceeded to leave the room, the well-built young from Johto heading first, then Darius, the woman third, and the boy wearing wool.
All the time, Darius was reading the e-tablet, checking its contents. A picture of the Indigo Plateau Stadium and a diagram of the preliminary competitions were part of the mission roundup, but there was no obvious indication of the target. He would have expected his trial to be something dirty and dangerous, like fiddling with the mechanism of the preliminaries seeding... But Syd mentioned the mission was threat assessment... "assessment of what?" remarked Darius in his mind. His folder seemed to contain only auxiliary information.
As he walked outside of the room, Darius noticed that there were only three officers and each one had already departed with one of the guests, all in different directions. He stared at the brick wall in front of him for a moment, his muscles tensed, in his mind the notion of an ambush casting black shadows, as his left hand instinctively reached for Rapidash's Ball; then he heard the lock of the door behind him and noticed Syd turning towards him as he guarded the key in his left pocket.
Darius sighed as he turned towards the man: “Uh... excuse, sir?”
Syd stood in front of Darius, with no trace of surprise in his eyes. “Ah, you are the one designated to the Tournament.”
“Yes... my contact agent, where--?”
“It is me, of course. Already catching up on the mission?”
“Well, the target, and the... orders...”, answered Darius, his voice almost falling to a mumble, not sure how to continue. He did not want to give the impression he was stupid or something, but he felt the contents of the tablet device left him with no choice.
Syd frowned and leaned towards Darius; he seemed to understand the situation.
“Oh great... they brought the short version, didn't they?” Syd took the e-tablet in his hands and examined it, the frown clearly turning into an angered expression for a moment, before he handed the device back to Darius. “My Growlithes!” he exclaimed. “Follow me, please... How could they leave out so many details? After HQ ordered explicitly...”
Darius hastened his pace to reach the older man, puzzled. “The 'HQ'?”
“Oh, yes... Headquarters has requested this specific trial for you. Don't ask why: I don't know. But I know for sure your racing history is held in high regards among the Executives...”
Darius kept silent and turned his sight to the path he and Syd were walking. The two men continued their path in silence, only lightened by the blue halogen lamps.
As every minute crept by, Darius was feeling more uncomfortable. His left hand went constantly and carelessly to his belt, to handle the Poké Ball containing Rapidash. For the first time since the beginning of the interview, he actually felt unsure of what would happen next. He peered from behind as Syd produced a cellphone from his pocket and made a call, in a very low, grunting voice, ensuing in a not exactly friendly conversation with another person of apparently similar rank. He could only distinguish some words.
“...and no one confirmed...”
“...but I have the papers right here!”
“...to interview him personally?”
“...and despite the orders...”
“...was not the other one...”
After a couple of minutes wandering around, the pair crossed a metallic bridge and a thick wood gate that quickly closed behind. Darius noticed he was now in a large room, ornamented with old statues, armors and weapons, plus two bronze-made sconces, designed after a Nidoking and Nidoqueen, and a set of three paintings, each one in a different wall, and each one featuring a large bird Pokémon. The bird on the one to the left with yellow, spiky plumage and a brown beak as long as its wings were wide; the one to the right a light-blue bird with long and flat tail, a thick crest of blue feathers on its head, and a short, curved beak; and the painting in the far side of the room a bird of thick and bright orange plumage, with sharp, gigantic talons and distinctive flames surrounding its wings and tail.
Quickly leaving his astonishment, Darius resumed his step behind Syd who had entered a small door under the firebird picture. Darius found himself in the middle of a dark dome, with two metal barstools clamped to the ground, and a large screen in front of him. The faint sound of mechanic devices came from behind one of the walls of the room.
Syd turned right and raised his hand with his thumb up. From a speaker located somewhere in the room, came a womanly voice:
“Yes, Agent Zero-Four-Eight-Three. We've handing you the videolink now...”
The screen turned on, showing the partial image of a person. The bright white light emitting from the screen projected eerie shadows behind the stools and the form of Syd, who stood before whoever happened to be on the other end, in some kind of salutation. Darius only looked: from his position he could only see an exaggeratedly lightened plasma screen.
“I apologize for interrupting your meeting, Sir” started Syd.
“Do not,” answered a male voice. “I was debriefed about the misunderstanding.”
“Thanks you, Sir. I've brought the candidate to your presence.”
Syd signaled Darius to step forward, and he did, carefully, as he tried to look up to the screen. He could not identify the man--- more than he could identify anything in the image, due to the bright background light. Trying to get a better look, he stepped back, tilted his head and casted his left hand up, now holding the Rapidash Poké Ball, in front of his eyes trying to filter the light. All he could see was a dark figure dressed in an apparently purple formal suit, sitting in an office chair, and the ears of a silver tea cup in the leftmost part of the screen. The man's left hand could be prominently seen, stroking the golden fur and the black-coloured ears of a Pokémon. With the strong, pleasant purr and the barely visible red protrusion on its forehead, Darius could confirm the Pokémon was a Persian.
Syd turned to Darius and spoke with a tone of slight envy.
“Man you are lucky... It takes my C.O a week to get an interview with the Leader of Team Rocket himself.”
Darius's sight deviated from the feline eyes watching from the bottom of the screen when he heard the voice from the other side call his family name.
“The grandson of Rhemis Mezze, it's a pleasure to meet you,” greeted the commanding voice of the Leader.
Darius did not respond. He did not think he was being disrespectful, he was simply taken aback by surprise: apparently his family line was known by this man who seemed to be the head of Team Rocket.
“My people have made fortunes by placing bets on your family.”
Darius felt his heart stop, his body become stiff. For how long had he been under surveillance...? Not only he, but his family, too?
A bleak notion crossed his mind – “My life, my success... the Rockets' doing? Have I earned anything by myself?” He shifted to a more defensive posture, lowering the hand that still held Rapidash's Poké Ball, and leaving the other arm behind, barely visible. Just in case.
“I assume then that is his Rapidash' daughter in your hand. A beautiful and persistent girl.”
“Thanks,” was all that Darius could mutter.
“And the question that now fills your mind? The answer is that you have nothing to worry about.”
“Question?” inquired Darius, trying to pretend naïve. “What... what do you mean?”
“You wouldn't be before me if you had to be guided by our hand all the way. You wouldn't be worthy.”
“So... my family? My career?”
“Yours by merit, of course. If you wanted more proof, then I expect the man by your side to have already introduced himself.”
Darius leaned his head to the left, to where Syd was standing. Only now did he notice Syd was actually an old man, probably in his late sixties. His face, however, showed the joy of a thirty years old man who has just met his childhood friends again.
“Syd is our best talent scout. He has been so for almost fifteen years. Every time you hear in the news the incredible feats of a Team Rocket member, it's one of the talents he brought to me. And every time you hear a Rocket was caught or killed, it's one Syd did not approve of.”
Darius felt slightly more comfortable, but still threatened. His sweating hand could barely hold Rapidash's Ball. He could swear he felt the object shaking a bit, as if she was trying to assure him she would be there.
“But let's leave the stories for another time,” said the voice of the Leader, “maybe when all this is over, and the three of us can enjoy a coffee in my office. Let's talk about why are you here.”
Syd stepped forward and addressed the Leader directly: “I'm sorry to say, Sir, that the target profile was not included in our mission chart. Neither Mr. Mezze or myself have been briefed about the nature of his particular mission.”
“Very well...”, answered the Leader, as the hand petting Persian lifted away and vanished from the screen. “Let me be the one to brief you, then.”
Syd poked Darius' arm and nodded back, directing his attention to the barstools. With a stinging feel of uncertainness, Darius took his seat. Then the screen emitted a brief screech, and the image turned into a split screen, in one side the hideous shape of the Leader and the Persian, and the other side a set of profiles for the upcoming Indigo Tournament.
“You are to participate in the Indigo Tournament this year. Again: all you've achieved is completely legit. So feel free to do your best in there.”
“But,” inquired Darius, “my mission has something to do with the Tournament, right?”
“In a way, yes,” answered the Leader. “The Indigo Stadium is the perfect environment for a test we need, a test you will perform for us.” The voice from the screen changed tone slightly and Darius perceived the figure of the man leaning back in his chair. “Now, Syd, I'm sending you some information we have collected about a trainer. He is the actual target of this mission. You'll make sure both our Target and Mr. Mezze make it to the weeding phase of the Tournament, and then it will be your turn to work, Mr. Mezze.”
“I guess then, Sir,” asked Syd while writing down some notes, “that the mission consists in a Tournament Battle between this Target and the young Darius here. Is my job, then, to... make sure, both Trainers meet each other in the battlefield?”
Darius turned to Syd and then back to the screen, to face the Leader. He was about to voice his objections on the matter, but a low mumbling from the other side of the screen stopped him.
“No... I'm sorry, Syd, but as I said before, Mr. Mezze has reached this far by himself, and he will continue to make his way to success completely legit. No scrambling the seeding procedure, no bribing the referees, and definitively no 'trainer accidents'.”
“Wait...” asked Darius, leaning forwards on his seat, “what happens if Team Rocket doesn't intervene the seeding process, and I can't face this trainer? Am I going to be penalized if, let's say, he loses his match before we can meet?”
“Of course not,” answered the Leader, almost smiling, “we may consider such a case a non-event, if you want. But I truly hope you two get to meet, in the battlefield, that is.”
“Well, then... where is the trick? What is the 'threat' I'm supposed to evaluate?”
“The threat, Mr. Mezze, is the limit.”
“The limit?” asked Darius, his eyes wide open, trying to ascertain the meaning of those words.
“Tournament rules are very strict about what can and cannot be done. Skilled trainers with powerful Pokémon have to refrain from instructing the creatures to unleash their true power.”
Darius raised an eyebrow. He had pondered, sometimes, when his mind drifted: “Rapidash's got a lot of training, and she sure us strong, but she is not a fighter... what is a Pokémon trained for battle, truly capable to do?” Now it seemed he was being offered the chance to find the answer firsthand. But there were still some things that made no sense.
“If you want an all-out battle, then why don't just summon him here, and I'll battle him? Why in the Tournament?”
“Because,” answered the Leader, “it's only when we're conscious of the punishment that awaits at the other side, that we can freely choose to cross the Rubicon, and thus can we be free to hold nothing back, as we are unlikely to return.”
“So... you are telling me this trainer is too ruthless to handle outside of the Tournament?”
“That, Mr. Mezze, is what we want to find out... Push the battle to the limit... And if it is you who returns safe and sound, the position of Rocket Admin will be yours.”
Darius prepared to ask one final question. He hesitated for a moment, waiting for the correct words to form in his mind.
“So, we meet... we battle... and mayhem ensues. Pushing too strong, one of us may be disqualified. Maybe, one of us will die. How will I know when is it enough mayhem for you? How will I know when to return?”
“You will know, because you already know what to expect from him. It's part of the reason you are here, the reason it is you and no other who he has to face.”
Upon those words, Darius swallowed hard and tried to calm himself. “Someone I know? For very long, apparently.” He ran an assortment of people he knew in his mind.
“Here, let the name refresh your memory. Your target is Lou Varan from Trikeria Town.”
Lou Varan. Darius felt time stop, his body became stone heavy upon hearing that name. It took some effort for him to raise his sight and examine the right side of the screen, now displaying a face he knew far too well.
“Lou? So you are still alive?”
On the right side of the screen, the profile appeared. Darius was hearing Syd's voice, but he was not paying attention to him, his mind was focused on the picture on screen. A young man, probably 20 years or so, with wide chin, brown hair combed to the left, revealing some patches of grey, and wearing a black jacket over a green t-shirt, ducking alongside a grown and apparently upset Nidorino. Behind and to the left of the man, the green legs and the blade-like arms of a Scyther could be distinguished. And by the man's right side, a green quadrupedal creature sporting a pink bulb on its back. An Ivysaur.
“So it evolved? I bet that would have been something impressive to see.”
Alongside the picture, some numbers and statistics were running down, but Darius paid no attention to them. He did not want to. His mind raised an instinctive alarm as it was flooded with the memories of the last time the two met. Darius' mind spiraled into the dark, deep cave in his mind reserved for secrets that should be kept for a lifetime.
Somewhere in the Suocé Region, three years ago...
As the ferny-odoured veil of the morning downpour slowly became a soft rain, the sun fighting to warm the Race Stadium with its light,a younger Darius, his clothes damp and loosen, walked towards a wide patch of scorched soil in the race track, and fell to his knees, alongside his companion Rapidash. The horse Pokémon was laying in the ground, panting heavily, her legs trembling and her eyes showing a tremendous fear. Her abdomen was badly hurt, her fiery mane waving eerily as she was slowly soaked by the soft rain. Her flanks were branded with what seemed to be the marks of a belt. Blood was pouring from small needle-like punctures across the marks, and several minor bruises ran from one side of her torso to the other.
Darius stretched his hand and petted Rapidash's soft head fur. She neighed with dramatic effort, and her eyes turned to meet his, turning the expression of fear to one of calmness as she identified the human that was now shedding tears over her muzzle. A small, bipedal alligator-like creature, with blue-coloured scales, muscular body and triangular spikes along its spine, was staying close to Darius, who looked back to meet his Croconaw, and to examine its beaten body, its jaw and arms burned, its left arm fractured and bleeding.
Smiling, Darius turned his face to Rapidash, and sank his head in its flaming mane, speaking softly:
“See? You'll be fine, girl... Soon you will be as lively as before.”
Darius's hand reached to a Poké Ball in his belt, and as he retrieved it, he dared to raise his sight. Some meters away, a green lizard like creature walking in all fours and sporting a small green bulb on its back, was using its two vines to lift a big, grey plastic case, as it walked away to reach its master, already parting away. Of the man, Darius could only see his back, fading away behind the curtain of the rain, but that was enough for him. A dark leather jacket covering a long, green t-shirt. Brown, loosen hair waved with the wind, showing some traces of grey here and there. The man walked away carrying his backpack, Bulbasaur and the case in the follow. He never looked back; he just vanished into the rain.
Darius only became conscious of what he was saying when Syd repeated his words back to him.
“So you haven't seen him for three years?”
Darius' mind forced itself back to reality. Back to the old man standing next to him, and the giant plasma screen emitting a very bright light and a purring sound. He looked up and then left, to meet Syd's stare.
“Yeah... I haven't. I only heard he was somewhere in northern Hoenn. But that was pretty much all.”
“That's a shame,” Syd pointed out. “It would have been too good if you happened to have more information.”
Darius kept silent, wondering what interest could Team Rocket have in his old friend. After all, he had stayed away from his family and friends for almost three years. Syd was flipping the pages of a report on his hand. He stopped for a moment and then addressed both Darius and the Leader.
“He was seen eight weeks ago in Vermillion City. Inquired the local police about a Grimer rampage. He took the Pokémon League Association Exam three weeks ago... having collected four Kanto Badges.”
“Only four?” asked the Leader. “He must have done well in the Exam if he ranked for the Pokémon League.”
“Yes, Sir. He got the Soul Badge. That means a lot.”
Darius remembered his battle against the keeper of the Soul Badge, a very skilled ninja by the name of Koga. The battle had been a fierce four-on-four brawl in a very closed space filled with traps, and it was only thanks to his Linoone's ability to carry objects in its mouth that Darius turned out victorious.
Darius bit his lip, remembering some things about Lou's personality, his family, and his past. He had never been into Tournaments and he had never had a reason to come to Kanto, except when he was first sent to return a Bulbasaur to the wild. Which he didn't. And that had been too long ago... Beyond that, the only event that Darius thought it could link Lou to the Kanto region was a certain occasion Lou was trying to get a job: he ended up opting for the position of assistant to an eccentric scientist, living somewhere north of Cerulean City.
His musings were stopped by another voice coming from the other end of the videolink.
“Sorry, Sir, but we have one of our agents from Silph's Tiksi branch, she says it's something very important.”
A click was heard and the Persian disappeared from sight as the Leader could be seen pushing some buttons. All the while, Syd was offering the documents he had reviewed to Darius, but he did not notice.
“My apologies, Mr. Mezze, but there is an issue that requires my immediate attention. Are you willing to take this trial, then?”
Darius sighed. His mind was already set. He wanted to find out too many things, yet he only had to answer two questions: Why me? Why Lou?
“I am,” answered Darius. “I'll find out what is he doing here and how good has he become. But what do I do with that information, I'll decide that myself.”
As a response, a faint smile could be seen drawn in the face of the Leader, but it was quickly covered by the Persian, who leapt up his Masters' chest, purring and looking for some more petting.
“Fine then. Syd, you will be his contact agent.”
“Thank you, Sir. I will.”
“And remember to call again when you have time for a coffee.”
“Will be a pleasure, Sir.”
“Mr. Mezze. Best of luck in this trial. I'll be following your performance with enthusiasm.”
With that, the screen blinked again, and the next instant it was turned off.
After a moment of silence, Darius noticed Syd was handing him a case folder. And he knew exactly what he was to find inside: profiles, tactics, breeding and training information about Lou and his Pokémon, a lot of information Team Rocket believed it could be useful to have about him.
“How little they know...”
With a demeaning motion, Darius ripped off the first pages, stashing them in his pocket. He turned heels and approached a trash can, close to the door. He produced a match and, before an astonished Syd could do anything, the case folder was burning in the trash can. The smoke quickly activated the fire detection system and before soon, the alarm sound and the soft rain filled the room.
Darius said nothing and exited the room. Syd stood behind, motionless, a hard expression in his face, while covering his head with his left arm, watching as Darius left the room. He had absolutely no idea what had just happened.
~~End of Chapter I~~
Hope you liked it.
As usual, feel free to review, constructively. With all the effort behind this work there should not be severe grammar or plot errors, but some other things may have slipped by. After enough errors are spotted, I'll collect the corrections and apply them in a pack, as I did with the introductory chapter.
Well... no more words. I hope you continue to enjoy this work.
Return to the Table of Contents or advance to the Next Chapter.
January 19th, 2009 (6:59 PM).
My my my... my first two months bump! And in my own thread! Yay! **cake time**
Well... this chapter was finished in December, then I had my trusty Betareader betaread it, which took some time, too, and when he returned it to me, I was going through a very nasty illness from which I haven't yet fully recovered. Due to this all my other works (fanfiction and RL) have been halted or going in really slow-mo for some time.
But I've been greenlit for a couple of days thanks to the Miracles of Modern Chemistry, and my brain seems to be functioning again, so here I'm posting Chapter 2 of Elusive Goals for those who had almost forgot this story existed...
Did I warn you, my faithful readers, that I like to write long? This chapter is 5250 words long, about 10 pages in my word processor. Lots of thanks to Censored who has somehow survived this checking, has patiently waited for me to hand him every section, and shows no signs of dementia yet, only having some microburst he has authorized me to quote, when I started sending him every section ending in a kind of cliffhanger:
By all means, feel free to review constructively. I mean, come on, Xanthine did it, so why can't you? Just remember, if you read this story and you like it, show your support. I'll really need it.
And because I write soooooo long, here let me recap some of the previous events before continuing. Last time we saw Darius Mezze, he was granted an interview with the mysterious Leader of Team Rocket. This individual handed him and his contact agent, Syd, a special mission that would allow, if completed, for Darius to become an Admin of Team Rocket. The mission is to rise to the Indigo Tournament, fight and defeat in combat a specific Trainer who has been lost for some years... and who happens to be an old friend of Darius, Lou Varan.
What is the misson really about? Why was Darius chosen for this? Why has Lou been missing?
Oh well... Let's go back to business, shall we? I'll stop talking and let the story unfold. Let's continue then with...
Chatper 2: Light Debriefing
Syd got out of the elevator and walked across the corridor leading to the training facilities. He was carrying two cases, one in each hand. One of these was intended for him, and contained several documents, a fake passport, and three Poké Balls. The second one was intended for Darius, and it was exactly like the first case, save for the fact that it contained no Poké Balls.
Two other men in Rocket uniform passed by, saluting him; Syd could only nod and continue walking, listening to them talk excitedly about the upcoming large-scale project of Team Rocket. He reached the entrance of the training area and flashed his ID card to the guard, who greeted him by name.
“The man we brought from Viridian,” he asked the guard, “where is he?”
“Let me see...” answered the man while checking some documents. “He signed in for the shooting arena half an hour ago.”
Syd nodded and entered the area, taking a road downhill to a large field. He noticed the young with blue hair sitting in a bench, a Linoone sleeping at his side. Some steps away, a large alligator-like Pokémon was stretching and getting itself ready for the target practice.
Syd reached the benches as Darius had just introduced a bronze coin into a machine nearby. The Feraligatr leered from his position as a green-and-brown machine sporting a small cannon emerged a good distance away.
“Ready, Feraligatr?” yelled Darius. The Pokémon raised one of its arms in response, and then assumed its battle stance. Darius pushed a red button in the machine. “Go, then.” he ordered.
The machine powered up, with a strong noise, and after a while, two shots were heard. Two pink discuses flew over Feraligatr, who opened its mouth to release a powerful stream of water. The attack squarely impacted one of the discs, shattering into pieces, but it could not reach the second disc, which fell to the ground beyond to the opposite side of the arena.
“Rhaaa....?” growled Feraligatr, slightly surprised. Something along the lines of “that's not how it should turn out”, that was what Darius could interpret. The Pokémon quickly resumed battle stance, and charged water beforehand. Two more discuses flew by, and the first one was shattered into pieces. Feraligatr charged water again, and shot at the second disc, but the stream fell short, unable to reach the second discus. Two faint growls (one Pokémon, the other human) followed. Six more shots, and three failed attempts later, Darius raised his voice:
“Feraligatr, calm down,” he ordered, returning to the bench, “use less water. Shoot quickly, understood?”
The Pokémon nodded and waited for the next shots. As the pink discs flew over its head, one of them was shattered into pieces by a small jet of water. The second was hit awkwardly, and spiraled to the ground, shattering upon impact.
Darius noticed Syd was sitting close to him. He yelled again: “Keep trying, Feraligatr, until I recall you.” After that, Darius leaned his head back, and Syd approached to sit by his side, handing him a soda.
“Is everything OK?” questioned Syd, remembering the incident with the trash can.
Darius grabbed the can and drank the contents in silence while Feraligatr kept shooting water jets and missing the second discus on every try. Syd looked up and then let his sight wander, waiting for an answer. He was not in a hurry, he could tell from experience that there was a story behind the behaviour he had witnessed.
“The information they handed us,” explained Darius, almost talking to himself, “it is useless.”
“Useless?” asked Syd, confused. “The data was collected by one of our cells in Hoenn. Do you...” Syd frowned, addressing Darius in a more bashful tone, “do you know something we don't?”
“How could I?” mumbled Darius, a smile barely drawn on his face. “I haven't seen him in... how long? Three years?” he continued, still essentially talking to himself.
“So? Don't you need to know...?”
The sound of the metal can hitting a trash can besides the bench and then the ground beneath it, interrupted them. Darius winced and leaned to the left to see the can on the ground. He tried to pick it up, but changed his mind and returned to his previous posture. Two more attempts by Feraligatr failed miserably.
“I was friends with him. Or something...” Darius explained, in a low voice. “And we are not standard trainers: I am a Racer, competing in Pokémon Leagues only to keep my other Pokémon in shape.” Darius said this bluntly and with a hard voice, which from years of experience Syd knew it was a prerecorded subconscious speech. “As for Lou, he is... well... a Ranger of sorts. Not only do we not fight like ordinary trainers, but we are both aware that the other knows it, too.”
Syd was the one to frown this time. He had managed to read some of the documents before they had turned to ashes. They mentioned nothing about Lou being a Ranger. Nothing about Lou and Darius being friends. And actually nothing about his battle strategy. He tried to connect the dots in his mind, but there was some things missing. “That's a great job by the Hoenn intel advance...” he sarcastically reminded to himself.
Darius was not one to blame. Hesitantly, Syd admitted neither of them was being sharing enough to each other. Darius may be hiding something, but Syd had another problem: there were things about the mission he simply did not know.
He was about to open his mouth and try to explain, but suddenly Darius kicked the leg of the bench and asked, in a somewhat chastising voice:
“You know Rummel Gerk is to enter the Tournament this year, don't you?”
“The candidate to Championship, yes...” answered Syd automatically, interrupting himself when something in his brain ringed a bell. The name allowed him to connect the dots, not only as for what would Darius be hiding, but also what was missing from the mission.
Rummel Gerk, 21, from some place called Fallarbor, had proven to be very capable, extremely powerful, and uncanny smart. The current head of the Elite Four had stated on television that he was to challenge Rummel personally would he become the Tournament Champion, instead of the tradition dictating that the Champion could challenge the Elite Four if he wanted to. But for Syd, Rummel's Earth Badge was proof of his power more than enough.
“Lou and I don't stand much of a chance to get to the finals...” mumbled Darius, while he was trying to pull the can closer to him with one of his feet. “Your boss would have it better hiring Rummel if he wanted a battle.”
“You did well in the Gym challenges,” interrupted Syd, almost as if trying to comfort him, and leaving a space between his words as two other discs flew by, “and he has done well, too.” Obviously, he was referring to Lou.
For an answer, Darius grinned evilly and lowered his head a little. “So it is not a battle what your people want.” As he said this, he turned to Syd, asking, “What's all of this, really?”
Syd leaned back, looking at Darius' turned face, heard two other discus flying over, and then rolled his head to watch the world around him. The facilities. One pink discus being crushed by a water stream. A Linoone to his right, laying in the ground, eyeing at him, and to the left Darius, pretty much doing the same. And behind him, even though he could not see, what it had been his life for the last fifteen years.
It had no sense to keep hiding things anymore, thought Syd. It was better for both of them if he acknowledged what he knew... and what he didn't. He started by raising one hand, slowly, his palm facing him, and motioned Darius to come closer, to which Darius answered by doing so.
“This will be my last mission for Team Rocket.” he said.
Darius' eyes became larger, the smile in his face gone. Syd breathed heavily. It was time to set some things clear, he said to himself, to make sure his near future would carry out as intended.
“First, kid, no one else knows. Are we clear?”
Syd looked at Darius straight to the eyes, to which Darius answered with a nod. With that, Syd leaned back on the bench. “Second, then, I guess you heard our Leader when he told you, I am among the long lasting operatives of Team Rocket.”
“Yeah,” answered Darius, “fifteen years or so, if I am not mistaken...”
“I started with a mission like everyone else does,” he said with a smirk, “but in time, it became obvious I was very good at choosing partners... so I was promoted to Admin, as a treasure hunter of sorts.” After saying this, Syd bowed his head only slightly enough to see the ample training area before him. “But I'm getting older, no longer apt for field missions.”
“With 'field' you mean...”
“The kind of mission where you either return or do not.” filled in Syd, dully smiling. “Now I am someone who tells others what to do. So I asked for this mission, to be your designated contact agent.”
Syd shrugged, shifted position on the bench, and let his sight wander for a while, as two discuses were shattered in pieces nearby. Feraligatr had finally made two targets in a row. Darius watched his Pokémon struggle for a while, unable to repeat the feat for the next six shots. Just then, a beep from the machine indicated there were no more discuses available.
“That was good, Feraligatr!” called Darius, rising his left hand to give a nonverbal order to his Pokémon. “Rest for a while. Linoone,” he said while leaning forward, to see his other Pokémon still lying besides Syd, “go there and spar with him for a while, would you?”
Linoone yawned, blinked a couple of times, stretched its legs, and stood up to leap forward once, twice, thrice, to reach Feraligatr. The two Pokémon greeted each other in their own, unintelligible language, and suddenly engaged in a complicated dance of always missing, but nonetheless fully intentional attacks.
“I thought...” continued Darius, in a low voice, this time addressing the human interlocutor, “you were supposed to give us orders...”
“The Leader would have never approved of something like this, he said... it was too dangerous... for me.” answered Syd, hesitantly talking about who seemed to be a long time friend. “Anyways, I thought I was to spend the mission behind a desk again, until I heard about you from one of our minor scouts.”
“Because it would be great if you could somehow get involved in this.”
“So you included me in your plan?”
“No... It's not mine.”
Darius remained silent for a while, thinking about how he had come under Team Rocket's attention. Why would they approach a relatively famous sportsman, anyways? Recalling the previous interview, he mumbled: “Your Leader... he wanted to meet me.”
“Right.” The monosyllable came hard and emotionless from Syd's mouth, which then let out a faint, almost forged smile. “I offered the Leader a deal, to have you interview with him if you could reach us on your own.”
Darius nodded and deviated his attention briefly. “In exchange, you got the field, then...” He watched Feraligatr and Linoone still playing. Linoone was trying to circle the alligator Pokémon, looking for a good attack angle, but Feraligatr was not making it easy, swirling its tail up and down and in the same direction he was turning, with notorious agility for a Pokémon his size, and forcing Linoone to switch directions after every couple of steps. Darius smiled to himself: Linoone was soon too fed up of that.
After a while, Syd resumed his speech. “I thought you would be a good candidate anyways, when the first set of mission profiles came to me.” he explained, focusing on the recent events, tilting his head left and right, incessantly. “All that was needed was reconnaissance and a battle against 'someone'... And because we had not received the profile from our Hoenn advance yet, we did not know who Lou was, or that you two had met each other.”
“That...” said Darius, “I would call quite a coincidence.”
“More like a bonus prize,” Syd countered, with what seemed almost a burst of irony. “When you got your eighth Badge, I knew I had attained a chance to work in the field again, and I was all too happy until...”
Darius looked at Syd, who had stopped himself hard, his head still tilting forth and back from his point of view. “Until?” Darius asked, with a respectful but curious tone.
“Well... I talked to the other contact agents before coming here...” Syd said, obviously worried, the tilting of his head slower but more pronounced, and his hands interlocked, raided close to his chin, as if he was praying. Then he added: “The four mission profiles are incomplete.”
“Incomplete...” repeated Darius, not understanding the meaning of the sentence.
Syd nodded, and looked at how Darius was watching him, waiting for him to continue. “Of course”, thought Syd. “What is a law-abiding adolescent to know about the risks and the betrayals that hide behind an incomplete mission notice?” Syd felt a dark thought forming in his mind, he knew what it was but he did not want to actually know. He shook his head to get rid of it, and then he relaxed, and turned his head to Darius, adding in a most authoritative voice: “And that is all I can tell you.”
Darius blinked, as if released from a spell, and answered, “Yeah. I get it.”
Of course, he didn't.
“Out of all this mess,” continued Syd, “the idea is that I'll help you reach the Indigo League, and then you must put up quite a good show when fighting Lou. Why? I don't know.” He strengthened this claim by shaking his head a no. “If we feel there is something fishy, we'll have to handle it ourselves. What may that be? Again, I don't know.” He emphasized this part again, but shaking his head slowly. Finally, he added: “And even after we learn... we must pretend we didn't.”
“Got it,” answered Darius. That part he did.
With that, the two of them leaned back on the bench. Linoone was growling madly, as Feraligatr had managed to step on one of its forelegs. The alligator Pokémon answered with something between a smirk and a frown, difficult for Darius to interpret in the facial features of a Pokémon. But they were still having fun.
Syd, on the other hand, rested, whistling some tunes and turning his head every couple of minutes to check on a group of Rockets in training, led by an officer in kaqui, trotting around the training area, quite tired but still singing a cadence that brought Syd lots of pleasant memories. He had composed that song as an anthem for Team Rocket... so many years ago. At the third leap or so, Syd noticed the shadows of the running men almost reached the bench: dusk was coming, the time to return to the city.
Before going, however, he ventured a last question. “So, how long have Lou and you known each other?”
It took almost a full minute before Darius answered. “Too long.”
“After or before the earthquake?” Syd remarked, thinking back to a newspaper he read some years ago.
Darius remained silent for a moment, thinking back to the times when he has a kid, only ten or so when half of his homeland was devastated by a tremendous earthquake, more like an hecatomb. The memories were foggy in his head, but he remembered clearly that, next week, when he and his parent visited an institute as part of a charity campaign, he met three kids who were taking care of several Pokémon.
He quickly dismissed the thoughts when the name of Lou came to his mind. He stood up as Linoone had managed to clamp Feraligatr's tail between its jaws, and the reptilian Pokémon was trying to shake its opponent off, when a call from their Trainer calmed them down. As the two Pokémon stood in the ground with their best happy faces, two red beams returned them to their Poké Balls.
Darius attached the Poké Balls to his belt and gave Syd a “finished?” look. Shrugging, Syd stood up and led Darius up the stairs, giving him a “you'll tell me later” stare.
Viridian City, 21:45 the same day.
Quiay, the receptionist, was watching the news on the wide plasma behind her seat. Alona, her partner, was signing some documents and checking the outer lights when she distinguished a man entering the building. Blue-haired, tall, tan, and carrying an extra suitcase.
“Good evening, Mr. Mezze,” she saluted, bowing to the guest. As she did, Quiay noticed Darius entering, too, and turned to face him, saluting him too.
The young man saluted back and turned to the stairs, walking in silence.
“Uh... Sir?” called him Alona, trying to sound innocent. “Your case?”
Darius turned back, in silence, with surprise in his eyes, and blinked a couple of times.
“You have to register it.” remarked the receptionist, while pointing her finger to the metal case. “Security procedure.”
“Oh...” mumbled Darius, trying to elaborate as he held the case higher. “This? Sorry, my bad... I should actually turn this at the Poké Mart...” he added, as he checked his watch, “before they close.”
“Sure, Sir. Are you coming back?” the woman asked, feigning disinterest.
“Yeah, it shouldn't take long...” answered Darius, while waiving a half-goodbye to the receptionists, before disappearing again beyond the outer stairs.
Quiay sat down again and turned to face the TV. She saw an interesting headline in the news marquee, and quickly zapped her way to HBC (Hoenn Broadcasting Corporation). Alona continued to sign the reports of the day.
“... in the case of the 'Tubebomber' who hit six facilities in Hoenn months ago...” explained a female reporter, standing in front of an occupied marble staircase, “the Emisrean ambassador has repeated, once aga--.” The woman struggled, as some of the crowd pushed her, an army of cameras following a man in a blue suit. The reporter managed to recover her balance, as did her cameraman, and quickly resumed her speech: “... He has announced again that there is no, and I quote, 'no relationship whatsoever' with the six‑years‑in‑a‑row chain of bombings in Emisre.”
The voice (in off) of the anchorwoman interrupted her. “Laura, what about the bombing in Rustboro two months ago?” the woman pushed one of her hands to her ear, apparently to fix the incoming audio signal. “Devon Corporation was supposed to be the bomber's target, following the attacks against corporate buildings in Emisre.”
“Again, no words... just the claims of eco-terrorism. As of now, we can only wait. Back to you.”
“Thanks, Laura. Now we go to Fallarbor Town to an interview with the parents of Rummel Gerk. Daniel, our resident Championship reporter, brings them the big news...”
Darius found a somewhat hidden place in a park, and released Feraligatr from its Poké Ball. As soon as the Pokémon materialised, Darius left the case in the ground besides them, and looked up to his partner.
“Buddy, I need something from you. Can you watch this for the night?” he asked, pointing to the case.
Feraligatr growled heavily, and lowered its head to Darius' level, as if asking why. Darius tried to interpret whether his Pokémon was angry or surprised at the petition, but because of the lack of light he could not make out the Pokémon's expression.
“I'll come tomorrow early. I promise. Just... make sure no one takes it. Please?”
The alligator Pokémon opened its jaws a bit, letting Darius get a glimpse of the rows of teeth as it leaned slightly over his head. That expression Darius could make out well.
“Yeah, I'll compensate you. I'll get you a nice habitat in the Plateau.”
Darius looked in every direction to check if there was someone else, and, once convinced they were alone, he got closer to his Pokémon and hugged it. “Good night, friend.”
He let go and turned back leave in silence, watching back every couple of steps, until he disappeared from sight.
Feraligatr picked the case with his jaw, walking closer to a tree and leaving the case on the soft grass. After that, and for pretty much the remainder of the night, the blue Pokémon would do nothing more than circle the tree, incessantly, roaring the curious Weedle away.
Far from there... somewhere in Hoenn....
In a dark hospital room, a body lay in a bed, periodic beeps from a heart monitor his sole company.
The door opened and a young and very tall blond nurse entered the room.
“Oh, are you a rela--”
The nurse stopped as she realised the room was, except for the patient, empty. She could have sworn... She walked in to check every device and wire attached to the resting body, took some readings and left the room, mumbling something about “too many shifts”.
She met one of her colleagues leaving another room. They walked across the corridor, talking about their work. Had they turned to the windows, they would have noticed the yellow, wolf-like head branded with a star, of a Pokémon watching from the opposite wing of the hospital.
Contemplating the city down the hill, a woman stood beneath a tree. She was dressed in black, and had a long, purple hair that flowed peacefully down to her waist, just like the short grass did with the soft winds. She buffed, her silver eyes scouting the city which she wanted to leave so badly. She turned back and folded her black cape, branded with a design of an upside-down leaf in yellow, holding it as she walked to the tree, her snow boots killing her at every step.
“Come on... Trina... I know it takes long, but... like this?” inquired the female in her mind.
A grave female voice resonated in her mind: «I'm already here.» The woman closed her eyes as a bright light appeared out of nowhere, opening them a couple of seconds later to reveal her Kadabra.
“Trina... about time! What did you find?” asked the woman.
“Kadabra,” answered her Pokémon, raising one of her arms and touching the woman's forehead. «Human stuff. You better see what I saw.»
The woman closed her eyes, as the Pokémon released an azure gloom. In her mind, the woman had its senses filled with the information Trina had collected from her session. She felt as if she was being dragged by a very long and narrow tunnel, devoid of sensations, towards a man in a bed, and had to struggle for a while to regain her focus. She felt fifty-five suns and moons circling the sky Eastwards, in succession, coming to a stop to reveal a column of smoke somewhere in the city downtown.
Her mind hovered over the city, towards a truck parked over a street. To three men in casual attire, watching a computer. Images of known landmarks appearing on its screen. Hoenn... Sinnoh... her home land of Emisre. The men addressing formally to each other... Agents, apparently... for whom?
Trina's mind seemed to twist as time skipped forward to that night, with a sensation of anger, surprise and commitment. She opened the eyes of the mind to reveal a new view of the world, from the agent's perspective. A clandestine TV signal, a terrorist proclamation that called her attention to her own memories of a once beautiful valley, reduced to a wasteland. A room with a flag, on it an upside-down yellow leaf, and several tubular devices attached to explosives. The agent and two of his partners loading their weapons as they entered the emergency staircase... only to meet a white light and an omnipresent pain.
The woman convulsed from the foreign pain as she felt flooded by scrambled memories: “an entire life before one's eyes”, as says the myth. Trina guided her trainer's mind away, even further back in time, to the same memory and senses, twice as many suns and moons before. An image appearing on‑screen, with labels... from “Suspect” to “Murderer” to “Terrorist”... and the key event.
Footsteps ascending a narrow staircase, to a rooftop lit only by the moonlight. A young man, his brown hair patched with grey, wearing a black vest with a yellow upside-down leaf pattern... running away from the agents, his left hand holding a tubular device. The agent, his partners, and two dark-blue wolf‑like Pokémon with yellow manes on the follow. The man, leaping to the void, and the agent approaching to the roof's edge, to see him caught mid-air by the vines of an Ivysaur awaiting below. A sudden beam of light from a chopper above, two thunderbolts missing the fugitive, a Poké Ball opening somewhere, and the pain in the ears of the agent, who tripped and fell down from the building, to unconsciousness, Trina's link with the past broken.
The female trainer still had her eyes closed, but was shaking and sweating from pain and hate that weren't her own, breathing with difficulty. It took her a while to calm down and open her now wet eyes, taking a couple of steps back to lean against the tree.
“Are you sure it was him?” she asked, telepathically.
«I am very sure. I registered his essence... when you welcomed him to our group...» Trina's voice shut in her trainer's mind, apparently ashamed, as if she had blamed the human of something ineluctable.
Suddenly, the female trainer felt a strong headache and fell to the ground. Trina did, too, coughing heavily. Their mind link was broken. The woman lay down, eyes facing the ground, silent to the outer world but a raging storm in her mind.
“How long ago... is this that you scouted?”
She saw her Kadabra trying to focus, but it was costing her every breath. Finally, the Pokémon raised her free hand and drew a figure in the air.
“Four months... poor agent....”
“Daaa...” mumbled Trina, waving her hand as if to erase the number. The trainer watched carefully as the Pokémon drew another, simpler number, this time a two, in the air.
“Two months... Oh, you mean the bombing, then? So... it was the chase, four months ago?”
“Kadabra!” gasped the Pokémon, nodding firmly, before coming closer to sit alongside her Trainer.
“I knew it!” the woman shouted, opening her eyes wide and punching the air in front of her, causing Trina to fall to one side out of surprise. Her trainer approached her to pat her head. “I'm sorry. It's just... thinking that he may be safe.”
«I know too, now, thanks...» mumbled Trina telepathically, in a sarcastic tone, shutting the communication down immediately.
“The signature of the bomber was altered, too...”
Trina, for an answer, raised her head away from her trainer's petting, looking away. After a couple of deep breaths, she gestured with her spoon, branding it like a gun. Her trainer interpreted that as an indication that there had to be violence.
“No, he wouldn't....” said the woman, nodding as she released her cape and waved her hair again.
“Ka...da.. bra...” added Trina in a grave tone, the middle syllable particularly stressed, as she pointed with her other hand to the star on her forehead: the Kadabra's universal way of reminding humans they could read their thoughts. The trainer read it as a “don't dare lie to me.”
“No...” The woman looked at her Kadabra, and, added, “I know, too, thanks.” After that she closed her eyes and rested for a while. The pair remained there, recovering their strength, and after a while the Trainer felt the psychic link forming again, much weaker than before.
«I saw strange words... about some... specialised people.»
«A document... Some wo--» the contact was broken for a second as Trina gasped. « ...words... 'foreign'... 'rocket'... 'hit team'. I don't a-a-understand the la-last... What does it mean?»
Hit team. The woman trembled for a while, but managed to regain her demeanour as she watched her Pokémon cough a little bit more.
Trina recovered and locked eyes with her Trainer. In her eyes, she could read the hidden meaning behind the words. She remembered the brown-haired man. And she felt something a Human would classify as worry... but not exactly for him.
“Is there anything more recent?” asked the silver-eyed Trainer, attempting vainly to hide the worry she shared with her Pokémon.
«No...that mind is a-a-a... a mess... But Lou was here four months ago. Would he hide?»
“No...” the woman spoke. “I don't think so. He said he had something else to do.” answered the woman, attempting to sort out some fragments of knowledge, both hers and the agent's, roaming in her mind. “Let me see... something public...”
“Kadabra?” questioned Trina, as she seemed to comprehend the arising question. She projected some simple concepts onto her trainer's mind: «Public? Competition. Trainers. Kanto.»
The woman nodded, acknowledging the message, and rested for a little longer. It was not very long, however, because Trina lifted herself with her psychic power, and after a moment of stillness, the Pokémon stated plainly:
«I'm calling,, now...»
“No!” yelled the woman, standing up again and reaching to her Pokémon. “We can do that later, you are very tired.” Then she added, looking away: “We must trace that team!”
Trina raised one eyebrow and leaned forwards: «Are we to travel?» she asked, telepathically anticipating.
The woman turned to her Pokémon, laughing nervously. She knew what was to come. “Yes, we are. Teleport us to the city. I'll buy tickets to Slateport.”
«In a moment...» answered Trina, still very tired.
“You will rest there, while I summon forth the team. We'll enjoy a ship ride, how nice is that?”
«Very nice.» nodded the yellow Pokémon. «I want to hear the herds of Lapras singing again.»
The woman, however, didn't seem to notice the words. She took a couple of steps down the hill, leaving the shadow of the tree.
Trina tilted her head and smiled. But she was worried deep inside. Still she kept it for herself. Feeling her strength return, she raised her arms, her body glowing white for a while until both she and her Trainer vanished into the light, leaving only some sparks behind.
You can go to the Table of Contents or wait for the next chapter, which I hope won't take as long as this one.
Have a looooong, pleasant reading.
April 16th, 2009 (10:00 PM).
New Chapter! (Finally...)
Well well, what can I say. Besides the fact that this chapter was ready mid-March, but between BR and RL, it took quite some time for it to see the light. My trusty Betareader did quite some work, he even put down his XBOX game controller, and warned me about the comma coma I was about to fall into. and here I thought my problem was with spoken English...
But, no more excuses. Recall my warning: I write long. I even forgot to do the word count thingie for this piece of story, but, hey, who's keeping score anyway? Well, someone is, in Darius' dreams, and that is to affect his mood, so lets see how things play out. Oh, and there's more incluing on the backstory between Darius and Lou, plus we get to finally see this foreshadowed antagonist - of sorts.
The chapter title is of course a reference to the road you oghta go through in 1st Gen games before reaching Victory Road. So you can guess what is being cooked here.
Let's continue the reading with...
Chapter 3: Leaving to Rt. 22
“Grandpa”... “Pizza”... “School”... “Leap”... “Trick”... “Friend”...
“Bitter”... “Seaweed”... “Fence”... “Ball”... “Dent”... “Curl”...
“Stage”... “Mist”... “Smile”... “Belt”... “Tear”... “Flame”...
“Shoot! Shoot Shoot...! I overslept!”
Darius cursed under his breath as he got dressed, as quickly as he could. A look at the wall clock, another at his watch, just to confirm his fear. Belt? Check. Food? Later. Case? “...Feraligatr has it”, he reminded himself. A couple of minutes later he was running down the hotel's stairs and waving his hand to the help desk women, who managed to barely say a “Good mor---” before they saw his blue, messy and uncombed hair disappear beyond the main entrance.
To be truthful, Darius was barely awake. He had not slept very well last night. Between an itching sensation of uneasiness, a shapeless doubt trying to form in his mind, and knowing Feraligatr was spending the night alone, he went in and out of sleep more times he could count. So, when he approached the secluded part of the park where he had left Feraligatr and the case last night, he was in dire lack of stimulation, and about to break down due to fatigue.
“Feraligatr?” he asked, in a loud voice, as he noticed the tree he was looking for was empty, except for the ever present Weedle.
“Feraligatr?” he repeated the question, looking left and right, trying to distinguish anything blue out of the green and brown of the park.
There came no answer.
“Feraligatr...” he called again, softly, scratching his head, thinking with difficulty, had he picked the wrong tree? Or maybe even the wrong park? Sure the lack of sleep had taken its toll.
Steps strongly echoing in the ground called his attention, and he turned back and faced up to meet his Pokémon, carrying the case in its left arm. Darius smiled and took two steps towards the larger creature, to hug it. The Pokémon hugged back.
“Thanks, Feraligatr...” he mumbled, with some difficulty. “I'll repay... I promise, I...”
Darius sunk his head on his Pokémon's chest, fatigued... Feraligatr released the case, which fell to the side of the tree, and managed to grab his Trainer before he would dully fell to the ground, unwillingly delivered to sleep...
Somewhere in the Suocé Region, three years ago...
As the ferny-odoured winds coming from the east slowly covered the remains of the Race Stadium, signaling a coming rain. The sun was lighting the benches and the tracks, giving them a radiant appearance. It was a setting all too precious, and was to be remembered as an historic landmark...
Until a sudden blast, high in the north section of the establishment, sent fiery sparks, wooden logs and pieces of seats flying. Down in the tracks, the source of the flames was swirling around, madly looking for a target, which she found, as a young blue-haired man, cried in disbelief.
“Croconaw, look out--!”
An explosion stronger that the first one, impacted at some distance, engulfing said Pokémon. The shockwave was strong enough to send the youn blue-haired boy to the ground.
But the human was quick to come to his feet.
Darius turned to walk towards his precious, beloved companion, tears having difficulty forming in his eyes, due to the intense heat. The pain of seeing her in such a situation was unbearable: her form was swirling left and right, neighing in confusion, trying to get rid of the pain that came from a set of metal belts straped to her torso, piercing it. The flames of her mane were so powerful that the soil around her would scorch upon contact.
Turning to his left, beyond the spot of the explosion, Croconaw was barely standing, heavily burnt and with evident damage to his left arm. Even from this distance, Darius could appreciate it was broken and bent backwards.
Darius looked back at his longtime companion. Why was this happening? Who would hurt a Pokémon this way? Who could be so ruthless...?
Darius heard his lovely's whining, as she slowly lost control and started shooting flames to the ground in all directions. He noticed, worriedly, that she seemed to be ill, confused, and afraid. He remembered the strange sickness that afflicted Rapidash every time she tried to pull a Flame Wheel... and the pain and fear he now saw in her eyes. Not knowing why, Darius started walking towards his Pokémon, slowly, steadily...
“Calm down, lovely... calm down!”
She would turn to him and away, her eyes apparently being unable to fixate on his own. He noticed that his sense of smell was picking not only the burnt soil, but also a strong odour like that of wet fern. He then realized some raindrops slowly falling from the sky. He looked at her, and she turned to look at him... and past him... and away... Was she so confused?
“I'll remove them! I need to---”
Darius could not complete the sentence. He saw Rapidash looking towards him with confusion, hatred, and pain. A second later, a strong force pushed him to the ground. He felt pinned down, and his head hurt a bit, but he could still hear his Pokémon's endless neighing, her call for help.
Darius tried to move, to get up, but something was clamping his arms to the ground, and he could feel a weight all over him, and a breath all over his face. He opened his eyes to see a brown-haired man, with a green t-shirt, lying over him, struggling to keep him on the ground. Darius was shocked to see the man's eyes, apparently devoid of all realization about what was happening. How could he, thought Darius, do this? His friend?The one he called for this? Do this to them?
“Get off me!” struggled Darius. “I have to help her...!”
“You can't.” the figure of the brown-haired man responded, struggling back to keep Darius pinned down. “You must---”
“No! Lou! You can't do this!” screamed Darius, trying to force his right arm up for a punch.
“It's the measurement!” stated Darius' friend as he forced his face closer to his. “Let her die!”
“What!?” Darius exploded in a fit of rage, akin to that of his Pokémon, and struggled, with more strength, until he managed to roll to one side and partially push Lou aside. Lou's right arm and leg were still gripping Darius' left ones', he would not get away.
“Her strength... plummeted down” continued Lou, with a voice devoid of emotions, as his face slowly became wet as Darius was, from the rain.
“No... Get... help her!” yelled Darius, as his sight fixated again on his companion Pokémon, still suffering as she tried to literally melt the belts away with her flaming body. The process was causing her even more pain as well as loss of blood.
A strong thud forced Darius down to the ground again, and he felt Lou's weight upon him, again, but that did not last. Darius rolled to face the sky and Lou's face, freezing in place as the two friends locked their eyes.
“Let her die...” stated Lou. “Let her die...” once and again, just like a broken machine that would simply repeat its actions over and over.
“Let her die...”
Darius raised his head, gaining sight of the northern side of the Stadium and of his Pokémon slowly coming to a halt, her fire diminished, her neighing fatigued, as she slowly swirled a couple of times, lost balance and fell to the ground, panting heavily.
“Let her die...”
Darius instinctively threw his fist towards Lou's face, barely missing; but that movement provided distraction enough to cause the brown-haired man to lose balance, and Darius managed to roll back, face to the ground, and start crawling his way towards his Pokémon. The soft rain gaining strength and bathing them both.
“Let her die...” repeated the voice behind him.
He tried to crawl closer...
“Let her die...”
Linoone flinched and fell back from his Trainer's chest, as the two of them literally clashed head-to-head. With its eyes closed, the Pokémon growled warningly as it got up on the ground and shook its head, fending off the pain.
Darius took the hit hard, too, its suddenness cutting him short of the curses and swearing he was about to scream to someone. The words “you bastard” swirled back and forth in Darius' mind as his head fell back again. But this time he hit a tree. Letting out a yell and taking his hands to his head, Darius leaned to the soft grass to his left side, scratching his head.
“Grr-- ooone!” cried Linoone as it got up and jumped over its Trainer again.
Darius opened his eyes again, and saw his Linoone, literally sitting on his chest, shaking its head left and right. Apparently the clash had been strong enough to upset it, as it was licking its paw and brushing its head with it. With some barely audible growls it made its discontentment clear. Darius felt the pain too, of course, and he was sure that accident was to leave a mark.
“Sorry--” he managed to mutter, his own hand over his forehead.
As he did, he noticed the warmth all over his body. The sunlight had made its way through the trees and directly above him. It felt not only warmth, but tender. It was as if his body had been refilled with the joy of life as he slept... despite his dreams.
Darius rose again, this time with care, forcing Linoone to get off his chest. The Pokémon did not leave its trainer, however, instead it sat on Darius' legs.
“How long... have I slept?”
Linoone scratched its head and pointed with a paw towards the sky. Darius tried to look up, but his sight was instantly blinded with direct sunlight. “Noon”, he said to himself, flinching and returning his sight to his companion. As he did, he noticed another shadow partially covering him as he stood up, and he turned left to meet Feraligatr who was approaching with the case.
“I... fell asleep?” he asked, somewhat rhetorically, as he came to understand what had happened, avoiding the sight of the blue Pokémon who circled around and stood before Darius' feet.
“Rhaaa...?” countered Feraligatr, standing still and fixating his eyes on him, as if he was the one making questions.
“What do you mean?” asked Darius, tilting his head as he started scratching his head, thinking of the nightmare he had just had.
For an answer, Feraligatr came closer, hunched down so that his head was at Darius' height, and softly pushed Darius' jaw with his own. Darius noticed that Feraligatr's tail was swirling back and forth, slowly, and that Linoone was looking at him with a hint of confusion.
“Well, I felt asleep... that's all...” Darius answered. He stepped back towards the tree and leaned on it, allowing himself to rest.
Feraligatr and Linoone looked at each other with a hint of curiosity, and reached some kind of tacit agreement. The alligator Pokémon came closer over Darius' body, repeating the gesture. Darius sighed and pushed his Pokémon away gently, indicating that he didn't understand what he was trying to do.
Feraligatr blinked a couple of times, looked at Linoone, then at Darius again, and he started making faint, slow sounds with his jaw. It was something between a growling and a mumbling, Darius noticed, and he was making it with his eyes closed.
“Oh... I was sleeptalking then...” Darius said, raising his left hand slowly to indicate that he had got the message.
Linoone and Feraligatr approached him and took a rest in the grass besides him, Linoone softly resting its head on Darius' arm. The trio stood there, resting, for a while, Darius still thinking about what he had dreamt.
“He is the one who did this...?” he thought, trying to clear his head to remember the events that day. “I... did not expect that...”
As the sun slowly disappeared from sight, covered by the tall trees, Darius honed his hearing as he noticed some mumbling far away. There were people... of course, there's always people, this was a park... a public place, after all.
“Not like it was then,” he stated, remembering the old stadium. “when it was abandoned. I asked for it because of that. And what I got...”
A sound close to him called his attention. Linoone was snoring. Feraligatr had fallen asleep, too. Still holding the case. Smiling faintly, Darius took out two Poké Balls and recalled his Pokémon back to the container devices, leading the case to fall to the ground with a thud. As the Poké Balls returned to his belt, Darius' hand veered instinctively to other of the devices, the first one. The one containing what he had protected the most... except for one time.
“I expected something else, but it did happen, after all...”
His hand stroked the device, and he believed, for a moment, that he could feel the worrying and the trust from the creature held inside. His “Lovely”.
“You turned out well.”
He let himself to daydream for an instant, and, after recalling his renewed strength, stretched his arms up and long, taking a long yawn, and then a deep breath with his eyes barely open, to enjoy the dim sunlight bathing the forest.
“I'm done with this place.” he said to no one in particular. “We should be going already.”
And he slowly walked outside the small forest, towards the voices that revealed the city life.
The attendant of the Poké Mart picked the goods from the man in front of her, and passed them through the scanner. She did not bother to look at the tall, fat man with a beard: she knew exactly who he was and why was he here.
The sum appeared on the display, and the man forked out the amount in bronze coins.
“Thanks, sweetie,” the man said with a smirk.
“No, thanks to you, Bruce. I hope your Machop is OK.”
That said, the man walked out of the building, where a small, muscular Pokémon was waiting. The Pokémon took the bags with its hands and held them for a while as the man called Bruce produced a cellphone and started making calls.
As the attendant smiled, she waved her hand to the next client, who was apparently looking absently at the announcement board. “Sir? You're next...” she called to a brown-haired man in his twenties, and sporting navy pants and a wool vest, apparently over an oversized green T-shirt.
“Oh...” answered the brown-haired man, awakening from his apparent numbing. “Sorry... I just wanted to buy these.”
The man proceeded to lay some cans of Poké food and a couple of healing sprays over the counter. The attendant observed casually that the man did all this with his right arm: the left was covered with some sort of cape, apparently made from a ripped shirt, and the man's wrist was bandaged.
“Apparently you're trying to train a Pokémon very hard, sir.”
“Oh,” answered the man, smiling and leaning back a bit, as if to hide his left side, “it's an old wound. Nothing special. My Pokémon are fine.”
“Well.. sir. It's one thousand and twenty-- oh...” the attendant interrupted herself as the man forked the exact import on the counter. A couple of beeps from the cash machine and the sell was made.
“Thanks.” mumbled the man, waving his hair to the left, with this move leaving both his oil-black eyes visible.
“You're welcome.” answered the attendant, as the man left the place with a bag. Then she turned to the next client.
The man walked towards the southern exit from the city, every once in a while letting his eyes wander and giving leers to the northeast with uneasiness. He walked like that for some time, as a vigilant shadow periodically covered his form for a moment, until he reached a square close to the city exit. After resting there for a while, he exited the main road and walked to the wilderness, coming to a stop besides a fallen tree as the sun was about to disappear to the west.
He took a seat and started checking the contents of the bag, as the creature responsible for the shadow flew past him and landed its purple form before the man, staring at him with round, large eyes with black pupils and the swift and gentle beat of her large wings.
“Venomoth, I brought some food. How's that?” Lou asked, as he showed one of the cans, blue in colour, to the inquiring Pokémon. For an answer, Venomoth leaned closer, and, after probing the can's smell, bat her wings furiously a couple of times, made a strange sound, and left to a nearby log. From there she just stared at him.
“I take it it's not the brand you like. Anyways...”
Lou's line of thought was cut short when he felt a soft poking on his side. He turned his head left, to meet his Sandslash poking him. The ground-type Pokémon threw its clean white claws insistently but gently towards Lou's side, just below his spleen.
“Hello to you, too. I brought some food.” He said, as he took again the blue can and showed it to them. “I think it's the wrong one, because---”
Again, he was cut short when Sandslash literally jumped on him and stole the can from his hands, running away towards a closer tree. Lou almost fell back from the trunk because of his Pokémon's hind claws coming so close to him.
“Carhis!” Lou yelled to the thief and the pursuer, respectively. “Don't... don't eat all of it...! Oh, whatever.” he reprimanded himself, as he managed to sit back on the trunk. “As if it were to listen...”
“Besides...” he reminded to himself, trying to regain his train of thought, “I can't just buy specific brands anymore. No matter what Carhis says.”
Lou turned his sight to the other direction, and met his loyal partner, his companion of a lifetime, coming from out of some bushes. Ivysaur walked towards him from the shadows, eyeing him proudly, as he usually did since he had evolved. Ivysaur pushed himself over the fallen trunk using his vines, and took a “seating” position of sorts alongside Venomoth, who simply stood there bating her wings. But after only a while Ivysaur decided to simply lay flat on the trunk, hind legs spread and eyes wide open at his Trainer. He “saur”ed a welcome, which Lou responded by leaning forwards to his Pokémon, the two pressing their heads against each other. Lou noticed that Ivysaur was breathing hard: probably he had been patrolling the place.
“Guys, any trouble? Have you detected anything?”
Venomoth bat her wings a couple of times and leaned back slightly, her way to indicate everything was clean. Ivysaur just answered with an “Ivy...” as he pointed with his vines towards a heap of objects, barely visible besides some bushes, that he had found while keeping guard of the place. There were some coins, cans, and what appeared to be a bike tire.
“People so inconsiderate...” said Lou to himself. “We clean at dusk...” he commanded to his Pokémon. “For now, it's food and rest.” He looked furtively to the trees where his other Pokémon had gone. “Well... I'll have one of us mount guard the afternoon, and we march to the League during the night.”
Lou sit at one end of the trunk. Ivysaur remained on the trunk and Venomoth flew to her Trainer's side. For the next half hour the human and the two Pokémon enjoyed some meal, although Venomoth made a point of rejecting the contents of the blue can no matter what would Lou mix them with. The grass-type Pokémon did not eat much: weather had been very sunny and warm the last week. As for Sandslash, it remained hidden from sight, silently pleasuring itself with the contents of the can.
Lou watched his Pokémon eat, and picked some things from his backpack. He produced a pen and a notebook, put up a pair of latex gloves, placed a small brush besides him, and finally produced a small device from the innermost pocket of his pack. Tubular in form, with a couple of colour-coded wires on the inside and small copper-layered sockets on the outside. Lou manipulated the device for a while, as he checked some notes that were written in the paper with an apparently very rushed script. Those actions he repeated for several minutes.
Neither he, nor his Pokémon, would notice a pitch-black form with four legs and blood red eyes, watching at them from above. Patches of golden running around its ears and tail fur, reflected the growing moonlight, but despite this the form keep hidden, silent, aware, standing over one of the highest branches of a very thick tree, making not even the simplest of motions except for its eyes which scouted the group below. The Umbreon watched their every movement, examining their surroundings, and measuring their strength, looking for all viable openings. Its eyesight fell on the tubular device for a while, and then slipped towards the human, inspecting the strange, somewhat limited movement of his left arm. Umbreon's nostrils picked the scent of Pokémon food, not only from the human, but also from some trees to the opposite side of its position, but the growling and mumbling that it could heard, assured the creature of the night that the Pokémon far below would not pick up its essence for quite a while.
Umbreon leaned backwards very slowly, and took a very soft breath, to be left in a frozen stance again. Inspecting, calculating, envisioning. Its mind and body ready to leap down and shed everything in its path at the very first sign.
Rapidash's hooves thundered fiercely against the asphalt ground, as she walked the road with outer dignity but inner discontentment. Carpet and asphalt were not her thing, after all. Darius led her absently, until they met the green overboard sign to the side of the road: the “last one”. Darius smiled as he caught sight of the sign indicating the end of the city. It read:
«You are now leaving VIRIDIAN CITY.
46 km. to Indigo Plateau.
WARNING TO ALL PEDESTRIANS: Road maintenance in progress.»
Darius turned to Rapidash and petted her between her ears, to which she responded by flicking them once, and then lowering her head a bit, to better meet his care. They stared at each other's eyes for a moment and then Rapidash raised her sight and kept her stare ahead.
“Yes, lovely, we're out... Now you can run.”
That said, Darius mounted and readied himself. For a while the two of them were still, sensing the wind. Then, Darius let out a shout and Rapidash started trotting towards the plains. In just a couple of steps her trot switched to a fast gallop, as she ran away from the road. One, two, three beats and a brief instant of delight, of sheep power pushing forwards, a sequence repeated once and again with the interjection of a deep human breath during those instances of suspension. Darius could taste in the acidity and the warmth of the mane, that Rapidash was happy. Free to gallop at last, after, how long... two weeks? Delighted, too, to make her presence known in the plains, to the Sandslash, Mankey and Raticate mothers who would quickly call their cubs to safety as they senses the impact of the hooves storming nearby.
It took no time for the pair to reach a line of trees leading to a hill, which Rapidash tacitly understood to follow. The slope of the soil quickly increased: barely an attempt of a gist from Nature for her. Upon reaching the top, Darius had Rapidash's pace slowed and led her to do rounds around the hilltop, to better take a look at the landscape.
The sight of the giant forest to the east and the mountainrange to the north impressed Darius heavily. He had not had much time for exploration in his joust for badges. After a brief look, he whistled, and Rapidash neighed acutely and briefly in response.
“Nice place,” he added as he turned his sight to the west, and leaned to whisper at his Pokémon's ears: “but in that direction we have quite some space.”
Rapidash snorted, unsure as to what the sarcasm was about. She leered back, to her partner's foot, and then to the forests to one side, and then she neighed an inquiry he could not understand. She would ponder why would a human find funny that she was the fastest Pokémon around (she felt sure of that) and that she had to have room to show her speed. It was only natural for her: she had been born and raised for this. The fun was in beating others like her. Even if it had to be after coming out from a pathetic device.
A gentle pull on the reins informed Rapidash that Darius was done thinking. He led Rapidash down the hill, towards the edge of the nearby forests. This time they went slowly until they reached the road ahead. Where several Trainers were making their way, either alone or in the company of the tourists.
This was the place of the final test.
Darius led his mount close to a wooden sign, painted in blue and orange so that it would easily be distinguished among the various details on the road. And he smiled faintly as he read it in his mind.
↢ Indigo Plateau | Viridian City ↣
Here, finished. There won't be more story updates until mid-Juny, probably, as I'm going to go through a... h€ll of a month. But once I'm back I should be able to update more often.
What's in for next chapter? A battle, a sad story, and a pen. That's all I can say right now.
Of course I would appreciate if you can read, comment and enjoy this story (and, if not, tell me why). And, in case you feel lost, you can go to the Table of Contents.