October 16th, 2011 (5:11 PM).
Previously on An Apple A Day
Anita, Erin, Liam, and Jake arrive in Artemis Town. She quickly meets Styx, the gym leader's girlfriend, who not only knows about Liam's Forced Transformation Device, but agrees to help Anita destroy it. She also believes Anita is Mew. Anita has no clue how or where she's been obtaining this information. Apple stays in a patient room, recovering from burns. Apple teaches Anita some minor telekinesis-Anita can now move small particles like dust with her mind.
While sneaking around the off-limit halways in the Pokemon Center to find Anita (who's with Apple), Erin overhears Dustin (the gym leader of Artemis Town) and Styx discussing Liam.
Professor Blubber recognizes Mel as Professor Hastings's son. Professor Hastings was recently arrested by the gym leaders for being suspected of withholding information about where Liam is. Liam puts Rita Teal temporarily in charge of Team Glop'emm and asks her to look into who Professor Seth Hastings is. Anita admits to Liam that she knows that he's looking for Mew.
Chapter 38: Stuck in a Bind
I couldn’t sleep. I tried, but thoughts of my conversation with Liam whirled about my head, a tornado of danger, madness, and change. Change certainly.
I wondered if it was a mistake to tell Liam I knew he was looking for Mew.
Finally, after I heard Liam breath steadily, I got out of bed, a PokeBall in hand. I needed a distraction.
I returned the Pokemon Center’s quiet rooftop, enjoying the night’s light breeze. With the touch of a button, Splash was released from his PokeBall. His bright fur glittered with sparks. I smiled as he zoomed around the rooftop, marveling at his new speed. He hadn’t had the chance to run free since Vintage Village, since his evolution.
<I’ll be able to catch Vanilla now for sure,> he said gleefully. A stray leaf caught an upward draft, twirling across the rooftop. The moment it touched Splash’s fur, it was zapped into sizzling dust.
<We have to train. You need to learn to control electricity.>
<Training! Can we steal that Dangerous, High Voltage sign?> Splash said, eyeing the enclosure that no doubt held the Pokemon Center’s backup generator.
<We’ll see,> I said, then hesitated. <Splash?>
Splash sensed my seriousness and for once held his attention on me.
<There are some things I’m going to need your help with. Dangerous things I’m not prepared to explain and dangerous secrets that must be kept, well secret.>
<I’ll do it, of course. Anything! I’m better at keeping secrets than Vanilla, you know? Once in our old home, Allo pooped on the floor and I didn’t tell anyone for weeks—>
<Alright, then. Lets train.>
By the end of the night, anything that touched Splash’s fur still sparked and disintegrated, but I was peaceful and sleepy and satisfied with Splash’s exuberant effort. I crawled into my bottom bunk and slept.
The sun was already up when I awoke. I rolled over and looked at my PokeTech, which I’d buried under my pillow.
Automatically, I looked to the end of the bunk to see if Apple was up, only to remember she was with Fiery in the Pokemon overnight room. Right, Apple. My eyes darted to Liam’s bed. He was still asleep. I’d set an alarm for five in the morning so I’d wake up before he could even attempt to take that Forced Transformation Device anywhere near Apple.
Clearly, that was a failed plan. I clicked through my PokeTech until I got to the alarm setting.
It blinked 5:00 p.m.
I felt ridiculously brainless—if Liam had gotten up, if I’d failed Apple just because of a stupid alarm…
I sat up and glanced back at Liam’s bed, feeling lucky he was still asleep. He was always the first one up and usually woke me up for our training sessions—like the one we were supposed to have this morning.
But there Liam was, sleeping with his face into his pillow, the covers half over his body, half falling off the bed. From Erin’s soft snores from the top bunk, I figured she wasn’t up either.
As I climbed out of bed and quietly got dressed, I thought back to last night’s conversation with Liam, again wondering if it was a mistake to tell him I knew he was after Mew.
Last night, before training with Splash, I thought it was. Now... now in the daylight, seeing Liam drool all over his pillow, I thought maybe I’d overreacted. Liam had probably known I knew. Otherwise he wouldn’t have followed Erin and me around to begin with, right? And darn it, I’d been right back then—I’d known there was something up with him when we’d first met by Peepin Pond. I would’ve abandoned him then but nooo, Erin had to have her obnoxious, Mew-chasing, “researching” friend. And now she wasn’t even officially a research assistant!
Unfortunately, I couldn’t change any of that.
My priority for now was to keep Apple safe. Which meant keeping Apple out of suspicion. Which meant keeping Liam away from Apple until Apple and I could implement our rather vague plan. Which meant I had to get Styx in contact with Liam so she could deal with that dratted untransformer.
All of which indicated I had to find a way to drag Liam to the gym, where Styx said she’d be, without letting him near Apple.
Now that I thought about it, Liam had never watched one of my gym battles. He probably wouldn’t be interested in seeing this one either. Getting him to the gym could be a bigger problem than I initially thought.
I eyed the belt lying atop Liam’s nightstand. Liam was very protective of the few possessions he had; when I’d reached for his belt on the ship to Vintage Village, the S.S. Bezzle, he’d snatched my hand away. Clipped to the belt were six PokeBalls, a pouch that contained the syringe, and a grey walkie-talkie.
Taking the Forced Transformation Device was the equivalent of admitting one of my Pokemon was Mew. That was out of the question. Taking his Pokemon… I wasn’t sure. It felt wrong. I mean, Team Glop’emm stole Pokemon.
That left the walkie-talkie. Why the hell did he have a walkie-talkie anyway? I mean, he had a PokeTech. Who held the other end of the walkie? His parents? Or maybe it was one of those emergency phones.
Whatever it was, he wore it every day. I carefully unsnapped it from his belt. When I accidently let the belt clank on the nightstand, my heart pounded loudly in my chest.
Liam’s head rolled into the pillow.
When there were no further movements, I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding.
I picked up my pack and double-checked my PokeBalls. If Liam was going to the gym, Apple couldn’t come, and I’d have to leave Fiery with her just in case. That meant I’d only have my other four Pokemon to use in the battle against Dustin. Oh, well, it couldn’t be helped. Hopefully the training with Splash would help.
I stepped onto the lower bunk’s bed frame and pulled myself up until I my head was eye to eye with Erin’s. “Erin,” I hissed.
Erin’s eyes fluttered. “But I don’t want to be a muffin menace,” she mumbled.
“Erin, wake up,” I whispered.
Erin’s eyes opened. Startled, she sat up, making the bed squeak loudly and causing loose pieces of pink fluff from her pajamas to flutter about.
“Shh—I need you to do me a favor.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
I watched out the window, waiting for Anita’s signal with excitement and only the slightest twinge of guilt.
For whatever reason, Anita had taken Liam’s bulky phone.
The look on Liam’s face would be priceless.
Outside, standing in front of a vegetable vendor’s stand, Anita squinted towards the Pokemon Center with a hand above her eyes to block the sunlight. When her gaze fell upon my window she grinned and waved Liam’s phone in the air.
That was the signal. I turned around. It took only two steps for me to reach Liam’s bed; rooms provided by the Pokemon Center really were not very spacious.
Liam was dead to the world—I couldn’t even tell he was breathing. It was highly unusual for Liam to sleep this late; I wasn’t sure I’d ever even seen Liam asleep. Tentatively, I poked his shoulder. “Liam?”
A muffled groan indicated that Liam was indeed still alive and well.
“Liam, I think you need to get up.” I almost smiled at the well-performed worry I heard in my own voice. Almost. Smiling would’ve ruined the pretense.
Liam sat up, running a hand through his hair. He blinked at the light streaming in through the window. “What time is it?”
“Almost eight,” I said. “Err, you might want to look out the window.”
Liam looked past me at the bottom bunk. “Where’s Anita?”
“Just look out the window.” I backed up and sat on Anita’s bed, where I would be safe from any sudden, perhaps anger-provoked movement.
Liam untangled the covers from his feet, scooted out of bed, and peered outside. He froze with a hand on the windowsill. Then slowly, his gaze turned to the nightstand, on top of which his belt lied.
I’d been right—the look on Liam’s face was priceless.
Craning my neck, I risked a glance out the window. Anita was dancing in front of the vegetable stand, waving the phone in the air.
Liam literally sprinted out of the room, dressed only in boxers and the white t-shirt he’d worn to bed. He only stopped to grab the belt on his nightstand and didn’t bother shutting the door on his way out. As the pound of his feet faded down the hall, I heard another door open.
“Hey, what’s all the ruckus—Liam?” It was Jake’s voice. “Hey, wait! Liam, did Anita go to the gym yet? Is that where you’re going? Wait! Wait for me!”
More foot pounding.
I sighed, supposing I should follow.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
With the soles of my tennis shoes thumping against the sidewalk and my heart pounding so loud it made my ears ring, I found a new respect for the Melonbi Middle School’s track team. I remembered back when my childhood friend, Mia, had asked me to join the team with her, I’d bent over laughing until she aimed a well-placed kick at my shins. I’d chased after her with a shoe, threatening retaliation—she outran me, of course.
You couldn’t pay me to run, and the track team—they tortured themselves for fun.
However, put an angry, dark-gifted boy hell-bent on retrieving his weird walkie-talkie, which I just so happened to be carrying, on my tail and I’d run until the rubber on my shoes crumbled.
Luckily, I only had to make it to the gym, and I thought I had about a minute and a half head start. I wasn’t sure; I’d seen Liam move and he was fast.
There weren’t many people on the street yet so I ran straight down the middle of the sidewalk, rushing past the colorful shops on my left and the fire hydrants, benches, and planted trees on my right. When I thought about daring a look behind me to see how close Liam was, I swore I could hear Mia’s scolding voice: “The first rule in track is to never look back at your competitors. You’ll go faster if you always think they’re right behind you.”
So I didn’t look. The rhythmic thump of my feet against the sidewalk and my ragged breathing blocked my attempts to listen for Liam’s approach.
I could see the massive gym ahead of me buried between office buildings. It was shaped and colored like a massive eggshell.
Only when I reached the gym’s front doors did I risk a glance back. Liam was only a block away.
Gasping, I hurled myself through the gym’s revolving doors.
My ears popped at the change in air pressure. I was surprised to find the inside of the dome shaped gym just as vast as the outside. Sparky’s gym had been divided into several, smaller rooms, and Aden’s gym was sectioned between the entrance room, the maze, and the battle arena.
Dustin’s gym was spacious and austere. Bright lights lined the ceiling, and several rows of bleachers reflected the light about the gym, creating spots of light on the curved walls. The floor was made of a blue tile atop a gleaming metal—thicker lines of the metal carved out a simple battlefield that stretched in front of me. At the other end of the battlefield, a tiled platform drew my attention, the reflected light from the bleachers seeming to center upon this spot.
There were four large, throne-like chairs on the platform. Two Eevees sat on the center two. One of them had to be Dustin’s Eevee, Ray, but I couldn’t tell the difference between the two. Dustin sat in the chair on the far right; a woman with fair hair and sharp eyes sat on far left—Dustin’s twin.
Directly next to the revolving door Styx stood with her arms akimbo and a grin on her face. “Welcome to—”
Liam shoved his way through the doors and lunged at me. Before I could react, he roughly grabbed the walkie-talkie from my hand, knocking me to the floor in the process.
Trying to calm my breathing, I stared up at Liam as he clipped the walkie to his belt, his relaxed jaw revealing a small glimpse of relief in his impassive expression. He was dressed in only boxers and a t-shirt. No shoes. No socks. He showed no sign of discomfort, despite his bare feet touching the cool floor.
Without acknowledging anyone in the room, Liam turned to leave.
“Welcome to the Artemis Town gym,” Styx said ironically. She blocked his path to the revolving door.
“Yes, Liam Mendol, please stay,” Dustin said. He leaned against an armrest and cupped his scruffy chin in a hand. “I’m honored you made an appearance.”
I frowned, disliking Dustin’s arrogant tone. And that platform with the chairs was totally an unsubtle treat-me-as-royalty-you-puny-trainer gesture. *******. “How do you know Liam?” I demanded.
Liam turned back to face Dustin, glaring. Some undecipherable expression was exchanged. What the heck? I reached my mind to Dustin’s—
There was a sharp pain in my head as Dustin psychically shoved the tendril of my mind back at me. “Nice try,” he said. Ignoring my question, Dustin addressed Liam. “I appreciate the tip, though I’m not sure what to believe regarding his actual position.”
Liam said nothing.
I looked from Dustin to Liam and back to Dustin, trying to figure out what I was missing. Styx was smiling as if nothing was wrong, and Dustin’s sister watched Liam warily, clutching the armrests of her chair a bit too tightly.
The revolving doors whirled, and Jake stumbled into the gym breathing heavily. “Geeze Liam… you’re like… a freak… freakin’ Suicune.” He bent over, resting his hands on his knees. I noted that he was also disheveled, appearing to wear what he’d slept in—black shorts and a sweatshirt that read, I Got Balls, with a lovely picture depicting two PokeBalls and a guy’s—well, you know.
Dustin looked irritated. “You again?”
Jake grinned, stood up slowly, and ruffled his hair with a hand. “Yup.”
Once again, the revolving doors spun. Erin entered and unlike the boys, was fully clothed.
Jake’s jaw dropped. “Hey, how—I mean, I’m a faster runner than you. How’d you get here so—”
“Unlike some morons,” Erin tilted her head towards Jake. “I actually stopped to pick up my healed Pokemon before going to a Pokemon gym.” She spun a PokeBall on her finger—a trick she may have picked up from Liam. “And Griffy’s much faster than you, Jake.”
Jake closed and opened his mouth a few times before turning to face Dustin, looking a bit shame-faced.
“Well, I know Anita Parkwood, Liam Mendol, and Jake Veneer. Who are you?” Dustin asked.
Dustin nodded. “Never heard of you.” He started to stand up, and then did a double take. “Huh, do you work at the Pokemon Center?”
“Um, well.” Erin glanced at Liam, Jake, and I. <****, ****, ****, I ran into the stinking gym leader yesterday. Aw, ****. Would they cover for me if I said I did?> Erin was projecting her thoughts rather loudly. From Dustin’s grin, I had no doubt he was listening as well. Erin spotted Styx. <Hell, I can’t say I work there. That’s the lady who checked us in yesterday. F—>
“Yes, of course she works there,” I snapped, knowing very well that everyone in the room knew she didn’t. Whatever.
Dustin laughed. “Well, I haven’t had this much entertainment in my gym since Styx and I—”
“Dustin!” Dustin’s sister exclaimed. The two Eevee’s on the platform put their paws over their faces.
Dustin rolled his eyes. “Alright, alright. I’m Dustin Blavoid, gym leader of Artemis Town.” He gestured to his left. “But my twin sister, Tali, pretty much runs this place with me.”
“Or for you when you and Styx are off—” Tali started.
“And that’s my beautiful girlfriend, Styx.” Dustin pointed his hand across the room at Styx. Styx gave a little wave. Tali shook her head, smiling, and patted the Eevee beside her fondly. “Liam, you can stop giving me your death-glare because I’m not going to tell your little secret,” Dustin said. “In fact, I think it’s probably good for you to get out.”
<What secret?> Erin and I thought at the same time. So did Dustin know about Mew? Was he somehow involved with Liam? My eyes slid to Styx. It was more likely that he was involved with Styx, and Styx was supposed to be helping me destroy Liam’s untransforming device.
Supposed to being the key words there. Styx had made no attempts to destroy the device on Liam’s belt yet. Hmm, maybe his lack of pants was a deterrent.
Dustin cleared his throat. “Anita.”
My head snapped around. Everyone in the room was watching me. “Huh?”
“You entered the gym first.”
“Oh. I’d like to challenge the gym,” I said.
“Very well.” Dustin nodded at Styx. She walked a few paces away from the door, and began rummaging through a small cabinet I hadn’t noticed before. “Who would you like to be your partner?” Dustin asked.
Jake’s eyes flashed to me. “What! No, Anita, c’mon.”
“Erin, you may leave,” Dustin said.
“Wait, I just said I wanted her to be my partner!” Dustin looked amused by my complaint, and Tali was no longer paying attention to us, feeding PokeBlocks to the two Eevees out of the palm of her hand.
“Go on, Erin.” Dustin made a shooing motion. Erin hesitated, glancing at me. “Don’t worry, you won’t miss anything. Anita won’t be battling today anyway.”
“Sorry, Anita,” Erin said. As she walked out the revolving doors, I peeked into her mind. <With the whole caught pretending to be a nurse situation, best not to mess with him any more. Plus, Anita’ll be okay battling with Jake… right?>
Liam, Jake, and I stood for a moment. The only sound came from Styx closing the cabinet, apparently having found whatever it was she was looking for. The sound echoed around the gym.
“Anita, I ask again, who would you like to be your partner?”
Okay, this was totally unfair. First off, I didn’t want to be stuck with either of them—Liam refused to battle and Jake was a total ******* who’d already lost to this gym leader. Secondly, even if I wanted to partner up with either of them, it was apparent that Dustin wasn’t going to let me have a say. I’d end up with whomever he wanted me to partner up with.
“Listen up, Blavoid,” Jake said. “I came here to challenge the gym, too, and I want to be partnered up with Anita.” It was bold, but mostly stupid of him to speak.
Dustin smiled. “Alright, Anita, your partner will be Liam.”
I turned to Liam. He was already heading for the door.
“What, Liam, too scared to battle me?” Dustin called. Liam ignored him, side-stepping Styx when she made to block his path. “I’ll tell them,” Dustin said, just as Liam reached the door.
There it was again. Well, the threat wouldn’t work because I already knew about Mew. Although, Jake didn’t…
Liam turned around. Somehow, despite not wearing pants, he managed to look intimidating. “I won’t use my Pokemon.”
“Styx tells me you’ve recently acquired a Ditto. That should suffice.”
“Can we just hold on a minute?” Jake said, holding his palms out. “What part of I want to partner up with Anita did you miss?”
“Are you the gym leader?” Dustin asked him.
Dustin turned his attention back to me. “As I told Erin earlier, we will not be battling today.” Dustin nodded to Styx. “Tie them up.”
Styx took my hand and reached for Liam’s. I tugged back, pulling Styx out of reach. “Now, wait a second. What’s going on?”
Dustin raised his eyebrows. “Nobody told you about the prelim?” When I didn’t answer, he continued, grinning. “The Artemis Town gym promotes teamwork. Thus, for the next twenty-four hours, you will be tied to your partner. You will be forced to work together to get through everyday tasks—”
Jake coughed. I swear I heard him rasp, “Like showering.”
Sicko. I threw my backpack at him.
“—and at the end of the twenty-four hours, if you’re still tied together, then you’ve passed.” Dustin put both hands on his head and leaned back. “Actually, you’ll have to make it through twenty-four hours and then fight me and Tali to pass the prelim. I’ve gotta make it a little harder for the gifted.”
“Hey, they’re not more gifted than me,” Jake complained. “How come I never had to—”
Dustin raised an eyebrow at him. “Are you seriously going to complain? Because I can make your prelim more difficult—”
Jake shook his head frantically.
“Right, then. Styx.” Dustin gestured to us. Styx pulled my arm.
“Wait, fight, as in…?” I punched the air.
“No, fight as in—” Liam swiped a foot into my legs. I fell forward, catching myself with my hands.
I scrambled to my feet. “What the hell, Liam?” Liam glared past my shoulder. I took a step toward him. “Don’t take your anger out on me just because your perfectly devised plans aren’t working—”
“Right, because this isn’t all your fault,” Liam said scathingly.
“Children!” Dustin yelled. Liam and I both turned our glares to him. In any other instance, I might’ve applauded him for not even flinching. “Please, wait until you’re tied together before you start fighting.” His gaze fell on me. “If you fail the prelim, you’ll fail this gym. Permanently.”
“That’s not fair! Jake—”
“Both times Jake has challenged the gym, he’s passed the prelim,” Dustin said, smiling. “He failed the Pokemon battle.”
If I didn’t feel like there was about a two percent chance of me making it through this prelim, I would’ve laughed at Jake for failing more than once. As it was, I just gulped.
“Liam and I are untied before we fight you, right?” I asked Dustin.
Dustin actually contemplated that, but it was Tali who nodded. “That would only be fair.” Dustin begrudgingly agreed.
As Styx pulled my hand, I thought to her, <You’d better destroy the Forced Transformation Device before I leave here.> Whether she heard me or not, I couldn’t say.
I was surprised when Liam willingly held out his hand, allowing Styx to touch our wrists together. Maybe he just wanted to get out of the gym and away from Dustin quickly. As she wrapped the band around our wrists, I realized I wouldn’t be able to use my powers for twenty-four hours. Well, that was just dandy.
At least I’d be able to keep Liam away from Apple.
Just as Styx finished tying the final knot, she bumped into Liam, who incidentally knocked into me. I fell, pulling him with me. The next moments seemed to happen in slow motion.
I saw Styx’s nimble hand reach for the untransformer as Liam fell toward me. Liam, always acutely aware of his surroundings, elbowed her hand out of the way, and carefully watched Styx as she managed to turn the movement into a clumsy stumble.
Great, just what I needed—Liam suspecting another person who might’ve been able to help me. My back hit the cold tile floor. Liam nearly landed on top of me, barely managing to catch himself with his hands on either side of my head. I winced, my right hand trapped beneath his left because the elastic band bound them together.
For less than a moment I looked up at Liam’s face. His eyes were wide, startled even, and his breath cool like a spring breeze. Wisps of black hair fell forward, tickling my forehead.
In that miniscule millisecond, my stomach clenched and knees quivered.
By Liam’s feet, Styx regained her balance, but knocked into Liam to steady herself. I closed my eyes at the jolt.
Liam’s lips brushed my nose, light and feathery.
And then I was being pulled up. I felt my face flush, but no one seemed to notice. Jake was giving a dramatic speech to Tali, attempting to persuade her that it was too dangerous to let me and Liam be partners, that she and Dustin were clearly violating the gym leader council’s gym safety regulations. From Tali’s squinted eyes and doubtful expression, I doubted she’d be swayed.
Liam was once again making dagger-eyes at Dustin, perhaps purposefully avoiding my gaze. I caught Styx’s eye as she brushed off her white skirt, regaining composure, and I chose to give her an unsubtle you-screwed-up-bad look. She shrugged and mouthed something.
<What?> I thought, knowing she couldn’t hear me.
She must have understood my expression because she mouthed more slowly, “Venture west.” Whatever that meant. She waved frantically at herself, and then at me, stopping abruptly when Dustin gave her an odd look.
Liam nodded to Dustin. As Liam tugged me towards the revolving doors and it was clear Styx wasn’t going to make another attempt at the Forced Transformation Device, I mouthed, “You suck” at her.
Styx watched us leave, her dark eyes wide, trying to give me a hint I could no longer receive telepathically.
Liam was smirking slightly when we pushed through the revolving doors. That couldn’t be good.
I squinted when we got outside, the combination of the bright light and change in air pressure making my head hurt. “Let’s go find a pair of scissors,” Liam said, dragging me towards the nearest store.
“What? Wait, already?” I tugged back. He stopped walking. “It’s been about thirty seconds. I don’t like this, but I’ve got to beat the gym.”
Liam shrugged. “Not my problem.”
“Persuade me.” Liam raised his eyebrows, his green eyes glinting. “Otherwise…” He made a scissor motion with his fingers.
I knew what he was getting at. “I’m not telling you anything about Mew.”
Liam turned back toward the store. “A pity.”
“I’m serious, Liam. That info’s not worth the price of gym badge.” Liam pulled me and I followed, not wanting the band to snap. “You might be the nastiest, most uncaring—”
“You’ve still got about thirty seconds to persuade me. Sixty, depending on how long it takes the clerk to find a pair of scissors.” We reached the store door.
“What do you want?” I asked, trying not to let my voice sound desperate. Liam gave me a look.
I thought back to earlier. “A kiss?”
That disturbed Liam enough for him to pull away from the door and put as much space between him and me as he could. “Ew, no.” He gave me a where-the-hell-did-that-come from-look.
“What do you want?” I repeated.
Liam unsubtly brushed over the Forced Transformation Device with his free, right hand.
I stared at his hand of a second. “Oh. Oh.” Well, he was going to test them at some point anyway. I’d be putting a lot of faith in Styx by doing this—in her “Venture west” plan and in her ability to keep Liam thinking Apple was still hurt. Could Styx and I break the Forced Transformation Device before Liam could use it on Apple? “Fine,” I said.
“Alright, let out your Pokemon,” Liam said.
“I’m not stupid. As soon as you use that untransformy thing, I know you’re going to cut the band.” I held up our bound wrists. “Plus, I don’t have all my Pokemon. The nurse told me this morning that Apple needed to rest another day, and I left Fiery with her for company.” I said it as if I believed it, I couldn’t afford Liam to see through the white lie.
Liam nodded. “Fine. This evening, I get to test the Pokemon you currently have. Tomorrow, after we get this band off, I get to test Apple and Fiery.”
Was that enough time?
We shook our already joined hands.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“Your little secret,” I muttered, repeating the words Dustin had spoken to Liam. I meant to find out Liam’s little secret.
<Secrets, secrets are no fun unless you share the applesauce!> Griffy’s tail yelled. I sighed, returning Griffy to his PokeBall.
I stood in front of Artemis Town’s quaint library. For such a large town, the library was tiny—a small brick building squished between a grocery store and a funny smelling store that sold antiques. I pushed through the glass front doors.
If Dustin knew something about the secret, then the first place to start looking for clues was the gym leader database, a book every library should have. I nodded to the old librarian at the front desk and wandered into an aisle that looked like it might fall apart the moment I took a book off of the shelf. I spotted the Pokemon Trainer section in the far back, denoted by a putrid green sign.
There was a girl with pigtails leaning back in a chair, her feet up on a small wood table as she paged through a book. She had a red bag swung over her shoulder and was chewing gum loudly. As I walked past her to the bookshelf, she glared up at me as if my presence personally offended her.
I quickly located the spot on the shelf where the database should’ve been. The spot was empty.
As I turned to return to the front desk and ask the librarian for help, I glimpsed the cover of the book the pigtail girl was reading. The 2013 Gym Leader Database. Of course.
“Excuse me, can I see that book when you’re done?”
“Not going to be done for a while,” the girl said between bubble gum pops.
“Can I take a look at it now then? It’ll only be a minute.”
“You a trainer?” the girl asked.
I shrugged, not particularly wanting to explain.
“I’ve got six badges,” the girl said, “and I’m not going up against Tamara ‘till I find a decent dark Pokemon, but I’ve got a kickass fighting team ready to rock. The dark gym leader, however… you heard about him?”
“Well his freakin’ prelim is to find him.”
“Abalina’s was like that, with her gym under ground—” I started.
“Not like this,” the girl said, whipping her pigtails back and forth. “Nobody knows what his face looks like, and he could be anywhere, and I mean anywhere. In Sinnoh for all anyone knows. No trainer’s seen him since he left the gym. I heard a rumor that the dark gym leader was friendly with the normal gym leader so I came here—I mean, I figure the gym leaders aren’t freakin’ out over where the guy is so they must know or at least have contact with him. And if the dark gym leader’s havin’ contact with any of them, it’s the normal guy, right?”
I didn’t particularly care about this missing dark gym leader; I just wanted to take a look at that book. I hid my annoyance and nodded.
“But I haven’t seen nothin’ and I’ve been watching this normal guy for two weeks already. Believe me, I know all about him and his freaky girlfriend—”
A thought dawned on me, so obvious I might’ve smacked my head against the table if I wasn’t worried about what this girl might do to me if I passed out in front of her. “You said the dark gym leader’s been missing?”
The girl scowled at me. “That’s what I’ve been complainin’ bout. You even listening?”
“How long what?”
“How long has he been gone from his gym? How long has that prelim been going on?”
The girl shrugged. “A month maybe?”
Dustin knew Liam. Liam was darkly gifted.
The dark gym leader of Acceber has been missing for a month. We met Liam a month ago.
Two plus two, does in fact equal four
“What’s the dark gym leader’s name?” I asked.
“Somethin’ common.” The girl leafed through the book. “Ah, there we go.” She held the book up, and turned it so the pages faced me. She placed her finger under a name. “Just says the last name for some reason. Mendol.”
Well, that was that. I knew his secret.
Liam was undoubtedly the dark gym leader of Acceber.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Venturing west didn’t work out well.
It took me ten minutes to figure out which way was west. By that time, the streets were crowded with people trying to get to their Monday morning work. Liam and I were jostled about—businessmen elbowing us out of their paths and street vendors forcing their products in front of us. Seeing the band attaching our wrists, we got several offers for fakes to be put on later.
Though the offers were tempting, I suspected Dustin would have a way of knowing if the band was cut and replaced.
And I had yet to find exactly what Styx was referring to.
“You’re sure Erin said she’d meet us here,” Liam said doubtfully, nudging a Zigzagoon he would’ve otherwise tripped on out of the way with his foot.
“That’s what she said.” Not. I looked away from a man in a top hat shoving a hotdog beneath my nose. Artemis Town was beginning to seem like one giant market—if you walked down the middle of a street, there were so many market stands you couldn’t see the office buildings on either side of the road. Between a woman wearing a giant hat and a man dressed as a Pikachu, I spotted green.
“We’re not going to find her in this crowd. Call her,” Liam said.
“Wait.” I headed in the direction I’d glimpsed green. We came upon a giant park. There was a group of kids playing with a Frisbee and two trainers battling, but it was certainly less crowded than the street. I felt like I could breath again.
Liam was already dialing Erin’s number on his PokeTech. I looked around frantically. What was Styx talking about? I was pretty screwed when Erin answered her phone.
Liam frowned. “No one’s answering.”
Maybe Styx would show up or something, but I wasn’t going to wait around helplessly. I cursed silently, wishing I’d broken the untransformer earlier this morning when Liam was asleep. He’d have known one of my Pokemon was Mew, but he wouldn’t have had a way of proving it. Now, if I didn’t find a way of breaking the Forced Transformation Device, Apple was in very deep doo-doo.
Alright, attempt number one: smash it in close combat.
I swung my unbound fist at Liam’s belt, where the untransformer was. Of course, Liam blocked it with his arm. Neither of us moved. “This could get very dangerous for you, very fast,” Liam said.
I yawned widely, watching him through the narrow slit of my eyelids. “Chill. I just want to practice while we wait for Erin. I want to be ready for tomorrow, and someone slept in for my morning practice.”
I kicked my right leg at the back of Liam’s knees. Without room to maneuver, Liam took the hit and fell to the ground. Unfortunately, because we were tied together, I was yanked down towards him.
Liam caught himself with his free hand, swinging our bound hands over his body. His legs caught under mine, and I fell face forward into the grass. By the time I hit the ground, Liam was sitting up beside me, holding both of my arms behind my back. I winced.
“Fighting in this state,” Liam said, jiggling our tied wrists. I could feel his racing pulse slow, “will not help you prepare for tomorrow’s gym battle and will likely result in your injury.”
The grass tickled my nose. In my peripheral vision, I could see the untransformer peeking out of the pouch on Liam’s belt, gleaming in the sunlight as if to mock me. Mission smash untransformer with my fist: fail. “Fine. Let me up,” I said, my voice muffled by the grass.
Liam released my arms. I pushed up on the ground, awkwardly tucked my legs beneath me, and scooted on the grass until I sat facing Liam. Behind Liam, people were still bustling about on the streets. Our scuffle had attracted a little attention, but now that we weren’t fighting, people continued on their way quickly, not even glancing at us.
Liam watched me speculatively, his head cocked to the side. “If you want to prepare for tomorrow, it would be more beneficial to discuss strategy.”
My nose tickled and I thought I might sneeze. Wow, he was absolutely right. Well, right as long as I broke that untransformer and didn’t have to run for my life and Apple’s tomorrow. I forced my eyes to stay on his face and not dart to the untransformer. “Okay. What do you know of Dustin and Tali’s powers? How do you know Dustin anyway?”
“How I know them is not your—”
I held up our tied wrists. We were tied together—how could this not be my business?
“—business,” Liam finished. I didn’t press him; there were more important matters to worry about at the moment. He continued, “Dustin can mimic any gift—”
“Does that include your fighting ability?” I asked.
Liam looked at me, his eyebrows furrowed in irritation. “Will you let me finish a sentence? My ability to do this—” Liam shoved my shoulder with his tied hand, pushing me on my side, my left shoulder digging into the dirt.
“And you just love showing it off,” I muttered.
“-was hard earned through years of training. Dustin can’t mimic it; it’s not part of my gift.” Liam let me up. I rolled my shoulder, more to annoy Liam than out of actual soreness. “Dustin’s twin, Tali, has control over sound.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad.”
“You’ve never been yelled at by her.” Liam sighed and looked overhead. “So what do you know about strategy? Have you ever played strategy games?”
“What, like chess? I guess I strategize in Pokemon battles. When I battled Sparky—”
“Let’s use chess as an example. How do you strategize in chess?”
I think the last time I played chess was in third grade, when I had a crush on a freckled boy in the chess club. When he beat me in a chess game, my heart was crushed and I found I no longer had any positive feelings for the kid. “Well, I guess I set up that knight-pawn wall around my king, and then I try to knock out as many of my opponent’s pieces as I can—”
“So you lose sight of your goal, and then proceed to lose the game.”
“Strategy is accurately predicting your opponent’s moves and using these predictions to defeat your opponent.” Liam’s lips quirked. “For instance, if I flicked your nose right now, you’d be goaded into grabbing at my hand. Because I know how you’ll react, I’d be able to intercept your hand, forcing you to be still.”
“And I’d spit in your face.”
“Then I’d push you back to the ground painfully—” Liam started.
“Once again illustrating the perverse enjoyment you get from seeing others suffer.”
“That’s not true.”
I smiled, daring him to try me. “Let’s just be glad you didn’t flick my nose.”
Liam’s face was calm and stoic, but his eyes bore into mine, green as the grass field around us. “Strategy,” Liam said, finally. “Dustin’s powers are the most unpredictable, but he can only mimic one gift at a time.”
“Right. So he can either be a psychic, or he can have your oh-so-special dark gift.”
“Or he can copy Tali’s ability to manipulate sound,” Liam said. “The least threatening of these three abilities is mine—my gift is really only useful in the dark or when fighting a psychic.” He nodded at me. “So we can force Dustin—”
“We can force him to copy your dark gift if I bombard him psychically.” I plucked at the grass by my feet, shredding the blades into ant-size pieces. I wished I could practice psychically moving the grass bits like I had the glass shards yesterday with Apple. “And then you can take Dustin out with your hard-earned fighting skills.”
I peeked up at Liam. He nodded. I guess it was a good strategy.
“You know, we have another advantage,” I said. Liam watched me expectantly. I tapped my head. “If you open up your mind for the battle, we can communicate telepathically—”
“No,” Liam said harshly.
“Okay, okay. It was just a thought.” The Frisbee the group of kids had been playing with flew over my head, a thrown gone astray. Liam caught the Frisbee and tossed it back without getting up. “What about Tali?”
I smiled. “Or those noise canceling headphones that are always in the commercials.” As I glanced down to pluck more grass, I noticed Liam’s bare feet and legs. He was still just wearing his boxers and a t-shirt. I’d forgotten. “Err, maybe we should also buy you some pants and shoes.” I paused. “I could call my mom and ask her to loan me some money. I still owe you shrinkers…”
Liam got to his feet and offered me his hand. Err, his free hand. “Earplugs and pants first.”
I stared at his hand for just a moment before taking it and letting him help me up. “Earplugs and pants,” I agreed.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Mel, why don’t you let Sparkles take you to the playground?” Sparky said. “It’ll be good for you to get to know other kids your age.”
I sat on the cushy couch in the TV room. Sparky’s house was big and confusing, which was cool because I could just float through the walls. My favorite room was the attic upstairs that was sealed in—only me and ghost Pokemon could get to it. The TV room was my second favorite because the couch was so cushy I sometimes got stuck between cushions and had to go intangible to get out.
Scary floated invisible near the doorway. We were playing I Spy the Ghost, even though I was getting too old for the game. I always found Scary now. “I don’t want to,” I told Sparky. I wondered if I should call him father. I didn’t really think of him like that—Scary would always be my parent. “Can we practice with Rotom?”
Sparky shook his head. “Gym battles today. I’m already going in late.” Sparky smiled. “’Course, the challengers are probably trapped in our booby traps, right?”
“Yup,” I said. Hehe, Scary was making faces behind Sparky. “Can I watch the battles?”
“Sure. I’m leaving in fifteen.” He walked right through Scary when he left the room. Sometimes Sparky could sense Scary and me when we were invisible. Sparky said we were charged weird. Scary and I had been working on being invisible even to Sparky’s senses—pranking Sparky would be the most ultimate prank ever. So far Scary and I were only sometimes successful. Scary thought we weren’t sensed when we stayed still, but I was pretty sure it was only when Sparky wasn’t focusing on sensing a ghost, like Anita not being able to read minds unless she was trying to.
I turned intangible and floated through the walls to Sparky’s office, where I knew he was going. Since yesterday, I had a new reason to be invisible to Sparky. Now that he knew who used to be my father, I had to make sure Sparky didn’t try to give me back. Seth Robert Hastings was not my father any more. He’d had his chance. He left.
Sparky was computer chatting with a woman who reminded me of Anita. She had purple eyes with little wrinkles in the corners. She looked tired.
“Sparky, I don’t have time for this.” The woman rubbed her temples. “Aden, Nai, and I are up to our ears in Team Glop’emm—”
“I thought we got the leader, Tamara. The Arkle guy.”
“We did. He’s who’s giving me this blasted headache—literally. I can’t get into his brain. Remember those Team Glop’emm members we caught on the boat, the ones using ghosts? They confessed Arkle was behind the orders. However, it seems their Master’s been keeping a few more ghost tricks up his sleeve—there’s a ghost Pokemon in his body, blocking me from reading him—either a Sableye or Spiritomb—” Tamara stopped speaking suddenly, looking as if she wanted to say more.
I squinted at her.
<There’s a ghost within her,> Scary said, appearing beside me.
How’d he know that?
<Look, she moves her mouth, but no words come out. Also, her eyes are dimmer, like Anita’s were when you took over her body.>
Tamara took a deep breath. “We’ve had to resort to messier means of gaining information. Thus, Nai and Aden.”
Sparky seemed to think Tamara was shaken over what she was talking about, not the ghost inside of her. He murmured something about “fire and ice torture” to himself and then smiled super big at Tamara. “Let’s hope he can’t pull off the most renowned ghost trick—disappear.” He laughed at his own joke. Tamara didn’t. I didn’t get it, but I would’ve laughed to make Sparky happy. “Alright, sorry. Why don’t you try using a ghost Pokemon to kick the other ghost out?”
“And which of us has a ghost Pokemon with that kind of power?” Me! I wanted to shout. Scary gave me a look like a silent shush.
Sparky didn’t answer.
“None of us, aside from Mendol, even have a well-trained ghost Pokemon.” Tamara raised her eyebrows, looking grave. “Unless…”
“Mel is eight years old and will have nothing to do with this,” Sparky snapped. What was wrong with Sparky? I could so do it. I’d battled ghosts for bodies before, including my own! I could get rid of the ghost in the man they were talking about and maybe in Tamara, too.
<He just wants you to be safe,> Scary said gently. <And so do I.>
It wasn’t fair—everyone I knew got to battle and fight bad guys. Why couldn’t I?
Tamara closed her eyes and said, “I have work to do. What did you want?”
“It’s about the man that was arrested the same day as Arkle, the one suspected of holding our dear Mendol hostage. Professor Seth Robert Hastings.” My heart sunk. I felt my eyes getting watery even though I knew I should be able to stop myself from crying. I was old enough now. But Sparky was going to send me back to him. Sparky was going to abandon me just like he did. “Mel, my foster son, is Hasting’s biological son according to Professor Blubber.”
“Nai accused Hastings of child abuse,” Tamara said softly.
“I know. I haven’t talked to Mel about it. I don’t know if I will.”
“The information he has could be useful.”
Sparky’s eyes flashed a cold, stormy grey. “He’s not a tool—first battling Arkle’s ghost and now this? What’s gotten into you, Tamara?”
Tamara’s eyes looked sad and distant, but she said nothing.
“It was Professor Blubber who recognized Mel; he was acquainted with Professor Hastings. He also said that when his past assistant, Erin Kendle, had returned accompanying Mel, she had spoken of finding him in an abandoned mansion a few miles from Cape Caution. I don’t know what kind of convictions we want to start drawing up against this Seth Hastings, but I figured it would be beneficial for someone to check out the mansion and pick Professor Blubber’s mind...”
<Sparky’s not leaving you,> Scary said as the conversation continued. <He won’t. He chose you.> Scary put a hand through my heart. I smiled at him.
<Thanks, Scary.> I thought about how strange it was that I could see Sparky, and that he couldn’t see me or Scary, and that I could see Scary if he wanted me to, and if Sparky really wanted to he could see us too, and my father hadn’t been able to see me… <Scary, they said they’re going to search our home.>
Scary nodded. I floated through the ceiling, upwards into my secret attic. Scary followed. It smelled a little like old socks, but I liked the texture of the wood floor. <Did my father… Did he love me?> I asked Scary.
Scary nodded again, his pointed ears bobbing.
<Because Tamara said abuse… and that’s when someone does very bad things to someone else.> I made myself solid and leaned against the wooden wall. I couldn’t see well now that I was solid—I could only make out an outline of Scary with the few bits of sunlight coming in through cracks between the wall planks. <Did father abuse me?>
<He left you.>
<And that’s abuse?>
Scary shrugged. He didn’t know. I didn’t know either. <He’s not my father,> I said. <But when he was, he liked his books, remember?>
Scary looked at me with his serious face. <He told me to guard them with my life once. He said the only thing more precious than them was you.>
<I never read his books. You taught me to read after he was gone.> I thought about making a hole in one of the planks so more sunlight came in. I decided it wasn’t worth Sparky maybe finding out. <If they search the house, they’ll find the books.>
I think Scary knew the direction my head was going now. He was good like that. My true parent.
<He’s not my father any more, but I want to get the books before they do.>
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
We had a successful morning shopping among the colorful stores of Artemis Town. When I’d called my mother, she wasn’t happy that the first call from me she’d received in weeks entailed me asking for money, but by the end of our lengthy conversation, she agreed to give me money, though warned me it would be the last time. She’d ranted for quite a while about my father, his lack of money as a trainer, and how though I was going through a “stage” in my life, she trusted I wouldn’t be a trainer for the rest of my life.
I loved my mother, but there were reasons I didn’t call often.
I didn’t tell her about my psychic gift. I’d read in Tamara Lilac’s book,The Gift, that the gift was genetic. I wondered if my mom had passed those genes to me, or if it was my father who I hadn’t seen in years.
After getting Liam his necessities, I picked a quaint café to eat lunch at. It was called The Blue Swellow and smelled like coffee and cookies. The walls were blue, composed of small glittery tiles. It was here, after a filling meal, that Liam and I encountered our first awkward difficulty in being tied together.
“I have to pee,” I said.
“That stinks,” Liam said, shrugging.
“No seriously, I’m not going to hold this for another twenty hours.” I got up and headed for the bathroom at the back of the restaurant. Liam, of course, was dragged along. A “W” on a wooden door indicated the woman’s bathroom. When I opened the door, I realized it was a single room-single toilet bathroom. “Alright, stay here and don’t let anyone come in.”
Liam rolled his eyes. “How do you expect—”
I closed the door on his arm. Liam glared at me through the door crack.
Liam turned his head, muttering something under his breath. The bathroom was small with crinkled wallpaper and a rusted sink. There was a faded advertisement on the wall for some roller coaster called, “Adventure Quest.” At least it smelled like soap. I backed up, trying to reach the toilet. I pulled Liam’s arm—just a little more…
“I thought you didn’t want me in the bathroom while you did your business,” Liam complained. His shoulder was nearly sliding through the door crack. “I’m getting weird looks. This is ridiculous.”
My rear end barely grazed the toilet seat. Just as I was clumsily trying to unzip my pants one handedly, a waitress walked past the doorway, curiously peering over Liam’s head. We made eye contact. Very awkward.
“Fine, get in the bathroom,” I hissed, rezipping my pants while Liam slipped through the doorway, careful not to look at me. He locked the door and faced the wall with the roller coaster poster.
I managed to unzip my pants and get on with my business. Maybe in an attempt to pretend he wasn’t locked in the bathroom with a peeing girl, Liam started reading the advertisement on the wall out loud mockingly. “Adventure Quest: the thrill you need. Adventure Quest: learn about magnetism! Adventure Quest: Artemis Town’s biggest roller coaster.” Liam snorted. “Like Artemis Town has more than one.”
Something in my mind clicked.
Adventure Quest. Venture West.
Geeze, I stunk at reading lips.
I zipped up my pants and made for the sink. “So Liam, do you like roller coasters?”
“Not that I care, but won’t Erin be looking for us at the park?” Liam asked, grimacing at the sun. It turns out “Adventure Quest” was a roller coaster that wrapped around a building owned by an investing company called Invest-A-Quest. You’d think that because the company owned the building, the line for the roller coaster would be inside. You’d have thought wrong.
The line spiraled along the outside of the building, and Liam and I were unlucky enough to currently be standing in the part of the line the Invest-A-Quest building did not shade. The sun was sweltering. Not only could I feel my sweat trickling down my body, but I could feel Liam’s on my wrist. The elastic band was not helping.
Worst of all, there was still no sign of Styx. I had no idea why she wanted me to come here. “Erin’s still not answering her phone,” I lied. I’d pretended to call her several times via PokeTech, not wanting to risk Liam actually getting in contact with her. I had to get this Forced Transformation Device thing sorted out first.
I eyed the black pouch that held the device. Liam wore the belt it was hooked onto loosely around his new cargo pants. Luckily, Liam was the complete opposite of Erin when it came to shopping—he went directly for what he needed, bypassing all the clothes salespeople tried to throw at him. I wondered if Erin’d be mad she’d missed the opportunity to force Liam into skinny jeans. That last night in Vintage Village, she and Lily had giggled about it behind Liam’s back, when they thought he wasn’t listening. I let my smile fade. That was before I knew about the Forced Transformation Device.
Maybe Styx thought with all the twists and curves on the roller coaster, I could accidently smash into Liam, crushing the untransfomer. I guess that was worth a shot.
The line moved. We passed several signs depicting how magnets powered the roller coaster, but didn’t make it around the corner into the shade. Liam wiped his face with his t-shirt sleeve. “This better be worth our money,” he mumbled.
I was surprised Liam had readily agreed to go on the roller coaster. No complaints, no suspicions, no questions.
“Have you been to Olivine Sea?” I asked. That was the amusement park my parents had taken me to once a year when we lived in Goldenrod. Even when we moved to Acceber, my mom still took me every few years.
“The beach?” Liam replied.
“It’s an amusement park. Why’d you agree to go on this? Have you ever even ridden a roller coaster?” Olivine Sea was the only amusement park I’d ever heard of.
Liam shrugged. “I like roller coasters. There was an indoor park just outside of Mauville. Lots of electric Pokemon to run the place.” Liam paused. “My parents used to bring me and my cousin. Once my cousin bought us both a pair of platform shoes so we could get on all the rides with a height requirement. He loved roller coasters.”
I wanted to squeal and exclaim, “Aha! You shared personal information with me and the world was not minced to pieces by the information-sharing devil. Would ya look at that!” However, I didn’t think that would encourage Liam to continue sharing memories. In fact, he’d probably never speak to me again. Instead, pretending we were two people engaged in normal conversation, I said, “You grew up in Hoenn?”
Liam nodded, looking out in the direction of the sea.
“Do you still keep in touch with your cousin?” I asked.
“Oh. Sorry.” The line moved again. We finally reached the shade. Now we were in the spiral right up against the building, almost to the front of the line. I wiggled my wrist tied to Liam’s a bit, trying relieve it from the itchy sweat. It didn’t help much. “How’d he die?”
I wanted to take the words back as soon as they left my mouth. Curiosity killed the cat. Or this conversation. Seriously, what was wrong with me? That was personal and rude. No way would Liam—
“He was swept away by the Slateport tsunami,” Liam said bitterly.
The tsunami might be my first memory. It had happened on my third birthday. At the time, I didn’t understand why many of my friends and my parents had left the party early. I’d cried for hours. Only when I was older did I comprehend the effects of the tragedy. Everyone seemed to know someone who didn’t make it through the disaster. In history class, we’d learned it was caused by Kyogre, the legendary Pokemon of the seas.
Legendary Pokemon… Oh.
“You don’t like legendary Pokemon much,” I commented.
Liam froze for a moment. Then he closed his eyes, leaned against the brick building, and bent his head back.
“So that’s why you’re after Mew.”
“Why don’t you say that a little louder,” Liam said, not meeting my eye.
“Nobody cares if—”
“Anita, just stop talking.” Liam was… upset? I should probably be feeling bad, but I didn’t know what I did. And Liam was… Well, he didn’t exactly look upset, more like defeated, but he didn’t usually look much of anything.
Bewildered would probably be the best word to describe my feelings this moment. So of course, I said, “If Kyogre killed your cousin, why aren’t you chasing that legendary Pokemon?”
“Try me.” The line moved again, and I pulled Liam away from the wall. We finally reached the metal gates opening to new riders. There was a slot in the middle that was empty, and we took it.
Liam spoke quietly and precisely. “Kyogre’s tsunami also drowned my mom and my aunt. My dad and I moved to Acceber to get away—it was the only known region without a legendary Pokemon. My dad despised legendary Pokemon, maybe more than I did… than I do. Then we arrived in Vintage Village, trying to get on with our lives, and boom—Mew’s explosion, houses on fire, several dead including Lily’s parents.”
“Don’t you get it? Nobody’s safe from any legendary Pokemon. And in Acceber, I have an—” Liam stopped talking suddenly.
“You have a what?”
Liam looked at me hard for a moment. “Is there someone in your life that you’d do anything for? Run into a fire, dig through corpses, take a bullet…”
I thought about Apple, grinning her sharp canines at me from my shoulder, her tail brushing against my neck. I nodded.
“That’s what my cousin was to me. Nobody should have to deal with the pain of losing someone like that.”
I still didn’t quite get why he was chasing down Mew instead of Kyogre, but I wasn’t going to keep pushing the subject. A roller coaster pulled into the station, and after the previous riders exited, the metal gates swung open. Liam climbed into the cart first, and I awkwardly climbed in after him, unbalanced because of my tied hand. The roller coaster didn’t go upside down so our seats were really just one big seat with a buckling safety belt and a neon yellow safety bar. We buckled up, and Liam pulled down the yellow bar.
“What are you going to do when you…” I couldn’t think of the right word because I didn’t really know how Liam planned on accomplishing what he wanted to accomplish. “Get Mew?”
Liam just stared at me.
Guess we both knew the answer to that.
“Mew can’t be killed, you know,” I said. An operator droned on about keeping our hands and legs inside the vehicle.
Liam gave me a sidelong glance, tilting his head in acknowledgement.
The roller coaster began.
The ride was a little bumpy, but definitely worth the five dollars we paid. The wind against my face was a relief after standing in line, and the small hills made my stomach flip wondrously, leaving my conversation with Liam momentarily forgotten in the station. Neither Liam nor I were screamers, but I let out a few squeals and I caught Liam smiling at an unexpected twist.
Of course, I did my best to ram into Liam at every turn the centripetal acceleration pulled me that way. His arm was hot and his shirt damp. I crinkled my nose at the smell of Liam’s sweat.
Unfortunately, my poor attempts to smash the untransformer were futile. At least they went unnoticed.
When we exited the ride, there was still no sign of Styx. Maybe I’d totally misread her lips? I really should go back to the Pokemon Center to look for her, but I didn’t want Liam anywhere within an a hundred yard radius of Apple, anywhere he might think to test her with that device.
The roller coaster exited to a higher level of the Invest-A-Quest building, and the exit led directly into the building, requiring riders to walk through the building to get back to street level. We passed several investing advertisements, more signs bragging about Adventure Quest’s amazing magnetic feat, and a huge electric generator on our way down the staircase to the lobby.
When we reached for the street, Liam looked at his PokeTech. “We should find Erin and get dinner soon.” He turned to me. “But first I’d like to test your Pokemon, please.”
Well, at least he was polite.
“Fine.” As I released my Pokemon in front of a roller-coaster-magnetism’s-awesome-please-ride-Adventure Quest poster, a thought came to me. The signs, the giant generator, the Forced Transformation Device…
I glanced at Splash, remembering our training earlier this morning.
I knew what Styx had been planning, or at least, I thought I somewhat knew. I didn’t know enough about magnetism to know how to make it seriously mess up a circuit. However, I did know that if you put enough electricity through any circuit…
Liam bent over Splash, lowering syringe to his spiky fur.
…stuff will get seriously fried.
Of course, I’d forgotten I’d get electrocuted along with Liam and the untransformer. Though slightly dizzy, I smiled at a blurry Splash, so thankful he couldn’t control the electricity running through his body. I’d tell him psychically if it weren’t for this blasted band binding me to Liam. Ah, and the best part was I didn’t have to do anything—this looked like a total accident.
As my vision came to, I saw Liam’s outstretched right arm holding the syringe. It was smoking slightly, and the air smelled like something burning—
Liam turned toward me slowly, his eyes glinting like newly sharpened skewers. “You planned this.” His voice was deadly.
“N-no, it was an accident.” I moved backwards, stumbling. At another time I might’ve laughed at an attempt to get away from someone I was tied to.
Liam was reaching for my neck. He was going to strangle me—I saw it in his eyes, in his face—I could only think of getting away—but we were tied together—something to slice the band away, anything—if I could use my powers, get up high maybe—
There was a flash of light.
An Eevee flipped through the air, neatly striking Liam on the head with its lit tail. My arm was tugged toward the ground.
Allo stood in front of me, crouched with his lit tail ready to strike again. Splash, Vanilla, and Sunflower watched behind him in awe. Liam was slumped on the concrete sidewalk, pulling my arm forward. We were getting some funny looks.
“Where’d you learn that trick?” I asked.
Tied to Liam, I couldn’t hear his answer. Honestly, I wasn’t too worried about it at the moment.
I bent over. “Liam?”
He was knocked out cold.
I was tied to Liam Mendol. Liam Mendol was unconscious. The Forced Transformation Device was destroyed.
I’d take it.
December 15th, 2011 (3:27 PM). Edited December 15th, 2011 by delongbi.
Next chapter, peeps
Thanks to all my readers!
Previously on An Apple a Day:
Anita challenges the Artemis Town gym. The prelim is staying tied hand-to-hand to someone for a day. Unfortunately for Anita, that someone happens to be Liam.
Dustin lets slip that Liam has a secret and Erin discovers he's the gym leader of Drape Town.
Mel listens in on Sparky's meeting with the other gym leaders. Tamara's having trouble questioning Jamie Arkle and suspects he has a ghost Pokemon within his body. Mel and Scary discover that Tamara has a ghost within her body (the Master's (Liam's) Spiritomb, left within her to keep her from projecting an image of Liam into others, which we learned a few chapters back). The gym leaders also discuss searching Professor Hastings's house for clues as to whether he is withholding information about Liam Mendol. Professor Hastings is Mel's biological father, and Mel decides to get Professor Hastings's books before the gym leaders do.
Meanwhile, Styx promised Anita she would destroy Liam's Forced Transformation Device (FTD). When Anita can't find her, Anita thinks she'll be forced to take matters into her own hands. Fortunately, her Jolteon, Splash, has major problems controlling his electric powers. When Liam touches the FTD to Splash's fur, Splash's electricity destroys the FTD's circuitry. Liam is furious and attacks Anita. Allo, one of Anita's Eevee's, steps in to protect Anita- he hits Liam over the head with an Iron Tail attack.
Chapter 39: Lost Revelations
My Lost Boy
In the forest my boy was born
Who were we to doubt her regime?
I turned the page. The next page was blank. That was the last poem in Seth Hasting’s book—
“WHAT THE F—” BEEEP. An angry man in a frilly, white apron shouted at me, waving a bouquet of flowers at me accusingly. Whatever he was yelling was drowned out by a car trying to plow its way through the hoard of people crowding the narrow streets of Artemis Town. “—KEEP YOUR NOSE OUT OF THAT DAMN BOOK WHILE YOU’RE WALKING!”
I looked down. I’d squashed a small flower garden with my heels.
The angry flower shop owner was trying to push past a cluster of customers to get to me.
I, the brave, courageous Erin Kendle—unafraid of taunting Liam, picking a fight with Jake, or scolding Anita—released Griffy from his PokeBall and fled clutching the book tightly to my chest.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I forgot how much I missed the dusty floorboards, the Spinarak webs that hung from the ceiling, the little caterpillars that lived above the fridge, my collection of broken PokeBalls—my mansion. It still smelled dusty boots, still smelled like home.
I floated through my favorite wooden wall into the library. It was my favorite wall in the house because once every few months, when the dust got thick enough, Scary and I used to draw pictures in the dust all over the wall.
<The Oddish have infested the garden since we left,> Scary said, appearing through the bookshelf opposite me.
I shrugged. Scary cared about growing food in the garden. I thought it was easier to just go to the grocery store.
Scary floated up to the top of the tallest bookshelf and pulled out two tall, thin books. I remember my father used to drag ladders from the shed out back into the library to reach those two books sometimes. He wouldn’t put the ladders back until he was done reading the books and they were returned to the top shelf.
<Ready to go back?> Scary asked, waving the books at me. The books’ covers were falling apart like a crumble cake. Bits of peeled cardboard curled up around the edges and fell off as Scary waved the books.
I looked at the plush couches and floated down to the one that was peach colored. This was where I’d first met Liam and Erin and Anita. I missed them. Becoming solid, I sank into the couch.
<Sparky will notice you’re missing,> Scary said. <Plus, the gym leaders are sending someone to come look at the house, probably some time today.>
<Can we stay for a while?> I patted the couch beside me. <Come sit! We can read together.>
<I miss it here. Sparky won’t mind being gone for a few minutes.>
Scary’s eyes glowed red for a moment, and I almost got mad at him for trying to hypnotize me, but then he floated down next to me, dropping the books in my lap. <A few minutes,> he said.
My dad’s books didn’t even look like books—more like diaries, which was silly because everyone knows only girls wrote diaries. One was the color of Scary in those super bright lights and the other was a shade like the inside of a cucumber.
<Scary, why did Dad leave?>
<You tell me.>
<Because he was scared he couldn’t see me. Because he couldn’t see me.>
<He didn’t know you were alive,> Scary said.
I looked at the books again. The cucumber book was dated 2005. I was born in 2005. The other book didn’t have a date.
I opened the cucumber book. The pages were crinkly—had that old book smell—and the words were written with a pen in block letters, which was much easier to read than a lot of people’s scribbles.
May 18, 2005
I’ve never kept a journal before, but what’s just happened to me needs to be recorded. I’ve literally done what no man in written history has done before. Soon I’ll be crossing scientific boundaries no one has dreamed of for I have taken the opportunity of a lifetime.
But I’ll backtrack a little. This journal will surely be famous one day so I’ll write a bit about myself. My name is Seth Robert Hastings. My friends call me Bert, but my co-workers call me Seth. I am twenty-five years old, and just finished up my doctorate at the University of Celadon in ancient Pokemon two weeks ago. I grew up an only child just outside of Zahavah City in Acceber, and I did my undergrad at Zahavah University. I’ve been in contact with Professor Blubber since he helped me out with my thesis, and the professor recently asked me to help him with a project after I graduated. Yesterday I moved into an apartment in Cape Caution, and today I was supposed to meet with the professor to discuss that project.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
After leaving the library and escaping the angry flower shop owner, I checked the Pokemon Center for Anita and Liam. They weren’t in. When I called Anita, she didn’t answer. I gave up looking for them. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I was ready to face either of them with this newfound Liam-is-a-gym-leader info, and I certainly wasn’t ready to face them while they were tied together. If I told Anita at all, it would not be while Liam was in the vicinity—he’d gone so out of his way to make sure we didn’t know.
I spent the afternoon researching all I could on Liam and his past as the Drape Town gym leader. I was so not going to walk all the way back to the library just to use a computer, and the lines for the computers in the Pokemon Center’s lobby had been ridiculous. Thus, I slipped behind the front desk and past the operating rooms without even having to change into the nurse’s outfit—the Pokemon Center was so busy no one noticed, or at least nobody bothered to stop me.
I decided using one of the upper floor computers would ensure nobody would bother me, and I ended up on the floor I was pretty sure Apple was staying on. Maybe I’d check up on her later.
My research mostly comprised of me typing in various combinations of “Liam,” “Mendol,” and “gym leader” into Zangoogle (a much better search engine than Yahoothoot!) and sorting through the rumors to get to some base facts:
1. Liam had been the Drape Town gym leader for the past four years.
Those were the only solid pieces of information I found. There were plenty of rumors circling, like his father being a member of Team Glop’emm, his father not actually being dead, and that Liam was currently fulfilling some secret gym-leader mission, which was why his prelim was to locate him.
Oddly, Liam’s first name was never mentioned, which was confusing because his father was also referred to as “Mendol.” It was also weird that I couldn’t find a good picture of Liam; there were a few with him standing with the other gym leaders, but he was always dressed in a dark cloak that covered his face.
I guess I’d known Liam was paranoid, but this seemed a little extreme. I mean, what was the point? Why wouldn’t he want people to know he was a gym leader?
Maybe he really was on some secret mission. It would explain why the other gym leaders weren’t making a big deal about Liam’s new prelim.
I clicked open a new tab. “Ahem.”
I froze, slowly lowering my hand from the keyboard and turning my head around. Styx, Dustin’s semi-*****y girlfriend and nurse at the Pokemon Center, stood behind me, her arms folded across her chest.
“I don’t remembering you checking in for a visit,” she said. “I also don’t remember giving anyone but our staff here permission to use the floor computers.”
“Um… I can explain,” I said, but Styx was looking past my shoulder at the computer screen. I moved to block her view and she smiled, flashing pearly white teeth.
“No, you can’t, but I don’t really care at the moment. Do you know where Anita is?” she asked.
I shrugged. “Haven’t seen her since I left the gym. Why?”
Styx peered around my shoulder again. “You’re a researcher, right?”
Choosing to let the abrupt change in subject slide, I said, “Well, I’d like to be some day. I was an assistant researcher for a year—”
“But not now? What are you doing now?”
“Traveling with Anita and Liam.” I stuck my chin up, daring her to comment further on my lack of work.
Styx surprised me by saying, “How would you like an actual research job?”
I blinked. “What?”
“I’m not a Professor so the pay wouldn’t be as good as you were getting, but I could give you enough to cover travelling expenses.” Styx tapped her chin thoughtfully. “I could also probably get you some sweet benefits. I’ve got an in with the gym leaders, you know.” She winked.
“You’re offering me a job?” I asked in disbelief. A minute ago, I thought she was going to threaten to kick me out of the Pokemon Center for trespassing in private halls one too many times.
The time travelling Pokemon? Why? “Uh, what about Celebi?”
“I want everything you can find. Books from the library, articles in the newspaper, common rumors of sightings or its powers—whatever you can get. I can give you a few contacts at Zahavah to get you started. I’d like you to call me weekly with whatever you’ve found.” Styx grinned and she looked younger—like a child that’s come up with a way to steal the cookies from the jar without anyone knowing. “So how about it?”
“Um, sure, I guess. You don’t even want to see credentials or a recommendation or something?” This was just too weird.
“Nope.” Styx held out her hand.
I took it.
“Great, I’ll just need you to fill out some direct deposit—”
A nurse burst out of the elevator, panting. “Styx, Styx! There’s a girl downstairs demanding to see you. A gym challenger by the look of her—tied to some unconscious boy her Eevees dragged here with her—she won’t let us take a look at the boy until she’s seen you. We don’t know if it’s bad enough to call the hospital—”
I caught Styx’s eye knowingly. “C’mon,” she said, hurrying to the elevator.
The lobby had cleared out considerably since I’d come into the Pokemon Center. Maybe not cleared out, I thought, seeing people packed around the edges of the room, hugging the walls and couch and leaving the middle of the lobby void of traffic.
It probably had something to do with Anita, standing in the middle of the lobby, surrounded by three growling Eevees and one sparking Jolteon. Liam slumped on the floor. “Don’t you dare call the emergency room until I have a word with Styx—” Anita stopped talking when she spotted Styx approaching her.
Splash stepped forward, his pins bared. I decided it might be best to stay put by the front desk with the rest of the nervous wall-huggers.
Styx and Anita spoke in low voices I couldn’t hear over the murmur of the other Pokemon trainers. Anita was furious with Styx for some reason. As she gestured angrily at Liam, his arm flopped against hers, like a puppet. Styx nodded and Anita said something quietly to Splash, who immediately backed off.
Styx turned around and started barking orders at the other nurses and the Chansey. Nurses hurried across the room like a swarm of frantic flies—some calming the other trainers and others helping Anita pick up Liam.
In under four minutes, we were back upstairs with Liam settled into a patient bed in a room across the hall from Apple’s. Anita sat by his side in a plastic chair, no longer yelling. An improvement, to say the least.
I glanced at Liam. His mouth was opened slightly, his jaw at an awkward angle against the pillow. Anita let the arm that was tied to hers hang over the bed’s metal railing. Should I take this opportunity to tell Anita about Liam’s gym leaderness?
Styx entered the room, closing the door quietly behind her. She’d been reassuring the other nurses that she had everything under control. Liam, apparently, had a head bruise. He’d be out for another hour or so.
“How bad is he, really?” I asked her. I looked at Anita. “And what did you do to him?” She frowned at me.
Styx raised an eyebrow at me. “I’d have called the hospital if he was seriously injured,” she said. “Just some bruising, no concussion.”
“You hit him over the head?” I asked in disbelief. “How? With what?” I’d never seen Anita successfully land a hit on Liam hard enough to do actual damage. I looked back at Styx. “And you just know he’s going to be okay after touch his head for all of five seconds?”
“I’ve already had a Sableye look into it. He’s fine,” Styx snapped.
“Anita,” I said, turning back to face her.
“Liam attacked you?” Uh-huh.
“Because he’s a psychotic freak bent on destroying my life with his fancy—but very breakable—technology.”
“Anita…” I said slowly, taking a breath. Anita leaned back in her chair so it teetered. Splash and Sunflower hurried behind the chair to keep it from falling. I don’t think she noticed. “What did you break of his?”
“The tran—syringe thingy.”
“That was a vaccine to prevent PokeRus given to him by the professor he works for! It was important.” Maybe attacking Anita was a little extreme, but hell, I’d be pissed if someone ruined my assignment. And that vaccine probably saved lives.
“Oh, so that’s what he’s been telling you guys.”
I shook my head. “Anita, this is ridic—”
“No, Erin, you listen to me. Liam Mendol is crazy. He—” Anita stopped talking suddenly.
“He what?” I asked challengingly. Anita was being childish.
“Ugh, I hate this!” Anita yelled. Her chair fell backwards, and she landed on her back, the overturned chair shoved into the bed. Her Eevees scrambled to her side, licking her free hand and face. Anita kicked the chair out of her way and got to her feet. She looked at Styx. “You got me into this mess. Fix it.”
Styx walked past me and picked up the chair. “I’m sorry we had a slight… miscommunication,” she said.
“I’ll call it even if you have a way to keep Liam knocked out until the battle tomorrow.”
Styx smiled grimly. “You think this is the first time this has happened? That can be arranged.”
“Seriously, Anita?” I said angrily. She didn’t care that Liam was hurt, just about her gym battle. Was that why she hadn’t called an ambulance? She thought they might untie Liam, ruin her chances at the gym? And what was Styx thinking, encouraging her?
“What?” Anita snapped. “He attacked me. I mean, its survive through the gym battle or cut this damn band now and go into hiding—because even you know, Erin, that he’d hunt me down.”
“You really are a selfish, paranoid, and bratty—”
“Erin, stop. I really can’t take this right now.”
“Yeah, well neither can I.”
I turned around and left the room, my stomach empty and my throat tight.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Erin left. Styx left. Liam was unconscious.
I sat in the dark, in a cold plastic chair, my wrist itchy where it touched Liam’s.
Allo, Splash, Vanilla, and Sunflower lay beneath my chair, their tails brushing my ankles. It wasn’t much comfort.
I was scared. Seriously freaked out, borderline good-thing-I’m-in-a-Pokemon-Center-because-I-might-have-a-panic-attack. I had a decision to make: fight or flee. Stay, act like a typical gym-driven trainer, battle. Or run. Abandon Erin, my journey, everything. Risk Apple or risk my life as I knew it. I’d always told Apple we could run away, go into hiding, but for the first time, I was actually considering it seriously. The thought of never seeing my friends again, of not talking to my mom—that was scary.
I didn’t have any good options.
A part of me whispered to go because it’d be easier to abandon Erin than to make up with her, to leave Liam than to explain to him, to forget Styx because her existence made no sense. It was a stupid, petty part of me, but it felt bigger.
The door creaked open. Probably a nurse finally bringing in the cot. A sliver of light spilled into the dark room. A rather small, furry silhouette stood in the doorway.
Apple entered the room, her eyes glowing a soft violet—more violet than I’d seen her eyes since Celebi had sucked her powers dry. Apple’s ears were perked, her nose held high.
And that smile. That little, devious smile as Fiery padded behind her, never moving his eyes from the sway of her tail even as he kicked the door shut with his hind legs.
That smile made me not care for the moment how upset the nurses were going to be when they discovered Apple’s absence. Made me not care that Erin was mad at me, and that I had no idea who Styx was. Made me not care that Liam had tried to strangle me earlier today.
For just a moment, that smile made me smile.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I looked up at Scary and patted the open journal in my lap. “Did this really happen? My dad time travelled?”
I looked back at the open journal. The writing didn’t sound like Dad, not how I remembered him anyway. He got tired jogging. Adventuring would make him like an old walking zombie or something. “He didn’t mention having a Gengar. Where were you, Scary?”
Scary held a clawed hand over the book, and pages flipped forward rapidly. Then suddenly, the pages settled with the journal open to the middle. I stared at the page. At the top it said Day 27.
“Hey, you’ve read this before,” I accused. Not fair. He should’ve read me my dad’s time travelling adventures.
Scary shook his head. <No, I lived through it.>
“You’re from the past?”
Scary gestured to the book. <Just read.>
“Scary, that was you?” I asked, but I knew it was, even before Scary nodded.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I guess I looked pretty strange walking down the street with an unconscious body attached to my wrist carried by a Flareon and four Eevees. My Pokemon walked with their feet in sync to ensure Liam wouldn’t fall off. We got a few strange, worried glances, but nobody commented after seeing my wrist tied to Liam’s limp arm.
Styx was escorting us to the gym. To keep Liam asleep, she’d put ear buds in his ears, which were attached to a small MP3 playing Jigglypuff’s voice on repeat.
Being tied to Liam was frustrating. I’d been able to give Apple a verbal summary of what happened, but I couldn’t hear her thoughts on the situation. I couldn’t know what she really thought of our plan, whether she thought it would work.
I let out a sigh, an ocean breeze cool against my skin, carrying the waft of the market strawberries. Strawberries reminded me of Erin. We hadn’t talked since last night. I hadn’t even seen her—I’d slept in the patient room beside Liam. I guess I didn’t really expect Erin to come to my gym battle after our fight, but she’d come to all of my others and it felt strange to be going without her.
Thinking about it, I hadn’t seen Jake in a while either. Hopefully, he’d packed up and left town without us.
We reached the dome shaped gym. My heartbeat picked up, despite my best efforts to calm myself—I couldn’t afford to be nervous. Apple was depending on me.
In a bush between the gym and a clothing shop next door, I saw a prickle of yellow. Splash peeked his head up from within the bush, winked at me, and then ducked back down. At least he was enjoying his role in all of this. A pity I wouldn’t be using him in the gym battle after all that training we did, but his electricity was necessary for my plan. I eyed a vent leading into the gym near the bush. The other end of the vent was under the gym bleachers near the arena; the blueprints of the gym had been easily accessed though the Pokemon Center computer at the end of the hall on Apple’s floor.
Once again, when I entered the gym, my ears popped.
The lights were brighter than they’d been on my last visit. It hurt to look at the battlefield’s carved metal boundaries when at an angle that they directly reflected the bright light. Dustin and Tali stood at the far end of the gym in front of their throne platform on the edge of the arena. Neither of them reacted to the sight of Liam. Guess what Styx had said was true—apparently, a challenger returning with a knocked out partner wasn’t very uncommon.
Dustin raised an eyebrow at Styx. “You said you were working all day.”
“This qualifies,” Styx said. She bent over Liam and removed the ear buds and MP3 player. I held my breath. Liam didn’t wake up.
“You helped her?” Dustin asked. He didn’t sound angry, just curious. “Just last week you complained that Tali and I should disqualify contenders of who don’t return fully conscious.”
Styx shrugged and tossed her ponytail over her shoulder. “We’re supposed to help endangered Pokemon and trainers in this city—you two created PRAHA. Liam was a danger to Anita and her Pokemon. I helped.”
“Fine.” Dustin narrowed his eyes at Styx in a way that made me suspect this conversation would be continued later. “Anita Parkwood, you have completed part one of the prelim. Styx will cut the tie between you and Liam, and then we will fight.”
Styx opened the cabinet she’d initially taken the band out of while Tali stepped forward. “The rules of the fight are simple. Dustin and I are a team. You and Liam are a team. When a participant is knocked out of bounds, the participant is out. When both team members of one team are out, the opposing team wins.”
“What are the boundaries?” I asked.
“The metal lines depicting the battlefield,” Tali answered. There was a snipping at my side, and my hand was suddenly free. Styx held the band in one hand and the scissors in the other.
<Free at last!> My mind automatically connected with Apple’s first, and I was surprised to find a speck of her power had returned.
<Yup. Still too drained for telekinesis or barriers, but telepathy’s working,> Apple said. She looked at Fiery slyly, and when she caught Fiery’s eye, he looked promptly away. What exactly had Apple been up to, stuck in a room with Fiery, for over twenty-four hours…?
Apple looked up at me with innocent eyes, but a wicked grin. I touched Sunflower, Allo, Vanilla, and Fiery’s minds, thanking them for carrying Liam. Then I sent a psychic pulse out farther and located Splash—he was already in the gym’s ventilation system. Perfect.
Dustin cleared his throat. “Your Pokemon will need to wait in the stands, of course.”
I wistfully pulled out four Pokeballs and returned Fiery, Sunflower, Allo, and Vanilla. I would’ve let them stay out, but Liam might’ve gotten suspicious when he woke up if Splash wasn’t among my Pokemon. I put the Pokeballs in my pack, which Styx took while herding Apple towards the gym’s bleachers.
As Apple shuffled through missed plans and memories in my head, I bent over Liam and took out the headphones. “Liam, wake up.” I nudged Liam with my foot, but jumped away quickly, just in case Liam woke up with the same idea he’d had when Allo knocked him out.
“Challenger, are you ready to begin?” Dustin asked haughtily. Like he didn’t freakin’ know my name.
“No,” I snapped. “Liam?”
No response. ****.
“The referee will begin the battle in thirty seconds.”
I glanced up, not having noticed a referee in the gym before. Styx stood on the sidelines, a flag in hand. She winked at me and tilted her head toward a timer that was suddenly projected onto the gym’s curved ceiling. 27…26…
Great. Just great. She’d better not be biased.
<Shake him,> Apple suggested. I did. I lifted Liam’s shoulders off of the ground and shook. He was dead weight. “Liam, wake up!” Drool dribbled out of his mouth onto my hand. Gross. I hastily dropped him and wiped my hand on his shirt.
I looked up.
My mind was scrambling. Crap, I couldn’t fight Dustin and Tali alone. My psychic powers weren’t even stronger than Dustin’s copied psychic powers.
<Anita, remember Tali’s power!> Apple said. I glanced up. Tali and Dustin were still standing calmly at the other end of the field. Tali took a deep breath. I let my mind drift into hers, she was calming herself, preparing for that first bellow—
Tali controlled sound. I needed earplugs—that was more important than waking Liam; he’d be up seconds after she yelled.
Dustin grinned at me, shaking out his blonde hair. I stuck my hand down Liam’s pocket. Where’d he put them?
I shut my eyes and leapt away from Liam. Barriers. I needed barriers shaped like earplugs in my ears now.
Suddenly, there was a pressure on my head. I opened my eyes. Dustin was wincing and Tali had her mouth open, but I couldn’t hear her. I couldn’t hear anything.
Something grabbed my ankle. I jumped and nearly tripped. Liam looked up at me with a bizarre mix of pain and anger. He opened his mouth, but I couldn’t hear the words. Grimacing, Liam rolled over and covered his ears, releasing my ankle.
Dustin settled into a stance with his legs apart, arms flung in front of him. I felt psychic energy gathering in front of his palms…
I whipped up a barrier to encompass Liam and me. Liam lay still on the ground for just a moment. He sat up, taking in our surroundings through the purple tint of my barrier. I saw his mouth move, but heard nothing.
Liam got to his feet and looked at me. His gaze hit me like a bucket of cold water. His mouth moved again.
I realized I still had my barrier earplugs in my head. I released them.
“What?” I asked.
“I said, give me one good reason not to beat the life out of you.”
Okay, Anita, ignore the fact that he’s talking stoically about your death. Ignore it and deal with it later. “There are gym leaders watching,” I answered.
“Fine. Give me one good reason not to walk away from this prelim, leave you to lose, and later beat the life out of you.”
I shuddered at a crash against my barrier. Dustin was trying to psychically break in. I realized that Apple was adding what little energy she could to the barrier—why it hadn’t already caved. “You hate losing,” I said.
“Not as much as I hate you at this moment.” Liam turned. If he walked through my barrier, it would shatter, and we would be bombarded by both Dustin and Tali’s attacks. That was just a small reason to stop Liam from leaving though, compared to my huge plan to help Apple that depended entirely on Liam staying.
“I’ll tell you everything. I’ll tell you everything I know about Mew.”
Liam stopped mid-step and turned to face me. “I don’t believe you.”
“I swear.” There was another crash against my barrier. It felt like a crack through my skull. “I—please, Liam.”
“Tell me now.”
Another crash. I saw lights behind my eyelids. “I can’t, I can’t hold on… on much longer,” I gasped, bracing my hands on my knees.
“One piece. Give me a piece now and tell me the rest after we win.”
Arceus, I hadn’t prepared for this. “Near Melonbi,” I blurted out. “Near Melonbi Town, I saw Mew.”
The pressure was too great—the barrier wasn’t just going to shatter, it was going to blow, it was going to collapse into me—
A hand was held in front of my nose. The hand I’d been attached to for up until about two minutes ago. Liam raised his eyebrows at me, expectant.
“The rules. The rules to the prelim—stay in bounds—push them out,” I said. “And strategy from yesterday… I’ll get in Dustin’s head and—” The pressure on my head was too overwhelming. I took Liam’s hand. All the pressure vanished.
There was a brief moment of silence. Liam pushed something into my hand—
Tali yelled and all strategic thoughts fled my brain.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
<Mel, we should go back. Sparky will start to worry,> Scary said, lightly tugging at the book.
“No! I wanna keep reading!” I tugged the book back.
“But I didn’t finish the last entry—just till the end of it. Please?” I gave Scary my big eye look that usually gets me candy.
Scary let go of the book. <Fine.>
I stepped forward and picked up the PokeBall of the newly caught Gengar. There was a murmuring through the crowd: quiet, fearful noises. I returned Poliwrath to his PokeBall, trying to show that I didn’t want to fight.
I looked at Scary. “So that… that was how you met my father?”
“That woman, Abetzi. Did she have a ghost gift?”
I hesitated. “Was she… was she my mother?”
There was a crash to the left of me. I heard grown-ups swearing.
<We have to go, Mel. The police have come to search the house for evidence.>
“Was she my mother?”
I hugged the journals to my chest. “I want to keep reading.”
<You can. We’ll bring the books back to Sparky’s. We can store them in the attic—but we need to go before the police find us here.>
I turned invisible and floated up, wondering if Abetzi could do the same. “Let’s go.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
The noise brought me to my knees—my ears felt like they were being scooped out with pliers. Instinctively, my mind thrust away from my body to escape the pain. I could think more clearly with the sound distant. Maybe I could jump into Tali’s mind and force her to stop yelling.
<Anita, you need to put the earplugs Liam gave you in, or make barrier earplugs if you don’t want to lose your hearing,> Apple said.
But the sound. I didn’t want to hear—no, better to stop Tali. I sent multiple psychic tendrils towards Tali. I wished I could see what Liam was doing—he was invisible to my mind.
<Anita, I’m serious. Earplugs now.>
A force cut me off, shoved me back toward my body. I created barriers in my ears just before I returned.
My head was still ringing. Liam was running towards Tali, his eyes narrowed in on her—it was the look he had before he hit something. Dustin created a barrier under Tali, raising her above the ground out of Liam’s reach. Liam stopped mid-run as Tali took a deep breath. He was right below her. He scrambled to get away, but she released her breath, directly over him.
Sound is usually just a bit of pressure oscillating through the air. Tali, however, had the ability to create more than just a bit of pressure. That’s what I found out when I threw up a barrier over Liam.
The vibrations hit the barrier, travelled down those invisible psychic tendrils back to my mind, and scrambled my brain. And I’d thought I’d had a headache before.
Dustin ran through my barrier, collapsing it—he must’ve copied Liam’s gift. The platform barrier Tali’d been on disappeared as well, and she landed on bent legs behind Liam. Dustin smirked—they had Liam surrounded. Liam snickered right back.
At once, Dustin and Tali rushed in, Dustin making to grab Liam’s legs, Tali his arms. Focus, Anita, I thought to my pounding head. I thrust up two small barriers—one in front of Dustin’s feet and one in front of Tali’s.
Dustin stepped right through my barrier, but Tali stumbled, enabling Liam to turn and kick Tali in the stomach. She fell backwards toward the boundary—
A barrier caught Tali before she fell out of bounds. I tried to shatter Dustin’s barrier while Tali leaned on it, hitting it with all the psychic force I could muster, but it held strong.
Liam and Dustin were fighting in a blur of complex kicks and punches. Liam was faster—rolling under Dustin’s foot and tripping him from below, but he couldn’t seem to pin Dustin down or force Dustin toward the boundary. Dustin blocked Liam’s kicks with his arms, laughing as Liam danced around him and failed to land any major hits or force Dustin back. In fact, Dustin was backing Liam towards the center of the battlefield, away from the boundary behind him.
Suddenly, the wind was knocked out of me and my body was flung backwards so fast my mind and body separated. I struggled to send psychic tendrils back fast enough to keep my body from being thrown out of bounds. I made it, but barely.
For a moment my body was suspended against the barrier. Even with my consciousness out of my body, I could feel the bruises forming along my back.
I sent my mind at Tali, knowing that if she continued yelling, my barrier would break and I’d be thrown beyond the boundary.
I shoved my way into her mind. <La, la, la, la, la, la, la…> “La, la, la.” I was in! I felt Dustin shatter the barrier holding my body. Through Tali’s eyes, I saw my barrier fall apart and my body slump to the ground, my fingers touching the metal border but not going beyond it.
I bombarded Tali’s mind with the sensations my body was currently undergoing—returning the freakin’ headache she’d given me.
“Tali, finish it!” Dustin yelled. Tali and I both looked at Dustin, who finally faltered under a kick to the gut. Liam rebounded off the balls of his feet, pouncing at Dustin—
<Get out, get out, get—> My hands—Tali’s hands pulled at her hair. “Get out!” she yelled.
The same force that’d shattered my barrier—Dustin—yanked me from Tali’s mind. I felt the power Tali had released, felt the sound propagate towards my body and Dustin’s. I couldn’t feel where Liam was, but then, I never could.
The sound waves hit my body with full force, but Tali hadn’t been specifically aiming at me so there wasn’t enough force to actually move my body. I felt the sound waves dissipate before they hit Dustin. Interesting. Either Tali could move sound vibrations through the air like psychics could telekinetically move objects—but no, Liam and I’d have already been pushed out if she had that type of power—or…
I rushed back to my body. Ignoring my groaning bones, I jumped to my feet. “Liam!”
Liam either couldn’t hear me—he had earplugs in and his head was probably ringing as much as mine was, after all—or he was too preoccupied fighting Dustin. Dustin was no longer risking physical injury and had started mimicking Tali’s powers to prevent Liam from getting anywhere near Dustin’s body.
Liam had the disadvantage of not being able to put up psychic barriers. To keep from being blown away by strong sound waves he had to drop and cling to the ground or stay a good ten meters away from Dustin where the sound wave’s power wasn’t strong enough to cause physical injury.
I stumbled towards Liam. Sensing Tali behind me, I tripped her again the moment she took a breath to release a sound wave in my direction. “Liam, open your damn mind!”
Dustin let out a bellow that forced Liam to roll to the edge of the arena. Running towards Liam, I glimpsed Apple and Styx behind him, their eyes wide. Dustin took a deep breath, about to release another sound wave at Liam—no doubt this one would knock him beyond the boundaries with Liam so close to the edge.
I mustered my powers, throwing a barrier between them. Suddenly, Dustin turned his golden gaze to me. I was close enough that I could see Liam had ripped a sleeve off of Dustin’s white t-shirt and abruptly realized I was much too close to Dustin.
Time seemed to slow as Dustin opened his mouth. I psychically felt the vibrations in his throat transfer to the air and knew I was done for—
I hit the ground hard, something heavy pressing me to the gym floor as the sound wave roared around me so loud it made my eyes water.
When I could hear again, I craned my head around. Liam got up off of me in one swift movement, ready to dart at Dustin. “Wait!” I put up a semispherical barrier around us, more to keep Dustin and Tali from hearing me than to block their attacks. “Liam, you need to let me into your mind now—”
Liam looked at me with an expression of utter disbelief.
He wasn’t going to listen unless I explained, and even then, maybe not. I spoke quickly. “Dustin doesn’t have earplugs; he’s been mimicking Tali’s power to release his own sound waves that destructively interfere with hers so wherever he is located, the sound waves cancel out.” Liam’s eyes gazed past me, perhaps looking at Dustin. “So there’ll—”
“—be other locations of destructive interference,” Liam finished. He looked at me hard, calculating.
“I can sense how much power is being used by each of them, but I can’t calculate where the areas of destructive interference will be—where Dustin’s waves will cancel Tali’s—” I felt Tali get up behind me, inhaling. Not just Tali—Dustin was getting ready, too. “You can, though—you can calculate where they’ll be,” I said. Or at least he could if he had half the brain I thought he had.
There wasn’t any time. I released my barrier, making it clear that if he didn’t open his mind we’d lose this because Dustin and Tali were going to attack us at once. “Now, Liam.”
And suddenly, I could sense Liam’s mind. Apple had once compared the mind to an onion and my psychic powers to an onion’s scent. She’d said people using their dark gifts encased their onion-minds in diamond—no scent could ever break through. Later she’d told me the darkly gifted could control this encasing.
She hadn’t warned me of the vacuum-like effect opening the encasing would have on my mind.
Liam’s mind at once glittered like the inside of a diamond and felt empty—a void that had to be filled. I was pulled toward it and wanted to be pulled toward it. I wanted nothing more than to dive into the center of the void, but diamond-like barriers jutted out, prevented me from passing further than just below the surface.
<The fight, Anita.>
Liam’s voice. I could hear Liam. I showed him the power I sensed building in the base of Tali’s and Dustin’s throats. Liam ran through a complex set of calculations involving the angles the sound waves would meet at and their amplitudes. When I was suddenly visualizing a 3D image of the arena with a variety of colors illustrating the sound waves, I realized that Liam had the best visual memory of any person I’d ever touched minds with.
I was unexpectedly shoved back into the real, non-glittery, physical world. I didn’t even have time to blink before Liam yanked me across the field.
Dustin and Tali were both yelling. Apple was shaking, desperately covering her ears with her paws. The pressure threw Styx past the bleachers—she was lucky to have not hit her head. The bleachers rattled, and one of the thrones on the platform fell over.
Liam and I stood near the center of the arena, untouched by the sound. We stood within inches of each other, Liam’s hand on my shoulder to keep me within the wave cancellation zone, careful not to brush my skin and cut off my psychic powers.
Liam kept the telekinetic link open, again showing me the image of the arena and the sound waves, now emphasizing the areas on the arena where there would be constructive interference—where the sound waves would combine to be stronger.
With two well-placed barriers shooting out from beneath each twin’s feet, I gently nudged the gym leaders into the constructive interference zones. The effect was immediate. Both gym leaders were propelled well beyond the arena borders. Dustin was thrown far enough to knock over the remaining upright thrown.
The gym was silent—eerily so now that Dustin and Tali weren’t yelling.
Styx got to her feet shakily. Her arm was bleeding as she declared, “The challenger, Anita Parkwood, has won the prelim.”
December 23rd, 2011 (8:40 PM). Edited December 23rd, 2011 by delongbi.
Previously on An Apple a Day
Erin discovers Liam is gym leader of Drape Town, and Styx recruits Erin to research Celebi.
Mel and Scary return to the dusty old mansion Mel was raised in to get Professor Hastings’ journals before the gym leaders search the house. Mel reads about Professor Hastings’ time travel experience:
Professor Hastings was taken back in time 15,000 years by Celebi. Hastings comes across a clan of people who worship Celebi who call themselves the Shiftry Clan. The clan uses a Gengar to immobilize a bear so it can be killed. Professor Hastings fights and catches the Gengar (Scary). The clan’s “witch,” Abetzi, is able to communicate to Hastings through Scary that the clan’s land has been destroyed multiple times by Mew (being born and later Mew’s training). The clan takes Professor Hastings’ arrival as a sign that the clan will soon get their revenge for Mew’s destruction.
Meanwhile, Anita and Liam fight Tali and Dustin as the second part of the Artemis Town Gym’s prelim. To get Liam to stay and fight with her, Anita promises to tell him everything she knows about Mew. They beat the prelim.
“Dustin! Dustin, can you hear me?” Styx hovered over Dustin, taking his hand in hers.
Dustin was seriously hurt—he lay in his tattered clothing near the edge of the platform with his left leg twisted at an angle that shouldn’t be possible. When the sound wave flung him out of bounds, he knocked over one of the large chair thrones and apparently it fell on his leg. I didn’t even notice anything was amiss until Tali called Dustin’s name and he didn’t answer.
“Ambulance is on its way,” Tali said, returning her phone to a pocket. Her clothes were in better shape than Dustin’s, but with her ochre hair matted and frizzy, you’d think she’d just lost a fight to a blow drier, not to Liam and me. Tali approached the platform and peered at her brother. “I’d get his Pidgeot to carry him over if I thought he’d be able to stay on.”
I glanced over my shoulder. Liam had taken a seat in the bleachers next to Apple, staring off at the ceiling as if nothing was amiss. I guess Dustin was kind of an *******, but it sure took a cold heart to ignore someone—even Dustin—with a broken leg.
“Dustin,” Styx whispered. “Damn, wake up. I can heal—look!”
I snapped my head back around. Dustin’s eyes fluttered open. “Styx?” He tried to sit up, but Styx pushed him back down.
“Hey now, take it easy.” Styx locked eyes with gym leader. The way they looked at each other made me want to gag—they were eye-canoodling, or that’s what Mia called it once when Mia spotted our math and history teachers looking at each other that way. “Do you want me to…?”
Dustin closed his eyes and shook his head. “Of course not.” They must have some secret language to understand each other with such vague words, or maybe Dustin was tapping into that psychic mimicry again.
“An ambulance is on the way,” Styx said.
Dustin’s eyes shot open again. “I’m fine, really. I just… just need to battle Mendol and the psychic twerp.”
“If your leg wasn’t already broken, I’d kick your shins for even thinking that,” Tali said. “We’ll delay the battle until—”
“After I get a cast, of course—”
“—you’re feeling completely better—”
“—in a week.” Dustin and Tali glared at each other. I faintly heard sirens.
“How about we wait and see what the doctor says?” Styx said, moving between the twins.
The sirens grew louder and soon there were nurses and firemen flooding into the gym. Dustin was put on a stretcher, and I joined Liam on the bleachers, waiting for the crowd to disperse. As Dustin was carried past us, he said, “I’ll be seeing you two later today.”
I highly doubted it but wasn’t going to argue.
“And you guys made a mess of the gym so I fully expect—” Dustin was carried out the door. Styx and Tali hurried after the medical staff.
I turned to Liam. “Right so, you wanna go grab some lunch?”
Liam leaned back, casually putting his hands behind his head. “Discuss your relation to… a certain Pokemon… over pasta?”
<Eeks,> Apple commented.
I gulped. “Sure.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
The attic didn’t smell as good as my old mansion, but it was a good place to hide from Sparky when Scary and I read about my father and his adventures.
We’d skipped ahead of the cucumber book to the dusty violet journal.
“That was a boring section,” I told Scary.
<Mel, that was you in Abetzi’s stomach.>
I wrinkled my nose. “Well, I’m glad I don’t remember that.”
Scary frowned. <The next section is a little more…> Scary didn’t finish, but he was definitely going to say “exciting.” I just knew it.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I walked toward the gym exit, with Apple trotting at my side. Liam followed us. <We’re screwed, Apple. We’re beyond screwed—I’m going to die painfully when Liam squeezes the information out of me with some medieval torture device he’ll have bought off that creepy sales guy, who I think might be following us—>
<Whoa, creepy sales guy. You don’t say.>
<Apple, I’m serious! I can’t lie—>
<Yeah, well you’re going to have to so suck it up—>
I turned to Apple, who was balancing on a metal beam that had fallen some time during my fight with Dustin and Tali. <I suck at lying, Apple! You’re always telling me I can’t lie for my life and now our lives are at stake!>
<Well, you got us into this. If you weren’t prepared to lie, you shouldn’t have promised Liam info in exchange for helping you beat the twins.> Apple jumped off of the beam and wagged her tail at me, not bothering to look back.
<Oh no, you don’t! You’re not going to put this all on me, Apple. We made the decision to stay with Erin and pretend everything was perfectly la-dee-da together. Just because I took advantage of the situation—>
<It’d only be an advantage if you’d actually prepared a lie.>
We reached the revolving doors. <Sometimes I understand why Liam wants to mangle you…> I pushed the door. It didn’t budge.
“What the…?” A Slaking was slumped between the glass doors, preventing the doors from moving. I tapped on the glass. “Hey!” The Slaking didn’t move.
Suddenly, an Aipom dropped from the top of the doorway, hanging by its from the low ceiling above the revolving doors. I stumbled backwards in surprise, tripped over a piece of crumbled tile, and fell on my butt next to where Liam was standing.
Liam looked down at me and raised an eyebrow.
“You could’ve stopped me from falling,” I muttered, picking myself up. I marched back to the Aipom and pointed my finger at in the Pokemon’s face, but not too close. My neighbor once had an Aipom that bit. “Now just what do you think you’re doing? And what’s with the Slaking?”
The Aipom swung back and forth, giggling. <Why is this trainer asking me? It’s not like she can understand. We just have to wait until she tries to leave to attack—>
“What do you mean attack?” I asked, alarmed.
<You can understand me?>
<Yes.> I made my voice boom in the Aipom’s head. <I’m a psychic. Now get your lazy friend out of the doorway before I get mad and blow you to bits with my mad psychic abilities.>
Apple snickered and didn’t even flinch.
<Sorry, we have strict orders to not let you leave until you clean up the gym, and even then, only if we get a call saying Dustin won’t be making it back to the gym today. Hmm, well, that explains why Dustin left Visio.>
Something wet wrapped around my arm. A wet, red tongue. With my eyes, I traced the tongue back to its user. A Kecleon gapped at me. Standing next to the Kecleon was Dustin’s Zangoose, who’d cut Apple’s fur. For some reason the Zangoose kept hitting the Kecleon over the head with his claw.
“Okay, now I’m really confused.”
“It’s quite simple,” Liam drawled. *******. “Clearly, these Pokemon are preventing us from exiting the gym. Dustin’s Zangoose is hitting Kecleon with a pursuit attack to change Kecleon’s type to dark and in turn, prevent you from using your psychic gift.”
He deduced that fromthis? “Well, don’t just stand there. Attack! Apple, use iron tail! And Liam, uh, kick them or something.”
Liam looked at me like something was sprouting from my head. “I’m not a Pokemon.”
Apple lunged. The Kecleon’s tongue wrapped around me and I was suddenly spinning, the Kecleon pulling me. I hit the Pokemon’s body with a thud, wrapped in several slimy layers of tongue. Gross.
Apple halted her attack, her tail lit and poised above her head, ready to strike, but unable to do so without hitting me.
“Let me go,” I demanded, trying to wriggle free.
Liam looked from Apple to me to the door blocked by the Slaking impassively. He nodded. “We’ll clean up.”
The glow in Apple’s tail faded. “Hey, no we won’t! This is Snubull crap—”
I was spinning again and heard the Aipom screeching something. Then I found myself flung on the floor, dizzy. I got to my feet unsteadily.
My pack hung from the tip of the Kecleon’s tongue.
<So, you’ll clean up or else Visio here will eat your pack and Pokeballs,> the Aipom said, waving a hand at me. Maybe I could smash his purple head into the ceiling with a barrier or hack off a few fingers—
<Anita, that’d be a bad idea,> Apple said. <I’m with Liam. You guys should clean up the gym.>
<I wouldn’t really hurt him… And you only want us to clean ‘cause you won’t have to do anything with your lack of opposable thumbs.> I swiveled around, turning my back on Dustin’s Pokemon. I bent over to pick up a piece of floor dislodged sometime during the battle. I paused as my fingers skimmed the smooth ceramic surface. <You know, Splash is still in the ventilation system. With his help, we could probably take on these guys—>
<So you’re willing to sacrifice our plan to survive—your plan to ensure I live—to get out of cleaning.> Apple actually sounded upset.
<No. I mean, that’s not how it is. It’s…> I picked up the displaced floor piece. <See, I’m cleaning.>
I returned the floor chunk to the hole it’d been initially dislodged from. The piece fit into the floor, but there were small chunks missing around the piece’s edges and the cracks surrounding the piece clearly weren’t going to go away. Nothing we could do about that. I tried to recall when the floor had broken during the battle, but couldn’t. “This is pointless,” I muttered. My stomach growled.
Liam and I worked in silence, replacing floor pieces and repairing the bleachers. Dustin’s Zangoose showed us the cabinet full of screws, bolts, nails, hammers—all sorts of supplies were offered, though Dustin’s Pokemon never offered to actually help. Bums.
I eyed Liam from time to time, surprised he was going along with the cleanup and even more surprised he hadn’t taken the opportunity to interrogate me. At least it gave me time to think.
I could probably get away with telling half-truths for now. I didn’t really know how much Liam knew—enough to suspect my Pokemon, but not enough to just try to take them already? Then there was what Celebi had told Apple, that she was being tracked… but who knew if that was true. Just in case, half-truths would work best. Plus anything unanswered, I could say I’d tell him after the battle, and hopefully after the battle, this whole mess would be sorted out.
I almost hit my thumb with the hammer. I looked up from the bleacher support beam I’d been trying to unbend.
Liam had pushed the platform Dustin and Tali typically stood on back, revealing a staircase leading downwards. I didn’t remember that being there when I looked through the blueprints of gym.
“Hungry? There’s food down here.” Liam gestured to the staircase.
<Why is Liam being nice?> I asked Apple suspiciously.
<Well, either an alien ate his brain or he wants to question you away from Dustin’s surveillance system.> Apple pointed her tail at Dustin’s Zangoose, who was going at Kecleon’s head with scissors and a comb, possibly trying to cut the spikes on Kecleon’s head into a mohawk.
<Some surveillance.> I nodded to Liam. “Yeah, but you’re paying. My money’s in my pack.”
I put down the hammer on the bleachers and followed Liam down the stairs, Apple trotting behind me. How did Liam know there was a staircase under the platform anyway?
The basement was a small room with a table that sat four, a vending machine, and a bar. The room’s floor and walls was covered in fuzzy white carpeting that made me want to take my shoes off and rub my toes in. “Fancy,” I said.
Apple rubbed her face against one of the carpeted walls. <Mmmm, fuzzy.> She peeked an eye open at me. <You sure you want me around. I mean, look at this romantic tone and you’ve already got him paying for food…>
<I don’t know how you can make sick jokes like that at a time like this, Apple. And, not that I would ever date Liam, but if I were to go on any freakin’ date I’d pay for my own freakin’ food.>
<Unless your pack was dangling from the tongue of a Kecleon with a Mohawk.>
I must’ve had a weird look on my face because Liam was looking at me oddly. “What?” I snapped.
Liam walked around the bar and bent down. “I don’t see a surveillance system, but your discretion would be appreciated as a precaution,” he said. I leaned over the bar counter and saw he was looking through a mini-fridge.
Liam plopped two sandwiches on the counter.
“What’s in those?” I asked.
“Vegetables. Maybe cheese. Tali’s a vegetarian.”
“How’d you know about this place?”
Liam shrugged, picked up his sandwich, and walked around the bar counter. He sat down at the small wooden table. I joined him, taking a bite of my sandwich before I even reached the table. It tasted better than it probably was because I was hungry. “So yesterday you mentioned finding her in Melonbi Town,” Liam said.
I took another large bite of my sandwich, annoyed. He never answered my questions, but I always had to answer his. So not fair. I swallowed. “Yup. That’s where I first encountered… her.”
“And when was this?”
“My birthday. July 2nd.”
“Describe the encounter.”
I looked around the room, looking for the invisible surveillance Liam was worried about. How the hell was I supposed to tell him about Mew without actually describing Mew?
“Well, I saw her about halfway to Azul City. She looked kinda like a Whooper at first…” Was that discrete enough?
“Did she say anything to you?”
I remembered Apple complaining about the rain. “Complained about the weather.” Liam was looking at me expectantly. Guess I needed something better than that. What else did we talk about? “And she asked about Team Glop’emm.”
“What about Team Glop’emm?”
“Can’t say that here. That’s all you’re getting for now. I need something to make you battle with me besides whatever secret Dustin’s holding over your head,” I said, remembering Dustin’s words when Liam seemed unwilling to partner up with me.
Liam snickered dismissively.
“If that secret’s so not important to you, then tell me.”
“That’d be no fun.” Liam chewed thoughtfully. “Have you had any more encounters with her?”
“I’m not telling you anything else until after the battle.”
“You’ve told me virtually nothing I didn’t already know. Any more encounters?” Liam demanded.
“Not while looking like… her,” I said carefully. I’d already told Liam I was involved with Mew. “Sometimes I run errands for her that she can’t accomplish herself.” Like paying for hotdogs. “But that’s all your getting for now, got it? I don’t need you running off to find and kill Mew before we battle Dustin and Tali.” Damn, the way I said that sounded cruel, like I cared nothing about what happened to Mew.
<And that’s a good thing,> Apple said. Liam frowned at me, as I gave Apple half of my sandwich.
“Alright,” he agreed. “We can leave it at that until after the battle.”
I felt uneasy. Was he convinced?
We ate the rest of the meal in silence.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Jamie Arkle, meet your new cellmate.” Damned officers. Damned gym leaders. I was so close, and then that mukhead Normal gym leader arrested me. Oh, and let’s not forget Liam Mendol, the little genius Master running circles around the psychic girl. Mendol had something to do with my arrest, I just knew it. I shouldn’t have gloated to his uncle. No, I couldn’t afford to underestimate the kid again—tattling to the other gym leaders like that, what a coward.
The metal door groaned as my jail cell was opened. I sat up on my stiff bed as a man was shoved forward into the cell and the door was slammed shut behind him.
The man had a body of a forty year old, but a face that could have been twenty years older. He was balding, but the grey hair he had was long and scraggly. If it weren’t for his large bifocal glasses, I’d have guessed he was some hobo snatched off the streets.
I could break his glasses and use the sharp edge to cut his face up. How would the officers react?
“Was never told about this…” the man mumbled, tugging at the sleeves of the plain grey jumpsuit provided for prisoners. He blinked at me with wide, grey eyes, as if startled I was in the cell with him. “Who are you?”
“Jamie Arkle, arrested for being the Master of Team Glop’emm. And you?”
“Bert Hastings… Seth Hastings, who knows any more?” Hastings looked around the cell. “I don’t suppose they provide pencils and paper?”
“Bored already?” I’m sure if he asked the guard, they’d give it to him. Pencils, those had some real possibilities. Stab out an eye or pierce a finger. “What were you arrested for?” I asked.
“I need to keep writing poems. She said I’d get my son back if I kept writing.” Ah, so we had an incorrectly sorted prisoner. This one belonged in the loony bin. Hastings looked under the second bed in the cell and then sat down on it. “I am suspected of abusing and knowing where to locate Liam Mendol.”
That stopped me in my tracks. He knew Mendol? And had possibly abused him? He might be my new hero. “So did you do it?”
“I’ve only met Liam once, many years ago, or maybe not so many. It’s hard to say.”
“Tell me what you know of Mendol.”
“Oh, it’s hard to say how much I may—for she’ll punish me without delay.” The man grinned widely. “Now there’s a useless poem. Most are though. Useless, I mean. None ever brought my son back, or sent my sweet Abetzi to me.”
Nonsense again. “Tell me what you know of Mendol or I’ll tear that big nose off your face and stuff it—”
“You’re quite excitable, aren’t you? Yes, the Mendols aren’t affected by psychics, that much I can say.”
“You know about the gift?”
“No, I studied ancient Pokemon.” Would killing this fool increase security around my cell? The man looked me up and down, as if weighing something in his mind. “I suppose it could be considered a gift, a gift given by the earliest Pokemon, perhaps. Or maybe just good blood. I studied his blood, you know, down to the very DNA. There’s technology for that today.”
Though clearly insane, the man seemed educated enough. Perhaps he was once a scientist. Knowledge of Mendol’s blood and ancient Pokemon could be useful… “I guess you’ll have to come with me,” I said, lying back down.
“Come with you? Where?”
“Well, I certainly don’t intend to stay here. Now, neither do you.”
December 29th, 2011 (7:56 PM).
Ha, I was finally able to catch up with your story. So far so good, the only thing I noticed was that Liam somehow knew that the Pokemon wanted them to clean up with out anything being said to him other than Anita being attacked.
Melonbi Middle School
I see what you did there. :3
February 6th, 2012 (10:10 PM).
Thanks for the review quilzel! And Liam was able to deduce that the Pokemon wanted them to clean up from both the scene and knowing Dustin better than Anita.
Thank you to my readers!
Previously on An Apple a Day
Styx hired Erin to research Celebi.
Anita and Liam beat the Artemis Town prelim. Dustin is hurt and has to go to the hospital. He brings his posse. Dustin leaves his Pokemon behind to ensure Anita and Liam don’t leave he gym as well as make them clean up the damage done to the gym during the prelim.
Mel and Scary continue to read Professor Hastings’ (Mel’s father) journal:
Professor Hastings was taken back in time 15,000 years by Celebi. Hastings comes across a clan of people who worship Celebi who call themselves the Shiftry Clan. The clan uses a Gengar to immobilize a bear so it can be killed. Professor Hastings fights and catches the Gengar (Scary). The clan's "witch," Abetzi, is able to communicate to Hastings through Scary that the clan's land has been destroyed multiple times by Mew. The clan takes Professor Hastings' arrival as a sign that the clan will soon get their revenge for Mew's destruction.
Over a year later, Hastings has fallen in love with Abetzi, and she’s pregnant. Abetzi, ghost-gifted, has the ability to see how living creatures can be killed. Celebi has her watch the clan’s attempt to kill Mew as she gives birth to a baby. Hastings hears her say, “Divide the ashes, necessary… to kill—"
Celebi takes Hastings and the baby back to Hastings’ present.
Meanwhile, Seth Hastings has been put in the same jail cell as Jamie Arkle, the assistant to the Master. Hastings is suspected of child abuse and withholding information about the whereabouts of Liam Mendol. Jamie plans to escape with Hastings.
April 16th, 2012 (10:36 PM).
Chapter 42: (Act 3) Time
June 11th, 2012 (3:18 PM).
Previously on An Apple a Day:
Styx, the normal gym leader's strange-powered girlfriend, tries and fails to help Anita break Liam's Forced Transformation Device. Anita achieves this herself, making Liam furious. Anita manages to convince Liam to battle the the normal-typed gym leader twins. In exchange, she will tell Liam everything she knows about the whereabouts and habits of Mew. During the gym battle, Anita manages to deceive everyone watching into believing Apple evolved into Umbreon, thus proving Apple's 'innocence' of being Mew.
Several miles away in Drape Town, the tracking device picked up Apple's transformation. However, a Team Glop'emm grunt, presumably paid off, broke the machine as soon as it emitted this information.
Both Jamie Arkle, assistant to the Master, and Seth Hastings, Mel's father who traveled back in time, were jailed and happen to share a cell. Jamie Arkle was thrown in jail as a suspect for leading Team Glop'emm. Seth Hastings was accused of child abuse and withholding information on the dark gym leader's location. They are being held in Zahavah City, home of the psychic gym leader, Tamara Lilac. Tamara is being partially held hostage by Liam's Spiritomb, who prevents her from telepathically showing anyone else Liam's face or doing anything that might endanger his trainer.
Meanwhile, after the gym battle, Celebi takes Liam back in time to rescue his cousin Landon from certain death. Celebi forces Liam to return to his own time without Landon; Landon is left under the care of Seth Hastings. Liam also leaves Rita Teal's Ditto, Sticky, back in time so Sticky may pretend to be a dead Landon washed ashore.
Anita and Erin see the green light emitted from the Artemis Town Pokemon Center from Liam time traveling.
The Master requests a new Forced Transformation Device from Rita Teal. However, as soon as she gets off the walkie-talkie with him, he appears on Team Glop'emm's doorstep...
Chapter 43: Break Away
August 21st, 2012 (4:38 PM).
Previously on An Apple a Day:
Reece and Carly were rewarded for helping Jamie Arkle in Nelcorn City. Reece's reward was a Gallade and Carly's reward was to be in a Cereal City catwalk.
While reviewing security footage Tamara Lilac, the psychic gym leader of Zahavah City, discovers a plot created by Jamie Arkle and implemented by Reece.
After traveling back in time and rescuing his cousin, Landon, Liam is forced by Celebi to return to his own time. Liam is determined to find Landon and leaves Artemis Town. He goes to Zahavah City to interrogate Professor Hastings, the man Landon was left with, but is unable to gain any information. Liam decides to return to Drape Town, where he can utilize the resources of Team Glop'emm.
Meanwhile Erin, Dustin, Styx, and Anita have a nice long chat about what exactly Anita is up to. She claims to be "running errands" for Mew. It is discovered that Styx is a Ditto. Dustin receives a psychic call from Tamara- Cereal City is under attack.