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I've realised I should probably add in a warning right about here, that there's gonna be strong language and violence later on. So uh, this is a fifteen plus kinda story.
Chapter One: Jailbreak
The clouds were thick and grey, they blotted out the sky. Rain poured from them in torrents, preventing the concrete ground from drying at all. Talia watched from her window the streets of Castelia city below, and listened to the drumming of the raindrops, and occasional rumble of thunder. She sat on her wide window-seat, looking through the glass and towards the docks. She lived in a two-floor penthouse and it afforded her a stunning view of the harbour below. Recently, a grand cruise liner named the ‘S.S. Anne’ had docked along one of the piers. It was to stay for a week or so, and this meant that foreign trainers from many lands filled the city.
Talia sighed, noticing a trainer running back towards the ship with a ludicolo prancing happily alongside. She was sixteen. She hadn’t been allowed to become a trainer. ‘Far too dangerous’, her father had said. Talia was desperately sick of the confines of Castelia city. However large it may have been, it was still like a prison – when Talia walked amongst the high-rises they seemed to trap and confine her.
She shook herself, took another glance out of the window and then grabbed a coat from her wardrobe.
“I’m going to the café, I’ll be eating there tonight,” she called as she left the apartment. She didn’t wait for an answer.
Talia had been working at Café Sonata part-time for about a year now. The owner Joe, a man in his late thirties with long brown hair and dark stubble along his jaw, was happy for trainers to bring pokémon in with them and this had been what sparked Talia’s interest. Consequently, she spent a lot of time there even if she wasn’t working.
As she entered, Joe waved from behind the counter and beckoned her over.
“Hey, Tal.” Joe had a gravelly voice. “I know you’re not meant to be workin’ tonight, but Shaun called in sick. You mind pickin’ up a shift? I’ll pay you for overtime.”
She smiled. “That’s okay, Joe. I’ll work for normal rate.” She paused as she ducked behind the counter to pick up a spare apron and pad. “Busy tonight with the S.S. Anne in port?”
“Some of the more curious lot who came on the ship been comin’ in. But a lot o’the locals and other Unovans been invited to a big party they’re throwin’ on board. They’re doin’ it for the next couple of nights too.”
Their conversation broke as a group of three happy, and somewhat damp, looking trainers wandered in, chattering excitedly, with a pignite walking behind them and a pidove perched on one of their shoulders. Talia smiled as the bird Pokémon shook the water from its feathers – causing a disgruntled sound from its trainer and laughter from the trainer’s friends. She took their orders, and served them. She couldn’t help but notice how the pidove’s trainer, a girl younger than Talia, would occasionally drift out of the conversation to pet it – or simply watch it as it antagonised the pignite (by hopping back and forth from its head and shoulder).
“Tal! Order up!” Joe called. “Tal!”
Talia shook herself out of her reverie and took the order to its table. Joe noticed her unconsciously fingering a rectangular shape in one of her pockets as she returned.
He raised an eyebrow, in question. “Trainer card?”
Talia shrugged, with a half-smile. “Anyone can get one.” She sighed.
Talia stretched and arched her back: the trip over Skyarrow Bridge to Wellspring Cave wasn’t an especially long one, but the school’s coach was cramped and had little leg room.
The trip was intended as both biological and geological – they were going to do a study on the cave’s indigenous wildlife and its rock formations.
“Yay. Rocks,” a friend muttered sarcastically, behind her.
“I hope we see some rock-types. Interesting ones, not just roggenrola,” Talia replied.
Another classmate added, “We’ll be lucky to see a sleeping woobat, probably.”
A few people chuckled at this, but Talia just frowned. As they were organised into groups, she turned on her camera, and flicked through a few photos. There weren’t many, and they were mainly shots of pokémon that had come into the café or that she had seen sparsely throughout the city. She double-checked that she had memory left to take more, and then that she had her spare memory card, as they proceeded to walk – group by group – into the cave.
Talia quickly lost interest in whatever it was their teacher was saying. She found herself peering into the darkness, her eyes searching. They were in a small cavern when Talia noticed something dart out of sight, down a dark crevice. She quickly checked ahead, she was at the back of the line and everyone was filing out into a narrow tunnel, their teacher had already gone through. Talia made an impulsive decision, darting after the blur she had just seen.
Talia could hear the flitting of wings, but see very little. After a minute or so, she heard more sounds echoing ahead and the darkness began to recede.
Must’ve looped back round to the group, she cursed.
She kept moving ahead, regardless and when she had broken out of the dimness completely, she could hear the voices quite clearly. Not those of her classmates; they were threatening someone.
“Hand them over and we won’t-”
“Wait! You hear that, Frank?”
Talia quickly ducked behind a large nearby rock formation. It sounded like two grown men.
Frank sighed. “Probably just a drilbur. Can we get on with this? He ain’t gonna give them up.” There was silence, but apparently Frank’s companion had assented non-verbally due the sounds of a scuffle Talia could hear, and another voice crying out.
“Just leave ‘im here. Let’s run.”
The sounds of running luckily faded away, but Talia still waited for a few moments before acting. Moving from behind the rock formation she scanned the cavern she had entered. Lying unmoving on the ground, half in a pool of water, was a thin and young-looking man. A pair of damaged and bent glasses had fallen on the ground next to him, he was wearing a shirt with pens tucked into the breast pocket and a clipboard had also fallen to his side. He had a black eye, and another prominent bruise along his jaw. She gently pulled the man out of the water, removing a satchel still slung over his shoulder and rested him in the recovery position. Talia picked up the clipboard; attached to it were some kind of research notes on gems and precious stones that were possible to find in the cave. Talia started to search the satchel for a trainer card or some kind of identification and found it had clearly been rifled through. It contained more of the same papers as well as a few other things: an Ultra Ball for one, which Talia was fingering when she heard a scuffling noise behind her.
A drilbur was glaring at her, and the small pokémon looked angry. It immediately began to spray dried mud in Talia’s face, causing her to close her eyes, splutter and cough. Unthinkingly, Talia tossed the sphere in her hand towards the creature and she blinkingly opened her eyes upon realising the attack had stopped. The Ultra Ball was rocking from side to side, and then stopped. It was glittering slightly, with a red glow at its centre. Talia’s eyes widened in surprise; she had just caught a pokémon.
She shook her head: now is not the time. She resumed her search of the bag and found in a side pocket what she was looking for, and something else. A ticket printed on gold-coloured paper with the prominent words ‘S.S. Anne’ on it and below this, ‘Passage for One Person from Castelia City in Unova to Olivine City in Johto’. Thoughts raced through her mind. She looked from the ticket to the unconscious man next to her. She bit her lip, hard.
Pocketing the ticket, the man’s trainer card in hand, she darted off for help.
The case lay on her bed, almost overflowing with clothes. Talia glanced at the money in her hands. It was as much as she could withdraw at once: five-hundred. Barely enough. She put a few notes in her purse and the rest in a small safe-box which she then stuffed into a rucksack – which was also almost as full as it could be.
Glancing over at the docks through her window, Talia caught a glimpse of her reflection in the glass. She was wearing her most bulky clothes, to try and save room, and subsequently she looked deceptively bulkier herself. Her bright pink hair was pulled back into a short ponytail, and a side-fringe swept across her face from the right. Roots are showing, she noted to herself as she eyed the blonde starting to appear again. She moved closer to the window, to look at the ship in port. She clenched a fist, squared her shoulders, and turned around.
There was no one to call goodbye to, or have to lie to, because her parents were out for the evening. Talia didn’t look back as she wheeled her suitcase out of the door.
The rain wasn’t heavy, there was just a fine sprinkling overhead. There were a couple of other trainers just ahead of Talia, also boarding the ship. Her palms were sweating as she gripped the case’s handle. She slowly ascended the gangplank, to be greeted by a woman in a crisp, white uniform with a wide smile that was decorated by bright red lipstick.
“Welcome aboard the S.S. Anne!” She was exceptionally perky. “May I see your ticket please?” Talia pulled out the ticket, surprising herself at how calmly she could. The woman looked it over, tapped a few times on tablet computer she held. “Your room is two-zero-nine. I hope you enjoy your travel with us today!” The woman handed the ticket back, and Talia returned her smile, somewhat nervously.
Unconsciously taking a deep breath, Talia stepped forward.
Chapter Two: Game Changer
The ship was certainly grand, and Talia took to exploring as soon as she’d left her luggage in her room. The top deck appeared dedicated almost entirely to battling. There were on-board nurses along with a rotund pink Pokémon (was it called a chansey? Talia couldn’t remember) to heal injuries, and a few vendors that sold the usual trainer supplies. Inside, there were a few small battle rooms, but towards the ship’s bow were a couple of large open-air battle spaces. Talia excitedly hurried over to watch a match that was just beginning.
A younger boy was facing off against a young man, who was smartly dressed in white trousers and a white shirt, with a light brown ascot around his neck. He delicately tossed a Luxury Ball in the air, and a delcatty was released in a shower of golden stars and deep red hearts. At the same time, the boy opposite released his pokémon, a male frillish. It hovered in place, and trilled happily at its opponent.
The boy pointed melodramatically at his opponent, whilst clenching one fist, and shouted, “Ha! You’ve got no chance with a delcatty! Quickly Nightmare, bubblebeam!”
“I’m unsure if his enthusiasm is charming or irritating,” muttered a red-haired woman who’d stood next Talia to watch.
The frillish opened its mouth and light blue bubbles burst forth. The first few caught the delcatty, but it managed to nimbly dodge out of the way of most of the stream, and its ghost type opponent seemed too slow to catch it – turning hopelessly and releasing further beams.
The rain had become a touch heavier since the match had begun: the smartly dressed man turned his palm upwards, looking at the clouds overhead with a smile.
“Duchess,” he sounded smug as he spoke, “Thunder.”
The delcatty’s fur stood on end as its body crackled with the electric energy, sparks lanced along its body as it leapt towards its foe and unleashed a mighty bolt of yellow lightning. The frillish’s body jerked straight before it quickly fell to the ground. Tendrils of smoke curled away into the air from its prostrate form. It did not move again, and its trainer recalled it before scurrying away.
Talia stood agape.
“You seem amazed.” It was the red-haired woman.
“Most of the battles I actually get to watch are televised. Even then they don’t usually finish so quickly.”
“Clever move on the winner’s part.” The woman stopped speaking to take a drink from a water bottle, and Talia managed a better look at her. Her hair was very long and more of a deep-red than actual ginger. “Still, the kid he challenged was a rookie. That frillish was a low-leveled one. Bit of an unfair fight.” She paused again, seemingly scrutinising Talia. “You a trainer?”
“Yes!” Talia replied, a little too quickly. “Just starting out.” she added, with a nervous smile.
“Going outside of your home region?” Talia nodded. “Brave.” She paused, looking out across the water. “Saying that, I haven’t been back to Hoenn in a long time. Not that it would be wise for me to go back...” She snapped up somewhat suddenly. “Uh, ex-boyfriend issues. Sorry.”
After a short pause, their conversation continued and the amicable small talk put Talia at ease. The woman informed Talia that her name was Chelle.
“So, Talia. Have you had your first battle yet?”
Talia shook her head. “I’ve only had this drilbur for a little while.”
“Hmm.” Chelle grinned. “Come on then, I’ll play Blue to your Red.”
“What? Like in boxing?”
“Unovans…” Chelle muttered. “Never mind, let’s just battle.”
The Ultra Ball felt heavy in Talia’s sweaty palm. She warily tossed it in the air, and when the white light receded the drilbur eyed her suspiciously.
She shrugged and attempted to smile at it. “Ready for battle?”
The pokémon released a huff of sand in her direction, but then turned around and looked almost eager.
Chelle raised an eyebrow in question. “Ready?” Talia nodded. “Alright, then. Just caught this guy, so we should be on even footing, unless you’re disgustingly strong already!” As she spoke, she released an eager looking scraggy onto the battlefield. “Low Kick!”
Talia almost spoke a counter-command then stopped. I don’t know his moves. I don’t know his moves. Sh*t.
Luckily, the drilbur had more wherewithal than its trainer at that moment and had the sense to jump out of the way of the foot quickly approaching it.
What do I do? Talia was panicking.
“Low Kick again!”
The scraggy prepared to attack again. What do I- Wait!
The drilbur extended a claw and globs of mud sprayed in the face of its opponent. The scraggy spluttered and stopped its attack. Without awaiting command, the drilbur then began to spin quickly, claws glowing silver-white. The rapidly rotating pokémon slammed into its opponent, causing the scraggy to cry out.
Talia found herself grinning, and wanting to cheer on her pokémon. My pokémon.
“Faint Attack, now!”
Talia felt her heart sink as she watched the scraggy stumble away from her spinning drilbur, and disappear. The ground type stopped spinning and looked from side to side, growling. The scraggy appeared behind and above the drilbur’s head and collided with it, feet-first, making a dull thump. Taking advantage of its now dazed opponent, the scraggy aimed another Low Kick at it. The drilbur toppled backwards. Both Chelle and her pokémon remained still, waiting. She began to smile, and Talia was about to recall her pokémon, when she noticed a small twitch of a claw and barely perceptible flicker of the eye.
Heart beating quickly, her face almost cracked in two with a confident smile, Talia shouted her command. “Rapid Spin!”
Chelle’s eyes widened and the ground type spun towards her pokémon and knocked it off its feet. The drilbur stopped spinning, hopping back onto its feet and breathing heavily, but eyeing the scraggy with a wicked glint in its eye.
Talia was almost jumping, thrilled by the adrenalin rush. Time seemed to slow, her breaths were short. Claws. “Scratch!”
The drilbur raised its long claws over the scraggy, ready to strike.
The scraggy suddenly snapped up, famously hard heard colliding squarely with the drilbur’s abdomen. The ground type wailed pitifully as it slid across the deck, towards Chelle’s feet. Talia felt a crushing feeling in her chest. She waited a second or so, but it was clear her pokémon wasn’t getting up this time. She recalled the drilbur.
Talia was utterly disappointed, but then she noticed Chelle grinning at her.
“Good match! Not that I expected to lose.”
“It was a good comeback. You’ve got a little fighter there, for sure!” One of the on-board nurses , a woman with pinker hair than Talia (that didn’t appear to have any roots, but people don’t have naturally pink hair...), had seen their match earlier.
“If I’d been training longer-” Talia began.
“You still wouldn’t have beaten me.” Chelle finished. “Shame you’re too young to drink, you could probably have used one after your thrashing,” she teased, prompting Talia to stick out her tongue. “How’s your cocktail, Alanah?”
“Very strong…” the nurse replied, taking another sip. “I’m suddenly glad I’m not on duty tomorrow. Was it Johto you were both-”
“Ooh, it’s starting!” Talia interrupted.
The lights dimmed, and the low lights of faux-candles on the tables of the audience cast a somewhat eerie illumination underneath everyone’s faces.
A voice rattled out of the speakers hidden around the room, “The S.S. Anne presents, for your entertainment, a man known as the Human Hypno, the Great Mesmeraldo!”
“Thank you for the introduction! Ah, but where are my manners? You can’t see me yet, of course!” A plume of smoke and sparkles erupted centre stage and revealed man’s form upon receding, to much applause and sounds of wonderment. He was tall, and dressed in a purple felt suit, that had shiny (gaudy, one might say) silver stars affixed to it here and there.
“I’m going to need a stronger drink aren’t I?” Chelle muttered.
“I can assure you, dear audience, that you are in for a night of much wonderment and amazement!” he began. Then his face suddenly soured, contorting to an ugly sneer. “Ugh. I really can’t be bothered.”
Some chuckled at this, considering it part of the act. This caused the ugly sneer to turn to a wretched smile. The man snapped his fingers and, without fanfare, he was suddenly surrounded by pokémon. Talia recognised the pokémon from news reports, and studies in school. Six drowzee and a hypno. Talia understood the sounds of horror she could hear, and felt someone grab her arm, she assumed it was Chelle.
But it was no use. The man spoke another word, and his voice didn’t sound human, nor did it sound like a single voice any more. More like eight.
The word was, “Sleep.”
Chelle awoke to a severe, sharp headache. The pain seemed to pierce like a needle through the front of her skull and out of the back. She was thankful for the pain fading quickly. The room she was in was vaguely familiar; it was a passenger’s cabin – somewhat similar to her own. She noticed that she was a lot colder than when she blacked out, and realised that her midriff was exposed. She was wearing a black–
She shot across the room to its mirror. Her face paled. Black tube top, denim half-vest, jeans… And a blue bandana with the insignia of Team Aqua emblazoned upon it. Someone had stuck a name tag to the vest that said, ‘Hi, I’m Shelly!’ She tore it off, and pulled off the bandana – throwing it viciously to one side.
Her breathing became ragged gasps. F*ck. They’ve found me. She began to pull on her hair, she could feel tears forming. Why would they do this?
Wait.She straightened up, brow furrowing as she watched herself in the mirror. Why would they? This is the police… I’d be in a cell. And there was that hypnotist. But what if…
She shook her head and closed her eyes, attempted to slow her breathing.
No… This is someone else’s game. She eyed the discarded bandana, with that damned stylised ‘A’ leering at her. They know who I am. They have a hypno…
I don’t want to play.