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Bug Catcher Breeze (sorry, I don't know how to add the cool little heart and star, lol), thank you so much for reviewing! I really appreciate the depth you put into the review, and I will be sure to address your suggestions when I revisit those first few chapters. Seriously, thank you- you don't know how nice it feels to finally get a review here. I hope you do get around to reading the rest. As for rushing the story, well, I started it almost two years ago and have been posting just about every month. That is a pace I plan to continue with because it allows me enough time to write and revise while keeping on a set schedule.
Anyway, next chapter:
Chapter 25: Establishing Chaos
The roof gleamed black and reflective, like a shiny new Mercedes in the sun. Layers upon layers of beautiful dusty stone held up the roof, giant cracks running along the stone layers like battle scars. I wanted to reach out and touch—
“Anita, you’re staring at it again,” Erin said dryly.
“Mmmhm…” I answered. Soon I would be there…
Erin turned to Liam. “I think we’ve lost her. Maybe when we reach the lab and it’s out of sight we’ll be able to have an actual conversation…”
My head snapped around. “We’re not going to the gym first?! Of course we’re going to the gym first! We have to go to the gym first!!”
“You’re a moron,” Liam stated.
I would have glared, but there were more important matters to attend to—going to the gym NOW, for instance.
Erin sighed. “Anita, we talked about this ten minutes ago. You mumbled in agreement to everything we said! And I quote, ‘So, Anita, we’ll go to Professor Blubber’s lab today and tomorrow you can challenge the gym leader?’ ‘Sure, Erin, sound’s good.’”
<Did I actually say that?> I asked Apple.
<You mumbled something in response. I suppose it could be interpreted that way. Mumble is a difficult language to translate, it’s so often mixed up with murmur and mutter…>
“You also said, and I quote, ‘Mel deserves a piggyback ride. I think I’ll give him one because he’s such an amazing ghost!’” Mel grinned at me happily.
“Shut up, you can float if you want.”
“If everyone is through quoting Anita, I think you’d like to notice that we are currently traveling in the wrong direction. Erin, you said we wanted to turn back there.” Liam pointed out. Darn him, why did he always ruin my plans. It was too late to shove my elbow into his gut to get him to close his pie hole…
<You couldn’t hit him if you tried. Plus, they were obviously going to notice sooner or later that they were heading to the gym. But congratulations on making it a whole twenty feet in the wrong direction! I was convinced you would only make it ten.>
“Anita, come on!” Everyone had already turned around. Erin grabbed my hand, but I stood in place.
“Can’t we go to the gym first? Pleeeaase?” Yes, I resorted to begging.
Erin rolled her eyes. “Be serious. Let’s go.”
“Why don’t we take a vote,” I stubbornly replied. “All in favor of going to the gym first?” I raised my hand, and so did Mel. I smiled—finally there was someone else on my side! Erin crossed her arms and gave me her stop-it-because-I’m-done-playing look. “Look, I’ve gotta beat the gym as quickly as possible otherwise Jake is going to be ahead of me forever and he’s annoying and you don’t like him either so WHY don’t you agree with me?”
“This is not about Jake. I have data and samples I collected that need to get to the lab as soon as possible—”
“Here’s an idea,” Liam interrupted. “You go battle at the gym. We’ll deliver the samples.” He sharply turned on the ball of his foot and strode down the path toward the lab.
Erin looked at me questioningly. <Is she seriously not coming?> she thought hesitantly before giving me one last fleeting look and scurrying after Liam. I watched her go.
I didn’t mean to split us up…
<Then stop being so pea-headed and go after them!>
I turned around and walked towards the gym. I took bigger steps because the walk was uphill. Mel had to take twice as many to keep up.
<Anita, why are you doing this?> Apple asked.
I didn’t answer. If Erin and Liam did not want to watch my gym battle, that was fine by me. If they had more important things to be doing—
<They DO have more important things to do! Snap out of it, Anita! You know Erin and Liam… well, at least Erin… support you in everything you do! It’s about time you returned the favor!>
I had to avert my gaze from the gym as the sun glinted too brightly off of the roof. I was reminded of Liam’s stare—the way he always made me want to avert my eyes… but I would never give him the satisfaction…
<So this is about not giving Liam the satisfaction?! Satisfaction of what? Humans and their ridiculous emotions… At least I’ll get a good battle out of this.>
We reached the gym. Now I could see that the gym sat on the very tip of Cape Caution. Beyond the gym there was a cliff and then the endless ocean, sparkling in the sunlight. I angrily put my hand on the large metal doorknob, intending to slam the door open—only to be shocked, literally.
I yelped in surprise and quickly pulled my hand back. The door creaked open on its own accord, and I tentatively peaked inside. The room was pitch black.
“Cool!” Mel exclaimed and rushed inside before I could utter a warning, “Wait!” It was almost better to have Scary outside of his Pokeball at times like this. I had been ecstatic when I discovered Scary even had a Pokeball…
<Yeah, but Scary would only keep Mel from getting hurt, not from causing trouble. Stupid ghost helps Mel create problems,> Apple commented.
<You don’t seem to have any qualms when you’re the one causing problems,> I said sourly. <You just don’t like getting a taste of your own medicine.>
I walked in after the boy, and the door slammed shut behind me. I reached my mind out to sense for life-forms and felt Apple doing the same beside me. I could barely sense a wispy Mel because there was a life so bright—
Knives cut every inch of my body—not just my skin—but my gut, my lungs, my heart. My knees buckled. I could only think of the pain I was currently enduring—
And then it was gone. My breath came heavily and my mind was sluggish. Where was I? I heard a cackle, and for a moment, I thought Missy was playing an elaborate joke. Then I realized that Missy haunted Erin and Erin was not here and that cackle sounded nothing like Missy’s—
There it was again—it was too deep to be Missy’s, but it caused the hairs on my neck to prickle up in fear in a similar manner. Not the same, though. This cackle made the hairs stand up and stay up—the fear was not leaving any time soon.
A too-bright light was ahead of me. I couldn’t look at it—it was like the sun’s reflection on the roof—I was spinning—
“Welcome to the Cape Caution Gym,” a shrill voice seemed to scream. I covered my ears, but I could still hear the voice. “Please choose three Pokemon for battle and one for the prelim.”
A gym… brilliant light… the light reflecting off of the gym’s roof… knives… Pokemon… I couldn’t make sense of the images. My head felt heavy. I felt something tug at my belt…
<ANITA!> Ouch, too loud, too loud… There was more pressure on my head but it was better than the loudness. Cool roundness was in my hand.
“Good, you have chosen.” The voice was laughing. Maybe I was funny… now there were lots of dazzling sparkles… “Let the prelim begin.”
And all was dark.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“How do you see memories?” I asked Liam, breaking our silence.
“Excuse me?” Liam finally broke his angry stride. By angry stride, I mean in each step he used just a tad too much force, causing bits of dust to come up around his feet.
“You know—what point of view do you see your memories from? See, some people imagine themselves in their memories so the view is more third person, but other people remember their memories exactly how they were, which is obviously first person. Maybe some people do a combination. Like, they see recent memories from first person, but old memories from third person. Haven’t you ever had an old memory you kinda remember, but not really? Or a memory you’re only reminded of when someone else mentions it so it’s muddled and you sort of make up stuff to fill in the blanks? Which could be like third person…”
Usually by this time in a rant, the other person interrupts me out of annoyance. Unless that person is Anita, who often just dazes out. I looked at Liam expectantly. He was incredibly patient, I guess. Or evil and antisocial, if he wasn’t planning to answer.
We walked in silence for another two minutes.
Evil and antisocial and patient.
What a horrible combination.
“Are you going to answer me?”
Liam smirked. “Why would I when it’s so much more fun not to?”
“Oh, and is that why you never answer any of our personal questions? Because it’s more fun not to?!”
I jumped in front of Liam and pointed accusingly. Now I was walking backwards. “And when you do answer, you’re always exceedingly vague…or you just avoid the question altogether!”
Liam rolled his eyes.
I stopped walking, forcing Liam to stop as well. “Listen, buddy, you’re not the only one with a less than perfect past! But that does not give you the right to mope around and not answer questions that have nothing to do with the past!”
Liam watched emotionlessly through my lecture. Then, he asked, “Are you going to move?”
I crossed my arms. “Not until you answer.”
“Your question did have to do with the past.”
I threw up my arms in frustration, swerved around, and continued walking. “Not directly! Ugh, fine. What’s your favorite color?”
“Magenta,” Liam immediately answered.
I nodded. “Good, I’ll remember that for your birthday.”
“You don’t even know when my birthday is.”
“When is it?”
“Why would I tell you when you’re going to get me something magenta?” Liam gave me one of his rare, genuine half smiles.
I grinned and yelled, “I got you to smile!” In an instant, Liam was back to being Mr. Empty-face. I skipped around in circles bellowing, “I made Liam smile!” until Liam made a very inappropriate threat involving a dirty shoe we spotted on the side of the road, his broken bicycle, and my ass.
I was still laughing at Liam when a cold shiver ran up my spine. I stopped laughing abruptly, and Liam turned questioning eyes my way.
Ugh, not again…
I was sick of this Misdreavus. Why couldn’t Mel just have a Pokeball for her?
“Mehehehe,” Missy cackled. This had gone on too long—it was time to take care of this matter myself.
I waited for the unnerving cool breeze on the back of my neck that I knew would follow. Then—
“Griffy, crunch, behind me!” I released Griffy. There was no way Missy could move fast enough to avoid the attack and no way Missy could defend herself—ghost attacks would not affect Griffy.
Griffy’s tail bit down into what looked like was air, until Missy became visible in the tail’s mouth.
Before the Misdreavus could react, I threw an empty Pokeball at the Pokemon.
Missy’s eyes were wide in shock as she was sucked into the little ball. The Pokeball shook once… twice… and then was still. I smirked as I picked up the Pokeball.
“Who’s laughing now?” I whispered to the Pokeball before clipping it to my belt.
Liam snickered and started towards the lab again. Now laughing like Missy, I ran after the thoroughly annoyed teen.
It was not long before the red roof shingles of Cape Caution’s research laboratory were in view. Just as I expected, I heard Professor Blubber’s loud, bubbling voice before we even arrived at the lab. “Erin! Welcome back! How is my favorite assistant?”
Professor Blubber, messy grey hair and all, stood in front of the lab, his arms wide open in welcome.
I ran forward to hug the Professor—he was more than just my employer; he was a good friend of the family, practically an uncle. “I’m great, Professor!” I stepped back and gestured to Liam, who had caught up. “This is my friend, Liam. He researches Pokemon, too!”
Professor Blubber held out his hand and Liam took it. “It’s nice to meet you! Who do you do research for?”
I watched Liam curiously. At age thirteen, kids who wanted to become Pokemon researchers usually contacted a professor. If the professor saw fit, he or she would hire the kid to collect data from around Acceber or do lab experiments or fill out paperwork—basically whatever the professor needed. Liam had mentioned the lady he worked for when we first met, but I couldn’t remember her name…
“Professor Teal,” Liam answered. He shifted ever so slightly uneasily. As much as I wanted to trust Liam, there were times I almost understood Anita’s original absurd paranoia about him. Sometimes his body language indicated he might not be completely truthful… weird.
“Why, what a coincidence! I just heard from dear Rita for the first time in ages—that woman does keep herself busy. She seems to know more about Pokemon behavior than the rest of Acceber’s professors combined. She told me she was starting to dab into genetics—I’m not surprised. That woman is brilliant, and genetics is the newest, greatest research area. She asked me to do a bit of research for her myself, actually. I’ll show you once we get inside. Where is she these days? Rita never had a lab of her own; she was always moving about, going wherever her research took her.”
Liam shrugged. “Like you said, sir, she moves around a lot. Last I heard, she was in Cereal City.”
“No need to be so formal, lad. Just call me Professor Blubber, or Chris. ‘Sir’ makes me sound like a grandpa or something.” Professor Blubber chuckled and ruffled Liam’s hair. Liam grimaced and shook his head out when the professor wasn’t looking. I stifled a giggle. “So what sort of research does Rita have you doing?”
“A bit of DNA collecting, sometimes. Professor Teal wanted me to discover Acceber for myself. She instructed me to observe Pokemon behavior and how behavior alters in different environments. There’s not a lot of data to report; I’m sure she sent me on a journey to gain experience.” Another one of Liam’s characteristics that bothered me was how he often spoke fairly formally—especially when he was answering personal questions.
Professor Blubber nodded. “I’m honestly surprised to hear she’s sponsoring an assistant. Rita was always so absorbed in her work… and busy… and hard to keep up with. It was as if she was not in tune with the rest of the world. She must have a lot of confidence in you if she’s made you an assistant researcher.” The professor beamed at Liam for a moment. “You must have brains, boy.”
I snorted, and Professor Blubber grinned at me, his eyes twinkling. “Well, why are we still standing here? Come on inside!”
I sighed with contentment as Professor Blubber led us into the lab, burying my misgivings about Liam. The metallic-cheesy smell made me nostalgic of the days a few years ago I would come to the lab to watch the professor work. Of course, watching the professor was not my only incentive for coming to the lab.
I smiled as Professor Blubber waved us through the first room on the right.
As always, Professor Blubber took his guests to the kitchen first. The blue-tiled kitchen was just as spotless as when I had left. I sat down on the third wooden stool from the left—the seat I had always taken as a child—and ran my hand over the cold, smooth granite counter. The professor gestured for Liam to sit down and left the room.
“Where’s he going?” Liam asked.
“To bring us some of his home-made cheese and crackers. It’s seriously the best cheese ever, but Professor Blubber refuses to sell it. He says all cheese is meant to be eaten fresh, and selling it in packages would ruin his ‘cheese ethic’. He always gives a sample to visitors of the lab, though. When I was younger, I pretty much came here just for the amazing cheese.”
Liam sniffed. “That explains the weird smell.”
Professor Blubber returned with a tray of yellow cheese and square crackers. I immediately started shoveling down the food. I had gone without the professor’s cheese for too long! Liam picked up a very small piece of cheese and tentatively took a bite. I waited for the moment of enlightenment—
And, there it is! Liam’s mouth twitched slightly upward. He reached for another piece.
Professor Blubber had also been watching Liam hungrily. He loved watching peoples’ reactions to his cheese, almost as much as he loved eating the cheese. In fact, I sometimes worry he eats too much cheese—his belly matches his name.
“So, Erin, tell me what you’ve done since you left.” Professor Blubber said as he reached for a piece of cheese. “And then let me see those samples and your observation journal!”
How long ago was it that I left Cape Caution? A year? I counted backwards—no it had been seventeen months, but it seemed like yesterday I was waving goodbye to Professor Blubber and my family with my best friend, Zach—
I froze, not believing I had actually allowed myself to think of my ******* ex-best friend.
I shook my head and launched into the research-related details of my journey. Some of it, Professor Blubber already knew—I called him at least once every two months.
When we were done snacking and I had handed over the samples, Professor Blubber insisted on giving Liam a tour of the lab.
“It’s not very big,” Professor Blubber was saying after showing Liam a few empty workspaces and his personal office. “But it works for me. Look here.” Professor Blubber opened another dull wooden door.
We followed Professor Blubber through the doorway. Inside the room, there were two closed off habitats. On my left behind glass grew large plants, similar to those I had seen by Apoosh Forest not eight months earlier. The habitat was exceedingly bright above the plants, but shaded below.
The habitat to my right was nearly opposite the one on my left. Snow blew across a dim mini-tundra (it could only be as big as the twenty square foot habitat). The snow in this habitat was higher than my waist, and below the snow, I saw there was a burrow. I leaned in closer, and noticed there was an Eevee lying in the burrow.
“Here I’ve tried to simulate the environments that cause Eevee to evolve into Leafeon and Glaceon. My most recent project is to figure out what in the environment, exactly, causes them to evolve. So far, I have not even been able to get these Eevees to evolve in my simulated environments…”
Liam and I examined the forest habitat. When I looked closely, I could see an Eevee sleeping in the shadows.
“How long have they been in the habitats?” I asked Professor Blubber curiously.
“Over two-months. I talked to Abalina Sycamore and Niomi Shivicle, the grass and ice gym leaders, respectively, about how they obtained Leafeon and Glaceon. They claimed the evolutions were due to the places they were at the time of evolution, but I cannot seem to prove that the environment causes the evolution.”
I thought about Anita’s Eevees and considered how Fiery had evolved. It had been exposed to lava…
I repeated my thoughts to Professor Blubber. He stroked his short grey mustache. “Hmm… I think I will have to look into this further. Maybe set up another habitat… In any case, come along! I have to show Liam what his mentor has requested me to work on.” The professor led us out of the room and down the windowless hall to a workspace that was not empty.
Like the other workspaces, there were two large grey lab tables on each side of the room. The back wall had three large windows, sunlight lighting up the room so the electric lights were unnecessary. I blushed when I noticed a large burn-mark on one of the lab tables. That mark was from the time I had become a little too curious about how much heat a lab table could withstand… It was one of the few times I remember Professor Blubber angry…
On the non-burnt lab table, there was a… large fish skeleton? There was no sign that the fish had been dissected. There were no guts, no blood, no skin, no flesh—just a clean fish skeleton.
“Jilly, cut it out,” Professor Blubber snapped. “What did I tell you about playing dead?”
The fish skeleton shrunk down until it was a blob of pink—a Ditto. “Liam, Erin, meet Jilly, a Ditto given to me by Rita.”
Jilly squeaked a hello. “Ditt!”
Liam narrowed his eyes at Jilly and frowned. Professor Blubber went on explaining. “Professor Teal sent me Jilly a couple of days ago. Apparently, Rita is looking for a way to differentiate a transformed Ditto from a Pokemon. She explained that she wanted to test a Ditto’s reaction in different environments compared with the actual Pokemon. I only had the two Eevee environments set up at the time so those are the only two Jilly has been tested in.”
“And the results?” Liam asked.
I was somewhat surprised—Liam had not asked about anything else on the tour. Then I reminded myself that Liam was an assistant researcher, too. Of course, he was just as inquisitive as me—just quieter.
“In both cases, I had Jilly transform into an Eevee. In the forest environment, after Jilly settled in, the Ditto mostly did exactly what the Eevee did. In the arctic environment, it was fairly similar, only Jilly tended to stay in the burrow more than the Eevee. My conclusion was that Jilly behaved differently because it was unused to the cold environment. I imagine if we had left Jilly in there for a few more days, the Ditto would have become accustomed to the cold. Ditto are a very adaptive species of Pokemon; I believe that’s what makes them so hard to find. If there was an easy way to tell Ditto from the original Pokemon, I’m sure they would not be so rare.”
“You know, I bet we could get more information if we had Anita talk to Jilly,” I suggested. “Or—” I was about to recommend just using Griffy, but Liam interrupted me.
“No! We don’t need Anita’s input,” Liam said sharply.
“Geeze, are you still upset about that squabble we had? I mean, sure, I think Anita was being a little selfish, but she is a trainer.”
“Who’s Anita?” Professor Blubber interrupted.
“She’s a girl who’s traveling with us. We wanted her to come here first, but she decided to go battle the gym leader.”
“Then how would we get more information if Anita talked to Jilly?” Professor Blubber asked.
“Very good with Pokemon, Professor. She also has several Eevees.” Liam glared at me. I did not understand—Professor Blubber was trustworthy! He wouldn’t do anything if he knew Anita was psychic! Liam was such a paranoid piece of poo…
“Well, I’d be very glad to meet her! I do hope she’s careful. Our gym leader here in Cape Caution is… rather bizarre.”
“At best,” I added. “I always thought he was insane. Wasn’t he almost impeached a couple years ago?”
“Then he promised to provide free electricity for the town while he was still gym leader. Nobody has challenged him since. He’s a strange fellow, not very sociable.”
I nodded in agreement, and Professor Blubber motioned us out of the workspace. Liam did not take his eyes off of Jilly until Professor Blubber closed the door behind us. We walked back to the kitchen and sat down around the granite counter again.
Professor Blubber looked at me thoughtfully. “So, Erin, what are your plans?”
Plans for what? “Err, what?”
“Well, you’ve been traveling around Acceber for over a year now. After a year, I usually have my assistants stay here and train with me.”
****. I had known this was coming… I just had not wanted to think about it. My original plan had been to simply travel with Anita back to Cape Caution. It would be the last of my journey days…
The problem was, I’d had more fun in the past two weeks than I’d had during the whole rest of my journey. I’d been excited to finally stop traveling, even if it meant having to deal with my parents in Cape Caution… but that was before I met Anita and Liam. Liam and Anita were much more entertaining than Zach—
What the hell was wrong with me? I’d thought of he-who-must-not-be-thought-of twice in the past day! I shook my head, dispersing the thought.
Desperately not wanting to discuss this with the professor, I abruptly changed the topic. “Professor, we have a strange problem. Do you know of a haunted house a few miles southwest of Cape Caution?”
Professor Blubber frowned, probably in part because he did not understand how this related to me as his assistant researcher. “No, I do not.”
“Well, we found this boy who—” Liam was glaring at me again. Not the gifted thing again! “We found an abandoned ghost boy—” I winced when Liam kicked me under the table. His kicks hurt. “And brought him with us. We couldn’t just leave him in the empty house! But—”
“Did you say ghost boy? What—” Professor Blubber.
Liam interrupted. “She meant ghostly boy. He is very pale and thin from malnourishment—like a ghost.”
Now it was my turn to glare at Liam. “No—” Liam kicked me again, and I nearly fell off the chair. My eyes were watering. The pain was not worth it… “Anyway, this boy needs a home. Do you know of who we should talk to about it?”
Professor Blubber scratched his chin. “Unfortunately, there’s not an orphanage here. I’m sure I could have him sent to a very prestigious school near Mint Mountain—”
“NO!” I yelled. That place was hell. Professor Blubber gave me an odd look. “I mean, I don’t think he would like that school. Is there any other option?”
“Well, the closest orphanage is in Vintage Village. They’ve gotten great support since that huge fire. I would also ask Nurse…” Professor Blubber paused for a moment. “Your mother.”
Aw, crap. Another topic I had been hoping to avoid.
“Speaking of which, have you talked to her yet? She was very worried about you—usually complains you do not call enough. She’s always asking her new apprentice—that boy you left Cape Caution with—to try calling you.”
I blanched. “New apprentice?”
“You know, that boy that always wears a Pokemon League cap with brown hair, hazel eyes? His name is Sam… no that’s not it. Maybe Jack…?”
“Zach,” I whispered. No, this could NOT be happening…
“Yeah, Zach, that was his name!” Professor Blubber exclaimed.
I determinedly forced myself to relax. “Professor, would it be possible for me and my friends to stay at your house?”
Professor Blubber sighed. “Erin, I know you and your mother have your differences, but she cares about you a lot. For your own sake, I am going to have to decline. Family is too important. In fact,” Professor Blubber looked at his watch. “why don’t you go to the Pokemon Center now so your mother can see you. I have to finish up a few things here…”
“But, Professor, Liam and I can help you here, in the lab! What do you need done?” I asked frantically.
Professor Blubber gave me the I’m-an-adult-so-I-know-better-than-you smile. I hate those. “Actually, there is something that I need.” He fished his hand around in his large lab coat pocket, finally pulling out a Pokeball. “This newly caught Bellsprout needs to be healed. I’m trusting you to get it to the Pokemon Center. You won’t let me down, will you?”
In a last ditch effort, I said, “But Anita will not know where we are! We have to stay here until she finishes the gym battle!”
Professor Blubber laughed. “You think she’ll come back here after she battles Sparky?” The professor snorted. “More likely, she’ll go straight to the emergency room. And where is that, my dear stubborn assistant?”
“The Pokemon Center…” I mumbled.
“Exactly! Now run along!”
**** my life.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“What the **** is wrong with you?!” I yelled into the phone. The perfectly aligned paperclips on my desk vibrated with my voice. I pounded my hand on the desk, knocking all of the paperclips to the floor, partially because the paperclip vibrations were annoying, but mostly because I was talking to a ****ing moron who couldn’t do a ****ing thing right.
“I’m…I’m sorry Mr. Arkle, but…” The imbecile on the other end of the line lowered his voice. “I got caught.”
“No ****ing kidding!”
There was the barest murmur through the phone. “You didn’t swear so much when you hired me…”
“Because you hadn’t ****ed up and I wasn’t ****ing angry!”
“So… when will you get me out? When can I try again?”
“I cannot believe I assigned a moron like you to this task. Not only did you fail to get the information I need, but you called me from jail expecting me to ‘get you out’. Sorry sweetie, but there are no ****ing second chances in Team Glop’emm, and certainly no bailouts. You fail, you lose.” I slammed the phone into the receiver.
Dear Arceus, G-d, Creator, what idiots were they letting into Team Glop’emm these days?
I squeezed the arms of my leather chair in frustration and stared at the electric clock that sat on my desk, next to the ‘Acting Master: Jamie Arkle’ sign. Twenty minutes until my next meeting.
My decision was made before I even rose from the chair. There was a saying: If you want something done right, do it yourself. I never believed it. I still don’t believe it. If you want something done right, yell at and fire (or kill) every moron that does it wrong. Eventually, you’ll stumble upon a moron that can do it right.
Unfortunately, I did not have time for that.
Thus, I’d have to settle with the first saying.
I quickly locked my office and slipped into the elevator, pressing the ground button.
After navigating the maze of windowless halls, I finally reached the outside world. It was a cloudless, windless day. I took a glance back at our facility. From the outside, the austere grey building looked like another typical office building.
Wasting no time, I began my swift trek down the road to the City Hall.
The street was fairly crowded, with a few hundred inept businessmen doing their best to take as long of a lunch break as possible. When I passed a series of overrated restaurants, the shrill voices of upset children and their mothers rang in my ears. I sped my walking.
As I took a short cut through the park, I saw Rita Teal’s despicable blue hair bobbing with the irksome chirping of Pidgeys. What the hell was she doing here? She sat on a park bench, now completely within my view, grinning like a mad woman and throwing bread to the loud Pidgeys. I caught her eye, and was unsuccessful in wiping away her smile.
We then both continued on as if we did not know or care about the other’s existence.
When I ruled Team Glop’emm, that freak would be the first to go.
The City Hall was just outside of the park. The building was round, like a tire, with minor offices in the outer rings and important offices in the middle. I, of course, was headed towards neither. My long fingers gently caressed the two Pokeballs I was preparing use.
I entered the building through the main entrance. The pretty secretary at the front desk looked up at me, startled by my quick entry.
“Good day, sir. Can I see some form of identification?” she asked.
“No,” I snickered. I pressed the release button on the Pokeballs I had been holding. “Magnemite, Hypno, make sure I am not caught.”
“Just who—” the idiot woman was cut off as Hypno swung her pendulum. I turned and strutted down the hall.
By now, the woman was probably drooling in her sleep. Magnemite and Hypno were accustomed to break-ins. Magnemite would disrupt the cameras and other electronic security, while Hypno ensured nobody saw me, or at least remembered seeing me.
The basement door was easy to find. Unfortunately, it was locked with the DNA technology Rita Teal had installed. Oh, the irony.
<Hypno,> I called, knowing she would hear my thoughts. <I need the thumbprint of a knocked out security guard.>
Not twenty seconds later, an unconscious security guard was floating towards me. I took his thumb and pressed it to the DNA scanner. “Access denied,” a cool automated voice said. I was tempted to have Hypno shatter the door to pieces. But, no, I wanted my presence to go undetected.
There was one person in the building who I was sure would have access to this door. <Fetch the mayor,> I ordered before mentally cursing the Master. If it were not for that snooty teen, Hypno would be able to psychically open the door. Being the paranoid bastard he was, he ensured all doors locked with DNA scanners were twined with dark material so they could not be psychically tampered with.
As demanded, Hypno brought me the mayor in a sleepy trance, and as expected, the door swung open.
I carefully stepped down into the dark basement, feeling the wall for a light switch. When I reached the bottom, my hand felt the switch, and one dull bulb flickered to life. The basement was huge, running under almost the entire building. Several storage boxes and cleaning items were strewn about, as if someone had thrown them from the top of the staircase.
I quickly flicked my eyes across the garbage, looking for what I came here for—
I found it leaning against a wall, like an old man.
This particular computer was the private database of Drape Town. Because it held personal information—like tax money paid—of all the individuals in Drape Town, it was on a different server than any other computer. It also did not have Internet, making it virtually unhackable, without physically being at the computer.
Which I now fortunately was.
I took out another Pokeball and spoke as the red release light flashed. “Porygon2, I want you to find all information regarding the Mendol family or the current gym leader, especially past residencies.”
The cyber Pokemon appeared before me, and then seemed to be shrunk into the USB port. I strummed my fingers across the keyboard as the computer whirred, impatient for the results.
After five minutes, the screen blinked. Porygon2 appeared on the screen, cocking its head at me. Next to the virtual Pokemon words appeared:
Zero Results Found
Whoo! Finally made it to the third page. Isn't weird how little things like that make posting so much more exciting?
Chapter 26: Chaos Established
It was amazing how quickly Ditto was able to adapt. In only a matter of seconds, Sticky was pecking at the tossed bread just like the other Pidgeys. If a Ditto could become acclimated this quickly, a Pokemon that could transform and read minds would likely show zero signs of transformation.
Professor Blubber’s research had illustrated that in extreme environments, there was a difference in behavior before the Ditto fully adjusted. Unfortunately, the Anita Parkwood façade had existed in Acceber for about six years, more than enough time for Mew to settle in as a human.
I grinned. Luckily, with the discovery I had made just hours ago, none of this mattered. As it turned out, my request for Professor Blubber’s help had been completely unnecessary. Now it was just a matter of finding an opportune time to contact the Master. Exchanging letters via flying Pokemon was not a safe enough method of communication for this important information. I would have to get a hold of Jamie’s walkie…
As if fate had been reading my mind, I looked up and there Mr. Arkle was, glaring at me as he strode quickly by my bench. I broke the eye contact first and leaned back on the bench, my eyes closed. “Sticky, get a good look at his belt,” I murmured, barely moving my lips.
When I was positive Jamie was well out of hearing range, I opened my eyes. “Sticky, did you see the grey walkie-talkie on his belt?”
The transformed Ditto shook its head. Perfect. I pulled out a Pokeball. “Twix, let’s go!” Twix, my faithful Pidgeot, cooed and extended her wings as she was released. I climbed onto her back. “To the lab, quickly,” I ordered.
With just one powerful flap, we were lifted off the ground and speeding past the Drape Town locals. Wind whipped my dyed-blue hair from my face as I looked back to ensure Sticky was following us.
Twix gracefully landed in front of Team Glop’emm’s headquarters and I returned both Sticky and Twix to their Pokeballs. I practically jogged through the twisted corridors to the elevator and then to the Master’s office.
Glancing about to make sure nobody saw me, I pressed my thumb to the DNA scanner next to the office door. The scanner allowed me to enter, of course. I had programmed it.
The office was somehow bleaker than when the Master had occupied it. The black blinds were completely closed, and the desk seemed a little too organized. There was no sign of the walkie-talkie atop the desk.
I pulled out two Pokeballs and pressed the release button. Two pink blobs appeared. “Sticky, I want you to transform into Magnemite. Remember, like Mr. Arkle’s? Mess with all the bugs in this room so it seems like I was never here. Spud,” I called to the other Ditto. “I probably need you over here.”
While Sticky transformed into Magnemite, I tiptoed around the desk, careful not to bump the plush chair, and tested the top left drawer. As expected, it was locked.
“Spud, you know what to do.”
Spud slid to my side and stuck a gooey strand into the keyhole. An instant later, the drawer clicked open.
I patted Spud on what seemed to be his head—it was always hard to tell when he was a blob—and peered into the drawer. There were several pencils, notecards, and staples, but no walkie. We tried three more drawers before I finally spotted the little communication device.
Before picking up the walkie, I rummaged in my lab coat pocket for a rubber glove to avoid fingerprints. I lifted the walkie-talkie out of the drawer and pressed the green button.
There was a dull buzzing sound, and then—
“Master, it’s Rita.”
There was silence. For a moment I thought he might have hung up. “Odd. I was going to call you.” His voice was tense.
“For what?” I asked.
“I have just been informed that you contacted Professor Blubber to assist in a research project that was supposed to remain only within Team Glop’emm’s labs.” The Master’s tone was icy.
My mouth was dry. “Master, I thought the Professor’s input would be useful. The Professor and I have known each other for years. I did not explain the whole project—”
The Master asked more harshly. “Was the Professor’s input useful?”
“Well, a bit—”
“It is a simple question. Answer with a yes or no.”
“Next time you get a brainless urge to involve those outside of Team Glop’emm in a research project, you will contact me.”
“Now,” the Master continued, “why did you call?”
“I have news.” I found it hard to speak in a cohesive manner and wondered if others had similar problems when they spoke with the teen. I forced my mouth to work. “I have been working with one of my Dittos for over a week now to learn English, and have been extremely successful. The Pokemon already has the vocabulary of a six-year-old child. Also, as you requested, I had a few of my assistants investigate the Parkwood family. Every person interrogated reported that Anita seemed to have a strange bond with wild Pokemon when she was younger. Just as you suspected, the Parkwood family arrived in Melonbi Town just months before your father battled Pokemon X on the outskirts of Melonbi Town.”
“Is this all you had to report? A letter would have sufficed—”
“No, Master.” My hand flew to my mouth. I had just interrupted the Master. My worst nightmares were about to come true—I would be fired and then I would have not money for research and then—
I blinked and breathed out slightly in relief. “Earlier today, I was comparing the DNA brain samples of a Ditto transformed into a Rattata to those of a Rattata. Specifically, I was comparing hippocampus DNA. The hippocampus is—”
“—where long term memory is stored. I know this, Rita.”
“Of course. When a Ditto transforms, its memories remain the same. Thus, the hippocampus cannot shift as much as the rest of the body during transformation.”
“All Pokemon have a hippocampus that is relatively the same shape,” the Master stated.
“Yes. If it was just normal long-term memory the Ditto had to preserve, I would have likely never found a major difference in DNA.” I knew after I said that sentence, the Master would stop interrupting me. “Ditto and Pokemon X are both able to mimic the DNA of any Pokemon they see. When a Ditto sees a Pokemon, it’s body automatically creates and stores a copy of the Pokemon’s DNA. I can only assume Pokeamon X’s body works the same way. When transformed into a Pokemon, Ditto must preserve its own DNA in order to have the ability to return to its original form. Neither Ditto nor Pokemon X can transform directly from one Pokemon to another without returning to its original form. Thus, when in its original form, the different Pokemon DNA must be actually embedded into the original body. But I stray from my point… I figured that some part of the hippocampus DNA had to be different in the Ditto because the Ditto must have a way to recall its entire original genome instantly. Today, I found that difference.”
“Rita, you are brilliant.”
Coming from the master, that was quite a complement.
“Now that we know what part of the brain stimulates transformation, it should be fairly simple to create a device that forces transformation. A week from today, perhaps…” I trailed. Then I remembered what one of my assistants had proved yesterday, leading to my discovery today. “There is another difference you should know between a transformed Ditto and a Pokemon—Ditto cannot evolve when transformed. In a transformed Ditto, the part of the hippocampus that safely holds its original genome replaces the part of the hippocampus most Pokemon have containing the DNA of any evolutions.”
“Interesting…” There was silence for almost half of a minute. “Ensure that Jamie does not discover this conversation. Master out.”
I replaced the walkie-talkie in the drawer and carefully left the room, returning my Dittos to their Pokeballs. My heart thumped unevenly in excitement as I rode the elevator down to my laboratory.
I lived for this—
For the mind-boggling buzz after a new discovery.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
<Anita! Anita! It’s time to get up! It’s been time to get up for the past… I don’t know, but it was a long time! Anita!>
Something wet dragged across my face.
I opened my eyes, and nearly jumped in surprise when I found Splash hovering over my face. The Eevee’s ears drooped just above my nose. <Finally!> Splash exclaimed, his ears swiftly shooting up in joy, causing me to sneeze.
I sat up. “What… what happened? Where…?” I was stunned into silence as I took in my surroundings. Splash and I were sitting in some sort of glass sphere. Two thick bands of metal ran through the glass, splitting the sphere into four sections.
I looked down through the glass section Splash and I were occupying, and noted that the sphere seemed to sink into the white floor, like it was on top of a giant pillow. I looked out the other glass sections of the sphere, only to find more white. Apparently, the sphere was in a quite creepy blank room.
When I did not see any holes in the sphere, I randomly wondered how long it would take for us to suffocate.
I turned to Splash and asked again, <What happened?>
<Well, when I was let out of my Pokeball, you were asleep and an old sparkly guy—> Images of a bright, laughing silhouette flashed through my mind. Right, I was in a gym. So this must be the…<—was here. And he did this funny electricity thing—like a Pikachu—to put this giant Pokeball together.>
I waited for Splash to keep explaining, but he seemed to be finished. <What do you mean, we’re in a giant Pokeball…?> I questioned.
<Well, we’re in a giant sphere so it must be a Pokeball! ‘Cause what else is a sphere? Well, actually, oranges, and basketballs, and suns, and—>
<Enough! So is there anything else I should be aware of about our situation? For instance, knowing how to beat this prelim would be nice…>
<Nope!> Splash answered happily. As he crouched down, he noticed his breath was causing the glass beneath him to smog up. Thus, he simply had to press his nose up against the glass several times to make random shapes—or beautiful art. Splash and I were of different opinions.
I rolled my eyes and got to my feet. Well, maybe getting out of this sphere was the prelim. I pressed my hand against the metal—
I yelped in pain and pulled my hand back from the metal band. Splash was distracted from the smiley face he was making. <Oh yeah, the shiny stuff is electric!>
I glared. <And you were going to tell me this when?>
Splash shrugged. <You’re the psychic. I thought you’d know!>
Annoyed, I growled, <Is there anything else I should know, that I might not know if I wasn’t a psychic?!>
<Err, how about using a double negative confuses people?>
I had been awake, for what, maybe two minutes and I was already tempted to bang my head against the glass so I was knocked out again. Or maybe electrocuting myself would be more efficient…
Splash wasn’t finished. <And, there was that message the sparkly guy told me to tell you…>
I stared at Splash in disbelief.
<He said to win, all you had to do was sharpen the pencil!>
If I stared at Splash before in disbelief, I don’t know what my face looked like when I stared at Splash now…
<…Sharpen a pencil?!>
<Yup!> Splash pointed a paw. <Look!>
I peered through the glass to where he was pointing. There, on the ground, was a classic wooden number two pencil lying next to an electric pencil sharpener.
<So I just have to get the pencil into the sharpener?>
Splash was getting distracted again—inspecting his paw prints on the glass.
I sighed. If Apple had taught me telekinesis already, this would be easy. Hmm, there was the possibility that Apple was near enough to help… I reached out with my mind but felt no one but Splash in my range.
Okay, so I would have to do this myself. I could try to use telekinesis.
I focused on the pencil and slowly became aware of each particle making up the entire entity. I could feel every wooden grain surrounding the thin column of graphite. I was one with the pencil. Oh, yeah. A dream come true.
But nothing happened.
The pencil would not budge.
When Splash got so bored he started playing with my hair, I decided it was time for a different approach.
My mind shot forward to create a barrier under the pencil… only to be stopped by the rather solid floor. Apple says barriers can be made inside of solids, but I had yet to figure out how that worked.
My head was knocked forward, forcing me back to my body. <Ow, Splash, cut it out! I’m trying to concentrate!>
<Lemme help, lemme help!>
<This is kinda a psychic thing, Splash,> I explained. With that, I tried again.
After several failed attempts, I made a barrier next to the pencil, but I couldn’t get the barrier to move, which would have allowed me to push the pencil. Frustrated, I slammed my fist down, and was shocked yet again.
<Ouch!> I shook my hand out.
The sphere moved a little from the force of my punch. <Ooh, look how squishy the ground is!> Splash exclaimed. He moved our giant trap-ball-thing a little more and was immensely amused when the sphere sunk into the floor.
<Splash, you’re brilliant!> I created a curvy barrier a little ways away from the pencil and pressed more barriers on top. The force of the barriers caused the floor around the barriers to sink, and the pencil rolled down onto the curved barrier. I dissipated the weight barriers so my curved barrier and the pencil sprung upwards. Just as gravity was about to pull the pencil back to the ground, I caught it with yet another barrier.
<That was awesome! You got the pencil to float!> My concentration nearly snapped.
<Splash, still concentrating here! Hush up!> I ordered. Now I just had to figure out how to get the pencil into—
<Why did you need to bounce the pencil to make it float?> Ugh, Splash was going to ruin everything! When I attempted to block him from my mind, I nearly destroyed my barrier. It was hard to block out just one being— I could either block out nothing of everything. <Couldn’t you just move it with you’re mind? Maybe—>
<SPLASH!> I lost concentration and the pencil fell. <Now look what you’ve done! I need to concentrate! That means you NOT talking!>
Splash’s ears flicked back, and I immediately regretted what I’d said. I reached out to comfort him, but he flinched away.
<Splash… Look, I’m sorry.> I closed my eyes and reached out with my mind. I showed Splash how I was trying to move the pencil to the pencil sharpener and how I made barriers, emphasizing the concentration needed to be successful.
I also saw Splash’s yearning to help and his disappointment when I continually shut him down. I expected Splash’s mind to be unorganized and random. However, I found Splash had a rather logical perspective.
The images of my barriers I had shown Splash continued to flash through his mind as he attempted to make sense of the memories. Only seconds later, Splash showed me an image of the pencil sharpener on a tilted barrier and the pencil sliding down a barrier-made slide into the pencil sharpener.
Without leaving Splash’s mind, I attempted his set up. I easily bounced the pencil sharpener into position. The pencil, however, ended up facing the wrong way so I had to create a barrier slide that curved around into the sharpener.
<Ready?> I asked Splash. We weren’t watching the setup with our eyes; I was feeling it with my mind and showing the images to Splash automatically, as our minds were still entwined.
Splash’s setup worked perfectly. The pencil easily slid into the sharpener.
I opened my eyes and found Splash already in my arms, licking my face. I lifted the Eevee and spun around.
“Yes! We did it!” I cheered.
<And it was all my idea,> Splash added smugly.
“Yes it was.” I paused.
“Shouldn’t we be let out of here now?”
Splash and I peered through the glass at the pencil sharpener. The pencil was in the sharpener…
<It’s not plugged in.>
WHAT THE HELL!? WHO FREAKIN MAKES THE PRELIM SHARPENING A PENCIL, ANYWAY? THE GYM LEADER COULD AT LEAST MAKE SURE HIS STUPID ELECTRIC PENCIL SHARPENER WAS PLUGGED IN TO AN ELECTRICAL OUTLET. BUT NOOOO, THE MORON HAD TO STICK US IN AN EMPTY ROOM IN A GERBIL BALL! WHEN I GOT OUT OF HERE, I WAS GOING TO GIVE HIM A PIECE—
Splash was staring past me. I followed his gaze.
The pencil sharpener was blown to bits.
<I think you killed the pencil. Actually, it was more like a violent murder.> It took me a few seconds to locate the pencil among the pencil sharpener debris. It was not a pretty sight. The top of the pencil had been blown off somewhere. I doubted it was still a full piece. The piece of pencil that was left was jaggedly cut across the top, wood shards sticking out at awkward angles.
The gerbil ball opened up, and I gratefully breathed in the fresh air.
“Not exactly what I had in mind, my young pinecone, but I suppose the pencil is sharp now,” a voice cackled.
I turned around. <Did he just call me a pinecone?> I asked Splash.
<You are kinda like a Pineco,> Splash commented. <With the whole exploding at random times…>
Before me stood a wrinkly man in jeans and a dark jacket made of a bizarre material (was it rubber?). The man’s peculiar stormy eyes had the eccentricity and excitement of a five-year-old, but what really unnerved me was the way his grey hair stood up from the random sparks that seemed to be radiating from his head.
“Well, don’t just stand there gaping,” the old man said. He held out his hand, grinning madly. “I’m Sparky, the gym leader of Cape Caution.”
“Nice to meet you,” I answered, carefully not taking the man’s hand. I had the feeling it would have been a rather shocking experience. Then I remembered I had a reprimanding sermon to deliver to this particular wacko. “What the HELL was that prelim about?” I yelled. “Sharpening a pencil? What does that have to do with electricity?! What does that teach me?! That electric pencil sharpeners are freakin’ unreliable?! Do I get one of those ridiculous plastic pencil sharpeners when I beat you!? You must be a twisted old drunk and lonely man! A real fu—”
“Tsk, tsk. Watch your language, my young pinecone, for there are innocent ears listening.” Sparky laughed, sending a wave of sparks through his hair. “Come now. We must fetch the Pokemon you intend to use in battle.” The gym leader swerved and walked impossibly fast—for an old man—out of a door I had not noticed. Where had that come from?
I walked after the gym leader. Splash hesitated, lightly leapt through the debris, and picked up the half exploded pencil between his canines before following me. We walked down a dull narrow hallway and stopped at a room that was an exact replica of the prelim room, minus the giant gerbil ball. Three Pokeballs and one perturbed Apple lay in the middle of the room.
Apple immediately leapt into my arms. <Are you okay?>
I nodded, and we quickly exchanged memories. I showed Apple the prelim, and Apple showed me how Sparky had put an incredibly strong shock through my body—I caught a whiff of Apple’s guilt from not creating a protective barrier fast enough. Sparky, apparently, had then told me to choose three Pokemon for battle and one for the prelim. Realizing my mind was not functional enough to make a decision, Apple had psychically made me pick up Splash’s Pokeball while she grabbed two others. Then Sparky had taken her to this room and me to a room her psychic would not affect…
I grinned at Apple, touched by how much worry there was in her mind. There were several instances she had considered breaking out of the room psychically to find me, even though it would have exposed her. <Thank goodness you didn’t,> I said lightly.
<I kept reminding myself it was just a prelim, which, considering you last prelim, did not help very much…>
<So who’d you choose for battle?> I asked curiously.
<Who you would have chosen—me, Fiery, and Allo.>
<So there are advantages to having an over intrusive Eevee constantly in my mind…>
<I know you wouldn’t have chosen Splash for the prelim. Probably Sunflower… But you don’t know your Pokemon as well as I do.>
Opening my mind up to Splash as well, I said, <Splash was wonderful. I couldn’t have done it without him.> Splash gave me a toothy smile, still holding the pencil like it was a trophy, before I picked up his Pokeball and pressed the return button.
Picking up my other Pokeballs, I asked Sparky, “Where to now?”
Sparky cackled for probably a full minute before answering, “Down, of course.”
Then I was falling.
<I officially dub this gym leader more insane than Aden,> was my first thought to Apple. My second thought was something like, <I’m too young to plunge to my death!>
We stopped plummeting due to the barrier I created; it was like a glass floor. I looked up. The floor of the room we had been standing in—the ceiling of this room—was closing back up. I was reminded of Aden’s remote control bridge. When I looked down, I found myself looking at a floor made of dirt only three or four yards away. The walls of the room were made of stone, with some spots giving off extremely bright light.
<Nice barrier!> Apple exclaimed.
I noticed that Sparky had landed on what looked like a large waterbed and narrowed my eyes suspiciously. He must be used to randomly making trainers fall into his stadium. I released my barrier and landed nimbly on the dirt floor.
I was pretty proud of myself for making it look graceful.
<Ow!> Apple yelled at me. <You could have warned me you were about to do that, you know! Now my tail hurts!>
<You’re supposed to be psychic.>
<And you’re supposed to be my thoughtful and considerate trainer! There is obviously a huge gap between reality and what is expected—> Apple started.
<Well, I expect you to shut up!>
Apple smugly retorted, <But, see, that’s not the reality! I have some very important information, which you will just have to listen to if you want to win. While you were injuring my precious tail, I was trying to get into Sparky’s mind. And it kinda hurt.>
<Yes, generally falling hurts whatever body part—>
<No, I mean entering his mind. It was physically painful, and confusing, and…>
<Shocking?> I suggested.
<Somehow, I’m not surprised.>
I looked away from Apple. Mel was standing in front of me, hands on his hips.
“Do you know how long I was waiting?! It’s a good thing Sparky is the coolest person ever, otherwise I’d be pretty upset about having to wait so long for you two to battle! At first, when I wanted to help speed up your task-thing, Sparky was mean ‘cause he wouldn’t let me go. But then he started showing me the coolest stuff, and we played this game where I had to dodge his electric bolts—”
I think my eyes nearly popped out of my head. “He WHAT?!”
“I was never hit! I turned invisible or went through the wall.”
I turned to Sparky, who was smiling mildly. “Are you INSANE? Mel is a kid! He’s not even a challenger! And you’re just casually throwing electric bolts that, oh, might kill him! How the hell are you a gym leader?!”
“Young pinecone, in this gym you will use three Pokemon. It will be a single battle, with no switching. You may not physically come in contact with your opponent’s Pokemon, your Pokemon, or your opponent, but you may assist your Pokemon in any other way.”
“Are you ignoring me!?”
Sparky cackled, “Of course not. I’m answering your question.” In a flash of red, an Electrode appeared.
“Mel, do not interfere, and stay out of the way,” I ordered.
“Well, duh! What part of I can’t wait to see you two battle did you not understand?” Mel replied, before disappearing.
There was a single intense moment that nothing happened. Apple stared at the Electrode, the Electrode stared back.
Then sparks flew, literally.
Apple and I both threw up psychic barriers. The electric bolts were not just coming from the Electrode, but from Sparky as well, and they were aimed at both me and Apple.
“Rollout!” I heard Sparky yell. The Electrode stopped shooting sparks. Sparky, unfortunately did not. I had to continuously keep pulsing energy into my barrier, which was now a large dome encompassing me, Apple, and the Electrode to keep from being electrocuted by Sparky. Apple fed me some of her power to strengthen my barrier.
<Dig,> I ordered. Apple disappeared below the ground and the Electrode missed.
“Spark Anita.” The sound was faint, and the barrier was getting to be too much for me. I knew the Electode’s bolts were heading right towards me…
Apple put a barrier up in front of me. <I’ll deal with the Electrode. You just keep Sparky from turning us all into fried chicken.>
Apple popped out of the ground, but the Electrode was already out of the way. Bright lights and sparks were everywhere. I winced when the weight on my barrier increased.
<Stay with it, Anita!> Apple called as she dodged another rollout. Her tail lit up, and she managed to bat the Electrode away.
The Electrode grinned and sent another thunderbolt our way.
<Apple, you’ve got to keep trying dig. It’s the only attack that will really hurt!> Apple dug underground as she put up another barrier to protect me from the Electrode’s thunderbolt.
My barrier faltered. Bright lights, stabbing pain, my ears screamed at me—
Panting, I managed to throw the barrier back up. Sparks whispered in my ears to give in to the pain, to let the knives attack. My mind whirled. All I knew was to keep up the barrier.
I saw strange images. A large Pokeball rolling into a hole, a purple sky, a laughing old man mouthing something.
The ground exploded. I was thrown backwards into the wall, along with mounds of dirt and a few sharp pebbles. The wall shuddered with me and the thousands of tiny needles that seemed to be poking into my back. I fell to the ground, groaning.
I thought for sure I would black out.
Somehow I didn’t.
Panting, I called, <Apple?>
No reply. I lifted my heavy head and squinted into the giant crater that now made up the center of the stadium, thanks to what I assumed had the Electrode’s explosion. I did not see Apple or the Electrode so I crawled forward a bit to get a closer look—
The earth gave way below me and I tumbled down into the crater, dirt getting caught in my fingernails as I uselessly tried to stop my fall.
I wouldn’t have seen Apple if I hadn’t slid right over, she was so covered in grime. I lifted her into my arms. <Apple?>
She was knocked out. I took a deep breath, summoned my powers, and slid into her mind. I was surprised by how easily my powers came, despite the huge strain I had just undergone. Everything was dark in Apple’s mind so I sank to a deeper level. Everything was still dark. <Apple?> I tentatively called again.
Apple, in her Mew form, appeared in front of me, with a surprised look on her face. <What are you doing here? I’ve fainted.>
<I wanted to make sure you’re okay. That was a major explosion.>
<Don’t you have a battle to get back to?>
<Well, yeah,> I said sheepishly.
<Then get moving!>
I jolted back into my body and blinked as my eyes adjusted.
“Will you send out your next Pokemon, already!?” Sparky yelled. I looked up. Sparky was grinning down at me from the edge of the crater, with a Pokeball in his hand. My barrier must have kept the damage from Electrode’s explosion inside the barrier because Sparky appeared completely unharmed, as did the walls and ceiling of the stadium.
I picked up Apple and trudged my way up the steep slope, out of the crater. My legs burned with each step. Once, I slipped slightly and almost slid all the way back down. I caught Sparky’s eye, which was still filled with a wild excitement, and I wondered if I had drained the gym leader’s powers at all.
When I reached the top, I laid Apple down behind me. Too bad Sparky had confiscated my pack—there was some medicine I could have given Apple in there. I pulled out another Pokeball.
Sparky laughed and released a Jolteon.
I prepared my mind for Sparky’s onslaught, well aware that without Apple, I probably would not be able to withstand the pressure for more than thirty seconds at best.
Sparky laughed. For some reason I got the feeling he was laughing at me. “Thundershock,” he ordered. I was surprised when he did not try to electrocute me. Perhaps I had drained some of his energy…
My main advantage in this battle would be telepathy; Sparky would not be able to predict my moves. <Dodge, then quick attack, Allo.>
Allo managed to avoid getting shocked, and ran at the Jolteon. Faster than I could see, the Jolteon was gone.
<Behind you!> I yelled. I threw up a barrier to stop the Jolteon’s pin missile from hitting Allo.
<Allo, you’ve got to move faster!>
<I’m trying, I’m trying!>
“Sparkles, quick attack to get in close! Then let’s shock them!”
Sparkles—which was apparently the Jolteon’s name—was on Allo, faster than I could throw my mind forward. <Sand attack!> I called, in hopes of dissipating the speed advantage.
It was too late. Allo was knocked out with the single thunderbolt/quick attack combo I failed to block.
I murmured a “Nice try,” as Allo was returned to his Pokeball. I released Fiery.
Immediately, Sparky had Sparkles fire off a few thunderbolts, all of which Fiery was able to dodge or I was able to block with a barrier. I knew it wouldn’t last. This time when Sparkles closed in for a physical attack, I’d be ready. Fiery would be ready.
<Fiery, heat up your body temperature,> I ordered. <Get ready to use ember.>
You know in Star Wars or Star Trek or Star Whatever how the starships look when they go from normal space-time to faster than light travel? Well, that’s what it looked like when Sparkles started running in a quick attack.
Like right now. “Quick attack and thunderbolt, Sparkles!” Sparky chuckled, “No dodging that!”
The Jolteon was sparking as it took off towards Fiery. Fiery would be electrocuted before he could pull off an ember… unless—
<Iron-tail. Use iron-tail, but hold onto that ember!>
Fiery’s attack was a moment too late. Sparkles used thunderbolt while in contact with Fiery, but Fiery was able to maneuver the Jolteon away before he was seriously hurt. Fiery’s tail slammed Sparkles to the ground.
Standing above Sparkles, Fiery breathed fire down onto the Jolteon. Sparkles’ fur caught on fire.
Sparkles attempted to use another thunderbolt, but Fiery was far away enough from Sparkles for me to create a barrier between the two Pokemon. Sparkles used the distraction to scramble away from Fiery, back towards Sparky.
<Fiery, keep it up! Get after it and use ember!>
Fiery sprinted toward the Jolteon at full speed. There was a moment that I thought Sparkles would just stand there, and let the attack hit. The Jolteon was burnt and had been hit by Fiery’s iron tail. There was no way the Pokemon could move as quickly as before, but I had expected him to at least try to escape—
Sparkles disappeared before Fiery hit. What my eyes could not see, my mind could feel. <Fiery, quick attack, on your left!>
I did not understand. Sparkles should be hurt—how was that Jolteon still moving so quickly?
Fiery and Sparkles collided, as did Fiery’s flames and Sparkles’ sparks. Both Pokemon were forced backwards. Fiery was panting hard… but Sparkles was hardly panting. I narrowed my eyes.
<Fiery, I need to figure out why your attacks don’t seem to be affecting Sparkles. Keep dodging—I’m going to enter their minds.>
Fiery nodded and ducked under a random thunderbolt.
Apple had warned me about Sparky so I would enter Sparkles’ mind instead. I easily listened to the Jolteon’s thoughts, but the Pokemon, unfortunately, seemed completely absorbed in the battle. For the most part, Sparkles did not even think—he only carried out the commands of his trainer. Occasionally a random thought about a new way to dodge one of Fiery’s ember attacks or how to more effectively execute a thunderbolt would wander across Sparkles’ mind.
I found I had a lot of trouble delving any deeper into Sparkles’ mind. I did not have a connection with Sparkles like I had with Apple, or even with my other Pokemon. Eventually, I decided it would be far easier and faster to try Sparky’s mind, despite Apple’s warning.
Sparky felt brighter than any creature I had come across before. Tentatively, I touched a thin strand of my power to Sparky’s mind. Immediately, I doubled over in pain. The knives and needles had returned, trying to wheedle me into letting go of the connection, stopping the pain. But no, there was something I had… had to figure out? Maybe… if only I could remember what it was…
My vision blurred, becoming a swirl of bright lights.
Lightning flashed across the sky… a Jolteon running… a thundershock coming from the Jolteon in a dusty room… a Flareon and Jolteon colliding… electric bolts racing towards an injured Jolteon… a smiling Jolteon… electric bolts racing towards a girl with purple eyes…
Purple eyes—I had purple eyes! I broke the connection and the pain receded, leaving only a massive headache. I reviewed the images that had briefly flashed through my mind when I touched Sparky’s mind.
Duh. I couldn’t believe it was so obvious.
<Sparky’s healing Sparkles with his powers,> I explained to Fiery. <That’s why he hasn’t been attacking my directly! He’s been too busy feeding his electricity to Sparkles. Jolteons are able to absorb electricity and use the absorbed electricity to recover… my teacher called it volt absorb back in elementary school…>
Fiery used his tail to bat away Sparkles when the Jolteon tried another physical attack. <So what are you going to do about it?>
<I’m going to cut off Sparky. It will probably take all of my concentration so you might be on your own. Just keep with the iron-tail and ember!>
I sent out my mind and created a dome-shaped barrier around Sparky. Instantly, there was a great pressure on my mind. I focused on the flawless surface of my barrier, on its durability, on its shape…
I couldn’t help losing concentration for swift milliseconds because of the battle. I saw Fiery smash down his lit up tail—aiming for Sparkles but denting only the ground. Later, I noticed Fiery’s tired stance. I was pleased to see Sparkles wincing a bit, too.
The pressure on my barrier continued to build. My brain hurt. Images fizzed and then went fuzzy—
Sparky broke through.
My first reaction was to throw up a barrier around myself so I was protected from Sparky’s electric bolts.
My second reaction was too slow. The moment I put up a barrier around myself, I realized Fiery had been left unguarded. Unfortunately, in that moment, both Sparky and Sparkles chose to attack Fiery.
Fiery was knocked out.
My stomach churned, revolted by the turn of events.
Yes, the pun was intended.
I bent over and puked up my pride with the partially digested tomato-tuna sandwich I had for lunch.
Thank you to my readers for reading! A warning: in the next chapter (chapter 28) the plot really starts to pick up. If you have trouble remembering memories, it is highly advisable to reread the Master's, Liam's, Apple's, and anyone else's thoughts/memories from the short sections usually at the beginning of chapters. Happy April!
Chapter 27: Worthwhile
“Erin, wait! You forgot your Pokeball!” Zach yelled.
I didn’t slow my pace.
“Erin!” I felt a hand on my shoulder and tried to shrug it off. Zach grabbed my hand.
“You can’t leave without your Pokemon.” Zach placed Griffy’s Pokeball in my free hand. “Wanna tell me what’s up? I thought I was invited over for a goodbye dinner, but as I’m ringing the doorbell, your mother starts babbling about how you forgot Griffy and that she didn’t want to go after you because you were in one of those ‘moods’…”
“Yes, my mother still considers herself a teenager… immature,” I mumbled.
“Are you going to tell me why you’re in a sour mood when it’s your freaking birthday and you get to start your journey?”
I sighed and sat down in the frost-covered grass, not caring that my pants would get wet and my butt would freeze. I was surprised when Zach sat down next to me. “I’m tired of my family,” I said.
“Well, you’re leaving now, right? So you won’t have to deal with them anymore.”
“You don’t understand. Every time I talk… not even—it’s every time my mom looks at me, she compares me to Melanie. ‘Why don’t you clean your room? Melanie always cleans her room!’ ‘’You should hang out with your girlfriends more often. Melanie invites girls over all the time.’ ‘You were spectacular in Oliver, dear! Remember when Melanie…’ It’s like I’m not a person; I’m just Melanie’s shadow. And then my dad nods in agreement and my sister just sits there, smiling like a moron.” I looked Zach straight in the eye. “Do you know what my dream job is?”
“To be an actress. But I can’t.”
“That’s not true. Of course you can!”
“No, I can’t. Because Melanie is an actress, a rising star or whatnot. And even if I was as good as her—even if I was better—I’d only be known because I’m Melanie’s kid sister. I’d never be recognized for my talent.”
“You know that’s not true.”
“Obviously I don’t,” I snarled. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be on this journey in the first place. I’d go to high school and take extra drama classes and then try to get acknowledged by some famous fat producer.”
“You could still do that.”
“I don’t want to. I want to do something worthwhile. I want to do research.”
Zach cracked his knuckles in frustration. “So you want to become an actress but you don’t want to so instead you’re going to become a researcher? And I still don’t understand why you’re so upset because you’re leaving now!”
I felt the tears coming so I got up and started running.
“Erin! Erin, wait!” Zach caught up with me quickly, pulling my arm back to stop me. When I nearly tripped from the tug, Zach held me until I regained my balance. “Look, Erin, I don’t understand. I don’t know if I can. But I do know that you’re an amazing girl and my best friend. Look, this might be a bad time, but I was going to ask you at dinner. My birthday’s in three weeks… and well, I was wondering, if maybe you’d want to wait so we could travel together. If you don’t want to stay here because of your family, maybe we could meet up in Azul City or Tinted Town. Erin, I…umm, I really like you. Really, really.”
Now the tears were really flowing. I smiled weakly at Zach, sniffled, and then gave him a hug. He didn’t move or complain as I drenched his shoulder in snot.
Finally, I took Zach’s hand and we walked back to my house together…
“I never knew you were so vain,” Liam said. “You have been staring off at the mirror for twenty minutes. There is only so much to look at.”
“Hold the mirror still!” I hissed, mentally cursing myself for thinking of him again. Now that I was back in my hometown, the reminders were everywhere. I leaned into the mirror and lifted my eyelid in order to apply the black eyeliner.
Liam sighed. “Don’t you think this is a little extreme?”
“You don’t know my family,” I said darkly.
Liam laughed mockingly. “There is no possible way your family is more screwed up than mine.”
I smiled sweetly. “Care to share more?”
“Good, then shut up, agree with my complaints, and grab my black wig on top of the wardrobe.” Liam reached behind him to my shrinkable wardrobe with one hand while balancing the large mirror in the other. I examined my reflection in the mirror, wondering if I looked different enough to fool my mother. My eyes were tinted blue with colored contacts, and I had applied a ridiculous looking red lipstick to my lips. The field of grass and the Pokemon Center in the backdrop of my image almost made me giggle; I was not used to changing my appearance and setting up my wardrobe outside.
Liam handed me the wig, and in one swift motion I gathered all of my hair beneath the wig. “How do I look?” I asked.
“Like a Jynx,” Liam replied sourly. He was frowning at my hair. Ha, I bet he was remembering the last time I had worn this… Ah, fun times.
Just to see him squirm, I lowered my voice and whispered, “Do I kiss like one, too?”
“I didn’t fall asleep so no, you do not.” Hmm, not his best comeback. Liam looked away and started packing up my wardrobe. Though I’m sure he’d never admit it, I swear I saw his cheeks tint ever so slightly pink. Score!
After everything was shrunk back to pocket size, we approached the Pokemon Center. I took a moment to put on my best poker face before striding through the doors, looking straight at the counter. The business look always managed to hide my nerves.
I approached the… nurse, careful not to make eye contact. “Hello, I’d like to have this Pokemon healed.” I put the Bellsprout’s Pokeball on the counter.
I peeked upwards. Big mistake. “ERIN, HONEY, YOU’RE HOME!”
So much for this disguise…
My mother enveloped me in a hug, which was painful because she was hugging across a counter. “Erin, I missed you so much! How are you? Why didn’t you tell me you were coming home? Are you acting again? Is that why you are wearing that wig? Do you have a performance here? You should take off the wig, dear, I like your red-blonde much better. And your brown eyes—take out those contacts. How long are you staying? You’re done traveling, right? Did you tell your father or Melanie or Professor Blubber or…” I was surprised my mom actually stopped spewing words. Any guesses on where I picked up the ability to rant for hours?
“It’s good to see you, too, Mom,” I said, pulling away. “How’d you know it was me?” I asked as I pulled off the wig and popped out my contacts—they were itchy and unfortunately, now unnecessary.
“I bought you that zip-up, dear.”
Liam broke into a short coughing fit, I’m sure to cover up a snicker. I made a mental note to smack him later.
When I turned to my mother, I found her staring at Liam, who had quickly recovered and was returning the icy stare.
“Honey, who is this?”
“This is—” and then he walked through the door behind the counter.
“Nurse Joy, is everything alright? I heard you yelling and—” The boy-who-must-not-be-thought-of stopped midsentence. He blinked. “Erin?”
I gave them my best plastic smile. “Mother, Zach,” I practically choked out the name. “this is Liam.” I took a step back and hung my arms around Liam’s neck. “My boyfriend.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
—went the world when lightning zapped the ocean and water exploded around me, soaking my skin and my bones and it was cold and the world shook and there had to be pain but I couldn’t feel it because I didn’t know me or if me or I existed or—
—my name. Me. I. I’m me. But who does that make the lightning—
There was a strange pale boy standing in front of me with his hands on his small hips and his huge grey eyes full of some emotion. Fear? Concern?
Perhaps lightning. It was hard to tell.
<Oh, there you are. What are you doing all shriveled up in the corner? I’m leaving now ‘cause we’re here so you’ve got to take over, got it?>
—the explosion. Dirt impaling my skin, no more painful than the sparks. Cold like icy water droplets running through my veins as horrendous images of blood-matted fur and twisted bones and dead Eevees flooded my mind—
The boy turned around and walked away.
—don’t go please never leave don’t never please never never never—
The world shook.
I was forced to open my eyes.
A freckled nose was much too close. “Anita! You’re awake!” the mouth beneath the nose yelped.
“See, I told you she was fine,” another voice said. The voice of the pale boy.
“You consider crashing through the Pokemon Center doors riding some poor man’s concession cart covered in dirt and blood, wearing that horrifically torn outfit fine?!” The freckled nose moved away. I blinked and after a moment, came to the conclusion that the nose belonged to Erin.
“Umm… well, she wasn’t exactly… I mean… she wasn’t the one in control when she rode in here on the cart. She was really weak and almost unconscious after the battle so I… err…”
“So you asked a man to borrow his cart and wheeled this unfortunate girl all the way to the Pokemon Center? That’s so kind.” I managed to lift my head slightly and saw a red haired woman speaking.
“Sure, let’s go with that.”
I blinked a few more times to clear my vision. The white nurse cap on the red-haired woman’s head was tilted at an odd angle, almost falling off when the woman moved her head. The scene felt familiar.
“Listen up, pipsqueak,” Erin said, grabbing the pale boy’s collar. “What did we tell you about taking over—mmmph!”
A hand snaked around Erin’s shoulder and covered her mouth. My eyes traced from the hand up a lanky arm to a shoulder, neck, settling on a head of disorderly black hair. “Now, sweetie, why don’t you leave Mel alone. He was helping Anita. Overtaking a cart was perfectly reasonable in his situation.” Liam. Mel. Erin. Lightning. Furious lightning. Fiery lightning. Fiery! Apple!
My mind was suddenly overwhelmed. “Apple!” I tried to send out my mind, but had trouble focusing.
“Don’t worry, dear. Everything is going to be all right,” the red-haired woman said. Nurse Joy. I shook my head. Why didn’t I remember that before? “Apple and your other Pokemon are being tended to as we speak. My assistant, Zachary, is taking care of it. Now we just have to focus on getting you cleaned up and waiting for the shock you are experiencing to pass.”
I stood still as Nurse Joy started rubbing my left arm with a damp washcloth and some other liquid that stung. “This is the worst I’ve seen in a long time. Honestly, the nerve of that gym leader… I can’t understand why the city council won’t even consider impeachment…”
I watched Erin and Liam, now standing a ways away, in a heated whispering argument. Mel had moved to the couch and was picking his nose, examining the boogers, and with a bizarre fascination, turning his boogers invisible before flicking them behind the couch.
“How long have they been together?” The speaker wasn’t Nurse Joy.
I turned my head and found myself looking at a teenager with curly brown hair covered by a worn baseball hat. He smiled. “I’m Zach, by the way.”
“I know. So how long?”
Maybe it was my garbled mind. I did not understand his question. “What?”
“How long have Erin and Liam been together?”
What a strange question to ask. When did we meet? By the lake. When I was pooped on. And half naked. That still beats out being electrocuted and then waking up confused as hell. “Two weeks? We met Liam by Peepin Pond…”
“So they’ve been a couple less than two weeks?”
My brain went into overdrive. I started laughing so hard my knees shook.
“Oh, dear.” Nurse Joy led me to a couch across from Mel.
“What’s so funny?”
“Erin, Liam…” I choked. I couldn’t get the rest of the words out.
“Oh, great. Now she’s crying. Do I have to go in and fish her out of moping land again?” Mel asked loudly.
Zach scrunched his eyebrows in Mel’s direction. “I think she’s laughing.”
“Why’s Anita laughing?” Through my blurred vision, I saw Erin and Liam walk next to the couch Mel was sitting on. The scene seemed fuzzy—dream-like. It had to be a dream. Erin and Liam a couple? I briefly wondered if I could do anything I wanted now that I realized I was dreaming. Maybe I could fly to Jupiter. Or spin around in circles without getting dizzy. Or punch Liam. If only I could stop laughing…
Zach shrugged. “I just asked a question.”
“He asked how long you two were together.” Mel said. Zach’s face turned red and he looked at the tip of Nurse Joy’s nurse hat.
“She’s delusional, might not remember—”
“She’s still in a state of shock, temporarily unable—”
Erin and Liam spoke at the same time, both stopping abruptly when each realized the other one was speaking.
I was having trouble breathing and my stomach hurt. Noises were getting stuck in my throat. “Kids,” Nurse Joy said sternly. “Why don’t you go wait outside while I handle Anita and get my stuff together. When Janice arrives for the night shift, all of you can come have dinner with Erin and our family. In fact, Erin, honey, why don’t you take Zachary and these other two boys back to our house now. If you get the water boiling, I’ll make pasta.” The nurse turned to me. “Dear, how about you lie down here for a couple of minutes.” She propped my legs on one end of the couch, and my body adjusted accordingly. My breath came in quick rasps. I closed my eyes.
The room was dimly lit and unfamiliar, smelling like musty oranges. I rubbed my eyes, and pushed the Pikachu covers off of my body. There was an identical bed to the one I was sitting on directly across the room, on the other side of the half shaded window. A dull orange rug lay below the window, in front of a nightstand. It looked like a massive blanket woven of Cheetos.
I walked across the Cheeto rug towards the door, but stopped to examine the large wooden dresser next to the door. Atop the desk, I found various peculiar objects; there was a broken Pokeball, a stuffed Teddiursa doll missing its tail, a dusty trophy, a few pairs of folded underwear, a book titled Drama and Irony, bits of folded paper, and piles and piles of unorganized pictures.
I picked up a pile of pictures. A young Erin and a smiling boy with brown curly hair lick ice cream that melts too quickly out of their cones. Flip. Erin sits on top of the Pokemon Center counter, holding a Pokeball. Flip. Two adults I assume to be Erin’s parents sit on a beach with Erin and a darker haired girl. Flip. Erin and the dark haired girl laugh.
I put the pictures down, opened the door, and walked out the door into a narrow hallway.
“Anita, you’re up! I was just coming to get you!” I nearly walked into Erin as I turned the hallway corner. “Dinner’s nearly ready. Welcome to my house, by the way. You were lying in my room.”
“Err…” I scratched my head. “What happened? I remember the battle… and losing… and then I had this bizarre dream where I rode on this insane cart and then you and Liam were a couple… Where are my Pokemon? Are they okay?”
Erin nodded. “Your Pokemon are fine—we left them all at the Pokemon Center for the night.”
“Okay, I’ll go now.”
Erin frowned. “Didn’t you just hear me? They are recovering in the Pokemon Center for the night. There is nothing you can do.”
“I’m still going.”
“At least eat dinner here, first. My mom and I cooked up some pasta and home-made red-sauce from home-grown tomatoes.”
“Alright.” I moved forward slightly to indicate I was ready to go down the stairs to the kitchen, but Erin blocked my path.
“Umm… so about your dream…”
The floor creaked as I shifted my weight.
Erin continued, “It wasn’t exactly a dream. Mel, apparently, took over your body to get you to the Pokemon Center and ended up hijacking a concession cart… and… umm… I kinda told everyone that Liam is my boyfriend.”
I reached out my mind to hers because I obviously did not understand what was running through her head at the moment. An image of the boy with curly brown hair from the photograph and from my not-so-unreal-dream flashed in my mind. Zach.
<Ah… so this is because of Zach?>
“Anita, you know I HATE it when you do that! Get out!”
I rolled my eyes. And didn’t oblige. A small thread of energy continued to bob near Erin’s head, alerting me of any of her strong emotions or ideas or memories.
“How did you get Liam to go along with it?” I asked.
“I didn’t give him a choice.”
How very Erin-like. “So… when should I buy your wedding gift?”
Erin pushed me jokingly. “I don’t actually like him that way. He is NOT my type. But just go with it while we’re here, kay?” Erin gave me a big eyed, wide smile.
I grinned. “It’ll be hilarious.” I ducked under her arm and started down the carpeted stairs. Just before I reached the bottom, I thought to her, <So who is your type?>
I spun around the stair railing into the kitchen, satisfied with the uncomfortable vibes I was getting from Erin, along with brief images of Jake telling a joke, Zach and Erin kissing, and discussing the molecular make-up of antidotes with Liam.
“Well, you’re looking better,” Nurse Joy said as I entered the room.
“Um, Nurse Joy, I don’t think I’m sick enough to have you follow me all the way to Erin’s house.”
Nurse Joy laughed. “I’m Amelia Kendle, Erin’s mother. I’m only Nurse Joy when I’m at work.”
Heat prickled at my neck. “Oh, sorry. It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Kendle.” Now that I looked closer, I could see the resemblance in Nurse Joy’s facial structure and light freckles.
“Come sit down, dear.” Erin’s mother led me through the small, homey kitchen to a dining room with a wooden floor and an antique wooden table. The patterned green tablecloth on top of the table clashed with the maroon seat cushions on the wooden chairs around the table. Liam, Zach, Mel, the girl with beautiful long brown hair I had seen in Erin’s picture, and a slightly balding man I also recognized from Erin’s picture were already sitting around the table. “This is my husband, Anthony and my daughter, Melanie. Where’s Erin?”
“Here, mom!” Erin entered the room and plopped down in a seat between Melanie and Liam. I sat down across from her, next to Zach and Mel.
Erin’s mother proceeded to chatter about how happy she was Erin had returned as the pasta, red-sauce, and broccoli dishes were passed around the table. Mel helped himself to several scoops of pasta, but grimaced at the broccoli. When Mrs. Kendle insisted he eat the green vegetable, Mel turned the vegetable intangible as soon as Erin’s mother looked the other way so it fell through the table to the floor.
Erin and Liam continued to play the happy couple, with Erin giggling between quick glances at Liam. Liam smiled slightly, which was impressive, considering it was Liam. Melanie shot annoyed looks at the two, and Zach glared angrily at Liam. I was getting murderous vibes from that boy.
“Oh, Erin, this is so wonderful,” Mrs. Kendle said. “I have my baby back home.”
“Well, mom, it’s only for a couple of days, until Anita beats the gym leader,” Erin answered.
For some reason, this caused a stronger emotional wave from Zach. I was split between wanting to listen to this conversation and wanting to hop into Zach’s mind. Reading Zach would probably take all of my concentration because I didn’t know him well. Thus, I settled for listening to this conversation.
“But Professor Blubber told me once you returned you would be working for him in the lab…”
“No,” Erin said smoothly. “I think he wants me to keep travelling. He’s doing a lot of research on the Eevee evolutions and observing Anita’s Eevees could prove to be exceptionally helpful.”
“Now I’m not going to have any children at home! Did you hear, Erin? Melanie has found herself a job with Timothy Conundrum—she’s going to be playing a supporting role in his next film, Untalented. And I talked with Timothy personally…”
Clearly, I had made the wrong decision in listening to this conversation. I was going to slip into Zach’s mind, but instinctively was attracted to Erin’s mind. I saw flashes of Erin’s mother jabbering about Melanie, one of Melanie’s performances when she was Cinderella, Erin’s performance in Pinocchio…
Finally, her mind settled on a memory of her recantation of the funny scene that followed her performance in Pinocchio.
“So after the play, the girl came up to me and was like ‘You were so amazing!’ Then she blushed and asked if I’d like to go with her to the movies some time so I took off my wig. It took her about five seconds to realize I was a girl, blush even more, and stammer something about it being ‘too good to be true…’” I said, setting my paper bag lunch out on the cafeteria table.
Zach laughed. “It must be fun pretending to be different people. How do you do it if you get a role you’ve never experienced before?”
Zach snorted. “Like you’d ever do research.”
“I so do research! I people watch. If I have the role of a basketball player, I’ll go to the basketball’s practice and watch a game or two.”
“That doesn’t count as research!”
“Have you ever done it just to mess with people?”
“Duh! Once I earned twenty bucks in tips pretending to be a waitress at Olivine Garden until the manager figured out I didn’t actually work there.”
“Have you done it to me?”
I winked. “Of course.”
“Hey, Zach. Did you pick up your transcript yet?” Evan sat down next to me, smoothing out a piece of paper he had just placed on the cafeteria table. “I’m ranked number three again.”
“Number four,” Zach mumbled.
“Ha. You’ve only got one more semester to beat me.”
I rolled my eyes. “I don’t get why you guys make such a big deal out of the rankings. I mean, as long as you pass, and your parents allow you to, you can leave on a journey as soon as you turn thirteen.”
“Just ‘cause you’re not even in the top twenty doesn’t mean you have to down on all of us who actually have brains and care about school,” Zach replied.
I stuck out my tongue at him.
“I talked to Amy—that goody-two-shoes is number two,” Evan said. “Who do you think number one is?”
“Maybe Alec?” Zach suggested. “Wasn’t he ahead of us at some point?”
“Yeah, but then he practically failed battle strategy last year.”
I stood up, gathering my unopened lunch bag in my hands. “I just remembered—I forgot to do the math homework. See you guys later.”
Zach nodded to me and I swiftly walked out of the cafeteria. Instead of turning to the left, towards my locker, I turned to the right, towards the administration office.
“Hi, Erin. Are you here to pick up your transcript?” the secretary asked as I entered. I nodded, and she shuffled through a pile of envelopes. “Ah, here you go.” She handed me an envelope.
I exited the office and walked back towards my locker. When I was a good twenty feet away from the administration office, I tore the envelope, transcript and all, into several small pieces of white paper. I found the nearest garbage can and watched as the shredded paper fluttered down onto moldy pieces of pizza and empty plastic wrappers.
For good measure, when I saw the tiny piece that read, “Class Rank:” I spat a large wad of saliva at it, entirely covering the words that followed—
“—ranked trainer in Acceber. Anita, think you could beat her?” Zach asked.
“Earth to Anita,” Mel said. “Zach has asked you a question.”
“Do you think you could beat Vivian Duntweedam, the number one ranked trainer in Acceber?” Zach repeated.
“Um, sure,” I said.
“You don’t sound too convinced.”
“Well I am. Go team. Win. Whooo.” The conversation continued without me. Despite Erin’s attempt to seem cool and unaffected by Zach, her eyes would occasionally start to flicker towards him. She would consciously stop her eyes from moving, and force them to look at Liam instead. I curiously delved back into Erin’s mind…
I loved the way he held me on these cool September nights, the way we curled up together in our pajamas in one sleeping bag by the dying fire. I especially loved these sweet, long kisses…
I pulled away. “What do you want?” I asked Zach.
Zach’s eyebrow’s furrowed. “How do you know I want something?”
“Dude, we never kiss for over ten seconds.”
“Well, I was thinking… I know you’ve got to go to Globert City for your research thingy, but Zahavah City’s not too far out of the way, and I’d really like to challenge the gym leader…”
“Zach, this is pretty important. I’m supposed to make the delivery by next Wednesday.”
“How important could it be if he’s having an assistant do it?”
“Professor Blubber is busy. He cannot be everywhere at once, and this delivery could help with a major breakthrough…”
“Oh, like being a trainer is much more worthwhile.”
“It’s worthwhile to me. You, on the other hand, are doing something you don’t fully believe in.”
“That’s not true…”
“Yeah, you’re right. Sorry I brought it up.”
“It’d be okay if we stopped in Zahavah for a few nights. I’ll call Professor Blubber and tell him I can’t make it by Wednesday…”
Zach briefly touched his lips to mine. “Thanks.”
I turned over, facing away from Zach and the remaining weak fire embers. “Good—”
“—night.” Erin stood up. “I’m tired and I’m going to bed.”
“It’s only eight o’clock,” Melanie said.
“Anita’s going to be sharing your room,” Mrs. Kendle said.
“You boys will be staying in the guest room,” Mr. Kendle added. “As always, Zach, you are welcome to stay.”
“I’m tired, too.” I said, picking up my plate and silverware. Erin and I brought our dishes to the sink and then headed upstairs. Once we were in Erin’s room, Erin quietly shut the door behind her.
“Anita, there’s something I need to tell… show you. Could you… do the mind thing?”
After a moment, Erin asked, “Well, what are you waiting for?”
<For you to start showing.>
<I didn’t even notice you were here!>
<Err, just arrived.> No need for Erin to know that I could roam her mind undetected.
Erin began, <We were traveling from Zahavah City, where Zach had just earned a badge…>
“No, Zach, I don’t want to cut my two week observation of the Pokemon within Apoosh Forest short so you can go lose to the unbeatable gym leader,” I said.
“Have some faith—I’ve beaten three other gyms.”
“He doesn’t lose. His father never lost either. How would you be any different? But this conversation is not about whether or not you can beat a gym leader; it’s about facing this gym leader in the first place. We did it your way last time. Now its your turn to compromise.”
“This is different. If I don’t get another two badges in the next two months, I can’t compete in Acceber’s Pokemon League.”
“Oh, yeah, so you should definitely focus defeating the undefeated gym leader. Real time saver right there.”
“Well, we’ll be by Drape Town anyway…”
“Have you ever considered, Zach, that my observation has a time limit as well? I have to observe in that forest between a half-moon to a full moon.”
“Yeah, but it’s just observation. You can make something up—”
“You *******! Did you ever consider that this might be important? Actually, I can answer for you—no! You’ve never thought about how your travel plans might affect my research. Not once. ‘Sure, it’s okay if Erin doesn’t deliver the package on time.’ ‘Oh, the library is closed for the week? Too bad. If there was a gym in this town, then we could have stayed longer.’”
“I didn’t think it was so important to you…”
I laughed. “You didn’t think it was important to me? Wake up and smell the roses, Zach. The roses with thick, spiky, sharp stems. I love what I do. I’ve loved researching from the start. But you couldn’t possibly contemplate me loving something other than you.”
“But… but you aren’t good at it. You never really like science class. I mean—”
“How the hell would you know what I’m good at? You’ve never bothered to find out—”
“I know you’re good at acting—”
“Yes, I’m so good at acting, I managed to make a show out of my entire life, with Erin and lover boy in the spotlight. So happy together. So perfect for each other. ****, I don’t know what was wrong with me. Zach, do you know my favorite color is cerulean? Do you know I ride Griffy for hours and hours after every time we argue? Do you even know that I was the valedictorian of our class?”
Zach took a deep breath. “Erin, I’m sorry. Maybe… maybe I can go to Drape Town alone, while you do your thing in Apoosh Forest.”
I smiled grimly. “Yes, I think its best we split up.” I abruptly turned on my heel and began walking away from Zach.
“Wait! I didn’t mean forever!”
I stopped and slowly turned to face Zach. “Well, I did.”
“Please, Erin. We like each other, remember? We kiss and share ice cream and enjoy each other’s company. Don’t you think it will be worth your while—”
“I help make important discoveries that eventually will benefit both humans and Pokemon. I help people, and that is worthwhile. What do you do? You train Pokemon to fight. Who do you help? Maybe your self-esteem? You have no right to tell me what is worth my while.” I released Griffy from his Pokeball and climbed onto his back. “I won’t be seeing you,” I said coldly before riding away.
It was a long time before I stopped and cried myself to sleep.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “Erin, I’m so sorry. Today, the splitting up thing… it was stupid, I was mad at Liam… I’m sorry.”
Erin shook her head. “I’m not mad.”
I hesitated. “If that’s the way you feel, then why are you traveling with us? Why are you traveling with me?”
“At first, I just wanted some company and protection on my journey back here. I’ve always traveled with other people. It’s not really safe otherwise… but, Anita, it’s weird because now I want to keep traveling with you and Liam. I’ve never wanted that before. I used to look forward to working here with Professor Blubber. Now, I just want to move on to the next city with you two. You guys… you respect me for who I am, and listen to me, and even though I’ve only known you two for a couple of weeks, you’re the best friends I’ve ever had.”
I turned around and walked across the Cheeto rug to the window. I slid my hands under a notch, lifted to open the window, and clumsily climbed outside onto the roof.
“What are you doing?” Erin asked.
“I’m sneaking out to the Pokemon Center to be with my Pokemon.”
Erin stood awkwardly. “Oh…”
“Well, are you coming?”
A grin spread across Erin’s face. “Yeah.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I leaned back on the couch and closed my eyes in a weak attempt to fall asleep quickly.
I cracked an eye open. Zach was sitting up in a sleeping bag on the floor, looking at me with a determined gaze.
“Hmn…” I answered indecisively.
Zach nervously wrung his hands. “How’s Erin?”
“How should I know? She’s not in the room now. She seemed just peachy earlier, though.”
“I meant… look, I only stayed over to tell you this: If you hurt her, I’ll beat your ass into the ground and pummel your head until you die.”
“Right.” Good luck with that. I closed my eyes again.
After a couple of minutes of silence, Zach said, “Well, this is awkward.”
“No,” Mel said, laughing on the guest bed. “It would be awkward if we were all sharing a bed.”
Really great image to fall asleep to.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I handed Professor Blubber the Bellsprout’s Pokeball.
“Thank you, Erin,” Professor Blubber said, placing the Pokeball an empty lab table. “How are your folks? How was catching up with them last night?”
“Great, Professor.” I took a long breath through my nose. “Professor… I wanted to ask you something.”
“I was wondering if it’d be okay if I continued traveling with Liam and Anita instead of staying here.” I gestured to a window, where Anita could be seen ordering one of her Eevees to use quick attack. “You met Anita for a couple of minutes, and saw how good she was with her Eevees. I think I could really learn a lot by observing her Pokemon and hopefully watching them evolve.”
Professor Blubber stared out the window for a moment. “Erin, I’m sorry, but I can’t let you do that. I don’t have anyone here to help me anymore, and I really need the help. I also don’t have the money to continue sponsoring your journey at the moment. Plus, I promised your mother…”
I nodded. “Alright then.”
“So you’ll stay?”
I shook my head. “No, I quit.”
“Please, Professor, I’m going to do this. It’s what I want. But could you not tell my mom until after I leave?”
Professor Blubber hesitated and then nodded. I hugged his belly (my arms could not reach all the way around) and then exited the laboratory through the front door. I walked around the outside of the lab to the back, where I leaned against the brick wall and watched Anita train her Pokemon.
“No, Splash,” I heard Anita say. “I will not race you. I’m not as fast as the electric Pokemon you’ll be facing—”
I looked over my shoulder and found Zach approaching. My heartbeat quickened, but I kept my face blank and nodded coolly.
“So, you’re traveling with a trainer again,” he said.
I nodded again and watched as Apple illustrated to the other Eevees the proper running motions of a quick attack.
“I’m training under your mother to become a Pokemon nurse.”
“Good for you.” The Eevees raced across the grass field, quickly fading from my sight. About ten seconds later, they returned, with Splash in the lead.
“I like it. I’ve finally found something I think is worthwhile.”
Splash tackled Anita to the ground. Anita laughed as the other Eevees piled on top of her and she playfully pushed them away. I smiled.
“So did I.”
Hey delongbi. I found this fanfic not too long ago and have had a relatively good time reading it. It is a pretty interesting take on a Pokémon Journey / adventure and you have done a pretty shifty and surprising work with the cliches. Like, the whole Super Mario gym thing was jawdropping (that's the part I am reading now). Bowser the Torkoal, oh gods.
Now, something that I specifically like is something that you do with your writing style, I'm not sure exactly what but while reading different scenes of the fic, it's like you make me forget that Fiery and Apple are Eevees (or an Eevee and a Mew, as you see fit). With Fiery, the initial description of his features as well as the way he behaves when around the cubs and how he interacts with Anita overall sometimes gives the sensation of a Pokémon more strongly associated with pack behaviour, like maybe a Houndour or a Growlithe (maybe because of the name as well). With Apple this doesn't work that much because of her psychic abilities, but the description of her actions and directness gives an impression closer to a Zigzagoon or something like that in the times that it is not noted (again) that she is not an Eevee (or Mew). It's a bit complicated, but I like it. It doesn't seem to extend to the other Pokémon in the story though so it's either an aftereffect of their characterization or that I am mad. Go figure... oh and long paragraph attempting to justify a review is long. :D
OK, just wanted you to know you have another fan. Keep entertaining us!
Hey, solovino! I'm really glad to hear you're enjoying it!
Hello. Good story, I've been reading it for quite a while now.
now...? Or did I get muddled up again? XD;
I like what you've done with Erin; Liam (lol, my name too) was right, she did come across as a bit shallow at first, but you've given her a lot more depth now.
Lol'd at the way that Nurse Joy isn't Nurse Joy outside of the Pokemon Center, nice touch there.
Sparky was seriously scary though. I wonder what strategy you'll have Anita use to defeat him, hmm?
Anyway, like solovino, mainly dropping in to say that there's yet another person reading and enjoying this. ;D
Thanks for reviewing, Chives!
Alright, next chapter! This begins my attempt to write/post a chapter a week for the summer! We'll see how that goes (especially since I just bought gold, oy). Thank you guys so much for reading and/or reviewing! You guys keep me motivated!
Chapter 28: No Goodbyes
“Rita, I’m leaving you in charge.” My stomach physically hurt from uttering those words.
“Don’t get me wrong, Jamie—”
“That’s Sir Arkle to you,” I corrected.
“You’re not a knight,” Rita snickered. “Anyway, Jamie, though your departure makes my heart overflow with syrupy happiness, what exactly are you going to tell the Master?”
“The same thing I told you,” I said curtly. “There was a family emergency—”
“I didn’t even know you had family. I was fairly certain pigs gave birth—”
“And you fell out of a pigeon’s uterus. Go **** yourself.” I slammed my suitcase shut. “I’ll be back by the end of the week. Do anything to damage my career—”
“As a suck-up—”
“And I will personally shave the skin off your body and feed it to your precious pigeons.” I walked out of the office, leaving the witch with everything I had worked so hard to obtain. I almost regretted my efforts to keep competent Team Glop’emm members out of the Master’s most trustworthy circle. Almost. Any person with power and competence had the potential to be named the next Team Glop’emm Master, and thus be detrimental to my career.
I yearned for a trustworthy trainer to do this grunt work for me. Trustworthiness, however, was a hard trait to come across in Team Glop’emm. I’ve had much experience in the matter.
When I finally arrived outside, I pulled out a Pokeball. In a flash of red my Togekiss appeared.
“Skampi, to Globert City,” I ordered as I climbed over Skampi’s unusually large wings. Drape town quickly faded below us, until only the stubborn City Hall was visible. The despised City Hall…
As the City Hall failed to provide me with information about the Mendol family, I was forced to find another means of gaining this knowledge. The only people who possibly knew Master Mendol Senior better than me were the little Mendol twit himself, the gym leaders, and Harvey Darcleye.
Harvey Darcleye was the least dangerous of the bunch and likely knew the most. After all, he had been the gym leader of Drape town before the Mendols arrived…
The Sneasel slashed at the Butterfree with a claw, but the butterfly Pokemon swooped away just in the nick of time. The Butterfree sent a few whirlwinds at the Sneasel, but the Sneasel took the opportunity to use an ice attack. The ice shards got caught in the whirlwind and hit the Butterfree—
The sudden voice nearly made me fall out of the tree I was sitting in. I looked down at the moron who had startled me.
“Jamie, you’ve gotta come see—Ryan and Drake are decking each other over some blonde chick. What’re you doing up there?”
“I’m on an assignment.”
“Spying on the gym leader through a window? Dude, the battles are open to the public.”
“I’m not supposed to be seen.” I did not tell the idiot that I was actually waiting for after the gym battle, when the gym leader was supposed to meet with a new potential gym leader after the match under this very tree. Gym leaders were a nasty business for Team Glop’emm, always foiling plans and sending about half the crew to jail. Whenever a new one came around, the bosses always wanted to know what the team would be dealing with next.
“Yeah, well, I saw you so you might want to go higher.”
The moron had a point. I climbed into higher branches.
“Jamie, I was kidding. Ger your ass down here to see the fight!”
“I’m on duty.”
“**** duty! You love this stuff! Man, ever since you joined that gang you haven’t been the same. You too cool to hang with us now? Is that it?!”
“You were never cool to begin with,” I said, losing my patience. The Butterfree had fainted and the gym leader was shaking a teenager’s hand.
The moron raised his hands in defeat. “Whatever, Jamie. Just don’t come crying back to us when that gang kicks your ass out on the curb.” The guy turned and walked away, disappearing among Drape Town’s busy citizens walking up and down Main Street.
Forty minutes later, the sun was starting to set and the damn tree was making my legs uncomfortable. Just as I was adjusting my position, the gym leader walked out of the gym, turned a corner, and approached the tree. I noticed the gym leader walked with a slight limp, supported on one side by an Umbreon whose eyes glowed eerily. A man with dark hair approached the tree from the opposite direction. I froze.
When the two men and the Umbreon arrived under the tree, the gym leader held out his hand. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Mendol.”
The man with dark hair took the gym leader’s hand. “Mr. Darcleye, the pleasure is mine.”
“To what do I owe this delightful encounter?” the gym leader asked.
“I heard you were retiring.”
“I’m sorry, you were misinformed.”
“I heard you were retiring once you found a replacement,” Mendol said.
Mendol shrugged, and the gym leader eyed the man warily. “Psychic,” Darcleye ordered. The Umbreon’s eyes glowed purple and Mr. Mendol was shoved against the gym’s brick wall. “You are not gifted.”
Mendol pulled out a Pokeball. “I am gifted in other ways.” A Houndoom appeared as Mendol pressed the release button. “Crunch.”
The Hondoom rushed at the Umbreon. The Umbreon disappeared and reappeared behind the Houndoom in a faint attack. Just as the Umbreon hit, the Houndoom twisted around and spewed a blast of fire in the Umbreon’s face.
“Toxic!” Darcleye yelled.
“Sludge Bomb,” Mendol retaliated.
Both Pokemon, still physically intertwined, were covered with a purple, oozing liquid. The Houndoom bit down hard on the Umbreon’s back, only to be roughly pushed away.
“Wait,” Darcleye called as the Pokemon faced each other, about to attack once more.
Mendol nodded to his Houndoom to do the same.
The two Pokemon stared at each other, watching the poison seep through the veins of their opponents. After several minutes, both Pokemon were struggling to stand.
Finally, the Umbreon fell.
Darcleye pulled out a Pokeball and released his Sneasel. Mendol took a step back to prepare for the attack. “Go fetch,” Darcleye ordered the Sneasel. Surprisingly, the Sneasel fled from the battle toward the street. I saw him enter the gym from my window view. “You have a lot to learn,” Darcleye told Mendol as he picked up his Umbreon.
Mendol did not say anything. He returned his Houndoom to a Pokeball.
The Sneasel returned with a Pokemon egg between its claws. Darcleye took the egg and held it out to Mendol.
Mendol took the egg. “What is this?” he asked.
“An Eevee egg. Your training starts tomorrow at eight-o-clock. Goodnight.” Darcleye returned the Sneasel and limped away from the tree with the Umbreon in his arms, walking into the lamp-lit street.
Mendol smirked as Darcleye vanished down the street.
He then looked up into the tree, directly at me. His smirk widened.
“Call me,” he mouthed, holding his hand like a phone up to his ear. Then he departed into the darkness.
I smiled as I climbed down from the tree, knowing I had some interesting news to tell my boss.
And probably a promotion.
The air was smoggy and smelled of gasoline. I forced my eyes open as Skampi descended into Globert City despite the ashy particles that made my eyes sting. The air was more breathable on the ground. I returned Skampi to his Pokeball and walked two blocks, carefully avoiding the Grimers oozing along the sidewalk. I kicked a Koffing out of the way when it rolled in front of my feet.
I found the small, grimy house I was looking for. It was slightly bigger than the tree house I had played in as a child and eventually set fire to. This house looked already burnt-out—it was less homey than a pile of rubble, and was in fact located next to a dump.
I wrapped on the door.
“Go away!” a gruff voice shouted through the door. “I already told you, I have no idea where the boy is!”
“Sir, I’m not a reporter,” I called.
“Eh? So you’re just another curious citizen.” A lock clicked and the door opened. Harvey Darcleye, grey hair, large nose, walking cane and all stood in the doorway. “I still have got nothing to say to you. I’ll tell you what I told the gym leaders’ people, the reporters, and all the other folk who decided bothering me was worth coming through the g-d-forsaken city for—I don’t know ****. I have not spoken with either Mendol since the day they took over my gym.” The man tried to slam the door, but I put my hand out and stopped the door from shutting.
“I’m a graduate student at Zahavah University, sir. And I’m researching you, not—”
“Bullmuk. What, do you think I’m an idiot? First of all, if you were just doing research you would have tried calling me. Granted, I unhooked my phone, but I still get messages, and I’ve got nothing from you. Second of all, you’re not carrying anything but Pokeballs—not even a pad of paper. Thirdly, you are not wearing the protective mask all university students are required to wear before entering Globert City.”
“Maybe I don’t like the masks.”
“And maybe you’re not a graduate student. Let’s see… you can’t be from our beloved gym leaders because I’ve already given them all I know, you aren’t a reporter or a student, you’re certainly not a curious citizen because Globert City doesn’t have curious citizens, which leaves… Team Glop’emm.” Harvey Darcleye raised a white eyebrow at me.
The old man opened the door wider. “Well, do come in.” Harvey led me into a surprisingly clean room comprised of a small kitchen, a bed, and a couch. He nodded to an Umbreon lying on the couch. “Try any funny business and she’ll tear you to shreds.” Harvey seated himself next to the Umbreon and pointed out a stool for me to sit on. “So Team Glop’emm’s missing their leader, too?”
“Not quite. Tell me what you know about the Mendols.”
“Getting right to the point, are we? Well, frankly, the more people looking for the idiot boy, the better. A disgrace to my former gym… The Mendols, well, they came to Drape Town back, oh, seven years ago. The father was a real battle protégé—never knew the son much, but heard he was as well. Not much more to be known. Black hair, greenish eyes, good with dark Pokemon—”
“The son was, father wasn’t. But you already knew that, otherwise you wouldn’t have known to ask about the gift. What, are you testing to see how much I know?” As an afterthought, Harvey snapped, “Or how much I’m willing to tell?”
“How do you know the boy is the leader of Team Glop’emm?”
“Oh, his father told me outright as soon as he was gym leader. Said he was going to use the team for good. I wasn’t working for the government any more so I didn’t feel the need to run to the other leaders. I figured he wouldn’t last long—leaders of Glop’emm never do—so when he died I figured the position was probably passed on. I figured right, apparently.”
“Use the team for good?”
“What’d you think he joined the team for? Money? Power? He already had all of that as a gym leader, youngster. No, he said he’d use the team’s resources for something that would benefit all of humanity—and, before you ask, he never did give me the details and I never asked. Moved to a cottage by the ocean until the man went and died and my house was bombarded with reporters—then I moved here to avoid all of that. I think it’s time to pack up again…”
“Did they have any relatives?”
“Not that I know of.”
“Where did they come from, before Drape Town?”
Harvey scratched his head. “Vintage Villiage, if I recall correctly. Didn’t talk about the past much…”
I got up. The man had given me all the answers I needed.
“Hey, where are you going? You’re not going to ask me where I think he might be? What Pokemon he’ll be using? If he visited?”
I opened the front door. “You’re not trying to find him, are you?” Harvey called after me. The door slammed shut, but I still heard his voice. “You’re trying to make sure he’ll stay gone!”
I touched Hypno’s Pokeball. With the information Harvey knew, I should kill him. But he was gifted. He might be hard to kill and there was a chance the gym leaders would check on him. I glanced through a small window and saw Harvey watching me. “Good luck,” he mouthed.
I smiled coldly and walked away from the door.
Needless murder just wasn’t my thing.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
<Anita, I don’t think you’re ready for this,> Apple said, playfully rolling in the pile of Pikachu covers on top of my bed. <You still can’t make a barrier move with your mind—you keep treating it like just one barrier when you really have to imagine it as several barriers, one disappearing as another one is made in almost the same spot as the first—>
I pulled on my shoes. <I’ll be okay.>
<And you utilize the dispersed energy from each disappearing barrier—>
<Apple! I know what to expect this time, and we spent the last two days improving speed. I swear, a Suicune couldn’t move as fast as Splash’s quick attack—>
<But you still can’t move barriers—>
<I don’t need to. I just have to hold back Sparky, and I’ve gotten a bit better at splitting my focus—>
<Enough! Ready or not, I’m challenging that gym again today.> I clipped my Pokeballs onto my belt, touched Erin’s Cheeto rug for good luck, and left Erin’s bedroom with Apple trailing behind me.
I found Erin lying across her living room couch reading a book. I softly stepped across the carpet until I was close enough to see the words over her shoulder. “Whatcha reading?” I asked after glancing over the first phrase on the page. “There once was a boy who will went…”
Erin sat up quickly, startled. “It’s a book of poems. They were my favorite when I was younger.” She hastily closed the book and crammed it into her backpack.
“You ready to go?” I asked. “Where’s Mel?”
<Hmm, no wonder it’s been quiet—I haven’t seen him all morning,> Apple noted.
“My mom walked him and Liam to Professor Blubber’s lab on her way to work before you got up.”
“Why are they going to the lab?”
“Apparently, Professor Blubber asked Liam to help him out with something,” Erin said harshly. “Guess I wasn’t qualified.”
“Erin, you know he’s just probably trying to avoid any awkwardness between you guys. I mean, you’re family friends and all.” Trying to lift Erin’s mood, I added, “So why’d Mel go?”
Erin snorted. “I bet he abandoned the lab and went to the gym again. Liam wouldn’t care, even if Sparky’s insane. For some reason Mel seems to have grown attached to Mister-Violent-and-Wacked-Out-Electric-Crazy-Man.”
“Two peas in a pod…” I muttered.
“No, they’re more like two grenades in a box that someone is shaking and has the potential to explode at any second.”
“Huh. Shall we go blow up?”
Erin got up from the couch. “Let’s.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The moment Mrs. Kendle was out of sight, Mel gave me a salute and disappeared. “Off to see Sparky, see ya later!”
That was fine by me.
I quietly opened the front door of Professor Blubber’s laboratory. The hall was dark, aside from a dim light spilling out an open door of an experiment room at the end of the hall. Silently, I approached Professor Blubber’s office door and tested the handle. It was unlocked.
I slipped inside.
I did not bother turning on the lights—I could see every object perfectly in the dark. There were several papers, research documents, and letters piled messily on his desk. I skimmed the documents and found that most of them pertained to the Eevee experiment. The letters I examined more carefully, but I failed to find the particular correspondence I was seeking.
I tried to open the desk drawers, but discovered they were all locked. Where would Professor Blubber keep an extra key? I eyed the shelves that held a crank Pokeball, a tool kit, and several roles of tape, among other peculiar objects. A lot of the objects were dusty… Except…
I peered closer at the tape. There was a roll that wasn’t quite as dusty. I pulled the tape roll off the shelf when I noticed a slight bulge in its side. I peeled back a strip of tape, and found the spare key under the tape.
As expected, the key unlocked the drawers. The first two drawers contained data from every experiment ever performed in the laboratory. The third drawer held files on all of Professor Blubber’s correspondents. Perfect.
I found Rita Teal’s file, glanced over her bio, and perused the letter she had recently sent Professor Blubber. There was nothing in the letter Professor Blubber had not told me. I flipped to the next letter—
There was a quiet clicking, rubber soles against a tiled floor. Someone was approaching. I rapidly put the file back together and returned it to the drawer, careful not to shove it more than necessary so it did not appear to be tampered with. I closed the drawer and put the key back under the tape—
The doorknob started to move. I tensed my biceps, quads, and calves, calculating my next movement. A millisecond later, I was in the air above the desk. I snatched a random book from the shelf and landed in the visitor’s chair on the other side of the desk just as the door opened.
The lights flickered on.
I fluttered my eyes groggily and winced at the light, pretending to have just woken up.
“Huh, oh hey, Professor Blubber.”
“What are you doing in my office, in the dark?” the professor asked sharply.
I feigned embarrassment and ran a hand through my hair. “Well, I came by a little while ago to ask you—but I saw you were busy with something that looked important. The office door was unlocked so I grabbed a book—” I waved the random book opened to the first page I had grabbed off of the shelf. “—and was planning on waiting until you were finished. Only, it’s early and I was tired so I ended up turning the lights off for a quick snooze.”
Professor Blubber narrowed his eyes. “What’s the name of the book?”
“Mysteries of Nature,” I replied without looking at the book. “It’s a book of poems.”
“You did not behave this foolishly when I met you two days ago,” Professor Blubber said bluntly, walking into the room and sitting down across from me at his desk.
There was nothing to do but look at the professor innocently. Professor Blubber sighed and scrutinized his desk for a moment. I noticed his eyes flicker to the key in the tape, and then back to me.
We stared at each other for a moment, but when the professor did not say anything, I turned my attention to the poetry book. The preface was a short poem, entitled The Boy Who Will Went.
There once was a boy who will went,
To greatest despair he was sent,
But never could it be
If not for me,
The boy’s time would be ill spent.
So dear reader you see,
If you happen to be he,
When all rules are bent
Leap through that vent
And remember me, I plea!
“Are you going to tell me why you’re in my office?”
“Why do you have a poetry book in your office, Professor?”
“It’s written by a colleague of mine, Professor Seth Hastings.”
I flipped through the book. “A researcher wrote this? These poems are extremely vague. Shouldn’t they be about nature?”
“Yes, well, Professor Hastings has, in recent years, become a rather vague person. He was never at the top of his field—always seemed to have his head in the clouds. But then he just snapped. Now, he’s… a raving lunatic. The words that come out of his mouth just don’t make sense. He published this book and sent a few copies to me.” Professor Blubber checked his bookshelf. “Hmm, I could have sworn I still had another copy.” He glared at me.
“Don’t imply that I took the book. There’s nowhere for me to have put it. What did you say Professor Hasting’s field was?”
“I didn’t. Ancient Pokemon.”
“Is there any way to contact Professor Hastings?”
“I’m not the one to ask—haven’t heard from him in years. I’m pretty sure he lives in Winsk City now, so he might be hard to reach.”
“Nobody lives there.”
“Nai, the gym leader, does.”
“Yes, but she’s a gym leader with ice Pokemon. That place is completely cut off from the world.”
Professor Blubber looked irritated again. “Are you ever going to tell me what you are doing in my office?”
I closed the poetry book. “Oh, right. Well, Mel and Erin went to watch Anita get her ass kicked by Sparky. I don’t particularly enjoy watching Anita’s Pokemon battles and I thought that I might be able to help out here.”
Professor Blubber blinked. “Well… we just recieved a shipment of new supplies. You file and organize them.”
“I’d love to, Professor.”
We rose from our seats. On the way out of the office, I swear I heard Professor Blubber mumble, “Lying, manipulative twit.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Miss Anita Parkwood,
Please walk around the gym.
The All Awesome Sparky and Mini Awesome Mel
Erin, Apple, and I stared on the note on the gym door. “I can’t believe he signed it love,” Erin muttered.
“We should be really careful,” I said. “Sparky probably set up a ridiculous man-eating-robot or something.” As we cautiously walked around the gym, I sent my mind out to avoid surprises.
<AHHH!> Apple suddenly yelled. I thrust a barrier around her.
<What’s wrong?! What happened? Are you okay?!> I looked for the source of Apple’s pain, but didn’t see anything. Erin watched Apple and me in confusion.
<It’s terrible!> Apple lifted up a paw. <I stepped in goose poop. Hmm, or maybe it’s Swellow poop. I’ve always had trouble telling the difference…>
<Apple! I thought you were hurt or under attack or something! Don’t scare me like that!>
Apple shrugged and dragged her paw across the grass as she walked in an attempt to get rid of the gunk that covered her paw. Irked, I picked up my pace. Apple had to give up on her paw and half-run, half-trot to keep up.
We reached the backyard without further incident. In fact, we found Mel and Sparky peacefully sitting across from each other several meters away from the cliff that overhung the Palute Sea. Sparky was chuckling at something Mel said. Mel spotted us first.
“Ugh, they’re here! And we forgot to set up all the cool traps we were designing! There was this one with invisible lightning and a trap door—”
“—and a mechanical arm—” Sparky added.
“—and this cool laser water evaporating thing—”
“—and several evil laughs—”
“—and a crazy old man and an annoying kid getting their butts handed to them,” I interrupted.
A look of confusion crossed Mel’s face. “I don’t get how that would work,” he said. Sparky grinned madly.
I turned my attention to him. “What, no immediate electrocution? You’re starting to slack.”
<Anita, don’t suggest that,> Apple said.
“Please pick one Pokemon for the prelim and three for the later battle.”
“Hey, I already beat your prelim!” I complained.
Sparky shrugged. “You lost.”
I grimaced and unclipped three Pokeballs—Splash, Vanilla, and Fiery. During the speed training, Splash was the fastest, followed closely by Apple and then Fiery. However, after practice, when Splash covered himself in mud and started chasing Vanilla, he was never able to catch her. Despite Splash’s and Vanilla’s lack of experience, I needed to use my fastest Pokemon in battle to keep up with Sparky. I would use Fiery for the prelim.
I released Fiery and handed Sparky his Pokeball, along with Splash’s and Vanilla’s. Apple trotted near Sparky, but ensured that there was at least a two-meter gap between her and the gym leader. “Mel, take Anita’s other Pokeballs and backpack and head inside. Go with this other young lady down the staircase I showed you earlier. I’m going down a different way and I’ll meet you at the bottom.”
Mel nodded and did as requested. Erin mouthed, “Good luck!” before following Mel around the gym.
<I thought I wasn’t battling,> Fiery grumbled.
<Prelim,> I replied.
“Come here.” Sparky motioned to follow him as he approached the cliff edge. Fiery and I took a few steps forward and then stopped. Sparky’s smile widened and a spark danced across his teeth and then up his hair. “Closer.”
I reluctantly took two more steps. Call it fear, common sense, instinct, or whatever—approaching a lunatic with the power to control electricity standing on a cliff edge just did not seem like the best idea.
“Come right here.” Sparky gestured to the area next to him. Sparky waited until both Fiery and I were right next to him before cackling, “There’s a cavern at the bottom of this cliff. If you follow the cavern far enough, you will find the battle area where I’ll be waiting. Your prelim is to get to the battle area.”
I peered over the cliff and watched the sparkling ocean crash against the rocks.
Then, suddenly, sharp knives jabbed at my skin—my heart—my lungs. My mouth was open but I couldn’t scream.
My feet weren’t touching the ground any more. The ocean rushed toward me—
And then I abruptly stopped plummeting. An invisible force held me above the rocks. I noticed Fiery was beside me, watching the ocean below. Water sprayed up from the rocks, but we were still too high for it to reach us.
I felt a surge of anger from Apple above us, and automatically thrust my mind into hers. She was running forward, sizing up Sparky and looking for a good place to bit him. <Stop!> I yelled. Through Apple’s eyes, I saw that Sparky held a long string of lightning between his hands.
Apple continued running at him.
<STOP!> I yelled again, putting a psychic force behind my words. Surprisingly, Apple actually halted.
<He pushed you and Fiery OFF OF A CLIFF!>
<It’s the prelim. Apple, save your energy for the battle. Then, I promise, you can bite him all you would like. Thank you for saving us. Now follow Sparky wherever he’s going to take you.>
<Apple, we don’t have time for this. We’re both wasting psychic energy. We need all the energy we can get to fight Sparky.>
Apple’s will wavered slightly. That would have to be enough. It was difficult to endure a connection for such a long time over a great distance. I retreated to my own mind.
Fiery was still watching the ocean.
<It’s okay,> I told him. <I won’t let you fall.>
I surveyed our distance from the ocean below us, and approximated it to be about the height of twelve Pokemon Centers.
I sighed and mentally prepared myself for the strain I was about to put my mind through. I forced my mind forward to create a barrier about a yard below the barrier we currently stood on, only a little farther away from the cliff. I jumped and landed on the barrier.
<Fiery, come on.>
Fiery didn’t move. He could not take his gaze off of the ocean.
I reached up to the original barrier and pulled Fiery into my arms. He was warm and fairly heavy, but I held on to him anyway.
I continued the make a barrier, hop, make a barrier, hop pattern for a while. After a while, my legs began to ache so I made the leaps smaller. Eventually, I was just walking down an invisible spiral staircase.
Once, Fiery squirmed in my arms, and my concentration broke. We fell, but I managed to regain my concentration and create a new barrier in less than two seconds.
When we reached the cavern right above the rocks, I took a few steps in so Fiery would not get splashed with water, dropped Fiery on the ground, and slumped against the wall. My brain hurt like a muscle that had been pushed to its limit, but I felt surprisingly good. I had managed to get us to the cavern without allowing Fiery to get wet and with very few mistakes.
It was weird. For the first time, I had confidence in my psychic powers.
Fiery put a paw on my leg. I looked into his red-tinted eyes and he leaned forward to lick my face. I was too tired to reach my mind out to hear what was saying, but I smiled and patted his head.
We sat in silence for several minutes until I finally got to my feet. We walked into the cavern. I wanted to check on Apple and Erin and Mel, but I lacked the strength to even create a connection with Fiery. It was not long before I could see a bright light.
Fiery and I entered what appeared to be a battle arena. The floor, walls, and ceiling were all made of dirt and stone. There were no light bulbs. I squinted at the walls, trying to figure out where the light was coming from. When I remembered our previous battle, I realized the other arena had been illuminated the same way.
A deep laugh echoed around the arena. “It’s called bright powder,” Sparky said. I finally noticed him casually standing by a wall on the other side of the arena. “Run a current through it and it lights up.” Sparky pointed to my left. “Behind that door are your Pokemon.”
I turned around and saw the door. Aside from a small bronze handle, it looked like part of the wall. I swung the door open.
I stood motionless. A pebble tumbled somewhere in the cavern. Slowly, I turned to face Sparky. “Where—”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“—is this stupid place anyway?” I asked, forcing my tired legs down yet another four steps. “And Sparky said he’d meet us at the bottom. How’d he get there? Why couldn’t we go the same way? When will these stairs end?!”
Mel seemed unaffected by the never-ending staircase. He continued leaping down excitedly, impatiently waiting for me to catch up at every turn. “Sparky’s way is a hundred foot drop through the ground. He thought you’d be uncomfortable using it. He does something funky with controlling electricity for it to work.”
“He cares about my well-being. I’m flattered,” I said sarcastically.
“He’s not like everyone thinks he is. Like your mom. She talks really bad about him. But he isn’t really like that—he’s like me!”
“That doesn’t help his case.”
“What was that?” I asked.
“The battle must have started! And we’re missing it! Come on, go faster!”
“My legs won’t move any faster, Mel. They feel like they’re going to fall off.”
Mel grabbed my hand. “Come on!” Suddenly, my feet weren’t on the ground any more. I couldn’t feel my legs—I couldn’t feel anything.
Mel pulled me down a few stairs. “What—stop! Mel, let go!”
And then I was in the ground. It was so bizarre having dirt and rocks and an occasional Diglet pass right through my body that I did not think to scream. I wondered what would happen if I became tangible again while passing through the dirt.
There was another loud bang and then a louder crash. Mel pulled us towards the sound.
We came upon a cavern with a bright light at the end of it. I heard Anita’s voice yelling something, but the echoes distorted the sound and I couldn’t make out what she was saying. Mel made us solid again and ran towards the light. I sprinted after him.
Mel stopped abruptly at the arena’s entrance. I gazed past him. The walls of the arena appeared to glimmer, giving off random light. I suspected the dirt was partially composed of bright powder and would have taken a sample to test later if it had not been for the intense scene in front of me.
An invisible force held Sparky five meters off of the ground against the wall to the left of where Mel and I stood. I was astonished that despite his situation, he continued to cackle. Beneath Sparky, a Jolteon, Flaffy, and Electabuzz were helplessly pinned to the wall as well. In the back left corner of the room, Vanilla and Splash cowered behind Fiery, who sat like a statue.
Everyone had their eyes on the center of the arena, where Anita stood. The air around her was strange, wavering slightly. Her hands were clenched into fists and her face taut.
It was her eyes, though, that really scared me mukless.
Her eyes glowed a bright purple and seemed to pierce right through Sparky, who she was staring at intently. Sparky’s head was slammed into the wall. “Where is she?” Anita said icily.
Sparky didn’t answer. For the first time, I saw his mad grin falter.
“What the hell did you do with Apple?”
So it's been a while. Sorry guys, I kinda fell off the face of the planet. Anywho, to anyone who's still reading this:
Chapter 29: The Search is On
Results 21-30 of about 154,000.
The familiar picture appeared on the screen. A collapsing Pokemon Center. Blue flames. A teenage girl crying. The caption read, Cherrygrove City fire kills three. Emily Johnson mourns the loss of her brother, Matthew Johnson. That was a slight change. Every other website had commented on the unusual circumstances of the fire, not the people involved. Legendary Fire? was a popular article title, as was Cherrygrove Police Failure.
I was not even certain of what to look for. The blue fires of Cherrygrove City and Vintage Village were my only leads as to how my father had known. Interestingly, the fires occurred within a hundred years of each other. Was this the information my father had?
It would imply that multiple Mews existed or the 5,000-year legend was, in fact, just a legend.
I scrolled down the page. There was another picture of the teenage girl. She was crying in the arms of a police officer while another officer carried a crate of rescued—but somewhat charred—objects. A doll in the crate caught my eye.
I closed the web page.
The doll had possessed a zipper mouth.
Banette. A Pokemon with a fetish for neglected dolls with the ability to produce blue fire using will-o-wisp.
Another dead end.
My father had known. He had known before he became he became a gym leader—before he became the Master—before he died, leaving me in the position as Master, as gym leader, as the only person capable of finishing what my father had started.
Except he did not leave me the most vital information. How to destroy Mew. Four years in Drape Town spent searching through records, files, journals, family heirlooms—and not a clue.
He had known. He had to have known… right?
“That was sloppy, Velcan!” Harvey Darcleye called from across the gym.
In the center of the gym, a Sneasel stood above a Charmeleon pointing, pointing a bright, sharp claw at the fire Pokemon’s throat.
“We’re not through!” a thin man with disheveled black hair yelled back. Suddenly, Charmeleon started to glow. The Sneasel took a step back.
A boy in the stands watched in confusion.
“Charizard!” The newly evolved Charizard flexed its wings, turned to the Sneasel, and released a stream of flames from its mouth. Harvey pulled out Sneasel’s Pokeball and returned the Pokemon.
Velcan grinned. “See, we—”
“You won’t be able to evolve your Pokemon every battle,” Harvey interrupted.
“And your Sneasel won’t be able to paralyze my Pokemon every battle. Each battle is different. We just use what we have to our advantage,” Velcan answered.
Harvey gave Velcan a crinkly smile. “Well said.”
Velcan turned to the boy in the stands. “Ready to go?”
The boy nodded and began the descent to the arena. “Mr. Darcleye?” he asked.
“Yes?” Harvey answered.
“Why didn’t you attack while Charmeleon was evolving?”
Harvey frowned and glanced at Velcan before answering. “It’s an unspoken rule.”
Harvey carefully answered, “A Pokemon can get seriously hurt if it is hit while evolving.”
“Then wouldn’t it be best to—”
“That’s enough,” Velcan interrupted. “A Pokemon that is attacked during evolution can undergo permanent damage. Not attacking during evolution is a truce between all trainers.”
“Velcan,” Harvey spoke quietly. “Where are you sending this boy to school? How old is he? Seven? He should have learned this by now. Especially with his sharp mind—”
“I’m homeschooling him.”
“Are you sure that’s for the best? Have you actually been—”
“Ask him the attacks of any Pokemon.”
“No, I didn’t mean—”
“We haven’t covered official battle rules yet,” Velcan said.
“Mendol!” Harvey yelled. “It’s rude to interrupt. And not attacking during evolution is not an official rule.” Velcan opened his mouth to speak again, but Harvey held up a hand. “I don’t doubt that you have taught your boy well. I am just concerned with his well-being. What does he do during the day when you’re not home? A kid his age should be making friends in school.”
“My Alakazam gives him lessons.” Velcan lowered his voice. “He’s been through a lot. We both have. Now is just not the best time for him to be attending school.”
“I’m not trying to tell you how to raise your kid. Just want to make sure you know what you’re doing.”
Velcan smiled bleakly. “I do.” The boy had reached the bottom of the stairs. Velcan took his hand. “Let’s go.”
At the doorstep of the gym, Velcan pulled a thin black cloak from his bag and handed it to his son. The boy routinely pulled it over his head, keeping the hood up. In the dim light, only his green eyes could be seen beneath the hood.
The pair walked only a block before turning off of the street and approaching what appeared to be a dark, empty office building. Upon entering the building, however, it was apparent that the building was anything but empty. Hallways were filled with diffused light and several busy-looking trainers, researchers, and other subordinates. Offices along the outer walls had thick blinds to keep even the weakest light from seeping into the outside world.
Velcan and the boy entered an elevator and were met by a tall, redheaded man wearing a black overcoat. The man nodded, “Mendol.”
“Gibson,” Velcan replied, smiling slightly. “How was your assignment? I heard the Master sent you to Sinnoh…”
“What I did is classified information.”
Velcan raised an eyebrow. “Oh, right. You’ve been gone a while. I know all about your failed dealings with Team Galactic. See, the Master promoted me because she values competence.”
Gibson struggled to keep a straight face. “I was sent to Sinnoh because I’m the only person able to handle such a delicate situation—”
“Really? I hear she just wanted to get rid of you. Was tired of you, in fact.”
“Tired?” Gibson echoed, looking slightly dazed. He stared at the elevator doors as if he was trying to burn a hole through them.
“What were her exact words? Something like ‘Too clingy. Can’t get over the one night.’ I was under the impression she thought you couldn’t handle her screw and split tactic.”
“You know, new guy every week. I hear Arkle was the lucky boy this week.” Velcan winked at Gibson. “Hope I’m next.” The elevator opened to the fourth floor and Velcan and the boy stepped out. Despite being the top floor, the redheaded man did not move. Velcan waved a cheery goodbye to the stunned man as the elevator doors closed.
Velcan dropped his false smile and let out a long breath. He took the boy’s hand. “Time to see the Master.”
After walking down two twisted halls full of several wooden doors, Velcan and the boy stood in front of one such door. The door opened by itself to a room even less lit than the hallway.
“Mendol…” A woman said from the shadows. As the father and son entered, the woman added with distaste, “And Mini-Mendol…”
“Master.” Velcan pulled out a cloth bag and placed it on the woman’s desk. “That is Devon Corporation’s latest recording technology.”
“You completed your assignment rather quickly. May I ask how…?”
“I have connections.”
“And the gym leader?”
“Continues to not look for, think about, or even consider Team Glop’emm.”
“Well, Mendol, your performance for the team has been… incredible. Never have I been inclined to promote a charming man so rapidly.” The woman licked her lips and ran a hand through her hair. “If only you would leave the boy—even for a moment…”
Velcan’s eyes darted to the corner of the room, where a Kirlia stood against the wall. He squeezed his son’s hand tighter. “I have my reasons. One day, my son may be of use to the team.”
“Of course, of course.”
“Master? There’s something you should know.”
“What about Gibson?” The Master said uneasily.
“It’s just, I overheard him talking to some of the guys. He was comparing you to some woman named Jupiter… talking about performances. He said you liked to come off all dominant, but…”
“Mendol, your next assignment is on your desk. Please leave.”
Velcan nodded and pulled his son from the room. As they exited, the boy heard the Master mutter, “Should start calling him Meddle… perhaps for the best, though…”
Velcan and the boy walked down the hall and entered another office, this one empty. Velcan flipped the lights on and sat down behind a large desk, placing the boy on his lap.
“So, you see what I did?” Velcan asked.
“You made them angry at each other,” the boy answered.
“Do you know why?”
“We need resources.”
“That’s why we want to be in control of the gym and of Team Glop’emm. I’m talking about tactics.”
“You want to split them up.”
Velcan ruffled his son’s hair. “Right. Divide and conquer. That’s important to remember.” Velcan glanced past the boy to a framed scripture on the wall. “Always divide…”
“Dad, I don’t like the Master. She’s creepy.”
“I don’t like her either. But she won’t be around much longer.”
“You’re going to kill her?” the boy asked in alarm.
“No, of course not. Then how would we be better than the legendaries, hmm?” Velcan patted his son’s back comfortingly. “Jamie and I are going to get the Master to leave of her own accord.”
“Because she’ll be divided?”
“I don’t like this cloak,” the boy randomly said. “It gets in my eyes.”
Velcan turned the boy around. “Listen to me. You must never go out without the cloak. Never. We cannot trust these people. Not the Master, not Miss Teal, not even Jamie. Okay? These people can be useful, but we can never know for sure what they are thinking—”
“Unless we have a psychic Pokemon.”
“You are proof that even psychic Pokemon can be mistaken. What we do is dangerous. Just promise me you will never let your guard down.”
Velcan smiled. “Alright, then let’s get to work. We have a legendary to find.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Anita,” I said carefully. “Put Sparky down. I’m sure there’s a valid explanation.”
Anita ignored me. Sparky was shoved against the wall again. I noticed his arms and head were bleeding a little.
“Anita! Stop! He’s an old man! You’re going to kill him!” I looked helplessly at Mel. His eyes were wide in terror. An idea came to mind… “Mel,” I whispered. “Take over—”
Mel shook his head violently.
“You have to—”
Anita turned to face us. “Don’t even think about it,” she hissed.
I wrapped my arms around Mel to comfort him. “A-An-Anita,” Mel stuttered. “R-read his m-mind. You can t-tell wh-what happened.”
Anita’s strange bright eyes watched us. There was a moment I thought she would use her powers on us, but then Anita released Sparky from her psychic hold. She closed her eyes and took a long breath. “I can’t feel her.”
I wasn’t sure if it was safe to approach her and Sparky yet, but Sparky looked like he needed help. Anita was completely motionless, still standing in the center of the battlefield. It was a sort of calm and a definite improvement. I decided to risk her wrath and check on Sparky. Mel didn’t leave my side.
Sparky looked like an overturned rag doll among the various chunks of dirt and rock displaced from Anita’s… tantrum. I bent over to examine the man. He had a gash in the back of his head and several scratches and bruises along his arms, but it didn’t look life threatening. I reached to feel his forehead, but when a spark sizzled over his skin, I thought better of the idea.
Sparky moaned something incoherent and rolled over.
“What?” I asked, sending a quick glance at Anita. She was still motionless.
“Pokemon,” he murmured. “Electric…” He tilted his head slightly to the wall he had been shoved against. I looked up. His Pokemon were still bound to the wall.
“Anita,” I started. “Sparky’s—”
The Pokemon were dropped to the ground before I finished. Anita didn’t move.
I found Sparky’s Pokeballs and returned his Pokemon. Sparky moaned again. “No. Electric. Need electric.” His voice was hoarse.
I turned to Mel, who I still had my arms around. “Can you get him to a Pokemon Center? You did it with Anita before, right?”
“I… I don’t know if I’ll get electrocuted out. Anita did before. But I’ll try.” Mel disappeared. A few moments later, Sparky was getting up. Through Sparky, Mel spoke: “I can do it. I’ll get him to your mom.” Then Sparky disappeared.
I wasn’t sure how to react to Anita. Should I try to comfort her? Leave her alone? I didn’t want to set her off again. I briefly considered releasing Griffy to try to hold her, but thought that might make her angrier. Plus, I wasn’t so sure Griffy could handle her in this state. I’d seen her do psychic tricks before, but this was new. And scary.
I decided my best course of action was to wait for Anita to say something. Maybe if I got lucky she’d fall asleep standing up.
“I can’t feel her,” Anita whispered again. “I can’t feel Apple.” Anita opened her eyes and looked at me painfully. Her eyes lacked the glow they had when she had been using her gift on Sparky.
After a brief internal struggle, I tentatively moved forward to give Anita a hug. Anita didn’t return the hug, but she didn’t stop me either. When I pulled back, I saw she was looking at Fiery, Vanilla, and Splash. I don’t know what thoughts were exchanged, but Fiery nodded solemnly before Anita returned her Pokemon to their Pokeballs.
“Why don’t we get going,” I suggested.
“I have to find Apple.”
“You said you couldn’t feel her psychically, right? So she’s certainly not here.”
“I can’t feel her anywhere. Not as far as I can reach out. Not in the whole town of Cape Caution.”
“Ok, but there are ways of getting around your powers, right? Like the room you told me Sparky had set up. We can go check there—”
“Liam,” Anita said definitively. “Liam took Apple.” Her eyes started to glow again.
“Now, let’s not jump to conclusions. There’s no reason—”
“There’s plenty reason—he’s a suspicious son-of-a-*****, never telling us anything—why he wanted to travel with us—why he doesn’t use Pokemon but carries them around—”
“He told us an accident—”
“Bullmuk.” A rock crumbled somewhere in the arena. “He doesn’t want me reading the minds of his Pokemon. He knows I’ll find out what he’s really after—”
I did not like the direction this was going. Attempting to distract Anita enough to prevent her from blowing anything up, I said, “You couldn’t read their minds. He has dark type—”
“Yes, we know he carries around one dark type. Funny how that’s the only one he’s used. I’m a psychic but I don’t carry around all psychic type Pokemon.”
“You don’t carry around any psychic type,” I pointed out.
Anita stared at me for a second, the glow in her eyes flickering. “Right.” She turned around and strode across the arena.
“Uh, Anita, I think the stairs are over—” My throat went dry when I saw Anita’s eyes and facial expression.
“There’s a better way,” she said coldly. “Over here.” Anita walked around a rock crag that had appeared from a distance to be a smooth wall. I had a bad feeling about the whole situation, but I was not going to let Anita out of my sight so I followed her.
We walked silently through a small dark passage before coming to a dead end. “Anita,” I said softly. “We can—”
“This goes all the way up to the gym.” I looked upwards and saw we appeared to be standing at the bottom of a large hole. I couldn’t see the top.
“Yeah, but how—”
“Sparky had an electric wire and motor.”
“We don’t have electricity—”
“Shut up. I can get us up.” Anita’s eyes glowed again. I opened my mouth several times, wanting to comfort her or tell her to stop taking her anger out on me or convince her to calm down.
I managed to utter a series of, “Mmmhs.”
After five minutes of chickening out, I finally said, “Anita, let’s go use the stairs. It’s okay if you can’t get us up this way.” Frankly, I was relieved.
“I can do it. I did it before. With Sparky.” Anita breathed sharply and punched a wall. “Damn it, I can do it! I have to do it!” she yelled in frustration.
“Look, you were angry before and now you’re having trouble concentrating—”
“I’M STILL ANGRY! APPLE WAS ****ING TAKEN AND I DON’T KNOW WHERE SHE IS!”
Suddenly, I was hurled upward. Rocks and dirt rushed past me as my hair whipped painfully against my face and shoulders. I closed my eyes until my stomach started to drop. Then I peeked them open and realized the rocks were moving in the opposite direction.
I was plummeting. Anita was falling with me—I hadn’t realized she was with me before. Her face was twisted with concentration.
I don’t know how I did it, but I did. Somehow, my brain processed all of this information fast enough for me to grab Griffy’s Pokeball and yell, “Psychic, Griffy!”
We stopped falling. I looked down. We were about ten meters from the bottom. <Griffy, do you have enough power to bring us up?> I asked.
<I believe so, Miss.>
We started to rise slowly. I turned to Anita to tell her that thanks to Griffy we would not, in fact, plunge to our deaths, but when our eyes caught she looked determinedly away.
I glimpsed a tear rolling down her dirty cheek.
Gently, I put a hand on her shoulder. She shrugged it off.
By the time we reached the top of the hole, Anita’s eyes were dry. Griffy collapsed next to the hole, panting with exhaustion. I ran a hand across his fur and muttered, “Thank you,” before returning him to his Pokeball.
The room we had ended up in was dark and musty smelling. I looked around and found Anita already running towards the exit. “Wait!”
Anita didn’t pause as she bounded up the stairs in the corner of the room.
I quickly got to my feet and ran after her. Luckily, she was not far ahead, and I always managed to glimpse the direction she was turning just before she actually turned down a white hall. It was not long before we reached the outside. Anita was not bothering with the dirt path; she cut directly across the grass in the direction of the lab.
I followed in her path, breathing hard, propelling my legs, and thanking the Great Dragon I had worn tennis shoes instead of heels. Not that I couldn’t run in heels. I just can’t run as fast in heels—Zach once timed me—
This was not the time to be spacing out. Anita was going to try to strangle Liam and Liam would probably end up breaking her arms and legs in the process.
The biggest problem at the moment, though: I wasn’t gaining on Anita.
I had longer legs and longer strides and we were running down hill, but I just couldn’t seem to get any closer to her. The results of Liam’s training, I supposed. Ironic.
I almost reached for Griffy’s Pokeball before I remembered he was drained from his psychic exertion. Anita was only two hundred meters away from the laboratory, and I was still two hundred meters behind her. Professor Blubber was going to flip if any of his equipment was damaged…
Suddenly, I stopped running. I was an idiot. I reached into my backpack, pulled out my PokeTech, and pressed a few buttons. A few seconds later, Professor Blubber appeared on the small screen.
“Professor! Get Liam out of the lab, now!”
“No time! Just do it!”
Behind the Professor, I saw Liam carrying a box of supplies. Professor Blubber turned around. “Erin says you need to leave the lab.”
Liam rolled his eyes.
“Liam, Anita’s going to arrive at the door in about fifteen seconds to tear your throat out! You need to leave!”
“I can handle Anita,” Liam snickered.
“Yeah, well, whether or not that’s the case, the lab cannot! Get out!”
Anita reached the door. Even though it was probably unlocked, she psychically cracked it down the middle. I both witnessed the crash and heard it through the PokeTech. Professor Blubber blanched. “Go out the back window,” he ordered.
Liam frowned, hesitating. “Why is she—”
“Liam’s outside on the side of the building!” Professor Blubber yelled. Anita immediately backtracked out the front door. When Professor Blubber noticed Liam was not moving, he scooped Liam up wedding style.
“I think you need to get out of here away from that girl. You’re a strong lad, right?” He lightly tossed Liam out the window. Now I could see Liam in real life—not on the PokeTech screen. I could also see Anita turning the corner of the laboratory. “Well what are you doing? Run!” Professor Blubber turned back to me on the PokeTech screen. “Jesus, Erin, you didn’t tell me the girl could do martial arts. Now I have a door to replace. What did Liam do to her? He is faster than her, right?”
“Um, Professor, Anita doesn’t really do martial arts. Unless you count the stuff Liam taught her. Liam’s the one with all the martial arts.”
“So… the door?”
“Well, she’s a psychic,” I answered, distracted. Anita had reached Liam. She was attempting to punch him. I started to jog down the hill towards the lab.
“Where is she?!” Anita yelled.
I glanced back at the screen. I hadn’t thought the Professor could get any whiter. “She’s a what? Erin, you just let me hand over a boy to a clearly unstable psychic? As in, like Tamara Lilac psychic? She blew up a door, Erin!”
“That’s why she couldn’t be in the lab. For whatever reason, her powers don’t affect Liam. Trust me, he’ll be okay.”
Just then, several mounds of dirt exploded around Liam.
“Um, I gotta go.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
As soon as my foot made contact with the ground, I tensed my calf and quickly rebounded in another direction. Logically, my best tactic would be to keep on the move because even though Anita’s gift was directly ineffective against me—
Dirt and rocks burst upwards from the spot I had been in milliseconds earlier.
—she could exploit the environment.
For a moment, I was tempted to let Anita continue on her rampage. It had been a long time since I had a decent fight. I missed the adrenaline rush, the surprise of a good opponent, the manipulation of chaos to control—
But there were more important matters. Why I was being attacked, for instance.
More dirt exploded between Anita and me. Instead of avoiding it again, I leapt directly through it and grabbed Anita’s hand, effectively ending the fight.
“Liam! You’re okay!”
I turned my head slightly and saw Erin running towards us. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Anita shift her body in an attempt to kick me. I simply lifted a leg to avoid being hit.
“You seemed more worried about the laboratory than about my well-being,” I said, returning my attention to Anita. She continued to twist her hand in a poor attempt to force me to release her wrist.
“What did you do?” Anita said hoarsely, finally letting her hand rest. She glared at me. Her face was smeared with dirt and—were those tears?
“You know, I was about to ask the same question,” I said.
“Anita thinks—” Erin started.
“No, I KNOW you took Apple!” Anita yelled.
“Apple’s missing,” Erin explained. “Anita can’t sense her so we thought…”
Apple was gone. My heart skipped a beat. We had been so focused on Anita. Sure, we considered the others, always keeping in mind alternative possibilities, but Anita—perhaps we had been too focused—maybe…
“So do you have her?” Erin asked.
“APPLE, YOU MORON!” Anita yelled in frustration.
“No?” Erin asked.
“No, I did not take Apple. Why the hell would I take Apple?” Why would Mew assume I took Apple? Why would Anita assume I took Apple? Sure, I got the impression that she did not particularly like me, but…
Suppose Apple was Mew. What if Anita knew? What if she somehow knew that I was looking for Mew? Of course, I would be the first person she would suspect when Mew goes missing.
“I c-can’t feel Apple anywhere.” Anita was really crying now. Suddenly, a bizarre pang of guilt for restraining her wormed its way into my chest. I frowned. “S-sorry. M-my gift doesn’t work on you s-so I thought m-maybe you took A-Apple.”
Or maybe she did not know. Maybe Apple was not Mew. Maybe Anita was not Mew. There were too many possibilities…
I needed to get away to use the walkie. There was a sure way to confirm whether Apple was Mew…
“Where’s your bag?” Erin asked.
“In the lab.” I narrowed my eyes at the girl. “You think I took Apple, too?”
Erin shrugged. “Anita’s paranoid… but she’s right. You’re really the only one we know who could pull something like this off.”
“I feel so trusted.”
“If you didn’t do it, then you have nothing to worry about,” Erin said as she walked away from us. “I’ll just get your bag and we’ll take a peek.” She rounded the corner of the lab.
Anita slumped down to sit on the ground, and as I was still holding her wrist, I was forced to sit down as well. She sniffled. I watched tears roll down her face and lightly hit the grass.
“You should stop crying,” I said.
“Why? Because it’s pointless, and useless, and won’t find Apple?” Anita said sourly. “I know that.”
“Well, I was going to say it is weird, but that works, too.”
“What would you do if one of your Pokemon—right, you don’t like Pokemon—what if someone you care about—do you actually care about anyone?” Anita put her head on her knees. “I guess it’s pointless to talk to someone like you.”
“I’d do anything for the people I love.”
Two dark-haired boys playing in the sand, splashing each other with salt water, wet sand sticking to small feet as they slide in shallow water—
“You sure know how to show it.”
“I don’t love you.”
“I wasn’t talking about me, dumb-ass. You don’t seem to care about anything or anyone—”
“Says the crying, self-involved girl who can’t keep her emotions in check and has an inability to focus on anything that doesn’t directly relate to herself or her precious Pokemon.”
Anita turned her head away. “Y-you’re wrong.”
“So are you,” I snapped.
“I’m back!” Erin said, returning with my bag. She dropped the bag in front of Anita. “Want to do the honors?”
Anita picked up the bag. I thought she would open the bag up and begin unshrinking everything. I was overestimating her intelligence.
Anita hurled the bag as hard as she could at the ground. There were several cracks followed by flashes of light as the shrinkable containers in my bag broke, releasing their contents all at once. I was grateful to have the walkie-talkie and Pokeballs in my pocket at the moment, not smashed in my bag.
“Thank you for that temper tantrum,” I said.
Erin and Anita examined my possessions, now prominently on display across the grass. There was my broken bicycle, three piles of neatly folded clothes, a half-empty first aid kit, two loaves of bread wrapped in plastic, peanut-butter, a few notebooks and writing utensils, my PokeTech, and my Pokedex.
“Where’s your toothbrush?” Erin blurted out.
“At your house, still.”
A breeze swept by, causing one of my notebooks to flutter open and a pile of shirts to topple over.
“Anita, he doesn’t have Apple. Let’s go to the police station and talk to Officer Jenny.”
Anita’s face was blank and she started to get up. I stopped her for a moment. “Are you in control?” I asked.
I released her wrist. Her eyes glowed briefly and then returned to their normal violet.
“Maybe you should hold on to Anita, just in case,” Erin said hesitantly.
I raised my eyebrows at Erin. “I’m not coming with you. Next time you want my help, consider not smashing my belongings first. It’s polite.”
Erin shifted her weight uncomfortably. “She’ll pay you back.”
“Liam, she’s really hurt now. With Apple missing…”
I crossed my arms. “Okay.”
Erin sighed and took Anita’s hand. “Let’s go.”
I waited until they were out of sight to pull out the walkie-talkie.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I held up the final flash card.
“No, Sticky. Girl. Repeat after me, girl.”
My Ditto, Sticky, was sprawled in a plastic chair across from me, its body a perfect replica of mine. We were in an isolated experiment room practicing Sticky’s English. “Come on, Sticky, this is no time for games. This is the last card. Pull your cheeks in a little bit. Girl.”
“Excuse me, Professor Teal.”
One of my many research assistants peeked his head through the door. His eyes flickered between me and Sticky, confused as to which of us was the real Rita. “Yes?” I answered.
“Another prototype is ready for testing.”
“Bring it in.”
The assistant entered the room holding a metal cube the size of shoebox with two metal rods sticking out of one face. I took the box from him.
“Now, Sticky, this might hurt a little bit.”
“Pain. Remember pain?”
“Yes, pain. Not no brain. Sound hard make. Know pain.”
I flicked a switch on the device and held it out to Sticky. Sticky willingly lifted its hand to touch the two metal rods. A blue spark flickered onto her palm.
I returned the device to the assistant, shaking my head. “It still doesn’t untransform her. It needs more work. Have you been working with Tal? The Alakazam’s psychic will make it easier to manipulate the electric pulses.”
“Yes, Ma’am. We’ll get right on it.”
“I’ll be there in just a minute to have a better look. I need to clean up here.”
The assistant gave me a funny salute and exited the room quickly. I sighed. It was a little disturbing how terrified several of the grunts were of authority figures on Team Glop’emm. Though I suppose with Jamie and the Master in charge, it was to be expected.
I gathered up my notebook and several stacks of flash cards.
“Help?” Sticky asked.
I looked at the Ditto. “What?”
“You’d like to help?”
Sticky nodded. I handed her two stacks of flash cards and we exited the room.
“I you now,” Sticky said as we walked down the tiled hallway.
“Yes, Sticky, you are transformed into me right now.”
“Yes. Not no brain. I w-won’t me.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand, Sticky.”
“I you. Not me. I won’t me.” Sticky grimaced and made a strange face, widening her mouth. “I want me.”
“Sticky, you don’t have your own human form—” I was cut off by a buzzing on my hip. It was the walkie-talkie Jamie had so kindly left behind for me.
“Master?” I answered.
“Er, no. This is Liam, the Master’s detective.”
“Oh. I didn’t realize there were three walkie-talkies…” I said.
“Is this Professor Teal? Isn’t Mr. Arkle supposed to have the other walkie? May I speak with him?”
“Yes, this is Rita. Yes, Jamie is supposed to have the other walkie. Jamie, however, left the other day for some supposed family emergency.”
“Did he tell the Master?”
“He said he would. Can I help with whatever it is you are calling about?”
“Do you have access to the Pokemon tracking device?”
“Have there been any sightings of Pokemon X in the past twelve hours? I have reason to believe Pokemon X transformed a few hours ago in or around Cape Caution. I wanted to confirm this before contacting the Master—you know how he dislikes false alarms.”
“I do not believe Pokemon X has been sighted. If it had been, I would have been informed, and the Master would have been contacted immediately. I will go double check.” I quickly walked into the experiment room with the tracking device in it, sat down, and ran a history search on Mew. “No, Pokemon X has not been located since the third of July.”
There was silence on the other end.
“Are you alright?” I asked.
“Yes. Disappointed. Thank you.”
“No problem.” I hung up the walkie and swiveled around in my chair. Where Sticky had just been standing, a young girl with blonde hair now stood. “Sticky?” I asked tentatively.
“I not you.”
“No, you’re not. Who are you? I don’t think I have seen the girl you transformed into before.”
“You can’t. She nerve. She nerv-ner-nev-never. She never. I me.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I me. I make me. I me.”
I felt the blood drain out of my face. My hands shook. “Y-you’re telling me you made her. You created what you transformed into?”
Sticky smiled happily. “I girl.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
My lungs were being crushed. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t flick my tail, twitch my ears, or wiggle my pink claws. Not a muscle.
<I know you can do better,> 868,012 said coldly, pressing the psychic barrier even harder. 868,012 is what most of my kind called him. I preferred, “Father.”
<Someone’s been too busy being a little trainer’s pet furball to build up a strong psychic,> a voice taunted.
I pushed my mind, forcing air into my lungs, but I wasn’t strong enough to push the barrier crushing me away. It was pointless, anyway—this training. There would never be a time when traveling with Anita that it would be safe enough for me to resume my form as a Mew. I counted the years in my head—I was fairly certain I had spent more time as transformed Pokemon than I had as a Mew.
Suddenly, I was released from the psychic grip. <Meditation break for an hour,> Father Mew said. <You’re not focusing.>
I didn’t move, allowing all my sore muscles to relax. I tried to drift into oblivion…
<You’re never going to get back at this rate. Never going to complete your training,> the voice taunted again.
<Shut up,> I said.
<You miss her. Want to know what she’s doing right now? She’s crying over you. Poor little girl doesn’t have her best friend, doesn’t know what happened to her best friend because her best friend didn’t warn her—>
<I didn’t know.>
<Sure. You had the dreams. You knew. You didn’t want it to be true. And now look, you’ve yet again brought about chaos.>
<You could bring me back before that. Before Anita misses me.>
<You will,> I demanded.
<I could, but then there’d be no fun, hmm?>
<No, I’m actually feeling quite well. You’re the one who’s looking beat.>
<I’ll transform into you. I’ll go back to the right time myself,> I threatened.
I felt something stroke my cheek. I opened my eyes and sent a psychic pulse above me.
A green little fairy, with pseudo-innocent eyes and nearly invisible wings flipped through the air, laughing. <No, my sweet, delectable Apple, you won’t.> I blinked and the fairy was suddenly next to my ear. <And would you like to know why you won’t.> I thrust out another psychic pulse.
Celebi did another flip in the air. <Because someone’s tracking you in your time. If you transform into your true self for even a moment, you’re dead meat… or rather, dead fruit.>
Celebi winked. <Maybe. Want to test that theory?>
I liked this chapter, my only advice is that the last section would have gone really good as the first section of the next chapter, would leave the readers with a huge cliffhanger.
I really need a new signature.
Thanks for the review, Buoysel. I kinda like cliffhangers (as long as they're eventually resolved) so...
But, here is another chapter. Enjoy! As always, comments, complaints, and critiques are all welcome.
Chapter 30: Invisible Forces
I was clueless.
Me. The Master. The ****ing brilliant fourteen-year-old gym leader protégé. I had been contemplating the same nonsense for four years, following even the smallest leads—my father’s notes, files, books, keyboard strokes—anything that might show me what he knew about destroying a legendary—and here I was back at square one.
The best option remaining was to recheck the evidence. Look for what could have been overlooked.
Press the rewind button.
“Father, I think it’s going to hatch soon!” a cloaked boy yelped, bouncing in a cushioned black chair behind a plain wooden desk. The boy’s black cloak blended in with the dark chair, making the boy and the chair appear as one disfigured entity. In the center of the desk lay an egg cupped in a heated stand. The boy had one hand supporting his weight on the desk, and the other held lightly against the egg. “I felt a kick!”
The boy’s father paced across the room and checked his watch. “We have to go now. The Master is meeting Gibson in her office in five minutes. Come.” The father approached the door.
The boy fell back into the chair, letting the shift in weight roll the chair backwards slightly.
“Come,” the father repeated.
“Father, I think someone should stay. I read it’s important for hatched Pokemon to see another living creature—”
“This is important, too. You need to witness—”
“But I already know what’s going to happen!”
“Come, now. Regardless of whether you know the end result, it is vital for you to see every step of the process. I am going to be the gym leader and the Master. If something were to happen to me… These demonstrations—how easily people can be manipulated—it needs to be ingrained into your very core. You need to be... safe.”
The boy hesitated only a second before following his father out the door. The two swiftly walked down the hall.
“You’re wearing my favorite shirt,” the boy said.
The father smiled. “Because you twined it yourself?”
“Because it keeps you safe.”
The father knocked on a wooden door.
“Enter, Mendol,” a voice called. “You have three and a half minutes.”
The man and boy entered the dimly lit room. The Master sat a desk in the shadows, her Kirlia in its usual protective stance in the room’s corner. “Please forgive my forwardness, Ma’am, but I have reason to suspect you might be in danger.”
“The kind that requires self-defense,” the man continued. “Look, this will only take a minute to show you. It’s just a basic move that will allow you enough time to get help—I… I heard Gibson threaten—I’d just feel much safer when you meet with him—I know you’ve been fighting—”
“I need someone to demonstrate with. My son is too small.”
The Master rose from behind the desk. “You may demonstrate on me. Quickly. I have a schedule to keep.”
The boy took a few steps back, closer to the Kirlia. The boy’s fingers hung so they barely touched the Kirlia’s dress.
Facing the Master’s cloaked figure, the father placed his hands on the figure’s waist.
The door burst open.
For a moment Gibson stood, a still silhouette in the doorway. For a moment, nobody moved.
The boy never knew whether Gibson charged at his father or the Master. Whatever the case, the boy’s father quickly stepped in front of Gibson, caught him around the wrist, and used the tall man’s forward motion to send Gibson sprawling over the father’s shoulder. The boy scuttled away from Kirlia to his father’s side.
On the ground, Gibson moaned, “Arkle… and Mendol… Diane, how could you? You *****—how many others?”
The Master slowly raised her hand to her head and pulled her cloak off. A small woman with four-inch heels and wrinkles at the corners of her eyes stood above Gibson. “There. I’m exposed. More naked than I’ve been every time I’ve crept under your covers late at night. Now do you understand my complete trust? Now, can I earn yours?” There were tears in the Master’s eyes, fogging her glasses. The Master turned to the father. She handed him the cloak. “Mendol, I declare you the next Master. The paperwork is in the team’s safe. The key is in my desk and the password is G-I-B-S-O-N. Don’t try to contact me.”
The Master swiveled toward the door and rushed out.
The father grinned and bent down so his head was level with Gibson’s. “You’re fired,” he whispered.
Later, the boy and his father returned to the father’s office laughing. The boy tugged on the doorknob, eager to return to the egg.
As the duo entered the office, they spotted the egg. Cracked. Bits of egg splattered the walls, the blinds, the father’s framed scripture—
A cracked egg lay atop the desk, the pieces bloody, mingled with flesh and broken bones.
Of an unborn, dead Eevee.
Their laughter died quicker than an Eevee’s head can snap.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“It’s disrespectful to point, Mel,” Erin snapped, putting her delicious looking tuna sandwich down on her plate. I wanted a tuna sandwich. Mrs. Kendle gave me peanut butter and jelly. When I asked her for tuna she smiled at me and told me that I had a tuna sandwich on my plate.
I’m not stupid. I think she is. My sandwich wasn’t tuna.
Scary told me that Mrs. Kendle thought I wouldn’t like tuna so she was trying to trick me. I think that made her even stupider.
Oh, well Mrs. Kendle left for work anyway.
“I’m pointing at the ceiling, not at anyone. You can’t disrespect the ceiling,” I said, continuing to point at the nearest light bulb.
“That’s right. You can’t disrespect the ceiling.”
I scrunched my eyebrows at Erin. “I don’t get it. You agree with me?”
Erin rolled her eyes and mumbled, “Oh, never mind.”
My game was more important than Erin’s disrespect. She didn’t know what she was talking about.
They probably didn’t get why I was pointing because they were boring and couldn’t see Scary. It was ironic that they never figured all the times Scary was out of his Pokeball, but invisible.
<Whatever.> Ironic and fun! Scary and I played all sorts of games. Sometimes we made Erin’s hair stick up after she used her foamy hair cream; sometimes we untied everyone’s shoelaces within a hundred meters, sometimes Scary snuck up behind strangers to give them the chills…
But now we were playing a game Scary called “a nice game.” It was a game that was helpful to people—the opposite of our normal games. Nice games were usually boring and I’d only play them if Scary gave me candy, but this nice game was different. It was awesome!
What happens is I point to a light bulb and that’s where Scary floats. That light bulb becomes the base. Scary has to protect the base and all the other light bulbs from dangerous psychic waves from the Evil Anita Empire that was upstairs. He uses his own psychic to predict the Evil Empire’s attack and then from the base he sends out an invisible dark pulse at just the right moment to protect every light bulb.
The challenge was I changed which light bulb I was pointing to whenever I felt like it so Scary had to keep moving and it was hard for him to keep a constant lookout over all the light bulbs.
I moved my finger to point at a light bulb across the room. Scary moved to where I pointed.
I grinned when there was an explosion to my right. Little glass pieces fell onto Liam’s turkey sandwich and the surrounding plate and table.
<Haha, you missed one!> I said, knowing Scary would hear my thoughts. Usually I had to be all ghosty inside a person or a Pokemon to exchange thoughts, but Scary knew how to use psychic—like the Evil Empire—so he could hear inside anyone’s head.
Erin slammed the water glass she had been holding onto the table. A little bit splashed out. “That’s it. We have to do something. That’s the twelfth in a day and a half. She can’t keep exploding light bulbs.”
My water glass exploded, making my peanut butter and jelly sandwich soggy. I smiled. Now I couldn’t eat it. “And drinking glasses,” I added. “Erin, can I eat the rest of your sandwich?”
Erin pushed her plate to me. “My Griffy’s training excuse isn’t going to last much longer with my parents,” she said.
I stopped pointing at the ceiling because I needed both hands to eat. I looked at Erin as I took a big bite. She was sending nasty eyes at Liam.
Liam poked at his peas, trying to get as many as possible stuck to each fork finger. When he finally noticed Erin’s mean look, he said, “What?”
“You could be stopping her,” Erin replied.
Liam snickered. “Sorry. I only hold her hand twenty-three hours a day. I apologize for wanting to eat.”
“We have to get her to eat something. We have to get her to do something,” Erin said.
“Shove a bagel down her throat.”
“Force isn’t the way—”
“And letting her have a destructive temper tantrum is?” Liam paused. “She owes me several shrinkers.”
Erin sighed. “Shouldn’t she get tired or something? Don’t her powers run out?”
“Yeah, every time she’s fainted and been out for a few hours,” Liam answered. “But as you have seen, she wakes up with more energy and then releases it in angry bursts. She’s constantly exhausted and angry.”
“So what do we do?”
“Find Apple. Or a dark band so she doesn’t need constant vigilance.”
“The police are looking. Anita’s psychically looking when she’s not unconscious or sulking.”
Scary let out another dark pulse to stop Anita’s psychic from reaching the light bulbs and the table. “I think she just needs focus,” I said.
“Nobody asked you,” Liam muttered.
They were dumb. Well, no, they were good at thinking and all. Liam was smart with battling and types of Pokemon and Erin was creative and had a brain—but they got an idea and only saw that idea. They were too focused.
“Whenever Scary wants to keep me from doing something dangerous, he gives me candy or plays a game with me,” I explained. “Like one time when I was six, I wanted to jump through wild rose bushes so Scary said he had hidden a chocolate bar—”
“I don’t think candy is the solution to this one…” Erin said.
“Anita just needs something to do,” I suggested.
“Like?” Liam asked.
An image of Anita putting a psychic barrier around Sparky popped into my head. “Like battle Sparky again.”
Erin frowned. “Mel, I think she really hurt him—”
“No! He was a-okay! When I took him to the Pokemon Center it turned out all he needed was electricity—he’s like his Jolteon—and now he’s fine and ready—”
“Still, she’s really dangerous right now—”
“I cannot believe I am saying this, but I think Mel might be right,” Liam interrupted. “Battling Sparky would give her a temporary focus. It would probably drain her powers for a good deal longer than the couple of hours she’s been knocked out…”
“I don’t think Sparky can handle—”
“He’s a gym leader,” Liam said.
“He’s also an old man.”
“He can kick butt!” I added.
Erin hesitated. “Okay, suppose Sparky can handle Anita and he agrees to do this. How the hell are we going to get Anita to battle him? She won’t even leave my room.”
“I doubt she’ll leave for anything but information that might assist in locating Apple,” Liam said.
“Then we should give her that,” I suggested.
“We can’t just make something up. She’s already so upset—that’d be cruel,” Erin said. “Plus, when she found out we were lying, she’d murder us…”
Liam folded his arms and leaned back in his chair.
I had a solution. “Scary and I give people make-believes all the time. We can give one to Anita. Then she wouldn’t get mad at anyone.”
Erin scratched her head. “What are you talking—”
“He means visions. He wants to give Anita a fake vision,” Liam clarified.
“Oh—wait, he can do that? And I didn’t think Anita usually got visions…?”
“The amount and clarity of visions depend on a psychic’s amount of power,” Liam explained. “Most psychics don’t have enough power to ever receive them. In fact, most psychic Pokemon don’t have enough power to receive visions. I don’t know whether Anita has ever received a vision, but it is certainly possible, especially with regard to Apple because there’s a strong bond—”
“Okay we get it,” Erin snapped. “So what exactly, is Anita going to see?”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
The room was dusty and sparkly and I could feel the dirt mingle with the sweat covering my body and turn to mud. In one hand, I held a metallic lightning bolt the size of a thimble. In the other hand I held a bag of dust.
Neither brought me happiness. Neither made me feel anything at all.
Then, suddenly, something changed.
A spark. Not literal. In my gut or heart or brain.
It wasn’t hope.
It just was.
I felt her return. She was alive. She was here.
I jolted awake, got tangled in covers, and fell out of Erin’s bed onto the orange carpet. I scrambled up to grab one of Erin’s ponytail holders from her nightstand and quickly pulled my hair back. I didn’t glance at the mirror, not wanting to see the dark circles that were forming under my eyes.
Apple would return.
My whole body ached as I leapt down the stairs. I was not sure if the lack of nutrition or the lack of sleep or the lack of movement caused this, but none of it mattered.
Apple would return.
I practically collided with Erin, who was nervously shifting at the bottom of the stairs.
“I’m going to battle Sparky,” I said.
“Anita, you need to eat—” Erin started.
“I’m going to battle Sparky now,” I said. “Griffy can take me there fastest.”
Erin nodded but did not move. Mel walked through the doorway carrying a sandwich on a plastic plate. “I’ll let you borrow Griffy if you eat this sandwich,” Erin replied.
For a second, I considered using my newly found telekinesis to take Griffy’s Pokeball.
I snatched the sandwich from Mel’s plate and stuffed half of it in my mouth. Four swallows later, Erin handed me Griffy’s Pokeball.
Apple would return.
I would make sure that Apple would return.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Aw, we missed the prelim,” I complained as Erin and I became solid. Erin sat down on a dusty rock against the wall, no letting go of my hand. I wanted to take my hand back because Erin was a girl and she might have a girly disease and I didn’t want anyone to think she was my girlfriend, but I didn’t want to make her upset. Plus, I could turn us ghosty if an attack came our way.
“I still don’t think this is a good idea. What if Anita’s too… you know? This whole thing. It’s probably going to blow up in our faces. Literally.” Erin hissed.
“Anita’ll be tired and knocked out—” I started.
“Shhhh! She’ll hear you!”
“Look.” I pointed to the arena in front of us. Anita’s eyes glowed like shiny turnips in moonlight, and there was a purple bubble around Sparky. In the center of the arena, Splash tackled Sparky’s Electrode, who seemed to be held still against its will. “She’s not paying attention to us.”
Erin grumbled something and tried to kick a pile of dust by my foot. She ended up falling on the ground. I laughed. “With all of Sparky’s stupid underground surprise gyms, you’d think at least one would have bleachers,” Erin snickered. I pulled Erin back onto the rock and we both sat down.
The battle was turning kind of bad. Lots of ground was exploding, but the psychic bubble around Sparky kept flickering. Another psychic bubble around the Electrode was also flickering. It was like a bubbly purple firefly fest. I had a hard time seeing because Sparky was throwing lightning bolts that made the weird dust in the ground light up.
“Can I let Scary out of his Pokeball now?” I asked.
“No. I’ve already told you, Sparky said it’s against gym leader policy. There can be no possible interference from spectators,” Erin snapped. She then groaned as the Electrode hit Splash with a spark.
“I wish Liam were here,” I said. “You’re usually too busy annoying or arguing with him to be sad.”
“Yeah, well, he’s concocting something for when this plan fails so much that Arceaus will award us with giant F stickers.”
“You’re no fun when you’re a worry Wartortle,” I said.
Erin didn’t answer. Splash fell to the ground and fainted from one of Sparky’s lightning bolts.
I liked Sparky. He treated me like I was me and not some baby. Plus he could shoot lightning from his hands and could usually sense where I was even when I was invisible through electric pellets… or something. He was better at sensing ghosts than Anita.
When I squinted, Sparky looked like my dad with crazy hair.
“Come on, dad! You’re so slow!” A toddler with blond, nearly white, hair tugged at the hand of a short plump man wearing glasses. The two were trudging uphill through a lightly wooded field.
“Mel,” the man panted. “I’m not cut out for this sort of exercise. One mile, fine. We’ve had to have walked three by now!”
The pale boy crinkled his nose. “We’d already be there if you weren’t so slow. Scary and I only take—” Mel looked at his watch and pretended to read. “Four hundred minutes.”
Mel’s father started to chuckle, but it quickly turned into a cough. “Four hundred minutes is a long time,” he finally managed to say.
Mel crossed his arms. “I said three hundred.”
“That’s still a long time.
“I said three hundred hours!”
“That’s an even longer—”
“It was just really short, okay!” Mel said angrily. “We’re almost there.”
“I can’t imagine what could possibly worth seeing…” the father murmered.
The trees became more scattered and the wind picked up. The man squinted ahead, but the wind teared his eyes and he was forced to look at the dirt ground.
Suddenly, Mel jumped up and ran around his father. “We’re here!” Mel and his father had arrived at a cliff. The sound of the Palute Sea crashing against the rocks entwined with the coos of circling Winguls created a sort of ensemble the boy enjoyed immensely. He listened for a moment, and then— “Dad, watch what I can do!”
Mel jumped off the cliff.
I shook my head. Sometimes I wish I could turn my brain untouchable so it would fall out of my body.
A couple of nights ago Liam, Erin’s creepy friend Zach, and I were talking at night about stuff we couldn’t live without. Zach said medicine. I thought that made sense.
Liam said memory.
“Ta-da! See, dad, I can float!” Mel exclaimed.
Mel’s father continued to look over the cliff. “Mel? Melvin?” he murmured. His right hand twitched.
“Helll-oooo! Dad, I’m right behind you! Stop looking so scared!”
The father’s hand slid over a Pokeball. In a flash of red, a Gengar appeared. “Scary,” the father said, crouching into a sitting position. “My… Mel fell. Off. Off the cliff. He fell. Please, go get him. Find him.”
Scary looked at the father, smiled, and pointed past the father’s head. The father turned around. “What?” he asked.
Scary continued to smile.
“Dad, silly, I’m right here!” Mel yelled.
The father snapped his head around. “God-damn it, Scary. MY SON JUST JUMPED OFF A CLIFF AND ALL YOU CAN DO IS PLAY MADE-YOU-LOOK JOKES!”
Scary quickly started shaking his head and frantically pointed at Mel.
“You are USELESS! Go… do something. Get the police. Find my dead son’s body. Do…” The father brought his knees close to his body and hung his head over them. “Go.”
Scary’s eyes flickered from Mel to his father. The Gengar disappeared.
“Dad?” Mel asked tentatively. The boy reached forward to touch his father’s shoulder. His hand went through the body. “Dad, why can’t you see me? I didn’t mean for this… I usually stop floating and turn all visible again. I don’t know why… dad?”
The father squeezed his face into his legs and sobbed.
Liam’s stupid. I could live without memory.
I couldn’t live without Scary.
Fiery’s tail lit up and crashed down onto Sparky’s Electrode. The Electrode started to glow. A purple psychic shield appeared around Fiery. I grabbed Erin’s hand. We turned intangible as the Electrode exploded, sending dirt and rocks everywhere.
When the dirt settled, it looked like Anita’s shield hadn’t held. Both Fiery and the Electrode were knocked out.
Sparky released a Flaffy. To my surprise, Anita released Sunflower and immediately created another bubble around the Eevee. As the Flaffy started shooting off thunderbolts, Sunflower created what looked like a purple ball of fur, but was really a shadow ball. I smiled, proud of the little Eevee. When Sunflower released the shadow ball, Anita did not have to pull back the shield. The ball went right through the purple shield and hit the Flaffy’s stomach.
Scary taught me how to control my ghost powers, just like I taught Sunflower. It took a lot of time though. Way too much time.
“Alright, Alakazam, you’re sure you can’t sense any life?” a man wearing a navy blue uniform asked, gesturing towards a cliff. The Alakazam nodded.
A Gengar appeared behind the Alakazam and threw a shadow ball at the Pokemon. “Hey!” the uniformed man shouted. “Knock that out! I only tolerated your presence earlier because Alakazam claimed you wanted to learn how to use the attack psychic. I will not have you assaulting my Pokemon—” The man paused and stared at the Alakazam. “So this Gengar claims that the boy, Melvin, can change back and forth between ghost and human, but for right now, he appears to be stuck in ghost form. Can you sense this ghost boy? Kind of? Some sort of presence? Right, I know psychic types have issues with ghosts. Honestly, I think the Gengar has probably been traumatized by the loss of his trainer’s son—” The man was forced to duck another shadow ball thrown by the Gengar. “Gengar… or Scary, as my Alakazam calls you. I believe you. I believe that you can see and communicate with the boy’s ghost. But that’s all it is. A ghost. No, the body was never found, but the body is more than likely crushed into indistinguishable pieces by the ocean and washed ashore elsewhere. Scary, it’s up to you to help the boy move on.”
“Anderson?” someone called.
The uniformed man looked past his Alakazam. “Look, Bert is coming now. I have to give him the unfortunate news…” Scary threw yet another shadow ball at the uniformed man. The man shook his head. “I’m sorry, Scary, but I cannot tell Bert about your ghost boy. It will just bring about completely false hope and a lot more pain. I can’t do that to the poor man. It’s been over six months. He needs to move on.”
A gauntly man with graying hair and glasses approached Anderson. “So?” the man asked.
“I’m sorry, Bert,” Anderson replied. “Alakazam did not sense the body. The ocean has probably destroyed it by now.”
“GENGAR! Gang!” The Gengar made evil faces at Anderson.
Bert frowned. “Scary, how’d you get out of your Pokeball? I’m sorry, Anderson, he’s been like this ever since… Anyway, thank you for trying…”
Anderson patted Bert on the back. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
A ghost boy floated over the scene, crying waterless tears that would be neither seen nor heard.
Flaffy fainted. The bombardment of shadow balls prevented the Pokemon from ever getting close enough to Sunflower to use Brick Break, which would have made Anita’s barrier go poof. The barrier stopped both Sparky’s and Flaffy’s electricity from reaching Sunflower. It seemed like a super strategy to me.
Sparkles, my favorite of Sparky’s Pokemon, was released into the arena. The Jolteon smirked at Sunflower and immediately dodged one of her shadow balls. Anita would need a new strategy. Or maybe she could just blow stuff up like she did with the lightbulbs.
I looked from Sparky to Anita. I couldn’t decide who I wanted to win. Anita was nice. Sort of. And Sparky was, well awesome and cool and funny. Anita winning would mean I’d have to leave Sparky. Okay, so part of me really wanted Sparky to win. Most of me. It was like there was this little Combee inside my head though, buzzing with a pollen-sized bit of hope that Anita would win. I think it was because of the dream I gave her. I felt bad… and even though I know it was made up, I wanted it to come true.
To lose someone that close. It made the world fade from reality. I knew what that was like.
“You are released. Free,” a silhouette said standing with one foot in the mansion and one foot on the porch. Sunlight beamed into the mansion around the man’s figure.
Scary shook his head and made to follow the man.
The man sighed. “You are not coming with me. I… I have to try… try to move on and get better. With all your strange gesturing and anger and visions your give me—Scary, you remind me of M-Mel and the cliff—I can’t—I’m sorry.”
Scary turned invisible.
“I know you’re still there. I’m serious. I’ll fight you if I have to,” the man said. He reached into his pocket and pulled a Pokeball. Scary reappeared. The man pulled out another Pokeball and placed it next to the door. “That is—was your Pokeball. I… I didn’t know what to do with it so it’s yours.”
Scary turned to the invisible boy floating next to him and gestured for the boy to follow his father out the door.
The man at the door shook his head. “There you go again. Goodbye.” The door closed. Scary pushed the boy forward.
The boy hesitated. “Scary… I can’t… you’re the only one who sees me.”
Scary pointed to the door.
The boy shook his head. “No. I’m staying. Dad doesn’t… he doesn’t want me around.”
Scary shook his head and grabbed the ghost boy’s hand in an attempt to pull him through the door.
“No!” The boy struggled. “I won’t go! I love Daddy, but he’s gone and he’s been gone! I… I haven’t hugged him in a lot of time, and… and now I don’t need to. But you… without you I’m—
“I’m just a ghost.”
Anita was struggling. She couldn’t seem to hold both a barrier around Sparky and Sunflower, especially with Sparky fighting against the barrier with his, well, sparkage. The floor lit up from the weird dust when Sparkles used thunderbolt.
The barrier around Sparky disappeared like a popped balloon. Our plan must have been working—Anita was finally losing all that pent up energy. Sparky took the opportunity to heal what little damage Sparkles had taken by sending more lightning bolts at the Jolteon.
“Hey, where’d Sunflower go?” Erin asked.
“Sunflower. She just disappeared.” Oh great, not again. Anita would collapse into an energy sucking ball of unhappy yuckiness if another one of her Pokemon disappeared. Anita didn’t look upset, though—well, not any more upset than she had been before.
I looked back at the battlefield. The ground and walls continued to light up as Sparky and Sparkles released seemingly random electric sparks. It was very strange. There were no holes in the ground that I could see so I didn’t think Sunflower was using dig.
Suddenly, Sparkles started yelping in pain. Sparky sent more electricity at the Jolteon, but it did not seem to have an effect. In fact, Sparkles started yowling louder and running in circles.
Sparky was being annoying. He was supposed to be crazy super master of all trickery, but he seemed as clueless as me. I bet Anita was doing mind tricks on Sparkles or something.
Anita pulled an Obi-wan and easily deflected one of Sparky’s attacks away from her face with a flick of her hand. With lightning flashing, Sparkles’ continuous howling, and Sparky shouting commands, the room was very loud and bright.
Just as that thought crossed my mind, the brightness and loudness suddenly ceased.
When the quickly dimming dust settled, I was able to see Sparkles sprawled across the dirt ground, thoroughly knocked out. To the left of the Jolteon, there was a giant ball of…
Wait. The ball moved and then disappeared. Dust wafted downward, as if it were falling from a broken snow globe.
Beneath the falling dust, Sunflower sneezed. She shook out her body in an attempt to keep the dust from settling into her fur. How did…? “I don’t get it,” I said. “What happened?”
“I think…” Erin started. “I’m pretty sure Anita created a barrier around Sunflower and somehow managed to get this brightpowder—” Erin scooped up a handful of dust from the ground. “—stuck in or to the barrier. Then when all that electricity was being shot around—”
“The ball lit up like a… ball of light and blended in with the rest of the brightness,” I finished.
“Right. And when Sparky’s Jolteon was getting hurt by Sunflower, Sparky could not see what was causing the pain and tried to feed Sparkles electricity in order to heal the Jolteon. Only that didn’t work because his sparks lit up the area around Sparkles causing Sunflower’s bright barrier to blend right in.”
“Okay, great. She won,” I said as Sparky approached Anita. Sparky handed her a badge, and then bent down to the ground. As Erin had done, he scooped up a handful of dust. He put the dust in a small bag that looked like the lollipop part of an upside-down lollipop. Sparky then placed the bag in Anita’s other hand. “So now what?”
“Well, I was kind of hoping she’d be out cold,” Erin replied.
Anita had not yet reacted to the situation. She had not congratulated Sunflower, nor acknowledged the badge in her palm. Her head began to tilt away from Sparky, towards a staircase that I was pretty sure led to a back door.
Slowly, Anita mouthed the words, “She’s here.”
Chapter 31: Power Exchange
“Are you ready?”
Above the clouds, a boy and his father rode atop a tireless Charizard. The father peered over his shoulder at his son, awaiting a response. He swatted his black wind-whipped hair out of his eyes.
The boy stared ahead, following the Charizard’s gaze. The hood of the boy’s dark cloak flapped to the beat of the Charizard’s wings.
“Answer me,” the father demanded.
The boy smiled slightly, as if he was enjoying a pleasant view despite the fact that it was cloudy and nearing dusk.
The father closed his eyes slightly and turned his head back into the wind. His Charizard began to descend. Behind the father, the son clenched his fists in order to physically stop himself from shivering.
“Tal can track Mew up to about a hundred yards without the assistance of the other twenty-some Team Glop’emm psychic Pokemon we’ve been using to track Mew at a distance,” the father explained. “Tal’s going to need to direct all of his power into tracing Mew’s energy. Charizard, here, will be prepared to take off after Mew at a moment’s notice. All we have to do is attack and beat down the pink twit. Are you ready?”
“Father,” the boy said quietly. He spoke just loud enough to be heard over the wind. “This is our eleventh operation and third occasion we have pursued Mew’s psychic imprint to the northeast area of Mint Mountain. You have meticulously explained the plan each journey. I am well prepared to find and shut down yet another spoon-bending Abra support group. You have even prepared me for the distinct possibility of a telekinetic toilet-cleansing Slowbro operation—”
“I didn’t ask for mockery. Are you ready?” the father interrupted. The Charizard slowed the beat of its wings and clumsily landed a third of the way up a large rocky slope. The boy easily slid down one of the Charizard’s wings, landing lightly on a crooked boulder. The father followed less gracefully. “We will both attack Mew at once. Have you prepared your Pokemon?”
The boy remained expressionless as he stated, “I did not bring my Pokemon.” Only a slight tilt of the boy’s head away from his father revealed that the boy might be fighting a smirk.
“Then you’ll use one of mine,” the father said, climbing across several stones and dropping out of sight behind them.
The boy frowned. This was not the reaction he had wanted. After carefully maneuvering his body around the mountainside’s crackling crevices, the boy arrived beside his father in front of a large cavern. The father had already released both Tal and his Houndoom from their Pokeballs. The Houndoom watched the cavern’s entrance with ears pointed forward and legs tense, prepared for action.
“Tal and Charizard will wait here,” the father said. He held a Pokeball out to his son. “Most of my Pokemon would not willingly submit to your command in battle. They are too powerful.”
“They consider themselves more knowledgeable and experienced than me in battle,” the boy corrected. He glared at the Pokeball. “I won’t battle.”
“You don’t have a choice.”
“Yes, I do.”
The father sighed. “Why are you choosing now of all times to be rebellious?”
The son crossed his arms.
“I hate it when you do this—hide your real emotions behind an empty smile, try to get me to lose my temper. I know your game.”
“You taught me well.”
“This is not the time or place. Just take the Pokeball.” The father held the Pokeball towards his son.
The son did not respond.
The father shrugged and took a step back. “Well, I have to command Houndoom. I’m going to release her and tell her to do her best, but if no one gives her orders—” The father shrugged again. “—she might end up like the Eevee she replaced, with her insides spread about the cave.”
The boy stood still, his eyes widening in appall. The boy quickly recovered his emotional slip, rearranging his expression to look bored.
“What, did something I say get to you?”
“It’s not something to joke about,” the boy said quietly. “You just… replaced… the Eevee with another from Team Glop’emm’s collection and nobody noticed. Darcleye explains his Umbreon’s hatred for the new Eevee as mother-daughter rivalry. And you act so casually towards the situation, like the baby Eevee guts on your desk were your office’s typical decorum, like… like it doesn’t matter.”
“It doesn’t matter,” the father said. “The Eevee is dead. I did what was necessary. Now there’s this one.” He pressed the release button on the Pokeball in his hand. “We have a job to do.”
The boy watched the Eevee materialize. He allowed himself one glowering look at the Pokemon before silently following his father and his father’s Houndoom. The Eevee ignored the boy, choosing to trot ahead beside the Houndoom.
The cave was dank and smelled of molded fruit. Waving a flashlight along the ground, the boy spotted Cornn berry peels among the cracks. If the boy had not been had perfect vision in the dark, everything would have appeared brown and shadowy, as the only sources of light came from Charizard’s tail at the cave entrance and the two flashlights carried by the father and son.
The boy had taken less than twenty steps into the cave when a pair of purple glowing eyes appeared directly in front of the group. Immediately, the father yelled out, “Crunch!” and his Houndoom lunged.
The boy pointed his flashlight at the purple eyes, lighting up a floating pink body attached to the creature. Mew somehow looked different than the boy remembered. Maybe it was bigger.
Mew dodged the crunch attack and then stared at the father for a moment. The boy suspected that Mew was trying to use psychic on his father and was failing because of his father’s dark twined shirt. Mew created a psychic barrier to protect itself from Houndoom’s flames.
Houndoom lunged again, and again, Mew floated out of reach. “Help me!” the father called, chancing a glance at his son. The boy crossed his arms and sat down on a stone.
Mew’s fist lit up and connected with the Houndoom’s stomach the next time the Houndoom attempted a Crunch attack. The Houndoom crashed against the wall, but shakily rose. “Dark pulse,” the father commanded. A dark stream of energy from the Houndoom’s mouth went through Mew’s protective barrier and hit Mew’s side. Mew retreated slightly.
In the midst of the fighting, the Eevee growled. She looked from the father’s face back to the son’s face, waiting and wishing for an order. When the boy smiled at her in a no-way-in-hell-am-I-going-to-tell-you-to-attack manner, the Eevee decided to take matters into her own hands by charging at Mew.
The boy realized what would happen. He leapt off the rock towards the Eevee. Mew had already stopped the Eevee from charging. The Eevee floated in a purple aura, struggling against Mew’s psychic. As Mew telekinetically flung the Eevee backwards at the sharp rocks along the cave walls, the Eevee let out a cry of pain.
The boy pushed off hard against the ground and caught the Eevee, stopping the psychic propulsion and preventing the Eevee from further injury. The Eevee looked up at the boy’s eyes and twitched her nose.
Suddenly, the Eevee started to glow white. The boy had seen evolution before, but holding an evolving Pokemon—feeling the Eevee’s body narrow and the fur grow shorter—was a completely different experience. It sent chills down his back.
A few seconds later, the boy was holding an Umbreon. The boy’s attention was brought back to the battle when a nearby rock exploded. The boy turned away from the explosion to prevent the rock shards from hitting Umbreon despite the cuts they created on his own shirt and skin.
Houndoom released another stream of dark energy from his mouth, but this time, Mew countered the energy with an identical stream of energy from its own mouth. Stray spurts of energy exploded more rocks.
The father’s eyes widened as Mew’s dark energy overpowered the Houndoom’s. The explosion flipped Houndoom onto the father. The Umbreon struggled to get out of the boy’s grasp, but the boy held tight, preventing the Pokemon from attacking. Mew raced out of the cave.
The father scrambled out from under his Houndoom, scraping his hands against the rocks in the process. He ran out of the cave and jumped atop his Charizard. The boy walked slowly after him.
“Go! Go, damn it! Why aren’t you taking off?” the father yelled. Charizard pointed a claw at Tal and whipped his tail around impatiently. The boy could see that Tal was concentrating with all of his strength; the spoons he held bent in opposite directions. “Tal, what the hell is taking you so long!?”
“Father, Tal will not be able to track Mew,” the boy said. He climbed onto Charizard behind his father, taking care to not accidently crush the Umbreon in his arm.
“I don’t want to hear another word out of you—I ought to teach you a lesson—”
“You’ve taught enough lessons for today,” the boy interrupted. “How do you think Mew got away?”
The father was silent. His leg trembled slightly.
“You taught it how to use dark pulse. It can now emit dark energy and prevent any psychic Pokemon from tracking it.”
The father’s fists clenched and unclenched quickly. The father was motionless for a moment—then he nodded curtly and returned both Tal and the Umbreon to their respective Pokeballs.
As Charizard flapped its wings and took a short running start, the boy commented, “It’ll be a challenge tracking Mew now. Are you ready?”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I heard him before he approached. He was loud, and he was not alone.
I swiveled my tail in anticipation. I could run… well, float. These big feet were no good at running… But the man would find me again—the man always followed. It was better that I faced him when I was prepared, at least according to my Mew predecessors.
I was strong. I was legendary.
I sensed his Pokemon. There was the Charizard and the Alakazam outside of the cave, preparing for if the man failed. The man’s pessimism gave me a little confidence.
Approaching with the man was a young Eevee. Her mind was overwhelmed with curiosity and fear of the dark cave, strategies of previously fought battles, and a strange bitterness that reminded me of the unripe Cornn berries I ate for breakfast.
Of course, I could assume the man’s Houndoom approached as well, even though I could not sense it.
I tried to sense the man’s thoughts, but failed. I knew the man was there—his Pokemon were thinking of him and interacting with him—but it was as if the man had gained the powers of a dark Pokemon. Perhaps the man was touching his Houndoom’s fur.
Suddenly, the man yelled, “Crunch!”
I was temporarily blinded by a bright light, but I floated upwards, hoping to dodge the Houndoom’s attack anyway. I was lucky; the Houndoom missed. Next time I would have to be quicker, smarter—
<Stronger, 868,013,> Father Mew demanded. I blinked. <How do you expect to continue the Mew lineage with this pathetic psychic? I know Abras that use their energy more efficiently.>
<Hear, that? You’re pathetic,> Celebi taunted.
I sent another psychic blast at Father Mew. He created a barrier and sent it back at me. I dodged. <You’re not even trying!> Father Mew yelled. <You cannot leave until you give this your all. Again!>
Again, I created a ball of psychic energy and sent it at Father Mew. What else could I do? Celebi giggled and casually flew backwards to sit on a giant boulder.
I was sick of this. It was useless—
—to reach out my mind, feel the structure of every nook in the cave. I had planned on collapsing portions of the cave on the man—give him a concussion, maybe—but now I couldn’t sense him. The only being I could sense in the cave was the Eevee. I squinted into the dark, trying to rely on my eyesight. I made a rock fall on what I thought was a silhouette—
Flames came at me. I put up a barrier. The brief light allowed me to glimpse the silhouette, which turned out to be an odd rock formation. I also saw the Houndoom begin to lunge, and I managed to dodge.
“Help me!” the man called. I noticed two dim beams of light, but kept my focus on the Houndoom. The next time the Houndoom lunged, I punched the Pokemon in the stomach hard, aiming to throw the dog where I suspected the beams of light were coming from. The man either moved or I missed—Houndoom hit the rocks. I focused on the rocks; they trembled.
“Dark pulse!” the man yelled. A beam of energy hit my side, and I recoiled at the pain. The Houndoom fired another beam, forcing me to dodge.
Suddenly, I saw a white fur ball running at me. The Eevee had finally decided to take some action. Maybe if I telekinetically held the Eevee in front of me the man would stop attacking… Then again, what if he didn’t care? He’d already proven himself ruthless.
I stopped the Eevee with my mind, wincing when another dark pulse hit my tail. I could test the man—move the Eevee out of the way if it was about to be attacked—
And then the Eevee was gone. I couldn’t sense her. There was a bright light—
Searing pain ran through my stomach. Blistering bubbles nipped at my arms, tail, back. The Houndoom stood over me baring his teeth, resembling a beloved pet of the grim reaper.
It was then that I decided Houndoom was a fitting name. Very—
Fine. If he wanted me to give it my all…
My stubby arms began to extend, my snout narrowed and elongated, my tail shrunk—and then my transformation was suddenly halted. Something was preventing me from taking shape of a Houndoom. For a millisecond, I panicked, believing I might be stuck in midmorph. I returned to my Mew form wary, but slightly relieved.
Father Mew made a “Tsk” noise with his throat. <Can’t have you using any of those flashy tricks. This is a test of your psychic prowess.> It occurred to me that he had just used his psychic to prevent me from transforming. It also quickly became apparent that he continued to hold my body rigidly against the ground with his mind as I struggled to move my limbs. Between the Mew’s paws gathered psychic energy. The energy ball flew at me and—
—exploded a rock above the Houndoom, causing the Houndoom to misfire dark energy into the cavern wall I lay against. A hole in the wall sizzled. If only my energy could do that…
I watched the Houndoom prepare to fire another dark pulse by taking a guttural breath. It didn’t look hard—Pokemon always had a way of making attacks look easy. I watched the energy leave the Houndoom’s mouth. Instinctively, I took a breath.
I opened my eyes and found a strange beam of dark energy leaving my mouth. It deflected the Houndoom’s energy beam slightly and exploded a rock.
I could use dark pulse. Whoa. I could learn that attack?
As Father Mew threw the energy at my helpless body, I grinned. I had picked up a few tricks from my murderous stalker through my early years. I widened my mouth, sending a dark pulse at the oncoming energy ball. The pulse easily split the ball into two harmless blobs and continued forward to strike Father Mew in his chest. <You’re the one who told me to give it my all,> I said.
I flew forward, transforming as I flipped through the air. Long ears. Soft paws. Snow-tipped, fluffy tail—a thick tail growing brighter and stronger.
A tail perfect for striking down a neurotic, pig-headed elder Mew.
Father Mew fell to the ground and I gently landed beside him. I stretched my legs and shook out my body, smiling. I had missed this body. “Eevee,” I growled, just to hear my voice. I turned to Celebi. <Take me back,> I insisted.
<Before or after Anita is sent to an asylum?>
<Take me back to the moment I left,> I demanded.
<It’ll cost you.> Celebi fluttered off of the boulder to the fallen Mew.
Celebi patted Father Mew’s head. <What’s left of this poor fellow’s power and all of yours.> Celebi smiled sweetly and looked at me with wide blue eyes.
I did not hesitate. <Fine.>
Celebi closed her eyes. A misty light floated from Father Mew’s body to Celebi’s fingertips. Celebi then turned to me. I suddenly felt weak and slightly nauseous. My eyesight blurred.
As I fired another dark beam, more accurate this time, I thought of the implications. What if I could use this newfound attack to hide my strong psychic? I wouldn’t have to fight this man—he wouldn’t be able to find me!
I heard an “Oof,” and I blinked—the Houndoom must have been pushed onto his master.
<Sayanara!> I yelled gleefully as I sped out of the cave.
For the first time since my birth, I felt free.
A smirking green angel floated toward me and dug small fingers into my fur. The world spun and my body was painfully compressed—
Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe. I opened my eyes, only to feel a sharp painful sting. I managed to glimpse blue before tightly shutting my eyes. My limbs thrashed wildly, but seemed to move slowly.
When I opened my mouth to yelp, salty water rushed in. Panicked, I attempted to give myself a psychic boost out of the water. Only when my attempt failed did I remember that I currently lacked power. I struggled and somehow managed to break the surface.
As I gulped as much air as my lungs would allow, Celebi flew in front of me.
<We had a deal,> I thought.
Celebi giggled. <But placing you at this moment is so much more painful for you, so much more fun for me, and perplexes several others. Ta ta!> Celebi disappeared in a flash of green.
Freedom is overrated.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Why’d Anita just run off?” I asked nobody in particular. I thought Anita would celebrate or collapse in exhaustion after the battle. Instead she had dramatically said, “She’s here,” and ran out of the room. Maybe she had finally lost her mind.
Sparky shrugged and bent over to feed his Jolteon a revive. “Probably wanted to make a grand exit. I would have had sparklers, but to each his own.”
“Um,” Mel started. He looked at me with wide eyes. “Erin, that’s exactly what happened in the dream I gave Anita.”
“Anita ran off?”
“No… yes… no. She didn’t run off because I didn’t get to that part. Anita just got her badge and the dust and then had a feeling that Apple was alive… or at least that’s what happened in the dream I gave her… but this was just like that. The bag of dust wiggled just the same way…”
“Whoa, wait. What happened was the exactly the same as the vision you gave Anita?” I asked.
The room was silent. I nervously laughed. “So, you want to give me a vision next time?”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I felt her. Just like in my vision. I stood outside Sparky’s gym and looked out toward the ocean, where I felt Apple’s presence. The sun was starting to set, and the water was rough. I couldn’t see Apple with my eyes.
I sent out my mind. <APPLE!>
There was no response. A flicker of familiarity appeared in my mind, not two hundred meters away from the cliff’s edge.
I jumped off the cliff, creating a slanted psychic barrier below me. I elongated the barrier as I slid down, allowing it to fade away behind me. My head felt like it was being ripped in two from the exertion. I had to reach Apple. That was all that mattered.
“What the…” I hear Erin call from the cliff edge. She must have followed me out of the gym. “What the hell is she doing? Anita!”
It was definitely Apple I felt. A hundred meters to go. I thought I saw a brown speck in the vast blue waves. <Apple?>
“Anita, I wanna slide, too!” Mel yelled.
My insides seemed to tighten. Why couldn’t I see Apple? She had to be all right. She was alive. I felt her. Fifty meters to go.
Faintly, I heard, <A…Anita?>
<APPLE!!!> I leaned back on my psychic slide to gain more speed. Apple was alive! Apple was alive. I ignored the questions of her disappearance attempting to push themselves into my brain. I didn’t care. As long as Apple was alive and okay and—
My body immediately tensed up as my skin came in contact with the freezing water. I kept my eyes shut and held my breath underwater while kicking towards where I sensed Apple. My hands came in contact with something wet and soft, but not slimy like seaweed. I kicked upwards until I surfaced above the water.
“Apple!” I gasped, opening my eyes. My hand was in Apple’s fur. Apple was visibly shaking from the cold and struggling to keep her head above the surface. I pulled her to my chest and tightened my arms around her, silently willing her to never leave me again.
I didn’t know what to say so I pushed my overwhelming emotions at her, and dove into her mind. Her mind was faint—it felt like there was something in her mind that I should be seeing but was fading away. <Anita… glad… see you… but too… much.>
I pulled out of her mind immediately. The wet Eevee looked nearly unconscious. I had to get her to the Pokemon Center. I made a barrier with my mind and clambered on to it, my fingers barely sticking enough to allow me to pull Apple and myself up.
I had rested only a moment when the barrier failed and we fell through to the water. I was suddenly very angry with myself. I could do this. I was strong enough. I had to be strong enough. I created another barrier, but this time I didn’t even make it on to the barrier before it disappeared.
Focus, Anita. I tried to forget that I was holding Apple and that Apple’s mind was barely audible and that I hadn’t had a proper conversation with Apple…
“Wooper!” A Wooper appeared in front of me.
“Anita, grab on!” Erin yelled from above me. I grabbed the Pokemon’s foot, doubtful that Wella would have the strength to pull me.
I was proven wrong when my arm was suddenly strained from Wella’s acceleration. I tightened my grip around Apple and turned my head so I wouldn’t swallow salt water. I felt Apple’s exhaustion and began to feel fatigued myself. The waves appeared to melt into the darkening sky as my eyes unfocused.
My consciousness was pulled from my body.
It was dark. I looked down, but was unsurprised when I didn’t see a body.
<Stop trying to force yourself into my mind.> Apple’s voice echoed around me. I couldn’t see her. <Anita, trust me on this: leave.>
<I’m not trying to get into your mind,> I replied. <I’m just happy to see you.>
<Please, leave,> Apple said.
<I don’t know how.> Blue light crackled briefly across the darkness. Despite my lack of a body, there seemed to be a strange unstable weightlessness about me, like I might fall at any moment.
<I can’t hold you back much longer,> Apple replied. <I’m not supposed to tell. Please don’t make me tell. Please.>
Suddenly, the darkness shattered. I was in a valley of green grass, lightly sprinkled with blooming cherry trees. I had a body again and could feel the small breeze against my ankles and through my loosely fitting clothing. The cherry trees barely cast shadows, as it was midday. I stood on a slope. Up the slope, to my left, I was shocked to see a large group of Celebi murmuring amongst themselves in a large huddle.
I turned my gaze to my right. In the center of the valley, there were several Mews lined up in straight rows facing me. In front of each Mew was a large boulder. The only exception was one Mew that floated between me and the rows of Mews, facing them.
The boulderless Mew raised a hand. The boulders all rose. Each Mew was completely focused on the telekinetically floating boulder in front of them.
<What is this?> I asked. <Apple?>
<The one in the third row, second from the end is me,> Apple replied. A Mew appeared next to me.
The Mew nodded and its tail floated limply to the ground. I threw my arms around the Mew for a moment and then took a step back.
<What’s going on? Where is this? Where am I?>
Apple looked at me with resignation. <You were never supposed to see this.> She waved a three-fingered hand towards the Mews that continued to concentrate on their boulders. <It’s our most tightly guarded secret. Any person knowing puts us all in serious danger.>
I felt betrayed. I didn’t keep anything from Apple. I thought she hadn’t kept anything from me.
<Anita! It’s not like that… It’s…> Apple blinked her eyes slowly. <I’m going to explain everything. You’ve already seen too much anyway… Arceus help me if this gets either of us killed.> Apple floated down to the ground, wrapping her tail in a circle around her. I sat down next to her. <You already know that every five thousand years I— a Mew— bursts into flames, releasing excess psychic energy, and a new Mew is reborn from the Father Mew’s ashes.
<But that’s not the only way to force my kind into the rebirth fire stage. Basically, anything that should cause us to die forces us into rebirth. Because of our strong healing ability, we rarely even approach this point. You can stab us, beat us up, cut us up, and we’ll still heal.> Apple shuttered. <Like when you found me. I was so weak, but I couldn’t die.
<In the past, there’s only been two ways Mews have been forced into rebirth before they reached five thousand years old. Decapitation is one. That only happened once, though. Generally, we can psychically stop whatever’s about to cause the decapitation. The other method is being stabbed through the head with something imbued with the dark type—an object or part of a Pokemon. We are unable to heal that type of wound to the brain.
<In order to stay alive—not burst into flames—we need training to protect ourselves. When first born, there is nobody to teach us how to fight. Our lifecycle makes it so there is only one Mew in the world.> Apple turned her head around to look at the group of Celebi behind her. <So to learn, we have to time travel.>
The scene presented before me suddenly made much more sense. <Celebi take you back in time to learn from previous Mews.>
<The Celebi. There’s only one.> Apple nodded to the group of Celebi. <She’s just from multiple time periods. Yes, she takes us back in time, once to learn the basics in a group like this, and once to learn more advanced techniques—> The scene suddenly changed. There were two Mews bouncing into each other over and over again in the air above a grass field, each surrounded by a purple psychic bubble. A Celebi sat nearby on a ledge, cleaning her wings. <like this. We each have a one-on-one battling session with our predecessor—our Father Mew. The Father Mew isn’t supposed to let us leave until we have fully mastered our powers.>
<So what’s with all the secrecy?>
<Obviously, knowing what makes a Mew go into the rebirth stage is dangerous information for me and anyone who wants to cause the type of destruction rebirth creates.>
<But I would never—>
<There are ways of extracting information from you, Anita. Torture, hypnosis, ghosts, and strong psychics. But it’s more than that. See, we are entirely dependent on Celebi.>
<So?> I picked at the grass and thought it was odd that I could actually feel the thin blades between my fingers.
Apple looked at the sky. <It’s a little known fact that Celebi can generate less psychic power than a Drowsee. Mew, on the other hand, can generate about a hundred thousand times more psychic energy than the typical Alakazam.> There was an explosion in the sky as the two Mews fired blasts of psychic energy at each other. Apple continued, <Time traveling takes a lot of power. We need to time travel and we can supply the psychic power, but only Celebi has the ability to use psychic power to time travel. We have a pact with Celebi—we give Celebi power in exchange for time travel.>
<Again, I ask, so?>
<So, Celebi is kind of resentful towards my kind because she can’t time travel without us. Typically, when she takes our power we provide enough energy for about one and a half time travels. Thus, when she takes one of us back in time to meet our predecessor and then forward in time to return to the present, she gains enough power for about one time travel. We only go back in time to train twice in our lives, which basically means that Celebi only gets one full time travel—there and back—other than taking us back for training, every five thousand years.
<Celebi resents us because we limit her power. But seriously, what other choice do we have? I sure don’t want some little green fairy messing with the time stream every two minutes. Anyway, the rest of the world perceives Celebi as this little all-powerful legendary Pokemon, and Celebi doesn’t change this perception because it wouldn’t be beneficial for her survival. My kind can’t let anyone know that Celebi depends on our power because someone might try to find a way to provide Celebi with that power without using Mew as a source. You even knowing about our agreement with Celebi is a risk to the agreement.>
I was annoyed. <You didn’t have to tell me all of that.> I sure hadn’t asked her to. <You could have just left it at the pact with Celebi thing.>
<Anita, if you’re going to know something, I’d rather you know the full story—not just pieces. If you only knew pieces, you’d likely go looking for answers elsewhere and reveal pieces to other people who might be able to piece together the big picture better than you can.>
<Okay, okay. But you know I won’t tell anyone.>
I ignored Apple’s comment. <So you disappeared because you went back in time to learn from your Father Mew, right? Why didn’t Celebi just bring you back to the exact time you disappeared?>
<Celebi and I don’t exactly get along. At all. She’s a bit of a manipulative *****. She knows my kind will still supply power for her, even if she brings us back a little late.>
<Why can’t you just transform into Celebi and use your own power for time travel?>
<Oh, I can. Most Mews aren’t like me—they actually develop the ability to transform much later in their life, not until after a hundred years or so. Thus, Celebi is necessary for most young Mews needing training from our predecessors.>
<But why didn’t you in particular transform and come back to the right time after your training?> I asked.
Apple’s tail twitched. She watched her memory-Celebi flap towards the sky, performing flips and corkscrews through the air. <Something Celebi told me. That I was being tracked. That if I transformed, someone who was looking for me would find me.>
<She could have been lying.>
<No, duh. But even so… she might not be. And that would be a big risk for a couple of missed days.>
<Well, we’ll look into it. Apple, I missed you so much. I had a vision about you returning. It came true.> I showed Apple the vision.
Apple frowned. <Very strange. I… I think Celebi did that purposefully. I think where and when she took me was based off of your vision. Maybe...>
<I’m just glad you’re back,> I said, wrapping an arm around Apple’s pink shoulder.
Apple leaned into me. <Me, too.>
The scene began to fade away into darkness, but my mind mingled with Apple’s for much longer, simply enjoying her existence.
I've actually been following this from Chapter 1, but for lack of presence here, I've never actually given a review.
I have to say that you do an amazing job of exposing and developing Liam and Anita's characters. They, you know, stay consistent throughout. Liam keeps hounding Anita about her combat skills, is unforgiving about Twenty Questions, and keeps acting annoyed around her. Anita, on the other hand, was dragged into all this, and acts the part. (And is situated the part, too. Everything seems to be going against her.)
Personally, now that it's been a while since I actually read part of the story, I've forgotten what the main goal of the plot is, besides just being a journey fic. I do remember that Liam was trying to discover the mystery of Mew, and Anita was just trying to get through the gyms.
Also, the change in perspectives is a bit shaky. Sometimes it's clear, and sometimes it's unclear, about who's actually speaking, because it's always in first person.
Overall, though, it's still enjoyable, even if seeing Anita being tortured so much does make me feel really bad for her.
Dragonite Ernston- Thanks for the review. I'm glad you're enjoying the fic so far. Yes, I've been told the change in perspectives can be confusing. I usually try to give a few clues at the beginning of a section, but I should probably try to make it more obvious. Would you (or anyone) recommend putting the name/perspective at the beginning of each section? Or would that lose something? For some reason, I've always been very hesitant to do this...
Also, about the main goal thing, would it be helpful if I gave a brief "So far..." and list the character's objectives at the moment/ important things to remember at the beginning of chapters? This could also help clue readers in to the specific perspectives.
Seriously, thanks for the feedback!
But then we have a dilemma.
I think if you put the name where you change POVs for instance in stead of just putting
You could put
Its not supper annoyingly conflicting with the story, and it removes the confusion.
I really need a new signature.
Alright guys. I know it gets confusing because I don't update often so...
Previously in An Apple A Day
Anita Parkwood's set out on a journey with Apple, a Mew transformed into an Eevee for hiding purposes, in Acceber. Anita is gifted with psychic powers, which Apple has been teaching her to use. She's collected threebadges thus far and is traveling with Erin, an ex-research assistant; Mel, a boy with a ghost gift; and Liam, who is also a supposed research assistant.
Unbeknownst to Anita, the Master of Team Glop'emm/Gym Leader of Drape Town is attempting to find and destroy Mew. The Master (Master Mendol) had a horrific childhood in which most of his life was destroyed by legendary Pokemon, which has caused him to hunt down legendary Pokemon. The Master sent his relative--Liam Mendol--as a detective to watch Anita, because he suspects her to be Mew while the Master researches how to destroy Mew. The gym leaders are currently keeping an eye out for the Master, as they suspect him to be the leader of Team Glop'emm-though they have no evidence.
Team Glop'emm is currently developing a device that will be able to untransform Mew, the research for which is lead by Rita Teal, Team Glop'emm's head researcher. The Master left Jamie Arkle in charge, though Jamie appears to have intentions that differ from the Master's and plans to take over Team Glop'emm. Jamie has momentarily left Team Glop'emm (leaving Rita in charge) to find out more about the Master in order to destroy/find him. Jamie recently visited with the ex-gym leader of Drape Town where he found that the Master and his father previously lived in Vintage Village. Jamie travels places usually by riding his Togekiss.
A kind of side note: In her research to create a device that untransforms Mew, Rita has been working with several Dittos, one of which (Sticky) has been able to transform into a girl she thought of, not one the Ditto has seen. Sticky has also been fairly successful in learning English (this is evidence that Anita could be Mew).
ANYWAY, in the meantime, before Anita's gym battle with Sparky Storm, Apple disappeared. It turns out that because there can only exist one Mew at a time (every 5,000 years, Mew explodes and a new Mew is born from the ashes of the old), Mew and Celebi have the following deal: usually twice in Mew's life, Celebi will bring Mew back in time to train with older Mews. The first time is to learn psychic basics with a whole group of Mews from other time periods. The second time is more advanced one-on-one training. Celebi, however, lacks the power needed for time travel so takes Mew's powers. Thus, Mew provides the power to time travel (plus a little more so Celebi can time travel once or twice without Mew) and Celebi brings Mew back in time. All of this happened to Apple at an unfortunate time. Anita freaked out and her psychic powers got out of control. Now, however, Apple's back in the right time period so all should be well... right?
Next time I'll summarize all of the Master's flashbacks as it is more vital to the next chapter.
Chapter 32: Bon Voyage
“Do you think she’ll be mad when we tell her we’ve spent all the money she won from Sparky?”
“I care! I don’t want to be psychically blown to munchable Erin bits!”
“Liam, Erin, look! She’s waking up!”
My head throbbed as I opened my eyes. There was something heavy on my stomach. I looked down and smiled when I saw Apple, curled up and sleeping on top of me.
“Anita! How do you feel?” Erin asked. I looked around the room. I was lying in the bed of a typical Pokemon Center guest room, with plain walls, a wooden door, and a small window. Erin, Liam, and Mel sat on a twin bed across the room, facing me. “My mom put you in this room when we brought you here yesterday. She said all you and Apple needed was rest,” Erin explained.
I nodded and when I sat up, carefully moving Apple to my lap, I noticed I was wearing baggy hospital clothing. “I have a headache, but I think I’m okay.”
“You looked really bad yesterday. When Wella and Griffy got you and Apple back to the top of the cliff, I thought you weren’t breathing.”
“Well, I’m fine,” I said. Erin frowned at me. I reached my mind out to see what she was thinking—and found I couldn’t. Liam’s hand was a bit neat Erin’s, but they weren’t touching. I tried again. Nothing. I tried to sense my surroundings, but failed to perform even such a simple psychic task. Maybe I wasn’t fine.
“So what happened to Apple?” Liam asked bluntly.
“Liam!” Erin slapped his shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” Liam said sarcastically. “I’d like to know the reason behind all the unpleasantness I’ve recently experienced, including—but not limited to—being blamed for Apple’s disappearance, being attacked by you, and my shrinkers being destroyed.”
I took a breath and spoke the story I’d started preparing yesterday. “Apple used dig in the underground room Sparky had put my Pokemon in, and some of the dark material that prevented me from sensing the room got stuck to Apple’s back paw. Apparently, she didn’t notice the material until yesterday. Anyway, she fell into a cavern half-filled with water. She tried to dig her way out, but she stopped when parts of the cavern started to collapse from her digging—the cave was already eroding from the water. Then the cave started to flood. She was hungry and wanted to get out so she took a chance and swam out of the cave. She felt something dragging her back paw and finally realized why I hadn’t found her…”
Erin gazed at Apple. “Poor thing.”
“Why didn’t your other Eevees know what had happened to her? They were all in the same room, right?” Liam asked.
****. Leave it to Liam to find a hole in my story. “Vanilla and Splash were in their Pokeballs,” I lied. Hopefully, he wouldn’t check with Sparky.
“Um, yeah. So my mom said you’d be better by tomorrow,” Erin said, nervously tugging at the bottom of her white blouse.
“We’ve already determined that I’m fine.” I concentrated on Erin, willing my mind into hers. Why wouldn’t she spit out whatever she wanted to say? And why couldn’t I read her mind?!
“So now that you’re done with the gym, we thought we’d leave tomorrow.”
“Ok.” I looked at Erin expectantly.
Mel turned his head from Erin to Liam. Erin was biting her lip. Liam looked bored. Mel threw his hands up and waved them at Erin and Liam. “You have NO idea what I’ve had to deal with without you!” Mel said. “These people are so stupid! What they’re trying to say is that they used all the money you won from Sparky to buy ship tickets and a suitcase for Liam’s stuff, and later today as long as you’re okay we’re all taking the ship to Vintage Village.”
“Anita, I’m so sorry. We wouldn’t have done it, but we thought you’d want to leave and the ship tickets were going fast. And then Liam was insisting on new shrinkers only they were all too expensive—”
“Erin, its okay. That makes sense.”
Erin stared at me for a second and then let out a half-hearted chuckle. “Of course. I mean, I wasn’t expecting otherwise.” She glanced at the door. “I’m… I’m just going to go tell my mom you’re awake.” Erin quickly left the room, leaving the door not fully closed behind her.
“What’s with her?”
“I think she was expecting you to explode at her,” Mel said. “You’ve been kinda… uptight… lately.”
“Apple was missing.”
Liam let out a dismissive sniff.
Liam sat down in a waiting room chair, folding his arms. “You say that like it’s an excuse.”
“I’m not saying what happened to you and Apple wasn’t bad, but you really wreaked havoc on the rest of us. You cannot expect everything, especially how we treat you, to go back to the way it was before.”
There was a knock on the door. Because the door wasn’t fully closed, it opened. Zach was standing in the doorway. “I’m not interrupting anything, am I? I just wanted to let you know Mrs. Ken—I mean, Nurse Joy will be with you in a minute.” He stepped inside the room and started writing on a clipboard. “So, Liam, did you and Erin have a falling out or something?”
Liam and I exchanged looks of what-the-hell-is-this-kid-doing. I coughed to cover up a laugh.
“It’s not your business. Weren’t you leaving?” Liam said rudely.
Zach shook his head. “Nope, I’ve got to run through some preliminary checks.”
“Like Erin’s dating status,” I commented.
Zach tilted his head downward towards the clipboard as he wrote, attempting to hide a blush. “It’s a check,” he muttered. Then louder, he said, “So, Anita, how do you feel? Any trouble breathing? Light-headedness? Headaches?”
“Anything else bothering you?”
“Well, I can’t use my psychic powers.”
Zach looked up from his clipboard and stared at me.
“She’s kidding,” Liam said hastily.
Zach looked at me for a confirmation. I rolled my eyes. “Lacking a sense of humor much?”
I swear I heard Zach mutter, “Possibly delusional” as he scribbled on his clipboard.
“Ugh, there’s nothing in this book about why I can’t use my powers,” I said angrily, practically tearing the pages out of The Gift as I flipped through the book.
“Stop it, Anita. You’ll wake Apple,” Erin snapped. When I looked up to glare at her though, she was looking out over the metal railing at the ship we were waiting to board. It was a relatively small ship, maybe only half the size of a Wailord and its side read “S.S. Bezzle.” The ship had three decks, staggered on top of each other at the front of the ship. Already, I could see passengers shuffling about the decks, waving to family and friends or pointing into the distance.
I glanced at Erin and then down at Apple, who was sleeping in a basket that hung from my arm. I hadn’t had a proper conversation with Erin since I’d woken up yesterday. She hadn’t returned to the room after fetching Mrs. Kendle, and this morning our walk to the peir had been eerily quiet. Only Mel attempted conversation, trying to ease the mood with pathetic jokes, like “Where do ghosts buy their food? At the ghost-ery store!”
At some point, I knew I’d have to confront Erin. Apple’s health, however, seemed to be a more pressing issue. She had woken up a few times to eat, and had once nodded at me encouragingly, but for the most part, Apple continued to sleep. Mrs. Kendle had said she’d need anywhere from twelve to forty-eight hours to recover, but what could she know? Mrs. Kendle didn’t know that Apple had been dragged back in time and had her psychic energy sucked up by a nasty Celebi.
Worst of all, I couldn’t get into Apple’s mind. I had tried when she was awake and asleep. It was almost like there was a dark band tied somewhere to my body that I couldn’t find. Believe me, I checked—you never know with Liam.
“You’ll need to deposit your Pokeballs here,” a security man said. We had reached the entrance at the top of all the winding aluminum ramps. He handed out individual cloth pouches to Liam, Erin, Mel, and me. “You’ll be given an ID tag that matches the bag’s number so you may retrieve your Pokemon at the end of the ride.” The man looked at me. “Excuse me, Ma’am. No Pokemon allowed outside their Pokeballs. You’ll have to return the Eevee to a Pokeball to deposit it.” I looked at Apple, still fast asleep in the basket. She didn’t even have a Pokeball.
“She’s sick,” I said, tucking my book under my arm.
The security man adjusted his black cap and uniform, standing up straighter. “Well, I’m sorry Ma’am, but we have rules. You’ll have to return your Pokemon to its Pokeball.”
“I don’t have any Pokeballs,” Liam said. He flashed his ticket and walked aboard the ship. The security man nodded to a Medicham I noticed standing inside. The Medicham nodded back.
“Please enjoy the ride,” the security man said. Liam was such a fudgecicle. He had to still have his Pokeballs, but his dark gift must have prevented the Medicham from sensing them. Why couldn’t he have held onto all of ours, too?
I looked at Erin pleadingly but she shrugged and gave me a “what am I supposed to do about it?” look. She and Mel put their Pokeballs in pouches.
“Ma’am, there are other people waiting to board,” the security guard.
What was I supposed to do without a—oh! “You guys go ahead without me,” I said. People moved out of my way as I ran down the ramp. I searched the ground and spotted the small closed-off concrete area being used to store the luggage that was to be brought aboard the ship. All of the bags had magenta tags. I quickly spotted Liam’s small, navy blue roll-on.
I looked around, making sure no officer was watching. Hopefully, any passengers watching me would assume I had forgotten something in my suitcase. I ducked under the security line and waded through the bags until I reached Liam’s. I pulled the bag near the water and glanced up toward the ramp. The security man was still occupied with checking in passengers.
I unzipped the bag and hesitated by the water edge. Liam would be furious. Oh, well. He had ditched us at the front of the line anyway. I dumped Liam’s stuff into the water, watching his polo shirts and jeans bob on the ocean’s surface, dispersing. Carefully, I took Apple out of the basket and placed her in the suitcase. I prayed she wouldn’t wake up.
They probably psychically checked the suitcases for Pokeballs, I decided. I wasn’t sure if they’d check for Pokemon, but they wouldn’t toss Apple off the ship or leave her behind if they found her in a suitcase. The shipline could be sued for something like that.
Smiling, I zipped up the suitcase and made my way back to the line to get aboard.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
A short, hooded figure slowly opened the Master’s office door. “Father?”
“What do you—oh, it’s you,” a larger, hooded man answered. “Tell whoever the challenger is that I’m busy. Or better yet, tell the challenger I won’t battle him unless he beats you. Give you some good practice and teach these nobodies to think twice before challenging the gym. Ever since Darcleye stepped down last week, challengers keep coming… thinking they can beat down the new guy. We’ll show—”
“Father, this is about the research.”
“You know, about perfecting twining.”
The father stared at the framed scripture on the wall.
“You’re not even listening. I suspect I’ve found a way to prolong twining effects using stun spore and the absorbing part of solar beam you’d rather stare at the wall!”
The father suddenly rose from his seat behind the wooden desk. “I’m leaving. I’ve got to go to Zahavah.”
“Are you even going to acknowledge me!?” the boy yelled. He took a breath. Then quieter, he said, “You were just gone. You’ve told me a leader must be present as much as possible.”
“I may be a leader in title and occupation, but it’s not my goal—it’s just a means. I’m putting you in charge of the gym this time. Can’t have anyone winning again. Jamie’ll still be in charge of Glop’emm.”
“Can I come with you to Zahavah?”
“No. You’re needed here.” The father swiftly locked his desk and left the room, leaving the cloaked boy standing in the doorway. The boy knew his father was hiding something; his father was stressed and the boy no longer understood his actions. It was a long time before the boy left the office.
A clue. Maybe. My father had already been instated as a gym leader, and it would have been a week before the monthly gym leader meeting. So why would my father be going to Zahavah City?
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Vintage Village was the most useless town in Acceber, I’d decided. There was a small pier that could hold at most two ships, and otherwise was made up of small stone houses. The Pokemon Center was comprised of an old lady who’d dyed her hair pink living in one of these houses. The lady didn’t even have a healing machine—she made her own medicines out of berries. The town had no Pokemart, no gym, and no city hall.
The lack of a city hall was particularly irksome. It’d taken me a whole day to locate the mayor because his little stone house was indistinguishable from the other four hundred. Porygon2 hadn’t found anyone who went by the name of Mendol in the city’s records located on a desktop computer in the mayor’s study.
I kicked a stone into the street, wondering what Rita might be up to at this moment. I had to get back there—her in charge for to long could cause major damage my plans, perhaps even reverse all the efforts I’d gone through to win Team Glop’emm members’ loyalty.
A Rattata scurried into a bush. Maybe I could do a survey—go door to door—interview anyone who might have known the Mendols. I stopped walking a moment, realizing I’d reached a dead-ended street. It would take too long—I needed information now, damn it.
In the center of the roundabout turnaround, there was a giant stone carved into the shape of a flame. I could make out names carved into the rock…
A memorial. Quickly, I pulled out a newspaper clipping I’d kept in my pack since I’d had it stolen from the Tinted Town museum. The clipping depicted a picture of a pile of ash in front of several burning wooden houses. A Mew’s head popped out of the ash. The newspaper article was about whether or not the picture had been forged.
The article was dated November 3, 2005. I stepped closer to the memorial. The date scratched into the memorial’s base was October 22 of the same year. Mendol had been tracking Mew for as long as I can remember.
Confidently, I swerved around. If Mew was about, Mendol had to be involved. When disaster struck Vintage Village, the police had to be involved as well. The police station was a block away, conveniently located in yet another small stone building. If both the police and Mendol were involved with the explosion, chances were the police still had records of it.
Shielding my eyes from the sun, I looked up at the police station. For a moment, I considered barging in with Hypno, Magnemite, and Porygon2. However, it was broad daylight and it was likely I could obtain the information I needed without my Pokemon’s assistance. I pulled out a pen and a pad of paper from my bag and walked into the police station, trying to smile and look friendly.
The man sitting at the front desk was sleeping with his black boots atop his messy desk. Disgusting. This was a prime example of why the police had no right to run Acceber. “Excuse me, sir,” I said.
Startled, the man awoke and nearly fell out of his chair. He sent papers flying as he dragged his feet off of the table, trying to appear composed. “What can I help you with?” the man asked in a gruff voice.
“I’m doing a report on the mysterious fire that occurred on October 22, 2005 and am looking for a few officers to give me complete accounts of what happened that day,” I said.
The man turned his head and tilted back his chair, looking at the back few doors, which were all closed. “Looks like I’m the only one here… or awake,” he mumbled. Louder, he said, “Well, I can give you my account. I was working here.”
“Is there anyone else who was more involved I could interview?” I asked. No reason to waste my time talking to this moron.
“For your information, buddy, I was very involved. I was working right here, in fact, and when everyone else ran off to extinguish the fire, I was told to stay here and take care of anyone who stopped by.”
Sticking my pen in a pocket, I fingered Hypno and Magnemite’s Pokeballs.
“It was the strangest thing,” the man said. “Some guy ran in here right after the fire started, telling me he wanted to take care of this little six-year-old girl in the middle of the crisis. I was like, I’m not a babysitter, and he told me he was going after who started the fire—”
I pulled the pen back out of my pocket. “Can you describe what this man looked like? What was his name?” Briefly, I imagined stabbing this babbling idiot in the eyes with my pen. If only he didn’t have any information.
The officer scratched his slightly balding head. “Never did give me a name. The guy was wearing a long coat. Green eyes, black hair.” Finally, a breakthrough. I smiled. I’d find out about the Mendol family soon enough. The officer continued, “The little girl was…” The man held his hand out three feet above the ground. “yea tall maybe.”
“Are you sure it was a girl?” Maybe he was blind and stupid.
“Are you sure the kid with the man was a girl? What did she look like?”
The officer sounded offended. “Of coarse I know she was a girl. She had long black hair and dark eyes. Actually, she still lives in the town. Works at the local orphanage.”
“There was no young boy?”
“Can I get this girl’s name?”
The officer smiled sheepishly. “I don’t remember.” He was leaning back in his chair again, his belly sagging in front of him.
“Well why don’t you look it up for me then.”
The man typed a few words into his desktop computer. “Lillian Smith.”
“What is the orphanage address?”
“2278 Willow Road. I thought you were researching a fire, not some girl.”
“Undoubtedly, she’ll be able to provide a better account than you.” I left the police station and released my Togekiss. I was not going to wander about these streets for hours searching for Willow Road. We found the orphanage quickly.
“Skampi—” In front of the orphanage, I was about to return my Togekiss. On second thought though, the Pokemon would likely make me appear more trustworthy, especially to a young girl. I had Skampi jump on my shoulder when I knocked on the door.
An elderly lady answered the door wearing makeup that flaunted her wrinkles, instead of hiding them. “Yes?”
“Hello, Ma’am. I’m doing a report on the 2005 fire, and I’d like to interview Lillian Smith. I’ve heard she works here.” I bumped my shoulder to try to get Skampi from digging in with his claws.
The lady looked me up and down before calling, “Lily! Someone’s here to see you.” The lady opened the door wider. “Come in and have a seat. I’m Helen.” She held out her hand.
“Jamie.” I shook her hand, flashed her a smile, and gestured toward my shoulder. “This is Skampi.”
Helen led me down a clean wood-floored hall to a kitchen that was only slightly larger than my office. I peered into other rooms but saw no signs of any little brats. The kitchen table took up the most room in the kitchen—there were about twenty seats. Helen pulled out a seat at the kitchen table for me so I sat down.
A tall girl with waist-length, shiny black hair walked into the room. She glanced at me and then at Helen. “Yes, Gran?”
“Dear, this gentleman is here to talk to you about the fire. He’s doing some report,” Helen said, pulling a pot out of a cupboard and placing it on the counter.
I held out my hand as the girl took a seat across from me. “Jamie,” I said.
The girl eyed me suspiciously and kept her hands to herself. “Lily. My parents died in the fire,” she said matter-of-factly.
I don’t give a ****, I thought, matter-of-factly. Instead, I said, “I’m trying to find who started it.” Lily watched Skampi for a moment. “Would you like to pet Skampi, my Togekiss?”
A little freckled boy walked into the kitchen. “Gran,” he said, “Freddie’s throwing up again.” Helen sighed. She gave me a stern look before following the boy out of the kitchen.
“I appreciate you talking to me.”
The girl crossed her arms but didn’t answer.
“On the day of the fire, a man left you at the police station, correct?”
“Can you describe this man?”
Lily stood up, gripping the table. “Mr. Mendol did not start the fire! I was with him—”
“I don’t think he started the fire, Lily.”
Lily sat back down. “Then why are you investigating him?”
“I think he knows and went after who started the fire. A description now, please.”
“Mr. Mendol was pretty tall and had black hair. His eyes were a really creepy bright green. I think he was in his late thirties, but I always suspected he looked a lot older than he actually was. He was a kind man; he used to take me and his son for ice cream.”
Bingo. “Do you know what happened to Mr. Mendol?”
The girl shook her head. “Never saw him again after that day.”
“Do you know where they came from?”
“Slateport City. They moved here because of the flood, I think, though they never said for sure.”
I stood up. “Thank you, Lily.”
“Wait! Can you… can you let me know if you find out what happened to them?”
Nosy girl. I forced a smile. “Sure,” I lied. I didn’t bother saying goodbye to Helen. I was off to find the next ship leaving for Slateport City.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“Whisper, ice beam!” I ordered. Whisper opened her mouth and released a stream of ice that quickly took the shape of a cylindrical pillar. I walked up to the ice pillar and inspected it carefully, checking for any edges. I saw my silver hair and eyes in the ice reflection. I touched a finger to the iced. Perfectly smooth.
“Good work, Whisper,” I told the Glaceon. She sat proudly at the ice pillar’s base. I looked at the clock hanging from my gym wall. “Our challenger’s late.”
Suddenly, I noticed movement out the window. A kid with black hair ran behind a Pokemon Center. I’d seen that hair before. I knew every single person in Winsk City; the population was about a hundred. Nobody in the city, including the challenger who was staying at the Pokemon Center, had black spiky hair like that.
Quickly, I grabbed my ice skates, wool coat, and earmuffs. “Whisper, come on.” I tied up my skates at the door and rushed outside, thankful for my gift as I froze the ground in front of me and skated forward. Whisper ran beside me through the snow. We followed the trail of footsteps behind the Pokemon Center.
The trail was short, ending abruptly on the other side of the Pokemon Center. Where could he have gone?
I looked where Whisper pointed her nose. There was another set of prints in the snow leading nearly to where the boy’s footprints disappeared. I looked closer at the prints. “Weavile footprints,” I said. I noticed the Weavile footprints did not disappear, but turned around toward the direction they seemed to have been coming from in the first place.
“Whisper, follow these,” I said. “I’ll send out a search party and contact Tamara.” Whisper nodded and leapt into action.
I looked across the snow bank to where the mountain cliff was. Softly, I said, “We’re going to find you, Mendol.”
Previously in An Apple a Day
After Anita beat Sparky, the gym leader of Cape Caution, Anita, Erin, Mel, and Liam boarded a ship to take them to Vintage Village. Both Anita and Apple are having issues using their psychic powers. Apple has recently had her powers temporarily drained by Celebi in exchange for taking Apple back in time to train. Because of her anger, Anita lost control of her psychic powers when Apple disappeared. Anita has calmed down since Apple was returned safely to her correct time period.
In the meantime, Team Glop'emm is preparing for the capture of Mew. They have a DNA tracking device that can sense where Mew is as long as Mew is not transformed. The Master (leader) of Team Glop'emm left to research how to destroy Mew. He put Rita Teal in charge of figuring out how to create a device to untransform Pokemon. She has yet to be successful. However, Rita has learned from her Ditto, Sticky, that Dittos can transform into a human the Ditto essentially made up and Dittos can learn English.
The Master left Jamie Arkle in charge of the rest of Team Glop'emm. Jamie has been planning to take over Team Glop'emm, but he needs to find the Master. To learn more about the Master and where he might be, Jamie has been retracing all the places the Master lived. He most recently stopped in Vintage Village and discovered from Lily Smith (a childhood friend of the Master's) that the Master was originally from Slateport City.
The Master's past:
The Master was born in Slateport City. He, his cousin, and their respective parents lived in Slateport City happily until Kyogre brought about a tsunami that swept over Slateport. The Master's mother and aunt drowned. His cousin went missing.
A year after the disaster, the Master and his father left Slateport and moved to Acceber to escape the horrible memories of the city and live somewhere lacking legendary Pokemon. The Master's uncle stayed in Slateport, still hopeful that he would one day find his son (the Master's cousin).
Now would be a good point to mention that every 5,000 years, Mew explodes and a new Mew is born from the former (referred to as Father) Mew's ashes.
Shortly after the Master and his father moved to Vintage Village in Acceber, Mew arrived and exploded, creating fires and killing several villagers. A new Mew (Apple) was born. The Master's father vowed to destroy Mew (and any legendary he ever came in contact with). The Master and his father chased Mew across Acceber, but never succeeded in capturing it, though there were close calls. Eventually, this traveling brought the Master and his father to Drape Town. The father became gym leader and Master of Team Glop'emm in order to gain resources to capture and destroy Mew...
Later the father's right hand man, Jamie Arkle, killed the father in an attempt to become Master of Team Glop'emm. This plan backfired- the father did not trust Jamie as much as Jamie believed and his son became Master. This is how the current Master came to. The Master has continued with his father's plans to destroy Mew. The Master suspects that his father knew how to destroy Mew, and is currently researching how this might be done; he has been especially focused on discovering something via memories of his father.
Which brings us right back to...
Chapter 33: That Ship Has Sailed
“Rita,” a lab assistant said, peeking his head through the private laboratory’s door. He nervously played with the pocket of his lab coat. “Alan wants to talk to you about the Forced Transformation Device and you have a meeting with the executives in twenty minutes—”
I stopped him from continuing with a wave of my hand, not bothering to stand up. “I’m busy. I’ll be at the meeting in thirty.”
I turned back to my subject, who was sitting across the clean lab table on a wooden swivel stool identical to the one I was currently seated on. I unrolled a blueprint, flattened it, and pushed it across the table. “Sticky, transform into this.”
Sticky was currently transformed into her preferred form: a blonde girl with large olive-green eyes, an appearance Sticky had apparently created on her own. She looked at the blueprint, on which a simple cube was drawn.
Sticky nodded, and quickly her form shifted. The pink summer dress she had been wearing seemed to spread out until it engulfed her entire body, shrinking and changing until it was a cube the size of a watermelon. I took a picture of Sticky on the lab table with my Polaroid camera and then pulled another blueprint out of the lab table’s drawer. Sticky transformed back into the blonde girl.
“Try this one,” I said. Sticky smoothed the edges of the blueprint with her petite fingers. The drawing was a type of advanced Pokeball, with thin veins of a dark material spreading from the release button.
“I can’t imagine,” Sticky said, smiling as the word rolled off of her tongue. She had only learned the word today.
“But you could imagine the box? I’ve provided exact dimensions for this Pokeball. You should be able to transform into it. Come on, try.”
Sticky looked at the blueprint again, chewing the ends of her blonde hair. A very human gesture. “No. I don’t know how this works.”
“Well, can’t you transform into a non-functional Pokeball?”
“Outside maybe yes. But I’m not a machine. Can’t imagine this. Without imagine, I can’t become.”
“What if I gave you a prototype of this Pokeball?”
“Well, yes. Duh. Then I can see, touch, and imagine. May I see prontotype.”
“Prototype. No, we don’t have one.”
My pocket buzzed. Hesitantly, I pulled out the walkie-talkie. “Give me a second, Sticky,” I said, pulling the walkie to my ear. “Yes?”
“Where is the transforming device, Miss Teal?” a silky voice said through the walkie.
“We’re still working out kinks—”
“You said it would be done within the week. I did not expect you Rita of all people to exhibit such incompetence.”
“Master, there are other projects. We’ve had so many breakthroughs in Ditto transformation, Pokemon psychology—”
“May I remind you, Miss Teal, that you work for Team Glop’emm. You work for me. If you cannot focus on the task at hand, I’ll find and pay someone else, and you will lose your access to our equipment for whatever bizarre experiments you like to perform on your own time.”
“Where is Arkle? While he may lack your intelligence, he at least is loyal and obedient.”
“He called me yesterday and told me his mother died. She’s to be buried in Hoenn so he’ll be gone at least a few more days. While I would normally mistrust his story, I had an assistant look into it—he checked out. There’s even an obituary for his mother, Adina Arkle, in the Vintage Village Times.”
“Fine. Get that transformer working, Rita. Master out.”
The walkie was silent. Sighing, I dropped it back into my pocket, giving Sticky a half smile. “Master Mendol doesn’t quite share my appreciation for science.” I rolled up the blueprints.
Sticky transformed her clothes so she was wearing a white lab coat and safety goggles. “I can help with FTD. I’ll go find Alan.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Alright, here’s our room,” Erin said. She handed me an envelope containing two card keys, and handed an identical envelope to Liam. “It looks like your room is down the hall. According to the front desk lady your bag should already be there.”
Liam nodded, and he and Mel started down the hall while I opened our room. Immediately on the right there was a small bathroom—I mean seriously small, closet size. There were twin beds on either side of the room, a closet behind the door, and a small window between the beds. Erin sat down on the bed on the left, dropping her pack on the covers. I closed the door.
“Erin, we need to talk.”
Erin tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and lied back on the bed. “I knew you would do this.”
“Ask me why I’ve been acting weird, ask what’s going on…”
I sat down on the bed opposite to hers, crossing my legs. “No. I know what’s going on. My powers freaked everyone out. I’m sorry, Erin. I never wanted to hurt or alarm anyone.”
“I know you didn’t want to. But you still did.”
I closed my eyes. “You don’t know what it feels like… I’ve been attached psychically to Apple for most of my life. For her to just disappear…” Even the thought made me feel sick. “It was like losing a part of myself. I couldn’t deal. I didn’t deal well. I’m sorry.”
Erin was quiet for a moment. “Anita, you’re sweet and a good friend, but I freakin hate your powers.”
“I didn’t like them at first either, but they’re part of who I am. Who I’m going to be.”
Erin shook her head. “It’s just… I’m not scared of your powers—I mean I am, but I’m more scared of what they’re going to do to you—how they’re going to change you.”
“Liam and Mel have the gift, too.”
“Anita, this isn’t about them. They’re not in the same situation as you. Mel’s known about his powers for a while, and Liam seems very experienced using his. They’re in control. You’re not and your powers are more dangerous. You could seriously hurt yourself. And if anyone really knew what you were capable of… Just, be careful, okay? And I’ll try to get used to them.”
“I don’t think you have to worry anytime soon. I can’t even get into anyone’s mind at the moment. Maybe they’re gone for good.”
Erin smiled sadly. “Unlikely.”
I shrugged. Then suddenly, from down the hall, I heard, “ANITA!”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I woke up and the world was spinning so I went back to sleep.
I woke up again, this time to an extremely loud voice. “ANITA!” It was Mel’s voice. “Liam’s gonna kill you!” I covered my ears with my paws the best I could. “I have to pee.” I realized I still felt nauseated when Mel scrambled away… so I barfed.
I clambered out of my basket away from the puke… only to realize I was actually climbing out of a suitcase? I was on a bed next to a suitcase with light from a round window beaming onto my tail. When I looked out the window I could see the ocean. I was on a boat? I looked up and found Liam glaring down at me. I smiled at him sheepishly, noticed I had barf on my paws, and wiped it on his bedding.
The door slammed open. “What’s wrong?” Erin asked. Liam gestured at me.
Anita was about to enter the room when there was a toilet flush, and Mel opened the bathroom door. There was a loud thump followed by much swearing as Anita walked into the bathroom door, which inconveniently opened into the room’s doorway. I couldn’t help giggling.
“How’d Apple get in here?” Erin asked.
Liam looked pointedly at Anita as she closed the bathroom door, still grumbling. Then she saw me sitting on Liam’s pillow. “Apple! You’re awake!” Anita ran over to the bed and scooped me up, giving me that stomach-drop feeling that happens when you go down a roller coaster hill… not that I’ve illegally snuck into an amusement park and hid in the back cart of the biggest roller coaster or anything. Anita squinted at me and mumbled, “Darn, I still can’t talk to her.”
I rolled my eyes. She shouldn’t be complaining; she would recover her powers within a few days—it wasn’t like she’d had them sucked out of her by a psycho Celebi. It’d take me a month, maybe more, to get back to how I was before Celebi. Before Celebi. Haha. B.C.
Mel was filling Erin in on all the details. “—so then BAM. Liam opened the suitcase and his stuff wasn’t there and Apple was. Pretty cool, huh?” Liam sat down on the bed everyone wasn’t crowded around, massaging his temples.
Erin turned to Anita. “What’d you do with Liam’s stuff?”
“Threw it off of the dock,” Anita said nonchalantly.
“Anita! That’s seriously not—”
“It was a joke! Geeze, I’ll buy him new stuff—”
“That was so funny, ahahaha—”
“SHUT UP!” Liam stood up, pointing at Mel, then Anita, and then Erin. “You’re loud. You’re obnoxious. You’re not helping.” He looked at me in Anita’s arms. “And you’re evil.” He crowded us toward the door. “I have a headache. This boat’s just started moving and I already feel seasick. Get out.” With that, he shoved us out of the room and closed the door.
Anita shrugged, scratching me between the ears. “I’m gonna go sit on the deck.”
“It’s weird Apple wasn’t caught in security,” Erin said, walking with Anita down the hall. “Don’t they usually have psychic Pokemon check the bags for anything unusual?”
Anita shrugged again. “Weird. Oh, well.”
“Hmm, I think I’m going to go ask about security.”
“Don’t tell them about Apple!”
“No, I won’t. It’s just… I mean, they didn’t check any bags? Something just doesn’t seem right.”
As Anita turned a corner to climb a staircase up to the upper decks and Erin turned to descend the staircase to investigate or whatnot, Mel was left to pound on the door. “Let me in! Don’t make me go untouchable!”
The sun was setting over Acceber—we were on the wrong side of the Pallet Sea to watch it set over the water. Nonetheless, the colors were spectacular. The smell of salt and Anita’s hand lotion was soothing as I dozed in Anita’s arms, looking through the railing at Acceber’s shores. Anita had pulled a beach chair to near the bow of the boat, where very few people remained because of the wind chill. I didn’t think it was so bad, but I guess I had fur and was cuddled up against Anita.
Anita stroked my head as I listened to her drabble. “—and so Liam just walked right past security while the rest of us were forced to hand over our Pokeballs. What a pooh…” Suddenly, Anita got quiet. I could only hear the waves lapping against the ship’s side. “I’m going to get my powers back, right, Apple?” she asked quietly, leaning back in the beach chair.
Anita sighed. “It’s kind of—hey, Mel.”
I lifted my head. Mel approached us, his nose scrunched. “Anita, can I sleep in your room tonight? Mine smells bad. Liam keeps getting seasick.”
“Sure. Did you tell Erin?”
“No. I couldn’t find—”
“What the…?” Anita suddenly stood up, looking toward the bow of the ship. I peered over her shoulder. There, mopping the front of the ship, dressed in white custodian uniform, was Jake Veneer. “He was definitely on his way to Artemis Town last time I checked, which means…” Anita grinned and put a hand next to her mouth. “Hey Jake,” she called, “lose a bet? Or a gym battle? Lost all your money to Artemis’s gym and had to work?”
Jake looked up at Anita for a moment and then continued mopping.
“Who’s that?” Mel asked.
“Hmph. Jake Veneer. He’d better not ignore me.” I was jostled as Anita stalked up to Jake, Mel trailing behind. “Hey, *******! Jake, hello! Jake!”
Jake frowned. “This girl appears to know me. Perhaps if I ignore her, she’ll go away.”
“Cut it out. Oh, this is so great! I can’t wait to tell Erin.”
“My plan of inaction is failing. How would a human react to such a situation? How would this human react? Maybe I can search through his memories… damn it, where are Giselle and Spooks and the others?” Jake looked at the sunset. “We’re far enough away…”
“What the f—” Anita started. Suddenly, she shuddered and dropped me. I landed on my feed and dug my claws into the slippery wood floor to keep from sliding off the side of the boat. Anita looked at her shoes, squeaking her feet against the wet wood. She spun in a circle. “Ahh, this is amazing.” She looked at Jake. “Ghouly, why didn’t you tell us? I would’ve found a body sooner.”
Okay, something weird was definitely going on here. I quickly scampered under one of the beach recliners on the deck, hoping to remain unnoticed.
Jake rolled his eyes. “Took you long enough. I almost had to deal with actual humans.” He gestured at his body. “They seemed to know him.”
“Dude, its not that hard. Just look into the kid’s memories and figure out what to do,” Mel said. Suddenly, Mel slapped himself. He restrained the slapping hand with his other. “Damn it! Giselle, why can’t I have the girl? I’m older!” Mel slapped himself again. “Ugh. This one already has a ghost in him or something! It’s not fair. I want the girl.”
Ghosts. Again. Poopsicles. Why did this always happen to us? I ducked lower to the floor.
Anita—or Giselle?—smiled sweetly at Mel and swung an arm around Jake’s neck, leaning into him. “I get the girl ‘cause Ghouly and I’ve been going steady for months now and I’ve heard this physical touch thing feels super amazing—better than the moment a cow farts and we can bask in the methane—”
“What does this have to do with you getting the girl?”
“Uhh, Spooks, ‘cause if I took your body that’d be called ‘perverted’ in the human world.” Anita/Giselle kissed Jake/Ghouly on the cheek and giggled. “I kinda like this assignment.”
Jake dropped the mop and put his hands around Anita’s waist.
Spooks seemed to have better control over Mel now, though his arm kept twitching. “I’m going to go ask the boss for a different body.”
“I don’t think the boss’ll go for it. What’d he know about body preferences? He’s had the same one his whole life,” Jake/Ghouly said.
“Maybe Ghouly and I’ll find a room…” Anita said, a smile on her face that made me want to barf. I could only imagine what was actually going through Anita’s head right now. She was probably flipping a ****. Neither of us had our powers, her Pokemon weren’t with her, and she was acting all lovey-dovey with Jake. I was suddenly extremely grateful for choosing a normal type Pokemon to transform into, one ghosts couldn’t touch.
“Hey, weren’t you holding an Eevee?” Jake asked, pulling away from Anita slightly.
“Yeah, your body was,” Jake said definitively. “And I thought it was weird when she approached because the boss said nobody would have any Pokemon and there she was, holding an Eevee. When you took over, she dropped it…” Jake looked toward the cluster of beach recliners on the deck, where I was hiding. Uh-oh. I turned around, tiptoeing away under the recliners the best I could, trying not to cause any abrupt movements that might allow them to see me.
There were still a few people lying atop the recliners. My tail accidently brushed the butt of a woman sleeping in one of the recliners, and she jumped up, squealing. I quick attacked my way out of that situation.
When I finally darted across the deck to the staircase, their voices had faded. Good. I crept down the stairs, careful to stay in the shadows. I wasn’t sure how many people were being taken over by ghosts, but either way, I wasn’t supposed to be wandering the ship.
At the bottom of the staircase, I ducked behind a vacuum cleaner as a group of about ten people climbed the staircase.
“—and the boss said we’re to scrub the deck—”
“—not fair. We have the hard labor stuff—”
“—thought scrubbing the deck was an idiom—”
“—when I signed up, I thought Team Glop’emm was cooler—”
Team Glop’emm? That couldn’t be good. I had to get those ghosts out of Anita and Mel’s bodies. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but Anita would be pretty unhappy if I left her to make out with Jake. I had to find Liam. He’d be able to stop this mess.
Luckily, I couldn’t hear anyone else in the corridor, and it was a clear shot to Liam’s room from this staircase. I sprinted across the green carpet until I reached room 325. I couldn’t hear anything when I put my ear against the door, but I could definitely smell Liam’s puke. It made me shudder.
I pawed at the door. No answer.
I looked left, then right. Not spotting anyone else in or around the hall, I ran at the door, causing a loud bang when my body and the door collided. No answer again. I repeated this multiple times, but Liam never answered. Maybe he was passed out.
I jumped up and snapped at the door handle. I was too short. Then I realized it was probably locked anyway. Darn it, psychic powers would be so useful just about now.
Now what? I could find Erin, but there was a chance she’d be taken over, too. I guess I could look for the so-called ‘boss’ I’d heard these ghosts talking about. I felt a chill as I started to walk down the hallway. The air smelled slightly strange.
I turned around. A Ghastly floated behind me, grinning. Ghost salvia dripped from its mouth. Gross.
The Ghastly’s eyes glowed red so I immediately shut mine to prevent the hypnosis from having an effect. I lunged at the ghost, my teeth bared.
I must have missed because I got a mouth full of carpet when I landed. I prepared to launch another bite attack when I was forcefully hit in the side, slammed into the hall’s wall. Sucker punch, I remembered. An attack that only works if you’re preparing to attack.
Snarling, I opened my eye a crack. The Ghastly was hovering just above me. Sucker punch was really the only attack that it probably knew that could affect me if I kept my eyes closed. I whipped my tail back and forth, willing the Ghastly’s guard to be let down. Only when I attacked would the Ghastly be able to attack.
I sprung forward and bit down as hard as I could. I felt the Ghasly struggling between my teeth, and released it from my jaws when it went limp. Not wanting to stick around in case anyone heard the battle, I ran down the stairs, leaving the Ghastly knocked out on the floor. I paused only to lick the wallpaper in order to get the nasty Ghastly aftertaste out of my mouth.
As I rounded the stairwell corner of the lowest floor, I heard Mel muttering. “Damn boss. ‘No one available to take that body.’ ********. He totally just wanted me out of his hair. Of course, I get stuck with the faulty human…”
I peeked around the corner. Mel saw me. “Hey, it’s the—hmmmph!” One of Mel’s hands was covering his mouth, the other flailing wildly. Suddenly, Mel shuddered. “Apple, down this hall, left, and left, room twenty-one!”
I sprinted down the hall, which was clearly meant only for maintenance. The walls were a dull grey and the lights were dim. Somewhere, I heard water dripping.
I skidded as I turned the first corner. There were two older teenagers talking in the hall. They stopped talking when they saw me, surprised. “What the hell?” I slid through one of the teen’s legs, not bothering to stop as I heard the click of a Pokeball being removed from a belt.
I took another left, and found room twenty-one immediately on my right. The room was open. I lit my tail up in preparation as I entered the room.
There were four people in the room. Two guys with rust colored hair wearing security uniforms were standing between a pile of brown cloth pouches and three large wooden crates. The man on the left was holding a pouch, emptying its contents into a crate. The wooden planks that made up the crates were spread just far enough apart that I could see the crates were filled with Pokeballs.
The third man watched the other two, leaning against the left wall nearest to the crates. He had long red-golden hair and was smoking a cigarette.
The last person was a girl messily tied to a chair. Random ends of frayed rope stuck out awkwardly from the chair’s sides. The girl was wearing heels and had a cloth in her mouth. Erin.
There was a heartbeat when nobody reacted to my entrance. Erin was the first to move. She flicked her eyes to the right-hand corner of the room near the door, opposite the crates. The man with long red hair dropped his cigarette and reached for his belt. The two guys in security uniforms looked at the man with red hair, perhaps waiting for directions.
I lunged to the corner of the room Erin had looked at and saw a brown pouch. I felt something attempt to bite my tail, but I swatted it away with an iron tail attack. I ripped the brown pouch open with my teeth and pressed the release button of the four Pokeballs within.
Griffy, Wella, Tweal, and Missy popped out of their Pokeballs. I turned around. Two Golbats, a Growlithe, a Koffing, and a Nuzleaf faced us. There was also a Raticate trying to pick itself up in front of the crates—it was probably the Pokemon I’d hit with iron tail.
Griffy immediately threw the Golbats across the room with a psychic attack. I blocked the Nuzleaf from attacking Griffy, tackling it to the ground. Wella released a burst of water that knocked the Growlithe back into the man with long red hair, knocking out the Growlithe and getting the man wet. Tweal fluttered to Erin’s side, pecking at the knots in the rope, only pausing to blow away poisonous smog released by Koffing.
Missy cackled in the midst of the chaos. <Get behind me, around Erin,> Griffy said suddenly, backing toward Erin. Erin stood up, finally free of the ropes, and Tweal sat proudly on her shoulder. Erin removed the cloth from her mouth, threw it on the ground, and stepped on it. I pushed Wella, who was slow to move, below Griffy, just as Griffy put up a psychic barrier around the group.
Missy didn’t get behind the barrier, though she continued to laugh. She disappeared behind the Koffing. The Koffing turned around, but didn’t see anything and flicked its eyes around fearfully. Missy appeared abruptly right in front of the Koffing’s face.
The Koffing let out a screech, closed its eyes tightly like it was constipated—BOOM. The Koffing selfdestructed.
The man with red hair and the two ‘security guards’ were knocked unconscious, the crates were broken piles of splinters, Pokeballs flooded the room, and there were several burnt marks on the walls.
“Nice one, Missy,” Erin said, brushing off her jeans. “Glad to see your scaring skills actually going to good use.” Erin looked around the room. “Well, first things first. Griffy, locate Anita and Mel’s Pokeballs. Everyone else, tie up those goons.”
Wella glowered at Erin incredulously, as if saying, <I don’t have arms, you moron.>
Missy created ghost arms so she and Tweal ended up doing most of the tying. While they were finishing up, I told Griffy about the ghost Pokemon taking over peoples’ bodies. <We’ll need ghost attacks or dark Pokemon to get them out,> I said. <Ghost attacks won’t affect humans and dark will just repel the ghosts.>
<I’m sure several of these other Pokemon will kindly grant us their help.> Griffy’s eyes glowed, apparently psychically sensing which Pokeballs held Pokemon that would be able to help. Suddenly, there were several flashes of red. Ghastlys, Shuppets, Duskulls, and all other types of ghost Pokemon were released from their Pokeballs. <I can’t sense or release dark Pokemon from their Pokeballs.> I noticed that Sunflower was also released from her Pokeball, looking around the frenzied room in confusion.
While Griffy began describing what the ghost Pokemon were to do, I said, “Come on,” to Sunflower and leapt from the room. I explained the situation to Sunflower as we ran. “You’ve got to use shadow ball to get the ghost out of her body.”
We ran past Mel on our way to the deck. He gave us a thumbs up. “Great news, I fought that ghost ‘til he was gone, out of my head! Hey, where are you going?”
By the time we reached the deck, several travelers had come up for air, scratching their heads in confusion or verifying that their experience hadn’t been a dream. Griffy’s ghost Pokemon must have already been getting to work on the lower levels. It wasn’t hard to find Anita and Jake. I just followed the kissing noises.
Anita was lying on top of Jake on a reclining beach chair, their legs intertwined. A couple walked over to this side of the deck, pleased they had found an empty area. They took one glance at Anita and Jake, turned around, and headed back to the other side of the deck. The only people near Anita and Jake were a few kids, too enwrapped in some imaginary game of ninja sailors to notice the kissing noises.
Sunflower looked at me nervously, her nose twitching. “You sure I should do this? She looks pretty… happy.” Anita rolled over so her back was facing Sunflower.
I nodded. Sunflower created a shadow ball and shot it at Anita. There were twin screeches as the ball of ghost material traveled through Anita and then Jake. Two Ghastlys hovered over the deck. One Ghastly stuck out its tongue at me and the other headed right back for Anita’s body.
Sunflower fired a warning shadow ball between the Ghastly and Anita. I growled loudly, baring my teeth, my fur standing on end. The Ghastlys disappeared.
Oddly enough, Anita and Jake were still lying down. I walked around to where I could see both clearly. They were still kissing; their eyes still closed. “Eevee!” I barked.
Anita opened her eyes. She looked at Jake; then her eyes darted to me. She fell off the recliner.
Jake sat up, looking dazed, while Anita got to her feet. “Weird dream…” Jake started, only to see Anita gaping at him.
“Y-y-you…” she stuttered. Anita turned and fled to the side of the boat, where she would continue to spit into the sea for the next hour and a half.
“You’re welcome,” Jake called after her, grinning.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Honchrow landed on the Zahava’s gym roof silently; not even the rustle of his feathers in the wind could be heard. I slipped off the bird, whispering for him to stay put until I called. My cloak hid me in the night against the dark, pointed roof.
I slid to the roof gutter, caught a branch of a nearby tree, and swung myself away from the roof, landing on the ground in a roll. The gym was dotted with onyx that glittered in the small amount of moonlight. The door was painted silver, with large disk-like doorknobs. Carved above the door were the words: “Beware the brain. Treasure the mind.”
I opened the door and stepped inside.
Immediately, the door slammed shut behind me and a large desk zoomed over my head. “Don’t move, Mendol.”
“Hello, Tamara.” Tamara stood, her eyes glowing a bright violet at the end of a white tiled hall. “How’d you know I was here?”
“Espeon heard you outside.” Her Espeon trotted from around the corner, circling Tamara’s feet. “What are you doing here? Where have you been the past three weeks?”
I flashed her a smile before throwing a Pokeball from belt. “Umbreon, take out Espeon. Spiritomb, go!” In a flash of red, Umbreon took off towards Espeon, her eyes red and hypnotizing. I jumped forward, dodging the desk released from Tamara’s psychic grip. Tamara stood rigidly, unable to move or speak.
Espeon quickly succumbed to Umbreon’s confuse ray, giving Umbreon the chance to use faint attack and knock the psychic Pokemon out. I pulled the hood of my cloak off and approached Tamara, the soft thud of my shoes echoing down the hall. “Spiritomb, allow her to speak,” I told the ghost Pokemon, invisible within Tamara’s body.
“You… you only released Umbreon… which means…” she said.
“Ah, yes, Spiritomb has been hovering around you for quite some time now, Tamara. It’s the reason you are unable to share any memories of me with anyone else. Spiritomb has and will continue to imprison them. I thought you’d have figured that out by now.”
“Now that I know… I’ll find a way,” Tamara croaked. A lock of grey and brown hair fell across her face.
I tilted my head slightly, examining the symmetrical doors behind Tamara. “Unlikely.” Spiritomb had been specifically trained for this type of work. “Let’s find somewhere to talk. Umbreon, keep an eye on Espeon. Attack any psychic Pokemon Tamara may have left on guard.”
I opened a door behind Tamara, which lead to an office with large windows across the back overlooking where the Kruncked River poured into Lemon Lake. Tamara didn’t have a desk—instead she had a glass table sprinkled with a few papers and a circular stand, which held a computer monitor. I took a seat in the swivel chair behind the glass table, resting my feet on a clump of the papers on the glass table. Spiritomb, still controlling Tamara’s body, made her pull a plastic fold-up chair from the closet and sat her on the other side of the glass table.
“We almost caught you,” Tamara said. “The other day, in Winsk City. Nai saw you.”
“There were Weavile prints. We know—”
“Enough. I’m here for information, not to listen to your inept speculations,” I said. “Seven years ago, my father came to Zahavah City. I want to know what he did.”
“That’s why you’re holding me hostage? You came to Zahavah City in the middle of the night, attacked my Pokemon, and took over my body just to hear a story?” Tamara laughed dryly.
“No. I came to Zahavah City, took out your Espeon, and took control of your body to hear a story and not be tracked when I leave and not be attacked by the other gym leaders that would surely come running after you called them telepathically.”
“Well if my memory is not failing me, seven years ago when your father came to Zahavah I found myself in a situation oddly similar to this one,” Tamara said. “It would be much easier to share telepathically.”
I closed my eyes, mentally portioning off and concealing my most protected memories. “Fine,” I said. “But the moment you even consider probing my mind, I’ll push you out of my head and Spiritomb will forcibly search through your memories for the one of my father I’m looking for. It will be painful.”
Tamara nodded. Carefully lowering my mental barrier, I allowed her to enter my mind.
Tamara stood in her office, her arms tied to her side with a dark, stretchy band and a piece of tape across her mouth. She looked younger—her hair had no grey strands and the corners of her eyes didn’t crinkle. A large Charizard hovered over Tamara, his three-fingered claws on her shoulders, ensuring that she didn’t move. The office was assembled differently than its current arrangement. There was a wooden desk where the glass table currently lay, and a bulky computer on another wooden desk in the corner of the room. The floor had been carpeted and the windows were shaded.
On the carpet in middle of the office, a Houndoom stood on top of a Xatu. The Houndoom’s claws dug into the bird, spilling drops of blood across the Xatu’s colorful wings, turning the carpet below from white to red.
A man in a black cloak stood between the Houndoom and the Charizard, his green eyes reflecting the dim light from Charizard’s tail.
“Tamara Lilac,” the man said. “You have in your possession the most powerful Xatu known in Acceber, perhaps the most powerful in the world. I have heard it can foresee the future. You will command it to tell me where and when Mew will be in the next month.” The man approached Tamara, who met his gaze evenly. He ripped the tape off from her mouth. “Well?”
Charizard breathed out smoke, causing Tamara to break into a coughing fit. “You can’t catch Mew… It’s too powerful. Plus, Xatu’s power doesn’t work that way,” she finally gasped. Charizard swung his tail dangerously close to Tamara’s desk.
The man pivoted around to face the Xatu. “Houndoom, get off.” Revealing his teeth, the Houndoom moved to sit at the man’s heels. The Xatu’s eyes were closed, its wings bent at awkward angles. “Xatu, I have the ability to torture and kill your trainer. Tell me where Mew will be.”
“Xats, no,” Tamara said. “You don’t have to. As psychics we have the duty to protect—mmpf” The man retaped Tamara’s mouth.
“Charizard,” the man said dangerously. Charizard breathed out a small ember, catching Tamara’s hair on fire. The man turned back to Xatu. “Now, let’s talk.”
Xatu opened an eye, making eye contact with the green-eyed man. The Xatu’s iris shrunk and seemed to spin slowly. Suddenly, the Xatu’s head fell back, breaking the eye contact. “Outside Melonbi tomorrow…” the man said quietly to himself. He returned his Houndoom to its Pokeball. “Charizard, let’s go.”
The man left with his Charizard, leaving Tamara to wriggle and roll around on the floor until the fire in her hair was put out.
“Your father was a cruel man,” Tamara said. I was jolted back into reality, looking eerily around the room I had just seen filled with smoke. I took my feet off of the glass desk. Tamara closed her eyes. “I released Xats the next day and haven’t talked to him since. I had my Kadabra teleport him to a Pokemon Center in Johto.”
I nodded and rose, pushing the swivel chair back into the glass table.
As I walked out the office door, Tamara called, “Did you find what you needed to know?”
“No.” To myself I muttered, “I found out more than I ever wanted to.”
Previously in An Apple A Day:
Erin, Anita, Liam, and Mel set sail for Vintage Village, only to find the boat was being controlled by Team Glop'emm members in a scheme to steal every passenger's Pokemon. The Glop'emm members used several Ghastlys to control crew members and passengers. Jake was among the passengers. Apple came to the rescue. All Pokemon were returned to their original owners and everyone was freed from the Ghastlys' control.
Meanwhile, the Master paid Tamara Lilac, the psychic gym leader, a visit. He discovered that six years ago, his father forced Tamara's Xatu to reveal the next place Mew would appear. However, the Master has still found no information about how to destroy Mew.
Jamie Arkle has temporarily left Rita Teal in charge of Team Glop'emm so he can get more about the Master and hopefully discover the Master's location and future plans. The Master and Rita both believe Jamie has left to bury his dead mother in Hoenn.
Chapter 34: Smells Like Change
I hesitantly knocked on the door. When there was no answer, I used Mel’s key card to unlock the door and stepped into the room. On my shoulder, Apple shuddered and covered her nose with her paws. Mel had been right; it did smell pretty bad in here.
The bed on the right was still perfectly made—Mel had slept on the floor of our room last night. Liam was asleep in the other bed, tangled in the white sheets. His hair looked like the back of a porcupine, sticking up in random directions across his pillow. He actually was kind of cute all snuggled up with the sheets. Much more relaxed.
I tiptoed forward, considering all the ways I could wake him up. I grinned. Maybe I could jump on him…
I felt uneven ground beneath my tennis shoes and looked down. Upon seeing the crumpled button-down shirt beneath my shoe and the pair of jeans at the edge of Liam’s bed, I blushed slightly. So no jumping…
Six Pokeballs and a slightly bulky grey phone still hooked onto Liam’s jeans caught my eye. Curiously, I bent over and reached for a Pokeball—
A hand grabbed my wrist. “What are you doing?” My eyes trailed up the arm grabbing mine to a bare-chested Liam, crouching over me. Apple’s surprised expression mirrored my own. How’d he move that quickly so quietly?
“Nothing.” I flushed as Liam let go of me. In an attempt to get out of my awkward crouched position, I twisted around but lost balance and fell on my butt. Apple leapt off my shoulder and onto Mel’s bed, probably to keep an eye on Liam. Liam stood up. “I came to get you up—we’re almost to Vintage Village.”
Liam folded his arms across his chest, giving me an uncomfortable glare. I almost choked when I saw his boxers—they were covered in little pictures of chocolate chip cookies. Liam cleared his throat while I held back a fit of giggles. He pointedly shifted his eyes to the floor beneath me.
Patting my hand on the floor, I realized I was still sitting on his jeans. I scrambled backwards, crab walking, then picking myself off the ground, and suddenly finding the water outside extremely interesting.
Liam mumbled something that sounded like, “Laundry day… dumb joke gift… stupid… all my other ones in the suitcase” as he got dressed. Then he said more clearly, “Is there a reason you’re still in my room?”
Why the hell did he always have that nasty terse tone? “Yeah,” I said, watching him put his shirt on in the reflection of the window. “I just thought you should know that while you were unconscious or puking or whatever last night, the boat was taken over by ghosts apparently controlled by Team Glop’emm—”
I turned around. Liam looked less put together than I’d ever seen him in his crumpled, navy blue button up and his hair falling over his ear on his left side and sticking straight up on the right side. I rolled my eyes. “Team Glop’emm used ghosts to take over me and Mel and Jake—he’s on the boat, apparently Team Glop’emm snatched him up and had ghosts take over his body in Artemis Town, where he has not yet won a badge, thank you very much—”
“I don’t give a crap about Jake. Team Glop’emm…?”
“Well, luckily Apple whooped their asses,” I gave Apple a thumbs up. She sat a little straighter on the bed and cocked her head up proudly. “and with the help of other trainers’ dark and ghost Pokemon we drove out all the ghosts. I’m still not quite sure how the Team Glop’emm grunts were able to control so many ghosts, but they had quite an operation here stealing Pokemon. They were even controlling the captain. Apparently, they had at least one successful operation in Artemis Town—”
“What happened to the Glop’emm members?” Liam bent over the garbage can and knotted the plastic bag.
“Officer Jennys from Artemis Town came really quickly when we called. The Jennys took the Glop’emm guys back for questioning after making sure everyone got back their Pokemon and everything was okay here.” I sat down on Mel’s bed next to Apple as Liam picked the plastic bag out of the garbage can. The bag resembled an upside down, closed, water-filled umbrella, because of the way it was weighed down. Okay, actually, an upside down, closed, water-filled umbrella that reeked. “That’s… are you feeling better?”
Liam opened the room’s door, and tossed the bag into the hallway. Ew, now some poor janitor would have to pick it up and the hallway would start to stink.
Liam slammed the door shut. When he looked at me, it was like there was lightning in his eyes, preparing to lash out. The rest of his face was expressionless. I’d never seen him this angry before. Actually, I’d never seen him angry at all. “Let’s see… I’ve been puking for about the last twelve hours, all of my possessions were thrown overboard, you waltzed in here this morning poking at what’s left of my stuff and laughing at my boxers, and you’re still here.” I flinched. Liam opened the door again, pointedly waiting for me to leave.
I felt my cheeks heat up in anger. Apple shot me a warning look, but I didn’t care. “I don’t get it,” I said, my voice rising. “Why do you treat other people like ****? I just came in here to wake you up and let you know the messed up crap you missed last night—”
“Bullmuk—you were being your usual nosy self, probably coming up with some ridiculous way to make me more miserable—maybe throw the rest of my clothes overboard—”
I got to my feet. “Will you drop it already? I thought it’d be funny, and its not like you constantly care about anything anyway—”
“Oh yeah, I don’t care the slightest about not having any clothes to wear—”
“—and maybe there were OTHER reasons I used your suitcase—”
“Like? You’re just a selfish brat—”
“LIKE APPLE NOT HAVING A POKEBALL.” The room was suddenly eerily silent. “She was sick and I needed to get her aboard somehow.”
“Apple doesn’t have a Pokeball?” Liam asked, his face suddenly vacant of all emotion. He stared at Apple as she jumped onto my shoulder.
“No, she doesn’t,” I snapped, striding towards the door. I stopped just outside the doorway. “You know, if anyone’s selfish, its you. You don’t give a damn about anyone—I didn’t have the best night either, being possessed by a ghost and forced into kissing Jake for two hours—”
“Oh yeah, making out is really awful. I’m so sorry—” I grabbed the cold doorknob and yanked with all of my strength.
The door’s slam echoed down the hallway.
“I have a boyfriend,” a brunette said, stomping her foot against the deck and walking away from Jake.
I snickered as Jake signed and sat down on a reclining chair. Failed attempt number three.
I leaned on the slick wooden railing and reached up to my shoulder to pet Apple between the ears. Mint Mountain was easy to see, even from Cape Caution, but now we were close enough that I could make out wooden cottages scattered about the mountain’s base—Vintage Village. A breeze brushed my hair away from the back of my neck, sending a chill down my spine.
Something didn’t feel right. I didn’t quite feel right.
Twice now, a ghost had taken control of my body. Twice, I’d been saved by Apple.
The one time Apple was in trouble—the one time I thought she needed to be saved, I failed.
Last night, I’d woken up sweating, terrified Apple’d be gone. I relaxed when I found her asleep, curled up next to my pillow, but I couldn’t fall back asleep. I’d just lied there, breathing the salty air and listening to Erin’s soft snores until the sun beamed its first few rays through our small, round window.
Something was coming and I didn’t know what and I still couldn’t talk to Apple and I didn’t understand why or why I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach…
“So why won’t Anita and Erin talk to you?” I glanced over my shoulder. Mel had sat down next to Jake. “Anita said you were a rival trainer. Erin said you rivaled wild Sentrets for most annoying thing on earth.”
“I have a complicated relationship with the ladies,” Jake said. “See…”
Or maybe that foreboding feeling was just a reaction to seeing Jake again.
“Anita, catch!” I turned my head just in time for something plastic to smack me in the face. I looked down at the deck and saw a bag of chips. “Nice catch,” Erin said dryly, leaning over the rail next to me and popping a potato chip from a bag she was holding into her mouth. I bent over and picked up the bag of chips.
“Thanks. Where’d you get them?” I asked, opening the bag. Apple sniffed the bag. For a moment, I thought she would try to swipe one, but instead she lifted her nose to the air.
“Some concession guy. I mean, it was kind of a rip-off, but there’s nothing else to eat on this boat.” Suddenly, Apple leapt off my shoulder and took off running in the direction Erin just came from. “Aren’t you going to chase her?”
“You shouldn’t have mentioned ‘concession,’” I muttered as I opened my chip bag. “I’m just going to pretend I’m not associated with that Eevee until she’s through attacking the concession seller. Was he selling hotdogs?”
Erin glanced over at Jake and Mel. I followed her gaze. “I can totally get one before you do,” Mel said.
Jake shook his head, smirking. “No way—you’re too young. You’ve got to leave the flirting to us older teens.”
“Anita,” Erin said, looking out at the water. The warm sun reflected off of the waves brightly. “We’ve got to talk about Mel.”
“Well, I was asking my mom about it, and technically its illegal for him to be travelling with us. We’re not eighteen so we don’t count as guardians and Mel’s not thirteen so he’s not allowed to be travelling without a guardian.” Erin sighed. “Plus, it was our original idea to leave him at the Vintage Village orphanage, and then there’s his ghost powers to consider…”
“Whatever, it’s not like anyone’s going to catch us. I say we let him just tag along. I mean, he can be annoying, but he’s a good kid.” I chewed a potato chip slowly. We couldn’t just abandon Mel in an orphanage, and Liam and I knew how to handle his ghost powers better than whoever ran that place.
“But what if something happened? What if we couldn’t protect him from a dangerous Pokemon or from Team Glop’emm or something?”
“Mel can handle himself.”
“No, I don’t think so. He’s eight years old, Anita. While he’s a nice kid, he needs a parent right now, and someone who can teach him how to use his powers—”
“You’ve already admitted that he has great control, better than me—”
“Which is seriously not saying much, Anita.” Erin lowered her voice. “Apparently, he got stuck as a ghost for months once. His dad thought he died; that’s why his dad left. He told me a few nights ago…”
My chest constricted. I stared at Erin for a moment and then glanced at Mel, who was currently hugging a very pretty, busty woman around the waist. “Oh, you’re so adorable!” the woman exclaimed, ruffling Mel’s hair. Mel stuck his tongue out at Jake, who was watching Mel while chatting with a group of cackling girls.
“I had no idea,” I said. I felt the plastic bag slide through my fingers and watched as it fell into the ocean and was sucked into the boat’s wake, leaving a trail of soggy potato chips in the water. I shook my head. “I still think he needs to be with someone who understands his ghost gift.”
Erin nodded in agreement. “We should contact Abalina. The other two don’t seem quite as… responsible.”
“Or sane.” I watched as Jake tried to flirt with the same woman Mel had just hugged. The woman slapped Jake across the face while Mel pointed and laughed at Jake from behind the woman. “I’d still rather him travel with us.”
“I just don’t think we’re qualified. I’ll go ask Liam, and then I’ll give Abalina a call—”
“Leave him at the orphanage.” I whirled around. Liam stood on the other side of me, looking up at the clear sky and leaning against the railing. “He shouldn’t be wandering about Acceber when there are people like Team Glop’emm searching for anything that could get them more power or money. If they ever discovered his abilities, he’d be taken hostage faster than he could turn invisible.” Liam pointed his index finger so it was parallel to the railing, pointing towards the front of the boat. “By the way, Anita, you might want to fetch Apple before she tackles another person off the boat.”
By the time I dragged Apple away from the cluster of wrapped hotdogs she had managed to bite into and the concession man was successfully pulled back onto the boat, we had arrived in Vintage Village, and we were waiting for the boat to dock. Luckily, the crew seemed to be too occupied trying to calm the concession man as he hugged the lifesaver in the seawaters, reassuring him that he would be reimbursed for his lost hotdogs, to look for the source of all the mayhem.
Apple now sat by my feet—I refused to let her cling to my shoulder with her disgusting hotdog breath. Erin was playing a game with Mel where the goal was to slap the opponent’s hand—Mel was easily winning with his ability to make a hand disappear. I had no idea where Jake had wandered off to, but I didn’t really care. Liam and I watched a larger ship pull away from the dock. Vintage Village’s dock was tiny—it held a few small personal boats, but only had two major ports where larger ships could dock.
<Hotdog…> I looked at Apple in surprise.
<I heard you!> I said excitedly. Apple didn’t react. Darn it, she didn’t hear. “I heard you, Apple!”
Apple looked up at me grinning. She squinted at me. I thought she was trying to communicate with me so I reached out my mind. <…saying now? Guess… damn…> I looked at Apple in confusion. <…recovering… end of day.>
“I think I heard about every other word. Is that good?”
“Great, now you can start exploding light bulbs again,” Liam said dryly.
I folded my arms across my chest, rustling my t-shirt. “Nobody asked—”
The large white ship leaving the dock was now fully turned around, ready to start moving out toward the open seas. The ship had to be six times the size of the boat we were currently on, with eight or nine floors. It was so big, it could only be an interregional ship. I read the side of the ship: S.S. Tidal.
“Where do you think the ship’s going?” I asked. When Liam didn’t respond, I turned my head to look at him. He gripped the railing tightly as he sent a distant stare out at the other ship. I followed his gaze.
On the S.S. Tidal, a gaunt man wearing a long trench coat appeared to be staring right back at Liam. His hair was swept to the side and I could only see that he was wearing glasses from the reflection of the sun when his face moved slightly. A large white, feathery Pokemon sat by his feet. “Do you know him?” I asked.
I squinted at the Pokemon, but couldn’t make out exactly what it was. “Can you see what Pokemon’s by his feet? I don’t think I’ve seen one like it before.”
Liam watched the large ship drift away. When our boat docked, his gaze still hadn’t faltered. “Uh, Liam, we have to get off the boat.”
Liam nodded, finally looking away from the ship on the horizon, and followed Erin, Mel, and me as we walked down the aluminum ramp to the ground. Liam had ditched his suitcase, no longer having any possessions to store in it.
“Well, I guess we should probably find the Pokemon Center,” Erin said, looking at the identical stone-built houses that lined the street the dock was attached to. Only a few other people had disembarked—most, apparently, were heading to Arctic Village, the boat’s next stop.
“Why are we even stopping here?” Mel asked. “There’s no gym. Shouldn’t we just keep going to Artemis Town?” Erin and I exchanged knowing looks.
“Training,” I said curtly. By my feet, Apple nodded in agreement.
“Hey, you guys didn’t wait for me!” Jake jogged down the aluminum ramp, his blond hair staying in gelled spikes despite the wind.
“Quick, let’s go before he can catch up,” I muttered and started walking towards the street.
“What’s so bad about Jake?” Mel asked, doing a bit of a hop-skip to catch up and walk beside me. When he almost stepped on Apple, she tried to hit his shins with an iron tail, but he turned his legs momentarily intangible.
“Why does he even wanna travel with us?” Erin asked on the other side of me.
Suddenly, there was pressure on my shoulder. “We’re all going the same place,” Jake said. He had one arm slung over my shoulder and one over Erin’s. “Plus… err, I kinda need your help, Anita, for Artemis’s gym…”
I pushed Jake’s arm off of me. “Why would you—” I stopped walking just before we reached the street and turned around. “Hey, where’d Liam go?”
<That pink wig lady was creepy.>
I grinned, looking down at Apple as she trotted by my feet, happy I was starting to hear her thoughts more clearly. After wandering around the eerily quiet town for an hour, we still hadn’t found Liam. We did, however, stumble across the Pokemon Center, which was run by a wrinkled old lady wearing too much eye shadow and a pink wig. The lady had informed us that the Pokemon Center—a small stone hut that was indistinguishable from every other stone hut on the street, except for a wooden sign—was too small to accommodate overnight visitors.
“What are you so happy about?” Erin asked, slowing her pace beside me as we turned a corner onto a side street. “Tweal hasn’t come back from searching for Liam yet, now we don’t have a place to sleep, and” she turned around and waved at Jake, who was walking with Mel a few yards behind them, “we have to deal with him.” She stopped walking and sat down on the curb. “Ugh.”
I sat down next to Erin. “Liam missing isn’t a bad thing.” Suddenly, Apple poked a paw at my leg. “Huh?”
I looked at Apple in confusion, and she pointed her tail down the street. The street led to a cul-de-sac dead end, but in the center of the cul-de-sac was a small grass island on which a stone stood carved in the shape of a flame.
I stood up and approached the statue. At the base of the stone flame was a slab of stone with the words “In memory of those who perished in the fire of October 22, 2005.” Underneath, there were a dozen names listed. I briefly remember the article I had read in Tinted Town’s museum. There was a sudden heaviness in my chest—a guilt.
<This is where I was born. Those are the people I killed.> Apple sat between me and the statue, her ears drooped. She looked up at me. The regretful anger in her eyes made me flinch, and I suddenly realized the guilt I was feeling was her guilt.
<It’s not your fault.>
“What’s that?” Erin asked from behind me. I shrugged.
“Hey, guys!” Mel yelled from down the street. “Look who we found!”
I looked over my shoulder past Erin. At the corner of the street, Mel and Jake stood next to Liam and a girl with long black hair I didn’t recognize. I noticed Liam’s eyes were focused on me, narrowed.
<Play it cool,> I told Apple. <Act happy.> I tried to send Apple a surge of happiness with that last thought, but I wasn’t sure if it worked.
“Where’d you go?” Erin yelled as we jogged to reach the group. “We’ve been looking all over.”
“And who’s she?” I added, stopping my jog abruptly in front of Liam. I was disappointed when he didn’t flinch, not that I really expected him to.
The girl who stood next to Liam was tall and slender. Her hair fell straight down her back perfectly smooth to her hips, reflecting a dark purple in the sunlight—the color of a raven’s feathers. She wore a knee length black skirt and a button-down yellow blouse. Her face was narrow. For a brief moment, I could’ve sworn I saw something like hatred in her eyes as she looked at me, but when I blinked the expression was gone, replaced with a bemused smile.
“This is Lily,” Liam said. “She’s a friend of the family from long ago.”
Lily held out her hand and continued smiling. I took it, grumbling, “Anita.” Then I shot at Liam, “Who knew you actually had a family?” while Erin introduced herself.
“Lily lives and works in Vintage Village’s orphanage,” Liam said. “We’re welcome to stay there overnight. The Pokemon Center in this town is too small.”
“We know that, no thanks to you,” I said. “You know, you could’ve told us where you were going.”
“Aw, were you worried?” Liam asked sarcastically.
“More like ecstatic.”
Lily frowned at me. “Just ignore them,” Erin said. “Which way’s the orphanage? Lead the way.”
I scooped up Apple in my arms as we started walking. <You okay?>
I didn’t hear a response, but Apple nodded.
Jake scrambled around Mel, who was kicking a stone as he walked, to the front next to Lily. “So, Lily, how long have you lived here?” He walked with his hands in his jean pockets, with a bit of a swagger. I snorted.
Jake turned his head around to glare at me while Lily answered, “My whole life.”
Erin and I caught each other’s eyes and struggled not to laugh.
“Would you like to speed up to have a… quieter chat?” Jake asked, holding out his arm for Lily.
“Uh, no thanks.” Lily turned to her other side and took Liam’s arm. I was surprised Liam let her. “I’m good.”
Jake signed dejectedly and let Mel pass him. He turned to me. “You know, this is your fault.”
“No, seriously. Every time I’m around you, girls just don’t flock to be basked in my awesomeness. You scare them away!”
“Have you ever considered, Jake, that maybe they just don’t like you? What with your tact and modesty—”
“Geeze, does she argue with everyone?” Lily said loudly.
This girl’s only known me for what? Two minutes? “Geeze, are you always a bit—”
“Anita!” Erin said, nodding her head toward Mel.
“What? I was just going to ask if she was always a bit cheery. *****eery. *****-eery.”
Apple rolled her eyes at me. Whatever. Something was up with that girl. When she wasn’t touching Liam, I sensed a sting of emotion aimed toward me—loathing and sadness. If I could barely hear Apple’s thoughts, the fact that I could feel the emotions of this girl I barely knew meant that the emotions had to be strong.
After a few more minutes of walking, we arrived at the first building I had seen that did not resemble every other building in the town. “This is the orphanage,” Lily said. While the orphanage was still made of stone, it was about six times the size of any of the other stone houses. There were several windows lining the front of the building, and I could hear laughing coming from the backyard. Lily led us to the front door. “We’ve got about eight other kids right now, but can accommodate twenty.”
The inside of the orphanage was a lot more comfortable than I expected. As we followed Lily through the house, I noticed everything was in pristine condition— not a scratch on the hall floor, not a speck of dust on the living room shelves, and not even a stain on the kitchen counter. The kitchen table was already set for fifteen, and steaming pots of vegetables, rice, and some sort of stew had been placed in the center of the table.
“Lunch time!” I heard someone call. An elderly woman walked into the kitchen wearing faded pink slippers and a white bathrobe. Similar to the old lady running the Pokemon Center, this woman’s face resembled crackling plaster.
<What’s with this town and old women wearing way too much makeup?> I said to Apple.
“Oh good, you’re back with your friends just in time for lunch, Lily.” The old woman gestured from us to the kitchen table. “Please take a seat. My name is Helen, but you can call me Gran.” Helen’s dark brown eyes zeroed in on Apple, who was still lying in my arms. “No Pokemon in the house. You can let the Eevee out in the backyard. In fact, you can all let your Pokemon out in the backyard with the others… Here, follow me. Those damn munchkins should be in here by now anyway.”
We walked through what seemed to be another wide living room. Three long grey couches faced a flat screen television that rested atop a wooden cabinet. On either side of the cabinet there were tall bookshelves, lined with books in perfect condition. The back of the room was made entirely of window sliding doors.
There was a large grey cat on one of the couches, lazily watching us as we walked through the room. Slightly unnerved, I looked away. Unlike the other parts of the house, this room smelled a bit like cat.
Through the sliding doors, I could see the orphanage’s enormous, fenced-in backyard. It had to be as big as a Pokemon arena. Most of the yard was made of short cut grass, but there was a woodchip-covered area in the back right corner on top of which was a jungle gym. Several kids were climbing on the jungle gym when Helen opened one of the sliding doors and yelled, “No lunch for anyone who’s not sitting at the table in the next thirty seconds!”
The kids raised their heads, jumped off of the monkey bars, swings, and plastic platforms, and ran toward the door. After all eight kids entered the house noisily, Helen whistled and held a hand over her eyes, looking into the bright sky. Suddenly, a Farfetch’d landed at her feet.
“This is Simon,” Helen said. “He looks after the kids, and he’ll look after your Pokemon.” Helen nodded to herself. “He’ll make sure nobody gets out and nothing gets in.”
Apple jumped out of my arms, landing right in front of Simon. Startled, the Farfetch’d smashed his stick down on Apple’s head. Of course, a wild chase involving Apple launching herself off of the swings and roof at Simon ensued.
Mel, Jake, Erin, and I released our Pokemon. Splash and Tweal immediately joined Apple in her endeavor to catch the Farfetch’d, while most of the other Pokemon lounged about the yard, enjoying the sun. Only Missy took to scaring Jake’s Pokemon, who were unaware of her devious tendencies. Jake’s Floatzel, which I hadn’t known he had, drenched the entire playground with a whirlpool and nearly ran into the fence when Missy whispered, “Boo” in her ear.
“What about yours?” Helen asked Liam.
“Mine haven’t been released in over two years,” Liam replied.
Helen nodded. “Well, back to the kitchen, all of you.” She gave Mel and Jake, who were closest to her, a gentle push back towards the kitchen. She noticed the grey cat lying on the couch. “Lily, don’t forget to feed Dewy. You’re the one who wanted to keep that good-for-nothing stray cat.”
“Anita, I called Abalina. Your turn to talk to Helen,” Erin murmured as we entered the kitchen and Lily scampered off to fill Dewy’s food bowl.
The eight other orphanage kids were already digging into the food, clanging forks against plates loudly and barking at each other to pass whatever dish was out of reach. I counted three girls and five boys. The oldest of the eight was a boy with sandy locks of hair who looked about Mel’s age.
I purposefully sat near the head of the table, away from the kids, where I thought Helen might sit. Lily sat across from me after setting aside a grey bowl full of tuna for the cat, Liam sat next to Lily, and Erin next to me. Mel had already started talking with the sandy-haired kid, and Jake was reaching across the table to get some rice.
My stomach growled impatiently, but I sat back in my chair. The food would get to this side of the table eventually. I craned my head around to see what Helen was up to and if she’d be sitting down any time soon so we could talk, but she was washing dishes by the sink. When I turned back toward the table, I found Lily staring at me.
The same prickling feeling I had this morning crept into my stomach, and suddenly I didn’t feel like eating. Maybe this feeling had to do with Lily? I tried to focus on her thoughts and emotions, but I didn’t sense any of the hatred I’d felt earlier.
I frowned. Only Lily’s right hand was on the table. Liam’s right hand was also out of sight. Maybe I couldn’t feel anything because they were holding hands. I reached my mind out to Erin’s.
<Do they have a thing going? They said family friends, but—>
I almost fell out of my chair. Apple had said I’d recover my power, or at least that’s what I thought she’d been trying to say, but I hadn’t expected to hear Erin’s thoughts so clearly.
I narrowed my eyes at Lily. I bet they were holding hands. “So,” I said. “You and Liam have known each other a while?”
Liam and Lily exchanged sidelong glances. “Not really,” Lily said. “Our families knew each other when we were much younger. We met only briefly.”
“So Liam’s lived here?”
“No,” Liam said curtly.
“Where are you from?” Lily asked suddenly.
“How long have you lived in Acceber?” She sounded like she was interrogating me, as if I’d strangled her cat.
“Um, six years.”
“Where’d you live before that?”
The brussel sprouts had finally made their way to me. I only scooped a few onto my plate, having lost my appetite. Lily clenched her fork tightly, almost stabbing the table. I didn’t think she was that hungry…
“Where’d you live?” Lily repeated. Liam gave her a sharp look.
“What’s your problem?” I asked. “Seriously, what’d I even do to you?”
Lily’s eyebrows shot up. Erin and Jake, who’d been talking, became quiet. Liam muttered, “Girls…”
Lily took the bowl from me and jabbed at a brussel sprout with a fork. “Let’s have a Pokemon battle,” she said.
“I don’t think that’s going to solve whatever issue you have with me.”
“Do you even have Pokemon?” I asked. “I didn’t see any in the backyard.”
“One on one.”
Whatever. If she wanted a battle, I’d give her one. “Alright, psycho, you’re on.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“This is an emergency meeting,” I declared, looking at the small camera at the top of the screen. The screen was divided into nine different sections, in a three by three formation. The middle miniature screen was black. I watched as my image in the top, center screen echoed my declaration. The system had a slight delay. Now my image was looking up. I frowned at the wrinkles I could see deepening around my violet eyes; I wasn’t getting any younger.
“We know this, Tamara. Get on with it,” Dustin said. In a screen to the right of mine, he rested his head on a balled up fist.
<As if that seventeen-year-old snot had somewhere better to be. Honestly, I don’t know how we agreed to institute him as a gym leader—>
<Quiet, Espeon,> I said. I closed my eyes for a moment, remembering the Mendol boy’s face. So serious for one so young. I willed myself to tell the other gym leaders about his surprise visit last night. I opened my mouth—
And nothing happened.
<Tamara, we’ve already tried this. It won’t work with the Spiritomb around… wherever it is.>
“What Tamara is failing to say,” Nai snapped, her grey eyes narrowed. “is that Mendol was spotted in Winsk City the other day. I chased after him—he left a pretty clear trail of footprints—but they disappeared after less than half a mile. Where his footprints stopped, Weavile footprints were found approaching his final footprint and then heading back the same direction.” That wasn’t at all what I was attempting to convey, but I had no way of conveying my newfound information.
“He has a Honchrow, he probably flew away with that—”
“Why would he be in Winsk—”
“It probably wasn’t even him—”
“Does he even have a Weavile?”
“SHUT UP!” Aden yelled, fire coming out of his ears. Everyone was quiet. “Dustin, if Nai says she saw Mendol, she saw Mendol. No reason for her to lie and she wouldn’t tell us if she wasn’t sure. And Abalina, he’s a master of dark Pokemon. Of course he—”
“While we don’t know if Mendol has a Weavile,” Kyle interrupted. His voice was calm, almost soothing. His Vaporeon, Tounsil, peeked up from behind his head. “What Aden is suggesting is that with his dark Pokemon bond it would be unsurprising if the Weavile helped him get away.”
Abalina nodded, her cheeks slightly pink with embarrassment.
Nai nodded. “We followed the Weavile footprints, but they disappeared into a wooded area. We’ve been unable to locate Mendol or the Weavile.”
As Tali spoke in the screen below her brother’s, her short light brown hair bobbed. “We do know he has a Honchrow. Why wouldn’t he have flown away on that?”
Nobody had an answer.
Sparky, who had been unusually quiet, said, “Pickles.”
I looked at the old man in disbelief. Sparky had always been…eccentric, but unlike some of the younger gym leaders, I’d seen his serious side. I’d seen him bury his dead Raichu; I’d seen him single-handedly take down a Team Glop’emm hideout; I’d seen him prevent a man’s suicide.
Then again, we hadn’t had a serious situation since Mendol senior had died.
Dustin rolled his eyes. “I’m out. This is retarded.” Dustin’s screen went dark.
“Sparky, why—” I started.
A spark danced across Sparky’s grey hair. “Don’t go blaming me for that lad’s lack of respect. I was just pointing out that we’re in quite a pickle. The very same pickle, in fact, that we were in prior to this meeting. The lad has a good point.”
The only sound in the room was the soft buzz of the screen’s fan. Finally, I said, “We can only keep looking for him.”
Nai and Aden nodded in agreement.
“There’s something else we need to talk about,” Abalina said, running a hand through her long brown hair. “I got a call today from Erin Kendle, a girl travelling with the psychic gifted trainer, Anita Parkwood. They’ve been traveling with another gifted child named Melvin we had not known about—a young gifted child with no parents. He has a ghost gift, and I believe one of us needs to care for him and teach him. He is only eight.”
“Oh, I know him,” Sparky said, laughing. “We had some good times two days ago…”
“Why didn’t you inform—” Nai started.
“Actually, I was thinking about adopting him.”
Everyone was suddenly very quiet.
Aden broke the tension, chuckling while running a hand through his short red hair. “Oh, the old man’s such a riot, right?” Nobody else laughed.
“I’ve never thought about kids before, but this Mel kid… well, he was quite something. He reminded me of myself when I was his age, and then I started teaching him... I talked to Cape Caution’s Nurse Joy, and she seemed fairly certain the boy was going to be dropped off at the Vintage Village orphanage. Plus, I’m getting pretty old. One day I’ll need a successor…”
Nai shook her head of grey streaked hair. “You can’t actually expect us to believe you’d raise a child. That you are qualified to raise a gifted child.”
Aden stopped chortling. “He’s serious?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure Dustin would agree this is a bad idea,” Tali said, playing with a lock of sandy hair. “He can’t be a parent—he practically acts like a rebellious teenager.”
“You don’t have to be qualified to be a parent,” Kyle said quietly. “And who else would look after him? Are any of the rest of us ready to take on the responsibility of a gifted child?”
I nodded in agreement. Beneath Sparky’s goofy façade was a very caring, intelligent, and playful man.
“We should take it to a vote,” Nai snapped.
“We’re leading a region, not people’s lives,” Abalina retorted. “Who are we to determine whether Sparky should be able to adopt a child?”
“A gifted child,” Tali said. “It’s our duty not only to lead Acceber, but to ensure that all gifted children are taught to control their gift.”
I cleared my throat and asked, “All those in favor of Sparky teaching this gifted child through whatever means he feels are appropriate, raise your hand.”
“Sparky doesn’t know the meaning of the word appropriate,” Nai grumbled as Sparky, Abalina, Kyle, and I raised our hands. Aden hesitantly put a hand in the air after a moment as well. “That’s the clear majority,” I said.
Suddenly, Sparky jumped up faster than I’d ever seen a man his age move. “Whoo!” he yelled, running off the screen. A door slammed.
For a moment, we all watched Sparky’s screen, eyebrows furrowed.
“Err, well then. That concludes the meeting.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I narrowed my eyes. The Farfetch’d was sitting on top of the monkey bars.
“What’s the plan?” Splash asked me, also watching the bird Pokemon.
Between us and the Farfetch’d, Griffy was refereeing a game of soccer played with an old faded rubber ball Tweal had found and picked up in a neighboring yard. On one team was Allo, Sunflower, and Tweal. They were up against Jake’s Quilava, Floatzel, and a strange looking grass Pokemon I’d never seen before, apparently called Petilil. It blended in with the shrubs that lined the wooden fence so well I hadn’t even noticed it until it moved to join the game.
How the grass Pokemon even moved was beyond me. It didn’t have arms or legs and more or less resembled an onion with a face. To join the game, it had kind of flapped the bottom part of its body and inched its way across the grass. Had Quilava and Floatzel actually had a Pokemon on their team that could move, they’d probably far outmatch Allo and Sunflower’s team. As it was, the match was pretty even.
Whatever the case, to get to Farfetch’d, we’d have to maneuver through their field. I watched as Sunflower kicked the ball up to Tweal… Perhaps I could iron tail the ball hard enough to knock the Farfetch’d right off his perch—
“Apple.” I turned around. Fiery was standing behind me, his ears pointed forward. “Apple, we need to talk.”
“Sure,” I said. “After I bite this Farfetch’d—”
Fiery’s nose twitched in annoyance. “No, we need to talk now.”
“Well, we’re talking.”
Fiery’s eyes flickered to Splash, who was still gazing intently at the Farfetch’d. “We need to talk somewhere more private.”
Splash’s ears suddenly twitched back toward Fiery. “Don’t be a spoilsport, Fiery! We were just about—”
“Enough,” Fiery growled. He released a small ember at my feet, which I avoided by jumping back. “Let’s go.” He took off in a quick attack toward the empty back left corner of the backyard.
“Sorry, Splash,” I said and took off running after the Flareon. What could this be about? I grinned. Maybe he was about to confess his long overdue, undying love for me—
We reached the fence. I sat down and began licking my paw. “So what’s up?” I asked.
“We haven’t talked since after your disappearance.”
“And, I wanted to let you know that you put on a good show, but I’m not fooled.”
I stopped licking my paw. “Huh?”
“You’re not an Eevee.”
I snorted. “What have you been smokin’? Do you see the ears? The paws?” I waved my tail. “My beautiful, fluffy tail—”
Fiery stood up, towering over me. He took a step forward. I stepped back, toward the fence corner. He took another step forward. I lit up my tail, refusing to back up further. “You don’t scare me.”
“You may be able to convince two month old Eevees that you didn’t actually disappear, that they just missed the hole you dug in the ground out of Sparky’s gym, but you can’t fool me. Vanilla and Splash are more observant than they give themselves credit for. Splash remembers a green flash of light. He said so when I first asked what happened, before you fed them this ‘I dug a hole’ ********.” Fiery’s fur bristled. “They wouldn’t believe you if they weren’t so young. They wouldn’t buy into this hole nonsense when they didn’t even see a gaping hole in the ground. It wasn’t until after you fed them that lie that Vanilla thought she might’ve seen a dark crevice in the corner of the room, that Splash was sure he must have imagined the light, that he had to have been bored and daydreaming.”
I stayed silent, unsure of how to react. I curled my claws into the ground.
“Anita was terrified when you were gone, you know. I think the lack of telepathy with you was painful. You two share a strong psychic connection. I know you’ve lived with her for most of her life, but how’d she figure out how to use her powers? And could she have used her powers when she was younger?”
“You don’t know anything about the gift.”
“Ah, but see, you do.” I was overheating—my breath felt dry and my fur heavy. Fiery was much too close to me. “I’ve heard you; I’ve even seen you instruct Anita. I doubt anyone who wasn’t an Eevee would notice, but the way you hold yourself, the warning looks you give Anita, the way you wave your tail impatiently when she screws up making her psychic barrier, your cockiness, the ridiculous pranks you play—more over the top than Splash’s—these are all very un-Eevee-like characteristics.”
I gave in and took another step back, snatching a breath of fresh, cool air.
Fiery tilted his head. “So Apple, what are you?”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Just when Apple ditched me for Fiery, the sliding doors slammed open. Anita marched into the backyard with that look in her eyes that made me think she might accidently shatter the glass sliding doors with her crazy psychic stuff. I smiled. That would be so cool!
Behind Anita, another girl with angry eyes and dark hair walked out of the orphanage. Actually, she wasn’t quite angry; her face reminded me of Apple when she saw someone with a hotdog—determined and pretty much obsessively focused.
Liam, Jake, and Erin followed the two girls warily, followed by a bunch of kids cheering, “Battle! Battle!” Mel was with the kids.
I skipped toward Anita. Battling would be more fun than chasing the Farfetch’d. And Anita would definitely pick me because Apple and all of my siblings were busy, unless you didn’t count Vanilla lying in the sun as busy.
Anita, however, brushed past me when I reached her feet. <I want to battle!> I yelled. I wasn’t sure if she’d hear me—her psychic powers had gone wonky recently.
Anita looked at the dark haired girl, who was bending over to pick up the weird onion grass Pokemon named Petilil. <…don’t need speed.> Anita looked down at me. “Sorry, Splash. You got to participate in the last gym battle. Allo, let’s go!”
Allo’s ears pricked, and he bounded toward Anita. Great, now the teams for the soccer game were even again. If I wanted to play, I’d have to convince someone else to play too…
I looked over my shoulder at Fiery and Apple, huddled in the back corner of the yard. Seriously, why would Apple pick talking with my stupid older brother over catching a Farfetch’d with me? If you ranked playing with me and talking with Fiery on a scale of funness, I’d win ‘cause my games were overstuffed with fun.
“This’ll be a one-on-one match, Lily Smith versus Anita Parkwood,” Erin announced. Sunflower, Tweal, Quill (the stuck up Quilava) and Floatzel all stopped playing to watch the battle. Griffy watched from behind the group of kids, and the Farfetch’d swooped down from the playground, landing on a curly haired kid’s shoulder.
Even Missy was watching while she hovered behind Jake and blew on his neck. Every time Jake turned around she’d disappear.
I looked around the yard. Great, now there was really no one to play with. The only Pokemon that weren’t watching the battle were Apple and Fiery, Vanilla—and everyone knows she’s no fun—Wella, who glared at me from the shade of a tree when I looked at her, and Jake’s Diglett, who I hadn’t seen since she buried underground after being let out of her Pokeball.
“Allo, quick attack!”
“Petilil, leech seed!”
There were too many kids and Pokemon blocking my view of the battle now. Whatever. I ran around the crowd. The old lady in charge of this place was standing in the doorway of an open sliding door. She was watching Mel thoughtfully.
Suddenly, I smiled. Exploration time!
I edged along the outside of the house, just below the sliding doors. Wella, who was the only Pokemon that might’ve spotted me, was now snoozing against a tree trunk. Quietly, making sure I didn’t accidently brush the old lady’s legs, I slipped through the sliding door doorway into the house.
Immediately, my nose wrinkled. It smelled like cat.
I looked around the room. I liked the feel of the long carpet between my paws, but there wasn’t much to do except smell the old-paper-smell of the books.
I spotted a wooden staircase. The stairs were a bit worn—there were lots of scratches on them, probably from the cat. I started up the stairs when I heard a hiss. I looked up. The cat that was stinking up the place glared at me from the top of the stairs.
I licked my lips and quick attacked my way up the rest of the stairs, jumping over the cat. The cat turned around, snarling, but I had already taken off, leaping into the first doorway I’d seen on my left. I pushed the door closed with a paw, smiling smugly when I heard scratching on the other side of the door.
Then I realized I wouldn’t be able to open the door again. I didn’t have opposable thumbs. Oh, well.
This room smelled like cat even more than the living room. The room was so small, I could jump up onto the bed from right in front of the door, and so I did. There was a window overlooking the street at the head of the bed and a closet right up against one side of the bed. On the other side of the bed, there was a dresser. I grinned at my reflection in the mirror above the dresser and had the urge to give myself a congratulatory lick on the face. Thus, I hopped onto the desk and licked the mirror.
Tasted like cat hair. Gross. I lifted a paw up to get down from the dresser, but something was stuck in my nails. I looked down. My nails poked down through a piece of newspaper. I shook my paw off, looking at the picture on the newspaper. In the picture, there was a pile of ash. When I looked closer, lowering my nose to the dresser, there were eyes poking out of the ash pile. Weird.
I lifted my nose up, only to bump a picture frame in front of the mirror. The frame held a photo of two dark haired adults holding a small, dark haired girl. All three people were smiling. The girl looked like the girl battling Anita outside only much younger. This must be her room.
As I moved to get off of my dresser, something gleamed near the edge of the dresser. It was a rock. I moved my tail to let the sunlight hit the rock once again. It sparkled yellow. My eyes widened.
I knew a way to get Anita to use me more in battles.
I leaned forward and licked the stone.
My body tingled.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Anita Parkwood is the winner!” Erin announced. Allo jumped into my arms, and I laughed as he licked my face.
“Nice battle,” I said. The orphan kids crowded around me, trying to get a look at Allo.
“She beat Lily—”
“I’ve never seen an Eevee up close before—”
“Did you see how fast—”
“Can I hold him?” a small girl asked, tugging at my sleeve.
Allo seemed to like the attention so I passed the Eevee to the girl. I looked around the yard. Apple and Fiery were still in the back right corner. I caught Apple’s eye and raised my eyebrows at her.
Apple shook her head. I frowned and took a step in her direction. Apple shook her head more fiercely, and Fiery turned around to glare at me. <Is everything okay?> I asked.
<He knows. He knows I’m not an Eevee.>
<I told him what I really am. He doesn’t believe me.> I gently pushed kids aside to get out of the crowd, toward Apple. <Don’t worry. I can handle this. We’ll talk later.>
Apple and Fiery turned back to their conversation.
I frowned, thinking. I wasn’t sure if Fiery knowing what Apple was would change anything unless Fiery decided Apple was too dangerous to be around. Apple said that he didn’t believe her anyway. It would only be a problem if someone were to read Fiery’s mind, and even then, the person would have to be looking for it…
Automatically suspicious, I looked around for Liam. He and Lily were nowhere to be seen. Helen was standing in front of the open sliding door. Well, at least now would be a good time to talk to her about Mel.
I passed Erin and Jake, who were arguing.
“Come on, Erin, we had a civil conversation! You can stop being mad at me now!” Jake complained.
“Well, you decided to call my Pokemon an uncouth, vile-smelling bag of dust so I’m not talking to you.”
“Your Misdreavious was obnoxiously giving me the chills! How do you expect me to react? And you just talked to me.” Jake smiled.
Erin crossed her arms and walked away, towards the playground.
Jake ran after her. “C’mon!”
I rolled my eyes. When I reached the sliding door, Helen moved aside to let me in. She was watching the orphans, still crowded around Allo. “Uh… Helen?”
“Oh, yes dear?” Helen moved her soft brown eyes to me.
“I wanted to talk to you about Mel. See, he’d—”
“No need to worry about that, dear. I already have it taken care of.”
“Yes. A gym leader is coming to adopt him tomorrow morning.”
Feeling slightly awkward, I moved inside the house. “Okay, then. Thanks.” Mel, leaving? Already? I knew we’d have to do it, I just didn’t expect it to come this fast. I looked out a closed sliding door window. Mel was showing off Sunflower’s shadow ball to the other kids. Who would adopt him? Who would adopt him on only a few hours notice?
An image of Mel laughing and talking with Sparky about incorporating destructive robots into the gym’s prelim flashed across my mind.
Mel and Sparky got along. Sparky was crazy enough to make such a life changing decision in mere minutes.
Maybe I should’ve been freaking out over the possibility of Sparky adopting Mel, but I felt abnormally calm—I could see it happening. I could imagine Sparky teaching Mel, encouraging Mel’s creative streak with new pranks, battle techniques, and gym setups.
I wondered how Mel would react. What if he wanted to keep traveling with us?
Suddenly, I heard a voice from the top of the staircase. “Did you see the way she battled?” It was Lily. “She didn’t try to drag out the pain, and before the battle she told me that if I needed a potion at any time, to let her know because the Pokemon Center in town didn’t look like the greatest.” I moved to the bottom of the stairs to hear Lily better. I looked up and saw she was talking to Liam. “All that and I’ve only acted hostile towards her. I don’t believe you. I can’t believe she’s—” Lily spotted me at the bottom of the staircase. “Oh, hi, Anita. I was just showing Liam where the bathroom was.” She pointed down the hall. Liam muttered something under his breath and walked where she was pointing. I climbed the stairs.
“I just wanted to tell you, nice battle,” I said. I tried to reach into her mind, but couldn’t hear her thoughts. I sighed. At least I was starting to pick up on the thoughts of my friends…
“Thanks. You too.” Lily put a hand on the doorknob of a room on the left. “Look, I’m really sorry about earlier… Liam told me some things and… I’m sorry.” Liam told her some things? He told her about my psychic powers? Why? He’s always so uptight about keeping it a secret. Maybe he told her that I was dangerous? It would explain why she didn’t like me…
“It’s cool. Liam and I aren’t…” I couldn’t come up with a good word. “We don’t see things the same way. Anyway, where’d you get that grass Pokemon? I’d never seen it before.”
Lily looked relieved. She opened her door. “Actually, I got her as a present for my birthday from my aunt who lives in the Unova reg—” Lily stared through her door. I had reached the top of the staircase so I peered over her shoulder.
There was a Jolteon sitting on the bed.
<Look, Anita! I evolved!> Splash said, grinning and shaking his pointy fur.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Lily, I am so sorry,” I said, balancing three giant sleeping bags in my arms. I couldn’t see over the sleeping bags so I was trusting Lily to tell me if I was about to run into something.
“Again, Anita, don’t worry about it. I don’t even have an electric Pokemon. I don’t need a thunderstone.” I heard a door creek open. I looked to my left, out the sliding door window. The sun was setting and most of our Pokemon were curled up, lying on top of each other in the backyard. I noticed Apple and Fiery were on opposite sides of the group. Between the afternoon battle and dinner, I hadn’t found time to talk to Apple alone. I’d have to sneak out in the middle of the night. “Okay,” Lily said. “There’re some stairs ahead of you leading to the basement. Watch your step.”
Lily led me down the stairs. The basement smelled slightly musky, but the floor was carpeted and there were two small windows near the ceiling allowing the last of the setting sun’s light to trickle across the floor.
“Seriously, Lily, if there’s anything I can do to repay you—besides actually repaying you in money ‘cause I don’t have any—I’ll do it.” We laid the sleeping bags out on the floor.
Lily smiled, putting a hand on her hip. “Well, I guess if you really wanted to, you could help me convince the others to play truth or dare!”
And so Lily and I dragged Erin, Jake, Liam, Mel, and Freddie, the sandy-haired eight-year-old Mel had become fast friends with, down into the basement. I was dared to put ice cubes down Liam’s shirt, Mel had to talk about the time he’d convinced a woman she had a third leg, Erin and Jake ended up having to play leap frog for forty minutes, and Lily kissed Liam on the cheek, making him blush. Laughter rang about basement until Helen opened the basement door to yell at us for waking the younger kids.
Even after, giggles could be heard well into the night.
I was about to get up to talk to Apple when I heard a tapping sound. I had been fake sleeping for almost an hour and a half now. Erin had tossed and turned for quite a while, but now I could hear her soft snores. She was asleep, just like everyone else.
I peeked an eye open, only to see two bright green eyes reflecting at me. Quickly, I closed my eye, steadying my breathing. I listened the best I could for any movement.
I heard the tapping again. Then there was the creak of the door at the top of the stairs. Then nothing.
I opened my eye again and sat up. Erin was curled up in her sleeping bag, next to me. On the other side of her was Lily, whose hand was almost touching Freddie’s. Mel slept on the other side of me, murmuring incomprehensibly and rolling over. Jake slept across from me, near the window, and Liam…
Liam was missing from his sleeping bag.
I pushed aside my sleeping bag, cringing every time it wrinkled. Luckily, I was close to the basement stairs so I didn’t have to step over anyone. I started up the stairs, holding my breath when one of the stairs creaked.
I couldn’t stop the basement door from creaking when I opened it, but I only opened it as much as necessary for me to slip through.
I looked around the living room and out the sliding doors. Nothing seemed amiss.
There was one tap—then silence. It was coming from the kitchen. I walked into the kitchen. Dewy, the cat, watched me from atop the kitchen table. Could the sound have been the cat? Down in the basement, it sounded like the tapping was coming from outside.
I was too short to see out the window above the kitchen sink so I climbed up onto the counter. I peered into the night.
Liam stood in a baggy t-shirt Helen had lent him with his back to the orphanage. In front of Liam was a Noctowl.
In one hand, Liam held a letter. Despite the darkness, he seemed to be reading it. There was something in Liam’s other hand that glittered in the moonlight. I couldn’t make out many details, but it seemed to be composed of a blue spark between two strands of metal.
Liam dropped the letter. He touched the device in his hand to the Noctowl as casually as if he was about to stroke one of the Noctowl’s feathers.
Suddenly, the Noctowl screeched. There was flash of blue light, and then the Noctowl was shrinking. There was a pink blob where the Noctowl had been standing just moments before.
Liam could force Pokemon to transform.
Thank you to all my readers who have continued (and I hope will continue) to stick with me through this story. A very, very special thanks to my editor for this chapter.
Previously on an Apple A Day:
Anita, Erin, Jake, Mel, and Liam arrive in Vintage Village, and decide to spend the night with Liam’s family friend, Lily Smith, who lives in an orphanage. This works out nicely because Mel is to be adopted (Its technically illegal for kids under the age of thirteen to be traveling without adult supervision). During the stay at the orphanage, Fiery confronts Apple, saying he know Apple is not an Eevee and asks what, exactly, she is. When she tells him she’s Mew, he doesn’t believe her. Splash finds a lightening stone on Lily’s desk and evolves into Jolteon.
Meanwhile, the gym leaders are attempting to track the missing dark gym leader, last seen by ice gym leader Nai Shivicle in Winsk City. Sparky, the electric gym leader wants to adopt Mel.
Jamie Arkle, assistant to the Master, was spotted by Liam on his way to Hoenn. He is supposedly burying his dead mother. Rita Teal is temporarily left in charge of Team Glop’emm, and the Master is still researching howto destroy Mew.
In the middle of the night, Anita hears something outside. When she looks, she sees Liam using a device to force a Ditto to transform.
Chapter 35: Mendol Muddle
Skampi dove from the air back onto my shoulder as I walked through the Slateport City market. A crowd of people bustled about me—businessmen in dark suits muttering into phones, young women admiring vendors’ jewelry, children weaving between legs playing tag. Skampi pointed a wing to my right, and I immediately turned in the direction the Togekiss was pointing, knocking a kid down onto the gravel ground.
I kept walking. The crowd was moving perpendicular to me.
“Getch’ya Calcium on sale. Getch’ya Calcium!” a woman wearing a repugnant stained apron yelled from behind a wooden stand. “You, sir, with the strange white Pokemon on your shoulder—”
I sneered at the woman and she fell silent.
“Hey, you hear a ship came in from Acceber today breaking another record time?” Two men in matching clean-cut beige work uniforms fell in step behind me. The one closer to my left said, “I’m telling you, whoever came up with the idea to use Starmie as a physical, psychic, and water propulsion system was a genius. The ships can travel in a few hours what used to take days!”
“Yeah, I hear that ship was one of Devon Corporation’s prototypes.”
Please. These people had no idea of the advancements in Pokemon technology systems. If it weren’t for power source costs, there’d be teleportation devices between each region.
Just as I was exiting the market area, I felt a tug on my pants. Why wouldn’t these irritating people leave me alone? A small girl with curly pigtails stood by my legs. “What type of Pokemon is that?” she asked. The girl’s legs were so thin I thought they could snap at any moment. I was tempted to kick her knees to find out.
Instead, I brushed past the girl out of the market and strode down less crowded the street.
Information in Hoenn apparently was more readily available than information in Acceber. All of Slateport City’s records were conveniently stored in public databases located within the city hall, which was open twenty-four seven. There were only four men with the last name Mendol living in the city, only one of which had lived here more than four years.
I stopped walking. In front of me was a brick building covered in large, glass windows. A sign in front of the building read, “Devon Corporation.” I reached into my pocket, unfolded, and smoothed the small piece of paper I had written the address on. Yes, this is where Don Mendol worked.
I returned Skampi to his Pokeball, and released Porygon2. “Have the video of Liam Mendol and his DNA sequence acquired by Carly Goldenthrill ready for comparison,” I ordered, holding out my wrist.
Porygon2 nodded and its body narrowed as it warped into the PokeTech on my wrist, a device invented by Devon Corporation.
Team Glop’emm’s obnoxious head of research had modified the PokeTech to have both a DNA and image scanner, making the little device twice as useful and probably more expensive than the money put into the record-breaking ship I’d sailed here on. Of course, I’d never admit aloud that the ***** had actually created something beneficial.
I entered the building and located the directory behind the ostentatious fountain in the lobby and located Don Mendol’s office in the directory by the stairs.
As I climbed the stairs to the fourth floor, dragging my fingers across the roughly painted handrail, I wondered if this Don Mendol really could be related to the Master. Perhaps he’d know the Master’s whereabouts.
Or if he was close enough to the Master, he could be a useful hostage at some point. Unlikely—the Master didn’t appear to care about anyone—except for his detective, maybe. He seemed to trust the twerp, at the very least. Another viable hostage.
I had been surprised to see Liam Mendol as I left Vintage Village. Was the Master having him watch me?
Yes, I would definitely ask about Liam Mendol and his relationship with the Master. The Master had said they were related, and their green eyes indicated that this might be the case. Why would he even mention the fact that they were related in the first place? To explain the Master’s unusual trust?
Whatever the case, if Don Mendol was in fact a relative of the Master, he would surely have useful information. Knowing an enemy thoroughly was the only way to bring about defeat.
It wasn’t long before I located Don Mendol’s office on the fourth floor. A woman with thick arms sat at the secretary’s desk typing on a computer. She seemed to radiate a syrupy rose stench.
“Excuse me, Miss…” My eyes roamed her desk for a name. When none was found, I gave her a brief smile. “I’d like to see Don Mendol.”
The secretary didn’t look up from her computer. “He’s not here. Would you like to make an appointment for next week?”
“Where is he?”
“Rustburo. He’s returning tomorrow morning, but obviously he won’t be in on a Saturday. Now, would you like to make an appointment for next week?”
I looked past the woman to Don’s office. My eyes narrowed in on a picture frame hanging directly next to the door. I walked around the secretary’s desk to get a closer look. She gave me a fleeting glance, then snorted and turned back to her computer.
In the photograph there were six people standing in front of a fireplace. I immediately recognized Velcan Mendol though I had only seen his face a handful of times. By the time I met him, he had wrinkles in the corners of his eyes and looked far more worn. Of course, I remembered him most vividly as I saw him through my Hypno’s mind just before she killed him—his chest rising and falling rapidly in his sleep, as if he knew he was about to die.
At least I knew now that this Don Mendol was indeed related to the Master.
Next to Velcan was another woman. She was wearing a light green dress and had an arm hooked around Velcan’s. I recognized her round face and grey-green eyes from a picture I’d occasionally seen on Velcan’s desk. This was his wife.
Don must be the man on the far right with a mustache wearing a sports jacket. I assumed the brown-haired woman next to him was his wife.
Between the two couples were two toddlers, who could have been twins. Both had black hair and bright green eyes. Liam Mendol and the Master?
“Porygon2,” I murmured, holding my PokeTech up to scan the frame and indicating my Pokemon should begin the comparative picture analysis with previous snapshots taken of Liam Mendol.
“Office is closing,” the secretary said pointedly. I imagined turning around and bashing her head into the computer until I couldn’t see where the computer started and her chin ended. Ignoring the urge, I left the office without a word.
My PokeTech beeped as I walked down the hall. Analysis Complete. I examined the results.
That couldn’t be right.
Tomorrow, I’d have to have a word with Don Mendol.
* * * * * * * * * * *
“Muk, ****, ****,” I swore, stumbling away from the window. Liam had some whacked device that could untransform Pokemon. He had to be chasing Mew.
Okay, Anita, think. I had to stay calm and get Apple out of here. <Apple,> I called, sending my mind into the backyard. <Wake up. Liam knows you’re Mew—I’ll explain everything, but we have to leave now. Get Fiery and the other Eevees. Actually, on second thought, stay where you are. I’ll come to you in a minute.>
<You heard me, Apple. And be quiet. There can’t be any noise that Liam might hear—he’s in the front yard now. One minute, Apple.>
I scrambled to the basement door, crept down the stairs, and grabbed my pack. On my way back up the stairs, I reached my mind to check if the Ditto was still outside. If the Pokemon was, Liam would be, too. As soon as my mind touched the Ditto’s, I doubled over in pain—my head spun, knives sticking through my chest. I leaned against the wall, drawing back my mind. It was the Ditto’s pain. Forced transformation, apparently, was painful.
Breathing heavily, I pushed off the wall and continued up the stairs. I immediately made for the sliding doors, but paused when I saw Lily’s cat, Dewey. As the cat’s eyes followed me across the room, an idea came to me.
It wouldn’t do to underestimate Liam. I wasn’t sure if he’d be able to hear the sliding doors open or my steps on the grass, but he could be ridiculously observant. I needed a distraction.
I’d never tried this before, but if I could mess with human dreams and walk around in Apple’s head, giving instinctive suggestions to an animal didn’t seem too far of a stretch. I only hoped my powers were working enough to do it.
I touched my mind to Dewey’s, imagining Liam shaking two cooked fish in front of him outside. I imagined the smoky scent and tried to enforce the idea that these fish would be mouthwateringly delicious. I showed Dewey the route to Liam—from the kitchen into the hallway, and through the little cat flap to the front yard.
When Dewey stared blankly at me for a moment, I thought my plan had failed. Then, with a sharp hiss, Dewey frantically ran to the kitchen. I opened the sliding door only after I heard the cat flap flutter.
I tentatively reached out to the Ditto’s mind, prepared to pull out if there was any pain. Through the Ditto’s eyes, I saw Liam turning around in surprise as Dewey leapt at him. Grinning, I stepped outside and closed the sliding door. The Pokemon were scattered about the yard, sleeping in clusters. I spotted all of my Pokemon cuddling near the back fence. I shivered slightly at the chilly breeze and pulled out their PokeBalls—except for Apple’s, of course, because she didn’t have a PokeBall.
Apple perked up her head from behind Fiery. <What are we going to do?>
<First, we just have to get out of here,> I said, running across the yard and returning my Pokemon to their Pokeballs. <Come on. Over the fence.>
Apple took a running start to jump the fence. I climbed over after her, not trusting in my ability to create psychic step barriers despite my earlier successes with telepathy.
<This way, toward the pier,> I said, taking off. I ran like there was a killer chasing us, which very well could be the case when Liam saw we left.
<Anita, we need a plan.>
<Find a ship or water Pokemon heading away from Vintage Villiage and leave.> My feet pounded against the gravel. The impact strained my knees so I widened my stride, trying to take fewer steps.
<That makes us look a hundred percent suspicious. Plus, then what about Erin and Mel? You can’t just leave and not tell them anything.>
<If it keeps you safe, I can. We can go hide out somewhere and train ‘til we know you’re strong enough to take down Liam and anyone else who wants to capture and destroy or use you. We can start in Apoosh forest—>
<Okay, first of all, what proof do you have that Liam wants to destroy me—>
I showed Apple what I’d seen through the window. <He’s obviously been tracking you. And now he can untransform you with that…thingy! What else could he want besides destroying or using you to get power?> The pier was in sight now, but I couldn’t see any people or Pokemon among the docked boats. I turned, dashing down the road that ran alongside the water while Apple easily kept pace beside me.
<While it’s highly suspicious that a Ditto delivered that device to him, it might just be something for his research. Plus, even if he knows I’m Mew and that device was delivered to him because of me, that still doesn’t mean he wants to destroy me.>
<What else could he want with you?>
<To catch me. I mean, I don’t have a Pokeball. And that’s pretty common—people trying to find and catch legendaries.>
Panting, I glared at Apple, not even bothering to say the obvious.
<Chill. I’m your Pokemon. Now, back to the subject of what we’re doing… We are not going to become hermits in the middle of Apoosh forest. Come up with a better plan. One that involves figuring out what Liam actually wants with me, if I’m what he’s actually after.>
<That would involve seeing him again and putting you in danger, which I don’t intend to do.>
It was Apple’s turn to glare. <Well, you better start intending. Seriously, I’m not living away from hotdogs and air conditioning.>
I looked over the water for any signs of life, but only saw waves splashing gently against the shore. The water sparkled in the moonlight. I looked to my right. We were almost beyond the village, and Mint Mountain towered high above us. The mountain Apple’s predecessor fell from, where he burst into flames… Flames. Fire. <Apple, are there any dangerous fire Pokemon around the base of Mint Mountain?>
<None that we’re going to see. I mean there’re a few Magmars that sometimes wander near the base, but they wouldn’t normally go anywhere near the ocean so—okay, wait, why? That was oddly specific…>
<And Fiery knows you’re Mew?> I suddenly stopped running, resting my hands on my knees. Apple skidded and turned around. I eyed the water again. Beyond the water in the sky, the moon was but a small crescent, and Vintage Village sure wasn’t giving off any light.
<Well, I’m not sure he actually believes me.>
I pulled out Fiery’s Pokeball and in a flash of red, Fiery appeared in front of me. <Alright, Apple, you trust me, right?>
Apple nodded. Behind her, the water almost glowed.
<Okay then, don’t move.> The wind felt good against my neck and arms, a relief after all that running. I pointed a finger toward Apple. “Fiery, use Flamethrower. Strongest you’ve got!”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
ERIN, DON’T BE A BUM! ANSWER THE POKETECH! HA, HA, HA! ERIN, DON’T BE A BUM! ANSWER THE POKETECH! HA, HA, HA! ERIN—
I groggily reached into my pack and pressed a button on my PokeTech to turn off the ring. “What?” I grumbled, pulling the PokeTech out of the bag and placing it by my pillow.
“Erin, it’s Anita—”
I glanced at the PokeTech. Below a screen with Anita’s face surrounded by flames, the time read, 4:06 a.m. “Go back to bed, Anita,” I said, closing my eyes.
I bolted up in my bed and looked over at Anita’s sleeping bag. It was empty. So was Liam’s. I glanced around the room and found Liam’s green eyes flashing at me from where he sat at the bottom of the stairs. I followed his gaze to my PokeTech.
On the screen, Anita was standing in front of a rocky terrain covered in flames and scorched stones. Her hair was frizzing and she looked pretty freaked out, though not nearly as much as when Apple disappeared. She must have been holding her PokeTech away from her body because I could see a lump of shivering blankets in her arms. “Erin, I did something really stupid.”
“I think I can see that,” I mumbled, frowning.
“Look, I don’t have a lot of time. We were attacked by Magmar—”
“Where are you?” I asked, sitting up in my sleeping bag. I spoke quietly to avoid waking up Lily, Freddie, Jake, and Mel. “What are you doing?”
Anita grumbled something and pulled the bundle of blankets closer to her side. “I needed to train my Pokemon for the next gym and I wanted to get a head start tonight… We didn’t want to wake anyone up and needed some space so we went to the outskirts of Mint Mountain.” As Anita gestured behind her, I noticed her hand was covered in soot. “It was dumb. As soon we started practicing, some wild powerful Magmar attacked and I couldn’t… My powers, they’re still not…” Anita lifted the cover of a blanket in her arms. Apple lay in the blankets, her fur burnt and ears down, trembling against her head. “I went to the Pokemon Center here, but you saw it wasn’t really up to date—the lady said to go to Artemis or Tinted Town for better care. I think Apple might’ve broken a paw.”
“So you’re leaving?”
Anita nodded. “She needs care ASAP. I gave her a burn heal, but it’ll only relieve the pain temporarily.”
“Where are you headed? Do you need Griffy?”
“Artemis. I saw some Lanturn near the pier, and I’ll get a ride with them or with some other water Pokemon.”
I nodded. “Got it.” I glanced at Liam, who was still watching the PokeTech intently. “Want Liam or me to come with you now? One of us has to stay for Mel, but…”
“Okay, we’ll be right behind you tomorrow.”
“I have to go.” Anita hesitated. “Tell Mel I say goodbye. And sorry. We should’ve all told him together.”
I tried to smile comfortingly, though I’m not sure how much of my face she could see in this dark basement. “We’ll handle it. See ya in Artemis.”
“Thanks, Erin. Bye.” The screen went black. I sighed and looked over at Liam. He leaned his back against the wall and rested his elbows against his knees, sitting on the bottom step. “What’re you doing over there?” I whispered.
Liam shrugged. “Couldn’t sleep.”
“Are you okay? You look kind of upset.”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Did Apple look okay?”
“Not really, but I’ve seen worse. I don’t know what the hell Anita was thinking, going off like that.”
“I know. Unusual.”
I lied back down, pulling the sleeping bag up to my shoulders. “Not really. That’s just Anita. Always getting herself or us into situations. ‘Night, Liam.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I picked up the empty syringe, examining it in the faint moonlight coming through the window. The glass case of the syringe was easily wide enough to hold three of my fingers.
Normally, I would leave this type of job to Rita or Jamie, but due to Rita’s recent lack of initiative to complete projects in a timely fashion, Jamie’s disappearance to Hoenn, and my lack of time, I’d have to do it myself. I had Rita request that Tal teleport the necessary materials to me immediately.
“Bend the circuit board to the exact size of the glass case,” I ordered. The Alakazam’s shadow fell across me as the he reached a claw out for the circuit board on the table. The circuit board floated toward the glass case and then began to bend in the air.’
I turned my attention to the syringe’s needle. It was a solid needle—the type one might find in a sewing kit, only thinner—not the type of needle that allowed for the flow of fluid. It was a conductor, and thus should prove effective under the circumstances.
Everything led to this needle tip.
All the complicated circuitry, the clever design, the energy—
All to a single sharp point.
“This is pathetic. You didn’t even teach your Machamp Foresight,” a boy in a long dark cloak said, his green eyes glinting under the cloak’s hood. He stood in an indoor arena, across from a tall teenage boy with long, curly blonde hair. In front of the teenager, a Machamp squatted, resting all four of his fists on the ground out of fatigue. A Spiritomb hovered nearby, grinning. “Finish this, Spiritomb. Shadow ball.”
Little wisps of the Spiritomb’s body swirled into tight balls and then shot at the Machamp. In a last ditch effort to protect himself, the Machamp lifted his hands in front of his body. The collision pushed the Machamp back, and the Pokemon fell to the tiled floor, knocked out.
“Acting Gym Leader Mendol is the winner!” the referee declared.
From the stands, a man with dark brown hair combed to cover a bald spot stood up. He was wearing a long white lab coat. “I can see why Velcan left you in charge of the gym. You’re quite good,” the man said.
“No. So far, they’ve just been bad. Training their Pokemon to be stronger without even the slightest thought of strategy,” the boy answered. He looked up at the man. “Any word from him, Jamie?”
The challenger stomped toward the referee. “Hey, this isn’t fair! He’s like an eight-year old! He’s not the gym lead—”
“I am the gym leader here in Velcan Mendol’s absence. If you can’t even beat me, what makes you think you can beat him? You lost, now get out.” The boy pointed toward the exit.
When the blond teen made no move to leave, the boy pulled out a Pokeball. In a flash of red, a Mightyena appeared. “Notal,” the boy said. “Please escort this kid out.” Notal growled and took a step toward the teen.
“I’m older than—” The Mightyena took another step forward. “Um, yeah.” The teenager stumbled backward, then turned around and fled to the exit.
“I haven’t heard from Velcan. I came to see if you had,” Jamie said. “A man from Hoenn called Team Glop’emm’s emergency line, but he refused to talk to anyone but the Master.”
“Hoenn?” The cloaked boy returned his Mightyena and Spiritomb to their Pokeballs.
Suddenly, the gym doors burst open. A man with soaked black hair, a drenched cloak, and muddy boots stood in the doorway. He gripped the handle of a black net, swinging it angrily by his legs as he marched into the gym. Behind the man, an Alakazam floated, keeping its distance and shutting the gym doors psychically.
“Father?” the boy asked. “What happened?”
The man ignored the boy and looked at Jamie. “Arkle,” the man snapped. “Gather a group of our top researchers in conference room six. Tell them to start brainstorming ideas to track Pokemon. Any type of Pokemon. Make sure Rita Teal’s in there. I’ll come with more details in fifteen minutes.” The man threw off his cloak, letting the dripping mass create a puddle on the floor. “You—referee—get this cleaned,” the man ordered.
Only when both the referee and Jamie had left the gym did the father turn to his son. “Son, something’s happened.”
A single point.
I examined Tal’s handiwork. If I didn’t know better, the syringe would appear a typical vaccine.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Don Mendol screamed in surprise when he found me sitting in his living room, leaning back in his reclining chair. Perhaps I should’ve put on my journalist act, I mused as I slowly pushed the chair into an upright position with my feet. I didn’t want him dropping dead in shock. Not yet.
I let Don watch me for a moment as I sat perfectly still, allowing fear to trickle down his spine as the possible reasons a stranger could be sitting in his otherwise empty house flashed through his mind. He had to know I had the power here.
Especially if he was in league with the Master.
The living room was cluttered with metal scraps, wires, and half-built trinkets. Don nervously scratched his mustache and took a hesitant step forward, crushing a bent flashlight beneath his shoe.
“I’m here to talk about your family,” I said.
“My family?” Don asked faintly, looking down at the flashlight’s broken plastic.
“Have a seat.” I gestured to his purple couch.
Don sat down on the side of the couch not covered with wrenches, wire cutters, and screwdrivers. He picked up what looked like a metal wind-up toy from the coffee table beside the couch.
I held up a picture I’d found hanging in the kitchen of Don and the previous Master. “Your brother, Velcan Mendol, moved to Acceber eight years ago, and died of a heart attack four years ago.”
I waited for a confirmation. Don twisted the handle of the wind-up toy and nodded.
I put the picture down, beside the reclining chair. “Your wife, Maria Mendol, and sister-in-law, Sue Mendol, died in the 2003 Slateport tsunami. You and Velcan each had a four-year-old son at the time.”
Don nodded again.
I smiled. “I have DNA and photographic proof that Liam Mendol is your nephew.” Don’s eyes widened.
I continued, “Tell me about your relationship with Liam—after all, the poor kid lost both his parents and you might be the closest thing he has right now to a father. Tell me: when Velcan died, why didn’t Liam move back with you?”
“Wh-who are you?”
I snapped my fingers, and my Magnemite floated into the room from the kitchen behind me, releasing a threatening spark across its magnets. “As you can see, you are in no position to ask me questions. Unless you’d like to end up like your pathetic Volbeat, I suggest you answer me.”
Don’s eyes widened further, like balloons on the verge of popping. Worried about his little Pokemon. Pathetic. “Liam called me when my brother died,” Don started, his voice raspy, “and I came in for the funeral. When I suggested Liam move back to Hoenn, Liam told me, ‘I have a duty to fulfill as the dark gym leader of Acceber.’ Heavy words for a ten-year-old kid. A woman named Rita Teal approached me, telling me what a sweet, small boy Liam was and how she always wanted a son. She seemed nice enough, and Liam agreed to the adoption… So that was that.”
“What sort of contact have you had with Liam since then?”
“He used to call me once a month—now it’s about once every three months. Rita still calls weekly. Liam came to visit once.” Don gave me a tentative smile. “When Devon Corporation comes up with something new, I always send him a prototype. Sometimes I send him little gadgets he requests.”
“So you haven’t been much of a father to him.” Don squeezed the wind-up toy in his hands, almost looking guilty. When he didn’t say anything, I continued, “What do you know of Liam’s… recent activities?”
Don released the wind-up handle on the toy, allowing it to vibrate across his fingers. “As the youngest gym leader in Acceber?” Don laughed half-heartedly. “What the hell do I know about the politics that boy’s been dragged into over there? Why they let a ten-year-old become gym leader… It’s just as wacked out as having those little psychic twins, Liz and Tate, as gym leaders over here. Sure, Liam’s a genius and an outstanding Pokemon trainer, but to have that kind of pressure at such a young age…”
“I’m speaking of Liam’s other activities.”
“Oh, is he still trying to track down and destroy every legendary Pokemon he wanders across? Velcan was the same way—swore that as soon as Liam was old enough, he’d come back to Hoenn to destroy Kyogre. Said he moved to Acceber—supposedly, a land without legendaries—to stay safe and build up resources without legendary interference. I’ve got nothing against their sentiments—just think its pointless to try to kill g-d-like creatures. Better to just accept it as a natural disaster and move on with life.” The metal toy had stopped vibrating. “Is that all?”
“What about your son, Landon?”
“What about my son?”
“Where is he? Does he share your views on the subject of legendaries?”
Don stared at me a moment. “My son’s dead.”
My smile widened. “Do you have proof?”
Don squeezed his eyes shut. “Yes, I’ve got the papers,” Don said bitterly. “His body washed up six years ago, bloated and deteriorating and seaweed covered—do you want to see pictures? Do you want to see his grave? You want to see my tears?” Don appeared to be on the verge of a mental breakdown. “What do you want?”
I stood up, and Magnemite floated to my side. It appeared the DNA and picture analysis were not mistaken.
Liam Mendol—the supposed detective—was the Master.
“What do you want?” Don repeated.
I walked towards the door. Before I exited the room, I paused and looked over my shoulder. Don still sat on the couch, his knees shaking.
“I want you to inform your beloved nephew of this little conversation.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I woke to Mel’s shriek from beyond the basement door. I was still curled on the basement stairs’ lowest step. Slowly, I rose, stretched, and climbed up the stairs, running a hand over my belt to ensure my Pokeballs, Rita Teal’s Ditto’s Pokeball, the newly disguised FTD, and the walkie talkie were all in place.
I hadn’t slept well again. My father used to attribute my insomnia to the dark gift, but I don’t remember suffering long sleepless nights as a child. Then again, the gift often doesn’t manifest itself until adolescence.
Even after the tsunami, I slept okay. It wasn’t until…
And now I wake up frequently, the same scene playing out in my dreams, happening over and over like a broken record.
“Son, something’s happened.”
A man and a boy were standing in the middle of a gym. The man’s wet black hair dripped over his shoulders.
“Are you okay? Did you catch M—I mean, Pokemon X?” The boy approached his father, his oversized cloak dragging on the ground behind him.
The father shook his head. “It was close. If I’d been able to see through the rain better, I could’ve figured out precisely where that dratted Xatu told me Pokemon X would appear. If I hadn’t had to station my Pokemon at various locations around Melonbi… But this isn’t about that.”
The father bent down so his eyes were level with his son’s and put a hand on his son’s shoulder. “I got a message from your uncle in Slateport today. Your cousin’s body was finally found. He’s been dead for several years, probably since the tsunami. I’m sorry, Liam.”
“Yes, Liam. Landon’s dead.”
Why is it this day, the day I found out he was dead, that keeps me awake at night?
Why not the day he died?
On that day—the day the tsunami hit Slateport City, I remember it was sunny. Even though the breeze was cool, the ocean and shells sparkled in the sunlight. The tsunami was so drastic—so unexpected.
Landon and I were playing make-believe legendary, a game fairly common among four-year-olds. We’d imagined I was Kyogre and he, Groudon. We raced down the beach—me through the wet sand and Landon across the dusty dry sand, competing to pick up the most shells and run the fastest. I was only allowed to pick up the shells in the water, and he could only pick up the ones on the dry sand.
I still remember trying to convince him that we should return to my father. When I first suggested it, Landon laughed at me, bragging this proved Groudon was better than Kyogre. When he saw I was serious, he stomped his foot in the sand. I tried to convince him that my dad would be worried when he woke up from his nap and we were gone.
Shaking his black hair, Landon stubbornly refused to go back, but I was tired and my feet hurt from the shell shards embedded in the wet sand and my ankles were numb from the water. There were almost tears in my eyes, I was so frustrated. I turned around and fled back to my father. He stayed.
“Only wusses run away!” he yelled after me.
Years later, I could still hear the words ringing in my ears.
They were his last words.
I was right there—I could’ve convinced him, told him I’d give him my shells, give him the candy I hid in the bottom of my sock drawer, anything to make him turn around and walk back with me to my father.
At the top of the stairs, I listened for a moment, quieting my thoughts and quickly forming my plans for the day.
“Adopted! I will not be adopted! Where’s Anita? She’ll be on my side. You can’t make me live with someone Scary and I don’t know. We’ll run away—go back to our house in the woods,” Mel said.
“We won’t force you into anything,” Helen said. “but it’s not legal or safe for you to travel or live without an adult. You’ll at least have to meet with the man who wants to adopt you.”
I opened the basement door, walking toward the kitchen where the voices were coming from. I heard excited chatter and squeals coming from the backyard—the kids were outside.
“Where’s Anita?” Mel repeated.
“She went to train near Mint Mountain last night, and Apple got really hurt. She’s rushing Apple to Artemis Town as we speak,” Erin said.
Rushing to get away from me, more likely. It couldn’t be a coincidence that the day I received the Forced Transforming Device, the most likely suspects—Anita and her Pokemon—all ran away. It couldn’t be.
Almost certainly, Rita’s Ditto had given me away. Mew could read minds. It was too easy for Mew to listen to that Ditto’s thoughts and learn of the existence of the FTD.
I was losing my edge. It’d been a long time since I slipped up so ridiculously and my plans went awry. What would Landon think?
I shook my head as I entered the kitchen. I couldn’t possibly know what Landon would think because he’d died as a four-year-old kid and how could I guess what he’d be like if he were alive?
Damn, I really was losing it.
Helen, Mel, Jake, and Erin sat around the kitchen table while Lily stood by the stove cooking scrambled eggs. Mel leaned away from the table, his arms folded tightly. His face brightened when I entered the room. “Mel,” I said. “Erin, Anita, and I talked it over already. You’re not going to travel with us any more.”
Mel’s fists clenched. He would start crying any moment now. Erin and Lily both gave me dirty looks as Lily turned off the stove and brought the pan of hot eggs to the table. I wouldn’t be in the kitchen long enough to have to deal with it.
“You’re up late,” Erin said as Lily seated herself across from Helen and next to Jake.
“I didn’t sleep much. Last night, I received a delivery from Professor Teal. Apparently, there’s been an outbreak of Pokerus. She sent me her most recently approved vaccine to give to as many people and Pokemon I come in contact with who haven’t had it yet,” I said, fingering the syringe from my belt. Inside the syringe, of course, was the Forced Transformation Device circuitry I’d worked on last night. One touch of the needle and any transformed Pokemon would revert back to its original form.
“Oh, fabulous!” Helen said. “We don’t usually get vaccines here in Vintage Village until these outbreaks are just about over, and by then its too late.”
Lily gave me a dubious look as she pulled out a chair at the table and sat down.
“I have more than enough for the entire village. If you consent, I can start here and drop the rest off at the Pokemon Center on our way out of the village today,” I said.
Helen nodded. “If you need, there’s rubbing alcohol and swabs in the cabinet above the stove.”
“Thank you.” I moved to the cabinet, took out the supplies Helen suggested, and carried everything back to the far end of the kitchen table.
“Oh, dear, you can eat before you start—”
“No, no. I’ll eat after,” I said, already readying the first swab and indicating Jake should hold out his arm. He did so, slightly wary.
“Hello, can we get back to the part where I’m not getting adopted here!” Mel yelled. While everyone else began arguing once more, I touched the needle to Jake’s skin and pushed down on the syringe handle.
“Hey, ow!” A small blue spark zapped Jake’s skin, unnoticeable unless one was looking for it. Nothing happened.
So Jake was not Mew. Big surprise. I removed the needle, and Jake looked at the spot on his arm where the needle had pressed against. “It’s not even bleeding,” he said.
“The needle has a very fine tip,” I answered.
I moved around the table testing everyone with the FTD and listening to Erin’s attempts to comfort Mel. She put a hand on his shoulder and spoke to him quietly about how much we’d miss him, how much we wish he could keep traveling with us. Jake looked torn between excusing himself from the kitchen and ducking under the table to curl up into a tight ball and whimper at the sight of an upset child.
When I reached Mel, he glared at me. “I don’t want it.”
“Mel…” Erin pushed Mel’s blond hair off of his forehead.
“Fine.” Mel held his arm out stiffly.
Lily watched carefully as the needle tip touched her skin. It was likely she noticed the blue spark, though she said nothing.
As soon as everyone inside was confirmed to not be Mew, I excused myself and moved outside to where the Pokemon and the other children were located. I sighed when I realized I could hear Mel’s complaints when I was in the backyard and the sliding doors were closed.
Leaving Mel freed my plans of one more unknown factor—one less chance of a mistake. He couldn’t get in the way. It was safer for him, I mused, zapping Erin’s Whooper who was leaning against the house. I dodged the watergun the Pokemon shot at me.
I moved on to Jake’s Quilava. Ah, Jake was another factor I’d like to dispose of.
I had just finished confirming that no human or Pokemon in the orphanage was Mew when there was knock on the door. I walked into the kitchen and noticed a small spark bounce under the door crack, fading when it touched the wooden floor. My eyes widened.
“Lily,” I said. “There’re some clothes you said you could give me for the road. They’re upstairs, right? Can you help me find them?” I walked toward the living room as Lily got up, pushed her chair into the table, and followed me.
“Wait!” Erin called. “Don’t you want to meet—”
I hurried up the stairs as I heard Helen answer the door and Mel squeal in delight upon seeing Sparky in the doorway.
“He’s probably about to get some,” I heard Jake mutter to Erin. Then there was the THWACK indicating Erin had just hit Jake with her backpack.
“What’s with you?” Lily asked when we reached the top of the stairs. She motioned for me to follow her as she walked past me, down the carpeted hall. She pulled a string hanging from the ceiling, pulling open an entrance to the attic. Lily tugged down the fold out ladder down from the now hanging ceiling tile and tested the first wrung with her foot.
“The Cape Caution gym leader, Sparky Storm, is the person here to adopt Mel.”
“Ah. Yeah, that whole not being seen by gym leaders wouldn’t have worked out if you were in the room.” Lily climbed the ladder, and I followed. After reaching the attic, Lily flicked on a dim light, illuminating the cramped, dusty room. Boxes lined all the walls of the room and clothes, dolls, and old toys were piled in unorganized heaps about the floor. It was quite a maze.
Lily nodded the syringe on my belt. “It that…?”
I nodded. “The Forced Transformation Device.”
“I figured. I’ll get you some bottles you can pretend are full of medicine later.” When I didn’t answer, Lily continued, “So nobody here is Mew, not that you thought as much.” Lily bent over a pile near the left wall and began rummaging through the mess. “If you’re so convinced she’s Mew, why aren’t you already going after her?”
I eyed other piles, wondering if I should help. Lily seemed to know what she was looking for, though, so I settled for sitting in a creaky rocking chair in the corner of the attic. “I don’t know she’s Mew, but it’s highly likely. Remember, she appeared in Melonbi Town about the time my father tracked Mew to the area, she was eccentric—attracting odd Pokemon—throughout her childhood, she’s a psychic, and my DNA tracker found Mew traveling a nearly identical path as her just weeks ago. Very little information was gained from psychological tests performed, but no results denied the possibility of her identity. Other evidence suggests Anita’s Eevee, Apple, is Mew—the Eevee doesn’t have a Pokeball and has purple tinted eyes, though this could be genetic. Apple, however, did not appear to be in Melonbi Town about the time my father was there. Not that any of this proves anything for sure. Each really only has about a forty percent chance of being Mew at this point. There are so many other—”
“Hey, stop avoiding my question. Why aren’t you already going after them? I’d expect you to follow as soon as you heard they left.”
Lily actually expected me to give chase? I would never be rash enough to immediately pursue Anita, effectively destroying my researcher façade, unless I suspected Anita would cut off all contact with me. “Anita plans on meeting up with Erin in Artemis Town—her Eevee’s hurt. I overheard her PokeTech conversation with Erin last night. Plus, if she already suspects I’m after Mew, I’d like to avoid confirming any suspicions due to hasty decisions.”
“You don’t think she’ll just disappear?” Lily asked, tossing me two pairs of jeans, a pair of boxers, and a crumpled black t-shirt. “Those’ll have to do. The clothes you wore yesterday should be out of the wash by now, and I found a bag you could use downstairs.”
“Why would she call? If she wanted to disappear, she wouldn’t have contacted Erin.” I leaned back in the rocking chair, causing the wood to creak.
“So why do you think she ran off?” Lily asked. “Do you actually believe her Eevee’s hurt?” Lily watched me, twirling her black hair around a finger thoughtfully. Maybe I shouldn’t have trusted her with so much information…
It’s not like I had any other option. She knew who I was, and entrusting her with a little more information was the only safe way of keeping her quiet. By trusting her, I gained her loyalty.
“Why the sudden suspicion? You were the one defending Anita yesterday,” I said.
Lily glared at me. “Just making sure you’ve thought through everything. Whatever it takes to destroy Mew for my parents, for this village, and for all the people still endangered by Mew’s existence.” For an instant, I remembered my cousin—the way he’d had that determined look in his eyes when he refused to return with me to my father on the beach.
I nodded as Lily disappeared down the ladder. “I’ll let you know when Sparky’s gone,” she said. The ends of Lily’s hair fluttered out of sight. The strands were just the same color as Landon’s.
When Lily’s footsteps finally faded down the hall below me, I started to change into the clothing Lily had provided me. I could just make out voices in the kitchen.
“Why didn’t you tell me it was Sparky who wanted to adopt me?” Mel asked, giggling gleefully.
“I wanted it to be a surprise.”
Helen and Lily said something I couldn’t hear as I exchanged the wrinkled over-sized t-shirt I was wearing for the wrinkled normal-sized t-shirt Lily gave me.
“Well, if I have to be… Then I guess I could be adopted by Sparky,” Mel said. I checked my PokeTech. Almost eleven. Hopefully, this would be finished quickly—I’d like to get to Anita as soon as possible.
At the moment, it was impossible to determine the reasons for Anita’s actions because I had no way of knowing how much she knew about me, the Forced Transformation Device, and Mew.
I almost laughed at myself. Here, I’d thought I was well on my way to finding Mew. I barely knew anything.
“No! I don’t have a last name! Scary’s my parent so if you need a name for your dumb form, write Melvin Scary!” Mel yelled.
I decided I’d sat up in the attic long enough; I turned off the lights and climbed down the ladder. I’d be able to see when Sparky left from Lily’s room’s window.
“Mel, if you could just tell us your father’s—” Erin said.
“He left me—he’s nobody!”
“I’ll just register him like I do the other children we pick up off the street,” Helen said gently. “It’s okay.”
Mel sniffed. From the top of the stairs, I could hear the scratching of pen on paper. I put my hand on Lily’s doorknob.
“Alright, well that’s the paperwork. Sparky, Mel—I now declare you father and son,” Helen said. “Oh, Sparky. Lily brought up a box of stuff from the basement she and the kids want Mel to have. Here.”
There was some shuffling. “Alright. Well, kiddo, say your goodbyes. I’ll be in the car waiting,” Sparky said.
I took my hand off the doorknob. “You have a car?” Mel asked in wonder. I could practically feel how wide his eyes must be.
I waited until I heard the front door click shut to descend the stairs. Mel was giving Helen a hug when I walked into the kitchen. Mel smiled, let go of Helen, and approached me.
“Um, sorry for making fun of you for puking on the boat,” Mel said. “And for being mean this morning.” I held out my hand, and he took it in both hands, unsure what to do.
“Stay out of trouble,” I said, shaking his two hands with my one.
“You’re really cool,” Mel blurted out, before turning to Erin. He flung himself around Erin’s waist.
Erin hugged him back. “We’ll miss you, and remember, you can always call us for anything,” Erin said. “Anita told me to hug you goodbye for her—she’s sorry she couldn’t be here.”
Mel bobbed his blond head and stepped away from Erin.
Jake opened his arms wide, grinning mockingly. “Well?” he asked. “How about a hug goodbye before you go live with the electric zapping psychopath, huh?”
Mel sniffed and turned to Lily. “Bye. Tell Freddie I’ll come visit.” His eyes flickered from Erin to me. “Thanks, guys, for being friends,” he said quietly.
“What am I, chopped-up, smelly Skunktank?” Jake asked.
Mel put his hands on his hips. “Yes.” Then, waving his arms he yelled, “I’ll be seeing ya!” and disappeared.
For a moment, Lily and Helen were stunned. Jake actually yelped. “Wha—what—”
I gave Erin a tightlipped smile. “What a joker,” I said. “He always does that joking act with that joking Gengar of his.”
Erin was staring where Mel had just disappeared.
“Erin,” I snapped.
“Oh, yeah. Crazy prankster that one,” Erin said. “Wouldn’t want to cross him.”
I sighed. “We’d better get going, too. Anita’s got a half-a-day’s head start,” I said.
“Here.” Lily handed me two bags—one to put my extra clothes in and another already filled with several large containers of medicine.
Erin hugged Helen and Lily. “Thanks for everything. We really appreciate a place to sleep and the food and the company.”
“Oh, it’s not a problem, dear. Come back any time.”
Lily looked at me expressionlessly before throwing her arms around my neck. I immediately tensed. “You’ll find it—I know you will,” she whispered in my ear. “And Liam,” she said, kissing my cheek. “Thank you.”
My stomach felt a little peculiar as I watched Lily hurry away to clean up the kitchen table. I frowned.
“See, I told you they were all lovey-dovey upstairs,” Jake said. He nudged Erin with his elbow. “That’s what we’ll be doing on our way to Artemis. Let’s show Liam how it feels to be a third wheel.”
Erin looked at him, horrified. “You’re coming with us?”
Jake grinned. “‘Course, I am. I’ve got some unfinished business with Anita.”
Erin casually walked to my side, put her arm around my neck, and leaned on my shoulder. “I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Liam and I actually started dating recently.”
Lily looked up from the kitchen table, watching Erin with a dangerous expression and holding the back of a chair so tightly her knuckles turned white.
Jake snorted. “Yeah, right.”
“I fell hopelessly in love right after we kissed in Nelcorn—you were there, Jake, remember?” There was a loud clatter as the chair by Lily fell to the ground. Erin was turning her head towards me—
I decided it was time to put my abilities to good use. In one fluid motion, I slipped out of Erin’s grasp, raised an eyebrow at Lily, and slipped her bags over my shoulder. I was out the door before any of them could blink.
“Wait for us!” Erin and Jake called as I strode steadily forward, considering whether it would be advantageous to run all the way to Artemis before Erin and Jake could catch up.
Certainly, it would help my mental health.
I smiled grimly, slowing my pace. Only wusses run away.
Other wise, it was a great chapter, and I eagerly await the next chapter.
I really need a new signature.
Thanks for reviewing Buoysel!!! Seriously, I appreciate it. Err, but you haven't heard of a cat flap? It's a little hole in the door near the ground that cats can use to wander in and out of the house as they wish.
Anyway, thank you to all my readers.
Previously on An Apple a Day:
Jamie Arkle (betraying assistant of the Master) goes to Slateport City and speaks with the Master's uncle, only to discover Liam Mendol is the Master! Dun dun dun. Anita runs away in the middle of the night after seeing Liam use the Forced Transformation Device on a Ditto. She pretends Apple is severely burned by a Magmar (really, Fiery mildly burns Apple), tells Erin, and then finds a Lanturn to take her take her to Artemis Town, where the Pokemon healing services will be better than in Vintage Village.
Liam changes the appearance of the Forced Transformation Device so it resembles a vaccine. He tests everyone and their Pokemon in the orphanage, ensuring that none of them are Mew. He also remembers when he found out his beloved cousin, Landon, was dead, his body found washed up by sea several years after the actual Tsunami that also killed his mother and aunt.
Mel is officially adopted by Sparky and says farewell to the gang. Erin, Liam, and Jake depart for Artemis Town.
Chapter 36: Styx and Stones Can Break My Bones, But Words Can Never…mind
Two nights and a full day of riding on the back of a Lanturn with few breaks left my shins numb, my butt sore, and my appreciation for land at its highest. My legs were swathed in some of my extra clothes to keep blood running through them, and I wore my waterproof winter gloves to keep a grip on the Lanturn’s head.
Apple shifted from one of my shoulders to the other about once an hour to keep them from getting sore—it wasn’t working. Occasionally, she sat on my head. Though her fur was charred, she wasn’t nearly as hurt from Fiery’s Flamethrower as she looked. Fiery’s attacked had lasted less than a second to keep Apple’s injuries to a minimum, though Apple’s skin was still very sensitive to the salt water.
<Anita, I can see buildings!> Apple exclaimed. <Finally!>
I looked up. She was right—I could make out the outlines of Artemis Town’s few skyscrapers and the famous gym dome against the dark sky. From the stench, I could tell we were currently floating by farmland. Beyond the barn silhouettes, the sky was lightening. I looked at my PokeTech—6:27 a.m. The sun would be rising soon.
<I expect full payment as soon as we reach Artemis,> the Lanturn reminded me for about the hundredth time. I’d agreed to give the Pokemon just about my full supply of status healing supplies along with a thunderbolt from Splash to recover the Lanturn’s energy enough for his journey back. Apple thought I should’ve held out for a better deal.
<You’re just lucky I sold all my empty PokeBalls for supplies,> I told the Lanturn.
<Probably not the best idea to threaten our ride,> Apple said.
The Lanturn seemed to have similar thoughts, lowering itself until my waist was under water. I yelped at the cold water’s touch. <Sorry, sorry!> The Lanturn lifted itself to the surface once more, but the damage was done. Now I could feel even the slightest cool breeze through my pants. Great.
We were quickly approaching an old empty boating dock. Though there were no boats parked in the dock, there were two figures sitting side by side facing towards Artemis Town, their feet dangling over the water.
As we approached the two people on the dock and the sky lightened, I was able to make out finer details—a girl’s long blonde hair pulled into a slick ponytail, a teen boy’s bare back—and of course, I couldn’t miss the fact that the two teenagers were too involved in a long passionate kiss to hear my approach.
<Let’s go to the next dock—> The Lanturn bucked, slapping my back with its tail and causing me to fly face first into the couple.
“Ow,” the shirtless guy said. He untangled his limbs from the blonde girl’s, grabbed the scruff of my windbreaker, and lifted me up. “Hey, what the hell was that about?”
“Put me down!” I tried to catch one of his arms, but he easily knocked my hands away. The guy looked a older than me—maybe seventeen or eighteen. He had golden eyes and light brown hair—or was it blond? It was hard to say in this light. His arms were lanky but well muscled and his abs were—just wow.
<Anita, it’s rude to stare,> Apple said smugly, digging her claws into my shoulder lightly. My face grew warm and I realized I had forgotten to keep struggling, but the guy didn’t seem to be trying to cause me or Apple any harm.
I turned my attention to the girl, whose hand was wrapped around the guy’s free hand. She also looked older than me with her angular face, smooth pale skin, and large dark eyes. Though she wore no makeup I could see and didn’t do anything special with her hair, she was beautiful enough to be on the cover of Persons Magazine or in a New Blue commercial. The girl was patiently watching the guy holding me, as if waiting for a signal.
Suddenly, there was a sharp jolt through my body. Apple yelped, and the guy immediately dropped me. I turned around.
<My payment, please,> the Lanturn said, sparks dancing across his body as a warning.
“The Lanturn expects some sort of payment,” the blonde girl murmured. Surprised, I looked at her over my shoulder. What the—was she a psychic, too?
I released Splash from his PokeBall. “Thundershock the Lanturn.” I reached into my pack, pulled out my four last full heals and an awakening, and tossed the medicine at the Lanturn. Rejuvenated from Splash’s electricity, the Lanturn leapt into the air, catching the healing items between his teeth.
<A pleasure doing business,> the Lanturn said, splashing me as he dove under water. I returned Splash to his Pokeball when he made like he was going to follow the Lanturn into the sea.
“Are you okay?”
I turned back to the couple. “Yeah, I’m—”
The girl wasn’t looking at me; she was watching Apple on my shoulder.
You’re a nosy weirdo with straw hair who’s only got a boyfriend ‘cause of those big boobs, I thought as loudly as I could without transmitting telepathically. And your shoes are ugly, I added as an afterthought.
The girl was still watching Apple with concern. Okay, so she wasn’t a psychic.
“Dustin,” the girl said. “The Eevee should’ve been found by one of your Pidgeots or Tali’s Noctowls.”
“Who are you people?” I asked, jabbing a finger at the girl, forcing her to retract the hand she had been about to touch Apple with.
The guy, apparently named Dustin, smiled. “Aw, look, Styx, this pipsqueak doesn’t know who I am. Isn’t that cute?”
Weird name, I thought.
“Now’s not the time, Dustin,” Styx said irritably. “That Eevee needs a Pokemon Center now, no thanks to your Pokemon.” She grabbed my arm and pulled me towards Artemis town. I yanked my hand hard, but the girl held fast—she was stronger than she looked.
“Let go,” I demanded.
“Don’t bother,” Dustin said. “She’ll bring your Eevee to the Pokemon Center even if she has to drag you by the ankles to do so.”
Like they could make me. If this loser thought I was going anywhere without knowing who the hell he and blondie were, he was dead wrong.
In an instant, I made a small barrier appear at Styx’s feet, making her trip and enabling me to free my hand from her grasp.
Dustin caught the girl in his arms, chuckling. “Oh ho ho. Guess who we’ve stumbled upon, Styx? Not just any pipsqueak. No, we’ve found Anita Parkwood, the psychic pipsqueak from Melonbi Town.”
How the heck did he know that?
As if reading my thoughts, Dustin continued, “I’m Dustin Blavoid, gym leader of Artemis Town. I can sense Pokemon and gifted trainers’ powers.”
I was about to put up a barrier to keep Styx from reaching for me when Dustin snapped his fingers. Suddenly, the air was rushed from my lungs as I was forced to my knees, squished in some sort of invisible container.
“Oh, and I can mimic powers, too.” Dustin grinned, patting the top of the barrier box I was apparently being held in. Apple’s claws dug into my shoulder hard now. “Believe me, I’ve had plenty of practice mimicking the psychic powers of the Zahavah City gym leader, Tamara Lilac.”
<You okay?> I asked Apple, glaring at Dustin.
<My tail’s a bit crushed, but otherwise I’m good.>
I pushed my mind against the psychic walls. <I can’t break out,> I growled. <How’s he stronger than me?>
<Assuming his ability works like the attack mimic, he copies abilities—not inner strength and experience. Obviously he’s a lot more experienced than you and from what we’ve seen of his gift so far, he seems to have a lot of power.>
<Oh, that’s just perfect.>
“Careful, don’t hurt the Eevee,” Styx said to Dustin, peering at Apple from behind Dustin’s shoulder.
Smirking, Dustin bent over and heaved the psychic box on to his shoulder. I shifted my body forward, trying to tip the box.
“I’d keep balance if I were you,” Dustin said. “I have no qualms about letting you fall.”
“And I’ll have no qualms about punching your face until your girlfriend can’t tell your lips from your ears the moment I’m outta here,” I replied.
Styx looked from Dustin to me, her shoulders tense and eyes somewhat detached. “I’d appreciate it if you refrained from threatening my boyfriend,” she said. “I have no qualms about killing you.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Griffy’s getting tired. Let’s stop for lunch,” I said, snapping my book shut and giving Griffy a brief pat on the neck. Behind me, Liam grunted in agreement.
I turned around to give Jake an annoyed look. “Griffy can only carry three people for so long, and after all of yesterday’s riding, Griffy’s pretty exhausted.” I wasn’t sure Jake heard me; he was pretty into whatever he was looking at on his PokeTech.
We dismounted and I handed Liam my pack after pulling out a few potions, indicating he should get lunch ready while I tended to Griffy. I bent over to look at Griffy’s front legs. They were trembling, not that it was much of a surprise after all that riding. “Why didn’t you tell me how tired you were sooner?”
<I apologize, Miss. With that dark one on my back, I cannot psychically communicate.>
I sprayed the potions on Griffy’s legs. “That’s no excuse. We’ve already discussed that your signal for needing rest is nipping me or Liam or Jake.”
<Unfortunately, my tail seems unable to grasp the concept of these signals. I believe that is why Mr. Veneer sat as far up as possible—to avoid the nipping.>
<I nip for bubblegum popsicles,> Griffy’s tail said. <And to devour the time stream of recycled bicycles.>
“Well, you could’ve nipped me.” I stood up and ran a hand through Griffy’s fur. “Make sure you and your tail have a good meal.” I gestured to the large bowl of PokeBlocks Liam had set up next to a blue blanket. Jake, I noted, was sitting next to the blanket, still zoned into his PokeTech. I asked Liam, “Did you find the silverware? There wasn’t room in the food shrinker so I put it nest to my hair drier in the—.”
Liam held up a fork in response.
I sat down between Jake and Liam, on the edge of the blanket. “You know, it’s way weird.” Jake said, finally turning towards the food in front of us. “In half these shows, if there’s a character that walks the line between good and evil, chances are it’s because of the influence of an evil older sibling. Characters are especially prone to this if they can shoot fire—”
“Oh, so that’s what you’ve been doing? Watching television shows on your PokeTech!”
“What do you expect me to do? Sit like a piece of cardboard like this dreary kid.” Jake waved at Liam. Liam glared. Under his breath, Jake added, “Though if I got to sit behind Erin, maybe I wouldn’t need to amuse myself with petty shows.”
Okay, I’ll just pretend I didn’t hear that. “Hm, what to expect of Jake Veneer?” I mockingly tapped a finger to my lips. My eyes widened and I lifted the finger in the air. “I know. How about thinking of a way to get your lazy ass off of Griffy so Griffy won’t be hurt and tired and we can get to Artemis faster.” I grabbed a piece of celery from a plate and bit into it.
“Whoa. This is coming from the girl who was reading poetry the entire trip. If you want a plan, you come up with it,” said Jake. Liam glanced at my poetry book, lying near my legs.
“Why don’t you ride your bicycle?” I said sarcastically. “Wait, that’s right. You had to sell it for money after you lost like a little baby to Artemis Town’s gym leader. You were forced to come crying to Anita—your rival—for help. Pathetic.”
“And look who’s dragging me along.”
“You invited yourself.” I looked at Liam, my face quickly becoming serious. At least I could pretend to keep my emotions in check. Thank you, drama club. “He has a point. We would be quicker if we left Jake behind and probably happier, too.”
Liam had closed his eyes. He bit into a sandwich, ignoring me.
Jake pulled out a PokeBall, threateningly. “I will not be left behind!”
Liam’s eyebrow twitched.
I pulled out Wella’s Pokeball, knowing Jake didn’t have a good counter against water Pokemon. “I can take you.”
“Enough,” Liam said. There was a flash of red. For a moment, I thought Jake had released a Pokemon. Then I saw that the Pokemon in the grass before us was a Ditto.
“I thought you don’t use your Pokemon unless there’s an emergency,” I said.
“It’s not my Pokemon. Professor Teal sent me the Ditto to assist me with the medicine I left in Vintage Village. Hardly necessary, of course.”
So he’d had a Ditto the whole time? “Why didn’t you say anything?” Griffy wouldn’t be in nearly so much pain if there were another Pokemon to share the load.
“I have my reasons.”
Cryptic answer, as usual. This would be Anita’s cue to blow up at him—threaten to tear off his toes one by one if she was in a good mood, charge at him if she was in a bad mood. I tried to not take Liam’s unwillingness to share information personally. Anita figured he was up to something bad—I remember she’d theorized criminal activity back in Tinted Town. I couldn’t imagine Liam as a member of Team Glop’emm or the likes; he was probably just doing some top-secret research for Professor Teal.
The Ditto shifted, beginning to transform. Its body grew and—was that a human arm?
“Sticky, stop,” Liam demanded. He was frowning.
Hm, maybe this was the secret research. I glanced at Jake. Now that getting left behind was no longer a threat, he was occupying himself with the chips and salsa, not even sparing the Ditto a glance.
“I want to help,” the Ditto said.
I stared. Jake dropped the chip he was holding up to his mouth.
Though the Ditto was still a shapeless pink blob, it appeared to have formed human lips.
Liam sighed. “Sticky, just transform into a Rapidash.”
“You have a Ditto that can speak?” I asked as the Ditto transformed.
“Yes. Professor Teal has been helping Sticky learn—I would appreciate it if you kept quiet about this.”
I knew it. He was working on some top-secret awesome research project. Lucky. Was he studying Ditto’s transformation? No wait, why would he have to keep something like that a secret? When he originally started traveling with us, he had taken a particular interest in Eevee, the evolution Pokemon. Maybe he was working on linking transformation to evolution? If he and Professor Teal were near a breakthrough, she wouldn’t want anyone stealing her work. That’d be reason enough to keep Ditto all hush-hush.
But then why send Ditto to Liam? Unless maybe the Professor wanted to see how a transformed Ditto would interact with humans. What if Liam introduced us to a human transformed Ditto? What would the Ditto be like? I almost squealed aloud. Ah, I wanted to meet it!
“Sometimes, your trainer has such a creepy smile,” Jake muttered, looking at Griffy. I flashed my teeth at Jake mockingly, before doing my best imitation of Liam’s stoic expression.
<All the better to eat you with!> Griffy’s tail yelled, struggling for a moment to reach towards Jake. With the tail’s small attention span, it was only seconds before the tail became more preoccupied with finding a way to communicate with the newly transformed Rapidash’s tail.
“Where did you get that poetry book?” Liam asked as I reached for more celery. He was still watching the Ditto as it trotted over to Griffy to share food.
“See, Jake, Liam understands that poetry is interesting and thought-provoking.” I smirked at Jake before continuing. “It was a favorite of mine back when I worked with Professor Blubber in his lab. He had two copies so I figured he wouldn’t mind if I took one.”
“So it holds only sentimental value?”
“Well, I don’t know. There’s something about this guy’s poems that’s intriguing, you know? They’re mostly vague and abstract, and honestly, there’s not much vivid imagery.” I picked up the book from beside me, sweeping a hand over the cover to brush off stray dead grass. “Plus, the author, Professor Hastings, was a researcher.”
Secretly, I thought that Professor Hastings had recorded research in this book. But I wasn’t about to embarrass myself by telling Liam that. I knew the idea was a bit out there, but seriously, why would a Professor devote so much time to creating a thick book of poems? And not even good poems!
“Have you met Professor Hastings?” Liam asked. “Professor Blubber said they’d been acquainted.”
“Nope. I never even heard Professor Blubber talk about him.”
Liam’s eyes lingered a little too long on the swirl through two chains on the book’s cover. My book, I thought possessively. He wasn’t going to steal my thunder by figuring out Professor Hastings’s poems before I did.
“Tch. Poetry’s just a means by which amateur men draw in women,” Jake said.
Grateful for the distraction, I said, “Oh? Then why don’t I see you scrambling to write on scraps of paper with a rhyming thesaurus in hand? Trying to get girls is all you do.”
“I attract women with my looks alone—”
“Right. With that hair looking like mess of chick feathers. You look like a canary that’s been bashed over the head—you think like one, too.”
“Well you look like a Purugly with rabies. And think like one, too.”
“What the hell does a Purugly with rabies think—”
“You both look like obnoxious morons to me,” Liam interjected. “Now shut it and eat so we can keep moving.”
And so we did.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Professor Hastings, Professor Hastings.” I knocked on the door again, louder this time. “You must be home—there’s smoke coming out of your chimney.”
When nobody answered, I looked down at my Glaceon. “Whisper, use—”
The door opened. In the doorway stood a disheveled man with large round bifocal glasses. He was wearing a bathrobe and one worn slipper.
“Professor Hastings, I have a few questions for you.”
When the professor just stared at me with wide, watery eyes, not inviting me in, I pushed past him through the front door.
The professor lived in a small three-room house. A house that appeared as if a herd of Tauros had trampled through it. There were papers everywhere: all over his desk, sticking our from under the bathroom door, crumpled behind his bed pillow, even in his kitchen sink.
“Niomi Shivicle, gym leader of this accursed city,” the professor muttered.
It was a relief that he recognized me; I wasn’t going to be questioning a complete lunatic. I turned to face the professor. “I’ll get straight to the point. Have you recently seen an adolescent with black hair and green eyes? More specifically, did you see him three days ago—Thursday, July twenty-fifth?”
The professor walked away from the door, leaving it wide open. He passed me as if I wasn’t in the room and pulled out a wooden stool from under his desk, tearing papers on the ground in the process.
“She didn’t warn me this would happen,” the professor murmured.
The professor stared blankly ahead. I frowned. Perhaps the rumors were true, and he was indeed mentally unstable.
“Professor, I’m asking if you’ve seen a teenager with black hair on July twenty-fifth. Please, answer me.”
“No, I didn’t see.”
“Thank you.” As I turned to leave, a silver glint caught my eye amongst the mess of papers on the floor. I narrowed my eyes. There were two silver chains hooked into the wall; at the end of each chain was a manacle. Whisper sensed my sudden suspicion and trotted over to the chains, her nose twitching.
“Professor Hastings, why do you have chains on your wall?”
“Hmm? Oh, research. Research, of course.”
Of course. Because he had to chain his papers to the wall to keep them from escaping.
Abruptly, Whisper whirled around, releasing an ice beam to lock Professor’s arms and legs together. She growled.
The last time Whisper had reacted in this manner, she had prevented an angry trainer from slamming his Pichu’s head against a PokeMart wall.
Whisper pointed her tail at the chains. I was already in motion, moving to crouch beside Whisper to inspect the chains. There was dried blood on the inside of each manacle.
I glanced up at Whisper, watching her tail. We’d developed a sort of primitive sign language—a means of communication in situations a psychic Pokemon was unavailable. Whisper twisted her tail into the shapes of letters. B-L-O-O-D O-F C-H-I-L-D. Whisper paused for a moment, then continued. M-A-Y-B-E M-E-N-D-O-L.
Quickly, I straightened, looking sharply at the wide-eyed Professor. “Professor Hastings, as gym leader of Winsk City, I hereby arrest you on the charges of suspected child abuse and withholding information. You have the right to remain silent.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I watched the steel box covered in flashing lights apprehensively as Styx typed commands into a computer that was apparently linked to this strange machine. The machine resembled a flashy airport baggage check machine, complete with conveyer belt and plastic bins. Apple sat in one such bin, waiting for Styx to input the correct settings before her bin was drawn into the machine.
“Chance. Chancey chanc chancey cha chance cha. Chancey chance chance cha.” Translation: <Why the hell aren’t you moving faster? I need to finish this quickly; there’s a Charmander with broken legs in waiting room four.> The Chancey spoke to Styx, and Styx appeared to understand, signaling the Chancey to put her hands on a screen attached to the flashing machine.
“So you’re sure this machine will completely heal Apple?” I asked dubiously.
“Yes, I built the Auto-Restorer myself.”
“Have you even test—”
“This machine’s been successfully functioning for six months,” Styx said. “It’s recommended that Apple stay a day at the Pokemon Center to ensure there are no complications, but in a matter of seconds, Apple should be feeling one hundred percent.”
Complications? <Yell if anything feels weird,> I told Apple. <I’ll break this Auto-Restorer myself.>
This Auto-Restorer was supposedly some sort of miracle healing machine she’d created—currently, healing machines throughout the world took several minutes or hours to function. Styx said the Auto-Restorer only affected skin-deep afflictions, but even so, if the hunk of metal actually worked, it was a major breakthrough in Pokemon healing.
I didn’t know what to make of Styx. Though she wasn’t psychic, she clearly understood Pokemon. Apparently, she worked part time in the Pokemon Center as a translator/mechanic/nurse—basically, whatever needed to be done. In the time she wasn’t at the Pokemon Center, she was studying at Artemis University, double majoring in Pokemon Linguistics and Biomechanical Engineering.
Then there was her threat to kill me if I hurt Dustin. She pretended it didn’t happen, ignoring the awkward tension in the air on our trip to the Pokemon Center. Styx also acted as if it was perfectly normal for her boyfriend to be carrying a trainer contained in a psychic box over his shoulder while she held his free hand, smiling at the Pidgeys that seemed to cover every inch of Artemis Town. I found her change in emotion extremely unnerving and fairly obnoxious.
She and Dustin had discussed an organization called the PRAHA—the Pokemon Retrieve and Heal Association. It was basically an organization my two captors had set up with Dustin’s sister, Tali, to find and help injured Pokemon. I had muttered something along the lines of how there was clearly a need for a less abusive retrieval system to which Styx replied stone-facedly that Artemis had the lowest Pokemon mortality rate of any city in the world.
Artemis Town’s Pokemon Center was the hugest, most modern I’d seen yet. There seemed to be a constant flow of trainers up and down the concrete stairs that led to the Pokemon Center’s glass doors. Chanceys greeted the trainers near the doors, pointing them to the necessary waiting room or escorting them to a particular facility.
The Chancey in front of me now, with her hands on the Auto-Restorer, had greeted us at the Pokemon Center doors. She was rather large for a Chancey and waddled like she owned the place. The Chancey had taken one look at me and Apple hoisted over Dustin’s shoulder, and jumped towards Dustin, slapping his face and chest until he released the psychic barrier.
Strangely, Styx hadn’t objected. I was soon informed that the Chancey was Dustin’s Pokemon.
The Chancey had rushed us to this room, told us to wait here, and left. From her thoughts, I’d picked up that we’d be here a while.
There was a small television screen in the corner of the room, which buzzed with Acceber’s latest news updates. “While some trainers continue their search for the Drape Town gym leader, others are protesting in front of the Drape Town gym. Acceber’s gym leaders continue to defend this unusual prelim—” I turned the TV on mute and spent our waiting time practicing making psychic barriers, annoyed Dustin had been able to out-psychic me.
Apple spent the time contemplating how to deal with Liam.
After three hours, the Chancey returned, tailed by Styx. Now, Apple was sitting in a grey plastic bin, twitching impatiently—
The conveyer started moving. I touched my mind to Apple’s, ensuring I’d know immediately if something went wrong. Apple felt a pleasant warmth as she entered the flashing machine. The Chancey’s hands glowed for a moment.
Then it was over. On the other side of the flashing machine, Apple appeared—
Or rather, what looked like a humungous hairball with Apple-colored fur appeared.
“What the HELL did you do to Apple?” I turned to Styx.
Styx’s eyes widened. “Muk, your eyes,” she said.
<Anita, I’m okay. I just need a haircut. No need for any psychic outbursts,> Apple said. She grinned. <Look, if I move my legs like this, I might actually be able to roll off the conveyer—> With that Apple did roll out of the grey bin, her fur acting as a cushion as she landed on the floor. <Hehe.>
I breathed. Apple was okay, and she did look pretty funny.
“Strange,” Styx murmured, walking towards Apple. “This hasn’t happened since Slowpoke…” Styx bent over, turning Apple so she could se Apple’s face. “Hm, purple eyes. Does she have psychic relatives?”
Ignoring her question, I said, “I thought you said this machine’s been working fine for months!”
“Yeah, its worked on every normal-typed Pokemon put through it,” Styx replied.
“And how many Pokemon have you killed testing it?”
“Arceus! I haven’t killed any Pokemon! Look, your Eevee made a full recovery—the machine just accelerated Apple’s fur growth.”
“Injured, then. You’ve had to test the Pokemon somehow; you’re abusing—”
“I don’t even test it on Pokemon!”
I folded my arms. “Then how would you know it works?” I said coldly. I pushed into her mind, looking for evidence. I saw shifting shapes, a warmth—
“Am I interrupting something, ladies?” Dustin entered the room. An Eevee sat on his shoulder. He approached Styx and kissed her cheek. “Ray and I just had a chat with my Pidgeot about getting his flock up and flying earlier for the PRAHA. We can’t have our retrieval system failing at sunrise.” He glanced at me, raising an eyebrow. “Then we wouldn’t have the pleasure of helping out pipsqueak trainers and their—” Dustin glanced down at Apple. “…giant balls of fur that once resembled Pokemon?”
Styx turned around, putting around Dustin’s neck. “I love you.”
Dustin was still peering over Styx’s shoulder at Apple. “What happened here?”
“Accelerated fur growth.”
I pointed at Styx and looked at Dustin. “Is this what you let your city come to? This woman experimenting on Pokemon—”
“Styx would never hurt a Pokemon,” Dustin said vehemently. He smirked. “Pipsqueak trainers, on the other hand…”
I looked at Styx, sizing her up. She was four or five inches taller than me. Bustier. I could totally take her, with or without my gift.
Styx rolled her ideas. “Don’t give her ideas, Dustin.”
The Eevee on Dustin’s shoulder jumped to the ground, gave Apple a small nudge, and watched as she rolled until she lightly hit the wall. Her fur bristled, which of course didn’t help her… roundness.
“Play nice, Ray,” Dustin said. He turned to me, Styx still in his arms. “Now, what’s this about Styx abusing Pokemon?”
“Well, she said this machine’s been running perfectly for months.” I gestured to Apple. “Then this happened, which has apparently also happened with Slowpokes, and I can only imagine what happened when other non-normal types of Pokemon were put through it, but it probably wasn’t good. And it’s illegal to put Pokemon through the machine when the effects could seriously injure—”
Dustin held up a hand. “So you are basically upset because you believe that Styx is experimenting on Pokemon?”
Yes, dumbass, that’s what I said to begin with. I nodded.
“What if I told you Styx was experimenting on voluntary Pokemon?”
“Even if the Pokemon knew the risks, when there’s already an effective healing system in place—”
“What if I told you Styx tested this machine on cells in Petri dishes taken from Pokemon?”
I hesitated and then nodded once. “I suppose, that’d be okay.”
“Well then that’s what she’s been doing.” Dustin turned his attention back to Styx, playing with her ponytail. “Now that that’s dealt with, I was thinking—”
That jerk. I’d find out one way or another what was going on. I pushed my mind into Dustin’s and was immediately shoved out. I couldn’t even get near Styx’s mind.
“Ah, ah. No mind reading for you, Anita.” He bent over to whisper in Styx’s ear. “Looks like you’ll be forced to stick close to me while the pipsqueak’s here,” he said in mock sadness. “Keep her out of your beautiful mind.”
I looked down at Apple, who appeared to be powerless to stop Dustin’s Eevee from rolling her around the Auto-Restorer.
<Finally, I got your attention. Now can you please get me a haircut?>
“So where’s the best haircut place around here?” I asked, giving Styx my best this-is-all-your-fault glare.
“Oh, hmm.” There was a flash of red as Dustin released a Zangoose from a Pokeball. “Zangoose, the Eevee’s hair.”
The Zangoose lifted a claw. No way—I was not about to let a Zangoose slash away Apple’s fur. I put up a barrier as Zangoose’s claw began descending.
“I’m not going to let your rabid Zangoose tear Apple to bits.”
“He was reaching for the scissors on the table,” Dustin said.
“Oh.” I released the barrier.
“Zangoose is one of the best barbers in town. ‘Course, he only works when he’s not needed at the gym.”
As the Zangoose grinned manically holding the scissors above his head, I felt slightly doubtful. However, a quick probe of the mind revealed that the Zangoose was imagining various fur styles, extremely pleased that he had so much fur to work with.
I scratched my head. “Well, I guess I’m sorry, Dust—”
Dustin was already talking to Styx. “So I was thinking that we go on a lunch date at Tangala’s Salad—you know, the restaurant by—” Dustin’s phone rang. “Sorry, give me a sec.” He stepped out of the room.
Styx and I looked at each other. Zangoose looked at Apple. Ray looked at Zangoose’s scissors. Chansey looked at all of us, snorted, and left the room. Awkward.
“Styx, I’ll be back to pick you up in forty minutes!” Dustin called, running across the room. He took no notice of his leg hitting the Auto-Restorer, or the dirty look Styx gave him after. Dustin opened a window and jumped into a crouch on the windowsill. “Ray, come on.” The Eevee gave Apple a final roll before bounding onto Dustin’s shoulder. Then the pair leapt out the window.
“His Pidgeot will catch him,” Styx said before I could scramble to the window ledge. She started typing things into the Auto-Restorer again, and Zangoose picked Apple up, set her on top of the Auto-Restorer, and began her haircut.
I took a deep breath. Time to change strategies. “Styx, I’m sorry for accusing you of Pokemon abuse, and I’m really thankful you helped Apple.”
“Apology accepted,” Styx answered, not bothering to look up at me.
“But seriously, how’d you test the machine?”
Styx stopped working. “Have you been checked for OCD? How about just OD—obsessive disorder? The Pokemon Center’s attached to the hospital if you want to see someone about your inability to let something petty go.”
“If it’s so petty, why won’t you tell me?” When Styx didn’t answer, I said, “Come on, I’m just curious.”
“Curiosity killed the cat.”
“Cats have nine lives,” I shot back.
“That’s why curiosity’s so dangerous.”
I folded my arms across my chest. “I’m being nice, you know. I could read your mind.”
Styx smiled. “Dustin’s not the only one with a few tricks. I could stop you if I needed to. However, I don’t think there’s a need. I have a proposition.”
“You couldn’t stop me—you wouldn’t even know I was in your mind.” With that I sent a small strand of energy to her head. It wasn’t deflected.
<I know you’re in my head now. And I know you were touching my mind just as Dustin entered the room. Now if you’ll kindly leave so we can discuss my proposition,> Styx thought. I tried to dig deeper into her head, but she made it extremely difficult by concentrating entirely on Dustin—the way he smelled, his arms around her, his lips—
I left her mind immediately. “That was a low blow and way too much information.”
Styx smiled. “Now my proposition. There’s something you need.”
“Of course—money, a new bike, a hundred Masterballs, lifelong happiness—”
“My terms are you stop trying to get into my head, and stop asking about my testing methods—” Styx suddenly stared past my shoulder, frowning. “Turn the TV off of mute,” she demanded.
I looked over my shoulder. On the screen, there was a Pokemon battle in the sky above a ship. A Pidgeot and Togekiss clashed, flew apart, and crashed together again. I squinted at the Pokemon’s riders. “Is that Dustin?”
Zangoose stopped cutting Apple’s fur. Apple’s partially cut coat made her resemble a lion… or one of those fancy poodles with a bizarre hair cut.
I quickly found the remote on a nearby chair and pressed the mute button.
“Just moments ago, gym leader Dustin Blavoid attacked a passenger on the S.S. Hoopla, a seven year old international cruiser. The cause of the attack is unknown. Passengers are being escorted…”
“What’s Dustin doing?” I asked Styx.
“I don’t know.”
There was a flash of red as a Magnemite, Yanmega, Hypno, and Porygon2 appeared. The Hypno began to fall, but quickly stabilized itself with a psychic attack. Dustin and his Pidgeot were surrounded. The camera zoomed in.
“Muk. Who is that?” Dustin’s opponent was thin and balding. He wore a black coat that flapped around his Togekiss in the wind. His glasses were crooked on his hooked nose, and his smile gave me the chills.
“Shh,” Styx said.
On the screen, Dustin was smirking.
Suddenly, all of the opponent’s Pokemon were returned to their Pokeballs, including the Togekiss he was riding. The Pidgeot swooped down. Dustin caught his opponent by the arm, pulling him onto his Pidgeot, and locking his hands behind his back.
Styx sighed in relief. “How’d he do that?” I asked.
“Dustin can mimic any nearby Pokemon’s attack. The moment the Hypno used psychic to keep itself in the air, that man with the Togekiss was done for.”
“So Dustin mimicked psychic, using his stolen ability to press the buttons on that man’s PokeBalls and return the Pokemon…” I muttered. This gym leader might be tricky to beat.
Dustin landed in front of the camera. “Jamie Arkle, as gym leader of Artemis Town I, Dustin Blavoid, am placing you under arrest. You have been charged with manslaughter, breaking and entering, and theft among other crimes. Most notably, you are being charged with being the leader—the Master—of the notorious crime organization, Team Glop’emm.”
As Dustin led the man toward a group of Officer Jennys, I put the television back on mute. “That’s the guy in charge of Team Glop’emm?”
“Apparently,” Styx replied.
I looked at Styx slyly. Now would be the perfect time— “Don’t even think about entering my mind,” Styx said. “The proposition.”
I let out a half chuckle. What the heck was with this girl? She didn’t know a thing about me, she was clearly obsessed with Dustin, she could understand Pokemon, and she wanted to make some kind of whacked deal to keep me from bugging her. Maybe she was a less powerful psychic and could only detect when I was in her mind? But reading thoughts of Pokemon would take a little more power than that.
“In exchange for my terms stated earlier and no further investigations on your part into my life, I’ll discuss Liam Mendol’s Forced Transformation Device with you.”
What. The. Hell. Apple and I looked at each other and then back at Styx.
“I’ll even help you destroy it.”
Anyways: Nice chapter, I like the new characters, and certainly an interesting cliffhanger.
I really need a new signature.
Huh, didn't know that (bout the dog door name), but thanks!
Anywho, I'm late, but:
Previously on An Apple A Day
Mel was adopted by Sparky Storm, gym leader of Cape Caution. Mel’s father left him at an early age, when Mel couldn’t control his ghost gift and became a ghost for several months. His father believed Mel dead. Professor Chris Blubber lives in Cape Caution; Erin worked for him until he wanted Erin to stay with him in Cape Caution.
Anita arrives in Artemis Town, and runs into the gym leader, Dustin Blavoid, as well as his odd girlfriend, Styx. Styx works at the Pokemon Center and heals Apple’s burns, with the side effect of making Apple’s fur grow out. Dustin’s Zangoose is a renowned barber and cuts Apple’s fur.
Dustin arrests Jamie Arkle as soon as he arrives on a boat from Slateport City, suspected of being the leader of Team Glop’emm.
Anita suspects something is odd about Styx, but can’t figure out what—Styx can tell when Anita’s reading her mind and can understand Pokemon. She thinks Styx may be psychically gifted.
Meanwhile, Liam is forced to use Sticky (Rita’s Ditto sent to prove the Forced Transformation Device works) to help transport him, Erin, and Jake to Artemis Town.
Nai Shivicle, gym leader of Winsk City, investigates the appearance of a black haired teen the gym leaders suspect was Liam Mendol in Winsk City. She stops at Professor Seth Robert Hasting’s house, where she finds evidence that Professor Hastings may have been holding Mendol hostage. Professor Hastings is arrested.
Styx reveals to Anita that she knows about the Forced Transformation Device, the device Rita Teal invented for the Master that untransforms Pokemon with a single touch. Styx offers to help Anita destroy it.
Chapter 37: Identification, Please
“Okay,” I said. “Back up. How do you know about Liam’s untrasforming thingy—what’d you call it—Forced Transformation Device? How do you even know I was traveling with Liam?” Silently, I told Apple, <Get ready to hit that Zangoose and run. I’m not sure you’re safe here.>
Apple tensed, preparing to leap off the Auto-Restorer. If the Zangoose took any notice, he failed to show it, continuing to cut her tail fur while dramatically humming, <Now let me show you the shape of my part.> There was a growing mound of fur on the floor.
“The deal is that I don’t have to tell you anything about myself or how I acquire information,” Styx replied.
“Then how do you expect me to trust you?”
“I healed your Eevee, my boyfriend’s a gym leader, and I know your identity.” Styx leaned against the sink in the corner of the room.
“Yes, I know you’re Mew.”
My eyes widened. Whoa, she thought I was Mew. I would’ve laughed if this weren’t such a serious situation. “You’re delusional,” I said.
Styx merely smiled. “So do you accept my terms of the deal? No more questions about me, and I’ll help you get rid of the Forced Transformation Device.”
I was careful not to look at Apple. <What do you think?>
<Whatever,> Apple said.
“Fine,” I said.
“Alright. The Forced Transformation Device locates the tiny portion of DNA in your brain that remains the same when you transform, and uses this DNA to reverse the transformation. If the device touches you, you’ll turn back to Mew.”
I rolled my eyes.
Styx continued, “Liam has recently changed the appearance of the device to make it look like a vaccine.”
I watched Styx doubtfully as she twirled a blonde strand of hair around her finger. “Are you sure about that—about whatever sources you’re getting this information from?” I asked.
“All right, so do you have a plan?”
“Yup. Just stay away from the device tonight and make sure Liam comes with you to the gym tomorrow. I’ll take care of everything from there.” Styx abruptly rose, nodding to the Zangoose, who had finished cutting Apple’s fur. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lunch date. A Chancey’ll be here shortly to escort you to the room Apple can stay in overnight.”
Bewildered, I watched her ponytail swish through the doorframe as she exited, followed closely by the Zangoose.
<How’d she know Liam’s going to arrive tonight?> I asked.
<How’d she know any of that stuff?> Apple grumbled. She pounced from the top of the Auto-Restorer into the pile of her fur on the floor, causing tufts of fur to float about. <I miss my powers. You should’ve entered her mind anyway.>
<But she can tell when I’m in her mind. You think she’s psychic?>
<Did you feel any power?>
<Err, I don’t know. A little? Not like most psychic Pokemon, anyway.>
Apple trotted to my chair, leaping onto my lap. <Then I don’t think she’s a psychic—unless, of course she’s a strong enough psychic to hide her abilities.>
Apple and I contemplated the matter a little longer, but could come to no real conclusion.
As Styx had said, a Chancey arrived within minutes and led us up a set of stairs and down a long hallway. The room Apple would be allowed to stay in through the night was the second from the end. There was a large window overlooking Artemis Town’s dome-shaped gym on one end of the room and a small bed near the door. Apple jumped onto the bed. I sat in a plastic chair by the door.
<We need to talk about Liam,> Apple said. <He’ll be arriving soon.>
<I have a plan.>
Wait, how could she…oh! <You’re starting to recover your powers?> I asked excitedly. Dealing with Liam would be so much easier with her psychic help.
<No, you were flashing me images the whole Lanturn ride.> Apple looked at me with her nose scrunched. <Do you seriously not even notice when you’re showing me your thoughts any more, when our minds are connected?>
<Geez, you don’t have to go all high and mighty, looking at me like I’m not using my gift right. I mean, we’ve been sharing thoughts for so long that I do it automatically.>
<The whole point of being a psychic is being able to protect your thoughts and gain information from others. Projecting your own thoughts—>
<Again, Apple, its just with you!> A light bulb shattered. <Damn it,> I swore, though the lighting in the room seemed unaffected. Sunlight beamed into the room from the window.
<Whoever manufactures light bulbs in Acceber must be making a fortune off of you,> Apple commented. <Just be careful, Anita,> Apple said seriously. <It’s dangerous to let your guard down when connected to someone’s mind—it can even give whoever you’re connected to full access to your thoughts and memories.>
Before I could exasperatedly repeat that Apple was the only being I constantly shared thoughts with, Apple reminded me, <Liam. Your plan.>
I put my complaint on hold. <Right.>
<You’re going to need to learn telekinesis or rather, you’re going to need to control of your telekinesis. From what I saw of your experience with Sparky, you definitely have the ability and power; control is the only issue.>
<You’ve got until Erin and Liam arrive to teach me,> I said, looking at my PokeTech. I’d be occupied with keeping Liam as far away from this room as possible when he arrived.
<Then let’s start. This might be difficult without my powers—it’ll be easiest if you remember as best you can every detail of your state of mind when you threw Sparky against a wall.>
<Er, you sure you want that?> I asked.
<Alright…> Images flashed across my mind: Apple missing from an austere room underground, Apple in the ocean nearly drowned, Apple’s fur standing on end as a Celebi hovered—
All the glass in the room shattered. Oops.
Apple sighed. <Looks like we have a lot of work to do.>
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Jake held open the Pokemon Center door for me. I glanced at Liam, who was looking at the giant dome-shaped Pokemon gym on our left. “Sometimes I think you should be more like Jake,” I said. “For all his obnoxiousness, he’s a gentleman.”
“That’s an outdated point of view,” Liam said, turning his attention to our right, where there was a line of shops. He’d seemed especially on guard since we entered Artemis Town.
I smiled at Jake and walked through the Pokemon Center entrance. When Liam followed, Jake let the door fall in his face.
Once inside the Pokemon Center, a Chancey pointed us to the room reservation counter. I’d been to Artemis Town in the past, but I’ve always been amazed at how well organized the Artemis Pokemon Center was despite its size.
Liam and Jake fell in step behind me.
“And I thought you were decent at one time,” Liam muttered to Jake.
“Yeah, well, once it was clear that you have a thing for Erin, all bets were off.”
I glanced over my shoulder, smiling. “That’s right. Liam and I are very happy together.”
“You’re an idiot,” Liam said to Jake, snickering.
“Remember when I battled you, and you lost?” Jake shot back. That wiped the smirk off of Liam’s face. “And for the record, I didn’t think there was actually something going on between you and Erin until you spent the ride on the Ditto with your head over Erin’s shoulder.”
I hadn’t noticed—oh. Liam had been reading the poetry book over my shoulder. Evil. I reached behind my head to tighten the drawstrings on my pack. My book. Then I smiled at Liam sweetly, batting my eyelashes—might as well take advantage of his situation’s inadvertent outcome.
“Erin’s an ass,” Liam said. I turned around; we had reached the counter, but I could practically feel Liam’s glare on the back of my neck.
“No, but she sure does have a pretty nice—”
“Boys!” I snapped. Behind the counter, a woman with long blonde hair in a high ponytail raised her eyebrows. “Sorry,” I told the woman. “May I speak with a Nurse Joy? I’d like to request two rooms.”
Across the trainer-filled lobby, a Nurse Joy yelled, “Styx, you’re needed in room twelve!”
The blonde woman yelled back, “Just a sec.” She turned back to me. “I work here, too. Make this quick. What type of rooms? Let me see your IDs.”
“Two doubles,” I said, as Jake, Liam, and I flashed our IDs.
“I am not sleeping next to this idiot,” Liam said.
“You’ve slept near me for the past two nights—” Jake started.
“So one single and one triple it is,” the woman said, typing into her computer. She pulled out four sets of keys from under the granite counter and handed them to me. “Pokemon to be healed?”
Jake and I put all of our PokeBalls on the counter. The woman turned to Liam, her eyes resting on the PokeBalls clipped to his belt. “Pokemon?” she asked.
“You should probably heal Sticky. That Ditto carried us all afternoon,” I said.
Liam placed one PokeBall next to mine and Jake’s.
“They’ll be ready to be picked up by tomorrow morning,” the woman said. She scooped up the PokeBalls and started to walk away from the counter, toward the operating rooms.
“Wait!” I said. “Our friend, Anita Parkwood, probably brought her Eevee here recently. If they’re here, can we see them? Or if they got a room, could you tell us which?”
“They’re in an overnight care room, and Anita did not book a room for herself. Anita may stay with her Pokemon until eight-o’clock p.m., but general visiting hours are over so I’m afraid I can’t let you see them.” The blonde woman smiled. “Sorry.” She turned away and left through the double doors that led to the operating rooms. The trainers in line behind us looked annoyed, craning their necks in search of someone else to help them.
I pulled Jake and Liam off to the edge of the room, near the stairs that led to the upper levels, where our rooms for the night were. “Alright, give me your stuff. I’ll go drop it off in the rooms, and I’ll call Anita. You two go find a restaurant to eat at. It’ll be super busy this time of day so it might take you guys a bit.”
“I’d rather wait for Anita,” Liam said. He frowned at Jake.
“Well isn’t that sweet,” I said. I took Liam’s bag from his shoulder. “Call me when you guys find a place.” I walked up the stairs, not leaving room for argument. Without anyone checking out the room with me, I could lay claim to the highly sought-after top bunk. Muwahaha.
I looked over my shoulder and saw Liam and Jake walking away. Liam, hunched over with his hands in his pockets suddenly froze. He stared a moment off somewhere I couldn’t see, then made a beeline for the exit. It took a moment for Jake to realize Liam had left him, but when he did, he quickly ran after.
Curious, I stepped down a few stairs and looked at what Liam might have seen. There was a tall man—no, teenager—leaning over a counter. Mmm, this guy was good looking, probably about eighteen years old, with nice arms and dirty blond hair. Huh, maybe Liam was into guys. I shrugged and climbed back up the stairs.
Once I found our small triple, I tossed Liam’s bag on the floor and rummaged through my shrinkable wardrobe. I pulled out a few pairs of pink underwear and strategically placed them on the top bunk. Then I called Anita via PokeTech.
I folded my arms, annoyed. On my way back to the staircase, I spotted a door at the end of the hall that read Employees Only.
I smiled and turned around, heading back to the room.
In a matter of minutes, I returned to the door dressed in a Nurse Joy outfit I’d borrowed from my mother’s closet once for a school play. Obviously, I’d never gotten around to actually returning the outfit. I mean, the white skirt was adorable and fit me perfectly. Who wouldn’t keep it?
The top was a little big, but it was suitable for this purpose. If anyone asked about my hair, I’d just say I was in too much of a hurry to tie it up in the traditional hair loops.
Unsurprisingly, the door was locked so I walked down the stairs, made my way through the crowd of trainers to where I could slide behind the counter and push through the double doors that led to the operating rooms.
I passed several bustling nurses and Chanceys, none of who questioned me.
In order to find a computer to look up what room Anita was in, I had to go to the checkup rooms on the second floor—I didn’t have access to any of the operating rooms. After taking the elevator up a floor, I was dismayed to find the first three rooms I encountered locked. Heading towards the fourth room on my left, I glanced down the hall and saw a general use computer against the wall at the end of the hallway.
As I approached the computer, I heard murmuring from an open doorway. “Sticky, you’ve got to trust me on this.” I peeked through the doorway as I passed and saw the blonde woman who had helped us at the counter. She was speaking to Liam’s Ditto, a pink puddle on the floor.
I didn’t dare stop walking, but I heard Sticky reply, “Very difficult. Very hard to bel-ieve.”
I wondered if there was some kind of new healing method the woman wanted to try on Sticky. Then I wondered how Liam would react if something went wrong and Sticky ended up seriously injured. He obviously didn’t like his own Pokemon, nor had he ever shown signs of particularly caring about anyone else’s.
But this was Liam—he tried to pretend he didn’t care about anything. Who knew if he actually cared?
I reached the computer. Luckily no password was required to gain access. I found a file called “Patient Listing” under the recently accessed folder and quickly found Apple and Anita’s room to be room number sixty-four. I closed the program, turned around, and froze.
Walking towards me was the older teenager I’d seen Liam scrambling away from. I relaxed my legs, forcing them to move with confidence, as if I really was a nurse at this Pokemon Center. The guy stopped at the door of the room Sticky was in.
“So whose Pokemon’s keeping you late at work, away from me?” the guy asked, leaning against the doorframe. He had lovely golden eyes and—don’t laugh at me—the best shaped nose I’d ever seen—not too narrow and with the right amount of roundness at the tip.
Ugh, too bad he was taken. That blonde woman was so lucky.
I walked past the door as the blonde woman answered, “Liam Mendol’s Ditto.”
“Mendol’s here? In Artemis Town?” I slowed my pace, my interest piqued. What did he have to do with Liam? Would it be suspicious if I stopped walking in the middle of the hall? What if they caught me eavesdropping? I wondered how much trouble I’d get in if I were caught impersonating a nurse.
“Shh, Dustin, there’s no need to yell. Some patients are sleeping. And how do you know Liam Mendol?” I heard the woman say. I watched the doorway from over my shoulder.
“He’s who we’ve been looking for. Well, who the others have been looking for anyway. You know my view on the situation.” Dustin stepped out of the doorway into the hall, with his hands on his head. I wasn’t sure if he was looking at me, but I quickened my pace, reached the elevator, and pressed the up button. Calm down, Erin, I thought, trying to ignore my erratic heart. He doesn’t know I’m not a nurse. He doesn’t know—
I heard his footsteps approaching and pressed the elevator button again. I had to force my eyes from darting back to check how close pretty-guy-what’s-his-name—Dustin—was.
“Hey.” There was a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and found myself looking at the guy’s Adam’s apple. “I think you dropped this.” He placed a pen in my hand. I could’ve laughed in relief. I looked up, meeting his amused gaze.
He frowned. “Aren’t you a little young to be a nurse?”
The elevator dinged and the doors opened. Thank god. I stepped backwards. “Yup, I’m super young for a nurse, skipped four grades, graduated early, I’m super smart—I can do a crossword puzzles in four minutes and sudokus in three, oops, sorry, but I gotta go check up on a patient—we’ll talk again soon, I’m sure, thanks for the pen, bye-bye now.”
The elevator doors closed.
I let out a breath and pressed the six button, muttering curses under my breath. I always had trouble acting in front of cute guys.
And how did he know Liam? Hmm, maybe I would dig into this a bit more—for research’s sake, of course. I grinned.
When I reached the sixth floor, I found Apple’s room easily enough. I twisted the silver door handle.
For a split second, I saw through the door opening a beautiful floating glass ball. The glass moved fluidly, folding upwards so that the ball stretched, like a moving mosaic. Only a moment, did I see the reflections of wild colors through the glass, spattered across the walls and Anita’s face—
And then the glass fell, shattering into even smaller pieces across the floor. Anita looked at me, the glow in her eyes fading. Next to Anita, curled on a small bed atop a bundle of blankets, Apple slept. She looked much healthier than when I’d seen her though Anita’s PokeTech.
I waved my hand and mouthed, “Come on, dinner.”
Anita held up a finger. Her eyes glowed again, and the glass dust on the floor moved as if it was a wave in the ocean, washing up against wall. Then, the pieces shot off into the far corner of the room. Anita tucked Apple under a blanket before getting up to follow me.
As Anita closed the door from outside the room, she said, “Visiting hours are over.”
I gestured to my clothing. “Thus, this outfit. Come on, Jake and Liam are waiting for us at some restaurant.”
Anita hesitated. “But Apple—”
“Is asleep. She’s fine. Plus, you’d have to leave anyway in an hour.”
Anita nodded. “Hold on a sec.” She pulled out a PokeBall and released Fiery. She gave Fiery a stern look, and after a moment, reopened the door to Apple’s room. The Flareon marched in the room, his eyes narrowed in on Apple. Even though Apple appeared to be sleeping, I swear I saw just the barest hint of a smile on her face as Anita closed the door.
“So are you finally getting the hang of your powers?” I asked, walking to the elevator and pressing the down button.
“Kind of. I can’t figure out how I moved big things when I was upset, like with Sparky. Little things though—glass bits, dust, whatever—I can get them to stick in barriers I’ve made, and I’ve gotten really good at bending barriers.” The elevator doors opened. Anita glanced at me. “Hey, don’t tell Liam, okay? I want to master it and then surprise him in one of our training sessions.”
“Ooh, let me know when that’s going to happen. I definitely want to see his face.” I widened my eyes and put my hand up to my mouth. “He’ll probably look like this.”
“Nah.” Anita scrunched her nose and opened her mouth wide. “He’ll look like this.”
We giggled as the elevator doors closed, making faces at each other all through the elevator ride. Needless to say, when the elevator doors opened on the ground floor, half a dozen nurses screamed at our bizarre expressions.
Anita and I decided that face-making would become a tradition on all of our future elevator rides.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Professor Blubber, wait! I can fix it! Professor!”
I continued down the path at a steady pace, attempting to keep my breathing steady. A difficult feat for an angry, overweight man trying to out-walk an idiot research—I mean ex-idiot research assistant. I patted my stomach lightly. Maybe I should consider lying off the cheese for a few months.
“Professor!” Ronny, the idiot assistant, caught up to me, his brown mop of hair bobbing up and down as he slowed his jog.
“Ronny, I told you, you’re fired.”
“You shorted out the electric generator that supplies energy to maintain the proper climate in both Eevee habitats. What do you want me to do?”
“It was an accident!”
“The generator’s circuit board is covered in ketchup and PokeBlocks, Ronny,” I said exasperatedly. Oh, how I missed Erin. She would have never gone near the generator, much less pour food in it.
“The Eevees like their PokeBlocks in ketchup. And it’s not my fault the generator box looks just like the door—”
“Ronny, go back to the lab, pack up your stuff, and leave. You can find another Professor to work for, become a trainer, join the circus—whatever—but you will not be working for me any longer.” I’d have to find another young kid interested in research to help me out—the cute middle school teacher, Ilene, could help me pick out potentials. Anyone was better than this boy.
Ronny stopped running, looking dejected. I didn’t break stride to turn around and see if he was heading back to the lab; I just continued toward the Cape Caution gym, careful not to look directly at the sun glare off the gym’s roof.
I was in luck: Sparky Storm was battling some kid in front of the gym. I wouldn’t have to pick my way through his gym’s halls, trying not to get killed by trap doors, frenzied robots, or whatever other booby traps Sparky had set up.
“Come on, Rotom! I know an Eevee that learned shadow ball faster than you,” the kid yelled. Sparky’s Jolteon was toying with the kid’s Rotom, shooting off thundershocks just behind the it, and scaring the poor ghost Pokemon into motion.
Sparky spotted me climbing up the hill to his gym and immediately came to meet me, leaving his Jolteon to battle the Rotom unaided. He somehow walked faster than I’d ever seen a man of his age walk; I wondered what his secret was to keeping so fit.
“Professor Blubber, what can I do for you?” he asked, reaching a wrinkled hand out to shake my own. I took it warily, watching a spark dance up his sleeve, disappearing beneath his collar. Sparky was a strange old man—I hadn’t been pleased to hear he was to be the new gym leader three years ago. Sparky was showy—always was doing magic tricks for crowds, eager to please. He pulled pranks on those who didn’t immediately take a liking to him; I’d once returned to the lab to find my kitchen entirely coated in a thick layer of my homemade cheese.
We didn’t share the same sense of humor.
I’ve never figured out how he managed to cover my entire kitchen with cheese, nor how he makes sparks flutter across his clothing.
However, despite my initial doubts, Sparky has proven over the years to be an effective leader, acting extremely professional when it comes to matters within the city.
I said, “There was an accident in the lab, and now one of my electric generators is broken beyond repair. I need a temporary power source until I get a new one.”
Sparky turned around and called over his shoulder, “Hey, Sparkles, you hear that? Stop battling the lad, go back to the lab with Professor Blubber to supply power, and I’ll catch up with you soon.” The Jolteon nodded and in an instant was by my side. Sparky turned back to me. “Sparkles will be able to supply electricity while I build you a new generator.”
I shook my head. “That’s completely unnecessary. I can buy—”
“Why buy an overpriced generator when your neighbor will build you one for free, eh?” Sparky elbowed me and winked. “I’ve been looking to teach my son a thing or two about circuits anyway. Oh, you haven’t met my adopted son yet, have you?” Sparky gestured over his shoulder to the blonde boy he’d been battling. “The lad likes ghost Pokemon so I bought him a Rotom as a welcome present—perfect blend of ghost and electricity, right?”
I looked past Sparky’s shoulder at the boy. He was scowling at his Rotom, a finger pointed at the Jolteon by my side. Huh, he looked eerily similar to…
Wait. No, it couldn’t be. How…?
“That boy,” I said uncertainly. I took a few steps forward, squinting.
“Mel,” Sparky supplied.
The boy looked directly at me. There was no doubt about it. “He’s the one who disappeared years ago. His father—everyone—we thought he was dead. That’s Professor Seth Robert Hasting’s son.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I lay flat on my bed, psychically churning the dust behind Erin’s unshrunken wardrobe. My hair was wet from a shower and my belly full from the delicious pizza place we’d eaten at. Because Liam was just across the room, reading something off of his PokeTech on his bed, I kept my eyes closed to hide their glow.
Psychically bending barriers feels something like attempting to stretch a taut muscle. When I create a barrier, I rapidly shove psychic energy to a focused area—it’s like tensing an arm or leg. To stretch a muscle, I have to relax. Same goes for bending barriers—the more relaxed my mind is, the easier it is to change the barrier’s shape.
While practicing with Apple, she had explained that telekinesis was simply tightly wrapping a barrier around an object and then manipulating the barrier in any way the psychic wished. Levitation, for instance.
According to Apple, I’d had little trouble imagining the right shape and size of barriers because I was a very visual person. I struggled, however, in providing power to the objects I was trying to move telekinetically.
<Where do my powers come from?> I’d asked her.
<You were born with them.> Apple licked her paw.
<That’s not what I mean. I mean where is it—inside me? Do I convert the food I eat into psychic energy or something?>
<I know what you mean, and the only theories I’ve heard are complicated, hard to explain, and probably wrong.>
<How can I get to the power if I don’t even know where it’s coming from?> I’d asked Apple.
Apple rolled her eyes. <At this very moment, you’re psychically communicating with me. Do you know where the power to do that is coming from? Just remember what it was like when you used telekinesis in the past, and you’ll get it eventually.>
<Does the power come from emotion?>
<No. Emotion is one of several keys that allows access to your psychic abilities, though.>
So I’d tried lifting a pencil psychically. It snapped in half. I’d tried moving a chair. Nothing happened. I’d tried pushing Apple. She yelled at me.
Finally, I’d reverted to practicing my manipulation of normal barriers. To both my and Apple’s surprise, a few of the broken glass light bulb bits on the floor had moved with my barrier. Apple said that the pieces were too small to break under the pressure I was exerting and thus when my barrier was formed, it simply surrounded the pieces.
After a few hours of practice, I could easily manipulate a mass of small particles, but when I’d tried to use this technique on Apple’s food dish, the dish was sliced in half.
I let the dust settle beneath Erin’s wardrobe. If I could slice a dish in half, I could probably slice other things in half. That scared me a little. More than a little. I mean, with that kind of power, I could kill someone—slice right through a person’s lungs, heart, or brain. I hadn’t talked with Apple about it, but I needed to. What if I lost control and…
No more thoughts like that, I willed. I focused on relaxing my body, starting with my toes. Apple’d recommended practicing relaxing both my mind and body as a psychic exercise.
The bathroom door opened, and Erin exited surrounded by steam, her hair wrapped in a towel. She was wearing her pink fluffy pajamas. “Your turn, Liam,” she said.
Liam grunted in response, got up from his bed, and went into the bathroom. I watched the door. He hadn’t even removed his PokeBalls or the syringe Styx had told me was the Forced Transformation Device from his belt before entering the bathroom. Tonight, I’d have to keep on guard to make sure Liam didn’t leave the room. He couldn’t get to Apple. I’d stay up all night if I had to.
There was a knock on the door. Already closest to the door, Erin swung it open.
It really could only be one person.
“Hello, ladies,” Jake said, casually leaning an arm up against the doorframe.
“Go to bed, Jake,” Erin said.
“I take it back. Go to hell, Jake.”
“I just need to have a quick word with Anita.”
I reluctantly sat up, careful to duck slightly to avoid hitting my head on the top bunk. I’d already done that twice today. “What do you want?”
“So tomorrow, we’re going to the gym, right?”
“I’m going to the gym,” I said.
“Well, I thought we should be partners. I’m an awesome trainer and you’re decent enough to not get in my way so we’ll beat the gym for sure.”
“The Artemis Town gym is run by twins, and they require trainers to challenge the gym in pairs.”
“I’m with Erin. Go to hell, Jake.”
“I’ll give you tonight to think about it.” He closed the door.
I turned to Erin. “Let’s not wake him up tomorrow.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
In nothing but a pair of boxers, I turned the shower’s hot water on and crouched on the bathroom floor between the toilet and the shower. It was unfortunate that I’d had to stoop to such measures, but the shower ensured that nobody would overhear my conversation. I plucked the walkie-talkie from my belt and pressed the call button.
“Rita Teal, you have just officially inherited the position of temporary Master.”
“I saw on the news, sir.”
“Let Jamie Arkle’s arrest be a warning to you, Rita. Do not forget who I am. Do not forget my connections. Do not forget my power. I am Team Glop’emm’s Master, and you will follow my orders.”
“That aside, Rita, I have the utmost respect for your abilities and confidence in your leadership. The FTD is outstanding.”
“Th—thank you. Have you found…?”
“I’m close.” I paused a moment, considering the rare intuitive nagging at the back of my mind. Not often did I have a so-called “gut” feeling. Some scientists supposed these feelings were reflections of connections made in the subconscious mind, which had not quite blossomed into conscious thoughts. I supposed it couldn’t hurt. “Professor Teal, what do you know about Professor Seth Hastings, the author of a poetry book entitled Mysteries of Nature?”
“He’s the crazy one who lives in Winsk City, right?”
“That’s all I know about him.”
“Look into it,” I said.
“Master?” Rita hesitated. “Sticky, is she…? If you don’t need her any more…”
“She will be sent back tomorrow.”
“Master out.” I hung up and tucked the walkie back into my belt. I hoped to find Rita Teal more trustworthy than Jamie Arkle. She lacked the ideal ambition necessary for long-term leadership, but she would do for the short period of time I expected necessary to capture Mew before I returned to the position of Master. It was a pity Jamie had betrayed me—a waste.
I showered quickly. By the time I slipped under the covers, Erin was snoring and Anita lying above her covers very still. Perhaps too still for her to be asleep. I listened to her breathing carefully; it was uneven. So not asleep yet.
I’d waited a long time to test the FTD on Anita. I could wait a few more hours.
It was an hour and forty-two minutes before Anita’s breathing evened out. By that time the moon was high in the sky, illuminating the bits of silver fibers woven into our room’s carpet. A thrill trickled down my spine as I stepped out of my bed into the moonlight. I took a moment to bask, enjoy the warmth building up in my stomach and chest that always accompanied moonlight.
I picked up the Forced Transformation Device from my nightstand and approached Anita silently.
Asleep, Anita was bundled in a large wad of blankets, her hands and face sticking out like limbs of a turtle. As I’ve noted before, she didn’t much resemble a powerful being that could destroy lives in an instant.
But as I’ve learned time and time again, danger often lurks where unexpected.
In one hand I held a twined PokeBall Rita had designed long ago—the day I’d found out my father had gone after Mew with a hand-made dark net. A twined PokeBall would be much more efficient and left significantly less room for error than the net.
In my other hand, I held the fake syringe. In a few instants, I’d know, and I might, just might… I touched the cool, metal tip of the syringe to the skin of Anita’s face up palm. There was a spark and—
Anita opened her eyes. Purple eyes. The color mocked me, laughing at my failure. I’d never hated a color so much.
Anita Parkwood was not Mew.
I swiveled around and left the room. The door slammed behind me.
This was unlike me.
I should’ve been planning my next move—not running up flights of stairs like a child throwing a temper tantrum. Yet, I continued to run until I reached the Pokemon Center’s flat rooftop. Then I swung my legs up onto the ledge and sat facing the sea with my legs dangling, allowing the moon to calm me.
So what, Anita was not Mew.
The breeze cooled my skin and slowly, my heart slowed to a steady beat. I looked at my bare feet; I hadn’t even bothered to put on a pair of shoes. The bottoms of my feet stung from the roof’s uneven surface.
Who was I kidding? I was angry and disappointed. I’d thought… No, I’d hoped Anita was Mew. The evidence wasn’t substantial enough for me to not take other possibilities into consideration, and yet I’d become so focused, narrow-minded, obsessed—
Perhaps after so many years of searching without a lead, I’d jumped at the first clue. My conclusions were hasty.
And maybe, just maybe, I wanted this tireless search to be over. I felt guilty for thinking it—Landon, my mother, my aunt, Lily’s parents—they all deserved revenge, and all of mankind needed to be protected against these dangerous legendaries. Ridding the world of Mew would make for a safer world.
But it was a long journey. A journey I wasn’t sure I wanted to be life-long.
If Anita was Mew, the journey would’ve been complete, ended, over, and I would’ve found out whether capturing and destroying Mew gave me the satisfaction I’d yearned since Landon’s funeral. Whether destroying legendary Pokemon was worth devoting my life to.
I knew couldn’t bring my cousin back, but this was the least I could do for his unlived life. And if I didn’t hunt down legendaries, who would?
Anita wasn’t Mew.
Fine. That left Apple and the rest of Anita’s Eevee’s to be tested. If it wasn’t any of them…
I supposed I’d be traveling back to Drape Town, resuming my role as Master until another lead was found. Strangely, I found the thought slightly disheartening.
I heard the door to the roof creak open. Soft, careful footsteps on the concrete roof approached me. Anita, dressed in the large Pokemon League t-shirt she’d worn to bed, running shorts, and tennis shoes, hung her legs over the roof’s edge and slid next to me.
We sat in silence for a moment. I watched the moon. She watched me.
“We need to talk.”
Perhaps Jamie had been right and it would’ve been more effective to take Anita in for questioning. I still could, I thought. I could torture her right here, on the roof, or drag her back to Drape Town.
“I know you’re looking for Mew,” she said calmly.
My eyes snapped to hers. She just… What game was she playing at? “The very fact that you’ve revealed this to me illustrates that you are indeed somehow linked to Mew,” I said, keeping the disbelief I felt out of my voice.
“I know.” I watched her carefully as her wide eyes searched mine. Then her gaze shifted past me, to the distant Mint Mountain. “I want to know why, and don’t give me that business crap. Now you know that it is very much my business.”
Below in Artemis Town, it was very quiet. There were very few people about—a homeless man sleeping on a park bench, a woman in nice clothes clicking her heels down the street, and a couple of teenagers covering the backside of the PokeMarket with graffiti. Noctowls hooted in the trees.
I decided it would be unbeneficial to reveal exactly what my intensions were regarding Mew so I stayed silent.
“Do you want to be the best trainer or something? But you don’t even like your own Pokemon.”
Again, I said nothing.
Anita kicked a leg in the air and the heel of her shoe bounce against the brick wall we sat atop. “Ugh, you are the most frustrating person I’ve ever met.”
“What gave it away?” I asked.
“I know what that syringe thing on your belt does. That untransformer.”
She didn’t answer. Perhaps she’d read Sticky’s mind. I should’ve foreseen the consequences of testing the Forced Transformation Device on Sticky.
“Is one of your Pokemon Mew?” I asked.
“First of all, it’s unfair of you to expect me to answer questions when you won’t answer mine.” Anita closed her eyes and slid her hands down the ledge, closer to her body. “Second of all, no matter how I answer, you’ll suspect them.”
“Quite a dilemma,” I said tonelessly.
For a long five minutes, we sat in silence. When I finally turned my head to glare at her, the corner of her mouth quirked upwards. “No,” she said, mimicking the lack of emotion in my voice. “Not one of my Pokemon is Mew.”
“Are you mocking me?”
“No,” she said in the same voice.
“This isn’t a game for me, you know,” I said.
The grin slipped away from Anita’s face. “I wish it were.” She swung her legs back onto the rooftop. “Come on, let’s go to bed. Will you wake up early for a training session? I want to get one in before the battle with Dustin.”
If she could be blasé about the whole situation, then so could I. I raised an eyebrow.
“What? I don’t mind training—it’s helped me in battles and stuff.”
I continued to watch her, smirking.
“Enough of that!” Anita grabbed my hand and tugged. “Off to bed—” She suddenly dropped my hand. “Oh, is that what that look was all about?”
I blinked innocently.
“I leave you with Jake for two days and this is what happens,” Anita muttered, walking away from me toward the rooftop exit.
I followed her, so many thoughts in my mind, they jumbled around incoherently. I decided just for this night, I wouldn’t think.
I fell asleep with the moonlight beaming through the window, softly brushing my face.