|Open Chat in External Client|
|Chatroom Information and Help|
|Fan Fiction and Writing Submit your stories and poems.|
No, Grand Lake is just like a normal hotel. The houses that Michael saw when he was looking down the valley were actual houses. They're owned by rich people who use them as summer homes and boast that they have a lakeside view.
The thing that makes Pastoria different is that its rich are richer than the rich in most other cities, so the rich uptown is more lavish and pompously designed. Maybe it was always like that, or maybe they all just flocked together there over time. I'll leave it up to you to decide.
And yes, hooray for new cities!
Thanks for the review!
I guess it's high time this chapter passed from my scrutinous gaze to yours. xP
(*Is glad that character limit is not a problem here 8D*)
Hope you like it!
By next morning, the sheet of storm clouds that hung over Pastoria City had cleared, bathing the steel-clad urban center in sunlight.
Down below, beneath the towering buildings, the roads were abuzz with chatter and wails of fleeting cars. The usual morning crowds moved like rivers down the sidewalks, filling the streets with flocks of moving color. That day, there was an unusual concentration of people near the center of town, all of whom seemed to be held up in their travels, crowded on walkways or backed-up on slow-moving roads. A major avenue had been closed off from public access, initiating the jam, forcing commuters to reroute along a complicated network of detours. Nevertheless, the crowd of pedestrians seemed unwilling to stir from the vicinity, their motions hushed, their rapid voices exchanging tones of interest and awe. For, just a short while earlier, the city had paid host to some unexpected visitors, word of whom was hot upon the cool morning wind.
A few hours past dawn, a procession of black cars had departed from the airport and began to snake through the main roads of the city, stirring up a tide of curious gazes in its wake. The cars were all sleek and identical, their windows specially darkened so that no one could see who was inside. As if by instinct, the Pastorians parted rank for them, gliding their vehicles to the side of the roadways to let the newcomers pass. Wherever the black line went, the stares of the people followed, some who went as far as to stop and watch as the cars cruised by—all sleek bumpers and stainless frames that shone with a pristine gleam, like spaceships that had descended from an alien planet. Gradually, they were joined by several police cars who flanked them on either end, throwing up a barrier of silent flashing lights.
In this fashion, the cars proceeded through the city, remaining the center of attention for a whole ten minutes. In that time, teams of workers set up signs and traffic cones, clearing all the roadways that the procession would cross. The Pastorians all watched from a distance, hanging in curious silence, before the cars made an abrupt turn and vanished down an obscure road of trees.
By then, the whole city was talking.
Over by the suburbs, which were immersed in relative quiet, the news hadn’t yet broken. With the city-wide networks still stirring themselves awake, the story of the mysterious black cars was still confined to the spoken word. Nevertheless, there was a certain energy in the air, which though some inexplicable means had permeated the entire city, giving the summer day a curious thrill.
Upon waking that morning in his hotel room, Michael was briefly disoriented by his new surroundings. Everything was polished clean, wiped of all traces of previous inhabitants, leaving minimalistic decorations and empty cabinets. Though the layout of the hotels didn’t change much from town to town, the rooms varied slightly to match each town’s individual theme. The Pastoria hotel was dominated by green and wood, with elegantly-carved bookshelves and gently swaying curtains. The light that sifted through the windows was bright and soft, bringing a shine to the walls.
That previous evening, he and Henry had scattered their things without much thought, leaving their half-emptied backpacks slumped together by the beds. The hotel had admitted them without delay, and had even given Bertha the room next to theirs when they found out that she was a fellow Gym leader. After throwing off their unneeded weight, the three of them had proceeded immediately to get dinner, for they were too hungry and too tired to think about anything else.
Unlike its predecessors, the Pastoria Trainer hotel was not cramped in the middle of a busy street. Rather, as their chauffeur from the previous day had promised, it was located on a plot of land all to itself—along with the Gym, a Pokémon Center, and a PokéMart, which together provided all the necessities of a trainer’s existence. The four buildings were spaced apart in a large arc, fenced by lampposts and paved with sidewalks, forming a scenic courtyard that resembled a city square. Trainers strolled about in their colorful attire, in groups with their friends and pokémon, sporting varying degrees of League spirit and gadgetry. Many wild pokémon had made their homes here as well, like the Shinx who scurried between flowering bushes, or the Starlies whose heads poked out of nearby trees. Apart from the four main League buildings, there were other, smaller huts positioned in between, serving various purposes from snack bars to trading houses, and even conventional souvenir shops. Much like on the Valor Lakefront, the buildings all had similar color schemes that matched the surrounding environment—dark, wood-patterned walls, and gray roofs.
When Michael had arrived at the plaza the previous evening, he had made little out of the shadows that stood beyond their little island of light, which in itself had been difficult to absorb at first. But upon stepping outside that morning, he saw that they were surrounded by nature on all sides, which provided a startlingly empty backdrop that was breathtaking in its beauty. Beyond the border of the buildings, the paved square terminated for what looked like miles of grassy land, which rolled out in large, blunt hills towards a horizon of forest. Huts and picnic tables dotted the vicinity, where Michael could see trainers congregating, playing and battling like kids at recess hour. To the west was the main road, which snaked like a lone river all the way to the city, splitting off here and there for a smaller bus route. Even from here, Michael could make out the buildings that stood in the city center, which loomed like pillars in the distant haze.
But what was clearly the plaza’s focal point of interest, and also the most uniquely designed of its neighbors, was the Gym. It consisted of a main office building, behind which stood a large complex of battle rooms, whose roofs were conjoined in a pattern that reminded Michael of choppy waves. There were several other buildings that were fenced within the property, which from bits of conversation the previous day, Michael gathered had survived from the Gym’s days as a public battling house. Now, they had been converted to other purposes, ranging from healing rooms to multifunctional studios, which were often rented out to local clubs or gatherings. As he soon discovered, the Gym was visited even by average city-dwellers, to whom it was an integral part of Pastorian life, and evidently a hotspot for news and activities.
The lobby of the Gym consisted of a reception desk, and a side lounge where trainers sat and socialized. There was a game area, where people played pool and cards, as well as a bookshelf, and a rack for newspapers and magazines on various subjects. A large bulletin board dominated the wall, tacked several times over with clippings of all sorts, many pertaining to local topics and events. Staff members roamed freely about the lobby, occupied by miscellaneous errands, and used the counter only as a home base for stapling papers or making phone calls.
All in all, it resembled more of a community center than a Gym, and looking around, Michael saw none of the ads or commercial gadgetry that cluttered most other League establishments. On the rare occasion that he did see some sort of reference to the League, it somehow blended so well with the background that it was almost nonchalant—seeming just like a part of everyday business.
Bertha’s eyes searched the room for a face that didn’t look busy, and finally she approached a tall, red-haired woman who had stopped by the front desk to grab a box of paper clips. Bertha introduced herself, and after a brief conversation, the staff lady welcomed them all, and led them through the lounge to a back door. She opened it to reveal a small room with typewriters and file cabinets, where she introduced them to the woman who was standing inside, busily removing paper from a mimeograph copying machine.
Marie Wickham looked just as she did in her picture. The same smile was there, along with the smooth, daintily cared-for curls that formed a soft gray halo around her head. She was one of those middle-aged ladies who, rather than spending their time trying to look young, embraced her years with feminine flair, and displayed a classy, snappy character that could only be possessed by someone of her experience. She dressed in calm, simple hues, though she often liked to add something extra to give her outfit an unexpected turn. Today, it took the form of a large jeweled clip, resembling a blue flower, which gleamed like a shock of water against her plain blazer.
Upon their first meeting, Michael immediately caught on to her second peculiarity, for before Bertha could do so much as make a sound, Marie was already shaking her hand.
“No need to explain anything to me!” she said. “I’ve heard it all from Jerry Bradford! Fine fellow, that he is, always knows everything about everyone. I bet he has dossiers on all of us in those cabinets of his, what with all the connections he has… And you! I’ve waited months to meet you! Who would’ve thought, the Gym leader of Eterna Town suddenly rises up and manages to do something that the rest of us have been thinking about doing for years? Well, some of us at least. Can’t say I’ve heard too much from the folks in Canalave or Sunyshore. I know Harvey’s still doing his thing in Canalave, but I don’t know about the new guy they brought over to the electric Gym. Apparently he came in last year—well, who knew?” Marie gave a shrug. “Shame how slowly word spreads. I bet if they put all eight of us in a room together, we wouldn’t even recognize each other. Harvey I know. Mr. Bradford—well, he knows everyone, so naturally we’ve talked! I know Miss Walker, and I’ve met her mother. But beyond that, it’s just names and locations. Why, I didn’t even know the Gym leader of Eterna—and now I see a beautiful young lady standing in front of me! By the way, I’m terribly sorry about what happened. Why if it were my town those Galactics tried to invade, I’d march right in and burn that factory down myself! Forget finding a diplomatic solution; I’d be angry! But did you let that stop you? No—you moved forward! You took the incentive for all of us! I’m proud!” She clapped her hands together. Bertha, who had been poised for a professional discussion only moments ago, was left with a sheepish smile.
Marie quickly stepped away from the mimeograph and handed the attendant a stack of pink fliers that she had just finished printing. “Lace, I need you to hang some of these around the place; just a few around the battle and healing rooms will do. The rest we’ll save for the PokeMart and the hotel.”
The woman nodded and swiftly departed on her assignment. Marie quickly finished up what she had been doing before, taking several folders from a table and clutching them in her arm. Then, she turned back to Bertha. “We’re starting a two-week promotion for the Great Marsh,” she said. “This June is our Gym’s 100th anniversary, and I decided it would be nice to give the kids an incentive to do something educational. Just a little discount, you know, nothing major. But how about that? A hundred years. It just blows your mind, doesn’t it?”
Bertha nodded. “It does.”
Marie gave a chuckle. “Of course, I wasn’t the only leader here for those hundred years, but I think it’s safe to say I’ve been here long enough to know what’s going on. I was born and raised right here in the city, and I finished the Sunyshore Biotechnical Academy in 1939. I was an avid trainer back then—I went to those battle houses and conventions at every chance I got—but I never thought about turning it into a serious career until years later. League reformed in, what was it, ‘52? By then, I had become one of the regulars at the Pastoria Battling Club, so when they announced that they were looking for a single leader to head the new Gym, I applied.” She smiled. “If you had seen the state of it in those last years, you would’ve been appalled. Building was practically in ruins. Hardly anyone came anymore, so its leaders saw no need to renovate it. The ones who did come just used the place to their own benefit, not cleaning up or taking care of it. The government saved it, literally, from collapse. They brought in their own people, did their money-magic… and it was like heaven reborn. But at the same time, I won’t deny that they introduced their own, shall we say, diseases.” At this last word, she perked an eyebrow matter-of-factly, and Bertha nodded in understanding. Right then, Marie seemed to notice the boys who were standing behind Bertha’s shoulder, and tilted her head over to look at them. “Ah, I see you’ve brought me some fresh talent for molding. Splendid! I’m afraid I don’t take bribes, but I appreciate the offer. Heh!” She smiled at the joke, and stepped over to the boys. “What are your names?”
Marie beamed. “Splendid! You’ll be my special trainers, then. I’m not going to give you that whole League speech, as I’m sure you’ve had it drilled into your heads hundreds of times before. I’ll just cut to the chase. You want a battle? You’ll get it! But first I want to make sure you prepare. What I do is I have all my trainers battle one of my staff first, then come back whenever they feel they’re ready, and battle me. If you win, you get the badge. If not, you can try again. Deal?”
The boys nodded.
“Great! Now, you’re encouraged to battle on your own as much as possible. We have free battle rooms at the Gym where you can practice with anyone you’d like—excluding me, of course. I don’t know about the battle rooms at those hotels, though. They keep changing their policies. Some of them are for pay, others no; it’s a mess. The League just can’t make up its mind, can it? Why if I were a trainer now, instead of a hundred years ago, I’d love for my Gym to provide me with free battle room. But for some reason, people today think that just because something’s for pay, it’s automatically better than what’s for free. I don’t get it.” She shook her head. “Now. You boys can pop by for your preliminary battles tomorrow. There’s no sign-up involved—just come up to the front desk, give them your trainers cards, and they’ll pair you up with someone. After that, you stay as long as you have to! If it takes you a week to prepare for me, so be it. If it takes you a day, that’s fine too. But by now, I hope you know what works for you and what doesn’t. The Gym before mine should’ve given you plenty of an idea of how the last four leaders do business. We don’t kid around.” She winked. Michael and Henry nodded in response, and Marie turned to look at Bertha.
“Now! You must have come here to get my signature. Consider it yours! I’ll get a letter typed up right away. But just for informational purposes, I’d like to read over your document. That we can do right now, since I see you’ve done a wonderful job of coming prepared. And if there’s ever anything else you need, you can drop by my office whenever’s convenient for you. Nine times out of ten, I’ll be there. I know it isn’t the most comfortable feeling to face a closed door, but don’t worry, I don’t bite! I get lots of people, especially younger trainers, poking their heads in with those giant eyes, like they’re scared to death, and I tell them every time—there’s no need! Barge right on in! The worst thing that’ll happen is that I won’t be in and then you’ll have to come back later.”
Bertha nodded. “That’s wonderful. I have everything we need right here.” She tapped her briefcase.
“Good,” said Marie. “Now if you’ll just wait a bit, I’ll get some tea for us and we can begin…” She stepped through the doorway towards the lounge. Bertha and the boys followed her as she turned into a small snack area, complete with tables and a half-emptied buffet. Marie went to a small kitchen in the back and a minute later, came out with a tray and two hot cups of tea.
“You boys can run along; this may take a while,” Marie said to Michael and Henry. “Unless, of course, you’d rather listen to two Gym leaders exchange League jargon for two hours, in which case you’re more than welcome to stay!” She chuckled.
Before Henry had the chance to respond, Michael took a step towards the door. “Actually, we’ll be going,” he said. “We have lots of practicing to do.”
“All right then. See you soon!” Marie smiled, and walked off. Bertha went after her, and gave the boys a quick glance before she departed.
“I’ll see you two back at the hotel, okay? Stick together!”
Henry nodded. “Right."
With that, Bertha turned away, and the two women disappeared into the lounge. Michael and Henry wandered around the main building for a bit, checking out its various rooms, then gradually their interests spilled out onto the square, where they spent the rest of the morning exploring its various attractions. Michael kept careful tabs on the time throughout, allowing only one thought to dominate his mind: when he would get himself over to the Great Marsh, and how. But the answer was slow in the coming, and every hour that tolled on the plaza’s outdoor clock reminded him of the fast-approaching meeting.
After a quick lunch, they visited the souvenir shop, where Henry busied himself with the section of trainer gear, and Michael, still unsure of where to begin his search, plucked a handful of maps from a rack beside the wall.
He unrolled a full map of Pastoria City, and found—to his dismay—that it was enormous. There was the downtown, which formed the largest part of the city, consisting of an intricate network of roads and subway routes that wound through and about each other like veins. The Great Marsh was a dark green splotch located along the upper border of the town, its tendrils reaching as far as the suburbs. The public entrance was marked a little ways into the downtown, where from a tiny red dot Michael deduced that there was a subway station close by, probably specialized for quick access from the city.
Easy, he thought. All I have to do is get to the nearest subway station and go from there.
His finger traced the rail pathways, which snaked and split in every possible direction, often meeting at large points of activity, such as the station by the city center. Smaller stations were colored white, dotting the map’s face like freckles. Finally, his eyes locked on the ones that appeared closest to the Gym. It was placed at the tip of a branch that extended all the way out from the downtown, like a lone strand that had broken free of the web. The station was located beside a suburban shopping center, which was only a few miles away.
Being a Jubilive native, Michael was fully prepared to walk the distance, but he stopped himself when he realized how strange it would look if he, a lone hitchhiker who was supposed to have everything he needed right here, suddenly set off down the road in a wayward direction. He would have to find a bus.
A sudden voice tore him out of his concentration. Michael turned, and saw Henry approach him with a pokéball belt clipped around his waist.
“Do you think this looks good? I think it’ll make switching pokémon easier.” The boy lifted his arms and turned around in a circle, displaying a series of claw-like latches that protruded like spider’s legs from the metal contraption.
“It looks fine,” Michael said, and returned to his reading. A state of deep thought immediately overcame him, for he realized that he would also have to do everything without Henry noticing. But with Bertha gone, the two of them were essentially left alone for the whole day, which meant that he and Henry would once more have to roam around together, with nothing to rely on but the company of the other. Normally Michael wouldn’t have minded, but now, all of a sudden, the boy’s presence seemed like a cinderblock chained to his ankle. He would need some sort of distraction to keep Henry busy, or at least a cover explanation for his solitary departure.
Michael began to think of excuses, which ranged from simple to bizarre, like stating that it was Bertha’s birthday and going on an impromptu shopping journey to buy her a present. He continued to scan the map in the meantime, and when a moment later his eyes locked on a large marker in the downtown area, and he realized that there could be a much, much simpler way of doing things.
After formulating the outline of his plan, Michael rolled up the map with a smile, and went to find Henry. The boy was standing in front of a full-length mirror and examining the utility belt from various angles. Michael tapped him on the shoulder with the tube of paper.
“If you’re gonna buy it, buy it. I have to go somewhere.”
Henry turned around with a questioning look. “Huh? What do you mean?”
Michael unfurled the map and pointed to the location he had memorized. “See that? That’s the Museum of Pokémon Training. I just found out about it—this city has a whole museum dedicated to the League and Gyms and stuff, and they say it’s the biggest collection in the world.”
Henry’s eyes widened. “Whoa… really? Why didn’t anyone tell us that before? We should go see it!”
Michael nodded. “Yeah, but I’m thinking about Bertha too. I think she needs a day off, honestly. She’s been so busy with her petition lately that she probably forgot how to have fun. I think we should take her to the museum for a day. She’s a Gym leader and everything, so I’m sure she’ll like it. And it would be a lot better for her to go with the both of us than to go alone, right?”
“Right. So, here’s what I’m thinking. We should give her a little surprise. While she’s talking with Marie, I’m gonna take the subway really quick and get us passes to visit tonight.”
Henry frowned. “But what about me?”
“Your job’s important. You’re gonna stay here and cover for me in case she comes back early.”
Henry put his hands on his hips and cast his gaze to the ceiling, as he often did when thinking something over. “I don’t know… Wouldn’t it be better if the both of us went to the museum? What if you get lost?”
Michael let out a laugh. “Cat, you have no idea who you’re talking to. I come from Jubilife. People there take the subway more often than walking. I’ll be fine. Plus, what if Bertha comes back before we do? She’ll get worried, and it’ll take away from the surprise if she’s mad at us. Just hang around here, and when she comes back, tell her that we have a present for her and I’ve gone off to get it. It’ll be two hours, tops.”
Henry let out a slow breath. “Well, if you say so.” He looked down at his belt. “Anyway, I think I’ll buy it. It’ll be a big help later on.”
Michael nodded, already backing away towards the door. “All right, whatever you say. Be back in a bit.” Before Henry could reply, he bolted out of the store.
Michael ran back to the hotel and quickly got himself ready. changing into a more tidy, suitable outfit and emptying his backpack of the clutter it had accumulated during his travels. He kept only his wallet, notebook, and badges. This would be his first rendezvous with a girl in three months, and the fact that he didn’t yet know Shella personally made it all the more important to be presentable. He ran a comb through his hair before leaving, and after taking a single deep breath, stepped out of the hotel room.
With the map in hand, Michael left the Gym plaza and walked down the road till he reached a nearby bus station. He waited there with his backpack resting on his knees, and minutes later, boarded a bus that took him into the throes of downtown.
The city was teeming, enormous. As always, Michael was taken aback by the dynamics of the unfamiliar city, and gazed intently out the window at the buildings that fled by. The bus shook and snorted like a stirring beast, passing from cramped alleyways to sudden, glorious prospects, which seemed to embrace the whole scope of the earth, strewn with people from every possible direction. Every few minutes, they stopped to let new passengers board, who carried shopping bags and books, baskets and briefcases. Every time they made a stop, Michael hastened to grab a seat in front of him, so that he would be as close as possible to the door when he reached his stop.
Finally, the bus screeched to a halt beside a subway station, and Michael stepped out into the bustling crowds. He pushed his way through the doors to the building, and found himself in the midst of the afternoon rush-hour. People carried shopping bags, waving tickets and coins in the air, passing through beeping machines on their way up and down the escalators. Michael purchased several tokens and found his way to his platform, after which he spent the next half hour leaning against the shaky walls of subway trains, staring at lights that flitted through the darkness, working through a seemingly endless web of routes to find his way to the Great Marsh.
After what seemed like hours of coming and going, of passing through one swishing door after another while the intercom blared its voice into his sore ears, Michael’s eyes locked on the sign that he had been looking for—Marshland.
He emerged from the station, and found himself on a relatively empty street, with sparse, low-lying buildings and fewer cars. Beneath the open sky, Michael could see an enormous white structure stand out immediately in front of him, located in a secluded area before a large, grassy courtyard. There was ample space for people to roam, dotted with benches and picnic tables.
Michael crossed the street, feeling his breath quicken as he neared the Marsh complex. Inside, the lobby was tall and spacious. A staircase led to a small observation deck, where people stood before a large window, looking through binoculars to see what was going on on the other side. Michael scanned the lobby several times, and was stricken by a momentary panic, thinking he had been stood up. But no… Searching again, his gaze met with that of a blonde girl’s, who stood by the balcony in a breezy pink dress. Shella’s hair was down again, but this time she had adorned it with a glittering clip that resembled a butterfly. She gave him a smile, then descended down the stairs, turning in his direction.
Michael lifted his hand in return. “Hey.”
Shella looked even more stunning than before. Her dress was frilly and youthful, and toned down their age difference by a slight degree. She wore a white cardigan that complimented her amber eyes, dusted with glitter that shone faintly in the light.
“You look nice,” he complimented.
Shella smiled. “Thanks. You do too.” Her gaze lingered on his for a moment, then trailed over to the counter. “The staff said there was a fee for groups... I can pitch in if you want. Or we could split the cost.”
“I’ll figure it out,” Michael said. He turned to the counter, where he hailed one of the available attendants and leaned over to speak. “Hey. What’s the price for two here?”
The man pointed to a massive chart on the wall behind him. “Thirty per person.”
Michael felt himself pale. “Thirty?”
The man lifted an eyebrow, not without a trace of humor. “We feature an exclusive selection of pokémon that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Their habitat has remained untouched by human hands since the day they were dropped onto the good green Earth. I think thirty is quite a reasonable stopping point.” He gave an apologetic shrug. But right then, he seemed to notice something, and creased his forehead in a frown. “Hang on… Are you a trainer?”
Michael nodded. “Yeah.”
“Oh! My bad. Sorry.” The man shook his head and ducked down behind the counter, coming up moments later with a small laminated card. “We’re currently running a special promotion, in addition to our regular discount for trainers, as a courtesy of Mrs. Wickham for the Gym’s 100th anniversary. So right now our price for you would be ten dollars.”
Michael felt a flood of relief.
“Just give me your trainer card, and I’ll run it through the scanner.”
Elated, Michael began to dig through his backpack. Shella approached as he gave his trainer card to the attendant.
“Is she a trainer too?” the man asked.
Shella smiled. “Nope.”
“Well, all right, then your total for this evening will be forty…” The man swiveled his chair to a table behind him, where a bulky machine stood on a wooden table. He pressed a sequence of buttons, then inserted the trainer card into the slot of the scanner, which began to beep as it processed the input.
Beside him, Michael felt Shella nudge him by the elbow. “Don’t worry, I can pay for myself,” she said.
Michael nodded, still unable to believe his luck. He looked back at the man, who was still working with the scanner, rubbing his chin.
“So… is it done?” Michael asked.
“Hold on a sec,” the attendant replied. The card came back out of the slot he had slid it into, and despite his efforts to repeat the scan, the machine didn’t appear willing to respond. “Hmm… this doesn’t seem to be working.”
Michael stepped forward. “Why not? What’s wrong?”
The man turned around and placed the card onto the counter. “Your I.D. isn’t going through for some reason.”
Michael took the proffered card, feeling his shoulders sink. “But you know it’s a trainer card,” he said. “Isn’t that proof enough?”
The man gave a faint smile. “No. Unfortunately, it’s League policy. Can’t do anything about it. The promotion’s a one-time thing, and the card has to be scanned to they can record your visit and make sure you’re not abusing the privilege. It’s this new system the League’s trying out. It’s the oddest thing—they’ve found a way to use magnets to scan cards. All the new trainer cards have magnetized strips, which the scanner senses, and decodes some sort of pattern that’s unique to yours. So this way, the visit can get associated with your name. And once that happens, you’re given credit towards a trainer card upgrade. I know, it blows my mind too. At the rate we’re going, we’ll probably wake up tomorrow and find out that they’ve found a way to make cars fly.” The man began to chuckle.
Michael stared at him in disbelief. From the onset of those spare few words, he felt the gates of light which had pulled open before him suddenly slam closed, right in his face, trapping him on all sides in the darkness. He was gripped by an irrational panic, which only intensified as he tried to reason his way out.
“But… why wouldn’t my trainer card work?” Michael said. “There’s nothing wrong with it. It has a black bar and a code and everything, just like everyone else’s. There can’t be anything wrong.” In desperation, he began to turn it over in his hands, scrutinizing the surface for the slightest crack or scrape.
But the man behind the counter only shrugged. “It might be a problem with the scanner. We just got this thing a month ago. It hasn’t broken down yet, but given that it was only built for a trial run, it could be a little glitchy. Sorry, again, but it’s like I said… I can’t do anything if the card doesn’t go through.”
Fighting the futility of his position, Michael was about to voice another protest, when he felt a cool hand touch his atm. “It’s fine,” Shella cut in, stepping up to the clerk. “I’ll pay.” She unzipped her handbag and took out a clump of bills. Michael hastily pitched in, and they ended up splitting the sum thirty-thirty.
Satisfied, the clerk tore out two tickets from a large roll and handed them over. “All right then. Entrance is over there, down the hallway. There are guides stationed at several points along the trail. Stick to the path and ask them if you need any help or information. Have a good time!”
Ignoring the clerk’s cheery wave, Michael and Shella turned towards the exit and stepped outside. A rush of cool evening air escaped through the doors, enveloping Michael in silent darkness. They were walking down a spacious boardwalk, elevated a short height from the ground, where the crowns of trees clumped like bushes beyond the railing. The sky was dim and clear, hued with the colors of the sunset, providing what Michael would normally have appreciated as a romantic backdrop. But he had gotten off to a clumsy start, and could still feel a twinge of unsettlement as they walked away from the building.
As if reading his thoughts, Shella cast her gaze down at him and smiled. “Don’t worry about the card. I’m sure it’s nothing. I was going to pay for myself anyway.”
After a moment, Michael let out a breath. “It’s all right.”
They continued down the boardwalk, which eventually led them into a dense forest that enveloped them in silence. The sky was partially blocked from view by the trees, and stood out here and there in colorful patches. There were no signs of marshlands yet, and when Michael looked down over the railing, all he could see was soggy underbrush, matted with dark grass and cut through by an occasional stream. He tried to see past the trunks into the depths of the forest, but could discern only vague shapes and colors. Shella’s eyes eagerly swept the landscape, shifting first from the wood of the railing, to the rough bark on the trees, then to the veil of branches that arched overhead.
“This place is beautiful…” she said. “The air is so clean. It’s just what I imagined Sinnoh to be like. Calm and quiet... The cities are nice, but really, they’re not much different from cities in Hoenn. My dad always said that a building’s a building no matter what side of the globe you’re on. But nature always changes, wherever you go.”
Michael gave a chuckle. “Not much I can say about that… I never traveled much.”
“Before you joined the League?”
Shella nodded. “Mmm… So is that why you joined? You wanted to travel?”
“Yeah, something like that.” Michael looked down at his shoes. “But there’s nothing special about it. Your surroundings change, but deep down everything’s still the same. People. The world.”
Shella smiled in agreement. Above them, a Starly took off from its perch, and an Aipom scurried up a branch.
“I understand that. I always thought that going abroad would change everything, but really, it didn’t. You’d think that by leaving home you’d forget everything you left behind, but the more time I spend away, the more I keep being reminded of places I already know. But Sinnoh has a lot of its own things that I like… The pokémon, of course, are adorable.” After a moment, Shella turned to him. “You’re close to them, aren’t you?”
“Your pokémon. I can tell that you are… being a trainer and all. I like that. I like people who are more relaxed when it comes to those things. I think it’s the more natural way to go.” A playful smile crossed Shella’s face. “A lot of people I know hate to go near them. Once, a Zigzagoon tried to crawl up my friend’s shoulder. We were hanging out in the park, and we brought some food to have a picnic. I guess that poor little guy just wanted a bite of something, but the minute my friend saw it, she went crazy. She screamed, then tried to flick it off, and it was a mess.” She giggled.
Michael frowned. “So… what’s it like in Hoenn?” he said. “I’m just curious. If you guys have everything that we do, pretty much, then what makes it so different from this place?”
Shella tilted her head to the side. “It’s hard to explain. I guess we just always put our own Hoenn spin on things. People are more laid-back overall, and the news focuses a lot on things like society and nature, not just cover stories. There’s even this legend that Hoenn formed long ago when two ancient pokémon, of the land and of the sea, were quarreling. Then a third pokémon, the pokémon of the sky, came down and put an end to it. And so, instead of being all land or all sea, Hoenn’s half and half. We’ve got towns like Lavaridge by Mt. Chimney, and Mossdeep City, which is right in the middle of the ocean. From what I’ve seen, cities there are more spread-out than Sinnoh’s… but of course, I can’t say I’m completely right, because I haven’t been to all of them. Come to think of it, it’s impossible unless you’re a real travel bug.”
Michael chuckled. “Well, then tell me about the places you have been to.”
“Well let’s see… I always used to go to Fallarbor Town with my family. That’s way up north, past the mountains. You have to see it to believe how pretty it is. There’s this huge dormant volcano that blows its ashes into the routes surrounding it. The grass, the trees, everything would be covered in soot. Then, the rain comes and washes it all away. Then there’s Sootopolis City. My grandparents live there, so we always used to go at least once every two years to visit them. The city’s in this huge white crater, with a giant lake in the center. There are these really deep underwater routes all around it, and people say that you can go all the way to Mossdeep through an underwater passageway. Trainers like to cross it using this technique called Dive. But personally, I think that’s a fine place to draw the line!”
“Heh. Yeah.” Michael stuffed his hands in his pockets. “Yeah… I’ve been to some pretty neat places too. Like… the Jubilife Amphitheater.”
Shella paused, still smiling. “Really?”
“Yep. And it ain’t fun and games. Once my friends and I went for a concert over the weekend. Nothing big, just some city band that was playing. We didn’t have the front row, but the auditorium is slanted, so you can see the stage from every angle. It was pretty cool. Every two years, they have a music festival where people come from all over the country to play. I’ve been to it once. It’s mostly the same bands that come, so everyone’s heard of them, and the whole crowd sings along to their music.” Michael tilted his gaze upwards. “It would’ve been sweet if some big, popular band came to visit, though. People come all the time to Jubilife, but I’ve never been to one of those really big events.”
“Neither have I,” Shella said. “I don’t know how it is in Sinnoh, but in Hoenn, the concerts are a mess. There’s no seating in a lot of the theaters, and sometimes the crowds are so big that it’s hard to even hear the music. But I think it would be fun just to go… just to be a part of something that could be historical twenty years from now.”
They walked on, and as they did they kept talking. As the daylight began to dim, rows of lampposts that lined the boardwalk suddenly lit up, illuminating the path with an orange glow. By then, Michael had grown accustomed to Shella’s presence by his side. He no longer felt cautious around her like before, having to carefully process his words before saying them in the hopes of impressing her. He simply said whatever was on his mind, and to his surprise, found that she was doing the same.
During the span of time that they were together, they shared miscellaneous stories and information, by which they gleaned hazy pictures of each other’s lives. Michael glossed over the usual, his home and his friends, but occasionally found himself venturing into things he rarely pondered about, like school and hobbies. He told her about his former passion for sports, which had eventually given way to academics due to pressures from his mother. But he found that he had adapted to it quite well, and wouldn’t have wanted to risk it by trying to get through the system relying solely on athletics.
In return, Shella told him more about her own life. She had spent most of her childhood in Mauville City, and had moved only recently to Slateport after her father had switched jobs. The move had been hard on her, since she had left behind everyone she knew in the process, but a short while later she gained a friend who had helped her along, and with whom she was still very close.
Visiting Sinnoh had been a long-time dream of hers, but upon arriving, Shella had been caught off-guard by the country’s complexity. Whereas, in her view, Hoenners were more open and cheery, Sinnoh imposed a stoic presence, majestic yet unknowable, which made it hard to adjust for someone who was used to living simply. For all his help in pointing the way, Shella’s cousin was limited in options, and couldn’t stray far from Jubilife to accompany her in travel. Shella had been so eager to visit Pastoria that she had gone alone, which in retrospect, she humorously regretted. Despite her calm, collected appearance, Michael discovered that she felt just as uncertain as he did sometimes, questioning her actions and wondering whether she was really in the place where she belonged. In that sense, he could identify with her.
In this manner of conversation, they strolled well past dark, sometimes passing through areas so dense with trees that they could distinguish their surroundings only by the flickering glow of the lanterns. Other times, they reached areas of relative emptiness, where flat lands overgrown with grass stretched out to the horizon, strewn with pools of water that mirrored the moonlit sky. They often crossed paths with other people who were strolling along the boardwalk, their faces blurred by the darkness, their voices hushed so as not to disturb the marsh’s serenity. The wild pokémon weren’t as courteous. Wild Croagunk scampered through the bushes, the sounds of their tittering rising above the rustle of leaves. The breeze whistled with the flute-like melody of Kricketune, which Michael often saw taking shelter in the trees. He saw Noctowls hanging upside-down from branches, and Carnivines peering out from the darkness with their reddened eyes.
He and Shella didn’t adhere to any particular trail. Every time they saw a signpost indicating a new area, they followed it, enjoying the surprises it brought. At a certain point, they stopped to rest, leaning over the railing to observe the goings-on down below. The zone they had reached was lit by lanterns from the ground, and was etched with walkways made to accommodate people. The observation deck of the main building was in sight up ahead, its giant windows glowing white.
Faded bits of conversation rose up from below. Michael peered over the railing, and saw three figures separate themselves from the darkness, their forms growing steadily pronounced as they advanced through the underbrush. One of them was a Marsh staff, distinguished by his green-and-black uniform. The other was a light-haired woman, and the third, a young trainer. Michael watched them idly as they stopped before a gate that closed off a section of tall grass, just a short distance from the elevated boardwalk where he and Shella were standing. The trainer’s face emerged into the light of the lanterns, and with a jolt, Michael recognized Henry. He blinked again, and saw that it was indeed the boy—his tote bag was hanging dutifully at his side, and his hat was clutched in one hand. The woman beside him could only be Bertha, who had dressed in a more functional fashion, wearing pants and sneakers.
They stood facing the park attendant, who had evidently been explaining something to them only moments before.
“So what’s the challenge all about?” Henry piped up, glancing towards the bushes behind them.
“We start the timer, and you have ten minutes to catch a night pokémon. If you make it in five, then you get to keep what you caught. If you make it in less than three, then you get a free weekly pass to the park. But be careful—you’re not allowed to use your own pokémon to weaken them. You gotta go by your own instinct. Here are some Safari Balls.”
He brought forth a pouch of pokéballs, proffering them not to Henry, but to Bertha. She nodded in response.
“Hmm. That seems interesting. I’ll give it a shot.”
As she took the drawstring pouch, Michael felt his pulse quicken. What were they doing here? And how had they reacted to his absence? He thought back to what he had told Henry in the gift shop, and it suddenly occurred to him that he must have been gone much longer than he had anticipated. There was no telling what Henry had done in the meantime, or what Bertha had managed to make him tell.
As the three figures began to shift their places, Michael began to look around in search of a place to hide, for he couldn’t begin to imagine the mess he would have to wheedle out of if they saw him. But he remained where he was for Shella’s sake. For now, he would have to hope that neither Bertha nor Henry would be tempted to look up.
Shella seemed not to have noticed Michael’s reaction. She approached the railing, leaned her elbows against the bar, and smiled. “That looks interesting. Let’s watch.”
Michael nodded. He let his wariness pass into the back of his mind, and took the opportunity to stand next to her. They both watched as the park guide unlocked the gate and gestured for Bertha to proceed. Bertha tied the strings of the pouch around her wrist and handed Henry her purse.
“If I see anything interesting, I’ll let you know,” she said.
Beside Henry, the park guide held up a stopwatch. “On your mark!”
Henry began to clap. “Woo! Go Bertha!”
“Get set… go!”
With the speed of a lightning bolt, Bertha rushed into the underbrush and let the darkness swallow her.
Michael tried to follow her path with his gaze, but he couldn’t make out much in the darkened field. Electric lamps were dotted around the perimeter every couple yards, but their light was purposely dimmed, cloaking the tall grass in half-shadow. Occasionally, he caught glimpses of flying hair, and heard a chorus of croaks and hisses as the grass-dwelling pokémon stirred lazily from their dens. Henry began to skip around the fence, jumping on his toes in an attempt to see what was going on. But his efforts appeared to be in vain, for he soon stopped and settled to watch in place, leaning forward as far as the fence would allow.
Meanwhile, Bertha continued to run, seemingly never in the same spot twice. She combed through the entire front section, apparently finding nothing, then proceeded further in, where the grass grew denser. Twice, Michael heard the sound of an activating pokéball, but the park balls appeared to be designed in such a manner that their white glow was negated. Both attempts at capture seemed to have failed, for Bertha kept running, twisting and lunging as the object she was following tried to evade her.
“Six minutes!” called the attendant. “You have six minutes left!”
Berth’s jog grew into a frenzied run, and she drew another Safari Ball from the pouch. She fell into a sprint in the direction of the fence, one hand holding the capsule out in front of her. Finally, she threw. At the same time, Michael saw a tiny body spring from the darkness, just as the light tore into it, blotting it completely from view. The pokéball fell into the grass, and Bertha picked it up, dusting off crumbs of dirt.
“I got something,” she said, weighing the capsule in her hand. “It was small, but it sure was fast.” She met the park guide by the fence and let out a breath. “How long did I take?”
“You spent four minutes, thirty-nine seconds. Good going! That means you can keep whatever you caught.”
“Let’s see what it is then…” Bertha twisted open the capsule, and out came a tiny blue body, bouncing off the ground and landing a few feet away. Instantly, her expression twisted into a surprised sort of smile.
“It’s a Wooper! Heh. I didn’t know you had those here.” She lifted the pokémon into her arms for a closer look. Michael couldn’t see the details, but the creature seemed no bigger than his Turtwig, and had a pair of pink, branch-like antennae growing from the sides of its head.
Henry came over to Bertha’s side. “Whoa! I’ve never seen one of those before. What are they?”
“They’re Water types, if I remember right.”
“Water and Ground, actually,” the guide corrected. “Their highest period of activity is in the nighttime, when it’s coolest, and least dangerous to search for food. During the day, they like to spend time in the mud. That one’s a girl. You can tell because she has one rib branch sprouting from the main body of the antennae, not two.”
Bertha chuckled as the Wooper tried to wriggle away, reaching for her neck and shoulders with its stubby arms. Its skin must have been slimy, for when they brushed near her face, she let out a surprised yell and quickly pulled the Wooper away. Henry began to laugh. Despite the fact that the front of her shirt was now covered in splotches, Bertha managed a strained smile, and held the Wooper out to Henry.
“Do you want her, kiddo? I bet she’d be good for your team… she seems pretty upbeat.”
Henry shook his head. “No, you keep her, Bertha! You caught her. Plus, you could raise her for your Gym.”
“My Gym’s Grass,” Bertha said. “I can’t bend the rules on that one. It would’ve been great if she were half grass, at least, but I guess we can’t do anything about it now.” She frowned for a moment, then passed it off with a shrug. “Ah, but why should it matter? I’m on leave anyway… I can still raise her even if she’s not a part of my battling team. Come to think of it, three pokémon seems kind of lacking, especially since most trainers these days walk around with five or six.”
Henry smiled in satisfaction. “So I guess it’s settled.”
Bertha held the Wooper up to eye level. “I don’t know what to name you yet, but I’m sure it’ll come to me eventually. For now, enjoy your new home.” She twisted open the knob on the Safari Ball and watched the Wooper flee inside with the light.
The park attendant clapped his hands. “Well done! Now, how about a challenge for the young trainer?” He leaned over to Henry. “If you can catch a different pokémon in less than five minutes, I’ll let you keep it, plus you can earn up to one week of free visits.”
Bertha shook her head. “Sorry, but I think that’s enough for today. We came on pretty short notice, and I don’t want to be away from the Plaza for too long without having told anyone I was gone. We should be getting back to the hotel.” She looked down at Henry. “Sorry, again. If you want, I can take you boys on another day.”
Henry bit his lip. “Okay. Sure.”
With that, the three of them turned for the main building. As their figures grew smaller down the path, Shella leaned forward in evident interest. “That woman’s a Gym leader?”
“That means you must’ve battled her, right?” Shella turned to him. “Or is she the Gym leader here, in Pastoria?”
“No, she’s the Gym leader in Eterna. I’ve battled her.” Michael paused. “Strange I’d see her here…”
Shella shrugged. “Well, I guess the marsh must be a popular tourist spot.” She smiled, and with a casual turn, stepped away from the railing. “Come on, Michael. We should get going. I don’t think we’ve seen Areas Six and Seven yet, and it’s getting dark.”
Michael responded after a brief pause. “Right.” He picked up his pace to catch up with her, and together they moved on.
They crossed through the remaining two zones in about half an hour, though to Michael it seemed much longer. He and Shella continued to talk throughout, sharing jokes and stories, until finally they reached the end of the trail, which led to a side entrance on the opposite side from where they had begun. They had made a full, clumsy circle around the marsh, and though they had skipped the various adjacent routes which trickled out form the main path, it seemed they had seen enough to last a long while.
They parted outside by the building’s front doors, where they stood facing each other for a couple moments.
“Thanks again for coming here with me,” said Shella. “I had fun.”
Michael nodded. “Me too.” He meant it.
Shella’s face was slightly blurred in the darkness, but he could see her cheeks lift as she smiled. “You’re really quite funny. And nice. I know we probably won’t see each other again after I leave for home, but I’ll always remember this as part of my trip. Good luck with your journey… If you ever do beat the tournament, well, I wouldn’t be surprised!”
Michael smiled in thanks, but her words still left a sad impression on him. After a brief pause, he spoke. “How long are you going to be in the city?”
“Probably another week, if I can find anything else that’s worth seeing. I still haven’t paid a visit to the downtown, which I plan on doing.” Right then, Shella perked an eyebrow. “You don’t happen to be familiar with this place too, do you?”
Michael let out a laugh. “I just got here too, so… not really. But that makes it twice the fun.”
“That’s what I think too.” Shella beamed. “So… maybe we can meet up again sometime? I don’t know… just give me a call when you’re free. We can take the subway to the downtown.”
“Sure.” Michael’s eyes flickered over to the road, where the subway station’s glimmering lights shone just a short while away. He was instantly reminded of Bertha and Henry, and his heart skipped a beat. “I better get going. Sorry. I’ll, uh, give you a call when I can.”
Shella nodded. “Okay. See you soon!’
They exchanged waves, and Michael turned away, setting off briskly for the subway station. It took him another fifteen minutes to retrace his steps through the city network before he finally reached the edge of its farthest-reaching branch. Too distracted by his thoughts to worry about time, he waited for a bus, and was soon speeding out in the direction of the Gym plaza.
Minutes later, he trudged up the steps that lead to his hotel room, and opened the door with the spare key he had brought. To his surprise, Bertha and Henry were inside, sitting around a board game, plates of take-out food laid out beside them. Bertha had the Wooper in her lap, and Henry Clefable, who watched them play while the TV droned quietly in the background.
Upon Michael’s arrival, the both of them turned. Bertha smiled in surprise. “Hey there. What took you so long? Henry told me you left to get something.”
“Yep. Everything’s fine.” Michael looked down at Wooper and hastily switched the subject. “Where did you get that?”
Bertha looked down. “Oh, Wooper? Henry and I went to the Great Marsh while you were away, and I caught her. We would’ve waited for you if we knew where you were, but what’s done is done I guess. We can go together sometime later.” She lifted the Wooper, who seemed to have already warmed up to her and let out a playful squeal. Bertha’s expression softened, and she gently touched her nose to the Wooper’s forehead. “Aw, look at you, you’re so cute…”
“Too bad it’s not a Grass type,” Michael said, echoing her words from before. “You could’ve used it for your Gym.”
Bertha gave a one-shoulder shrug. “Eh, it doesn’t matter to me. Just because she’s not going to be a part of my team doesn’t mean I can’t spend time with her. And besides, if I’m going to take a break from my Gym duties, why not take a break from my type restriction too?”
Michael nodded. He looked to Henry, who met his gaze steadily, eyebrows slightly driven together. Evidently, he still had a good deal of self-explaining left to do. But right then, it didn’t matter.
After setting down his things, Michael joined Bertha and Henry, and the three of them spent the rest of the evening playing and talking. But nearly all Michael could think about was how lucky he had been.
Hundreds of miles away, that very same evening, Nancy Bryan sat in her stuffy hotel room, scanning the newspaper over a cup of tea. Unlike Michael, she didn’t feel lucky at all—more like exhausted, for it had been over three weeks since their arrival in the city, and their progress so far amounted to zilch.
A few days prior, Nancy did some pride-swallowing and got herself to type up the Contest story she had promised the two coordinators a while ago. To her surprise, the local Hearthome newspaper had grabbed it, since apparently the next month would be a deciding period for the preliminary rounds. This forged a temporary alliance between Nancy’s team and the Hearthome Press Office, which granted them temporary reporter privileges in exchange for continued Contest coverage. But in terms of finding a story for SNN, so far they were at a loss.
Beside her, Ned and Bobby occupied the tiny round table by the window, finishing a meager dinner. Only Tom was absent—he had left for the press office nearly four hours ago to search through their archives, and still hadn’t returned.
Television had long ceased to function as a source of entertainment for them, so in its stead, the team passed time by scanning the headlines to see what kinds of things people were writing about. Nancy was currently reading the paper on the armchair and periodically calling out headlines that seemed most interesting.
“Hey, I got another one,” she called out, breaking a lengthy silence.
“Let’s hear it,” said Ned
“A shop’s been closed down on Tenth Street,” Nancy murmured. “Making fake driver’s licenses, right under everyone’s nose…”
Bobby looked over. “What’s that all about?”
Nancy continued to scan through the page. “Some guy was running a small store downtown. He was selling fake IDs and licenses, but he disguised it by selling League merchandise alongside it. It says that after the Game Corner was closed, the cops started to check the other League-related establishments in the area… and I guess they landed right on that place. It wasn’t even a licensed vendor. He just had the pokéball logo on his window.
Bobby began to laugh. “Man…”
“How do they know the difference, anyway?” Ned piped up.
Nancy responded with a shrug. “Apparently to sell League stuff you have to have a special certificate of approval for your store. This guy had nothing—and to top it all off, he tried to sell trainer cards too, which gave him away on the spot. League rules say you’re not supposed to do that, ever. You can only get them by writing to the League itself and having them mail it to you, or by going to a local League office and getting one there. Not even Gyms can sell them.”
Nancy had begun to read the text in more detail, when suddenly, the door burst open, and a frazzled Tom stumbled into the room, his coat askew, still panting as if from a long run. One hand was clutching a folder, thin and rumpled.
“Guys, I have something… take a look…”
Nancy felt a flicker of panic as she rose from her chair. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
“The discovery! Deoxys was actually discovered in January—months before they announced it! Look, it says so right here—” Tom slapped the folder onto the table where Ned and Bobby were seated, and began to leaf through its contents at a frantic pace. Nancy came over just in time as his finger landed on a seemingly random point, amid a tall, dense column that seemed packed to the brim with words. The by-line was blank.
“’Team Rocket officials had originally confirmed the detection of an unknown signal by their spacecraft on November 12th, 1962, after which all normal procedures for R-109, the moon mission, were suspended, and investigations of the signal commenced. This date corresponds with an atypical shift in procedure by Team Galactic, who launched a spacecraft shortly after on December 21st, 1962. This mission was not reported to the public of either Hoenn or Sinnoh, who instead continued to receive updates of Team Rocket’s discoveries on the moon, which had been made months prior as well. The year of 1963 began with Team Galactic’s launching of Galaxie, which was supposed to search the moon for possible landing sites. But in fact, as mission logs reveal, the spacecraft had a different purpose entirely—namely that of carrying specialized radio equipment designed to facilitate the communication between two spacecraft in the same field of orbit. Interestingly, Hoenn launched a spacecraft on that very same date, only an hour later. This was thought by the public to be a simple coincidence, but deeper investigation shows that such a feat is in fact nearly impossible to achieve without an extraordinary measure of preparation and planning. Unpublished records reveal a link of communication between the Veilstone headquarters and Team Rocket’s base in Mossdeep City. The two organizations exchanged trajectory plans, equipment status, and as the system reports show, took evident care to ensure that the two spacecraft were constantly aware of each other.
‘In light of these records, it becomes apparent that neither team was aiming for the moon at all, but rather following a specific path in the search of a specific object…’ Don’t you see?” Tom tapped the paper in emphasis. “It’s like they’re working together! First they got hold of that signal, and a few weeks later they deduced it was coming from a moving object! They found that pokémon when it was heading right towards them. Hoenn’s ship got it on camera, so obviously they’d put it in their papers first. But that’s not the point. The point is, they were hiding it all along! There was something about Deoxys that they didn’t want to share with us right off the bat, and now they’re helping each other keep quiet!”
Ned looked up from the paper and frowned. “Where did you get this?”
“I was looking through the archives at the city press office,” Tom said. “I wanted to bring back some things from previous months so we’d have a reference to look off of, but I couldn’t find anything. Then, a minute later, a guy came up to me and asked if I was a journalist. I guess he recognized me by my badge. I told him I was looking for a story to publish, and he looked interested all of a sudden. We talked for a few minutes, and before leaving he handed me this. Said he wrote it himself, but was worried that a big news company would misinterpret it, so he wanted to give it to a smaller one.”
Ned’s puzzled frown gave way for an incredulous stare. Bobby mimicked the expression, lifting an eyebrow.
“I don’t know… it seems like there might be a catch,” Bobby said. “I mean, what are the odds? You go out looking for a story, and by some miracle a guy shows up in a hat and trenchcoat and hands you the key to your success. For all we know, he could be a quack or something.”
Tom rolled his eyes. “He wasn’t wearing a trenchcoat, Bobby. And he didn’t give the article to me right away; I told him who I was, that I was from Sinnoh Now, and everything.”
“But he didn’t tell you who he was, did he?” said Ned.
Tom thought for a moment, searching his memory. “He told me his name… Alfonso something… Said that he worked for a hardware production company, but that was pretty much it.”
“So, he might not even have written it.”
“Ned, it doesn’t matter. What matters is this!” Tom lifted the paper in front of him. “Whoever wrote this had access to official telegrams and reports from both Team Galactic and the Rockets! Don’t look at me like I’m five; I know how to analyze reference notes. And his were perfectly valid. I checked, and all the journals he used exist. All the names and dates and missions he cites are facts, and some are stored on classified databases, so I couldn’t access them. He must’ve been someone way up top to get his hands on information like that, which explains why he wouldn’t want a big-name company to publish it, because he doesn’t want to attract attention to himself. And look, it all makes sense! First, we saw pictures of that rocket—”
“Sssh!” said Bobby. “We’re not supposed to talk about that, remember?”
“We have to talk about it, guys! Something’s not right, I can feel it. If Galactic was building another rocket, then that must mean they’re planning another mission. And I’m willing to bet that it has something to do with Deoxys. There’s something about it that they’re not telling us on the news, and if it’s something bad, then soon it might be too late.”
Nancy shook her head. “Tom, stop it! Were you not there in Eterna with us? We can’t get tangled up in these conspiracies again! If we make one bad move, one step in the wrong direction, then it’s over!”
Tom stared quizzically at his companions, who all met his gaze with similar expressions—calm and unyielding. Realizing the futility of his case, he backed away from the table, lowering the article by his side.
“Fine… fine. But you’ll see. I’m telling you, there’s something not right about this.” He turned to leave, but a moment later he stopped himself and spun back around. “And you know, for a change, I think we should stop chasing SNN’s goal for us and think about our own future. We’ve been all over the place these past few months, but if there’s one thing I’ve never been more sure of this whole time, it’s that we hit something really deep in Eterna that while back. Something that goes way beyond what SNN’s capable of digging up. I know it’s not something they’d want us to do, but lately I’ve come to realize that that might be the point. Just forget, for a moment, that we’re on a deadline. Forget what SNN’s promised us, and forget our assignment. We’re reporters, and our duty to the public should take priority over our duty to those corporate heads. We might have a chance right now to change the course of history, and inform the public of something they really need to know about. If we won’t, then no one else will. Not a single radio station is going to talk about what I’ve just read to you until the time’s long past for people to start caring. Think about that.”
And without a second to spare, Tom left the room.
The team members that remained gradually drifted apart, settling in separate corners of the room and immersing themselves in their own thoughts.
Outside, rain pattered against the window.
Last edited by Haruka of Hoenn; February 22nd, 2013 at 10:35 AM.
Yeah and I remember almost nothing of those places in Hoenn xD Only thing I remember are THE ENDLESS WATER ROUTES, OH GOD THE ENDLESS WATER ROUTES!
Well, ID cards and a possible Space Race conspiracy aside, that was a pretty nice date, very cute And boy does time seem to fly when you're having a good time. I hope they're able to meet up again before the crew hits the road again, I guess we'll just see how long it takes for badges to be won and business to be taken care of. At the very least, it doesn't seem like this gym is structured to keep trainers there for an extended period of time - and Marie seems pretty laid back as far as policy. Of course, I've seen before where that carefree personality can lull a trainer into being lax... and then BOOM! She hits them with the toughest battle of their lives. So I hope Michael stays vigilant... both of Marie and the possibility that his secret may not be a secret much longer...
I actually liked the endless water routes in Hoenn. xP Especially those little islands with random stranded trainers. Hoenn was really fun to play overall; the nature was more interesting and varied than in Kanto.
I just assume that the technique Dive includes a mechanism that allows the passenger to survive and leave it at that.
I'm glad you enjoyed Michael's date with Shella. Haha Actually, to the contrary of what her prolonged absence from the story may imply, Shella's a pretty important character and will be sticking around for some time.
And yes, there's nothing like having a dangerous secret... especially when you weren't aware you had it to begin with. We will see the consequences of this little mishap later on. Will Michael escape the League's clutches again, or is he about to get busted for good? Stay tuned...
Thanks for the review!
Hey everyone. Sorry for the unannounced hiatus, but I had to take one... My mind was dancing between a million other things, including other pesky story ideas, and it was a while before I could delve into this again.
But the good news is, I've written a fair bit in advance. I have outlines and scenes for the rest of the Pastoria chapters scrawled in my notebook, which will shorten the time they spend in the purgatory of my computer files before they get posted. xP This chapter is fairly short and low-key, but we are on the verge (finally!) of something big.
The next day, Michael was sitting alone at his desk, light streaming around the room through the windows spaced along the walls. Laid out in front of him was a modest view of open grassland, a slice of the vast lot that bordered the plaza. It was on all accounts a beautiful day, but Michael was so occupied with writing notes that he hardly noticed it. The focus of his attention was Turtwig, who stood beside him on the desk, doing his best to keep still while his trainer worked.
The pokémon was now roughly the size of Michael’s backpack, and outweighed a small stack of textbooks. The tiny branch that once sprouted from his head like an antennae had snapped off, leaving behind a withering stump, bare of its usual growth of leaves. Turtwig’s shell was beginning to creep up his neck to cover the spot, and in a matter of days, would envelop his entire head like a helmet.
Michael had been keeping a casual eye on Turtwig’s growth over the days, noticing the branch grow thinner and darker. But it wasn’t until that morning, when it had snapped off like a dry twig during morning feeding, that Michael finally decided it was time to take note of the pokémon’s evolution. Turtwig’s odd coloring, which differed from that of all other Turtwigs Michael had seen during his journey, remained as strikingly different as before—only now it was, if possible, even more embarrassing. With onset of Turtwig’s latest growth spurt, his skin had changed like the autumn leaves, fading from blue-green to livid yellow, while the cuffs around his paws had adopted the blue. His shell, which was supposed to be a light shade of brown, was hued a deep aquamarine, and gave off a taut, rubbery gleam when it caught the light. Turtwig now looked like he had been hastily repainted by a toddler, who might as well have colored the sun green or the grass purple.
All this, however, was entirely lost upon the pokémon. Oblivious to his laughable condition, Turtwig happily watched as Michael continued to record his observations, complying with his prods and nudges, and turning around in the direction his trainer indicated. The other pokémon, who had also been released in the meantime, were resting at various points of the room, nibbling their leftover breakfasts. Ringo was perched on the vanity mirror that stood by the desk, clicking his beak as he watched Michael work. Beneath the tune of his thoughts, Michael was faintly aware of the sound of music and voices coming from somewhere outside, which had persisted throughout the morning. But his concentration remained unbroken, until, for the third time that day, the silence in the room was broken by a loud, ringing screech.
Michael gave a jolt of surprise, involuntarily tracing a thick line across his paper, and closed his eyes with a groan. “Shut up, Ringo,” he mumbled.
Ringo seemed delighted to reply. “Shut up, shut up!”
Ignoring the bird, Michael bent back over the paper and kept writing. Another minute passed, then the front door slammed closed, and Michael looked up to see Henry enter. The boy had left a while ago to retrieve a schedule for Marie’s Gym, and was now lowering his tote bag beside the wall.
“Hey,” said Henry. “I was just downstairs. Bertha and Marie are doing some sort of event outside by the Gym. Everyone’s talking about it. We should go check it out.” Henry looked over to Michael, who hadn’t shifted an inch from his position since he had left, and knit his eyebrows. “What are you doing?”
“Tracking his growth,” Michael said. “Look at this—he’s completely changed color.” He lifted Turtwig up by the sides and held him out to Henry. The boy, too, had noticed Turtwig’s gradual transformations, but it was only then that the absurdity of the situation seemed to strike him. He was too polite to smile, but even so, he could not hide his surprise at Turtwig’s startlingly-yellow skin, which he was almost certain had been closer to green just a day ago. Henry looked the pokémon over from various angles, tracing his fingers over the bumps on his shell, and the stump where his head-stem had been.
“That’s really weird…” he said. “The color’s still different. I thought Grotles were supposed to be green.”
“I guess it‘s not something you grow out of, then.” Michael sighed, and looked down at Turtwig. “Great. Here I am, about to battle a Gym leader, and you cop out on me.” The pokémon cocked his head. Michael surveyed the grooves that lined the back of his shell, and noticed tips of stems beginning to poke through the outer layer. “He’s going to grow a pair of shrubs here,” he said to Henry. “I guess that’ll solve the Razor Leaf problem…”
“But do you think he’ll have enough by the time you battle Marie?”
“No clue. But considering that this Gym is Water, I hope for his sake that this’ll be over soon.” Michael looked down at Turtwig, who returned his stare with a contented blink, and set the pokémon down on the floor. Right then, an afterthought flickered though his mind, compelling him to smile. “If anything... I’ll just use some fertilizer.”
Henry looked up from the tips of his shoes. “Huh?”
“Nothing.” Michael shook his head, still chuckling at the memory, and rose from the chair. “Now let’s go. If there’s a party like you said, I’m sure as hell not gonna miss it.”
With that, they straightened out the room as best they could, cleaning up the leftovers of their pokémon’s food and putting away their belongings for the room service staff. They sent back all their pokémon except for Ringo, who fluttered down from the vanity mirror as the boys headed for the door. “Let’s go!” he clucked.
The boys decided to go unburdened, leaving everything behind save for their keys and wallets. Michael waited for Ringo to get situated on his shoulder, then followed Henry down to the lobby.
That day, a large crowd had gathered on the lawn of the Gym, in an outdoor party that attracted people from all ends of the plaza. The event resembled a large summer barbecue, complete with food, games, and music, which wafted into the surrounding vicinity in bright, jovial tunes. The Gym was surrounded by what seemed like a sea of tables, all draped with patterned tablecloth that rippled with the wind, like tiny islands among the moving currents of people. Somewhere among them sat Bertha and Marie, enclosed by a border of tables, surrounded by papers and boxes. Their area was clearly the focal point of interest, and had attracted the largest gathering of people, both young and old alike. Copies of Bertha’s petition were being passed around them like wildfire, populating the scene with pink, orange, and yellow papers. A steady line had formed to the side where Bertha sat, handling a huge roster of contacts, which people stepped up one by one to sign.
Despite the slow, casual atmosphere around them, the two Gym leaders were busy at work, rising from their chairs to distribute pencils and shake proffered hands. They both wore matching floral headbands, which were wrapped around their heads in colorful knots, with long strands of ribbon left to sway with them as they moved. Bertha had grown used to the ribbons after a while, letting them tangle with the rest of her hair, but Marie never seemed to be at ease with them; she often paused in her rhythmic pace to adjust her headband, first tightening the knot, then pushing it aside to wipe her forehead.
She tired more quickly than the younger Bertha, who seemed to handle their multitude of tasks with ease, and so after what seemed like an eternity of standing and turning, Marie finally sat down for a moment’s break. With a decisive sigh, she tilted her face upwards and squinted at the clouds. “Whew! Only an hour in this sun and already I’m drying up like a prune…” She looked over to a stack of flyers at her side and busied herself with an unruly staple, which had snagged itself in one of the paper packets, ruining the corners she loved to keep smooth. When Marie finally pulled it free with her nails, she gave a pleased smile, and stapled it anew.
Bertha looked over her shoulder at her, and smiled. “Well it sure beats the office.”
“Aha, that’s true.” Marie held up the mended copy and flipped through the pages. The packet contained the full text of Bertha’s petition, along with a summary, which was accompanied by a call to action for the greater community. The previous day, the two women had produced well over five-hundred of them, with the help of Marie’s typewriters and mimeograph machine. The text on the paper was straight and legible, not smudged in the slightest, and now Marie looked over her handiwork with sunny pride.
“I can’t tell you enough how easier things have gotten since I got that old copier,” she said to Bertha. “It used to take me three days to make just two-hundred flyers—and that’s for small stuff like weekly Pokémart promotions and whatnot. My poor staff had to work with me in shifts if I couldn’t do it all by myself. But now look at me—I can whip up fifty of those little buggers, send June to copy them, while I make fifty more. It’s a breeze! Harvey likes to brag that he has one of those new high-tech photocopiers. They came out a few months ago, and they cost a fortune. He just loves it.” Marie rolled her eyes, and the gesture was so comical that Bertha chuckled. “He sends me those perfectly-made certificates and notices… copies of documents that I don’t have anymore… It’s like he knows that I can’t make myself.” She shook her head. “Well, I’m fine with what I have, at any rate!”
With finality, she put the flyer down. She stood up again and turned to Bertha, holding up a finger in instruction.
“Now, always remember—advertising is key,” she said. “It’s like I always say—if nobody knows, nobody cares. Right now, we’ll focus on spreading the word to Pastorians, and with any luck, they’ll be interested enough to tell their friends, so that when you leave, your message will stay alive. Of course, you have me to look after things here, but when you move on, you’ll have to go to bigger and better places. I’m talking markets, downtowns, public buildings, all of that. Don’t be afraid to ask around and give others information. The worst that can happen is that they’re not interested. And the best thing that can happen is that they’re moved enough to tell someone else.”
“That seems sound,” Bertha said. “But are you sure you’ll be all right with taking such a big part of the work? I know you’re pretty busy, even for a Gym leader.”
Marie dismissed Bertha’s concern with a flick of the hand. “Ah, it’s always been like that for me. Truth is, the reason I’m swamped with paperwork all the time is because I keep records for the city and team up on projects with the mayor. I haven’t told you this yet, but this Gym also doubles as the headquarters for all League business in Pastoria. If the city wants to do anything League-related, or if the League wants our help for something or other, the deal goes through me. This way my Gym’s not chained to a subdivision in the city government; it’s an entity all in its own. Back when I was just starting out as the leader, this Gym was a tiny fish in a huge pond. Other Gyms were being taken over by their own cities and hardly got a say in policies that concerned them. I knew I couldn’t go in that direction, because otherwise I’d never get this place back on its feet. I had to give it a purpose that was more than just a single stop on a long journey for trainers. And I did that by making people see that a Gym doesn’t have to be just for trainers. It can be for regular folk too.” At this, she lifted an eyebrow. “But of course, that means that a Gym leader has to be responsible for more than just battling. I’m sure you’ll agree.”
“Oh, definitely,” Bertha said. “Oddly enough, I never thought about that side of it as a kid. I thought it would be all battling, all excitement. That’s what the entire League was to me, really. I don’t shy away from the business stuff, don’t get me wrong, but in all honesty I think I liked the League better the way I knew it from stories: The pokémon, the battling, the adventures… all the stuff trainers did in the past. That was the reason I wanted to become a Gym leader in the first place; I wanted to battle and see others do it. I don’t think that part of me will ever change, even if the League has turned into an industry.”
“And that’s all very well,” Marie assured. “I saw that spark in you from day one. You’ve got the right amount of passion for your job, which is important for a Gym leader, especially if you’re young. People who only treat the League as business don’t last too long in it. And that goes for everyone—leaders, trainers, officials…”
Bertha gave a laugh. “I might have started treating it as business a little too late. If I’d been keen on making connections early on, I don’t think I’d have gotten into that whole mess with the factory. That’s the only thing I regret.”
“Well, there’s no use in dwelling on that now,” said Marie. “Look forward! At the very least, we’ll make Galactic clean up the mess they made in Eterna. And at the most, we’ll go for the gold. We’ll get the government to hear us, and when they do, we’ll set the League right again. No more scams, no more corporate nonsense sticking its nose in things where it doesn’t belong. Just trainers, Gyms, and battling. Don’t know if I’ll live long enough to see it, but it’s new blood like you who’ll be there bring the change about. No pressure.”
Marie winked, and turned to a stack of empty boxes which had been piled up over the hours. They had been filled with copies of the packets, but they were being emptied so fast that there was hardly enough time to dispose of them.
“Bertha, do me a favor and cover for me while I run to the Gym to get these thrown out. And I want to check with Lace about the buffets to make sure there’s still enough food to go around. You know, the worst thing a host can do to their guests is run out of refreshments before the party’s over.”
“I already talked with her,” said Bertha. “Sorry I didn’t tell you. She had another truck come in half an hour ago. They’re giving out meat dumplings.” Bertha gave a silly sort of laugh and turned her palms out in a confession. “I heard somewhere that it was a Pastoria specialty!”
Marie stopped to survey Bertha, knitting her brows. “Planned in advance, did you? I must say, I like that. You’ve got energy. Why, you might go farther than me one day!”
Bertha shook her head jokingly. Marie left the table with the boxes in hand, humming along to the music that was playing, and Bertha turned back to the line of people, greeting them as they waited to sign the roster.
By the time Michael and Henry arrived at the Gym, the event was in full swing. It turned out to be a mix between a carnival and an information fair, providing entertainment for children and activities for older trainers. The boys plowed through the crowds at the front lawn, stopping by tables that hosted crafts and games, and food lines with colorful dishes. But the theme of the party was immediately clear. All around, Michael saw colorful flyers taped to lampposts and doors that advertised Bertha’s petition, and indicated areas within the Gym’s grounds where the signing was taking place. In addition, many of Marie’s staff were stationed behind tables with large rosters, where potential signers were given informative packets in exchange for their contact information.
“I guess Bertha’s finally getting the word around,” said Henry, looking around at the crowd. “She must be getting a lot of signatures.”
“Yep,” Michael replied.
They continued walking, when the boy spotted a table and pointed. “Hey Michael, look! They’ve got a marble jar!”
Michael turned, and saw over a sea of heads a large glass container filled to the brim with tiny marbles. Several children were gathered around it, surveying the container with curious eyes, some trying to count the marbles with their fingers. He let out a laugh. “You want to try?”
“Yeah, it’s just math, right? You find the volume of the jar and divide by the volume of a marble.”
“They don’t let you measure anything, smart one. You have to be lucky.”
“Well I still want to do it,” Henry said.
Michael shrugged. “Fine, go ahead.” He turned away and let his eyes skim the crowd, when out of the blue, his gaze locked on one face among dozens of others—a girl’s. Her light hair hung in two long braids over her shoulders, and the long skirt she wore stirred elegantly around her as she walked. It was Shella.
Taking a quick look back at Henry, Michael began to distance himself, inching away towards the table in the distance. But midway into his escape, the boy noticed, and turned.
“Michael, what is it?”
Michael jerked his thumb in a general that-way direction and quickened his pace. “Nothing — I just want to check something out… uh, over there. Be right back!” Without another word, he went off, turning so abruptly that Ringo lost his balance and fell from his shoulder. Henry started to chase after him, but stopped when Michael plunged into the crowd and vanished from view. “Wait!” he called out. “Where are you going?”
Ringo, who had been left alone in midair, flapped over to Henry’s arm and began to chirp to a tune. “All you need is love… love…”
Henry gave the bird a puzzled look and rolled his eyes.
As time passed, the line in front of Bertha’s roster continued to move forward, attracting people from all over the party. Marie had left once more on an errand of her own, leaving Bertha alone to deal with the crowd of potential clients. She managed it well, nevertheless, and was currently immersed in a conversation with a lady from the downtown. The lady soon left, and Bertha’s next guest approached, a man dressed in a crisp collared shirt and pants. Bertha smiled and slid forward the roster.
“Hello. Will you be signing today?”
The man lifted one of the flyers from the stack and read it over, eyes narrowing behind his spectacles. “A campaign to return funds to the League, at the expense of Team Galactic… That’s certainly… astute.” He looked away from the paper to study Bertha more intently. “Are you a League official?”
“Somewhat. My name is Bertha Herrida, and I’m the Gym Leader of Eterna Town. You might have heard in the news what happened to it, but to tell you the truth, I was bent on starting the petition long before that.”
“Ah, so this is your work?”
“Yes,” said Bertha. “I put together the main proposal, but I’ve had lots of help and input from my colleagues, which have inspired a few revisions. But now, the document is in its final stage and ready to go.”
The man nodded. He read the list of terms in more detail, then folded it up and placed it in his pocket. “Well, it’s an interesting endeavor, to say the least,” he said. “I’m afraid I didn’t come prepared to commit myself to something as serious as this, but I’m definitely interested in learning more.” With a respectful tip of the head, he stepped away to make room for others who were thronging behind him, waiting to approach the table. But he did not leave, and stood in an insignificant spot to the side as he continued to read the flyer.
Not so far away, Michael was pushing his way through the crowd, dodging trainers and townsfolk while trying to keep Shella in view. She was standing near the makeshift stage, where a band was playing, her eyes skimming over the myriad of signs and decorative tables around them. When Michael’s path was finally unobstructed, he slowed his pace to a calm walk, came up behind her and cleared his throat. “Hey.”
Shella gave a slight jump as she turned, and upon seeing him, her face lit up. “Michael! I should have expected to see you here. If I had known that this Gym was such a hotspot for city life, then I’d have come ages ago!”
She seemed utterly enthralled by the event, which after the haughty serenity of Hotel Grand Lake, Michael understood completely. Shella already seemed to know her way around the plaza, and had already participated in several activities at the numerous stations. She had gotten a temporary tattoo of a star painted on her wrist, which matched her colorful skirt.
“So how did you end up here?” Michael asked her. “Was there a news bulletin at your place or something?”
Shella nodded. “I went for a walk on the lakefront and saw a bunch of pink and yellow flyers up on the billboard. I was surprised that they made it as far as that; this city must be really well connected. Is it true someone that started a petition?”
“I want to find out more,” she said in earnest. “If it’s something to do with the Pokémon League, then it must be important.” She looked around. “Do you know where the Gym leader is?”
Michael scanned the area around them, though from the myriad of signs he couldn’t tell where the main table would be situated. “Right this way.” He gestured for her to come along and led her up to Bertha’s table.
Bertha looked up at Shella and smiled out of reflex. But in the same moment, her gaze fell on Michael, and she narrowed her eyes by the slightest degree. “Well hello there.”
“Hi,” Shella said. “Are you… the Gym leader of Eterna? My friend Michael is a trainer, and he told me he battled you before.”
Bertha looked over to Michael. He saw her mouth curl into the slightest of smiles, though this escaped Shella’s notice. “Yes, that would be me—Bertha Herrida. And your name?”
“Shella. I’m from Hoenn, but I’m here on a vacation.”
“Ah, that’s interesting. Do you follow the League back at home?”
“To be honest, not always,” Shella said. “Pokémon were never a big part of my life, but a few of my friends were trainers. I knew one girl who was so bent on joining the League that she got her school to recognize training as an extracurricular activity. I can tell that pokémon training means a lot to people, and in a way, I think it’s helped shape what Hoenn’s become today… and Sinnoh too, probably.” Shella frowned. “This whole space business feels like it’s going to be the next big thing. But I’d be upset if the League went under because of it. I’m not a Sinnoh citizen so I don’t think I can sign, but I’d love to help out while I’m here. I’ll spread the word where I can.”
Bertha smiled. “I really appreciate that. Thanks.”
Shella took a business card from a side pile and slipped it into her purse.
“So what have you been up to, Michael?” said Bertha, now turning to him. “Hope you’re getting ready for your battle. Trust me, it won’t be as easy as it might seem.”
Michael paused. “Oh, don’t worry. I’ve been practicing. My pokémon are… uh… growing.” He nodded for emphasis.
Shella nudged him with her elbow. “Oh Michael, I almost forgot to ask. You never showed me your other pokémon besides Ringo. What others do you have?”
“Oh. Well, I have a Machop that I caught in Oreburgh. He’s pretty swell. My friend and I cornered him ourselves; we didn’t have help or anything. And I have a Goldeen. I taught her this trick where she carries water with her into her pokéball and makes it move around when she comes out. Then I have a Turtwig. He was my starter. But his color’s different from all the others. You know how normal ones have green skin and brown shells? Mine had this mix of green and blue for his skin, and his shell’s this weird brownish-yellow.”
“Wow, that’s unusual.”
Michael nodded. “He’s becoming more of a Grotle now, actually, but the color’s still different. Some of the shades have changed, but he still doesn’t look like other Grotles.” At this point, he felt a rush of cynical humor. “Maybe when he becomes a Torterra he’ll be blue with green polka dots.”
Shella giggled. “Don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll be fine. Come battle time, it won’t matter, right? Strength always wins.”
“Yeah, I s’pose.” Michael hooked his thumbs through his pockets. “But actually… now that you mention it, I don’t think it’s all about strength anymore,” he said. “I mean look—if a Fire type goes against a Water type with the same strength and speed, the Fire type’s still gonna lose if it gets blasted with Water moves. Just like a Water type will lose if it goes against Grass. Because, you know, water by itself can only help plants.”
Shella nodded. “True.”
“And no matter how hard you train your pokémon, you still don’t know how much of a power advantage the other trainer’s pokémon will have. So the first thing you try to find out is their type. If you know their type, then you can guess their weakness… and already you’ll have a leg up.”
Shella smiled. “I didn’t know you were such an analyst. But it definitely sounds better than going in blind. Come to think of it, there’s an entire field of biology dedicated to these relationships between pokémon. I guess it’s only a matter of time before trainers start using it to their advantage. Maybe then pokémon training will become even more popular, since it’s tied in with science.”
Michael met Shella’s gaze, and saw that she was eyeing him with a strange twinkle in her eye. She seemed both humored, and impressed.
A silence stretched between them for a short while after, which Michael broke by clearing his throat. “Well, uh, I guess now we can go walk around. I’m sure they have a bunch of cool stuff at the other tables.”
“I’m all for it,” Shella said. “Let’s go!” She gave Bertha a parting wave, which the Gym leader acknowledged with a bow of her head, and turned to leave with Michael.
The pair plunged shoulder-to-shoulder into the crowd and soon vanished down the dirt path. When they were long out of sight, Bertha shook her head. “Kids will be kids,” she murmured to herself. “That Michael is quite a character.”
She heard a sudden rustling of paper from behind, and remembered the bespectacled man, who had been standing nearby during their conversation. Now he approached, looking off into the direction where Michael and Shella had departed. “For a trainer, he seems quite technical,” he said.
Bertha responded with a nod. “That he is… I’ve known him longer than most other trainers, so I’ve seen his quirks. He’s definitely one of the smart ones, I’ll tell you that, but he has his moments where he doesn’t think things through.”
“Don’t we all?” The man smiled. “Still, it’s good to see that pokémon biology isn’t underappreciated by everyone… especially by the young. Contrary to what many people think, it’s actually a very profound field, with its own nuances and rules. Currently, there are more than 390 confirmed species, but researchers are finding more every year, and discovering intricate relationships between them.”
Bertha looked askance at the man, one eyebrow lifted. “You seem like you really know your stuff. What did you say you do again?”
“I’m a pokémon researcher by profession,” he replied. “But my work encompasses slightly more than that. Sometimes I take up projects in broader biology, like a recent study that dealt with pokémon habitats and why certain species settle where they do. Is it the way things always were? Or did humans play a role in introducing them?”
“That’s interesting,” Bertha said. “So which do you think is the reason?”
The man gave a slight shrug. “It’s a bit of both, really. Though by how much, we still don’t know…. The most light on this issue has been shed only in the past thirty years, and research is still continuing today. The group that’s doing the most to investigate it right now is based in Sinnoh, actually. Their department isn’t the largest of its kind, but it’s very active, and it’s helped the field make some important recent advancements.”
“Ah.” Bertha nodded, absently twirling the pen in her hand. “Who is it?”
The man cast away his gaze as he folded up the flyer. “Team Galactic.”
On their way back from Bertha’s table, Michael and Shella took a long-winded stroll around the Gym complex, keeping a steady pace with each other. Everywhere, it seemed, the event was in full swing. There were other roster tables scattered about the grounds, manned by Marie’s staff, mixed with food tables and games. They stopped by to admire the bouquets of colorful balloons that bobbed in the wind, tied down with curly strings, and the souvenirs that were on display at countless booths. It surprised Michael how an event like this could be planned in such short notice, but with
Conversation flowed freely between him and Shella as they walked, and much like it had been on their first evening alone, he never had to forcefully change the subject or think too long about a response. Somehow their thoughts ended up trailing over to the Space Race, and they discussed its history, the discoveries, and the current stalemate between Team Rocket and Team Galactic. Michael, who hadn’t broached the topic in weeks, felt a strange feeling of hollowness where his passion used to be. It seemed like he had more or less forgotten about the Space Race during his travels with Henry, for his interest in it had been overridden by a matter more pressing — his battling the Gyms.
He did not broach on his opinions, but was content to listen to Shella speak, replying only when he thought was necessary.
“I never really thought about it as a race, personally,” Shella was saying. “I mean, the fact that they’ve made all these discoveries about space just underlines the fact that we’re all a part of the same planet, surrounded by a world we don’t know anything about yet. Just because one country or another got to the moon first doesn’t mean that the moon belongs to them. And it definitely doesn’t mean that they should treat it like it’s their property.” Right then, she paused in her argument and smiled. “When Allan Knight announced the pictures that Team Rocket’s ship took of the moon, he said ‘Now we can go ahead and copyright them for the textbooks.’“ She giggled. “He’s the head of Team Rocket. He’s really funny. He says all sorts of things when he goes on the news… ”
Michael smiled. The image of a man swam before his eyes—stout, with thick-rimmed glasses, and a tweed suit. But though he tried, he couldn’t conjure up an image of the Galactic commander—whoever he was, he remained shrouded in darkness.
He had his thumb hooked in his pocket as he walked, and alternated his gaze from the sky to the ground below, where his gaze trailed after the partygoers who flocked around the buildings of the Gym complex. No longer under the spell of the chilly, fire-lit evening of their first date, Michael no longer felt like he was walking in a daze. Shella’s presence was oddly relaxing, and being with her felt comfortable and natural—almost like reuniting with a long-lost friend. And to his surprise, Michael was perfectly content to have it that way.
A span of time passed, and their conversation moved on to other casual topics, and soon enough Michael and Shella returned to the spot by the entrance, where he had initially left Henry. Michael looked around, but the boy was nowhere in sight.
Then, above the general chatter, he heard a sudden voice: “Michael!”
He turned in the direction of the sound, and with a jolt, glimpsed the side of a beige tote bag, and a head of short brown hair scanning the crowd. He turned back to Shella, his heart hammering.
“I have to go. My friend’s looking for me. Can we meet sometime later?”
“Of course,” Shella said. “We still haven’t been to the downtown together yet. I’d love to take a walk by the main prospect. So when you’re free, just give me a call.”
Michael nodded. “Sounds good. I’ll see you later, then.”
Shella waved. “Bye!”
Michael turned back to the place where he had spotted Henry. He wove a complicated path though the mayhem, hoping that his initial location couldn’t be traced, and stopped when he found the boy. Henry was standing beside an empty table, leaning back against it with his hands resting on the surface. Upon seeing Michael he turned to meet him, expression clouded.
Michael held up a hand in apology. “Sorry,” he said quickly. “Sorry. I just had to get something. If you want, we can go back to the room now. Or train.”
Henry’s eyes never left the booths on the other side of the path. “Who was that? That girl you were with?”
Michael felt a brief chill. There was no smile on Henry’s face, but it was hard to tell what the boy was thinking. Seeing no other way out of his predicament, he exhaled. “That’s… Shella.”
Henry’s eyelids drooped slightly, forming an incredulous expression. He crossed his arms.
“I met her a while ago,” Michael explained. “Back when I was in Jubilife, actually. And she happened to be in town today, so, you know. I saw her and I wanted to stop by and talk.”
“Uh-huh... And did she happen to be in town last night too?”
After a long pause, Michael frowned. “You have some crazy ideas, man. Let’s go. We have a battle to train for.”
Henry was silent for a moment, then let out a slow breath. “Whatever you say...”
The boys turned back towards the plaza. Ringo flapped over to them and perched himself on Michael’s head, merrily clucking his tongue as the boys left the Gym.
But the league does need to get involved in crime investigations - after all, Lisa needs some reason to drive around the various Pokemon regions in a large Buick station wagon, foot on the accelerator and guns blazing, lol
You also bring up a good point here. As I recently mentioned in my blog, the typical single-type Gym makes little sense from a strategy perspective. But perhaps that idea is a carryover from the old days when people weren't nearly as aware of type advantages and such, and it just never changed even as trainers became more knowledgeable.
Marie is certainly quite the marketing pro - I don't recall ever seeing a carnival-type event being held to promote a petition. She definitely comes across as a skilled old(er) veteran of the Pokemon training world - she has quite a few good words of wisdom and it's clear Bertha listens to and trusts that advice. I'm looking forward to seeing what her demeanor is like in battle - she seems nice and carefree enough outside of battle, but Bertha's already warned that Marie is going to be a challenge in the battle arena, and I'd like to see that
Now I'm also curious about that mystery man who keeps showing up (well, I always have been, but now even more so). Is he investigating Team Galactic? Or is he doing some investigating for Team Galactic? How is it that he always shows up wherever Michael and co. are? Is he trailing them because he caught wind of Bertha's petition and/or Michael's article?
Oh, and @Henry: Jealous much? xD
And yes, Marie is very savvy when it comes to marketing and League business. Remember, she's not just any Gym leader, but the Gym leader of Pastoria, which is a center of communication nearly as big as Jubilife. And her years on the job have taught her well. Her battle with Michael and Henry is fast approaching, and it'll definitely be a unique one.
And yes... little by little we are piecing together the facts about Team Galactic. I won't answer your speculations, since that's what the story's for, but I will tell you that you're asking the right things. And all your questions will be answered eventually. The Galactics have a complicated image, and a complicated past, which will make them important to this story beyond their role in the Space Race. (You didn't really think I'd leave them as some off-to-the-side space company, did you now? xP)
As for the mystery man... ... ... you will soon find out. Hehe.
But for the time being, I'll have to keep you on your toes for a little longer while I get to work on the next chapter. Thanks for the review, and thanks for reading!
After leaving the party, Michael and Henry returned to the peace and quiet of their room, where they set down their belongings and trailed off in separate directions—Henry to the armchair, and Michael to the desk, where he opened his notebook and began to leaf through the pages.
“Okay, so Marie’s Gym is Water.” Michael traced his finger along the type chart to find the corresponding row. “Strengths, obviously, are against Fire and Rock. Weaknesses are Grass and Electric. That’s not too bad. I have Turtwig. You have Burmy and Pachirisu. Then I have Machop and Ringo, who’re neutral, and Goldeen, who’s Water too. Caterpie… she might come in handy again, so I’ll keep her in my team to be safe. You have Clefable and Starly, neutral too.” He looked up at Henry. “Seeing as I don’t have anything Electric-typed, I’ll have to either catch one or teach my pokémon some Electric moves. But other than that, I think we’ve got it covered.”
Henry, who was resting his chin in his hand, gave a shrug. “Well then there’s not much to train for, is there?”
“I guess not.”
Michael watched as the boy’s gaze dropped to his knees again. He let out a sigh. “All right, what’s with you? Are you upset?”
“No,” Henry mumbled.
“Yes you are. I’ve known you and your little facial expressions long enough. Just tell me what the deal is.”
Henry remained silent, keeping his gaze fixed on the legs of Michael’s chair rather than meeting his eyes. Suddenly, Michael had an idea. “Is it Shella?”
Henry looked up for a split second, then almost self-consciously trailed his gaze away again. Smiling, Michael got up and nudged Henry’s shoulder. “Come on, spit it out. You like her, don’t you? Think she’s pretty?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Henry said. “She wouldn’t have anything to do with me anyway.”
“Pshaw!” Michael let out a laugh.
Henry sprang up out of the armchair, his face pink. “Oh come on, it’s true! You’ve had girlfriends, and I… well, I’ve never had any and I probably never will. While you’re off on your little dates, I’m just sitting here, being the good little kid I’ve always been. That hasn’t changed in years, and I know it’s never going to. I’m hopeless!” He let his arms fall to his sides in resignation.
Michael held down his chuckles with a feigned-serious expression. “Hold up. Who said anything about dates? All I did was talk to her today.”
“Yeah, and that Great Marsh ticket I found on the floor yesterday just fell out of the sky.”
Feeling another wave of laughter overtake him, Michael stumbled back onto the bed, collapsing into a half-seated, half doubled-over position. Doing his best to stifle the quakes, he drew himself upright, shaking his head. “Cat… first of all, you can’t look at a girl and automatically think ‘potential girlfriend’. It doesn’t work that way, and chances are, you’ll only creep them out and they won’t talk to you anymore. And second of all, no one said you were hopeless. You said that, and you’re only what you say you are.”
Henry knit his brows as if for a retort, but his willpower seemed to drain away at the last minute, and he sat back down again. Michael watched him for a moment, pondering over what to say.
“If you want…” he said with a growing smile, “I can take you to meet her.”
Henry narrowed his eyes in disbelief. “How?”
“We made plans to meet each other for a walk downtown. I don’t think she’ll mind if I took you along.”
Henry let out a sigh. “Thanks, but… if it’s your date, then I guess I don’t want to ruin it. Just go. You don’t have to feel guilty for me, I’m not upset.”
“It’s not really a date, to be honest,” Michael said. He was looking up at the ceiling now, studying the swirly strokes of white paint. “I don’t think I even like her that way. It’s hard to explain. She’s like a friend to me.” He looked down at Henry. “Being friends is good too, you know.”
“I know, I know,” said Henry. “I’m not expecting anything. I just want to have some fun for once.”
“And you will.” Michael beckoned him towards the door. “Come on.”
Henry jerked from the chair, eyes bulging. “We’re going now?”
“No.” Michael chuckled. “We’ll go in the evening. Right now, we gotta get ready. You in particular. If you want to make a good impression, you have to work on it.”
“But what about being myself?”
“It’s not about acting like someone else. It’s about being presentable the way you are. Take me for example—sure I dress up when I have to, but I don’t go overboard and wear stuff that I’m not comfortable in. Some guys show up to dates in freaking formal vests, and I think it puts girls off, to be honest, because they don’t want to see an image. They want to see you as you really are. And being yourself is all about being relaxed, which means dressing the way you feel is right for wherever you’re going. That in mind, you still gotta look good, and that means ditching the scaredy-cat too. You could work yourself up into a nervous mess when all a girl wants is to talk, and that kills her impression of you. So keep your cool. If you don’t have anything to say about something, then don’t. Keeping quiet is better than saying something stupid just to impress someone.” As Michael talked, he packed his backpack, placing in his pokéballs and notebook. Henry watched him in curiosity, eyes narrowed.
“So then where are we going now?”
“To town. We need to research move techniques, for one thing. And for another, we can get you something less dorky than that granny purse.” He pointed to the knapsack that hung over the back of the chair. Normally, Henry was proud of his unique, convenient solution to pokéball storage, but right then, his friend’s words seemed to pierce through his gloom, and coaxed from him a smile.
“Fine then. Let’s go.”
Without having been in the room for more than twenty minutes, the boys departed once more on another journey.
They brought all their trainerly possessions with them to the bus stop, and when they got off inside the downtown, Michael used his map to find the nearest library. Despite the building’s quiet, high-ceilinged grandeur, it hosted a casual public consisting of all ages—from elderly enthusiasts to children in reading groups. To neither boy’s surprise, the facility featured a Pokémon Training section that stood separate from all the others. There they spent the rest of the afternoon, pulling books on Electric moves and finding which pokémon could learn them.
Michael decided on Thunderpunch for Machop, and was pleased to see that the book he selected had diagrams similar to Ted’s, along with detailed text explaining what should be done. From another book he found the technique for Energy Ball, a Grass move, which he would teach to Caterpie as soon as she emerged from her cocoon. Henry gathered a list of more advanced moves for Pachirisu and Clefable, and studied the diagrams with great interest. The books gave varying prognoses on the length of the training period, all of which were within a week, give or take a few days. Michael and Henry chose not to risk it and decided to schedule their battles with Marie for next week. They would do their preliminary battles on Sunday, three days later, and hopefully glean a preview of what Marie had in store. In the meantime, they would dedicate their days entirely to training, practicing the move techniques till their pokémon could recite them backwards.
With their move-tutoring books tucked under their arms, the boys descended the stone steps of the library and emerged onto the noisy street.
“We should find a safe place to do these move routines,” Henry spoke up. “I’m thinking we should go really far away from the buildings, like way towards the marshes.” He made a slow motion with his arm as if to throw something across the street.
“Why? Last time we used the hotel courtyard and we were fine.”
“But that was when Ted was helping us. He said we should only try basic moves on our own, or we could get hurt. And Thunderbolt isn’t really basic.“ Henry bit his lip.
“Calm down,” Michael said. “He only meant that for really powerful stuff, not basic moves that even a Pichu could use. And given that we don’t have much else to work with, we ought to stick with this. Unless you want to spend another week looking for the resident Move Tutor of Pastoria, in which case, be my guest.”
“I know, I know. I’m just saying we should be careful. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to set the hotel on fire.”
Michael snickered. “I think it would be cool if we could just start shooting bolts of lightning into the sky. I can think of five good pranks we can pull…”
Henry shook his head and looked away. “Not listening.”
Michael rolled his eyes. As they neared the subway station, he stopped to look at the stone clock tower that stood in the middle of the walkway. “Shit, it’s almost five. I said I’d meet Shella at six. We have to get to Gracidea Park; it’s a few blocks from the Great Marsh.”
Henry adjusted his grip on the books. “What should I bring?”
“Just yourself. Maybe a wallet just in case we stop by somewhere for a snack. I know I can stand to ditch the bag for a couple hours.”
They took the subway back to the plaza and arrived at their hotel room minutes later. Michael changed his shirt for the tye-dye one he was particularly fond of, and ran a comb through his hair, settling it into its usual messy-orderly style. Henry hobbled towards the bed and let his books fall into a heap, then began to fumble for his wallet, clearly debating whether he should take it alone or bring the entire tote bag with him. When he found it he held it in his hand, and the straps of the bag in the other, weighing them against each other in indecision.
When Michael saw what he was doing, he shook his head.
“Just leave it. We’re going one a walk for Pete’s sake; you’re not gonna be battling anyone. Quit being a trainer for once and just be you.”
Henry sighed. “Fine.” He let the tote bag sink onto the bed and pocketed the wallet.
As Michael laced his sneakers, Henry walked over to the vanity mirror and lifted his own comb, running its teeth through his short brown hair. He didn’t have much to comb, but though his appearance was left more or less unchanged, the task seemed to relax him.
Michael, now fully ready, marched on towards the door and waited for the boy to join him. “Come on. You done?”
Henry looked at himself a second longer, straightening the edges of his shirt, and took a breath. “Yeah. Coming.”
He turned, and without a word, followed Michael out of the room.
The boys left the plaza for the towering city, taking the sidewalk that ran alongside the road, which teemed with cars and buses traveling to and from the downtown. Michael led Henry along the same route he had taken on his first evening in the city, waiting at the bus stop for a ride, then getting off to plow through the teeming crowds in search of the subway station. Henry followed each point of their journey in silence, eyes sweeping over the sparkling cityscape, expression shifting from wonder to deep thought as he shifted his gaze from one sight to another. Though Henry was making no conscious effort to hide his feelings, Michael found it hard to guess what the boy was thinking. He had withdrawn somewhere into his own mind, where he seemed to be working something out, taking only a surface interest in the flurry of colors and sounds that surrounded them. If Henry were nervous, then he didn’t say it, and for once, Michael didn’t try to reassure him. He had an odd feeling that, one way or another, the boy would find his footing, and in the moment when he would least expect it, finally stumble upon his goal.
They entered the subway station and began to work their way along the network of routes, getting off at the stop called Marshland, which was located across the street from the Great Marsh complex. But instead of crossing to the other side like Michael had done before, he led Henry further along the boulevard until they reached a park of smaller scale, enclosed by a wrought-iron fence and decorated with trees and flowering bushes.
Michael swept his gaze over the people that gathered in the vicinity, but Shella was nowhere in sight. “We’re early,” he remarked. “That’s weird. The clock in the subway said it was six.”
“No we’re not,” said Henry suddenly. “Look.”
He pointed to a bench that had been hidden from view by a tree, which now emerged into view as they came closer. A girl was sitting at the edge, her hands folded in her lap, watching other people pass by. Perchance, her gaze locked on Michael’s, and he gave a smile.
“Yep. That’s Shella.”
Shella stood to greet them, clasping Michael’s hand in hers.
“How are you?” he asked.
“Wonderful,” Shella replied. Her eyes found Henry a second later. Michael looked askance.
“Oh, this is my friend—”
“Henry.” The boy cleared his throat before Michael could finish, extending a hand. “I’m a trainer too. Michael and I met all the way back in Oreburgh, and we’ve been battling Gyms together ever since.”
Shella shook his hand, and looked at Michael with a sly smile. “You had a friend and you never introduced us?”
Michael’s face became grave. “Never got a chance. Henry’s a lot more dedicated to the League than me, so he doesn’t have much time for other stuff. He spends almost all his time training and making sure his pokémon are pumped up to the max. No joke. I keep trying to get him to do something else, like go outside, but the kid just keeps on trucking. You know, he beat the Hearthome Gym three to two.”
Henry lowered his chin a little, smiling.
“That’s pretty impressive!” Shella looked at Henry. “You seem a little young for a trainer, though.”
Henry gave a pause. “Actually, uh, I’m older than most of them,” he said. “I’m eleven. I started the League this summer. Most kids start it when they’re nine, but they do it for fun and don’t usually stick with it for long. I’m not like that. I didn’t want to do it when I was nine because I didn’t feel I was ready… and well, because my mom wanted me to focus on school. But now I’m ready for it.” He squared his shoulders, as if to transmit his certainty, and gave a smile.
“So you’re serious about the League?”
Henry nodded. “Yep! I already made up my mind. Mike and I are gonna aim for the top together. We might even enter the tournament together.”
“But that means we’ll have to battle each other,” Michael said.
Henry paused, giving a frown. “Well, then I guess one of us will have to win.”
“And we all know it’s going to be me…”
Michael responded with a shrug. “That or we make it a tie and force them to give us both the title.”
“You really think they’ll let us do that?”
“Sure, why not? It’s not like they can force one of us to win.”
“Yeah, I guess that makes sense…” said Henry. “But you have to promise. Deal?”
Michael rolled his eyes. “Fine. Deal.”
When the boys had made their compromise, Shella smiled. “I think it’s great that you two are in this together,” she said. “That’s what I always liked about pokémon training. Challenging the League sounds twice as fun when you do it with your friends. And not to mention easier.”
Michael glanced over to Henry, and responded with a chuckle. “True that.”
They set off down the path together and made more small-talk, pausing every so often to comment on a piece of scenery. At first, the comfort that Michael had started to feel in Shella’s presence seemed to diminish with Henry’s presence, though the tension he felt within himself eased when he saw that she had taken a fair liking to him. She asked him some more questions, pertaining to his life and hobbies, and seemed to delight in the fact that he knew a lot about the Sinnoh League, particularly more detailed topics which she hadn't been able to broach with Michael before. Henry, in turn, gradually loosened up in her presence and became his usual self, though Michael noticed that he was holding something back, keeping some of his usual mannerisms restrained behind a more grown-up composure. But at the same time, he never came across as rushed or pretentious, and apart from that brief moment of uncertainty when he first spoke to Shella, he never lost himself in front of her.
Michael gave him a hand when he could, filling the gaps of Henry's stories where he couldn't remember something, and giving his own spin on a tale. Together, the boys narrated all the colorful moments of their journey for Shella, like their first battle with Byron, their adventures in Hearthome, and their plight in Solaceon. When Michael told the story of how he had first used Goldeen’s water technique in his battle with Jerry, Shella hadn’t been able to handle it, and burst into laughter.
“I have to say, that’s really creative!” she said. “I never knew pokéballs could work like that. I imagine that blew the Gym leader’s mind when he saw it!”
Michael smiled. “You should’ve seen the look on his face. He practically dropped his pokéball. And Bertha, too. She was right there watching, and she nearly got soaked!”
Shella continued to giggle, covering her face with her palm. When she had calmed, she turned to the boys again, a new spark of interest kindling behind her eyes. “You guys never told me how you met her. I know she’s traveling to get signatures for her petition, but why did she decide to travel with you two?”
Michael gave a slight grimace. “Well, she sort of didn’t have a choice. There was this factory that got put up in her hometown that belonged to Team Galactic, and it was dumping a whole bunch of waste into the town, so she tried to get it to change its policy. She said that Team Galactic’s been getting too powerful for its own good, and that it was about time that some of the government’s money went back to the League. It’s because the government’s been cutting funding from the League to give it to Team Galactic, which is why the League can’t do a lot of things it used to.”
Henry, meanwhile, had cast his gaze down to his shoes, expression dark. “She didn’t have a Gym or anything,” he put in, after a moment. “She did all her battles in her house, and she had to give trainers a place to live and eat too, because there wasn’t a League hotel. That’s all because the League couldn’t work with the town to build her a Gym.”
“And she got into this huge argument with the factory’s management while we were there,” Michael continued. “I think she wanted something from them, maybe to get help with the petition, but before she could get anything done, the factory exploded.”
Shella balked at the sudden twist. “It exploded?”
“Yep. Right in the middle of Henry’s battle, too.” Michael exchanged a glance with the boy. “The whole town had to evacuate. Trains started coming in like crazy and people were boarding them and getting rides to all over the place. Bertha decided to go with us to Hearthome, because she had to meet with the next Gym leader to her his signature, and we needed to see him for our battles. And from then on, I guess, she tagged along wherever we went.”
Shella processed their story with a frown. “I think I remember seeing something on the news about an explosion… I can’t imagine what that must be like. Losing your entire home, all because some people were careless with their experiments. But I guess it’s a good thing she decided to move on. Taking action is much better than staying in one place.”
It seemed that she might have wanted to say more, but right then, she decided to remain silent.
Their conversation ended on a low note, but as they left the park to wander about the neighboring streets, Shella regained her spirits, and the trio strolled with renewed energy among the shops and kiosks. Here, in the northernmost limits of Pastoria City, life was comparably quiet. With the greatest attention reserved for the Great Marsh, the rest of the vicinity was devoted to small enterprises like cafés and souvenir shops, whose windows they skimmed by, peering in to glimpse racks of items. They visited a record store, where they searched for various groups among boxes of tracks, and played their favorite tunes.
Next, they located a candy store, which Michael entered in earnest, feeling a beast within him stir at the smell of chocolate. He browsed the aisles with the utmost attention, though for a long while he hung in indecision, for he had tried nearly every brand of candy on the shelf, many to the point where he could almost replicate their taste in his mind. He stood there for a while, until Shella beckoned him to the International section, which stood on a side wall. Michael lifted his eyebrows, as did Henry, as he glimpsed the rows of foreign titles, written in varying styles, often coming in odd shapes. By chance, Michael’s eyes landed on the Johto section, where he found one package out of many and took it from the wall.
“Rage Candy Bar?” He turned the package over in his hands. “That’s a weird name.”
“Oh, those are really good!” said Shella. “I’ve only had them a couple times. It’s really lucky that they have them here — even in Slateport they’re not always in stock.”
But Henry was eyeing the wrapper in shock. “I’ve heard of those! They’re made in this really exclusive place in Johto called the Lake of Rage. They use fat from Gyarados to make the flavor better!” He looked up at Shella. “Don’t they?”
Shella attempted a smile. “I heard a rumor… but I don’t think it’s true. At least I hope it’s not true.”
They both looked at Michael, who was still holding the candy bar. He lifted the flap of the wrapper to read the ingredients, eyes narrowed. “It just says chocolate.”
“Yeah, but it matters how they make the chocolate,” Henry said. “I don’t think we should get it.”
Michael frowned. He sought out the cashier, who was counting bills by the register, and pushed the candy bar over to him. “S’cuse me, is it true they make these things with Gyarados fat?”
The man looked up, and at the sight of the candy’s name, gave it an approving squint and nodded. “That’s some quality chocolate right there,” he said. “It’s not often we have them. They’re handmade by a man in Johto. He has a secret recipe that he won’t reveal to anyone, so he’s the only one in the world who can make them. As for the Gyarados fat, I highly doubt it. It’s just a rumor. And Gyarados are pretty hard to catch, mind you, so I doubt some lone fisherman is going to want to prop a whole business on Gyarados fat.”
Henry let out a sigh of relief.
“But I’ll tell you one thing.” The clerk held up a finger. “They’re called Rage Candy Bars for a reason. It’s said that there’s a certain species of berry tree that grows right around the Lake of Rage, and the juice that comes out of it makes a flavor that complements the chocolate perfectly, which is why the guy uses it. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but whatever that chocolate is, it can’t be beat.”
Michael eyed his companions. “Well that sounds good for starters. I’m buying it.”
He grabbed two more bars and paid for them, handing them each to Henry and Shella. Upon taking his first bite, Michael was astonished at the taste. It was chocolate of a surprisingly deep and rich quality, complemented by the subtle crunch of a wafer filling. It was easily better than anything he had had back in Jubilife. But when they returned to the cashier to ask if they had any more in stock, he responded with a shake of the head.
“We’re all out, I’m afraid. Sorry.”
Michael’s face fell into a frown, a crease forming between his eyebrows.
He pocketed the wrapper, promising himself that the next time he saw a candy store, he would look for them.
Shella offered Michael an apologetic smile, and out of guilt that she had led them into a dead end, she bought a bag of small chocolates, which they shared as they exited the shop and continued down the street. The sun was already dipping low to the horizon, dimming the sky, and they were beginning to search for a bus stop where Michael and Henry would be leaving. As they proceeded in the direction of the Great Marsh, the street gradually grew busier, and the crowds noisier. The area around the Marsh complex, which had been sparsely populated just hours ago, was now teeming with people who seemed to have assembled from all directions. There were several points in particular where the commotion was concentrated, among them a nearby news store, which stood just a few doors down from the Marsh. Michael’s gaze stuck to it as he passed by. The store was bursting with activity from within, where the shadows of customers could be seen pacing the room, gesturing angrily. Their rapid chatter wafted through the closed doors, reaching Michael’s ears even above the sound of traffic. People dotted the vicinity outside in a likewise state, talking at a frantic pace, their conversations garbled by the sheer quantity of voices.
“I wonder what that’s about,” Shella murmured.
Michael looked at the people who were gathered around the news store, registering the looks of evident anger and shock on their faces. “Better not wait to find out. Let’s go.”
He quickened his pace, and his companions followed suit, cutting across the next few blocks. They ran into no further obstructions, and soon found a bus stop, where Shella waited to see them off. They stopped together by the benches, facing each other.
“It was great seeing you again, Michael. And you too, Henry.” Shella gave the boy a smile. “I can tell you’re a really dedicated person. You’ll go places.”
Henry blushed slightly, but maintained eye contact.
“Maybe we can meet up again another day,” Michael offered.
“Definitely,” Shella said. “I was actually looking at an art museum downtown. It has a great modern collection with stuff from all over the country. I know it’s not as much of a thrill ride as a concert, but paintings are nice too, right?”
Michael nodded. “Cool. You up for it, Henry?”
“Great!” Shella beamed.
Moments later, there came a loud grunt as the bus came to a stop by the curb, sliding open its screechy doors. Michael and Henry boarded, paid the fare, and took a window seat to wave Shella goodbye. She lingered by the benches to see them off, the colors of her hair and clothing standing in contrast with the dull sidewalk, then the bus whisked them away, pushing her image aside as the rest of the block began to roll by.
Henry’s gaze lingered on the spot for a moment, then he looked down at his lap with a sigh. “Thanks for that, Michael.”
Michael gave a professional nod. Though he couldn’t keep from smiling.
Inside the bus, the boys were surrounded by relative calm. They rode without speaking, for with the close of their evening, they had each reached a point of contentment where words were no longer needed to express their thoughts. Everything had already been said between them.
The two boys spent their ride in silence, looking in different directions, glad to let their minds wander. Michael soon took to watching the window, hoping to eventually get some shut-eye before they arrived at the subway. But as he continued to peer out into the distance, he became aware of a growing disquiet outside, which, instead of fluctuating across points of varying activity like it should have, seemed to increase in magnitude the longer he studied the fleeting streets. People flocked together in groups of unusually large concentration, filling alleyways, dawdling in the middle of sidewalks, their faces all marked with the same dazed, puzzled expressions he had seen earlier by the Great Marsh. It was as if the commotion in that little part of town had taken hold of the city at large, stirring up a general intrigue whose tides were fast rising, soon to envelop everything within the city limits. But though he tried, Michael couldn’t pinpoint its source. There seemed to be nothing unusual going on in the streets or in the sky, nor were there any clear signs of a crisis, like traffic cones or flashing lights. He caught sight of a few TVs stacked in a store window, but they flicked past too quickly for him to see what they were showing.
As time passed, the other people in the bus seemed to stir awake, as they caught on to the same things Michael was noticing. He heard fragments of conversations all around him as the passengers pointed to various things in the distance, turning their heads, rustling purses and shopping bags. At one point, he thought he heard someone whisper: “Oh my God!”
Just as he was about to turn to Henry, he felt the boy tap his shoulder.
“Michael, I think I just saw some people standing with signs!” Henry pointed to the window across from them, which most of the passengers were now looking at, blocking the image with their silhouettes. Michael lifted himself from his seat to for a closer look, though he had acted a moment too late, and the image was obscured by rushing buildings.
He tried to push himself further forward, squinting to glimpse the walkway on the other side of the road, but saw nothing. “Signs? What did they say?”
“I don’t know. But it feels like it’s everywhere.” Henry gulped. “Something’s happening.”
When they arrived at the trainer plaza, the hotel appeared to be in its usual state, active and orderly. There were a few trainers lingering in the sitting room, playing games, while staff members pursued business of their own. Whatever was happening in the city, it had not yet reached the plaza’s ears.
Michael and Henry ascended the stair steps to their room without comment, but before they could go any farther, a door down the hallway swung open, and Bertha stepped outside, beginning a hurried walk towards the lobby. But upon seeing the boys, she stopped, eyes perking in surprise.
“Hello boys. Where were you?”
“We were just downtown,” Michael said. “Why?”
“I went to check up on you a while ago, but you weren’t in your room. Anyways, it doesn’t matter. You’re here now, that’s good.”
“What do you mean?” said Henry. “Did something happen?”
The look of worry that had lingered on Bertha’s face a moment prior vanished for a smile. “No, not at all. I was just wondering what you two were up to.” She pushed back a strand of hair that had fallen from behind her ear. “Today’s just been a strange day for me. Marie and I have been working to assemble all the contacts we got during the party, but the phone lines are all busy for some reason, and we couldn’t get in touch with half the people we wanted to. We were in her office all day trying to sort it out with the city hall, but in the end they just left us hanging, and we had to hang up. Then, just now, I got a phone call from Anita.”
Michael was taken aback at the mention of Bertha’s secluded friend, whom they had met only briefly in Hearthome. “Anita? Why would she call you all of a sudden?”
“I don’t know. She seemed worried, though. She said that my petition might have to be put on hold for some reason.”
Both boys balked.
“Why?” Henry asked.
“Beats me. She said she couldn’t explain it to me over the phone, but she said to check the news… and there’s nothing on the news.” Bertha gave a one-shoulder shrug and crossed her arms.
Michael exchanged a glance with Henry, but could find no means of shedding light on her words. When it was clear that they knew as little about the conundrum as she, Bertha let out a sigh. “Well, I’ll keep you guys posted, at any rate. Stay out of trouble.”
She gave them a final smile, and brushed past them on her way towards the lobby.
At that same moment, in Hearthome City, Nancy Bryan was sitting on the phone in her hotel room, waiting to be connected to the city press office. Her notebook lay open on the table before her, and she was tapping her pen against its surface, waiting to take notes from the person she was about to speak with. But the operator wasn’t responding.
“Hello?” she called into the silence. “Are you still there?”
Moments later, there came a huff as the lady sat back down. “I’m sorry, Miss Bryan, but he’s not available.”
“What?” Nancy slapped the pen down in frustration. She had been promised at least ten minutes of the man’s time, and now they were turning her away. “Please, at least leave a message for him,” she said. The operator responded with something else, her voice breathless, as if from a long run. “But he said this was his break. What do you mean, the line’s flooded?” Nancy pressed. “Where is he? Hello?”
She was cut off by a loud beep from her receiver as a call came in from the other line. Feeling the futility of her situation, she sighed. “Fine,” she told the lady. “I’ll call back later. Goodbye.”
She hung up the phone and switched to her new call, immersed in thoughts of irritation and hopelessness. She paused before answering, wiping her exhausted eyes, then leaned the receiver against the side of her face. “Hello?”
An answer came seconds later, sounding vaguely like Ned, but his voice was drowned out by the sound of cars and people. From what Nancy could gather, he had the others were caught dead in the city center, but the pay phone was either too old or too cheap to keep a good connection. Tom and Bobby tried to say something else, but they too were lost in the static.
Nancy narrowed her eyes as if to peer through a haze. “I can’t hear you guys! There’s too much noise!”
There came another rush of static, louder than ever, then suddenly it cleared. Ned had likely managed to adjust the wiring, and pressed the receiver to his ear anew. For a moment, all Nancy could hear was the sound of distant voices around them. Then came Ned’s, loud and clear, transcending the void between them.
“Turn the TV on. Now.”
Last edited by Haruka of Hoenn; June 27th, 2013 at 10:32 AM.
Ah, so the gym battle isn't for another week, huh? Well, I guess there are worse places to be holed up for a week (or so I thought before I got toward the end of the chapter lol). But why, after Henry's warning, do I have the sinking feeling that something could go horribly wrong with their training exercises? Is it just me?
Anyway, nice conversation between the three of them. It felt natural and casual, like any conversation between acquaintances/friends. And I did get the impression that some (but not all) of Henry's anxiety began to fade as he talked and got to know Shella a bit better.
But holy cow, that chaos in town at the end of the chapter. And if this...
Also, is Bertha hiding something from the boys? This...
Hey, LeSabre! Glad you liked the chapter.
Nothing will go horribly wrong with Michael's and Henry's move-tutoring, but it will be interesting. I won't spend too much time on it, because there's nothing more to their process that I haven't already shown, but I'll explain a bit of what happens.
I also see you're getting speculative... hehe. That's good. I can tell you that the petition, the mystery man, and the public commotion are all linked by a loose thread, which you will learn about soon enough.
As for your question, I wouldn't say that Bertha is blatantly hiding something from them. In that scene, she just wanted to find out if the boys knew anything about why the city was in such a state of disarray, since they had just come from the downtown. That being said, they have been seeing a lot less of her than before, so they can't know everything that she's been up to. She could know a few things that they don't...
But that's all for now. Hopefully the bulk of your curiosity will be sated in the next few chapters. Stay tuned for more!
… …… …. …. …
”… T-minus ten…
…we’re on the air!”
“Good evening, this is Freddie Horner with Sinnoh News Net bringing you the latest updates from the top of the hour. It is currently 4:00 P.M., Jubilife Central Time, and I’m here live with breaking news.
“… It has been scarcely a month after the discovery of the space-pokémon Deoxys was announced, and now SNN has received word of a groundbreaking development... Team Rocket’s press release was made public in Hoenn just last night, and now, Sinnoh has received word that the two space organizations — Team Rocket and Team Galactic — have decided to unite, forming a coalition entitled GASP — the Global Allied Space Program. The terms of the alliance were negotiated during a special meeting between the governments of both countries and representatives from both companies, which took place in Ever Grande City and concluded on June 28th. While the space programs of both countries will continue to exist as independent entities, the bulk of their activities will be pooled into the common effort of GASP, which includes partnership in equipment building, collaborative endeavors, and the sharing of information pertaining to missions. In addition, both companies will now be able to share their federal funds for the purpose of financing missions that were previously unfeasible. Such an alliance will forge an informational and economic partnership between Hoenn and Sinnoh, the likes of which modern history has never seen.
“But if that wasn’t enough to stir the tides, this story comes with a second twist. During their first press meeting, the officials of GASP announced a project that, as we have been told, has been in the works for over four months since the space teams’ fateful encounter with Deoxys. This project is allegedly what originally inspired the alliance, due to its complex nature and goal. That is to continue the study of the pokémon Deoxys in greater detail than any pokémon has ever been studied before… and in an environment that will be more hospitable to research conditions, which will be far removed from the environment of the spacecraft, and much closer to home than what was earlier thought…
… ….. …… …… ….. …….. …..
June 30th, 1963.
THE SPACE RACE IS OVER!
ROCKETS AND GALACTICS JOIN TO UNVEIL SHOCKING OPERATION
Bringing an end to their mysterious silence, Team Rocket and Team Galactic have emerged to announce a momentous agreement: to unite under one international company that will represent the coalition of both countries in matters of space exploration. The union has been named the Global Allied Space Program, and with its creation, both companies have expressed their desire to end past differences and forge a stronger partnership between Sinnoh and Hoenn. The decision, which required several months of deliberation between the governments of both countries, has been called by a Sinnoh official as “the most important consensus that has been reached within these walls since the international treaty that unified the Pokémon League.”
It has been confirmed that Team Rocket and Team Galactic will retain their identities as individual companies, and the respective leadership of Dr. Allan Knight and Thealus Blue. However, their projects—which workers of both companies have claimed to be similar in their goals—will now be jointly funded, and the construction of spacecraft and equipment will be evenly shared, as these organizations strive to unlock the mysteries of the first extraterrestrial life form discovered in the history of humanity.
The preliminary studies of Deoxys are being conducted at the Mossdeep Space Center, using data obtained from previous months by the Hoenn spacecraft. Researchers claim to be learning more and more about Deoxys each day.
“It’s truly the most unique thing we have ever seen,” says Dr. Marrion, a spokesperson for the Space Center. “Its structure seems to be entirely inorganic, and yet it pulses with an energy that I can only liken to how a machine is powered by electricity. It seems capable of quite advanced thinking and emotions, though its language seems to be something entirely unknown to us. It communicates by sending various radio frequencies that it can change at will.”
GASP’s ulterior motive was revealed in nearly the same breath as the rest of Marion’s words, and was later confirmed by the upper-division deputies of Team Rocket and Team Galactic.
“We will bring it to Earth,” said the doctor. “That’s what I’m thinking.”
This statement has been supported by officials from various levels who have expressed that they had been considering this for quite a while since the pokémon’s discovery. Team Galactic has also reluctantly confirmed that plans have long been underway for the construction of a spacecraft that will facilitate the transport. The operation was temporarily delayed due to unforeseen events at a certain factory, but the project has since then been moved to a different location, and is currently proceeding on schedule. On the matter of the spacecraft’s exact nature and components, the team was silent.
GASP has confirmed that the building of the shuttle is incorporating the labor of Sinnoh factories as well as Hoenn’s assemblies, which will divide the labor and profits equally between them. But as for how the feat of the pokémon’s transport will be achieved, and what ramifications it will bring on the people of Sinnoh, only time will tell.
The joint partners of GASP hope that their alliance will serve not only as a sign of their peace, but also as an invitation to all other cosmically-active countries across the world, so that at the end of the day, there will be one umbrella that covers the whole of humanity’s efforts to understand the environment of space, and reaffirm, yet again, that we are part of a single world.
Written by Christopher Sands, Sinnoh Post.
June 31st, 1963.
DEOXYS CAMPAIGN MET WITH OUTRAGE
GASP’s plan to conduct on-Earth studies of Deoxys is not going as well as was originally hoped.
Following the shocking statement released by GASP officials, an unprecedented wave of dissent has swept across the cities of Sinnoh and Hoenn, igniting the airwaves with hundreds of voices, young and old alike, rejecting the international company’s aims and demanding their own say in the matter.
On June 16th, Team Rocket and Team Galactic officially announced their cooperation, forming a third-party union: the Global Allied Space Program. But the news of GASP was followed by a second development: The newly-formed team plans on bringing Deoxys to Earth in order to conduct more intensive study on the pokémon’s biological structure.
This decision was reached in light of recent insight into the nature of Deoxys, the space creature they had discovered in the previous month. The information that GASP’s laboratories have gathered reveals Deoxys’ biological structure as nothing short of a wonder, and further study holds the potential to change our current understanding of pokémon, and perhaps the study of life itself. All the more reason, assured GASP, to bring the pokémon home. However, in some newly-released interviews, officials have admitted that this may not be as easy—or safe—as they might have originally implied.
“The space probes have gotten in-depth pictures and samples from its body,” says one of Team Rocket’s scientists. “Deoxys may look like a giant piece of metal at first, but this is only its outer shell, and a very thin one at that. What lies inside is actually a fine network of nerves making up its entire body that send and receive the signals from the command center in the brain. Like the nerves in our bodies, they carry vital information to and fro across it. If we do succeed in ferrying it safely back to Earth, there’s no telling what might happen. It has grown and thrived in a vacuum environment, and my guess is that under Earth’s atmospheric pressure and overabundance of gases, it will either be crushed or injured. I will bet my payroll on it.”
Others from GASP emphasize the opposite, saying that if Deoxys was built for such harsh, oxygen-lacking environments, all they needed was to recreate such an environment on Earth, in a controlled laboratory. Still, the majority of people in Sinnoh side against GASP’s claims.
“For one thing, they don’t even know what it eats!” remarked a pokémon biology professor, who works in Hearthome City. “How are they supposed to provide for an organism if they don’t know where, if at all, it gets nourishment?”
Similar statements were made by townsfolk, among them a woman, who was seen standing on a street with a small group of protesters. “And what about us?” she remarked to Sinnoh Post. “If they want to bring some alien pokémon here, they should at least figure out what sorts of powers it has! For all we know, it could call its robot friends and launch an attack!”
Written by Ellie Beckett, Sinnoh Post.
“… As the recent tide of events has shown, GASP’s announcement seems to have taken the world by storm. And so far, the announcement of their mission has not been sitting well with a large number of people. SNN has already received a staggering amount of phone calls from citizens eager to express their views, or just wishing to clarify what’s going on. Hopefully we’ll be able to answer some of your questions today. Sitting beside me here is Steve Wilkes, a correspondent of ours, who teaches biology at the Jubilife University and has a particularly strong background in pokémon studies. Hi Steve, thanks for being with us today.”
“The pleasure’s mine, Mr. Horner.”
“Can you tell us anything about how this mission has been sitting with the academic community? Do the rumors of Deoxys’ weakness, or strength, against us have any credible basis?”
“Right now it’s hard to tell. So far, GASP’s scientists have kept their research secret, but I expect they’ll be forced to reveal more sometime soon, what with two whole countries hanging on to their every word. To their credit, Deoxys is the first extraterrestrial life form in history to be discovered by humans, so there can’t be a one-hundred-percent certainty in what I’m about to tell you. What we do know, we know, of course, from having studied pokémon species on this planet only. And in general, pokémon are highly adaptable to their environment. I’m sure anyone who’s ever had a Rattata infestation can attest to that… heh. But ah, more on the serious side, many species throughout history have spread from their initial habitats and can now be found in pretty much any place on the globe. Tentacool, for example, dwell in almost every world ocean, whether cool or moderate, and Zubat and Pidgeys, which originated in Kanto, have long been introduced to every continent, and are thriving as well as the native species. This doesn’t go for all pokémon by any means, but most species are surprisingly durable. Now, Deoxys has enabled itself to survive in what is essentially a void—no water, no nutrients, not even air. When it comes to Earth, it won’t need any of those things from us, and so it could very well be able to adapt to any environment it winds up inhabiting. That is, if the scientists’ assumptions of its durability are sound, and my guess is that they are.”
“Very interesting, Steve. But there’s also another side to the issue that I think is important, namely the relationship between the two companies, Team Rocket and Team Galactic. Two years ago, by all accounts, they were corporate rivals. They had completely different agendas—Team Rocket wanted to study the effects of space’s vacuum on biological processes, and last we heard from Team Galactic, they were interested in gathering metals and rock samples from the moon. In binding themselves together like this, they’ve put each other in an interesting and unprecedented economic position. Why would two companies, who had such different goals in the past, decide to take such a drastic step for a cause that neither of them shared before?”
“I’ll answer your question, Mr. Horner, but what I’d like to point out first is that the reason Teams Rocket and Galactic seem so different on the outside is because, on a functional level, they’re structured very differently. In reality, their mission is one and the same: To study space. But the way in which they go about it, and the things they consider important in their agendas, are influenced by the way each of the two companies is organized, which in turn was influenced by each company’s unique history. Team Rocket began in 1939 as one of the first space-oriented companies in Hoenn, and the majority of its staff came from some of the top universities in the country, from departments of biology and physics. At the time, aviation technology was becoming more advanced, and people were starting to experiment with more powerful propulsion systems, which held the potential to reach new heights—namely, space. The company was very interested in this new frontier, since it was without doubt far different from any place on Earth. One of the first questions about space that captivated people’s minds was whether or not anyone—or anything—could live in such a barren environment. The quest for life among the stars was one of Team Rocket’s most important early goals, and while they may have switched their attention to other things along the way, it’s very likely that after all this time, they’re still proceeding with that goal in mind.
“The history of Team Galactic, on the other hand, isn’t as well-documented. It was founded in 1951, but its predecessor, The Galaxy Corps, dates back to 1946, a time when jet propulsion technology was booming, and the environment of space finally seemed to be within man’s reach. TGC was one of the first companies in Sinnoh that centered its projects on matters of reaching space. It carried the torch for a while, before it dissolved, as many of us still remember, in 1948. But its activities were much more publicized than those of its successor, and I think that in order to understand the Team Galactic that exists today, we need to first understand TGC. Unlike Team Rocket, which, broadly speaking, views the environment of space as an opportunity to investigate biological and physiological questions, TGC’s projects were more focused on the technological aspect of space travel—how we could utilize our environmental resources to produce better and more sustainable propulsion systems, and in turn, how the secrets of outer space could be applied to life back on Earth. In short, TGC was interested in how the worlds of space and Earth could be tied together. That might have been a mighty goal if the company had indeed survived, and I think that when Thealus Blue picked up the pieces of TGC, he meant to continue that mission.”
“And, in discovering Deoxys, I think both the Rockets and the Galactics realized a point of common interest. And from that, they slowly began to see how they might be able to work together. Team Rocket has vast funds, along with the support of a highly capable intellectual community. Galactic’s got organization, infrastructure, and brainpower. And from some of the legislation that’s already been passed, you can tell that each side is utilizing the other’s strengths: GASP’s headquarters will be established in the Mossdeep City Space Center, from which the Deoxys operation will be conducted, when the time comes. At the same time, Team Galactic will likely take on much of the responsibilities pertaining to design and construction of spacecraft.”
“You’ve brought up a lot of interesting points, Steve, and thank you for the insight. What I can’t help but notice is that you used the word ‘when’. I don’t mean to grab your tongue, but do you think it’s an ‘if’ question on whether or not they’ll follow through with this plan, or a ‘when’?”
“I have a feeling it’s the latter. This decision to unite was a momentous thing to do, and I think they knew that once they made it, there’d be no going back. And now there sure isn’t. I think they definitely want to get something done. They’ve been wanting to do it for a while, and now they’re going to follow through with it.”
“So, in your opinion, the plan is finalized? Did I get that correctly?”
“You heard me correctly, Mr. Horner, that’s right. GASP’s operation has been unanimously confirmed by all top officials. They want to bring Deoxys here. To Earth. And one day that’s gonna be as real as a door slammed in our faces…”
Last edited by Haruka of Hoenn; September 9th, 2013 at 06:51 AM.
The sound of the two men’s voices blared from the flashing screen, which cast its glow over the dim sitting room of the Pastoria Gym, spilling over dozens of faces who were staring into the TV, blank and unblinking. The guests had arranged themselves as best as they could around the few chairs and couches that were available, many substituting comfort for closeness and sitting on armrests, or the edge of tables.
Michael was one of many among the crowd, sitting on the floor beside Henry and a group of other trainers. His mind was racing.
Deoxys. To Earth.
It was almost too wild to believe. But with the anchorman’s every word, it seemed, the news which had at first struck them all like a dizzying illusion became more and more solidified into reality.
The room of listeners remained dead silent as Freddie Horner and Steve Wilkes continued to converse, their voices droning on in a monotonous duet of starts and pauses, gradually assembling a complete picture of the event. Horner kept his calm, professional demeanor as he posed questions to Wilkes, who responded in an equally steady manner, nodding along whenever Horner voiced his speculations. The anchorman’s deep voice, which usually came across to viewers as reassuring, now took on the daunting air of the words he was speaking. Every pause seemed like a plunge into the darkness, every word a wary step into the unknown, whose dawn they all feared but wanted to face.
“… As the news broke through the region of Hoenn last night, there was an almost immediate torrent of response in the public, and now we’re seeing a similar pattern here in Sinnoh… People are coming out onto the streets, they’re calling news companies, and they’re rising up in entire communities, all over this one piece of news, which at the rate it’s going, is sure to become a topic of global debate. Of course, different people think different things, but what in your opinion is the most predominant reaction you’ve seen?”
Steve Wilkes pondered for a moment before replying.
“Right now, it seems that the reaction has mostly been negative among the general public, whereas the Sinnoh academia as a whole is taking a more moderate stance on the matter. Most of them are least willing to wait it out and see what other messages GASP has for us before jumping out in protest. This is interesting to note, because in Hoenn, there’s more of a mix. More of the general public there is approving of the Deoxys operation than the public here. There’s definitely dissent, but for every wave of protest in Hoenn, there’s another one happening at the same time in support.”
Freddie Horner nodded. “And what in your opinion would be the more sensible reaction?”
Wilkes leaned back in his chair. “Well, being, like you said, one of the academics, I certainly think it’s best to give GASP a chance to provide biological justification for its claim that Deoxys can survive. But at the same time, I won’t deny that the general public reaction has some truth to it. It’s my world too… and frankly, whatever things a study of Deoxys might have in store for mankind, GASP should first think about whether or not mankind is ready to take such a leap. That’s my opinion, at any rate.”
Freddie Horner pursed his lips, as he often did when he was in deep thought. Moments later, he looked up at the camera, his gaze boring into the eyes of everyone in the room, and those of millions of other viewers across the country, as he flashed the suave, trademark smile with which he closed all of his broadcasts.
“Well, you heard it first here folks. The GASP unveiling, the Deoxys operation… it seems almost too much to take in at once. But SNN will be gathering updates as soon as they come, so stay tuned for more. Until then, good night.”
The broadcast concluded, and the televisions placed around the Gym were gradually shut off. People began to stir from their seats, rising and stretching, moving slowly as if waking from a trance. Michael’s heart was still pounding. In a matter of minutes, all the mental buffers he had built around his passion for the Space Race had been demolished. Once more, he felt the familiar burning rage at the Rockets—only this time, they had pulled the most unforgivable stunt of all. They had entered an alliance, making all of Team Galactic’s work null and void. And now, the Sinnoh scientists would be nothing more than partners in what would inevitably be Team Rocket’s greatest triumph.
Henry was sitting on the carpet beside him, staring at the TV, his lips parted. When the boy turned to face Michael, his face was drained of color. “Michael, this means that they’re taking over! GASP can do anything it wants now!”
Michael shook his head. “You don’t get it,” he said slowly. Even his voice sounded strange, distorted. “This means that everything is ruined. Everything that Team Galactic is, everything it’s done, is going over to them. To Hoenn. That guy said it right to Horner’s face—GASP’s headquarters are in Mossdeep City. All the production is gonna be pumped out of us in Sinnoh so it can go over to them for finalization. It means we’re not getting any of the credit anymore. It means we quit!” Michael slapped his knee.
In a rage, he rose to his feet and looked around at the other people in the room. Many of them had been stirred into a similar state of agitation. They huddled together in groups, talking quietly, their gazes darting across various points in the dark sitting room. Even Marie, who was usually all smiles, had furrowed her brow in deep thought and remained put in her spot on the couch. Bertha seemed lifeless.
“Well... there goes the petition,” she mumbled. She rubbed her drooping eyes, and pushed her elbow off of the armrest, which she had been leaning on for the entire duration of the announcement. “If the government’s giving everything to GASP, there’s no way they’ll take funds from the Space Program. At least not for another good decade.” Her eyes found the blank TV again, and she shook her head, smiling in tired disbelief. “All for the sake of bringing some alien pokémon to Earth. Beautiful.”
Beside her, Marie gave a nod. “Yes, it’s quite a development.”
Bertha breathed a sigh. “But honestly… it doesn’t surprise me. Now, at least, I know why Galactic was so pushy when I tried to investigate their factory. Hell, they were probably making parts for Deoxys’ ship all along. If only I’d known!”
“Don’t be put out just yet,” said Marie. “I’ve seen my fair share of these sorts of things, and my instincts tell me that this won’t be their final word. We’ll have to see what Sinnoh and Hoenn think of this first, and mark my words, it won’t be pretty. What Freddie Horner said about the rising dissent is only the beginning.”
Bertha met her gaze, and despite the gloomy atmosphere, Marie gave a smile.
Rising from her seat, the Gym leader clapped her hands together and turned to address her guests. “All right, well I think that’s a fine note to end things on,” she said. “I’d love to stay open all night for you, but unfortunately, business has to keep moving. I’ll keep tabs on what’s going on, and if there are any more important broadcasts, I’ll open my doors for you again. But for now, I think it’s best to go home. Get some sleep, and maybe tomorrow we’ll get to hear more about this.”
The crowd began to disperse, trickling away into the lobby, taking the tide of low conversation with it. Bertha searched for Michael and Henry, and found them on the floor with a group of other trainers. She beckoned to them, and they stood to follow her.
The three of them were silent as they made their way to the exit. From somewhere behind them, there came a hurried rush of footsteps, and a female voice.
“Excuse me, Miss Herrida?”
Bertha turned. The boys followed suit, and Michael blinked in surprise when he recognized the girl who had approached. It was Shella. She looked slightly disheveled, though like everyone else, she seemed to have forgotten her exhaustion. She appeared troubled, but nevertheless satisfied, as if the news had been to her exact expectation.
“Hello,” said Bertha. “Shella, right?”
Shella nodded. “I was on my way to Grand Lake when I heard that there was some sort of an announcement on the news. I didn’t want to waste any time getting back to my suite, so I immediately came here. I had to follow your bus.” She looked at Michael and Henry with a smile. “Marie really knows how to get a crowd together. And for something as big as this, it’s no wonder so many people came.”
“Well, we might as well get used to it. This sure isn’t going to blow over anytime soon,” Bertha said. “There we were, following those space teams’ every move for five straight years, wondering who’d outwit who. And now, it turns out that they were playing the trick on us the whole time.”
Shella frowned. “I think it was only a matter of time before they joined forces. They might have been enemies in the past, but honestly, I think that out of all the things that happened in the Space Race so far, this is their smartest move.”
In response to Bertha’s raised eyebrow, and the boys’ quizzical expressions, Shella elaborated. “Think about it—this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Team Rocket and Team Galactic are finally working together, which means there won’t be any more of this silly competition stuff, so people won’t get hot about keeping score and will actually start paying attention to what these astronauts are discovering. They’ve put their differences aside, and now they’re doing what everyone else in Hoenn and Sinnoh should be doing—collaborating, instead of fighting.” But at this, Shella’s determined expression gave way for a wince, and her shoulders drooped. “The only bad part is what they’re collaborating on…”
“It’s completely unfair!” Henry blurted. “How can they just make a decision like that without asking anyone? Maybe the rest of us don’t want Deoxys to be brought here!”
Bertha put a hand on Henry’s shoulder. “Trust me, kid, you’re not alone. However strong GASP’s conviction is, it won’t go unchallenged. You can count on that. But for now, all we can do is wait until they give us more information. It might not be that bad.” She offered him a smile, though it faded quickly, signaling that she had trouble believing it herself.
With a sigh, she turned towards the door where other people were leaving, and nudged Michael and Henry along by the shoulders. “Come on, we better get going. You should get some sleep. You have battles to train for.”
Shella accompanied them out of the Gym, falling into step beside Bertha. “Just so you know, my offer still stands,” she said. “I’ll spread the world about your petition in any way I can. I don’t think you should stop what you’re doing just because of GASP.”
They stopped for a moment at the center of the square, where Shella took a backward step in the direction of the exit, and Bertha turned with the boys towards the hotel. Her gaze flickered over to the distant street, where headlights of cars rushed past in the dim twilight, and she lowered her head with a smile. “Oh, I don’t plan on quitting. Those astro-heads haven’t seen the last of me yet.”
She gave Shella a nod, and with that, they parted ways.
For much of that evening and for the whole of the next morning, the TV sets in the Pastoria Trainer Hotel remained lit, displaying the continuation of the announcement which was taking the city—and the rest of Sinnoh—by storm. News of GASP, the seemingly impossible alliance between two previously feuding space organizations, hit the country like a bolt from the blue.
Now that everybody in Pastoria knew what all the built-up tension of the previous days had been about, it suddenly exploded like a water balloon, its repercussions washing over the whole city until the entire population was swept up in a tide of jittery chatter. Reporters from local news companies rushed out onto the streets, panning their cameras across various points in the downtown and suburban areas, gathering footage of reactions from people of all ages. News channels filled their daytime slots with footage of people thronging around news vans, leaning against plastic barricades in the middle of streets, shouting and waving at the camera, hoping to get at least a moment of screen time. Reporters walked around, proffering their microphones to all sorts of passersby, from shoppers to street workers, anyone who looked like they had something good to say.
Towards midday, the camera stopped to focus on a young boy, who was standing in a group of protesters, who held up signs voicing slogans of disapproval.
“That’s bullshit!” he said, in response to the reporter’s question. “Now Team Rocket’s gonna get the upper hand on us! No way the Galactics’ll take that sitting down!”
The crowd surrounding him cheered, waving their makeshift signs, which expressed their dissent with various pictures and statements. Many people had simply copied their designs from someone else, which resulted in the same slogans being seen at countless points across the city, from banners tied to wire fences, to bumper stickers fashioned out of paper.
But still others voiced their unbending support for GASP, and established a presence in the city that was just as dominating as that of their opponents.
“This is the chance of a lifetime!” one woman proclaimed, standing in the middle of a busy sidewalk with a stroller and shopping bags. “I don’t see why Deoxys shouldn’t be brought to Earth! If you had the opportunity to study something that no human being’s ever studied before, wouldn’t you take the chance and do it?”
The Pastoria networks couldn’t have assembled a coherent program out of the interviews even if they wanted to, for the people’s reactions were as varied as the faces that represented them. But eventually, one thing became clear: the more time that passed, the more people seemed to be getting sucked into the debate, polarized between yes and no, for and against. The temptation to speak out, to be heard, for which the upbeat downtown was always known, now washed over even to the city’s outskirts—to the suburbs, the Valor Lakefront, and the Trainer Plaza.
Many trainers, like Michael himself, had also been fervent watchers of the Space Race, and with the latest news update, rekindled a spirit of competition that transcended their League rivalries, bursting the plaza into a storm of hushed, excited chatter. It was as if the sheen of blue sky above them had pulled back to expose the depthless void of space, making their trainlerly cares seem small and insignificant, like the Earth must have seemed in its place among the stars. Even those who hadn’t been caught up in keeping score for Hoenn and Sinnoh began to speculate on the circumstances of GASP’s alliance, and for a time, the trainers in the plaza discussed Deoxys and Team Galactic with as much fervor as they did their battles and the Championship.
But whether Michael liked it or not, as the week wore on, the buzzing shock of GASP shifted to the back of his mind to make room for a more pressing matter—his battle with Marie. He had already resolved to continue with the League challenge no matter what, even if the whole world ended (and though this was pretty darn close to it), he knew he couldn’t afford to lose his focus now. He and Henry stuck to the schedule they had laid out for themselves, practicing the Electric moves with their pokémon in the vast meadow beyond the plaza, relying on the simple routine of their training sessions to keep themselves going strong. With time, they got their pokémon to produce their first tentative sparks, which rapidly progressed to noisy bolts of electricity, which flickered out sporadically in various directions, crashing to the ground to leave burnt holes in the soil.
The light and noise of their displays gradually attracted a crowd of faithful viewers, who gathered around every time Michael and Henry practiced, laughing when their pokémon made a blunder, ‘oohing’ in awe whenever they achieved a perfect execution. Michael remained secretive about their methods, however, and when he was approached by curious trainers who wanted to imitate them, he simply directed them to the library.
Once their pokémon had mastered the moves and could more or less use the techniques, however shakily, Michael and Henry felt confident enough to schedule their preliminary staff battles. So far, everything was proceeding smoothly and surely.
But there was an energy in the air of a different sort than the sparks of Thunderbolt they were producing. With the break of GASP’s announcement, it seemed as if something new and unusual had dawned upon the world, plunging everything into an atmosphere of uncertainty and excitement. To Michael’s surprise, he saw that his pokémon seemed aware of it, and like many other trainers around them, seemed easily distracted by people’s passing conversations. It was as if by some invisible thread of communication between them and the world, his pokémon had received the message that something momentous had happened, and were now searching their surroundings in earnest for its signs. Ringo was more observant than usual, and kept a vigilant watch on Michael’s shoulder, turning in place to watch people go by, picking up details of their conversations. The bird squawked and fluttered his wings whenever Michael passed by a television screen, peering into the flat image, listening to the voices of the reporters and interviewers. Turtwig (who was almost a fully-formed Grotle, though for some reason Michael couldn’t get himself to call him anything else) enjoyed walking about the plaza at Michael’s side, sweeping his pale amber eyes around the landscape. He served as a ferry for Caterpie, who was in the late stages of her transformation, but was still stuck in the cocoon, which over the days had grown to the size of a football. The membrane that enveloped her had thickened, becoming a shiny, silvery material which would later form Butterfree’s wings. But for the time being, she took shade beneath the bushels that sprouted from the grooves in Turtwig’s shell, and seemed on the whole to be hibernating, peacefully oblivious to the moving world around her. Goldeen, likewise, could escape her pokéball only on rare occasions, when the boys battled or visited a pond to give her a place to exercise. Being a Water-friendly facility, the hotel provided complimentary tanks for aquatic pokémon, which Michael took advantage of, figuring that Goldeen would be happier in a pool of water blowing bubbles, than in a cramped space being condensed like a white dwarf star.
The only member of his team that gave Michael trouble was Machop.
The boys had spent many a long afternoon in their hotel room with the TV on, seated at the round snack table, eating their dinner while watching the news. On occasion, they would let out their pokémon to give them a chance to relax, and Michael had made the mistake of sending out Machop. After his first few evenings of dinner theater, the pokémon had clearly found the flashing box to his liking, and now whenever Michael would let him out in the hotel room, he would plant himself on the carpet and sit still for hours, legs folded up against his chest, staring at the picture with wide, unblinking eyes. It soon grew common for the boys to leave him in the room while they went to get food, and come back to find that Machop hadn’t moved a single inch. If Michael tried to pry him from his place, Machop would fidget and squeal in complaint.
On the morning of July 8th, the day Michael and Henry were supposed to leave for their staff battles, Machop had wandered over to the TV set on his own and turned it on, and was watching it while the boys prepared to go. Michael was tying his sneakers by the door, and when he looked up to see what Machop was up to, he let out a groan.
In situations like these, he felt like the parent of an unruly child, and despite the contradiction his actions posed to his own principles, Michael nevertheless gave a smirk of satisfaction when he turned off the TV set and saw Machop’s lips part in confusion.
When the pokémon realized what had happened, he curled his fists and rose to his feet, narrowing his eyes as if to fight back tears.
Michael rolled his eyes. “You’re a big baby, you know that?”
Machop crossed his arms. Despite the fact that he could likely lift the whole TV set and hurl it out the window, he seemed incapable of fathoming his strength, and looked at Michael with an expression of grumbling submission.
“We gotta keep the pokémon away from the TVs,” Michael said to Henry. “Or they’ll stop concentrating.”
“I’m with you there,” Henry replied.
“Then again, we could just keep them in their pokéballs.” Michael twisted the silver ball in his hands, and when he saw Machop watching him, he waved it around in the air. “Yeah, you heard me. Maybe it was a mistake I let you out. Maybe I should send you back in. You want that?”
Machop shook his head.
Machop lowered his head. He remained silent and followed Michael dutifully as they left the room, falling into step with Turtwig and Clefable. Lately, the boys had been spending so much time walking to and fro from their hotel room to the destination of the day, that it had become impractical to recall their pokémon into their pokéballs every single time. So they fell into the routine most trainers had already caught on to, which was to keep at least a few of their team members out with them.
Despite it being only nine in the morning, a fairly large group of trainers had already arrived at the Gym. They were gathered around the TV set in the sitting room, which was playing the Pastoria local news, the same program Michael had turned off just minutes ago. Children and pokémon alike watched it with identical expressions of interest, all cares and duties discarded. It was only when Marge, one of the staff members, entered the room and shut off the TV that the crowd of kids snapped awake, eliciting a chorus of groans.
“That’s enough, break it up!” Marge called, and began to shoo the kids out of the room, ignoring their voices of complaint. “This is getting out of hand. You guys are here for battles, not news updates. Go on, get to your battle rooms! Chop-chop.”
Gradually, the kids dispersed, and the sitting room was left empty. Shaking her head, Marge walked up to the front counter, where Lace, the desk attendant, sat reading a newspaper.
“I might have to talk to Mrs. Wickham about shutting off the TVs in the hotel,” said Marge, leaning one arm against the counter. “This has got to be the biggest hype I’ve ever seen about anything. Two space organizations unite, and now the whole country’s gone to a standstill! Soon the kids might stop training for battles.”
Lace lowered the paper. “Well, you gotta admit, if there ever was a news story worth making such a big hype over, it’s this one. Stuff like this doesn’t happen every day.”
She herself was reading the Pastoria Local Gazette, a weekly newspaper which had begun to churn out daily issues dedicated solely to events in the city and the country. Sinnoh’s main national newspaper, Sinnoh Post, didn’t have the resources to keep up with the pace of events that were occurring on such a massive scale, since it was impossible to circulate such a mass publication more often than once a week. And so, cities had to rely on local newspapers, which could only inform them of goings-on in their vicinity, and even so, only at least two days after they happened. The most current and desired coverage was given by television, where networks like SNN and Lakefront National crammed as much information as they could into a six-hour block, saving the rest of the time for reruns. But in a city like Pastoria, which cherished news in all its forms, newspapers gave detailed coverage and information that, oftentimes, TV networks didn’t. Upon seeing the latest issue of the Gazette in Lace’s hands, Marge knit her brows in interest.
“Where did you get that?”
“A newsstand by the bus stop where I live. It’s the latest one, from this morning.”
“Can I see?”
Lace handed the paper to Marge, who began to skim the articles. But a few minutes later, she put it down with a shake of the head. “’GASP Heads Plan Mission Sabotage?’ That’s complete muckraking! They’re just writing down a bunch of theories without any solid evidence to back them up. That’s just asking to be criticized.” She squinted at the by-line. “Looks like they’re changing authors, too. They always used to have Shelley and Brant cover the pokémon-related stuff. But now they’ve got a new guy called Marvin Whitman.”
“Never heard of him.”
“Well, that explains it,” said Marge. “He must be one of those weird theorizers who’s taking advantage of the hype to voice his opinion.”
Lace shrugged. With a roll of her eyes, Marge placed the newspaper back onto the counter.
Right then, the glass doors to the Gym swooshed open, and Michael and Henry stepped through, their pokémon following along behind.
“Hi, we’re here for our staff battles,” Henry said.
Lace leaned forward. “All righty. Got your trainer cards?”
The boys nodded. They slid their trainer cards over to Lace, who checked a roster of available spaces and gave them each a number. They left the office building through a side door, emerging outside to the Gym’s back lot, where the battle rooms were lined up together in rows, their roofs conjoined by a pattern of waves. Each door was labeled with its own number, and had a tiny series of steps leading up to it, which reminded Michael of the administration buildings at his school.
Inside, the battle rooms were designed similarly to the ones in Solaceon, padded with tumble mats, their walls painted a light, simple blue. But they were also equipped with an added feature, a shallow depression that lined the perimeter of the room, carved out of the floor like the groundwork for some sort of pipe. Taking a closer look, Michael saw that it contained water, which flowed in a thin strip, making the battle floor seem like an island.
The staff pokémon called upon it when using techniques like Water Pulse, which brought the water out in graceful waves to surround its user, then rushed back into the pool when the attack was finished. The pokémon used Water techniques sparingly, however, as one would use any other sort of special move, the rest being a battle of physical stamina and strength. The staff pokémon themselves were either partially aquatic, or simply land-based with a knowledge of Water moves. With each new battle, his staff partner sent out pokémon that were swifter and tougher, and often further evolved than their predecessors. In his fist battle, Michael encountered a Marill, a Buizel, and a Goldeen, and in his second, an Azumarill, a Shellos, and a Wooper.
To his satisfaction, Michael found that his pokémon had grown used to battling, and was surprised at how easier it had become to relay his thoughts to them. They had been the ones he had pulled through Lona’s Gym with, and neither he, nor they, had forgotten it. Michael had lost and won so many times in Solaceon that the very process of battling had become like a boring chore to him, no longer infused with his raging desire for victory, but more like a mechanical skill that he had to perfect through sheer drilling. He found himself feeling calmer than ever before during his matches, concentrating not on the high stakes, but on the condition of his pokémon as the battle progressed. He couldn’t help but notice that they had seemed to learn something too. Whereas before, each member of his party had danced to their own tune, now, after countless move-tutoring sessions in grassy fields and hours walking about together, they all seemed more united as a collective, in-tune both with each other, and with him. And because of that, Michael found it easier to train them.
That day, he went through three battles of three pokémon, each with a break in between, when he would leave for the healing room, a small hut that stood separately from the battle rooms. There he would place his pokéballs into the heating machine and peruse the rack of snacks and sodas, then get a table to the side with the other trainers. The specialty drink was, of course, water—sparking and plain, flavored with lemons, strawberries, or raspberries. The breaks lasted fifteen minutes, after which he’d scurry back to the same room and battle again.
Both he and his staff partner rotated their pokémon for each battle, till they had tried out every member of their teams. Michael ended up winning his first two battles, then losing the third, after Machop fainted and Turtwig fell flat mid-run. Nevertheless, his work paid off, and at the end of the day Michael received a note of approval from his partner to challenge Marie.
Reentering the lobby of the Gym, Michael greeted Henry with his fully-healed team in tow, prepared for yet another day of move-training. Ringo was on his shoulder, Caterpie hitching a ride on Turtwig’s shell. Likewise, Henry had Starly on his shoulder, and Burmy in his arms. Clefable walked at his side.
Michael and Henry presented their slips to Lace at the front counter, and she gave them a smile. “Great job, boys! I’ll take your names down on the roster, so you’ll be free to come back whenever you like to book your battle. Mrs. Wickham’s procedure is somewhat different from what other Gyms do, but you won’t have to worry about anything specific, because you’ve received all the necessary preparation already. The only thing you should keep in mind is that you’ll only be allowed to bring three pokémon with you into the battle room. So choose wisely.” She winked.
The boys left the Gym, and once they were relatively out of earshot, Henry turned to Michael. “So what do you think of the battles?” he asked. “Easy, right?”
Michael nodded. “Yeah. Now that you mention it, they weren’t much different from partner battles in Solaceon.”
Henry bit his lip. “I don’t like it. I have a feeling that Marie’s going to be much harder.”
Michael took a moment to think. “I think she’s trying to test us. No way she’s going to stick with baby moves like Aqua Ring and use a couple of buckets to generate Surf. I think the reason she’s giving us so much leeway with the staff battles is so that we’ll have too much time to think about what she’s gonna do. Especially with the whole deal about us only being allowed to use three pokémon. That’s gotta mean she has something up her sleeve.”
Henry raised an eyebrow. “Then should we be worried?”
“I wouldn’t be,” Michael said. “In the end, it’s still, gonna be the type combination that wins. That’s the beauty of strategy.”
“You said the same thing about Lona,” Henry pointed out.
Michael grumbled. “I didn’t say I was finished, did I? That was Part One of the strategy. Part Two is now physical preparation. Happy?”
“Yes,” said Henry. He folded up his signed permission slip and put it in his pocket. “So when are we gonna schedule our battles?”
“I want to wait until Caterpie evolves,” Michael replied. “She’s almost there. Look, you can even see those little veins on her wings. “ He pushed aside one of the bushels on Turtwig’s back to reveal Caterpie’s cocoon beneath it.
But Henry gave an expression of uncertainty, wrinkling his nose. “I don’t know… What if she doesn’t evolve? It looks like it could take another few days.”
“So? I need her to be a Buttefree if I want to teach her Energy Ball. It’s the only Grass move I can get on my team. Without that, I’ll only have Machop and Turtwig as counters.”
“Still —it took us a whole week to get those Electric moves right, and our pokémon are still making mistakes. Do you really want to spend another eight days in Pastoria while you wait for Butterfree to catch up?”
Michael gave a disbelieving scowl, and Henry sighed. “Come on, think about it. You’ve got Machop, Turtwig, and Ringo all ready to go. You don’t need a Grass move. Look at me: For counters, all I have are Burmy and Pachirisu.” He paused. “Oh, and I guess Clefable… she knows Thunderpunch.”
Michael snorted. “Yeah. Exactly.”
Henry shook his head. “I still think you should do it. You’ve been practicing for a whole week with them, and if you ask me, I think they’re ready.”
Michael cast a glare at Caterpie’s cocoon, which was lying as still as ever on Turtwig’s back, then swept his gaze across his party as a whole. Neither Turtwig, nor Machop, nor Ringo looked particularly ready at the moment; once the tension of the battle session had lifted, they had all returned to their happy-go-lucky selves. Machop had gone from stabbing punches to swinging his arms at his sides like a toddler, and Turtwig was kicking at pebbles, gazing around in lax contentment, bearing no trace of the hard, focused demeanor that he adopted in battle. Even Ringo seemed eager to be distracted, humming along to some tune he had picked up from the radio, the clicking of his beak sounding loudly in Michael’s ear. Observing his pokémon in a casual setting, Michael suddenly felt like he had lost touch with all the progress they had made over the days, and couldn’t imagine any other way of reassessing it than battling again.
But when he looked again at Henry, he saw that the boy seemed utterly convinced by what he had said. Whatever had spurred him into thinking that his team was prepared, Henry now held onto the belief with an iron certainty. Michael let a brief silence pass between them as he thought it over, then spoke.
“Fine. I guess you have a point. Let’s just train till our pokémon get the Electric moves right, and when they do, we’ll schedule the battle.”
Henry gave a pleased smile, but Michael held up a finger.
“But,” he continued, “if Caterpie evolves before that, then I’m teaching her Energy Ball no matter what, and we’re gonna wait until she learns it. Got that?”
Henry let out a breath. “Fine.”
The boys followed the sidewalk along the plaza till it trailed off into the meadows out back. Usually, they went out all the way till they were in the vicinity of the forest, separating themselves from the other trainers as much as possible, both to get privacy and to avoid unwanted accidents. But presently, Michael found that a large number of trainers had shifted over to the distant fields, congregating in a large circle by the spot where he and Henry usually trained.
Michael quickened his pace, as did Henry, and the boys approached the gathering to see what was going on. The kids appeared to be holding a meeting of some sort, and were talking rapidly amongst each other. At the first glance, it did not appear to be anything interesting, and Michael began to turn back. But before he could walk away, a few trainers looked over their shoulders, and by chance, met his gaze. Their faces lit up with smiles of recognition. With a chorus of shouts, they broke off from the crowd and ran towards Michael and Henry, waving their arms.
“Hey! Wait up!”
Michael stopped. Five trainers approached, and the kid who led the party stopped right in front of him.
“Hey! You guys are the Lightning Boys, right?”
Hearing the unexpected title, Michael’s mouth spread into a broad grin. “Yep, that’s us.”
“You’ve inspired us!” said the trainer. “We’ve found a way to shoot a really high blast into the sky, just like what you did for Thunderbolt. Only we’re gonna use all the elements, and make it ten times bigger. We’re gonna reach all the way into space! We might even hit Deoxys!”
The trainers who accompanied him nodded in excitement.
Henry lifted an eyebrow, looking at the trainers in bewilderment. Michael narrowed his eyes, unconsciously hooking a thumb through his pocket.
“You serious about this?”
The trainer nodded. “We’ve been talking over how to do it for days. This one kid, Carl, got a plan finalized. See, Deoxys is supposed to be orbiting really close to the planet, along with Team Galactic’s satellites and stuff. If we can make a big enough blast, we might be able to get its attention. We should be able to get past the clouds, and if the pokémon hold out long enough, we might even get it to leave the troposphere.”
Michael cast a glance at Henry. The boy’s face was blank, but behind his eyes Michael could see a storm of a hundred shouts of protests, all screaming to be put into words. But it seemed that the boldness of the trainer’s proclamation had rendered him speechless.
Giving what he hoped to be a skeptical shrug, Michael turned to face the trainers again. “Well, I guess it’s worth a try. Let’s check it out.” But a smile threatened to break his straight face throughout.
Grinning, the trainers led Michael into the circle, and Henry followed as if pulled by a magnet, clutching Burmy with an ever-tighter grip against his chest. The circle of kids parted to accommodate Michael as he stepped through. At the center of the group stood a crowd of pokémon, surrounded by their trainers, consisting of four types: Grass, Water, Fire, and Electric. A boy with a Monferno paced around them all, managing the process, grouping all the pokémon together by type. When he saw Michael and Henry, he stopped, and turned to them.
“Hey. You here to help?”
Michael nodded, and looked down at the group of pokémon, whom the boy had gathered into a circle, the different types standing together like slices of a pie graph. “So how’s this thing supposed to work?” Michael asked. “You’re gathering a bunch of types that neutralize each other. How are you going to get them to make a single beam that won’t eat itself up?”
“Well, the theory we came up with is that if we have enough of each element, they’ll take a longer time to do damage to each other,” the boy replied. “We’re keeping Water, Fire, and Grass separated by a few Electric pokémon, just so the beams don’t mix early on. Then, we’re hoping that they’ll all combine together into one superpowered blast. Right now, we have five Fires, twelve Electrics, and five Waters. But we need a lot more than five Grasses, ‘cause we don’t want all the leaves to be burned up too early.”
Michael held up his hand. “Way ahead of you.” He snapped his fingers, and Turtwig scampered forward.
The boy with the Monferno smiled. “Great. Take him over to the others.”
Michael brought Turtwig to stand with the other Grass types, which included a Roselia, some other Grotles, and a few Cherrim. They waited a few more minutes, until several more trainers had approached with their Grass types. Henry remained behind with the rest of the onlookers, lips pursed, not tearing his gaze away from the group of pokémon at the center. Michael took his place with the other Grass trainers, and Carl went with his Monferno to stand with the Fire types. He whistled, and the chattering group of trainers fell silent.
“We’ll do it on the count of three!” he called. “If this works… then GASP is gonna bring Deoxys to Earth!”
“And if it doesn’t,” someone else put in, “then it’ll destroy the whole world as we know it! Robot attack!”
The crowd began to ooooh.
Michael stole a glance up at the sky, where white nimbus clouds trailed along the underbelly of a boundless infinity, and steeled himself. “All right, let’s do this!”
“Start the countdown!” someone said. “Three!”
The trainers gave their commands, and simultaneously, the pokémon gathered in the center of the circle all gave their cries. Beams of water, grass, and lightning blasted upwards with a resounding boom, shooting up into the sky in pillars of dazzling color, which swirled together like wires into a single spear of light that continued to slice through the air.
The beam soared up and up till it seemed like it would strike the clouds, but then it began to lose momentum, slowing down like a jet of water from a fountain that had reached its maximum height. The beam slowed to a stop, then slowly, began to fall.
“It’s coming back!” a kid shouted. “Run!”
The trainers and pokémon all jumped back as the tower of light collapsed on itself, coalescing into a ball that plummeted to the ground with the roar of a rocket’s thrusters. By the time it hit the ground, it had lost nearly all its magnitude, but it still carried enough force to make the ground shake. The collision produced a shockwave that swept through the whole field, rippling past the kids to reach the plaza, toppling trash cans, making windows quiver.
Michael and the other trainers stumbled to regain their balance. Their pokémon had been stirred into a panic, and were bumping against each other, growling. Michael squinted at the plaza, where he saw people emerging from buildings, raising voices of complaint, looking around for the source of the disturbance. But by the looks of it, nothing was broken.
“Whoa! That was awesome!” one kid exclaimed.
“I think it worked!”
“No it didn’t—we didn’t even make a hole in the clouds!”
The trainers began to bicker, though in the end none of them could decide whether or not it had been a success. Finally, the boy with the Monferno let out a breath.
“There must have been a problem with the proportions,” he said. “I guess it’s back to the drawing board…” He turned away in dismay. The crowd of trainers dispersed, with only a few lingering around the point of impact to deduce what had gone wrong.
His interest in the endeavor dwindled, Michael called Turtwig over and went back to Henry. The boy had watched the whole thing from a safe distance, along with a few others, his expression mixed with fear and disapproval. But now, at their failure, he crossed his arms in satisfaction.
“Well, that went well,” Michael said, giving a casual glance at the charred hole they had made in the ground. It looked deeper than it actually was, mainly due to the grass that had been burnt away. The trainers were already trying to cover it up, using moves like Razor Leaf and Bullet Seed to patch up the bare ground.
Henry sighed, but did not respond. He remained silent as they walked away from the scene, then cast a dark glance back at the trainers. “I just hope we get our battle over with so we stop giving these people ideas,” he said.
But Michael, who was thinking of something else entirely, responded right then with an enigmatic smile. “Ideas? Hmm… ideas are good.”
And with that, the two boys went off the find their own space to train.
Last edited by Haruka of Hoenn; August 12th, 2013 at 01:51 PM.
I still think the chapter separation/numbering scheme is odd, but oh well.
HOLY CRAP HELL IS FREEZING OVER AND THE SKY IS FALLING! This whole Rocket/Galactic thing seems similar to the hypothetical situation that would happen if, say, Ford and GM merged. Or Apple and Microsoft. Widespread chaos. People in confusion. Long-standing company loyalties smashed to pieces. Looking back, this isthe sort of public outcry/turmoil that I perhaps should've included in my last story (it was alluded to in the news reports, though, and by that time I just wanted to wrap things up so the perspective never changed from Lisa's hotel room). Maybe I should release a "Director's Cut" of that story and show people rioting in the streets after the truth behind the 'champion' was exposed.
But enough about me and my old stories. The whole "let's bring Deoxys to Earth to research it" plan already seems like a setup for disaster. I didn't watch much of the Pokemon anime, but I did see the first movie where Mewtwo gets ticked off, breaks out of its containment pod, and kills every one of the scientists in the lab. I can totally picture Deoxys doing the same thing and going postal on a bunch of Galactic and Rocket researchers. And then raising some serious hell all over the planet. Personally, I think they're playing with fire with bringing this unknown specimen to Earth.
I await to see Marie's style of battling, as there have been hints throughout the last few chapters that she's a wily one with a few tricks up her sleeve.
But we are in the world of pokemon, and therefore things might work slightly differently than in the real world. What will be the ramifications of GASP bringing Deoxys to Earth? And will they? You'll have to wait and see...
I'm glad you're interested in Marie; we'll get to see her style of battling really soon. And I'll tell you one thing: it's a battle I've been looking forward to writing.
Stay tuned, and thanks for the review!