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Old July 29th, 2016 (1:12 AM).
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icomeanon6 icomeanon6 is online now
It's "I Come Anon"
     
    Join Date: Feb 2008
    Location: Northern Virginia
    Age: 24
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    [This is my entry for the 2016 Get Together's Small Writing Competition. What follows is the story as it was submitted to the judges; there are no further edits. The prompt was "nostalgia." Enjoy!]

    Dad’s Old Gym

    It was early one summer afternoon when Jen was sitting in the forest next to her old friend, Katie. Jen had her back to a tree while Katie was lying on her stomach and staring intently through the underbrush. The woods were perfectly quiet until Jen whispered, “Has he done anything yet?”

    “I think he’s a she, and no,” whispered back Katie. She was referring to a wild Stantler in the clearing a few dozen yards away from them.

    Jen looked over her shoulder to see that Katie was carefully tapping some notes into her Pokédex as she spied on the deer-Pokémon. So far the two of them were doing a good job of going unnoticed. It would be a shame for Katie to miss something because the Stantler got startled and ran off, or worse yet got startled and hypnotized them. Being stealthy didn’t make for the most exciting vacation, but in a way that was part of the point. Their Pokémon journey back when they were kids hadn’t always been riveting either, and at age twenty-five Jen appreciated how much nicer it was to sit in the fresh air than at a desk.

    For one thing, you weren’t allowed to drink at work. Jen reflected on this as she closed her eyes, took a sip from her hip flask, and let some of the tension from the past year ease out through her skin.

    Still, she was getting a little tired of doing nearly nothing, and there was something she’d been itching to have a conversation about. After another minute of calculated relaxing she started whispering again. “Hey, so this is a little out of nowhere, but did they have any independent gyms around Olivine when you were growing up? You know, not with the Pokémon League?”

    “Yeah, two I think.”

    Before Jen could follow up, Katie continued. “Is this going to be your patented spiel about old, crappy gyms? I remember a lot of it from the last time I heard it. Was that two years ago?”

    Jen was at peace with her own transparency. “Well, last night you—”

    “Shhh.”

    Jen had started to rise above a whisper. She corrected herself and tried again. “Last night you talked for a solid hour about your nerd work, so I think this should even things up.”

    Katie’s nerd work involved adding features to the Pokédex and integrating it with the PC Storage System with the aim of achieving crowdsourced, dynamic, encyclopedic, blah blah blah something or other. All Jen cared about was whether Dexter would still talk to her when Katie and Bill were done with him. She had as little interest in programming as Katie had in ‘old, crappy gyms.’

    Fortunately, Katie seemed to be feeling gracious. “That’s fair. Knock yourself out.”

    That was all Jen needed to hear, and the words that had been swimming in her head for the last two days or so came out in a flood (it was a quiet flood so as not to disturb the Stantler, but a flood nonetheless).

    “Have you noticed how Leader-centric all the League gyms are? There’s really nothing there for people our age who have jobs and can’t spend all our time training and raising a ton of Pokémon like we used to. Back when there were more than just the eight gyms you could always find someone at your skill level at a gym, even in Blackthorn. Try going to a gym there today with only one or two Pokémon.”

    Katie scratched her back, which was the most pronounced movement she had made in over forty minutes. “You don’t need to go to a gym to find someone to fight. There are trainers all over the place.”

    “It’s not the same, though!” (Whoops, too loud.) “…It’s not the same, though. What about tournaments? If we tried the Indigo Plateau today we wouldn’t get through the qualifiers. The minor gyms had tournaments for basically every skill level, though. Pro, semi-pro, amateur, under-tens…and they always drew at least an okay crowd. My dad was one of the top trainers in the Forest League before it folded.”

    “Yeah, I remember you telling me that. That was just Mahogany Town and Ecruteak, right?”

    “Violet City, too. But man, North Ecruteak Gym was the best. It was all outdoors, and they held their big matches at night and sold popcorn—it was something.”

    Katie motioned for the binoculars that were lying next to her bag, and Jen handed them over as slowly and delicately as she could. “Just spotted a Forretress in a tree over there,” whispered Katie. “Anyway, you’re the only one I know who actually misses those gyms. My parents wouldn’t even let me step foot in one—said they had more drug dealers than trainers. And I think of my friends got tetanus from the bleachers at Olivine Beach Gym. That showed her to sit on a bench that’s fifty percent splinters and rusty nails in short shorts.”

    “Lies. I wore short shorts in the bleachers at ours all the time and didn’t get tetanus once. And there were hardly any drug dealers at all.”

    Jen didn’t add ‘I think’ to the bit about drug dealers, and for the next five minutes she proceeded to bury Katie’s skepticism with details about the wonders of North Ecruteak Gym. She covered such topics as ‘…most beautiful part of the forest…,’ ‘…groundskeeper had a Ponyta and let you ride her…,’ and ‘…I had my first battle there, it was so cool…’

    Jen still had a lot of things to say when Katie got up and crept back over to her bag. Apparently they were almost done here, so Jen decided to cut to the chase. “You know, if our plan’s to reach Ecruteak tonight and spend most of the day around there tomorrow—”

    Katie interrupted as she rummaged through her bag. “You want to go check out an abandoned gym and see a bunch of nothing?”

    It was always a good sign when Katie didn’t explicitly shoot down an idea right away. “Yes. Super yes.”

    “I’m fine with that. We’ve got two whole weeks on the trail, after all.”

    Jen silently pumped her fist as Katie pulled out an empty Great Ball and unclipped the lone Pokéball on her belt. “Let me see if I can catch one of those two, first…”

    *********

    It was an hour past sundown when Katie found herself sitting at a videophone in the Ecruteak City Pokécenter. Jen was off in the lobby catching up with one of her old neighbors, and Katie was having a long-distance chat with her boss. Katie sincerely felt she had the better deal, here.

    “These are some great notes today,” said Bill, “Especially on this Forretress. But you really don’t have to do this while you’re on vacation. Heck, you didn’t even have to call—you should just enjoy yourself.”

    Bill was rustling his fingers through his hair. Katie didn’t think anyone Bill’s age had the right to have such nice hair. “We’re having a little Pokémon journey, and what’s a Pokémon journey if you don’t check in with the professor? Really, it’s been nothing but fun today. And if you feel that bad about it you can pay me regular hours instead of vacation hours.”

    Bill laughed a bit. “A, you’re the only one who calls me ‘Professor,’ and B…I don’t really mind paying you less, heh.”

    Katie laughed too, and as always it felt equal parts warm and weird. By age twenty-seven most people had long since dropped any crushes they had acquired at age twelve, but she had defied the odds. She still had a little thing for this kind, cute, older genius and just couldn’t leave him alone. She didn’t actually believe it could work between them, even if the ten year age gap wasn’t technically a deal-breaker anymore. That didn’t stop her from teasing him and enjoying it too much, though.

    Now that she’d had her fun she decided to change the subject. “How’d your meeting with Professor Oak go?”

    “Pretty good, mostly. He’s still pumped about the whole project, but we’re also getting a bunch of flak from the Pokédex’s manufacturer. They say we’re going to kill Dexter’s personality. Course, that doesn’t faze Oak even a little, old man just does what he wants. But it still makes me pretty uncomfortable, you know?”

    Bill did indeed look uneasy about the matter. “You’re worrying too much,” said Katie. “All they should care about is having a better encyclopedia. They’ll be totally on board when they see how easily we can push corrections and pool new data from PC storage.”

    “Thanks, I needed the extra vote of confidence today.”

    Then there was a pause. It was just the sort of silence that made Katie’s heart rise into her throat, especially when she was talking to Bill. Fortunately he bailed her out and spoke up again. “So…what’s in store for tomorrow?”

    Katie answered as if that momentary awkwardness had never been there. “Well, usually we’d visit Jen’s mom, but she moved down to Cianwood last year for the weather. Jen came up with something else, though: we’ll be checking out North Ecruteak Gym, her old stomping ground.”

    Katie did her best to make it sound like it wouldn’t be completely boring and unimpressive, but you could still hear the implicit ‘if you can believe it’ when she said ‘North Ecruteak Gym.’

    “…That’s interesting,” said Bill, and not convincingly. “I think I remember the one you’re talking about. They had the…uh…North League, right?”

    “Forest League, she said. Her father was apparently a pretty big deal there.”

    There was another pause, and Katie scrambled to think of something else to say. She was thinking maybe it was time to say goodnight when Bill suddenly asked, “He battled, you mean? In one of the minor leagues? Competitively?”

    Katie was confused. She thought they’d stopped talking because there was so little to say about old, crappy gyms, but now she saw it was because something was on Bill’s mind. “Yeah. She said they held tournaments. Why?”

    Again Bill was silent for a bit, and when he broke his silence it did little to dispel any tension. “…Huh.”

    Katie could see the apprehension all over Bill’s face. It made her anxious, and she felt a strong need to worm whatever it was out of him.

    “Seriously, Bill, what is it?”

    *********

    A few hours later Jen was staring at the stars as she tried to fall asleep. She and Katie never stayed in a Pokécenter overnight if it wasn’t raining or freezing. This was mostly because it was always too bright in the Pokécenters to sleep well, but also because the free-lodging policy was obviously written with children in mind. Better to leave more room for the exhausted preteens who found all the hiking to be a challenge.

    Jen on the other hand was anything but exhausted, and that could turn into a problem if she didn’t drift off before Katie started snoring. She knew thinking about getting to see the old gym again would only keep her awake, but she couldn’t help it. It had been just about this time of year when her dad fought in his last and best tournament. Every last detail of it was still in her head.

    She remembered walking up to the stands and finding the perfect seat in the middle section: just high enough and just close enough to have the perfect view. She stood the whole time just so no one’s head would be in her way. It was a warm night, but not muggy, and the crowd was the biggest and noisiest they’d ever had. When her dad and his opponent came out onto the dirt field and everyone started clapping and cheering, she realized that she wasn’t just remembering anymore. Half of her knew it was a dream, and the other half of her was six again. She jumped and shouted, “Let’s go Daddy!”

    Her daddy was standing in the bright lights. There must have thousands of people there to see him, and just as many Pokémon must have been hidden in the dark trees and watching from the edge of the forest. Her daddy took out a single, green Friend Ball and brought Jen’s favorite Pokémon into the battle: Vesuvius, the Typhlosion. Both of the trainers were down to the last Pokémon, and the winner would go on to the final round. They were so close to winning the Forest Cup.

    But there was a problem, and it was a huge one: Steelix. Vesuvius was panting from how beat up he was, while Steelix didn’t have a scratch on him. The giant snake flashed its iron fangs. It was scary, but she knew that Vesuvius could handle it. She was positive her daddy would win as soon as Steelix tried an Earthquake attack and Vesuvius bounded away from the worst of it with all of his strength. Then he jumped onto Steelix’s back and extended the fire-quills in his shoulders to their full length. Steelix writhed around, but somehow Vesuvius held on and completely torched one of his opponent’s body-segments with a Fire Blast.

    “Holy sh*t,” said someone sitting near her, “He might actually do it.” Jen couldn’t wait to see the look on this stranger’s face when it was over.

    Someone else in their section shouted, “Last call for bets! Last call!”

    “Yo, bookie, up here! Two thousand on fire!”

    “Brooks is fire, right? Four thousand on Brooks!”

    Four thousand Pokéyen. That was enough to buy a ton of Pokéballs, maybe even fifteen or twenty. Jen wondered if her daddy would make that much money for beating this guy. And he was almost there. Vesuvius shot more and more flames all over Steelix, and Jen could see the burns setting in. This was it!

    But then the fire ran out. It had been so hot and so strong a moment ago but now it was gone. Jen wrung her shirt in her hands and yelled, “Come on, Vethuvivus!” but to no avail. She begged and pleaded but Vesuvius’s quills retracted again and he closed his eyes. Steelix finally shook him off, and then it rammed him with its skull. He skidded and tumbled almost all the way to the stands.

    Jen was actually relieved to see the referee wave his arms. “Down! Match over!” Her daddy walked over and brought the world’s best Pokémon back into his ball as she started to sniffle.

    There were so many people in the crowd cheering for the wrong person. Some of them were mad like they were supposed to be, though.

    “That’s just so goddamn typical.”

    “Last time I make a late bet, I swear. What a gyp.”

    Everyone was waiting in their seats for the final round, going to get food, or going to the woods to pee, but not Jen. She made her way under the bleachers and sobbed until it was out of her system. She wouldn’t let her daddy see her crying like this. He was the one who lost, so she had to cheer him up. She couldn’t do that if he knew how sad she was.

    When her face didn’t feel quite so red, she decided she was ready. She walked back out under the lights, and heard everyone chanting to get on with the next battle. Her daddy wouldn’t be there. By then he’d be hanging around the trainers’ clubhouse with a drink in his hand. She walked over in that direction, and sure enough she found him in the shadows behind the building. He was shaking hands with one of the men in charge of the gym, and when that other man left he chucked an empty beer can over his shoulder. If he was already done with his drink then she’d taken too long.

    Then he spotted her, and he smiled as if nothing was the matter. “Hey there, kiddo!” he said as he scooped her up. “Having fun?”

    Jen tried to say what she was supposed to. “I’m really…really sorry y…you lost, Daddy.”

    “Hey, don’t you worry about that, there’s always next year. Sure was a nail-biter, huh? We gave ’em a real run for their money at the end!”

    There was a big roar from the crowd. They were still cheering for the wrong trainers. It made Jen sick. “I thought you were gonna win…”

    “Listen, Jen, there ain’t nothing to be ashamed of in losing. And you can be extra proud if you just make it close and put on a good show. I want you to remember that when you start training, hear?”

    ‘When I start training,’ she thought. That was such a long way away, and she wanted so bad to start right then and there. “Do you think I can ever be as good as you?”

    He laughed. “You betcha. Hell, I’ll bet a million on it, just you wait.”

    Then he gave her a big squeeze and she squeezed him back as hard as she could. His whiskers tickled her cheek, and it was that moment that hung in place and stayed with her when she woke up. All of Jen was an adult again. It was early morning, and soon she’d be going back to her dad’s old gym.

    *********

    The wide path through the woods to North Ecruteak Gym hadn’t changed since Jen was little. There was practically a skip in her step she was so excited. “This is the way we’d take every time,” she told Katie. “You should see the trees here in the fall. Best leaves in Johto, no lie.”

    “Must be something,” said Katie. She didn’t sound like she was entirely there. Jen figured she must have gotten too little sleep, as usual.

    “Haaarrrummm…”

    “See, Marie gets it!” Marie was Katie’s Alakazam. All the Pokémon were out of their balls for the walk. Marie was bringing up the rear while leading the way was Summer, Jen’s Arcanine. That left one more, and he was in Jen’s arms at the moment. This made for a little difficulty and frustration because—

    “Ow! Quit it, Rabies!”

    —he was only three weeks old and still rather bitey.

    “That’s such a mean name to give a Growlithe.”

    Jen shifted the little pup to one arm and showed Katie the fresh mark on the other. “Believe me, I had some much meaner ones in mind.”

    But even though she complained, Jen was thrilled to have more than one Pokémon again. Like most trainers did when they grew up, she and Katie had long since given away or set free almost all the members of their old teams. It had looked like Marie and Summer would be their both their starters and their finishers, but then a few months ago Summer surprised them. Jen wasn’t about to give little Rabies away for anything, and she happened to think it was a great name.

    As for Rabies himself, he didn’t seem to care much about names yet and proceeded to whine and nip at Jen’s shoulder. It took a curt bark from his mother to calm him down for a few precious minutes. Jen tousled the cream-colored tuft of fur on his head and smiled.

    “Anyway,” said Jen, “We’re almost there. Ready to see what you were missing growing up?”

    “Hmm.”

    Katie would come around, Jen knew it. There just wasn’t anything like a real outdoor gym. When she saw a familiar turn in the trail she knew they had less than a minute of walking left.

    The first thing she saw past the last trees was the flat, familiar stretch of dirt that was the old arena. Then they reached the end of the path and entered the wide clearing that was once North Ecruteak Gym.

    At first glance, it seemed to Jen that the place hadn’t changed much at all. It was just as wide open as ever, and the arena was just as big as she remembered. As expected, though, the grass had started to creep in so the edges of the playing surface weren’t as sharp as they once were. Also, the chalk had long since vanished so it didn’t particularly look like a place for Pokémon battles. Then she looked over at the bleachers, and naturally they were worse for wear and most of them were missing.

    “Wait…” She was right and wrong, and both in bad ways. The bleachers had indeed fallen into disrepair since she last saw them, as there was now rot in the benches and rust in the supports, but when she thought about it she realized that none of the sections were missing. They had just always been that small. The difference was that now she knew how puny twelve rows was for a stadium, and that in the official gyms the stands surrounded the entire field while these only covered most of one sideline.

    She had to chuckle at that. Everything looked bigger when you were little, after all. The lights at least still seemed tall to her, even though one of the poles had fallen over. “Heh. Yup, this is it.”

    “It is nice and open, just like you said.”

    “Speaking of which,” said Jen as she tried to balance the increasingly eager Rabies, “I think it’s time to let someone get his exercise.”

    Jen gave up on letting the Growlithe down gently and instead dumped him onto the grass, at which point he immediately bolted forward, then right, then right again, and then back into the woods.

    “Oh shoot,” said Katie, “There he goes.”

    “No problem, just watch.”

    As soon as it was clear that Rabies wasn’t going to come running back on his own, Summer pushed off her powerful hind legs and was after her problem-puppy in a flash. And just like clockwork, she returned seven seconds later carrying him by the scruff of his neck.

    Katie smiled a little, maybe for the first time all day. “Good girl, Summer.”

    “Yeah, Summer’s pretty much the best mom ever. Taught her everything I know!”

    “If you can carry Rabies in your mouth, I’d love to see that.”

    Jen stuck her tongue out at Katie, and Summer released Rabies to run around in the open where she could see him. Jen kept her eyes on the pup for a bit as well, and by chance he led her gaze to one of the single ugliest structures she had ever seen.

    “Wuh…”

    “What is it?”

    It was the clubhouse. The hole in the roof and the rusted-shut dumpsters next to it were one thing, but the building itself was squat, drab, and hideous down to the last cinder block.

    “Nothing…” said Jen, “Just the clubhouse looks a bit different than I remember.”

    Katie looked over at it and appeared to bite her tongue for a moment. “Did the paint wash off or something?”

    Jen wanted to say yes. Surely that must have been the case, but if she checked her memories honestly it had always looked like this. Maybe it fit in better when it was dark out. “No. Now that you mention it, I don’t think anything was ever painted here.”

    Jen shook off this little surprise as well. Nobody ever came to this place for the clubhouse. It was all about the fresh air, the big arena, and the lights, so she walked over to where the center dot used to be. Katie and Marie followed her, and she smiled. “This is where it all happened.” She recalled all of her dad’s big wins, magnificent comebacks, and close losses to better trainers. She would have watched them from this close if they’d let her.

    And because she was focusing so hard on all the great nighttime moments, she almost forgot the coolest thing to see in the daytime. “Hey, look behind you real quick.”

    To the southeast, you could just see the top four stories of the Bell Tower. The gold spire that was the tip caught the sun perfectly.

    “Okay,” said Katie, “That’s pretty cool.”

    “Dad always said that Ho-Oh was a season ticket holder. Never missed a battle.”

    “I thought the legend was that Ho-Oh was going to return to the tower, not that he’s always there.”

    Jen shrugged and laughed. “I never said he wasn’t full of crap sometimes.”

    Katie laughed with her, but then she straightened up. Jen knew that look: it meant Marie was talking to her. Marie’s foxlike face remained as still as ever, but the two spoons she held in her hands bent just a little bit. The only surprising thing to Jen was that Katie didn’t provide an interpretation right away. “What’s up?”

    Katie didn’t answer and just creased her brow.

    “Come on, what’s she saying?”

    Katie opened her mouth, but took another few seconds to actually speak. “She says Rabies found…something. Behind the clubhouse. I’ll go check it out.”

    Now Jen was starting to worry about Katie. She’d never taken that long to translate for Marie, and why would she go see what was up when it was Jen’s Pokémon? In any event, Katie jogged off and Jen wasn’t going to let her get there first.

    The first thing they both noticed behind the clubhouse was the burning trash. There were two old and nasty-looking garbage bags on the ground, and Rabies had apparently torn one open and set a few Embers on it to boot. “Oh, shoot,” said Jen as she rushed over to stamp out the flames that had spread to the grass. At the same time Katie pulled out her water bottle and dumped the whole thing on the biggest part of the fire. Jen looked closer and was relieved to see that the only contents of the bag were piles of paper rather than something that might smell.

    One sheet of the old papers was presently in Rabies’s mouth as he sat up straight, wagged, and showed it off. “Oh, aren’t you pleased with yourself?” Jen reached down to grab the paper, making sure to give the impression that she was taking it away because he was being bad, rather than that she was graciously accepting the spoils of the hunt. “Let go, Rabies. Drop it. Drop.”

    It seemed Rabies had no interest in relinquishing his prey to someone who wasn’t going to appreciate it. To compensate, Jen opted for trickery. She waved her other hand near Rabies’s head, knowing it would be too much to resist. Sure enough the Growlithe tried to chomp down on the new moving object, and in the process he let go of and perhaps forgot completely about the paper. The page was both wet and singed, but somehow mostly intact. As Jen straightened it out she spotted Summer lying nearby. “Don’t let him do this anymore, okay girl?”

    Summer growled in apparent disinterest, as if such small fires were beneath her attention. Or perhaps she was just pleased to see Rabies’s progress in learning how to ignite his targets. Regardless, now that there was no more danger of a wildfire Jen was interested to see what these papers were.

    “Jen. I don’t think you should read that.”

    Jen looked over at Katie in confusion and saw a seriousness in her eyes that was completely out of place. Then Katie had the nerve to try and swipe the paper right out of her hand. Jen was too quick, though, and stayed out of reach. “Jeeze, what’s with you today?”

    Katie backed off and looked away. ‘Whatever,’ thought Jen, ‘She can decide to stop acting so weird anytime.’ Then she began to read.

    Jen’s interest was immediately piqued when she saw some familiar names. They were two of her dad’s rivals, and beneath them were Pokémon rosters she also recognized. ‘I saw this battle,’ she realized as she read the list of outcomes. Steelix over Persian, Steelix over Nidorino, Hitmontop over Steelix…it was just as she remembered. It had been a sort of grudge match following a tournament that ended with these two trainers. All the bets from the crowd were even written down, and she saw the payouts the battlers took as their cuts. She felt a smile coming over her face. Were all of the gym’s old records here?

    But something was wrong. She didn’t notice it at first, but they shouldn’t have written everything in this order. The trainers, the rosters, the early bets, and the results were all written in ink. But the mid-fight bets were in pencil, in someone else’s handwriting, and spaced around the results as if—

    Her heart fell into her stomach. The way this was written, you would think the later bets had been placed after the fight was already over.

    Jen dropped the paper and immediately dug into the bag that Rabies had taken it from. All the sheets on top were ruined, but underneath they were mostly fine. She knew what she was looking for and scanned the dates. These were all too old, and they got older further down in the bag. This meant that what she was looking for might be in the other bag. She moved over on her knees to that other, undamaged bag and tried to undo the knot. It was tight, and that made her mad. She grabbed underneath the knot and tore the whole thing open, spilling its contents.

    “Jen…”

    Jen didn’t answer. She was reading dates and was getting close to the one she had in mind. She rummaged and rummaged until she finally found it: July 16, 1997, followed by Sean Brooks.

    Her hands shook. Someone had written on this sheet of paper all the matchups and outcomes of her dad’s last fight, including a big note, ‘Typhlosion gets on Steelix’s back—ASK NOW,’ surrounded by larger bets than any that were placed before the match started. Then she saw the payouts. The losing trainer got twice as much as the winner.

    “He took a dive.”

    It was as if the trembling voice belonged to someone else. Jen couldn’t believe she would ever say such a thing. Her eyes were watering just to hear it. “This was the farthest he ever got. W…Why would he take a dive?”

    Now Katie spoke again. “I…I heard from Bill last night. He said there was a lot of match-fixing in the minor leagues. He said…most of their best trainers were involved.”

    The paper slipped out of Jen’s fingers.

    “I didn’t want to say anything,” said Katie. “Oh, Jen, I’m so sorry.”

    If Katie said anything after that, Jen didn’t hear it. She thought she heard someone else loud and clear, though.

    ‘Ain’t nothing to be ashamed of in losing.’

    ‘Put on a good show.’

    ‘Gave ’em a real run for their money.’

    Someone she didn’t recognize was in her head. He was trying to rationalize what had been written and done. Maybe he thought he was trying to cheer up a sad girl, but he couldn’t fool Jen. The words were obviously aimed at himself and his own dirty conscience. Whoever he was, she didn’t know him at all.

    *********

    It was sundown and heavy clouds were rolling in as Katie sat by herself outside the Pokécenter. She looked at her cell phone, but Jen still hadn’t replied to any of her texts. She was wondering if perhaps they should have agreed on a time to meet up again. For that matter, she was wondering if it was the right move to listen to Jen’s suggestion.

    ‘I want to be alone for a bit. You can go do whatever. I’ll meet you back in town.’

    She had left her alone as requested and spent the rest of her day watching wild Pokémon and seeing the sights. At the time it seemed like a good idea to leave Jen by herself to cry it out. Katie tried to imagine learning that one of her parents made part of their living by swindling spectators and fans, many of whom undoubtedly had gambling problems. She wouldn’t want to see anyone either.

    But now that it had been so many hours and she hadn’t heard back from Jen, she was recalling some nervous wisdom: sad people often asked for the opposite of what they needed. She bit her lip and cursed herself for being so eager to avoid conflict and so quick to duck out of any difficult situation. She made up her mind. If Jen was still sulking at that lousy gym, she’d go get her and then they’d leave.

    It would be about a forty-five minute walk, if she remembered right. Fortunately the directions were simple and she soon found herself on the right path. It was darker in the woods than in the open so she took out her flashlight. As she went she tried to think of what she might say to console Jen, but everything that came into her head sounded trite and hollow. This wasn’t just a little deal. She’d never known Jen to go a month without mentioning her father and his Pokémon team, and she always sounded so proud of him. Knowing that, how could Katie say something as phony and predictable as ‘I’m sure he never meant to hurt you,’ or ‘He must have had his reasons?’

    The sky was nearly black when the beam from her flashlight showed the end of the trail. Katie hoped that Jen wouldn’t be there. It would be much better if she’d gone back to town and they had missed each other because her phone was dead.

    Katie stepped into the clearing, and scanned the abandoned gym for her friend. Finally the light landed on her: she was sitting at the foot of the clubhouse. She covered her eyes from the beam, and Katie quickly lowered it so as not to blind her. Then the light shined on something metal, and Katie froze.

    She had forgotten about the flask. It was lying open on the ground and must have been empty. Katie wracked her brain and tried to remember how much had been left in it this morning.

    “…Jen?”

    Jen was silent. She just stared at her feet.

    “…Jen, c’mon. Let’s go.”

    Then a ragged voice came in reply. “He never told me.”

    Katie decided to be silent. Jen probably needed to vent to someone.

    “…That son of a b*tch died without telling me a thing.”

    Katie changed her mind. She had heard Jen like this before. Her voice was half empty and the other half was pure venom. She had to bring her back somehow. “Would that have been better? If he’d told you everything when you were little?”

    “Are you kidding?” Jen slowly came to her feet and started pacing. There was a rock in her hand. “Would it have been better if he hadn’t lied about it every goddamn time? If he’d been even a little sorry? Yeah. That’d have been better.”

    Katie was drawing a blank. She knew something bad would happen if she just let her go on like this, but she had no idea what to say.

    Jen faced the clubhouse. “F*ckin’ liar and a crook…him and the rest of ’em!” She wound back hard and threw the rock straight through one of the windows.

    Katie jumped at the noise, and had to catch her breath before she spoke again. “Jen…” Her own voice seemed so small right now. “…We don’t have to stay here. We can g—”

    She stopped mid-sound. Jen was looking at the decrepit bleachers and unclipping one of the two Pokéballs from her belt.

    “…What are you doing?”

    Jen wound up again, this time with the ball. “I’m going to give Rabies some practice.”

    Katie dropped the flashlight and nearly screamed. She rushed over and almost tackled Jen as she grabbed her wrist.

    “Let go!” Jen tried to shove her off but she didn’t have her balance.

    “Shut up!” All of Katie’s hesitation evaporated. “Don’t you dare teach a Growlithe to burn stuff down like that! You know better—you’re a fire trainer!”

    Jen stopped struggling. Katie couldn’t see her face in the dark, though.

    “It hasn’t rained for weeks! You could’ve torched the whole forest! You think that’d help? You really think getting sh*tfaced and committing arson makes you better than any of them?”

    Only when Katie took a breath did she hear the sobs. Jen all but collapsed on her, and she was breathing in chokes and fits. Katie felt her shoulder grow damp from the tears. “He was m…my hero…”

    Katie finally relaxed her grip. She didn’t have to be angry anymore and she didn’t want to be. She put a hand on Jen’s back. “I know, I know. You always made him sound so great. I still wish I could have met him.”

    Jen sniffed. “…I’m sorry. If you hadn’t been there to stop me…”

    Katie’s other shoulder felt wet all of the sudden. There was a drizzle. “It’s okay. No harm done. Except the window, I guess, but who cares?”

    Jen might, Katie realized, but she didn’t sweat it. Keeping her hand on her friend’s back was more important. That hand was getting wet too as the rain picked up. “See?” said Katie, “There’s no problem. Lugia was going to stop you anyway.”

    When Jen at long last calmed down it was time for them to get moving. The downpour meant they’d have to spend the night back at the Pokécenter. Katie picked up her flashlight, and Jen followed her away from the gym without objection.

    After about five minutes on the trail Jen stumbled a little and would have fallen on her face if she hadn’t landed on Katie. She definitely wasn’t sober yet, so Katie decided to help her along for the rest of the way. Jen had that slightly embarrassed feeling about her: the sort she got when there was enough alcohol in her to make her a problem but not enough to get rid of her self-awareness. “All those years,” she mumbled, “…all those years I wanted that crappy gym back. I’m such a moron.”

    “No,” said Katie, “You just saw something that was better than what they had in mind. You don’t have to hate the whole thing because of that. They still had good popcorn, right?”

    “It probably sucked.”

    Katie shook her head. There was no getting through to her when she was like this. She’d have a clear head tomorrow, and there was almost two weeks left of their vacation to talk. Katie tried not to think about what that two weeks would be like if Jen stayed as she was.

    By the time they returned to town the rain was falling in sheets. They made a beeline for the Pokécenter, and Katie noticed that Jen made a serious effort not to appear tipsy when they walked through the doors. In their experience the nurses generally frowned upon trainers showing up intoxicated. After they changed into dry clothes in the bathroom, Jen went straight to a chair to fall asleep. Katie, however, decided to sit at one of the PCs. She could never go to bed while her brain was this active.

    She decided she could use some company, so she let Marie out of her ball as quietly as she could. Then she rested her head on the desk and let out a long sigh. As much as she needed this day to be over, there was a nagging feeling in her gut that she had to do something about Jen.

    ‘Jen feel bad.’ The voice in her head was Marie’s. ‘Words Rabies find hurt Jen.’

    “Yes,” whispered Katie to Marie. “It has me worried.”

    Marie only ever spoke to Katie in broken English, but Katie knew better than to think that reflected on the sophistication of the Alakazam’s thoughts. When she first got her, she interpreted Marie’s psychic communication as simple emotions and hazy concepts. It was only as Katie reached adulthood did Marie appear to grow more articulate. Her theory was that any deficiency in clarity or precision was because her own brain was too small, rather than Marie’s.

    Katie switched on the PC. She suspected it had been here when this Pokécenter was first built. The whole place was silent except for the hum of the old monitor. When the machine finally finished booting Katie pulled up the web browser and ran a search on the former minor league gyms.

    It surprised her how little there was to read. There was hardly any mention of them in the archives of the major news sites, and what was there was buried deep in the local news sections and pertained solely to ‘isolated’ gambling scandals. Aside from that she found one fansite. Its content hadn’t been updated in three years and its style couldn’t have been updated in fifteen.

    The site’s writer/editor/designer alleged that the press deliberately and maliciously restricted their coverage to the official Pokémon League gyms and tournaments, and that it was primarily for this reason his beloved gyms died out. Katie thought his assertion that the media was in the pocket of Big Pokémon™ seemed a tad conspiratorial. In her opinion the lack-of-coverage vs. lack-of-interest debate was a Torchic and egg problem. She agreed, however, that more mainstream followers would have provided the financial stability needed to keep the gambling element from dominating the minor leagues.

    She groaned. It was late and she didn’t know what she was looking for or even what she was trying to do.

    ‘Make it better.’

    Katie groaned again at Marie’s uncharacteristically vague and unhelpful suggestion. “I’d like to make everything better for her,” she whispered, “but I don’t have any idea what I can do.”

    ‘Make it better.’

    “I just said I don’t know how.”

    ‘Make it better.’

    Katie rolled her eyes. “You’re going to have to be more specific.”

    ‘No you.’

    “No, you.”

    ‘Okay.’

    Marie began to glow, and all of a sudden Katie’s eyes slipped out of focus. It was daytime again, and when she opened her mouth she could feel salt on her tongue. Though everything was blurry, she recognized the face of the man sitting across from her in an instant. It was Bill, which meant she was at the Sea Cottage outside Cerulean City. She had been here once before, so what she saw now must have been a memory.

    ‘Now,’ said Bill, ‘You know I’ve always been impressed with your code whenever we’ve worked together, so I really only have question for you.’

    ‘Yes?’ Katie formed the word in her mouth and throat exactly as she had done when she had visited for real.

    ‘Why do you want to work on the Pokédex integration project full time?’

    Katie had pondered this potential question very thoroughly in the week leading up to the interview. She wanted to make sure the true answer was a good answer, unlike the obvious answer which was that she’d been infatuated with Bill for years. That wouldn’t be fair to anyone involved. She knew that her deepest motivation was ultimately emotional, though. Taking this job would mean taking a pay cut and moving all the way to Kanto. She had almost backed out altogether, but on the last day she found a reason she couldn’t bear to ignore.

    ‘Well, it’s a bit silly…but when I was a little kid I just adored Dexter. I thought he knew everything there was to know about Pokémon, and when I finally got a Pokédex I thought I was set for life.’

    Bill snickered. He must have known where this was going just as well as she did.

    ‘And you know,’ she continued with a smile, ‘It doesn’t take long to figure out that Dexter doesn’t know half as much as you want him to about anything. Then you run into trainers with different versions that say different things about each Pokémon—even the one that said some kid turned into a Kadabra!’

    ‘Ha, I remember that one! I think Oak fired whoever put that in there!’

    ‘He should have! I almost threw mine away when I heard that, honest. I just couldn’t believe Dexter would say something so obviously wrong!’

    They were both laughing now, and Katie tried to compose herself. She couldn’t let this turn into her just enjoying Bill’s company. ‘Anyway, I didn’t throw away Dexter, because I thought one day if I learned programming well enough I’d be able to fix him. So your whole idea to bring them online and crowdsource the data through the PC System—that’s the Pokédex I always wanted. It’s absolutely a dream job for me, Professor.’

    ‘You sound like the right person, then. Oh, and like I’ve said I’m not a professor so please stop calling me that.’

    The daylight faded. The salt was gone from the air, and her eyes focused on the screen in front of her once more.

    Katie couldn’t believe she hadn’t thought of it right away. She had known the answer all along, and Marie had never needed to be more specific. She and Jen shared the same problem, so naturally they shared the same solution, too:

    ‘Make it better.’

    Katie put her fingers back on the keyboard. She opened a new text document, a blank spreadsheet, and started searched the net on all of the relevant topics.

    *********

    Jen woke up early the following morning. As usual she was relieved that her headache was weak. She may have been a bit of a mean drunk, but she had good genes for mitigating hangovers, so that was something. Still, the thought of having to put on a decent face for the rest of the day—much less the rest of the vacation—was exhausting.

    She stood up and stretched. There were a few young trainers still sleeping on the sofa across from her. She was relieved that none of her inexcusable behavior the night before had followed her to the Pokécenter, where there were innocent minds and ears. The only one who knew about it was Katie, and Jen now noticed she was conspicuously absent. She had a pretty good idea of where her friend might be though, so she went straight to the computers.

    Sure enough, Katie was hunched over the keyboard and her eyes were so strained they hurt Jen’s just to look at them. Also to no surprise of Jen’s, Katie was surrounded by several empty cans of coffee from the vending machine. She was probably down one caffeine pill as well, as if she’d never graduated college.

    “You’re really still doing this?” asked Jen.

    Katie gave her the stink eye. “Look who’s talking.”

    Jen thought Katie was such a crank when she stayed up all night. Still, she was right. They each had a bad habit from early adulthood that had followed them to less-early adulthood, and Jen’s was definitely worse. “Yeah, sorry. I effed up.”

    Marie, who had been sleeping in the chair next to Katie, woke up at the sound of talking. Jen wished Katie would follow her Pokémon’s example.

    “We’re going to put a stop to that,” said Katie, “For real this time. You’re not carrying that flask with you anymore.”

    Jen nodded and meant it, but she couldn’t resist adding, “Yes, Mom.”

    Katie gave her the finger, which was understandable as she’d been awake for twenty-five hours. Then she pushed herself away from the keyboard and leaned back into her chair. “Marie, crunch those numbers, will you?”

    There was a spreadsheet on the screen, and it was too early in the morning for Jen to decipher it. It was always a good time for Marie though, as she held out one of her spoons and the keys appeared to press themselves at a rapid pace. In a matter of seconds the psychic-type was done with her calculations, and Katie closed her eyes as she gave her further instructions. “Okay, now print it. The other document, too.”

    After a few more psychokinetically-induced keystrokes, the printer at the end of the row of PCs came to life. “You go get it,” Katie told Jen.

    Jen obeyed. She was ready to read anything that got her mind off of her dad and his awful gym, even if it was just more of Katie’s nerd work. But then she looked at the first page and saw the title. “What’s…”

    “It’s your business plan, along with rough cost estimates.”

    In bold letters at the top it read, ‘Independent, Sustainable, Co-op Pokémon Gym.’ Jen didn’t know what to think, but she couldn’t take her eyes off it.

    “You’ll need some other folks on board, of course,” said Katie, who out of the blue gave a long pitch while barely pausing for air. “And you’ll probably have to operate at a loss for at least a few years. The good news is that since all the hot development around here’s been to the south and east the land where the original gym is should be cheap. The key thing will be to put in the effort to make everything cleaner and more attractive: No splinters, no rust, more paint, and no ugly buildings.

    “For revenue you’ll want to focus on local parents who want cheap, family-friendly entertainment and activities. Getting participants for the tournaments shouldn’t be too hard—there are lots of local adult trainers who are in it for fun, and kid trainers are always passing through and they love finding new ways to test their skills.

    “If you find or make some more true-believer weirdos like yourself, you should be able to get enough volunteer work to make it viable. It’ll have to be non-profit, and at you’ll definitely need to keep a day job and either find a donor or take out a loan. There’s at least one online community where there might be interest, but you have to be extra clear that there’s going to be no gambling. It has to be safe for kids or it’ll go belly-up just like the old ones did.”

    Katie finally stopped, and Jen tried to digest it all. The whole idea occupied the same space in her stomach as all the lying and cheating she’d learned about about the day before. Yet despite that it sounded so perfect, even too good to be true.

    She contemplated it for a solid minute. She recalled all those fights that had only been disguised as real fights. On top of that the old gym had drunks puking under the bleachers, spectators swearing at the top of their lungs while there were children around, and probably even less savory things she didn’t know about.

    But the old gym had also been a place to run around in the open with her friends while her dad trained. It was where she first met Summer, and that arena made their first battle seem like such a huge deal. Most of all, there were the warm nights, the popcorn, and those bright lights. The gamblers never realized what a great thing they had on their hands, or rather could have had.

    “Do…Do you really think I can do it?”

    Katie said nothing as she was already out cold, but Jen didn’t need to hear her friend’s answer because it was printed in ink. And Jen knew the answer was correct because whenever Katie and Marie came up with something that involved this many numbers, it was rock-solid.

    As she felt her mouth break into a smile, she thought about finding a part-time job in Ecruteak while she worked on her new gym.

    The End

    [Hope you had as much fun reading this as I had writing it. If you liked these characters, you may see them again in a larger story - perhaps in a slightly different continuity - if I come up with something good.]
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      #2    
    Old July 29th, 2016 (9:33 AM).
    Miz en Scène's Avatar
    Miz en Scène Miz en Scène is offline
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      Quote:
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      Dad’s Old Gym
      <<Quoting for the notification>>

      Well, this was an enjoyable read! I think the fact that you managed to cram in a whole different side to Pokémon training into a (not so short) oneshot was astounding, so kudos to your worldbuilding. I particularly enjoyed the references to office rats actually taking extended holidays to go back to their Pokémon training roots and the unofficial gyms and leagues things you came up with. Even without the "in retrospect my dad was a bad person" plotline (more on that later), I think I would have been satisfied with the two trainers lying down in the bushes and reminiscing about stuff. It probably would have made for a less engaging story, but, I don't know, I actually kind of like stuff like that.

      What I liked most, in any case, was the atmosphere you managed to lay down for this story. Just two trainers off on a little break from the real world and the other one's more permanent escape. It's a very feel-good fic I must say. Also that little aside with Katie's crush on Bill. I thought that was really cute, even if it didn’t add much to the plot.

      That said, while I really like how you write character interactions, it feels like the Katie "B Plot" segments were a bit of a distraction to Jen's "A Plot" because the focus of this fic was very much entirely on Jen's rose-tinted recollection. I don't know if the story would necessarily have been better served with a greater focus on Jen rather than Katie (because Katie definitely needed screen time for the "saving" Jen plotline to have some depth), but I do feel that her segments do actually meander somewhat. Maybe it's slife-of-life-itis, but potentially you could have eschewed the Katie B-Plot entirely in favour of Jen "saving" herself? Maybe I'm talking out of my ass here, but I do feel that more emotional focus on Jen would definitely not have gone amiss because right now Katie's only purpose seems to be to "save" Jen and the fic isn't necessarily about their relationship.

      I don't know. I had to dig down quite deep to get that critique because on the surface I did really enjoy the story, and I am a huge fan of slife-of-life, so none of this really bothered me too much. But I felt it was worth pointing out for posterity's sake.

      Anyway, digging the story and the characters! A solid read if taken as slice-of-life, but the focus could be tighter if you want to talk about the plot.
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        #3    
      Old July 29th, 2016 (5:33 PM).
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      Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is offline
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      Okay, so I'm copying my comments I did for this story here (that I'll put in spoilers), and then add a few more new ones here.

      Spoiler:
      Oh, this has been a very enjoyable read. What seems to be Jen’s nice memory of their father turns out something completely different. That must be really hurt for sure. The ending there was great with Katie able to help out and Jen deciding to rebuild the gym. Some nice worldbuilding on the other gyms too. Only minor thing I want to mention were some parts seems to be a bit of exposition/info dump that kinda breaks the flow of the narrative. Notable ones for me are Katie being a Pokedex nerd (which you later show with her conversations with Bill), the part with them leaving their Pokemon, and Marie’s broken English. Otherwise I think it’s a very solid story in terms of plot and characterization.


      All right, some new comments. Reading Miz en Scene's comments I can see where they're getting at in terms of Katie's role. I admit while reading I was wondering about what you'll do with her until the end. Actually, forgot to add in that I felt her interview with Bill leading her to saving Jen I find it hard to believe. Despite those, though, I still like the ending as I mentioned.

      Still great to see your work, and congrats on second place!
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        #4    
      Old July 30th, 2016 (7:42 AM).
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      icomeanon6 icomeanon6 is online now
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        Thanks for the reviews, guys! If nothing else I'm really glad the characterization and world-building have been well-received. I have to agree that there's an issue with meandering. Call it a lack of restraint on my part; I think I wanted to do more with these characters than the scope of the plot actually afforded.

        As for Katie, though I don't want to be in the habit of defending my work in the comments, I'd like to at least explain what I was going for with her, as in my mind the story wouldn't work at all without her "B Plot." My goal from the beginning was to contrast unhealthy nostalgia in Jen with healthy nostalgia in Katie. I was trying to lay seeds of this between the Jen portions and the Katie portions. Jen uses an idealized version of the past as an escape from the present (similar to how she uses alcohol as an escape in the first scene), while Katie needs no actual escape from the present because her work and play both revolve around taking the Pokedex she loved as a kid and making it even better. The idea with the interview flashback was to tie these elements together and show the reader (and Katie) that the answer for Jen is to take an active, positive role in what she's nostalgic for instead of a passive one.

        Actually, Miz, there was an amusing coincidence I found when I read your entry (which is fascinating and which I will review when I have time to write a proper one; I'm actually on the road right now). The resolution for both of our stories comes from one character taking the solution to a problem they had in the past and sharing it with another character. That story structure hits a chord with me, so suffice to say if I ever do anything else with this fic Katie's role won't be diminished, and she'll still save Jen. If her perspective feels extraneous to the readers, that's my fault, but I think the fault is in my execution rather than in concept.

        Anyway, I'm just glad you guys liked it. And thanks again Bay for judging! You and b&b are heroes for doing this year after year. If you want a break next year so you can participate as a writer for a change, I'd be happy to fill in for you. And Miz, my review for your entry is coming, promise!
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          #5    
        Old August 2nd, 2016 (3:22 PM).
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        Miz en Scène Miz en Scène is offline
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          Quote:
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          As for Katie, though I don't want to be in the habit of defending my work in the comments, I'd like to at least explain what I was going for with her, as in my mind the story wouldn't work at all without her "B Plot." My goal from the beginning was to contrast unhealthy nostalgia in Jen with healthy nostalgia in Katie. I was trying to lay seeds of this between the Jen portions and the Katie portions. Jen uses an idealized version of the past as an escape from the present (similar to how she uses alcohol as an escape in the first scene), while Katie needs no actual escape from the present because her work and play both revolve around taking the Pokedex she loved as a kid and making it even better. The idea with the interview flashback was to tie these elements together and show the reader (and Katie) that the answer for Jen is to take an active, positive role in what she's nostalgic for instead of a passive one.
          Ah, that actually makes complete sense now that I think about it. Because I was struggling to think of what role Katie played in the whole thing because her life seemed fairly perfect, but now that you mention it she does actually seem like a much more well-rounded person since she doesn't seem to dwell on the past too much as she does live in the present. Also that really puts into perspective the bit where Jen didn't seem too excited about her own desk job either. I sort of gathered that already, but when I think about it with Katie's story in mind it does actually make perfect sense as far as the balance between their two plot threads is concerned.
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            #6    
          Old August 7th, 2016 (12:24 PM).
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          I personally think this story should have won 1st place in the Small Writing Contest. Save for a few times where you seem to be missing words in a sentence, this story was very well written and made me feel for the characters. I especially loved how Jen was slow to pick up on Marie's meaning while I was sitting there going "no you idiot that's not what she means!" and it was some very well executed irony without having to spell out for the audience what was going on. The characters are believable and each have their own different flaws which is great even though you sort of called attention to this fact, but I was willing to let it slide and actually didn't notice until just now as I am writing this. Also, "Big Pokémon™" made me audibly laugh out loud in a diner this morning so thanks for that.Great story 10/10
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            #7    
          Old August 14th, 2016 (5:50 PM).
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            Quote:
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            [This is my entry for the 2016 Get Together's Small Writing Competition. What follows is the story as it was submitted to the judges; there are no further edits. The prompt was "nostalgia." Enjoy!]
            So, it was about time I reviewed this one.

            But first, some weird events:

            For some reason, the entire story shows up as a big void for me. Nothing. Nada. Selecting the text doesn't make it reveal the letters either, only shows the selection boxes. But copy-pasting functions normally. It seems to have been something with the font or the theme, as when I switched to PC's default theme it fixed itself scientifimagically. Weirdest thing of my week definitively.

            With that out of the way:

            One of the things I liked most about this story is how you choose to unveil things - or not to, as much of the story is about how things have always been there. Random conversation about slice of life while running a stakeout on the neighbourhood? Who has never done that? Crushes over the internet or the scientifimagical equivalent thereof? So 2000s, and thus so vividly remembered. Cheering on your dad because he's totally coolest than other people's dads? Check. Realizing that the world is smaller than you thought and you knew that? Double check. Every little scene, in the way they grow, assemble their own context so that nostalgia can squeeze in, and no crack is wasted.

            Well, when it gets to the bigger scenes and the actual plot it's not like I liked it less, but I did feel that the pause between engaging in the nostalgia and actually firing up a solution was either too long, or too blunt. From the "daddy had his reasons" up to the actual last meeting between the two lead characters, most actions felt like automatic to me, as if they were not thinking of what they were doing, only of what had been already done.

            Anyway, thanks to the fact that the final part of the story was about computers, technology, cooperation and the spirit of freedom of information that wants to live on (in a certain way at least), it did lure me back. And good thing because this part near the end made much of the story worth it:

            Quote:
            The whole idea occupied the same space in her stomach as all the lying and cheating she’d learned about about the day before. Yet despite that it sounded so perfect, even too good to be true.
            Because, you know, this is much of how things in the real world have to be remade and improved. Someone has to had hated, yet at the same time loved, how the older thing was and worked. And the thoughts that eventually materialize in lifting those old things from the dust in new shapes with shine and polish, they don't come from business meetings aboard a Boeing, they tend to come from a casual meeting at a coffee shop, from a musing while at the grocery store, from a Pokécenter at night.

            And as a person who thinks very much of the things of old we have lost, in particular in that field of computers, of technology, cooperation and the spirit of information that wants to be free (in a certain way at least), I can very much understand what would be going through both characters' minds in this scene.

            Because it flows naturally. Like the opening of the story.

            So basically, yeah, a nice approach to nostalgia, in particular how you address the operational and sociological aspects of it. And you get an extra point from me because Johto. It seems like everyone is somehow doing Johto these days. Who knows, maybe nostalgia? HG/SS remakes / walking Pokémon when

            In general a good story. the middle part felt blunt, but the baggage pinned in the opening provides enough weight to the story that by the end it didn't really detract from it all.

            (As an addendum: as a person who, back in highschool, did run an underground Pokémon battle ring and now, many years later, enjoys the franchise more from a worldbuilding and escapism aspect, I would totally chime in as one of those "lots of local adult trainers who are in it for fun" if I had the chance. Hey, gotta keep them skills snazzy... and having fun remembering the old times while at it.)
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              #8    
            Old August 17th, 2016 (12:42 PM).
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            Join Date: Sep 2007
            Location: San Diego
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            This is very good.

            I loved how your primary incorporation of nostalgia focused on location. My strongest nostalgic memories are of places: playing Crystal Version in a tent on Carlsbad State Beach, running around in the giant backyard of my family's second house, the playground in downtown La Mesa I spent countless hours on during summer vacation as a little kid. That tapped into something deeply personal for me.

            The dialog and characterizations were excellent. I appreciated your control over the tone, as well: it's an emotional roller coaster but the track is smooth. On the other hand, I feel that Katie's relationship with Bill didn't contribute much to the story and could have been omitted. Focusing more on her nostalgia for the pokédex and her motivation to work on it would strengthen the comparison made between her and Jen near the end. That being said, it doesn't precisely hurt the story and does add a bit of flavor to Katie's character, which is welcome considering she doesn't get as much development.

            Overall, a very strong piece. Nice job!
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            Old August 20th, 2016 (9:41 AM). Edited July 9th, 2017 by icomeanon6.
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            icomeanon6 icomeanon6 is online now
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              Join Date: Feb 2008
              Location: Northern Virginia
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              Whoops, I meant to reply to some of these earlier.

              Quote:
              Originally Posted by Miz en Scène
              Ah, that actually makes complete sense now that I think about it.
              That's reassuring. And to be clear I'm still including your original criticism in my list of things-to-improve-and/or-be-mindful-of. I think one of the big challenges in writing is making sure that things that make sense when you think about them also make sense when you're reading. It's difficult to approach your own work as if you don't already know what's going on--definitely something I have to work on going forward.

              Quote:
              Originally Posted by Necrum
              Also, "Big Pokémon™" made me audibly laugh out loud in a diner this morning so thanks for that.
              You're very welcome, and you made my day by saying so so thank you too. :) I was worried that wasn't the best passage for a joke, but sometimes when something funny occurs to me while I'm writing I just can't help myself. The serious part of my brain was like, "Maybe that doesn't fit the tone of the--" but then the funny part was all, "Too late! It's in there forever now! >:D" Anyway, really pleased you literally lol'd.

              Quote:
              Originally Posted by Venia Silente
              For some reason, the entire story shows up as a big void for me. Nothing. Nada. Selecting the text doesn't make it reveal the letters either, only shows the selection boxes. But copy-pasting functions normally. It seems to have been something with the font or the theme, as when I switched to PC's default theme it fixed itself scientifimagically. Weirdest thing of my week definitively.
              Guuuuh... x_x I have no clue. The only thing I can think of is the "font=verdana" tags that surround every paragraph because of the convoluted way I copied from Word into the forum, but I don't see how that would cause the issue you mentioned. In my case "Forever Standing" was the PC default theme when I first joined and I've been using that one ever since.

              Quote:
              One of the things I liked most about this story is how you choose to unveil things - or not to, as much of the story is about how things have always been there.
              [...]
              Every little scene, in the way they grow, assemble their own context so that nostalgia can squeeze in, and no crack is wasted.
              Very glad to read this as that was absolutely intentional. I wanted that nostalgic element to be palpable in pretty much every scene to the point where I was worried it was overkill, so it's a huge relief that you noticed and liked it so much.

              Quote:
              Well, when it gets to the bigger scenes and the actual plot it's not like I liked it less, but I did feel that the pause between engaging in the nostalgia and actually firing up a solution was either too long, or too blunt. From the "daddy had his reasons" up to the actual last meeting between the two lead characters, most actions felt like automatic to me, as if they were not thinking of what they were doing, only of what had been already done.
              It's amusing to me that you think so, because my impression is actually the complete opposite, lol. xD If you were to ask me, I'd say the beginning and ending are the parts that are maybe too blunt, and that it's the middle where the story is sharpest and best. I'll think about what you said about the actions feeling automatic, though.

              Quote:
              Because, you know, this is much of how things in the real world have to be remade and improved. Someone has to had hated, yet at the same time loved, how the older thing was and worked. And the thoughts that eventually materialize in lifting those old things from the dust in new shapes with shine and polish, they don't come from business meetings aboard a Boeing, they tend to come from a casual meeting at a coffee shop, from a musing while at the grocery store, from a Pokécenter at night.
              This, this, thank you. One of my key inspirations for this story was that feeling between love and hatred for old things that pushes people to remake them. Frankly, it's why I write fanfiction, so I'd call this story the most personal one I've ever written. And you're absolutely right about casual meetings vs. business meetings. Another main inspiration for me was the strong entrepreneurial spirit I've seen in members of the internet generation.

              Quote:
              Originally Posted by txteclipse
              I loved how your primary incorporation of nostalgia focused on location. My strongest nostalgic memories are of places: playing Crystal Version in a tent on Carlsbad State Beach, running around in the giant backyard of my family's second house, the playground in downtown La Mesa I spent countless hours on during summer vacation as a little kid. That tapped into something deeply personal for me.
              I was really hoping this aspect would resonate with some readers, so that means a lot to me. I love it when the locations in stories really come to life like in Lord of the Rings or Red Mars, and I've been trying to shore up that aspect of my writing as up to now I'd call it one of my shortcomings. If Jen's old, crappy gym conjures feelings of fondly remembered places, then I'm doing my job better.

              If anyone's interested, I had a specific place in mind when I was coming up with the gym itself:

              Spoiler:

              These are pictures I took last year of the first place I ever saw professional baseball back when I was a toddler: Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge, Virginia. It's the home of the Potomac Nationals (formerly known as the Prince William Cannons) of the Carolina League (three rungs below Major League Baseball).




              Pfitzner Stadium is, for lack of a better word, a dump. It's one of the worst ballparks in the country; the sort that makes the visiting team feel embarrassed for the home team. And I happen to love it to pieces. At nighttime in the summer, it's transformed from an uninspired mess of cinder-blocks and aluminum into a gem of quintessential Americana tucked away in a quiet, forested corner of suburbia--or at least, that's how it still works out in my imagination.

              Of course, Pfitzner Stadium is very large and commercial compared to Jen's gym, but like with Jen and her gym I'm the only one I know who really loves Pfitzner stadium. And to my knowledge neither the Cannons nor P-Nats have ever been involved in a gambling scandal. :P

              Let's go Nats!


              Quote:
              On the other hand, I feel that Katie's relationship with Bill didn't contribute much to the story and could have been omitted. Focusing more on her nostalgia for the pokédex and her motivation to work on it would strengthen the comparison made between her and Jen near the end.
              No argument there. It definitely could have been omitted, but in the end I couldn't bring myself to. I may have been focusing too hard on mood as opposed to plot in some parts, including in how Katie relates to Bill.

              Thanks so much to all you guys for reading and reviewing. It's always great to get feedback, especially from writers whose talents and opinions you respect. Hope to see you all in the contest next year, and that everyone pulls out their best entries yet! :)
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