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The Progression

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Praxiteles, Sep 1, 2013.

  1. Praxiteles

    Praxiteles Friendly POKéMON.

    Hoenn OT journeyfic.

    Updates on a Sunday, but not necessarily every Sunday.

    Warnings: none. It's really family friendly. I will warn something if it comes up in the chapter. There's a little bit of swearing so I'll just put a blanket PG-13 over this, with the promise that it's about 12-year-olds and graphic, detailed adult trauma/themes will never come up. No gratuitous violence or triggers either. but you know how many swearwords your neighborhood 12-year-olds somehow happen to know.

    I reserve the right to give lame justifications of all the grammar typos pointed out.

    PM LIST:

    [No one yet! Send me a message if you want to be added (yes, it's a new feature for this fic).]

    CONTENTS:

    1. Intro
    [post=16346237]2. Petalburg[/post]
    [post=16371178]3. Oldale[/post]
    [post=16398946]4. Littleroot[/post]
    [post=16417660]5. Petalburg[/post]
    [post=16445269]6. Route 104[/post]
    [post=16484424]7. Rustboro[/post]
    [post=16517386]8. Route 115[/post]
    [post=16546984]9. Trainer's School[/post]
    [post=16577363]10. Rustboro Pokémon Gym[/post]
    [post=16768399]11. Mauville[/post]
    [post=16788412]12. Route 106[/post]
    [post=16817796]13. Dewford[/post]
    [post=16843513]14. Granite Cave[/post]
    [post=16867131]15. Dewford[/post]
    [post=16999499]16. Slateport[/post]
    [post=17230500]17. Dewford Pokémon Gym[/post]
    [post=17396226]18. Slateport[/post]
    [post=17396231]19. Route 108[/post]
    [post=17436959]20. Slateport[/post]
    [post=17549175]21. Oceanic Museum[/post]
    [post=17702747]22. Slateport[/post]
    [post=17709144]22. Pokémon Fan Club[/post]
    [post=17725974]23. Route 109[/post]
    [post=17854958]24. Route 110[/post]


    The Progression





    The music walks a few drumbeat steps, before it sets out into what’s waiting for it. Slowly, a circle lights up on the wood floor, and in the circle is a professor.

    “Sorry to keep you waiting. Welcome to the world of POKéMON!”

    One hand stays raised with its palm open. The room is all empty and dark.

    “My name is Professor Birch. But everybody calls me the POKéMON PROFESSOR. This is what a POKéMON is.”

    Flash!

    There’s a LOTAD at the professor’s feet.

    “The world is full of creatures known as POKéMON.” The music rises, strides, spreads. It’s both morning and evening now, sun-bright and angled.

    “We all live together with POKéMON. And sometimes we play with them, and sometimes they work, together with us. But we also use them for fights!” The hand gestures rapidly without bending toward the pokémon. The music concludes a section, quiet rhythm in the dark.

    The lotad’s blue skin is smooth, dark and plush. Its leaf pad is very wet. Water has splashed around it and the whorls in the floor’s panels are starting to smudge and curl up. It waddles slowly toward the edge of the spotlight.

    “There are lots of different types of POKéMON. And, we’re very close to POKéMON. There’s types that we haven’t even discovered yet, and – ”

    A whisper is heard that is very muffled. “Do I stop?”

    The professor keeps talking. “E-even though we’re close to POKéMON, still there’re mysteries, with POKéMON, and there’s many, many secrets surrounding POKéMON.” The whisper, shriller: “Wait, it’s walking away!” Irked, the professor stomps her feet, spooking the lotad some more. The professor is a little girl with short, messy hair, wearing sandals and a white coat that she’s a little thin for.

    A boy runs into view and crouches down for the lotad, and this only aggravates her more. She yells, “Who’s at the camera!” The boy gets up quickly: “Look our paper’s getting wet – ” “Ugh! That’s not your problem!”

    The boy pushes the lotad into her arms, so she stands there holding it and looking into the camera foolishly. The chart paper she’s on is now ripped along with being wet, and the colors of its wood pattern are all running together.

    The clip is ruined, and the boy walks back to turn the camera off. But no more takes are needed because the producer immediately gets a much better idea. Originally she imagined a yellow darkness, glint off a stool rim, and just her words, which would have been enough for her to show everything: the sea wind, the day in ascent, a cliffside way under high light where saplings swing and billow, back and forth in slow cycles. But now she’s thinking of a small-town pilot episode, some interest for the common watchers. Soon they take the camera and get out of the old cabin where they’d set up their first idea. She’s thinking of two rivals who arrive at the Pokémon Lab at the same time, the biggest building in their tiny hometown, and the girl who gets there first can be the sympathetic one while the other girl can be more brash and arrogant. Though they arrive at the same time the professor still only has one mission to give and they have to fight for it. But the sympathetic one isn’t that hotheaded. She stalls whatever it is that’ll decide between them. There are lots of sly tricks the rest of the day but the rival is no fool either. Finally at the end there’s a proper showdown and it involves a real battle! Actually the producer likes both the characters, even though they’ve only been in her head for two minutes so far. Her brother, who doesn’t know about them yet, will like them too. But instead of helping her with this new idea, he only makes her remember that they’ve been let loose in Route 104 for the rest of the afternoon, and that the beach hides all kinds of things, if you look hard enough. They never get to the problem of getting two twelve-year-old girls in their cast. They only have the failed clip to show their father, at the end of the day, but that too sends a certain message.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2015
  2. Praxiteles

    Praxiteles Friendly POKéMON.

    She’s moving to the Hoenn region with her mother. Their new home is in Littleroot Town. “Here we are, honey! I know it’s a little quaint, but it seems to be an easy place to live in, don’t you think?” The town is dark green and homely, a very few houses surrounded by forest. She looks up at the slope-roofed box of her new home, white paper-wood walls and birch shingles out of which her attic room pokes up, its windows dark.

    Inside everything is where it used to be, her room is just like before, the desk carries her PC and her notebooks, and even the Gamecube has been hooked up to her TV. But the tree shadows beyond the windows are different, and the sounds and smells outside.

    She goes downstairs to meet her mother in the doorway. “Have you set the time yet?” They’re facing the living room wall, but the one on the next floor has the big red gel clock. “Run up and do it.”

    They’ve moved to be closer to their father, Norman, who is the Gym Leader of Petalburg City. She has seen him on TV and friends of her parents sometimes expect things of her in her turn. But she doesn’t have any pokémon yet.

    After a few minutes in the bedroom which feels a little scarce right now of amusements, her mom calls her down to meet with the neighbor’s son, who’s the same age as her. His mother is quick to welcome her, when she gets there – after she’s walked next door through the grass to the house just like hers and excused herself inside. The son asks who she is, having appeared in the living room stairway, but they’ve both heard about each other. The neighbor kids talk on the rug of Brendan Birch’s bedroom, fiddling with another game controller that’s not hers but that may become familiar to her over the coming days.

    I saw her as staying home at Littleroot for weeks enough to at least make it feel like home, the rest of her vacations, and doing not much in this time, getting bored often enough, not allowed to go beyond the town except in cars. I’d only seen Littleroot once and in my memory it had exactly three buildings. She may befriend her neighbor, the only kid her age, but their friendship probably stays ambivalent. Still, once she gets a pokémon she finds him in a clearing at the very end of Route 103, alone among the wild grass and hidden pokémon, and then they have their first battle. Hardly any kind of attraction between them but maybe proto-attraction, what have I to lose by it.

    All of this was the image that grew in my heart of how I wanted to become a pokémon trainer; or perhaps not wanted, but imagined in another life, and was affected by. Later she’d handle an emergency that the professor landed in during his fieldwork, and her natural talent would convince him to gift her the pokémon she’d found, which would invite more adventures, more confidences. After the first battle there would be no fear.

    Certainly I had the huge, heroic, mathematical daydreams too – the self-denying, the world-denying – real epics of how one leaves home. Those were the early ones. But when we got old enough near the actual fact or possibility of training, of not seeing our house again, worrying about supporting ourselves, sleeping in strange beds, I hid my head in nostalgic domestic situations immediately. Ten-year-olds moving to new houses. We're going to leave home very soon, my brother and I. We're going on our own pokémon journey.

    Oh yes, your twin brother. What’s his name now?

    I see, so it’s ATASHKA!

    As far as I know, he never had any daydreams, only I did. Maybe he made do with his sister's daydreams. No, that’s a frivolous thing to say.

    *

    It was raining outside! There wasn’t any sleep left in my eyes. The curtains went dim from their yellow glow to a cool cloudy one. Air whirred around the ventilation, I pushed my sheet off me and pulled it back on. The blender was running in the floor below. Water hissed into the sink up on this floor, that was my sister. What’s her name? My twin sister’s name is ARAUVE. There were two cars that went by and one came up to stop at our door. I poked through the curtain. The one going away was square and bright red. I didn’t need to pee but went to do it anyway. The window from the bathroom showed the sun’d come out, it was yellow again on the dim breathing ceramic. At the bedroom window the garden trees must have been nodding their yellow flowers, two were almost as tall as me now. I stopped again by my bed, but now the sheets looked dirty and ruffled. Only when they’re made again they’ll look inviting, it’s warm weather, and that’ll be at night.

    I’m going.

    Today. No, today I get my first pokémon.

    The front door opened downstairs so I got in the bathroom and brushed my teeth. The other car had been my dad coming home. Arauve’s bed had been made so she must be downstairs by now. In the kitchen… one of Dad’s friends was over. So a nice breakfast but I rolled up my pajama sleeves. They were talking as I went down the stairs, but not Arauve’s voice.

    Yesterday Arauve’d pulled out a book I’d never seen before from the study and brushed at all the painted pictures of pokémon with their fact boxes and diagrams. I don’t know why she reads old books but the color ones are really good. She knew the pokémon she wanted. It was ralts. They’re very cute and small with a green cap on their heads, they’re all white. But she said they get a lot more powerful than they are now, you have to think about all this complicated stuff, she said it was by evolution. That must have been the same thing that happened with Manny. She didn’t understand what evolution really is and she wouldn’t tell me what she did know.

    *

    It’s true, when we set out we were fairly ignorant about pokémon, which now seems to me like the mark of a casual trainer. Atashka and I both. Maybe I did have a vague idea what evolution was, but we still went out with no real learning, like any rookie, no understanding of battle mechanics. I couldn’t name all the status ailments. My father had offered a correspondence thing with the Trainer’s School in Rustboro, but I never took it. This was the first time he hadn’t put us up for a two-week introduction to everything by a pedagogical expert, and I was only relieved. My father is very rich and has shelves of fifty-year-old trophies and mementos, which I hate. Our home in Petalburg is very modest for us, and he never shows off (except to us two), but I still can’t stand the inescapable references to our class, random accidental reminders of our being so high-flying. Society.

    What I’d wriggle out of forever by wrestling in the mud and crawling through tunnels. That can be one of the reasons I wanted to go train. I don’t have a lot of real reasons for doing it.

    A research aide came to our door before lunch, who I didn’t see. Apparently he was in shorts. The brown pouch that he gave to my father was sailed up out of Atashka’s reach and locked away somewhere, and then we had to go through a meal and a long afternoon that we wouldn’t have spent outside on any other day either; we sat in our play room and tried to look for more stuff about training. But everything we’d already opened.

    When I went down to the living room the door was open. The sky had cleared. Father who’d been mean the whole morning gave us a smile and said, “The professor sent a bag over this morning. There are three of them, you can both choose one. Come and see your pokémon.” Three pokéballs lying in hollows in the grass.

    They were about the weight of rocks but cool like metal. Both the white and the red surfaces were shiny though not reflective, more like smooth plastic. But one ball was matte, seemed to weigh a little more, and (running your thumb over it) felt textured like metal. That one was the oldest, I could tell, because it had been darkened a smudge by dirt. The button was clear plastic too and slid around very slightly in its slot, but was otherwise totally flush. I pressed it – it clicked and the pokéball only shrunk halfway out of my fingers, instead of opening.

    “Do you know how to call the pokémon out?” He took one from Atashka. “You don’t cover the button. That also produces the flash. You have to hold it like this” – hand caged around the open button – “and use all five fingers and squeeze.”

    With a shower of yellow light, a pokémon flashed out onto the ground. It was the orange one (I’d been expecting) but I didn’t go up to have a look, I held up my older ball and tried to open it. Nothing clicked or anything like that, when I squeezed my fingers. Flash!

    It startled me, but there wasn’t any real heat or wind, only light. These sparks were whiter.

    A little blue pokémon stood on all fours, without making a sound. It was a wet, blue, watery puppy. I kneeled down to let it walk close. There was one big fin on its head and it had spiky orange cheeks. I touched the fin gingerly but it didn’t seem to notice. Atashka’s chick pokémon strode near and mine went to chew at its feathers, still looking only at the ground. The third pokémon was friends with them too; Atashka brought it out and it pounced on both of them at the same time, knocking them to the ground. This one I knew, it was called Treecko. A lizard with a big ugly head. Its chittering made them all call out, gutter and squeak, scattering and turning around to it. Atashka of course thought this pokémon was awesome.

    His dad had out a letter that must have come with the balls. “Treecko, Wood Gecko Pokémon. Torchic, Tiny Chick Pokémon. And Mudkip, Mud Skipper Pokémon.” Atashka got up to face him, holding Torchic in his hands, with Treecko curled over his shoulder.

    “Which will it be, hm?” “Can’t we have all of them?” “No. You always start out with one.” He folded up the letter back along its creases and turned away with it. “You two can play with them till the end of today, but tomorrow I’ve got something for you to do. Be advised!”

    Atashka giggled, sitting down. “Be advised!”

    We took the pokémon out in the city, finding them heavy to carry but fine to stroll around with, while our father told us not to forget their pokéballs (keep them somewhere in a very deep pocket). Atashka wanted to show them to his friend. He had a lot in Petalburg but Jared was the only one whose house he went to in the evenings, and I usually came along. We walked up the broad square yellow paths, past the red-white Pokémon Center that was starting to make more sense to us, to the flat edge of a pond pale blue with the sky’s color. Jared’s house was just beside it, bright red and wood orange. He was leading a bicycle up to the red flowers crammed behind its bordering hedge. He left the cycle when he saw us, but walked up to Atashka’s grin only staring matter-of-fact at the pokémon around us, blue red green. “They’re runty.”

    “They’re not going into hamburgers,” I said, annoyed at his remark. “They’re evolution prototypes.” I wasn’t sure what that word meant, but it would be enough for Jared. He scowled at me and mumbled some nothing.

    “When’s your brother going to catch you a pokémon?” Atashka said.

    “When my dad likes the idea,” he said.

    “The wurmple thing didn’t work out?”

    “He chickened out. Now Dad wants me to do some more of school. I’m stuck here for another year, at least.”

    “We did fourth year whole, too,” I offered. “You’re a year behind us. We’re eleven right.”

    “Yeah, Dad was happy after that,” Atashka said. “You just have to show you’re serious.”

    “You guys were the least serious in our whole class!” He shook his head, hands in his pockets. “One of these days I’m gonna run away…”

    Atashka smirked. “When you do, come to the speakeasies. You’ll get a room and papers. All you need is to tell them my name – ”

    “Yeah, and then they’ll beat the crap out of me,” grinning. He looked down, hands still in his pockets. “That green one’s a little cool.”

    “The green one is Treecko. They’re a gang all three of them. But Treecko was the one who started it. He was the one who brought them together. When they were stuck in the research lab, he said, ‘We can get out of this cruddy laboratory, where they do experiments on us. Turn us into mutants.’” Atashka with his friends sounded absolutely worthless to me sometimes, a leech on the human race. He rambled on some more and then responded to Jared interrupting him by turning stone-faced and saying, “Treecko is my starter pokémon. Yeah. I’ve decided,” surprising himself.

    Jared turned to me next. I paused only a second or two: “Mudkip, obviously. I decided way before.”

    “I decided before too,” Atashka said, “I just didn’t say it.” “I decided before we left home,” I said. “I did – well I decided as soon as I made Treecko come out!” I scoffed and let the argument go.

    But then I had an idea: “Flashed Treecko. Flashed it out is what you’re supposed to say.” I wasn’t at all sure of that, but –

    “Flashed it out,” Atashka said. Jared nodded.

    It also turned out that Treecko was a girl, something my father was able to tell, though it must have been from the letter he’d read. There are no differences between boy and girl pokémon that we can make out. She tolerated error only once, after which God forbid Atashka call her it (which he did, hilariously). She was entertained by those stories of evil science and rescue that must have happened during her stay with Prof. Birch (she’d hardly know), and purred with her head lowered whenever Atashka stage-whispered them in her ear.

    My pokémon’s nature was quiet. I’d thought it looked slightly stupid when I’d first seen its picture, but now I knew you can’t see it that way. He didn’t need to wallow in the mud all the time but liked mown lawns, the edge of water, even dry dirt, in which he stood on all fours for long periods of time without doing much, his head slightly bent to the side. I knew there was some kind of power associated with his bright whiskerlike cheeks, but what was the fin for? He never went out to swim by himself, and I didn’t think he could swim – not like a fish, anyway.

    *

    We were on the verandah with Dad the next day too. The three pokémon on the wood floor looking up innocently at him. He said, “You’re both going to start on your pokémon journey very soon. I’m happy, because I wouldn’t have said anything if you’d wanted to do something else. But a pokémon journey is the best way to learn about the world, and also to make friends with it. It’s the right occupation for kids your age, even if you stop after a few years, the experience does you good.” That was as far as the speech got. “If you’d stayed at school, I’d be able to… have you here for a few more years…” He took out a handkerchief all choked. “But this is what you want…”

    Though, now that he was asking… “Maybe, what if, we don’t?” I looked at Arauve, who also perked up. “Maybe we don’t really…”

    “No take-backs!” Dad said triumphantly, his face suddenly clear. “You’ve already had one of those, more than one. Now you make good on your decision.”

    I kept staring at him uncertainly, so he turned his head looking pleading: “Atashka, it’s what you’ve been waiting for all summer. Arauve. You know you want to see. At least try it out. You can come back home if you don’t like it.”

    He was right. Obviously. But standing here outside the porch felt real bad. I tried to think of something to say, something to make us feel better.

    Arauve said, “I’ve already made that bet about the eight gyms. I can’t go back on a bet, can I?” But that was a joke!

    Dad said, “Yes, that’s right! That’s the spirit! Go out there and conquer the Pokémon League. Your old dad never got past his fourth badge, I keep telling you how accomplished I am.”

    “We know,” Arauve said. “You told us.”

    He laughed with us for maybe two seconds, and then his expression changed again. I nearly laughed out loud. “These three pokémon came from Professor Birch.” Stern. “He’s not doing any studies on them, but it was still a nice gesture for them to give it to you. Are you going to thank him at his Pokémon Lab or not?”

    Thank him?

    Arauve said, “Wait, we’re going to… wherever he lives?”

    “Littleroot Town.”

    “Can’t we send a letter!”

    “That’s not the point. You’ve also got one pokémon extra with you.” Torchic looked straight up at him, way back up. “It needs to be returned. And he wants to meet the children personally who he’s giving such rare pokémon to. He’s got some business with you.”

    “But, but all the way to Littleroot! Where is that, even? Shouldn’t I be going after gyms?”

    “Gyms? Your pokémon are more or less, ahm, infants. They’ve never battled in their lives. You two are going to learn about pokémon battles just like they will. Now the woods around Littleroot and Oldale are like a garden, the pokémon are very gentle and not strong at all, it’ll be good training for you. You need a sandbox to start with. Because you know, once you start your journey you’ll have to be self-reliant.” He folded his arms making me feel nervous and very determined, both. “I’m not going to tell you anything. You’re on your own.”

    Arauve said, “What about Petalburg Gym?”

    “Norman has said he won’t battle with you yet. Some gym leaders are more experienced and they only take trainers who can give a challenge. You’ll be going to some other gym for your first badge.”

    “He’s such a cranky…”

    “Hey! Norman is a very knowledgeable, established young trainer. And he’s not at all cranky, by the way. None of that childishness now. The first thing a trainer should learn is respect for other trainers.”

    I was ready to respect him! If I, needed… He was really strong, of course. We had lunch early and then Dad told us about some more things but I barely noticed the hour go by and then we were at the gate. Like we were going to the mart for half an hour.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2015
  3. Praxiteles

    Praxiteles Friendly POKéMON.

    He’s our adopted father. No mother, real or institutional. So yeah.

    For our journey we got new camo-green backpacks that both looked pretty old. Apparently, the backpack holds all the essentials for a long stay in the outdoors: battle items, tools, medicines, first aid, camping necessities, serious meals for several days in advance. For our trip we got two sandwiches folded in a picnic towel, because our father said the route would be three hours long if we wasted time. Also he packed up 300p, hard money. It was a thick shiny wad. We had to make it last the whole way and back; I wondered if I was even going to open it.

    That matter of time was essential. You could of course spend all day mucking around even in a garden stroll, and we were really supposed to, being new trainers, but our trainer cards hadn’t come in yet. I didn’t know everything about it, but clearly trainer cards gave you a lot of privileges on journeys to small towns, like free lodging or something. We were going to stay with Prof. Birch for the night, and had to get there before dark, just like at home in Petalburg.

    Most of the heavy supplies were miniaturized in item balls. When they got smaller they also got lighter, somehow. I’d first noticed this with the pokéballs and their miniaturization. If you compress something it ought to be denser. That was my intuition. However, I never asked around about that science. The first aid pouches and sleeping bags were also folded a certain flat origami way, to save space; we were supposed to figure that out when we opened them. They wouldn’t go in, otherwise.

    We could find out the way because our house was closer to the woods on this side. They really were like a garden. We were in a clearing of pale green grass, and trees lined its top edge with their shaggy dark leaves overhanging. Atashka mentioned the pokémon and I dug in my backpack’s pocket for the balls, took all three of them out miniature in my palm. He said, “Lemme…” taking one of them, not my Mudkip’s. Turned to face the route and hurled it at the ground, his arm going up and round in a big pitcher’s arc.

    Cool, but it didn’t open. It had fallen in a soft, fluffy clump of grass. I remembered regulation fields on TV and took my pokéball in one hand, threw it with aim: it clicked on a patch of dried sand, sprung, the light scattering almost spherically. Atashka pouted at me.

    Mudkip looked unsurprised by his new surroundings. He picked up the pokéball in his mouth and walked to my feet.

    The other two came out in their own flashes and crouched on the ground, both in quiet moods. Atashka went ahead to survey the route. Where the trees started you couldn’t see more than a few feet in, but the wild plants still looked like you could strike a path through. Peering over them the outline of the route was visible: we were on a slightly higher ledge and below it the route zigzagged and twisted through groves of trees, wide stands of tall young plants. The clothes of other kids in the distance were brightly colored, and they stood out in patches of disturbed leaves.

    There was a girl who emerged from the plants ahead of us. She looked at us avidly when we came close. “Djou know, the pokémon all stay in the wild grass. So, if you’re not up for a fight you should stay away from it.”

    Wild pokémon in there, huh? I pulled up my pant legs and stepped into the rising weeds. Mudkip looked nervously around, but I knew he’d follow me. Atashka was behind, watching at the edge, then I heard him break in too. The undergrowth was freaky in here, pressed at least half a foot down under your weight, so you never knew what you were stepping on. Big curving leaves went over your eyes. The plant stems yielded when you pushed them aside with your arms but you had to keep doing it. It was… every step deliberate and nervous, a cool sparkling alertness. I saw a shape move, in the heavy background of vision.

    Zigzagoon – wild jagged fur – watchful eyes. Teeth.

    Then I felt a familiar smoothness, and Mudkip moved in front of me, with slow careful steps. They faced each other down and stood motionless. They were waiting for me.

    What order… to give?

    “Just, slam into it!” Mudkip broke into a run and collided full tilt with it. I heard them both grunt. The zigzagoon had been backing up before the attack and now abruptly stopped, throwing up a big cloud of dust. Mudkip sneezed. I said, “Slam, again!” but he only stood stunned, shaking his head rapidly. The zigzagoon kicked up some more dust. This time, though, blind, stumbling, Mudkip threw himself at it. There was a yelp and the zigzagoon ran back into hiding.

    “Awesome!” Atashka was saying, but I’d bent down to Mudkip who was limping a little. I picked him up, brushing some of the dust off his head. I was feeling a mistaken, bent form of excitement. I put my head right up to Mudkip’s, looking for pain, trying to hunt it down. My blood was thrumming as though I might have done something wrong. Mudkip’s forelegs were curled a little, he must have been stunned by the impact of his slams, but soon he barked once in his low gutter and jumped back to the ground. I hadn’t found what I was looking for: big relief that was.

    *

    My pokémon attacks better. We found a tail hit for her, Arauve said call it ‘thwack’. That’s a bad name, I say ‘pound’. And she also did this thing with her eyes where the other pokémon just suddenly gets so timid and scared from the start. My pokémon’s a bully. She’s awesome. She went into the grass and she got into a fight with this really lean, bad poochyena with one of its ears bent, I don’t know which one started it. So but the poochyena just tried to bite hard and rough, but Treecko had technique. She twisted away and it couldn’t even get its teeth around her, and then she kept going the same way and pounded back with her tail. And that was it! And the look, from the start.

    The look… must have weakened Poochyena. In its head. Enough to knock it out after a hit or two.

    That’s how we went. Stomp stomp stomp in the wild grass, then a pokémon would turn up, and we’d battle it. Arauve said do they always want to fight. But it makes sense to me. They jump up in front of us, growling, with a challenge. They run when they’re finished or they fight to the end.

    A wild pokémon challenges a human when it wants to get stronger. It wants to fight a team that’s got real training. And it wants a chance at being captured. Otherwise there were so many of them just running and hiding when we came to them.

    Arauve grumped at me with that unsatisfied look she gives. Killjoy.

    The wall of leaves in front of us started getting lighter and brighter. I smelled water. Arauve yelled but I went into the run I could do, head bent forward and feet stomping on just the right place on the ground you had to spot fast! a millisecond before you stepped. The last stems separated their leaves with my arms and there was a clearing with a girl and a clump of three big flowers.

    We looked at each other. Then I looked down but she grinned scarily, her hand going to her belt. “You’re a trainer! There’s your pokémon. When we make eye contact, that means we have to battle!”

    She went over to one side and she yelled at me until I went to the other. She said, “I bet you’re a rookie. Is this your first battle? Piece of cake.”

    A pokémon battle with Haley! She sent out her first one. “Go, Wurmple!”

    Wurmple was white red and big-eyed, a caterpillar that reared up on its back legs after the flash disappeared. It wasn’t as fast as Treecko. She ran up close to it, on forelegs too, and hit a thwack first thing. Wurmple didn’t move back but it did curl up a little, withdrawing lowered head. Then it turned round and Treecko tried to get away – why? – stumbling she fell, something white flying around her legs. String shot. She got up but right then Wurmple slammed into her and she tripped again. “Get outta there!” I said. She rolled away. Then they were back on their feet, Treecko in front of me where she’d started, and Wurmple too.

    Haley just shouted, “Nnnow attack! Tackle tackle tackle!”

    Wurmple came running straight at us. Treecko looked around her. The flowers in a clump of thick tall grass were on our right. She went and hid behind it. I stepped back to see Wurmple coming, it tore through the grass, didn’t hit anything, and disappeared.

    We both ran up to the clump, where Treecko was hopping toward us from a totally different direction – the ground dropped at least three feet in a big ledge behind the grass – Treecko jumped, with a massive thump, and when we looked over the ledge she’d cannonballed on a curled-up Wurmple, its eyes rolling.

    She hopped back to her feet, but Wurmple didn’t. Haley stared at me. I grinned and wanted to say something about the battle. The strategy.

    Haley’d planned her part out from before, maybe she did every battle like this. Wurmple would get a string shot at the opponent first thing and then just attack while it struggled.

    Treecko looked at the area. You could use the area to your advantage. She took advantage of Wurmple going full tilt and not caring for anything in its way. I hadn’t even seen that ledge at the end of the clearing.

    “You – your pokémon’s the smart one!” she said. “You didn’t even say anything!”

    “Tough luck,” Arauve said, coming up. She was pretending she’d seen everything. “He won, anyway.”

    Haley swayed her head grudgingly and took a red card out of her bag. I looked at it. Her picture, name, other things. She said, “So? Give me your card.”

    “I don’t have it,” I said.

    “What! Why are you even on the route then?”

    “We’re getting ours in a few days,” Arauve said.

    “Well you’re gonna have to deal, I don’t have any…” Her eyes went down to her card – “Okay fine, it’s cut. Guess that means you’re an actual trainer.”

    Arauve turned and put a hand on my bag. “Come on now!” She grunted and jumped over the ledge. I looked at her getting up from a crouch. The drop down didn’t feel like much but my ankles went spronnnng as soon as I got up. I hopped around waiting to get rid of the pain. Arauve laughed and laughed.

    And I’d worn socks, so when I’d landed mud had splashed all over them. The parts that peeked over my boots. There was a pond down here and it was pretty clear of wild grass. There were berry trees, too. We picked them and put them in our bag.

    *

    The adjacent parts of this route were all visible from any position, even the ones over ledges or beyond long plant overgrowth. Generally, I found this true for all routes. It’s one of the first ways you learn to navigate on the field. We could see our journey as we made it. Beyond this brief clearing were houses.

    I looked into the surface of the pond, and then up in the sky. The sun had crossed the middle of the journey. I crouched down near the edge; the water which was dark and shakily clear even now went in thin circles out away from me. I saw bugs and old weeds probably under the surface. The sun heat, that imposed on this clearing, left off a little over the water.

    On the diagonal side I could see, garish and lopsided, little trees about my height with fancy leaves and big, bright fruit. They must have been berry trees. We went around to the three of them lumped in a triangle. Two were pale pink and their berries were sky blue. We picked what we could find and I looked around in my bag for a good pocket: there was a pouch hanging from its mouth, specifically for berries. It contained a rubber-banded wad of tags, at least a few of them already labeled with names, descriptive notes, and stickers showing the berry’s appearance. I shuffled through them and immediately found our tag: Oran. Quite sour. Not too firm. I held my berry against the sticker, which was pretty detailed, like a naturalist sketch, and compared it carefully, ignoring my brother’s impatience. Then I tied the tag firmly around the stems of the whole batch we’d found and deposited the clump in its right place.

    Atashka got us to have our lunch by the waterside, rather than anyplace hygienic in the actual town we were only steps away from. Plastic wrapped sandwiches, butter, ketchup, cream, juice boxes, spoons, hand sanitizer. The town would also have been good for buying something beyond cucumber sandwiches, something from a bakery, pizza perhaps, or even just ice cream for dessert. I thought about the money sitting firmly enough it felt among our two bags, as well as what we’d apparently won from Haley’s battle, hidden in an account somewhere out of our reach. Maybe we had enough for a room in Oldale, in the worst case.

    There was a calm pleasure in setting any kind of table. That was what I’d imagined looking at dinner when it was laid out by our father at home, but actually doing it on this uneven ground, handing around disposable plates and ketchup, was annoying. I did it patiently and conscientiously, though, because civilization while eating was what separated us human trainers from the lesser beasts and city-dwellers. Then I had a clench, suddenly remembering about the pokémon – who, having scattered all around the clearing once the threat of wild grass was over, now gathered around to watch the picnic being set. What did we have for them… I thought briefly about berries, when Atashka said, “Dad packed some for them, remember?” and knocked my head. I had no recollection.

    There were three metal cans in my bag, with thick round bottoms and plastic handles. Treecko immediately snatched one and slit the lid open with a gleaming claw. I said, “You ought to use those pins in battle sometime.” Atashka said, “It’s too… sunk in, it doesn’t stick out sharp enough. Maybe when she gets older.” Treecko was trying to get at the soup inside but I grabbed it from her.

    “Wait just a minute. Treecko, take the other two from Atashka and open them too. Mudkip doesn’t have claws like those. And this, this is supposed to be cooked!” I raised the can imploring at Torchic, who hopped up to me uncertainly so we stood for a moment not knowing what to do. “Can’t you do the fire thing?” I asked him. He cocked his head. I rested the can in his breast, where it started heating up immediately. Torchic settled down with a sigh.

    “Don’t they like having nice food, like we do?” I said.

    “This must be nice food. Treecko likes it.”

    “No I mean prepared, like sandwiches or… something.” The soup appeared to be drying up, so I dashed a little more water into it. Other trainers probably didn’t know anything about cooking, and burned their first meals.

    “They don’t prepare anything in the wild,” Atashka said. “The ways of pokémon are different from us.”

    We grinned at each other, perfunctorily. Still there must have been a way to cook food for pokémon. I thought about trying recipes later on. What separates civilized pokémon from the beasts, as I said before.

    Oldale Town waited surrounded by trees, small and dark-wooded, smoky with a sweet resinous smell. We didn’t spend a lot of time, only glimpsed the small lumber mill, the Pokémon Center and Pokémon Mart near the town square, the two little clumps of flowers that adorned it; we passed through town like many other trainer kids. I was a little tired – well not tired, though we’d walked pretty far, but I wanted to sleep. I pushed us along the way on to Littleroot. There were two ways from Oldale so we had to ask which one was ours. They looked the same to me, though they were in opposite directions. When we left town Atashka patted a white signboard right at the head of the route and said, “You can tell from the signs, stupid.”

    ROUTE 101
    ↑ Oldale Town
    ↓ Littleroot Town

    For routes they probably have the gamut of four directions, → ← ↑ ↓. I can’t think of any others that would stand for anything. This route kept going down over ledges and ledges! I treated them like running hurdles. Atashka like a wounded slug lowered himself on his arms down every one, his ankles couldn’t take the fall. The trick is you don’t stop long enough to notice it. (Yeah, but when you do stop, you notice it really bad.)

    There was darkening forest on either side, white 7:00 darkening, but the ledges went on straight. We broke into the clearing in the trees. The houses were bigger than I’d imagined, coming.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2013
  4. Mrs. Lovett

    Mrs. Lovett Rolling writer

    So this is your Hoenn fic! After Sinnoh, Hoenn is my second-favorite region (and before Sinnoh was created I think it might have even been my first.) So much nature and water and interesting places to visit. That's what I love about Hoenn, and by extension, that's what I think can make a Hoenn fic really special.

    You've set your story up in an interesting way. I admit, I wasn't entirely sure at first what was going on; at first I had the impression that the entire story was being told through the perspective of the two children who appeared in the prologue, almost as if they were making a movie of the whole thing, and laying out a progression of scenes. But now I know it's Atashka and Arauve when they were little, dreaming about their future adventures, pretending like they were pokemon professors or trainers, writing screenplays... Making little movies like that actually used to be a hobby of mine when I was little, so I can relate!

    I really like how you did the opening, by the way, rewriting the start of the R/S/E games. I haven't encountered a lot of stories where the actual tune of music is being described, and I've always been a bit apprehensive in doing it myself, because I just don't always know how to put into words a melody that's playing in my head. But I could more or less "visualize" (if you could call it that) the way you described the music in the first sentence, and later on after the professor speaks.

    I really like the image of swaying trees this put in my head. Makes me think of Hoenn. :p Though the 'for' for some reason makes the sentence seem like a fragment, and the transition from the image of the darkness to the swaying trees a bit sudden. Maybe I'm missing something here?

    Chapter 1:

    I like this line: "Maybe he made do with my daydreams." The entire chapter gives off a nice journey-fic feeling, like I'm about to depart from home on a big adventure. I also like that the two siblings are going to be traveling together, and that they both seem to be amiable with each other.

    I think it's nice how each of them, in turn, reveals the other's names through the standard all-caps method of the games. It's almost as if they're still partly living in their old memories of the start of their journey. What's my brother's name? ATASHKA. What's my sister's name? ARAUVE.

    Pssh. xP That was a good retort.

    Another great line. Making friends with the world really does sound like something a pokemon journey would accomplish, and it doesn't seem childish at all when their father says it. In fact, I think a pokemon journey by itself is something that would be good for kids, and I like how you emphasized training as being something more than an extracurricular or summer activity that's second in importance to regular school. The fact that their father has a few Gym badges himself underscores the fact that pokemon training is very widespread, and is part of the pasts of even those people who ended up choosing other paths in life.

    Chapter 2:

    I really like your nature description here, with the underbrush being so heavy that it sinks half a foot every time you step on it... I imagine myself standing in the middle of a tiny thicket, trying to crawl my way out while the jungle is trying to suck me back in at the same time. xP

    When I think about it, the events by themselves were pretty down-to-earth, the sort that could easily be summed up in a few paragraphs, but you wrote about them in such a vivid way that I was interested the whole way through. (And certainly glad that you didn't skip over them!) What I like most are the little details you include here and there to explain the more bizarre aspects of traveling as a trainer, like the kids' heavy supplies being contained in item balls, and them having a set of tags that help them identify edible berries. (Which makes sense; don't tell me there's not a single poisonous berry in the whole pokemon world!)

    The way you had the kids get their starters was interesting. Now I'm wondering what will happen to that Torchic. Will it go to another kid who might appear at the lab at the same time as the siblings? Or will it end up staying with Arauve and Atashka? I see a potential plot twist...

    All in all, this story feels like a real adventure so far. From the day the kids got their first pokemon, to their first trek into the route, then their final stop just outside Oldale to have lunch when they could've easily walked into town and found a cafe, you've made a bunch of nondescript, start-of-the-journey tasks captivating and interesting. I'm really looking forward to see what you have in store as the story... progresses. Hehe.

    My only problem is that it's hard, initially, to tell that you're switching between Arauve's and Atashka's points of view. I wasn't able to grasp that the first time around, and I thought that the entire story was being told from a single person's perspective. But having read the chapters over a few times, I now know that that's what you were doing. It's just that the transitions seemed a bit too sudden, which at first made me think that they were continuous segments of a single narrator's voice. Or maybe it's just me.

    And I'm jealous of your ability to update every Sunday. :x I'll definitely be reading, but if I ever miss a chapter or two, then I'll make it up some day in a lengthy post. So for now, until next time! (which according to my estimates will be tomorrow, anyhow xP)
     
  5. Praxiteles

    Praxiteles Friendly POKéMON.

    \o/ A review! And not just a review, but from probably my favourite person I could hope to get a review from! You're pointing out and liking all the details I was the happiest about. I'm just absolutely delighted.

    I love Hoenn more than any other region, and precisely for the nature and water. Hoenn is Game Freak's love song to the environment. It was my first pokemon game, actually, I'm much too young for Kanto and Johto. More than anything else, it'll be the places, the plants and wildlife and the landforms, that'll star in this fic.

    Not explaining what's going on is a perennial problem with me. Out of the ways I misled you about the story, I think the 'progression of scenes' is the most heinous thing; it wouldn't kill me to put a sentence somewhere marking where reality starts and the daydreams end. There is that one point where Arauve says -- Once I was about to actually start training in real life, the daydreams got a lot more tame -- but it's seriously, excessively subtle. And I don't even hint anywhere that the Intro is way, way before the action of the main story.

    And, yes of course, the POV change. The all-caps name thing is a bit of a lame way to explain that, because you could just as easily assume that the same character has one sister and one brother. A very slight fix can be putting the word 'twin' on Atashka's side too, not just Arauve's, but of course I'll have to think of something bigger too. I really want this * format to be both implicit and immediately obvious at the same time -- a challenging problem.

    Heh, I joined Roots at the 36th chapter, but I get to have you reading this right from the beginning. =P

    It's seriously cool that you could visualize the music, because that's one of the things I'm trying to do, somehow 'encode' the game music in my writing. I was relying a little on my readers already being very familiar with the soundtrack, of course. (I wonder how much someone will get out of this fic if they haven't played 3rd gen.) Putting a melody into words is a very hard task as far as I've felt, in a way it's totally impossible, but it's something I'm going to keep trying throughout the story. One of my intentions is to just describe the Advance games as well as I possibly can.

    The swaying trees is a direct reference to the animation cycles of A bit too soon for that. =P I can see what you mean with the 'for' making it look like a fragment... sort of. Hm, that sentence is damned overcomplicated, if you try to parse it. ...I think "for looking down" is a very abrupt gerund to have right there... I will stare at it some more. As for the transition, it was partly my intention to show that such a simple setting and production as they had could easily convey so much -- but the main argument of that sentence, which provides the transition: that the darkness is enough -- that appears to have been suppressed a little. Again, it'll need some staring.

    A very long time ago, I was intending the father to be like a major figure in the training world -- the founder of some organization or some important alumni, or something. I wonder if I'll do anything with that.

    I'm no good really with the worldbuilding, convincing implementations of how the game works. I will come at it from a few different angles, though. Maybe I'll get better as the story progres lord, that's an easy pun to fall into. XD

    As for the Torchic... erhm. *throws it hastily under a rug* We will learn about him quite a while later.

    Thanks a lot for the review! You've pointed out some important, subtle problems that were more or less easy for me to miss. But more than that I'm really glad you think the soft matter of this fic is worth it, the description portions, the character details. I've put a lot of myself into this, and not in solid, logical, easily defensible ways... It feels very good to have someone who likes those quirks of it by themselves.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2013
  6. Praxiteles

    Praxiteles Friendly POKéMON.

    Immediately when Atashka came up with the two pokémon running in front of him I peered down at them, muttering, “Two?

    Atashka put his hands over his head. “Where’s Torchic?” The two ran circles around him, nipping at each other. It didn’t look like they knew.

    I said, “Do you know what kind of trouble – do you realize?”

    “Arauve they’ve gotten away from us before! He’ll come back!”

    “Do you know how – a pokémon alone in the forest? At night? What if he gets kidnapped, huh?”

    He showed me a satisfyingly ashen face. “He’ll be okay! We’ll… wait outside until he comes back.”

    “My foot we’ll wait outside! Help me look for him!”

    We went back into the wild grass we’d sidestepped already. We ought to have thanked our stars it wasn’t that close to dark yet. Stepping with nervous feet, our pokémon striding ahead of us, we worked through the bushes pace by pace, that’s right, back and forth like lawnmowers. We were tired and the pokémon were tired, none of us had stopped for a rest in Oldale, and the wildlife turned up just when you were least expecting it. A poochyena that I tried to turn tail from just kept chasing, broke into a full run, and then it was Mudkip thinking levelly who kept me from, well, hazards of training. Then I almost stepped on somebody’s head, who broke out of hiding and ran at the last moment. I lost track of where Atashka was. I also lost track of the road, almost definitely. The trees seemed to loom up wherever I turned. By now the rule of these forest routes was obvious, the trees are a boundary and only pokémon go into them. But their frequency was starting to make me nervous about what boundaries I might already have crossed. Plus, what if Torchic was out there, what would I do then?

    Finally I found the corner of a rise that must have been one of the route’s ledges. I went up on the higher side, thinking I was closer to Oldale now. There were no other ledges north or south. Trees stood guard a distance away in both directions, casting a dim forest shadow. These were very long open distances, much longer than this little route ever went.

    Mudkip peered down over the ledge, leaning forward. “Where’d we come out to, Mudkip?” I asked him. Following the length of the ledge, which curved a little but hopefully not too much, soon brought me to the mouth of a sea of wild grass that it kept going on into. I considered it, and thinking of tired Mudkip turned back.

    I imagined Atashka figuring out I’d got myself lost. I didn’t even care what he’d say.

    It was still light, but before any serious expedition was done, it would have crossed over to night. The forest was already turning dim and uncertain. But the wilderness, if we were still near Littleroot, the wilderness was nothing I hadn’t just handled.

    I picked Mudkip up in my hands and, not worrying about my plans for any contingency, stepped into the grass. I felt no need to walk quickly, especially in this light. Mudkip sat watchful but calm. There would be wild pokémon waiting for us, as I went forward. Every step I took was nervously free of them.

    Slowly, and in many different ways, the forest began to move in on either side of us. Young trees stood up tall from close to the ledge, holding thin branches straight up, or contorted at odd angles. The background hiss of the forest, crickets and wooden snaps, was suddenly broken by a clear call that sounded strangely distant and filtered. I kept to the very edge of the ledge, where if you were brave enough to skirt it that close you could miss the wild bushes. The call repeated, then ran on at a steady pace. Branches wobbled at disturbed spots deeper in the grass, and I thought I spotted black shapes through all the obscuring leaves, something round tumbling over and back, over and back, something squat in the roots suddenly turning its eyes, as a second call joined the first, and then many more quieter. Mudkip jerked his head toward each of these things in turn. It all felt familiar, though I’d always dwelt in the city, though it had been a Hoenn city with still ponds and surrounded by forest, though I had never stayed in real wilderness alone. The wind was dry and cool, with only a hint of wet leaves like our garden after it was mowed.

    I crossed a tree trunk propped up against the ledge, its branches bare but still sheltering umbrella-like a little traveler’s shelter through which I walked.

    It was hard to move quickly without stumbling on something. My boots were long past their initial cleanness. The ground was bumpy, tendriled, terraced with curving roots and broken soil.

    There was a small pit beside the way, a straw-covered burrow for a small pokémon.

    A monkey pokémon hung with long arms from a tree high above the way, its back covered with thick brown hair that was striped darker, its face pug-nosed and immensely satisfied as it watched me go by.

    Suddenly the ground burst open in front of me.

    *

    Torchic got hold of me right in the beginning, maybe a little while after I went into the grass. I didn’t pick him up right then but let Treecko at him. Who knew where Arauve was by now?

    Treecko chased him out of the grass back into the open part of the route, they left a trail of confused wild pokémon for me to get across. I did, so they jumped into the wild grass opposite, on Arauve’s side. Fine then. They took me right up to the trees and they stood under a trunk actually looking back at me, until I got to them. Then they went in.

    I don’t know why it’s so wrong to go out into the forest, it was all open and clear with no wild grass. I kept going after them in a straight line until I couldn’t see the route anymore. Oh, so that’s why. The straight line started looking very curved to me. I just followed the pokémon. They were going somewhere. They weren’t pausing to monkey around now, just walking. I caught up with them because of their short legs, and then I kept going at their speed.

    They stopped.

    It was because there was a man in a white coat and shorts under the tree we were at. A Pokémon Professor! I smiled at him expectantly. “Professor Birch!”

    “Huh?” He held up the thing in his hands to me, and then put it down. He was on a tarp that was held down by rocks and had notebooks and equipment, binoculars, a laptop, a rope, things like robots.

    “Professor Birch I’m here! Here’s Torchic, and Treecko…”

    “Torchic?” he said faintly.

    “Torchic went missing while we were coming here so we had to go look for him, and then I lost Arauve, but I found Torchic and he led me over here! He must have been… visiting you all that time…”

    Prof. Birch watched me use up all my steam without making a sound. Then suddenly his eyes lit up.

    “Oh, oh yes, yes of course!” He brought a hand to his hair, stroked it violently. “I’m so sorry I… Incredibly… Of course, you’re the boy, I was worrying about you when it started to turn evening, what’s your name again?”

    He threw his head back smiling. “Of course, it’s Atashka. And your sister, Arauve… Where is she, anyway?” His face turned anxious. “You only have two pokémon with you.”

    “Lost,” I said. “I saw most of the route at least. She’s not there.”

    “Lost? Mmmmm, we’ll have to go look for them. I know where they must have landed up. Don’t worry, you must be worried about your sister, but these woods don’t get any more dangerous at night. She’s just missing her dinner.” He took all the stones off and folded up the tarp around his machinery. The bottom side was colored brown so the rolled-up bundle looked like a huge clod of dirt. He pulled a satchel off a tree branch slightly high for me, and then we set off, no idea where, that’s how you do it, you don’t have to know as long as you’re following someone.

    “It’s because of the towns. Why it’s never really dangerous? And of course the wild pokémon are gentle. You know, the towns are so close together in this forest that, the lights, at night you can always see something in the distance. No matter how deep you are. That is, if you’ve only been going in circles for a few hours. You’ll see lights from either Littleroot or Oldale, or Petalburg. If it gets dark and Arauve’s still lost, she can make her way out that way.”

    He had a stick in his hand that he kept dragging along the ground. I said, “You’ve got that equipment all over the forest?”

    “Well,” he chuckled, “not all over, just the stuff I can carry, you don’t want to disturb the wildlife. But I have a camera trap in a place not far from here. That’s where we’re hoping Arauve and Mudkip will be.” He thumped the stick and stopped and then pulled up something held taut by it. “It’s a, um, place along the perimeter of Oldale. With pokémon haunts in the wilderness you can’t, exactly, define… It’s very easy to slip out of the main route and get lost in there, because it’s very deceptive… in some ways… it’s just off the route border.”

    “What’s that?” The stick had pulled up a thin braid of white cables, running through the soil ahead and behind.

    He smiled wide. “Well what do you think it is.”

    “The wires for your camera, uh, traps!”

    “Good guess. Actually, they’re wurmple chordae. Have you ever heard of them? These fibers go hundreds of yards without breaking, they’re very strong. I often use them to find my way around.”

    “But what are they.”

    “They’re… well, they’re pre-evolution auxiliary adaptations. There’s a whole system of behaviors, around, evolution in the wild. Insanely micro-adapted, to the local habitat… What you see in training is only the core processes, something like a portable version – in a natural community there are all sorts of, auxiliary phenomena.”

    “Okay, okay!”

    “It was the area of my doctorate, anyway. Oh, I think I see her.”

    “Arauve? Where!”

    Smudge of blue. There was Mudkip in her hands.

    The trees started to thin a little and they opened around another one of those ledges, a very long ledge, just starting from nowhere and going out into the wild. Arauve was walking along it, white t-shirt. So obvious anything in the brown forest. I saw something really black and tiny, too, waiting in the ground a bit ahead of her…

    *

    Whuu!” it shrieked. “Who are you!”

    It was a girl of maybe eleven or twelve, dirt-smudged, wearing drab red outdoors clothes that made her look a lot less old. I’d sussed out almost immediately what had happened, though it did little to soothe my still-gonging nerves. She was under a camouflaged, soil-covered sheet that looked flush with the ground when it actually was; when I’d come sufficiently close she’d leapt out in her nervousness, sending clods of the dirt and straw flying everywhere.

    “SAPPHIRE! What are you still doing out here?” She started again, looked back at the new voice and then turned around, annoyed. There was Atashka with (of course) Prof. Birch.

    “You said I could handle it after dark, Dad! I was trying to catch the slakoth before night fell. Candid.”

    “Arauve, nothing happened out there, I hope? It’s good to meet you. You know, your father’s told me all sorts of things about you two.”

    “Professor Birch!” I ran up to shake his hand. “Hi. It’s a really good thing we’re meeting too.”

    “Sapphire, you get over here with us. Any excuse not to take a bath, you little vagrant. I bet you haven’t even looked at protocol, where’s your field notebook?”

    “I thought it was your field notebook.” She looked up at him in angelic confusion.

    “Yeah, and it’s my camouflage you’re under.” Stuck out her tongue. Did she just do that? “Head back home now. No detours.”

    I was definitely closer to Oldale than Littleroot. I had stumbled across a station of Prof. Birch’s, rigged to capture shots of pokémon in the wild, though the daughter with her soil camouflage no one had expected. The station was at the join of a tributary path that went off from the main stem of Route 101 to curve around Oldale, so that if I’d stuck around the open clearing from the very beginning, the lights would have eventually come on in the border of Oldale just yards away in the north. My path following the ledge was also a good way to start towards Littleroot.

    Prof. Birch had been much closer to the route on the west side when Atashka met him, and they went here first thing. He had been looking for a pokémon called… but all this must have been covered by Atashka.

    The way back was quiet enough. It was cool to see a pokémon researcher face to face, but I couldn’t think of a lot to ask him, walking alongside. It was enough to show a nervously conveyed awe for the methods he would mention, try my best to already know the theory he explained, as he kept up steady informal conversation about natural science, despite weak comprehension from both of us (I’m ashamed to say). Atashka got bored after a predictably brief period and started talking about training, so the topic quickly changed to superpowered elemental attacks, League champions from the past, dirtbike racing out in the cities of Hoenn for all I know.

    We also heard a very little about the daughter, Sapphire. Her vulgarity did not fully succeed at repelling a strange fascination I was developing for her. I talked to her very briefly in the corridor when we finally reached the professor’s home. No, of course her age didn’t faze me in the least. An insulting thought.

    There was in fact some talk about training that I did bother to hear. Coming into the town, the brick Pokémon Lab spread out on the opposite side, wide and stately. The professor had already said it would take a few more days before our pokémon could start using their elemental moves. Then, apparently, one of us would be in trouble…? To explain he merely reminded us there was such a thing as type, and that it would get very important very soon when we started training seriously, which I knew already, that was correct. Mudkip was Water type. Treecko was Grass type. But what did that mean for battles, did it affect their fighting style? Mudkip took everything very intensely, god knew. Treecko was cunning, not a necessary feature of plants.

    Then (or later, the next morning – I can’t remember) he told us the correct names for the moves our pokémon used in battle. Mudkip knew Growl, and Tackle. He had never growled in battle as far as I knew. But the slam attack I’d named is officially called Tackle. Irritatingly Atashka got his name right – the pound he’d named is in fact Pound, though how you pound with the flat side of a tail is still beyond me. The other move, which he’d never named, is called Leer. These two are still moves, even though they don’t attack the opponent. Their purpose is to wear down the opponent’s skills, its attacking or defending power. All moves ought to be capitalized, as they are League-identified qualities. How would we know the correct name when we came across a move? A pokémon’s moves are fixed and common to its species. There are charts showing its development right up to the expert level. Places like Pokémon Centers always have them in record.

    You should go to a Pokémon Center when your pokémon are tired, to use your PC, for certain trading and exchange functions with other trainers, when you need somewhere to stay, or for help of this reference nature. They ask for your trainer card for some things, but not others.

    I had the best bath of my life. It was not like the bathroom at home, but hospitable enough. Also I was at the phase where I could smell my own filth just sitting still for a moment. I wonder if the bathrooms at Pokémon Centers won’t be too bad.

    Sapphire had said, looking me over, “You’re the new trainers from Petalburg, huh? I didn’t know one of them was a girl.”

    “There – I – yeah.”

    “I heard you’re going for the League. I’m gonna beat those Gym Leaders too. My pokémon are getting killer tough.”

    “Well you know it’s not just being… tough…”

    She turned her face to me, a laughing look on it. “I need to get out of here, though. You can’t really stand a chance unless you can travel. You guys are lucky.”

    “You’ve got your, dad’s research?”

    “He wants me to stay. I bet he’s trying to get me involved in a paper or some such crap.” She glanced around, and then started moving inside. “Anyway. …You want me to show you around?”

    “No, thanks. I’ll figure it out.”

    “I was just offering.” She held the door open for me.

    *

    How come I get all the important talks with grownups? It’s cause Arauve doesn’t pay any attention. That’s why.

    It was just after dinner the same night when everybody sat at the table, Prof Birch, Mrs. Birch, that shy girl Sapphire, the two of us at the front opposite him. It was serious food when we were famished. Prof. Birch left a little part of his spaghetti, went to put his plate away, and came back.

    “Do you know how many types of pokémon live in the Hoenn region?”

    Mrs. Birch smiled from her plate. “This is his favorite part with dinner with anybody.”

    I looked at Arauve, but she gave him a blank stare. “Like… a hundred?”

    “Quite accurate. But most of them are almost completely dark to us. We know the names and appearances of everybody, we think. But some data about types is missing. Certainly, their height, weight, vocalizations. That’s what my biggest project is about.”

    “You’re cataloging the pokémon?”

    “That’s correct. All the pokémon species of Hoenn. Ultimately I want anyone – scientists, engineers, trainers, the layman – to just be able to look up a database, and learn anything they want to about a species. It’ll open up research in a huge way. Ecology, statistical data, battle studies.”

    “It’s, I think, fundamentally cool even if you don’t think of the uses,” Arauve said. “Just gathering everything together.”

    He nodded, clearly pleased. “Listing is the first step towards knowledge. And you can start to see where you two come in, hmm? In my situation, I can’t make a regionwide tour just now. But trainers like you…”

    “Huh?” That surprised her. “You mean, we’re supposed to… But isn’t there a procedure? We’re not exactly scientists. Why can’t Sapphire…”

    “Oh, of course! That’s the second thing. I’ve developed a gadget called the Pokédex. It’s more precise and comprehensive than a lot of human observation. All you have to do is let it make a quick scan, of the, of the pokémon. My daughter has one, rest assured. She’s been working through this quarter of Hoenn for a few months.”

    “So we’re gonna get pokédexes?”

    “If you consent. It’s a big favor, but actually your father insisted I ask.”

    He scratched his sleeve, then looked up and smiled briefly. “You’ll of course be waving it at every new wild pokémon you come across. And I also want you to capture as many as you can. We can get much more detailed results that way.”

    “That’s cool!” I said. But the professor looked over at Arauve. She was holding her arms out awkwardly, the way she does.

    “It’s a big thing to accept,” she muttered finally, screwing her eyelids. “I mean, you probably don’t have pokédexes just lying around, do you? It ought to be more than just… catching a pokémon every now and then when we, stumble on it. But I don’t know if I can promise that.”

    Prof. Birch smiled. “Don’t worry about that. My pokédexes might not be in the market, but it’s not like I handcraft them, either. Besides it’s a huge thing, your simply going out so far with them in hand. They’ve never had that much exposure before. You’ll certainly be a help no matter what.”

    Nice! “And two of us going out – that’s a double pincer attack!”

    Sapphire laughed. “I think it’s a good offer, Atashka! I wouldn’t turn it down.”

    Arauve’d been starting to space out on the tablecloth pattern, but now she looked up at her, still distracted.

    She said, “I don’t know. What do you think I should do, Professor?”

    “I think you should sleep on it. We’ve got next morning, you know.” “Oh yes,” Mrs. Birch said, “you must be exhausted from your journey. My husband’s been dragging you along.” She took Arauve away to talk about where we were going to sleep. Prof. Birch stood up, but kept looking at me.

    He said, “You’re both going after the League, are you?”

    Both of us? “Yeah, I guess? Arauve wants to do it. It’s cause she hated training all the time before, imagine that. But then my dad teased her about it. He jokes sometimes, I think it’s f… you know right? But Arauve took it really seriously. She said she was gonna get all eight badges. In like a ridiculously short time.”

    Did she?”

    “And I didn’t know she was serious about it, but… here we are.”

    “Oh yes, actually I heard a little of this from your father. Not the specifics of the, hm. But what about you?”

    “Me?”

    “Are you serious about it, like Arauve?”

    Time for me to screw up my eyes, hold my arms awkwardly… “I’m – I’ll challenge the League too. Doesn’t hurt to try. But…”

    He smiled at me, waiting for my ‘but’.

    “Eheheh.” I turned up my palms. “I gotta give Arauve some actual competition. She’ll be a pokémon master someday. She’s wimpy, but she’s a genius.”

    “Yes, she does show promise, doesn’t she.” We fell silent, and then he left the table too, telling me not to stay up late.

    I smiled at Sapphire who was still in her chair, looking down across the table. “You help your dad out a lot?”

    She looked up with a start. “Huh?” Smiled back: “I guess, sometimes. It’s really interesting sometimes.”

    “Living in the forest, it has to be something else. I’ve always been a city kid.”

    “Really? It must be nice to live, somewhere big like Petalburg. You know… a small town is so sleepy. And you don’t always make a lot of friends.”

    “But you get to be with pokémon.”

    “Yeah!” Her face lit up. “I love being with pokémon. I don’t know what I’d do, without, without pokémon. I want to go far and wide and meet many different kinds. I think we can learn from them, as much as they learn from us.”

    “Do you have pokémon too?”

    “I do. Um…” Suddenly she winked. “I caught them myself. I’ve been training them, for a while. Slowly, but… Someday they’ll be strong enough.”

    *

    It was all right to accept the pokédexes. The next morning, I was pretty clear about it when I woke up. The nagging thought of my commitment didn’t leave immediately, but everybody’s recommendation and the value of the work and the professor’s encouragement felt like assurance enough to lean on. Also, Atashka would probably take one for himself whatever I did… unless he’d have followed my decisions in this respect too? No testing that now.

    Despite the previous day we got up early enough, feeling completely rested, and had a bigger breakfast than I’d ever done in Petalburg. The day was free to idle around through, at least until after lunch. We let Sapphire take us out to the forest (eventually, after she got out of bed) and show us a few places close by. She was deprecating about the sights but they absolutely fascinated me. After a certain point the forest was neither dense nor shaggy or oppressive. It opened up and the trees got very big, learning to breathe. So did the undergrowth, of course. Many of the pokémon that Sapphire named, but that failed to show up (we dressed like rookies apparently, our colors were too loud) were shroomish, gloom, slakoth – ultra rare in this route – linoone, electrike apparently – though in the books electrike was always placed in the savannah, yellow and brown brush-stroked. Plenty of lotad, wurmple and their evolutions, silcoon and cascoon, but none of them to be seen hatched from their cases.

    When we came back for lunch we had Indian – something whose name has slipped my mind.

    Lunch and the return through the forest allowed me to worry vaguely about training, something I’d tried to slip away from the previous day – but which I knew I had a commitment to. To train hard, and train well, after the battles of yesterday seemed crushingly difficult. At that time I’d decided that it was the fact I was ordering someone else into hurt; if it had been me on the field I might still have gritted my teeth and went on with it. But I don’t think that’s an assertion we trainers can make. I am not a pokémon. What I knew for a fact is that standing there while Mudkip sustained a hit scraped me somewhere inside, and maybe I was oversensitive but I didn’t feel good giving him commands for anything except return. No matter how willing he was to keep bouncing back.

    As soon as we gave our confirmations Prof. Birch got very happy and immediately disappeared in his lab, not to return except for the Indian. He called us there a while before we were going to leave. As we walked through the long open room to his table, scientists glanced at us with interest from either side. On a big red round machine, a panel in its front showing data and a grid of flashing buttons, two pokédexes lay fitted to cartridge holders, red plastic address books with pokéballs on their front that flipped open to reveal the rolling screen. They were quite spiffy. A research prototype would probably be all bulky and gunmetal. Prof. Birch had had them brought in from the workshop of a very skilled colleague.

    That red machine was his one hi-tech device. Everywhere else the desks were covered with old textbooks, field notebooks, very humble PCs, a single laptop at his table. And in one lacquered case at the back rested an old, fully-mechanical microscope – it didn’t even have light, there was a mirror to catch the reflection of windows – in pride of darkness, unused for years. He had got it in university, back when he was in university.

    The pokédex screen rolled, showing by index number the unknown characteristics of all Hoenn pokémon. You could search for names and appearances but only if you had data on them. These were fully empty. Prof. Birch said once we got started, they would themselves help out with our training, picking up things that we might use unquestioned for reference, showing the habitats of pokémon we’d already seen, as well as features he hadn’t fitted in yet. He said to check in regularly with him when we got to a town; the PCs of all Pokémon Centers connected with his own, through a certain powerful computer person’s grace.

    The pokédex could also identify the type of a pokémon, an immediate help in battle of whatever kind. I understood by now that different types were advantaged or disadvantaged towards fighting others. Water can easily quench fire. So a fire pokémon would have a hard time against a water pokémon, like Mudkip. Fire lights readily on wood. It can level forests. Treecko, a grass pokémon, was disadvantaged against a fire pokémon. And plants thrived in the presence of water, took it for their nutrients, so a water pokémon was like an energy drink to grass pokémon. Three corners of a triangle, in themselves lopsidedly inclined to each other, but in their sum total at perfect balance. In constant mutual pursuit and mutual reliance. In my mind the pokémon seemed only single instances of three bigger somethings, chromatic or tonal or glyphic (or emblemated through other senses, temperature texture emotion personification what have you), that were eternal and universal, resting out there somewhere, concrete and compact though no one could ever physically find them.

    But there were more types than just those three. Maybe not a triangle then.

    Our pokémon didn’t learn any elemental moves on the way back. I wasn’t trying too hard and Atashka wasn’t trying too well. They repeated the ones they had past counting, which was enough for the initial shock to wear off. Mudkip for example learned to brace himself, and not take any damage from the Tackles he delivered to others, because an attacking move is not supposed to hurt the user too. It was hard to deny you could learn to use moves well. But our role in developing our pokémon’s technique was pretty much nil. The most we could do was to give them practice so they could work it out over many trials. I could barely keep track of the techniques as they changed over time, would sometimes notice a change in habit that looked detrimental from where I was standing, very often see only frustrating suggestions of changes that were too subtle for me to even get wind of; it made me feel nervous and not in control.

    A real trainer would surely have had command over these things, too. And surely there was one right way to do things. There must have been a way to tackle without being hurt yourself, without hurting the opponent unnecessarily, delivering exactly the right amount of damage. There must have been techniques to all the other moves. But how could you be sure you’d find it out yourself? Who was going to teach you? How many beginning trainers settled on something that didn’t quite eliminate all the dangers, and tore a little more than they should have with every move, every accidental victory? Universal problems whose weight, in those days, fell fully on my head, for all I knew alone on my head. I was not going to take help from anyone. There wasn’t anyone to ask, anyway. Not my father. Prof. Birch, impossible.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2013
  7. Praxiteles

    Praxiteles Friendly POKéMON.

    TRIPLE POST PRE-UPDATE NOTE THING: An early update! In Greenwich it’s probably Sunday already. EDIT: Somebody had to explain to me that +5:30 means I'm ahead of the world, not behind it. Fail, guys, fail.

    The sentence in the intro Mrs. Lovett pointed out has been tweaked a little; do see if you like it better now. The POV thing hasn't been forgotten, but I haven't thought of anything yet. I was going along merrily thinking that, sure the readers might not get it the first time, but they'll figure it out after they look it over once! No problem! As if the first reading of anything is such a breeze that you can just flush it down the drain.

    Lord, there are so many missed spaces in the first two chapters. In case anybody might need to know, it's because of a compatibility thing between Word for Mac and normal Word 2kwhatever.

    I have changed up Arauve's first scene just a little, the daydreams paragraph.

    It took me this long to find out that I have thirty-one ellipses in the Littleroot chapter. The others clock in at ten each. Good god -- this is the only thing I picked up from Gravity's Rainbow.

    Chapter 6 is going through a large-scale design overhaul. (The short of it is, I'm trying to convince myself to merge two chapters, 6 and 7. It's wringing my own neck really because even if I get it to not drag on -- the merged chapter will be 6500 words -- you people still get a boost over the number of chapters I've actually written so far. It's one less buffer. Still you know, making me less comfortable about my update buffers is probably a good thing. By the way whenever I say Chapter 4, that's counting the intro, so I actually mean 4. Littleroot.) Of course, that doesn't keep us from rolling on this week! (Or, hopefully, any week.)
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2013
  8. Praxiteles

    Praxiteles Friendly POKéMON.

    The gym leaders of the Hoenn region.

    Norman
    Petalburg City Pokémon Gym
    Type: Normal
    Balance Badge

    Roxanne
    Rustboro City Pokémon Gym
    Type: Rock
    Stone Badge

    Brawly
    Dewford Town Pokémon Gym
    Type: Fighting
    Knuckle Badge

    Wattson
    Mauville City Pokémon Gym
    Type: Electric
    Dynamo Badge

    Agnes
    Lavaridge City Pokémon Gym
    Type: Fire
    Heat Badge

    Winona
    Fortree City Pokémon Gym
    Type: Flying
    Feather Badge

    Maurice
    Mossdeep City Pokémon Gym
    Type: Psychic
    Mind Badge

    Giulio
    […]

    This is at least ten years old. I was sure that all three leaders in West Hoenn were out of date, and kept to the first four or five.

    There’s Rustboro laid along the beach, north clear of the dark bush of Petalburg Forest, an elongated round ruby. A route line pipes through its length, another cuts perpendicular. So the road forks, which was a decision I would have to make after beating… Roxanne. It looked like there was little in the way of gym towns along the north route.

    Roxanne is shown with a textbook in hand. Norman wears track pants and walks through a forest path. By Wattson’s name is a pair of thick electrodes, their profiles spiky with stacked discs, antennae coming out their tops knobbed with big metal spheres. These stand freely in a white room empty of all else. It looked to me like a photograph, but easily could have been an artist’s rep. I spent an afternoon constructing an electric city around that room, Wattson’s province, glass-paneled, white-tiled, designed with polarities and jagged electric arcs.

    Each gym leader is an expert of a specific type. How many types are there, in total? This suggests there must be at least eight. Fighting has advantage over normal. Rock has advantage over normal too. Fighting has advantage over rock. Suddenly a triangle has appeared that is insistently isosceles: one corner that takes from both others but does not give. To balance it I would have to posit other triangles in which the same normal type only gives without taking, as does fighting in this instance, and one also in which fighting takes without giving, as normal does. These would require higher, extra-triangular relations between types like fighting and normal, whose mutual positions must be balanced not within a single triangle but between two. I have already anticipated the existence of shapes larger than triangles. However, it would be more perfect if these shapes were polygons of more sides, rather than still more complex figures that actually include triangles inside them – or, most perfect of all, a triangle of triangles, the nine-pointed Universal Triangle that includes and circumscribes all (it must be) nine pokémon types, and also transcends them.

    Sapphire is a form of corundum, a precious mineral, where iron and titanium chord together to give blue. If instead chromium is present in the same trace amounts, you get the other corundum color, ruby.

    There is a stone in the earth for every elemental form in nature; they are emblemated by stones. I knew about ruby, sapphire, and emerald. Fire, water, grass. But the other connections were unclear. Could rock in one sense encompass all the minerals, since rock-type pokémon were made of many different kinds of rocks? Even if it did, it would not be master of all stones. Nothing of that sort. Its character in nature is still specific, and that would be reflected by… perhaps some mineral. Granite. Shale. There were three types of rock, igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary. Though I’d read a lot at home, I couldn’t remember as many mineral names as I wanted. Each mineral holds a spirit. Granite, slate, shale, sandstone, limestone. Marble.

    I stood by the round belling leaves of a wild plant, its leaves wet with drops that cut a dark line into the shoulder of my shirt. Petalburg was out there again, square and red and wide.

    *

    I told Arauve I wanted to walk around a little, not go home straight away. But she split up when she heard that. No gratitude these days. The sunlight was warm white and it bled all through the windswept grass, the yellow roads, fenced lawns, giving everything one single brightness. I went up to see the big pond, the one closest to the Pokémon Center. A few ripples were setting out in its middle, enough that you could count. The wind blew the light around and raised the hair up off my forehead.

    It was late afternoon, still warm and clear, but the part of the day that goes to rest, tired of daylight.

    There was a boy very skinny and small who was standing across the water. It was one of the kids who’d been going to music practice when we still used to go. I walked around to his side, and he glanced at me when he saw me coming.

    If I asked him anything he took a long time to answer, looking into my face, and spoke quietly. I knew him. When I went out to the west side, sometimes he would be there, near the trees with his dad, or alone, and we’d talk. He didn’t go out to play like other kids because he got sick too easy, and he didn’t have any best friends, or any brothers or sisters. I guess in a way I was his best friend. Usually he talked really long and sincerely about everything we ever mentioned. But today he wasn’t in a talkative mood, and I asked him if he wanted to go biking with me later in the evening, and he just said, “No, I… not today Atashka,” without looking at me. But then he did. A sudden anxious look, his mouth opening.

    I said, “What’s up, Wally?”

    A breeze ballooned his shirt and he held it back, pulling an arm around himself. He said, “Atashka, do you know how to catch a pokémon?”

    I went up close to him to see what was in his other hand. He opened it for me – a pokéball. He’d been smiling, but when I turned back to his face the smile disappeared. “Mom and Dad don’t know that I got this from somewhere. I only have one.”

    “It looks really new,” I just said, averting my eyes.

    “Will you help me? I was going out by myself.” He closed his palm again and dropped his hand. “If you had any experience that would help me a lot but if you won’t, I’ll still do it myself.”

    “I’ll – yeah! Of course I’ll help!” I took my backpack off my shoulders and kneeled down smiling. “Wally, I didn’t tell you this but I have a pokémon now. I’m going on a journey. So is Arauve. We just came back from Littleroot Town. I…”

    I looked up suddenly thinking how that would make him feel, but his face was only more intent, frowning in determination.

    “I’ll, I’ll make sure you get a pokémon. I’ve never caught one but I have a lot of stuff that’ll help.”

    We went to the Oldale side again, me walking in front. I had pokéballs with me too. And we had all day, if they ran out the Mart was always there for us. We just got into the first patch of wild grass and stepped in, Wally and I almost on the same step, looking out carefully for an encounter. It didn’t take long.

    Zigzagoon! Treecko got in front but we weren’t fighting. I took one of my own pokéballs. My aim was better than Arauve’s, I just didn’t try. It bounced off Zigzagoon’s side and Zigzagoon ran off.

    The pokéball was fine, it hadn’t even activated. I gave it to Wally so he could try once.

    The next pokémon was another zigzagoon, a different one. Wally hurled it with the swinging up, the way I did, but he released it too soon and it went high. He never played baseball. Zigzagoon slipped in close to Treecko and delivered a tackle. So Treecko did need to be there, to save our skins. I took another ball and this time didn’t swing, just launched it as hard as I could. Click! A flash came out and swallowed Zigzagoon up.

    That was… was that it?

    I took a step and suddenly the ball exploded in white light, and Zigzagoon was back out. This one fled too. And worst of all, the ball was broken. The two parts lay on the ground a few inches apart. This is why trainers always buy five or ten pokéballs, I guess.

    This kept happening. We found zigzagoon, poochyena, one lotad. Even lucky lotad wouldn’t stay inside the ball. The ball would keep shaking and wobbling around after it closed, and eventually something would break it open from inside. I tried to get one before it even knew what was coming, some distance in the grass. Two times I missed, but the third time that one escaped too. I had five pokéballs and broke all five of them, until there was only Wally’s left. That was when we stepped back to give it a break in the clearing near the entrance.

    I’d been saying we were missing something, which probably Wally could tell, too. But how would we figure that out, anyway. If there was some whole technique to it we couldn’t ask anyone. I said we needed something else, and looked up, but Wally had walked away. I’d been totally lost, pulling up grass blades and tearing them to pieces. He was nowhere in sight, and I went up to the edge of the wild grass, and thought about going in when I spotted him.

    His hair was yellow green and waved up messily, just like the grass. But his white shirt you could see from anywhere, more than a size too big. He was standing a little hunched and looking down, totally still. Suddenly he turned his face away just a fraction of an inch. I wondered why I wasn’t moving, either, then my bones proved themselves right – down there in front of him moving there was something white and green too but much much smaller. It was a pokémon. You can’t go in the wild grass without protection. Even though the danger went numbly through me, my arms refused to move. But the pokémon, if you find a boy in the grass with nobody to protect him, you shouldn’t hurt someone defenseless. There was no panic in me. I had a pang of something different as it approached his feet. Wally knelt down.

    It was hard to make out the pokémon through all the leaves wider than it was. It looked like a sheet had been draped over its whole body. From what I could tell it was raising a short white arm up toward his face.


    Wally’s ralts didn’t like being in pokéballs, or he never called it inside anyway – once, when we got back inside the city, it let him flash it inside just to make it his, and then he took it out again. The pokéball didn’t wobble the way it did for all the other wild pokémon. Arauve’d said it was a rare pokémon, but it wasn’t any good at battle. Treecko fought him and tried to go easy but it was impossible to make the battle last. I guess any pokémon is like that when it first starts out training, my treecko is an exception, but this ralts really was a lot more timid, less quick on its feet too, than my pokémon. The hits just didn’t have any force to them. It didn’t seem like it was cut out to be a battling pokémon. Of course I didn’t say this to Wally.

    I did ask him what it was between them, why this pokémon had just decided to go with him, like it was choosing him. But he wouldn’t give me a real reason. It made me think he couldn’t tell me, maybe he didn’t know.

    *

    While Atashka went away to sniff flowers I had to actually report home, to a parent who hadn’t had word from us for two square days now. And probably to use some part of the rest of the day in preparing for our much greater trip. For now the less time we spent in Petalburg the better; no use getting our fill of luxuries and beds that with custom were hardly appreciated anyway, no use malingering in the spaces and light we’d seen so many times from so long ago that they had become extensions of our body, now that we were about to successfully leave them for good. Still I had to linger for some time at least, necessarily saw the rooms once more, after I’d gotten in through the main entrance and endured my father’s hug and now sat at the kitchen table, drinking juice from a glass glass and chatting about the least important details of the trip. This time, the news of house, garden, city that I took in with interest was but taken in with the detached interest of someone who wouldn’t be here tomorrow (or day after, or whenever) – a feeling I would become friends with very soon.

    Remembered fragments (of the chatting): “You didn’t spend a single poké?” I looked back at him with a satisfied smile, but he was more dismayed than anything. “You could have bought something nice to eat, anything you liked.”

    And “For this trip you will pack your own bags.” “My bag’s still packed from the last one.”

    “It’s getting rather late.” “Atashka’ll come. His stomach calls him.” “You haven’t shown me the pokédex yet, how does it look like?”

    “You got three badges, that’s still something. Seems like a lot to me. How does it happen? Was it very hard?” “It wasn’t hard. Not even in the fourth one,” chuckling, “which I lost without an ounce of grace. It sort of seemed to happen. Many things in life can’t be explained how they are until you go out there yourself.”

    Also, “I get the logic of rock being such a strong defensive type, but how come it’s weak to fire?”

    Atashka came (quite late; he had to take recourse to “What’ll you do when I’m out on my journey this late?”) and then certain matters about our Littleroot trip were debriefed and settled. Father impressed on us once again the need to stay with a pokémon out in the wild grass, and not leave the route. Even our pokémon wouldn’t know the way around distant wilderness in parts of Hoenn they’d never been to. Cities were for us people, the wild was for wild pokémon, and routes were where both could meet. That done with, the rest of the day, naturally, we lost no time in doing anything useful.

    Not entirely true, in my case. One thing was that our pokédexes had already absorbed enough information about our first pokémon, to make an entry:

    MUDKIP.
    Mud Fish Pokémon.
    Type: WATER
    Height, weight. (It kills me to gloss over these, but I can’t for the life of me remember.)

    Ability: TORRENT
    Increases the power of WATER-type moves in a pinch.

    On land, it can powerfully lift large boulders by planting its four feet and heaving. It sleeps by burying itself in soil at the water’s edge.

    Atashka’s pokédex had registered something a little different.

    The fin on MUDKIP’s head acts as a highly sensitive radar. Using this fin to sense movements of water and air, the POKéMON can determine what is taking place around it without using its eyes.

    The pokédexes had personalities. Each of them noticed something else – things we had never seen happen to our pokémon, things that might as well have been drawn from the existing pool of knowledge. If we had more pokédexes, maybe we would know still more; what would Sapphire’s pokédex have to say about Mudkip? It was the pokédex that could get us anywhere near these natural descriptions – unless I went out into the route, and saw it for myself. I resolved to do this ASAP.

    The far more useful thing was a bit of homework. There are five status ailments that pokémon inflict on each other.

    PSN. A poisoned pokémon is slowly drained of health, as if losing it to an insistent, gradually inflicted blow, and may do so to the point of fainting. I am not sure how far it incapacitates the pokémon. Certainly you can’t be fighting fit while tottering through the last stages of toxic shock.

    PAR. A pokémon may be paralyzed within battle, in which case it’s not rendered absolutely helpless, but faces some trouble pulling off each strenuous or physically involved move and may occasionally fail. Plus I can only imagine it wears off after a while.

    SLP. The pokémon goes to sleep. Mortal danger does not wake it up. Only when its term is over does the pokémon enjoy waking freedom.

    BRN. The burn also, curiously, hurts the pokémon a little every time. Probably there is something chemical or eternal about pokémon fire. If it catches, which is to say if the pokémon is ‘burned’, it burns for quite a long time indeed.

    FRZ. A pokémon who is frozen solid can do nothing. Eventually it gets thawed out. The permanent effects of being frozen solid are negligible. Freezing is nothing compared to the environment offered by a humble pokéball.

    I tried to memorize these, but it brought up bad memories of science class, so then I just lamented my fate as a trainer and closed the book. No different from a few hours before, my situation was vague, messy, totally undetermined. But now not a chronic anxiety to dog me down the routes, responding to all my purposes with inescapable leering doubt; for now (at least) something to laugh at with Atashka, who crowed back at me his own shining prospects for championship. Here inside in Petalburg it felt good. I’m only designed for secure compact suburban environments, I, rookie pokémon traveler destined for Victory Road.

    Oh, what do I really have to worry about? The lowest I could fall, I’d come crawling back to my father with my tail between my legs.

    It was what was waiting for me, before I earned the right to do that… That’s worth worrying about.

    *

    “Arauve. Atashka.” Dad, coat and tie, bearded, at the bedroom door. “Wake up. We’re getting your trainer cards.”

    Cereal and juice in the kitchen. The round city car, to the Pokémon Center. Arauve saying, “Atashka battled a trainer on the route and she wanted his trainer card, but he didn’t have one, but then money got debited anyway. You really get money for beating trainers?”

    “Oh yes. …” Something about proportions. Something about being rich or poor.

    “But – we don’t have one, but we got money anyway.”

    Dad’s explanation.

    “But why are we getting a card then?”

    Something about the League. “… And there’re a lot of services you get that way. You’ll see the next time you walk into a Pokémon Center.”

    Treecko on my stomach, watching the street go by. You can see the place you’re going to from way far away.

    The Pokémon Center had a long line in its basement cause today was a registration day. There were counters with those long cloth bands marking out lines in front of them. We got in after Dad told them our name and stuff and then we sat at another table, had our fingerprint and picture taken, went to another one, showed them our pokémon, ball and monster, went in a booth, it was all blue, and I stood in front of a screen as they took a big picture of me. Then another table where they asked me a lot of things I didn’t know (they had to call Dad). Arauve was already through. We got back up to the ground floor and there were our cards! Dad didn’t even wait for us.

    My card was green, but Arauve’s was dark red. It was really hard and plastic, not just a card, it had a microchip in it and everything. I was standing in the right side and there were all my details on the left. And my account balance, already 1100p. On the other side there was one blank panel and a row of eight square holes.

    *

    We parted and it was predictably sentimental. Atashka, like clockwork, fell into a sulk 24 hours before the time of departure, no doubt mournful of the air conditioning, the luxury bathrooms, movie theaters, loyal supply of chocolate etc. and awful in his behavior to the people he was really crying for, his father and best friends. Not that it matters to me. I don’t have to detail that, so instead let me detail the items we bought to prepare.

    The clothes we’d taken on our Littleroot journey had been the roughest we could think of. They had been muddied, rent, stained, much like Atashka’s legs after his decision to take shorts, and came back from the washing more or less useless. We had to shop for actual traveling clothes. Atashka bought more shorts and insubstantial cotton shirts on the principle that legs can handle being rent, muddied, etc. I went for thick denim jeans before my father indicated how that would feel in hot weather in the absence of baths; it turns out crude khaki is the most appropriate for this purpose. I don’t like the idea of baring anything out in the wilderness. Pokémon have hides. I go out there insulated, like an astronaut. Or a skier.

    After we were done shopping our father commenced the actual shopping: ponchos, wind jackets, thermals, multiple sets of underwear, long socks, boots, all this old-fashioned stuff that I hadn’t even seen since the days an adult put on my clothes for me. He was very ceremonious about boots. He intended our boots to last our journey, and made sure of it.

    Once out of the clothes department: first aid kits, maps of Hoenn, a special kind of running shoes he found in a window, thermos, sleeping bags, actual lighters (promising to teach us how to build a fire but not making good), some of which we didn’t ultimately take. My father comes from a slightly less forgiving age in training.

    Five potions each, three full heals, three paralyze heals, three antidotes, an approving eye to the chesto berries I had taken, a glance at pokéballs, escape rope.

    Only two books from the study, neither of them overly beautiful. Besides, my father’s books can’t be knocked around at the bottom of a bag. It was standing before the bookshelf selecting that brought the beauty of a journey home to me. To pare down all my possessions to only what the journey would accommodate.

    For our pokéballs, a clipped belt was a bit too much for either of us. Father however did not trust our pockets alone. Eventually we settled on a little chain that could hook at the end to something inside the pocket, a chain lined with magnets that engaged with the pokéball’s own.

    A bag still almost empty after all of this: we must have forgotten half the things we bought.

    Remember the guy we saw as we exited Petalburg? Shades, blue Hawaiian shirt, European-looking, like a tourist? How he lowered his glasses when he saw our getup. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I have a feeling we’ll see him again, much later on.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2013
  9. Praxiteles

    Praxiteles Friendly POKéMON.

    My format is a little misleading. You probably shouldn't think of the text of this fic as pure or self-sufficient.





    One. I’ve been to Route 104 so many times. Strutting down your footsteps patting sand, the seashore on your left golden and blue, the wind attacks your hair. Climbing rocks to get at what’s behind them, the heat curls, the heat’s obliterated. The way is bright and hot, moves warm and dreamily over the squares of sand, the yellow road; when you go out to conquer it the day will arc by long and bright, shading and warming you, and whatever you feel now, when it’s done you won’t be sorry; and neither tired at evening when it cools and whitens the long ledged flats, when it’s finally not too sun-bright for the lights glittering endlessly in the distance, and the endless, endless glittering distance.

    Two:

    *

    In Route 104 the trees go back and there’s open ground for miles, wild grass somewhere, a little cliff going down along our left. It’s hot on this route, but that’s because there’s a beach. The sea is right there. We saw it as soon as we got out of Petalburg, when we got to the big oblong square of dirt where the road just puddles. The sea peeks up from under the cliff and then it spreads in a circle way out, to the horizon, it’s blue like gel ink and it has sparkles settling and lifting off. The sun was ahead a little to the left so you could barely see for the light, but the wind is always blowing, on your right, and there’s the sound of it. I found the stairs that let you down the cliff, got down them, white clear stones. I love the beach. Arauve does too but she won’t admit it.

    Treecko stayed up at the top, looking down, next to Arauve who was grinning. “She’s scared.”

    She wasn’t scared, she just didn’t know what it was. She’d never seen the sea before. The beach was empty right now, in the bend that we could see. I went back and picked Treecko up. There was nothing to be afraid of.

    We went down through the little patch of weeds and across the sand, to the dark water line – I bent down with Treecko in my arms but then she scrambled over my shoulder and ran back. “Looks like she doesn’t want to know.” I looked behind me. Arauve was close to the water too, Mudkip in her hands and Treecko on her head, but higher ground I guess. I sat back and took off my sandals, to let the water go up and down my heels.

    Arauve bent down, Treecko’s claws digging into her hair. “It’s a thin film of water,” she said. “Look, it’s going away.” Mudkip hopped down to stand right at the edge. He’s so weird, he never does anything.

    I was watching Treecko tiptoe closer to the water, with a stupid grin on my face. Someone said, “That’s adorable! Are those yours, what are they called?”

    Looked up and tried to put the grin away. It was two girls who’d come up to the water, they looked like my age. Arauve smirked in the shadows as I leaned back, saying, “That’s Mudkip. But Treecko is the cool one. She’s never lost a battle.” Treecko crouched growling at the edge, stumbled back when the water started coming and fell on her behind. I grabbed her head and pulled her closer.

    “I’m on a journey through Hoenn,” I said to the girl who’d bent down, brown hair out in curls, her smile amused and patient like they have with boys. “I’m gonna challenge all the Pokémon Gyms. But that’s not what I’m really out for. I’ve actually got a mission, for science.” She turned aside to look at Arauve when the other girl said “Aren’t they pond pokémon, does Mudkip like the sea?” She was also cute.

    “He doesn’t mind, I think. He likes water.”

    They both went over to Arauve, who’d picked Mudkip up. “Look at those sails, I didn’t know they were so big.” “He’ll grow into them.”

    “Can he swim?” “What does he eat?” “Isn’t there something like the fin can pick up vibrations?”

    “That’s right,” Arauve said. “It can detect things in the water, even when it’s too muddy to see. And it can pick up earthquakes too.” “A little guy like that! When you think about it, doesn’t it…” Everybody huddled over that stupid pokémon, poking at it.

    “There any trainers on this beach?” I grumbled, getting up. The beach turned around the stairs and then it went straight north for a while, with another cliff ending it in the far distance. There were two trainers right at the bend, one carrying a short wide butterfly net, with water pokémon at their feet. I walked close to them with Treecko following along and said, “Going to the forest?”

    The older-looking one sized me up: “That’s a rare pokémon you’ve got there.” “No, we’re just, uh, coming from it,” the other boy explained. I looked at theirs. One was a small blue dragon with a curled tail, floating upright. The other was round and white – marill.

    “Treecko’s my starter,” I said. “I’m gonna beat Rustboro with it. The gym.”

    The older one smirked. He nodded to his friend, saying, “Here’s one for you Marvin.”

    “One for…? Yeah!” He walked up to face me. “Okay! Let’s have a one-on-one. You know the rules, right?”

    “You bet I do,” I said, and the older one sighed. “You don’t. It’s one-on-one, no medicine, no switching out, and if your pokémon can’t respond for ten counts to your command it’s fainted. It should be over quick.”

    A few people had come near to watch, Arauve was hanging a little behind me. Marvin went fifteen steps along the water and turned to face me. We hadn’t bothered with markings and I couldn’t figure out if there were supposed to be borders. Treecko got in front and Marvin pulled out a ball, bounced it on the ground like a paper wad, and it flashed open. A butterfly pokémon.

    They were pretty far apart…

    Marvin called his attack quickly. I heard “sting”. “Scratch it!” I said. Treecko ran toward it but she got hit by a thick purple dart that I could barely see, it looked like it shattered, but she flinched back a little still running. She jumped on its green wings and started clambering up.

    Marvin said, “Dustox, fly up.” It tried to flap higher but Treecko was holding back one wing, still climbing up. She got up to its torso and reared back her tail. Just then Marvin called something and a cloud went out around both of them, yellow and flashing.

    The wind slowly started to streak it out. They hovered in there for a second or two, dark yellow shadows, then Dustox burst out with a flap and threw Treecko to the ground.

    “What happened?” I said, not loudly. She wasn’t standing up. “Treecko scratch it again!” She swung forward bent over her arms and almost lost her balance.

    “Your treecko’s paralyzed, sir!” Arauve said. “She won’t move so well.”

    She watched Treecko struggling to get up, over my shoulder. I blubbered, “What, what’s that, how do I fix it?”

    “You don’t, Ah do believe. He said no medicine. Try and pep her up or something.”

    “You suck! Treecko, can you try to swing your tail? You might hit it from the ground.” Treecko was already hunching over, about to get back on her feet, and she glared at Dustox and that made it flinch a little. Arauve says Leer only lowers the foe’s defense. But Treecko’s leer is special.

    She jumped up suddenly an enormous leap, caught on again to Dustox, this time her claws were in. It flailed around trying to jerk her back off – I said “Get the wings!” but Dustox blew up a huge gust of wind, spilling sand, and threw her off before she could get there. “Bummer,” Arauve whined. “You just can’t fight wind moves.”

    Now Treecko stood back up swaying in front of Dustox, who hovered at her head. It started beating its wings in slow hypnotic gusts, and the sand lifted again, Treecko buffeted back by the kind of wind that was gathering –

    “Wing Attack!” Arauve said. “We’re gone.”

    It was over. Marvin did the ten counts, not in a mean way, I guess, just counting them off quietly. I didn’t wait to go up to Treecko. This was the first time she’d fainted. She lay on her snout in a crumpled heap, sand piled around her. I turned her over gently, seeing her belly go up and down.

    “You should call her back in, until the Pokémon Center,” the older trainer said. “Get her out of the game.” He kept looking down over me as I flashed her in. Marvin said, “That was rough! I’m sorry I did it, my pokémon don’t know how to go easy…” but he trailed off when he realized the words probably stung.

    “What’s your name?” his friend asked me.

    After he heard it, he paused for a moment. “My name’s Toby,” he said finally. “Get that pokémon home now.”

    We had to walk back to Petalburg now hiding from people we knew, go to the Pokémon Center in the wrong city. We’d just told everybody we were leaving for Rustboro. Arauve said when we got inside, “You know you can’t win every battle you ever get in.” I said, “Why don’t you shut up!”

    She’d changed her face when I looked and was now going defensive mocking. “Poor baby, he’s having a bad day.” She’d tried to be nice. Yeah well she shouldn’t get so nasty now, then. I looked in at the main counter, walked in and gave the nurse my pokéball. “You’re standing there so smug, you haven’t fought once today. Why don’t you fight an actual trainer, I bet you’d… be worse than me!”

    She stood near a seat at the exit, getting philosophical now. “You know, I think I will.” Like she, as if she’s planning to make a contribution to society.

    *

    Sapphire, rough-cut, scuffed and grinning. Acceptable. But where was its counterpart, the other corundum color? Could I even sketch it mirror-image from the half we had in possession? Quiet but solicitous. A trainer, not a breeder, nor coordinator. Hopes to go out into the world, so she can befriend many of the pokémon out there. A tomboy. Or would it be a he?

    Three. The route parallel to the beach is guarded by one forest tree, broken off from the congregation to its east, and one pine closer and on the west side, but otherwise it is shadeless, a wide pooling way thick with ‘wild grass’: that particular mixture of tall plants and weeds and occasional impenetrable bushes that pokémon seem to prefer (over the open ground anyway). Cross the wild grass and you’re home free – at the hands of all sorts of dimwit trainers, that is. The beach is not the only beach along the route to Rustboro. Standing at its far corner one can see further ground north, inaccessible from here as far as I could ascertain. It was very difficult to spot in the first place.

    Only a few yards off the shore is a buoy line of grey crooked rocks poking up from the blue water, running quite parallel for as far as I can see in both directions. At the curve of the beach, they bend too. They are definitely ringing us in. Beyond them, the sea stretches out totally unbroken to infinity. Still, there must be some island or distant shore out there. Far, far beyond probably the bounds of Hoenn even. It would be difficult to pull off a trip by yourself, assuming it was even possible to get on the water somehow.

    This is skipping ahead, but when Rustboro came it was paved off-white, a dry chalk city of multi-storied office buildings and old condominiums. A bigger city than Petalburg, and moving through its streets well inside, it seemed quite possible to get lost. When I saw it this time, it was nothing like what I’d remembered from – long, long ago – and the pent greenless cobbles of the roads, the wide monochrome bars of buildings, struck me with a sense of relief.

    Four. Atashka is going to shut up now because it’s my turn, like we decided.

    *

    Arauve returned, leading, and went up the higher path where there was tall grass you had to go through. She said she didn’t need to battle any trainers. Because her pokémon was wimpy.

    She surprised a purple bird pokémon that fluttered out of its hiding place and came down in front of Mudkip. It was a taillow. Bending forward on tiptoes with its wings up it tried to get at Mudkip, threatening to fly as soon as he launched a move. He crouched when he was told and almost started at it, once, twice, but it kept hopping out of the way.

    Arauve got impatient, but then she thought about it for a moment. “We can wait for it to make a move. But it’ll just attack and jump away. I need Mudkip to catch it during contact. Can he do that?”

    Mudkip stood waiting for Taillow's move, but it wouldn’t come forward. He Growled with his long watery bark and it took its chance – hopped up over his head and pecked him with its beak, which he let it but he pecked back, and the Taillow’s momentum got him to catch half a wing between his teeth. Taillow struggled flapping wildly until it’d swiveled mostly out of his grip, but then he smashed it into the ground with the last mouthful of feather. Arauve and Mudkip both hesitated, so Taillow got up and fluttered out of there.

    Arauve found three more wild pokémon, but each time she dodged out of the field before the pokémon could attack. She kept going straight ahead. After you got through the grass you could start to see the trees that thickened into the border of a full forest. Petalburg Woods.

    But right here was a little cabin fronted with reed, dark and closed, the floor inside neatly furnished with green matting, though it had once passed for wood when it was covered with nicely painted chart paper. The owner hardly ever stayed at home. His name was given on a sign just outside.

    The yellow path started again as soon as you were past the cabin. It turned left and went along until it came up to the edge. A corner jutting over the sea with wild plants growing on either side of the bend, rocks visible in the blue water a few feet below. Here the path cut into Petalburg Woods and then went inside, gated by a white picket fence.

    A girl stood at the bend of the path, pulling the grass aside where it was thinnest to get a view. Arauve tried to creep past her with the pokémon in her hands, as far away on the other edge of the road as she could without going in the grass. But leaning into it she brushed her shoulder with the stems, and they rustled all together in a sudden hiss.

    She turned around with a jerk. “Hello there! It looks like you two are trainers!”

    “Okay, what if we’re not?”

    Put her hands together. “Oh dear, I’m sorry if I’m being annoying. I was taking my Horace out on a walk. I realized, it would do him good if I could make him battle today.” She was in a little shirt and green skirt, pretty normal, though they were home clothes and not traveling. It was her face that looked cool and polite, with a refined smile.

    Arauve came out of where the grass was tickling her back. “You actually battle, for, for exercise?”

    “Of course! What do you battle your pokémon for, a contract?”

    She looked down and grumbled, “Feels that way sometimes.”

    “Heheh. I’m not a great fan of training either. But Horace can give a good fight. Shall we?” “It’s a one-on-one, right? I’m not a bad trainer either. We’ll follow all the one-on-one rules.”

    “I don’t have a clue what those are. Let’s just battle!”

    “Okay, well,” she moved back at random, “let’s, start.” Mudkip took his place.

    The trainer whistled. Horace sprinted out of the grass behind her, his heavy lengths of fur bouncing.

    “What kind of pokémon is that?” Arauve took out her pokédex, which flashed red at Horace and complained it had found no match.

    “Actually, he’s native to another region,” she said a little sheepishly.

    “Really? You got him from another region?”

    “Yes. Let’s go! Horace, pick up some spirit. Start it with a Howl.”

    Sitting where he was he raised his snout to the moon, with a long vocalization coordinating with his pack, both of which things weren’t there. “I bet he flags so because he’s lonely,” she said. Arauve only answered with “Tackle!” Jerked, but not completely interrupted, Horace caught the impact, took back his balance as Mudkip retreated.

    Mudkip was ordered another Tackle, but Horace Slam and he was faster. He knocked him to the ground, and Mudkip only started moving after a second or two, pulled his legs in and struggled to his feet. Arauve said tightly, “He’s on the brink.” One-on-one, she took a potion out of her bag and aimed it where he’d been hit. It sprayed in a cloud enveloping him. The other trainer waited patiently for him to emerge restored.

    They paused an instant – “Tackle!” “Slam!” Horace started to run. “Oh god just hit back!” Arauve shouted. Mudkip tucked his head in, retreating a step. The moment before Horace impacted there was a splat and he seemed to step back, his attack broken.

    His face was spattered with mud. Arauve said, “Tackle! Tackle!” Mudkip charged towards him and almost missed. Where he’d been standing there was a wet puddle, though the rest of the road was dry. They collided, went past each other and turned around, back at the original distance.

    Horace attacked again and this time Mudkip just took it – again, struggling back to his feet with a horrible effort. Arauve held up her hand a second time. She gave him a potion. The girl, smiling, called an attack and Horace missed, but Mudkip was too slow to get him back. Again she called, “Slam!” and before Arauve could get out a command, Horace put him down where he didn’t get up again.

    Arauve stood staring into her bag, as the trainer came near and kneeled down to Mudkip. “It’s beastly, isn’t it. I do hope he’s feeling all right. I mean of course he’s…” She paused, looking up to watch Arauve come near. ”That… that was a ground-type move,” Arauve said.

    “Oh yes. I can’t remember what it’s called. Listen, I must make it up to you. Here.” Before Arauve could bend down, she took something white out of her pouch and slipped it into Mudkip’s mouth.

    Slowly, his jaw began to work. He opened his eyes and squinted up into two faces, one smiling sunnily.

    Arauve said, “But what, what did you give him? Rev – ” “Revive, yes. I didn’t know if you had any. You don’t have to go back, now, to the Pokémon Center.”

    “You didn’t have to do that!”

    “But why not?”

    “You shouldn’t, how am I supposed to pay you back?”

    She laughed. “Oh, you absolutely mustn’t even think of that. I already think of you as a friend. My name’s Cindy.” She held out a hand.

    “Arauve,” shaking it.

    “Goodbye, Arauve!” She started walking back down to the beach, Horace ahead. “I’m sure we’ll meet again.” The trees into which the road dissolved were fenced white picket. They parted for the road which only continued straight and broad into the thick darkness for a few steps, though.

    Arauve had missed getting a picture of Horace to show to, perhaps, Dad, who’d been around the world and recognized a lot of pokémon. She wondered if the pokédex kept any records.

    *

    RUBY sets out on his own journey beside us, but somewhere far away from our knowledge. He doesn’t know that Sapphire is also out there, that she has embarked on something slightly different, nor yet how strangely but inevitably their destinies are bound together.


    Mudkip had used a new move, but I was sure the road hadn’t been muddy where it was standing. He had done something like Sand Attack. No, it was Mud Slap, no hedging around that. Put him in a pinch and he reflexively figured it out. How could you use Sand Attack in the absence of sand?

    How did Mudkip use Mud Slap when there wasn’t any mud? Did he make some? Can he deal with water then? His skin is always plush and cool, but I wouldn’t say wet. He won’t learn to use Water Gun for a while still. But can he produce or store water?

    I put in at least fifteen minutes trying to get it out of him. I can guarantee he doesn’t know how to use water. But mud if he wants he gets. How is this justified? Do pokémon really answer to no rules? They just do whatever they want?

    Pokémon are only balanced by each other. That is the function of a battle.

    Saying that I felt a lot better, but I know that when I’m back on the field, I won’t be able to twist the violence of attacks into some kind of sense.


    In the Oldale woods, I had light lunches on the days we were traveling but the dinners were pretty full. I did not miss breakfasts, either. I don’t at all remember feeling faint in any way, thought about food only when I was eating it. Today I did have breakfast but lunch was on the road, I am trying to probe my stomach for what it thinks about that, and it does seem to be grumbling, but I don’t know if my shoulders really are weak and aching to any appreciable extent. On the road my calorie needs go way up. Indeed my muscles were tight with those workout cramps for all three days since I started. But that tiredness doesn’t seem to invite extra appetite. I don’t know if it’s a good thing, and really should take care about my meals.

    Atashka has been eating less than me. He had all the meals I had, but left over a bit more than I did. I ought to keep stuffing him with something as we go along, what about caramel nuts? Is he craving any of that? I bet if I wasn’t there he’d keep skipping meals until he collapsed. I don’t know how I’m plugging on, but the solid warmth in my belly is helping a lot.


    My bedroom at home is crisscrossed with dark panels of wood flooring. There’s a huge, rough, warm pink rug where our old toys sleep. The walls are papered with a red print and they keep our tables, the PC, a big world map we got from a magazine. The positions of the TV unit and the wall clocks can be specified, and I will, just give me a moment.

    *

    The leaves were so thick up above that not a lot of light got through. You could only see the dim tufted grass like you’re in a big unlit building. There was no wind and barely any sound, only the noises of pokémon, bug pokémon, the heat started to press on you.

    The white gravel at the gate crunched underfoot, then the thick grass stems of the forest, both different crunches.

    Arauve put a hand to her forehead and stood squinting out at the view. There were corridors sectioned out by the trees, the openings of paths all infested with wild grass. One way lead straight clear ahead and didn’t have any vegetation. But it was blocked by ledges.

    She dove into the one beside it. A cobweb lashed my neck and caught on. In this wilderness it was dark on top of being hard to see far, but the trees loomed up as soon as you went somewhere you shouldn’t. Arauve stood out bright and tan a few steps ahead.

    She shuffled up to the trees and then froze. There was a big white round pokémon near her feet. As she stood looking down, it lay there without moving. I came near with a lot of noise.

    “Silcoon,” she said. “Or cascoon. This is one of those metamorphosis pokémon, they’ll be tough when we can evolve them.”

    It looked out with the bright red eyes embedded in its silk.

    Hesitating, Arauve stepped back to let Mudkip near. She said, “Tackle.” Mudkip hit it and it closed its eyes, but didn’t move an inch.

    Suddenly white silk flew up around it – curved back, and wrapped tight over its body.

    “Again.” Mudkip hit it, impacting with a different sound. It refused to do anything.

    “Is it weakened?” Mudkip grunted, hit it again. A second layer of silk wrapped around it.

    “This is…” He tried tackling it once more, there was the grunt, the thud, but it opened its eyes when it was done and looked up with the same fierceness. “Stop, Mudkip. Um… let’s… let it be.” She raised her eyes and looked into mine.

    “What are you… I’ll give it one go with the pokéball. But I’m not going to attack again. I’m serious.”

    Click. Spring!

    The pokéball broke.

    Once more. Wobble. Wobble. Wobble.

    The button flashed, white beam stretching into the dark undergrowth, and a shell of light seemed to snap off the pokéball.

    Arauve approached it slowly. “That’s a capture, I think.” Suddenly something beeped inside her shirt pocket. It was the pokédex; when she opened the screen it was already turned to a page of details.

    “Silcoon… It’s male. Bug type, there’s a bug type? Look at that, how could it possibly know all that… Silcoon comes right after wurmple. And something comes after it. Look, the pokédex’s showing a bunch of pokémon we didn’t capture, but not the one after silcoon.”

    She picked up the pokéball. “Do… do I have to let it out?”

    She did, and took Silcoon unexpectedly light in her arms, to walk through the grass that way, Mudkip at her feet. “Did you want to come with me? Do trainers capture pokémon this way.” It looked out completely motionless, its eyes fierce and unblinking, as she made Mudkip knock down two wurmple and a shroomish before we reached clear ground again.

    It was on the clear path from before, as Arauve had hoped. Looking back she could see a signpost that she’d missed when she was on the other side of the ledge. Shrugging once, she dropped back down and read it, a wooden sign with a message engraved fine into the wood, its white paint yellowed with age:

    TRAINER TIPS
    Remember that all pokémon who enter the battle ground even once receive experience from it. This is a good way to train weak pokémon who aren’t ready for advanced battles. You can’t let out any pokémon in excess of those that are currently battling, but you can switch the weak pokémon out before it sustains any damage.

    “I’m not the only one who’s captured immobile pokémon, huh.” She went back to the face of the ledge, stood considering it, then reached up her arms to me and clambered sheer over it after a few seconds of hard pulling.

    From then on, Silcoon headed every battle, making an appearance just long enough to waste time for Mudkip who came later and had to take his attack. Not once did Arauve ever let him take a hit. Trainers were to be found in the dark undergrowth, creeping with bug nets held close to the ground. They were all bug catchers and advanced that kind of pokémon. She stumbled on them by accident. Now that we were in a scary place with not much more than half our supplies left, Arauve got down sincerely to her training, actually began to fight wild pokémon. When we got back to the clear path, like we’d expected, she said, “That’s three trainers, five pokémon. Ten if you consider wild.” And when we looked out from here there was one path leading straight ahead, with barely any wild grass. She walked on ahead a little more quickly, me trying to follow quietly behind. The sunlight was getting brighter up in the leaves ahead. Suddenly her arm went up against my chin and both of us stopped.

    “Very nice. Now get down.”

    Someone in a green suit was kneeling in front of another man, a stubbled guy in blue, with a poochyena at his feet.

    Businessman… thug.

    I prodded Arauve but she didn’t look back, her eyes were open wide in profile.

    “Hand over the papers! I was going to ambush you as you came out of the woods. But you had to dawdle here too long! Where are you keeping them – give me your coat – ”

    We were in clear sight. The thug bent over the businessman and his face went down for a second and Arauve, pulling my arm, stepped closer to the trees –

    “Well look who it is!” We froze. You couldn’t walk silently in these leaves. “What’s your name?” He looked out slightly left of us, so at least we were in shadow. “Come over here so I can see you.”

    Arauve glanced back to our starters, they were hiding a little further back. But it had always been too late to hide them – Silcoon was in her hands.

    “Why’re you scared? Come on, you think a guy like me would do something bad to you?”

    Slowly, Arauve leading, we walked to where they were standing, where the grass had been torn up in a scuffle. “Heh?” the thug said, his face twisting into a frown and a grin at the same time. “What’s that in your hands?”

    The businessman turned back and seeing it suddenly shouted, “You’re trainers! You can fight him! Please, you have to help me!”

    “Shut up!” the thug yelled, and walked up close to Arauve. Mudkip broke out and ran between them, growling, and Treecko came after him (but waited behind her). The businessman said, “Listen I’m in a bad position, but you two, you’ve probably handled all kinds of situations, right? You look like brave kids. You can deal with a small-time company flunkie, can’t you?”

    The thug didn’t stop him again, he only stood looking over Arauve, his head bent. “I was gonna have to do something about you anyway.” Arauve’s face was blank. “You can’t be allowed to talk. But I was only gonna scare you a little. …How old are you two? Ten? Eleven?”

    “Trainers don’t scare!” the businessman screamed. “Teach this thug a lesson!”

    This made the thug straighten up and start moving back: “You’re thinking of fighting me, then.” Arauve didn’t move. He smirked. “Well, then bring it on! But know that you’re going to get pulverized, kid! We of Team Aqua show no mercy!”

    A Team Aqua Grunt wants to battle.

    One poochyena. Mudkip was tired. He scampered up to Poochyena to hurl a clod of mud and, moving back away, stumbled trying to get out of the counterattack.

    Poochyena was too fast. It advanced baring its teeth, pushed forward as he struggled still half-fallen to get away, and got a bite when Mudkip stumbled again. He kicked another spray of mud and this let him stand back up, Poochyena flinched for a second. Then he started a sudden Tackle – throwing Poochyena a few paces back, off its feet.

    “Howl,” the grunt ordered. Arauve hadn’t given any command yet. Poochyena ignored him, charged forward to meet Mudkip coming at him in another Tackle, and they met both grunting but Mudkip stayed on his feet, Poochyena was pushed back.

    “Blast you, I said Howl!” Poochyena Tackled again, and missed him badly. Mudkip came after him in a slow rush, his legs splaying and buckling, and turned slightly aside as he hit it with his shoulder. There was a yelp from both sides.

    “You worthless little pup.” He recalled it. “I’ll let you go for now.” Arauve ran forward to her starter. “I’d fight you again, but you’ve defeated all my pokémon. Don’t look so smug! Team Aqua will not take this interference lightly!”

    When we were alone again, the businessman got up and dusted his clothes. “Such confidence!” he said. “You really must be experienced in these situations. The company I work for is quite big. You’ll – ”

    Suddenly his phone rang, and without taking it out he jerked away and started hurrying up the route. “I have to go! I’m already very late!”

    After his footsteps had faded it was silent again. We kept going on into the light. It was day outside and the route was all broad and straight, with fences, and we visited a berry shop. We had this thing called a double battle. Then there was a lake that was crossed by a jetty and on the opposite shore, trainers, we met these two kids coming the other way. The pavement started and it was Rustboro City.

    *

    Atashka should not narrate journeys. He has absolutely no sense of time. Doesn’t read books enough.

    I tired of walking. After we got out of the forest I couldn’t imagine there was a whole leg of the route left. And Atashka wouldn’t stop, the whole time:

    “That was… that wasn’t like what rescues are like!” “It wasn’t a rescue.” “We sucked so much! That was… Arauve it was a thug.” “A Team Aqua Grunt.” “We could have gotten. What if we hadn’t.” “Well we did. No use thinking about if we hadn’t.”

    “How did we win? He wasn’t that tough, was he? Arauve wasn’t he easier than the other trainers?” “All I know is Mudkip is this close to fainting.”

    “And now that company likes us. What does that guy think we are now? Will they want us to help them again?” “They don’t have our names, probably couldn’t see our faces, and the guy forgot about us in five seconds. I have no idea what he thinks or what he’ll report to his boss. Are you scared of the company thinking we’re grownups or Team Aqua thinking we’re annoying?”

    “Oh yeah! He was part of that… what was it called? Why were they there, anyway? What do they want?”

    His helplessness is repulsive to me. If there was anything I needed after the Forest, it was silence.


    I’m getting better now. At, at pushing my pokémon. At forcing harsher moves. At capturing a wild one without looking for its consent, without thinking about consent. The work of a trainer. Why should I feel bad about these things, anyway? Do stupider trainers even worry? How much thought are they asked to give.


    “Got your rooms? you’re a little early.”

    We’re here, we can crash without even looking where we’re collapsing, we just have to get through this reception. “We didn’t loiter. I haven’t got the rooms yet, Atashka’s at the counter.”

    “You don’t want to turn on video?” Smile in the voice.

    “No, don’t bother.”

    “Had your dinner yet?” “We’ll put our stuff up first.” “Well eat what the Center’s giving you, don’t get something from outside today.” “We won’t.” “What did you have for lunch.” “What you packed, the casserole.” “Finished it?’ “…Yes. Yes we finished it.” “You know I have to nag you more, now that you’re a day out.” “Hm.”

    “…Your trainer cards are working, right?” “Yeah I guess.” “That’s good. Good. Have you got enough money?” “Yeah. It’s fine.”

    “….Well, good then.” “Dad my Treecko learned a Grass move! I mean she didn’t – ” “She didn’t learn it, Atashka got a TM. She hasn’t got to her first move yet. It’s Absorb.” “A TM! You’re picking up all sorts of things already. What TM was it?” “Bullet Seed.” “That’s a good move at this stage. Did you get the rooms?” “Yeah, I did! Wait…”

    “…Keys, Atashka, the keys! I swear, such a moron…” “Shut up, and it’s a keycard I have to go!”

    The static silence returned and I imagined him looking into the phone, hands folded.

    “It was a nice journey, I trust. Stressful?”

    “Nah. …No, we got through. It wasn’t stressful.”

    “Nothing happened, of course?”

    Red metallic speaker grates, black where the paint chipped. Where’s Atashka? Counter.

    “No, Dad. It was… uneventful.”

    An air vent above the phone drew a cold breath, began to spit it back out.

    “Uneventful?” I’d said ‘Dad’.

    “Well, all right, you two go to bed quickly. Get Atashka back here so I can goodnight you.”


    I can’t be selfish. This is the point where I have to learn to go without selfishness.

    I can’t share a room with Atashka tonight. (I did, but without grace.)

    My bedroom has blue walls, not red. I have no idea how I could have described it with such attention and deliberation, and got that detail so glaringly wrong. The image in my head, was it even genuine? Or made up of mixed pieces. I have to look for any signs of the genuine image because if I’d remembered the genuine image, it would have struck me with a blow that would have left a mark in my memory, and if the mark was still there I could find it now. But I can’t tell you that the mark these things leave does not fade. And now I know that memories are not things that exist in the past, they are no good for recalling past things, retrieving past things, or preserving past things. The red walls are in that girl’s bedroom, the one who’d moved to Littleroot Town in my head.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2014
  10. Praxiteles

    Praxiteles Friendly POKéMON.

    I didn't mention I was going to keep doing this. This is the internet, so when to play these tracks and whether to play them is, as always, totally up to you.




    Memories are for retrieving the future.

    There’s no one called Ruby starting his journey right now. No one I know about. That was a lie. But that I postulated it… no, there was no intelligent conjecture there, and it wasn’t an attempt to foretell something far away. But the way it came to my mind… A fiction is not a lie, storytellers are not liars, it doesn’t feel like a lie, it doesn’t.

    I am going to tell a story. Or stories. I can’t narrate and I don’t think I have it in me to make up people, timelines, worlds, but maybe I’ll just tell stories about myself and my pokémon, my brother, our journeys. (I wonder what goes on in Atashka’s mind, how he would pass through this journey the same as I did. He must have, and yet I just can’t imagine him using all the words I used, thinking all those thoughts. In my reckoning he’s as dumb as an animal. And it’s because all I have of him is what he says to me, whatever he’s able and not too ashamed to convey. His best friends know a lot more about him than I do.)

    But the things that happen to me, they aren’t beautiful or right, or even entertaining. I’m ashamed of them. I need to find something that I can imagine putting on paper, and before that I just can’t bring myself to write. The Pretty Petal Flower Shop was a place between the trees right at the exit to Petalburg Woods; the awning before its door shaded just baskets of fresh cuttings on wood tables, unbound by wires of any arrangement, and the green stone of its walls was painted with a mural of flower patterns, the brush strokes wide and bright. It was run by three sisters.

    When I talked to them I got conscious of my affected rudeness, my boyishness and graceless dressing. They stood talking with no swagger or timidity, told me that their dream was to see the whole world filled with flowers. The oldest sister taught me that when you pick a berry tree for its berries, you should always put another one in its place. If you already had three, perhaps you didn’t need one. That one berry would, through more than one marvelous transformation, grow into another tree of its kind, one that could bear more fruit, and bloom with more flowers.

    The middle sister gave me a watering can that you could always keep filled for if you came across patches of loamy soil (that was what they grew in, ‘loamy-soil’). The youngest sister gave me a berry curled in the palm of her hand.

    Atashka found a mud hole in the trees behind the shop, wallowed with the beasts for the time that we talked, and when he emerged, like a beast with only his baseness and ignorance stole away all the attention I’d been carefully earning from the three of them.

    What else? There was talk of a double battle. It’s when four trainers come together to fight, two each to a team, and so there are two pokémon out on either side and naturally they win and lose as a team. The first temptation is obviously to take it just excessively easy. What did we actually do? There were two trainers on the bridge, and, incidentally, the surface of the lake glided constantly southwest in wide, lake-wide waves, thin white lines. We just sort of took turns attacking, Mudkip hit and retreated, and then Treecko went forward and then Mudkip, both going for one pokémon at a time. That handled itself easily enough. The other trainers weren’t too good, but they had strategies that involved teamwork, hang on:

    Well, there were no actual moves they used, though I’m positive such ‘double battle’ moves must exist. But, for example, one would distract one of our pokémon as it attacked, by an attack of its own. It was always the one, not defending, the one free, for that turn, who did the… In that time the other, who would have been stunned by a move otherwise, had enough time to prepare a… a big move. No it wasn’t even like that, there were no serious moves to prepare. But that’s roughly how it would be. What they did seems pretty lightweight and simplistic now, but in battle it looked like a solid strategy.

    Mudkip didn’t like his new move, which had been forced out of him reflexively. It was hard to get it out of him, except in similar conditions; I actually thought it was a gentler attack than what he’d been doing so far, and much easier on him, but he seemed to mistrust it for reasons of his own. He just didn’t seem comfortable with the motions. Also there was the irreparable matter of it defying reality; I thought that the exact action by which he came up with mud anywhere he stood, concrete, a wood jetty over water, was a little involved and complex for him, and it put overbearing pressure on him to pull it off, if he had to do it entirely on demand. As for the lake surface, he was happiest right there suspended over the water than anywhere I’d seen him yet. He even battled with more spirit. That’s exactly why I tried to discourage it.

    Okay, I’m done here.

    The Pokémon Center at Rustboro (the south one; there were two) was a much bigger building than the ones we’d seen in the other towns; it was a wide four-story block on a downtown main road, as granite and old as the buildings around it, and its reception standing out into the street was modeled in the standard Pokémon Center form (the candy-red pokéball roof actually buttressed the wall behind it, the sliding door was double in this larger space, one for entry and the other for exit). When we got there at night, the bright pastel light of the interior warmed the road in a way the orange streetlamps couldn’t, and as soon as the door opened it welcomed us with air conditioning, the sound of talking and distant loudspeaker music, and the chilled smell of fresh coffee.

    Trainer kids in pajamas bobbed down the stairs, then crossed this room nonchalantly to get to the wireless room in the basement. A green-haired receptionist sat with a desktop computer in front of a huge red Recovery Machine, clicking with the obvious idleness of clandestine games. I had crossed a wilderness without giving one thought to franchise cafés, vending machines, or hot showers. Now I could have no doubts that training was the life for me.

    I’m done, I’m done.

    *

    We did win. We defeated the bad guy. He went running away from us.

    And that’s the end of that. Rustboro was so much bigger than Petalburg. I’d thought that was big, but you probably couldn’t know all the roads in Rustboro. There was a black wrought-iron fence around the whole city and black lampposts, those things with round old-fashioned heads made of frosted glass. The whole city was paved. There were roads going through the spaces in concrete and everywhere else the ground was made of long, zigzagging, beige paving stones, all of them perfectly flat and bright, not cracked or upturned with the grass showing through, clean beige even in the oldest courtyards. The houses were depressing though, they were all grey brick that no one had bothered to paint, and their windows were dusty and small. When you turned up from the Pokémon Center there was the main road and you could just keep going up that, as far as to the end of the city, but I’d never walked that much. I kept turning at the crossroads and finding warehouses, big offices. There was one huge building where the bricks were actually orange, it was all old and British-looking with tall arched windows and arches on the balconies looking over the main entrance – that was arched too but it wasn’t just arches, old British-looking mansions have a lot of cool things, you must have seen them. It was fenced in its own half with a big open court in front of it, and of course Rustboro is right next to the sea, so if you looked over the fence you could see the building stood on a slab of land rising out of the blue water. I wanted to see what was in the building, but all sorts of businessmen kept coming and going out of the dusty darkness of the doors, and I didn’t have the nerve.

    So I got in a big four-story building that was on the next intersection. It was a condominium. Condominiums are so big that lots of families live in one of them, every floor is like one small house where everybody has living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms and whatever they want. On the lowest floor there was a hawklike old lady with sharp glasses and a cat pokémon, she sat at her table in an inner room and smirked at me when I looked inside. I sat down and had one of the cream biscuits she nudged at me in a platter. “I’ve got nothing to say for young people these days,” she said. “They wouldn’t have time to take tea with an old lady unless they wanted something from her.” I hadn’t thought about whether I had time or not. “Have another biscuit, dear, does it take one to finish you off?” Her pokémon jumped off the chair where she’d been snuggled on the cushion, and bobbed smoothly up to my knees, her face wide and cheerful. I offered her my biscuit. “He’s got no taste for it. Skitty have no appreciation for coconut. You ask any of them.” He caught it from my hand anyway, to be nice.

    “All the folks above me are workers of DEVON CORPORATION.” She said it with an inward joke, so Devon was probably a big company. I wondered if it was a factory with big, burly, hard-hat workers. But they were middle-aged people with wrinkled white shirts and ties, sitting with their children at their tables. When every story was filled up and furnished like this, the floor tiled yellow and ugly blue, children running up and down the stairs, it didn’t look as big as it had from outside.

    *

    Open courtyards, my foot. The Pokémon Center was at the head of the Main Street, downtown. I guess it couldn’t have been the one central road in Rustboro, but it was certainly called that. The whole day, deep inside the corridors of the hotel, you could hear traffic blaring more frenetically than I’d ever remembered from anywhere. When you stepped out on the curb it was the exhaled wind, irritating and black from the exhausts, warm like the dry granite, swept forward or left eddying by the rush of cars, simmering out over the old, grey, regular fronts of the buildings that rose four or five stories up ahead. You used buses to get around here. I waited for one that flashed out SOUTH RD. MART in wide orange LED, and clambered on expertly, stopping at the door for the conductor who would only take paper money and then bothered incessantly over the change. You don’t always get a seat in a bus, but I was assertive. I watched the street jerk into motion and roll past in a rush, an embracing, vibrating roar.

    It was pretty bright in the day and the paving stones were clear and yellow. Glass shop fronts and restaurants shone out from my side, the floors above them all brick and closed up. I saw a few delis, and some of those garish branded clothes shops with older teenagers browsing in groups, their activity totally public. There was a winery with a warm maroon interior, its sign understated and monochrome. We reached a big intersection and I leaned out to see the courtyard we wound around, a dark slate fountain at its center. This city was pretty old, wasn’t it? The next street we entered was a little smaller, and housing blocks rose up from its sides, small lawns at their feet in what space they could get. After a long block of old dark-blue buildings, and a smaller one of curving, white-painted duplexes, single residences started in a long line, and finally ended at another crossing.

    Another big street started – the conductor called out “South Road!” I tried to remember if this was where my destination was. I looked out at the buildings here – nothing that stood out; they looked like the old granite complexes opposite the Pokémon Center. The bus moved down to stop on the other side, and the people on my bench stood up, as a bigger wave of people started pushing in from the street. I sat still. Soon, though I’d become fairly sure this was the Mart stop, the bus started moving again. We went on and out of this road, into a small alley, where the windows were dusty and close together, and children threw tantrums on the cobbled road. I let the grit and household odors wash over my face as I wondered where I was going to get off. These stilted, cramped houses passed us by for a minute or so, and then we emerged into a much wider space than I’d seen yet.

    It was the front court of a grand, white, pillared building, something that must have been an administrative center or a landmark. Rectangles of grass and tree-shaded benches lined the border of the court. The main space, of course, was all paved. A monument at its center showed the black features of an enormous turtle pokémon, its long round neck emerging from a low shell. I went ahead to look at it, and got temporarily eaten by a loud group of trainers:

    “It’s getting there – ” the one right in my ear – “Cristo! – no, you idiot, give it a second!” Finding nothing around the court to explain them, I followed a whim and looked up at the sky. A reedy white bird, dogfighting with a navy taillow. There was one white bird I knew in Hoenn. The wingull glided slowly forward and down, shaking as it tried not to dip too steeply, as the taillow kept flitting to its head in short bursts, pecking or missing it, and getting left behind. I turned around as they passed over me, but kept an eye on the trainers. Every time the taillow pecked the wingull would only pitch to the side a little and back, and though that almost didn’t move its position at all, the taillow’s peck would crumple and it would fall behind. I wondered what it was that I was missing. Thinking of Mudkip, I let him out on the off-white pavement; this part of the city wasn’t too hectic for him. See, I’m a trainer too.

    The wingull started to buckle and the taillow stopped attacking; both of them, looking a little like aerial casualties, dropped down to the ground where they landed abruptly and among much graceless fluttering.

    Now that the group was stationary, I walked toward them. They all looked to be around my age, or smaller. There was a lot of unintelligible high-pitched chatter, but as I came close they all laughed in one roar and fell silent.

    For the words of one older trainer they were clustered around. “ – how far do you think you can keep that up? When it’s rocks up there, every dodge will be a serious gamble. And they, try to make it worse, rock moves always try to attack in clusters so at least one hit will land. It’s not about dodging. You guys haven’t practiced as much as I told you. You will get it, but you have to practice.”

    The voice, and of course the face, had been familiar once I got close. It was the trainer Atashka had got a match with, on Route 104 – Toby, his shaggy black hair and weirdly angular features.

    “That’s it for today.” The younger kids started to disperse, and he yelled over their gathering noise, “Do the exercises I told you! I should see some progress next time.”

    He was left behind with two more older trainers. As soon as he saw me I lowered my eyes – a reflex I resented. A word had been on the tip of my tongue for a while; I suddenly realized that in some situations, a very small accident could nudge you in the right direction – and without thinking said, “Semi-invulnerability?”

    He didn’t respond at all to this.

    “You’re the trainer who wouldn’t battle, aren’t you? What’s your name?”

    Is this an advantage? Would I actually follow up on it?

    “Arauve, huh. You’re looking for your first badge here, I guess? Have you started training?”

    I shook my head.

    “Not yet?” He glanced to the side, hesitating. The other two kids started moving, pulling him on. “I’ll see you around, possibly.”

    He slowed down again. “Arauve, don’t get complacent,” looking down at my mudkip. “Don’t slack on your training, either. Roxanne lets you through, usually, if you show you’re… genuine.” Paused for a moment more, but then I nodded and gave him a very slight smile. “If you’re staying at the south Center, I have some friends there. I’ll see you around.”

    The building was the University for the Battling Arts, and (though this point was subtle) it was where Gym Leader Roxanne was pursuing her doctorate, and was to be found outside her gym duties. I didn’t go near her office though this was where challenging trainers were being pointed. I lurked through the faculty corridors for a while, trying to eavesdrop on lectures, and then eventually found haven in the library, where my pokémon was not debarred, but only given a plastic waterproof basket to ride around in (equally insulting for my mudkip is quite fastidious, though he didn’t seem to take offense).

    Semi-invulnerability was a condition enjoyed by pokémon when they used certain moves – I couldn’t remember which, but maybe a flying move was involved in the practice I’d just seen. It came spontaneously for the duration of the move, and I also remembered it was semi-invulnerability for a reason – certain attacks could still bring it down. Since I was in a providential place, I actually looked it up. Flying pokémon could be shot down by some rock moves. Invulnerability was based on the principle of stances – the understanding that a pokémon’s action, whether attack or defense, had to completely engage the pokémon for at least that instant, and not just engage but actually occupy – that meant, it wasn’t that an attacking pokémon couldn’t defend, but somehow it was physically impossible for an attacking pokémon to receive a hit from anyone, during the instant that it attacked. Similarly a defending pokémon could not use its own move until at least the attacking move was over – no matter what the move required. I let these images set up their world around me as I read down the page. This broke a battle down into a series of instants – moments of absolute advantage and disadvantage, respectively – which were simply one pokémon giving a blow to the other, no more and no less, nothing else possibly happening during that instant. Shuranaya called these ‘exchanges’ when she formulated them; but in modern training, we know them as ‘turns’.

    Of course, there were so many moves that did not take instants to complete. (In fact none of them did, if you reduce it down.) I had to flip around the book for quite a while before I found where this was even acknowledged. Shuranaya postulated that each move had an ‘attack’, or multiple attacks. Assume, the instant when a Whirlpool starts serves as the instant of attack for it. Another attack might appear at every one-third of the Whirlpool’s, say, two-minute cycle. The effect was continuous, but the pokémon, as it finessed the move, only entered the attacking stance for those instants.

    Many lesser wonders were found during that study. When I looked up I was dismayed by the way the sunlight through the windows had more than reversed direction, and I shuffled out of the library, though presumably it stayed open late into the night. I was not to follow it there, or miss any of the early buses; big cities like these were dangerous places if you didn’t take care. I thanked Roxanne in my head for the restorative afternoon, though I hadn’t seen her once yet, and found a bus back without waiting long.

    When I got to the Center I had a surprise gift waiting for me.

    “You better call Dad,” Atashka said sitting on his hotel bed. “He’s been asking for you all morning.”

    “What the hell, Atashka?”

    He stared up at me with his head bowed. “We ought to tell him. I don’t know why you didn’t…”

    “Arauve,” my father said from the telephone screen. He’d forced video. “What is this your brother told me this morning. You ran into a robber?” It was his bedroom videophone, and it didn’t look like he’d dressed up for work today. “Dad it wasn’t as serious as it sounds,” I said, “he didn’t really want anything from us – ”

    “Last evening I was wondering what you would do if you whited out!”

    “Dad.” “If I’d known, this was… What am I supposed to do, hm? It’s the second day out and you’re keeping something like this secret. That’s what you’re doing, isn’t it? – How am I supposed to – if I don’t even know what goes on…”

    Since the evening of the incident I’d passed from fear through forgetfulness direct into apathy; now, face burning, I realized what it actually was that we’d just gone through. I looked back up at the screen.

    “Dad you’re right, that was stupid, okay?” “If Atashka hadn’t have called me back today, just to. He didn’t know you hadn’t – ” “I admit it, Dad, I should have told you – ” “What am I supposed to do. Should I call you two back? Will that – ” “No, Dad, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”

    The image fizzed out, and then it was some minutes later that we managed to connect back. It must have been raining somewhere. When he came back up he looked a little calmer, having vented himself a little.

    “It could have been very bad,” he said, more quietly. “You were lucky enough to win. That’s why we send you out with pokémon, but that’s far from being an excuse.”

    “But we can get stronger,” I said. “Then you won’t have to worry.”

    "You could get stronger?" he said slowly. I flinched, but said, "Yeah, like seasoned travelers." "And when do you expect you'd get to this point?"

    "I don't know."

    “Do you think it’s ever like that? That you can just get stronger? There’s always a reason to – ”

    He stopped himself, and then sighed.

    “Arauve, why would you hold that back? What could possibly make you feel you had to hide it.”

    “I don’t know.”

    With difficulty, he smiled. “Don’t do that to me again. I’m letting you keep going, but on condition. You two need to stay together, okay? Don’t travel apart from your brother.” “Of course.” “And stay in places where there are a lot of trainers around. If the way ahead is looking deserted, just don’t go on. That’s not hard.” “But Dad, we’re going out to trek. We’re going to have to get away from people. There’s no way around it.” “I don’t care. Will you do it? Or do I have to – ” “Okay, okay!”

    “And next time, make Atashka call me. Good lord, he’s turning out more sensible than you.” “I won’t pull that again. This kind of… incident won’t happen again. Come on, it’s a once in a blue moon situation. Landing up with a thug.”

    “It happened once, didn’t it? It’s better not to say such things.”

    “That’s just superstitious!”

    “Superstitious, whatever. When you’re in my situation you’ll know what it’s like. Arauve, do you promise?”

    “Yeah, okay. Anyway, Atashka will always make sure you’re not out of the loop.”

    “Do you promise?”
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2014
  11. Praxiteles

    Praxiteles Friendly POKéMON.

    Thanks to Dramatic Melody for a grave and essential design decision (I randomly VMed him a question and then went with the first thing he thought).





    Atashka Calen turned right on the final stop of Rustboro’s main road, a path that would lead him to the sunny picnic Route 116.

    When Atashka Calen exited Rustboro for the first time, from the Route 116 gate, the shaded sun, and the bustle of released schoolchildren, did not remark much on his face, for he was alone.

    Atashka Calen walked with short and slow strides, a hand steadying the strap of his backpack, another fondling tearing at a small piece of straw, as was his wont, moving trippingly down the end of Rustboro’s main road and into

    Route 116 is the preferred haunt of day scholars from the Rustboro Trainer’s School. After a class ^(day) of classroom learning they are quite likely to be found there, playing schoolyard games in the wild grass and trees, training to apply the skills they have just learned,. The route is not yet a viable journey passage because, although its connection to Verdanturf city bypasses the two other paths ^(that traverse) nearly the region’s ^(full) longitude in length, this is through a Rusturf Tunnel that is still under construction. The story of that tunnel’s gestation is quite illustrative of Hoenn politics, of the most traditional sort. It was conceived by the city CUTTER, a man who had developed a technique to clear away much of the wilderness on which Rustboro was to be built, who proposed it to Devon Corporation, whose foundation was in this very city. Devon immediately saw the publicity benefits of building such a historic passage, and on a stipulation that the costs of the excavation be supported by the city council, contracted the work immediately. The city council rejected the plea immediately because the specific nature of the pokémon already inhabiting the cave made such construction highly inadvisable. The Cutter, naturally, passed along precisely none of this to Devon, and construction went on about as far as it possibly could, and then a little further. When an inspection committee was finally formed to bring an end to the masquerade, the tunnel was declared against regulations, the Cutter had long since backed out, Devon quickly followed, and the excavators were left to butt their heads against the highly resonant rocks with slightly more than half a c

    One sentence. I need a first sentence. Without one godforsaken sentence I can’t seed others to produce still more in a cancerous chain reaction.

    It’s more than a first sentence; fiction has got a music underneath its descriptions that moves completely separate of facts, events, sentences. There seems to be no evidence of it anywhere, the words look physically identical to the first line in any novel, but like the soul you have to believe in it. I can see beyond the shadow of a doubt that music’s not in here. Third grade social science, blithering on at its complacent, completely irrelevant pace. I can’t write prose.

    I got it sent to me now, but the following is October ’96, as I deduced from some idea of where I’d tried to submit it. And the previous was July ’03. Let’s even pull out the timestamp. (7/7/2003)


    rau. – you still remember this? this was before I started sending you two to school, completely on your own steam. the date is summer ’98 – when you were six!! I recall my contribution as something along the lines of – what’re you thinking about. – what do you do in school? – you learn about things. – what kind of things? – history – how do you learn history? – you read books about history, and then you write an essay about what you learned.

    Storage Technology: The march of progress.
    By a. k.
    if you remember, there was a month when you started to write your surname “Kalen”, so your initials could be distinguished from Atashka’s. your orthographies were always completely original.

    This is an essay about “the March of Progress” and how Technology changed ^(from one form to another), in the Ages of History. In this essay I Hope to explain that the Different advancements in Storage & Technology, decided the different ages of history. This is plain to see if we start from the beginning of history which is known as “Pre History”, which is when Before people started to record history. Pre history started when the Technology of Poké balls was discovered. They did not have the name, “Pokè balls” because it is the name of a Product made by a company a Hundred years ago. But Pre History is more than Eight hundred years ago.

    When Poké balls waere discovered people created the name, “Trainers” which is a person who Captures a pokémon and, Battles other pokémon with it. In pre history trainers were very Cruel People who would catch pokèmon and force them to fight Other pokémon, sometimes people who could not Defend them selves. But some trainers were Heroes who defended the Weak and Depraved.
    most succinct summary of the Open Era in my literate experience

    Now when people Learned how to be trainers they were considered Very powerful and some were called Knights who gave Services to people. It is Because, trainers can Harness the power of pokémon and they can do Many things that humans alone cannot, such as Teleport and Earthquake and Swim and Cut Trees. (in pre history, they did not have Saws and so it was hard to do Tool Work) People who could get Apricorns (that is what poké balls were called in pre history, Apricorn) and Capture pokémon were able to do Everything and people who could not, were could only be Weak and Depraved. They could not rise up and fight because how could they get apricorns? apricorn trees did not grow everywhere they grew a lot only in a place in johto, and people in johto ^(could) becaome trainers, and That is why, the Johto Empire, was the First Great Empire in the World.

    However it was Cruel. The People who became trainers were all cruel so for the Heroic people, they all had to come from the people who were Not trainers but these people did not have any Power for a Very long time.

    That was why the Second Discovery was made. The Second discovery was Technology. Technology is when humans are able to use Powers like pokémon can use, without Harnessing any pokémon. They do it with their own Ingenuity and they are very strong, because they do it by Themselves. Technology was known Before training but no one knew how to Use it until this Bad Situation came up. People are able to do their Best when they are Pushed and when they have No Choice but to do it. People learned to Fight trainers with technology and then they learned to Become trainers too. And then there was no chance because Everyone could be a Pokémon Trainer and they could Fight for their Rights.

    So it is plain to see, Technology began after people became Trainers and, the Most Important technology was Storage because the Storage of Pokémon is the Cornerstone of Pokémon Training, and History began too with the start of Training, and, that is why, Apricorns storage is called the Mother of Technology and today we use it for so many convieniences, because, in the Beginning it was only Apricorns but then there were Mechanicle Capture Methods and then mini at uri zation, then Electric Storage then Information Storage, and now we are in the Light Age, and these methods are Ages of Technology too, but why is That I will write in another essay because I have not Found that in a Book. yet.

    (10/1998)


    The last day just hadn’t been completely stressful or traumatizing at all, but the next I still had to try to get to work, because we were here to beat an expert trainer of the rock type, and so far I didn’t have the nerve even to have started training. I went to Atashka for some kind of companionship on the road to motivation, or at least that of procrastination. But he failed to remember that we were supposed to do anything, and so it didn’t help, because at the end of the day I still had to answer for whatever progress I’d made. Evidently the Pokémon League was my journey, my boast, not Atashka’s. I simmered for a while over that because it was like he’d ditched me in my struggle.

    He’d gone to the arcade with Treecko, and was trying to rig some of the games, which I was sure would go well for him. I’d only talked to him in the middle of a diglett whack thing, and I doubted he’d even registered what I was saying. Finally he put the mallet down and went for a bench at the back. I said, “I’m going alone. Are you coming or not?”

    “Wait, what?”

    “Let’s go, Mudkip.” Atashka called out as I turned to leave, but I ignored him. As I said, I was simmering. I caught him out of the corner of my eye, fidgeting badly in his couch-potato unease, but didn’t ask him a third time.

    Walked, the way we’d done when we came here, to the south exit of the city. This time of day there was no mitigation in the traffic. I returned Mudkip after he’d seen enough of the road, and went through the choking streets, crossed the roads myself through the unrelenting wash of heavy vehicles. When I passed the final pair of streetlamps welcoming the open route, the black aridity of the city was in my face, burning my nose and eyes. I threw Mudkip’s pokéball, swinging my arm overhead, and for the first time there was a jerk in my shoulder as it came down. I’d run around so much the day before, and then gone straight back to city life yesterday, that my muscles were clenched up. Rotating my shoulders and trying to ride over the slight pain, I jogged Mudkip into the route.

    All right now. I blinked around. The wind had finally started up again and the light seemed very orange, warming the backs of my arms. I came to the edge of the water, avoiding the eyes of kids who were on the route this afternoon, swerving away from them when I got close. Weren’t there water pokémon who lived under the surface? Could I somehow get them to battle us? It would be too embarrassing to try, so I crossed the bridge, which was narrow but almost empty, and finally found an overgrown field at the other shore hidden away in the trees. The old regimen, Silcoon out for a moment before Mudkip came in and thrashed the pokémon in a very few moves. Mudkip was definitely faster and bolder in his attacks now, but taking hits still hurt him bad, I could tell, though he always stood back up. “Why do you do that,” I said to him. “You don’t really have to. Do you?” But my commands had become more businesslike, I had started to lose the questions and “if you can”s after he’d seemed to ignore them enough times. Which battle is important enough for me to illustrate specifically? With wild pokémon, there isn’t any single battle that achieves anything. I’ll skip to the trainer match I took after I got fed up enough of wild battles.

    A kid called Joey, smaller than me. He was out training too, and his first pokémon was a zigzagoon. There was so much pressure with trainer battles, the eyes of the other person looking back. I broke that first-move silence with just “Tackle” and Joey took the cue for his own simple “Tackle,” the two of them colliding in the center with hardly a sound, rebounding very slightly away to opposite sides. “Again,” I said, and Joey reconsidered and called Growl, and so he lost the first round.

    Somehow the breath does start to catch, whatever kind of battle you’re having. His next pokémon was called Nincada. I called Growl only for variety, but as he opened his mouth the nincada got up close to him and cut him off. The Scratch he delivered with a pincer foreleg somehow blocked Mudkip’s doing anything, and I could see his move was just negated, because he had to jump back into his stance when the nincada retreated and prepare before he could pull off the Growl. This didn’t take as much time to figure out as it looks, on the field. Now I called Tackle close enough on the first move that Mudkip caught it preparing its next Scratch. This blocked it for one beat, and Mudkip almost hit him again before that was over, but this time his Tackle got overridden.

    Once I’d beaten it and come up close for Joey’s trainer card and exclamations, I was absorbed enough to almost ignore him all the way off the route. We had just seen, unless I’d misinterpreted it, Shuranaya’s theory of turns in action. Something, mechanical, something behind the set had been keeping track, it was actually respecting the rules of those abstract turns. There was nothing I saw yet that could be done with it. Toby’s semi-invulnerability technique was not my idea, and there would be no imitating it – any more than I’d come to his class seeking instruction. What he’d figured out seemed to make enough sense, if you applied the theory. I don’t believe it’s a difficult exercise to leave to the reader.

    Now I maundered near the lake shore, my momentum exhausted as soon as the turns problem was. Instants of advantage. That analysis hadn’t helped my situation any. Was there something I could actually use? Instants; instants. The wind coming down the water continued to brush my open arms, long after my skin had got tired. Instants, wait but the stances, hadn’t Mudkip taken a stance to pull off Growl? Why on earth, for a move like Growl? I had the impression that the stance they entered mattered, probably it was different for each move, and the pokémon could do it badly or well. There had definitely been a chapter on stances in the Elements of Battle. Without books of course I was in the position of the first masters, who figured it out through trial and error, observing real battle. That was intrepid, and now all I needed was to get back in the grass, nose-to-nose with the attacks. I picked up Mudkip and ran (assertively).

    Zigzagoon, when our breaths caught up. It waited intently for my command, obviously to try and block Mudkip’s turn. We want to see the instinctive stances he already knows how to do.

    “Growl!” As I remembered, back legs hunched, head lowered, something peculiar going on with his shoulders, and the sound seemed to come from somewhere deeper than his throat. He sprang back up as soon as it was done, took the zigzagoon’s blow without stepping back. I bet that had something to do with producing the sound, or the effect. Now:

    “Tackle!” Shot forward from the same stance, collided, the zigzagoon fell on its side and curled up. Wait, the same stance? I must have missed some detail. But the three times I had occasion again, I convinced myself quite firmly.

    Now what? Did it mean stances were the same for all moves, or was Mudkip doing it wrong? Maybe he didn’t have the training of stances in him. Now all I had was trial and error, but where could I even start? I kneeled on the balls of my feet, tugging at Mudkip’s sail, my stomach screwing up under all the possibilities. By the time I got anywhere, everybody else would be challenging the League. I really ought to have studied up. This day I could devote to just raw battle practice, and come back more prepared the next day. Still my pride rankled at giving up the intrepidness so fast, though probably the first masters spent their whole lives getting as polished as we could after a month of training.

    This was how the first day went by. Silcoon watched all the battles and registered absolutely no change, and Mudkip, almost rote and mechanical with his attacks now, failed to produce his fourth move, which would be Water Gun. I only took courage when it was over, from the fact that it was the first day, and the journey was going to give us at least a little more time than one badly-planned afternoon. The way back, which was well within walking distance, I took a bus, and rode it this evening empty and spent into the comfort of the Center.


    “Rauvie?”

    “Yes, Atashka?”

    “Do you know something?”

    “What is it?”

    “How can we overcome the brute tyranny of weakness, and the omnipotence of chance, to find peace in a life of almost mercenary traveling?”

    “This is about the encounter in Petalburg Woods, isn’t it?”

    “Just wondering.”

    “Don’t worry, little brother. This is the right doubt to have in our situation. I’m glad I have such a sensitive, thoughtful brother who tells me how he feels.”

    “But I’m actually your little sister.”

    “♡! As you expected, the answer is to get stronger. This is the only answer available to a trainer. The goal is unattainable but its persistence is a certainty enough for – ”

    “But Rauvie, it’s a Team. What if we just keep meeting bigger officials? If the object is to reach certainty that you can always fight them off. How can you fight something that’s bigger than one pokémon trainer. What if you have to go against a whole squad? Could you…”

    “…”

    “Maybe you could get…”

    “No, you’re right. Not when it physically depends, on…”

    “Then…?”

    “…”

    “Rauvie?”

    (7/12/2003)


    Atashka wouldn’t be in the room at this time; I got into the café, which was just inside the reception’s entrance, without looking around too much. My intention was not yet to get something to eat, not quite yet. I found a corner seat where couches lined the two walls, small and comfortable, and Mudkip found on the cushion next to me somebody’s pokéball, which I tapped very surreptitiously, to get from the responding glow that it was empty.

    Here was someone’s minor dismay, and there was plenty of time for me to see towards making it better, but first a cold coffee in front of me would work wonders. The room was the same saturated red and yellow shades of the reception. I dug into my glass, choking a little on the ice grit, and looked up to see a girl in a blue hat, holding out a hand to my side where the couch opened to outside reach. She turned her head to me as I looked, and said quietly, with the smallest smile, “Excuse me, but I think there’s something I…”

    I only had time to smile back before somebody called her from close by and she grinned her laugh at them, yelling a response, at which the four trainers came over to the table. I looked level at their waists as they joked, and heard at least one voice familiar.

    “Who’s your new… Hey, hi there,” he said, and looked down to catch my gaze. “I saw you yesterday at the, Weren’t you talking to Toby?”

    “Yeah?” I asked him, and then tried to look as assured as I could. “Yeah, that was me.”

    His eyebrows lifted a little and he said, “I don’t know if you remember us, we were in the group he was coaching for the Stone Badge.” I recognized the taillow on his head, so I nodded.

    Hesitant moment impending, I grabbed for “I’m preparing for it too,” which was decent enough.

    “Are you, training by yourself?”

    I shifted almost negligibly and said, “Sit down already, you’re making me nervous.” They squeezed in beside, with the blue hat girl next to me, who watched as I talked. Now there were only faces, no waists. The one with the taillow said he was Christopher, and for abbreviation you could use Chris. The boy who had a wingull, therefore, was called Hade which was short for something he wouldn’t say, and before him I heard from the other two trainers, Rimana and (it was probably) Juan, and the girl with the blue hat was Zoe. When I mentioned the name of Shuranaya Hade said, “But that’s it, do you understand the theory Toby’s used? We were thinking that would help us out, if we knew what we were supposed to…”

    “Oh yeah,” I said, and explained it too briefly and abstractly for anyone to catch hold. Hade of course stuck back at the end and got a more thorough account from me, though he still didn’t say he understood. That was nice the way other kids were always unfamiliar with the basic look of theory, because they didn’t read books hardly enough.

    As for now, I disclaimed to everybody that I had no more badges than they did, which didn’t much change the looks on their faces. Then the conversation started to gain momentum away from me and whirred slowly into six-person motion. At one point Rimana mentioned a game in secretive undertones that was said to be played by recruits to the Mt. Pyre covenant, and though its specifics were too intense to be considered at this table, that didn’t keep it from being known that it involved placing a hand in a blind spot of your starter’s first elemental move, where its concentration was the one thing that kept you from getting outright burned. This considered for her slugma but finally rejected, she settled on “Progress Report”, which they did more regularly.

    “I battled, like, some number in a multiple of twenty…”

    “Okay, whatever say 20 pokémon – ”

    Chris fidgeted with annoyance and put his hands back together. “I battled 25 wild pokémon today, and six trainers, and now Mariner has figured out when he tries to like, sprinkler some water at the enemy he’s figured out not to snort while he’s doing it.”

    The others erupted again and Rimana’s voice emerging out of their subside said, “No no no but I said mine was better,” she put her hands together, “my pokémon tackled like… she battled twenty zigzagoon and all she used the whole time was Slam, and so nineteen Slams down and the twentieth time when she started the charge, there was a loose board, and she fell off the bridge.” The last four words delivered in a cannonball of self-deprecating pleasure.

    I realized they were never going to ask me to laugh at myself, and said grabbing an opportune moment, “My silcoon watched my mudkip beat up thirty wild pokémon. The end.”

    They all looked at me. Hade said, “Your pokémon watch each other’s battles? Is that for…”

    “Don’t be an idiot, Hade, it’s how you get experience to weak pokémon.” “It was on a sign in Petalburg Woods, yeah.” “Well I haven’t been there, remember?” They settled for a brief infuriating moment in silence, giving me another look of admitted respect. It wasn’t just their training theory I wanted to be a part of.

    I said, “Zoe next.” “Man but I thought we were doing it in order!” Rimana explained, “Zoe always has nothing to say cause she’s the most serious trainer on this table. She doesn’t even need to wait for us, she’s ready for Roxanne already, aren’t you Zoe?”

    Zoe chuckled and said she still had to do some, a lot of, polishing. I looked at her again. I hadn’t realized I’d noticed she looked a little taller and less round-faced than the rest of us. “Zoe should battle you Arauve,” Hade said, “we don’t give her any competition.” “Well I’ve barely started training,” I said in my turn. “Yeah, well whenever you’re done, you’ll be good enough.”

    “What’re your pokémon?” I asked her. “Who was in there,” gesturing nowhere in particular.

    “In where…? Oh,” she remembered the pokéball, “that’s Philly, my, my beautifly.”

    “Zoe’s first pokémon is a nosepass,” Rimana said. I had no idea what either of those were like, but stared appreciatively.

    “Yeah, I have a uncle who… Anyway, Roxanne has got one too. When I finally challenge her it’ll be the longest battle in…” “In history.”

    That made her laugh. “Hade!”

    “Rimana has got the worst type situation going on, doesn’t she,” Chris said.

    “I have a slugma and a poochyena. Why don’t we get cool pokémon in these routes?” “You come from Verdanturf side, like me, you’ll get nincada on that route.”

    “Hade, your starter is worse than mine, right?” “I have a lotad to make up for it.”

    But look at the amount of information I got from twenty minutes of talking! It was scattered, minute, more random than I could be in an hour on the computer. But every bit of it had a bizarre way of seeming useful, somewhere. I took a look at how much I now knew about the track record of a boy’s lotad, the rumored private lives of the receptionists, exactly what the deal was with somebody called Jess and how other people thought about his hair. If I stayed with a group all day (as they did, going off to the arcades when I said I had to leave) I would probably lose my mind, waste enormous amounts of time, and get very far in the world. The café started to close for the day, and I moved out to the reception again, scattered and unsure of what to do next, when I saw those two sitting at the table.

    I knew them by a sign quite different from an empty pokéball. They looked around Toby’s age, like a lot of the older trainers in Rustboro, but the sheet they held between them had, in a column of totally unrecognizable terms, a familiar one highlighted and bolded near the bottom.

    “Do you know Toby,” I said, barely caring about how I was supposed to approach them.

    They showed no expression looking up, but put the sheet down immediately and turned around to face me: “You’re Arauve? Sit down.”

    “What is this, I’m getting into, is there anything,” feebly, with an ingratiating smile they shot down.

    But then the one with the black bracelet replaced it with her own. “Relax, dude. We’re not conscripting you for anything.”

    I tried to loosen my shoulders while the other one jumped into “What’re your pokémon?” I hesitated and he said, “We’re in a Pokémon Center, I think they won’t mind if you take them out.” Mudkip already was out. I called him and he came immediately from the café area, lamb to the… yeah. I let out Silcoon too. The trainers smirked as I lifted both of them up to the table, and they sized them up, however quickly said, “Okay, fine. So you’re going for your Stone Badge. Where are you from?”

    “Petalburg.”

    “Toby’s also from Petalburg, you knew that?”

    I nodded vaguely, so the girl said, “You ask around for hometown trainers, because it’s good to know someone who’s more veteran than you. Meeting Toby makes him your first contact, did you realize?”

    “Do you know why you need contacts?” They weren’t letting me say a thing. “Never mind that, you’ll figure it out. So. Arauve.”

    A silence, also hostile to my saying anything. I worked my brain. As soon as I thought something about the chart (that was currently lying underneath my pokémon), the girl said, “Tell me what you’re doing for training these days.”

    Stances? Shuranaya! Stances. “I’m trying to, improve my pokémon’s grasp of stances while executing moves. I realize they have no training beyond what they know from, um, muscle, instinct.” The trainers glanced at each other.

    “What moves does your mudkip know?”

    “Uh…” I told them. It turned out stances for Tackle and Growl don’t actually exist, per se; those develop for pokémon using moves in their element, in outside elements, in places where transference happens. What on earth is transference. I nodded intelligently. “Have you read anything at all? What is it Toby’s trying to teach that batch you saw?”

    “Semi-invulnerability,” I said, and before they could register annoyance, “I mean, he’s figured out pokémon can attain a state… or like go into states…”

    Grins.

    I took a breath. “Shuranaya’s invulnerability of the attacker, which applied to moves like Fly produces an attack stance not an instant but literally minutes long… can also be used for pokémon who, enter, instantaneous attack stances. It… clearly, it involves a kind of quasi-invulnerability, if you’ll forgive that word, where the pokémon is always just on the verge of attacking and so it can move in just the instant before the other pokémon’s attack, and always be assured of blocking it. This all depends on the pokémon’s concentration and timing. I expect, it would also be destroyed using a greater sense of timing.”

    They stared at me for a few seconds of silence. The girl said, “It’s called Kopin’s block, and you clearly didn’t read about it.” But they knew I’d got it right anyway.

    What about the tranquility of the theorist who, reflecting on the strangeness of her pokémon’s choreography in her chair one evening, came upon this system whole in her imagination? What about the sunbaked violent calm of Kopin who must have combined some proportion of serendipity with ascetic pressure until the pokémon under training attained the block? I would never see this strategy the way I saw the things I’d read, and that was because I’d heard its name from two teenage trainers, while trying to prove to them how clever I was.

    That was the end of their grilling, but far from a victory for me. The boy asked me one last thing: “Why aren’t you trying to learn it from Toby, like the other kids?” I stared into myself, very proud of what was there, and said, “As soon as I realized you could work out a strategy like that, and how you’d go about it, it became impossible for me to go down to someone and say, Please teach me.”

    The feeling of what I’d said, of course, only set in after I’d got away from them. Even where it had clearly impressed them a little, I was beyond a doubt that it was a stupid, ugly thing to have said. The words rang in my head the rest of the night – which was until I went to sleep – except of course their sound was no ringing but toneless damped scratching, sitting on my knees in bed with Mudkip on my lap, the air tugging at my hair, tone-deaf mocking of the music I had been trying to hear from long before this journey.


    Route 115, the way I won’t take. Your journey doesn’t require it yet, still waiting on your first badge; after you cross the Mauville Desert and pass Mt Chimney to find a strangely surreptitious opening into the Fallarbor routes, whose circuit loops back south in a wide arc among craters and waterfalls through into the entire length of an unearthly mountain, then, emerging from this mountain, coming down a grassy passage by the sea, then you will see this route, in the afternoon of your journey, in winds under a warmth that blows to you now from the wide course of that future, in a sea-wind afternoon on the other side of many badges, on a walk taken with your team matured and as though you know this route already somehow, the walk you would take if you could ever travel with Zoe, maybe. The woman who moved slowly down the wide, terraced steps of this foot of the route; I glanced at her smile, climbed up a little, watching the single trees and grass stepping down this round gradual hill, at the top of which the road began and struck straight north. But I grazed the side and went down to the sea, on the west, and felt out over this map of speckled sand, these square structures of earth, taking in this topography, one place I would never inhabit (not quite yet).

    Any conversation on a journey with other kids, looking aside to hear them talk as the road moves.

    A specific conversation, with the sun burning your shoulders, overbearing silences, words and words buried beneath misrecognition.

    If I was meant to travel any way other than completely alone, I would be doing it right now.

    (5/3/2004)
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2013
  12. Praxiteles

    Praxiteles Friendly POKéMON.

    This chapter has some amount of UNCENSORED SWEARING. Megan happens to favor some very bad words. Kids, shut your ears!





    The word on the street. The training between a boy and his lotad are of no use to me. I sat in Zoe’s group (they invited me), silent but polite, and my attention failed in calculated rations. This is what I kept:

    Toby’s going to go east, to Mauville. He’ll use the Rusturf Tunnel. That place is only inaccessible to civilians; the traveler, duping the guards, may break his own way through the almost-clear passage. He has the Dynamo Badge remaining and he’ll get it on the other side, in Mauville City. Father will ask Uncle Briney to ferry us to some island town off the south shore, where there is also a gym for us. I don’t know that he’ll sanction any journey if both Atashka and I don’t go together.

    How did Atashka train on the day I came to understand my tactic of stances?

    *

    Rustboro has this Trainer’s School where kids from all over come to learn how to be trainers. I went to it in the afternoon. The schoolhouse is pretty small and green with round windows, and it has its sign standing in front of it in a cleared field, where they must have recess. There’s only one classroom, with big benches and the walls didn’t have any posters on them, they were very clean and linteled, like a fancy house, and the students sat at a few of the benches with their notebooks sprawled. The blackboard was dark green and everything was so neatly printed it looked like a notice. I got a back seat like normal where the teacher wouldn’t look at me. He didn’t just have a shirt and trousers, he wore a full suit, like Dad does to the office, with a fedora on top, and he had a cane that he pointed at the board with. I was gonna learn everything and then Arauve wouldn’t be smug anymore.

    Treecko padded along the bench to where a boy was sitting on the other end. She was on the seat part, so the desk kept her hidden from the teacher’s side. She stared at him slumped over a closed textbook, writing notes. I saw it coming but didn’t do anything to stop it. She jerked him forward by his shirt and his pen went on a slide over the desk’s wood.

    The teacher looked sharp at him. Picking his pen back up, the boy straightened, still looking down at the paper. I bent under the desk – Treecko wasn’t anywhere I could see.

    The teacher went on, in a harder voice. “Hesitation while giving commands is unacceptable! You must be prompt.” He went on about sharp gestures and to-the-point commands, to make your pokémon understand your intent, which is stupid, because Treecko always knows what I’m talking about. The boy turned a page, went on with his notes. Suddenly the kid in front said, “Ow!” and turned back to meet his eyes.

    “Dale,” the teacher threatened. “Where is your workbook?”

    “My – ” Dale stared. “It’s in… my bag.” He took it out with a furtive look.

    Treecko would have been awesome! In private school, if I’d had her then. Actually, I wasn’t really having that much fun. I didn’t like going back to school, and now I was feeling sorry for the boy. Treecko clambered back to our bench and sat silent, looking all solemn in a way that I used to find hilarious at one point. Then she looked up at me but I only glowered back and I had to grab her, as she tried to slip down to the floor again, but she got out of my grip.

    I put my head to the desk, trying not to wait for what was bound to happen. It was no good. The boy ahead of him grabbed Dale’s arm and twisted. They tried to disengage but by that time everyone was looking at them…

    The teacher yelled, “That’s enough! Both of you, out!”

    “But sir, I didn’t do anything!” “Liar, he stomped on my heels!”

    “Out! Get out of my class! You think I tolerate these things, and you get bolder about it! But I won’t have it!”

    The two boys looked ahead with bowed heads. “What do you think this is, a circus! This is a place of learning!” They got up. Treecko was back near my legs. I looked at the teacher and stood up too.

    “They…” I stammered. “You can’t send those two kids out!” The teacher turned his look on me.

    “Why on earth not?”

    “Because, they… didn’t do anything! It was me. I hit both of them.”

    “You did it? …What’s your name, show me your ID card!”

    “I’m not a student, sir.” I watched him blubber for a second. “I’m a trainer. From south of here. I’ve come for the Rustboro… Badge.”

    We had a staredown, and every single kid in the class tittered, turning around to look at me. Finally the teacher said, “Sit down then.”

    I smushed down on Treecko hard as I sat, pinning her between my knees. She started waving those claws around, so I eased up. I put both arms over her so at least she wouldn’t get up off the seat. “You better sit still,” I whispered, “or you’ll get us both in trouble.” That made her hiss, because she knew I’d have been worse than her in any other place or time.

    There were pokémon on other trainers, but all of those were on the floor, sitting quietly. On the bench beside ours, someone’s vulpix was drowsing. While the teacher was turned to the board I got up quickly and went around to Dale’s other side, so the girl with the vulpix was to my right.

    The teacher turned back and looked at me. After a second he went on with the lesson.

    This girl looked a lot less of a sucker. Her notebook mostly had cartoons in it. I looked sideways at one where the teacher was in pajamas and had his arms folded in front of an ice cream cone saying I WON’T HAVE IT! I WON’T HAVE IT!! I whispered to her about it but she put a finger to her lips and passed a sticky over. Her hands had little red burns around the fingernails.

    pass notes. hes got t. hearing of a ____

    I thought about it, and after a while wrote ‘whismur’ in the blank space, though that wasn’t very good. And then:

    pass notes. hes got t. hearing of a whismur
    Atashka
    why teach. whith ice cream cone??

    My handwriting was big, blocky and shaky next to her tight letters. She looked at it, frowned, then smirked, and wrote a long reply, cramming it into the corners.

    pass notes. hes got t. hearing of a whismur ???
    Atashka
    why teach. whith ice cream cone??
    Megan
    one time t. lesson was over early & i.c. truck came by &
    whole class got out of seats. wasn’t happy. at all.
    since then i.c. jokes all t. range
    dont care,personally

    I looked down, and Treecko had slipped away. I didn’t have any paper, so I turned the sticky around and wrote on the other side.

    wt are we learning about

    She held the note for a while, after reading it. I concentrated on the blackboard. It was telling me three things about PARLYZ.

    Lowers Speed
    Chance of Skipping Move
    Non-Wearing (Incl. Return)

    When I looked back, Megan was staring down at the note again. Just as she raised it the bell rang and two pokémon’s screeches rang out, almost drowned in the noise. Megan lowered her head and hissed, “Van!”

    Treecko was in a bad brawl with her vulpix, both arms tight around her neck, rolling around leaving little embers to singe the woodwork. I got over to their side. Everybody was up by his time and a few people had started to gather, chanting “Battle! Battle!” I bent down, jerked my hands away from the fire pokémon, grabbed Treecko and pulled her off. She went totally sweet as soon as I had her in the air.

    The kids lost attention, and the wall keeping us from the teacher’s view started to thin. Megan said, “Vanessa’s really not a bitchy pokémon, she wouldn’t…”

    I grinned at her. “Treecko’s seriously not a sweet pokémon. I should leave her in an alley somewhere. Teach her to bite the feeding hand.” I didn’t need to teach her, she bit me anyway.

    “Where are you from?” Megan said. “You shouldn’t disturb me in class like that. I’m like this close to slipping my A+.”

    I frowned. “Should have known you were that kind of kid.”

    She scrambled to her defense. “But I’m – not – ” I grinned wider, which upset her some more. “I’ve got my reasons, okay? Yeah training matters to me. You’re probably, I bet you don’t care about anything.”

    “About…”

    “Training’s probably some little hobby that…”

    “Training matters to me, too,” I mumbled. She turned away and slung on her backpack. I looked back to where the teacher was slowly coming down the room, and picked up Treecko and followed her out.

    She’d pulled her tucked-in shirt out and was already inside a group of other girls. I followed them like a creep for a few paces and then fell back, looking around for someone else to talk to. They were all going the same way, scattering into the main road but everyone turning right in little clumps, and I went along without any hurry. The wide clear road didn’t have a lot of pedestrians apart from us. Trudging alone in the back of the group was the boy Treecko had messed with. Dale.

    “Sorry about her,” I said to him, holding up Treecko who leaned back like an Egyptian queen. “Treecko is just…”

    He nodded gloomily, and started talking about the Devon product that was going to come out in a few months. “Have you seen the promos? The Comprehensive Assistant for the Traveling Trainer. Apparently. What do you think about it? No way my dad’s going to pay for it, he only gives me stuff if I get good grades.”

    “What’s it called?” I said, trying to show interest.

    “The Pokénav. It’s got a city-level map that fills in when you find new places…” He caught my gaze and raised his eyebrows. “Seriously, it’s some laser mapping technology that apparently the government used in a survey four years ago.” I nodded looking away.

    “Do you know what you’re gonna do after you get the Stone Badge? Nobody has any idea. Personally, I don’t think any of our parents are gonna let us leave for anywhere else.”

    I said, “That sucks…”

    “Did you know Megan is in contact with Ever Grande? She’s trying to get a visit grant. She needs a batch of three for the trip, one she’s already got, it’s her partner. The other one will be one of the smart kids from our class, I bet. What?” I hadn’t even looked at him. “There are some really serious trainers in our class too. There’s… well there are a lot.”

    He lowered his head and we went on in silence. Now we were at the end of the main road. I’d never gone this far. Ahead where the pavement went on for a little longer, and the fence opened to a gate to a north route, where curving ledges stepped up. But we turned right to another exit, this one went into the trees, and there was tall grass like in the Littleroot area.

    “Think about it… going to Ever Grande city for three days. In a group with those cool kids…”

    He stopped suddenly, and so did I. It was very still and warm now we were out of the city. “You said you were from Petalburg, didn’t you? You’re on a journey. You’re probably going to see Ever Grande by the end of this year anyway.”

    “Um, I don’t know about that… but – ”

    “Hey wicked, it’s the boy from Petalburg!”

    I couldn’t have spotted them before they burst out of the wild grass. “Yeeeaaaaaaaaaah!” Treecko scrambled up on my head and leaned out at them. “That was awesome!” “Is that your pokémon? Did she – ?” “Guy you were the most awesome kid to stand in front of that psycho since…” “Is that your vulpix?” They surrounded us, blocking all exits.

    “What’s your name?” one of them asked, so I focused on him. He wasn’t in uniform, his hair was tall and stuck out off his forehead. “Atashka? Cool, cool.” The others quieted to hear us talk.

    “Why are you hanging out with this loser, Atashka? We’re playing Guillotine. If you want to…”

    “You know what Guillotine is right?”

    “Of course he does!” he snapped. “He’s a trainer.” Turning back to me, “Entry is two crosses. Carve it, right… and we know you’re in.”

    I nodded very sincerely and they smiled, and I got both of us out of there.

    “What a bunch of freaks!” I said to Treecko. “Not freaks but I… had to deal with them in private school, too.” She growled in comradeship. “That’s why I never liked it too much.”

    The route went on under the shadows of huge, wide-fingered trees, and the grass under them was spotted bright by the moving shadows. I kept going under the bright heat, there was always a clear way squeezing past the tall grass. Here it was low bushes and shrub clumps that you had to make your way around, there were probably pokémon in the weeds where it got thicker. Plenty of students, everywhere. Treecko got off my shoulders and hung on to the shrub branches next to me, she was so light that she barely dented the surface as she clambered inside. I waited there a little lost until she emerged again.

    There were two kids crouched on the other side! I kneeled down and thought I saw the white of their uniform. They were in the sun, we were under the shade of the tree. “We better stay out of that game they’re playing,” I said, but Treecko was already waddling ahead, right up to the end of the bush. She stopped just a moment short of it. Then she curved around and climbed the tree.

    “Treecko!” I hissed, craning way up. “What am I supposed to do?” She looked down at me for a little while, her yellow eyes cool. Then she went further up. “Treecko, hey!”

    I went up to the huge, smooth trunk and looked up. “Is this cause I was mean to you? You kind of deserved it, you know.”

    The closest branch was several feet over my head. Suddenly she came back down, almost to the crook of that branch, and swung, kicking her feet at me.

    I backed up a little. I never used to climb trees this big back when I still did. The trick with them was –

    I took a running jump, didn’t catch anything high, kicked hard with my feet, and it actually caught on the bark and kicking over and over I managed to hug the trunk maybe a foot above the ground.

    That was rough! I looked up and the crook was right there. Treecko thumped the wood just above me. With a huge crawling effort I got one hand up to it.

    Then it was easy, because of my upper body strength.

    When I managed to sit down Treecko went further up immediately. I followed her, finding it a lot easier now. It was almost like walking here where the huge wide branches started to spread out. I stood up crouching with both my feet firm, the ground down below swaying very slowly, my neck tense with the height that I didn’t let myself think about. This would have been a bad fall. But the view was something else, when you peered past the branches to a good spot, everything was just as big as in real life except from above, and you could see all the clear paths close by and the kids hiding in them.

    The paths were like tortoiseshell, winding around round bushes. And the kids…

    We were at the border of a circle, it looked like. There were guards, maybe six or seven total, hidden just behind every path out of the circle, with a few left unguarded. There were three kids at the center too. One of them crossed the border and got to the trunk I’d clambered from, where I no longer was.

    The scuffing on the ground and probably the trunk’s crushed bark was visible from even here. He stared at it, but then turned around and went back inside.

    When he entered the border two of the kids sprang on him and tackled him to the ground.

    “This game is terrible!” I told Treecko, and looked around the canopy for a place where it touched any other trees. She was looking too, but she could probably cross over anywhere, thin as the branches got, or even make a leap. We both made our way to the thickest part where two boughs were almost crossing each other, and then – only a moment of stretching out, a little jump – I got onto the other tree.

    We looked down. “That wouldn’t have raised any attention.” I made sure the trunk of this tree was well out of the way of the kids’ way, it was right next to the forest, below a ledge, and got down before I could freak myself out any more.

    “That’s not in the rules, you know.”

    Jump!

    Megan was right behind me, looking down from the ledge, her legs swinging. I stopped myself shaking and then said something like, “That game sucks!”

    She rolled her eyes. “Tell me about it.” Then she lowered her hands down to me, so I got myself up, almost pulling her down in the process, to finally sit on the ledge. My clothes were feeling pretty heavy in this heat, and I looked at her uniform, which was just shaky with tiny wrinkles, she didn’t seem to have broken a sweat.

    “Hey, are you really going to Ever Grande City?”

    She didn’t look up. “Who told you that?”

    “Um… from the grapevane.”

    “Grapevine.”

    “I knew that. So are you?”

    “I don’t know. It’s too complicated.”

    “Huh? But… you know, still.” Treecko came down my shoulder to sit between us, and Megan nudged her head absently with a finger.

    She sighed. “They’re thinking of testing me but they’re not thinking about it, but they want to give me a funded journey but only if we’re three people, but they don’t want to fund three people… yeah.”

    “That’s really cruddy of them. Why can’t you just give an interview or something?”

    “That was the first thing I asked. That’s when they said they’d bring me to Ever Grande. Then they started pulling all the other things.”

    “That sucks.”

    “I’ve never gone any further than this route. Rustboro’s big enough… like, never in my life.”

    “Never?” I jigged my head and shoulders. “Not even vacations?”

    “Nah, we don’t do that sort of stuff… Why would I go outside anyway.”

    “Well yeah!” I grinned before I’d even said anything. “When you live in a place like Rustboro… On their vacations people go to places like Rustboro. You probably have everything!”

    She looked at me but didn’t smile back. She went on on her own thoughts. “After I get this diploma from the trainer’s school, that’s pretty much it. I don’t think my parents will let me travel.”

    “Really? Then what’re you supposed to do?”

    She shrugged. “Study for a job. And training can be a hobby I learned when I was eleven. Like playing the guitar, or fucking su doku.”

    The swearword made me clench, but I made sure I didn’t show it. “Me and my sister are so lucky,” I muttered. “My dad happened to be really cool about it. He thinks kids should definitely travel. Maybe later do something else… but.”

    Her round face glowered, looking aside at me. “I need to prove how serious I am. I’ve gotta show it somehow.” She wasn’t talking, the way they talk in cartoons when they’re determined. “You gotta be better than the best. That’s what my SR. PARTNER tells me. Make miracles. But my parents, pokémon training does nothing for them. It doesn’t matter how good I get. We can’t see on the same level. They wouldn’t respect a miracle if I showed it to them. How do you think I can do it, huh? You tell me. Kill myself training, and even then if they won’t give a damn about it. Break my pokémon’s – ”

    “Meg, you’re supposed to do that anyway.” We both turned around fast. “Kill yourself even when no one’s watching,” she said.

    She came right up to both of us, so it was her face looking straight down. “And let me tell you I’m always watching, junior partner.”

    Megan’s mentor Anna was in final year, three batches ahead of them, and almost fifteen years old. When she graduated she’d have a high chance of going out Mauville side, because she’d already got two badges – the gym leader here liked her. In Rustboro it was Roxanne. But I got the vibe that she wouldn’t leave until Megan’s journey was secured, as well – they had a year and a half between them, so they wouldn’t go out together, but before Anna left the city she’d make sure Megan could do it, in her own time. “In the end I say screw the folks,” she said. “How old are you kid, can I – Screw ‘em, you don’t need ‘em.”

    “Anne hates my parents a lot more than I do,” Megan said.

    “That’s because I can see them clearly. All Meg needs is passage, that means registration. The League is happy if you’ve got your trainer card and you can get to the next gym. Hell, other trainers start on less than she’s expecting, it’s the journey, the journey gives you what you need. If Ever Grande so much as gets her registered – ” “Then she’s right, I’m set. I can pack my bag one evening and leave a note on the fridge, and never come back.”

    They asked me about myself, but weren’t too interested. We went further along the raised ledge, which had a long hedge maze full of plants and berry trees, and at the end there was a rugged hill cave where workers had set up a hut near the exit, apparently they were trying to dig a tunnel through to the town on the other side, but nobody had done anything for a long time, for whatever reason. We stayed out in the heat for a little while to look at it, and soon turned back.

    Megan was supposed to get to her regimen for today. “Where are your pokémon.” Megan took Vanessa out. “What are you even doing without your pokémon around.”

    She’d been sulking almost a quarter of an hour out of this afternoon. The vulpix came around her feet to stand between Anna and Megan. “Go sit somewhere comfortable, kid,” Anna smirked, but Vanessa didn’t move. So standing like that –

    Meg suddenly turned around. “First I want to battle Atashka.”

    “Huh?” That threw Anna off. “Who is he, anyway. You got your first badge?” I shook my head. “But still a traveling trainer.”

    “He’s pretty experienced,” Megan said. “I bet he can give a good battle.”

    “Battle her then, Atashka,” Anna said. I couldn’t tell if she was making fun of me. “Don’t go too hard on her.”

    They didn’t laugh when I lost but did start to move away, Megan still hanging on a little. “We can… what if I train with him today.” I held Treecko up unconscious, stood waiting for them. Then I flashed her inside.

    “Forget it, Meg. You’re distracted. Get to your real work.”

    “It’ll be good practice for me, showing somebody else the ropes.”

    “What are you, lovesick?”

    “No. I’m, I’m just seriously bored. I want to change it up today. Please?”

    “…You’re gonna say some shit about me spending my time to teach an idiot first-batch, aren’t you.”

    “Didn’t even think of it.”

    “Okay fine. Play with your boyfriend for today. I’ll see you tomorrow.” “Anna!” “Hey, don’t get so dramatic. I have some stuff to do in the city today, I wasn’t gonna be around the whole evening.” “Heheheh!”

    “That’s why I’m letting you off. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

    Megan was sticking out for me this much, so I decided to pay attention the rest of the day. I thought about asking her more about her training, but there wasn’t anything to say. I couldn’t think of anything I could do to help her. There are so many morons out there in sporty traveling gear that run off to have a Pokémon Picnic for half a month. She sits with her legs splayed, biting her lips, her vulpix softly humming as her heat singes the skin around her nails.

    *

    Atashka trains a total of some four hours with the far more experienced Megan. The next day (7/8/2003) he is able to put in more than seven hours on the field (which does not tax his stamina excessively), having taken something like a schedule, a suite of exercises, and the importance of putting work in training from Megan; and he manages to put these to use by the simple expedient of talking to Megan again on the 8th. The next day (7/9) his figure is about six hours. The next, seven (7/10). After a day of only five (7/11), it has not quite been seven days in Rustboro, but the weekend is approaching. He finds out that I have booked matches for both of us. On Sunday morning (7/13), we go to Roxanne’s gym, demolish it, and convince the gym leader so firmly that she offers us all the remaining eight badges gratis and a helicopter ride to the Elite Four. This obviously we reject, because we believe in working through every challenge of a journey at its own pace, a sentiment recorded in the daily paper next to our faces.

    My weakness was, I couldn’t keep a straight face. I should have pressed my nose to it, the unimaginative seriousness of factual description. Tedious and yellow with bone-grit. If I pay enough blood sacrifice to it, it will reward me. Give me creativity in exchange for my soul. (7/7/2003)


    It – it doesn’t sound the same to other people! Of course, that’s obvious. But – everything you write sounds bad when you look at it – in a way other people never see – it has nothing to do with the actual faults, or strengths, of the writing. Does it? It’s the only clue I have to knowing how good something is.

    (8/12/2003)


    Mudkip stands at the paneled glass wall of the Pokémon Center, looking out. The late, yellow, pale afternoon shadows pass over his large head, the rectangular shades of trucks, the quivering reflections of side mirrors, running round over his head, and far beyond, in a moving rectangle that surrounds him. His black eyes are perfectly still, his mouth registers no curve, either upwards or downwards. Suddenly, impelled by nothing, he turns around and runs to the back of the room, springing on his forefeet and hindfeet together in short leaps. His wide fins and appendages turn almost not at all as he runs, absent of any self-consciousness. The gill that has recently been knocked in a bad tackle, twitches forward very slightly, and he raises a paw to stroke it sideways. He does not acknowledge his injuries with a great amount of drama.

    Turns out all I needed was to write about a family member I actually like! (7/10/2003)


    Is there anything else I want to say? Eventually I change, make a resolution, sustain an accident; such-and-such happens to my training, my aloneness, my anxiety, my writing, none of which at this point I care about – and do you think I really remember them? Do you find it credible that all the details I’ve given are completely accurate?

    Is there any other attempt at fiction I want to show, from that week in Rustboro, as if it would explain anything. I have abdicated explanation, right. Anything I… of course I’ll speak all the time afterwards too, I’ll say anything I feel like saying. The question is probably: is there anything I want to put here and nowhere else, beside Atashka, while he’s here beside?

    When I’ve taken so much space to exclude him?

    Let’s challenge Roxanne already.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2013
  13. Praxiteles

    Praxiteles Friendly POKéMON.

    NONUPLE-POST PRE-UPDATE NOTE, which is completely unnecessary and probably speaking to a nonexistent reader base, and might even qualify as spam, but I don't even care right now for some reason, I'm just gonna post it:

    You will not believe the scramble it took to write this chapter. I finished it today, bar revision. I have no buffer left. The next chapter will be the scramble you will not believe. I'm going to be running on empty now, for who knows how many weeks. This (refer to previous pre-update note) was kind of anticipated, but it doesn't get less nervous-making when it happens. Probably the next chapters will get a little shorter, which may come as a relief to the reader too (to anyone who actually got past the walls of text above, ha ha, 'the reader' is accurate in terms of quantity).

    EDIT: Oh yeah, I also felt like mentioning that this chapter is more or less the finale of one 'purposeful streak' of chapters in this fic, and after it's done I will lose (obvious) direction, and go back to 'gardening' where I was previously (for a few chapters anyway) architect. Ing.

    You're going to like the next update. It's not too short at all. In this chapter The Progression jumps the shark
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2013
  14. Praxiteles

    Praxiteles Friendly POKéMON.

    “Arauve, is this where Roxanne studies? Is…”

    “The Battling Arts? No, we’re not going on that road. I already booked us, we’re going to the Gym remember? To battle.”

    “We’re going to the Gym? Is this the way to the Gym.”

    “God, and you say you’ve walked around the city. What’s the time. Ten minutes, our appointment’s at 2:00.”

    “Where’s the Gym? Is it on Main Road… Arauve have you seen Roxanne?”

    “Me? Not personally, she has an assistant. Get on the footpath! For god’s sake.”

    “So much traffic! What does her assistant do?”

    “How do I know. Probably takes bookings from trainers.”

    “…Bookings. Hey that guy looks so funny. Arauve why are the stones so white?”

    “W-white? What are you…”

    “Are we going there to battle? You booked us already. We’re going to fight her?”

    “White, you mean they’re off-white but these – oh god, I don’t know, guess they’re new. Atashka we are going to fight Roxanne. First I’ll go, then you will challenge her in the evening. Are you aware of this.”

    “We’ll fight her? Will you be there?”

    “Yeah, I guess. Atashka seriously, did you even prepare.”

    “Hey look at that! Look at what Treecko’s doing! Hahaha, that’s really stupid!”

    “Ughh. Your battle is your own problem.”

    “Arauve?”

    “Atashka shut up.”

    “No but did you prepare?”

    “Of course I did, I’ve been in the library every day. Except for…”

    “You were studying? What’s this crossing? We’re going on East – ”

    “Except the last two days, that was… my strategy. After that – ”

    “Whoa, this road is big too.”

    “After that I didn’t need to look anything up.”

    “What’s your strategy?”

    “See it in action. Besides, you won’t get it.”

    “I’ll get it if – ”

    “Shush now. We’re here. Two minutes to 2:00. Look, it’s just like the Petalburg Gym.”

    “Arauve automatic doors? Like in the Center.”

    Whirr! Close.

    Eyes looking out and round.

    “Why is it really small.” “Shush.”

    Can I help you?

    “Yeah I have a, battle booked right about now.”

    One second.

    “Where’s Roxanne? Arauve look the room’s so small. It looks like an office. Are you going to battle?”

    Your trainer card.

    “My… Here.”

    “Is she behind the doors? Are we – ”

    Arauve Calen. Please come with me. This is your first badge, isn’t it.

    “Arauve the right door? Why – ”

    “Apparently, I was assured, Roxanne tones her team down, to your level, to how many badges you have.”

    Oh of course, that’s common with all the gym leaders. But it’s not completely necessary.

    “Arauve – ”

    “How do you mean?”

    Something that surprises a lot of beginners is that you don’t have to defeat a gym leader to earn their badge. All they have to do is be satisfied you deserve it. Sometimes a leader will take quite an experienced team, that the challenger just can’t match, to see how they react to it.

    “Oh that’s fascinating! I think at one level of inequality the battle is pretty much determined…”

    “Look! The STADIUM! …It doesn’t look this high from outside! The ceiling is… and the tiled… you know it doesn’t look like a rock-type gym. But it’s…”

    Hehe, it surprises a lot of people. Especially the way it has of looking bigger on the inside. It’s not of course, it’s just… architecture.

    “Architecture…?”

    “Arauve?”

    Yes, that’s right. Well if you’ll come this way, you’re not ready for a battle quite yet. Here – the door’s very close –

    “Arauve?”

    Yo, how’s it going!

    I’ll leave you in STANLEY’s hands.

    Listen, my friend! Would you like to become the CHAMPION?

    “That… seems to be the goal.”

    Isn’t it always. I’m no TRAINER, myself, but I can sure give you some winning advice!

    “Um…”

    It’s your job as a trainer to collect GYM BADGES, am I right? But GYM LEADERS are no pushovers! That’s why I’m here! You work the wonders and I’ll coach you whenever you turn up in these places.

    “You’ll… coach…?”

    Then it’s settled! We’ll aim for the POKéMON CHAMPIONSHIP together!

    “Arauve – ”

    ROXANNE, the GYM LEADER, is a user of ROCK-type pokémon.

    “…”

    The ROCK type is very durable, but it can’t stand WATER-type and GRASS-type moves.

    Come see me afterwards, if you beat the GYM LEADER.

    Well, go for it!

    “We’re – ”

    “Stanley, are we supposed to go in this door?”

    That’s right, challenger, but only you. We’re testing you before the actual battle. This part is challenger-only! Spectators can wait outside until the battle begins, on the STADIUM.

    “Arauve?”

    “Huh, it’s 2:02 now… Wonder how long it’ll be.”

    “Arauve! …Arauve are you…” Her eyes finally turned around to rest on my head. “I… forgot what I was Arauve, what are you going to do in there?”

    They softened. “Atashka, find a seat. I’ll be a little while, very little. …Anyway you know you’re going to go through all this yourself – ”

    “But how are you – ”

    “I’ll tell you everything.”

    Slam!

    “They’re testing…?”

    Right on the money. ROXANNE likes to make sure her challengers are up to scratch! But just between the two of us, it’s not really a test. You don’t fail it. It’s just how she finds out how much you know.

    “You can’t fail it? And – ”

    She’ll be out before you can say LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP. Go get a good seat on the bleachers! While it lasts!

    “Bleachers.”


    I haven’t seen any Recovery Machines… suppose I don’t get a chance to…

    “Arauve! Is it a battle?”

    No, no. It’s…

    “Hm?”


    Well yeah, it basically is.

    “What is?”

    The… the test. I’m battling. You were asking weren’t you?

    “The test? I asked, five, minutes ago.”

    Hey, I took my watch off.

    “But you could still tell, how long… It’s a battle? Who are you battling?”


    “Arauve?”


    Okay yes! He knows Nature Power. They do seem to give you a way in all of these, you just have to spot it. But it’s horrific fast.

    “Mudkip knows Nature Power?”

    No, no, Lotad. Wingull fainted and Seedot won’t last more than one move. So this match I have to complete in…

    Huh?


    Click! Whine.

    “There, I’m through!” Slam. Funny grin. “I bet that was record time huh, Stanley, ten minutes must be pretty good for a first timer.”

    “Arauve that was more like eighteen.”

    Sixteen and a half, challenger. But that’s no mean feat either!

    “It’s not?”

    Getting through the test is no mean feat! Step up to your square, challenger, the gym leader is coming. The path is this way. I’ll be cheering you on from the sidelines. Good luck!

    “The square, right?”

    “Whoa cool! Arauve your platform’s rising!”

    “I thought it would just be a chalk square. This, this is nice!”

    “I thought it would be sand, too, big dirty yellow field with lines drawn on it.”

    “You haven’t seen Roxanne, it’s not how she does things. Like a basketball court. She – ”

    Click!

    Cool level eyes, fixed on where they’re going.

    Arauve Calen. Your rental team performance was above average. Did they return your party to you?

    “I, yeah I got it, I only have two pokémon. I think I’ll have a team of three, when I go out, and… my final team.”

    This stadium’s been finished only a few weeks ago. The League guidelines were very specific. “Oh… oh okay.” What town are you from, Arauve?

    “Petalburg City. Ma’am.”

    Ah haha. I’m hardly your schoolmaster. Have you asked any, advice of Norman?

    “Yes, I mean my father knows him, he told us to come back after we had a few badges. And…”

    Very well. Let’s get – let’s not waste any more time. Do you know the League procedure? “Of course!”

    Good. Since you’re so confident, I’ll assign marks to how you perform it.

    “That’s – that’s good!”

    “Arauve what’s procedure?” “Here listen. Roxanne’s gonna – ”

    I am Roxanne, the Rustboro Pokémon Gym Leader. I became a leader, as you might have read, in order to put the theory I studied to use in battles. Arauve, please show me what kind of pokémon you have, and how you battle.

    “I’m Arauve, from Petalburg City; I’m traveling because… so I can better myself. No, I’m travelling, for love of pokémon. Please… review my skill, and if I’m satisfactory give me your recognition.”

    “Where’d you memorize that…”

    “Now Atashka, watch carefully. This is how I’m performing the, the procedure. Roxanne is, too, but you can’t, see… The pokéball I have to show as I raise it. Now, underhand! At this height the ball always opens. See the white cross? The pokémon should land, somewhere in the back… third…”

    “Oof!”

    “I got it, look. Go, Beautifly!”

    Phoebe, begin!

    “This part is just gonna be exchange.” “Oh.” “Beautifly, Absorb!” Phoebe, Rock Tomb.

    “Yeah! Absorb! Wait just like that? Won’t the battle be done really quickly?” “Moron, I said it was an exchange. We’re both just going full power, no strategy. Beautifly, try to do – oh, it’s okay though.” “Ouch! That was really bad!” “He survived. That Absorb’s a bit disappointing though.”

    “Really?”

    “I mean look at… It didn’t even hurt how do you tell if it hurt Phoebe? Flash of light. That was all.”

    “But see how it’s floating now, it looks weaker. Those curves? Not as tight. I bet it can’t rush as hard now.”

    “Is that… anyway Absorb! That’s right Beautifly won’t lose speed that quickly. Roxanne knows that.”

    “Geodude won’t faint that quickly either. Oof!” “Good Beautifly that’s enough.”

    Roxanne’s eyes fix on hers.

    Arauve, you didn’t devote time to your secondary pokémon.

    “Roxanne, but there’s no way he’d last long, anyway!”

    Even then, you didn’t devote a lot of time. Round two. Are you ready? After all aren’t you in a hurry to get to this part.

    “I – let’s begin. Go, Mudkip!”

    Phoebe, Defense Curl.

    “Mudkip. I know you better. You don’t really bowl down your enemy, you take your time. Which means you’re gonna weaken your enemy’s power first.” “Water Gun.” “…Right, anyway you had to get that one out of the way quick.”

    Phoebe, return, you did well. Go, Coeus.

    “Water Gun.” “Killer! It wasn’t any stronger than the other geodude.”

    Coeus, return.

    “Okay now you’re going to weaken your opponents?” “Haha, you think? I’ll…”

    Go, Lenz!

    “I’ll… oh hell.”

    “Arauve? What? What’s up?’

    “…Nosepass.” Lenz, Rock Tomb! “Mud S – dodge Mudkip withdraw! Remember? Withdraw stance!” “See those rocks come down, they’re blue, like the nosepass… granite!” “They’re enormous. The geodude couldn’t do something like this.”

    “Phew, Mudkip’s getting up. What’d he do, fold his legs in like that, surprising he seemed to make himself smaller actually…?” “It’s his stance. He doesn’t know Withdraw but I got him to mimic the stance.” “So that has kind of an effect? Does it give him defense?” “Actually no, see how… he folded himself in? If rocks had come on him he’d have just fit into the crevice. And then he’s tough, he’d shake them off. Oh god – There’s – ”

    Again, Lenz.

    “Mudkip? You wanna, poke yourself out of there?”

    “What move now?” “There’s nothing for me to do! It’s just a matter of time…” “Yeah and those rocks are getting in Mudkip’s way, that’s such a perfect circle! How does it aim like that, magnetic…” “Don’t be stupid, it’s not magnetic fields, this, this pokémon is out of our league! did you not notice? Throw all our pokémon at it, I don’t think it would lose, and…” “It’s… you can’t win?”

    “Mudkip, get up close and Mud Slap.” “The field’s good for that anyway, didn’t know there’re so many rocks under the surface.” “Thank god he’s so small.” Switch to Rock Slide. “Mudkip? – Withdraw won’t, withdraw won’t work… Do this, Water Gun stance… no, not the whole move, shit!”

    “…He’s okay, he got up!” “He hasn’t got one turn left! Mudkip, what I want you to do. Wait for Lenz’s stance, and try to get your stance in an instant before! Remember Toby and the wingull? Riiight… You can’t, do, you can’t Fly but you can help your chan – yes! That’s it! Mud Slap, keep at it, Mud Slap, don’t hesitate!” “It’s… getting really dirty, Arauve that’s good! How can it even see?” “It can’t, we’re a little safe now. Retreat, Mudkip. Withd – yes, like that. Still it’s only a matter of time. What can I do…”

    “Exchange?” “Water Gun! Water Gun! You’re totally wrong, an exchange means he’d lose in one turn, Lenz is faster even… and yet you’re absolutely right. Water Gun!”

    Tackle.

    Yes that missed too. Water Gun! This has got to hurt somewhere! …Why is nothing happening? I need…”

    “Whoa the Water Gun actually broke that rock apart!”

    “It was a clod of dirt. I need…” Eyes widen.

    “Arauve? What’s up?”

    “Mudkip, go right up to the center ball.”

    “That’s suicidal!”

    Lenz, Rock Slide.

    “It’s not, Lenz is still blinded. Not the suicidal part… Withdraw. Mudkip, whatever happens, don’t move until I tell you. …Look back, at me. Heard what I said? Can you do it?”

    His eyes… Pokémon don’t really have expressions.

    Rock Slide.

    “Miss!”

    Again.

    “Close.”

    Again.

    “It’s… improving that was direct!”

    Again.

    Mouths, “Wait…”

    Aga –

    “Water Gun, don’t hold back, you can stand the pressure!”

    “The pressure?”

    Hiss…

    “Oh holy crap, he’s sealed in there, I didn’t think he’d survived even – ”

    Get back Lenz, get back!

    Boom.


    …Bring your pokémon out, for goodness sake, I can’t see who got knocked out.

    “Mudkip? …Can you stand up?”

    Scattered crater of rocks, mud, where Mudkip is visible. Shaking. The rocks push apart.

    “Yes! You did it! Holy crap that was amazing!”

    Come down. That looks like a fair victory.

    “You’re… Lenz is down?”

    Stand, Arauve. In recognition of your abilities I give you the Stone Badge.

    “Arauve is that procedure too? …Stand, look down, they pin it on you.”

    This badge will enhance your ability to command stronger pokémon. It will also allow your pokémon to use the HM move CUT outside of battle. And here’s a gift from my side.

    “TM39 Rock Tomb?”

    It not only inflicts damage by dropping rocks, it also lowers speed. As you can see, it’s quite useful for rock-types… or slower pokémon in general.

    “Oh, yes, I see.”

    I don’t usually talk about assessment but I will tell you this, before Lenz you were not going to get my badge.

    “Really? Well, I guess I can understand that, it was bad battling.”

    It was quite effective. That does make a difference. But it was uninspired, you see? Not just that you’d overtrained him, and Mudkip vs. Coeus was an obviously unbalanced match. But you weren’t showing me any effort. I can’t evaluate you if I can’t see you.

    “I… guess so.”

    Return, Lenz.

    “Recovery Machine…”

    Oh look at this.

    “A piece of magnetite? Did I break…” I believe you did. That was quite a strategy you employed. These are no good to Lenz now, do you want these shards?

    “That would be very cool.”

    As a memento of, a display of outstanding power.

    “Yes… They’re really no good to him? Most, rock-types can integrate rocks back into their bodies…”

    Except –

    “Of course! Lenz’s magnets can’t join back, after they, break apart. That’s fascinating! I’ll give Mudkip a break now. He won… that feels so good.”

    Hmm. You know, I raised Lenz alongside the other two geodude.

    “You did?”

    “Whaa – ?”

    “You mean, he’s, he’s not…”

    Not what?

    “He’s… Oh god.”

    You’re not making sense, Arauve. Your brother’s coming this evening?

    “Yeah, I believe so.” I’ll be happy to review your performance. Arauve’s raised quite a standard for you, you know.

    “…Gee, thanks Arauve.”

    “You’re welcome,” bright as a diamond.


    Whoa! What a breathtaking victory! My cheering must have worked!

    “Thanks Stanley.”

    Great! Look at your trainer card. “Oh, it has a little…” That’s right! The Stone Badge you got has been recorded. In other words…

    You’ve climbed the first step on the stairs to the Championship!

    That’s got to feel awesome!


    Eyes swiveling their rays, remembering details, one last sweep of a look as we exit.

    “Hey, Arauve, what was that thing she gave you?”

    Sigh. “It’s not for you Atashka. It’s – ”

    “Gimme.” “Hey! Get away!” “No, I just – ” “God, stop! Ggghh!”

    Black glint.

    “They’re… they’re magnets? From the nosepass? Cool!”

    “Atashka…”

    “I didn’t mean it that way. I just wanted to look.”

    “…”

    “Can I have one?”

    “Keep it. Here, take the bigger one. You’re gonna forget it at the bottom of your bag by the end of today.”

    “I won’t, I won’t forget it. It’s my Magnetite. I won’t give it up for anything.” “Sure, then.”

    “Arauve?”

    “…Yes?”

    “You’re traveling for love of pokémon?”

    “Really? What could have made you think that?”

    “That’s what you put in your introduction, didn’t you? Your reason.”

    “Is that so? I guess I did.”

    “I just… I didn’t know that’s what you did it for.”

    “Well doesn’t everyone, travel for pokémon? …Atashka you know I just got tired of what they say, when you meet eyes with a trainer, ‘Show me what you’re made of’, or ‘Are you tough enough’… or some of that crap. It’s really stressful. We’re battling our pokémon, aren’t we? I don’t know what I’m made of. I pulled my right calf yesterday, I was jumping down a ledge.”

    “But that’s not… Arauve you’re just trying not to sound like a pokémon rights activist!”

    “I – you know what? I am, I am for pokémon rights. Everyone ought to be, anyway. It was Mudkip who killed your pokémon. It wasn’t me on the field, tackling. And…”

    “But you, what they say is, that you’re the one who, the pokémon wouldn’t be anywhere if you didn’t coordinate them.”

    “Of course they say that. Atashka. But I think it’s still a… conversation thing, between both of us. Mudkip doesn’t talk and I give the commands. But I can still tell how his face is. You get what… I mean, Treecko probably leads you around more than my pokémon does, but that doesn’t mean, he doesn’t have a personality. You see about obedience?”

    “There isn’t anything, like…”

    “Yeah! That’s right! When you tell them something, they always consider it first. Even with the hundredth command you’ve, training that day. It’s not like serving an order it’s like listening, to, and that’s why… That’s why they’re like friends.”

    Eyes turned back down, dimming.

    “And you know what? People who say they’ve got respect for their pokémon, they know their relationship, that’s bull. I know for sure that most trainers, they don’t do it right. Just from the things you’re supposed to say. How can you respect pokémon if you say…”

    “That’s right! But, what are you supposed to…”

    “I’m not gonna do it their way. I’m starting over. I’ll train the way you’re supposed to. It’s not about me, it’s about Mudkip and Beautifly.”

    “Yeah! And it’s about Treecko!”

    Featureless silence. The sign at the uptown crossing.

    RUSTBORO CITY
    “The city probing the integration of nature and science.”

    “…Arauve where are we going?”

    “Um, wrong way. Hey, wait…”

    “Back, to the – ”

    “HEY! You! Atashka, quick, isn’t that…”

    “Who?”

    “Stop right there! Look, he’s trying to run. Isn’t that nice. I’m gonna kill him – ”

    “Arauve, wait!”

    That’s right! Don’t let him get away! He’s got my GOODS!

    “Hi, Mr. Devon businessman guy.”

    Uh, hi there. I can’t believe you two came around, at just the right time, again! And I think it’s even the exact same Grunt. …She will catch him, won’t she?

    “Probably. Um, we should follow just in case.”

    Oh, god. Do you still see them?

    “They went up all the way to the end. Come on!”

    Oh, god. Haah, haah, haah, which, which way? Route… 115, or…

    “There, east, I see them going into the route! Come on, run after! You can’t stop now!”

    Kiddo, I’m gonna take a break… this running is not for me, you, you go on ahead! Show him who’s boss!

    “…”


    Atashka? How come – ?

    Toby? I can’t – did, did a girl and a, thug come around here?”

    There was a… chase…? They went into the cave. What are you –

    “Okay thanks!”

    Silence like black cotton.

    “…Arauve are you in here?”

    “Not now, Atashka.”

    “You went in alone? …It’s so dark in here.”

    “Not now… Look, I don’t even care what your agenda is.”

    Then what do you want from me? What did Team Aqua ever do to you?

    “Shut up.”

    Don’t get any closer! I have a hostage!

    “Shut up. Mudkip?”

    “Arauve? Did you heal your pokémon? You can’t battle him!”

    “I already did.”

    What’s your pokémon doing? Don’t, stop right there! Stop, …I don’t have any pokémon left! I can’t battle!

    “Oh, I know.”

    Slam!



    “…”



    “You’re not even injured, you idiot. You’ll bruise but not fracture. Probably.”

    Eyes turn full brightness on you.

    “That Devon Goods guy caught up yet?”

    “…”

    “Hey, whatever.”

    Arauve?

    “Toby! Would you believe it, I was expecting you?”

    Here, Mr. Briney, just… watch your step there…

    Is my Peeko in there?

    “Uncle Briney! It’s good to see you here! Is, is who?” They turn around to the deeper darkness.

    “Oh huh, I believe so. Come on out, little wingull. You’re in safe hands. It’s over.”

    Peeko…? Come over here.

    Flutter!

    “Whoops! Guess she’s a little shy of me.”

    Arauve, I can’t even think how to show my gratitude. “Oh, shucks, Uncle Briney, we’re practically family!” You know, when your father called the other day, he asked me to protect you! “Father… Oh great, he won’t be happy about this.”

    Wink.

    I’ll be discreet. After all, you handled the situation so well. I couldn’t have been much braver when I was a lad! “Thanks so much!” If there’s anything that bothers you, anything at all you need…

    “Of course, Uncle Briney.” You know my cabin. “You don’t even need to say it.”

    Come, Peeko, we should make our way home.

    Pihyoh!


    Arauve, you know Mr. Briney?

    “Toby, you know him?”

    Well, he has a good reputation in these parts. A lot of people know him. I have to say, I didn’t quite expect something like that from you. “Yes, well. Toby… there are some things. I… Atashka where’s my backpack?”

    “…”

    “Oh wow, it’s on my back. That means… to be perfectly honest, I actually have everything… Toby, just one moment okay?”

    Pulling you aside, thin and tired eyes.

    “That took a bit of time… When’s your battle due? What’s the time now?”

    “…”

    “Oh, that’s good. We still have an hour and a half. Atashka, why don’t you go back and tell the Devon guy we saved his butt one more time? He might actually reward you.”

    “…”

    “You… I’ll just be here a moment. I have some business with Toby. I’ll… meet you at the Center, in, in a little while. Is that good?”

    They don’t smile along with her.

    “You’re gonna roll up Roxanne and toss her aside. I guarantee it. Your Treecko’s stronger than Mudkip, right? He’s scared of her.”

    “…”

    “…Here’s the Devon Goods. I’ll just be behind you.”

    They drop down very briefly, then turn away.

    Shutter! Daylight.


    Oh! How did it go? The DEVON GOODS?

    “…”

    You did! you got them back! You really are a great TRAINER!

    Oh, and your sister too. I know! As my thanks, I’ll give you a GREAT BALL!

    Blue glint.

    Excuse me, please! Please come with me!

    Shutter.


    This is the DEVON CORPORATION’s third floor. As, as you just saw.

    Our PRESIDENT’s OFFICE is on this floor.

    Anyway, I can’t tell you how much I’m grateful for what you’ve done.

    Um… By the way, that parcel you got back for us… Could I get you to deliver that to the SHIPYARD in SLATEPORT? It would be awful if those robbers tried to take it again.

    “…”

    You know, the best way there from here would probably be the sea routes… And if you can get a boat – perfect!

    Uh… Hehehe, so, uh, could I count on you to do that for me?

    “…”

    Great! I knew you wouldn’t say no!

    Oh, that’s right. Could you wait here a second?

    Our PRESIDENT would like to have a word with you. Please come with me.

    Led procession up the executive table.

    Please, go ahead.


    I’m MR. STONE, the PRESIDENT of the DEVON CORPORATION.

    Paisley bloom, in sparkling red tiles, a black-furnished office.

    I’d just got word about you!

    You saved our staff not just once, but twice!

    I have a favor to ask of an amazing person like you.

    I understand that you’re delivering a package to SLATEPORT’s SHIPYARD, for whatever reason.

    Well, on the way, could you stop off in DEWFORD TOWN? I was hoping that you’d deliver a LETTER to STEVEN in DEWFORD.

    Here.

    Now, you should know that I am a great PRESIDENT. So, I’d never be so cheap as to ask a favor for nothing in return.

    That’s why I want you to have this!

    Red glint.

    That device… It’s a POKéMON NAVIGATOR, or POKéNAV for short.

    It’s an indispensible tool for any TRAINER on an adventure. At least, so my research team tells me.

    They invented it two months ago.

    Arhum! It has a map of the HOENN region. You can check the locations of DEWFORD and SLATEPORT easily!

    See here… If you’re taking the sea route, DEWFORD is just on the way! That neatly rounds off your trip, doesn’t it? Your schedule’s all made up now! What a convenient, coincidence! Ha ha.

    By the way, I’ve heard that sinister criminals—MAGMA and AQUA, I believe—have been making trouble far and wide.

    I think it would be best if you rested up before you go on your way.

    Don’t be shy! Our guest rooms are all yours.

    Ah. Well, then, Atashka, go with caution and care!


    White street.

    Excuse me! Wait just a moment.

    I’ve been developing an added feature for the POKéNAV…

    And it turned out great!

    Atashka, may I see that POKéNAV? The one our PRESIDENT gave you?

    Whirr!

    There you go, Atashka!

    I added a new feature named MATCH CALL to your POKéNAV.

    Using the MATCH CALL feature, you can chat with people who have been registered in your POKéNAV.

    Atashka, our PRESIDENT STONE should be registered in your POKéNAV.

    Test it out. Please give our PRESIDENT a call.


    POKéNAV. MATCH CALL. DEVON PRES MR. STONE. CALL.



    MR. STONE: Oh? Atashka?

    Since you called me, the POKéNAV must be working properly!

    If you know any other numbers, you can try calling them up, too!

    Good! Good! You seem to be quite happy!

    Hm… How could I know that?

    It’s because I’m looking down at you from my office window!

    Wahahaha! See you again!

    ... Click!


    I’d better get back to work. Please take care, Atashka!




    DAD: Atashka?

    What a surprise! I couldn’t make head or tails of this Caller ID. So, what’s going on, with you two?

    Aren’t you having your gym battle today?

    Atashka? Did something happen?
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2014
  15. Mrs. Lovett

    Mrs. Lovett Rolling writer

    Here I am again! These weeks just go by in the blink of an eye... I haven't had much time for anything besides school-related business, so I apologize if it seems like I haven't been reading. I've just been going at a slower pace than you've been posting. I had about half of this typed up a few weeks ago, actually, and I was originally going to post my review in parts, but then I decided that I didn't have much left to read, so I got myself to finish everything you've posted up until now.

    I'll start first with the post you made after Chapter 3 (just because it deals with revisions made to the earlier chapters).

    1.) I like the sentence in the intro much more now. It builds a more concrete picture of the swaying trees and cliffside, and actually gets me to relate to Arauve a little -- with how she imagined the simplistic opening would be able to get across all the beautiful things she wanted to convey. But of course, first takes don't always go the way you want them to. I can definitely identify with that, both in writing and in making movies. And in art, in general.

    And you're right that you can't always grasp the meaning of something the first time you read it. In fact, I see how that would come to a writer's advantage: If someone really understands your story, you can tell that they took the time to read it instead of skimming over it and posting a few lines of commentary. Now that I know what's going on in your story and who the characters are, the first few chapters seem completely clear and self-explanatory. That doesn't nullify first impressions, but maybe knowing where I stand now will help you strike some sort of balance between being suggestive and straightforward.


    Now for the new chapters...

    Chapter 3:

    ... which perfectly expresses my frustration at those wild pokemon you just. can't. run away from. xP Even if your lead pokemon can blast their HP to 0 in a single move, they just keep insisting that you battle them.

    I'm enjoying the way you write the pokemon world. It's not so much sticking to canon as it is to the actual feel of being in-game. When I do it, I have the tendency to come up with elaborate, long-winded explanations for why something happens the way it does, which I think results in my pokemon world bearing a closer resemblance to the real world than the in-game world. But you take a more straightforward approach. Why can't you venture into tall grass without any pokemon? Because wild pokemon are everywhere (and the grass really is tall) and they won't hesitate to pounce on you. Which also explains the necessity of going back-and-forth like a lawnmower when you want to look for a pokemon. :p

    This persisted in the way you explained Prof. Birch's Pokedex project and the issue with moves and type combinations. I like that. I almost forgot there was a simple in-game explanation for everything :p

    Chapter 4:

    I found this really funny. It's something in the way she starts with a simple analysis of type combinations and ends up with this grandiose metaphysical system of nine-pointed triangles. Haha. But really, I think I know now what Atashka means when he says Arauve is a genius. She really does think over things in interesting ways.

    I also really like that you've included Wally in your story. I don't know how close you'll be sticking to the in-game storyline, but seeing as there are two main characters and not one, (among many other things that make this story different from the games), I think this has a lot of potential. My only criticism is that I would have liked more dialogue between Atashka and Wally, because Wally's scene seemed to start and end a bit too soon. I think it has something to do with the way you narrate -- Atashka has a really strong narrational voice (as does Arauve), but this particular scene seemed a bit caught up in his stream-of-consciousness, shifting from one thought to another, and it felt almost like watching the events through narrowed binoculars. You dwell on how Atashka perceives and reacts to certain events, right down to conveying the inflection of his mental voice, but don't really step outside of his perspective to show how events are going on "outside" Atashka's head.


    Chapters 5,6,&7:

    Though I can't listen to music while I read, I'm always interested when writers link to songs in their chapters because it suggests how the story looks from inside their heads. In my experience, songs have inspired chapters, characters, and even certain plot developments, though naturally all this ends up being channeled into the writing itself, at which point a reader will either pick up on it, or override it with their own interpretation. Both are natural, of course, but it's always nice to experience the former. (And that's one of my favorite route music songs, too.)

    This is really interesting -- a university dedicated to pokemon battling. I don't think I'd have been able to imagine battling in that intellectual a light; to me, it's only semi-intellectual, with all that applied biology. The rest is more of a sport. But so far, I can tell from your fic that trainers really take themselves seriously. Since Arauve didn't manage to get a hold of Roxanne this time, maybe she'll come back another day and we can get a closer glimpse at what's going on in that university. :p

    I also enjoyed the part where Atashka visited the trainer school. Good old passing notes and zoning out when the teacher isn't looking. And I liked reading the interaction between Atashka, Megan, and Anna. The scene felt more grounded this time (as opposed to what I mentioned earlier about the scene with Atashka and Wally.) I understand that this might just be your specific writing style for this story, so I won't call that an outright complaint. It's just something I observed.

    Chapter 8:

    Aww, I guess no sneak peek inside that university. Oh well.

    It's interesting that this chapter was almost all dialogue. It felt really rapidly-paced, which was appropriate for the battle scene, but then towards the end the tone got slightly creepy. I don't know why, maybe it was the fact that the words and one-line descriptions just seemed to hang there on the blank screen, alone... Or maybe it was the dad's last line? Either way, I'm very interested to see what'll happen next. You've pretty much set up the fact that Atashka and Arauve are going to get caught up in the Team Magma/Aqua business, and evil organizations are always interesting developments. :p

    So, until next chapter! hey it's tomorrow again
     
  16. Praxiteles

    Praxiteles Friendly POKéMON.

    Oh god, here's a step towards getting my schedule back. I can never say the phrase "every Sunday" ever again. This is realleh short and unsatisfactory, please bear with me, I'm trying to get back into any kind of a 'swing'. Mrs. Lovett, I'll respond as soon as I can figure out where I saved the review response from three weeks ago.

    Please tell me lots of bad things about my wonky prose this chapter so I can improooove.

    Megan, obscenity, etc, no need to tell you much more I bet.






    “See, Atashka. You have to think about your own feelings for the journey first. None of us, are going out on this kind of a goal for such a long term. You can’t string yourself along on anything else, anybody else’s saying.”

    Videophone terminal. Glass front slideshow reception room not very busy, lunch hour stragglers 3:00 pm service men passing traffic.

    “That goes without saying. But I feel like, you might have just gone along, over the past few days… without being absolutely sure of what you want. Certainly, some things look very attractive if you see them from a distance, sitting at home. But you have to understand, the roads you’ll choose now, you might have to go on them for months, years possibly. I don’t want to – ”

    One minute remaining.

    “I’ll, extend that. I’m not cautioning you or trying to make you afraid, because anything you choose will be ultimately good, don’t worry about that. But… I know when I was your age the only way, I knew how to make decisions was… well, like selecting items at a bookstore, really. I don’t know. Do you feel that way?”

    Looks down.

    “That girl… she doesn’t talk about things. I really don’t think this is some kind of rebellion. I thought she’d be talking to you a bit more than me. I always thought – I’d be able to figure her out, if it came to that. She’s my daughter. Don’t you understand her? A little more, maybe? I’m sorry, I’m not putting blame. You’re the one she let down the most. Atashka, I don’t have any right to take this journey out of your hands. No, I’m not freaking out, and I don’t think either of you can’t handle yourselves out there. Your father did it without too much trouble. You just have to decide what to do now. Anything I needed to tell you, I think you already know.”

    The red monitor, boxed sharp and banded round around the convex screen. Mail. Videocall. Items.

    WHAT WILL YOU DO? turn off.

    The red monitor gleaming stack white box underneath, beige cupboard under that.

    WHAT WILL YOU DO? ATASHKA’s PC. BIRCH’s PC. log off.

    Black.

    Pastel yellow, pastel red tiles.

    The receptionist’s counter, yellow bar covering three sides.

    Glossy pokéball, melon-fat on its corner, no response, mock buttons.

    People. Standing now but you’ll see different ones next time.

    Muted thunk under footsteps. The pokéball logo. Thunk more brightly. No, it’s the same. Cross the border of its red circle.

    Light through the panes of the automatic door. Blue, yellow, white. The man next door gave me an HM! Yeah, just as a gift! HM08 Cut. He just asked about me and gave it to me when he heard I was a trainer.

    Whir!

    Light of evening, orange, slanted, wet blue shadows. The pavement is warm and gray.

    The edge of the intersection, coming up, crossing under.

    Standing on the square of its corner. Yellow. The wind keeps ruffling the sunlight but there is no one right here. Get to the left side. Walking down north.

    Clear road. People,

    intersections,

    Devon building,

    Trainer’s School,

    apartments,

    closed fences.

    Working women.

    Children.

    Marill.

    Round trainers. Sunlight rustling constantly in blown rolls. Warm concrete distance.

    Him?

    A POKéMON you get from a trade grows fast.

    Oh.

    But if you don’t have certain GYM BADGES, it may not obey you…

    Oh.

    Sign.

    DEVON CORPORATION
    “For all your living needs, we make it all.”

    The two narrow doors. The interior, red tile.

    Can?

    Hi, there!

    Oh.

    You’re always welcome here!

    Oh.

    Turn back down the reception lobby. The red marble tiles and the red mat at the end.

    The yellow road.

    Turn a corner, edge of sight appearing at its end a route signpost. Big red X…

    Grass.

    “What are you up to?”

    Megan in green jacket and shorts, her round black face. Vanessa lay hammocked across her foot.

    “I’m staying in town for a few more days just so I can show off my new badge.” Flashed my pokémon out. “Do you think you’re a Stone Badge trainer? No. I’m a Stone Badge trainer.”

    Treecko mauled Vanessa immediately. “Atashka, you want a one-on-one with me anytime, you just tell me.”

    I looked down at the pokémon. “I don’t need to ask, I get it every single time I come to this route.”

    My grin letting back off, we stared on at their wrestling, slow and apparently very, very genuinely hateful, but at least without actual fire. “Look at them go.” I whistled. “I still don’t know why Treecko hates her so much, do you?” “No idea. Morons.”

    “When is your school going to be done with?” “Huh?” “How many years have you got anyway? It didn’t take four years for me to beat Roxanne.” Sitting back, I picked Vanessa up. “Atashka, the day you got that stupid badge, was, a very sad day for everyone.”

    “No, but seriously.” “I’ve told you before, I’m in my second year, it’s a three year course. I have three semesters left.” “What’s a semester anyway.” “Ughk. Our graduation is more than just getting a badge, the Gym challenge for Trainer School graduates is a lot tougher than the normal challenge. It has theory and practical parts. We’re not just learning to bash pokémon at each other, even you figured that out.”

    “Oh yeah? I bet I know anything they tell you in your classes. Poison, paralysis, what else? You find that in the Trainer Tips signs. Ask me anything, I bet you’re not such an expert anyway.”

    “Fine, genius, you got a badge; tell me how you start a formal Gym Battle.”

    “You can’t – ” Megan nodded dismissively – “I did that once and forgot about it!” Scoff. “I know, okay? First you pull the pokéball down to your knees – ”

    “Really? You don’t talk to the leader?” “You know what I mean! I thought we were past that point!”

    “Besides, you only know that part because of that nerdy sister of yours. I bet you she had the battle just before you did. Wait, you told me she did. By now that whole damn day is all sorted out neat between you and me.”

    Stifling breeze. “Ugh. kch.” We stood up.

    “That damn day.”

    “A hell of a nerd. What was her problem anyway? What was her damn motive for running away from home? Couldn’t stand to be in the shadow of her dad? Felt trapped out there on Route 115? You know what my dad would do if I left town without telling him?” “Don’t want to know.”

    “You don’t, do you.” “No wait, tell me.”

    “He’d… like…” We started giggling. “He’d, probably just ground me for a month, BUT, the way he talks he’d probably put me in the basement and withhold dinner and shit like that.”

    “Well, from the way you go on about Rustboro households, I don’t know what my dad is. He’s… progressive, that’s what he is.” Hearing about her dad always made me cringe a little, which I hid with uncertain success.

    “No but you,” she suddenly started. “You have to take this sweet situation while you still have it. I’m not going to get out of here anytime soon – ” “Meg that’s not fair. And I don’t think you even have it so…” “Calm down, calm down, I mean I’m at least going to finish my diploma, right? And anyway I have options. Me and Anne have…. we’re planning something.”

    “You do?” I snickered. “Something like Arauve’s escape plan?”

    “Yeah, but back to the point! What I’m saying is, there are trainers who barrel through the League. They win once, they don’t lose after that. You got the Stone Badge in a week or something on your first try so, maybe… What I’m saying is, some people the League likes, for whatever reason. And you’ve got nothing holding you back, so what are you waiting for? What did your dad say, is he okay with…?”

    “‘Atashka,’” clearing my throat gravely, “‘it’s all up to you.’”

    “Then why aren’t you GOING!” she burst out. Vanessa stirred grumpily. “I would have murdered somebody by now! God!”

    “Why don’t you?”

    “Atashka, the less you ask about Annie’s plan the better it is for both of us.”

    Bobbing back and forth on my feet to get back feeling, my arms bent.

    I had to hop up a little to catch the upper side of the ledge. “Every time I do this it’s like we’re pissing on somebody’s…”

    “Atashka, a swearword!” Her mouth formed a small circle. “Atashka, are you sure?”

    “Quit it. It’s like, somebody wanted us to take this ledge exactly one way. Someone landscaped this berry garden, and stuff, and wanted us to go in from one side and out the other.” “Damn Atashka I think you’re seeing into the foundations of the universe, man.” I opened my mouth, and then shook my head and gave up. She got to my side without help, of course, but I hauled the vulpix.

    Today it was getting darker and whiter early, I thought. The light and the streaks of trees.

    “It’s not about rebelling against the big man,” I said, “it’s not… breaking chains or taking down the establishment or something. I’m not antisocial. You just need your own space to do things.” “So it is about breaking your chains.” “No, it’s like… when I do anything, the least I could ask for is that it’s me doing it, right? If you don’t even have space to look at what you’re doing, if you can’t think it through or, engage with it, then what are you doing, then you’re not even living. I know you understand what this is about. I went to school.” “Atashka, you did it for two years.” “I know you understand.” “Okay.” “You have textbook routines, have you ever just thrown a ball?” “I… did it once. First time with a pokéball, right? took it outside, tried with the, weight of it.” “It took me days before I started enjoying the swing.” “O-kay. I’m–I’m not arguing, I agree.”

    *

    The credits faded. The long seaside they had partly obscured now broke out in drowsy splendor. It extended as an oblong peninsula into the blue water, displaying a long-established profusion of beach confections, striped blue parasols, squat strips of towels, deck chairs, children in yellow tubes, a wooden beach hut covered with a checkered white canopy. Wingull strutted awkwardly along the water line, approached kids and were rewarded or harried for their boldness. The water was blue like sky-blue poster colors. The sand resembled gold coins.

    Behind the beach, the city was a white sheet of foil thrown over the green. The wide front was all white stone of the harbor, and went around the seaside over broad white walkways and plazas. On one square, standing over the water, shopkeepers and tourists milled around a small bell tower in its middle. From the railing a boy looked out, dark uncombed hair swinging around his youthful face. He seemed to be at leisure, like those people who passed by on their morning strolls. His white t-shirt blew out in the light wind and his green camo three-fourths were the same color as his hair. The clothes belied a certain hidden toughness in his eyes.

    “Come on,” he suddenly said bending down. When he straightened it was with a ralts in his hands, and she gave him a smile looking up. They turned back to go down the walkway.

    He knew no one in this city. He walked slowly up into the famous shipyard street, which like most roads in Slateport was just as bright and wide as the seafront. The clear grass opened up as soon as the buildings of this street, tall scattered warehouses or workshops, began to get spare and intermittent. They watched the pedestrians pass by mostly in the other direction, and both of them were equally fascinated, though the way they held themselves also betrayed timidity. Their destination was a house a little removed from the city center, just off the landmark shipyard street. Its roof came up before they’d turned the corner, the tiles a slightly tacky pastel shade, but built very prettily, a little summer bungalow both showy and compact. A suited man standing at the door grinned at the two.

    “There you are, my boy. I was wondering who’d kidnapped our lodger in the early hours of the morning. You left without telling anyone, you know.”

    “I did?” Wally gave a dismayed face by way of apology. “I got up early for a walk, I was gonna leave a note. I must have forgot.”

    “That’s all right, that’s all right. Just let us know where you are, all right? Your breakfast is getting cold. French toast and, ‘garnish’.” He smiled. “We have spring onions today.”

    “Oh, lovely!” The living room was always furnished extravagantly as though waiting for guests, and the inner rooms were almost completely uninhabitable. Wally preferred it, though. They sat at a low table in the kitchen itself and had tea alone; all the others who frequented this house were already finished, it seemed. The chairman’s idea of garnish was more like a massive dollop of mayo, chopped salad and cream and anything else, that you could use as a spread on whatever was being served.

    After enough munching had passed, the chairman said in a slightly hindered voice, “Plans for today?” Before he finished Wally had started: “Mr. Yamada, everything you’re doing for me is so wonderful, and I wouldn’t be able to manage without it, but… I’ve got no way to pay you back, you know.” He bent his head down here. “I haven’t done anything… or been…”

    “Shush, shush, my boy.” He cleaned his mouth carefully with a napkin, though he’d only had tea. “I told you we’ll have none of that when I took you in. Don’t think I don’t know everything about your situation.”

    “Well… but I’ve – ”

    “Oh yes, the things you haven’t told me, too. Have I told you how I started my journey? Do you think my parents approved? Do you know what age I left home?”

    “Mr. Yamada, but it wasn’t disapproval, you know. My parents just want me to be safe. The doctor wouldn’t recommend my taking this kind of journey, and…”

    “Yes, but we find you out here anyway.” The chairman regarded him with a carefully neutral look that was almost conspiratorial. “What can you do… And now that you are out here, no doubt this will encourage you to take all sorts of risks that aren’t necessary.”

    Surprise at this remark was quickly followed by a determined set. “No. It won’t.”

    “Hmm?”

    “I know what’s needed. I’m not that kind of a runaway.”

    “Hmm. So you aren’t.”

    They went up to the upper floor, which had been completely cleared of partitions a very long time ago, and merged with the attic; the majority of its space in the center was occupied by a glass tank, about man-height, empty and still in its clear wrapping, dusted with plaster or woodchips from a currently suspended carpentry job. “I haven’t been up here in a few days,” said Wally.

    “It’s working, it’s getting along,” said the Chairman. “The guest of honor is currently in a pond near Oldale. I’ve only seen her once, but she’s magnificent.” They walked along the circular passage that the tank made out of the space in the room; on the other side, through the white-sprayed glass, a large mountainous underwater feature became visible. They crossed the far side of the loop and headed back the other way.

    “The trouble with natural containment is your lack of control over, various variables, but Verte won’t have it any other way. She is a venerable specimen, as I’ve told you, who has spent at least the first half of her life in the wild. She has history.”

    Wally looked on his other side at the chairman's face; he nodded smiling, meaningfully. “Scars, and, general peculiarities. There are people who consider these undesirable in display pokémon; you either battle or you groom for Contests, you’re supposed to breed out any imperfections… correct if required.” He bowed his head. “Unfortunate but true, Wally. Our beautiful relationship with pokémon, was not always… had to be learned, had to be… shook out, over many centuries.” Wally shook his head, and led them back down the stairs. “Anyway, Verte is a pokémon who is, I don’t say it lightly, almost transcendent! One of the many times when pokémon seem to exist as miracles. And her age is her beauty.”

    “I would be honored to see her in person,” Wally said gravely. They turned back down the lobby to the kitchen where they’d started.

    “Good, I’m expecting you to help with the exhibition,” he smiled. “That is, if you’re free enough around that time.” Wally hesitated. “Don’t worry about that now, my boy, but tell me, what are you planning for today? You see, I asked because today is the date of that workshop I told you about, the one held in the Oceanic Museum. This evening, actually. It’s probably about some kind of… ancientology… old languages, geological findings, you know – ”

    “Mr. Yamada are you interested in, antiquity?”

    “Interest, certainly.” He propped up his arms on the counter. “Heh heh, a man can take on a lot of interests in a city like Slateport. But time?”

    Wally nodded.

    “As far as I’m concerned you’re only given time for pursuit of one project at a time. Real pursuit. What was I saying, yes Wally, you told me you wanted to, investigate that kind of thing, and as I’ve said, the workshop looks to be an excellent introduction. I have heard of the historian coming, very well reputed. Will you go?”

    He shrugged. “Yeah, of course, I didn’t have anything else in mind.”

    “We’ll call a closed car around 4:00.”

    “But I want to walk!”

    “Wally, you’re not serious! It’s a long way from here to the Museum.”

    “I’ll take it very easy, Mr. Chairman. Hm… A long walk won’t kill me, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

    “Well, if you say so. It was that way in the early days of the club, you know. Of course the streets were much cleaner then.” The chairman ducked into the basement abruptly, and Wally lingered in the corridor for a few seconds, before heading up to his room.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2014
  17. Praxiteles

    Praxiteles Friendly POKéMON.

    My review response is probably longer than my damned chapter.

    That they do! Don't mind my moping in the nonuple-update, at all; I know you must be busy as all hell and it's very cool that you've been looking at this and making reviews. My disappearance from the face of the internet had nothing to do with anything, except that I am a lazy slob.

    Cool, cool. I must remember to pace my sentences, so the reader can actually move along with them, and to put emphasis on the ideas they convey, if they're worth talking about at all.

    Thank god for writing being a composed (vs. performed) art. I can just reshuffle the words as soon as I notice something's wrong and then get a free pass to act like it was always that way! I absolutely never messed up that sentence. I am an immaculate faultless writer-god.

    Well, of course, the amount of attention the reader gives is also to an extent the responsibility of the writing; if the story has something good in it, the reader will pay attention; skimming is (one way) simply a sign that the reader didn't find anything worth looking closely at.

    Sure once you go far enough into the fic's story, it probably becomes impossible to keep any large-scale misconceptions of what it's about (and a second read of the intro should be clear as crystal). Still I feel attached to that first impression; I want the basic premise to impress itself firmly and perfectly the first time, and then whatever I write after that can modify. (Maybe because I've been reading comics and I'm ashamed, that stuff goes down smoother than any possible prose; look at an opening shot/panel and see if you don't understand everything perfectly and completely before you even notice it.) Hmm. There will be time, there will be time.

    Like in the last review, I love that this stuff is coming out to you in that way (already); later on, I make a lot of different fancy efforts to emulate the in-game experience, but right now I'm just making a few experimental jabs at referencing the game mechanics. I also think the game explanations more often than not suffice; when we first picked up pokemon we were probably young enough for it that they did, and when we picked it up again after we were older we realized, "Oh, this stuff is for little kids." But they're for little kids in the way, e.g., our parents' warnings/explanations were when we were little -- Don't go without socks or you'll catch a cold. This is the procedure to brushing your teeth. Birds make nests in the fall so they can start families. Slightly inaccurate and arbitrary, correct enough, will do for now. Point is, probably a teenager or an adult would prefer more grown-up explanations to things, but for the purpose of writing it's not necessary to be grown up (and I don't much feel like growing up either, right now). Heh, all that's pretty rambly.

    Damn, that's true! Wally's screen time is actually really short, and I was feeling from the start that Atashka's voice in that bit is way too quirky to even function well; in the Trainer's School I write much more standard prose). Also, I really like Wally, and I want him to be a bigger character than I've made him now. I will give him more encounters, of course. ...A third-person scene narrated by Arauve (privately known from this chapter on as Omni-Arauve)? EDIT: And it came true! I have no creative integrity whatsoever!

    Your words make me resolved to invent quite a bit more on the game storyline than I'm doing thus far (I had originally intended to, anyway, if only to set it up for the ending chapters). At one point I was almost about to make a proper complex Team Aqua subplot. Subplotting powers activate.

    Oh, yes, music definitely has things to say about the writing's conception/generation. For the purpose of this fic I'm actually pressing in the opposite direction, in that it doesn't matter what I thought writing it, the only thing I can properly offer to you is the impression you do get, while reading. (Which makes for some tension when I really really want to convey something that might be particularly internal or personal; then, of course, you have to ground it, you have to stand only on the most mechanical, reliable methods of getting it across.) In the music's case, that means my choice of it is really just because it's relevant (because it's the music to that exact route, no duh); like the walls of a diorama box, I'm using it to frame the story, to place it in a context that's obviously appropriate for it. Your reactions and interpretations to being inside a pokemon-themed box for a pokemon diorama should not be (too) influenced by my intentions.

    Yes. I thought that a) There is science for everything, even sports; b) Battling is even more important to their universe than any sport, and was not always just a sport; and most of all 3) It's Roxanne, you need an academy-themed landmark probably, good to throw that in. =P You also see part of the intellect behind battling in the Shuranaya sections; I'm sad we never get inside the university, but Arauve's always been an autodidact, and her only teachers are books. I don't think she'd get along well with institutionalized learning (I always hated it). I should probably do a thing near the end where

    when she becomes a big shot, people still notice that she still never manages to be as professional and replete as an educated trainer. Everything's there and she's genuine, but overall she still feels kind of sketchy. Doesn't have a five-year course with nicely defined units and starts and stops to look back on. A quality of autodidacts. I'll put that in my notes.

    Oh yes, I don't think I could have done anything to make it read slowly (instead I put a lot of it, almost 5k words of dialogue). It was goddamned difficult, just so you know. Without narration there aren't a lot of ways to ground the reader physically in the action, and of course I gave everyone lots of exposition-lines where they narrate what's happening for no reason (it's fine, even Gaddis does that); even then, when you have what I randomly call Gaddis-narration, which is the characters narrating through oblique comments that you have to interpret, you can't get across complex things like pacing, dramatic tension -- and there is only one speed, the speed of dialogue! And my story doesn't have dramatic, sophisticated dialogue; it has children or idiots blabbing. "Oh holy crap!" is not a way to get across awe.

    Creepy, yeah, I guess so. When I wrote it I hadn't picked up on how, in the things everybody says to unresponsive Atashka, there's actually no shred of warmth or solicitation or even the sadness of betrayed love (what I was going for), because literally everyone's using him in some way. His sister's transparently false words of comfort are especially awful because they're not the words of an apathetic older sibling who's been throwing him under the bus all his life; they're under the pretense of looking out for him. I think this is the shittiest thing Arauve does in the story, and it's not out of any unintentional stupidity or negligence. To be honest, I have no clue whatsoever. I've been sitting on them for four years, and I don't understand my own characters. : /
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2013
  18. Praxiteles

    Praxiteles Friendly POKéMON.

    This chapter kinda has a lot of things going on, and it's kind of filler-y. I don't know. I have this foolproof plan for getting things to actually happen in the next chapter. You should probably listen to this. I didn't realize how nice it is for the open sea in Hoenn.








    Rushes.

    Green, pale, screen, fluffy.

    Blue. Seeds. Buds.

    “Why are you… doing, this anyway.”

    “Huh? Doing what, Atashka?”

    Opaque wall of stalks.

    Dirt road.

    Blue sky and less visible, blue beyond the edge of it.

    “I mean…” The sea. “Just a long way for you to walk.”

    “No. No… it’s not… Any excuse I mean to, to get out of school.”

    Leave that corner that led right up to Petalburg Woods. The rushes fell away, that beachside path.

    “Come on, it’s not… ‘snot far. The cabin.” “I am coming, that’s what I’m doing.”

    Uncle Briney’s cabin waited just beyond the little nook of wild grass that the pre-forest path wound through. The hut’s wooden roof-slats peered down over the stalks.

    “Obviously not very fast though.” “Careful there, I might decide you’re not worth seeing away after all.” We left the grass and the whole height of the cabin became visible, its reed walls, dark brown windows with the interior view unclear.

    “Even after I came to your schoolhouse telling you I was leaving town forever?”

    She had a response in mind, but seemed to swallow it, just returned my grin.

    “And we would never see each other again?”

    She swallowed the grin too. “Keep walking.”

    The cabin was open like Uncle Briney always kept it, but he’d hung an old sign next to the door frame. GONE FISHING. Back before 1:00.

    “Damn I didn’t bring my watch,” Megan said.

    I reached down to my belt and unhooked something from it, moving real smoothly, real casually. I did the corner of my mouth discreet smile thing. Then raised the Pokémon Navigator up to chest level.

    Megan’s look got fierce. “Oh you little shit!” I started laughing. “I’m gonna trash that thing! I wouldn’t check the time on that device if I had nothing else!”

    “I’d check the time every five minutes,” I said. “And I do.” The sea right next to the cabin, obviously, had a jetty where Uncle Briney’s boat was usually moored. I got down off the little mound his cabin was on, onto the wood of the jetty. That took my weight sharper and gave me cool rippling further down underfoot. “It’s fifteen minutes to one,” I said, “let’s wait around.” Megan hunkered down over the edge of the platform, and I got beside her.

    “I am bummed that you’re leaving,” Megan said slowly. I smiled first and then said, “Of course you are, anybody would,” so she got trapped into smiling back but it looked like she was feeling pretty acquiescent, would have liked it anyway. I’d had my ‘what a great friend I’ve made’ phase a few days ago and now I felt pretty okay about everything; I’d feel bad later probably, when I was more than a route away from Rustboro. I thought about saying any of this but, even if Meg wasn’t thinking the same thing, it would be just as familiar to her anyway. She said, “You know there are field… learning opportunities in the last two semesters, I could get projects out on the routes, if my parents are okay with it.” Megan is all gruff and unexpressive, I’m not scared of talking feelings. I said, “They let you go out? Do you get a license then?”

    “No, unfortunately. The League doesn’t figure into it.”

    “I don’t get why your school gives you a qualifying degree but doesn’t make you a League Trainer.”

    Dramatic pause. “What if I told you there are people who train outside the League?”

    “Really?” I looked her in the face. “Isn’t that… illegal?”

    She groaned. Megan had been training for five years – was it five – doing everything, more or less, except a League tour. It wouldn’t be the League’s job to allow and police her. Human and pokémon cases were handled by the city police department, obviously. “Though what about those, when we hear Gym Leaders doing crime busts and turning up to help at disasters?”

    Pause. “What about them?”

    “I mean the League isn’t the police, right? But League trainers sometimes do get into regional business.”

    “Is that how you’re killing this afternoon?” “It’s fun! it’s all new facts to me.” “Bravo, Atashka! The government likes the League, I think. The League and the government has tie-ups. All the League celebrities are active damn citizens of some kind. I guess it helps how they’re powerful trainers, too.”

    “Powerful trainers, huh? Do you think powerful trainers can do anything they want? Could you take over the world if you were powerful enough?”

    She shook her head annoyed. “Nah it’s still one person against the whole world. I mean pokémon aren’t that powerful. You wanna do stuff you have to be… political or… organized, you know criminal organizations, they’re not made of strong trainers. They’ve got administration.”

    I checked the pokénav. “Ten minutes to one.” “Every five minutes, for god’s sake?”

    “What if… there was a pokémon… that could go against the whole defense network of…”

    “Isn’t one,” she said. “There’s armies. You have to be organized you could maybe levy an army.”

    “Did I tell you about… Yeah I did, you know the… grunt and the Rusturf Tunnel thing.” “About what?” “My thing with the teams, Team… Aqua and, the fire one.”

    “Oh. God, we’ve barely started telling each other everything about our lives and all that stuff, this is stupid.” “It’s been what, two weeks?” “Less than that. How do you know Mr. Briney for instance. He’s a friend of your dad’s?’

    “He saved my dad from a marine accident.”

    “Damn. Respect.”

    “Yeah. They were at sea on an offshore, thingy, a project, and my dad happened to get… both of them were in the water.”

    “…And?”

    “It’s an awesome story and it really deserves better than what I’m giving but, oh god, I’m bored to tears by now. Basically, there was sharpedo trouble.”

    “Okay, now you’re putting me on.”

    I shook my head. “My dad got hurt, and it was Uncle Briney who got both of them out of there and into some help. My dad’s been telling the story – with Uncle Briney – since we were very small.”

    “Your dad’s been putting you on.”

    “He says he’s still got the gash, apparently only he can see it. …It’s there, you can see a scar if you look close. Left calf. Anyway, after that, you can imagine, they got kind of tight for a while. I think the project they were on was some marine science stuff, Uncle Briney was hired for navigation or surveying – ”

    “Is that his boat?”

    “My dad turns out to know all sorts of famous stuff. It’s really annoying.” I saw the white tapering box come north up the far end of the coast. “Yeah, that must be him.” Up north from where we were the rocks made a kind of natural barrier, so they really hemmed ships in along the seaside course south of here. What was on this southwest coast. Route 104, Petalburg, maybe the Oldale forest shore – I was within walking distance of home, and Dad. The thought flashed and slowly started to fade out, and I thought a little quietly, ‘Let it go this time,’ and a moment after that, ‘Dad would know I’d be here and he didn’t say anything either.’ This was so great, the morning on this jetty, the road through the forest, but only because of the things you said about it, because there was something awesome to fill the way with, all the parts of it had meanings and a point. It hadn’t been when I’d come out here alone, or the first time on the way to Rustboro. It had been small and dark, I’d seen as much as my foot three inches in front of me.

    The boat pulled into its place. “Look out down there!” I smiled at him and pulled my legs up. “It’s always good to see you, Uncle Briney.”

    “I should have caught you kids when you were coming up to Rustboro. Hello there!” he said to Megan. “You live in the city?” “This is Megan, my friend from Rustboro.”

    Uncle Briney shook her hand and then turned to me, fixed a hand on my shoulder, looking me up and down. Peeko got off his shoulder to land on mine. “So you’ve started everything, have you?”

    I pressed my lips flat. “I guess I have. I’ve got an errand to run from Devon, from the boss of Devon himself. Mr. Stone.”

    “Mr. Stone.” He rolled his head back like he was recalling someone he’d met personally.

    “I met him back in the day. His business wasn’t anything what it is now… A good man,” he said, “he would be a good friend to have.”

    Megan snorted. “Yeah, the director of Devon Corp would be a good friend to have.”

    He watched her with a good-natured look. “I wouldn’t know about that,” he said slowly. “I imagine the boss of a company could be a good friend or an indifferent friend. …Perhaps it depends on the company a little.”

    She backtracked. “I didn’t, I mean…” I grinned at her sideways.

    “Aaaah, I don’t want to talk business right from the start,” I said, and he got us in to the cabin, which had cleaned up a lot from before. It was all just one room because he didn’t need anything else. For us, a low table with floor cushions around it, like in old houses. Peeko got on the middle of the table. He gave us Slateport pastries he’d been getting since I was seven.

    Peeko was in a jittery mood. Uncle Briney said she got these afternoons sometimes the last few months. Her temperature went up and she had trouble sitting still, though her fat black eyes seemed very tired. It wasn’t an infection or some kind of distemper in the blood, as far as the Center doctors could tell. He said these things happen when you get older and you never know what they are or when they go away. Maybe it was bad air, bad water. Maybe the open ocean had changed.

    Uncle Briney figured people out at his own pace. With a little time, he’d be bound to size out how solid Megan was in her way.

    “We’ll talk anything you want to talk,” he said. “But I’ll be happy to take you out, too. You come with that backpack like you’re meaning to travel.”

    “I am, I’ve got tasks in two different cities.”

    “Dewford and Slateport. Capt. Stern and, who was it, the Director’s son must be.”

    “You know?”

    He slitted his eyes. “Family affairs, son. Your father and I have been settled for weeks. I was going to take you to the Knuckle Badge in Dewford once you cleared Rustboro. This job you’ve picked up, it fits everything nicely.”

    Megan sat over her plate, nodding her head deliberately. He said, “And how about you? It doesn’t look like you’re on your own journey.”

    She shook her head. “No, I’m studying training from home. Maybe when I’m done I’ll try the League.”

    “You’re not wanting for anything now. They certainly do teach you well.”

    “Oh, yeah?” Her eyebrows rose a little.

    “Very textbook, I imagine. Those pokéballs you’ve waist-mounted are turned backward.”

    “Heh, I always get told off for that. Do you want to see my pokémon?”

    “It would be a pleasure.”

    Just her one starter. Peeko stood up and turned to look at her.

    “This is her, is it?”

    “Vanessa. My first and only.”

    “Afternoon, Vanessa. How do you do.” He gave her his paw, and she sniffed it with detachment. “How long have you had her?” “She was my pet, since I was five years old. We’ve been training for four years.”

    “And you haven’t had to take a second yet, have you?”

    “Still, I will. It’s not practical for a journeying trainer. I think Atashka’s getting restive.”

    I shoved her. I was thinking about getting down at Dewford at what would probably be evening. If it was a gym town it would no doubt have a Pokémon Center to stay in. What I worried about was training for it. Maybe the island wasn’t big enough to have a lot of trainers or wild routes. What did I exactly have in terms of a party? I hadn’t caught anyone but Treecko yet. That was impractical for a journeying trainer.

    “Atashka has got nothing to worry about,” he said. “Let’s get you on the ocean. Have you seen the ocean before, Atashka? Did I ever take you out?”

    “Never away from the shore.”

    “Never? I don’t believe it. You kids didn’t visit often enough. Hoenn and you’ve never seen the ocean. I hardly believe it.” I stood up and took my plate in my hand, then both of the others picked up theirs. “Dump those in the sink. Come, Peeko, it’s the open sea again!”

    “Take your time, Uncle Briney.”

    “I’ve been taking my time every day since I retired.”

    “Okay, Uncle Briney.”

    “We can catch up on the ship. You and Megan want to hang out some more, I imagine.”

    “We’ve seen enough of each other.” Megan looked at me and we grinned slowly. She raised a hand to slap my shoulder and I pulled her into a nice bone-breaking hug.

    “Ack. There, there. Don’t get any snot on my uniform.”

    I chuckled at her awkward arms. “I bet you’ve never had a boy hug you in your life.”

    “More than you think.”

    “Anytime you’re ready Uncle Briney.”

    He was on the deck already. “Give me a hand with the mooring, boy!” You’ve got to time this one so you can jump on just as the boats starts slipping from the shore. He bobbed the ship slowly towards the jetty’s edge for my ease. I’d forgotten how to take the knot off. He’d taught me maybe once in our last boating trip. Megan shoved me aside and tugged hard at one of the coils, good idea! once, twice, and it came off. “Nice work, landlubber!” I fumbled with my legs right at the edge of the wood panels, but then jumped on to the door’s footholds fine enough, and Uncle Briney closed the door as I clambered on.

    The motor started. “See you later, you bastard!” Megan hollered. I waved back. The beach began to move slowly, then fast. The vibration went up all throughout the ship. Soon I could see the curving water line, the people on shore, the brown rocks on our other side, coasting by us at a good clip.

    Uncle Briney said there was no great guarantee the organization I’d tangled with, Team Aqua, would really remember me at all. He thought it was good for a traveling trainer to be cautious and my dad would have liked me not to have tangled at all. But I was starting to figure certain things out this criminal organization. I couldn’t tell now what their agenda was, for sure, because I was not going to look at Devon’s goods or the letter to Steven Stone, which probably had nothing to do with it anyway. But the way this Team Aqua Grunt had handled the new thing, the way we had happened to his mission, made it plenty clear he personally didn’t have much of an idea; didn’t know what his mission was for, the master plan, didn’t probably care all that much, certainly not the way the administrators did, and maybe he was like the employees at food courts where you’re doing this because you need to get paid. “I’ve been out of it for a while,” Uncle Briney said, “but in my time they used to hire thugs for little terms little jobs, throw ‘em a uniform and a team of wild stock, pay ‘em and forget ‘em.” Mauville talk, the way the gamesters say it. I get to hear these things every time.

    What would Dewford sound like? It was a small town, away from the rest of the region. When I got there it would be something for me to find out, one of the languages I’d know, because I was going to be a traveler too. Rustboro hadn’t sounded like anything. I’d talked to plenty of people. Rustboro sounded like information documentaries. It had the language of educated computer people. it sounded like popular magazines.

    I might run up against them another time. Arauve wouldn’t be around then.

    The boat passed the course of the Route 104 beach, and left for the open sea. Everything blurred by. There was land on either side of us. Standing rocks, islands, trees. People swam in the water. Peeko landed out of the sea air and roosted on my lap, closing her eyes. The wind was warm and heavy, and blew my hair hard back. The sound of the motor started to feel drowsy quick enough.

    We passed a small island, then ran up against a hill coming out of the water, sandy and rugged, where the other shore crept up tight against our opposite side. The hill subsided, leaving a dry yellow beach. The opposite island kept a little higher off the water than us, brown with tall desert pines, dirt and rocks. We found its far corner and the beach wound a tight elbow-turn around it, gave up a jetty for us to pull into.

    DEWFORD TOWN
    “A tiny island in the blue sea.”

    *

    In the brown darkness of the tunnel, light comes solely from the entrance. It bounds up a climb before it hits the corner I can see, back at the beginning of our passage. The grunt came up the steps two at a time before turning to run full speed up the passage; perhaps he collided with the blockage. I walked up the steps as soon as I was sure of his presence. I leaned forward as I tried to catch the glint of the wingull to my right.

    Atashka’s voice carries before the rest of him. “Arauve are you in there?” The back corner is darkened considerably. I try to see what the grunt’s hands are doing. “Not now, Atashka.”

    “You went in alone?” If I flash Mudkip in now, the light would probably blind me. “It’s so dark in here.”

    “Look,” I say, “I don’t even care what your agenda is. I’m not working for anyone, I don’t know you or your enemies.”

    “Then what do you want from me?” His hands go up over his sitting form. At least he’s sitting. “What did Team Aqua ever do to you?”

    “Shut up.” Maybe a little heavy-handed. “I decided if I ever saw you again I’d thrash you. And here we are.” Or instead, if I say nothing. Mudkip advances.

    I watch the pokéball from across the seat, as it slowly fades and then blinks out its center light. There’s a weight placed on the table, and I look up to see a girl in a blue hat leaning to her right. Her length is the first thing, the blouse, and then the blue hat. She says, with a smile that hides shyness excellently, “Excuse me, I think there’s something I…”

    On that day in the Rustboro Center, first I come into the café, then I find the pokéball, I sip a coffee with ice grit in it, Zoe finds me, the other kids find me and we talk, then I go out and find the senior trainers. Do I feel a weight leaning on the table before I look up? It’s not an essential detail. What about the little operating click that alerted me to the pokéball’s presence? Instead, if Mudkip finds it for me, it would at least be cuter. How many breaths do I take from my entry into the Center to my greeting the senior trainers? Try listing those.

    At this present moment, Wally is waiting in the entrance room of a Slateport movie hall, holding a card up to view, his back straightened but making a triangle with the vinyl seating. After waiting a few more minutes, Sapphire Birch checks into the Pokémon Center in Verdanturf.

    I am sitting in a Center room myself. My desk has the table lamp and notepad it came with; the lamp is the only light currently on. I have my own register, single-ruled, and I write with an HB pencil. At the point when I write this word, on the paper, with the lead, it has already come to my mind and passed from it. I think this sentence at the exact instant of its happening. No. I formulate this sentence an instant after its idea strikes me.


    These questions are important. I write about something because I care about it. But, writing involves confusing what I’ve written with what it’s being written about. I can’t write about a moment that mattered and give the written scene to you as though it’s just as big a deal. I don’t feel qualified to handle these things. The only reason is that it has to be done, and no one else is doing it.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2014
  19. Praxiteles

    Praxiteles Friendly POKéMON.

    13. Mystery Prince ! The Search Begins !!



    The island on the edge of the map. Dewford’s houses were small and blue and bunched up against the edge of a thick forest of pines. They wore their wooden frames like yellow suspenders.

    We stood on the jetty, looking in. I said, “It’s such a small town! I wonder why a Gym Leader decided to set himself up here.”

    Uncle Briney said, “Perhaps it’s a town that means something special for the Leader. Many leaders who choose their own hometowns to practice in.”

    I said, “Now I’ve got to find that STEVEN STONE and deliver the letter to him. Then I can think about my own stuff.”

    “Take it easy,” he said. “If it’s a manhunt you’re on, the best thing to give it is time.”

    “Still have to start looking. I think I’ll go talking to the local people first.”

    “First, you’ll find a Pokémon Center.”

    “There's a bunch of stuff to do…” I looked sideways at the narrow shore. The light was turning the sand orange and leaving long shadows. Suddenly a weight fell on my shoulder – Peeko had come over to me.

    Uncle Briney said, “Looks as though she feels like tagging along!”

    She’d folded her wings tight, but it was still a tight fit. “She’s made her decision, hasn’t she?” I secured her up closer to my head. “I wonder why?”

    “That’s something Peeko knows. I’ll be in town for a bit. I want to meet with old people of mine. You two go on to wherever you like.”

    “Okay, Uncle Briney.”

    We walked off in different directions, Uncle Briney south to where houses clumped together in a pocket of the forest, and I went up to the two big red and blue buildings. I said, “If there’s any out-and-about trainers who know about new visitors to the island, they’ll be in the Pokémon Center.”

    Peeko said, “Pihyoh!”

    The Center was pretty quiet, which we were expecting. The outside wall had been a little sanded down and dulled, but the inside was as bright and yellow as all of them. A brown-haired boy flipped through one of the pokémon picture books in the shelf next to the counter. We went to the receptionist.

    “Hello there,” she said. “Welcome to the Pokémon Center. If you have any tired or injured pokémon we can nurse them back to health.”

    “Much obliged,” I said, smiling and handing her Treecko’s pokéball. She plugged it into the Machine and leaned on its edge as it worked its warm hum.

    “It’s a really pretty island, isn’t it?” I said.

    She looked at me as though she hadn’t expected me to talk. “Oh, yeah, I guess so.”

    “Do you get a lot of traffic?”

    “Not really.” She smiled politely. “It’s as quiet as what you see now.”

    “I’m here for the Gym actually,” I said. “Who’s the leader in this town? What’s his name?”

    She said, “Brawly,” clearly.

    There was a pause while she took the pokéball out of the machine and as she handed it back, I blurted out, “Well do you know if anybody new’s come here recently? Anybody famous?”

    She said, “I can’t say, I don’t know if they’d be famous,” and smiled once more. “We hope to see you again!”

    I looked sideways at Peeko, and she looked mournfully back. To my left, the boy with the picture books was staring straight at me. I turned around and he got up and called out. “Hi! Hello there.”

    “Hello.”

    “Just arrived? You can tell when somebody new comes to this town, it’s really small.”

    “Yeah, I did.” Peeko stood up and flapped herself onto my head. He said, “I couldn’t help but notice you were looking for someone. That receptionist is new, she got here last week.” I looked back; she was about two feet away, trying to ignore us. “I can tell you about stuff. I’ve been right here at this spot every single day.”

    “That’s, very nice.”

    “Um, I’m sorry, that sounded weird.” His look didn’t waver exactly, he kept staring. “I am just really bored of everything in general here, I bet you understand. The amount of trainers you get here total is… well you can count on one… foot.”

    I said, “Well do you know anything about the man I’m looking for? You must have heard of Steven Stone.”

    “Steven Stone!” His eyes got even bigger. “Get out! The prince of Devon?”

    “Well, yeah, I’m looking for him.”

    “You’re kidding me!”

    “Is he a trainer too?”

    “A trainer? I don’t know, I guess? He’s a celebrity! His choice of men’s formal starts the only trends that matter in this region.”

    “Wow,” I said. “Uh, damn. I was supposed to deliver a message to him…”

    “You! Deliver a message! No way! Wait though, I’m being rude, my name is Mark. What’s yours?”

    “It’s, Atashka.” “Hello Atashka.” We shook hands. He was wearing a red jacket that was folded back obliquely like a blazer, and underneath he had a loose black shirt and cropped pants. His eyes were very big. He said, “If it’s a matter of Steven Stone then you have to let me help you! I know everything that matters in this tiny place. I’m the only one who cares. Is he really here right now?”

    “So you don’t have any idea where he is?”

    “I never said that! Of course I’d have some idea. What did, who was the letter from? If I may ask.”

    “From his dad. The CEO.”

    “What did he say, Steven Stone was in Dewford?”

    “Well, yeah. That’s all he said. He said it wouldn’t be hard to find him.”

    “Oh.”

    I fidgeted. “You know, I could call him again, I’ve got his number.”

    “Hey, no way you need to – ” Then: “You’ve got his number?” Then, recovering himself, “You know what? No need to even call. I know exactly, exactly where he would be. You just hand yourself and your wingull over to me. I’ll find him before dinnertime.”

    First we went to the only soft bar in the whole town, a long blue building whose interior was badly dark at all times, the bar palely gleaming with neons and the faces of regulars blinking at the open door. Mark pulled up a stool and called for two Nanab fizzies. Then he asked the bartender whether he’d seen a man come in recently.

    The bartender gave him a long, unexpressive look. Then he said, “Mark are you still waiting on that order from Lilycove? I’ve been telling my mom you’re getting a gigantic pantyhose shipped in.” He briefly broke into a snigger.

    Mark glowered around. “It’s not a gigantic pantyhose, it’s a winder, Lewis, and it’s sheer so you can see each of the folds. I didn’t expect you to have any culture whatsoever. I’m serious about this. Steven Stone is in Dewford.”

    Lewis blinked. “Seriously? You want his autograph? What does he even look like?”

    “He’s like… he’s a man, who is… insanely well dressed. Think, in terms of…” Lewis frowned trying to work this out, “just, a really well-dressed person. Someone walks in that door and you just think, ‘My god, that man is so tight!’”

    “Thanks, Mark. That’s real specific. I’ll look around for someone wearing a gigantic condom around their neck.”

    His eyes bugged out a little. “Well that’s like a unique identifier in this town!”

    “What is? A gigantic condom?”

    Then what Mark said was supposed to be a gentleman’s club. It was somebody’s house at the edge of the residential clump of the island and the inside was furnished with oil paintings and, apparently a mounted rifle box. Treecko destroyed an ornamental sake cup and two ceramic deer. Nobody with silver hair and extremely good taste in suits had been there. Mark said he couldn’t stick around.

    Then the island’s four-star hotel, which had its own front garden, a back section of villas opening on the seashore, no buildings over two stories (Dewford’s ground is apparently sand all the way down), and a board hanging room keys over the reception counter. The receptionist wasn’t supposed to give any details of the guests but Mark managed to pull some strings. No one was staying under that name.

    Then we went to the men’s section in the departmental store. Mark stood just in front of the checkout, steaming. I said, “Mark, maybe we’re being a little… too focused with our looking? Maybe we need to cool off. Do you want to get a donut at the Pokémon Center and then get back on it?” It was getting dark outside, too. He said, “Let me try one more place.”

    It was one of the few houses near the jetty, along with the Pokémon Center and Mart. A sign hung next to its screen door said:

    DEWFORD HALL

    Under a much smaller subtitle, “Everyone’s information exchange!”

    I said, “Kind of an obvious suspect? Why didn’t we come here before?”

    Mark said, “The question is, why didn’t you see this first before you went to the Pokémon Center. It’s the place everyone actually gathers. Trainers included.”

    I frowned at him.

    He said, “The answer is, I was in the Pokémon Center, and we were fated to meet.” He stared at me like his eyes were small searchlights.

    “The other answer is, I was gonna catch Steven Stone in person for you. That plan didn’t work out so well.”

    In the town hall, tea and donuts were being served, so it was a win overall. Peeko, tired after a day of walking around, settled in the middle of the table, where Treecko kept carrying in stuff from other people’s plates and feeding her. At the table were two men playing cards, a family of redheads, and an old lady watching the distant TV set. Mark’s friends were at the back of the hall, next to the windows. The view outside was pitch black.

    Two of them wore matching t-shirts and baseball caps, all of which seemed to share some yellow decal. They were discussing something in an intent whisper. The third one was Lewis.

    One of them said, “It’s definitely not as good as the book.”

    The other one sighed and said, “You want the adaptation to go word-for-word.” The first one started shaking his head. She said, “And when it does you say it’s boring.”

    “That’s not it,” he said, “the book has dimensions. A movie couldn’t have dimensions if it tried. There’s no narration. It can’t explain anything.”

    The second one threw up her hands. “Walker you know what that’s just crap.”

    “The movie is totally in the wrong spirit. The book was for serious readers who, who know a little bit about cryptography. Because they’re not afraid of research.”

    “You mean it was for nerds and the movie tried to salvage it. And it wasn’t even the start of the franchise. The games started it.”

    “What! You’re an idiot, Yuki. There was a graphic novel first and then a series, and then the games came.”

    At this point Mark said, “What the hell are you guys talking about?”

    Simultaneously: “’ALTERNATE CASTFORM’, Mark.” “Do you even know about ‘ALTERNATE CASTFORM’? Loser.” Also, from Lewis, “There’s this TV series called ‘ALTERNATE CASTFORM’, it’s really big.”

    All three of his friends turned to him and said, “It’s not a TV series, it’s a slogan!”

    “Okay,” Mark said, “I need you guys to focus for a minute. STEVEN STONE is in Dewford.”

    “What?”

    “What could he possibly be getting here?”

    “I don’t know, but he’s here. This is Atashka. He’s looking for Steven Stone because he needs to deliver a private letter.”

    Yuki and Walker looked at me. Yuki said, “Whoa.”

    I said, “I don’t know why he gave it to me, but his own messengers are even worse.”

    “So I need you to think about what he could be doing here. He’s definitely got business here somewhere. Atashka was told to find him here.”

    “What business could he possibly have,” said Lewis. “I think you’re trying to dupe someone to be honest.”

    “What do we know about him…” Yuki said. “We know he’s definitely not a trainer.”

    “Of course he’s a trainer! His team is all over – He’s got a tyranitar and two shuckle – ”

    “Isn’t he in the Elite Four or something?”

    “No but you said business,” Walker said, with a sharp looking half-smile. “Wouldn’t he be here on Devon business?”

    “I need to check on my pokémon,” I said.

    Peeko looked up at me with big, sleepy eyes and I picked her up in my hands, thumbs over her wings. Treecko was unaccounted for. That was all right, but I should probably start thinking about going back to the Center.

    We went to see the discussion again. Suddenly, a few things appeared to happen in slow motion. Yuki swiveled around her raised arm to look at what I was carrying and Peeko, for some reason in her head, slipped out of my fingers with a wild flap and started dropping to the ground. I tilted forward to grab her but did not realize Mark was doing the same. Our heads collided, Peeko was spooked out of our common space, and Yuki’s hands went up just in time to catch her to her stomach.

    She stood looking straight out at us. Peeko caught up with her breath and fluttered up to Yuki’s head.

    “What just happened?” she said. “Does this mean I’m marked? What did I do?”

    *

    The thick double doors of the theater hall opened and Wally joined the crowd that was pouring in. The audience faced a velvet curtain, which presently parted to reveal a wide yellow stage with a green pokéball in its center. Three judges had their booths, and next to them was a podium to which an announcer was just arriving.

    “Welcome to August’s third Hyper Rank Cuteness Pokémon Contest! Over the last two shows, we’ve singled out the brightest and most charming from a contendership that spans the region. Now they perform for a chance to compete in the finals, and become a star in Slateport’s Hall of Fame!”

    The announcer bowed at the podium, so the audience gave a wave of applause that died out quickly.

    “Without further ado, let me commence the first round and introduce the contenders!”

    The stage darkened, allowing a spotlight to usher a small white shape to the view of the audience. “Spectro and his coordinator Tim!” The applause began again. A pokémon resembling a young ballerina bowed, his thin green legs en pointe, a flaring white skirt around his midportion and his short, insubstantial torso tapering up into a large head almost obscured by green bangs. Twin discs of cherry-red crescent emerged like hairbands from the top of his head. His large, ruby, pointed eyes looked out with a burgeoning vulnerability.

    Ralts perked up to look at him better. The audience cooed. Wally remembered that a species more inclined towards Beauty has a ravishing effect when conditioned for such a contest. The judges began to write their scores as the kirlia twirled, moving in a small ambit, skipping in controlled bursts of energy and restraining his dance moves to keep them just short of outright elegance and maturity.

    The spotlight dimmed slowly as his coordinator approached and bowed with him. Then it blinked out for the next contender: “Iris and her coordinator, Cynthia!” This one entered noisily, a bulbous leaf split down its whole length in a serrated, toothed jaw. It stirred the audience into confusion. The black blob hopped down the stage, bobbing in lopsided, ungainly strides, a huge circle of beige in the center of what would be its forehead. Suddenly the jaw swung around and seemed to disappear. In its place appeared a beige creature about half its height, her onyx-gloved hands held together, eyes big and red, looking out with her head bowed.

    A murmur of appreciative surprise went up. No performance was asked for at all in the preliminary round, but it seemed to Wally that the use of the Mawile’s big surprise was here completely justified. In nature, the Mawile first tricks its prey into submission by its docile face, then clamps down with the other. The reversal here was touching.

    They bowed themselves out. The announcer called, “Blissey and her coordinator, Clarissa!” The pink pokémon pirouetted into her place, confident from the start. She danced in tight circles, turning curlicues around her figure. Triple white shoulder puffs adorned the base of her arms like angel’s wings, and a circle of these marked the border in her midriff where her pink color turned white. Curls rose from both sides of her head around her small happy face.

    Wally looked down at his pokémon. “Ralts? Do you think this stuff is for us?” He suddenly snickered. “I’ll dress you up in scarves and put ribbons and put oil in your fur.” Ralts did not show any particular reaction. They announced the last one, a zigzagoon. Swift was the pokémon of the youngest coordinator in the running and his condition was extraordinary; the kind of specialized grooming he had received seemed to justify his species above all the other naturally privileged contenders. The coordinator was still a few years older than Wally.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2014
  20. Praxiteles

    Praxiteles Friendly POKéMON.

    14. Clefairy and the Chance Encounter !



    Yuki was the only one in Dewford with the kind of ink-black hair my family and I had, the kind that glints blue when you shine extra light on it. Most of the heads here were brown-yellow like Mark. I noticed this, the same time I saw her kid-like stunned face.

    “You’re not marked, Yuki,” Walker said. “That’s not an actual thing. This pokémon is not psychic.”

    He looked at me, and I tried to look affirmative. Yuki recovered quickly and frowned at both of us.

    “Of course she’s not,” Lewis said, “she’s a wingull. I just thought of something. I’m not really into that techie stuff but I was hearing about the new product Devon was making?”

    “What, the pokénav?”

    “Didn’t it have a patent pending?” Lewis said.

    “And what,” Walker said, “he’ll send his son to go to an island in the middle of nowhere? There are patent offices in… Rustboro.”

    “No, it was something else,” Yuki said. “They had a deal with… TyraCorp, they were going to negotiate with them just before it released.” She suddenly wandered off to hover over the table.

    “Mr. Cobb?” she said. One of the card players looked up. “Where’s the TyraCorp office?”

    “The what office? I wouldn’t know about any…”

    “The office in Dewford. Come on, there’s like one business center in the town.”

    “There’s no TyraCorp location here. There’s a piping outfit if you’re thinking of that. Did your father try to do that DIY plumbing again?”

    “Thanks, Mr. Cobb.” She went back to everyone else, scowling pre-emptively. “I’m out of ideas.”

    “Hee hee, you were the marked one, Yuki,” Walker said. “Hee hee.”

    “Guys, relax,” I said. “Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry more than I am. I think I’ll get a room for today and retire. Where are my pokémon?”

    “Your pokémon is still a fan of my hair,” Yuki said. Peeko on her head was getting kind of distracting. I raised my wrist to the wingull but she didn’t budge.

    “No, but where’s Treecko?” I said. “I haven’t seen her since we got here.”

    They gave me blank expressions. I wandered out into the room, my gaze directed downwards. To one side there were smaller rooms with more private tables installed. This had probably been some kind of restaurant, at some point. The washroom was occupied, and it wasn’t Treecko’s kind of place anyway.

    I returned to them and said, “Mark, my treecko’s wandered off somewhere… I don’t think she’ll go far, but usually I can always find her.” The other two stepped closer. “Your treecko’s missing?” Walker said. “Let me take another look around.” Yuki said, “She hasn’t got a long way to run, on this island. You’ll probably get her back somewhere in the room itself.”

    “Yeah, I mean it has happened before…” I said. I took out my pokéball. Its glow was slow vacant. “Isn’t there a way you can track your pokémon with their balls? I thought they’d started…”

    “Augh,” Yuki said. “They have got that in some pokécenters but not here, it’s really crappy. You didn’t register your treecko for that, did you?”

    “Um… I’m not sure?”

    Walker appeared again. “She’s definitely not in the building. I was very thorough.” “Peeko, did you see her going anywhere?” She didn’t respond in any way.

    “Where is my pokémon?”

    It was hard for any of the others to give an answer. Mark got right up in my face, which was very disconcerting. “Atashka,” he said in a thick voice, and Lewis burst into giggles. “You are a trouble magnet. You have been getting in trouble since you got here. But don’t worry. We don’t mind that your every move seems to only bring more trouble. We will get you out of it.”

    “Uh… thanks,” I said. “I didn’t even know I was being that much of a…”

    “Ignore him,” said Yuki. “If she’s not in the building she’s outside it. Let’s move.” I followed her to the door and she pointedly held it open for everyone else, who had apparently not started moving by the time I looked back. The house had no porch, but the road just in front of it was illuminated from the inside light. Something on the ground flashed very brightly. I gasped.

    It was Treecko’s photograph! She was crouched warily in a corner, and in her eyes was a glimmer of fear. I picked it up as soon as I got my breath back and turned it over.


    To Atashla Klan,

    When you irked our deliveryman, did you expect you
    would win a medal? Darling, did you really think for a
    moment that meddling with TEAM AQUA might be a
    good move for you?

    Your beloved POKéMON is at a covert location!

    We might give it back once we’re convinced you’ve
    learned your lesson.

    Fondest regards
    SHELLY
    (learn the name!)



    “Oh, no,” I said. “This is… oh, god.” Yuki‘s hand was up asking for it. I gave the note to her. “It’s from TEAM AQUA.”

    She read it and then squinted at me as though trying to figure me out. The others were looking over her shoulder. I said, “It’s not even me they’re looking for. They’ve got me confused with my sister. I was definitely there, but… all that office anger is – ”

    “Well whatever it is it’s clear the matter is now,” Lewis paused for breath, “way out of our hand – ”

    “Let’s chase ‘em,” Yuki said.

    Mark flicked his head around and then reeled slightly away from her: “Wh-what, are you CRAZY?”

    “I’m serious,” said Yuki. “Most of us… One of us is a serious trainer. Plus, Atashka has clearly dealt with these people before.”

    “But – but – ”

    “Yuki, we should try to get at least a little help. Brawly – ”

    “Brawly will before everything go to the police department. He’s not the town’s bodyguard, anyway. What I’m saying is, I wanna fix this problem before the day is done.”

    The sun was definitely below the woods, and more than half the sky was in darkness.

    “Besides,” she said, “I already know where their hideout is.”

    The expressions of the other two slowly softened and cleared. “Of course,” Walker said, slapping his forehead. “It’s like one tiny island.”

    *

    It’s Treecko, Mudkip and Torchic! Treecko, Mudkip and Torchic have a favorite haunt, in a little Secret Base north of Oldale. After they were given trainers, Treecko, Mudkip and Torchic may have been separated by their different paths, but in their hearts they’ll always be the tightest team in Hoenn!

    Torchic is freaking out. “I can’t believe it!” He runs circles around the both of them. “Treecko got kidnapped? What are they gonna doooo?”

    Treecko is the only one actually laid on her back. “Don’t worry about it,” she says, lowering a Grepa down to her mouth. “Mmhm. I’ll slash my ropes while they’re not looking and sneak out. Then I’ll probably call an army of rampaging pokémon on them, you just watch.”

    “Treecko’s the only one who’s gotten kidnapped yet,” Mudkip says. “I wonder how my trainer would do if I got kidnapped.”

    “My trainer’s the most level-headed!” Torchic says. “I’d be out of there in no time!”

    Mudkip says, “I don’t think I’d want to put my trainer through it…”

    Treecko snortles. “Yeah. Your trainer would go to the police first. Mine didn’t even consider it for… five whole minutes!”

    Mudkip shakes his head matter-of-factly. “No. I know my trainer. She’d figure it out all on her own, and then I bet it would take a lot of time, and she’d feel really bad through all of it.”

    Everyone pauses for a sad moment. Torchic says, “One time my trainer forgot me at the pastry table for a whole night! I didn’t mind it too much…”

    Mudkip and Treecko jump, and then fall back laughing.

    *

    The east side of the island, next to the sea channel we’d sailed from, and the hill on the other side. It was pretty clear what this beach was for: a cradled entrance to the musty, damp, roomy, darkly arched Granite Cave.

    “Is it really a good idea to keep my wingull in Dewford Hall?” I said. “She’s not my wingull. I’m trying to keep her for, a friend.”

    “Damn, really?” Yuki said. “Still, Uncle Cobb is really solid.”

    “It’s a friend of my father’s,” I said. She stared, and I pressed my case: “We already lost one pokémon in the Hall.”

    “Dude,” Yuki said, “we lost a pokémon. Uncle Cobb is an adult. There’s been a kidnapping so the adults are all on alert. Don’t worry, it’s better than leaving her alone somewhere.” I turned to look ahead, not giving any expression either way.

    “Holy crap, look at this.” Walker was standing right in front of a dark shape on the ground. It was a gunnysack, wound with a fat yellow drawstring.

    “You think this is where they kept her?” Yuki said.

    I upended the bag, but Treecko hadn’t left any clues. “Isn’t she a reptile,” Yuki said. “What on earth is she going to flake behind.”

    “Yeah,” I said, and ducked out of her gaze.

    But at that moment she raised her head, looking straight at the cave entrance. Someone was coming out.

    “You guys all right there?”

    “Mr. Brawly!” I saw the hair first. The silhouette briefly looked like a terrifying dinosaur. Then it resolved to a young man in a Hawaiian shirt and three-fourths, with a small machop like a child riding on his shoulders.

    He was laughing. “Brawly isn’t my last name!” “Oh, sorry mister,” Lewis said. “I mean Brawly. Sorry that was really – ”

    “The scuffle here…” Yuki started. “Thugs,” Brawly said. “I chased them into the cave. They’d kidnapped someone’s pokémon, I think.”

    “…But…”

    “I’ll handle this,” he said. He started moving back into the darkness. “You all should be back in town. Not to worry you or anything, but the island’s not that 100% safe, it looks like – Tell your families, too!” His shouted voice was already receding into the tunnel. Moments later, we heard what sounded like a massive thud.

    Yuki ran into the cave before anyone else had reacted. We followed her into a cavern where a hole had been knocked into the floor. ‘I-I think he punched that,” she said. “Come on, either he leaves us behind!”

    “Yuki, really?" Walker said. "It’s pitch dark in there.”

    “Of course it is, it’s Granite Cave.” There was a pokéball in her hand somehow, I had no idea where she’d kept it. “I said at least one of us was a Knuckle Trainer.”

    The flash lit up the entire cavern red for a moment – shallow and shelflike, hardly larger than a room – then glowing in the ensuing darkness, a mismatched pair of eyes.

    “Scrape,” Yuki said, “we’re in your home turf. Flash.”

    It lit up a crescent row of teeth; the sableye had one diamond and one ruby for eyes.

    Yuki sighed. “Scrape. I know just what you’re thinking and no.”

    For an instant we were blinded again and then it turned its head down into the hole, the dazzling searchlight of its face showing the floor below. “Oh, there’s a ladder. He probably didn’t punch this hole, then.”

    Lewis said, “It’s hard to say with Brawly.” The ladder hung in the darkness, swaying slightly. It was made of rope and sagged massively when it took your weight. Scrape came last so everyone else could see their way down. The dark side of its harsh floodlight was completely impossible to see through.

    When we were all down, the sableye looked up and cast a narrow white path straight through the cave. It started moving immediately. There were relatively few obstacles, it looked like, only isolated rocks in the ground. I quickly learned to look straight ahead, because once your eyes adjusted to the darkness on either side, you noticed the many things that glinted in this little light.

    “This cave is small,” Lewis whispered. We’d found the closest wall already. “It’s not the only one,” Walker said. Near the edge was another hole down to a further floor.

    Again Scrape craned down to it, lit the way. Once we got down, there was no way to see what was around us until Scrape had descended too. We were trapped in a narrow, shivering pool of light.

    Scrape came down off the ladder, exactly the way we did, and turned its eyes forward. Suddenly its arms tensed and in a blink, its head swung to the side –

    The light strobed as a ripple of muffled sound attacked the sableye. My heart was pounding like a metal object. Yuki yelled, and then said, “Wait! don’t panic. It’s zubat.”

    “I’ll handle it,” Walker said. “Geodude, go!” A red flash illuminated the situation. Scrape was wrestling on the floor with Zubat, who was blinded but obviously not too fazed. The shock seemed to have disabled its Flash. Geodude barreled into both of them and we heard a muffled thump.

    “What the hell are you doing!” Yuki said. “Scrape’s in there, he’s getting hurt too.”

    But he’d just freed himself. The light flashed back on and this time seemed to pin the zubat in mid-flight. Scrape retreated quickly, keeping the light fixed, as the zubat wheeled around trying to escape its gaze. Geodude hurled a rock and it brought down the wild pokémon.

    We stood all scattered like this until we stopped hearing our hearts pounding. Somebody whispered, “A frickin’ wild encounter.” Not Mark, either Lewis or Walker.

    Scrape swung around so he could locate all of us; Yuki wasn’t anywhere but then I realized she had a pale white hand on his head. “Anybody hurt?” she said. “We’re taking stock. Mark?”

    The light swung around back to his face. His eyes were as big as always and they barely flinched, looking slightly down. “Mark, give us a signal.”

    He closed them. “I’m… okay guys.”

    “If you need to go back I have an Escape Rope.”

    He looked up, suddenly squinted hard as though noticing the light, and smiled at the same time. “Hey, it’s a zubat. It’s not that bad.”

    Her relief was visible.

    “Wonderful rescue party we’re making,” Walker said. The others started to mill together, and I suddenly realized I existed and said, “No, but seriously, you three are my heroes. I don’t know how to pay you back, guys. This is incredibly stupid but it’s also, amazing.”

    “Thank us after.” Yuki got into the light and gave me a crescent smile. Her hair was pretty much sableye colored. “Nobody’s died yet.”

    “It’s not that bad!” Mark said shrilly.

    Now we finally had time to look around; this seemed to be a much tighter, narrower labyrinth, though we could only say anything about the few square yards around us. Walls running in different directions opened up gaping doorways. The ceiling was now in lower. We did a full 360 degree swing, and counted three possible ways.

    Yuki said, “I’ve got a trick, I used it in Brawly’s gym. Scrape?” She nudged him. The light went out.

    I turned around in place, trying to adjust to whatever Yuki was hoping to see. There were slight changes in, not the darkness, but maybe the shade of darkness.

    “There’s light coming from that way,” Walker said.

    Yuki barked a laugh. “It’s simpler than I thought! I wasn’t even planning on that.”

    Scrape turned the light back on, and we started moving. The path twisted frequently, but there were no more branches. “What were you thinking,” Walker was saying, “micro air movements or something?” “I was gonna listen.” “Sh-hah!” “You shout in a direction, and you can tell how far it goes.”

    “Bullcrap.”

    It started to get visibly lighter after a good long while of walking; the loopiness of the way probably made it harder for light to travel through it. Suddenly, the walls ended and we were in a visible cavern again. A cave door cut a bright blue glow in the opposite wall, even though it was nearly night. Scrape checked the way, and then led us out.

    Two stories down from the beach entrance, we were out at another tiny beach on the open sea, the arms of the hill rising steeply on either side.

    Nobody wondered about this because there was a boat tied to a rock at the water’s edge. Two masses slept under a black tarp. I gingerly approached and took a corner off. The face was bruised. Also, it had a bandanna.

    “Looks like Brawly got here before us,” Walker said. “He obviously would have taken Treecko. You can look though.”

    Lewis said, “You do realize this is a pirate boat? Of course I’m gonna look.”

    The ten minutes we spent seemed to pass like a short-lived wave of fog. There wasn’t anything that looked too interesting to me and apparently all the official, Aqua stuff would have already been confiscated. Yuki pointed out two lines of water netting that went out from both sides of the beach; the frame seemed loose and it had probably been cut open.

    “They were holding water pokémon prisoner?” Mark said.

    I heard a snick, and then Scrape's light was piercing through the murky water. Then he went to Mark’s side and started pulling on his leg. He looked like a child. “What’s he saying?”

    Yuki stared at them both for a moment, and then said, “That was medicine. Definitely… pink fluff in the water. They were nursing something sick.”

    “Who was, the thugs?” Mark said. Yuki didn't reply. He showed his incomplete expression to everyone in turn until they looked away. “Who was nursing a pokémon here?”

    The cave was now impossible to see in. We went in a few, blind, shaky steps so that the faint entrance seemed to get much smaller.

    Then Scrape used Flash again. It sounded exactly like a snick, a soft brush on metal.

    Rock burst somewhere ahead and I felt splinters hit my face. “Oh what the hell – ” We scattered, harder targets, I slipped on a pile of loose gravel, caught my balance, heard screaming to follow Scrape, inside – wasn’t that a ladder? I thought it was kind of ahead of the guys but I clambered up the ladder and stood swaying on the next floor, wondering if the ambushers could climb steps.

    After maybe seconds, somebody came up after me. I had a heart attack even though I’d realized it was Mark. “Atashka, is that you?”

    “Where are the others?” I said, just as quietly.

    “We came the wrong way,” he said. “There wasn’t supposed to be a ladder in this room.”

    "What? Mark what was that, wild pokémon?" He didn't answer.

    We stood looking at each other’s ambiguous faces until the situation came home for us. Mark said, “It’s not safe to go back there.”

    I looked around. Somehow it wasn’t so dark that nothing was visible. If anything, light seemed to be coming from further inside.

    “I think there’s another exit somewhere. Do you have any pokémon?”

    “I don’t make Scipio battle!”

    “Mark, this is important. Does he know how to battle.”

    He sighed. Delicately he took out a pokémon from his coat pocket and directed the flash to the ground, as though it was personally soiling his hands. A clefairy appeared.

    “What is that? That’s adorable!”

    Mark bent down to pick him up as fast as he could. “He’s Scipio, and give him respect. He’s going to light our way.”

    I watched the clefairy somehow snub both of us as he moved forward to work the attack. He raised a pink paw. It was harder to make out but it seemed to be the same snick, like a kerosene lamp turning on.

    “Doesn’t this require… a gym badge? Yuki was saying…”

    “Ssh. No. It doesn’t.”

    “Mark,” I said. “You had Brawly’s badge this entire time?”

    “I never had anything. Shut up.” This cave seemed to go on indefinitely in one direction, and also sloped gently upwards. We started moving. In Scipio’s much diffuser light, it was possible to see a wider angle of the cave all around. The light looked like a pale glow from somewhere around his forehead. The way the tunnel opened up was obvious in even the taste of the air, which started to get less oppressive as we went up. It was still very dark outside our small circle.

    Scipio squirmed in Mark’s grip, and he stopped flat, which made me stop in turn. Mark let him down to the ground. He quickly waddled away from both of us. I was about to call out but then he stopped, and I looked up at his light.

    He stood at the feet of a girl. She was my age, not Mark’s. The way her puffy brown hair waved down made it look like she had come out of bed. She was looking only at the pokémon, not moving. Her dark green jacket had pockets and there were pokéballs hooked to the trousers she wore. Her eyes were black.

    Mark made a loud footfall. “Everything all right there?”

    She looked up straight at me. In a husky voice, as though she hadn’t expected to be talking, she said, “Yes. Everything’s…”

    Mark moved a little closer, to make it easier for her to see him. I’d decided from his hesitation that he’d never seen the girl before. Was she a traveling trainer?

    “You’re not… can you light your way?” Mark said. She was still looking into my eyes.

    “I’m, I’m fine,” she said. Scipio turned his face to us and she became a little dimmer, her outlines still lighted.

    “Do you have an Escape Rope at least?”

    She smiled about halfway into his sentence, and finally looked away. “Yeah. No, don’t worry. I know what I’m doing. The way ahead goes to the entrance. You two should keep moving if you’re lost.”

    With two steps she was gone. Mark said, “Wait!” but there was no one to direct it to.

    Scipio had already abandoned the case. He waited impatiently for us to catch up and then Mark picked him up again, fussing with his feet and the underside of his fur.

    “Come on,” I said, and we started moving again. “Let’s get to the entrance. It’s sundown already. What are your parents thinking at this point.”

    He looked up to give me a disgusted look. “Don’t worry what my parents are thinking. What are your parents thinking.”

    “I’ve got a surrogate dad on the island right now,” I said, “and he must be freaking out.”

    “Oh.” He shrugged. “Must be tough.”

    We just kept going. The passage got lighter steadily but grudgingly. It was easier to see this time exactly where Scipio’s flash started to match and meld with the open light of the cave. When he finally turned it off to look around, the wall on our right was missing. It was maybe a six foot fall onto a clear-as-day open cavern.

    “That’s the entrance. Where’s this platform going?” I said, but Mark ignored me. There was a yellow glow up ahead, coming from a dead end almost visible from here. He let me go ahead past him.

    A man sat on the bare floor, his legs folded up to his chest, with a small, bright gas lamp on his other side. He wore a blue vest over a shirt with its wrists unbuttoned and folded black. His trousers were slightly dusty, but slim-fitting and still immaculately creased. He looked like he had sat down delicately and carelessly at the same time. The hair was spiky, and steel gray.

    “Steven Stone?” I said. He looked up, smiled and got to his feet.

    “That’s my name.”

    “I have a…” I trailed off, having apparently completely forgotten what it was called.

    He stood looking at me expectantly. I fumbled with my bag and managed to get it out.

    “Oh, a letter? Thank you very kindly!” Without looking at it, he folded it in half and tucked it into his trouser pocket. “I’m sorry for the trouble I put you through. I wasn’t expecting such a thing, or I would have been more, available.”

    “It… no problem.” I tried to think of something coherent to say, but his presence was sort of overwhelming me. It was almost like it had been in the office at Rustboro; it wasn’t as bad. “What… what’re you… doing here?”

    “I’m interested in rare stones, so I travel here and there. You’re, a little young for a messenger, isn’t it so?”

    I smiled brightly now. “I did a favor for one of the Devon deliveries, so Mr. Stone… liked the look of me, gave me another job. It’s nice.”

    “You did a favor, did you?” He smiled back gently. “Seems impressive. I have to give you something, for going to the trouble. Wait just a moment.” I realized he did have a jacket, in the room, it was draped over a small knapsack drooping in a dark corner.

    He took out a TM. “Take this. It contains my favorite move, Steel Wing.” I read the grey label on the disc. “I see you’ve collected a few badges. If you keep training, you might go on to face the Champion someday. That’s what I think.”

    He looked at Mark for the first time, and the boy looked like he was trying to shrink back into his collar. I shoved him with an elbow: “Mark here is really sharp about men’s wear. I think he even designs or something.”

    “Really, does he?” Steven raised his eyebrows.

    “No-not good enough to wear or anything,” Mark burst out, and then blushed hard.

    “Is that so?” Steven said. “Well, it’s too bad your inner hasn’t been self-designed. If it was, I’d have complimented you on its hang. Men’s midriffs are difficult, subtle things to fit.”

    I stole a look at his face, and kind of wondered whether the pokénav had an image capture feature.

    “Now I’d better hurry along. I’m glad we met and could become friends. Do you have a pokénav? Let’s register each other. You two, also – go home for the night! The gym leader and two of your friends are waiting at the cave entrance. I remember seeing a treecko and a wingull too, if that’s relevant.”
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2014

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