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The Radicals' Road

Dust_monster

Scribbler
Hello. I'm new here, and this is going to be a beginner's effort in fan fiction.

Set in the Johto Region but featuring completely original characters, this is going to be a comedy/adventure of sorts, and like a lot of good stories, these heroes start small before perhaps growing to become a little greater than they were before. This is going to be rated T at its worst, with just a bit of language and comic violence.

Hope you enjoy this.

Let's get going.
Let's do this.

Welcome to the Radicals' Road.
 

Dust_monster

Scribbler
The Radicals' Road
Chapter 1
The Stranger


“Why are we doing this again?” Jack asked, struggling under the weight of the girl standing on his shoulders. Her sneakers were getting dirt all over his shirt as she fought to stay balanced, her fingers gripping the windowsill precariously. It was a bright and sunny day in New Bark Town, and if it weren’t for his friends’ ridiculous idea, Jack thought he’d be quite enjoying it.

“Professor Cedar isn’t usually so secretive, right?” the girl standing on him, Charlotte, explained as she tried to get a good view through the window. “If he’s locked up his lab for today, then it’s got to be really good.”

“Besides,” Bree said, standing behind them and munching a Pecha Berry, “We’ve got nothing else to do for today.”

“We could’ve helped out at the cafe,” Jack protested, his knees starting to buckle under Charlotte’s weight. “Instead we decide to go sneaking around the Pokemon Professor’s lab. Wonderful.”

“Jack,” Charlotte murmured. “Lift me higher. And I won’t be able to see anything properly unless you stop shaking.”

Jack wanted to argue that he should be the one on Charlotte’s shoulders. The redheaded girl loved to exercise. She was athletic and had limbs that were as lean as a Sudowoodo’s; skinny Jack on the other hand might’ve passed more for a Rattata, if a Rattata had been stretched lanky and had a mess of curly brown hair pasted onto its head. Jack looked at Bree, wordlessly pleading for help. Bree looked him straight in the eye and took another bite of her Pecha Berry dispassionately.

“Bree…”

She held out the Peacha Berry to him. Bree’s sharp cheekbones, long blonde hair and piercing blue eyes usually made her an attractive sight, but with the juice dribbling down her chin and her happily munching, Jack wanted to slap her.

“Want a bite?” she offered.

“If you don’t want to help me, at least shut your face, okay?”

“Higher, Jack,” Charlotte said. “Still can’t see.”

“Well maybe if you didn’t weigh so much…” he groaned.

“Are you calling me fat!?” Charlotte stomped on Jack’s shoulder angrily, and regretted it immediately; his knees buckled and they tumbled onto the ground in a tangle of limbs and a cloud of dust.

Bree took another bite of Pecha Berry. “Guys, this is really good,” she said.

Charlotte stood up, grabbed the remaining half of the berry from Bree, threw it on the ground, and squashed it with her foot. Bree’s dispassionate face burst into anger and disappointment.

“Hey! I was eating that!”

“We’re trying to get a sneak peek into the lab, you ditz! And besides, aren’t those Pecha Berries for Pokemon!?”

Bree looked embarrassed. “But they taste good.”

“SCREW THIS!” Jack screamed, brushing the dust from his shirt. “Professor Cedar’s our friend. I’m asking him myself what’s going on!”

He stormed around the side of the lab, strode to the front and banged his fist on the doors. They swung open without a problem, and taking this as a good sign, he marched right in, momentarily struck by all the impressive machinery ad technology around him. Professor Cedar’s lab had always been the best in the Johto Region. A look behind him told him that the girls were too afraid to follow him in, so he strode on alone.

He came to the main room in the lab, a wide domed space filled with more intriguing gadgets, and this was where he found the Professor, standing by himself.

“Professor!”

“Ah, Jack,” the old man, still looking sleek in a white coat, beamed up at him. “How can I help you? I was wondering what you and your friends were trying to up to, trying to break in through the window.”

“Eh,” Jack stopped short. “We weren’t trying to break in. Sorry. We were just really curious - why did you shut out your lab today without a word?”

“It was only shut this morning. You had no problem walking in through the front door just now, didn’t you?”

“Oh. Uh. Right.”

The Professor chuckled. “I had some important deliveries this morning, Jack. Things I needed to inspect very discreetly. That’s all.”

“That’s it?”

“Were you expecting something else? Something bigger?”

“I nearly bruised myself outside just now cause Charlotte’s been eating too many cookies. She could’ve crushed me, Professor. I was just hoping it was something worth it.”

“I’ll tell Charlotte you said that.”

The blood drained from his face. “Please don’t. She’ll murder me.” And that wasn’t even a joke. Charlotte could do the Rage better than any Gyarados could. The Professor laughed heartily. “Actually, Jack, I’m glad you’re here. One of my deliveries this morning is something I’d like to share with you.”

Professor Cedar gestured for Jack to follow him to a table on the other side of the room. There was a small metallic box on this table, and the Professor opened it to reveal three identical Pokeballs lying inside.

Jack looked from the Professor to the Pokeballs and back. The Professor nodded. For about another five seconds, Jack’s eyes flickered between the old man’s face and the Pokeballs in front of him, his mouth starting to fall open like an idiot seeing a strange light ahead - approaching him and growing bigger and brighter by the second - before realising that they were the headlights of an oncoming train.

“For me!?” he breathed.

“A gift, yes,” Professor Cedar said. “You’re fourteen, right? You’re overdue for your very own Pokemon.”

“MOTHER OF ARCEUS!” Jack grabbed Professor Cedar and embraced him tightly. “THANK YOU PROFESSOR! WOW, I CAN’T BELIEVE IT, THREE POKEMON JUST FOR ME!”

“Dammit, Jack, just one! You’re supposed to pick just one!”

That barely diminished Jack’s joy. “ONE POKEMON! Wow, one Pokemon of my own! Thanks, Professor!”

Cedar was laughing again. “Take your pick, then. Grass, fire, or water?”

Jack thought for a moment. “Grass,” he decided. Professor Cedar nodded at the leftmost Pokeball, which Jack grabbed and tossed into the air.

A bright flash of light, and a healthy-looking Chikorita burst from the Pokeball and landed in Jack’s arms. “NICE!” The Chikorita squaled in delight and nuzzled itself against Jack’s chest and in all of those five seconds Jack felt like they’d formed an irreplaceable connection. “Chester,” he said. “I think I’ll call you Chester, like the Chestnut Lattes I always loved at the cafe.”

Professor Cedar raised an eyebrow. “My. Well. You bonded quite quickly.”

“We’re all good, Professor.”

The sound of glass shattering startled them, and for a second Jack was worried that Charlotte and Bree had pushed through with their stupid plan after all and broken the window. But instead it was a man in a black coat who swung in through the new hole in the glass and landed in the middle of the lab. He stood up slowly and ran a gloved hand coolly through his rusty-red-brown hair. His face was undeniably handsome; his eyes, a stunning shade of purple.

The stranger intimidated Jack with merely a look. “The hell is that?” Jack asked, pulling Chester closer to his chest.

Professor Cedar looked furious, glancing between his broken window and this intruder. “Who are you!?”

The man in black had pulled out a Pokeball. “Hitmonchan!” A flash of light preceded the appearance of an energetic-looking Hitmonchan, who punched the air menacingly for a few times before assuming a fighting stance.

“Professor Cedar,” the main in the black coat said, in a confident voice that was both velvety smooth and rugged as hell, “This morning you were delivered an item of value. I would like it very much please. If you don’t hand it over, things around here will get a little messy.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the Professor said.

“I will very seriously trash your lab if you don’t hand over the Relic right now, sir,” the man said. “I’ve got my pretty worked-up Hitmonchan here ready to shake things up if you don’t.”

“Okay, okay,” the Professor conceded. He began to reach into a pocket of his coat, when Jack leaped in front of the man in black. Chester jumped from his arms and ran straight at the Hitmonchan, striking it with a full-force tackle. The Hitmonchan brushed the Chikorita away with an effortless swipe, sending it skidding across the floor.

“Seriously?” the man in black said, shifting his weight from one foot to the other and then brushing his hair again in a way that would’ve made any other male model envious. “A baby Chikorita? You must be joking.”

“I’m not letting you steal anything from the professor! Chester and I will stop you! Chester, use tackle!”

The Chikorita gallantly leaped at at the Hitmonchan again.

“Mach Punch,” the man in black commanded, sounding bored but still managing to sound incredibly suave while doing so. Hitmonchan struck Chester in mid-air and knocked the little Pokemon down once again, a little harder this time.

“No!” Jack cried.

“One last chance,” the man in black addressed the Professor. “Where’s the Relic?”

Jack’s new Chikorita was still getting up on its feet, the leaf on its head looking a little crumpled but the determination a very clear spark in its eyes. “Chester, come on, one more time! Use tackle!”

“Hitmonchan, put it out of its misery. Use Fire Punch!”

As Chester tried to tackle Hitmonchan, it was instead met with a boxing glove wrapped in flame, straight to the face. Chester crashed to the floor, singed and hurting, and this time did not get up. Jack ran over and dropped to his knees, cradling his new Pokemon in his arms.

“Boom,” the man in black murmured, making a gun shape with his hand and pointing it at them. “Super effective.”

“Seriously, dude?”

The man in black turned to the Professor. “Well?”

The Professor lay a hand on Jack’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Jack. Chester’s only getting hurt. You can stop now.” After a moment, Professor Cedar quietly pulled a small, brass ball, just a bit smaller than a Pokeball, out of his coat’s inner pocket and tossed it across the room to the man. He caught it elegantly with one hand, inspected the smooth sphere for a second, and then pocketed it. “Thank you for your cooperation,” he said. “Hitmonchan, return.”

As soon as the Hitmonchan was back in its Pokeball, the man turned around to leave through the front door.

“Wait,” Jack called. Surprisingly, the man stopped and turned to face him.

“I’m waiting,” he said.

“Tell me your name, at least,” Jack said softly. “So I can hunt you down and kick your butt next time.”

And the man in black smiled. Even his eyes seemed to be glinting with amusement, underneath the rusty bangs. “Name’s Thaddeus,” he said. “If you want to fight me again… Jack, right? I’ll be waiting for you. Get stronger. Earn some badges. Next time we fight… make sure it’s a fight.” He stuck his hands in his coat pockets and blew a lock of stray hair out of his eyes.

And then Thaddeus was out the door with a sweep of his long black coat with such theatricality that it might’ve been rehearsed. Jack dropped his eyes sadly on his knocked out Chikorita.

“Come on,” the Professor murmured. “Let’s get Chester healed.”

===

Later that day, with the sky starting to turn orange with dusk, Jack was seated with Charlotte and Bree around an outdoor table at his family’s cafe. Chester was patched up in no time, and was now happily munching on some snacks on the table, while the three friends each sipped their preferred flavours of coffee.

“You really didn’t see him?” Jack asked them. “He jumped in through the window we were trying to peek through.”

“We really didn’t, Jack,” Bree said apologetically. “Charlotte and I ran away when you entered the lab. We thought we were going to get into trouble for it.”

“At least you’ve got a Pokemon now,” Charlotte said optimistically, patting the leaf on Chester’s head carefully. “It’s a great thing Chester got out of that in one piece.”

“What the heck was that Thaddeus after, anyway?” Bree asked. “What was this Relic that he kept talking about?”

“No idea,” Jack mumured. “The Professor didn’t want to talk about it. Probably some important scientific technological thing. He said it was all kind of secretive, which is why he locked up his lab earlier in the morning. Anyway, he said I should just forget that any of that ever happened.”

“He sounds like a dangerous guy.” Bree reached over and squeezed Jack’s hand. “I’m glad you got out of it safe. Did he say anything when he took off with the Professor’s thingamajig?”

“Said that if we fight again, I should make it a fight.”

“Geez, he’s just leading you on. Come on, Jack. You and Professor Cedar already reported the guy to the police. We’ll let them handle it.”

“Mhmm.” Jack looked at his Chikorita, and his Chikorita looked back at him. And then, Chester’s eyebrows kind of furrowed in a look of affirmation. Jack scratched him around the neck. “What a weird day, huh, little guy?”

===

That evening, Jack couldn’t quite sleep. He tossed and he turned and he dreamed of weird things for a few fitful moments before waking up. First he dreamed that he was a punching bag, and Thaddeus’s Hitmonchan was using him for boxing practice, and then the Hitmonchan transformed into Thaddeus himself, who kept on punching and laughing. Then he dreamed Chester was getting whacked by Fire Punch after Fire Punch, and then Chester squealed something that sounded like, “I’m a grass type, you moron! GRASS DOESN’T DO GOOD AGAINST FIRE!”, but then Jack tried to explain that Hitmonchan was a fighting type, and well, how the heck was he supposed to know he could do Fire Punch? And the nightmares continued until he finally woke up at the crack of dawn.

Jack spent about half an hour seated on his bed in their home above the cafe, thinking and breathing and thinking some more. Chester was snoozing peacefully at the foot of his bed. Finally Jack nudged him awake. “Come on, little guy,” he said. “We’ve got to go. Get up, come on. We’re going somewhere.”

He packed a bag, threw on a dark brown jacket and jeans, laced up his walking boots.

“We’re doing something.”

A few minutes later, he knocked on Professor Cedar’s door and briefly explained to the old man what he was planning to do. Surprisingly, the Professor had no qualms.

“A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do,” he said, and then gave Jack his very own Pokegear and Pokedex, too. “Just be careful out there. Take care of Chester. And give me a call if you ever need help.”

“Thanks, Professor. Are you sure you can’t tell me anything about that Relic that was stolen from you?”

“I really can’t, Jack. But I have a feeling you’ll find out anyway.” He smiled a grandfatherly smile, and Jack smiled back.

And then Jack was walking up the road out of New Bark Town, imagining Thaddeus’s face and the look on it when he and Chester got their payback.

“Okay, man. Here we go. I’m coming.”
 

Dust_monster

Scribbler
The Radicals' Road
Chapter 2
The Men in Grey



As Jack traversed down the dirt path that cut through Route 29 around the hills and brush, he had a few things going through his head: One was that he should have had breakfast first. The second was that he probably should have brought a bike, or at least some roller skates with him, because damn it, all this walking was slow, slow work.

A rustle in the tall grass grabbed Jack’s attention, just as the sun climbed its way to its peak in the sky. He turned toward it and grabbed his Pokeball, his tired panting transforming into an excited kind of breathing. “A wild Pokemon,” he said. “Let’s dance. Go get em, Chester!”

It was a Pidgey that burst forth from the tall grass. Okay, thought Jack, should be simple enough. Chester and the wild Pokemon spent a few minutes charging at one another, trading tackles and body blows. Occasionally the Pidgey would spread its wings and fly up and out of reach before swooping back down to engage Chester, but for the most part the Chikorita moved nimbly and had no problem striking at the bird. Jack cheered on his Pokemon with renewed energy, forgetting the hunger pangs in his own stomach.

“Chester!” Jack called, just as the Pidgey looked like it was really getting worn down. “Can you do the leaf thing!?”

His Chikorita gave him a confused look. Jack pointed to his head and made a twirling gesture with his finger, trying to explain. “You know, the leaf-blade-throwing-from-your-head thing, you know… oh, Razor Leaf! I mean Razor Leaf!”

Chester rolled his eyes and gave an exasperated sigh. Then it turned toward the wild Pidgey and tackled it one more time, sending the bird down into the grass for good. Jack dropped his hand, his ego a little deflated.

“Okay. Or another Tackle also works, I guess. Good job.”

Chester walked over to him and squealed Chiko-ri-ta, in delight. Jack could only smile. “Yeah, yeah. Of course. You’ll hit em with the Razor Leaf when you’re ready. Got it.”

They spent the rest of the day striding down the dirt road and admiring the view of the distant mountains. Their encounter with the Pidgey wasn’t the last; before the day was up, they’d encountered another Pidgey, a pair of Rattatas and a Sentret, all of whom Chester handled with relative ease. By the middle of the afternoon, Chester was obviously beginning to look worn out, but Jack found a tree by the wayside that was very generous with its berries, and together he and his Pokemon shared a refreshing and reenergising snack.

“You think he went this way, little guy?” Jack asked.

Chester chewed his food deliberately and looked up at him. The leaf on his head twitched slightly.

“Yeah, you’re right. Maybe.”

===

Cherrygrove City was coming up in the distance, and already Jack could smell the gardens and the sea breeze coming from its direction. The sunlight also seemed to hit the distant line of houses and buildings in such a way that completely outlined them in a hazy orange glow - once again, a brilliant display of nature at sunset.

Jack and Chester were walking side-by-side, and with the promise of hot food and a good night’s rest around the corner, they picked up the pace. For a short moment, Jack’s thoughts went back to his family and friends back at New Bark, a whole day’s walk behind him. What were Bree and Charlotte doing now, he wondered?

Something dashed at Chikorita from outside their point of view and struck him with a vicious blow; Chester was sent careening toward the side of the dirt road and was momentarily stunned. Jack turned around, the surprise devolving into indignation. “HEY!”

The Pokemon that had attacked was a small brown creature on all fours, resembling a small fox, with long protruding ears and a kind of tuft of mane around its neck. Jack wanted to rip the hair off his head. “Holy Miltank, it’s an EEVEE!” He stuffed his hand into his bag, wishing to the ends of the world that he suddenly had a spare Pokeball in there. There were none. “DAMN IT! A WILD EEVEE! I KNEW I SHOULD HAVE ASKED THE PROFESSOR FOR POKEBALLS!”

His thoughts were quickly derailed by a voice calling out to him from across the road. “Hey! Calm yourself down, Trainer. She's not a wild Eevee. She’s Siobhan, and she wants to battle.”

The one speaking was a boy, maybe a year or two younger than Jack himself, leaning against a tree, arms folded against his chest. His posture was relaxed, maybe trying a little too hard to be aloof, considering he and his Pokemon had just tried to jump the gun on them. He wore a navy blue hoodie zipped all the way up and had a head full of spiky black hair. “Siobhan wants to fight, Trainer. Step aside.”

Chester had gotten up and come over to sit stand at Jack’s side, Jack narrowed his eyes at the spiky-haired trainer and his Eevee.

“Chester and I didn’t see you standing there just a while ago.”

“So?”

“Were you hiding, trying to ambush us?”

“Wait, what?” The boy’s smug face dissolved, and his eyes averted Jack’s. “No.”

“And what the heck is with you and that pose? Are you trying to look cool or something?”

“What? Uh… pfft. No.” The boy let his crossed arms drop lamely to his sides.

Jack’s eyes narrowed further and he jerked his finger accusingly. “I bet you practised all those lines and were waiting behind that tree to try surprise attacking the first trainer who came along. WEREN’T YOU!?”

“Look, bro, are we gonna battle are what?”

“Hell yeah, we’re gonna battle! Chester, let’s go!”

Chester cried in agreement and leapt forward. The other trainer jumped to a ready stance as well and pointed at them. His Eevee’s fur bristed, and she lowered her body, ready to fight. “That’s what I’m talking about! Siobhan, let’s go! Tail Whip, now!”

The Eevee pounced off her hind paws and whipped a big, bushy tail in Chester’s face; Chester was still sprightly enough to get out of the way.

“Tackle!” Jack commanded.

Chester did as ordered, moving to strike the Eevee with his body - but unlike the wild Pokemon earlier that day, this Eevee seemed to have the chops for dodging such moves. Siobhan, as the spiky haired boy called her, pounced left and right to stay out of reach. “Quick Attack now!” he yelled. The Eevee’s paws kicked up some dirt as she rushed Chester with impressive speed; she jabbed at him across the side and was out of reach before the Chikorita could recover.

“That’s how you do it!” the trainer bragged. “Good one!”

“Take it easy,” Jack breathed. “Chester, Growl!” Chester opened his mouth and let out a stunning cry that clearly forced Siobhan to hesitate for a moment. “Again! Chester! Growl!” Another shriek from Chester, and the Eevee looked ready to back off.

“Quick Attack, Siobhan!”

The Eevee once again rushed at Chester to send a flying kick at his face, but this time her paws only seemed to graze Chester’s body; Chester quickly crouched low and bounced off the ground, crashing into Siobhan with an explosive tackle.

“One more!” Jack cried. Chester hit the Eevee again, sending it rolling across the dirt, dazing her, dirtying her fur. “And again! One more time!” The battle had gone completely in their favor now. After a few more angry blows to the body, Chester knocked down the Eevee, knocking her out.

“YES!” Jack pumped his fist in the air, savouring his first Trainer Battle victory. He spun around on his heels with a whoop, did a little dance just to rub it in, and then picked up his exhausted Chikorita while the other guy tended to his Eevee. “That’s what you get for trying to take people by surprise, you jerk,” he reprimanded him. “Don’t do that again, man. It’s really not cool.”

The spiky-haired boy was all quiet now. Any trace of the arrogance he’d had a few minutes ago was completely sapped up. As he recalled Siobhan back into her Pokeball, he sniffed; Jack thought he saw something in his eyes, like he was about to cry. “Hey?” Jack asked. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“I’m Jack. What’s your name?”

“Why?”

“We’re both Trainers, man. Just trying to show some respect.”

“You know, I don’t think that last hit by your Chikorita was really necessary, Siobhan was already KO’d…”

“Oh, give me a break, it was a Pokemon Battle that you started! Look, if you don’t want to talk…”

Jack had already turned and was walking away with Chester in his arms, treading down a rocky slope which would lead him straight to Cherrygrove, but it wasn’t a few moments before the trainer called to him, “Wait a minute.”

Jack turned. The boy was had a few bills in his hand and was handing it over to him - the traditional prize cash a losing trainer awards the trainer who beat him. Jack accepted it gratefully. “Thanks. You’re not so bad. Can we… try this again? My name is Jack.”

“I’m Merv.”

“Good fight, Merv.”

“Uh… Siobhan’s kind of the only Pokemon I’ve got right now. Can I walk with you to Cherrygrove, just in case of, you know, wild Pokemon…?”

“Wouldn’t want to get mauled by a wild Spearow, then?”

“No, no I wouldn’t.”

“That’s fine.” Jack chuckled. “Alright, let’s go.”

===

It had begun to drizzle, and Jack had conveniently forgotten to bring his handy little umbrella in his bag, so for the last couple of minutes, he and Merv broke into a run. The dirt beneath their shoes was steadily getting muddier, and the sky above them quickly growing dark with nimbus clouds. But gratefully they were soon within the city, and they found the Pokemon Center with relative ease. A little chilly from the light rain, Jack quickly brought his Chikorita to the Nurse’s attention, and Merv, his Eevee.

“I’m looking for a guy,” Jack was telling Merv, while they waited for their Pokemon to be treated, seated in the Center’s lobby. They’d ordered some take-out as well; Jack was looking forward to that food after a long, long day. “Maybe you’ve seen him. He calls himself Thaddeus.”

“Don’t know anyone by that name. What’s he look like?”

“Wore a long, black coat. Reddish hair. Face looks like a model’s. Like he could do any commercial he wanted to, if he tried.”

Merv raised an eyebrow. Jack’s hands went up in self-defense. “Hey, I’m just being honest here.”

“Hang on a minute…” Merv was looking past Jack at a group of people on the other side of the lobby. They were all dressed in grey suits and vests, but more peculiarly, they all seemed to be wearing handkerchiefs or scarves around their faces, and matching dark grey baseball caps, such that the only thing that could be seen of their faces were their eyes. There were four of them altogether, and they were huddled together, as if speaking through the scarves around their faces made conversation difficult.

Jack followed Merv’s gaze. “Who are those?”

“Some people who caused me a lot of trouble before.”

The nurse was signalling to the two of them that their Pokemon were completely healed, and they went over to the counter to collect their Pokeballs and thank the nurse. Merv’s eyes, however, hardly left the group of people in grey in the corner of the lobby. That is, until one of them turned in his direction. Merv quickly turned to the nurse and pretended to flirt with her.

“Hey, I really like your… apron,” he said, grinning.

The young nurse smiled at him nervously and politely asked him to make way for the next Trainer in line, though there seemed to be a 'please stay away from me' kind of subtext in that.

The people in grey scarves were starting to walk out the door, and Merv made to follow them. Jack held him by the arm.

“What are you doing?”

“Those guys caused a lot of trouble around here before. I’m going to see what they’re up to.”

“But we just ordered take out. Those burgers are going to be here any minute now.”

“Save it.”

“Merv, Im starving, and if you go after those guys, I’m eating your burger.”

That made Merv pause in his tracks for a while, but then he shook his head and went out the door anyway. Sure enough, within a minute, their take-out arrived. Jack already had his hands wrapped around his burger and ready to take a bite. The way Merv had stormed out, though, was bothering him more than he’d care to admit.

“It’s not my problem,” he told himself. “So what if those guys in grey had bullied him, or something? He should learn to relax.”

The scent of the steaming burger, warm in his hands with melted cheese and caramelised onions and a sweet crisp lettuce and perfect seasoning, was starting to look less appetising by the second.

“It’s not my problem. It’s not my problem. Jack, sit your butt down and eat your burger, damn it.”

And then he thought of the man named Thaddeus and kicked himself mentally for allowing himself to do this. He put the burger down, stood up, and ran outside into the rain. Cherrygrove’s gardens looked serene in the early evening and the drizzle. Turning left and right, Jack walked a few blocks up the road until he saw a glimpse of Merv’s pointy black hair (which was somehow still stuck up by some remarkable amount of hair wax, despite the rain). The boy was confronting the group of grey-scarfed people, although it was four on one, and he didn’t seem like he had a chance on his own.

“Jack,” Jack told himself. “Go back to the Pokemon Center and eat your damn burger. This is not going to end well.” And in spite of himself, Jack walked over and stood beside Merv. “Okay, I'm starving and I've got a nice hot meal waiting for me back there, so let's make this quick. What’s going on here?”

“You owe me and my family something,” Merv was growling.

“Do we?” A tall man wearing a handkerchief around his face and with a few locks of brown hair sticking out from beneath his baseball cap looked amused at Merv’s attempts. By the look of it, he was the leader of the group. “I don’t think so. Scram now, kid. You’re getting in our way.”

“Then I challenge you to a Pokemon Ba—”

Before Merv could finish his sentence, the people in grey had interrupted him - one guy swung at at his face, and the other launched a kick at his stomach. Merv keeled over, clutching his midsection. Jack didn’t realize what hit him either - all he knew was that one minute he was standing upright, and the next he was flat on his back, with all the breath knocked out of him.

“We’re kind of busy for a Pokemon Battle,” the leader of the group said. “So sorry if that hurt. We’re just trying to save time. Now, unless you or your family have any more Relics to offer us, we’ll be on our way.”

“Relics?” Jack jerked his head up. “Wait a second… who are you!?”

The leader’s face was still covered by his handkerchief, but Jack could tell he was smiling. “You can call us Team Radical,” he said. “If you don’t know about us now, well, don’t you worry. We’ll make ourselves known very, very soon.”

The four of them walked away, leaving both Merv and Jack sprawled on the ground, and somehow Jack felt like this feeling was becoming very familiar.

“Well, that sucks,” Merv murmured, once he’d caught his breath. “Usually a Pokemon battle sorts these things out. Those guys completely missed the point.”

“Hey, Merv…”

“I mean, that’s how we solve problems after all, right? The good old fashioned Pokemon Battle?”

“Merv!”

“What?”

“You know the guy I was looking for? And then those douchebags over there? I’ve got a feeling they’re not too far off.”
 

Dust_monster

Scribbler
The Radicals’ Road
Chapter 3
The Cave


“Professor, these guys were really not very friendly,” Jack said, speaking with a bit of fluster into his PokeGear, where Professor Cedar was calmly listening on the other end. “And honestly, they’re probably from the same gang that that Thaddeus is from. They said they were looking for Relics too. That little bronze ball that was stolen from you - are there more of those things?”

He had recounted the events of the previous evening, trying to piece it all together. Professor Cedar was, as usual, managing to stay collected about the whole situation while still clearly offering Jack his concern and support. “You could say that, Jack. There are more than a few Relics around. What exactly did they say about the Relics?”

“I don’t know. They were talking to Merv.”

“You should ask Merv about it, then.”

“Have you ever heard of these people, Professor? They called themselves Team Radical.”

“Hmm.” Across the opposite end of the PokeGear, the old man’s voice was thoughtful. “I can’t say I have. But I’ll look into it. Meanwhile, you try to stay out of trouble. We don’t want you to get hurt.”

“Okay, okay. Let me know what you find out about them. They seem like trouble.” And then, a little lighter: “How’s everybody? Mom and dad? Charlotte and Bree?”

“Your friends say they miss you. Bree still can’t believe that you left all on your own. And Charlotte, well, to be honest… Charlotte hasn’t forgiven you for making that ‘eating too much cookies’ comment.”

“You told her that!?”

“Of course. You know I can’t lie to her, Jacko. Anyway, Charlotte has promised me she’s going to strangle you the next time she sees you. As for your parents, they are confident you’ll be alright. They say you’re stronger than you ever gave yourself credit for. They said it doesn’t matter that you always failed gym classes…”

“Hey…”

“Or that you could never do more than five pull-ups on the bars without cramping your arms…”

“Uh…”

“Or that you’re so skinny, you’d probably never find a girlfriend until you were in your thirties…”

“Give me a break, Professor! I can do better than that. In fact, I bet I’ll have a girlfriend by the time I get back home to New Bark!”

The Professor started to laugh hysterically then, his voice hacking and coughing and turning into static over the PokeGear, until the line finally went blank and Jack was left standing there like an idiot. He sighed and pushed the button on his PokeGear to officially end the call and then looked up toward the horizon. Route 31 stretched out before him, tall lines of trees and rolling hills dotted with verdant tall grass, all of it bathed in lustrous sunlight - a welcome surprise, considering the dreary drizzle that came just the night before.*

He and Merv had decided to travel onward together, after the little beatdown they’d suffered at the hands of Team Radical. They spent the night at the Pokemon Center, bought as many potions and Pokeballs and food as they thought they needed, and marched on at the break of dawn.

“Merv,” Jack said.

“Yeah?” Merv was busy fixing the spikes on his hair with a clump of wax, seemingly trying to ensure that every strand was in the right place.

“I look like a guy who could get a girlfriend, right?”

Merv took one look at him and snorted. “Bro, your hair’s a fluffy mess. Just compare yourself to me and you’ll see what I mean.” He turned his head up, his hair gleaming in the sun, his face just a little too proud. Jack groaned.

“Chester!” he called to his Chikorita, who was busy frolicking with a wild Caterpie and Rattata, a little bit down the road. “I look good, right? I look cool?”

Chester turned to him, his mouth pursed tight, confusion in his eyes. The leaf on his head twitched. And then he gave an unsure little smile and nodded encouragingly, "Chi-chi-korita!" Jack put his hands on his hips and beamed, unaware of the skeptic looks that the wild Rattata and Caterpie were sharing. “That’s my boy. Alright, let’s keep going. Merv, you mark my words: one month. You give me one month, and I’m gonna have the most beautiful, talented and smartest girlfriend at my side.”

Merv and Siobhan were already walking briskly down the dirt trail. “She’d be as blind as a Zubat.”

“Maybe Chester and I should teach you and Siobhan another lesson, eh? A taste of defeat to remind you we know a thing or two about battling.”

“Ha, ha! Okay, Jack, I’m gonna give you a rematch one day, alright? And Siobhan’s gonna stomp on Chester so hard, it’ll make you regret you ever said that.”

“Chester is going to beat Siobhan so badly that you’ll wish you had a Pokemon Center on speed-dial on your gear.”

Merv snorted again, shaking his head. “Siobhan’s going to kick Chester’s face in so bad, that the Pokemon Social Services are going to come in and take him away because you were such a bad trainer.”

Jack was unfazed. “Chester’s gonna smash Siobhan so hard, she won’t be able to eat anything but berry juice for a week.”

“Siobhan is going to turn Chester to mush so badly, your Pokedex will take one look at him and think he’s a Grimer. Just look at him now. He’s playing with some wild Pokemon.”

Jack turned to see Chester and the wild Rattata and Caterpie now playing some version of tag. They seemed to be having the time of their lives. “Oh, come on! CHESTER! Either tackle those things to oblivion, or get over here! We’ve got to go!”

===

Together, Chester and Siobhan had no problem taking down the wild Pidgeys and Weedles and Caterpies they faced along the way, and by midday they’d all stopped in the shade of a boulder to munch on the sandwiches they’d packed. Jack noticed that Chester was getting stronger every time another wild Pokemon went down - even though he was still small, he was getting quicker, leaner, and together the two of them were getting into a real rhythm of battling.

As they finished their lunch, Chester leapt into Jack’s arms and nuzzled up against his chest - the smell of his leaf was really fresh, fresh as dew. Jack didn’t realize he was smiling so broadly. “You okay, little guy? Yeah. You’re alright.”

He turned to Merv and his face became little serious. “So, Merv… what exactly are those Relics that the guys in grey were talking about?”

“You know, I’m not really sure. My family… well, I’ll be honest. My family comes from money.”

“You’re rich?”

“Sort of. My parents are. We live in a big mansion in Goldenrod. My parents kept a couple of these gem-like stones and metals as family treasures. They called them Relics, but I never really cared about them. They looked like regular old, colourful stones to me. Anyway, one day, those guys in grey broke into our family vault and stole our whole stash.”

“Damn. Sorry about that.”

“Yeah. I’d kept an eye out for them ever since. And speaking of the devils…” Merv has seen something beyond the boulder that they were resting against and signalled for Jack to take a look, too.

There was a river rushing a bit in the distance, downhill from where they were, and nearby the river, a shelf of rock that made up the base of a small mountain. The mouth of a cave opened into the stone, and against this cave stood a group of men and women wearing grey clothes, grey baseball caps, and scarves and kerchiefs around their faces. A closer look told Jack and Merv that it was exactly the same group of four that roughed them up just the night before, in Cherrygrove.

The leader of the group seemed to be scanning the cave and thinking out loud, and two of his associates were scribbling notes on notepads, listening to the leader’s directions. The last of them looked a little bored, shifting her weight from foot to foot, crossing her arms.

After a few busy moments, the leader signalled for the group to follow him, and they disappeared into the darkness of the cave.

Jack and Merv looked at each other.

“I overheard the Pokemon Professor tell you to stay out of trouble,” Merv said.

“Yeah,” Jack answered.

“Want to completely ignore him and get some revenge on these douchebags?”

“Aw, HELL yeah.”

They took off at a jog, made their way over to the cave by the river, and ran inside, Chester and Siobhan dutifully running along beside their respective masters.

It was a mistake: the cave was pitch black and they could barely see inside. A few minutes of looking about in the dark, and Jack felt something under his foot give way. He must’ve stood at a high ledge; the next thing he knew, he fell, stumbling and then rolling and falling down a steep drop, pebbles and rocks scattering with him on the way down. He heard Chester cry in alarm, nearby; the Chikorita had fallen alongside his master. Far above them, Merv shouted, but it was too late— Jack and Chester landed in a heap on a hard stone floor.

An angry Pokemon down there did not welcome their surprise entrance. “Geodude, Geodude!”

“Oh, crud.”

There was little light from above to see with, but in the darkness, Jack could hardly make out the shape of a rock with muscular arms and hands on its sides rise up and punch the ground, provoked. The Geodude’s eyes glinted, challenging them.

Jack stood up, trying to ignore his new bruises. “Chester, we’ve got a fight.”

“Chikorita!” Chester was up and ready to go.

The Geodude attacked first, rushing in to tackle Chester; Chester dodged the move, leaping sideways, and pounced off his hind feet to return the Tackle. He didn’t miss, but regular tackles like that were laughable to the sturdy rock-type. Geodude picked up a nearby rock and hurled it at Chester. In the darkness, it was difficult to see, much less manoeuvre and fight, and the stone struck him with such force that Jack cringed.

“Chester, use Growl!”

Chester let out his battle cry, but whether or not it truly affected the Geodude was hard to say; it was just so damn dark down there. Five seconds later the wild Pokemon picked up another rock and threw it at Chester. Chester was knocked down, and for a frightening second, it seemed like he might be down for the count - but resilient little Chester was on his feet a moment later, ready to keep fighting.

“Chester, we look like we’re in trouble,” Jack said, hastily digging in his bag for a potion and spraying it all over Chester, before the Geodude could find another rock to send flying. Not a moment too soon, either; a third rock was hurled their way, and Chester dodged it by a hair.

“Jack!” Merv cried. “Get yourself back up here!”

“Chester,” Jack breathed. “Merv’s right. Come on, we’ve got to run! Let’s get out of here!”

“Chi-ko-ri-TA!?!?” And in that moment, his Chikorita’s response was loaded with such incredulity and disbelief that Jack completely forgot the predicament they were in. In fact, if Jack could’ve perfectly translated Chikorita’s cry that instant, it would’ve been something like, “You stupid, Jack? Yeah, you’re so stupid right now.”

Chester was going to keep fighting. Chester wasn’t going to lose.

Jack’s eyes had adjusted to the dark, so he saw the next few moments well enough: Chester leapt into the air, turned his head in a sharp angle toward the Geodude, and let the leaf on his head fly, spinning like a discuss, toward the Geodude. The leaf struck the Geodude with surprising force; the wild Pokemon backed off. Another leaf instantly came, and another and another: Chester was barraging the Geodude with leaves.

“Yes!” Jack cried! “Chester! USE RAZOR LEAF!”

It was amazing. Within moments, the Geodude looked ready to topple. And then just before it could fall to Chester’s finishing blow, the Geodude turned a dazed eye at Jack - and Jack met the wild Pokemon’s eye. In fairness, this was one tough Geodude. A split-second later, the trainer knew what he had to do.

“Wait, Chester!” he said. “This one’s mine!”

He reached into his bag for a Pokeball, took careful aim (it was still nearly pitch black, after all), and threw it with all his might. A flash of red light illuminated the cave around them; the Geodude disappeared inside the Pokeball, which dropped to the cave floor, the light in the center glowing.

It shook once. It shook a second time. It shook a third.

There was a click, and the light disappeared. Jack and Chester shared a few quiet moments, and then approached the Pokeball together. Jack picked up his first caught Pokemon ever, and finally allowed a grin to break over his face. “You put up a good fight. I’ll name you Brandon.”

===

There was no sign of Team Radical by the time that Jack had climbed back up the slope. They must have gone further into the cave somehow, but the battle with Brandon had taken a toll on Jack’s energy and they decided against pursuing them.

By the time the sun was setting, Jack and Merv had arrived at Violet City - a quaint place, not much bigger nor louder than Jack’s own hometown. Sprout Tower rose some distance away, a short but impressively designed building; some street musicians and their Pokemon strummed some strings along the streets, and people went about at the edges of the ponds and riverbanks scattered about the peaceful city. They found refuge in the Pokemon Center immediately and healed up their Pokemon.

“What do you think those guys were doing in that cave?” Jack asked.

“You know I’m just as clueless as you are,” Merv drawled. "Let's*take a look around town. There’s a Gym here, you know? Have you heard of the Gym Leader?”

The nurse at the counter interjected politely: “Excuse me, sir. You’re talking about Seneca. Are you planning to challenge her?”

“Yeah,” both Jack and Merv replied at the same time. Jack, quite suddenly, realised that he was standing next to a rival of his own.

“Seneca makes her Gym over at the Sprout Tower,” the nurse continued. “If you want to challenge her, that’s where you should go.”

“Why the Sprout Tower?” Jack asked. “Why not just use the old Gym that Falkner used, all those years ago?”

The nurse thought for a moment, and then shrugged. “She likes places closer to nature. The Sprout Tower gives her a space that inspires her to do her paintings and poetry.”

“Cool. An artist and a Gym Leader. Any other info you can share with us?”*

“She likes using Poison-types.” The nurse smiled mischievously. “Watch out.”

“Got it.” Jack turned to Merv. “I’m going right now.”

“Right now?”

“Why wait? Burning daylight, man.”

“…Okay. Good luck.”

===

First, Jack took a detour back into Route 31 and quickly found some wild Pidgeys flocking about. He tossed Brandon’s Pokeball into the air, and the Geodude appeared in a flash of light, looking more impressive out of the dark. With a few easy commands, Brandon handled the wild Pidgeys with ease, not a scratch on him.

“Perfect,” Jack said. “You and I are going to get along just fine.” He withdrew Brandon into his Pokeball. “Now let’s get busy.”

A few minutes later, with the sun dropping in the east, the residents of Sprout Tower - a group of loosely dressed youths wearing tattoos and piercings, chilling as if life were the easiest thing in the world - saw a thin young man with curly brown hair, a tired but determined face, and a stride in his step, approach them confidently.

“My name is Jacobin Evans,” he said. “Call me Jack. I’m here to challenge your Gym Leader.”
 

Dust_monster

Scribbler
The Radicals’ Road
Chapter 4
Sprout Tower


“A challenge against Seneca, eh?” the young man in front of Jack sneered. He took a puff of his cigarette and blew it gently into Jack’s face. Jack tried not to cough, though his eyes were watering. “Think you can take her?”

“My Pokemon and I can,” Jack answered, confidently.

A girl joined the boy, barring Jack’s way, and crossed her arms. “Aren’t you a little too young to be going out to challenge Gym Leaders, boy? Why don’t you go back home to your mommy?”

That gave Jack pause, because it made no sense at all. “I’m fourteen,” he explained, cautiously. “Don’t most trainers start challenging Gym Leaders when they’re just… I don’t know… ten, or something?”

The smoker coughed on his cigarette and began hacking, and then regained his composure and blew another puff into Jack’s face, mocking. “You don’t look tough enough to even challenge—” he began, but this time, Jack raised a hand and cut him off.

“Look, I know you guys are probably paid to stand around here and intimidate challengers like me, but really, we’ll save a lot more time if you just lead me straight to Seneca.”

The man in front of his took one more draft of his cigarette and looked ready to blow it into Jack’s face one more time, before deciding against it and just grinning. “Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. You’re wrong though - we’re not even paid. We just do it ‘cause we like it. Come on.”

They lead him past the courtyard of the Sprout Tower. The place was really one of the most relaxed places he’d ever seen: young trainers, perhaps disciples of the Gym Leader Seneca, were lying about, puffing their cigarettes, talking casually with each other and sipping from bottles. One or two of them were painting on canvasses, trying to capture the sunset behind the Tower. They entered the tower and climbed up three long flights of stairs, which opened into a high, dimly lit room. There were more people here, gathered around a large, circular stage. Open windows atop the room let the steady Violet City breeze into the room.

A colorfully dressed young woman had the stage, performing with a soft but expressive voice.

“And so we drop from our clouds and face our pasts,” she murmured, “And consequently he Haunters and Gengars of our yesteryears - and eyes that loom in the dark, that stare us from an abyss…” She twirled about on her toes - a knit scarf draped around her shoulders twirled about with her as she moved, and she put a hand on the black beret on her head. “They do not realize that our dreams cannot be eaten, these shadows of claws; they know not that we are already awake…”

She took a deep bow. The small crowd around the stage started snapping their fingers - snap, snap, snap, altogether, as if in applause.

The young man who had led Jack up the Tower was snapping his fingers along, and seemed to be holding back tears.

“That was a masterpiece,” he said. ‘Absolutely beautiful. An awesome piece.”

“Actually,” Jack said. “I think that made no sense at all.”

The whole crowd in the room gasped in unison, and all eyes turned to Jack, some of them apalled, others enraged. Everybody seemed to back away from him, as if he had some disease he might suddenly infect the others with. The woman in the scarf and beret, on the stage, surveyed him closely and spoke: “A young little Weedle, it seems, does not appreciate my poetry…”

“Lady, who the heck are you calling a Weedle?”

“A young little Weedle does not seem to see himself for he truly is…” The woman in the scarf put the back of her hand to her head and swooned tragically. The small crowd around her awed and oohed at her display. This was clearly Seneca.

“Hey, look… I just want to battle… I’m here to challenge for the badge…”

“My poor, temporal soul does not know how to handle this,” Seneca said, “Shall I do battle with the little Weedle who is clearly lost in the forest of life? What hope will he have of surviving the birds of prey that stalk from the skies?”

“LADY!” Jack finally raised his voice. “I am Jacobin Evans from New Bark Town, and as a Pokemon Trainer, I demand the right to battle for your badge!”

The crowd of beatniks, hippies and wannabe-poets around Seneca were all stunned - but Seneca herself smiled. “A young Weedle in front of me has guts after all,” she murmured. “Perhaps he will grow enough to make a Kakuna yet…”

“So is that a yes?”

“It is a yes, young Weedle. I, the Gym Leader Seneca, accept your challenge.” She gestured him to step onto the stage with her, and they stood on opposite ends from each other. “Let our hearts be shaken by the power of battle.”

“Yeah… yeah, sure. I’ll shake with you.”

They each grabbed their Pokeballs, threw them into the air, and the fight was on.

“Go, Brandon!”

“I summon you, my fair Nidoran!”

Jack’s Geodude and Seneca’s male Nidoran squared off each other on opposite ends of the stage. The Nidoran’s ears bristled - he looked small, but definitely like a Pokemon ready to compete.

“Tackle!” Jack commanded.

“Poison sting!” Seneca cried.

The two Pokemon rushed at each other; as Brandon made to heave his whole body at the Nidoran, the Nidoran responded by connecting his horn with Brandon. Both of them were knocked back by the collision.

“Double kick!” Seneca ordered, and the Nidoran rushed forward, leapt and aimed his two hind legs at Brandon’s face - not a difficult feat, considering that a Geodude’s face practically occupied the whole front space of his body. Brandon was knocked down by the impact. A few more times, the Nidoran attacked, relentlessly. Brandon tried to get a few hits himself, but mostly found himself getting pushed back and back. The audience around the stage started snapping their fingers in approval.

Jack bit his lip to stop himself from cursing. “Brandon, we’re going to have to bog down. Defense curl!”

“Nidoran, Poison Sting, one more time!”

Thankfully, as the Nidoran rushed Brandon, Geodude was able to brace himself for the impact; his stone arms deflected most of Nidoran’s horn; and then a hefty counterattack sent the Nidoran spinning through the air. “Nice!” Jack cried. “Now finish him off with a Rock Throw!”

“Geodude?”

Brandon looked around the stage in confusion. The room in which they were fighting resembled a small, intimate theater for real artisans, alright, but there was one problem for Brandon: There were no rocks to throw.

“Geodude!” Brandon complained.

“You can do it! Rock throw!”

“Geo…”

“Well it’s obvious, isn’t it!? YOU. ARE. A. ROCK. Throw yourself, Brandon!”

With a roll of his eyes, the Geodude launched himself into the air and slammed the full weight and force of his rock body upon Seneca’s Nidoran. It didn’t move anymore after that, and the audience gasped in disbelief. Seneca withdrew Nidoran into her Pokeball in a burst of red light.

“Awesome, Brandon.” Jack called his Geodude back into his Pokeball as well, grinning. “Do I win?”

“Not so fast, young Weedle,” Seneca said, amused. “I see you can be waspish indeed…”

“Thanks. I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“But if you want to win, you’ll first have to see how waspish I myself can be…” She tossed another Pokeball into the air, and with a bright flash of white light, the air was suddenly buzzing with an insect’s beating wings. A dangerous-looking Beedrill hovered above the stage. “Beware my sting.”

The audience was snap-snap-snapping again. It was seriously starting to irritate Jack. “Ah. Well… go Chester!” His Chikorita appeared and reared itself into a ready attacking position.

“Fury attack, my Beedrill!”

“Razor Leaf!”

The Beedrill swooped down upon Chester and lashed out with its twin needles; Chester began to let his leaves fly in retaliation. Together the two danced about the stage, Seneca’s Beedrill buzzing above and then coming in for an attack, and Chester responding with precise movement. It seemed almost graceful. Unlike the fight of the Geodude and the Nidoran, who were knocking at each other pretty hard from the start, the Chikorita and the Beedrill’s duel seemed swifter, both Pokemon relying on their speed.

It did seem elegant and choreographed, that is, until one of Chester’s razor leafs finally caught the Beedrill hard in its wing; the bug-type Pokemon dropped from the air, and for a second, Jack almost thought he’d claimed victory. He was wrong; Seneca shouted a command, and the Beedrill aimed his giant stinger at Chester as he fell. Chester was hit with the full force of a Poison Sting. He was pushed backwards, and suddenly seemed unable to get up.

“Chester! No!”

Chester’s eyes were unclear; the leaf on his head seemed to lazily droop, too. He was poisoned. His opponent the Beedrill was starting to fly back upward, buzzing to the sound of Seneca’s followers snapping their fingers.

“Ready to crawl back from whence you came, little Weedle?” Seneca asked, tossing the end of her scarf around her shoulder.

“Not even close. Chester, enough! Return!” His other Pokeball was tossed into the air, one more time: “Brandon, finish this off!”

The Geodude appeared once more, looking none the worse for wear from his last fight. “Geodude!”

“Brandon! Rock throw!”

“Beedrill! Poison sting!”

Whether it was blind luck, or perhaps just the sheer willpower of the rock-type Pokemon’s strike, the Beedrill’s stingers seemed to bound off the Geodude’s rocky body. Brandon rock threw himself into Beedrill so hard that everyone in the audience, Jack himself included, winced just by watching. And yet it was with such a feeling of satisfaction that Jack watched Seneca’s Pokemon fall in a heap onto the center of the stage, the buzzing of his wings slowing to a quiet stop. Fainted.

Seneca withdrew her Pokemon into its ball, looked at Jack intently - and then finally smiled and nodded. Jack punched the air, let out a victory cry and rushed forward to lift Brandon into the air. “Aw, yeah!”

The audience was collectively snapping their fingers, appreciatively, now. They were a strange bunch, these trainers who followed Seneca, with hair dyed green and piercings on their lips and noses, but they honestly seemed impressed with the battle they’d just witnessed.

“Well-fought, young Kakuna.” Seneca approached Jack and held out something for him: a shiny purple badge in the shape of a comic human skull - a somewhat morbid image, and yet endearing. What to expect from a Poison-type Gym Leader, after all? “You’ve earned this: the Bio Hazard Badge.”

Jack smiled wryly, pinning the badge to the inside of his jacket. “So I’m a Kakuna now?”

“It’s a step up from little Weedle, I think.”

“Gee, thanks. Though I always saw myself as more of a Butterfree than a Beedrill.”

Someone in the back of the audience snickered. Jack turned around and tried to find who’d made that sound, so he could throw them a dirty look, but Seneca put a hand on his shoulder, and he faced her again. “You showed some trust in your Pokemon,” she said. “How long have you had your Geodude?”

“Not very long.”

“And yet you trusted him to finish your battle for you, instead of your Chikorita.”

Jack shrugged.

“You’ll grow as trainer yet,” Seneca finished. “Good luck with your next challenge, young Kakuna. Now, if you’ll excuse me… it seems another challenger is here…”

Jack turned around, and there rest of the audience turned too. A young man with spiky black hair and a zipped-up navy parka was standing at the entrance to the room. Mervin had his hand on a Pokeball, no doubt carrying his trusty Eevee.

“Well, now,” Seneca smiled. “What’s this over here? A little Poliwag, come to challenge me?”

Jack faced the Gym Leader and gestured at Mervin indignantly. “Why do I have to be a stupid little Weedle, and he gets to be a Poliwag!?”

“Hey, first of all, Weedles are not stupid, okay? My Beedrill used to be a Weedle. Secondly, you’ve really got to go. I can’t have two challengers in the room at the same time, okay?”

“Uh… okay. Uh… thanks.”

Jack passed Mervin on his way out of the room, but Mervin didn’t seem to pay him any attention. He seemed intent on his own upcoming Gym Leader fight. Jack tried to say good luck, but his words caught in his throat.

===

After healing his Pokemon at the Pokemon Center, Jack waited in the Sprout Tower’s courtyard until evening fell. For a while he watched the painter at the side of the courtyard paint away, and both Chester and Brandon watched along with him.

“You know some old monks used to own this place,” the painter said, dabbing some colours onto his canvass. His eyes didn’t turn up from his piece. “Seneca came when they could no longer take good care of the tower. For a while some monks were apprehensive of turning over this place of nature over to her, but she reassured them it would always be a place of nature.”

“She’s got a… well… appreciation for it, I guess.”

Brandon got a little curious and made his way over to the painter’s side. Chester stayed beside Jack, and Jack pet him calmly.

“Chikori-taaa…”

“Nah, it’s okay, little guy. I know you tried your best. It was a tough Beedrill. Besides, you’ve got a partner now. He’s got your back.” Jack smiled at his Geodude.

The doors at the base of Sprout Tower opened and Mervin walked out, looking exhausted. Jack stood up and jogged over to him. “Well?”

Mervin looked up at him and smiled. He held out the purple skull-shaped badge, the Bio Hazard Badge - exactly the same was the one Jack had won.

“Nice. Congratulations.”

“Yeah. Siobhan’s pretty pissed at me, though, cause I didn’t have any antidotes.”

Jack laughed. “Lesson learned, then. So what now?”

Mervin looked behind him for a while, as if contemplating the battle he’d just had. Then he looked back at Jack. “I’m going to go ahead, Jack. By myself.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah. I’ve got my own business to take care of.”

“And if you run into Team Radical again?”

“I’ll be fine. You?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m good. You know that we’re technically rivals now, right?”

Mervin laughed. “Okay. Sounds good. Next time we battle, I’ll be stronger than you.”

“We’ll see about that.”

They exchanged a high-five, Mervin waved casually at Brandon and Chester farewell, and then Jack watched him go on his way. When Mervin was out of his sight, Jack took out the Bio Hazard Badge and observed it in the palm of his hand. The rays of the dying sun glinted off its surface.

“Is that your first badge, kid?” the painter asked him.

“Yeah.”

“Congratulations. You’ve got seven more to go, though.”

“You got that right.”
 
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Dust_monster

Scribbler
The Radicals’ Road
Chapter 5
Reunion


The sheep-Pokemon Mareep growled, and Chester shrank away, shuddering.

“Don’t let her get to you, Chester!” Jack said, encouragingly. “You can take her. Come on, use Tackle!”

“Chikorita!”

Chester and the wild Mareep spent a few minutes trading blows. It was another sunny day on Route 32, south of Violet City, and Chester and Brandon had easily steamrolled the Pidgeys, Woopers and Ekans that had blocked their way, but for some reason, this Mareep was being particularly difficult to take down.

“Razor Leaf!”

Chester let loose an airborne barrage of razor leafs, more than any he’d done before. The air temporarily turned into a storm of green with all the leafs flying at the Mareep. The Mareep responded with a powerful Thundershock, zapping some of the leaves out of the air while the rest cut into her face, her fleece.

“Keep up the pressure, Chester!”

It seemed like ages before the Mareep finally collapsed, its fleece buzzing with static, Jack could hear the electricity from her crackling from several paces away. It was too good to pass up: he threw a Pokeball at the Mareep.

A flash of light sucked the Mareep into the ball, and about five tense seconds later, a satisfying click from the Pokeball told Jack that he had a new member on his team.

“Candy,” he decided. “A pretty name for a pretty Pokemon.”

===

Union Cave.

Jack’s parents had taken him there when he was a kid, a long, long time ago. Those were the days that Jack was still dreaming about becoming a Trainer and joining the ranks of the young men and women traveling the region with their partner Pokemon - a traditional rite of adulthood. Those were the times Jack was so scrawny, even his attempts at throwing a Pokeball at a wild Pokemon were laughable. Now, though, with his trusty Pokemon at his side, Jack felt different. The kid who was taken to Union Cave years before would’ve been terrified of the dark.

Now, facing the entrance to the cave’s darkness, Jack felt only mildly anxious and slightly pessimistic.

A camping trainer on the hillside near where Jack stood - a young girl dressed ready for a picnic - called out to him, “You’re gonna have to go inside sooner or later. It’s either that or back to Violet City.”

“Give me a second. I’m biding my time.”

Several minutes later Jack still hadn’t moved.

“I’m waiting,” the camper said.

“Gee, thanks a lot.”

Some moments after, Jack was traversing the narrow rocky path through Union Cave amidst stalagmites and stalactites, his eyes careful on every next step. And since he didn’t care too much to be by himself, he tossed his new Mareep’s Pokeball into the air, summoning her so she could walk alongside him.

“You know, Candy,” Jack said conversationally, “It would be kind of hot if we beat the next Gym Leader and got a new badge, huh?”

Candy made a noise that indicated something that was either indifference or cluelessness.

“The next Gym Leader’s in Azalea Town. Just beyond this cave.”

Now Candy was walking some distance away from Jack. Thankfully, it wasn’t as dark in this cave as the one where Jack had captured Brandon, and the sheep Pokemon was still within easy sight. Occasionally she let out a spark from her fleece, illuminating the area around her.

“I mean, if I already beat one Gym Leader, another one can’t be too tough, right? We can do it. I heard this Gym Leader uses Flying-type Pokemon. Should be easy for you to handle, eh?”

The Mareep was no longer walking any path parallel to Jack’s, and now seemed to meandering in another direction entirely.

“Uh… Candy? Where are you going…? GOOD GRIEF!”

Candy had started hopping along some ridges in the cave wall, moving higher and higher, toward a ledge several feet above their heads. Jack gave chase immediately, straying from the well worn cave path and dashing up a few slopes to get to where his new Pokemon - obviously the most adventurous of them yet - was headed.

“Candy, get down here this instant! You’ll fall and hurt yourself! I’m warning you!”

The Mareep hopped further and further up; pieces of loose gravel came scattering down from beneath her little hooves. She whined happily, oblivious to the heights she was scaling. Jack cursed her with the dozen forms of Arceus, and then, hand over hand, began to climb the ledges along the rock wall as well.

After several precarious moments, his shoes often nearly slipping off the holds in the rock wall, Jack caught up to Candy about three stories above the cave’s floor. They were on a spacious ledge that jut out from the wall. From up here, he could see a good deal around the cave: a distant light indicated an exit, and the foamy rush of a subterranean river could be seen as well. But Jack couldn’t focus on these for too long because Candy was poking at something with her nose, something lodged in between two rocks.

A glint of red caught Jack’s eye - a ruby kind of red, lustrous and beautiful. It was a small, smooth orb. Jack reached for it and dislodged it from the rocks. “Is this what you were looking for, girl?” Jack asked his Mareep in a whisper. Candy bleated a happy response.

The red orb was warm in his hand. “It’s like a kind of gem. This thing must be worth a fortune. Good job.” He scratched under Candy’s chin - though a second too long, because he was inadvertently zapped by her static. Candy cried a quiet apology, and Jack laughed. “If this thing - whatever it is - makes us rich, you’ll be forgiven. Imagine how many puffins we could buy. Come on, let’s get down from here.”
The Mareep let out a contented bleat.

“That’s right, Candy. A truckload of poffins. Hell, yeah.”

But it wasn’t a moment after they’d climbed down from the high ledge back to the cave floor that they realised they weren’t getting out of Union Cave so easily. Three people in gray - two men and one woman - barred their path. They wore matching kerchiefs to cover their faces. Jack could only see the steely eyes that looked out at him from underneath their baseball caps. Geez, Jack thought, where did they come from?

“Hello,” the man in the middle said. “I’m not sure we’ve met before, but you have something that belongs to us.”

Jack gulped. His own eyes darted left and right, trying to find an opening through which he and Candy could escape. “Well, I think I’ve met your friends before,” he said. “A bunch of jerks, too.”

“Have you? Well then, maybe you already know that Team Radical doesn’t like to be kept away from the things that are ours. Hand over the Relic.”

Jack wasn’t sure what was more outrageous: that they’d just called the orb he’d found another Relic, or that they were claiming it was theirs. “I’m not handing over anything.”

“We’re not going to bother you if you just give us the Relic, boy. Let’s make it simple. Give it to us, and we’ll move on.”

“Hey, why doesn’t your boss show up again? Tell Thaddeus I miss him, and that grunts like you aren’t worth my time.”

“Boy, this is your last warning…”

“Well, this is your first. CANDY, THUNDERSHOCK!”

The Mareep’s fleece burst in luminous curtains of bright yellow lightning, and she directed them toward the three people in grey. They leapt away to avoid being fried by the electricity; Candy’s Thundershock ricocheted against rocks and stalagmites. “Come on!” Jack cried, and he dashed around a column of stone, up a slope. Candy was bounding after him, right on his heels, her tail wagging.

Behind them, the three Radical grunts were already running after him in pursuit. He heard the sound of Pokeballs opening and saw in his periphery the flashes of light summoning their Pokemon. A quick look behind told him a Houndour, Raticate, and Murkrow were all chasing him as well.

“Crap,” he hissed, telling his legs to run faster. “Crap crap crap crap crap!”

“Hondour, use Ember!” one of the Team Radical grunts, the man who’d been speaking, commanded. A burst of flame hit a rock just off to Jack’s left, charring the stone. Another of Houndour’s fire attacks struck the ground near his feet a few moments later. Jack’s cursing became so loud that he sent echoes of “OH CRUD” and “SCREW THIS” reverberating all throughout the hollows of Union Cave. After splashing through the shallows of an underground brook and then emerging on the opposite side of its bank, Jack found a crack of light in the wall ahead of him. He ran for it, dashed through it, and found himself and Candy outside the cave, on a large plateau, high above the ground, dotted with stone and small shrubbery. The sunlight was blinding.

Unfortunately for Jack, that was as far as he got. The plateau was built into the side of a high and steep hill, and the valley below him was too far and risky to jump for. The Houndour emerged from the hole in the cave wall first, followed by the fiesty-looking Raticate and the Murkrow, flapping above. The three people in gray followed then, effectively blocking off Jack’s exit.

“Is this how it’s gonna be, then?” Jack murmured. He tossed his two Pokeballs into the air, bringing Chester and Brandon out beside Candy. His three Pokemon warily eyed their three opponents.

The melee began, and it was worse than he could have imagined it.

It all escalated beyond Jack’s control in a few heartbeats: the Murkrow pecked away at Candy while swiftly flying in and out of range of her Thundershocks; Brandon’s rock-solid defense gave way under the Raticate’s vicious Hyper Fangs and Quick Attacks; and Chester’s duel with the Houndour left him in burns and bruises. Jack felt his heart sink, and once or twice his hand went to the ruby orb he’d found in the cave, thinking he could make it stop by surrendering it.

A Relic, they called it. First Professor Cedar’s Relic, and now this one too? His breathing was getting heavy, and he reached up to his forehead to wipe the sweat away.

Soon, both Brandon and Candy were knocked out, forcing Jack to withdraw them into their Pokeballs. Only Chester stood with Jack now, and the leaf on his head looked ready to wilt. He sent a Razor Leaf attack flying at the Houndour; the Houndour burned the leaves out of the air with a well-placed Ember. The Raticate and Murkrow were stalking closer and closer, too, and the people in gray were surely just taking their time now, savouring their victory. Jack was trapped, outnumbered, and out of options.

“Do you give up?” the woman chuckled. “If you’re not stupid, boy, now would be the time. You’re all alone.”

A young woman’s voice interrupted: “Check your facts. He’s not alone.”

The few moments that followed were not only amazing - they would be, in his later years, some of the moments that Jack would call truly unforgettable.

A Cyndaquil leapt in out of nowhere, sending wave after wave of fire from her mouth at the Raticate and the Murkrow. It seemed like each fireball that landed, each burst from the Cyndaquil, was a wondrous sight to Jack’s eyes. The members of Team Radical were thrown into a frenzy.

The Radicals’ Houndour might’ve done something about the Cyndaquil too, if the Totodile hadn’t jumped in, blasting a powerful jet of water from his maw at the canine Pokemon. The Totodile’s Water Gun knocked the Houndour so hard that it slammed against the side of the cave’s wall.

The Cyndaquil’s and Totodile’s Trainers slid in from somewhere further up the hillside, atop Union Cave: one of them a girl with red hair as fiery as her Cyndaquil’s back, and the other girl a relaxed looking blonde, with eyes so stunning blue, they matched her Totodile’s shimmering scales.

“Charlotte!” Jack breathed. “Bree!”

“Jack, for once, could you stop looking so pathetic?” Charlotte said, trotting up to his side.

“Yeah, right, it’s good to see you too.”

“Can we get rid of these people first?” Bree asked, in the same way she’d have asked about getting some ice cream. Chester was standing up, invigorated by the arrival of old friends. Jack nodded.

“Okay, let’s get this done! Chester, use Razor Leaf!”

Charlotte pumped a fist in the air. “Aria! Ember!”

Bree was smiling as if it were all a game. “Coco, Water Gun now!”

The Chikorita, Cyndaquil and Totodile’s combined attacks were relentless. The man who’d threatened Jack cried for a retreat, and all three of the people in gray called their Pokemon back into their Pokeballs. They were backing off.

“We won’t forget this!” the man called as he slipped back into the crack in the wall, back into the darkness of Union cave.

“Yeah?” Jack called. “Well, neither will I!”

Finally, Team Radical was out of sight. Jack sunk to his knees in relief - or maybe he was just tired - and quietly soaked in some sun for a few seconds. The air was cool on his skin, a light breeze kissing his nape. It was so peaceful here, so quiet, and he thought he should maybe just rest here a long, long time.

Then Charlotte slapped him on the back of his head so hard, he collapsed face-first in the dirt.

“WHAT THE HELL IS THIS ABOUT ME EATING TOO MUCH COOKIES!?” she screamed.

===

Bree and Charlotte took turns inspecting the orb that Candy had found in the cave, and then handed it back to Jack with matching expressions of cluelessness.

“They called this a Relic, too?” Charlotte asked him.

“Yeah.”

Bree was tapping her chin thoughtfully, looking up at the clouds. Her eyes seemed to be seeing none of them, though, lost in thought. “Does it look anything like that sphere Thaddeus stole from Professor Cedar?”

“Now that you mention it, it’s the same size, I think. Except the Professor’s was yellowish, and this one’s all shiny red.”

“And still no idea what they’re for?”

“About these Relics, I know about as much as you guys.”

They walked side-by-side down the road, for Azalea Town. Jack looked quite a mess from all the climbing and running he did inside the cave, but his two friends from New Bark Town looked quite sharp next to him. Charlotte wore a maroon cardigan over her back shirt and pants, and looked like she could walk all day. Bree wore a sky-blue blouse and a striped skirt, and this time she wore her hair in a convenient ponytail. The boots and bag she wore indicated she was ready for travelling too.

“So why are you here now?” Jack asked them.

“Well, after Professor Cedar told us about you getting beat up by those people obsessed with dressing in gray,” Charlotte said, “we couldn’t just stay put and let our little Jacko get hurt, could we?”

“Yeah,” Bree agreed. “That was Charlotte’s excuse, anyway. I kind of just wanted to go for a walk.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a Chesto Berry. She bit into it with a happy crunch, and then grinned at Jack with a teethful of berry. “So now here we are, with Pokemon of our own!”

Jack didn’t realize he was smiling too. “You guys want to come with me on a Pokemon journey?”

“Don’t kid yourself, Jack,” Charlotte said. “We’re here to make sure you don’t get yourself hurt, killed, or otherwise just do anything stupid and ill-advised. Unless we do, your journey’s not going to last for very long.”

“I’ve been doing just fine,” Jack protested.

“You were getting your butt whipped about a hundred different ways just a while ago,” Bree pointed out. “You would’ve been dead meat if Charlotte and I didn’t rescue me.” She bit into her Chesto Berry with gusto. “Damn, are these berries good or what?”

“Those are for Pokemon,” Jack sighed. “They cure paralysis.”

“They cure my hunger and craving for berries, that’s what they do.”

“Charlotte,” Jack continued, unbuttoning his jacket to show them the Bio Hazard Badge pinned there. “I’ve beaten one Gym Leader. Does that sound like someone who can’t take care of himself?”

Both Charlotte and Bree looked genuinely impressed by this. “Seneca, the Poison-type Gym Leader?” Bree inquired.

“Yeah. One hell of a fight.”

“Think you can do it again?” Charlotte challenged.

“Beat another Gym Leader? Yeah. Bring it.”

“Good. Cause here we are at Azalea Town. Be my guest.”
 

Dust_monster

Scribbler
The Radicals’ Road
Chapter 6
Heights



Bree and Jack were seated around the edge of the Slowpoke Well, a small cavern filled with the usual dark-loving Pokemon and fenced in by a ring of stone. After healing their Pokemon in the Pokemon Center, they decided to grab some lunch first before heading on to challenge the Gym Leader. The sky was clear this time, with very few wispy clouds swept across the blue expanse, and yet the sun didn’t beat down too hot on Azalea Town - ideal weather for battling in the outdoors, if there were ever one.

Jack happily bit into a sandwich, while Bree was already smothering her face in a cone of ice cream. Charlotte had gone off to purchase some supplies.

“You know, you had us worried sick when you disappeared like that,” Bree informed him. “I can understand telling Professor Cedar, but you left the rest of us hanging. What’s up with that?”

“Sorry,” Jack answered, lamely.

Bree was looking at him intently. “You think you were brave, running after Thaddeus like that?”

“I didn’t want him to get away. He’s got to pay for stealing that Relic from the Professor.”

“And challenging these Gym Leaders?”

“They’ll make me stronger for the next time we meet.”

Bree’s gaze was starting to get unsettling. She seemed to have inched a little closer now, her sapphire gaze boring, unblinking, straight into his soul - and she was licking her ice cream, all the while. “You got a plan?”

Jack tried to look away. “Build a team. Get Chester, Brandon and Candy stronger and stronger. Find Thaddeus. Beat him. Get the Relic back.”

Bree kept staring, wide-eyed. She licked her ice cream a few times, never breaking-eye contact.

“Really?”

“Really.”

“Dumb plan. You have no idea how strong of a Trainer Thaddeus is. He mauled your Chikorita last time.”

“Well it’s the only plan I’ve got right now. And would you PLEASE stop staring?”

“Too weird?”

“Yeah.”

“Sorry.”

“Hey!” Charlotte called, striding up to them, holding a shopping bag of hew newly-bought supplies. “Let’s get moving. Jack, I found where the Gym is. It’s at the edge of town. The Gym Leader, Cloud - I heard he doesn’t like buildings. He likes all his fights out in the open. Come on.”

Bree stood up and tossed the rest of her ice cream cone to Coco, her Totodile, who happily devoured it. “What took you so long?”

“There was this really cute guy in the PokeMart in line in front of me.” Charlotte’s voice dropped to a kind of girly squeal. “He was really good-looking. And fit, you know. Obviously works out. Had a bit of stubble on his face too, just the way I like it.”

“Ooh.” Bree’s eyes glinted with interest. “Hair color?”

“Kind of a dark red. Almost brown. And he’s tall too.”

“Did you get his name? Number?”

Charlotte shook her head. “Not this time. But oh man, I wish I did…”

“Ugh,” Jack groaned. “Someone punch me. I almost miss having Merv around.”

“Ah, shut up, Jack, you totally missed us,” Bree teased.

“Whatever. I’m going to the Gym.”

The three of them started walking for the edge of Azalea Town. They came upon the Gym Leader’s space quite easily - a huge mass of land had been cleared around the outer borders of Ilix Forest, and chalk dust lined the edges of a makeshift battleground. The whole area was levelled-off dirt and grass - a very well-maintained field, the kind where kids could run around to fly their kites.

And above this space, bird-type Pokemon of every kind soared.

It was an amazing sight - Pidgeys, Pidgeottos and Pidgeots; Hoothoots and Noctowls; even a couple of Farfetch’d and some other Pokemon Jack couldn’t immediately identify. Feathers were scattered everywhere. The air was filled with their cries and the sound of their beating wings.

There were trainers lined up all around the field - clearly the trainers of the bird Pokemon - and at the approach of Jack and the others, all of them turned around and watched them. There were maybe ten or fifteen of them altogether. The bird Pokemon above the field all steadily stopped swooping around, turned to stare at Jack as well, just flapping in place.

In moments, Jack realized he had about a hundred pairs of eyes locked on him. He froze. Okay, not awkward at all.

When none of the trainers spoke, Jack tried. “My name is—”

His voice cracked on the third syllable, and on either side of him, Charlotte and Bree burst out laughing. The trainers around the field laughed too, and the several bird Pokemon flying above began to squawk and cry out in something that resembled laughter. Jack’s cheeks flushed red.

“Girls,” he hissed. “You’re supposed to be my support in this!”

No such luck - Bree’s laughter was giving her the stitches and she had to lean on Charlotte for support - that is, until Charlotte collapsed too from laughing too hard, falling on all fours. Bree fell on top of her in a cackling heap.

“You girls,” Jack declared, “are the worst friends that a man like me ever had the misfortune to have.”

Charlotte tried to wave Jack away, toward the other trainers. “Go,” she gasped, in between laughing fits. “Go, Jack - try, haha - try again!”

Jack raised his voice. “MY NAME IS JACOBIN EVANS FROM NEW BARK TOWN AND I DEMAND A BATTLE WITH YOUR GYM LEADER!” And thankfully, his voice did not crack on that one.

When the laughter died down, a young lad, perhaps the same age as Jack’s, stepped through the throng of bird Pokemon Trainers and stood in front of Jack. He wore a black shirt underneath denim overalls, and his dark hair was shaved close to his head. This trainer had a dark tan and a smile that was very sure of himself. “Why didn’t you say so? My name is Cloud. As the Gym Leader of Azalea Town, I accept your challenge.”

==

In a small cafe in downtown Azalea, the bartender looked up to see a customer stride in. He didn’t seem to be a man the barkeep recognised - maybe he was from out-of-town.

The man, who had reddish-brown hair and, admittedly, quite the handsome face, sat himself down in a chair, relaxed as could be. He didn’t bother to remove his long black coat. “I’ll have a coffee, please,” he said, in a velvet voice.

“Coming right up, my good man.”

==

“Chester, I choose you!”

“Let’s fly, Spearow!”

Cloud seemed to be an excitable kind of young man. Even from the opposite ends of the field, Jack could see him moving his limbs with a kind of excess of energy, hopping from foot to foot and shaking his hands at his sides. “Spearow, beat it down with Peck!”

“Chester, Razor Leaf!”

Chester’s knife-sharp leaves zipped through the air at the Spearow at top speed, but apparently not fast enough - the bird swooped up and down and left and right, every which way, expertly manoeuvring around the storm of leaves. The Spearow then charged at Chester, quicker than a bullet, jabbing him thrice with his beak in quick succession.

“Tackle!” Jack commanded, a little desperately. Chester leaped off his hind legs, aiming to strike the Spearow with his body, but ended up hitting the ground and eating dirt instead - the Spearow was out of range again. The audience of Cloud’s bird-Pokemon Trainers, and Bree and Charlotte off to the side, winced collectively at the attempt.

“You can do better than that,” Cloud challenged. “Spearow! Fury Attack!”

“Tackle again, Chester! Show em what you’re made of!”

Whatever Chester was made of, it apparently didn’t impress Cloud’s Spearow. Chester was able to hit the Spearow this time, but he got a lot more in return, in the form of pecks and scratches.

“Grass is weak against Flying!” Charlotte screamed at Jack from the side of the battlefield! “Get rid of Chester, man!”

“Yeah,” Bree joined in, in what she probably thought was an encouraging voice. “You’re only showing your inexperience and lack of knowledge on type match-ups, Jack!”

“WOULD YOU TWO SHUT UP AND LET ME BATTLE!?” Jack shouted back at them, sweat building at the back of his neck. But he immediately withdrew Chester into his Pokeball anyway. They were right. Despite Chester’s valiant efforts, they were going nowhere fast. And he did need the type match-up advantage. He needed to knock this bird out of the sky.

He needed a big damn, rock to do it.

“Brandon! Go! Rock Throw!”

When he tossed Brandon’s Pokeball skyward, the Geodude appeared above the Spearow in a flash of light… and body-slammed into the bird as he fell toward the ground. It must’ve been quite effective, because it almost immediately knocked out the Spearow, who lay under Brandon’s full weight with dazed eyes. The audience burst into mixed gasps and exclamations; Bree let out an audible whoop of celebration.

Cloud fell silent for a moment. His face twisted into an expression of mixed amusement and disappointment. “Shoot,” he murmured. “Didn’t see that coming.”

“Yes!” Jack cried, giving Brandon two thumbs up, while a red beam of light sucked the fainted Spearow back into his Pokeball. “Awesome job, Brandon!”

“Fair enough,” Cloud said. He had another Pokeball in his hand now. “But I’ll have you know that I’ve been trained by and battled the very best of the best here in Johto. Have you ever heard of the Sky Queen?”

“The Sky Queen?” Jack scratched his chin. “Sounds familiar.”

“You don’t know the Sky Queen!?” Charlotte cried in disbelief. “That’s what they call the Pokemon Champion!”

“That’s right,” Cloud said, grinning. “The greatest Trainer in the region personally tutored me in the ways of the Flying-type Pokemon, dude. I’m not dropping this without a fight.”

Jack tried to look unconcerned. “Bring it, then.”

Brandon set himself into a fighting stance, both fists raised like a pugilist, his rock body leaning forward, his eyes focused. “Geodude.” Jack loved it.

And so Cloud hurled his Pokeball. “Go, Fearow!”

==

The man in the black coat finished the last of his coffee, paid his bill, and then stood up.

“Come again,” the barkeep said.

“I think I will. Thank you,” came the velvety-smooth reply.

He was almost out the door when the barkeeper called out, “Sir, you left all your change over here.”

The man turned back to him for just a second and flashed a stunning smile. “It’s a tip,” he said. “For serving such great coffee.”

“Well, thanks. Uh… you have a nice day.”

“And you.”

The man with reddish-brown hair was out the door without another glance back.

==

Cloud’s Fearow could’ve been considered a freak of nature, as far as nature and Pokemon were concerned. The enormous expanse of his wings, the fluff of red plumes on his head, his long, sharp beak - all of it seemed to be just a little bit exaggerated. And the way he and Cloud battled as well was pretty admirable. They worked with coordination and trust - signs of a strong bond.

“Wing attack!” Cloud pointed straight at Brandon, as if there were still a need to paint his target red. The Fearow dived from above and buffeted the Geodude with his sizeable wings, before flying straight up again. Brandon had no time to counterattack, and even though Rock beat Flying, he was starting to get worn out. The Fearow had been diving at him and then flying just out of reach for five minutes, now. A simple strategy, but the Gym leader was using it effectively. Some of his disciples at the sides of the battlefield were starting to cheer on their mentor, or otherwise jeer the challenger.

Jack was struggling to keep his wits about him. His trust in Brandon was strong too, but he needed a new plan of attack. “Brandon, Defense Curl!”

The Geodude braced himself for another attack. His face was turned toward the ground, the better to protect himself from the onslaught from above.

“You’ll need to try harder,” Cloud commented. “Fearow, show him your Drill Peck!”

The Fearow descended in a swift, spinning blur of feathers.

“His shadow,” he murmured to Brandon, softly. “Watch for his shadow.”

And sure enough, even with his face turned down, Brandon saw the Fearow’s shadow loom larger and larger around him, as it dove closer.

“NOW!” Jack’s voice almost cracked again. “Tackle him hard!”

And Brandon did, uncurling himself from his defensive position and slamming his rock body into the Fearow’s face. At that velocity, though, there was no way Brandon was safe either. The Geodude tumbled and rolled like a… well, like a rock… across the field, fainted and unable to continue. The Fearow cried in pain and flapped his wings about angrily for a moment, but he remained airborne and ready to fight.

“Brandon, return!” Jack’s third and final Pokeball was out. “Candy, finish him off! Thundershock!”

The Mareep leapt into action and sent a jolt of lightning from her fleece at the giant bird.

“Fearow, Mirror Move!”

A strange force field appeared before Fearow. It didn’t completely stop the electricity from zapping him fiercely, but it did send some bolts shooting back toward its sender, Candy dove away from the counterattack and the electricity struck the earth instead, leaving a small, smoking spot on the ground.

“You got him now!” Jack said. He needed to wipe the sweat off his palms, but resisted the urge. “One more Thundershock!”

“Fearow, Drill Peck now!”

The Fearow flew straight at Mareep with marvellous speed. The Mareep hurled one more zap of electricity - a powerful one, this time - at the oncoming bird. Candy’s reflexes were good enough. She zapped the Fearow with a jolt, and then dodged the incoming missile of his needle-sharp beak.

“Again!” Jack cried. “We got him on the ropes! Thundershock! Thundershock! One more Thundershock!”

“Dodge it, Fearow!”

Alas, this Fearow was strong, but just a little bit too big. Candy couldn’t miss. Zap. Her first Thundershock sent its wings into weird mid-air spasms. Zap. The second one sent the Fearow crashing into the ground. Zap. The third one was just for good measure, since the Fearow was clearly still trying to escape skyward once more.

“Keep pushing it!” Jack screamed. “Go, Candy!”

One final Thundershock dropped the Fearow to the ground, for good this time - and so hard that it sent a small cloud of dust and grass into the air. It was fainted.

Jack and Candy looked up to Cloud. The Gym Leader looked stunned. But only for about five seconds. Then he put on a smile, withdrew his Fearow into its Pokeball, and walked up to Jack. “Congratulations,” he said. “Your victory’s earned, dude.”

Candy jumped into Jack’s arms, and he raised the sheep-Pokemon above his head, laughing in pure, unadulterated joy. The other trainers around the field applauded respectfully. Charlotte and Bree were calling out their congratulations as well.

“Your badge,” Cloud said, handing Jack a badge in the shape of a tornado, with tiny feathers carved at its edges for detail. “The North Wind Badge.”

“Thanks! Thanks a lot!” Jack wasted no time in pinning it inside his jacket next to the Bio Hazard Badge, which Cloud glimpsed as well. “You beat Seneca too, huh?”

“Yeah, I’m getting the hang of this, actually.”

==

Cloud invited Jack, Bree and Charlotte to an afternoon snack at the edge of his field, where they sat on the ground and ate as if at a picnic. Cloud’s disciples were once again training; dozens of bird-type Pokemon were in the air, pecking and scatting and each other in heated practice battles.

“What I liked about you,” Cloud was explaining, “was that you knew when to be patient, and when you knew to be aggressive. You can fight with flexibility.”

Jack nodded, humbly, taking a bite out of an apple. “Thanks. It was a tough fight. I can’t believe you were trained by the Pokemon Champion herself!”

“Well, keep on earning badges and you might get the chance to battle her yourself one day.”

“Hey!” Charlotte interrupted, pointing excitedly. “Bree! Look! That’s the cute guy I told you about! The one at the PokeMart!”

A man in a black coat was walking by the edge of the field, seemingly headed for Ilix Forest. Bree took one good look at his face and practically melted. “You’re right, Char. Holy Arceus, he’s gorgeous!”

Jack glanced up at the man - and froze. His heart felt like it had been Ice Beamed frozen.

“It’s Thaddeus.”

“What?” Charlotte asked.

“That’s… that’s Thaddeus. He stole Professor Cedar’s Relic!”

“That’s Thaddeus!?” Bree exclaimed. “You weren’t joking, Jack - he’s dreamy!”

“Shut your face!” Jack stood up. “He’s going to pay for what he did in New Bark!”

The long black coat was almost out of sight. Thaddeus was headed straight into the thick of Ilix Forest, and he wasn’t stopping. Jack lightly grazed his three Pokeballs with his fingers, took a deep breath, and then ran after him.

“Not this time,” he murmured. “Not this time.”
 

Dr. Cooper

Bazinga
I'll be the first one to comment here. The story is decent, keep going!
 

Dust_monster

Scribbler
The Radicals’ Road
Chapter 7
Battle at Ilix Forest


“Hey! You!”

Jack burst out of the undergrowth and stopped short at the edge of a wide, well-lit glade in the middle of Ilix Forest. The trees that surrounded them were hulking sentinels, with wide trunks and expansive, green canopies that filtered the sunlight from above. On the opposite end of the clearing stood the man in the black coat. He was facing away, but turned around when Jack called to him. Even the way he spun about on his heel seemed to be done with grace, and he ran a hand through his hair as he did so. Jack had almost forgotten how handsome he was.

“Oh, my,” Thaddeus remarked, coolly. “If it isn’t little Jack from New Bark Town.”

“What the hell are you doing here?” Jack tried to make his voice sound threatening. Instead it came out meekly, almost in a squeak.

“I can do whatever I want. You don’t own Johto. You can’t stop me.”

“I’ll try, if you’re going around stealing things from good people.”

Thaddeus began to pace up and down the clearing, slowly and deliberately, his shoes crunching on the dry leaves on the forest floor. He clasped his hands behind his back and turned his face skyward, his expression in solemn thought. “Let’s see… it’s been a short while since the last time we met. Have you gotten stronger since then?”

Jack opened up his jacket and displayed the Bio Hazard Badge and the North Wind Badge. “A little.”

“And, your trip?”

“Eh?”

“I mean, how’s the trip so far?”

“It’s been okay. A little tough. But I’m having fun.”

Thaddeus smiled. “That’s good.”

Jack started nodding, but then caught himself. Anger took over again. “Wait a second, why the hell are we chatting!? Oh, don’t act like you care. Now give the Relic back.”

The man in the black coat stopped pacing, and then pierced Jack with the full intensity of his stare. Jack had to take a step back. Thaddeus reached into his pocket and produced a device that looked very much like a PokeGear, glanced at it for a few seconds, and then pocketed it again with a renewed smile on his face. “Interesting,” he said. “Very interesting. You have a Relic as well.”

Jack paused, remembering Team Radical in Union Cave. “What, do you want to steal it too?”

“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” Thaddeus reached into his coat pocket, and this time he brought out the little bronze sphere that he’d taken from Professor Cedar’s lab. The grin on his face was deceptively friendly.

Jack wasn’t sure why he did it, but he replied by reaching into his bag and digging out the red orb that Candy had found in Union Cave. The ruby sphere in his hand glinted in exactly the same way as the yellowish one in Thaddeus’s.

“Give to me,” Thaddeus said, politely.

“No, you give me that one,” Jack answered.

“Afraid I can’t.”

“And you think I’m going to give this one up, too?”

“Looks like we’re at an impasse.”

The span of three heartbeats passed by. Some leaves rustled across the forest floor in the afternoon breeze. Somewhere nearby, a Caterpie crawled up a tree trunk. A Magikarp splashed away in a faraway brook, though its plop in the water was nearly audible.

“I’ll battle you for them,” Jack said. “Winner takes all.”

“Now that’s I wanted to hear.”

Both of them reached for their Pokeballs.

“I’m going to make you pay for what you did in the Professor’s lab.”

(Author’s note: Play in the background: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxOUWtduI5Q)

He’d had quite a few battles already, but Jack could not deny that his heart was beating faster for this one than any of them before. None had been quite so personal. Even as he threw Candy’s Pokeball into the air, he felt his voice strain harder than ever. “Candy, go! Thundershock!”

Thaddeus, on the other hand, remained calm and cool when he tossed his Pokeball and summoned a stallion with a fiery mane. “Go, Rapidash. Flamethrower.”

Jack’s Mareep and Thaddeus’s Rapidash exchanged bolts of electricity and streams of flame; the fire and lightning struck the trees at the edge of the clearing, leaving them smoking. The mane and tail of Thaddeus’s Rapidash were impressive: bright, blazing, beautiful. Her powerful hooves and lean hindquarters were clear when she trotted around the glade, her eyes focused on Candy. This was not a Pokemon to be trifled with.

“Thunder Wave, Candy!”

“Rapidash, show them the meaning of speed.”

Candy let loose a cry and unleashed a cage of lightning at Rapidash, hoping to trap her in place with paralysis - but her attack only landed in an empty space. The Rapidash galloped around the edges of the clearing, stopping and pivoting with such agility that she kicked up dirt and twigs from the ground with every change of direction. Jack’s Mareep tried another Thunder Wave. Her lightning might as well have missed by a mile; the Rapidash was far, far away by the time her attack sizzled uselessly into a tree.

“Use Stomp.” Thaddeus voice was the epitome of chill. His Rapidash galloped at Candy and brought her hooves down hard on her so fast that the sheep-Pokemon had no time to respond. Candy’s face was shoved into the dirt under the force of the stomp attack.

Any of the confidence Jack had initially felt - his trust that he’d grown stronger, that his Pokemon had grown right alongside him - was quickly booted into the dirt as well. Desperation crept into his voice. “Thundershock, Candy!”

Even with her face under the horse-Pokemon’s hoof, Candy answered to Jack’s command: her fleece burst with yellow lightning, and the Rapidash trotted away backwards in alarm. The flaming mane around her neck danced wildly as she tried to shake off the Thundershock.

“We’re okay, girl,” Thaddeus said, soothingly. “Finish her off with Flame Wheel.”

The Rapidash let out a whinny, then leapt off her hind legs, impossibly high. She spun in an arc, mane and tail whirring together in majestic red streaks, and unleashed a spinning ball of flame at Candy. The Mareep didn’t stand a chance; she fell to the forest floor, fainted, with smoke rising from her burned fleece.

“CANDY!” Jack screamed. He bit his lip, and withdrew the Mareep into her Pokeball. “Candy, return!”

“Rapidash, return.” The Rapidash disappeared as well.

Jack had been so intent on the battle that he hadn’t realised that his friends had finally caught up with him. He noticed them now, standing there at the edge of the clearing. Bree was as still as the trees that towered around them; Charlotte had her arms crossed, and a furrow around her brow. And surprisingly, the Gym Leader Cloud was there as well.

“You can stop, Jack,” Bree said. “You don’t have to do this.”

Jack ignored her. “Go, Brandon!”

Thaddeus’s second Pokeball opened with a brilliant flash of light. “I choose you! Misdreavus!”

The ghost Pokemon that came forth hovered above Jack’s Geodude with a mischievous kind of grin. For the first time since Jack had caught him, Brandon’s eyes showed the beginning of fear. He raised his fists, ready to fight, but inched away from the Thaddeus’s floating Pokemon.

“Sand Attack!” Jack ordered.

“Lick,” Thaddeus said in response.

Brandon grabbed a huge fistful of dirt from the ground and hurled it in the Misdreavus’s direction. The ghost Pokemon seemed to fade in and out of reach, blinking in and out of the thin air, completely unharmed by Brandon’s attacks. Just as Brandon began to express his confusion, the Misdreavus appeared at his side and ran her tongue grotesquely over his face. The Geodude shuddered, his face transforming into one of disgust, and Jack almost shuddered with him.

“Brandon, Rock Throw now!”

The Geodude leapt for a large piece of stone protruding from the ground, near the massive roots of the trees lining the clearing, but just as he got his hands on it and lifted it, readying to throw it at his opponent - there the Misdreavus was again, at his side. Another Lick attack, and Geodude dropped the rock. His arms seemed to lock in place, and his expression froze in a look of horror.

Cloud called out to Jack: “Your Geodude is paralyzed, man!”

“Tell me something I don’t know!”
Thaddeus’s silky smooth voice carried the next direction for his Pokemon, loud and clear: “Misdreavus, Curse.”

A large nail materialized in the air in front of the Misdreavus - an ugly, ghastly thing. When the nail pierced the ghost Pokemon, she momentarily winced in pain - but then, that disturbing little smile crept back on. A purple glow surrounded Brandon, and his expression transformed from fear into pain as well. He cried out helplessly.

“That’s the Curse attack,” Bree called out. “Get Brandon out of there, Jack! He can’t even move!”

The Misdreavus hovered up and down and all around Brandon, taunting him with her wide, knowing grin. The Geodude tried bravely to throw another rock at her, but it was no use - the purple glow surrounded him again, and look of pain on his face said it all. It was too much. Brandon’s eyes drooped, his fists dropped in defeat, and he rolled over, fainted.

Jack was getting frustrated. “Return, Brandon!”

“Misdreavus, return.” Both Pokemon were withdrawn into their Pokeballs. Thaddeus chuckled with genuine amusement. “Well? Shall we continue this game, or will you give me the Relic?”

“GO, CHESTER! IT’S PAYBACK TIME!”

“Fine. Go, Hitmonchan!”

The Chikorita and the Hitmonchan appeared before their respective trainers, and then began to circle around the glade, eyes focused squarely on each other. Chester’s leaf was erect and battle-ready; Thaddeus’s Hitmonchan raised his boxing gloves in a ready fighting stance. Jack swallowed hard as he fought to push memories of what happened in Professor Cedar’s lab out of his mind.

“Chester, Razor Leaf!”

“Hitmonchan, on your guard. Mach Punch!”

Chester cried an impressive, “Chiko-ri-ta!!!” and unleashed a flurry of razor leaves straight at his opponent - a trick that he hadn’t known during their first meeting, practically a lifetime ago. The Hitmonchan and Thaddeus were, however, unfazed. As the leaves flew at the Hitmonchan, he began to punch them out of the air with fists that moved at the speed of sound; one by one, he blocked each leaf with his boxing gloves. His quickness was jaw dropping. Jack heard Charlotte gasp behind him. After a few seconds, every razor leaf that Chester had let fly had fallen uselessly to the ground, not a scratch on the Hitmonchan.

“Ice Punch,” Thaddeus ordered.

The Hitmonchan rushed at Chester with a look of ferocity, one of his boxing gloves glowing ice-white. Chester dodged the attack, leaping out of the way, and the Hitmonchan’s fist connected instead with the patch of dirt where the Chikorita was previously standing. That patched of dirt was suddenly covered with a sheet of ice.

“Ice Punch, again!”

“Tackle him, Chester!”

Chester tried to ram his body into the Hitmonchan. Jack felt the blood drain from his face - Thaddeus’s Hitmonchan was simply too fast. This Ice Punch smacked into Chester full on the face, sending him careening across the glade.

“Game over,” Thaddeus said.

Jack feared he was right. But only for a moment - Chester, although collapsed on the forest floor and with a bruised face in the dirt, was glowing. It was faint at first, but steadily the light grew brighter. The leaf on his head turned toward the sunlight streaming in through the trees above, and it shimmered.

“He’s using Synthesis,” Charlotte observed.

“You’re both right and wrong,” Cloud said. “Watch.”

Jack was stunned. “Chester…”

The glow of Chester’s body was so bright, Jack had to shield his eyes. For the first time ever, Thaddeus’s face hinted at surprise, his calm demeanour faltering. By the time, the glow disappeared, the Chikorita was gone, replaced by a bigger Pokemon with a more mature face, verdant leaves around his long slender neck and a sharper leaf twitching from his head - a Bayleef.

“Evolution,” Cloud remarked.

Jack wasn’t wasting any time. “Show him what you’ve got, Chester!”

The leaves around Chester’s neck, as well as the one on his head, began to flash brilliant colors: red, blue, purple. When the colourful leaves flew at the Hitmonchan in the same way that the Razor Leaf attack did, Thaddeus’s Pokemon quickly put his hands up, ready to ward them off with his blindingly fast punches. This time, though, the colourful leaves seemed to have a mind of their own: they assaulted the Hitmonchan from various directions, zipping in and out of reach and then slashing at him in mind boggling patterns. They became unpredictable, and the Hitmonchan found himself outmatched. Flustered, he continued to try to punching these leaves away. A futile effort. They struck his body, his arms and legs.

“Magical Leaf!” Jack cried, recognizing the attack. “Go Chester! Magical Leaf!”

Thaddeus shook his head, and then, in a curious move, raised the yellow Relic into the air. The orb, too began to glow - a hazy pulse of colour.

The Hitmonchan’s eyes changed colour - they melted away into a kind of molten gold. Exploding out of the storm of Magical Leaves, the Hitmonchan rushed at Chester and delivered a blazing Fire Punch, so hard that the Bayleef flew like a ragdoll, slamming into a nearby tree; his Magical Leaves instantly froze in mid-air, and then harmlessly fluttered to the ground, where they lay as motionless as Chester. He didn’t get up anymore after that. Jack felt like he couldn’t breathe.

Thaddeus put the Relic back into his coat and withdrew his Hitmonchan. “Well,” he remarked, as if they were having conversation over dinner, “That was interesting enough. You’ve grown stronger, my boy. I’m impressed. But a deal’s a deal, isn’t it? You owe me your Relic.”

(Battle music ends here.)

“What the hell was that?” Bree wondered. “When he held up that yellow ball…”

“It was like… something happened with his Hitmonchan,” Charlotte observed. “He suddenly got stronger. But not like using an X Attack, not even like Mega Evolution. What was that?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Thaddeus said, steadily walking toward Jack and his group. He caught Charlotte’s eye and winked. Charlotte giggled for a second, blushing - but then she caught herself and put on a stern face. She couldn’t believe she almost wanted his number.

“The Ruby Relic, Jack. I’ve won fair and square. Give it to me.”

“Excuse me,” Bree stepped in front of Jack, protectively. “But would you mind telling us what’s so important about these things? They look just like decorative little balls to me.”

“You wouldn’t understand girl. A change is coming. A change so big, so important…” He smiled at Bree too. “You could say it’s a… radical change.”

“Alright, that’s enough. FEAROW!” Cloud tossed his Pokeball before Jack or the others could speak again. “USE WHIRLWIND, NOW!”

Cloud’s Fearow appeared in a white flash of light, and at his Trainer’s command, beat his wings so furiously that a gale whipped up the clearing. Thaddeus covered his face and eyes, his coat blowing about wildly. The wind was so strong he thought he might get lifted off his feet. After a few moments, though, the wind died down, and when he opened his eyes, he saw that Jack, his Bayleef and his friends were all gone.

Thaddeus let out a sigh, a little disappointed by the broken agreement. Still, when he walked out of the clearing to find the forest path heading north, he was smiling again. A good fight, he thought. That kid will get better yet. And maybe next time… maybe next time, a real challenge.

==

“Out of your league,” Cloud was telling Jack. They were in a well-shaded part of the forest now, quiet spot by a large pond, far away fem the main forest path. “I was watching his Pokemon. That Misdreavus, that Hitmonchan - they must be very well-trained. I wasn’t sure if I could’ve handled him, either.”

“Yeah,” Jack muttered, listlessly. He caressed Chester’s head, giving him a few loving pats on the face. His Bayleef was coming around. They’d still need to find a Pokemon Center soon. “How are you doing, little guy? Although… you’re not so little anymore, huh? Ha, ha, ha…”

“Thanks for getting us out of there,” Bree said to Cloud.

“No problem. That dude looked like trouble anyway.” Cloud faced Jack sternly. “What were those Relics you guys were talking about?”

Charlotte held up the Jack’s red Relic. “No idea. But I think Thaddeus was able to use his Relic to somehow power up his Hitmonchan. You saw it, too, right?Jack?”

He shook his head. “I think? But I’m not sure what I saw. I… all I saw was that I wasn’t strong enough. That’s it, wasn’t it…? Hmm. I… We need to get stronger. I need to fight some more. Where’s the next Gym?”

“Goldenrod City,” Cloud answered.

“Then that’s where I’m going.” He turned to his two friends. “Coming?”

“Does night follow day?” Charlotte asked sarcastically.

“Is two plus two four?” Bree followed, smirking.

Jack finally broke a smile again.

“Okay. I’ll take that as a yes. Let’s go.”
 

Dust_monster

Scribbler
The Radicals’ Road
Chapter 8
The Circus



Passing through Ilix Forest was a breeze, quick and uneventful, after the run-in with Thaddeus. Throughout most of the next day, Jack, Charlotte and Bree strolled along the long winding road of Route 34. The sky was overcast; light gray clouds stretched as far as the eye could see, providing a welcome change from the usual heat of the sun.

There were no shortage of fellow Trainers on the road, either. Jack was challenged by the first one they met - an energetic youngster with a similarly hyperactive Sandslash. His newly evolved Bayleef had no trouble taking him down. Though he’d grown in size, Chester fought with no less energy and determination, giving a hundred percent effort with every fight.

Charlotte and Bree, too, had their own shares of action, taking turns to challenge the travellers they encountered on their way to Goldenrod. Charlotte’s Cyndaquil Aria reflected her Trainer’s aggressiveness and ferocity. Fire was the perfect type for the fiery-haired girl. Bree and Coco, on the other hand, battled in a much more lighthearted manner; Bree was smiling more often than not during their fights, and the Totodile just loved to skip and dance his way around his opponents - while blasting them with unparalleled jets of Water Guns, of course.

On the last day of their trek toward the biggest city on Johto, a pair of haughty-looking twins challenged the two girls to a double battle, which they quickly accepted.

Jack sat back with Chester to watch the show.

A Drowzee and a Weepinbell confronted Aria and Coco. First the Weepinbell went for a Vine Whip, straight for the Totodile. Aria intercepted the attack, though, and countered with a punishing Ember. The Totodile leapt over her and launched a powerful stream of water from his mouth, blasting the Drowzee right in the face.

“Keep em on the ropes, Aria!” Charlotte cried. “Light ‘em up! Another Ember! Now Smokescreen!”

“Coco! Bite!” Bree called, using Aria’s Smokescreen as a cover. Their opponents’ Pokemon were completely bewildered. “Before they can recover! That’s it!”

It wasn’t long before the Weepinbell was down for the count. Both Coco and Aria turned on the Drowzee, now, who started wave his hands around, “Drowzee, Drowzeeee…”

“Hypnosis!” Jack warned out loud.

Too late. Both Charlotte and Bree’s Pokemon were fast asleep before they knew it. The Drowzee crouched low, probably readying to launch a Psybeam or some other attack to turn the tide of the fight back in its favor.

Bree reached into her bag, her face completely unconcerned. “I’ve got just the thing!” And she pulled out a Chesto Berry.

“Perfect!” Charlotte clapped her hands together. “That’s the berry that cures sleep, right?"

"You're damn right this cures sleep.” Bree held the berry in her right hand, drew back like a pitcher in a baseball field, and threw the berry as hard as she could at her dozing Totodile. The berry bounced hard off Coco's head, and he woke up instantly, albeit mildly confused.

“Coco, Water Gun!”

“Totodile!”

Jack and Chester looked at each other and then shrugged.

“Well, if it works…”

And that battle was how Aria and Coco got a taste of the same evolution that Chester did. Before that day was up, it was a Quilava and a Croconaw that walked beside their respective Trainers’ sides.

==

“How long did it take for you guys to catch up to me?” Jack inquired that night.

They were gathered around a fire on the side of the road, still some distance from Goldenrod City. The night was getting cooler, but with her now-evolved Aria, Charlotte had no problem setting up a campfire.

“A couple of days,” Bree replied. “Charlotte went ballistic when she found out you’d left without saying anything.”

Charlotte grinned and offered Jack a sardonic smile. “Ballistic? Nah. Just a little upset.”

Bree shook her head. “You said you were going to… what was it…? Oh yeah, ‘strangle his skinny little neck the next time I see him’, right?”

Jack chuckled. “That worried, huh?”

“Thanks for reminding me, Bree,” Charlotte murmured. “Jack, you sleep with one eye open.”

“Thanks for the warning.”

The three of them shared a laugh. Their campfire flickered between them, as if sharing in the laughter. A thick plume of smoke rose from it, toward a night sky studded with stars.

“Jack, remember when we were kids…” Charlotte began again in a low tone. “That time I went for a run in the tall grass outside New Bark Town?”

“I don’t think so.”

“My mom and dad told me not to play there, with the wild Pokemon and all, but I felt like such a rebel that I didn’t listen. I went to play in the tall grass and among the trees anyway, and then I made fun of you and Bree when you wouldn’t join me. I called you names. I was kind of bullying you guys.”

“But mostly just Jack,” Bree pointed out.

“Yeah, mostly just you, Jack. It was easier.”

“Does this story have a lesson to it?” Jack grumbled. “because if you’re trying to spread some good vibes here, you’re doing a horrible job.”

“Hold it, skipper, let me finish. Anyway, a wild Rattata came along and attacked me, when I disturbed its territory. Bit me on the leg, too - one of the worst experiences I’d ever had as a kid. But then you ran in with a big stick and fought it off.”

“Wait,” Jack interrupted. “I remember this. I remember that!”

“Yeah, and then you screamed—”

“I screamed ‘get away from her, you buck-toothed freak’!”

“Right, and for some reason it worked. You scared that Rattata away, and you and Bree helped me home crying all the way.”

“Jack started crying too,” Bree recalled. “I think halfway home, he started crying worse than you, Charlotte.”

“Hey, it was a traumatising experience,” Jack said. “Not everyday you go toe-to-toe with a wild Pokemon and live to tell the tale. Even if it was just a Rattata.”

“My point is,” Charlotte said, chuckling, “that since that day, I decided I kind of owe you one. So, well, here I am, joining you on your stupid adventure.”

“Excuse me? Stupid?”

“Yeah it’s stupid. Most kids just decide to go for the eight badges and then challenge the Pokemon League. You decide to do that, and get involved with this whole mess with Thaddeus and Relics and Team Radical.”

“It’s pretty stupid,” Bree agreed.

“And yet…” Charlotte reached into her back and pulled out three bottles of soda. She tossed one each to Bree and Jack, and then popped the top off her own. “… and yet, here we are anyway. Consider this my payback, mister.” She held her bottle up. “I say, cheers to us.”

Bree looked at the label of the soda bottle. “Cianwood Bubble Fizz?” she asked, half-amused, half-disgusted.

“It was the cheapest I could get,” Charlotte shrugged.

“You girls are ridiculous,” Jack mumbled. But he was smiling the biggest grin he’d smiled in what felt like ages.

“Aren’t we all?” Bree said. “Let’s drink to that.”

The three of them shared a toast.

==

Goldenrod City.

The biggest city in the whole of the Johto region was bigger, brighter, louder, more crowded and more entrancing than the three of them had ever imagined. The red-tiled road that ran through the main road was teeming with businessmen, kids, teachers, construction workers, nurses and delivery men, people and Trainers of all kinds, of every kind, and walking down the street to take in everything ensured that they got their fill of a feast for the eyes. Stores, restaurants, street performances, billboards, even the occasional Pokemon Trainers having a little skirmish of a battle - the sights and sounds, even the smells, were a wonder to behold.

“Big place,” Jack commented, looking up at a huge billboard with the picture of a stunning young woman in a swimsuit, riding a Gyarados. THE INCREDIBLE RAINE’S WATER CIRCUS, the bold letters advertised.

Somewhere at the edge of Goldenrod City, toward the sea, the roads ended and gave way to a huge wooden platform that extended outward toward the deep blue waters. The wooden platform extended like a jetty narrowing just slightly, several meters out over the sea, past sailboats and little yachts drifting about. It ended about half a kilometer out from shore, where an enormous colosseum rose out of the water - a round structure, made of steel and brick and stone, several stories high and with a sleek, modern design.

“That’s the Gym?” Bree gasped, when they first lay eyes on it - arguably the most impressive building in the entire city.

“Whoever the Gym Leader is here,” Charlotte said, whistling, “I bet they’re pretty impressive.”

“And that’s whom I’m gonna beat,” Jack answered confidently.

A young man in board shorts standing in front of the main gate watched them approach and smiled very cordially. “May I see your tickets?”

“Tickets…?” Jack was confused.

Now the man was a little confused. “Aren’t you here to see the show? This is Raine’s Circus.”

Jack remembered the billboard he saw; he didn’t realize that the Circus was the Gym. “No, sir. Name’s Jack. I’m just here to challenge the Gym Leader.”

The man blinked at him, but a knowing grin began to spread on his face. “A challenger, then?”

“Yup,” Charlotte confirmed for him. “Show him the Gym Leader so we can get this on.”

“My pleasure.” The man turned behind him and shoved the gates of the arena opened; they swung with a heavy groan, and an ear-splitting sound flooded out from the arena within: screaming, cheering, the combined sounds of a massive crowd making as much noise as possible. “WE HAVE A CHALLENGER!” he roared. “I REPEAT, A CHALLENGER FOR RAINE! THIS IS NOT A DRILL!”

Jack was confused. “Say what?”

A line of burly men suddenly jogged out from gateway, all of them wearing matching board shorts - Charlotte and Bree whistled appreciatively at their collectively flexed muscles as they jogged up toward them - and then lifted Jack up on their shoulders.

“HEY WHAT THE HELL!?”

“Challenger!” the men were shouting, as they jogged back into the arena, bearing Jack on their shoulders as easily as if he were weightless. “Challenger! Challenger! Challenger!”

“Help!” he cried to Bree and Charlotte, helplessly. As the men carried him inside, he looked over his shoulder at his two friends. He could swear he saw them just standing there and grinning. Bree was even giving him an innocent little wave.

The noise of the crowd was getting louder now. The men finally stopped marching, and together they dropped Jack. And though landing unceremoniously on his butt hurt, Jack was quickly distracted by the sight around him.

People. Thousands and thousands of people filled the stands of the arena, from the front row all the way up to the very back stands. Everyone seemed to be screaming with a ravenous frenzy. And he was at the center of it all - in front of a massive circular pool of water, with a kind of platform in the middle, like an island, effectively cutting the pool into the shape of a donut.

Circus was a good word for it. There were rings through which Seels and Dewgongs hopped. Multiple Staryu and Starmie spun up into the air and then dove into the pool in orchestrated fashion, and a Poliwrath seemed to be juggling balls in the center of the island.

But the most amazing sight of all was the woman on the opposite end of the pool: a stunning woman in a swimsuit emblazoned with red and white designs, her short black hair matted around her face, wet from the pool. She wore colourful patterns on her face - a curl of green around her eye, another curl of gold near her lips, scarlet teardrops on her eyes… Jack was not sure if they were tattoos, or maybe just make-up.

“Mother of Arceus,” Jack could barely find his breath. To say that the woman had a figure was an understatement. She might’ve been the single most beautiful woman he’d ever laid his eyes on.

“Challenger! Challenger!” the burly men in the board shorts were still chanting. In time, the audience took their attention away from the circus and turned their attention to Jack - every one of those ten thousand eyes. They began to pick up the cry, too, “Challenger! Challenger! Challenger!”

The woman in the red and white swimsuit had a microphone. She spoke into it - her high-pitched voice was magnified across the stadium. “What’s this!? A challenger has come to my Circus, it seems! Well, go ahead, mister! Tell us your name!”

One of the muscleheads who’d carried Jack in thrust a microphone into his hand. He spoke into it with a shaky voice. “Jack,” he said, his voice echoing throughout the stadium to the approval of the audience. “Jack from New Bark Town. I’m here to challenge for the badge…”

“He’s here to challenge for the badge! What do you say, guys?” The woman swept her arm out toward the audience, addressing every one of them. She had an undeniable charisma. That, and the smoothest legs that Jack had ever seen. “Should we give him a match!?”

The audience roared a collective yes. They wanted a Pokemon Battle.

“Well, okay then!” The woman turned toward Jack and pointed at him across the pool. “Looks like we’re good, Jack! I, Raine of the Circus, Raine of Goldenrod City, accept your challenge!”

Jack had thought that battling in front of Seneca’s artists and poets was nerve-wracking. Jack was also anxious when he was watched by Cloud’s trainers during their battle. But this… this was just ridiculous. He wasn’t expecting to fight in front of a whole stadium.

All the other Pokemon in the water performing quickly disappeared. Now, Raine and Jack stood across each other, ready to fight. Raine’s mouth was turned up in an excited smile - and she was breathing hard too, her ample chest heaving up and down in a way that temporarily made Jack forget where we was.

Unfortunately for him, Raine saw where he was looking. “Hey, mister!” she called, teasingly. “Eyes on the prize, huh?”

“Uh, sorry,” Jack stammered, struggling to bring his eyes up to match the Gym Leader’s. “Right. Uh… let’s go…?”

“Go, Gyarados!”

Raine tossed a Pokeball in the air and summoned her Pokemon - the enormous sea serpent crashed into the water with a mighty splash; several audience members in the first couple of rows near Raine were drenched. That didn’t stop them from screaming though.

When the Gyarados’s head rose above the water’s surface and looked down at Jack, he felt the kind of feeling that one only gets when one has jumped out of a plane and then realised a second too late that they’d forgotten to strap a parachute to their back. Nonetheless, he threw his own Pokeball in the air.

“Go Candy!”

A brief flash of light later, and his Mareep was on the little island in the middle of the pool. She stared up at the Gyarados, and the Gyarados stared down at her.

“It’s okay,” Jack said, almost as much to himself as to Candy, who was now quivering due to the laughable size difference between her and her opponent. “It’s okay. You’re an electric-type. We got this. It’s okay.”

“Mareep!” Candy cried at him. “Mareeeep!”

“Oh shut up, Candy. No, he’s not gonna eat you!”

“Mareep?”

“No, I didn’t check the rule books, but I’m PRETTY sure eating you is against the rules! Now hit him with a Thundershock!”

Candy faced her opponent and let loose a sorry bolt of electricity at the Gyarados. It hit his face, and he shook it off with mild annoyance.

“Aqua Tail!” Raine ordered.

The Gyarados spun around in the water, churning up the pool with incredible power, and aimed his tail fins at the Mareep. Candy leapt out of the way in time, and his tail slapped against the surface of the platform instead.

“Again!” Raine ordered, and the Gyarados swung his tail again. This time, he missed only by an inch. Candy cowered away toward the edge of the island. The audience’s creaming was getting louder by the minute - they were loving this. Clearly Raine had a few fans.

“Candy, you can do this!” Jack cried out encouragingly. “I know you can! He’s a Water-Flying type for Pete’s sake! You can fry him, I know you can! Now use Thundershock!”

Emboldened by this, Candy tried again. This time her Thundershock was a lot stronger than her first, and the surge of electricity that hit the Gyarados caused him to roar in pain. He backed off from Candy; Raine looked impressed.

“Bring the house down,” she called. “USE SURF!”

The Gyarados leapt up out of the water - momentarily, the entire length of his bright, serpentine body was in the air, as elegant and poised as a monstrous thing like that could possibly be - and then he dove into the water, sending a massive wave up. Candy had no chance - the tidal wave struck her in force and washed her away into the pool.

In the ensuing splash, the audience found themselves getting wet again. Raine herself, too, got caught up in the splash. She swept her wet hair back behind her ears and then placed her hands on her hips, confidently smiling. The water glistened off her flawless skin. Jack would’ve been drooling by now if he hadn’t been so worried about his Mareep.

“Candy!” Jack cried.

For a while, the waters of the pool churned; Candy was nowhere in sight, lost somewhere beneath the surface. Raine’s Gyarados swum about, bobbing his head in and out of the water. The audience was still crying out in anticipation of the next move, but Jack only held his breath.

“Well?” Raine asked, a little cockiness to her high-pitched voice. “Is that it?”

Then a weird light began to emanate from somewhere below the water’s surface. The audience quieted for just a second; confusion rippled throughout the arena. Then the light faded, and a Flaaffy leapt out of the waters, landing awkwardly on the island. Her pink skin and white fleece were drenched, but there was newfound determination on her face.

“Candy?” Jack couldn’t believe it.

The Flaaffy then let loose a bolt of lightning with such ferocity, it was as if she’d turned into a completely different Pokemon since the start of the match. Well, maybe technically, she had… but still, the difference was astounding. The Thundershock hit the Gyarados square between the eyes before it could respond.

Raine cried out as her Gyarados turned limp and fell with another big splash into the water, apparently fainted.

Jack would’ve pumped his fist into the air, but there was no time to celebrate. Something seemed to be moving through the audience - the people’s cheers were changing. At first they were excited, watching the fight, but now, in some sections of the stadium, the cheers were becoming more… frightened? Was it fear? Apprehension? What was that? Jack turned away from his newly evolved Flaaffy, squinting up at the crowd to find what was going on.

That’s when he first saw the people in grey. Two of them at first, accompanied by a Golbat and a Raichu. And then there were three more, on the other end of the stadium, with Pokemon of their own. And then there were five more, and then ten… and soon too many too count. They and their Pokemon were clearing out the audience.

Team Radical was invading Raine’s Circus.

“Hey!” Raine had grabbed her microphone, and was no addressing the whole stadium in a shrill voice. Obviously this was not part of the show. “What’s going on over there!?”

“Jack!” a voice called. It was faint amidst all the noise, but it was a familiar voice.

Jack turned toward the audience, sifting through the faces of the people - faces that were confused at first, then steadily growing more panicked - until he spotted a young man leaning over the barrier separating the audience stands from the arena, waving at him frantically.

A young man with spiky black hair.

“Merv!?”

“It’s Team Radical again, Jack! Come on! We gotta help!”
 

Negrek

Lost but Seeking
So I know you haven't been around for a while, but if you do end up coming back, I just wanted you to know that I've been enjoying this. I think you do a real nice job with the humor; it's just the right level of over-the-top silly, and I love it when you add a little light parody of the typical pokemon journey in there, too.

My only major gripe at this point is that things have really been quite easy for Jack up to this point. He only ever loses to Thaddeus, he catches all the pokemon he likes without any trouble, and he hasn't had any serious issues with the gyms thus far. Even when it looks like he might have gotten himself in over his head, as he did with Team Radical in Union Cave, he gets lucky and his friends just happen to be there to dive to his rescue. Obviously this is a light-hearted 'fic and you don't need to go super-hard on the drama, but I think the strength of the actual journey story, underneath the humor, would be better if it tested Jack a bit more and forced him to actually work for his victories.

Also, it's "Ilex" forest, not "Ilix."

Anyway, this has been an entertaining read, and I'll be happy to follow it if you decide to continue.
 
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