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Thread: Against All Odds (2011) [PG-13]

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    Default Against All Odds - From old TPM ;)

    chapter 3 now...


    Jason Creight awoke in his sleeping bag on cold, damp grass, on the outskirts of Vermilion City.

    He remembered the place well. Vermilion City was where he'd had to battle Lt. Surge, the gym leader there, for a Thunder badge. Thankfully, with the ground-type Pokemon he'd collected in the nearby Diglett Cave, he'd been prepared and defeated Surge with minimal fuss on Jason's part.

    Jason had to grin when he remembered the look on Surge's face. The battle had been long ago, but Jason vividly remembered the events there. The man had been too overconfident in his abilities; he'd obviously never thought a trainer would be able to retaliate so strongly not only through battle, but by simple type differences.

    He rolled over and grabbed his backpack. He fished out a change of clothes, changed, rolled up his waterproof sleeping bag, and strapped on his capture ball belt.

    It had been long since he had seen Professor Oak in person. A year, at least; Jason had been carefully saving his money, awaiting the day when he could return and pay the good professor back. His Pokemon had become much stronger, as well, and he'd been capturing a lot of them. He still kept Gyarados with him, though; he knew that he would need it to be the lead Pokemon in his battle against Blaine, the gym leader on the volcanic Cinnabar Island. And he would need it to be strong.

    But Gyarados wouldn't be the lead Pokemon where Jason was going.

    He was headed for Saffron City.

    He'd heard a lot about the leader there, and he'd been doing some studying. Apparently, the gym's main theme was psychic Pokemon, and the gym leader there was the most powerful psychic in Kanto. This amazed Jason, because Sabrina was his age; they both were about thirteen and a half. He'd also read up on the Pokemon she used in battle; she'd been consistent with two Abras, a Jynx, and a Mr. Mime. A Pokemon she had not used in battle until recently was Kadabra, and it was reported to be the most dangerous of the team.

    Jason sighed. *Gonna need to find a Pokemon center once I get into town,* he thought. *I'll need Gengar for sure. Slowbro, maybe. Drowzee and Hypno, too. And Porygon.*

    He stood up, pulled a Great ball from his belt, enlarged it, and was about to toss it when he saw a girl running up the path. It looked like she was running towards him.

    When she finally got to him, she stooped over and panted heavily, trying to catch her breath. She had light skin, long brown hair, and hazel eyes. She was wearing a red T-shirt, blue denim shorts, and a full capture ball belt. She finally looked up at him. "Are you Jason Creight?"

    "That depends on who's looking for him," Jason responded. He was still a little touchy about people knowing his identity, even though it had been nearly two years since the incident in the Orange Islands.

    The girl grinned. "My name's Kelly. I'm just an ordinary trainer looking for a good-natured battle. I just got my badge from Fuschia Gym, and I heard about how badly a trainer named Jason Creight defeated the gym leader just shortly before I got there."

    Instead of taking the default trainer's journey route through Kanto, Jason had decided to go to gyms that were weak against the types of Pokemon he had that were strong. He made sure to train his Pokemon to a reasonable level first, and so his journey was taking longer than usual. He wanted that, anyway; he still owed Professor Oak a substantial amount of money, and he wanted to make sure he was absolutely financially secure.

    Not that he was doing badly. Out of battles with trainers and gym leaders, he'd collected nearly seventy-five thousand credits in total. There were no shortage of trainers with money. His training had paid off very well, indeed.

    "Well, if your only intention is a battle, then I suppose I am indeed Jason Creight," he finally responded. "And here's my Pokemon license to prove it." He took his license from his vest pocket and flashed it.

    She grinned again. "Great. How's a four-on-four battle sound?"

    "That's fine. What's the wager?" Jason asked.

    "Hmm... Fifteen hundred sound good?"

    "Okay by me. You first."

    She removed a Poke ball from her belt, enlarged it, and tossed it. "Go, Charmeleon!"

    The neon energy bolt solidified into a lizard with reddish scales, razor- sharp claws, and a flaming tail, standing on its hind legs. "Char!"

    "Okay," said Jason, returning the Great ball he'd enlarged to his belt. "In that case, I choose Gyarados!" He plucked the one Poke ball he still had from his belt and threw it at the makeshift arena, revealing the blue- scaled leviathan.

    "Charmeleon, flamethrower!" Kelly called out.

    The blistering heat's effect was almost nil on the water-type Pokemon.

    "My turn," said Jason. "Gyarados, hydro pump!"

    A great foaming blast of water boiled out of Gyarados' mouth and struck the lizard in the pit of its stomach. As Gyarados was firing, it raised its aim and traced a line of streaming water from Charmeleon's belly to its chin.

    When the water flow stopped, Charmeleon hit the dirt and didn't get up.

    "Charmeleon, return!" Kelly called. The Poke ball in her hand fired an energy beam at the downed Pokemon, forcing Charmeleon to transform into its pure energy form. The energy vacuum technology within the ball pulled the beam back, and with it, Charmeleon.

    "Your Gyarados is at a higher level than I thought it was," she said. "But it should be no match for my Victreebel!" With that, she hurled an Ultra ball into the arena. A gigantic, bell-shaped plant Pokemon formed before their eyes, and its incoherent screech reminded Jason yet again of why one never takes Victreebels lightly.

    "You're probably right," Jason answered, noting the glistening sheen of the Vectreebel's skin and the size of its leaves. This Pokemon had been raised extremely well. "But I wouldn't ask it to. Gyarados, return! Make me proud, Rapidash!"

    Energy bolt exchanged places with energy bolt, and a flaming horse was now staring Victreebel down.

    Kelly's eyes widened for an instant, but then she quickly covered her surprise with a determined look. "Okay, Victreebel, we'll just have to make the best of it. Poisonpowder!"

    "Rapidash, swift attack!"

    Even as the hooved Pokemon was knocked over by the combined force of the wind and poison pushing in its direction, spiked energy globes came to its aid and smashed into Victreebel's lower section.

    "Victreebel, poison sting attack!"

    "Rapidash, ember!"

    The glowing, poisoned barbs and the flaming projectiles passed each other in midair and struck their respective targets dead-on. Both were taken down, but only Rapidash rose again.

    "Victreebel, return!" Kelly looked annoyed now, but she was really quite impressed. She pulled out another Ultra ball and tossed it into the arena. "Crush 'em, Snorlax!"

    The great flabby bulk that was Kelly's Snorlax came into being in front of the injured Rapidash. Jason was hoping it was asleep, but no such luck; it was standing up to its full height, that of a moderately-sized tree.

    "Uh-oh," Jason muttered. He'd never encountered a Snorlax before, but he knew that they were incredibly powerful and extremely difficult to defeat. "Rapidash, return!" He considered his next Pokemon; he had to be careful on this one. After a moment or two, he made his decision. "Try this one out, Machoke!"

    The musclebound superpower Pokemon formed and stared up into Snorlax's narrow slits for eyes with a look of fierce determination and appreciation for the challenge Jason had just given it.

    Kelly chuckled. "I think this one's got you beat this time, Jason. Snorlax, seismic toss!"

    "Machoke, earthquake attack!"

    It was too late for Machoke to even think about attacking; it was immediately seized by Snorlax, swung around and around, and finally thrown to the ground.

    Jason couldn't believe what he had just seen. The force of the seismic toss was such that when Machoke hit the ground, it had penetrated by more than three feet.

    Kelly laughed. "I think Snorlax did the earthquake for your Machoke!"

    And then Machoke jumped out of the hole. Jason felt a tremendous rush of relief.

    Machoke then struck the ground with such force that it was enough to knock Snorlax flat onto its back.

    As Snorlax was struggling to get to its feet, Jason called out, "Machoke, return!" Then he tossed a Great ball towards Snorlax. "Go, Clefable!"

    A pink, winged Pokemon emerged from the ball and began giggling at Snorlax's predicament.

    "Sorry, Clefable, no time for laughs! Sing to Snorlax!" Jason instructed.

    The fairy-like Clefable bowed to Snorlax and began to sing its soothing, sleep-inducing lullaby. Jason quickly reached into his vest pocket, pulled out a pair of earplugs, and shoved them into his ears before the song could have an effect on him. Though he could no longer hear, he could see Snorlax continuing to struggle. But its movements were beginning to look sluggish...

    And then it stopped moving altogether, save its breathing. Jason felt a slight rumbling under his feet, and he knew that Snorlax was snoring. He saw Clefable bow to Snorlax again, then turn to him, awaiting further instructions.

    Jason removed his earplugs. "Now use metronome!"

    Glefable wiggled its index digits back and forth until they began to glow a pale blue.

    Suddenly, it fired a reddish-orange beam from its mouth at Snorlax's broad body.

    "Okay, okay! Snorlax, return!" Kelly yelled. She looked at Jason, and he could tell that she had put her fingers in her ears for lack of better protection against Clefable's song; her left index finger was still in her ear. "I think you've made your point. I admit defeat, but only because I don't want my last Pokemon to faint. I won't be protected."

    "In that case, I win the fifteen hundred by default," said Jason.

    "That you do. Here," and Kelly tossed a small felt bag to Jason. "Count it, and make sure it's fifteen hundred."

    Jason counted the money, and it was indeed fifteen hundred credits. "A pleasure to battle with you," he said, tossing the bag back.

    "Where are you headed, Jason?"

    "Saffron. I need to get my badge there. It'll be my sixth one."

    "I need to get my badge there, too. Mind if I tag along until we get there?"

    Jason took out Rapidash's Great ball. "I was planning to ride Rapidash. Want to ride with me?"

    "It's poisoned."

    "Not for long. Come back out, Rapidash."

    Rapidash's flamed burned less brightly now, and its knees were shaking with the effort of standing up. Jason took out a dropper filled with a poison healing concoction. "Open up, please."

    Rapidash opened its mouth and Jason poured the poison heal in. "Down the hatch. You'll be fine in a couple of minutes. Lie down and take a breather."

    It nodded and obediently spread itself out on the grass. Jason likewise sat down, and soon, Kelly joined them.

    "So," said Kelly, "where do you come from?"

    "A long way from here," Jason answered. "The Orange Islands."

    "Wow," said Kelly. "I've always wanted to go there. It sounds like such a beautiful place. All those port cities, clear ocean water, Pokemon..."

    Jason chuckled. *I guess she never heard about the marina. Either that, or she forgot.* "Well, it's not all fun and games there. There's lots of hard work, too."

    "I'd love to go there someday. Hey, maybe when you go back, you could take me with you! I hear they've got a Pokemon league there!"

    Jason shook his head. "I don't really think I want to go back there."

    "Oh, but why not?"

    "It's a long story. I don't like to talk about it."

    Kelly snorted. "You mean you wouldn't think about going back to the Orange Islands, one of the greatest tourist attractions of the world, for even a second?"

    "Of course I've thought about it, but I don't want to go back. Not now, anyway. When I'm older."

    Kelly sighed. "There's no changing your mind once a decision's been made, is there?"

    "Not really. And I prefer it that way." He turned to his Pokemon. "Feeling better?"

    It whinnied and jumped to its hooves.

    Jason grinned. "All right, then. Time for us to head out."

    He turned to Kelly. "So, what's it gonna be? You coming with?"

    She stood up. "I guess I am."

    Jason climbed on, then extended his hand to Kelly. "Well, then, come on up here."

    She smiled, grabbed his hand, and jumped on.

    "Hold on tight." Jason reached around Rapidash's neck with both hands and linked his wrists. "Take us to Saffron City."

    ***

    Upon their arrival, Jason insisted they go to the Pokemon center first. Both he and Kelly had their Pokemon healed. Afterwards, Jason went to the teleporter center and called Professor Oak.

    Oak, as usual, took a while to answer. Jason wasn't surprised when it took eleven rings for Oak to pick up.

    The professor, for his part, was pleasantly surprised. "Jason! Haven't seen you for a while."

    "I've been out training," Jason responded. "I'm afraid I don't have much time to chat, Sam. I need to do a little trading."

    "Okay, then. What are you trading for?"

    "My psychic team. Drowzee, Hypno, Slowbro, Gengar, and Porygon."

    Oak smiled knowingly. "You're in Saffron City, then."

    "I am indeed. Can you get them for me?"

    "Just a moment. Go ahead and place the ones you're trading in the teleporter while I go get your psychics."

    Jason removed five capture balls from his belt, enlarged them, and put them in the teleporter unit. When Oak came back to the screen, the professor said, "Ready on this end."

    "Here, too. Go ahead," said Jason.

    Electricity sparked from the unit, and a blinding flash lit it for an instant. Where there had been two Great balls and three Ultra balls, there were now three Great balls, one Ultra ball, and one Poke ball.

    "I've got them," said Jason, shrinking them and stowing them in his belt.

    "And so do I," Oak replied. "I'd like to study your Clefable for a while. I hope that won't be a problem."

    "Not at all. After this, I'll be heading to Viridian, and then down to Cinnabar. I might as well stop by your lab on the way; I still owe you money."

    "That you do," said Oak, smiling again. "I'll talk to you soon, then."

    "Count on it."

    Jason hung up. Then he sighed. "Off to Saffron Gym, then."

    Kelly walk out with him. "I'll come along and root for you."

    Jason grinned. "It won't hurt, that's for sure."

    ***

    Kadabra hit the floor. It didn't get up.

    Jason stared Sabrina squarely in the eyes. He didn't know what he expected to find, but it sure wasn't what he thought he saw. Just for an instant, he thought he saw her eyes glowing red...

    Her jaw was locked. She had permanent, perfect stoicism, but the girl on her lap was crying. "You beat me! I don't like you!"

    Suddenly, Jason realized that he had absolutely no idea what that girl was doing there. Sabrina was too young for it to be her daughter. Her sister, perhaps? But the books had said she was an only child... Jason could only guess a spectator that was close to Sabrina. He snorted inwardly. *Like anyone could ever pierce that tough exterior.*

    "Porygon, return," he said, and his Porygon's Poke ball sucked the cyber- surfing Pokemon into its mirrored recesses. Then he looked at the girl. "No one ever said you had to like me." Then he turned his gaze back to Sabrina. "According to Pokemon league rules, I've now earned my Soul badge and the wager."

    "Yes, according to league rules, you have," said Sabrina, her monotone voice echoing throughout the gym. She paused. "I am impressed, trainer. You have no psychic abilities that I can discern, yet you have managed to defeat me with relative ease."

    "I have strong Pokemon and a strong constitution," Jason responded.

    "Yes. But does your constitution justify your actions in the Orange Islands?"

    Jason glared at her. "My past is none of your business."

    "Yet my past is your business? I know that you've studied about me extensively. A human's past experiences and actions," said Sabrina, "define what they are. You took an interest in my humanity for the purpose of this... game. And when I take an interest in your humanity, you find this offensive? Have you something to hide, Jason Creight?"

    "I came here to earn the Soul badge. If you won't give it to me even after I've defeated you in fair combat, then we have nothing more to discuss." Jason turned to leave.

    "Have you any idea," Sabrina called out, "the suffering you caused because of your so-called constitution?"

    "Jason," Kelly said, "what's she talking about?"

    Jason ignored Kelly's question and turned to face Sabrina. "I did what I had to do."

    "People are wandering the Orange Islands without homes and without lives because of you."

    "No, they're wandering the Orange Islands without homes and without lives because of my family. They wouldn't take proper steps to ensure the safety of the Pokemon, and some of them nearly died because of it. For all I know, some of them did die because of it. All of those Pokemon deserved better than that. So I made it happen."

    "And your actions caused the destruction of valuable property."

    "Property can be rebuilt. I don't have to explain myself or justify myself to you."

    Sabrina's eyes flared, but it was the girl in her lap who spoke. "You don't like to play, do you?"

    Jason was silent. For one tense moment, they all were.

    Finally, he responded. "I stopped playing the day I opened my eyes, to see the ball hit me between them."

    Though the words were softly spoken, they resounded throughout the arena. Silence reigned for what seemed an eternity.

    "Congratulations," said Sabrina. "You have earned the Soul badge, and the wager."

    A flash of light caused Jason and Kelly to be momentarily blinded. When they regained their sight, Sabrina and the girl were gone.

    Floating five inches away from Jason's face was a golden Soul badge.

    It hit the ground.

    Jason crouched down and picked the badge up. He inspected it for a moment, to see if it was real. When he was convinced, he pinned it on the inside of his vest and stood up.

    Kelly walked up to Jason. "Jason, what was Sabrina talking about?"

    Jason looked into Kelly's eyes and saw that she genuinely had no idea what the entire exchange was about.

    "No doubt, you've heard the term 'Ignorance is bliss.' If you don't know," he said, "then you'd best not find out."

    Jason walked out of the gym.

    A confused Kelly followed.

    ***

    "I'm going with you," Kelly said, as they headed to the Pokemon center.

    Jason snorted. "To where? Dudsville?"

    "On your journey."

    Jason turned to her and stopped walking. "I don't do well with company."

    "How would you know? You haven't had any this entire time."

    "What about all those other trainers? I'm sure they're looking for someone to travel with. What makes me so special?"

    "You're from the Orange Islands, and you've got a mysterious past that only Sabrina has the key to."

    "Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought it was etiquette not to talk about your past when not asked to."

    "I asked, and you said you didn't want to talk about it. Is that etiquette?"

    "So by that argument, I could ask you what your first kiss was like, and you would have to answer for the sake of being proper."

    Kelly's face reddened. "That's not the same thing."

    "Maybe the circumstances aren't, but the overall situation is. There are some aspects of my past I don't want other people to know, just like you have some things I'm sure you'd rather hide." Jason sighed. "As long as you don't nag me about it, I'll tolerate your company."

    Kelly frowned. "But you won't enjoy it."

    "I'll figure that out as soon as you stop bothering me about the entire business."

    "Okay, fine! I won't!"

    "Fine."

    They stormed off to the Pokemon center.

    ***

    That evening, after Jason had traded in his Drowzee for his Fearow, he and Kelly were riding on Fearow's back to Viridian City. The sun had gone down, and the moon was full. The sky was clear, and the view was beautiful.

    Kelly had fallen asleep on Jason's shoulder. Jason didn't dare sleep; even though Fearow was able to give them the smoothest ride of their lives, he still didn't trust it enough to sleep on while in flight. He stroked Fearow's hairy back. "Sorry for the extra load, buddy, but she insisted."

    It cawed in response. Its broad back was large enough to comfortably seat three, but Jason wasn't interested in taxing its abilities further.

    Jason looked out to the starry horizon. *I'm this far along the road. I can't stop now; I have to see this thing through to the end.*

    He glanced down at Kelly, and wondered if bringing her along would prove to be a wise move or a mistake.

    *Hey, an outcast like me can use all the friends he can get.*

    His gaze returned to the full moon and the starry night sky.

    Jason Creight flew on.

    To Be Continued

  2. #2
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    Default Against All Odds (2011) [PG-13]

    Greetings to one and all on The PokéMasters! My name is Matt Morwell, and a long time ago I wrote a fanfic called Against All Odds. You can find it in a few places around the Internet these days, but I first posted the story, with great trepidation, on the previous incarnation of TPM - and I've always remembered and been grateful that the administrators and readers welcomed me with open arms. I hope that there are a few lurkers here and there who still remember the tale... but for those who aren't familiar with it, so much the better!

    In the very long interim between then and now, I've had time to review and revise the tale of Jason Creight. I've always enjoyed the basic premises from the original story but it has nagged at me for a long time that the story was a bit stale, and the writing wasn't all it could have been. I've taken the opportunity to begin a lengthy (and slightly torturous) process of true revision, restarting from square one and refining the tapestry of Jason's life. Fans of the original tale will recognize and recall a lot that happens here... but will also be treated to a vast array of new experiences that never made it the first time around. Newcomers are naturally just as welcome as the veterans, and I do hope fans of all stripes will take the time to read and enjoy.

    It's been ten years since I began to write Against All Odds... please indulge me as I share this story with you, one more time.

    -Matt


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    Against All Odds

    by Matt Morwell

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    Index

    Outcast
    Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7

    Exile
    Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7

    Pathfinder
    Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7

    Vindicator
    Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Outcast

    Part 1


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Jason Creight awoke to the sound of his alarm going off.

    Seven seconds later, a hand slapped at the clock and found the “Off” switch. The hand retreated beneath the covers for a long moment; then the entire blanket was thrown aside, revealing a teenaged boy with dark, bushy hair, a wiry build, and a grimace to suggest that he had wanted to do anything but what he’d just done.

    “Yuck. Cold,” he muttered. But the damage was done. The covers had landed on the floor beside him and the only way to reach them now was to roll over and off the bed – which risked exposing his one warm spot to the cool air all around him.

    He yawned into his fist and sat up, then threw his legs over the edge of the bed and willed himself to stand. Under his breath he grumbled cynically. “Another day.”

    And indeed, he wasn’t looking forward to it. The fourteen-year-old had a test to take for his algebra class... a test for which he had forgotten to study last night. Or the night before, or the night previous. Not to mention, there was the paper for his literature class which was due today, a paper which he had not even bothered to research until two nights ago – and hadn’t bothered to write until just last night. Hence the lack of studying for algebra.

    If classes were all he had to worry about, he might not have thought the day would go that badly. After all, there was the sense of freedom once school let out... or so his classmates kept saying. He never quite felt privy to that particular freedom. Once he was home from school, it was pretty much directly to the shop for him, to help stock items on the racks and shelves, and to assist customers. During hours, of course. Then came after hours, when he got the dubious honor of taking inventory, a task that usually required forty-five minutes for someone experienced in it. For him, it took an hour and a half.

    He knew better than to ask his parents why they wouldn’t show him preferential treatment – they’d already answered that question any number of times. He needed to understand the work even the lowliest employee was doing so that he would have a better understanding of how the overall company worked. His father liked to refer to their business as “a well-oiled machine”. One of the man’s favorite adages was, “If you can take care of the small things, the big things will take care of themselves.”

    Jason had heard the phrase over and over again through the course of his short life, enough that it had seemed to lose much of its meaning. His father liked to apply it to any situation, really. The man was gung-ho to the point of irritating... but there had, as yet, been argument with the results he gleaned. Ninety-nine percent of the time, everybody did exactly as they were expected to do. It was the remaining one percent that caused him to spout the aphorism that got so many of his employees – and even sometimes his own family – to roll their eyes.

    He knew he wasn’t likely to hear it today, anyway, and he was trying to consider that a blessing in and of itself as he willed himself to stand up and get dressed. He pulled a hanger bearing a standard school uniform from his closet and climbed into the vestments with relative haste. If there was anything he hated more than writing up an inventory count, it was spending more time than he had to with his clothing. For that, he supposed he was thankful for the uniform code – it meant he didn’t have to spend time worrying about his appearance. As long as his hair was combed and the sparse number of whiskers he might one day like to call a beard stayed trimmed, there was nothing for him to worry about.

    Just as with the tired phrase his father liked to declare, Jason didn’t want to hear another gripe from his classmates about the business his family was doing. He’d heard any number of people refer to the Creight Breeding Center as a place of moral ambiguity – a phrase whose meaning he had to look up, and even then, hadn’t fully understood on the first pass through the dictionary – and now some of the kids at school had decided they were starting to agree. It was a subject he wasn’t at all interested in broaching with them. It wasn’t like he spent his days criticizing the work their families did in order to make a living. He only did it if they started it. Jason was inclined to agree with his parents on this one – they were jealous of the Creight family’s success.

    He made his way downstairs and into the kitchen, trying to rub the remnants of sleep from his eyes as he approached the cereal cabinet. Sunlight was filtering in from every direction through windows surrounding the room and studding the ceiling. His parents had spared no expense in remodeling the kitchen, nor in redecorating it – as evidenced by the giant mahogany table, polished to perfection. In Jason’s opinion, that was nothing short of extravagant for a family of four. For each time they had company over, there were a hundred more occasions that saw barely even two people sitting at it.

    He noticed that there was a pot of oatmeal on the stove, so he scooped out a generous helping and brought with him a bottle of honey to the table, at which – for once – sat the other three members of his family. His father, Carson, was the type to wear clothing that suited whatever mood he was in. If he wanted to “lord over the minions”, as Jason’s brother liked to say, he would don a suit and tie... whereas if he wanted to “mingle with the commoners and be one of the guys” – both descriptions hailing from Jason’s mother – he’d wear khakis and a polo shirt. Today was evidently of the former persuasion, because Carson was in a black two-piece with a red silk tie. Jason was split down the middle on seeing his father wear clothing that ostentatious... if he were in the wrong place, surely it would invite hoodlums to rob him. Maybe those goons from that weird “Team Rocket” gang, or whatever they called themselves.

    Jason’s mother, Amelia, was somewhat more modest in her attire. Her long brown hair was drawn back into a tight ponytail, and he was wearing a loose flower-print shirt and a pair of blue jeans – which was what she usually wore when she wanted to work with Grass- and Ground-Type Pokémon for the day. In Jason’s experience, she held to certain clothing for certain areas of work and stuck with it until it was dinnertime. Even then, she would usually just wash her hands. The cook could complain all he wanted, but he was on the Creights’ payroll, and that meant they got to do pretty much whatever they wanted.

    Well... as long as Mom and Dad approve, Jason silently amended. His glance shifted to the third member of the family, in whom most of his parents’ approval anymore seemed to reside. Daniel Creight was an almost devilishly handsome young man. His face was narrow, his nose almost perfect – if slightly hawkish – and his hair, more closely shorn than Jason’s, was so black that whenever sunshine cast upon it, it almost looked blue. His skin was a healthy tan and his build was that of an all-around athlete. Perhaps most striking about his appearance were his eyes, each of which was a different color; his left was a bright blue while the right was an almost metallic gray. If his looks weren’t apt to attract young women, certainly his eyes were, since both seemed to sparkle whenever he smiled. Most people would peg him as at least in his twenties for how handsome and mature he looked. But they would be shocked to discover he had already completed his own private education and was working his way up the ladder for the CBC at a mere seventeen years old.

    “Good morning, son,” said Carson Creight. The family’s paternal leader spoke with an unusually chipper tone which made Jason tilt his head.

    He wasn’t the only one. Daniel also perked at the sound of their father’s voice. “You’re sounding in good spirits, Dad. Something up?”

    “Quite a bit is up,” Mr. Creight responded. Though there was little expression on his face, what was there – minuscule curve at the corner of his lips, an excited wrinkle in the middle of his forehead – spoke volumes. Getting him to actually smile was something of a small miracle so they had to do with the slightest quirks of his mouth or eyebrows. “Annuals just came in – we’re right on track to become the fastest growing company in the Orange Islands, on any and every level.”

    “Just shows that people are responding well to the services we offer,” his wife replied. She smiled at the three males surrounding her. “And I’d hope so, too – I like doing what I do. Truth be told, I always have. I think I’d always wanted to when I was a kid.”

    “A midwife for Pokémon?” Daniel aimed a raised eyebrow at his mother. “C’mon, Mom, don’t tell me that’s what you had in mind. Last time I checked, the law and Pokémon breeding didn’t really have that much in common.”

    She shrugged. “Well, I’ll admit it’s not exactly what I first thought of as a career path. But it’s dynamic. You always have to come up with solutions specific to certain problems that might only come around once in a lifetime, or hundreds of times. I got my law degree before I met your father because I wanted a job like that – being able to ferret out solutions to problems that are never exactly the same from day to day.”

    “So what, you’d have been a hotshot lawyer one day and then a budding breeder the next?” Daniel snickered. “I’m looking at you in the clothes now but I don’t think I could see you permanently hanging up a pantsuit for that.”

    “Danny!” Jason suddenly protested.

    The elder Creight boy cocked his head at Jason, an impish grin on his face. “What?”

    “You’re making Mom sound like a clothes horse! Don’t insult her!”

    “C’mon, lighten up, short stuff.” Daniel ruffled Jason’s hair. “I’m just poking fun, I don’t mean anything by it.”

    “It’s all right, Jason,” Mrs. Creight assured her younger son. “I know he’s joking.” Then she leveled her gaze on Daniel. “But your point is well-taken – I’m not quite that shallow, Danny.”

    “No, not quite,” Daniel agreed. The grin stayed on his face as he forked a section of French toast into his mouth.

    “Now, Daniel,” said Mr. Creight, a note of disapproval in his voice. But then he brightened again. “We received an order this morning. Very large. The client wants us to specially produce a wide variety of Pokémon... the basic stage of every kind we breed.”

    “Who’s the client?” Jason asked.

    “Viridian City Gym.” Mr. Creight chuckled at the expressions everyone around the table exchanged. “Yes, indeed. Word about us has spread to the Kanto mainland. It makes me wonder if too many trainers have been running roughshod over their resident gym leader.”

    “Who’s the gym leader?” Daniel inquired.

    “Not sure these days. I heard something about a shakeup there not too long ago. The order simply came from the Viridian City Gym itself, no specific name attached.”

    Jason’s elder brother frowned and leaned his elbows on the table. Jason noted the movement earned a slightly disapproving glance from their mother but she evidently elected not to say anything. “Seems a little strange. If they’ve heard of us, they know we’re a hundred percent confidential. We’re not interested in telling anyone who they are... and come to think of it, why such a large order? I thought gyms were in the business of constructing themes for trainers to be challenged by.”

    “And I thought gym leaders didn’t make that much money to begin with,” Jason interjected. “How is it this guy has the cash to buy one of every kind we’ve got?”

    Mr. Creight directed his first answer to Jason. “There’s no telling just how affluent any particular gym leader is. It’s true that by and large, they don’t earn much money as gym leaders, which is why in places like Kanto and Johto, you’ll find gym leaders have work to do on the side. Some of them, you’ll hardly ever find at their gyms, until and unless a challenger arrives.”

    Then he looked to Daniel. “As for your questions, we don’t really need to know who the individual in charge is. As long as there’s something or someone accountable for the purchase, even if that party wants to stay anonymous, we’ll get the job done. They’ve already sent the good faith payment of fifty percent. The check cleared, so now it’s up to us to make sure we give them what they want.”

    Then he looked around the table. “That means starting today, we’re all going to have to kick into overdrive. Boys, your mother and I will be overseeing about eighty percent of the breeding effort for this customer – Daniel, you’ll be taking care of the other twenty.” The patriarch looked at his older son. “We’ll be counting on you to be as diligent as your mother and I would be. You know how to breed and you know how much an art form it can be... don’t be afraid to get as far into it as you need to.”

    Jason had a difficult time restraining the scowl that threatened to overtake his features. It didn’t seem exactly a fair designation of resources... and it certainly wasn’t the first time his parents had shown blatant favoritism for his older brother. Just because the man had been their only child for all of three years...!

    He held up a hand. “Hang on, Dad? Don’t let me rain on Danny’s parade or anything, but... what about me?”

    Mr. Creight held up his hands in a slightly exaggerated shrug. “Jason, you know my policies on young workers. You’ve been doing exactly the jobs I need you to do right now and I need you to keep to the regimen I’ve assigned for you. You still have another six months before your fifteenth birthday.”

    “I’m ready to help right now, though!” he protested. “I’ve seen Pokémon trainers younger than me running around this island! If they’re ready enough to handle Pokémon...”

    His father shook his head. “Look, Jason, we’ve had this conversation – much more civilly, too. You know the rules I’ve set for the company, and look where those rules have gotten us. Look where we’re living, where you’re going to school.”

    Perhaps sensing his displeasure, his mother laid a hand on his arm and leaned close to his ear. “Jason, don’t worry. Your chance to prove yourself will come soon enough.”

    He shoveled a spoonful of oatmeal into his mouth, hoping to overwhelm the bitter taste there with the honey drizzled over his food. But even as he chewed, he couldn’t stop himself from muttering under his breath, “It hasn’t yet.”



    School was much as Jason had always found it to be... full of the same people, opportunities, and disappointments that one could find perhaps even more easily out in real life than in the confines of perhaps the most ostentatious educational facility in the Orange Islands. He couldn’t understand how his older brother had managed to pull off such effortless A’s and B’s throughout his scholastic career. After the unhappy C- he’d earned on his biology pop quiz and the mediocre B- he’d just barely managed to pull off for his algebra test, he was coming close to accusing Daniel of cheating somehow. Or perhaps simply having less difficult material to cover.

    The conclusion of his history class brought finality to his school hours. But in his own mind, it could very well bring finality to his life in general – the history paper on which a bright red “D-” had been scrawled and circled was all he needed for his vision to start tunneling. He sat at his desk for several moments after the teacher and most of the other students had already cleared out of the classroom.

    There was still one remaining, though – a blond loudmouth named Rocky Lancaster. One of Jason’s least favorite classmates, Rocky was from a family that came into their wealth from the bloated life insurance policy of a recently deceased relative. Some of that money had gone into putting him here in Tangelo Hall, but getting in the door had not been enough to prevent some of the snottier kids from pushing him around for being the “poor kid”.

    But that hadn’t been the case since the beginning of this school year. Rocky had apparently been hitting the gym during the summer, and the first time someone tossed an insult his direction upon commencement of the school year, the unfortunate idiot had gotten a bloody nose and a black eye. It was possibly even less fortunate that Rocky chose to take advantage of the fear that display had generated, and was now into pestering the “rich kids” the way he’d been harassed.

    Lancaster paced to the front of the room and passed Jason’s desk, where the paper with the bad grade still lay prone on the surface. Jason was staring at it intently, as if willing it to change. Lancaster snorted. “What, your dad couldn’t buy you a better grade?”

    Jason was fairly sure he couldn’t match Rocky in a fistfight, but he refused to let that slide. “Ask yours to buy you a personality.”

    He knew that would probably earn him a shot in the mouth, but he also knew that for him, it was worth it just to see Rocky’s mouth open and close like a Magikarp out of water. When no strike seemed forthcoming for a long moment, Jason scoffed, then picked up his paper and put it atop his stack of books.

    Rocky finally seemed to catch up to what was happening at that point, though, because he slammed a hand down on Jason’s book stack and leaned down over him. The look on his face was almost feral, much like a predator peering at what it believed was an easy target. “C’mon, Creight. The jokes about me being poor are a little old... or hadn’t you heard?”

    Jason sighed; he knew trying to wrestle his books from the other kid’s grasp would be a futile attempt. “Didn’t say you were poor.”

    “Sure sounded like it to me.”

    “I know. Because you’re stupid.”

    Rocky loomed even larger over him and his face turned red. “Why, you little–!”

    “Hey!”

    Both Jason and Rocky turned to face the classroom’s doorway. In it stood Daniel, who was aiming a pointed glower at both of them – but more scathingly at Rocky, which Jason found at least slightly comforting. The elder Creight brother leveled his gaze at Rocky. “Go find yourself something better to do, man, or I’ll help you find something.”

    Jason glanced up at Rocky, whose face was twisting this way and that. Clearly he didn’t want to back down, but he also didn’t look terribly interested in escalating the conflict. Daniel’s build was far superior to Rocky’s, and Jason knew Daniel’s muscles weren’t for show – he worked regularly with Fighting-, Rock-, and Ground-Type Pokémon on their respective breeding and training grounds.

    The Lancaster boy apparently decided to err on the side of caution and stepped away, then gathered his books and made for the door. Daniel still stood there and he directed a dark scowl at Rocky. “You make trouble for my brother, you better be ready for trouble back. You get me?”

    Rocky scoffed. “Whatever.” He shoved past and out into the hallway.

    Jason raised his eyebrows at Daniel. “What’re you doing here?”

    “What, no ‘thanks for the save’? He was ready to cream you.”

    “I wasn’t being ungrateful, I just didn’t expect you.”

    “Mom wanted me to drop by the greenhouse, deliver a couple Sunkerns. I had some time to kill after my lunch break.”

    “You’re insane with that 3 p.m. lunch break.”

    “I had other work to do first. See, there’s this big order that came in.”

    Jason sighed again and picked up his books. Belatedly, he reached on top to slip the graded paper in between the pages of his history book. His brother caught the movement, though. “What was that?”

    Jason shrugged. “Just some homework.”

    “How’d you do?”

    “Not bad.”

    “Yeah, right,” Daniel snorted. “If it had a good grade, you’d flaunt it. You know Mom keeps track, though, so you’re gonna have to show her.”

    “It’s not a big deal.”

    “It is if you want Mom and Dad to give you a Pokémon on the big fifteen.” Daniel crossed his arms and leaned against the door frame. “They don’t have to. They didn’t have to give me one.”

    “Yeah, but you asked them, might’ve had something to do with it,” Jason grumbled. He got up and moved to the door.

    “Hey, c’mon, small fry. You always make it sound like they love me more. I worked hard, okay? They didn’t give me a free pass on my first one, my second, or my third.”

    Jason scoffed. “‘Worked hard’? How hard is hard for you? A full night’s worth of ninth grade homework for me only ever took you an hour. It all just comes so easily to you.”

    “Don’t blame me, squirt, I never put off my homework until the last minute.”

    “No, you always did it ‘cause you knew all the answers off the bat. I don’t understand how you always seemed to have the right thing to say right at your fingertips. It’s pretty irritating to have teachers always comparing me to you.”

    “Jason...”

    “It’s hard for me. It’s not for you,” Jason insisted.

    “Hey, maybe it does come easily, but that still doesn’t mean I didn’t have to work for what I wanted. You act like Mom and Dad give me everything on a silver platter. Where do you think I was working when I was fourteen? I was stocking shelves and doing shop inventory, same as you, and I saw all those same trainers out there, the ones younger than us with Pokémon of their own. Think I thought that was fair?”

    Jason rolled his eyes and tried to push past Daniel, but was blocked by a strong hand on his shoulder. Daniel raised his eyebrows and locked gazes with his younger brother. “Hey, listen to me for a sec. I know what it’s like. Watching all those kids... not even the rich ones, like us, just the regular scrappers, out on the beach, challenging each other left and right, being hotshots. For all that Dad’s given us, he wouldn’t give me that until I was fifteen. Trust me, I’ve been there.”

    “Maybe, but you weren’t here for long.”

    Daniel wrapped an arm about Jason’s shoulders and walked with him into the hallway. “Work hard, squirt, and you won’t be, either.”

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011
    Last edited by mattbcl; 20th September 2011 at 07:58 PM.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Against All Odds (2011) [PG-13]

    Hey first off, great to see a new face and a 'new' fic! I'm definitely gonna read this as soon as I get off work, so until then

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    Default Against All Odds - Outcast: Part 2

    Outcast

    Part 2


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Jason might have been inclined to take his brother’s advice a little more seriously if he felt like his contribution was worth the effort. The tasks set before him daily were the epitome of boring. From one day to the next, he simply couldn’t help but feel like, little by little, he was continuing to slip further behind his brother.

    If he was beginning to learn anything from his social studies classes – which encompassed introductions to sociology and psychology – it was that in his case, some external motivational factor was required. So despite his continued lack of work ethic, he did his best to get better grades in school. He’d already heard all the tired old speeches about applying himself for his own good. He wondered just how many teachers in the world realized that this wasn’t effective motivation for the majority of their students. If he had to guess, he would have said three or four. However many there were, one thing was certain: none of them worked for Tangelo Hall Academy.

    No, for Jason, the overriding motivation was being able to match his brother – and for now, that meant acquiring a Pokémon for his fifteenth birthday. And not just any Pokémon. Daniel, when his fifteenth had arrived, was allowed to have any one Pokémon he wanted, specially bred for him and given him at the moment of its hatching. Despite constant prodding and prying from his younger brother, Daniel had been careful in keeping secret the identity of that Pokémon... as well as the two that had followed it. Even now, Jason felt he had nary a clue to go by. Daniel showed no preference for specific Pokémon, and the fact that he worked most often in land-based breeding and training grounds didn’t mean anything – that was simply where their father had assigned him to work this year.

    Jason had finally decided that he didn’t need to know what Pokémon Daniel had gotten for his birthday. The truth was, all Jason needed to know was what he himself wanted. But he wasn’t entirely sure what exact Pokémon he wanted. What he was certain of was that he wanted one which could challenge anything his brother would have picked. Just to get a leg up on him in something, so that somebody out there would recognize he was worthy of his own respect.

    But what would Daniel have chosen for himself?

    Jason found himself doodling in his notebook one day after having completed an algebra test – one which he actually felt confident he had aced. He had drawn up a rudimentary table of Pokémon types. We have full reign over just about every Pokémon commonly found in the wild. I’ll bet he wouldn’t favor Pokémon that specialized in just one type, so that pretty much rules out Electric-Types... and Psychic-Types. Those are too commonly found, anyway. He scribbled out the correspondingly labeled boxes. So I probably wouldn’t have much to worry about in the way of lightning or mental attacks. What’s weak to psychics? He circled the boxes labeled “Fighting” and “Poison”. Croagunk, I guess. But I don’t know... He looked back to the “Electric” box he’d scribbled out. Electric-Types? That’s easy, Water- and Flying-Types.

    He looked up, a sudden grin spreading across his face. Only a couple Pokémon are both of those... Gyarados and Mantine. And Gyarados is bar none one of the scariest Pokémon out there. That’d be awesome to have! He stuck the end of his pen in his mouth as he considered the option. Thing is, Gyarados isn’t a basic Pokémon, it’s stage 1. And Danny wouldn’t need an Electric-Type Pokémon for it to have electrical attacks, which would absolutely fry a Gyarados. I’d need to be really specific about the one I wanted, and I would need somebody else to train it up from a Magikarp. That sort of makes me lose out on the initial bond that’s important for trainers to have, right from the start. Gyarados is a hard Pokémon to control even if you’re an expert trainer.

    His expression soured. That’d be no good. If I were to have any hope of getting one I could handle, I’d either have to train it up from a Magikarp myself... or I’d need to at least make sure I was there as it’s growing. Both so that the bond can be established. Doesn’t sound like my idea of fun.

    ...On the other hand, I’m not sure how confident I would be in standing behind a Mantine. A Mantyke, that much less – those are just too cute to be taken seriously. If I want others to show me respect, and they won’t give it to me like they should, I need to show them I have something really terrible at my disposal.


    A pair of fingers snapped in front of his face suddenly, once, then twice. “Hey, spaz, wake up!”

    Jason flinched, blinked, then recoiled when he saw who had shaken him from his reverie. It was Rocky Lancaster again, but today he was sans the predatory look he could usually be found wearing. Still, the sound of his voice wasn’t kind. “Gonna come out of it, Creight, or you need a little more convincing?”

    “Uh. No, no thanks. I can take it from here.” Jason’s eyes darted to the clock – the bell had rung almost three minutes ago and the students from his period were long gone, to be replaced by whatever math class Rocky was about to start. Quickly he gathered his books and got up to leave.

    “Hey, Creight.”

    Jason rolled his eyes – he really didn’t want to deal with parting shots from the bully, but manners obligated him to answer the person speaking to him. “What?”

    “Whatever it was you told your old man, don’t think it’s gonna make me like you. I’ll take the job but I don’t have to enjoy it or those pansies I’m gonna be working with. Got that?”

    A wrinkle formed in the center of Jason’s brow. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

    “Oh, no?”

    “No, and I’ve got to go to class.”

    “Well, wait until history, maybe I can jog your memory then.”

    Jason scoffed as he turned back to the door. Now I get the feeling I’m going to be doing quite a bit of jogging myself.



    Upon arriving home, Jason immediately went into his father’s office. Carson Creight was, as usual, sitting at a cluttered desk and scrawling what looked to be some archaic form of Farfetch’d-scratch on a “fill-in-the-blank” brand of report. Jason rapped his knuckles on the open door as he stepped inside.

    “Mr. Creight glanced up from the report for all of one instant. “Jason. Come in, why don’t you. What’s the occasion?”

    Jason offered no preamble. “Did you offer Rocky Lancaster a job for CBC?”

    “Not exactly. Your brother recommended the name to me a couple of weeks ago. Sounded like a kid lacking direction and focus and Daniel seemed to think CBC could offer him both.” The patriarch looked up from his work and gave his son a wry smile. “I have to admit, the job interview was... enlightening.”

    “Dad, he’s a bully and a thug. I guarantee you he’s gonna steal stuff.”

    “Not if he’s earning money to count the ‘stuff’. And you’re going to show him how.”

    “What?”

    Mr. Creight tilted his head. “Jason, I’m your father, not a complete ignoramus. Even before you started complaining, I knew you weren’t happy with the position I gave you. So I’m solving several problems at once. Janice Forester gave her two weeks’ notice last Thursday, and you know I believe in promoting from within. Her departure means everyone gets bumped up. Your days on inventory are numbered; you’ll be running the register soon. But before you do, I need you to make sure this kid understands and performs the job he’s been offered to the absolute best of his ability. You’ll be supervising him until then.”

    “You’re kidding me, Dad. Rocky’s a moron. You can’t count on him.”

    “Which is why I’m counting on you, instead.” Carson laced his fingers over the paper he’d evidently finished filling out. “How strong is your objection to this boy being hired here?”

    “I suppose I don’t have a problem with him working here, but what about the inventory? You know you can at least count on me to report the numbers right. What happens when he takes something off a shelf and doesn’t report it? How much would we lose if we didn’t have the right man for that job?”

    “I’ve encouraged you to bring in a classmate you would trust, since you’re my current man for that job, but I haven’t seen any efforts made to that end. There was a job opening, everyone in this family knew about it, and your brother had a man for it first. Maybe you should learn something from his initiative.”

    “You really want to risk a gut instinct on Rocky Lancaster?”

    “Of course I don’t. And I’m not; after all, I did just have security cameras installed back there. And let’s face the facts, here... ever since his grandfather passed away, nobody has given him a break. He’s been raised by your classmates to believe that he won’t ever get one, no matter how hard he tries. He needs one. I believe in compassion as much as I do in practicality. He’ll get his chance here.” He looked back down to his paperwork. “In any event, the deed is done, so if you’re looking to hammer out exactly why Daniel decided your classmate would be such an excellent fit for us, feel free to go ask him yourself.”

    Jason narrowed his eyes, but the clip of his father’s tone made it clear the conversation was over, as far as he was concerned. “I guess I will, then.”



    At first, it had seemed odd to Jason that other breeders out of the land-based grounds were so uncomfortable in telling him exactly where Daniel was. Evidently his status as Daniel’s kin was not enough for them to give him a proper and clear answer on that account. He had no rank to pull with them, but if he had, he’d have done it just to get them to spit it out. He didn’t even notice at first just how many personnel were not on the grounds – all he saw were people standing in his way.

    Perhaps Jason would have been inclined to speak civilly and rationally to his older brother if it had been some other classmate he didn’t particularly like. Or maybe he would have been inclined to talk things out with him if he saw Daniel behaving in a manner that befit his status as the favorite son of the Creight family and heir to the empire that was rising fast beneath their feet.

    But once he was out of the building and on the open grounds, he was having a hard time picturing himself doing anything at all – save for standing there and witnessing exactly what was happening.

    Daniel was without a shirt, and had on only a pair of muddy carpenter’s pants. Both fists were up in fighting stance, and of all things, he appeared to be squaring off with a Machop that barely even stood half his size. The elder Creight’s muscles, already stark in appearance, rippled with the exertion of throwing a jab down at the Machop, which deftly caught the fist in one hand, then gripped Daniel’s arm and twisted around, hurling him into the mud.

    Daniel let out a surprised grunt when he hit the ground, then snarled as he got back to his feet and charged the Pokémon. This time the Machop wasn’t prepared and Daniel’s fists slammed into either side of the shorter creature’s head in a brutal boxing of its ears. It cried out in agony and fell back; the momentum of Daniel’s charge forced him to keep moving and he lost his balance, falling prostrate atop the injured Pokémon. The Machop howled again at the unexpected weight of its human tormentor.

    Jason’s jaw quivered as he watched his brother get back up. He thought he’d seen what a feral look was in the face of Rocky Lancaster... but what that petty kid was able to produce offered absolutely no comparison to the look on Daniel’s face now. The crown prince of the Creight Breeding Center wore a mask of predatory satisfaction, like one Jason might have expected to see if he ever thought his brother was about to murder something.

    Jason wouldn’t have thought it possible... but Daniel certainly looked ready to murder the Machop.

    At that moment, there was only one thing that came to his mind, only one word that he could find it in him to utter.

    “Stop...”

    Daniel didn’t seem to have heard the word. In fact, he didn’t appear aware that Jason was even there. A deep growl issued from his throat, and his lips peeled back over clenched teeth.

    “Stop...”

    His fingers curled into white-knuckled fists.

    “Stop.”

    He raised his right fist high over his head, ready to drive it into the defeated Machop’s exposed belly.

    “Stop!”

    This time, Daniel heard the outcry, and he stopped short and looked up. There stood his brother, motionless, save for his quivering jaw and darting eyes – now Jason saw into Daniel’s eyes fully. Difficult as it was for Jason to believe, there seemed to be virtually no humanity in them, only the instinct and anger of a bully whose prey had fought back.

    But Daniel relented, and stood back from the beaten Pokémon. The Machop made no motion to rise from the ground, a clear signal that it was defeated... Fighting-Type Pokémon were notoriously prideful and stubborn, so to acquiesce to an aggressor was a response to a life-threatening situation.

    Anger of a different kind threatened to overwhelm Daniel’s features, the kind that Jason could identify with. He had been caught doing something cruel and intolerable, and the person catching him was his brother, a source their parents would have no reason to doubt. Part of Jason began to wonder if this had been the only time such abuse was happening, or if there was more going on than he could begin to guess.

    Daniel tried to discard the expression and scoffed as he planted his hands on his hips. “The hell are you doing here?”

    “I... I...” Jason tried to push past his own tongue but couldn’t seem to find his way out of stuttering.

    His older brother took several steps in Jason’s direction. Instinctually, Jason backed away the same distance. Daniel stopped short. “Hold on. You don’t think I would...” He trailed off, then let his arms fall to his sides. His expression changed again, and if Jason hadn’t seen what he just had, he might have thought it was one of caring. “You’re my brother, squirt, not some rogue Pokémon. I would never hit you.”

    The younger Creight was dumbfounded, but he was able to locate his language skills this time. “‘Rogue Pokémon’? Is that what happened, that Machop just go a little nuts on you or something?”

    “Listen. It’s one of the Pokémon that our ‘mysterious client’ at Viridian Gym wanted us to breed up. Or at least, it has the hallmarks of the kind he wants. He wants them aggressive and ready for a fight. But that one...” Daniel chucked his thumb at the downed Machop. “...was beating up on a Sandshrew infant. I tried to get between the two of them and the thing wanted to take me on. I was defending the Sandshrew.”

    “You were defending a Sandshrew baby.”

    “Yeah. It wasn’t supposed to be anything more than that, but the Machop wouldn’t let up, and...” Daniel threw his hands up. “...things just got out of hand. I didn’t mean for it to go that far.” He reached out and placed a hand on Jason’s shoulder. “Trust me. I didn’t start it and I wouldn’t do that to a Pokémon if I was thinking straight.”

    Jason backed away, causing Daniel’s hand to slip off his shoulder. “I don’t believe you.”

    “Why not?” Daniel took another step toward Jason; the younger Creight again drew away. “Jason, why don’t you believe me? Have you ever seen me do anything like that before?”

    “Why isn’t anyone else here?” Jason abruptly asked.

    Daniel blinked. “What?”

    “I asked everyone where you were and they didn’t want to tell me.” Jason stepped back again, this time with purpose – he was retreating to the grounds entrance. “You’re the pretty one. You’re the bigshot. They know if you’re here. They should know where you are but they kept saying they didn’t. Why was I the first one who saw you?”

    Now Daniel’s face became stern, and his voice carried a warning tone. “Jason...”

    “I wasn’t, was I?” Jason gripped the handle to the door. “Someone knew.”

    Daniel’s face twisted, and he lunged forward.

    Jason twisted the handle and swung the door wide; the heavy metal slab caught Daniel unprepared and knocked him backward while Jason dashed through and made his escape. He took one turn after another through the halls, trying to think of the most random route he could take to throw off his brother and get himself to at least temporary safety.

    Jason knew the complex just as well as anyone else, if not better... and there was a larger broom closet he had always gone when playing hide-and-seek with his brother that Daniel had never bothered to check. A twist this way, a turn that way, and he knew he wouldn’t be found.

    But even as he quietly closed and locked the door behind him, he realized that he wouldn’t be able to hide in here forever. And if I stay here, Danny will get back home before me and try to cover it up before I can talk to anybody about it.

    He sat down on the floor against a cabinet of towels and banged the back of his head against the frame in frustration. I know I’m right, I’ve gotta be. There was someone else who knew he was doing that. Maybe even a lot of people. The way they were all looking away from me, like they didn’t wanna know anything. Maybe they all knew. But why would they let it happen? Why would they all just walk out and let him do that?

    He ran a hand through his hair. Man, if only there were security cameras out there! He clenched his eyes shut for a long moment and clasped his hands over his head, trying to clear it so that he could focus... a difficult task when it seemed like his brother was now actively out to kill him.

    Then he opened his eyes again and blinked in abrupt realization. Janice Forester. She was working lead for a lot of the land-based breeding. She’s supposed to be quitting – maybe she knew something?

    He tried, and failed, to suppress a shudder at the thought. What if she did see something? Wouldn’t she have tried to tell Dad about it? She was one of the leads on those grounds. Without her, Danny’s just about in charge of the place – he gets run of the mill on Ground-, Fighting-, and Rock-Type Pokémon. And he’s treating them like that. If he’s done it before, she’d have told somebody...

    Jason was not in the habit of wearing a watch, and he now cursed himself for never establishing it. He looked around the closet; its stocks of cleaning supplies appeared half-drained, and he had seen Todd, the janitor, raiding it earlier. He felt reasonably confident he would not be found in here – not soon, anyway. And even if he was, Todd was a reasonably friendly and sympathetic guy.

    He let his eyes drift half-closed. He knew what he was going to do next. I definitely need to talk to Janice. And then I need to talk to Dad... Danny’s probably already doing that right now, though. “Explaining” the situation. Jason knew that Daniel’s story, no matter how convincing it might seem to someone who hadn’t been there, was too fishy to be completely true. No other humans on the grounds? That, in and of itself, was strange. Typically one could find three or four others there. And everyone Jason had met in the hallways on his way to see his older brother had acted almost embarrassed to know where he was.

    But if they knew, why didn’t they say anything? He blinked. Or maybe they told Janice, and she told Dad. But... wouldn’t we have heard about it? Certainly someone would have gotten chatty over the subject. If not his family, then his co-workers... some of whom had demonstrated or declared jealousy over Daniel’s rapid ascension through the company’s ranks.

    Dad needs to know what the truth is. And he should know nobody else was even around to try and stop Danny, either.

    But without a method of measuring time, he knew he couldn’t be certain when he could leave safely. He considered just waiting until a janitor ferreted him out – maybe it would be Todd; on the other hand he might encounter someone not quite so amiable. But he wasn’t comfortable with the idea, as he had a growing awareness that for every minute he was in here, it was another minute he was AWOL.

    I really should get out of here, he thought. By now, Danny probably figures I’ve either gone into hiding or I’ve gotten away, so I can be reasonably sure he’s gone to talk to Dad. And if he’s talking to Dad, that means he’s not looking around for me.

    He got to his feet, reached for the doorknob, and gingerly cracked the door open to peer into the hallway. There was no one to be found there, and no noise, save for the steady low hum of the air conditioning through the duct work. Quietly, he stepped into the hall and started toward the employee entrance.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011

  5. #5
    Written Into A Corner... Cool Trainer
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    Default Against All Odds: Outcast - Part 3

    Outcast

    Part 3


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Jason felt awkward hopping onto the porch of someone he only knew as an employee of the company; he and his family had always subscribed to the tenet that work stayed at work, and nobody took it home with them. With the possible exception of Carson Creight himself, who primarily worked out of the home. Jason knew that today – a Friday – corresponded with Janice’s usual day off, which was really the only reason he’d even consider being here now.

    He rapped his knuckles on the door five times in rapid succession. Within moments, the door swung open and he found himself looking up into the face of Janice Forester. Though she was still attractive for being in her mid-60's, wrinkles were threatening to overtake her well-tanned features nowadays. Her silver hair was bound back into a ponytail and she was wearing an apron... indicators that she’d found work of her own to take care of.

    She offered him a polite smile. “Jason Creight. And here I thought today was a work day for you. What brings you to my humble abode?”

    “Uh... I was wondering if I could talk to you for a little bit,” he said, suddenly feeling anxious.

    “Oh? What about?”

    “My brother.”

    If he hadn’t already known what he knew, he might not have noticed... but he could see the smallest bit of her smile fade at the mention of Daniel. She tilted her head at him. “Is something wrong?”

    “I... was actually wondering if you could tell me that. I saw him... do something today. And he knows I saw it.”

    Now her smile was gone, and she cast furtive glances in each direction. “Are you sure this isn’t something better discussed with your father?”

    “I had to hide. Danny chased me. I think he’s already talking to my dad.”

    She stepped forward and gently draped an arm across Jason’s shoulders. “Come inside, Jason. I think I can spare a few minutes.”

    He blew out a heavy sigh of relief and gratefully stepped through the door into her home. As he glanced about, he saw that it was about what he would have expected – at least one plant in a corner of each room, windows covered by sheers and bracketed by heavier drapes... lots of furniture, but no guests to speak of, except himself. He found his mind swimming through a hazy memory of being at his grandmother’s house; Janice’s residence bore similarities to the comfortable atmosphere and the idle air.

    She gestured to her dining room, where there was a small table surrounded by four rolling chairs. “Come in and have a seat. Do you want something to drink? Water, tea?”

    He let out a nervous laugh. “I don’t suppose you have any soda, do you?”

    She made a face. “No, unfortunately. I don’t care for it, myself... if I want caffeine, I’ll take coffee, and I don’t need all that sugar rotting my teeth out. I hope you brush often.”

    “Maybe more often than some people think,” he said cautiously. He sat down. “But I guess some water would be okay.”

    “Fair enough.” She went into her kitchenette and fetched the requested beverage, then sat down at the table and leaned on it with both elbows while Jason took a series of long gulps. She tilted her head at him. “So. You saw Daniel ‘do something’.”

    Jason nodded. “He was in a pen for land-based Pokémon. He was fist-fighting with a Machop, actually fighting it. He ended up beating it down to where it stopped getting up. He was about to hit it some more. I’ve never seen his face look like that. It was like he wanted to kill it.”

    “Was there anyone else there?”

    “No, it was all empty of humans except him and me. I think the others knew where he was. I was looking for him, but nobody wanted to give me a clear answer. ‘I saw him go that way a little while ago.’ ‘Oh, I think you just missed him.’ ‘Wasn’t he in one of the land pens earlier?’ And when I found him, that’s what he was doing.”

    “And he chased you for seeing it?”

    “Not at first. He tried to explain it. He said he saw the Machop beating up a baby Sandshrew. Said it was aggressive, the kind that this Pokémon gym up north in Kanto is after. He said he knew he went too far with it but he was trying to defend this Sandshrew. But I didn’t see a Sandshrew anywhere. So I told him I didn’t believe him and said there wasn’t anyone else around where there should be. He tried to grab me so I ran off and hid.”

    Janice’s expression changed. “And then you came here. So nobody knows where you are?”

    “I guess. Except for you. I’d rather nobody else know right now.”

    “I can’t promise that, Jason. I’ll have to let your parents know where you are eventually. But I think you’re safe here for the time being. As for your brother...” She sighed. “I wish I could say this was the first time hearing he would do something quite that brutal.”

    “So I was right?”

    Janice arched an eyebrow. “Beg your pardon?”

    “I figured if he’d done it before, you would know. Those are the pens he goes to the most, if he’d get caught beating up a Pokémon, it’d be there.”

    “Well, then, yes, your instinct was correct.” She laced her fingers atop the table. “I’ve only seen him do it once myself, and even then it wasn’t nearly as bad as what you describe. But it could easily have gotten there if I and a couple of my assistants hadn’t been there. He got very frustrated with a Tyrogue that he was trying to help strength-train. It kept failing in battle and Daniel threatened to get into the ring with the poor thing himself if it didn’t shape up.”

    “Didn’t you tell Dad about it?”

    “That was the first time. I thought of it as an isolated incident but I warned him I didn’t want to catch him behaving that way again towards those or any other Pokémon. If they don’t respect you, they certainly won’t listen to you. And respect is a two-way road, as any high-schooler already knows.”

    “But doesn’t it make sense that if he was doing it once, he’d do it again?”

    “That’s the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, Jason. A lot of things make sense once you’re looking back at them. And your father is very keen on giving everyone a chance. So I let the matter go. I suppose your brother decided to take my warning literally. I never did see him behaving that way again with my own eyes, but the others started reporting to me that they’d seen him roughhousing or tormenting Pokémon in the pens. I brought the matter up to him after the third report got back to me... he said they misunderstood what he’d been doing. He even offered me an excuse for each one.”

    “So what happened then?”

    She shrugged. “I said if I kept hearing about it, I would see to it he didn’t enter the pens I operated, no matter whose son he was. And I stopped hearing about it. But steadily, my assistants seemed to get more and more uncomfortable with working there. I had a couple of them quit unexpectedly, and they didn’t give me a reason. When I finally gathered everyone together and confronted them, they reluctantly told me what I thought had been happening – Daniel was again bullying the Pokémon, and throwing his weight around with anyone who caught him doing it. That was when I took the matter straight to your father. I gave him every detail and told him as long as I worked for his company, Daniel was not welcome to enter those pens.”

    Jason frowned. “So... Dad fired you?”

    Janice let out a sigh and took Jason’s hand in her own. “Jason, one of the things you have to learn as a company employee is that when the management wants your time with them to end, they’ll offer you two options. The first one is you can choose to quit. You give them your two weeks’ notice, which gives them time to find a replacement for your position and keeps them from having to deal with the hassle of a fast hire. If you did a good enough job, they’ll give you a healthy severance package so you don’t cause them any trouble down the road.” She flipped her free hand over to palm up for emphasis. “The other option is for the company to fire you. You leave immediately, you get no extra money, and it looks very bad on your résumé if you’re ever looking for other work. I chose the option that would be the least trouble for everyone involved.”

    “But why? Why wouldn’t Dad listen to you? You’ve worked for him for so long... as long as I’ve been in school! Danny hasn’t even worked for him for a full four years yet!”

    “Because your brother was crafty. He’s gifted in many ways, and one of those ways is a very good memory. He told your father about each incident the day they happened, and he told him in private. Each time, he offered what your father said was a ‘heartfelt and genuine confession of his own humanity’. He underplayed what he had actually done to your father, who had no reason not to believe his own flesh and blood, especially when he’d gone and told him he knew he’d done something wrong.”

    “So because Danny told Dad... Dad wouldn’t believe what you told him.” At Janice’s nod, Jason tried to wrap his brain around all of this new information. It was confirmation, all right, but of behavior that ran more deeply than he would ever have guessed at the beginning of this day. “I still don’t get it – I mean, did he think you were trying to beat up on Danny or something?”

    “Fathers and their sons, Jason. First sons, especially.” She held up a conciliatory hand. “I mean no offense to you by that. But I think you’ve seen it, your father heavily favors your brother. It’s the worst-kept secret that he wants Daniel to eventually take over the company. I don’t think it’s entirely your father’s fault, but he’s blind to the damage Daniel is causing. And based on what I’ve seen and what I know now, I would prefer to take early retirement than work for a company that had someone like Daniel at the helm. I said all of this to your father, and his response was that he would expect to see my two weeks’ notice by the end of business that day. So it looks like I’ll be getting my preference.”

    Jason frowned. “So... that’s it for you, then? I mean, there’s nothing else?”

    At that, she smiled. “Oh, hardly. Any number of Pokémon handling companies would be happy to hire me for my experience and success rate. But believe it or not, I consider this an opportunity. I’ve rarely left Tangelo Island for much and I’ve thought for a long time about traveling all of the Orange Islands. Work never really allowed for it, even though I was paid generously. Now I can put that money to use.”

    He shook his head in confusion. “That’s such a big change, though. I mean, you want to change your whole lifestyle because of this one thing?”

    “When it comes to adapting, it doesn’t matter if I want my lifestyle to change. I have to do it. So I may as well do it on my own terms.” She patted the top of his hand encouragingly. “And I hope that’s a lesson you’ll keep close to you. When your life comes to a crossroads and you’re not sure what path to take... pick the one you’d want to tread slowly. Life’s no fun if you turn it into a race for the finish line.”

    He scoffed. “Right now life’s feeling a bit more like a dead end.”

    “So do something about it.” She gestured at him. “You’ve got a brain. Use it. Figure out a way you can get out of there and into a place you want to be.”

    “Easier said than done.”

    “You’re preaching to the choir, dear.” She smiled and patted his hand once more, then stood up. “Tell you what, I’ll give your father a call, vouch for you, and take you back home myself. Daniel’s not going to be beating you or anyone else up while I’m here.”

    He felt his heart skip a beat or two, directly followed by a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. “Even if he doesn’t, Dad’s still gonna be mad at me.”

    “We’ll see about that.” She approached her kitchen’s wall phone and dialed a number in. As she held the receiver to her ear, she offered him a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry, Jason. I think things will look up for you. Just give it some time.”



    Jason felt himself wilting under the gaze of his father. The pressure did not lessen when Carson Creight shifted his eyes to Jason’s older brother, whose face displayed an expression of abject humiliation and embarrassment. Whether he actually felt either of those things or not, Jason could no longer say, but if Daniel was acting, he was doing a phenomenal job of it – he looked as pained by their father’s piercing stare as Jason felt.

    Mr. Creight looked at Jason again. “Jason, I have no reason not to believe your story, but no other employees in the complex noted Daniel running or appearing to give chase to anybody.” Then he glared at Daniel’s downcast head. “Though given your tale, I can certainly understand you wanting to hide from him. Rest assured he will not be in a position to cause you harm, either now or any point in the future.”

    He glanced back to his younger son once more. “I’m disappointed that you didn’t just come directly here. Your brother arrived in my office promptly to talk to me about what happened. Notably, he omitted some of the more... colorful details, but he told me he knew right off the bat what he did was out of line and apologized for letting me down. Do you have an answer for that?”

    “I, uh...” Jason cleared his throat. “I... kind of thought he would beat me here. And then you wouldn’t believe me over him.”

    “Jason, that’s ridiculous. You know you can talk to me about a dispute between the two of you. I do my best to be fair and listen with both ears. In this case, both of you have given me the same basic story – you saw Daniel in a round of fisticuffs with that Machop and stopped him before it got too far out of control, then were scared off when he gave you an explanation.”

    “But Dad, you’re missing the point!” Jason blurted out, and he looked up at Mr. Creight’s face. His father was already wearing a frown, so when he saw the lines in his face deepen with exasperation at having been interrupted, Jason had to resist a cringe. “It’s happened before, and every time, you’ve forgiven him for doing it instead of punishing him! If you’re gonna punish me, shouldn’t he get it, too?”

    That inquiry brought a distinctly unpleasant look to Daniel’s face and he shot a glare at Jason. Mr. Creight was quick to notice the glance and he turned a hard stare upon his elder son, then said, “Daniel, please give us the room. I’ll speak with you when we’re done.”

    Jason had never seen his brother look as happy to leave the presence of their father as right at that moment; he turned around and promptly left the office without a word. It wasn’t difficult for Jason to understand why Daniel was relieved – the full attention of their father was now squarely upon his younger son. “That was rather boorish of you, Jason. You know I expect better.”

    “But he beat up a defenseless Pokémon and he tried to beat me up! Shouldn’t his punishment be the same as mine?”

    “No. He reported to work today, right on time, and when a problem surfaced, he came to his employer to discuss it and to try to find a solution. He still has a lot to learn, and even he admits it’s entirely possible his place is not in the Pokémon pens.”

    Mr. Creight directed an accusatory finger at Jason. “You, on the other hand, did not report to work. Instead, the moment you got out of school, you came to me so you could vent your personal reservations about a professional decision I made, and then you sought out your brother to confront him for the very same reason. You hid in a broom closet, and then you ran away entirely. All the while, your trainee was waiting for you to show up so he could learn how to do the very job from which I’m promoting you.”

    “Dad!”

    “Jason, rest assured that I will discover the truth of this particular matter, and that I will deal with your brother as appropriate. Right now, my concern lies with you. Once we discovered you were nowhere to be found, your mother and I became very worried. You even asked Janice not to tell anyone where you were. I can understand you being afraid of confrontation but a request like that puts her in a position you shouldn’t have asked her to be in. And if it’s going to be that you’ll run off like that with no word on where you are, then we’re going to have to keep a closer eye on you, for the time being.”

    “Dad, I don’t need babysitting!”

    “Your behavior indicates otherwise. For the next week, you’ll come home from school each day and immediately report to my office, where you’ll do your homework until it’s complete, and show it to me for review. I don’t like hearing from your teachers that you’re not motivated, so this gives me an opportunity to provide you the little kick you need.”

    “But what about my job?”

    Mr. Creight heaved a sigh. “Son, I’m sorry to say it, but yours just isn’t that special a job. There’s any number of people who can stock shelves and who’ve handled inventory before. For a week, I can rotate the responsibilities. You don’t need the job that badly right now. What you need is discipline. I do want you to help your brother run this company when it’s time for the two of you to take over, and self-discipline is the best quality someone could ask for in an employee, a successor... even a son.”

    Jason’s frustration only grew with each sentence his father uttered, and at that last, he glowered up at Mr. Creight and couldn’t restrain the retort on the tip of his tongue. “Danny doesn’t have it but he’s your favorite anyway.”

    Mr. Creight’s expression suddenly grew very dark and he leaned across his desk to direct an icy stare at his progeny. “I see one week won’t do the job. Three, then. And I guarantee you we’ll be talking about that remark soon. But tonight, I’m done with you. Send your brother back in here and go to your room. Stay there until you have to go to school.”

    Jason’s jaw dropped. “It’s Friday!”

    “Yes, it is. Now get out of my office.”

    Jason could find no other option available to him but to do as his father told him. He trudged out of the room and hung his head as he made his way up the hall. Daniel was standing against the door frame leading into the bathroom, arms and legs crossed casually as he stared at his younger brother. “Nice try, trying to get me in trouble like that,” he said.

    Jason’s head snapped up. Daniel’s expression implied a touch of playfulness and devil-may-care attitude mixed in with the gravity of his jab; there stood his brother, and not the brute he’d seen in the Pokémon pen.

    His nostrils flared. “What’s that supposed to mean?” He jabbed a finger at Daniel’s chest. “This is all your fault! You should be getting it, too!”

    “Not my fault he likes me more.” Daniel leaned forward. “Hey, and for the record, the Machop wasn’t seriously injured. A trip to the PokéCenter and he’s in tip-top shape again. All in all, no harm done.”

    “What, so you think that makes it okay? You beat that thing senseless!”

    “I’m saying it could’ve been worse. I was gonna thank you for keeping me from making it that way but I think I’ll just keep those thanks to myself now, ‘cause I see how it is.”

    “You’re an idiot.”

    “You’re a jealous little pest.”

    “At least Dad thinks he can fix me. He wants to talk to you again, maybe he wants to see if you need therapy.”

    “That’s real cute, squirt. Hope you enjoy your stay in your room.” Daniel pushed off the frame and paced back to their father’s office; from within, Jason could hear the man tell his brother to close the door behind him. It wasn’t of consolation to him that the man’s voice was no more forgiving to Daniel than it had been just a few moments ago.

    But on his way to his room, a thought entered his mind that was completely unexpected, given the current circumstances. Now I really wish I could have that Gyarados... just to help make them back off of me...

    He scoffed at the thought. Yeah, like that would accomplish anything. Why would I even think about that at a time like this? If anything, my chances of getting a Pokémon of any kind just went straight down the toilet with what happened today... not like it’s even my fault it happened like it did. I’ve got basically no chance at it now, unless Dad sees me doing everything he wants me to do. Get the highest marks in school. Stay at work past midnight every night. Be a good son, be a loyal little brother, and don’t question either of them.

    He went into his room, closed and locked the door, then laid down on his bed and stared up at the ceiling. For a long while, no coherent thoughts passed through his mind... just vague flashes of resentment and frustration that he tried to quell. But even the peace of silence within his own head could not be maintained forever. Maybe Janice really is right. Dad won’t ever look at Danny and be disappointed in him. Not like he does with me. He’ll just keep on giving him free passes ‘cause Danny knows how to say all the right things.

    And what happens when Danny and I are supposed to take over? Yeah, right, who am I kidding? It’ll just be Danny that takes over. I won’t ever really be in the picture as a partner of any kind. Sure, I’ll be working here, and maybe with the kind of money that says I’m set for life... but if Danny’s gonna keep acting fake toward people and brutal toward Pokémon...

    I think I’m with Janice. I wouldn’t want to work for a company where the guys in charge thought it was okay to abuse the Pokémon they’re supposed to raise.


    He frowned. But what would that all end up looking like? I quit from CBC and go looking for other work – Mom and Dad would be furious. Sure enough I wouldn’t get a Pokémon then. And it wouldn’t really fix the problem. Danny will still go off on the Pokémon pretty much whenever he wants. Even if he doesn’t work in the pens anymore, he’s got his own Pokémon... so he can still act as abusive as he cares to and nobody would even know.

    Heh. Maybe if I ever did get that Gyarados, he’d end up being a pushover for having injured Pokémon...


    Jason closed his eyes and shook his head. That’s not right, me thinking that. Shouldn’t even be fun for me to think about it. It isn’t any better than thinking a Gyarados could make someone back off. Nobody should be beating up on Pokémon, but by the same token, Pokémon shouldn’t be used to beat up on people, either. That’s not what they’re there for. He sighed. Kinda makes me wonder what that Viridian Gym wants with such aggressive ones, anyway. Is it just the gym leader, or the trainees there, too? And there’s no theme that we can tell to the purchase. Why would they buy so many Pokémon?

    Then he opened his eyes and frowned. Wait a minute... buying the Pokémon. The rule is that Dad won’t give me a Pokémon until I’m at least fifteen, but he never said anything about me not being allowed to get one with my own money.

    He turned over on the bed and sighed. Not like that’ll do me any good right now. I’ll be lucky to get any food around here, much less a reasonable discussion out of my dad. At least I have a Pokémon license that covers handling them... I don’t need a trainer’s license unless I’m planning to register with a league.

    And not like that will be happening anytime soon, either.


    He closed his eyes again and tried to find the respite of sleep. I’ll find the right time.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011

  6. #6
    Written Into A Corner... Cool Trainer
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    Default Against All Odds: Outcast - Part 4

    Outcast

    Part 4


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The next morning, Jason was seated at his desk, accessing files on Pokémon breeding through his computer. His dreams the night previous had consisted of him astride a giant snakelike creature, alternately laughing in joy and gasping in fright with every hazy vista imaginable sprawling before him. He could only attribute such a dream to a desire to own his own Gyarados, seemingly a deeper desire than he’d thought he had.

    And so he’d felt driven to start doing some research when he awoke. Evidently, access to the local information network through his particular machine had been restricted... further proof in his mind that his father wanted to punish him more harshly for a trivial offense than his brother for a major one. But instruction manuals and informational brochures were still accessible and it was these he was riffling through.

    It’s not easy to evolve a Magikarp to a Gyarados. A lot of trainers don’t have the patience for it because Magikarps are so stupid, they don’t know how to fight. Then, all of a sudden, when they evolve, they have all this power they don’t even know they have... and as Gyaradoses, they get smart enough to use it, once they know what they can do. So Magikarps are cheap – Gyaradoses are expensive. Just like most Pokémon at the last stage of their evolution.

    He switched to a different window that displayed exactly what a Gyarados was capable of, according to the latest research. They’re incredibly fast in the water but they shouldn’t really try traveling over land. They don’t even learn any land-based attacks on their own. Still, they can be taught the move Earthquake, which can be incredibly useful when dealing with an Electric-Type Pokémon. So that’s a must.

    He scribbled “earthquake” on a slip of paper in front of his keyboard. He was all too aware the CBC Supply Store had in stock a vast array of data discs – trainers liked to call them “TM’s”, short for “Technical Machines” – that assisted in teaching a Pokémon how to use moves it might never learn on its own. For that matter, he also knew the price of each one... and the Earthquake TM was expensive, due to its high power and potentially devastating effect on local landscapes.

    He wasn’t entirely certain why Gyarados was considered a partial Flying-Type, as to his knowledge, even at the apex of its ability it learned no moves of that type... the only reasoning he could come up with was the effect electricity had on it. While an extremely powerful creature on all other fronts, against lightning, it was as good as shish kebab.

    There was a knock at his doorway. He sighed, turned off his monitor, then got up and opened the door. Although he’d expected to see his father standing there, instead it was Amelia Creight who greeted him with a soft... perhaps even sympathetic smile. “How you doing?”

    “Not so hot,” Jason admitted.

    “Mind if I come in?”

    He shrugged. “I guess it’s your room... I’m just borrowing it.”

    She gave a chuckle as she stepped inside. “You’re starting to sound like your father.”

    “I hope not.” He sat down on his bed.

    She tilted her head at him. “So your dad told me about the little conversation you had last night. You think he loves you less than your brother?”

    “I didn’t say that, Mom. I didn’t say anything about him loving anyone more or less than anyone else.”

    “Your father seems to think you were saying something to that effect.”

    “Well, I wasn’t.”

    “What did you say, then?”

    “I said Danny was his favorite.”

    Her face wrinkled. “You must know that’s not true. Daniel’s always worked his hardest to win your father’s approval. Even he falls down every once in a while. Your dad forgives him because that’s the kind of man he is.”

    “Maybe, but Dad doesn’t forgive my mistakes nearly as easily or quickly. And I don’t even make that many.”

    “Jason, I know it’s hard. Maybe your father has in mind that he wants to see you succeed the same way your brother has and those are some big shoes to fill.”

    “It’s not fair, Mom. I’m not Danny. I don’t wanna be Danny. If Dad’s gonna look at me, I don’t want him seeing Danny at fourteen years old. That’s not me. I’m a different person. He can’t expect me to be the same.”

    “No, no...” She held up a hand for emphasis. “He shouldn’t expect you to be the same, Jason. Doesn’t mean he can’t. And I’ve had this conversation with him before, but he can’t help himself. After seeing how successful your brother is, your father is trying to raise you the same way. I agree that it isn’t fair, but as a businessman, he has a poor time changing what he thinks is a tried-and-true method.”

    “But am I always going to have to be Daniel Creight’s little brother?”

    She sighed. “I’m afraid so, Jason. That isn’t fair, either, but that’s just the way it is.”

    He looked down at the floor. “Doesn’t have to be, though.” He glanced back up at his mother. “I could quit.”

    She frowned. “Why?”

    “Because I saw what Danny looked like when he was beating up that Machop. And I know it wasn’t the first time. If he’s acting like that now, what’ll he do when he takes over? I don’t wanna be a part of that. I don’t want that reputation.”

    “Look, I understand it’s tough, but I don’t think quitting will help anything. You’ll still be Daniel Creight’s little brother, with or without a job at CBC, and without the job you’ll have no money and no way to change what you think is going wrong with the company.”

    “Mom, I’ll never have a way to change what I think is going wrong. Long as Danny stays with the company, he’ll always be ahead of me. He’ll always be in charge. And he’s never gonna quit. He won’t change, either, not ‘cause I want him to. I don’t wanna work for him.”

    “Jason, any scenario that involves you working for him is still a long way off. Nobody’s saying you have to stay with the company if you eventually decide you want to do something else with your life. I just don’t think you can make a snap decision about your job and all based on what happened yesterday.”

    “Mom, c’mon,” he scoffed. “Dad would hate me if I quit. I’d be letting him down all over again. He doesn’t have to say I should keep working here out loud for me to know he’s expecting me to. He’s always saying he wants Danny and me to take over. Really he just wants Danny to take over.”

    “Listen, it isn’t Daniel’s fault he’s older than you. He’s had more time to get ahead in the business. Three years is a long time to make your father very proud.”

    “So is fourteen, Mom, and all I seem to do is remind him of how much further I have to go to reach Danny’s potential.” He shook his head. “I don’t want to keep dealing with that. I won’t quit right away, but I’ll start looking for other jobs.”

    She pursed her lips for a moment, then turned and headed back to the door. “I’ll bring up your lunch and dinner.” She paused inside the doorway and half-turned back to look at him. “You’re right about one thing, Jason. If you do quit, it’ll be disappointing. You’re a good and honest employee. That’s a sad rarity these days.”

    He got up, then sat down at his desk and turned his monitor back on. He wanted to have the last word – usually someone else stole it away from him – but with his parents, he knew there were only certain times where he could take it. This wasn’t one of those times. So he kept it to himself, letting the words ring loud inside his mind. I can at least live with myself better.



    Jason didn’t expect the next three weeks to pass by quickly. He wasn’t disappointed, either – each weekday saw him do as his father bade him, however reluctantly. Directly following school, he went home and sat in Mr. Creight’s office while doing every last bit of his homework. Although his teachers complimented him for being much more prompt with his work, any time he had left to himself was spent loathing both his father and brother for putting him in this predicament, as though it were some conspiracy against him.

    The first weekend was spent cleaning up his room. The next two were bereft of work for him. His father had evidently meant for Jason not to return to work until his penance was complete, which suited Jason just fine – it meant that instead of having to endure the stupifying boredom of replenishing supplies and taking stock, he could spend his spare time perusing details on the finer points of raising a Gyarados.

    He’d spent some time wondering why it was that he pined for this Pokémon, in particular. It certainly wasn’t for its endearing nature – even scientists called it the “atrocious” Pokémon, and with good reason. A Magikarp was by nature moronic and easy to push around. Once evolved, it tended to remember this attitude towards it as Gyarados and was apt to spend the rest of its life seeking revenge upon everyone and everything that had treated it as an inferior life-form.

    And it wasn’t just entirely about finding something to rival Daniel, either. For all the thought he’d put into countering type differences, should the two Creight boys ever find themselves on the opposite sides of a Pokémon battle arena, there was something about this Pokémon that appealed to Jason. Perhaps it was the factor of intimidation... the knowledge that anyone with half a brain looking at a Gyarados would say to himself, “I should steer clear.”

    For that matter, there was also the size of the beast. At an average length surpassing 21 feet, it was considered one of the largest Pokémon in existence. Jason was willing to admit he had always been the “little man” of the family – maybe there was a compensation issue in his mind he hadn’t fully realized. Whatever the reason, the more he studied about this Pokémon, the more he wanted it... either in spite of the difficulty of raising one, or because of it.

    But since he’d been out of work for three weeks, his bank account had not grown by a single credit – probably pretty critical when I’m thinking about buying a Pokémon and a bunch of TM’s for it, he thought ruefully. He knew he’d already spent too much time regretting ever walking in on Daniel that day but once more he found himself cursing that moment in time. Things probably would be much easier if he had just kept to himself about the whole business of Rocky Lancaster being hired.

    Oddly enough, the promise his father had made about them discussing the matter in more depth never came to pass. Jason couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps Mr. Creight had recruited his mother to have that conversation instead. He had no doubt she’d brought to his father’s attention Jason’s thoughts on quitting CBC altogether in favor of trying to get out from under Daniel’s ever-growing shadow. On the one hand, that seemed to make it all the more curious that Mr. Creight would have nothing to say on the subject... but on the other, Jason was grateful that it hadn’t been broached since.

    He heaved a sigh as he looked at the numbers scrawled on his notepad. More than half a month had not changed them any – a Gyarados, even a newly evolved one, was still beyond his price range, to say nothing of the TM’s he wanted in conjunction with the purpose. Assuming his father let him go back to work once this third and final weekend was concluded, he would have to go almost four months, and without spending a single credit during that time, in order to save the amount he needed for the full purchase. He hadn’t even lent any thought toward what characteristics he would want to see in the Pokémon he bought, despite the fact that CBC took seriously what a trainer wanted out of their products.

    He shrugged. Well, if we’re going to go with pie-in-the-sky wishes anyway... He started scribbling on his notepad again. I don’t really like physical attacking. I think a Pokémon able to fight from a distance doesn’t have to worry quite as much about getting critically injured. So that means a focus on special attacks instead. And I’d like one that’s intelligent. No dumb brutes.

    He chuckled aloud. I must be nuts, thinking Dad would let me have a Pokémon of my own before he said he would consider giving me one. But he’s said for a long time that I’m free to do with my money as I please, so long as I understand the consequences of using it. I think I really want this.

    Maybe that’ll be enough of a case for him.




    “Dad, I’d like to get a Pokémon.”

    Carson Creight looked up from his desk, eyebrow arched at his younger son. “Haven’t we had this discussion? I recall having it several times throughout your youth.”

    “I don’t think we’ve had this particular discussion, no,” Jason countered.

    The elder Creight rolled his eyes and shifted his gaze back down to his work. “I’m busy, son. Can we talk about this later?”

    “You’re the one who encourages me to talk to you whenever I have something I think I should talk to you about. Normally I don’t have anything I really need to discuss, but tonight I do. And normal working hours were over before dinnertime... so can I please have a few minutes to talk to you?”

    At that, Mr. Creight hesitated for a moment, then set down his highlighter deliberately and looked up at Jason. “Very well, you have my full and undivided attention.”

    “Good. Because I’d like to get a Pokémon.”

    Mr. Creight gave a disapproving frown. “I did hear that the first time, Jason. And I’ve told you before that if you’ve performed to my satisfaction, you’ll be given any one Pokémon we have that you want as a gift on your fifteenth birthday... but not a day before. I’m sure you heard me then, so did you want me to repeat myself?”

    “No. I wanted you to listen to what I said. I said I’d like to get a Pokémon.”

    Mr. Creight narrowed his eyes. “And what, exactly, is it you think I’m missing about that statement?”

    “It’s what your customers say all the time whenever they come into the shop. We ask them what we can do for them today, and they say, ‘Well, I’d like to get a Pokémon.’ What are we usually supposed to say in response to that?”

    His father’s expression changed from one of exasperation to one of jaded curiosity. “Typically we ask for details on the kind of Pokémon the customer is looking for. But you already knew that. Jason, are you saying you’re interested in purchasing a Pokémon for yourself?”

    “You’ve always told me the same thing you always told Daniel – fifteenth birthday, if we’ve made you proud, we can have any one we choose. But you also said that once we earned our money it was ultimately up to us how we chose to spend it.”

    “You have four months to go, Jason. You want to spend your hard-earned money to buy one when you can get one for the simple price of working to the best of your ability?” Mr. Creight leaned back in his chair and laced his fingers over his stomach. “Either you’re too impatient to wait, or you’re not convinced you can show me you deserve it.”

    “It doesn’t have to be either one of those. Maybe I want to show I can actually compete with Danny in something. Maybe I want to show myself I’m responsible enough to take care of one... or learn that age really does matter.”

    “What Pokémon are you looking to buy?”

    “A Gyarados.”

    Mr. Creight tilted his head from one side to the other and half a smile crept across his features. “You want to learn how to shoulder the responsibility of taking care of a Pokémon, and you want your first one to be a Gyarados?”

    “Okay, so it’s a bit of a learning curve.”

    “That’s quite possibly the understatement of the millennium.” Mr. Creight leaned forward, elbows on the ledge of his desk. “This whole discussion is based on a bit of a technicality. I reserve the right to turn down the business of any potential customer for any reason. That includes you.”

    “You’ve had younger kids than me in that store, buying Pokémon by the dozens and TM’s by the hundreds.”

    “Yes, and those kids train professionally.”

    “I have the same exact license they do. You require everyone who works for you to get a Pokémon handling license.”

    “Jason, a Gyarados would be a bit much for you. It might even be a bit much for your brother.”

    Jason groaned. “Dad, that’s exactly one of the reasons I want this... to show I’m not Danny, that I might actually be able to do just as well as him without needing to be him.”

    “I didn’t say you need to be Daniel in order to tame a Gyarados, or do good work, or even make me proud of you. Your mother was right when she told you the comparison would always be there in some way. The example Daniel sets is the one I’m familiar with. I might even admit the bar is set too high for me to expect you to meet it all the time, but I think you can clear it with room to spare if you apply yourself.”

    “So let me apply myself here. I can have a greater appreciation of what the breeders and trainers in the pens have to go through if I have my own point of reference to work with.”

    Mr. Creight held up a hand. “Fine. Then, assuming I said it was okay in my book for you to buy one, would you even have the money for a Gyarados?”

    “Well... not all of it. But the company does a sort of layaway arrangement. Payments on the Pokémon, and it gets trained in what you want it to learn, until you have it paid in full.”

    “That’s true, but I don’t particularly relish the thought of you going into debt over a Pokémon, especially when you can wait and get one for free. If you don’t have the money to complete the purchase off the bat, I don’t see how it helps you learn anything about saving. The layaway process actually ends up charging people more money in the long run because we apply interest against the amount still owed after a certain time, and we train the Pokémon professionally rather than simply selling their owners TM’s that they can use themselves.”

    “I know that, Dad. The trainers call it ‘the amateur fee’.” The younger Creight planted his hands on his hips. “I’m not trying to use it as a lesson about saving my money.”

    “I think that’s a lesson you should keep in mind. It’s not a good idea for you to owe money – not at your age and not to this company. Going into debt at any age isn’t a good thing, and that’s basically what you’re talking about doing.”

    “Dad, all I need to know is if you would let me spend my money on a Pokémon before my birthday. Even if I do get one free when I’m fifteen, I’ll still only have one. What’s wrong with wanting more than what I’m already looking forward to?”

    His father seemed to be fighting a snicker. “There’s a difference between ambition and hoarding. Ambition takes patience. Hoarding is usually accompanied by a lack thereof.”

    “I’m not talking about hoarding, Dad. I’m talking about that...” Jason gesticulated as he sought the right words, as though they were hovering in the air just beyond his grasp. “...that sense of accomplishment that comes with getting what you want and not needing favors to do it. If you let me get this Gyarados, and I get it, I’ll have gotten it all on my own. The Pokémon you’re talking about giving me for my fifteenth birthday is a gift. It’s a favor. And maybe it’s one I don’t want.”

    Mr. Creight leaned back again and crossed his arms. “It seems interesting to me that you accused me of showing your brother favoritism two months ago – and now you’re saying you don’t want the same. It’s almost as if you think I shouldn’t reward your brother for his hard work.”

    “It’s not about that, Dad. Reward him all you want. What I want right now is to not be treated like Danny Junior. He never bothered to ask if he could buy a Pokémon ahead of time. He’s willing to take every favor you give him to advance himself. If it’s how I can keep myself different from him, at least to you, I don’t want the same favors he got. Maybe I don’t want any at all.”

    “You’re saying you would say no to me offering you any Pokémon you wanted?”

    “I’m saying I want to earn what I get, the right way. So I’ll have to work harder. Bring it on. I’ll feel more honest about it that way.”

    Mr. Creight tilted his head. “That’s an interesting way of trying to one-up your brother.”

    “I don’t want to compete with him, Dad. I just want to be my own person. I want to be seen as my own person. And I want to be treated that way, too.”

    “And the act of purchasing your own Gyarados will earn that distinction for you?”

    “It’d be a start, anyway.”

    His father drew a long breath and then blew it out in possibly one of the heaviest sighs Jason had ever heard the man expel. Then he threw up his hands. “Fine. Fine. I’ll talk it over with your mother, see if she agrees. If so, then you’ve got yourself a deal.” Then he leveled a warning finger at Jason, disregarding the smile that had broken out across the teen’s face. “Now keep in mind, you were willing to forfeit all notions of favoritism. I’m not going to tolerate seeing you behaving jealously if I treat your brother to something I withhold from you. If you go broke on this Gyarados you’re so keen on, you’ll be the one responsible for getting yourself back out of the mess.”

    “Yes, sir,” Jason responded, and although his tone indicated he understood the seriousness of what his father was telling him, he couldn’t hide his enthusiasm. His smile didn’t abate. “I promise I’ll earn this.” He turned around to leave.

    “You’ve already earned something out of this conversation, Jason.”

    The teen glanced over his shoulder, eyebrows raised.

    His father gave him the barest hint of a smile. “My respect.”

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011

  7. #7
    Usertitle ftw Moderator
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    Default Re: Against All Odds (2011) [PG-13]

    I like how the first pokemon word in the fic was 'Team Rocket'.

    Overal, very descriptive, very detailed, which is nice. Especially for a starter chapter, where we - the readers - don't know squat. I liked the whole family business thing too. A smarter, more handsome, older brother and a overprotective family make a good start for a erupting young trainer in spe.

    He knew that would probably earn him a shot in the mouth, but he also knew that for him, it was worth it just to see Rocky’s mouth open and close like a Magikarp out of water.
    I liked this. Good visuals.

    The school was a nice change from the home-situation. Then BAM, here comes daniel who saves the day and gives some lifelessons. It made me understand daniel more, since he came off pretty standard the first time we met him. Good call.

    Then came chapter two and messes up my whole image I sense a team-rocket-breeding-plot, but that's just a random guess. Things are getting interesting now so I'm eagerly awaiting chapter three.

    Keep it up!

  8. #8
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    Default Against All Odds: Outcast - Part 5

    Outcast

    Part 5


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Jason’s enthusiasm continued to show in both his school work and his job. His promotion to the cash register still stood, despite butting heads with his father, for whom Jason now had a greater appreciation in his ability to separate personal and professional issues (at least when it came to Jason). He was cordial and helpful to everyone who showed up at the place, and did his best to keep a pleasant atmosphere in his little pocket of the store. It left his co-workers scratching their heads at first, but they weren’t going to complain about him being perky; it seemed to have a positive effect on the rest of them.

    He did his best to avoid Daniel at all times during working hours, and to avoid hearing about him from anybody else. The thought had occurred to him during his period of punishment that if their father wasn’t going to hear out one of his most respected employees and his younger son when they were both saying the same thing, nothing would sway him to act against Daniel.

    But where accusations seemed to get Daniel no closer to being axed from his job, his own confessions to their father did at least get him moved away from the pens. He transferred to a more cushy desk job. Jason found the man’s job title basically forgettable – “Daytime Operations Special Assistant” or something of the sort – and he felt it was a burden lifted to know he wasn’t going to be bothering the Pokémon nearly as much. At the very least, their father had made it more difficult for Daniel to interrupt the work the breeders and trainers were doing.

    Jason didn’t make his order immediately, choosing to heed his father’s advice – at least in part – regarding the aptly named “amateur fee”. Let’s face it, though, I have that fee coming to me. I am an amateur. Three weeks after his discussion with his father about the matter, however, he saw how close he was getting to his fifteenth birthday – now only two months away – and decided it was time.

    The process was simple enough on the surface: one went to CBC’s Main Services building and spoke to a designated official about purchasing a Pokémon. That official then interviewed the potential customer to determine exactly what Pokémon, what characteristics, what strengths, and what abilities they wanted. In the event the exact attributes desired were present in the exact Pokémon species desired, the official would take the buyer to see the available specimen. It was a shrewd method of sealing the deal before the customer even knew it, because rare was the person who saw what they wanted face-to-face that did anything but say they wanted it right now.

    Jason wondered how much simpler the process would be with his knowledge and his already-made decision to purchase a Gyarados. He pulled out the piece of paper on which he’d neatly written everything his liaison would need to know about the specimen he was looking for and kept it in his left hand, while he used his right to open the front door of the Main Services center.

    “Jason!”

    He wasn’t surprised to hear his name – everybody and their Poochyena here on Tangelo Island knew who he was. What did surprise him, however, was the sound of his mother’s voice issuing that name to the local atmosphere. He blinked and turned to his left; sure enough, there she was, seated at a desk whose nameplate read Amelia Creight – CBC Advanced Breeder / Official Liaison.

    That last also was no surprise to him, as he knew that she acted in both capacities. Although she preferred breeding grounds, she was an expert saleswoman... calm, compassionate, open, friendly – but also firm and knowledgeable. He’d often found himself wondering if there could have been any other woman intended for Carson Creight’s hand in marriage, but he’d always been left with the conclusion that there really was no one better suited to be his wife.

    No, what surprised him was that she was in here at this particular time on this particular day. The schedules he’d seen had said she was going to be working the Grass-Type pens all day. He’d rather expected to see Kyle or Cody approaching him with an inquisitive look. But no – there his mother sat, fingers laced and a professional smile on her face.

    “Today’s the big day, then?” she asked.

    For that one moment, Jason actually felt himself forget what he’d walked in for. “Uh... what?”

    “Your Pokémon, Jason. You’ve got that list you’ve been writing and re-writing for weeks.” She nodded toward his hand. “But I’ll bet I don’t need to see it to know you’re looking to get yourself a Gyarados. It seems such an odd fit for you, though.”

    “Um.” Jason felt his ears turn red and he felt awkward as he sat down opposite his mother. “Well, I guess maybe it is.”

    “So you’re settled on Gyarados.”

    “Yeah, I think so. But I know it’s your job to ask questions, so go ahead.”

    A sly smile passed over her features. “It’s my job to ask the questions, but you don’t have to worry about giving me the wrong answer – there’s no such thing. First thing’s first, though. Why a Gyarados?”

    “Well...” Jason could already tell he was growing fidgety and he unfolded his paper to give his hands something to do. “I spent some time thinking about the sort of Pokémon Danny would get. And I figured that certain types just wouldn’t be the sort he’s interested in. I’ve never seen him deal with Electric-Type Pokémon – he’s barely even mentioned them – so I figured that weakness would be one I wouldn’t have to worry about.”

    “‘Worry about’?” She tilted her head at him. “Sounds to me like you want to get a Pokémon that can beat your brother.”

    His ears flamed a darker red and it started to creep into his face. “Well... sort of.”

    She blinked. “If your selection’s based entirely on that, I’m not sure a Gyarados would be a proper fit for you. Mantine is the same type classification and it has a reputation that’s far friendlier.”

    “Mom... I thought about Mantine, really I did. I even thought about a Croagunk because I figured Danny wasn’t the sort to get a Psychic-Type. But Gyarados appeals to me the most. It’s big, it’s bad, it’s powerful to the max...”

    “And it’s also dangerous.” She leaned across the desk and fixed a serious gaze upon her son. “I would have some very real concerns about your safety and the safety of anyone around you as long as you had a Gyarados in your possession. Magikarps need to be at a power index of Level 20 before they’ll even evolve, and it’s difficult to get them there. When they evolve, suddenly they have all that power they don’t know what to do with.”

    “I know all that. That’s why I want to get professional trainers to teach this Gyarados the moves I want it to know. Then it’ll know its power and be more tame when I’m able to finish paying it off. I’m willing to pay the amateur fee so that it’ll be safe.”

    “It’s also a big commitment, you know,” she noted. “Gyarados isn’t a small Pokémon. Its appetite matches its size, and it doesn’t eat Magikarp, which is by far the most prevalent Pokémon in the waters around Tangelo Island. And if you were to unleash your Gyarados in those waters, what guarantee would you have that it would return to you?”

    “Like I said, the pro training it receives before I get it. It’s not like I’m wanting to get a completely wild one and tame it myself, Mom. I’m not a breeder or a trainer. I want a Pokémon that’s scary. It’ll surprise people who think I’m not that scary. It’ll make them think.”

    “About what?” She leaned back and clicked her pen several times with her thumb. “Not messing with you? Respecting you?”

    He sighed. “I wasn’t expecting you to be here today.”

    “I delegated some of my work. Your brother needs a closer eye kept on him while he’s still adjusting to his job, and I’m starting to feel that there’s a potential bad seed in our clientele we need to watch out for – the vicious trainers who only want Pokémon in order to hurt and humiliate others.”

    Jason’s eyes widened. “Wait a minute... you’re not saying I’m like that, are you?”

    “Not necessarily, but I know you’re not like that because I know you. I meet customers all the time who don’t have the luxury of a lifelong relationship with me.” She gave him a momentary slight smirk, but her expression grew serious again. “And I don’t have the luxury of one with them, either. In performing interviews like this one, my job is to determine whether it’s appropriate to sell a Pokémon to a given customer. We could be held responsible for what a Pokémon does even once it’s out of our hands, if it’s in the hands of an irresponsible or even a cruel master.”

    “But you know I wouldn’t be either of those things, Mom,” he answered. “I honestly think I can handle the responsibility. I know what I’m getting myself into. I see trainers of all kinds around here and I know which ones are the ones I should be learning from. I’d be following their example. And I’d also make sure I asked for help when I needed it.”

    She arched an eyebrow at him. “And for what reason would you do that?” she inquired, much in the manner of a schoolteacher administering a challenge to her student.

    “Because... just ‘cause it’s my responsibility doesn’t mean I have to do it alone.” Though it had taken him a moment to come up with the answer, he felt a slight swell of pride in his chest for having recalled his mother say the same about his responsibilities at work, when he’d first become employed. He peered at her; her blank expression had yet to change, making him wonder if he’d offered the correct response after all. “...Right?”

    She tapped her pen on her desk. “It’s more than just a mantra, Jason. Make sure you heed that advice. I know you’ll hate hearing this, but your brother owes more than just a little bit of his success to it. So does your father, for that matter. You’ll find a lot of people do.”

    Jason tried to keep his face from twisting at the mention of Daniel’s good fortunes. His mother knew him all too well – he didn’t want to hear yet another comparison to his brother just now, or be told how to be more like him. At this point, that’s as likely to get me to not act like him!

    Still, he knew she meant well by it. She’s just trying to help me be successful myself. He gave her a nod. “Okay. I’ll try my best.”

    Now her façade broke, and she gave him a smile – one that he knew had dazzled its fair share of boys and men. It was that smile that got her customers to submit to the “amateur fee”, to extra training, and to supplementary products, any of which could drive an average trainer to the poorhouse. But in addition to being charming, she was also quite shrewd, and an excellent businesswoman; she knew how to take care of her customers so that not one had been made to feel like they were required to purchase the extras, nor did any complain that she had somehow put them in debt. Jason knew there had been several salesmen who had come and gone over the years who could not make that same claim.

    “So... let’s talk about your Gyarados.”



    It was scarcely an hour later when Jason was going on a somewhat unnecessary tour through the Water-Type Pokémon pools, where each weight- and height-class were given their own dwelling. Pools and tanks though they were, those words did nothing to offer justice to the domain – each dwelling was appropriately-sized so that most of them did not want for extra space. For those that did, there were tunnels that led into the fresh water coves in and around the island, naturally-occurring but dominated by the Pokémon bred at the CBC.

    He had never been familiarized with the exact overall measurements relating to the tunnelspace and the pools, but he knew it had to be in the range of miles. In fact, the structural integrity of a sizeable chunk the island literally rode on the pillars supporting it in the tunnels – though it would take nothing short of a total catastrophe to fell them, there existed the possibility that everything upon which the CBC was built could quite literally fall into the ocean.

    That didn’t just go for the CBC, but other buildings and businesses in the area, as well. Should there be an earthquake, volcanic activity, or some other volatile deep-earth event, at least half the island could kiss its treasures goodbye. But Jason knew from his studies that there hadn’t been any naturally-occurring tremors here in eons. No tectonic activity had ever been recorded in this region since it was first settled by humanity, and scientists had no reason to believe they would see any for a very long time to come.

    His mother gestured to the pane in front of which they now stood. “Here are the specimens you’re looking for, Jason.”

    “I’m really just looking for one. You sure we’ve got the right kind?”

    “Shouldn’t underestimate our resources.” She glanced down the lane and gestured to one of the hands walking in their direction. “Kyle, c’mon over here for a minute, would you?”

    Kyle was a lanky blond with a pair of thick-rimmed glasses and a rumpled-looking lab coat that wasn’t quite white. Upon Mrs. Creight’s beckon, he altered his aim up the alley and offered them both a polite smile. “Hey, Mrs. C. What’s up?”

    “Well, Jason here is looking to get a Gyarados from us.”

    The tech blinked. “Did his birthday arrive already? I must’ve forgotten, I didn’t get an alert or anything...”

    “No, no,” she laughed. “Actually, he’s making a full-on purchase. And since he’s going to be a paying customer, I’d like to make sure we extend our best resources to him.”

    “Do we have anything less?”

    “Nice save.” She clapped him on the shoulder. “Jason, you know Kyle, our resident water watcher.”

    Jason nodded. “Yeah. Passing me off, then?”

    She chuckled. “For the moment. You’re in very good hands, I think. I need to get back to the office, but once you’re wrapped up here, come on back and we can sit down and go over the paperwork you’ll need to fill out.”

    “Okay. Thanks, Mom.”

    She smiled. “Of course.” She wrapped her arms about Jason for a moment, then looked at Kyle. “Take good care of him, huh? He’s a mole for the boss.”

    “Figured as much,” responded the tech.

    Jason’s mother chuckled once more, then departed the tank area. Jason watched her go, then turned back to Kyle. “So... yeah. I’m wanting a Gyarados.”

    “So I hear.” Kyle’s head bobbed as he spoke and he shifted from side to side; Jason had never known him to be the most social character, but he definitely knew his Pokémon. “She’s already asked why and all that jazz, so I won’t rehash that – but your question, at this point, is gonna be, ‘Do they have what I’m looking for?’ So let me in on the news here. Got some particular guidelines?”

    “Uh, yeah.” Jason consulted his list, which he still gripped in his left hand. “I’m wanting one that has greater potential in special attacks. Y’know, stuff that hits from a distance.”

    “Gyarados is pretty good at either one, it’s a flexible Pokémon. But yeah, I kinda like something that doesn’t have to get into the fray. Standing above close combat and all that.” Kyle’s head bobbed again. “Anything else?”

    “Well, even though I’d like a focus on special attacks, I don’t want everything else to be sacrificed for it. It should be able to defend itself, though whether it’s better doing it with its own pure speed or just stamina is up to you guys, I guess.”

    The tech held up a hand. “Hang on, now, you don’t get to pass the buck that easily. If you’d like us to work on one more than the other, let me know. If not, we can make sure to try and balance them out as much as possible. But this is your Pokémon, man. Own it, huh?”

    “Okay, okay, my mistake,” Jason conceded. “I know you take this all seriously. Just... I guess, balance them out as best you can. Obviously even the fastest Pokémon can’t get out of the way all the time, so...”

    “Got it. What else?”

    “Well... I’ve got a list of moves I’d like it to be trained to know, too.” He held up the paper in his hand. “I know it’s sort of a lot but I want to cover all my bases.”

    Kyle took the proffered document and inspected it for a long moment. He folded the paper back up and then looked to its owner. “We can do this but you should probably keep in mind most Pokémon can only remember a few moves at a time. It’s something of a strain for them to keep a bunch of them in memory at once.”

    “Yeah, but Gyarados is fairly smart, and it needs direction. I figure the more moves it knows, the more direction it’ll have. Plus it might not get worn out so easily.”

    Kyle shrugged. “You’re the boss.” He glanced at a nearby pillar, on which hung a clipboard stacked with a series of report papers, and pulled the clipboard from its mount, then flipped through its contents. Then he looked to Jason and offered him an encouraging smile. “What do you know... looks like we might have one just your type here.”

    “Really?” Jason felt his heart skip a beat.

    “Yep. Check out the tank on your left, I’ll bring him in. Or, reel, I think.” Kyle reached for a keypad on the wall and dialed in an access code; at first there seemed to be no response, but within just a few seconds, it was clear something was afoot. The smaller water-based Pokémon in the indicated tank were clearing away towards the central pools. Kyle offered Jason no explanation but Jason didn’t need one – the access code the tech had punched in activated a miniaturized tracking device implanted beneath the skin of the Pokémon they owned, and that device was capable of summoning the Pokémon carrying it toward the keypad used.

    And here comes the lynchpin of the sale...

    A giant shadow in the waters began to take definition in the haze of the tank. As it drew closer, Jason felt a swelling in his chest combined with a surge of adrenaline injecting itself into his blood. Logically, he knew exactly what to expect – it wasn’t as though he hadn’t seen them before. But this was to be different.

    This one, he knew, would be his.

    And then there it was, in all its terrible glory, mouth hanging perpetually open and steely eyes inspecting the humans on the other side of the window pane. It curled this way and that in the water, fins generating heavy currents whose end results caused audible splashing on the pool surface up above. To hold itself in a slightly elevated position, it twisted its body in a constantly rotating spiral, while its head remained almost perfectly still.

    Jason pressed his palm against the pane. “Amazing,” he said.

    “Thought you’d like him. Specs on him say he’s a bit of a glutton, which is a good thing if you want him to be as healthy and strong as you say. He’s also got something of a temper.”

    Jason resisted the urge to glance over his shoulder at the tech, but he raised an eyebrow. “Well, yeah. This is a Gyarados we’re talking about here.”

    “No kidding, but I’m talking about a notably foul temper, here. And a short fuse, too.” Kyle lolled his head to one side. “Speaking of which... how’re you planning on having him trained? Gonna do it yourself?”

    “No way,” was Jason’s quick response. “I’m paying the amateur fee.”

    “Definitely the way to go for a man’s first Pokémon.” Kyle snickered, then followed Jason’s stare up at the giant sea serpent. “Got an iron will, too, or so the diagnosis says here. And he’s got a higher-than-average auditory capacity, very alert. Actually to the point of jumpy, he sure thrashes around. Which is strange, ‘cause I can’t really think of any reason he’d be concerned about anything that’s making a noise I can’t hear.”

    Only then did Jason catch up with what Kyle was saying. “Yeah, weird. ‘Iron will’, though? What’s that about? Is he stubborn?”

    The tech perused the document on his clipboard. “Can be, but it looks like they’re more content to say when he wants to do something, he’s doing it, and hang everything else. See here, it says ‘highly persistent’. Good thing he hasn’t been taught how to focus his power yet.”

    “What, was he wild?”

    “As rashly as he behaves–” Kyle glanced at his clipboard upon the sight of Jason’s raised eyebrow at the adjective. “Yeah, it says he’s ‘rash’ right here in the report – you’d think he was, but no, actually, he’s been captive, born and raised. Still, would you behave tame with a body like that?”

    Jason scoffed as he turned back to Kyle. “No, I guess not. Biggest fish in the sea gets to throw his weight around whenever he wants to, right?”

    “Exactly. That’s why I thought it was strange for him to be so jumpy, but...” Kyle shrugged. “Whatever, it’s a quirk. Every Pokémon has one or two. He’s crafty, too. Mischievous. He likes to–”

    Tink-tink!

    Jason turned around – and promptly shouted and jumped away. The Gyarados in question, which had lost Jason’s visual attention, had almost pressed its perpetually-open mouth to the window panel, and tapped its razor-sharp fangs against it. Jason groaned. “What the...”

    Kyle rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I was gonna say, he likes doing that. He’s pretty smart, so don’t underestimate him, whatever you do.”

    “Good thing is, I may not need to worry about it that much, it’s gonna be a while before I actually have all the money I need to get him out of here.”

    “Financing a Gyarados? The amateur fee is one thing, but you’d be paying more for him in the long run, you know.”

    Jason scoffed. “Tell me about it. But I figure that it’s the best way to make sure he’s disciplined enough to listen to me when he gets out.”

    “Hold up on that, listen to me for a sec,” said Kyle, and he pointed a corner of his clipboard at Jason for emphasis. “The relationship between a Pokémon and its master... it isn’t always about following direction. You’ve gotta treat him less like a pet, more like a partner. Especially with the more volatile Pokémon, you have to respect them and respect what they can do. Otherwise they can seriously hurt you, and sure enough you’re not gonna be able to do anything to them in return. Unless you can blast a Hyper Beam from your mouth. Kinda doubt that.”

    “Now that you mention it, I kinda doubt that, too. But I wouldn’t mind trying one day.” Jason crossed his arms and gazed up at the Gyarados still staring at them through the glass. It was hard to gauge from a visage so removed from a human one, but Jason could swear the Pokémon was growing bored just hovering there on display.

    Huh, he thought. Maybe a bond’s forming right here and now... people here really know how to seal a deal. I’m not even Kyle’s biggest fan – he looks rumpled, not that professional – but he’s had this sale in the bag from the moment I walked in, so it doesn’t matter. Wonder how he does it with people who aren’t sure. ...Heh, probably just lets Mom do the talking.

    Jason pressed his hand to the pane and smiled. “I think I’ll take him.”

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011

  9. #9
    Written Into A Corner... Cool Trainer
    Cool Trainer
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    May 2011
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    Default Against All Odds: Outcast - Part 6

    Outcast

    Part 6


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The weeks leading up to Jason’s birthday seemed to progress on alternating speeds of unbelievably fast and achingly slow. He tried to spend as much of his spare time as he could near the pools where the Gyarados was being raised and trained. Had he been any other buyer, he might have been asked to leave the property after a few days’ worth of that sort of attention, but everyone knew Jason. One of those times where being the boss’s kid actually works out for something.

    Plus he believed there was something to be said for having a Pokémon’s future owner or trainer in close proximity, if at all possible. He’d never seen any studies on the subject but he thought the matter of the “bond of partnership” Kyle was talking about earlier would be more easily facilitated by having him nearby. If the Gyarados was going to be his Pokémon, why not at least offer it the face it would have to get used to in the environment with which it was already familiar?

    And so he found himself a nearby perch, day after day, watching the Gyarados prowl about in the pools or receive the training he intended for it to have. As the days progressed and he saw how the training worked, he began to realize that TM’s weren’t exactly the “quick” method some trainers professed them to be. Really, they offered a Pokémon the most basic understanding of how to perform a maneuver, but after the data disc was used, it was up to the Pokémon to figure out how to refine the measure for maximum effect and efficiency. And ultimately, that had to be achieved on its own.

    Which makes sense... I guess I just always thought once the TM was displayed to a Pokémon, it just automatically knew how to do the attached move.

    With that considered, Jason now found himself rather thankful that Pokémon, in general, were not liable to command mastery over any particular move without experience in it. Given the apparent disposition of the Gyarados to misbehave – it continued to pull pranks, scare passers-by perusing the tanks, splash water at everyone it saw, shove past other Pokémon in the tanks, and assorted nonsense – Jason wasn’t sure how wise it would be for it to know how to use attacks to their fullest effect.

    But he trusted the trainers to be responsible in their jobs. It’s what I’m paying them for, after all.

    Days transitioned into night oftentimes without him being fully aware. It wasn’t always his fault; overhead floodlights bathed the pools in all the artificial sunlight and heat they would need to keep the Pokémon within them comfortable, leaving it sometimes difficult for Jason to figure out whether dusk had arrived at a cursory glance. Of course, in the event they preferred cooler waters or darkness, the tunnel systems underneath the island provided an excellent refuge.

    That was where the Gyarados seemed most comfortable. Naturally, that was the one place Jason’s eyes couldn’t follow, and that was usually when he went home. On days when he was more excited, he would end up skipping dinner to be closer to the Gyarados, a fact his mother gently reminded him of at least twice.

    Summer break came upon them, and Jason’s grades were notably higher marks than they had been from five months previous. Dinner table conversation brought him accolades from his parents, as well as a friendly clap on the shoulder from his brother – the only physical communication Jason would really allow from Daniel, but the smile of pride and congratulations on his older brother’s face seemed genuine enough.

    The day before his birthday, Jason was ushered out of the house almost immediately upon waking. Although he knew that the occasion would be celebrated most ostentatiously – as it had been the last fourteen times – and he wanted desperately to see just what sort of effort was being made to that end, he really required no convincing in the matter of staying out. Each day he’d spent at the pools watching the trainers work with his Gyarados, he believed he had felt a slight strengthening in the connection he knew he would share with his soon-to-be first Pokémon.

    As he made his way to the marina, he couldn’t help but consider what sort of work it had taken to get to this point, not the least of which had been confronting his father about the man’s favoritism toward Daniel. It was then that Jason’s desire to have a Pokémon of his own had overridden his good sense, and now he felt somewhat silly about the matter. Looking back at it now, it seemed foolish – now, because he hadn’t been patient enough to wait for his father’s promise to be delivered, he would actually be forced to wait past his fifteenth birthday.

    If I had applied myself as hard to my job and schooling without that discussion, I might have gotten this exact same Pokémon for free, instead of spending all my savings on him and then some, he thought, as he sought out his favorite perch, a pool just a short distance from the one the trainers used. He sat down with his chin against the guard rail and his legs dangling over the edge; there was no danger posed by the Pokémon residing just beneath his toes, as they were low-power and many were still asleep.

    He pondered more. But who’s to say I would have applied myself that hard? I may be getting this Gyarados later than I might have, and maybe at greater cost, but it’s still gonna be mine, and not a gift from anybody else to be taken away on a whim. I’m earning this. Nobody can take that away from me.

    He nodded to himself decisively. Yeah, this was the right thing for me. ...But the next time I want a Pokémon from here, I might be better off just doing good work in the first place!

    The Gyarados came swimming out into the main pool, urged on by the tracking device circling its neck that was summoning it. Even from high above it, Jason could hear the rumbling through the water that signified the giant sea serpent issuing a growl, likely at having been awakened.

    Its head rose above the surface of the water then, and it turned about until it was looking directly at him. Its perpetually-open mouth spilled out water and a vicious-looking forked tongue, the latter of which reeled back into its place of origin only an instant later. The expression on its broad, scaly face was impossible to read, alien as it was in comparison to a human visage, but the look in its eyes carried something that Jason wasn’t quite sure he liked. There was something there that gave him a premonition. He could not suppress the shudder the creature’s gaze seemed to urge from his body.

    The shiver that coursed through his shoulders was evidently all the Gyarados needed to see, because as Jason re-settled himself on the edge of the tank, the Pokémon turned away from him and to the trainer floating in the water in front of it. Jason took a deep breath and blew it out, hoping to expel along with it whatever that feeling had been. He scratched the back of his neck. What was that about? he wondered. All of a sudden felt like someone was walking over my grave. Or maybe slinking over it like a snake...

    He narrowed his gaze at the massive Pokémon now taking direction from the trainer below. Gonna take a while to reestablish that connection now. Whatever that was in his eyes, it wasn’t friendship. That was something else altogether. Then he glanced up at the sky – a couple of Wingulls were hovering and cawing while the sun continued to creep up the eastern horizon and spear through the clouds. He chewed his bottom lip. Well, now, there’s an alternative I hadn’t thought about. And probably more maneuverable than a Gyarados...

    He sighed. Great going, Jason, spend all this time and money and effort to get yourself the Pokémon you’ve got your heart set on, then let your eyes rove just as the deed is being done. There’s your Pokémon, right down there, being taught all the moves you’re paying for it to know, and you’re wanting to look anywhere but there? Must be out of your mind.

    ...no, what’s really nuts is you’re talking to yourself like this.


    “All right, let’s see what you can do!” the trainer called out. Jason recalled his name was Alan, and he was a fairly built middle-aged man with brown hair. He brought one muscular arm up and aimed an open palm at the sky. “Show me a Rain Dance!”

    Jason rolled his eyes. Oh, brother. That move works and I’m about to get drenched. He got to his feet in anticipation of having to find himself another place to stand – and that place would probably have to be inside, since a Rain Dance performed on an island was likely to douse the entire habitat.

    The Gyarados raised its face to the heavens and its mouth opened wider, if that was even possible, for an earth-shaking roar that beckoned the clouds themselves to do its bidding. In response, what wisps there were seemed to suddenly swell and darken, and the sun was suddenly obscured from view. Mist settled over the grounds. The mist became a drizzle, and Jason knew all too well the drizzle would soon become a steady rain, and then a deluge. Feeling not terribly interested in getting washed out, he got to his feet and sought out refuge from the cold droplets.

    At the very least, you never have to worry about weather control here! he thought cynically. He stepped through the nearest entrance back into the complex and closed the door behind him, but then sought out the nearest window so that he could continue watching their progress. That done, he saw that Alan was evidently not at all put out by the rain – and why should he be? He’s in the pool already, not like he can get any more wet – and his arm was still extended upward, as if directing the Gyarados to continue expending energy in commanding the downpour to occur.

    Jason pressed his forehead against the window. I hope he gets around to letting up soon... a Rain Dance causes it to rain for a little while before calming down to normal conditions and the island’s not really needing to be completely drenched here in order for Gyarados to prove he knows how to make things wet.

    Then his brow wrinkled as he saw something in the distance – or at least thought he saw something there. It was difficult to make out but it certainly was standing out, now that clouds barred Tangelo Island’s usual permeation of sunlight, a shocking white shape that appeared to be prowling back and forth on the edge of CBC grounds.

    Curiosity bade him to take a closer look at it, and he groaned at himself for wanting to do so. I really don’t feel like being rained on right now... then again, not like I’ve got anything else to do... He trailed away from the window, then trudged to the access hatch and took a deep breath before exiting back out into the rain.

    Fortunately it was a steady patter instead of a thundering downpour. There was little mistaking it as the doing of a Pokémon; rain of this sort was too pleasant to be a natural occurrence on a tropical island like Tangelo. Living out in the tropics had the allure of 95% pleasant conditions... but the other 5% carried with it the most devastating weather most people had the distinct displeasure of meeting: typhoons and twisters. Whether they were tornadoes or hurricanes, they were all nasty, and everyone had contingency plans that usually involved hunkering down in their neighbor’s wine cellar.

    Such were the thoughts that pervaded Jason’s mind as he made his way across the grounds, now thoroughly soaked and cursing himself for his own curiosity. And now he was beginning to wonder if that curiosity was to be rewarded with something unpleasant, because he was getting a very good idea exactly what it was he was looking at across the way.

    A white-furred creature standing on four powerful legs... glimmering yellow eyes set inside a jet-black face... a single crescent-shaped horn jutting from its right temple...

    Jason stopped in his tracks and felt the blood drain from his face. He had never seen a Pokémon like this one in person. The CBC didn’t keep them and to his knowledge, neither did any trainers on the island. The fur on this one was disheveled and the look in its eyes was unmistakably feral, indicating it was wild.

    An Absol.

    The Pokémon had leveled its gaze directly at Jason, or at least that’s what it seemed like it was doing – Jason wasn’t sure and he wasn’t sure he wanted to be. The legends of what Absols were capable of rang in his ears. Absols would appear wherever there was a great disaster about to happen. People misunderstood why they were there. They thought of them as some sort of evil omen, like they were bringing the disasters with them, and hunted them to the brink of extinction.

    So if one is here now...


    Jason turned this way and that, wondering who else was seeing the Pokémon prowling just on the edge of the grounds. But there was apparently no one in his visual range who had yet taken notice of the creature, and it wasn’t moving, nor had it allowed its piercing stare upon him to relent. He couldn’t help but look upon the Pokémon and wonder what exactly was coming that could be so disastrous as to draw it from whatever hiding place it had chosen.

    It only appears before people in order to warn them of impending danger. And this one’s looking right at me. So it’s trying to warn me... but what’s going to happen–?

    “Hey, stop!”

    Jason’s eyes widened. It was Alan’s voice calling out, and much more loudly than it should have been. He tore his gaze away from the Absol and twisted around to look at what was happening in the pool. What he saw was the Gyarados, towering far above the trainer below it, yellow-white light welling from its mouth.

    Oh, no... It came flashing back to him, the list of moves he’d wanted his Pokémon to be taught – the list included Rain Dance, Earthquake, Dragon Pulse, Surf... and Hyper Beam. He’d already known that Gyarados learned Hyper Beam at the apex of its abilities, but he’d wanted this one to have it now, so that when it was used, a trainer against it – and Daniel, in particular – might be faked out into believing they were facing a stronger foe than they actually were.

    They’ve already taught him Surf, Earthquake, and Hyper Beam... they were supposed to do Rain Dance now so it wouldn’t stress his abilities as much as the first three did...

    He was torn in two directions as to how to respond to what was unfolding before him. The rational thing for him to do was run away as quickly as possible, find a safe place and hunker down – the sight of the clearly unbidden energy buildup within the Gyarados’ maw was more than enough for Jason to understand that it was no longer acknowledging Alan’s control over it.

    But the other side of him demanded for him to run to the trainer and try to get him away, somehow warn him of the Absol’s presence. Jason was hardly the only one privy to the knowledge that in all of recorded history, an Absol’s instinct had never been wrong. If there was something bad about to happen, and from the looks of things there was no good coming from this, then Alan needed to know.

    He finally set one foot in the direction of the pool.

    But his mind was made up far too late.

    The Gyarados loosed a herculean blast of energy straight down into the water in front of it. The shockwave blew all the water out of the pool, along with the trainer, and created a glowing tower of water that rose dozens of feet into the air. Jason raised up a hand to shield his eyes from the blinding light that speared through the column, then stumbled as he felt the ground shudder beneath him. Giant gaping cracks split the concrete foundation surrounding him.

    He brought his hand back down.

    The Gyarados was gone.

    Alan lay on the concrete deck next to what remained of the pool dish. Jason’s eyes were still dazzled from the light so he couldn’t make out any details, but he was sure it was Alan because that had been the only human in or around the pool.

    He felt himself regain his senses and his focus at that moment; he sought out the nearest staircase and raced down it to the injured trainer’s side. The middle-aged man was covered in ceramic and concrete dust, water droplets, and small cuts, and there was a dark trail of blood beginning to carve a path along the ground from his arm.

    “Hey! Alan!” Jason called out to him, kneeling by the man’s side. He dared not touch Alan for fear of exacerbating his injuries. “Hey, are you okay, man?”

    His question was answered with a mumbling groan. Alan’s head rose and turned to face Jason; the teen saw a trickle of blood seeping from the older man’s mouth. Alan ejected a rasping series of coughs, and each one forced a splatter of blood droplets to the ground beside him. He tried to arch his back, but then his face contorted in pain at doing so and he flopped back to the ground.

    Abruptly, the ground shook. And this was not like it had with the destruction of the pool dish – no, now the entire island seemed to be rumbling beneath Jason’s feet. It shifted this way and that; it seemed as if the concrete slab on which he stood threatened to heave up and topple over on him. Instinctively, he got to his feet and started running – though to where, he wasn’t entirely sure. Any earthquake affecting one part of the island would have been affecting all of it...

    An earthquake!

    If Jason had been standing still, he might have dropped to the ground and buried his head in his hands. As it was, he still did so mentally, even while he raced to the nearest shoreline. They taught it how to use Earthquake, and now it’s gone into the tunnels under the island! This keeps up and everything my dad built here will crumble!

    But right now, there was really nothing he could do. He had no way of knowing where, exactly, the Gyarados had gone under the island, nor did he have any means of tracking it. He wasn’t its trainer, nor was he officially its owner. He had absolutely nothing at his disposal that would help him control it.

    His mind raced as he got to the shore. Rain was still coming down on the sandbar, creating a dark, dimpled landscape where just minutes before there had been a smooth yellow beach. Tourists and natives alike were huddled with each other in fright and confusion, trying to stand a fair distance away from any potential debris and stay on dry land at the same time. Some were scrambling about with no clear direction or purpose; others had a clear direction and were bolting in their chosen paths with all haste. Jason certainly felt himself a member of the former category... he truly had no idea what to do, now that he was here.

    If I only had something, anything, to stop that Gyarados!

    Several screams broke out among the people gathered on the beach. Jason followed their gazes back to the CBC grounds; spearing through the main office building was another blinding blast of energy. The white-hot stream sliced through the levels of the building like tissue paper and extended into the sky, then arced downward to the east and seared through the entire east wall of the structure. When the lance of energy ceased, Jason could see people inside cautiously peering through windows and through the destroyed segments... perhaps thinking the worst to be over.

    But only a few seconds had passed when the ground shook again. Metal shrieked and the two halves of the office’s bisected wall slammed against each other. While strong, the building had never been constructed for this brand of punishment, and it shuddered violently – then started to fall apart right before everyone’s eyes. Jason heard more screams emit from the bystanders surrounding him as the faces they saw suddenly disappeared.

    They’re... they’re... gone.

    He slumped down onto the sand, hands over his eyes. I can’t believe this, I just can’t believe this! The Pokémon I wanted for myself, I was so impatient to get... now it’s going on a rampage and destroying everything I know! It’s hurting people!

    “Jason?”

    He felt someone touch his shoulder and he willed himself to look up at the hand’s owner. The face that looked down at him was that of Janice Forester, and the look that adorned her features was unlike any Jason had ever seen there. It was an expression of terror and uncertainty... neither of which he’d ever expected from her.

    “What’s going on? What’s happening?” she asked.

    “I... I...” He couldn’t produce a sentence, couldn’t even conceive of one, really. Then another barrage of cries assaulted his ears, and he snapped his head around to look back at the CBC grounds – just in time, because another great glowing tower of water was rising up in the pool arena. Because the shine of light within was more distant for Jason this time, he had less difficulty looking at it, and when the glow faded, he saw the Gyarados burst forth above the apex of the tower, to go diving back into the tunnel from whence it had come.

    “Jason, what was that?”

    He looked back at Janice again; her hand had clenched on his shoulder now, and her gaze had not yet turned away from where the Gyarados had appeared in the air. He plainly saw her gulp as the words stammered their way out of her mouth. “It looked like... like there’s a Gyarados in there, going crazy...”

    And it’s my fault...

    The entire ground rocked again, and people shrieked as they staggered and fell. Janice was one such person who took a full fall; she sprawled out on the sand next to Jason. As he was kneeling, the shuddering impacted him less, but it was more violent than the previous tremors had been... and it wasn’t stopping quite so suddenly, either.

    More buildings located in the CBC grounds appeared to be suffering damage because of the quakes. Now windows were shattering, and bricks and rooftop devices – water supplies and smokestacks – were toppling over. Jason couldn’t even begin to hazard a guess as to the amount of money the damage could potentially cost, but surely it was enough at this moment to risk bankrupting the family business.

    But more than that... the Gyarados, in its rage, was hurting people. Maybe even killing them.

    I have to get it to stop somehow!

    Wait...


    Jason turned in the direction of the beachfront welcome center, where southbound trainers arriving astride their water-faring Pokémon typically stopped for maps and supplies. Attached to the welcome center was a small extension of the CBC General Store... fully stocked with everything a trainer could want: potions, elixirs, protein and carbohydrate mixes – and capture balls of all kinds.

    He shot to his feet and staggered toward the store, wrenching away from Janice’s clinging hand as he did so. The ground kept shaking, but he made himself run as fast as he possibly could, keeping only minimal contact with the ground. Rain pelted his face and torso, and wet sand clumps from his shoes spattered him as high as his own thighs.

    Everything was a blur as he charged through the door. He knew exactly where the capture balls were, rows of them in miniaturized form under a long glass case to the left of the cash register. Focused as he was on acquiring the items inside that case, he wasn’t sure if there was anyone still in the store or not... and he didn’t really care. He sought out the fastest method of accessing the case – the back was locked, but he knew the glass wasn’t tempered. He grabbed a spinning display case standing atop the flat glass and turned it over with as much force as he could muster; the pane shattered instantly, and he reached inside and raked up as many orbs as he could in a single scoop of his hand.

    He turned and raced back out the front door without a second thought. In fact, there was very little to evidence he had a first thought, save for his immediate desire to try and stop the rampaging Gyarados. Capture balls bounced out of the scoop he had made of his arm against his chest, but he wasted no time in trying to retrieve them. Even as he bolted top speed back into the CBC’s acreage, he considered, I’ve never used any kind of capture ball on a Pokémon before! I’ve seen other trainers do it on television, but I’ve seen a hostile Pokémon captured in real life maybe a grand total of six times! I’ve got almost no idea what I’m doing! All I can do is start throwing these things at it and pray they catch it!

    But first he had to locate the enraged creature, which had dived back into the tunnels beneath the island. And in this area, the ground was now constantly shaking and shifting, which indicated that the tunnels directly beneath it were beginning to collapse from the siege upon them. The sound was deafening – Jason could hear nothing, and clouds of crumbled debris and dust were blurring his vision. Belatedly he realized that the haze must be coming from the damaged and destroyed buildings surrounding him and that his lungs could get clogged very easily. He pulled the neck of his shirt up over his mouth and nose and tried his best to take slow breaths, but already a painful stitch was developing in his side, and his breathing was labored at best. There was no helping it.

    As violently as the ground beneath him shook, he knew that standing still was impossible, so he scampered this way and that, at the very least trying to remain upright. At the same time, he tried to count the number of capture balls still in his possession – four had survived with him. He knew them all by heart: two were standard issue Poké Balls, one was a Luxury Ball, and one was a Dive Ball. Some minuscule voice in his head was calculating the price of the items he had just stolen, then informed him that it hadn’t counted the ones he’d dropped.

    The ground pitched again as his foot touched down, and he fell face-first to the ground. His vision swam and he felt something warm, wet, and sticky running across his face. Hazily, he considered the likelihood that it was blood. If there was pain, either he ignored it or it simply didn’t register – he got back to his feet.

    And just in time.

    Because the Gyarados had risen up once again through another access point in the pool arena, and was roaring as loudly as its voice could carry.

    Jason grit his teeth. I’ve got you now...

    He struggled forward and held the Dive Ball up in his right hand. I may not know much but I know this one has the best chance of catching a waterborne Pokémon. He cocked back, then hurled it as hard as he could.

    It smacked the side of the Gyarados’ face, then splashed into the pool beneath it.

    Jason’s eye narrowed. Wait, what...?

    But the impact of the ball against its visage had not gone unnoticed. The Gyarados rounded on Jason and leaned down to look at him face-to-face... so to speak. Its own face was as long as Jason’s torso, and its jaws could easily accommodate someone his size if it decided to make a morsel of him.

    Then Jason realized his mistake, and just how far below the level of “amateur” it had been. I didn’t enlarge the ball before I threw it! It won’t open when miniaturized!

    But it was certainly too late for Jason to try again with that ball. The Gyarados growled and then lunged at him – instinctively he dove to his left, making the Pokémon miss by inches. He pressed the stud in the center of another ball in his hand – he didn’t bother taking note of what kind it was – and he lobbed it at the Gyarados’ side as the gargantuan Pokémon began to recoil from its failed attack.

    This time the ball took the effect Jason had expected the first one to take... upon striking the Gyarados, it bounced away and upward, and snapped open. For the briefest of moments Jason could see within it the small shimmering mirrors and the incredibly complex miniaturized laser matrices that defined a Pokémon capture ball and gave it the ability to trap a creature this size, or any other, within its confines. As that instant lapsed into the next, a neon red glow of combined lasers poured out of the ball, instantly seizing upon the creature at which the ball had been thrown – intuitive technology at its finest – and the capture sequence was initiated.

    And the timing could not have been more crucial, for the Gyarados was rearing back for another physical attack upon Jason when it was suddenly surrounded by the harsh glow of the capture energy matrix. The shimmering red light bound the massive Pokémon in place and the Gyarados’ image began to dissolve into the glow. Jason tried his best to recall from his studies exactly how the devices worked; its physical mass was being converted into energy that, ideally, would be confined to the interior of the ball. The specialized mirrors inside, designed precisely for this purpose, would infinitely rebound the quantum-level energy until the ball reopened... that energy could convert back to physical form only when in contact with the world outside the ball.

    But if the Pokémon you’re trying to catch hasn’t been weakened or isn’t exhausted enough, it can create an energy surge during the dematerializing process that can destroy the sensitive mechanics inside the ball... and then it’s only as good as your average chew toy.

    The thought occurred to him at the precise moment the Gyarados’ physical form had completely dissolved into the ball, and the solid laser net ensconcing it dragged the Pokémon’s energy inside. Because of the recoil of the energy flow, the ball was still hovering in midair, in defiance of most laws of conventional physics. The top clacked shut, and then the ball clattered to the ground and rolled across the ruined concrete foundation toward Jason.

    His first instinct was to back away from the device – it now contained the essence of a monster that had very likely just decimated his family’s life and quite possibly killed some of the people working for them – but instead he scrambled forward and picked it up, eyes focused on the stud in the center of the ball. Besides being the means by which a ball could be enlarged or miniaturized, it bore a light in its center that glowed the same harsh red as its capture matrix when during an attempted capture the target Pokémon was trying to escape confinement.

    And that light was glowing quite brightly at him now.

    He muttered a curse, then cast about, searching for the shore – in the confusion, he wasn’t sure of his bearings. The cloud of dust surrounding him wasn’t helping matters any; his field of vision was almost completely occluded by the stuff now. To make matters worse, the capture ball in his hands was beginning to whistle and rattle... noises that a capture ball only made when its machinery was badly malfunctioning. And that meant the Gyarados was battling its way free.

    He squinted as he looked closer at the ball. It was one of the two standard issue Poké Balls he had snatched, which meant he still had one more of that brand, plus the Luxury Ball. But he knew neither of them had any more strength than the one the Gyarados fought now. And the plaintive noises it made were only getting worse, the shaking more violent.

    Jason had no time, and no sense of direction. So he did the only thing he could think to do.

    He chose a direction and stuck with it, running for all he was worth.

    He kept his hands closed tight over the ball, as if that would somehow prevent it from popping open and releasing the energy inside. In truth, he knew how dangerous it was to be holding a ball a Pokémon was struggling against – if the energy surge was powerful enough to destroy the insides of the ball, then it was certainly enough to cause him serious harm.

    Abruptly, he tripped over some unseen obstacle and fell forward... and continued to fall, much further than he should have in order to hit the ground nose first.

    He opened his mouth to scream in surprise and fear.

    At the same time, the ball in his hands popped open, despite his futile attempt to contain the Pokémon within.

    His vision blurred, but he could see congealing within the beam of angry red light beside him, a Gyarados was forming.

    All sense gone, he lashed out with his arms and scrabbled for purchase on the Pokémon – perhaps the only immediate option for survival was simply to grab it and hang on.

    And so he did.

    Then he felt the impact. It was harsh and unforgiving and it battered him on all sides... but his descent continued even further. His mouth and nose and ears filled up with fluid contaminated by the debris that had fallen into the impromptu cavern. Now he was engulfed in water, and the Gyarados’ tail was thrashing hard, its body undulating beneath him.

    Jason held on to the Pokémon for dear life as it churned through the waters. He couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe, and couldn’t even move, save to hold as tightly as he possibly could to the creature... and hope that it would break through to the surface soon.

    He felt himself beginning to thrash alongside the Gyarados as the deprivation of air became unbearable, and his instinct to hang on was slipping in favor of releasing it to locate oxygen somewhere – anywhere except this aquatic creature that, he felt foolish for realizing only now, needed no air to survive. It was amphibious and could breathe in both environments.

    Then the Gyarados whipped its tail once more, snapping Jason so hard that he felt the darkness of blacking out overtaking him.

    And, as with so many other things... there was nothing he could do about it.

    Nothing at all.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011

  10. #10
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    Default Against All Odds: Outcast - Part 7

    Outcast

    Part 7


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Jason did not come back to consciousness easily. He felt the dark oblivion trying to keep him in its embrace... but at the same time he felt the weight, burning, aches, pains, and all other inconvenient sensations that usually accompanied being alive and in discomfort. With effort to rival that of any workhorse Pokémon he could recall putting forth in recent memory, he clawed his way back up into the light of the world around him.

    And light there was. In abundance, in fact. Gone were the rain clouds that had overshadowed Tangelo Island at the behest of the enraged Gyarados. Instead, the sky had nary a cloud to be seen... only the burning tropical sun to which Jason was already well-accustomed.

    A wave of water washed over him, causing him to sit up suddenly and splutter fluid and sand from his mouth and lips. He groaned and coughed violently for several moments; he could feel the fluttering in his lungs that informed him he had, at some point during the ordeal, unintentionally breathed in water.

    It was only once his coughing had calmed down that he realized he was lying on a sandbar, and that prompted the revival of his curiosity. Wait... where am I?

    He looked around. Wherever this was, it wasn’t a place he recognized – and it seemed it was a place human civilization had decided to ignore. Despite the perfect beach sprawled before him, there wasn’t another soul in view, nor were there ships on the horizon. To his right, there was a gathering of Wingulls with a couple of Pelippers interspersed with them. Just beyond that, there appeared to be a small family consisting of an Azumarill and a Marill, with a baby Azurill bouncing happily on the ball of its own tail – a habit consistent with infant Azurills that had yet to learn how to operate their stubby legs.

    Behind him was a large rock face. It wasn’t exactly sheer, but it would have been nearly impossible for Jason to attempt to scale it. Even if he’d been willing, he was no professional in the business... actually, save for ascending a few palm trees on the beaches of Tangelo Island, he had no experience whatsoever in climbing. The face was in a semicircular shape; it seemed Jason had landed on a sea-level sandbar to an island whose primary landmass was some distance above. He knew that this alone was not evidence that humanity did not exist here, but architects of late had taken to building homes and structures close to faces such as these – and it was an irresistible locale for a lighthouse, if shipping routes were to take anybody here.

    But none were present, at least that he could see.

    And to his left...

    He coughed hard and scrambled back when he saw what was there.

    Gyarados...

    The serpentine creature had its head perched on the sand just beyond reach of the tide, leaving its body just far enough in the shallows that it could retreat if need be. It was a luxury that few other waterborne Pokémon enjoyed, being able to transfer at will from land to water and back again.

    And it was staring directly at him.

    But it had evidently offered no reaction to him waking, nor of him recoiling. Instead, it simply lay there and looked at him with eyes that did not blink. Its long face gave no expression that Jason could discern, but gone from its gaze was the strange look that had been the prelude to its rampage.

    Jason got to his feet, thinking to stay out of its reach... only to realize that such an idea was surely a stupid one on his part. I did want him to learn special attacks so he could go at an opponent from a distance, after all... Then he frowned as he wiped his sand-crusted lips on his arm. As crazy as he was acting, you’d think he’d want to attack me. Obviously he knows how. So what’s he waiting for?

    If it could hear his thoughts, it deigned not to supply an answer.

    He coughed again and spit up seawater. He groaned at the awful sensation. His lungs were burning worse than his skin underneath the Orange Islands sun, from which there was no escape here. He stomped a foot in frustration, looking back at the Gyarados in the angriest glower he could muster. “This is all your fault,” he grumbled.

    It didn’t answer. Didn’t even twitch.

    He felt an incredulous laugh bubble up and spill out. “What, you’ve got nothing? Not going to attack me? C’mon, what’re you waiting for?”

    But no glow was forthcoming from its mouth, and although its fangs were perpetually exposed, it showed absolutely no inclination to use them. Jason staggered forward. “C’mon, let’s have it. You didn’t really leave anything behind for me anyway... what did you do to my home? My family? My friends? All for a little temper tantrum?!”

    Feeling emboldened, he kicked a clump of sand at the Gyarados. “What did you do it for?!”

    A blast of air blew from its nostrils. Jason shouted and jumped back, certain that it had decided enough was enough – but still, no attack, nor anything else that could be considered a real response, issued from the sea serpent. Yet there was no mistaking where its gaze was aimed; there was no Pokémon and no point of interest directly behind Jason, so the only thing it could logically be looking at was him.

    Jason looked around, trying to find anything to focus on other than the creature that insisted on watching him. “Great,” he muttered. “This is just... just perfect.”

    He slumped down to the ground and let his head fall into his hands. “How did I even wind up here? I don’t even know where I am.”

    Another rush of air emitted from the Gyarados’ nostril slits. It raised its head from the ground a few inches and let out a low growl; the noise echoed against the rock face. Jason sighed and forced himself to look back at the Pokémon. He scowled cock-eyed at it. “What do you want, anyway? You keeping an eye on me so when I die, you can have lunch?” He gestured up at the sun. “Shouldn’t be too long, I’m cooking as it is.”

    It growled again... and then it turned around.

    He got to his feet suddenly. “Hey, leaving so soon? Really classy. Just leave me out here to rot in the sunlight.”

    The Gyarados shifted its head back in Jason’s direction, just far enough so that it could glance at him sidelong. It stared at him like that for a long moment, then quickly tilted his head back and upward... almost as if to indicate that he should...

    Climb on?

    Jason stifled a laugh. “You’re kidding. You want me to ride you. Yeah, right. You know what you are? You’re a wild Pokémon. I’d be crazy to ride you.”

    But you rode him already, didn’t you? spoke a voice in Jason’s mind. You must have done it, to get all the way here. And somehow, miraculously, you made it to dry land, out here in the middle of all the open water. You end up on dry land and you’re standing here cursing your own Gyarados for keeping you from drowning.

    Jason frowned. Until that moment, he hadn’t consciously made the connection. That’s right. I didn’t drown, when by rights I should have. Maybe I washed up on the shore by myself... but that doesn’t explain what Gyarados was doing here when I woke up. They’re predators but if he was that interested in rejoining the wild, he wouldn’t have stuck around.

    His expression shifted. “What’s going on with you?” he asked. “You should be out in the water now. You’re just hovering around here. I’m not that interesting.”

    Having no means to express its reasoning... and perhaps lacking the faculties to fully comprehend what Jason was saying... all it seemed to care about at the moment was Jason wasn’t doing as he was being instructed. It growled again and gave him another invitational tilt of the head.

    Jason crossed his arms. “And just exactly where is it you have in mind to go? You can’t be thinking about going back home... they’d put you down. Or worse. So you’re gonna run. And you’re thinking you’ll just take me with you, just like that.”

    The tinny voice in the back of his mind spoke up once more. But you can’t really go home, either, can you? This is your Pokémon, the one you wanted, the one you were paying for... and he’s destroyed everything your family had. Your father doesn’t have the cash to rebuild. And what about the people who got hurt? Workman’s comp. Your family will go bankrupt, and where will you be? There’s no inheriting the company now. There’s no company, period. It’s all finished.

    “Shut up,” he whispered to the voice.

    You can tell me to shut up, but it’s the truth. You’ve got nothing to go home to. And what about this? You wanted Gyarados to know attacks like Earthquake and Hyper Beam. It’s because of you he knew what he needed to know to destroy the whole place. It’s ultimately your fault.

    “No,” he whispered. “It’s not my fault...”

    Oh, yes, it is. Your Gyarados, your responsibility. You go home now and you’ll have to look your parents in the eye and tell them you’re the one that made it happen. You know what’ll happen, too. Your dad will spend the rest of his life disappointed in you. Danny will spend the rest of his life blaming you. And your mom? She’ll be the most devastated of all of them. Her heart will be broken. She’s the one who said you didn’t need a Gyarados to get what you wanted out of a Pokémon, but no... you had to have this one.

    Jason clamped his hands over his ears and clenched his eyes shut. Running away from it won’t make everything better!

    The voice wouldn’t be denied. “Running away”? What would you rather do, go back there and spend the rest of your life being the reason your family and their business failed? Definitely the way to go. Until one day you wake up wishing you had just run away in the first place. So do yourself a favor – start now.

    He rubbed his eyes. There were flaws in the arguments the voice posed... but at the same time, it had already argued any point he had to make. Going back home would most likely mean spending his life trying to get out from under an incredible umbrella of debt. Debt, and stigma. It speared through his mind with all the force of a lightning bolt, a vision of what the future would look like in the flash of an instant – the name “Creight” would become taboo... symbolic of the overconfidence of people who thought they could tame and train Pokémon exactly the way trainers needed them to be. It would be synonymous with the arrogance of presuming one didn’t need any security precautions against the Pokémon being trained – not to mention the presumption of building a castle on quicksand.

    If I go home, I’ve got nothing... except a family that’ll hate me forever.

    If I run, I’ve still got nothing... except a Pokémon who hurt everyone I know. And me, too.


    He wasn’t sure he could make the choice.

    He looked back at the Gyarados once more, who was still patiently waiting on Jason. The teen shook his head. There was no knowing exactly where the creature had in mind to take him. Maybe it was insane enough to head back to Tangelo Island. Maybe it wanted to strike out on the open water. Maybe Jason’s sarcasm had been right on, and it was simply waiting to make a snack of him.

    There was no knowing where it wanted to go.

    Jason didn’t need to make a choice concerning destination. Really, anywhere was better than here.

    The teen sighed, and approached the serpentine Pokémon. Its segmented body offered him surprisingly easy purchase on its back, and its fins gave him natural handles on which to anchor himself. He leaned down, his body flush against Gyarados’ back. “This... is gonna be really weird.”

    The Pokémon only growled in answer, and began to push away from the shore.

    As they headed for the open water, Jason abruptly recalled something he had learned in school. The word “outcast”. It had applied to those kids that didn’t really fit in with any particular group – or niche, as his teachers liked to call them – and didn’t have that many friends, if any at all. Jason had never really taken the word into consideration unless he had to deal with synonyms.

    Looking up synonyms for that word for his language class was what had occasioned him to find the word “exile”. Its definition had sounded a lot more severe than “outcast”. He’d paid it little mind since, having no real context that would help his own understanding of it.

    Think I’m a little closer to that definition now.

    He was on the run. He couldn’t go home. And he had nothing to his name except the clothes he wore and the Gyarados.

    No, he thought. Not just the Gyarados. My Gyarados.

    Astride the very Pokémon that had ruined his life...

    Jason Creight rode on.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    End of Outcast

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Against All Odds (2011) [PG-13]

    Too much to comment on, but this is great. I'm really liking this. Very curious now!

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Against All Odds (2011) [PG-13]

    I've been reading this story over the past couple of days, and it's amazing! You are a really engaging writer, I feel like you've created a very believable and interesting world and characters. Looking forward to more. (I'm probably not too useful in terms of giving feedback though.)
    ------------------------------
    http://rkivic.com



    Thank you TPM Friends for the nice Award!
    Signature courtesy of Mikachu Yukitatsu

  13. #13
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    Default Against All Odds: Exile - Part 1

    Exile

    Part 1


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Jason Creight awoke to the sight of a dark sky overhead.

    If he’d had a watch on his wrist, he might have consulted the time. But he hadn’t worn a watch in quite some time... really, ever since he’d gotten a cell phone. The device had been meant for his parents to make sure he was reachable whenever someone needed him, or so they had said. He knew what they’d really meant was, “This will help us locate you in case we need to find you.”

    And he might have consulted his cell phone, if it hadn’t been fried during “the incident”.

    Upon discovering that the hunk of technology had been irreversibly ruined, Jason had mumbled an oath under his breath and tossed it into the water. Maybe it was gauche for him to do that – had an environmentalist seen it, he was sure they’d have thrown a fit – but he didn’t really have anything in mind but his immediate desires. At that moment, it had been to throw the useless device far away from himself. Besides, if he ditched it on dry land, there was always the chance, however remote, that someone would find it and try to resuscitate it.

    After the constant arguing going on in his mind, he’d decided he wasn’t terribly interested in being found.

    He continued staring at the sky. It was dark, yes, but due to clouds more than lack of sunlight. That meant it was daytime, but the weather was decidedly ominous. Moreover, there was a heavy ozone smell permeating the air.

    “Looks like rain,” he muttered, and he sat up.

    His surroundings this morning consisted of dense foliage and palm trees just beyond the beach of yet another uncivilized island. The place was either too small or too out-of-the-way to be worth colonization... perhaps both. The other side of the landmass was within visual range of in daylight. It was nothing short of miraculous to Jason that this much greenery existed here – but not only did the foliage thrive, the palms provided coconuts that gave him invaluable sustenance.

    He’d been here for a full day already, or what he presumed had been a full day. It certainly seemed that long by now. How long he and Gyarados had been traveling on the open water was beyond him, though. The sun had risen and set already more times than he cared to count. All he knew was his fifteenth birthday had been the first full day of running... and it wasn’t a birthday present he was likely to forget.

    He scratched his bare chest. His shirt had been torn to shreds in an unexpected – and very unpleasant – encounter with a flotilla of Tentacools, led by a Tentacruel that was, if possible, more sadistic than its surrounding henchmen. Gyarados had defended itself and Jason admirably, but at the cost of a considerable portion of its own strength and stamina. Somehow it had avoided their poisonous tentacles and driven them off, but Jason was quite certain it wasn’t able to summon another Hyper Beam attack. During the battle, Jason had fallen in the water and it was only through providence he himself had been able to evade the tentacles’ ill effects. His shirt had not been quite so fortunate; he’d left the tatters behind, along with his socks and shoes, which served him absolutely no useful purpose in the water, anyway. He was left only with a pair of summer shorts and the underwear beneath them... and those clothes were quickly chafing him.

    The thought that ran through Jason’s mind was the same one he’d been coming back to for days.

    This isn’t how it was supposed to be.

    He glanced toward the beach. Poised on the shoreline was Gyarados. It was just inside the reach of the tide and coiled like a spring, staring intently at the northern horizon. Jason wasn’t entirely certain what it was the Pokémon was hoping to find, but so far, they’d only run into islands similar to this one: small, forgettable, devoid of civilization, and mostly devoid of Pokémon, as well. It had been days since Jason had exchanged words with another human being, and the last person whose voice he could recall hearing was that of Janice Forester... fearful and confused, wondering what was happening.

    He could only imagine what was happening back there now. As much as he didn’t want to consider the consequences of Gyarados’ rampage – actions whose motives still weren’t clear to him – it haunted him during virtually every moment he had an otherwise clear mind. What had happened to the people in the buildings that had collapsed? What about the ground itself, almost certainly destabilized by the destruction of who knew how many pillars in the underwater tunnels?

    What about my own family?

    However much he had found himself at odds with his father, his mother, or his brother over the last few weeks, months, and even years, he still loved them and it pained him terribly to have run away from them at all... never mind without any knowledge of their well-being. He’d thought of this far too many times already. His father had most likely been at the house, working studiously in his office. That gave him a high chance of having survived the incident – that was to say, he probably hadn’t sustained any lasting physical injury.

    But Mom and Danny? They could have been just about anywhere. Danny has his desk job but just as often as he’s sitting in that office, he’s running around the grounds performing errands or moving paperwork. And Mom... Mom likes the pens. She doesn’t sit still in the office for long. She likes interacting with trainers but she loves the Pokémon she handles.

    And that meant those two could have been anywhere. Even at the epicenter of the attack.

    He was shaken from his reverie then by the sound of Gyarados roaring out at the water. His head snapped up, and his eyes darted toward not his Pokémon, but rather, at the sea.

    He’d started to suspect Gyarados was trying to find its way based on the mental maps of friendly Pokémon... assuming a Pokémon could be friends with a Gyarados. That, in and of itself, didn’t seem especially likely to Jason... less so once one considered many wild Pokémon bore ill will towards trained ones. Nevertheless, it was clear that Gyarados was trying to do more than just frighten away aggressors; if it wanted to do that, it would do it under the water, where sound traveled several times faster. And besides, he thought, what Pokémon are you going to find being aggressive towards a Gyarados?

    No, this sounded less like posturing and more like an honest attempt at communication. Jason couldn’t see exactly what it was Gyarados was roaring at, but hope began to surge through his veins. Maybe we won’t be stuck out here at sea for the rest of our lives, after all.

    He had actually thought they would spend some time scouring the Orange Islands for some remote refuge. Somewhere they could easily establish temporary quarters, not so far away from home that he would have no clue how to navigate. But clearly there had been no meeting of the minds on this point, because Gyarados had simply chosen the heading for itself and struck out. There was no directing it once out on the open water. Even if Jason had wanted to direct it, there seemed little purpose. After all, he didn’t know where to go, much less how to get there. And so far, Gyarados had been conscious enough of its rider that it was finding places for him to eat and sleep... a level of compassion that seemed entirely incongruous with its noted attitudes and behaviors.

    But all that having been taken into consideration, Jason kept coming back to the fact that he had absolutely no idea where they were. If they’d traveled straight north, they would have run into Mikan Island; any easterly direction would have carried them to some occupied land formation, whether it was Pinkan, Valencia, Sunburst, or even Shamouti at the dead center of the Orange Archipelago. Whatever direction Gyarados had chosen, it was clear they were no longer anywhere near that territory. Seeing the sun rising on his right side and set on his left for the last three days let Jason know Gyarados had at least chosen to be consistent in which way it was going now, even if it had no better method than celestial navigation.

    It shifted its head after a moment and turned in Jason’s direction, emitting a loud growl that he’d begun to take as its method of beckoning to him. He shrugged at no one in particular, then got up and approached the massive Pokémon. He tried not to flinch as a bolt of lightning cracked the sky, but failed miserably; by comparison, Gyarados seemed to take little notice.

    As he recovered, he looked up at the waterborne creature’s broad face. “You called?” he inquired, bemused.

    In response, Gyarados wagged its head out at the sea. Jason squinted, but he could still not see nor hear whatever it was Gyarados had seen and heard there. He sighed, wondering how much longer he could keep counting on the Pokémon to get him somewhere he might consider safe. Then again, if all it wanted to accomplish was that, it might have simply dumped him at one of the first islands they’d come across. Apparently it did have a specific destination in mind.

    “Okay, so we have a heading,” he said, planting his hands on his hips. “How close are we to actually getting there is what I’d like to know.”

    He suddenly found himself glad that his teachers hadn’t heard him speaking – days on the lam seemed to be taking an unexpected toll on his grammar. Perhaps it was to his advantage, then, that Gyarados was able to fully understand only select words and phrases. Whether it understood what he’d just said or not, it offered no additional response but to toss its head more vehemently at the water... indication enough to the teen that it was getting impatient.

    Jason mumbled an oath under his breath and then heaved a sigh. “All right, fine. I just hope we’re close.” He scrambled up the Pokémon’s coiled body and located his usual mount just behind the large fin at the base of Gyarados’ skull.

    Once it was satisfied that he was well-anchored, Gyarados pushed off, using its wound body like a spring to launch itself into the water. Jason did his best not to shout at the sudden violence of the action but a small cry did escape him as he struggled to keep his hold. It seemed to enjoy this particular method of departing an island – Jason, on the other hand, felt an overwhelmingly strong urge to relieve his bladder each time it happened.

    As they passed into the open waters and began making their way toward whatever destination Gyarados had in mind, more lightning flashed overhead and a drizzle began to peck at Jason’s bare back. He was accustomed to the water by this point, but the idea of a thunderstorm bothered him. He glanced up at the sky as the rumbling of thunder washed over him. Hope there’s no trouble going on up there. He was all too aware of the 50-50 chance that Pokémon could be involved in this or any other weather pattern. Stray bolts could be particularly disastrous astride his mount, but were quite bad for Water-Type Pokémon in general.

    But they had already seen a weather pattern conjured by Pokémon on this journey, and more than once. A wild Starmie had performed a Rain Dance for an island covered with wilting Grass-Type Pokémon in need of relief from the burning sun and lack of proper irrigation in its center; then, in the same day, when there had evidently been more than enough rain to satisfy the afflicted Pokémon, a Cherrim used Sunny Day to dispel the clouds and bring back their other primary means of sustenance. Jason had recalled then that even among Pokémon, there was a fine line between getting pleasantly tanned and getting burned.

    During each of those instances, Jason had clearly noted Gyarados hesitating and watching the proceeding intently. Jason had wondered if perhaps it was looking for some way to be more efficient in its use of Rain Dance, but Sunny Day wasn’t one of the moves he’d requested be taught to his Pokémon; it left him scratching his head over the matter. Gyarados was showing no similar hesitation towards the rain now, which led Jason to believe it was probably natural.

    Natural, and less friendly and mild than the other kind, he thought. It had by this point become so dark that his field of vision was obscured and even trying to see a hundred yards ahead of them was a challenge. More rain came, making his Pokémon that much more slippery beneath him. He tightened his grip until his fingers were hurting, feeling suddenly fortunate that Gyarados didn’t have nerve clusters in its stabilizing fin. With or without that fin, though, Jason could tell it was fighting hard to move in a straight line. He didn’t have to wonder how it knew what was straight ahead and what wasn’t; any information gleaned from friendly Pokémon and its own internal compass would see to that matter.

    More and more lightning flashed across the progressively dark sky. Jason had lost all sense of time so he didn’t know how long he’d been mounted on Gyarados. As exhausted as he was, he felt himself micro-napping on the Pokémon’s back – not an especially good thing in the middle of the open water during a rain storm, but he didn’t exactly have a choice. He kept clenching his eyes shut and them snapping them open at random intervals. It could have been minutes or hours since he climbed up Gyarados’ length. It already felt too much like eternity to him, and he no longer had thoughts of a home to comfort him. He simply held on more tightly and pressed the side of his head to Gyarados’ back.

    When will it be over? he wondered, on the verge of despair. Now it’s like even Mother Nature doesn’t want us going wherever it is we’re going! Gyarados can’t even use a Hyper Beam or anything like that to light the way ‘cause his moves are all worn out since that incident with the Tentacools...

    Abruptly, he felt his grip on the Pokémon vanish completely, and he shouted as he was thrown viciously from Gyarados’ back. He sailed through the rain-filled air, expecting to skid across the water’s surface–

    And was instead greeted by a surface of sand.

    The wind was knocked out of him; he’d landed almost flat on his back and skidded a foot or two, jamming the fingers of his left hand in the process. He gasped for air, which filled his lungs like cold needles... and the heavy droplets of rain that splashed into his mouth did not help to assuage him.

    He sat up and coughed, groaning as he tried to support his weight on his left hand. His fingers were still able to flex but he could already feel them swelling up and silently crying out in protest to the abuse they had just taken. He gritted his teeth and looked around.

    He’d been thrown onto a beach, but there was no plant life anywhere around him. As he stared at his immediate surroundings – sand composed the entirety of this landmass – he realized it wasn’t a beach so much as an atoll, stretching maybe a few hundred feet from one side to the other. The rain occluded his ability to see much further, but there were clearly other islands surrounding this chunk of nothingness, and one appeared to be dotted with lights that only barely flickered to Jason’s eyes. Still, that gave him hope for the sight of civilization.

    But where’s Gyarados?

    He turned around and around, looking for his Pokémon, but it wasn’t within his line of sight. “Gyarados!” he shouted. His voice croaked from him; to his own ears the outcry sounded like it had come from someone else.

    But there was no sign of the serpentine creature... and Jason could think of no reason why. If it had run aground, then perhaps that would explain how he got so violently tossed, but with the visual range available to him, he couldn’t help but think Gyarados was able to see just as well.

    Maybe he threw me off?

    He looked up at the rain-dotted sky and felt the cold water pelt his face. He wished he hadn’t conceived of that possibility.

    But the fact that it was possible was enough for his mind to latch onto.

    He sat down on the ground, feeling his skin start to go numb, and he let his head drop into one hand.

    Without Gyarados... I’m just out here... all by myself.

    For the second time in his life, Jason felt completely and utterly alone.

    He let himself slump back onto the wet sand, and he curled up, waiting and wishing for the storm to be over.



    Whether he was dreaming or not, he couldn’t tell. Nothing had changed, but he sensed himself hovering at the twilight between the real and the unreal. The world around him certainly felt real... consumed by darkness and rain, flashing with endless lightning that tore jagged holes in the sky. The thunder resonated through his body and forced him to shudder in his fetal position. The noise threatened to wrench his eardrums from their moorings, so violent was the sound.

    And then... then there was a roar. A roar that gave counterpoint to the deafening thunder, for while the overhead blasts had been deep and powerful, this was a higher pitch and split the rumble to aim, it seemed, straight into his brain.

    He tried to clench his eyes more tightly, but they wouldn’t comply. If anything, the sounds bade him to open them, commanded him to take stock of his surroundings. The roar was familiar, even if he tried to deny it was there. Perhaps it was a testament to his loneliness that he should find familiarity in so bestial a sound, but that was the truth of the matter, nonetheless.

    And then there was a voice. Human, most certainly... and strong. But he couldn’t make out what the voice was saying because the other noises were drowning out his articulation – it was something of a miracle Jason could hear him at all. It was the final attack upon the wall he had put up between himself and his consciousness of reality; if there was truly someone else out there, then he wasn’t alone anymore.

    And so his eyes fluttered open...


    And he saw.

    On the far side of the atoll, there stood a man with his face to the eastern sea. Just his posture suggested a resolute and stubborn nature; he held himself up proudly and at his fullest height, apparently not at all bothered by the thunderstorm blazing around him. He wore a brown coat and tan pants that seemed to repel the rain, and on his head was a wide-brimmed hat whose shade seemed to fall somewhere between that of his parka and his khakis.

    Jason struggled to his feet and began to stagger across the sandbar, hoping against hope that somehow he could get the man’s attention before whoever he was decided to take off. He didn’t even care what the man was doing there, as long as he could get to him.

    Another bolt of lightning flashed overhead, splitting the clouds and lending momentary illumination to Jason’s quarry. Beneath the hat was a shock of salt-and-pepper hair, indicating this man had quite a few years on the teen, and there was just the faintest trace of paunch to him. So much the better, Jason thought. If he’s getting a good meal at home, maybe he can help me find one, too.

    But then he realized what else he had seen that stood out.

    The man had been holding a Pokémon capture ball in his right hand.

    Jason’s eyes widened. Wait a second...

    A flash of neon erupted from the man’s hand, and the mass of energy arced to the ground in front of him, where it coalesced into a perfect sphere perhaps half the man’s height and more than twice his width. Jason didn’t even need to see its features. The basic shape gave him all the information he needed.

    He’s just sent out a Voltorb... and he wouldn’t do that unless he planned to battle with it... and he’s aiming at the water... and I heard roaring...

    What if Gyarados is over there?


    Jason summoned what remained of his strength and launched into a sprint. The rain made the sand sticky and mushy, forcing him to expend energy he didn’t even know he had in driving himself forward. Every muscle screamed for relief and the stitch in his side was almost unbearable. He was battered, beaten, and bruised... but he wasn’t broken yet.

    The only thing that would break him now would be to see his Pokémon broken, as well.

    “Wait!” he shouted – or at least, tried to. The call was hoarse and he could feel his voice cracking, but he tried again, and he waved his arms above his head, hoping against hope that the man would turn around and see him. “Wait! Stop!”

    And he thought... just for an instant...

    Yes!

    The man’s head had tilted to one side, and he held a hand out toward his Pokémon, indicating that it should withhold whatever attack he’d ordered it to perform, half-turning at the same time to see what it was that had caught his ear. Even from perhaps fifty yards away, Jason could see the glint in the man’s eye, a spark of life that made his face and expression look much younger than the rest of him.

    Jason flailed his arms again. “Stop! Don’t attack!”

    If he hadn’t piqued the man’s curiosity before, that directive certainly did the trick. The trainer glanced to his Voltorb, shrugged, then spoke a command and returned the Pokémon to its capture ball. Now that he was facing Jason’s direction, the teen could see that a thick white mustache and beard occluded the man’s lower face... obviously not young, but if he was all the way out here with nothing but Pokémon, he had no intention of letting age get in his way.

    Jason finally came to a stop in front of him and keeled over, hands on his knees as he gasped noisily for breath. “Don’t... don’t attack,” he wheezed.

    “Easy, son, my Pokémon isn’t even out,” said the other, offering Jason a strange expression as he reached out to touch the teen’s shoulder. “What in blazes are you doing here in the middle of a thunderstorm, anyway? You on your way to Mossdeep?”

    Jason coughed into his fist; his throat was too raw to respond to the inquiry.

    “Okay, son, obviously you’re exhausted. Let’s see about getting you somewhere a little safer than here,” the man said, and he shrugged off his coat, revealing a brown sweater beneath, and he draped the coat over the teen. Then his right hand went to pluck a Pokémon capture ball from his trainer’s belt, and the ball enlarged in his hand.

    Jason finally drew enough breath to speak, and it came out in a rush. “The Gyarados, don’t attack the Gyarados, he’s mine...”

    The man frowned. “That one out there that harassed my Lanturn? Where’s its ball?”

    “He doesn’t have one but he’s mine, don’t attack him!” Jason lapsed into another fit of violent coughing. His voice was all but gone now.

    “Easy, son,” the trainer said again. “I’ll leave him alone if he leaves me alone. He comes after me and my Pokémon again, though, we may have a problem.” Then he tossed the ball into the air. “Let’s go, Lanturn!”

    Instead of arcing to the ground, this bolt of neon energy poured out into the water itself, and there appeared a blue-scaled fish-like Pokémon bearing glowing yellow light orbs on its rear and dorsal fins. The latter source drooped low over the creature’s head, revealing a yellow face and wide-set eyes over a cheery disposition that wasn’t easily discouraged in a thunderstorm... this, or any other.

    Jason heard its high-pitched voice chime, and he knew it was speaking its racial name – as many Pokémon were well-known to do – but all at once, he didn’t think he had the energy to even listen to it or its trainer. There were more questions racing around the confines of his mind that would require answers, and he knew that with this evidently compassionate trainer, he was likely to find those answers only once he was in greater comforts than these.

    But for now, he could let himself drift back into the nothingness.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011

  14. #14
    Written Into A Corner... Cool Trainer
    Cool Trainer
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    May 2011
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    Default Against All Odds: Exile - Part 2

    Exile

    Part 2


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    When next he awoke, Jason felt himself in a dry and relatively warm environment. A heavy blanket covered him and he was lying on a bed whose cushioning was somewhat lumpy, but far more comfortable than the sandbars and grassy knolls he’d been stretching out on for the last several days. He blinked his eyes open to the sight of a severely angled wooden ceiling, whose glossy finish glimmered by the light of a kitchenette.

    Jason blinked again and looked around, trying to take stock of the place. It appeared to be a one-room house, with all the comforts of a home crammed into a relatively confined space. A small television and recliner chair occupied the corner to his right; the bed in which he lay took up the opposite side of that wall, and to his immediate right was a set of drawers. The kitchenette was straight ahead of him, and a small dining table with two chairs sat in solitary neglect in the far corner. Nothing was more than twenty feet away from anything else here. Jason was used to traversing more than one hall to get to his destination. How does the owner of this place get any exercise?

    Standing in the kitchenette was the man Jason had encountered before, so he believed it was reasonable to assume he was also the owner of the house. He stole another glance at the trainer’s generous stomach. Well, I guess that answers that. But after only a few moments, it became evident what supported the man’s girth – the delicious aromas of stir-fry and grilled meat wafted under Jason’s nose and instantly made his mouth water.

    Without turning around, the man called over his shoulder. “It isn’t ready yet, but I’ll let you know when.”

    Jason’s eyebrows shot up, and he pushed the blanket down towards his knees; then he noticed that in addition to having been garbed in a loose white T-shirt, his pants had been changed. No longer did he wear a soaking wet pair of summer shorts ill-equipped to deal with seawater, but instead a pair of gray sweatpants that were at least one size too large for him... perhaps more. Eyes widening, he pulled away the elastic waistband and inspected beneath – then looked at his rescuer with a mixture of disgust and embarrassment. “Not to sound ungrateful, but I’m a little leery of random strangers getting a look.”

    “Think I haven’t seen it all before?” The trainer let out a deep chuckle. “Honestly, I did wake you, but you were so out of it you wouldn’t stay awake long enough to get the task taken care of. You needed the warmth and you weren’t going to get that with those shorts. I’ve got them running a dry cycle right now–” And here he tapped the washing machine affectionately. “–and afterwards you can have ‘em back in the privacy of the bathroom.” He gestured to Jason’s left, where a single door hung open and inward into a bathroom unit of a size that Jason had never seen before. I’ve heard of small bathrooms before, but this is just...

    “Small, I know,” the man shrugged. “But should give you what you need.”

    “Well... I guess I’ve already got what I need,” Jason said. “Except your name.”

    Another shrug from his rescuer. “Does it matter?”

    Jason blinked in surprise. “Are you saying it doesn’t?”

    “Not necessarily. But to you, I could be any random stranger who decided to take care of you when I saw you needed help. I just happened to be the one that was there at the time.”

    “Well, it’s just... I’d kind of like to know who it was that saved my life.”

    The elder man snorted. “That’s a bit melodramatic. You weren’t dying out there, son. But you sure do look like you’ve taken a beating. The sail from the islands wasn’t so smooth, I guess.”

    Jason was befuddled. “Uh... say what? The islands?”

    “The Orange Islands. You have that accent. It’s crisp but laid-back. You don’t find that so much in Hoenn. There’s something of a lazy drawl on the mainland. Out on this edge of the territory, though, people aren’t quite so ignorant with language.” The trainer scraped a spatula across the bottom of his stir-fry pan. “Food’s about ready, you can go grab yourself a plate and utensils in that cabinet. Cups are in the one next to it.”

    “Wait, wait, hang on a second,” Jason interjected, holding up a hand for emphasis. “Did you just say we’re in Hoenn?”

    “Mossdeep City, to be precise,” the other answered. “But from the sound of your tone, I gather that’s not what you were expecting.”

    “No.” Jason shook his head. “No, it’s not. I had no idea. I thought we were moving north, not northwest. I’ve seen the sun rising on the right side for days.”

    The trainer let out a guffaw. “Son, I’m sure you knew this already, but this world tilts this way and that. It’s why we have seasons. The sun’s been rising north-northeast for a couple months now.”

    Jason flopped back on the bed, equally stunned and annoyed. I should have remembered that. He looked back at the bearded man after a long moment. And he still hasn’t told me who he is. Maybe he’s well-known and prefers his privacy? He scanned the small house once more. Maybe... although people tend to know you more when you’ve got a lot of money. These digs are comfy but I wouldn’t say he’s got a bunch. Wouldn’t he want something a bit bigger? Especially if he’s a trainer.

    “Don’t let it get cold, now,” the man said, shaking his spatula at Jason for emphasis. He scooped the stir-fry out into a blue glass bowl and set it next to a large platter bearing thick beef patties.

    Jason’s mouth watered even more upon sight of it, and he needed no further encouragement. He got out of the bed and went to the kitchenette, where he sought out the proper items for his imminent – and much-needed – meal. As he removed a large glass from the indicated cabinet, he looked to his host. “Uh, what kinds of drink are you offering?”

    The elder trainer loosed another chuckle. “Whatever’s in the fridge. If that doesn’t suit you, there’s always water from the tap.”

    Jason did his best to hide a grossed-out expression from crossing his features at that mention. Being descended from an affluent family had its advantages, and one of them had been that he could always count on distilled and purified water. He opened the refrigerator door and peered inside. There was lemonade and milk, along with bottles of spring water – so much for the tap, then – and apple and orange juice. He noted there was no soda.

    As if having read his mind, the gentleman chimed up from the seat he’d just taken at the dining table. “I don’t usually have company and I keep my Pokémon on a regimen of healthy foods and beverages, so I don’t stock anything carbonated.”

    Jason plucked the orange juice from the fridge and poured himself a glass of about three quarters. “Pokémon can’t drink soda?”

    “They can if they want a gut like mine.” The man guffawed. “No, I’m afraid the extent of my ability to control food intake is solely for them. I’m mindlessly self-indulgent otherwise. Seems like a good way to live, to me.”

    Jason sat down at the table. The other man had already served himself, and a rather healthy amount at that, so Jason didn’t hold back on his own serving... enough to virtually eliminate the possibility of leftovers. He shoveled the first few bites into his mouth with very little regard to the taste, as the smell alone had been driving him nuts. Once he felt his stomach begin to settle down from its protests of no proper nutrition, he sighed and sat back for a moment, his own way of telling himself to slow down.

    His host noticed the sudden change, but didn’t behave surprised by it. “So. What brings you all the way from the Orange Islands? Did you make a wrong turn at the marina?”

    Jason blinked. “I’m sorry?”

    “The Selto marina. Some trainers like to go there for the vacations and Pokémon tournaments. Me, I prefer it for the paraphernalia. Some cheap prices to be found there.” He planted his elbows on the table’s edge and folded his hands under his chin. “But from your reaction, I’m guessing that’s not what you had in mind.”

    “Uh... not really, no,” Jason mumbled, and he stuck another forkful of beef in his mouth, suddenly self-conscious and not at all certain what to say.

    “Actually, I’m going to go ahead and guess it wasn’t your idea to come all the way to Mossdeep in nothing but your shorts, on a Gyarados you don’t have a capture ball for. I noticed you also had no other Pokémon with you. You’re not a trainer, are you?”

    Jason sighed around his bite and swallowed. “No... not really.”

    “Well, then, what’re you doing here?”

    The teen’s ears were burning now, and he felt his hunger slowly begin to draw away from him. “We got... a bit lost. Actually, I didn’t even know where it was we were going. Gyarados just picked a direction and stuck with it.” Then he blinked, and his eyes widened. “Gyarados. He’s...”

    “He’s fine, he’s just hovering around on the shore shallows. Apparently he didn’t want to leave you but at the same time didn’t want to stick around long on land.”

    “Oh. Okay.” Jason ate another bite and made an enthused noise. “Are you a gourmet or something? You could sell this.”

    “Not really. But that was a good attempt at changing the subject.” Jason’s host likewise tucked another bite into his mouth, then spoke around it as he chewed. “You’re not a trainer, you’re riding a Gyarados with no ball, you’ve got no belongings, and you had no idea where you were when you found me. Are you running from something?”

    “Well...” Jason tried to come up with something to say, but any story he might have tried to conjure felt only half-complete in his mind, and it was becoming apparent the trainer’s deductive capabilities would pick apart whatever he offered. Finally he gave the only response he could. “Yeah.”

    “Mm.” The elder finished chewing and poked at another morsel on his plate. “Mind if I ask what from?”

    But Jason wanted to draw the line there. “Sorta.”

    “I see. Hot meal, dry clothes, and a warm bed not enough of a down-payment for a couple honest answers?”

    Jason pursed his lips at the trainer. “I really do appreciate your hospitality, really. And you already know where I’m from and I’m not going back. What else matters?”

    “Well, for one, where you’re planning to go. Can’t keep wandering around the seas looking for nice people like me to take you in and not ask questions.” The trainer poked the tines of his fork in Jason’s direction for emphasis. “You haven’t told me your name, and I haven’t asked. Fact is, neither of us needs a name to help each other scratch a few itches we can’t reach ourselves.”

    “Is that why you brought me here? You’ve got itches you need me to scratch?”

    “Well, at the moment, I’m just itching for some conversation. Can’t very well get that from my Pokémon, so I go looking for it from others. Only around here, everybody already knows everybody else. And they all know me. So it’s all been said. No need to talk, no news to share.” He scoffed as he leaned back in his chair and laced his fingers across his generous abdomen. “Downright impersonal, some days. I’d prefer to be back home, tell you that much.”

    Jason frowned. “What, this isn’t your home?”

    “More like a time-share. I’m thinking about just giving my cut back up to the owner entirely anyway, he’s always rearranging the place during his six months.” The man rolled his eyes. “And he’s got himself a baby son, nowadays. He’s been wanting to expand the place but I think he’s reluctant because he knows the kind of gasket I blow to see a sofa moved from here to there.”

    Jason tried to think of a question he could pose that wouldn’t cause him any trouble if it were also asked of him. The first one he came up with was, “So where are you from originally?”

    “Originally? Well, all over, really.” The man patted his belt. “Home’s where the heart is, or so I’ve heard the saying go. My heart’s with my Pokémon. I used to keep a house in Mauville City, but...” He shrugged. “Didn’t really need it anymore.”

    “Why not?”

    For an instant, Jason could see the glint in his host’s eye change and nearly fade away, momentarily overwhelmed by something else. And it was something that Jason recognized well, because over the past several days he had been laid bare to the same emotion – sadness. The trainer blinked twice rapidly, then smiled at the youngster to cover. “Because a house isn’t a home if your heart isn’t there.”

    Uh... yikes. Okay, don’t go there. Jason chewed on his next bite more thoughtfully as the silence hung in the air from that statement, unsure of how to break it. Although his mind raced through a series of subjects to offer as tangents from the sudden unhappy turn in conversation, he couldn’t think of a proper way to introduce any of them. There were no more words exchanged until their plates were both finished.

    The bearded man got up and carried his dishes to the kitchenette’s sink, where there was already hot soap water waiting. He kept his head downcast at his flatware while he cleaned it. “So. Got any thoughts on where to head from here?”

    Jason took that as his cue to also rise from the table and bring his dishes. “Like I said, it’s Gyarados doing the navigating. I’m just the passenger.”

    His host shook his head. “Hardly a way to handle your Pokémon. If you’re serious about being its trainer, you’ve got to own it.”

    Jason tilted his head in confusion. “I... kind of do own him.”

    “Not what I mean, son. I’m saying you have to take responsibility for the actions of your Pokémon by directing those actions yourself. It’s what they need trainers for. All that raw power, they just channel their aggression towards each other and never make anything of themselves. They get someone like you and me, someone willing to show them how to make the most of their abilities, and be responsible about it... that’s when they shine. Rather like this plate, I might add.” He held his now-cleaned platter up to the light. “Very nice handiwork, if I do say so myself.”

    Jason ignored the trainer’s fawning over his own fastidiousness in favor of the more important subject. “It’s a little hard to own the actions of my Gyarados when I don’t even have a ball for him. And he’s at such a high level, I think he’d actually prefer to ignore me if I tried to act like his owner.”

    “Well, then, how’d you get him? Some know-it-all trainer decided to give him to you?”

    “I bought him.”

    His host scoffed, and that alone was enough to raise Jason’s hackles. “You can’t just purchase a Pokémon and expect him to follow orders, son. Gotta have that relationship first.”

    “We were working on that until...” Jason gestured widely at the house around them. “Until this happened.”

    “And now you’re wandering around the ocean.” The man cast a pointed glance at Jason. “Looking for what, anyway? Were you hoping to just keep running until you felt like you didn’t need to anymore?”

    “Something wrong with that?” Jason asked, feeling himself grow defensive.

    The other man didn’t back down. “Yeah, you’re never gonna stop. Might make you feel better for all of five minutes, but sooner or later you’re gonna have to deal with whatever it is you’re afraid of, or you’ll just be running from it the rest of your life. Got some experience with that.”

    “Look, I just had to get away from the Orange Islands, okay? Does it matter where I go from here?”

    “I’d like to think so. Exactly what were you planning on doing with yourself to earn a living? Can’t keep going to people’s doors and expect ‘em to make food for you like some roving Eevee. Nobody likes a leech... even a charming one like yourself.” He arched an eyebrow at Jason, indicating the addendum had been more sarcastic than genuine.

    Jason struggled for a response to the man’s prodding, but came up empty. After a protracted moment he asked, “Why do you care, anyway?”

    “You’re a young man with nothing to your name except a Gyarados and a pair of shorts, and no hopes or dreams that I can see. Don’t tell me I just wasted my food on a lost cause. I’m accustomed to eating twice as much beef as that.”

    Jason rolled his eyes. “Give me a break. Things aren’t going that great for me right now.”

    “Son, I’m not gonna tell you how to live. But I am gonna tell you this much: I hope you’re at rock-bottom right now, because then you’ve got nowhere to go but up. I don’t know what your potential is, but you’re riding a Gyarados around the seas... so I’ll bet you’re better than a bum.”

    “And all this is your way of telling me I should be guiding my Gyarados back into my problems?”

    The man shrugged. “Trust him to do better, if you want. You can keep running or you can take stock. Neither one’s all that fun but you get yourself a little better rest if you just stand still for a little while and think.”

    “Well... maybe I’ll just do both at the same time.” Jason crossed his arms. “I don’t need to go back home to think about what’s happened. I can keep traveling.”

    “‘Traveling’, that’s what you’re calling it now.” His host chuckled. “Truly amazing, the mind of a teenager.”

    “I don’t have anything to go home to,” Jason protested. “Everything I knew is gone. There wasn’t any future there for me anyway.”

    “Good thing you’re up here, then. How’s the horizon looking nowadays?”

    Jason glanced down at the floor. “Not too good.”

    “Thought not.” The man placed his hand on Jason’s shoulder. “Son, whatever it was that brought you out here, it didn’t rob you of everything. If it did, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Just ‘cause you don’t have much is no excuse not to go after whatever it is you want. Don’t think about it in terms of what you don’t want, just think about what you do want. So you figure it out, then say it out loud, what it is you want.”

    The words spilled from Jason’s mouth almost immediately. He barely even knew he was going to say them – they were just the first ones that popped into his head, without the usual consideration of censorship. “I want my name to be my own.”

    The man’s bristly mustache flattened out as his mouth stretched into a smile. “That’s one I haven’t heard in a while. So what’s in your way of making that happen?”

    Jason hesitated, then decided there would be no harm in plunging ahead. “Everyone knows my name, but it belongs more to my family than it does to me. They don’t see me for me, just as ‘that boy’s brother’, or ‘that woman’s son’, or ‘that man’s flesh-and-blood’. I want them to look at me and say, ‘Hey, I know him. And he’s an okay guy.’ I don’t think it’s too much to ask.”

    “Flaw in your logic there.” Jason’s host tapped the side of his head. “I’ve got a fair memory but I don’t recognize you. So sure enough I’m not gonna recognize you as your mommy’s boy. All I know is just you. So maybe your notoriety is just part of where you came from. Which brings me back to the subject of where you’re going... a question you didn’t seem to have an answer for before. Think you’ve got one now?”

    “Maybe.” Jason’s head tilted as he struck upon an idea. “If I keep going northeast from Mossdeep City, I’ll eventually find myself in the Kanto region, won’t I?”

    “Eventually, yes. It’s still something of a distance from here.” The gentleman rested against the edge of his countertop. “What’s going through your head?”

    “Well... if you don’t know who I am, then maybe I just need to go a little further to find a place where nobody else knows me, either. Then maybe I can start making my own name mean something other than someone from the...” He stopped himself just in time – the acronym CBC had been on the tip of his tongue.

    “The what?” his host inquired.

    Jason shrugged, trying to cover. “I guess, ‘the rich family that lives in that big house over there’.”

    “And running away helps you accomplish that?” The gentleman crossed his arms atop his gut. “From a life of privilege, no less.”

    Jason shook his head. “No privilege there that I can’t find somewhere else. Or even make for myself. And that’s what I want. I don’t need money to make my own decisions.”

    “What do you need, then?”

    “To know I can do it, I guess.”

    “And how will you do it?”

    “I... don’t know.” Jason huffed, then walked back to the table and leaned against the back of the nearest chair. “I didn’t really have any kind of game plan when I got on Gyarados’ back. I just wanted to get away. Wasn’t really thinking about the future all that much.”

    “Well, you’ve got Kanto in mind as a destination. What’ll you do once you get there?”

    Jason raised his head and looked at his host. “Hmm?”

    The trainer pushed away from his countertop. “Can’t very well go there and just expect people to throw money at you.”

    The teen scoffed. “Why not? It’s what trainers like doing.”

    That earned an arched eyebrow from the mustachioed man. “I beg your pardon?”

    “Well, I mean...” Then Jason realized what he was saying and who was hearing it. He blanched. “Oh, wait. I’m sorry, I didn’t quite mean it like that.”

    “Maybe you’ll indulge me on what you did mean?”

    The question didn’t particularly sound like a request to the teen, so he fumbled for the right words. “Well... trainers have this wagering system, right? They put up so much money on the bet that they’ll win a battle against their opponents, and if they lose, then they have to pay up.”

    “We prefer to think of it as an ‘escort fee’,” came the man’s dry response. “The defeated party needs to be brought back to a Pokémon Center in safety. Can’t very well let them be exposed to hostile Pokémon that want to take advantage of a trainer whose Pokémon are all KO’ed. And who better to take care of that task than the trainer who just beat them?”

    “Yeah, I know, but it’s all basically ‘I beat you’ money. Same goes for gym leaders, too – I don’t know about the ones around here or north of here, but in the Orange Islands they’ll throw money at you like it’s going out of style, if you beat their challenges.”

    “I’m aware.” A side of the trainer’s mouth quirked upward underneath his thick mustache. “I tried to take on the Orange League in my younger days. If I attempted it now and were somehow miraculously able to pass all of its physical challenges and battles, the money wouldn’t compensate the doctor’s bill for putting me back together. It may sound like a lot of cash but the trainers are made to earn every bit of it.”

    “...Oh.” Jason looked at the seat whose back he was leaning on, now feeling distinctly uncomfortable under the scrutiny of the other man’s gaze.

    “So what’s the point you were making there, son?” the older man pressed. “You think you could do it just as well if you were a pro trainer? Maybe even better?”

    “I don’t know!” Jason burst out. Then he mumbled under his breath. “Maybe.”

    “Let you in on a secret here – those hotshots you see throwing money at each other, they started off their journeys with all the cash they saved up for themselves. You’d be at a fair disadvantage without a single credit to you.” The host snorted. “Unless you’d try and post your shorts as your wager.”

    “What about my Gyarados? I paid a lot of money for him.”

    Now both the trainer’s eyebrows shot up. “Pardon me, son, but that’s got to be bar-none one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard of.”

    Jason spread his arms wide. “Why? I had Gyarados trained to battle. He’s not just a trophy Pokémon. How do you think I got all the way here from the Orange Islands in one piece?”

    “Granted, but do you have any idea how devastating to your relationship that would be? You’re telling me you’re in the middle of trying to get him to trust you. He never will if he knows you’re wagering him like he’s just a piece of your property you can part ways with if things get tough.”

    “I’d only lose him if I lose a match. And that won’t happen.”

    “And what makes you so sure of that?”

    Jason felt his mind recoiling at that question, because he actually wasn’t as sure as the front he was demonstrating to the trainer suggested. But he knew that the slightest hint of hesitation would lead to his host digging further with a lecture he didn’t want to hear. Okay, so it’s not that much of a plan, he silently conceded, but I can at least try to own it. So he forced a confident smile, and said what he hoped he wouldn’t later regret.

    “You can battle me and find out.”

    But the trainer held up both hands, his face contorting into an expression of near-disgust. “Oh, no. You’re not going to get me into a deal like that. I’m not about to let you wager your only Pokémon.”

    Jason knew he had the advantage now. “Who said anything about wagering Gyarados now?” he asked, his voice measured and reasonable. “There don’t have to be any stakes here. All you’ve gotta do is show me I don’t have what it takes to win. Should be easy for you, you’ve got a Voltorb. Gyarados’ll be cooked, right?”

    His counterpart narrowed his eyes at the teen. “Your Gyarados hasn’t even been to a PokéCenter. A match like the one you’re describing would hardly be fair. You wouldn’t stand a chance.”

    “If it’s as easy as all that, then show me,” Jason challenged. “No PokéCenter, nothing. Let’s just go outside, find a good battleground, and have at it.”

    “Beginning to think you swallowed a little too much seawater there, son.”

    “Maybe so, but I just issued you a challenge. So are you gonna accept?”

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011

  15. #15
    Usertitle ftw Moderator
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    Default Re: Against All Odds (2011) [PG-13]

    Very nice follow up! Hoenn, love it. The bearded man is really an interesting character. I love how during dinner, they were having a split dialogue. One with eachother, and one with their own minds. Treading very carefully not to spill out their own name or past. I found that amusing.

    Can't wait for the battle, since in fics I'm a battle-freak. Can't wait to see how your writing style will place battles.

    Also, slight guess this is Wattson, from Mauville Gym. Lanturn and Voltorb, making jokes, big stomach, beard. If I'm right, great job with his dialogue and looking forward to fried Gyarados

    Keep up the good work!

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Against All Odds (2011) [PG-13]

    Dude, this story is fantastic. I haven read "Exile" yet, but you singlehandedly jump started me to review one of my own stories. I truly love your analogies and interpersonal relations between the characters. Can't wait to read Exile.

    i Judge your entertainment!
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    (518): I legitimately just tried to piss above my head. I got to my chest at highest. There's piss everywhere.

    (801): I can't help but be optimistic. I'm like a ball of slutty sunshine.




  17. #17
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    Default Against All Odds: Exile - Part 3

    Exile

    Part 3


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The rain had passed. Outside the smell of ozone still lingered, causing Jason’s nose to wrinkle. He was used to tropical storms but most of them had not been accompanied by so much lightning, leading him to passively wonder just whether the storm had originated naturally. At the very least, the weather was drying up. His shorts were already there and they were what he wore for this excursion, in exchange for the loaned pants. His host had been kind enough to allow him to keep the T-shirt, citing its condition – several small holes dotted it and its bottom fringe was threadbare – and the fact that it was now two sizes too small for him.

    On the other hand, there’s such a thing as too much kindness, the teen thought sarcastically.

    His brown-coated companion gestured to the local beach, just to the west. “Your Gyarados holed up there for the duration.”

    The sea serpent was still there, as well, its upper half lying belly-down on the sand. Its rear fin splashed idly in the shallow waters. Upon first glance, it might have appeared as if Gyarados was beached, but then the tide swept in and nearly engulfed the Pokémon. Jason already knew that it was perfectly capable, if not willing, to travel across land if the need ever arose, but the water was much more its domain.

    Gyarados raised its head at the sight of the approaching humans and emitted a muted growl. Jason scoffed inwardly. And here I’d hoped for a running tackle-hug... He trotted across the sand and met his Pokémon as the tide fell away. “Hey there, big guy. Doing okay?”

    His response was another quiet growl. What else can I expect? Jason cautiously touched the creature’s scaly back and then patted it, as much to reassure himself as Gyarados. “I’ve just challenged this trainer to a battle. But I can’t battle without you. Think you can do it?”

    Jason liked to think Gyarados could understand at least enough of the words to make sense of what he was saying. His hopes were rewarded when its head rose up, along with the top half of its body, and it let out a more defiant-sounding roar. It directed its gaze at the trainer, who did not appear to be impressed by the display. Jason, on the other hand, smiled and patted Gyarados’ side. “All right, let’s do this. But hey.” He aimed an index finger at its face. “I need you to trust me. He doesn’t think we can win ‘cause you’re tired out. I think we can win if you listen to me and do what I tell you.”

    Without waiting for a response, he stood up straight and turned to face the elder man. “We’re ready. One-on-one battle. I choose my Gyarados. Show me what you’ve got.”

    The mustachioed man smirked and tossed a Poké Ball into the air. “Too easy. I choose Lanturn!”

    The instant the ball cracked open, a flash of neon energy poured out into the churning waters some distance beyond Gyarados and coalesced into the Pokémon Jason had first spied when meeting his opponent – a long-bodied fish with a glowing ball of light dangling from its dorsal fin just over its face. It chirped happily. “Turn! Lanturn!”

    Jason paled as he set his eyes upon the Pokémon, and then glowered at its trainer. “Hang on. Lanturn evolves from Chinchou later in its growth cycle than Gyarados evolves from Magikarp. I don’t even know if Gyarados is strong enough to compete.”

    His opponent’s set expression offered neither mercy nor apology. “You’re the one who opened this box, son. Rookies get reckless and challenge everyone in sight. You want to take back the challenge, be my guest. You want a match with a Pokémon trainer, that’s exactly what you’re gonna get.”

    Jason pursed his lips. Great. This isn’t anything like what I had in mind. I thought he’d hand up his Voltorb. Easy Earthquake. A Lanturn means a higher power rating, and it’s in the water, which means it really can cook Gyarados. Guess it’s time to start adapting. C’mon, Jason, use your head!

    He made his choice. “Still doing this. I’m ready whenever you are.”

    The trainer chuckled. “If you say so.” Then he took a few steps away from the teen and faced his Pokémon. “Lanturn, let’s go! Spark attack!”

    Jason whirled to his own sea creature and leveled a finger at the opposing one. “Bite that Lanturn!”

    The glowing lure attached to the Lanturn’s dorsal fin abruptly took a harsh glow as the Pokémon began to concentrate its energies, and it circled about Gyarados, trying to gain some distance for a running – or swimming – start. But Gyarados was hardly helpless, and suddenly it was away from the shore and upon its foe in the blink of an eye. Almost before Lanturn knew what was happening to it, Gyarados had its mouth wrapped about its opponent and was squeezing its jaws, forcing its fangs into Lanturn’s softer hide. The shorter Pokémon yelped in surprise and pain, and the instant Gyarados released it, it shot forward and away, looking for distance from its attacker.

    Jason wanted to grin in relief, but he restrained the smile. Lanturn flinched but there’s nothing to stop him from telling it to zap Gyarados again, and I don’t think we can make it flinch quite as easily this time.

    Sure enough, the opposing trainer was already calling out Lanturn’s next command. “Okay, Lanturn, let’s try that again. Spark!”

    “Gyarados, get in the deep water and dive!” Jason demanded.

    Much to Jason’s surprise, the Pokémon again did as it was told without hesitation; the last he saw of it was its wide tail flapping up vertically just before it dove deep beneath the water’s surface. At first, Lanturn wore a confused look, then went diving after Gyarados.

    The other trainer looked at Jason curiously. “What’s going through your mind, son?”

    “That’s your second Spark attack.” Jason didn’t dare glance back even out the corner of his eye for fear of not catching something crucial. “That’s basically an electrically charged tackle. You keep telling Lanturn to attack Gyarados bodily. Can’t do that if Lanturn doesn’t know how to dive.”

    “What makes you think mine doesn’t?”

    Abruptly, a violent geyser of water sprayed up from the surface of the sea, and soaring into the air was the Pokémon of Jason’s opponent. It looked more surprised than pained as it flew nearly fifty feet up – its trajectory was an arc that carried it over the beach, and past where Jason and his elder rival were standing. Jason felt his face stretch uncomfortably as he anticipated the mess Lanturn might end up creating from falling from that height; but as it came down, a blast of water gurgled from its mouth, creating a cushioning column on which it could descend more slowly. It still took the landing hard, but it landed in a belly flop, distributing the impact across its body.

    Jason felt a swell of pride in his chest and he smirked. “That answer your question?”

    Another explosion of water revealed Gyarados darting for landfall. Though Jason wouldn’t have credited it with fast movement across the sand, it nevertheless snaked incredibly quickly over the local landscape and came to rest towering over the injured Lanturn. To its credit, the smaller Pokémon didn’t show an inch of give.

    The elder trainer arched an eyebrow at Jason for just an instant, then looked back at his Pokémon. “Lanturn, Thunder Wave! Let’s see how Gyarados does when it can’t move!”

    That gets through and my advantage is down the drain. Time for my trump card. Gyarados helped play it beautifully. “Gyarados, Earthquake!”

    Even if Jason hadn’t given that order, clearly Gyarados had the same move in mind because it was already in motion by the time Jason’s mouth opened. But even as the gargantuan sea serpent’s body rose up, Lanturn was rearing its own attack – the orb that hung over its face burned brightly, then emitted a burst of visible bluish-yellow static at Gyarados. The electricity wreathed about Gyarados, causing it to cringe and convulse.

    Jason grimaced in sympathy, and clenched his fists. C’mon, Gyarados, just power on through and nail that sucker!

    Even though the static burst had produced an obvious effect in Gyarados, the larger Pokémon apparently would not be deterred from its goal – which, at the moment, seemed to be to obliterate Lanturn where it perched. Lanturn rolled out of the way just in time for Gyarados not to land on it, but the sea serpent committed a full body slam upon the sand. The effect of the impact was a clear demonstration of why the name of the attack was so apt. Jason and his opposing trainer staggered as the ground rolled and shifted beneath their feet. Crags and fissures broke out all around Gyarados and Lanturn and more than a few spears of rock jutted up from the disturbed landscape, surrounding the two Pokémon and threatening to skewer Lanturn, in particular.

    Jason pumped his fist in victory. Lanturn had to have taken some serious damage there. Show this guy how we go to work, Gyarados!

    If the elder trainer was impressed, he was able to restrain his admiration from appearing too openly; he was more content to cross his arms. To Jason, this was a sign that he might actually be getting nervous about losing the battle. Yeah, see there, old man? Just ‘cause you’ve got a type advantage doesn’t mean I can’t stand my ground. “Let’s keep it up, Gyarados! Give it another Earthquake!”

    But instead of rising up to perform the move again, Gyarados seemed almost bound to the spot on the ground where it had impacted the first time. Jason had to peer closer in order to see that his Pokémon was convulsing where it lay – an indication that it was suffering from the paralyzing effects of Lanturn’s Thunder Wave attack... an attack meant less to damage, and more to still the target.

    Now it was the other trainer’s turn to smirk. “Lanturn, Thunderbolt!”

    Jason’s eyes widened as the smaller Pokémon released a cry – and along with it, a thick golden arc of electricity that rocketed into the air, then came down upon Gyarados’ body and consumed it. Gyarados had no choice but to lie there in convulsions, seizing so violently Jason feared it might snap its own back. Its roar stuttered and died in its throat, and after several moments of shuddering, it lay still, eyes closed and jaw slack.

    The older man leveled his gaze upon Jason, apparently satisfied with the results his Lanturn had given him. “I think it’s safe to say your Gyarados is unable to battle.”

    Jason needed no further encouragement; he ran over to his Pokémon and knelt down beside it. “Hey, Gyarados, c’mon... give me a sign, here.” He placed his hands on the sea serpent’s soft underbelly and sensed a strong pulse still present; Lanturn’s attack evidently had not disrupted Gyarados’ vital functions, for which Jason was grateful. But the massive creature was quite clearly unconscious, and although Jason was dismayed by the loss, he wasn’t entirely surprised. The old man was right. Gyarados might have had a fighting chance if I’d taken him to a Pokémon Center, but as it was, he was so exhausted, it was a miracle he was able to last as long as he did.

    He sat back on his heels as the elder trainer approached behind him. The bearded man stared down at the teen for a long moment, then asked, “What were you trying to accomplish? You knew what Pokémon I had, and you must have known your Gyarados was close to the end of his rope even before the battle.”

    Jason sighed. “Yeah. I know.”

    “So?”

    The teen sat down on the sand and rubbed Gyarados’ side. “I guess... I thought that with all I put into him... trying to get him used to me, having him learn moves that would throw people off... he just had to be good, no matter how close he was.” He stared at Gyarados’ giant slackened face. “Guess not good enough.”

    “Well, son, I don’t know about you, but I’m not one to expect my Pokémon to be willing to give their all after a long trip like the one you’ve had. Really, from the way you describe him, I’m a bit surprised he followed your orders all that time. Usually trainers need a league badge or two before their Pokémon will respect them at the level your Gyarados seems to be.”

    “Yeah, thanks,” Jason muttered.

    “Hey, now, listen up.” The trainer knelt down beside Jason. “Just ‘cause he couldn’t cut it for this match doesn’t mean he’s not a good Pokémon. I’ll give you credit, you got a good jump on us that I wasn’t expecting. Maybe you knew what you were up against better than I thought you would. But that alone won’t get you a victory, and neither does having a type advantage or a strong Pokémon. You have to work all of those aspects together.”

    Jason tried to come up with a response, but all he could find it in himself to produce was another sigh. “Guess the first battle’s always the toughest, huh?”

    His white-haired rival raised his eyebrows. “First battle? You must be kidding me.”

    “Well, first trainer battle,” Jason clarified. “We’ve run into a few wild Pokémon out on the water.”

    “But I’m the first trainer you’ve battled with your Gyarados.”

    “Yeah.” Jason didn’t have to see the other man to feel his stare upon him, but the silence after his admission was beginning to draw out longer than he expected, so he turned to look up at him. The portly elder had an expression of near-disbelief. Jason adopted a defensive tone. “What?”

    “Son, if that really was your first trainer battle, you did better than some of the best rookies I’ve seen in a long time. You knew everything you were doing and you did it all right, the best you could.” The trainer placed his hands on his hips. “Didn’t realize I was up against the new kid in school.”

    “If you had, would you have eased off?” Jason asked.

    “Nope. Not my style. You needed the lesson, but I don’t think it was for lack of knowing it. Just a lack of paying attention to it.”

    The teen scoffed.

    The elder man knelt down next to Jason. “Tell you what. I’m not the kind to give handouts, but I think I might be able to point you in the right direction, at the very least. You’re thinking about heading to Kanto, correct?”

    “Well, I was, until you knocked out my Pokémon.”

    “So we’ll get Nurse Joy out here, she’ll fix him up.”

    Jason frowned and looked back at the trainer. “Hang on, the local Pokémon nurse–?”

    “Is called Nurse Joy, yes,” the older man chuckled, “and there’s one in every town. You’ll also find an Officer Jenny in every town. Don’t ask me why or how. We trainers think it’s strange but it offers us a wonderful convenience in not needing to work very hard to memorize the names of local authorities.”

    Jason shook his head in confusion. “What, are they all clones or something?”

    “Hadn’t thought about that. But they claim they’re related. Like I said, don’t ask me how it works, I try not to think about it too hard and just be grateful I always know a couple familiar faces no matter where I go. Anyway.” He clapped his knee. “Getting back to the point I was making. After Gyarados is patched up, you’re thinking about heading to Kanto. I can give you a couple of directions, show you how to get to a place I know. Then you can try and get yourself back up on your feet the right way.”

    “Didn’t realize I was doing it the wrong way.”

    “You’re not. Yet.”



    A number of questions were burning their way through Jason’s mind as he watched the pink-haired nurse approach the beach alongside the nameless trainer. She looked exactly the same as the one he knew on Tangelo Island. Related, huh? I wonder how distantly.

    Walking with the humans was a Chansey. This surprised Jason much less than the sight of Nurse Joy, since he was accustomed to seeing Chanseys in use as healer Pokémon – their eggs were prized as curative, as well as good luck charms. Their extreme rarity in the wild notwithstanding, hospitals far and wide employed Chanseys in any number of capacities for their seemingly natural gifts in rehabilitation.

    Nurse Joy approached Jason first and offered him a polite smile. “I understand your Pokémon doesn’t yet have a ball in which you keep it.”

    “Not yet, no,” he confirmed. “Can you help him out without it?”

    “Of course. But it’s probably a good idea if you get one for him soon... it’d be much easier for you to get him to a Pokémon Center that way.” She knelt down next to Gyarados’ face and inspected it for a moment. “You’re lucky the local one is so close.”

    “Yeah, I’ll get right to work on that,” Jason muttered.

    The portly trainer, meanwhile, was scribbling on a notepad he had somehow managed to acquire. Jason tilted his head in curiosity. Said he’d give me directions. Is he meaning right now?

    He didn’t need to wait long to find out. The trainer ripped the written-on piece of paper off his notepad, then handed it to the teen. “There you go. It’s not precise, but since you don’t have a map or a compass, this is about the best I can offer. You should be able to get to Kanto with those directions, at the very least, even if you don’t end up at the lab.”

    Jason scanned the paper’s instructions, and then it registered more fully what the other man had just said. “Lab? What lab?”

    “There’s a Pokémon laboratory in Pallet Town, which is a village on the southern tip of the Kanto mainland. These directions won’t get you precisely there, as you can see, but they can guide you to Cinnabar Island. From there, all you have to do is–”

    “Head straight north, yeah, I see that,” Jason noted, aiming a finger at the specified instruction. Then he glanced up at the trainer, who seemed to be restraining an amused expression, and not that well. “I’m not stupid, you know. That lab is run by Professor Oak, probably the authority on Pokémon in Kanto, if not the world in general. You’re sending me there?”

    Now the elder man loosed a chuckle. “The professor is a bleeding heart, more of one than I am. I’ve known him for a little while. He’s the man you should be seeing.”

    “For what, a job?” Jason scoffed. “What could I do that he would need me for? I’ll bet he probably doesn’t need another research assistant.”

    The trainer shrugged. “I couldn’t say exactly what he needs, since his needs are constantly shifting. What I do know is that if he meets you, he’ll help you out the way you should be helped out, more than a ratty old T-shirt and a halfway-decent meal.”

    Then the older man turned to Nurse Joy, who was still tending Gyarados. “Fix him up good, he’s going on a trip as soon as he’s ready.”

    “Have you ever known me to give substandard care?” she asked pointedly. “This is what I do.”

    Jason couldn’t help but snicker to himself, and at the same time feel distinctly creeped out. I’ve heard her say that before, too... man, where do they come from? Then he looked to the trainer, who had turned and was starting back up the beach towards the house. “Leaving so soon?”

    The other man half-turned and shrugged. “Not much to stick around for, son. Go to Kanto, get your head screwed on straight. You can make something of yourself if you’re willing to work hard for it.” Then he waggled a finger at Jason. “Don’t be stupid and wager your Gyarados on a match. You’ve got too much in him already for him to be a prize for anybody but yourself, and you know that.”

    “Never did get your name,” Jason remarked.

    “How about that. Never got yours, either. Guess I’ll never know if you made it or not.”

    Jason rolled his eyes – he knew a challenge when he heard one, and this one carried too much of a lure for him to ignore. “Jason. Jason Creight.”

    The trainer appeared to consider the name, then bobbed his head. “Spencer. Nice meeting you, Jason.” He turned back in the direction of the house.

    Wait a second, Jason thought, that isn’t fair! “Hold up. ‘Spencer’ what? First name or last?”

    “Know any other Spencers that look like me?”

    Jason frowned. “No.”

    “Then it’s all you need. Be seeing you.”

    The furrow in Jason’s brow deepened as he watched the older man walk away, and beyond earshot. He moved closer to Nurse Joy and spoke in a low tone. “Could you tell me what his last name is?”

    “If he didn’t, then why should I?” was her response, offered without looking away from Gyarados and her own ministrations.

    He grimaced. “You were listening.”

    “I’m lots of things, Mr. Jason Creight, including attentive.” Her eye darted to him for only an instant before returning to his Pokémon. “If he values his privacy, I see no need to compromise it just to satisfy your curiosity. Just take his help for what it is and stop worrying about who it came from.”

    She patted the side of Gyarados’ face. Its huge eyes blinked open at her touch, and a low growl issued from its throat as it squirmed on the sand. Then its gaze shifted to Jason, who offered it an apologetic look. “Sorry, buddy. We couldn’t win that one. But I’m really proud of you for getting as far as you did.”

    Its eyes shifted away from him then, and it turned its head to face the sea that roiled and shifted barely fifteen yards from where it lay. Jason followed its gaze, then looked back at the serpentine creature. “Thinking about hitting the water again? I don’t blame you. I’m about ready to go myself, I guess.” He glanced to Nurse Joy. “Assuming he’s okay to travel, of course.”

    “Yes, my work is done here,” she said, and she stood up fully. She and Jason were roughly the same height. “I’ve given him a series of supplements which should help to replenish his energy and stamina, and the potion sprays I’ve used will have already gone to work in healing his injuries. He’s fairly thick-skinned, which is in his favor for outward injury, but for electrical attacks, he really has no ability to resist. I can’t stress enough the importance of avoiding a confrontation like the one you just had if you want to spare your Gyarados serious harm.”

    Jason groaned. “Seriously, how many different ways are you people going to find to call me stupid? Simple fact is I’m gonna encounter trainers who have Electric-Type Pokémon, and this just showed me I need to get better, and maybe some different Pokémon, all right? Does it have to be about anything more than that?”

    He stopped short when he saw the look on Nurse Joy’s face – one of poorly-restrained frustration. She didn’t respond to his rant, opting instead to organize the remainder of her medical supplies in her toolbox. Only when she was clearly ready to leave did she speak next. “Stay safe in your travels, Mr. Jason Creight.”

    She turned heel sharply and strode away from the beach, back toward the city and the Pokémon Center on whose behalf she operated. Jason wasn’t entirely sure what it was, but there was something inside that bade him to speak up, to not let the conversation end on so terse a note. “It’s Jason.”

    Nurse Joy looked back, a cross expression dominating her otherwise attractive features. “I know. Jason Creight.”

    “No... just call me Jason.”

    She cast her scowl in his direction another moment, then turned back toward the city.

    Jason sighed and patted Gyarados’ back. “Making new friends all the time, aren’t we?”

    The Pokémon growled softly; its gaze had yet to diverge from the open water to the northwest. Jason shook his head. “Know something? I don’t think you even know where it is you want to go. I think we’d have made it there by now if you did.”

    Its large eyes shifted now to stare at its trainer. Jason could hear a rumble inside its throat, a sign that it recognized on some level his challenge to its intentions. He held up the piece of paper he’d been given. “Luckily for both of us, I happen to have directions than can get us somewhere we can finally take a real breather. Get our bearings, take stock, whatever.”

    It rose its head higher into the air and it gave a louder growl. Jason frowned at the reaction. Maybe Gyarados is perceiving these directions as a threat to whatever he’s got in mind... like he’s really got anything in mind. “What, you want to keep wandering around aimlessly in the ocean, is that it?”

    Now it let out a dull roar, and it was all Jason could do to keep his stance and not clench his eyes shut or clamp his hands over his ears. He held up a hand, though whether it was to try to calm Gyarados or guard himself from it should it decide to attack him, even he couldn’t be certain. The Pokémon was producing a series of snarls at Jason, lending more credence to his belief that it was not a fan of being told where to go.

    “Hang on a second!” he shouted through the din. “I’ve been sticking with you this whole time, trusting you to find the things I need to survive!”

    The snarl ceased but Gyarados’ angry expression didn’t abate. In fact, Jason wasn’t sure if there was anything that could lessen the persistently enraged look Gyaradoses were known for. But now that he’d gotten his to stop, he pressed. “You didn’t have any reason to, you could’ve just thrown me off and gone your own way, but you kept me along for the ride and you’ve waited for me to get on your back before moving on to the next landmass. Now I’ve finally got some directions to a place we can both go to finally relax like we need to – both of us, you and me – and you’re gonna get angry at me?”

    He held up the directions. “You could even call this returning a favor! You don’t even know where you’re going! That’s the one piece of this puzzle you’re missing. You don’t have a destination in mind so you’ll just keep running around until we find somewhere we like, just by chance? No way. The best way we can find a life to live is by going to grab it, not just hoping we’ll show up on its doorstep on a roll of the dice. We go to this place, maybe we have a chance.”

    Another snarl issued from behind Gyarados’ bared fangs. Jason crossed his arms. “What is it, you think I’m wrong? What would you do, then? What direction would you start swimming?”

    At that inquiry, Gyarados’ head came back down to rest on the sandbar, and it relaxed its body. This took Jason aback. “You’d... stay here? This is Mossdeep City. You’d be trading life on one island for life on another. An island smaller than Tangelo, no less. It’s not where I need to be and it’s not where I want you to be, either.”

    It flapped its tail fin restlessly and tilted its head, but gave him no vocal response.

    Jason planted his hands on his hips. “We need to keep going. I think Spencer’s pointing me to Professor Oak’s lab because he thinks I’d be a good Pokémon trainer. Kids go to regional labs to get their license and their first Pokémon and Professor Oak’s is one of the most famous labs there is. Lots of really good trainers got their start there.” He looked at the ground and chewed his lip. “Don’t know if I’m really trainer material, but Spencer seems to think so, and he’s old. It’s worth trying.”

    Then he looked back up at Gyarados. “I need you there with me, as weird as that sounds.” He chuckled nervously. “I mean, here I am, talking to the Pokémon that wrecked it all for me. Drove me broke, destroyed everything my family had, made it so I can’t really ever go home again. I ought to hate you. I should be wishing you’d just disappear. Or die. That’s what a normal kid would do.” He shook his head. “Guess I’m not so normal. I wanted you to be my Pokémon, and I wanted you to be good at what you did. Know something?”

    He moved closer to Gyarados and touched the trident-shaped horn adorning its face. “You’re both.”

    The creature’s eyes landed more fully upon Jason. The teen knew he might never be aware of the extent of Gyarados’ understanding, but as he looked back, he felt a connection stirring between them... something ethereal and enticing and scary, all at once. For a tenuous moment, he felt like he could enter Gyarados’ mind through their locked gazes and plant the exact words he was saying into its head, and it would understand them... if not necessarily what Jason was trying to get at.

    The moment was fleeting, and in the next instant, Jason felt himself separate from the Pokémon and return to the usual limitations of his awareness. He patted the horn his hand still graced. “C’mon. I know you’re healed up. Let’s get moving while the sun’s still out so we both know which direction we’re going.”

    The sun was beginning to set on the horizon, flanked by a series of clouds on each side. Cast over the island were more clouds that caught a blaze of nearly every color of the spectrum – the deepest reds and the brightest yellows, the starkest blue and the clearest purple. The sun itself was afire in reddish-orange hues that it passed to the clouds directly surrounding it.

    Jason let himself marvel at the sight even as Gyarados rose up from where it lay and proceeded toward the water in snakelike fashion. In spite of himself, the teen smiled. Don’t get to see that every day. He glanced to Gyarados and directed a pointing finger at the sunset. “Hey. What do you want to bet the sun’s a Pokémon we just haven’t discovered yet?”

    Gyarados didn’t appear terribly interested in the remark, but now that it had Jason’s attention, it let out a small growl and tossed its head, indicating to the teen that he should get on. Jason sighed, got up, and stepped into the shallow waters to climb on his Pokémon. As he did so, he mused, “It’d have to be one heck of a Poké Ball that could catch it, though.”

    The sea serpent shoved into the water. Nudges from Jason’s feet guided its direction, guidance the Pokémon took both seriously and in stride. Jason consulted the note he’d been given by Spencer.

    “Head to open water east-northeast. Continue straight. First landmark is volcano at Cinnabar Island. Straight north to Pallet Town.”

    He patted Gyarados’ side. “There was a story my mom liked to tell me before bed. I always fell asleep just right after she said ‘second star to the right and straight on until morning.’ Guess we’ll find out what happens when I wake up.”

    Gyarados blasted air through its narrow nasal passages and it released a creaking growl. Its course having been set, it then sank a little lower into the water and swam more swiftly.

    Jason laid his head against Gyarados’ side and closed his eyes.

    Second star to the right, straight on until morning.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011
    Last edited by mattbcl; 18th May 2011 at 10:50 PM.

  18. #18
    Written Into A Corner... Cool Trainer
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    Default Against All Odds: Exile - Part 4

    Exile

    Part 4


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The next time Jason regained consciousness, he found himself still wrapped about his Pokémon, which in turn was still moving speedily through the undulating ocean waters. The cloud cover that Jason had been so mesmerized by earlier had broken and given way to a star-clustered night sky. There was no hint that daylight would be forthcoming, indicating to Jason that he hadn’t slept all that long... perhaps a couple hours, at best.

    His body felt numb, and it wasn’t difficult for him to figure out why – the open water was cold to begin with, and more so at night, astride a swiftly-moving Pokémon. Gyarados is way more suited to this environment than I am, he thought wryly, as he tried to command his arm to rise up. The effort was met with minimal success.

    Wet clothes don’t really help my case any, either. Jason plucked at his hand-me-down white shirt, which by this point was soaked clean through and revealing everything beneath it. Guess this must be why most girls I know don’t wear shirts like this one...

    When he raised his head to get a better view of his surroundings, he wasn’t all that surprised to see the ocean still engulfed his entire field of vision. There was nothing he could see but the tossing water and the dome of night stretching over his head. Only a minimal sliver of the moon could be seen tonight. Besides this and the tapestry of stars, all was darkness and solitude.

    Which is why I’d rather not be awake... the only way it could get more lonely out here is if I were floating in the water all by myself, feeling like I’m swimming totally without aim. His gaze shifted to the back of his Pokémon’s head. I hope his sense of direction is enough to keep us in a straight line. Be pretty irritating if morning comes and the sun’s in back of us.

    Jason was interrupted from his reverie by a bucking motion from Gyarados, followed by an abrupt roar and an equally abrupt reduction in speed. Something had captured the Pokémon’s attention and it was now staring up at the sky. The teen frowned and patted Gyarados’ back. “Hey! What’s the matter, what’s going on?”

    But Gyarados made no attempt to give Jason a better idea of what exactly its problem was; it issued short, sharp roars at the apparently empty sky. Jason tried to follow the sea serpent’s line of sight, squinting and straining mightily, but if there was anything up there except the veil of stars, it wasn’t–

    No, wait. There. Just at the edge of Jason’s ability to perceive, there was the smallest light in motion across the dark curtain. It’s moving way too fast. That’s not even a star at all. He tried to focus harder, now that he had found what was drawing Gyarados’ attention, but he knew his eyesight could not match that of most Pokémon.

    And it became clear to him after a few seconds that it was becoming unnecessary for him to focus so hard on the object – it was growing larger, which could only mean it was getting closer. Now it outshone any other star, and it burned an orange-red mix that could not have belonged to any celestial body Jason had ever seen, even through a telescope. His brow furrowed. What is that?

    A sound rang out, a piercing shriek that split the sky and offered counterpoint to Gyarados’ bass roar. Jason resisted the urge to clamp his hands over his ears, too fascinated to let himself miss anything about what was unfolding before him. As the object neared, Jason could now see the definition of wings streaming red ribbons of fire and a rounded body topped by a head with a long, narrow beak. Each feather adorning the bird looked as if it was glowing by its own light, or possibly aflame; fire wreathed the creature but clearly was doing it no harm.

    Its objective appeared to be a distant island that, without the light emanating from the immolated creature, had been invisible to him. It banked, giving Jason a clearer view of its underside. Clearly its body was that of a bird, and there could be no denying precisely what bird it was – leaving Jason to widen his eyes in amazement.

    It’s... Moltres.

    No matter what culture one encountered, one could find a legend or myth surrounding Moltres. Said to be the original master of the flame among all earthly living creatures, it was called a phoenix by some, a winged demon by others, and worshipped by still more. To call it a “Pokémon” seemed almost an injustice; the word had originated as a mash-up of “pocket monsters”, a phrase referring to the convenience of miniaturized capture technology. Jason had heard it argued that referring to Moltres by that word suggested all its majesty could be contained in a pocket – and looking at it now, it was clear to Jason that all the capture technology in the world might not be able to restrain its glory.

    But in spite of himself, Jason forced himself to stop staring at the marvel and concentrate on the landmark whose presence had suddenly been made plain. The silhouette had not been much, but what light had been shed on it was just enough for him to make out a jutting tower of land, flattening out at the top. That could be Cinnabar Island, then... but if it is, where’s the settlement? There’s supposed to be a gym there, but I don’t see any evidence of buildings.

    Gyarados had stopped roaring by this time and was now content simply to watch the path the blazing Pokémon was carving behind it, a streaming trail of fire and embers that littered the — sky with more sparks than there were stars. Jason patted its side in an attempt to divert its attention. “Hey, c’mon, let’s shift our focus here.”

    The Pokémon shifted and turned its head to cast a sidelong glance at him in what he assumed was curiosity. Though it could not communicate verbally, something in its demeanor suggested to Jason that asking it to not stare at the flaming trail was akin to telling someone not to think about pink Rhyhorns. The teen pointed at the general direction in which the phoenix-like creature had flown. “I think I saw an island over there. Let’s head that way, it might be Cinnabar.”

    To its credit, Gyarados did as ordered, but its aura of skepticism remained present, and its movement through the water felt more cautious than it had been when the teen had awoken. Jason frowned. “There a hang-up?”

    Gyarados glanced back at him again, then in the direction of the island, whose outline was just becoming visible through the night gloom. It let out another roar. The sound was accentuated by the flapping of its facial fins, and Jason could sense a vibration run throughout the Pokémon’s body. His frown deepened. That was a shudder!

    Then he looked at the island and it occurred to him what Gyarados might be thinking. Fresh off a defeat and we’re heading to a place where we just saw an infinitely more powerful creature land. I guess I’d be nervous, too, if I thought we were going to run into it.

    “We’re not going to, though,” he said aloud, to nobody in particular. He stroked Gyarados’ horn. “I’m not planning on doing something as stupid as battling Moltres. I just need to get to Cinnabar Island so I know I’m heading in the right direction. We’ll be able to reach the Kanto mainland from there, no problem.”

    Gyarados appeared to consider this for a moment, then turned back to the water and continued swimming toward the island. It moved no more speedily than before, but at the very least, it was in motion.

    The island didn’t seem very hospitable on any side. Jason considered instructing Gyarados to continue its counterclockwise path to the south end, but he had little hope that there would be any sign of humanity there that didn’t exist in the other three cardinal directions.

    And I guess it makes sense that I wouldn’t be likely to see people from here, he thought. If Moltres somehow managed to take this island, then I’ll bet it wouldn’t be too friendly toward people.

    Jason scowled up at the summit of the mountain. It was a flat top, which lent itself most readily to the mental image of what a volcano should be. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But I get the real feeling this place isn’t Cinnabar Island. Then he let his eyes follow the land to the south. Stretch of a grassy area, leads into some hills... but probably not worth checking out.

    He sighed and slumped against Gyarados’ back. “Don’t think this is the right place,” he said. He pressed the left side of his face against the Pokémon’s scales; they were surprisingly warm.

    He let his eyes drift into laziness and they stared off into space. Nothing occupied their attention because there seemed very little to take notice of – nothing but water and sky. The colors thereof seemed remarkably similar, giving Jason a preamble to vertigo, since it was becoming difficult for him to distinguish where one ended and the other began. The only thing that seemed to separate them was the oddest speck of black, almost directly in the center of his cone of vision.

    Hang on...

    Jason righted his head and squinted at the spot, not entirely sure whether it was real or simply a figment of his imagination. Exhaustion had, for the past several days, played tricks on his mind and created black spots in his vision – but this one was different. This one stayed where he had initially seen it. Perhaps it was a landmass, or perhaps it was a seafaring vessel of some sort.

    He aimed a finger in that direction. “Gyarados, take us that way. I think I see something.”

    The Pokémon’s response seemed less than enthused. Jason could almost swear he felt Gyarados sigh beneath him before slowly turning to the north and propelling itself away from the island’s shallow waters. The teen leaned forward. “Hey, what’s going on? You tired?”

    Gyarados’ answer was to hang its head, then cast a backwards glance at the grassy strip, leading Jason to do the same. And now that the teen was looking at it, it didn’t look like such a bad place to park for the evening. After all, we’ve already been this far, he could hear his conscience telling him. As tired as you might be feeling, it’s nothing compared to what he must be feeling. You haven’t had to haul anybody on your back all over the ocean lately.

    Jason looked at the black spot on the northern horizon once more. Maybe it was a ship, maybe it wasn’t. If it was land, it would be there in the morning, after the two had gotten a chance to rest themselves. He could tell Gyarados to go faster and satisfy his own curiosity, but really, riding on the Pokémon’s back through the night to get there didn’t sound like his definition of “fun”, and he knew it couldn’t be Gyarados’, either.

    He followed Gyarados’ gaze back to the small grassy field and let out a sigh. “Okay, okay, let’s just camp out over there for the night, then.”

    Gyarados’ response was far more immediate; it gave him an instant about-face and flapped its rear fin hard to get them to the dry land. It struck Jason as odd that Gyarados would be willing to do such a thing, given how Spencer had told him it had evidently disliked the land enough to not be on it. And it couldn’t be that I’ll be there, either, because he didn’t want to join me on dry land even though that cottage was barely a hundred yards from water.

    Within moments, Gyarados had beached itself; Jason dismounted and paced up from the beach to the tall grass. He turned to his companion, eyebrow raised and pointed out, “You know, they do say to stay out of the tall grass. Pokémon could be there.”

    Gyarados snorted, then coiled itself up on the sand next to the grass and appeared to settle itself for sleep. Jason rolled his eyes, a not-so-little part of him wishing he could get ready for bed that easily. Grudgingly, he called over to his Pokémon, “Hey, you know, some of us actually have to work our surroundings to get comfy.”

    If Gyarados had heard him, it elected not to offer a response, vocal or otherwise.

    The teen glanced around and wiped his hands on his shorts. All he wanted was a patch of grass through which he could easily see Gyarados; it wouldn’t do to have the Pokémon face some poor schmuck of a trainer who thought it was wild. They’d get overwhelmed.

    Or, Jason thought, a distinct sense of trepidation now beginning to wash over him, maybe worse – maybe they’ll find out it’s yours. Doesn’t it still have the little tracker device beneath its skin? You know, the one that the electric fence at your “establishment” should have been able to stop? For that matter, where is it, anyway?

    Jason shuddered. He didn’t want to think about that possibility for too long – even if it warranted consideration. The tracker was supposed to work short-range, just within the boundaries of Tangelo Island, but that didn’t mean people wouldn’t be out looking for both him and Gyarados. He doubted they would come all the way to Hoenn seeking him, never mind Kanto... but one never knew for sure.

    Great thoughts to be thinking when you’re wanting to find sleep, he admonished himself.

    He made his way just beyond the beach, but still well within sight of Gyarados, who had already finished making itself comfortable and was relaxed on the sandbar. There was a region of overgrown grass that was so long, it had fallen over under its own weight and created almost the perfect patch to lie down on. Jason decided that this was as good as any other he was liable to find, and he stretched out on the ground.

    This is the last night we’re going to have to do this, he silently vowed. No more running around on the lam. Things will be different. We’ll go and meet Professor Oak, and we’ll meet a new life while we’re at it.

    It all starts tomorrow.




    The first thing Jason sensed was that it was daylight out – and not just a time beyond sunrise, but well and truly daylight, the sun pouring down upon him no less relentlessly than the rain of early yesterday. It wasn’t the first time he had awoken since last night, but there was a greater sense of urgency within him now than there had been before, when he had rolled over and groaned at the light’s assault upon his closed eyelids. At first, he wasn’t quite sure what to make of that sense of urgency or why it was making him feel trapped–

    Then he heard a loud raspberry, and a splatter of wetness struck his face.

    His eyes opened instantly, and he found himself looking up into the face of a white-haired horse whose mane was set afire... a Pokémon he was quite familiar with. A Ponyta.

    The creature was standing off to his right side, its legs less than a foot away from him, and it appeared to be sniffing curiously at him. Whatever scent was coming off him, it was enough for the Ponyta to turn to one side and bob its head violently in a loud sneeze.

    “Bless you,” Jason mumbled. He was strongly repressing his first instinct, which was to roll away from the Pokémon as quickly as possible; such an action, he knew, would be futile at best and disastrous at worst. When a Ponyta was curious about something, it would stay near the object of interest until its curiosity was satisfied... and its harder-than-diamond hooves would have no difficulty in putting a hole through Jason’s torso.

    A roar went up from the beach, which caused the Ponyta to flinch and jump away from Jason. The teen, in turn, took the opportunity to roll away from his sleeping spot and get to his feet. The other creature stood no higher than his chest, even with its head fully upright, and it glanced between Jason and Gyarados – the sea serpent, still positioned on the sandbar, had risen up into a threatening pose not unlike a cobra and was scowling darkly at the Ponyta.

    Jason held up a hand to calm Gyarados. “Hey,” he called out, “don’t scare it off, it was just curious!”

    But Gyarados wouldn’t be silenced, and a louder roar from deep within its throat caused the Ponyta to scamper off into the brush. The blue-scaled Pokémon croaked, a noise denoting its satisfaction at victory without unneeded battle.

    Jason sighed and planted his hands on his hips. “I see you’re a big hit with the locals, there.” Then he gestured to the open water beyond. “Since you’re awake, you feeling ready to get going and find a better life? And so help me if you say that better life can be one without me in it.”

    All Gyarados really needed was the gesture to the seas; it turned and snaked back into the shallows, then waited there and looked at Jason expectantly.

    One side of Jason’s mouth quirked up in the slightest hint of amusement. All right, so he’s not social, but he’s protective of me, and he’s looking out for my interests, which is a good thing. I’ve heard any number of trainers say if they don’t have badges confirming their accomplishments, their Pokémon will stop listening to them... but it’s probably more about respect than anything else. Also a friendship doesn’t hurt that much.

    He strolled out onto the beach and climbed up Gyarados’ waiting back, then gave it a gentle nudge with his heel. Obligingly, it moved out and toward the left, ready to make its way up to the north. As Jason surveyed the horizon, he saw that the dark speck he’d tried to focus on last night was gone; now he could only shrug and assume it had been a vessel, or maybe a large Pokémon treading the waters. No point regretting what might have been.

    But off in the hazy distance, he thought he could just barely make out the funnel shape of a volcano rising up over the water. This, at least, gave him hope that what he was seeking was perhaps only a few hours’ distance away. He pointed. “Let’s head up that way.”

    A thought occurred to him as Gyarados carried out his instructions. Spencer’s note said Cinnabar Island was just south of the Kanto mainland. I’d be able to see the mainland if this island was Cinnabar, so obviously it isn’t. But this could be Mt. Ember. He looked up at the island they were vacating. Yeah, actually, it should be. I thought there were just a bunch of Fire-Type Pokémon here but if Moltres frequents it, then no wonder it got that name. He shook his head. So much for my geography lessons. Mom and Dad would be ticked.

    He wrapped his arms around Gyarados a little more tightly and perched his chin atop its craned neck, content to watch as their destination came to them.

    By midday, there was no mistaking where they were headed: most certainly it was Cinnabar Island, confirming Jason’s suspicions of the volcano in the distance behind them. While he anticipated landfall at Cinnabar, he resolved that someday he would return to that island to get a better look at the Pokémon that inhabited it – surely there were more than a single curious Ponyta.

    It still took most of the rest of the afternoon to arrive at the island, and before he did, he saw several people he assumed to be Pokémon trainers atop their Pokémon of choice, surfing through the ocean waters just as he was. There was a Lapras here, a Wailmer there... even a Walrein hefted a pair of young children on its back and carried them through the currents. This last struck Jason as especially odd, given the near-tropical climates in the region; a Walrein here might suffer heat stroke, leading Jason to wonder just how much the kids knew about the Pokémon to which they were currently trusting their lives.

    Like I’m one to say anything, though, he thought ruefully. He smiled and politely nodded to those that passed by him, not entirely sure if he should say anything to them. None seemed all that interested in challenging him to a battle; but he was approaching the southern beach, where many people were evidently relaxing and enjoying the afternoon sun. Jason thought it likely they were more interested in taking pleasure in the day.

    He frowned as it occurred to him there was no way for him to put Gyarados “away”, nor had he any money to change that situation. He rolled his eyes. Not the greatest excuse I’ve ever thought of for not landing and taking a rest... which we ought to do. Gyarados has been going all day without a break and no food that I’ve seen. And I’m getting hungry, too, but a populated island means I can’t really depend on fruit trees.

    He sighed, then leaned down. “Hey, let’s park it over by those trees to the right. I’ll get down so you don’t have to carry me. Go get some food, you haven’t eaten all day.”

    Gyarados didn’t offer a challenge to Jason’s instructions on direction, but it glanced at Jason curiously when he mentioned food. The teen shrugged. “I can get by, if we get there tonight. We should, Kanto’s just a little ways further north of here. Actually, if we get over to the north side of the island, we should be able to see it.”

    Gyarados turned its head back to face the shore, which it approached until it was nearly beached. Jason dismounted and gave his Pokémon a quick pat on its side, then retreated into the treeline for shade. He sighed and leaned against a tree, then stretched and watched Gyarados return to the deeper waters. The last he saw of it was its tail flapping up and then descending into the churning sea.

    He sighed. “Now there goes one weird friend,” he muttered.

    “Weird, is it?”

    Jason jumped, then whirled around. Sitting against a nearby tree was a man he hadn’t spotted before – long, wavy brown hair and a loud tropical shirt were his most defining features. He also wore dark sunglasses that seemed to dangle far too closely to the tip of his nose; Jason could still clearly see his eyes beyond them. The man sat cross-legged and he had a strange smile on his face, suggesting to the teen that perhaps he wasn’t quite all there.

    The man tilted his head at Jason in curiosity. “Now, what would make a Gyarados ‘weird’?”

    Jason calmed a little at the man’s airy tone, and then shrugged. “What wouldn’t? Humans are weird, even to each other. Relative to us, Pokémon are much more so.”

    The other man smirked. “Good answer, my boy. But here’s a brand of ‘weird’ I’m not sure I comprehend – you let your Gyarados roam freely in the seas for food when you can just bring it to the local Pokémon Center? They feed it for free, no need for cannibalism.”

    “Yeah, well, this trainer’s traveling with no balls.”

    That earned a raised eyebrow from the wavy-haired man. “I’m a fan of riddles, but even this one eludes me. You ride a wild Gyarados?”

    “No, he’s tame, just no ball. And...” Jason tugged at his empty pockets. “No cash. So taking Gyarados to a Pokémon Center is a little bit out of the question.”

    “And if he should encounter trainers who think he’s wild?”

    Jason shrugged again. “Then the trainers are in for it. No pity.”

    “I see. And from where do you hail?”

    “What does it matter to you?”

    “Not that much. I just like asking.” The older man got to his feet. “Well, if you don’t have a place of origin, do you at least have a name?”

    “Do you?” Jason returned.

    “I do.”

    “Then I do, too.”

    The elder man inclined his head. Another smirk made its way across his slightly craggy features. “And here I thought I was master of evasion around here. You’re interesting, trainer.”

    “Not quite a trainer,” Jason noted. “At least, not yet. I’m headed north. I was pointed toward Professor Oak’s lab in Pallet Town, so I guess someone had in mind I could be useful there.”

    “No doubt you have many uses, but is that the destiny you would want for yourself?”

    Now Jason was confused. “Which destiny? Going to Pallet Town, or being useful?”

    “Yes.”

    The teen scowled. “That’s not an answer.”

    “Of course it is, just not to the question you think you asked. Which isn’t the question you really asked.”

    “...what?” Jason was thoroughly dumbfounded.

    “I’m sure you’ll figure it out. You kids always do.” He got to his feet and turned, evidently to leave for the nearby beach.

    Jason’s frown returned, and he pushed away from the tree to follow the strange man as it occurred to him what the other had meant. “Hold on, are you suggesting going to Pallet Town isn’t a useful thing for me to do?”

    “Unless you want to go there to apply as a mailman. But that’s a lifestyle for some people, I suppose.”

    The teen narrowed his eyes. “Just what do you know about what I can and can’t do there?”

    “Professor Oak already has every kind of research wannabe there. They all scramble for the latest in his assortment of whiz-bang gadgets. Those lab-coated folks he keeps pent up in there all have their noses buried in textbooks. Every trainer from there, you’ll see this unfolding computer device in their hand, like that’s going to unlock the mysteries of the universe for them.”

    “What, you’re talking about the PokéDex?”

    The other man shuddered and his long hair quivered about his shoulders. “Tell you what, kid, being a trainer is more than just running around collecting data. You want to know what a Pokémon’s all about, you don’t ask some flimsy piece of metal and computer chips. You stick close to him, watch everything he does, and keep a journal to write it down in. That’s how they’ve been doing it for hundreds of years. All the technology and textbooks in the world don’t compare to actual experience.”

    “So what’s this got to do with being useless in Pallet Town?”

    The older man vigorously tapped his temple with his index finger. “Think, kid. You go there planning to stick around, you’ll be just another one of those useless machines the world doesn’t need, and you won’t really be living life like it should be lived. Look at that creature between your heels and tell me you would rather live the life of an errand boy.”

    “You’ve known me for all of a minute and a half, you’re gonna school me on how I should be living my life?”

    The other man stopped in his tracks and wrapped his hands around the back of his skull, as though he’d been stricken by an overwhelming headache, and he groaned loudly. “You kids! ‘School’ is a word to be used as a noun, not a verb! Learn some proper grammar and you might actually grow up to be something instead of posing for cameras that aren’t trained on you.” Then he twisted around and dropped his arms. “Pay attention and maybe you can learn things because someone will teach you beyond the boundaries of your school. We clear on that?”

    Jason pursed his lips and crossed his arms. “Crystal.”

    At that, the older man’s upset expression broke with another smirk. “Most others your age would have muttered a curse and stormed off.”

    “I don’t curse, but I’m still considering storming off.”

    “That just says you have thoughts.” The other man planted his hands on his hips. “So, indulge me for a moment. What is it you’re planning to do?”

    “Right this moment? I’m planning to go to the north end of the island so I can see the mainland. After that, I’ll get on Gyarados and go to Pallet Town, where I’ll figure out what I’m doing from there.”

    “You’re gonna have yourself some time to think out a plan even before getting there. Even if you jump on your Gyarados right now and head that way, you won’t reach Pallet Town until just after nightfall. That’s if you don’t run into trainers intent on battling you. They see what you’re riding and they’ll want to pick a fight, you mark my words.”

    “I’m sure they will. I’ll be ready for them, so that’s one less thing you’ll have to worry about. Getting there won’t be a problem for me. And once I’m there, I’ll be in the frame of mind I need to explore my options more fully. But I don’t know that I want to be a trainer, and you’re making research sound pretty sour. I could be capable in either of those fields, or something else altogether. I need the resources to figure this stuff out and I’ll have them there.”

    The other considered Jason’s counter for a long moment, and then he bobbed his head. “That sounds like a fair arrangement.”

    Jason scoffed. “Pleased to have your approval, I’m sure. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got somewhere to be.”

    Wordlessly, the man turned back toward the beach and walked off. Jason crossed his arms as he watched him go. Awfully nosy. And what is it with older people not wanting to trade names? At least I got away with not giving him mine this time. I’ve heard people say names have power but I don’t think I ever understood that quite as clearly as I do now.

    He turned and began to make his way north through the cluster of trees. Shortly, he emerged onto pavement and saw before him a bustling resort, complete with pools and condominiums, and rife with all types of people – from young hotshot trainers battling amongst themselves to the high-powered businessmen on cell phones and sitting at tables. The noise of chatter and restless Pokémon filled Jason’s ears, and only then did he realize how much he had missed the sound. Didn’t even realize that was something I’d gotten so used to. So many times I couldn’t stand the sound of my classmates milling around or tourist groups babbling to each other.

    Suddenly he winced as he realized the sun had been striking the pavement for quite some time now, and he was without footwear. But there was no other path to the north end in evidence, so he saw little choice but to start running. He launched himself towards the nearest shadow cast by a local condo, trying to avoid muttering a string of oaths as he did so. What he’d said to the hippie was mostly true – he had never cursed aloud in his life, but he’d certainly heard his fair share of taboo words and every single one of them was coming back to him now.

    Nevertheless, once he was in the shade, he found the concrete noticeably cooler, if not more pleasant to stand on. Bare feet don’t really find pleasure in standing on most manmade substances, Jason noted ruefully. He surveyed the path ahead and was disappointed to find he would have to repeat the process several times before reaching his destination. He heaved a sigh and readied himself for another run as he approached the edge of the building’s shadow. I’ll be lucky if I make it out of this with only a couple blisters.

    As it turned out, his eventual arrival on the northern beach yielded him exactly two. He sat down on the sand and groaned at the sight of large bubbles on the pads of each of his feet. “Great. Just great,” he muttered. “That’s exactly what I need right now.”

    He looked up and cast his gaze at the horizon, where the Kanto mainland was in plain sight. It was close enough that the various landscapes were immediately evident, but its distance was just as clear; Jason understood then that the wavy-haired man hadn’t been exaggerating, and that it would take at least until nightfall before he and Gyarados would reach it.

    His stomach rumbled. He scowled at his midsection. “Oh, shut up.” Just adding to the list of physical problems I’ve got right now... but first thing’s first. He pulled off his shirt, then pulled on the sleeves until he heard and felt tearing. What had been a tee was quickly reduced to a muscle shirt; Jason then used the torn-off fabric to bind his blisters, grinding his teeth as he did so. Maybe keep the flesh from getting too exposed in case they pop... although this is like putting a screen door on a submarine.

    He heard a loud splash just ahead, and looked up at the ocean to see Gyarados’ head and neck hovering above the surface. Its eyes were trained on him and its head was tilted inquisitively.

    Jason held up one foot. “Yeah, okay, so I did something stupid. Next time I’ll just wait for you to finish and ride you around the island.” Then he stood up, trying to maintain balance on his heels. “You’re here, so I guess you’re done eating. We ready to go?”

    Obligingly, Gyarados shuffled almost completely out of the water to allow Jason access to its back. Jason gingerly stepped to his Pokémon and mounted it, perching himself closer to Gyarados’ head than previously. “All right... let’s go gently. A salt water scrub won’t do much for my feet right now.”

    As they headed out to the open water once again, Jason kept his eyes on the landmass occupying the horizon and lost himself in thought. Maybe the coot was right, and research isn’t for me. On the other hand, I’ve got knowledge of Pokémon that most trainers seem to lack, if the ones I’ve seen on Tangelo have been an accurate representation. That would be useful.

    Problem: I don’t have credentials with me. Actually, I’ve got no ID with me of any kind... just my word that I am who I say I am. And it’s not exactly like I can tell Professor Oak to call my parents as references. For that matter, the guy’s probably right. Oak probably has all the research flunkies he needs coming out of the woodwork. He’s only one of the most famous authorities on Pokémon.


    He looked down at the top of Gyarados’ head. “So what do you think, Gyarados? Think I’ve got a chance to become a top-notch errand boy for Professor Oak?”

    If the Pokémon registered the inquiry as having been directed towards it, it offered no such indication; even the obligatory growl Jason might have expected was absent.

    The teen sighed and slumped forward a bit, relaxing a little more across the back of the sea serpent’s neck. “Yeah, me either.” He patted its scaly hide. “Guess it doesn’t matter much anyway. Most of them are probably just a bunch of isolated nerds. You know the sort, with the plastic pocket protectors and horn-rimmed glasses. White lab coats, clipboards, the whole bit. They’re probably the same ones who climb into those Pikachu cosplay outfits. Creepy, right?”

    Still no noise emerged from Gyarados’ throat. Jason pursed his lips and turned back to the horizon. “Okay, fine, I’ll just sit here and be quiet.”

    You really shouldn’t expect Gyarados to answer with anything more than that, he thought. Anybody who thinks the label “atrocious Pokémon” applies to a social creature is a moron. You’re just talking out loud because you’re nervous of what’s going to happen. And that’s okay. You can be nervous. Just try to be optimistic, too. If you’re feeling like you’re at the lowest point of your life, just remember that it can only get better from here.

    He crossed his arms atop Gyarados’ head and settled his chin on them, content to watch the landscape before them blossom into where he hoped to find his future.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011

  19. #19
    Written Into A Corner... Cool Trainer
    Cool Trainer
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    May 2011
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    Default Against All Odds: Exile - Part 5

    Exile

    Part 5


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Coming ashore at Pallet Town was, Jason concluded, vastly different from arriving at Cinnabar. Unlike the bustling island resort, this beach had no visitors to speak of – which didn’t surprise him, given that dusk had fallen and temperatures were cool... or cold, depending on which Orange Island one tended to live on. Jason’s perception of temperature led him to believe it was colder than cool, but at least warmer than freezing.

    Though maybe “freezing” might not be so bad for these things, he thought, aiming a glower at his feet. The blisters had not abated in the slightest, nor had he expected them to. He’d heard that washing them in salt water was a recommended method of speeding the healing process but he had decided a while ago that sea water wasn’t what local physicians or herbalists had in mind with that one. He tried not to wince as he paced up the sandbar and into the grass. Gyarados stayed behind on the beach, just beyond the reach of the tide, stretched out and relaxed after the trip.

    Hopefully we can get slightly better digs for him, Jason thought. He noticed that the grass here seemed as well-trimmed as any residential lawns he might have expected to see. Ahead, there was a modest network of beaten dirt pathways, rather than roads or concrete sidewalks; there wasn’t even a single gravel or asphalt street to be found. For that, Jason found himself curiously thankful. Makes it seem a little more... homely, I guess. Not quite so industrial.

    Elements of it surprised him as much as they assuaged him. For all the fame applied to the mythos of Pallet Town and its resident Pokémon professor, there seemed little about it that would have stricken Jason as particularly noteworthy. Small houses littered the outskirts, while equally small businesses – a grocery store here, a convenience store there, a clothier across the way – were located closer to the center.

    Jason’s trek through the town took him past all of these, but none of them piqued his interest quite as much as the building on the southwestern end that clearly dominated the local area: the aptly-named Pallet Town Pokémon Lab and Research Center. The teen tried to resist, but ultimately could not quell the smile that insisted on creeping across his face. For better or worse, I’m here now. And I’m about to meet Professor Samuel Oak.

    But one step on the dirt path nearly sent him tumbling to the ground in unexpected anguish. “Gah!” he gasped, and he dropped to one knee and clutched his other foot – the bound and blistered skin had settled atop a flint-like rock.

    “Oh, my goodness! Are you all right?”

    He grimaced and looked up; a young woman was scurrying towards him from behind. She was carrying a toddler on one hip, and a filled paper bag of groceries occupied her opposite hand. How much more helpless can I look than this? he wondered, and he tried to stand back up, but the piercing pain in his foot was still too much for the attempt, and he settled back down to the ground. “Yeah, I’m okay,” he answered through gritted teeth.

    She frowned at the response as she came to a stop just over him. “You don’t look okay.”

    “Just need a minute.” He let himself land on his rear and he pulled his foot out from underneath him to inspect it, removing the last tatters of his makeshift bandage in the same motion. As he’d feared, the outer layer of skin had been badly pierced and now a gaping hole existed through it, exposing the tender and extremely sensitive flesh beneath. Even the air against it stung.

    “Oh, my. That doesn’t look good at all,” the woman remarked. She leaned closer to inspect the injury.

    “I’ll get over it,” he said, waving dismissively at his foot. He pointed at the research lab. “Do you know if Professor Oak is in there right now?”

    “Well, it’s night time, so he’s probably either asleep or checking on the nocturnal Pokémon he has in there,” she replied. She looked back at the teen, ponytail swishing about her shoulders, and offered him a polite smile. “Are you a Pokémon trainer?”

    “Not exactly. But I was hoping to get a chance to talk to him.”

    “Well, not looking like that, you won’t!” she declared, and she set down her bag of groceries. “Wet and messy aren’t his standard.” Then she adopted a thoughtful look. “Unless you’re working in his research division, and then he encourages it.”

    Jason looked at his garb, then back up at the woman. “Well, I don’t have any other clothes with me. What you see is what you get.”

    “Then we’re going to have to change that, because you’re not setting foot in that building looking like a young hobo.” She extended her open hand to him. “Come with me.”

    He held up a hand to stop her. “I don’t need handouts. I didn’t come here to get pitied.”

    “I’m a mother, it’s my job to provide.” A moment passed between them in silence; then she sighed at him. “Try it this way. Help me bring my bag back to my house and I’ll help you find something a little more presentable.”

    The teen couldn’t restrain the smallest scoff from escaping him, but it made sense to him that the more presentable he was, the more likely he would be able to meet with the Pokémon professor. Maybe this woman can even help me out in figuring what I should say to him when I meet him, he thought, ‘cause sure enough I don’t have a clue what I’d say to him if I met him right this moment.

    He reached up and took her hand, then leaned heavily on his right heel and took up her grocery bag. “Where’re we going?”

    She gestured down the path in the opposite direction of the lab, toward a small cul-de-sac. “Our house is just this way.”

    “Okay, then lead on.”



    Within half an hour’s time, Jason felt like his life was already in the midst of the great change he’d been hoping for in Pallet Town. This woman, unlike the previous two men Jason had met, was not at all shy about sharing her name with him, and so he had returned the favor and shared his. It had occurred to him only afterward that he might have been more hesitant to do so anywhere else, but she didn’t seem the sort to review news dispatches all the way from the Orange Islands. In fact, she seemed the sort to indulge in the bliss of ignorance of the outside world in general, and focus only on whatever occurred in her own particular sphere of influence.

    But whatever else she was, the word “stubborn” most certainly described her. Definitely more so than Jason, because it was at her insistence he found himself taking a shower “no fewer than twenty minutes long,” she had decreed. “Wash yourself top to bottom, and don’t even think about skipping anything. And my husband’s electric razor is in the drawer on the right, make sure you use that, too.”

    That instruction had startled the teen, who until that point hadn’t even been aware of any facial hair adorning his features. It wasn’t until his shower was complete that he was able to see she’d been quite correct – his tan skin and the soil caking him had hidden the scruff from his view, making him look more like his brother than at any other time he could recall.

    With no clock in the bathroom, there was no way for him to gauge exactly how long he had taken in the shower, so once he considered himself finished, he let the water continue to run while slowly counting to one hundred, just to be on the safe side, he thought. Upon stepping back out of the tub, he wrapped his torso in a long white towel and silently thanked whatever force had been responsible for introducing him to his hostess. Clean towels! This is the kind of stuff nobody thinks about and everybody takes for granted.

    His next step was to properly bandage his blisters; the resources for the task were not only present, but more than adequate. Ointment-treated gauze went over the wounds, followed by firmly-bound bandage wraps. The ointments had numbing properties, which went a long way toward alleviating Jason’s pain and reducing his desire to self-amputate.

    He wrapped himself in a towel and scratched his head idly. He’d surrendered his clothing in a pile outside the door at the behest of his hostess, but there had been no indication since then that she had offered any in exchange. But maybe she just left them in a pile outside the door like I did with mine, he considered.

    With a shrug, he cracked open the door and found his suspicion confirmed: next to the door frame there was a stack of neatly folded clothing, right down to a pair of underwear, waiting to be worn. Jason arched an eyebrow at the thought of wearing underpants that weren’t his, but he wasn’t about to turn them down, and he opened the door more fully to grab the stack. He couldn’t suppress a shiver as he picked up the clothing – the air beyond the bathroom was considerably cooler and less humid.

    “Hi.”

    His head cranked upward so fast he only narrowly avoided sustaining a cramp, and he winced. The voice had come from the toddler, who was clad in a blue one-piece pajama jumpsuit with a stylized Poké Ball design splashed across the chest. He stuck a finger in his mouth with one hand and waved shyly at Jason with the other.

    Jason raised his eyebrows, then gave the boy a slight wave in return. “Hi there.”

    “What doin’?”

    “Uh...” The teen looked to the stack of clothes tucked under his arm, then back at the child. “I’m about to put some clothes on.”

    “Ash, get yourself in here right this minute!”

    Jason couldn’t help but smile at the tone the boy’s mother took with her son, demanding and yet pleading at once. How mothers manage to do that, I’ll never know, he thought, and he ducked back into the bathroom before the child got into any more trouble. He inspected each article of clothing before donning it – black underwear and socks, a pair of light blue jeans, a pair of sneakers, a black T-shirt, and a gray traveler’s vest.

    He tilted his head at the last item, but nonetheless put it on, since he had a feeling he’d never hear the end of it if he didn’t. The pants were a little too long, and the shirt a little too loose. He wondered if perhaps it might be too much to ask for a belt, ultimately decided that it probably was, and did his best to hike the pants up. He hung up the towel neatly and made sure there was no mess left behind in the bathroom before emerging once again to seek out his hostess. “Mrs. Ketchum?”

    “In the kitchen!”

    Jason followed her voice and found her standing in front of a stove with three pots cooking over open flame. He tilted his head. “You don’t usually make dinner after your son’s bedtime, do you?”

    “I make dinner any time I have company over,” she answered. She aimed a ladle at him and shook it for emphasis. “It’s polite to treat your guests to the very best of your hospitality.”

    “You don’t have to go to quite this kind of effort.”

    “Nonsense! You’re a growing boy, just like my son, and you’ve spent all that time on the water with no food. You must be starving, and hunger is a sickness, so allow me to help cure yours.”

    Jason opened his mouth, preparing to protest her last statement, but then closed it as he thought better of it, and sat down at the dining table. Unlike hunger, there are some maladies that can’t be cured with food, he thought, the tone of his mind’s voice laced with amusement. Like a broken arm, if she twists yours any further to get you to accept things you need anyway.

    He laced his fingers atop the table and leaned on his elbows. “So I guess you know Professor Oak?” he asked.

    She giggled. “Of course I do! He’s a wonderful man. Very smart, very hard-working. I stop by the lab quite a lot to say hello and drop off food for his staff.”

    The teen blinked. “Really?”

    “Of course!” she said again, and she turned and aimed a smile at him. “You sound so surprised.”

    “Well, I... hadn’t really thought the place would be quite that open to the public,” he admitted. “Where I come from, it’s always ‘Authorized Personnel Only’. Especially in areas where Pokémon were being raised. I mean, it’s a research center. Shouldn’t he have them in controlled conditions so he knows exactly what’s happening at all times?”

    “Oh, my.” Mrs. Ketchum tittered, a noise that made Jason want to crawl under a bed for feeling like he was missing something huge. “No, that’s not at all the way Professor Oak works, and I don’t think I would trust anyone who did work that way.”

    “Why not?”

    “Because Pokémon aren’t just animals to be stuck in cages. What kind of studying could happen then?” She straightened and placed a hand on her chest. “If they put me in a cage, I couldn’t act like everything was all right and I was perfectly normal. Could you?”

    If they put you in a cage? You can’t act that way now. Jason bit the inside of his cheek to restrain himself from producing the smart remark aloud, then considered what else she’d said. He shook his head after a moment. “I guess not, not if they just grabbed me out of nowhere. But what about the ones born in captivity?”

    “Oh, well, those Pokémon are allowed to roam free as they like. Their parents will show them everything they need to know so they can survive out in the wild, if they’re released. That’s always up to the trainers who own the parents.”

    Jason blinked and frowned. “They’re not studied?”

    “Only if the trainers allow it, but not in cages or boxes. They all need to be able to run around and interact with each other. All of that is the information Professor Oak really wants to see, how Pokémon get along with each other and what it does to help them grow.” She giggled again. “It helps him to understand how Pokémon and people get along with each other, too. He makes it sound simple but I know it’s got to be complicated, there are so many people he has working for him there. It’s full to overflowing! He should really buy more property so he can expand his preserve.”

    Jason resisted the urge to slump. Well, if I had any hopes about working there, they’re pretty much dashed out now. So where does that leave me? Being a Pokémon trainer? That wasn’t really what I had in mind when I said I wanted a Gyarados...

    His attitude change must have registered with his hostess, because her face softened and her shoulders sagged a little in sudden sympathy. “Oh. I guess you were wanting to apply for a job there?” At his nod, she bobbed her head. “Lots of young adults like to come here to see the preserve and apply. Something about working with Pokémon just draws them. If they can’t train, they want to at least interact.” She tilted her head at him. “I know you’re not a trainer, but is there a reason you’re not?”

    “Uh.” The question caught him off-guard. “Well. I guess it just wasn’t really an option for me, until recently.”

    “What happened?”

    He’d been looking for a way to answer that question without giving himself away ever since leaving the Orange Islands. He did his best to ignore the sudden acceleration of his heart rate as he tried to explain. “My dad, he was always leery about letting his son have a Pokémon. Thought I’d spend all my time with it and not enough time doing my chores and stuff like that.”

    “Ugh, tell me about it,” she groaned. “My son already seems to enjoy the few minutes I spend at Professor Oak’s lab a fair bit more than he should. He keeps trying to climb over the fences and play with the Pokémon in the preserve. With that sort of foolishness, the poor child is going to follow in his father’s footsteps.”

    The unhappy tint in her voice informed Jason that asking about the boy’s father might not be the wisest move to be made, conversationally speaking, and suddenly it was apparent from whom the clothing he now wore had come. Maybe this is a good time to change the subject, he thought. I’d probably try to get out of here, except she’s making food, and I don’t think I could resist it if I wanted to.

    He tilted his head to one side. “So may I ask what’s cooking?”

    “Oh! Of course.” Her face broke into a smile again. “Potato soup with cheese and mushrooms, and steamed snow peas on the side. My parents always taught me it was important to include at least one green vegetable with your meal.”

    “Mine, too,” Jason remarked. “That never really stopped me from trying to avoid them, though.”

    “Well, don’t you be avoiding these. I don’t waste food and there’s no Pokémon here to feed them to. If you’ve been out on that water all this time, then you must be starving, and you can’t afford to be picky.”

    “Can’t really afford anything, at the moment, which is why I came here hoping for a job,” the teen responded. “I was hoping to make it on my own. Not feeling quite so hopeful now. I didn’t want to depend on other people’s good graces to help me out of my own jam.”

    “Then consider this part of your tab. You can pay me back later. I can even give you a grocery list.” She smiled once more, then began ladling soup into a bowl and scooping peas onto a small plate beside. “The truth is, Jason, we all have to rely on each other for help now and then, whether we want it or not. It just happens. Take what you can get. Just don’t take too much advantage, and always try to give back.”

    “And what about the clothes?” he asked.

    “I have plenty more where they came from, and the same goes for the bandages on your feet. But if you want to put all of that on your tab, too...”

    He looked at her seriously. “I promise, I’m going to pay you back, not just for all the stuff you’re letting me have and what you’re doing for me, but also for all the kindness you’ve shown me today. I’m not taking it lightly.”

    She set the food before him, then pushed the platters close to the edge of the table. “Eat up. You’ll need it.”

    Jason released a small scoff at her urging, but after consuming a spoonful of soup, he found himself immediately reaching for more. It wasn’t until at least half the bowl was gone that he put any thought into what she’d said after insisting he eat. “Need it for what? If Professor Oak doesn’t need researchers...”

    “He always needs researchers, he just needs ones of different kinds. You should really talk to him about it before deciding you’re not needed there.” At his odd look, she tapped her temple with her forefinger. “I may not catch everything, but I do catch some things. Finish up your food, then you can go on to his lab and find out what he can use you for. I’ll bet he can find you something to do.”

    Jason shrugged, and around a spoonful of peas, mumbled, “I hope so.”



    As large and new as the lab complex looked on the outside, it seemed remarkably cramped and cluttered on the inside. The door in front was a single wooden slab with a standard knob, rather than the sliding glass double doors he’d envisioned a place like this having. Filing cabinets lining the walls stood with drawers half-open and there were folders lying wide open atop the vast array of surfaces available in the immediate area – desks, cabinets, shelves, even some in cardboard boxes on the floor.

    Jason felt distinctly underwhelmed, not only by the sight of the facility’s ramshackle appearance, but by the lack of staff he’d expected to see bustling about conducting important business and research. What he saw instead was a front desk whose surfaces were possibly the most cluttered of any surface within immediate sight, and he leaned to one side to determine if a person actually existed behind a stack of paperwork. Seeing nobody, he frowned. “Hello?”

    Abruptly, a head popped out from underneath the desk, directly facing Jason’s feet. The teen glanced down to see the head staring up at him, then yelped and jumped back before belatedly realizing it was neither disembodied nor hostile.

    The head was that of a teenage girl, looking to be roughly his age. Her face was dappled with freckles, and her hazel eyes blinked curiously at him from behind a pair of narrow glasses. Her brown hair, which had obviously been bound in a tighter ponytail some time earlier, was at that moment as disheveled as any of the documents littering the work area.

    A crease split her brow just above the bridge of her glasses. “Yes, do you need something?”

    “Uh...” Jason suddenly felt distinctly on the spot, and for a moment he couldn’t remember what it was he’d come here for.

    “Wait, you’re not another one of those guys from Viridian City, are you?” Her scowl grew deeper. “Cause if you are, Professor Oak already told the last guy and the five guys before him he doesn’t want anything to do with whatever it is you people are up to.”

    Jason held up his hands. “No, no, not from Viridian City, nothing to do with that. Whatever it is.”

    “Back to the first question, then – do you need something?”

    He planted his hands on his hips. “Depends, am I going to have to conduct business from between my–?”

    “Say ‘legs’ and you can bet you won’t be conducting business in Pallet Town at all,” she interjected.

    He bristled. “I was gonna say ‘toes’, if you’d let a guy finish.”

    “The guy has to begin, first, tough stuff.” She pulled her head back out from underneath the desk and got to her feet; at full height, she looked to be about half a head shorter than Jason. And apparently she’s got the attitude to go with being that short, he thought, in spite of himself. The only thing that offered Jason any assurance this was the place he’d been looking for was what she wore: she was wrapped in a white lab coat and bore a laboratory ID badge on her coat’s front pocket – Kelly Shields on the first line, and Undergraduate Student on the second.

    She crossed her arms. “So, was there something I could do for you, now that you’ve dragged me up here?”

    “Yeah, now that you mention it, there was,” Jason said, perhaps a little more roughly than he’d intended. “I’d like to see Professor Oak.”

    “You and seventeen other people.” The front desk’s phone rang, but the teen girl showed very little interest in trying to reach it beneath the clutter; she crossed her legs in a stance of impatience at interacting with Jason. “Is there something more special about you than them that you think you can just ignore the waiting line?”

    Jason was trying to come up with a suitable response. Of all the rebuttals he could have thought of her offering, lowest on the list was plain and simple rudeness. His instinct to return with the same could not be overcome. “If the waiting line includes people like you, then I’m happy to stand way in the back.”

    “I’m sure I’d be interested to know what you mean by that if, you know, I cared that much,” she retorted. “But right now, all that concerns me is what kind of business you have with Professor Oak. It’s sort of my job to intercept the riff-raff.”

    Jason was trying hard not to scowl at her; the attempt wasn’t succeeding. “I came here to apply for a job.”

    “I see.” She pushed her glasses up her nose. “Did we put out an ad in the paper?”

    “I don’t know, I just came here hoping there was something available.”

    “Let me save you some time, then. All positions are filled.”

    “That right? Yours looks available.”

    She cocked her head at him and smirked. “I’m sorry, but exactly what are you hoping to accomplish by trying to bait me, here? I’m a professional, I get paid a decent wage, and I happen to enjoy where I work. Think I’m going to risk that by getting stupid?”

    “You just did. I wasn’t the one who brought the attitude. You’re acting like I want special treatment. I gotta wait, I’ll wait. Just put me on the list, I’ll pipe down and find myself a seat.” He looked around the littered floor. “Somewhere, anyway.”

    “And what’ll you do when Professor Oak tells you the same thing I just did?” she inquired.

    Jason sat down in a corner between a filing cabinet and the wall behind it. “I’ll thank him for his time and be on my way. It’s what the professionals do, right?”

    She rolled her eyes at him, but she appeared otherwise satisfied with the answer. “Let me have your name, I’ll make sure he knows you’d like a free moment.”

    “Jason Creight.”

    She picked up a writing implement and scribbled on a piece of scratch paper. “Jason... C-R-A-T-E?”

    “C-R-E-I-G-H-T.”

    She blinked and looked up at him, as if seeing him for the first time. “Creight. As in, Creight Breeding Center? The Orange Islands?”

    His eyes rolled back into their sockets. Oh, this should be fun. Okay, Jason, you practiced for this one, let’s make use of it, shall we? “Looking for other work nowadays.”

    “I see.” She folded the scrap paper and stood up. “Well, good for you, then. Pokémon research is at least honest work.”

    He blinked. “Is there something dishonest about my family’s business?”

    The inquiry seemed to jar her in a way that nothing else Jason said had yet done; she had a distinct Stantler-in-the-headlights look on her face before quickly shaking her head. “No. Never mind. Forget I said anything.”

    He moved to stand up. “No, hold on. I want to hear about this. What’s so offensive about what my family does for a living?”

    But instead of offering further conciliation, as part of him had hoped she would do, she glowered at him from behind the desk. “I said never mind. We don’t know each other so there’s nothing we need to be talking about.”

    He blew a frustrated sigh through his nose. It seemed fairly obvious to him she had meant her remark as a barb towards the CBC – and if she had, then it was likely in relation to the arguments he’d heard about it before from his classmates and their parents. How it was basically a zoo, how it was breeding Pokémon just to beat each other senseless, and how it had to be an unscrupulous business to raise a desired Pokémon as quickly as they did.

    He rested his head against the wall behind him and closed his eyes for a time, content to wait out the Pokémon professor in silence. As rudely as the receptionist was behaving, she was right in that they didn’t know each other and there seemed very little common ground between them. But when he heard shuffling around the desk, he cracked open one eye to cast it in that general direction and saw the girl flipping through various folders.

    He couldn’t help himself. “What the heck are you doing down there, anyway?”

    “None of your business,” she snapped.

    He scoffed. “Touchy.”

    She stopped just long enough to direct a pointed glower at him. “If you must know, I’m looking for the rough draft of my dissertation. Last time I saw it, it was on top of the pile on top of the hutch.”

    Jason looked at the hutch and frowned. “No pile there now.”

    “Someone give the man a gold star.” She gestured at the mess of folders and documentation on which she was kneeling. “It’s somewhere here. My luck, it’s probably in pieces. I don’t even know how the stack got knocked over.”

    “Feel free to blame the Pichu.”

    Jason’s head whirled around at the sound of the new voice, one he’d heard on any number of television and radio broadcasts before. Standing in a doorway behind the right side of the desk was the unmistakable visage of Professor Samuel Oak – wrinkled and slightly ruddy complexion, light brown hair shading into silver, steely eyes that were capable of absorbing everything in front of them in an instant. He wore a lab coat considerably more rumpled and soiled than the girl’s, and it wasn’t adorned with ID like hers... but why would he need one? Jason noted.

    The professor was looking at the mess beneath his receptionist’s desk, hands planted on his hips beneath his coat. “That Pichu has been running around the entire complex knocking things over. I wouldn’t put it past him to do the same with your papers. Why were you bringing your homework here, anyway? We do call it ‘homework’ for a reason.”

    It was then that Jason noticed she had scrambled to her feet. “Sorry, Professor,” she responded, looking chastened. “I figured I could get an edge if I had some source material in front of me while I was writing the paper. Save myself a couple extra trips back and forth.”

    “Nice thought, Kelly, but you know Pokémon run free around here. If you want to protect something that’s important to you from the creatures here, don’t bring your personals to work. You’ll just end up getting yourself in a jam otherwise.”

    “Yes, Professor.”

    Oak’s gaze then turned toward Jason, who was still seated on the floor and staring at the professor in open awe. The older man chuckled. “Kelly, would you mind telling me who this is?”

    “His name is Jason Creight, Professor. He was hoping to apply for a job here. I told him all positions were filled, last I knew.”

    Jason stumbled to his feet and directed a finger at her. “Don’t lie, you didn’t say ‘last I knew’. You were just trying to blow me off.”

    Oak stepped away from the door and moved out into the lobby. His expression was less than enthused. “If you’re hoping to get a job here, you should be made aware I have zero tolerance when it comes to gossip and the ‘he said, she said’ phenomenon.”

    Jason suppressed a shudder, but couldn’t keep himself from swallowing hard. “Yes, sir.”

    “Not ‘sir’, but if you want a formal title, ‘professor’ will do.” Oak approached the teen. “The name ‘Creight’ sounds very familiar. Orange Islands?”

    “At one time,” he answered carefully. “Not so much anymore.”

    The professor offered a measured nod. “I see. Getting out to see the world, then. Good for you. Now, I believe we were talking about you applying. Is this particular conversation going to take longer than a few minutes or can I look forward to a condensed version of why you want to be here and what credentials you carry?”

    Jason sighed. “Honestly, Professor, I wish I could say you could look forward to a condensed version, but I’m not so sure you would be able to get one. I don’t have any ID or credentials I could show you so all you really would have at the end of it is my word.”

    “And you would be right to be concerned this might not be good enough for me,” Oak replied. “But I’ll admit that you’re making me curious, and that’s how I like to feel. Curiosity is necessary for advancement, you know. So when’s a good time for us to speak privately?”

    Jason blinked; this was a question entirely unexpected. “Well, your secretary here says that there’s a long waiting list of people who need to see you–”

    “‘Waiting list’?” Oak raised an eyebrow at the girl, who had returned to the floor to page through file after file; she was clearly more interested in looking anywhere but at him at that particular moment. “A talk with the staff may be in order.” He then turned back to Jason. “I’m afraid you’re misinformed. At eleven o’clock at night, rarely does anyone call my name with urgency, except perhaps my pillow.”

    “Um.” Jason scratched the back of his neck, suddenly feeling more self-conscious than he could recall having been in recent memory. “Well, maybe I shouldn’t keep you from getting to that pillow, if you’d prefer to talk in the morning...”

    Oak crossed his arms, an amused look adorning his features. “Really? Usually kids can’t wait to come in here and declare to me all the reasons I should hire them. Are you really that interested in a job at my lab, Mr. Creight?”

    “It’s kind of a matter of needing work, if you want to know the truth, Professor. Going hungry out on the sea isn’t my way of having fun, and I don’t want to keep being a charity case.”

    The professor tilted his head for a moment, then chucked a thumb at the door from which he’d emerged. “Follow me.”

    At once excited and anxious at being beckoned by the most recognizable face in Pokémon research, Jason didn’t hesitate in following the order, stepping past the cluttered desk to approach Oak and the door he was opening. But what gave him pause was a groan from beneath his torso. “Ugh, Professor...”

    The protest had come from the receptionist still seated on the floor, and it stopped both Oak and Jason. She looked up at the professor with clear disapproval in her gaze and her tone. “You’re always talking about how there’s no shoulder room here, this is why. And you told me to remind you of that the next time we had an applicant.”

    “I’ll trust you to remind me once more, Kelly,” Oak responded calmly, “when the next applicant arrives.” With that, he held the door open for Jason to pass through behind him.

    Jason found he couldn’t help but direct a satisfied smirk at the girl before letting the door close.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011

  20. #20
    Written Into A Corner... Cool Trainer
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    Default Against All Odds: Exile - Part 6

    Exile

    Part 6


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The path Jason followed took him into what was clearly Professor Oak’s office. Although it was more expansive and occupied more furniture than any other room he had seen in the building, it was just as disheveled and disorganized as any other area or surface there. The teen was beginning to conclude the professor’s enthusiasm for his work must have long ago taken root as his central reason for being... and everything else had taken a back seat.

    Oak directed Jason to sit down opposite him at the desk, and he settled into his office chair and began twiddling his thumbs while carefully gazing at Jason. Jason waited for the professor to speak, but he gave no indication he intended to do so; the look in his eye, meantime, was making Jason feel distinctly uncomfortable. Finally, when he could take it no more, he said, “What?

    The professor leaned back. “For all the questions I’ve asked, you’ve given me remarkably few answers. I thought perhaps you might be more comfortable if the conversation was limited to the two of us, rather than risk the input of my receptionist.”

    “Not gonna make me more comfortable by looking at me like that,” Jason muttered.

    “Well, then, how shall I look at you?” Oak leaned forward and rested his forearms on his desk. “As I said before, I’m curious. I’m curious by nature, but at this moment, I’m more so. You implied you’ve come a long way to get here. You want to work here, but you have no credentials. Your last name is Creight, yet you take no pride in it. It sounds like a wonderful mystery to me.” He opened a laptop whose presence just in front of his hands Jason hadn’t even noticed.

    Jason watched the professor’s hands fly over the keyboard and had an unpleasant premonition. “Uh, Professor, I’m not quite sure where you’re going with this...”

    “Jason Creight, fifteen years old, 5'10", athletic build, brown eyes, short brown hair. Son of Carson and Amelia Creight. Last seen on Tangelo Island in the Orange Archipelago... two weeks ago.” Oak turned the laptop around to show Jason what the teen already knew he would see, based on the description – a Missing Person report from the Orange Islands, with a picture of Jason in a frame on the report’s left side. Oak pointed to the image. “I could be wrong, but I’m fairly certain that’s you.”

    Jason looked at the image, then back at the professor. “Never heard of him,” he deadpanned.

    Oak didn’t seem amused by the joke, and continued. “The incident report attached to this states that a freak accident at the Creight Breeding Center caused massive damage to local facilities and was responsible for numerous injuries, ranging from minor to life-threatening. I should note that there are several Missing Persons reports which resulted from that catastrophe, including this one, which has been possibly the most prominent one in the Orange Islands to date.”

    “Well, obviously I’m not a ‘missing person’, since I’m sitting right here,” Jason said, his tone defensive.

    “Obviously, but I think it’s worth asking why you’re here and how you arrived.” Then Oak held up a finger. “Actually, the first question should be, what happened?”

    “I don’t know,” Jason lied. “One minute I was sitting on the rail, the next minute I was flat on my back and the ground was shaking. Buildings were falling down everywhere. I saw this Gyarados – actually he was a Gyarados I bought so he could be trained, they just weren’t done with him yet – and he was trying to escape from the place. I jumped on him and just held on for dear life. He just swam us all the way here.”

    Oak crossed his arms. “Two weeks is too long to be on the ocean without food.”

    “He kept stopping at islands to rest. I’ve been picking berries, mostly, and cracking coconuts with rocks. I thought he would just leave me somewhere but he never did. I’d just... climb back on him, and off he’d go. I think he’s grown attached to me.”

    “This Gyarados is here?”

    “On the shore, last I left him.”

    The professor scratched his cheek. “That explains how you got here, but not why you’re here. You’re talking to me about getting a job. Your first priority isn’t getting in touch with your family and going home?”

    “Professor, my family doesn’t need me. My parents think I’ll never measure up to my brother, who’s supposed to take over the family business. Now with this thing that’s happened, I’m just another burden to them that they don’t need.”

    “Be that as it may, I find it very strange – dare I even say suspicious – that you don’t want to at least let them know you’re all right.” Oak leaned back. “You’d prefer for them to be distraught and eventually conclude you’ve perished in any number of horrible ways their imaginations can conjure?”

    “No, it’s not like that, Professor,” Jason protested. “I’m just... not any use to them. And I was never going to be anybody there. I was never going to do or be anything important or useful. I was probably going to end up here sooner or later anyway.”

    “Yes, but you ended up here sooner. Not only sooner, but on an escaped Gyarados, with no identification, and arguments against going back home, or telling anyone you’re even alive.” Oak picked up a pen and began clicking it against the surface of his desk. “Typically I don’t hire people demonstrating those particular qualities and values.”

    “Yes, well, you probably don’t meet people demonstrating those qualities and values, either,” Jason replied. “Now you are meeting one. And I’m not a criminal but it sounds like you think I am.”

    “I’m not sure what it is you’d like me to think. But now that you mention it, am I going to have Officer Jenny knocking down my door for hosting you here tonight?”

    “Uh... no, I don’t think you will,” Jason answered slowly. “I haven’t done anything wrong. I just don’t want to go back to the Orange Islands. I came here to ask for a job because I want a new start to a different life, something I was never gonna get back home. I can’t go back there and just climb back into the one I had. It was never gonna go anywhere. Here, at least, I can try to be something and somebody.”

    “And the best way to do that is to take advantage of the fact people believe you’re dead?” Oak inquired, arching an eyebrow at Jason.

    “The best way to do it is to do it on my own terms. I came here to ask for a job, I’m not going to demand you give me one.” Jason leaned forward, elbows on his knees, and spread his hands wide. “You’re the guy in charge. If you don’t want me, that’s fine. I’ll move on and find someone who will.”

    “I never said I didn’t want you. But you’ll understand I have some serious reservations about maintaining your anonymity.” Oak set the pen down and laced his fingers. “Let’s look at the best-case scenario, here. Achieving your goal of ‘being somebody’ will eventually reveal you to the world as alive and well. When that happens, the authorities in the Orange Islands and your family will find out, and they’ll want to know why you hid from them. If you become enough of a ‘somebody’, so will a lot of other people. And will you be ready to answer their questions?”

    Jason shrugged. “If that’s where the finish line is, then I’m gonna have to be ready. By then, I’ll have made myself who and what I want to be, instead of who and what everybody else thought I should be. That’s why I don’t want anybody knowing. They’d just try and push me back into the mold. I don’t fit there.”

    For the first time during the conversation, a corner of the professor’s mouth quirked upwards. “That’s an interesting analogy. So where do you think you fit, if not there? What mold accommodates you?”

    “Well...” Jason looked at his hands, feeling slightly embarrassed. “I’m not sure. Maybe I don’t belong here, either. Spencer seemed to think I did, but...”

    The professor tilted his head. “I beg your pardon?”

    Jason looked back up. “I battled this guy named Spencer down in Mossdeep City with my Gyarados and he said that I’d make a decent trainer, but I’m not–”

    “Hold on.” Oak sat up in his chair, and his demeanor changed completely – now instead of skepticism, Jason saw a genuine spark of curiosity. “Say again?”

    “I said I battled this guy, Spencer, with Gyarados, and he thought I’d be good at training. But I never really thought about being a trainer. I mean, I know a ton about all kinds of Pokémon, and I had my Pokémon license, but we were supposed to have those in order to work around the pens and the marina...” He trailed off when he saw the wrinkles deepen in Oak’s forehead; the expression made him feel put on the spot. “What?”

    “Spencer, in Mossdeep City,” Oak repeated.

    “Yeah. Said he thought I should come here. He said he knew you, called you a softie. But he never gave me his last name. Older guy, receding hairline, big gut, white beard...”

    “Spencer said you would be a good trainer.”

    “Well, yeah, I mean...” Jason wasn’t sure how to take this abrupt interest in his tale and felt himself flounder in its telling. “But I didn’t automatically think he meant for me to become a trainer or anything like that. Just something to do with making use of my knowledge of Pokémon. Whatever it was he thought he was sending me here for, he said you’re the one I should see and he thought you could help me out in getting on my feet.”

    Oak tilted his head, adopting an incredulous tone. “You didn’t think to mention this to me right off?”

    “Why?”

    The professor guffawed. “Jason, the Spencer you met is Spencer Wattson. He was a phenomenal trainer back when I was closer to your age than mine. He still has training chops he likes to exercise from time to time, and when he says someone is good, you’d better believe him. More impressive is you say you battled him... using this Gyarados of yours?”

    Jason was dumbstruck. The name of Spencer Wattson was a familiar one – he was a trainer who had started his journey later in life, but was nevertheless ahead of the curve when it came to determining winning strategies. He’d made a gimmick of his last name, choosing Pokémon of electrical persuasions as the powerhouses of his team... he had even bested Hoenn’s Elite Four and matched their champion toe-to-toe. His final Pokémon had bested its opponent only by staying conscious a scant few seconds longer than the other.

    But perhaps the most remarkable contribution to history Spencer Wattson had made was his abrupt disappearance from the public eye. After his victory, there was little celebration or fanfare. He did not take his rightful place as the new champion of the Hoenn region, nor did he accept the fame and accolades that ought to have gone to anyone capable of what he had done. He simply took his winnings and quietly retired to a life of privacy and anonymity. In fact, Jason had occasionally heard some people question whether Wattson’s story had become so convoluted that none of it could be fully trusted, or whether it was simply a parable.

    All this shot through the teen’s mind with the force of a bullet, and he was left to stare slack-jawed at Oak. “Spencer Wattson. The Spencer Wattson. You’re seriously telling me I battled a Pokémon champion?”

    “That’s what you’re telling me, Jason,” the professor answered. “You said you battled him with your Gyarados, that wasn’t yet completely trained?”

    “Well... yeah, I battled him, but I lost.” Jason rested his head in his hands, feeling distinctly overwhelmed by the information Oak had just presented him with. “Oh, man... no wonder I lost.” He looked up between his fingers. “I was being stupid and I challenged him to a battle, and he accepted, then he beat me with this Lanturn, and once I saw it I knew I was probably gonna lose, but... man, Spencer Wattson...”

    “So I take it you have experience in battling?” Oak inquired.

    “No, that’s just the thing, it was my very first battle. I always saw it happening on the beach, or on TV, and I knew what moves my Gyarados knows, so I figured I could just go from that...” Jason trailed off again, and shook his head. “No, it was just my first one.”

    Now both of Oak’s eyebrows shot up. “You’re saying your very first Pokémon battle of any kind, anywhere, was against Spencer Wattson?”

    Jason spread his hands helplessly. “I guess so, yeah, but it’s not like I knew who he was at the time. All I knew was that he beat me, then said I did well, and said I should come here. So I’m here.”

    Oak heaved his chest, then blew a breath through his nose. “Well, that puts me in a bit of a situation. If I try hard, I can find it in myself to respect your wishes in not telling anyone who you are, but if I hire you here, that’ll appear on public records. If you’re that desperate to lay low, then I can’t put you on payroll.”

    Jason’s shoulders slumped. “I hadn’t thought about that.”

    “I figured as much. On the other hand, you’re here on Wattson’s recommendation. Obviously he thought there was something I could do for you.” Oak rapped his knuckles on the desk. “In fact, I wouldn’t doubt he had some idea of what was going on with you. That could be another reason why he thought Pokémon training would be a good path for you. That career puts you out in the wilderness most of the time, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to keep a low profile starting off. You wouldn’t gain much notice until you started competing in championships.”

    “I’m not sure I want to go quite that far,” Jason remarked. “But if I’m going to be a trainer, what does that give you in exchange for helping me?”

    “Well, I’m always working on updates to the PokéDex,” Oak answered. “The more Pokémon I have at my disposal for study, the more data I can share with the rest of the world at large. It’s important to understand and document their social and behavioral patterns, what impact humanity has on them, and vice versa. If you register here in Pallet Town as a trainer in the Kanto region, the Pokémon you collect will automatically be sent to my lab... except for the ones you keep with you, of course.”

    “Doesn’t registration also make it into public records, though?” Jason asked hesitantly.

    “Not in the same way, no. This would be a provisional license – you would be training and seeking Pokémon exclusively in this region. It wouldn’t be valid anywhere else, so there’s no reason any other authority would need to see it... assuming, naturally, that you stayed within the boundaries of Kanto.” Oak cast the teen a significant look. “This rule would be especially important for you to honor, Jason. If you were to try to capture Pokémon outside Kanto, you could get yourself in serious trouble. There goes your anonymity.”

    Jason offered the professor a somber nod. “I understand. But I’m still worried about my name showing up, even on a license like the kind you’re talking about. Someone here could make the connection before I’m ready for it to be made.”

    “I’m not sure what else I can do for you in that department,” Oak returned, “short of printing a false name on the license, and I don’t feel like committing a crime.”

    Jason mulled for a long moment, then leaned forward and tapped the edge of the desk with his index finger, having happened upon an idea. “It wouldn’t be a crime. Just a mistake. When your receptionist was taking down my name, she thought it was spelled differently. The three of us are the only ones who know any better.”

    Oak pursed his lips, then released a sigh and clicked his pen once more. “Assuming I do all of this for you, you’re going to be owing me quite a bit of work and dedication in return. I’ll expect you to be putting forth your absolute best effort at all times.”

    “I wouldn’t be here asking for a job if I was going to give you anything less,” Jason answered.

    “I’m glad to hear you say so. Nevertheless, you can rest assured I’ll be including my own brand of insurance.” Oak closed his laptop, then riffled through the various papers cluttering his desk, until he’d found a document on which he began writing with his pen. He didn’t stop speaking while he wrote. “For all intents and purposes, you’ll be a local Kanto trainer and collector doing field work for my laboratory. As such, you’re privy to a starting trainer’s loan of three thousand pokéyen, an amount I’m going to expect back from you as soon as you’re able to surrender it. Ordinarily, you would also be privy to a starter’s Pokémon plus five Poké Balls, but you already have your Gyarados. That ought to suffice as your beginning Pokémon. From the sound of things, it doesn’t have its own capture ball yet – is this correct?”

    Jason nodded. “He wasn’t tame enough to stay in one. But that might be different now.”

    “Then you’ll receive the five empty Poké Balls. It’ll be up to you to procure money for any beyond those. As a trainer, you have the right... some would even say obligation... to conduct battles with other Pokémon trainers, and you’ll find this is usually the fastest method for you to earn money. Once the loan is repaid, all you’ll have to worry about is keeping up with your own finances and keeping a full stock of supplies you’ll need for your travels.”

    “Three thousand pokéyen isn’t much for me to work with right off,” Jason noted.

    “No, it’s not, nor is it for any other trainer. You’ll learn how to manage, at least until you start winning battles.” Oak pushed the document he’d been writing on across the desk to Jason, his pen atop it. “I’d advise staying away from veterans of the Hoenn League.”

    “Yeah, thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.” Jason rolled his eyes and inspected the paper. It was a Pokémon license application, with most of the information boxes already filled in by the professor. It listed his name as Jason Crate, and his mailing address as that of the Pallet Town lab. It required only Jason’s signature to be validated. Oak’s hand still rested on the paper, however, and he shot Jason a significant look. “This will mean you’re knowingly signing a paper that lists your name incorrectly.”

    Good thing I can make my signature look bad if I want to. Jason took up the pen and scratched in a nearly illegible signature next to the marked X. “Then I’d better be more responsible than anyone else who’s ever worked for you, huh?”

    “Just what I had in mind.” Oak got to his feet. “Go to the PokéCenter to get this processed, then you’re going to get yourself some sleep.”

    “Uh...” Jason ducked his head sheepishly. “I... don’t really have anywhere to stay, except on the beach.”

    “Nonsense,” Oak replied. “There’s a spare bedroom here in the laboratory you’re welcome to.”

    “And my Gyarados?”

    The professor shrugged. “If you’re worried about him, go to the beach after you’re done at the PokéCenter. He won’t want a berth indoors, though. Gyaradoses pine for the open water, and when they aren’t exposed to enough of it, you can bet they’ll figure out a way to get there. The best thing you can do for him is just let him swim around out there until morning. At this late hour, your license won’t be valid until tomorrow anyway.”

    Jason hesitated as he considered Oak’s point concerning Gyarados. They’ll find a way to open water... Then he realized he’d been standing still perhaps a moment too long, refocused his attention on the expectant professor, and bobbed his head. “Yeah. Okay.” He held up the document. “Thanks, Professor. It means a lot to me that you’re willing to help me out.”

    “Well, don’t thank me yet. You’ve got a lot of work ahead of you, so get going. Once you’re back, have Kelly show you to your room for tonight, and I’ll see you in the morning.”

    “Yes, sir.”



    Although Jason was well aware that trainers sought action and activity at virtually every hour of the day and night, those activities as conducted on Tangelo Island paled in comparison to the bustle and hustle of even this modest town. He could see the flash and fanfare of at least two separate battles in progress on either side of the town’s boundaries, and to the north was a modestly-lit PokéCenter.

    His venture there was short, sweet, and to the point. He wouldn’t have cared to have it any other way, either. After the events of the day, he was nothing short of exhausted, and was looking forward to being able to lay down in some sort of construct meant for sleeping in, as opposed to the cold ground. Things blurred together upon his entry into the center. The Nurse Joy operating the place gave only a cursory glance at the paperwork, evidently satisfied with the scribbled signature and Professor Oak’s handwriting above it, before sticking it in a machine to process. The only moment of discomfort Jason experienced was being sat down in front of a camera to get his license picture taken.

    She evidently noticed his expression of displeasure, because she huffed at him. “Maybe next time you’ll know better than to get this done just before midnight.”

    “Noted,” he muttered, before trying to offer the lens the most optimistic look he could manage.

    Still, upon sight of the image on the license, he couldn’t help but wonder if it was more a prison photo than anything else. His expression soured again as he took the card from Nurse Joy and saw the picture, and he held it up. “Okay, I promise. Never again at midnight.”

    “I would think so,” she responded. Then she mustered a polite smile. “Safe travels, Mr. Crate.”

    “Yeah. Thanks.”

    He stepped out of the PokéCenter and began walking back south while staring at the license in his hand for a long minute. Jason Crate. Now that I look at it, the name doesn’t look bad... but at the same time, it’s just so... wrong. He blew a sigh out through his nose. That’s what I get for it, I guess.

    He looked up at the path. The beach wasn’t that far off, and something in Jason tugged him that direction. His shoulders slumped. He really didn’t want to go there – he could hear that spare bedroom calling his name – but he knew it behooved him to at least go back and find out what Gyarados was up to. He scoffed as he considered the possibilities. For all I know, he could have finally decided to just ditch me and head out to sea. Oak said his species want to be out there and not all pent up. I wonder if that’s why he went so berserk in the marina and caverns... not just cause irreparable damage, but create such mayhem and confusion that his escape would be the last thing they’d even worry about. That’d pretty much track with their reputation for bad behavior.

    As he arrived on the beach, he noted that Gyarados was, in fact, still lying lethargically on the sand. The creature’s eyes locked upon Jason with laser-like focus. Jason glanced about, noticed there was no one else in immediate sight, then tucked his license in his back pocket and planted his hands on his hips. “All the open water you could possibly want right there...” He gestured to the ocean. “...but you’re sticking with me. What would make you do that?”

    Although Jason had yet to see Gyarados’ mouth close completely, it seemed to widen its jaws noticeably and it made a tired noise at him. He chuckled incredulously. “Did you just... yawn at me?”

    Gyarados rolled onto its side and turned its gaze away from him. It curled slightly on the sandbar and tucked its head in so far it was staring at its own belly. Unsure of how to respond, Jason fidgeted and finally crossed his arms in bemusement. “Okay, so we’re both tired. But we’re gonna end up having this conversation sometime. Professor Oak’s helping us out by making me a Pokémon trainer. Got my license, and tomorrow morning we’re gonna get going. You probably won’t see quite that much water for a while but you’ll at least be comfortable in a Poké Ball half the time.”

    A small growl issued from its throat.

    “We’re gonna run into other trainers, you know. It’s gonna have to happen if we’re gonna earn the money we need. Professor Oak’s sponsoring us to go out there and do work for him. We’ll be looking for local wild Pokémon but to make the money we need to make a life, we need to battle other trainers and beat them.” Jason chewed on his lower lip for a moment. “I promise not to send you out against anyone like Wattson again, if I can help it. I’ll have a better time keeping that promise if you can help me capture other Pokémon and bring them on board.”

    No response came.

    The teen sighed. “Look... I think you understand me enough to get what I’m saying. I know you don’t need me. Whatever it is that’s making you want to stay with me, I hope it keeps long enough for me to make you my first Pokémon properly. You’re my first, and I’ll bet you you’re gonna be my best.” He let his arms drop, and he half-turned to head back to the laboratory. “Simple fact is, I need you.”

    It shifted, and uncurled enough to let its neck crane back up so it could face him. Its eyes bore into his own, and in that fraction of a moment, Jason knew it had understood that last statement, if nothing else. But before the teen could react to that revelation, the serpentine creature was already curling back into its previous posture... a clear indication it wanted rest as badly as Jason himself did.

    Jason let out a nervous laugh. “Yeah, okay. See you in the morning.”



    Jason’s entrance through the lab’s front door was instantly met with a noise of derision from behind the reception desk. Some of the files and clutter had been cleared away – Jason figured it had most likely simply been moved from one inappropriate place to another – to reveal the face of the girl who had attempted to drive him off earlier. She was directing a glower at him. “You again.”

    “The one and only,” Jason replied, spreading his hands.

    “So what is it now, you want to talk to the professor again? He went home already, and I’ve got his clock-out to prove it.” She held up a clipboard which bore a time sheet.

    “Actually, he told me I should ask you to show me to my room for the night.” Jason stuck his hands in his pockets. “Said I could stay here tonight, then I’m gonna be on my way in the morning.”

    She huffed. “Well, you must’ve turned on the charm or hypnotized him or something.”

    “Yeah, right, because I’m a Ralts in disguise.” Jason frowned. “What’s your problem?”

    “My problem?” She snorted. “My problem is that people are constantly coming in here, just waltzing in like they have the run of the place, always wanting to talk to Professor Oak. People like you who think he’s going to help them out just because they ask him. He’s got a reputation for being soft-hearted, and he’s going to wear himself out being that way a whole lot earlier than if he’s just left to his business.”

    “So what, you’re here to give out some tough love or something?”

    “It isn’t part of my job description, it’s just a bonus to send annoying people away before they take any of the professor’s time with their nonsense.” She got to her feet. “But you managed to convince him your cause was important enough to get his help. I can only guess it was some kind of sob story to make him feel sorry for you.”

    “Well, then, I’ll spare you the awful tale,” Jason shot back. “All I’m looking for right now is a place to sleep and then you probably won’t have to see me again for a long while. And what are you doing in here past midnight, anyway?”

    “What are you doing in here past midnight?” she returned. “I work here, I study here, I keep a room here.”

    “And you’re rude to passersby here, too,” he commented.

    “Hey, in case you hadn’t noticed, Professor Oak’s not as young as he used to be,” she snapped. “He stretches himself out too thin, he’ll keel over and pass out, or worse. He’s up at all hours of the day and night doing the things he loves, and he’s always being interrupted by people who want things from him. He isn’t a camp counselor, he’s a Pokémon professor. He ought to be left alone to do what he’s spent his entire life doing.”

    “Fine, but that doesn’t change the fact he was here when I came looking, and he was willing to sit down and talk to me.”

    “He’s willing to sit down and talk to anybody, or didn’t you hear me talking just now?”

    “Whatever. Think what you want, but he’s showing me his own version of tough love and I’ll bet he doesn’t need you to pile any more of it on. I don’t, either.”

    She scoffed again. “What tough love did he show you?”

    “Maybe I’ll tell you someday, if you can stand to hear a sob story. So where’s the room I’m sleeping in?”

    She let out an exasperated sigh and stepped from behind the desk. “Follow me.”

    They wove through a maze of corridors and past a series of specialized pens where small Pokémon were either playing with each other or sleeping. Having already been accustomed to similar arrangements back home, Jason offered each area only a cursory glance, but was struck by how “free” the Pokémon appeared to be. There were no humans in the pens and the fencing was of the simplest design. There was no electrification, there were no barbs, and the barriers weren’t even that high. They could be easily overcome if the Pokémon within chose to do so... but none of them seemed particularly interested in trying to escape. This seemed a strange thing to Jason, who was used to seeing Pokémon try to leave the CBC compounds at least once a week.

    They moved on to a hallway with rows of doors on each side, and progressed until they reached the second to last door on the right. She pursed her lips as she slipped a key into the lock. “You’ll get a wake-up call at 7 a.m. The professor will be in no later than 8, so if I were you, I’d get ready to be gone during that hour.”

    “All you see is all I’ve got,” Jason replied, “so I don’t think that’ll be a problem.”

    “I’ll remember that if anything goes missing from this room.”

    Jason chose not to comment on the barb, electing instead to enter the room silently and survey the quarters. Appropriately spartan, they contained only a bed, a bedside table, and a small dresser – the accommodations one might expect at a standard one-night hotel. A single lamp adorned the small table and lit the room only dimly. There was a single window on the opposite wall, and Jason was quick to note that there were only sheer blinds over it. Probably by the time morning comes, the sun will be shining in my face so bright I’ll be awake before the wake-up call.

    He turned to look at the ill-tempered brunette, but she was no longer standing in the door; it had already swung mostly shut and the latch was clicking at his glance. He scoffed to himself. Maybe she just needs to get out of the lab more often.

    He kicked off his shoes and shrugged off the vest, but stopped there, feeling a wave of discomfort at the thought of removing any other articles. Strange place, strange people... well, and hostile people, too. Better leave the rest on for a quick getaway. He tucked his legs under the sheets, let his head hit the pillow, turned out the light, and did his best to clear his mind.

    Sleep came only moments later.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011

  21. #21
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    Default Against All Odds: Exile - Part 7

    Exile

    Part 7


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Warmth and light pressing against his eyelids inspired them to flutter open, and Jason resisted his instinct to shield his eyes with his palm. Through the window’s sheers, he could see a spray of sunlight bursting across the horizon and dappling the clouds with various vivid red, oranges, and purples. He kept his eyes open and he focused on the fact that the sun was on the rise. If that’s true, then the “wake-up call” that girl was talking about earlier–

    His train of thought was interrupted by a rapid series of knocks on his door, making him jump. He got up and went to the door. “Yeah?”

    “7 a.m.,” a muffled male voice called through the door. “Standard wake-up.”

    “Yeah, thank you,” Jason replied, making a sour face at the door as he spoke. He turned back to the bed and sat back down, then noted the clock on the bedside table confirmed what the voice at the door had said. He let himself fall backward on the bed, unsure as to what he should do with himself. Would love some extra sleep, but if I do that, chances are I’ll oversleep. And Oak’s not coming in until 8, so getting up right now would probably be too early. Doesn’t leave much wiggle room for me here...

    He sat back up. I’ll at least play with the alarm. He fiddled with the clock’s settings – fortunately, they were simple enough that he had it set for 7:30 within moments. He laid back down and closed his eyes, trying to let sleep overtake him again... or at the very least, reach the peace of the twilight between the waking and dream worlds.

    If there was an endpoint to that journey, however, he felt himself only midway there when the alarm buzzed annoyingly at him. He jerked back to wakefulness and mentally directed a string of foul words at the machine while slapping at the Snooze button. Even knowing that method would turn off the noise, he knew it was hopeless by this point to try to acquire any more sleep.

    He climbed out of bed and donned his shoes and vest, then exited the room. He felt somewhat gratified to see that he wasn’t the only one leaving his quarters at more than half past, as several other apparent residents were just leaving their quarters as well. He received several polite nods from them as he worked his way up the hall, but none appeared interested in engaging him in conversation.

    He stopped by each of the Pokémon pens for a couple minutes apiece on his way to the main reception area. Now there were human researchers in the pens, and they appeared to be actively engaging with the Pokémon – speaking to them, feeding them, or playing with them, by and large very informal activities. These were things Jason was more familiar with seeing the breeders at the CBC doing, making sure that the Pokémon being raised out of their infancy were social and personable. Some breeders were more accomplished in that area than others, but in the case of employees like Janice Forester, special emphasis was placed on making sure the Pokémon were capable of establishing bonds with their would-be trainers.

    Jason took note of the fact that each researcher in the pens wore a pristine lab coat and carried a clipboard, on which were any number of documents that bore scribbled notes of every sort and in absolutely no order. At least three carried measuring implements and were using them to gauge the size of certain Pokémon, presumably to track their growth – for most Pokémon, growth cycles were much more rapid than those of humans, especially when enduring the taxing process of instant evolution.

    He eventually made his way back to reception, where the rude girl from before had been replaced by a boy who looked younger than Jason. Upon seeing Jason, the boy offered him a polite nod. “You’re the guy that got here last night, right?”

    “Um, yes.”

    “Yeah, Professor Oak should be on his way here, any minute now.” He glanced up at a nearby wall-mounted clock – Jason followed his gaze and saw the clock read 7:55. “He’s always here by 8. Well, almost always.”

    “‘Almost’?”

    The kid shrugged. “He’s in charge, he gets to make his own hours.”

    “Must be nice.”

    “Probably is. If you wanna take a seat, he’ll be coming right through that door, can’t miss you.”

    “Okay.” Jason decided not to point out there still were no chairs available to sit in, and he took up his position on the floor from the night previous.

    His wait was not a long one. Within five minutes, the front door swung open, allowing a fat stream of sunlight to offer an alternative to the drab lighting in the equally drab reception area, and Professor Oak stepped through the portal. His entry – which might have been an impressive image of a resolute and confident man ready to get work done – was dulled by a protracted yawn that opened his mouth nearly as widely as the door behind him. Amused, Jason also noticed that the professor’s hair looked as if it had been hastily combed with his fingers. The elder man carried a clipboard on which he was balancing an oversized cup of coffee, and hanging loosely from his opposite shoulder was a stylish black backpack.

    When the professor saw Jason seated on the floor, he approached and raised his eyebrows at the teen. “You know, there are alternatives to sitting on the ground.”

    “I don’t see any,” Jason remarked, gesturing at the seats sloppily stacked above their own back-rests with paperwork.

    Oak considered Jason’s point, then countered. “Usually, people who work for me are willing to demonstrate some incentive to find a more comfortable place to sit.”

    “Do people who work for you usually stand up when you come into their presence, too?” Jason asked, chucking a thumb at the receptionist – the boy had shot to his feet and appeared ready to salute the professor.

    Oak eyed the boy, then turned back to Jason and gave a casual bob of his head. “Usually, yes.”

    The response was all Jason needed; he stood up and brushed off his pants. “Hope you don’t mind me getting a delayed start on that, then.”

    “I don’t mind, just as long as you’re learning how to adapt. That’s much better than just settling for what feels like it’ll work and won’t bother anyone.” Oak took the coffee cup off his clipboard and inspected the papers on it for a moment. “Never settle for anything, Jason. Always challenge yourself and others to do better and be better.”

    “I’ll do that, but I’ve gotta start somewhere first, right?”

    “Quite true.” Oak ran his thumb under the backpack’s shoulder strap, gripped it, then held it out. “So start with these.”

    Jason blinked, but took the backpack without complaint and opened it. The interior was vastly roomier than its outside implied, and contained a PokéDex, a capture ball belt, and five Poké Balls. Jason pulled the belt out and inspected it for a long moment. While its design was specialized to hold Pokémon capsules, many people weren’t aware it also had a number of technological features woven into the hardy material – among them, an electronic identification registry stamp that tagged each and every ball he carried in the capsule holders with his unique ID number. And I have to slot each of the balls in the holders to stamp them before I can try to capture anything, or else the Pokémon won’t be properly tagged, he recalled.

    “I gather I don’t need to tell you how to tag your Poké Balls,” Oak remarked.

    “Nope, I got it.”

    “Good. The belt has already been programmed and logged into the local Pokémon Management System, so it’s ready for use.” The professor leaned a little closer to Jason and uttered his next words quietly. “Keep in mind, it’s only in the local system.”

    So if I try to catch something outside my authorized zone, the Pokémon Management System will alert the proper authorities. That’s a great thing to waste police resources on, arresting someone for catching a wild Pokémon. Jason resisted the urge to roll his eyes – that point had already been made clear to him once. “I understand, Professor.”

    “Good. Your credit card is loaded into the corresponding slot in your PokéDex, three thousand pokéyen ready to go. Keep the ‘Dex handy, you’ll need it to record notes and videos on the behavior of your Pokémon.”

    Jason pulled the red handheld device out of the backpack and looked it over. Its shape resembled a wide brick but weighed perhaps only half that much. He raised an eyebrow at it and looked up at the professor. “All the mini-tech on the belt and in the Poké Balls, and this.”

    Oak shrugged. “I didn’t design it to look pretty. It’s there to do a job. So are you.” He gestured grandly to the door. “It’s a beautiful morning. Better get yourself to it.”

    Jason returned the devices to the backpack and slung it over one shoulder. “Thanks, Professor,” he said, his tone sincere. “Really.”

    “You’re welcome.” The professor stepped to the door and held it open. “A new world awaits you. Make the most of it.”

    Jason hesitated a moment, then gave the professor and the laboratory one last glance before moving toward the door. He set his eyes on the path as he stepped through. First thing’s first, I have to go get Gyarados.

    Actually, no,
    he corrected himself, spotting a familiar house just off the beaten path. First thing’s first – I should really go thank Mrs. Ketchum real quick. It was an idea that he might have passed on, but he saw the woman stepping outside with a bucket of gardening implements and a heavy-duty apron.

    He approached the white fence that denoted the edge of her property and gave her a polite smile. “Good morning, Mrs. Ketchum.”

    “Oh, Jason.” She smiled back at him. “You’re up bright and early.”

    “No earlier than you, I’m betting.”

    “Oh, goodness, I’m starting to forget what sleep is like, as many times as I have to deal with Ash trying to get up in the middle of the night.” She rubbed her forehead with the back of her hand. “I’ll get him to learn about the joys of a good night’s rest eventually. But enough about that. I see you’ve got a backpack now... did Professor Oak give it to you?”

    “Yeah.” Jason tugged on the shoulder strap, feeling a slight swell of pride. “Actually, he’s letting me work for him, sort of. He wants me to go out and catch Pokémon for his lab.”

    “Sounds like a fun adventure!” she answered, another smile blossoming across her features. “Then I hope you have yourself a wonderful time out there.”

    “Me, too. I just wanted to stop by and thank you for being so nice to me and helping me out.” He tugged at the vest he wore. “You realize I’m gonna return these.”

    “Oh, I’m sure you will. Just don’t expect me to take them back that easily.”

    “Well, I’m not gonna be naked when I do, so I’ll have a fair reason to give them back.”

    “Being naked on a Pokémon journey would not be a good thing.”

    Jason wasn’t sure how to respond to that beyond, “Uh... no.” He scratched the back of his neck. “Okay, so... I’ll probably be back through Pallet Town before long.”

    She smiled once more. “Good! I’ll see you then.”

    “Yeah. See ya.”

    Jason backed away from the whitewashed fence and turned toward the shore; he shook his head and smiled. That... is one strange woman. But given how nice she is, she’s definitely a friend worth having. He tugged on the vest and looked over his outfit, noting that it already looked somewhat rumpled – most likely from having slept in it. I can look forward to a lot of that, I think...

    When he arrived on the beach, he saw that Gyarados had moved off the sand and was circling about in the deeper waters several yards away. The sea serpent had clearly been surveying the shore; the moment its eyes latched onto him, it swam back to the sandbar. Jason’s face twisted into a half-smile. “Miss me?”

    Gyarados issued a low growl.

    The teen released a chuckle. “You know something, I’m nowhere close to figuring you out. But you’re here, and you’re with me. More than I can say for just about anything or anyone else. So I’ll take what I can get.”

    Gyarados coiled its lower half on the beach, offering no vocal response.

    Jason held up a finger. “Check this out.” He set the backpack on the ground and pulled out the belt, as well as a Poké Ball. “Got these from Professor Oak this morning. I’ve been made an official Pokémon trainer. Time to make you my first one.”

    He tried to ignore the pressure he felt from Gyarados’ stare as he strapped the belt around his waist and cinched it. He glanced at the slots intended to carry capture balls and noted that each slot had a number painted into the bottom – 1 to 6, from left to right. He traded the Poké Ball he’d removed from the pack to his left hand and placed it in the first slot. A tinny beep emitted from a miniature speaker woven into the belt almost immediately, indicating the ball was properly stamped and ready for use.

    He removed the ball from the slot, then pressed the stud in its center. The miniaturization technology within the ball issued a whine as it activated and suddenly enlarged to three times its original size in his palm. The sensation of its growth among his fingers was a familiar one – he’d done it many times before – but it also seemed novel every time. No other technology he’d ever seen was capable of that feat. Seems like a lot of trouble to go to in order to make capture balls easier to carry, he thought.

    Gyarados shifted its gaze to regard the Poké Ball, and then its eyes flickered back to Jason. It gave no indication of any emotional response.

    Jason held up the ball. “You ready for this?”

    Gyarados lowered its head to the ground... perhaps the one thing it could have done to signify to Jason that it would offer no resistance to being captured.

    Jason stood back, cocked his arm, and threw the ball at Gyarados.

    It struck the Pokémon in the side, rebounded high into the air...

    And then the ball split open, and a beam of reddish energy shot out to engulf Gyarados.

    Jason kept his eyes locked with those of Gyarados as the serpentine creature melted into pure energy and was sucked into the mirrored interior. The kickback of the energy being drawn into the ball was enough to keep it airborne until the transfer was complete; as it began to fall, it snapped shut, and locked upon striking the ground.

    Jason watched the ball wiggle back and forth, a signature of the strength of the Pokémon within – whether or not it wished to struggle, it was an instinct against such a jarring transformation. He held his breath even knowing this time, it would be a sure catch. Uncertainty coursed through his veins, but wasn’t accompanied by the fear that marked his first attempt. Just breathe, Jason, he admonished himself. Just breathe, and watch yourself taking the first step of your journey.

    The stud in the center of the Poké Ball was glowing red, the same neon burn of the energy pulsing inside it, and it was the other means of discovering whether a Pokémon was battling the confines of the capsule. The ball itself stopped shuddering, but the button continued to glare angrily for a moment that by Jason’s watch could have measured the length of eternity.

    And then the glow faded away, permitting the button’s usual ivory hue to return.

    Jason’s chest collapsed as he let out the incredible amount of breath he’d withheld, and his face cracked into a smile that was at once excited and anxious. He knelt down beside the ball and gingerly plucked it from the sand. He stared at it for a long moment, as if it somehow now held answers to all the mysteries of the universe within. Then he poked the button, and it wailed as it shrank back down to the size of a paddleball. Then he looked to his belt, hesitated another moment, and finally tucked it into slot 1.

    Okay. Step one, complete. And now for step two. Hastily, he removed the other Poké Balls from his backpack and pressed each one into his belt for stamping. Each small beep offered him a boost of confidence, as if further setting into stone his future as a Pokémon trainer.

    And now for step three. He looked up at the path that would lead him out of Pallet Town.

    Start moving.

    He got back to his feet, and with perhaps more hope for himself than he’d ever felt before...

    Jason Creight walked on.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    End of Exile

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011

  22. #22
    Written Into A Corner... Cool Trainer
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    Default Re: Against All Odds (2011) [PG-13]

    This is where posting will start getting more sporadic - that was the totality of my completed/edited/proofed work. Please bear with me!

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Against All Odds (2011) [PG-13]

    It occurs to me I hadn't yet answered the reviews and responses so graciously offered. Time to change that!

    MLG: Regarding your reviews on Outcast: I hadn't even really thought about it when I wrote it or when I posted it, but now that I'm going over it again, you're right... Team Rocket was the first Pokémon-specific term I used. Very strange. I think my subconscious was doing something there. And I'm glad you're enjoying the description - it's something I've spent a long time refining, as with the concept of the story itself in my head. I've been trying very hard to give depth to the secondary characters, Daniel in particular, because we'll be seeing him again in a while. As for the plot you sense... well, we'll just have to see what happens!

    Becky: Whether you feel you have useful feedback (i.e. concrit) or not, hearing back is always appreciated. Thanks for the encouragement!

    MLG (again): Regarding your review on Exile: I hope my presentation of the battle between Jason and Wattson fulfilled your expectations. I do try to offer the flash they deserve. And I have to admit I lol'ed when I saw that you correctly guessed Wattson was the older trainer. I love readers that pick out and interpret the details!

    DL: That's great! I've always felt this story deserved the best writing I could offer it, and something told me I couldn't manage that in my teenage years. I think adulthood has given me the benefit not only of experience, but also being able to sympathize more with "grown-up" POV's and look at things from multiple angles. Lets me get into the heads of multiple characters far more easily than before. In the meantime, I hope I'll get to see the product of your own inspiration! I promise to read and review.

  24. #24
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    Default Against All Odds: Pathfinder - Part 1

    Pathfinder

    Part 1


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Jason Creight awoke in his sleeping bag, amidst the cold, damp grass on the outskirts of Viridian City.

    Two weeks had passed since he’d first set foot in Pallet Town. That his life had changed so dramatically over the past month was certainly remarkable in and of itself, but he believed it even more so, considering what he was doing now... an avenue of life for which he’d never before felt any ambition. Now, all of a sudden, I’m working as a Pokémon trainer and helping Professor Oak with his research into Pokémon social behavior. If I’d actually been handed that choice on a silver platter, it’s iffy whether I would have taken it.

    He looked above his head, where his backpack lay within easy reach, and he reached out to pat it, as though to confirm to himself it was still there. Within the carrier were virtually all of his possessions – perhaps the most important among them was his capture ball belt, which now bore three occupied Poké Balls.

    He unzipped his sleeping bag and climbed out of it, then promptly rolled it up and clipped it to the underside of his backpack. He’d learned quickly on his travels along the relatively benign route between Pallet and Viridian – a path that, according to the PokéDex’s information, Professor Oak had dubbed “Route 1” because he considered it “the first route from Pallet Town to typical human civilization” – that if he left the bag unoccupied and unattended for even a few moments, Pokémon were apt to scamper towards it and take shelter within. It was during that rude awakening to the truth that he’d first called out Gyarados for use in a battle against wild Pokémon.

    Jason recalled the incident vividly. Most of the time he considered Rattatas as fairly harmless, and at worst a nuisance... but the sheer number of them swarming around inside the unzipped covers had frightened the living daylights out of him, to say nothing of the look of the top cover roiling about over them. He’d only gone around a tree to do his business, but that was evidently enough time for them to call all of their local relatives and a few of their not-so-local ones to host some sort of bizarre party. It was only after the incident that Jason had consulted his PokéDex on Rattatas, to discover – quite belatedly – that such creatures were allured by softness and warmth since they usually did not live their daily lives with such comforts.

    “But,” he reminded himself aloud, “I did get a Pokémon out of that deal.”

    And it was true. Once he’d thrown Gyarados’ Poké Ball and revealed the one Pokémon he had in his arsenal, it had been more than enough to send most of the verminous creatures scurrying. One, however, had tried to retreat further into the covers – evidently convinced that if it could not see its attackers, they weren’t there. Unfortunately for that Rattata, Jason panicked and directed Gyarados to attack the remaining contents of the bag.

    Gyarados had, in response, brought the fan of its tail down upon the lump at the foot of the bag, from which Jason heard a satisfyingly pained squeak. But only an instant later, it occurred to him that sending Gyarados against such a weak foe was surely overkill, and in embarrassment he’d returned Gyarados to its own Poké Ball – then used a second one to capture the dazed and injured Rattata. After gathering up his belongings, he’d immediately rushed to the local PokéCenter in Viridian City to get medical treatment for the Rattata.

    Less than half an hour later, Nurse Joy had invited Jason into the recovery room, where the Rattata was munching happily on a treat she’d given it. Jason recalled that he’d blinked in surprise. “You patched him up that easily?”

    Nurse Joy had giggled at him. “Of course! Pokémon get into dust-ups like this all the time, especially if trainers are trying to capture them. This was no worse than most I’ve seen.”

    Jason wasn’t entirely sure how to respond to this, so he had kept his thoughts mostly to himself after that remark. No worse than most? I thought catching Pokémon was supposed to be at least a little more... I dunno... glamorous than that. Like it should’ve been poetry in motion, weakening Rattata to the point where he couldn’t resist capture.

    Any qualms he might have gotten over the incident, however, were dashed away once he saw the way the Rattata acted as he’d approached. He had thought the little Pokémon would react with hostility, but this wasn’t the case. In fact, the purple-furred creature expressed a joyful noise and faced the teen more fully with what Jason could almost have sworn was an expression of happiness.

    This had prompted Nurse Joy to offer commentary. “It looks like your Rattata is taking a bit of a shine to you.”

    The teen distinctly remembered the odd frown that had worked its way up to his features. “Isn’t that a bit weird? I did attack him with my Gyarados.”

    “True, but in defense of your own territory. And you didn’t leave him behind to die or pass out. You caught him instead, and in so doing, you said, ‘I’ll take responsibility for you.’ You brought him here right away so we could treat him. I think it’s all unexpected kindness for him. Usually trainers don’t want to even try catching Rattatas. You’ve done this one something of a rarer honor.”

    Jason reached into his backpack and withdrew the belt, then fingered each Poké Ball adorning it in turn. Trainers were discouraged from placing empty capture balls in their belts, except for stamping purposes; so despite being in ownership of more, Jason only had three in his belt, and he hesitated as he ran his fingers over the third one. Rattata’s capture might not have been particularly glamorous or flashy, but Pidgey’s capture had been something else again. Jason scoffed and shook his head as he recalled how foolish it had felt to him, trying to instruct his Pokémon – first Rattata, then Gyarados – to take it easy and just wear the little thing out.

    The battle had begun simply enough. Jason had laid down a small sprinkling of bird bait, hoping to attract a Pokémon capable of flight. Sure enough, before long, there were a few Pidgeys that passed through and a Pidgeotto that also gave the sprinkling several seconds of attention. He waited until there was only a single bird in the clearing – that took a little longer, but he was eventually faced with a lone Pidgey – and then he’d rolled Rattata’s Poké Ball towards the far side. When the ball came to rest, it popped open, and a brilliant flash of color and noise later, Rattata was poised and ready to fight.

    Jason had made sure to mark down in his notes that this was Rattata’s first real “battle”, and it acquitted itself admirably during the furball, tackling and nipping and squeaking without a hint of hesitation. The teen was surprised to have earned Rattata’s loyalty this quickly, but was not at all displeased. If anything, it’s only going to help me explore the sorts of bonds I can establish with Pokémon in general.

    Sadly, Pidgey’s counterattacks were strong and effective, and had eventually downed Rattata. Jason had then resorted to Gyarados, which only had to bat Pidgey with its fan-tail to deliver the result the teen was looking for. The capture came as quickly and decisively then as it had for Rattata, and Jason made a point of coming back to the PokéCenter right away to make sure both Rattata and Pidgey received the rehabilitation they needed.

    Each of those captures had occurred last week, only a couple days into his journey, and it was from there that Jason had decided it would probably be pertinent to train his Pokémon to survive battling with each other and preserve Gyarados for slightly more “special” occasions. Since then, Rattata and Pidgey had battled against many other Pokémon of their kind, but thus far had yet to encounter anything other than that. Jason was coming to the conclusion by this point that little else inhabited the wild grasses between Pallet Town and Viridian City. This being the case, he thought it reasonable to assume that Pidgeys and their ilk nested in the immediate area, and if so, they most likely gained easy dominion over it by hunting local insects. Rattatas, on the other hand, were burrowers and gatherers, and weren’t easily driven completely out of an area they frequented. Certainly they could be frightened and chased away, but almost never for very long. They would find their way back to their usual haunts.

    He got to his feet and wrapped the belt about his waist, then cinched it and removed the three occupied Poké Balls it carried. He enlarged each and tossed them into the air; the three balls emptied their contents as one, releasing Pidgey into the air while Gyarados and Rattata appeared on the ground. Pidgey didn’t miss a beat and took wing immediately; it even chirped, which Jason had decided was its way of informing him of its pleasure at being exposed to the open air.

    Gyarados appeared to be less energetic about being released, however, and settled its head on the ground almost immediately. It let out a low growl and tilted its head to one side, a sure indication to Jason that it would prefer to slumber a while longer. Rattata offered perfect juxtaposition to the serpent, offered an enthusiastic bark, and scampered around in a figure-8 pattern – the morning was its domain.

    Jason surveyed his mismatched team of Pokémon and chuckled. “Okay, so today’s going to be another one of those days, I guess. Let’s have a little pow-wow here.”

    Pidgey settled on the ground next to Rattata, who meantime had calmed itself and was watching Jason attentively, much in the manner of an adoring pet. Both smaller Pokémon were giving Gyarados a wide berth, and it didn’t surprise Jason in the least that they did so. It wasn’t just humanity that knew the reputation the Gyarados species had built for itself; that reputation was legendary among virtually all known species of Pokémon.

    Fortunately for those two, Jason was already well-aware of what his particular Gyarados could do, especially when enraged, so he only released Gyarados when it was necessary, or when he was in stress-free environs. Thus far in the journey, neither Jason nor his other Pokémon had suffered any ill effects from a Gyarados temper tantrum.

    Jason got down on one knee and offered each of his Pokémon an encouraging smile. “Hey guys, I think it’s about time we move on. I haven’t seen any other Pokémon in the area and there’s not much point in sticking around here. Ready to do a little traveling?”

    Pidgey flapped its wings and chirped; Rattata barked and scampered in another figure-8. Gyarados’ response was another low growl from somewhere near its stomach, which made the other two glance to their right and then inch cautiously to their left. Jason shook his head in amusement at his water-dwelling Pokémon. “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure to find you a lake or something to keep you happy. And you won’t have to come out for a while, Pidgey and Rattata need the exercise more than you. You’re just out here to share in the excitement.”

    Predictably, another growl was all Jason got from Gyarados for his pep talk. Pidgey and Rattata appeared heartened by the news they would be acting as the workhorses, however; Pidgey fluttered up to Jason and perched on his shoulder, while Rattata made a show of running around Jason’s feet. Jason had by now gotten used to the feel of Pidgey’s talons taking root in his shoulder – just the slightest bit uncomfortable, but strangely reassuring at the same time. In addition, it told him Pidgey preferred to remain out in the open. He chuckled at the bird. “Fair enough, if you want.” Then he looked down at Rattata. “How about you, wanna stay out?”

    “Rat!” the little creature yelped, and it scampered towards Jason and snuggled against his leg.

    Jason released a laugh. “Okay, guess that answers that.” His gaze panned to Gyarados, who still lay lethargically on its side. He scoffed in amusement. “More sleep for you, obviously. Fine, then.” He held out the sea serpent’s Poké Ball. “Return!”

    The voice recognition software in the ball processed the command – which was meant as much for the Pokémon as it was for the capsule in which it was kept – and from a mirror screen embedded in its activation button, fired a neon laser at Gyarados. The laser was a scanning beam to confirm the Pokémon being recalled was the same Pokémon that belonged in the ball, and it took less than an instant to confirm the fact. Then the laser was replaced with a crackling bolt of energy, which wreathed Gyarados and melted it into intangibility; then the ball popped open and the mass of energy leaped inside, followed by the crisp snap of the capsule closing itself. The entire process took only a moment, and Jason had seen it any number of times before – including by his own use – but he still took a moment to marvel at the piece of technology in his hand.

    He pressed the button, shrinking it back down to portable size, and looked at each of his other Pokémon in turn. “You guys probably don’t get it, but this thing is a remarkable piece of technology,” he said, holding up the miniature Poké Ball for emphasis before returning it to his belt.

    Pidgey flapped its wings restlessly and chirped. Rattata looked up at Jason in curiosity; evidently the marvel was beyond both of them.

    Jason shrugged. “Whatever. Let’s head on north, then.”

    The path was both uphill and winding. In point of fact, it wasn’t even continuous – there were any number of patches of overgrown grass that had completely overtaken where the beaten path was supposed to be. When he’d inquired about the matter at the Pokémon Center in Viridian City, Nurse Joy had explained how there had been lack of support for making any paved paths between Viridian and Pallet Town. The dirt path, despite being broken in some areas, was enough of a guideline for anyone traveling between the two locations. She also made the point that Pokémon released from the preserve Professor Oak kept beyond his laboratories needed space to learn how to live in the wild.

    It hadn’t occurred to Jason, since all breeding of Pokémon at the CBC had been under precise and controlled conditions, but it made sense to him upon consideration. If the Pokémon at Oak’s lab were truly as free to do what they pleased as it had seemed, then one could reasonably assume they found mates amongst each other there. But if that’s true, wouldn’t they want to keep the offspring for their Pokémon social studies experiment? Jason found himself wondering.

    No, he realized, because if they did, the Pokémon born in captivity would establish an entirely different society from the one that’s “out there” in the world at large. The interactions wouldn’t be the same. Sure, they’d want to examine how parent Pokémon would treat their children, but beyond that... Pokémon ought to experience the life they’ve been living since creation began.

    He blinked. Wow. Don’t think I’ve ever quite thought like that before. He glanced at Pidgey, then Rattata – the latter had run slightly ahead and was waiting expectantly at the top of the next incline. Jason shook his finger at Rattata in admonition. “Now, now, don’t get yourself too far ahead of me. You’ll get yourself in trouble.”

    “Rat?” The purple-furred Pokémon tilted its head at Jason in puzzlement.

    Jason chuckled. “Not really. Just stick close. Keep making me think in new ways.”

    The dirt path led them northward and into the limits of Viridian City, a sprawling landscape of jarring modernity to anyone from Pallet Town who might have been accustomed to smaller and cozier arrangements. There were clear sections devoted to industry, commerce, and residential zones. Industrial buildings could be seen to the northeast and consisted mostly of grain elevators and refinement plants; to commercial business went the southwest, marked by storefronts and a strip mall that housed mostly food courts, clothiers, and sports equipment retailers.

    Directly north of the commercial sector, meantime, sat the bulk of houses and apartments – and it appeared to Jason as though no expense had been spared in the maintenance of these places. Each and every house, condominium, and apartment complex looked like it had been built within the last five years. Even Tangelo Island, a modern establishment itself, seemed a small and pale imitation of the modern grandeur of Viridian City, and it had given Jason pause when he’d first come upon the city.

    Upon passing the city’s welcome sign, he found a paved path to travel, and Rattata paced gingerly beside him. Jason raised an eyebrow at his Pokémon. “Hot pavement?”

    “Rat!” it barked, hopping on opposing pairs of feet – a clear yes.

    Jason gestured with his left hand. “Well, then, get up here, dummy. You’ve got an open shoulder, I need to balance out the weight somehow with Pidgey up here. She’s not too proud to let me do all the work.” He chuckled as he glanced to Pidgey and scratched the top of the bird’s head with one finger. “Are you, now?”

    Pidgey cooed in ecstasy from being scratched. Jason knew well the foibles of many Pokémon species, and this one was inherent in most birds – they were unable to reach their own heads, and the space on top tended to itch.

    Rattata, meantime, did not let Jason’s invitation go to waste, and scampered up his leg and side as quickly as its legs would carry it, then settled into place on the teen’s left shoulder. It was visibly relieved at being on a cooler surface and nosed at Jason’s ear in gratitude. Jason ducked his head away instinctively and laughed. “Hey, quit that, you’re freaking me out.”

    The walkway took them straight north, straddling the line between the industrial and commercial zones. Jason had already availed himself of the retail comforts Viridian offered with the line of credit Oak had extended him: new clothing, camping supplies, food suitable for trainer and Pokémon alike, even a few extra Poké Balls. He’d spent a fair amount of time drooling over the glass display cases that showed other brands of capture balls, including those of Great and Ultra class, but those had been far more expensive than his budget allowed.

    And I learned my lesson from spending all my money on Gyarados, he thought. Never put all your eggs in one basket. Spend a little at a time, eventually you’ll get what you want, but focus on what you need.

    As for clothing, he had purchased two pairs of light blue jeans and two white shirts, trying to keep with the idea that lighter colors would reflect rather than retain the light and heat of the summer sun. It was one such set that he wore now, and his borrowed clothing was tucked away in his backpack. He still wore the vest that Mrs. Ketchum had provided; it was proving extremely useful in offering extra pockets, in the event a Poké Ball needed to be accessed or medicine needed to be distributed.

    He emerged from the business district and began passing blocks of housing. On this warm morning, children were already out in their bathing suits, chasing each other through sprinklers. A couple of them noticed him passing by and took note of the Pokémon on his shoulders; they waved excitedly at the sight of a Pokémon trainer in their midst. He smiled and politely waved back but didn’t slow his pace. Bet it’s nice for them, not having to worry about money and responsibilities outside of school, he thought. And to think, that was me not too long ago.

    He let his shoulders slump just slightly at that train of thought. In purchasing his supplies, he had nearly drained the credit account and had only a couple hundred pokéyen remaining. It might be enough to continue furnishing food for a while, but even that would get harder if he didn’t find himself a source of income. And with the lifestyle I’ve got here, there’s really only one recourse for that – battling other trainers on their own journeys. He chewed his lip, stuffed his hands in his vest pockets, and stared at the ground perpetually beyond the reach of his toes.

    Just about every kid I’ve ever met has had that dream sometime in their life, wanting their own Pokémon, wanting to become a trainer and go on adventures all over the place. It’s always had appeal to both kids and parents. For the kids, it’s being able to get out on your own and make your own rules on how you want to live. For their parents, it’s all about getting the kid out the door so they can finally have some alone time. Even I’ve had that dream once in a while. But we never think about failing. And what if a trainer fails? Consistently loses, loses all the money he was given, and just can’t make ends meet anymore?

    He scoffed, and glanced at Pidgey, then answered his silent question aloud. “Tell you what happens to those trainers. They leave their Pokémon behind at the nearest day care or lab, and they find themselves jobs. Real, honest, human jobs. Anything that doesn’t have to do with training or competition.”

    Pidgey tilted its head, clearly uncertain as to what Jason was talking about. The teen waved his hand dismissively. “Nah, never mind, you probably don’t care that much anyway.”

    Pidgey chirped. Rattata, however, pawed at Jason’s ear curiously, forcing the teen to jerk his head once more. “Ack, knock it off!” he said, turning to face the rodent.

    “Rattata!” it proclaimed playfully, unaware – or perhaps simply uncaring – that the behavior was annoying its trainer.

    Jason considered admonishing the Pokémon more forcefully, but after a moment thought better of it and reached up to scratch the creature behind its ears. Rattata hummed in joy at the sensation of Jason’s fingernails raking its fur where the Pokémon itself was unable to reach.

    The teen chuckled helplessly. “Okay, we’re gonna have to work something out where you don’t pester me like that. You want my attention, just speak up. I’m not planning on quitting this job so we’ll be sticking together for kind of a while.”

    Rattata merely squeaked in answer, and draped itself lazily across Jason’s shoulder. Jason chuckled again, then glanced up.

    The path was by this point taking him past what many considered to be the crown jewel of Viridian City. It wasn’t any of the skyscrapers, condos, or industrial plants, or even any of the multi-level retailers that littered the rest of the landscape – instead it was a building that stood slightly less than three stories in height. It stood apart from all the rest of the structures he had yet seen for its bright paint, lack of windows, and the large sign that stood in front:

    Viridian City Pokémon Gym

    Jason felt a shiver go down his spine, and he leaned close to Rattata. “Déja vu,” he muttered.

    I wonder if the order was ever completed, he found himself thinking. If not... if Gyarados didn’t ruin everything, then that probably would have.

    Not content to continue dwelling on the subject, he quickened his pace and hurried towards the north exit leading out to Route 2.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011

  25. #25
    Usertitle ftw Moderator
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    Default Re: Against All Odds (2011) [PG-13] - Pathfinder Part 1 up!

    *pant*

    ..finally caught up! Still loving it, the descriptions were very nice again especially the capturing, the explanation on the pokeballs, etc.

    Professor Oak was portraited very nicely, his curious nature really came across.

    Rattata and Pidgey eh? Who would've guessed.

    Can't wait for more!

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Against All Odds (2011) [PG-13] - Pathfinder Part 1 up!

    Another great chapter! I also really like your attention to detail, and you really characterized the pokemon nicely, like Pidgey being scratched!

    Jason is really maturing, the more his journey continues.

    I am curious about what's going on back at his home, too.
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    Thank you TPM Friends for the nice Award!
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  27. #27
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    Default Re: Against All Odds (2011) [PG-13] - Pathfinder Part 1 up!

    MLG: I'm glad you're still with me! We've got a long way to go but the marathon should slow down to a nicer, steadier pace. Outcast and Exile delineates the opening sprint into the distance where spectators no longer can see you and you can stop showing off.

    In my own Trekkie brand of nerdiness, I felt like trying to come up with an explanation for the Poké Balls that sounded less like contrived magic or deus ex machina and more like plausible science. Hard to do for a manga/anime/video game based series, but there you are.

    For every character who makes a cameo in the story, it's vitally important to me that I stay true to their nature, even if I go off on a tangent with them that you might not expect. Oak sometimes comes off as a flighty dork, but he can also be drop-dead serious when he needs to be, and I think that had to apply here.

    And... well, of course, Rattata and Pidgey! Gyarados is extraordinary enough, now he needs some "ordinary" teammates.

    Becky: Detail is everything to me. I feel it's extremely important to showcase even the slightly more boring aspects of his journey, because nobody has a Pokémon journey without a few dry spots here and there. It's all about how those times are dealt with.

    I'm glad you're seeing his maturity rising. He's still got a ways to go, but he's making his way through.

    And I'm betting you aren't the only one wondering about that! You'll all see, soon enough.

  28. #28
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    Default Against All Odds: Pathfinder - Part 2

    Pathfinder

    Part 2


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The trainers’ path leading up the foothills of the route north of Viridian City was more well-trod than the one between Viridian and Pallet; Jason was quick to note that the grassy patches that sprouted up through the dirt were kempt and little more than decorative. Certainly no Pokémon made their nests or hideaways there.

    He glanced to the east. There was a thick line of trees that looked almost impossible for one to crawl among without risking a fair amount of injury. Perhaps Rattata or Pidgey would be able to navigate them, but they were so clustered that it would have been out of the question for anyone or anything more than half Jason’s size to make the trek.

    Maybe a Pinsir or a Scyther could cut those down, he thought; he released a scoff at the idea a moment later. Yes, Jason, go ahead and support deforestation because you’d like to explore and the trees are an eyesore.

    He let the thought go as he made his way up a hill and circled to the left around a clump of trees. A short distance ahead, he could see an area of unkept grass rustling with activity that could not be attributed to the wind. At the same time, he felt Pidgey grow restless on his right shoulder and start flapping its wings.

    He felt a grim smile twist his features, and he looked at each of his shoulder-mounted Pokémon in turn. “I’m thinking it’s a good day for a capture or two. What do you think?”

    Both offered positive responses – a loud chirp from Pidgey, and an eager “Rat!” from Rattata.

    “Heh. All right. Pidgey, if you would be so kind, try chasing something out of there. And try not to make a meal of every single bug you find.”

    He received another enthusiastic caw from the bird before it took wing and soared to the opposite side of the grassy patch. It dove into the overgrowth with reckless abandon – perhaps more hungry than Jason had anticipated – and in moments, insects were scrambling out of the grass and into the open in a futile attempt to escape Pidgey’s beak. Most of them were exactly what Jason had expected to find: Caterpies and Weedles, Bug-Type Pokémon that most bird species found especially succulent.

    With the passage of another moment, it became clear what Pidgey’s mark was... a large Weedle whose movement was quicker than the others and thus had made itself noticeable beyond the writhing mass. Furthermore, its escape path was taking it towards Jason.

    Jason called out to Pidgey, “Show me a Gust attack!”

    The flying Pokémon wasted no time in answering the command with an especially violent flap of its wings; a sharp blast of wind caught Weedle beneath its fleeing form and carried it into the air for a long moment, then dumped it on the ground just a short distance away from the teen.

    Jason took advantage of the moment. “Okay, Pidgey, good job! Go find yourself some slower food, we’ll take it from here!”

    Pidgey let out a loud caw, then swung around and sought out another insect to terrorize. Jason looked to Rattata. “Your turn, let’s go!”

    Rattata leapt off his shoulder and poised itself the instant it landed, tail high and teeth bared.

    “Okay, Rattata, Quick Attack!”

    The purple-furred rodent charged ahead with blinding speed and rammed headlong into the Weedle, toppling the oversized grub and causing it to roll ignominiously end-over-end. The insect tried to right itself and when it couldn’t, it lay still – an instant later, the needle-like projectile in the top of its head suddenly shot out at Jason’s Pokémon. Rattata tried to dodge the attack but the stinger grazed its shoulder and it barked in displeasure.

    Poison Sting attack, Jason thought. Better check Rattata and make sure the stinger didn’t hurt him too badly once the battle’s done. He reached into his vest and fingered one of the miniaturized Poké Balls within. Not just yet... “Bite him!” he commanded.

    Rattata lunged forward. The Weedle tried vainly to squirm away from Jason’s Pokémon and nearly succeeded – Rattata’s first attempt failed and its huge teeth hit only empty air. It growled in frustration and tried again, and this time, it caught the end of Weedle’s tail. The Bug-Type Pokémon yelped as Rattata thrashed it head about, taking the Weedle with it and whiplashing it back and forth in midair.

    “All right, Rattata, enough, let go of him!”

    Rattata’s mouth opened suddenly, and Weedle went flying through the air for a long moment – then it landed and skidded through the dirt several feet before finally coming to rest at the edge of the grass. Jason held up his hand to Rattata. “Okay, that’s enough, I’ve got this!”

    Then his other hand emerged from his vest. As his arm arced up, he pressed the stud on the Poké Ball in his hand, and it grew to baseball size – then he hurled it at the downed Weedle before it had a chance to struggle back to its stubby feet. The ball struck its target precisely in the center, then bounced up, split open, and spat out its neon energy beam to engulf the creature. Once the Weedle was converted into energy and drawn into the recesses of the ball, the ball snapped shut and hit the ground.

    It became apparent that the Weedle had been rendered completely helpless by Rattata’s assault, because the energy matrix in the center of the ball’s button didn’t even glow red, as it had done with the three Pokémon Jason had captured previously. Instead it simply lay on the ground and waited for Jason to retrieve it.

    The teen did so, and as he plucked the ball from the minuscule impact crater it had created, he looked at his approaching Rattata and chuckled. “Well. Guess that didn’t take much.” He pressed the button; the ball shrunk down and he placed it in the fourth ball slot of his belt, where a small beep informed him the Pokémon inside had been registered.

    Then he reached out to Rattata. “C’mere, I wanna take a look at that shoulder.”

    “Rat.” Rattata approached and put forth its limb for Jason’s inspection. With methodical diligence, the teen checked between its coarse hairs for any sign of infection to the injury it had sustained from Weedle’s stinger; fortunately, all Jason could spy was a red scratch that had already stopped bleeding and showed only normal irritation. The rodent became restless and began shifting about in Jason’s grip as he was completing his inspection.

    “Hey, hey,” he admonished, and he took Rattata’s lower jaw in hand and forced it to look him in the eye. “Trying to help you. Can’t do that if you’re flapping around. Calm down until I’m done.”
    “Rat!” it barked, but it complied and relaxed.

    Jason looked up to the patch of overgrowth. “Pidgey!” he called out.

    To its credit, his bird Pokémon wasted no time in answering his call – in fact, wasted so little time that there were still glistening bug innards dangling from its beak as it approached. Jason stuck his fists on his hips and shook his head. “That’s awful. Need to learn to clean up after yourself, Pidgey.”

    Pidgey appeared thoroughly unapologetic about the mess, however, and flew up to Jason’s right shoulder to take its perch. The teen heaved a sigh and fumbled for a cloth to wipe off the bird’s beak while Rattata rolled over on its back and played in the grass during the momentary distraction.

    When Jason was finished cleaning Pidgey up, he glanced between the two Pokémon, then plucked the newly registered Poké Ball from his belt and held it up for their inspection. “All right, boys and girls, this is our new friend.” He shook it at Pidgey for emphasis. “Don’t eat him. Work well and play nice.”

    Pidgey flapped its wings but offered no vocal response.

    “Okay, bringing him out now. This is a him, right?” Jason reached into his backpack and pulled out his PokéDex, whose quick scan confirmed to him that he had indeed caught a male. He pressed the stud and then let the ball fly; energy poured from it and congealed into a banged-up and rather distraught-looking insect.

    Jason knelt down and smiled, offering it his open hand. “Hey, there, fella. My name’s Jason. I’m a Pokémon trainer.”

    Wow, it feels weird to say that, he thought. But... good at the same time, somehow.

    The large grub Pokémon inched forward in acknowledgment of Jason’s unarmed offering and nosed at his open hand. Jason’s smile widened and he carefully reached into his pack to remove a topical healing spray – a concoction that had been devised hundreds of years ago to provide fast-acting relief to injuries, and to this day was still referred to by the archaic term “potion”. “C’mere,” he said, “this’ll help you feel better.”

    But Weedle appeared unconvinced, and began to shy away from Jason. “Hold up,” he protested. “I’m not gonna hurt you. Here, let me show you. Rattata?”

    “Rat?” Jason’s rodent stepped forward, evidently understanding it was meant to help provide a demonstration. It rolled its injured shoulder forward so that Weedle could see, and Jason sprayed a minimal amount of the fluid on the scratch it had sustained. Its anti-inflammatory properties made the Pokémon feel instant relief and it relaxed and sighed as the burning sting faded.

    “See?” Jason shrugged. “Doesn’t hurt a bit. It’ll make you feel a lot better.” He waved his fingers at Weedle, gesturing for it to approach. “C’mon over here.”

    Weedle released a small squeak, but did as it was told and climbed cautiously into Jason’s hand, then halfway up his arm. Jason gave it another encouraging smile and held up the spray. “Don’t worry, you can trust me.”

    The first place he applied the spray was around the area on its tail segment where Rattata had bitten it. For the first instant, the insect seized up at the unfamiliar sensation – but then its tension melted away in concert with its pain, and it settled a little more comfortably on Jason’s arm as he continued applying the spray to its exoskeleton.

    He exhausted half the bottle on it – and there goes a hundred pokéyen, he thought – but the effect was clear as glass. In fact, Weedle looked almost ready to fall asleep on Jason’s arm, to which Jason could only shake his head. “Hey, c’mon now, I can’t keep making room for all of you to ride around on me like this. I’ve got Poké Balls for a reason, you know.”

    Weedle looked up at him, and although it could not speak, its odd face gave him an expression which he could only interpret as equal parts cheerful and playful. Jason arched an eyebrow at it. “You know, Gyarados is the only one of you guys that’s been anything other than friendly towards me. Come to think of it, that’s probably for the best.” He looked back at Rattata and then to Pidgey. “Wouldn’t really want you guys to get uncooperative with me.”

    “Rat-rat-tat!” Rattata replied, and it gibbered in this fashion at Weedle for several moments. Jason couldn’t pretend that he understood exactly what Rattata was trying to say – Pokémon, by and large, were incapable of speech with the exception of the names of their own species – but it became evident when the rodent rose its tail up high in the air, then slammed it into the ground beside it. Awfully like what Gyarados ended up having to do to the both of them when I caught them, he thought, so that’s probably it.

    He turned to Weedle just in time to see the Bug-Type Pokémon shrink slightly and shudder on his arm... a fascinating sensation to the teen. He held his arm up a little higher and gave Weedle an encouraging look. “Hey, don’t worry about that. Gyarados is part of the team, he’s not gonna hit you. I won’t let him, all right?”

    Weedle appeared slightly assuaged, but it still was huddled into itself and it gave a small squeak. Jason reached up and rubbed the Pokémon’s head; its carapace, though smooth in appearance, actually bore a number of fine hairs that gave it a distinctly prickly surface. The hole in its head from which it had fired its stinger at Rattata was already filled with another identical projectile; Jason took care not to touch it, and he smiled again at Weedle. “Looks like you’ve got Poison Sting down. We’ll work on that.”

    Jason got to his feet, Weedle still firmly stuck to his arm, and he looked at the other Pokémon. “Not quite lunchtime yet. What do you think? Should we get on to Viridian Forest? We can do some more training in there.”

    Pidgey and Rattata both gave positive responses to that suggestion; Rattata skittered ahead while Pidgey took wing and took up position directly between Jason and Rattata. Jason looked at Weedle, who looked back up at him and made an inquisitive noise. Jason snickered and shrugged helplessly. “What can I say? Enthusiastic team here.”

    Then he began running to catch up with his Pokémon, feeling more invigorated than he could ever recall.



    The next three weeks seemed to go by in the blink of an eye, by Jason’s measurement. He spent several days in Viridian Forest, keeping each of his Pokémon “on watch” during resting periods and then putting them through intensive training sessions – which mostly involved seeking out hostile wild Pokémon and doing battle with them at all hours of the day and night. During his tenure in the dense foliage, he encountered dozens of Bug-Type Pokémon... simple challenges for Rattata, and incredible meals for Pidgey. Weedle, however, demonstrated a fair degree of difficulty in overcoming enemy Pokémon, and it was only against Caterpies that it seemed any degree of comfortable or competitive.

    There had been one notable exception to that rule, however – a male Pikachu that took offense to Jason’s encroachment on its territory. As the Pokémon that had been “out” at the time, Pidgey was the first one to offer defense to its trainer, but was quickly felled by an arc of electricity. Despite this, Jason wasn’t convinced it was a threat, but that thought in and of itself was what inspired him to catch it – if it wasn’t a threat now, perhaps with the proper training and encouragement, it could become one. He appointed Weedle to the task of wearing down the insulted creature; a well-placed Poison Sting attack, followed by a series of String Shot attacks to bind the Pikachu in place, had debilitated the electric mouse Pokémon to the point of easy capture.

    Jason had immediately followed the capture with a congratulatory meal for Weedle, a chunk of candy that the insect instantly devoured. He’d grinned at Weedle, noting that it had fulfilled the task handily, without needing to involve a third tail slap from Gyarados. That had brought about a happy squeal from Weedle, but also a distinctly unhappy caw from Pidgey, who was still lying on the ground and was only just beginning to stir from the surprise attack.

    That incident had taught Jason a couple of important lessons – first, never to neglect a KO’ed Pokémon, and second, to make sure each one received proper accolades in discreet conditions and appropriate fashion. He’d spent the next three days trying to make up for the faux pas by training Pidgey more intensely and demonstrating greater-than-usual appreciation for it.

    Their eventual emergence from Viridian Forest had been met by a female Caterpie standing dead-center in the road – one that had bristled at the very sight of a Weedle riding about on Jason’s shoulder and firing a String Shot at it in challenge. The silken threads had struck Jason, as well, and he’d instantly sent Pidgey to deal with their attacker – a Gust had knocked the otherwise helpless insect back and bowled it over. A Poison Sting from Weedle followed, and the nuisance Caterpie represented was neutralized. But for reasons he himself wasn’t sure he could describe, Jason hadn’t been content to leave it at that, and he found himself throwing a Poké Ball almost before realizing what he was doing.

    There really was no room for second-guessing when Caterpie, in energy form, stopped struggling against the recesses of the ball. Thus had been Jason’s sixth capture since beginning his journey, offering him a full team to work with.

    His subsequent marathon to Pewter City had been swift, more so than his travel from Pallet to Viridian. He knew his supplies wouldn’t last forever, and the thought of giving his Pokémon the full workup they deserved from a Pokémon Center... and for free, no less... was becoming more and more appealing.

    In the meantime, he did his best to entertain all of his Pokémon, new and old, but for Caterpie and Weedle, he quickly discovered it was better to keep them apart. He knew of the battles various insect Pokémon species had with each other for dominance of regions – among the most famous rivalries was that between Scythers and Pinsirs – and in this area it seemed to be these particular species that had it in for each other. Attempts to get them to cooperate, or at the very least to tolerate each others’ presence, were met with incredible amounts of silk thread from repeated String Shot attacks, as well as poison barbs from Weedle’s carapace and full-on tackles (or attempts thereof) from Caterpie.

    When he brought them to Pewter’s Pokémon Center, that suspicion was corroborated by Nurse Joy. “Weedles and Caterpies in this region have an incredible amount of hostility towards each other,” she’d said, “and most believe the rivalry started with a Beedrill and a Butterfree. The truth is, though, nobody knows exactly how it began.”

    “Nobody knows who was here first?” he’d asked.

    “Both species were here before the first human settlements arrived,” she’d responded. “They were at it even back then.”

    “So what do I do with these two?”

    “Just keep doing what you’re doing. A good trainer can get his Pokémon to work together. If they’re both loyal to you, eventually they’ll be loyal to each other, as well.”

    It was difficult for Jason to tell whether he was being a “good” trainer or not, and there seemed little sense in asking Nurse Joy. All she would have been able to tell him was what sort of condition his Pokémon were in and advise him on what he ought to be carrying to keep them in top form. When his Pokémon were returned to him, however, she did take the time to note that Pidgey’s feathers still seemed ruffled over something or other. “Did something happen to strain your relationship?”

    “Yeah, I did something stupid and ended up ignoring her when I shouldn’t have.”

    “Pidgeys never consider themselves at the apex of their own strength. Many have self-esteem issues from this.”

    “So should I keep leading with her?”

    “To help her reach that apex, yes. And give her goals to aim for, too. When she reaches them, acknowledge it. Make sure she knows you’re proud of her.”

    That task had proven harder than Jason initially understood once he left Pewter City. As long as I keep running into pockets of insects, Pidgey will keep getting herself a full stomach and a wealth of battle experience. At first, he’d thought his primary concern would be the fact that he was still running out of money and he would have to spread his supplies a bit thin to make do – but as he made his way east out of town, it became evident that birds, not bugs, dominated the local grasses of Route 3. The sight of Jason’s Pidgey riding shotgun on his shoulder prompted a menagerie of males to attempt to assert their dominance, and many of these were much closer in terms of matching abilities with his Pidgey than any insect they’d yet encountered.

    After a number of battles, Jason had begun to think that giving Pidgey a reprieve would be the smart thing to do – particularly since he also had Pikachu on his team now, and it hadn’t gotten much experience since its capture. He’d even sat down to have a heart-to-heart with Pidgey about the subject. But before the issue could be resolved, they were attacked yet again... this time, not by another Pidgey, but by a Spearow. And then another, and another.

    Oh, great. Another turf war I walked right into. Not only that, but his Pidgey, battle-weary though it was, seemed far more eager to take on the sudden flood of Spearows than it had been to battle its own species. Jason did his best to guide Pidgey’s actions and ensure it remained in the best condition he could keep it, but it was, quite literally, an uphill battle, and one he wasn’t sure Pidgey could win by itself.

    During the next lull in battle, he produced Pikachu, and informed both that he expected them to get along with each other so that they could make it through. Neither had shown particular enthusiasm about it; Pidgey still harbored a grudge because of the surprise attack Pikachu had committed upon it, and Pikachu was still sore over Pidgey having been the first to invade its territory... not to mention having subsequently been removed from that territory. The two had initially faced away from each other in clear mutual distaste.

    Ironically, that very action actually ended up putting them both to work – each saw a hostile flock that they wanted to attack. Neither was able to eliminate their respective packs easily, due to the large numbers on the opposing side; Spearows were eager to peck at Pikachu and then scamper away, while more male Pidgeys were trying to assert themselves over Jason’s own. Neither were able to react quickly enough, or appropriately, towards the threats they perceived. Jason had finally directed them both to switch places. Pidgey hunts from a distance and specializes more in air blasts which can knock Spearows off course and to the ground... meanwhile, Pikachu wouldn’t have to worry about the male dominance aspect.

    The strategy worked; both groups of birds had been driven off by the concerted effort. It hadn’t exactly been the tie that bound Pidgey and Pikachu together, but Jason did notice a lessening of the tension between the two Pokémon – perhaps born from the revelation they were on the same team and would do well to work together. It was then that Jason understood what his father had meant when he’d said, “You can try to educate your children to help them avoid the mistakes they’ll make, but you can’t take away from them that moment they figure it out for themselves.”

    Upon conclusion of the battle, Jason had returned Pidgey to the safety of its Poké Ball, then commanded Pikachu to sit down with him. The yellow-furred mouse had done so, but not without a moment’s hesitation at the instruction.

    Jason had sat cross-legged on the grass and looked Pikachu in the eye. “I took you away from your home. I understand that. I lost my home once, too. If you’re mad at me for it, I’m willing to let you go back to it. I don’t want to make you come with me just because it seems like you don’t have any other choice.”

    Pikachu had tilted its head at him, ears twitching in a combination of curiosity and confusion. “Pi?”

    The teen had chuckled in spite of himself. “Maybe too many words. Okay...” He tried to used hand gestures to accentuate the point he was attempting to make. “If you want to go home, you can go home. I won’t stop you.”

    For half a beat, Jason had held his breath in full expectation of Pikachu to do exactly that. But instead, Pikachu waddled forward on its haunches and blinked up at him. “Chu. Pika-pi.”

    “...bless you, I think?” Jason said uncertainly, scratching the back of his neck.

    Pikachu waddled forward again, then held its stiff tail up in Jason’s direction. Were it any other species, Jason might have thought himself about to be assaulted by unmentionables, but in the case of Pikachu, he knew it was a gesture of friendship. Surprised but pleased, he touched two fingertips to the end of the tail – and felt a jolt of electricity burst through him. Instinctively he recoiled, but took no offense at Pikachu. That’s how Pikachus greet friendly Electric-Type Pokémon, he thought. They trade electricity with each other.

    At another curious look from Pikachu, Jason couldn’t help but smile slightly. “Just make sure not to do that to the others,” he’d advised it. “They probably won’t understand.”

    The next few days were spent traveling the wilds between Pewter City and the meteor impact crater that had long ago been dubbed “Mount Moon”. Gyarados only saw the light of day when Jason traversed near water. Jason felt it was pointless to train Gyarados in battle here, since most of the Pokémon in the local vicinity were nowhere near as powerful and would have offered no suitable challenge to the sea serpent. Rattata was Gyarados’ polar opposite on the social spectrum, preferring to engage with the other members of Jason’s team with equal geniality for each. It was much to Jason’s relief that they were apparently willing to consider Rattata their friend. As for the others, Pikachu and Pidgey attempted to maintain a respectful distance from each other, an example not followed by Caterpie and Weedle – Jason began to wonder, after the nineteenth time of getting sprayed by silk from two directions, if he might be able to earn money from seamstresses looking for suitably valuable materials. This string’s gotta fetch something, he groused, if only I had a place in my backpack to store all of it.

    In addition to those frustrations, the battles in the wild were clearly becoming wearisome to his Pokémon. Even the cheerful Rattata seemed like it was chafing from the inconsistent encounters, each of which provided little individual challenge on their own merits... but all of which were taking their toll on his team’s strength and sense of self-worth.

    They need enemies to match them, Jason realized. They want equals on the battlefield.

    But as much as Jason wanted to oblige them, he found himself unable to approach trainers and challenge them to battle. He knew why he was so reluctant to do so: his battle with Wattson, though several weeks in the past by now, had demonstrated just how badly he was capable of underestimating an opponent, and he didn’t want to let overconfidence deliver another bruise to his ego... or his Pokémon.

    It was for this same reason that he tried to make himself look fairly unassuming as he traveled the trainers’ routes – he didn’t fancy the idea of some upstart kids coming along and thinking he was worth their time, just yet. He was confident that his Pokémon could overwhelm the nearby wildlife, but against other trainers, there was absolutely no predicting what they had available to them. He could encounter some bug catcher trying to snag a Weedle in a net, or an elite trainer with an Electabuzz able to pound anything he had into a pulp.

    Then again, he considered, anybody that’s trying to train their Pokémon against the wild ones in these grasses isn’t going to have something that much more powerful. It’d be a waste of time and effort. If it really had to come to it, Gyarados could manage – but it’s the others I’m trying to train. And they’re all acting antsy and bored.

    He heaved his shoulders in a great sigh, then removed five of the six Poké Balls from his belt and let their contents spill out on the path before him. Rattata, Pidgey, Weedle, Pikachu, and Caterpie emerged as one – and Weedle and Caterpie instantly shot each other savage glares, but chose not to pursue any further mutual antagonism. This, in Jason’s mind, was something of a victory in itself.

    He planted his hands on his hips. “All right, people, we’ve got a bit of an issue going on here.”

    The five Pokémon turned their full attention upon him and gave him various looks of curiosity and confusion.

    “You’re getting tired of fighting wild Pokémon, I can tell. You want to fight something you’ve never fought before. You want to prove yourselves in battle. Am I right?”

    Whether they completely understood what he was saying or not, they each offered him clear indications of assent and confirmation.

    “Okay, well, that’s probably going to mean you’ll get banged up, even get your lights out every once in a while. I need to know you’re all ready to go toe-to-toe with other trainers and that you can take them on. You all ready for a fight?”

    A cacophony of noise erupted from the team in reply, letting Jason know both that they understood and that there really was no other recourse. It’s time to start being a real Pokémon trainer.


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011

  29. #29
    Written Into A Corner... Cool Trainer
    Cool Trainer
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    Default Against All Odds: Pathfinder - Part 3

    Pathfinder

    Part 3


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Jason’s first step on that course was perhaps an ironic one: he headed back to Pewter City, where he brought his Pokémon in to the local PokéCenter for a physical workup. Nurse Joy noted that Gyarados was already in peak form, and the others were in good condition. When she emerged from the exam room to return to Jason his Poké Balls, she withheld the tray they were nestled in for a moment and gave him a significant look. “Your Caterpie and Weedle have almost reached the point where they’ll evolve. They’re very close. But it doesn’t look like they’ve battled in a little while. Have you been holding them back?”

    “I’ve been trying to protect them from the Pidgeys and Spearows on Route 3,” Jason replied. “Those birds are dominating the place, they’re just gonna look at Weedle and Caterpie like snacks, same way my Pidgey does.”

    “If you want them to reach their peak, you should be letting them off that particular leash. Most trained Pokémon don’t like being protected by their trainers. They understand the risks.”

    “I know that,” he replied, somewhat defensively. “But I need to be absolutely sure of their abilities. Putting bugs up against birds is a bad idea.”

    “Only certain birds. Want some advice?”

    Jason shrugged. “Sure.”

    “The next time you find wild Pidgeys, put your Caterpie and Weedle to work against them. Spearows know how to peck at things from birth but it’s not a talent Pidgeys have. String Shot can bring them down out of the air... then all you have to do is make sure to battle smart. Have your Pokémon back each other up.”

    He couldn’t help but scoff at that suggestion. “Yeah, well, problem is that those two don’t really get along. Like, at all. It’s all I can do to get them not to String Shot each other.”

    “Well, you’ll have to figure it out. One of the jobs of a Pokémon trainer is getting them to get along. At least in battle, if nowhere else.”

    “I know that, too.” Jason beckoned for the tray.

    Nurse Joy passed it forward, allowing him to remove the Poké Balls. “Just give it a try, all right?”

    “Yeah. Thanks.”

    Jason emerged from the Pokémon Center chewing his bottom lip. He was open to suggestions, and it was becoming clear to him that all Nurse Joys seemed to share a predisposition to offer unbidden information – but he couldn’t help but feel this one had given him a gentle scolding. Of course I want them to reach their maximum potential, but on my own terms. Just because I prefer to play it safe...

    He looked about. The town was smaller and much more spartan than the paradisal Viridian, composed of roads that were hybrids of dirt and gravel instead of concrete. There was a single residential district and there weren’t that many houses in it. Those that did exist were caked with a generous layer of dirt, far from the pristine perfection of the condominiums and apartment complexes in the larger city to the south. The residential area took the southern half of the town, while commerce and industry had the east side. The local Pokémon Gym occupied the northwest sector, straight north of the Pokémon Center itself.

    Out of curiosity, Jason made his way to the gym. It, too, appeared to be covered in a layer of dirt, leading Jason to wonder whether there was even an adequate water source nearby – if his schooling had been accurate in its depiction of the training culture, one could count on a gym as being the most well-kept building in a town. After a few moments of ogling the dust-covered siding, he inspected the bronze sign adorning it.

    Pewter City Pokémon Gym

    Leader: Flint


    He snorted. “How appropriate,” he muttered. Both the city and the leader share names with types of stone. The only way this gets any better is if he’s got himself a bunch of Rock-Type Pokémon.

    ...Not likely. That’s just too contrived.


    He gave the sign a final scoff, then continued towards the northern outskirts. But as he moved, something occurred to him. The sign in Viridian didn’t have a name on it. The one just now did. Either Pewter’s unusually open about who runs their gym, or Viridian’s unusually silent on who’s running theirs. And Dad said there wasn’t a name attached to the order the CBC received...

    Who’s running the show in Viridian?


    But that line of thought became more a matter of trivia to him than important information as he approached the one remaining tourist trap in Pewter he’d yet to inspect – the Pewter Museum of Science. Considered a treasure of the Kanto region, the museum was an open exhibit dedicated to showing visitors the long history and various species of Pokémon that existed millions of years in the past. Indeed, the subject matter was fascinating to virtually anyone who had a general interest in Pokémon and/or history, since Pokémon predated humanity by nearly countless years. Everyone had their own theories about the evolution of various Pokémon species during that time and how their interactions came to include humans and the eventual dominion of humans over most of the baser species... but everyone tended to agree that inspecting the relics of the past, embodied in fossils and carvings and artifacts, was a necessary step in forging a path for future generations. A phrase Jason’s history teacher had uttered many times seemed especially apt: After all, how can anyone claim to know what the future holds if they don’t know the past?

    The building was majestic, complete with a sloping archway in front. Jason was tempted to enter, but when he saw the sign posted on the front door, he frowned and found himself thinking better of it. Fifty pokéyen for children, a hundred for adults. That’s almost more than I have remaining. I need to hang on to as much cash as possible for food... I shouldn’t be spending a single credit I don’t have to.

    He let out a disappointed sigh, then turned to the east. That’s where I need to be going. And I need to be finding trainers there anyway. Time to man up.

    Jason progressed through the grass and crushed gravel pathways of Route 3, to a section of the trainer’s path that snaked up and over a series of small dirt hills. Dead ahead was a rail-thin girl with brown hair and clad in a light blouse and blue skirt. Ordinarily, Jason might have thought the girl was quite lost, but he could see around her midsection the unmistakable shape of a capture ball belt, in which there were two Poké Balls.

    He chewed his lip, and touched his own belt for reassurance. Okay. We’re talking about a girl who’s barely old enough to have her license. I should have this one.

    He made his way toward her, and screwed up his courage to call out to her – but then her eyes locked with his, and she beat him to it. Her face, as small as the rest of her, broke out into a bright smile. “Hi! I see you looking!”

    “Uh.” Jason wasn’t sure how to respond to that. “Hi.”

    “Are you a Pokémon trainer?”

    Jason bobbed his head. “Yeah. I am.”

    “Good! I am, too!” she declared. “My name’s Janice.”

    Something flashed through Jason’s mind – and for an instant, he could see, superimposed over the little girl’s face, the visage of another Janice he’d known who cared deeply for Pokémon. “Jason.”

    She adopted a stance. “I saw you looking. You know what that means, right?”

    “That I should keep my eyes to myself?” he offered sheepishly.

    “No!” she admonished. “When two Pokémon trainers lock eyes, that means they’re gonna battle. And the way you were staring, you definitely want a battle.”

    “Well, I definitely do,” Jason answered, and his hand again found his capture ball belt. “So let’s have one.”

    “Okay! How much?”

    Jason blinked. “Uh... what?”

    She tapped her foot impatiently. “How much are you wagering? Don’t tell me you’re broke, either, I’ve heard that one too much to believe it.”

    She’s been told by others that they’re broke? He tried to clamp down on himself. “Um... hundred fifty?” he asked.

    “Well, I need to keep a few pokéyen to myself. If I lose, Mommy won’t like I lost all of it,” the young Janice answered. “Hundred forty-four?”

    Jason shrugged. “Sure, I guess.”

    Clearly she was eager to get the match underway; she wasted no time in plucking a ball from her belt and tossing it in the same instant she enlarged it. The energy that spewed from it coalesced into a Pidgey – one with feathers nearly as lustrous as those his own Pidgey possessed. She’s taken good care of this one, and it looks like it’s itching for a fight. Nurse Joy can kiss it, I’m not putting Caterpie or Weedle up against that. This is a job for Pikachu.

    He threw Pikachu’s ball high in the air. The electric mouse Pokémon emerged from the light that had given it form and shouted a defiant “Pika!” at its opponent, knowing full well the purpose Jason was calling upon it to perform.

    The girl scowled and stomped her foot. “No fair!” she proclaimed.

    “Hey, you wanted a battle with me, you’ve got one,” Jason answered, feeling a distinct sense of the shoe being on the other foot. “Gonna give up?”

    “No way! Pidgey, Gust attack!”

    Jason felt a grim smile twist his features. “Pikachu, Thundershock!”

    Violent flaps of Pidgey’s wings created shockwaves of air that buffeted Pikachu, but the rodent Pokémon endured the assault; then sparks erupted from the red pouches on its cheeks and a flare of electricity arced up towards Pidgey from Pikachu’s tail. The bolt found its target promptly and wreathed the bird, which cawed loudly and spasmed in midair. It lost its flight at that moment and collapsed in a painful belly-flop. The dizzied and injured Pidgey did not rise from its position, although it continued to twitch from the aftereffects of the attack.

    Janice grumbled, then held out her Poké Ball. “Pidgey, return!”

    As her ball tractored Pidgey back into its recesses, Jason took a moment to consider. That was way too easy. Even more so, considering I have a type advantage. Maybe I’ve been waiting too long in doing these?

    She brushed her thumb across her next ball, then hurled it into the space between them. “Let’s go, Pidgey!”

    Jason was taken aback as her second and final Pokémon took the field. “Another one?” he remarked aloud.

    “Oh, like you don’t have two of the same Pokémon!” she snapped.

    “Well... no, actually, I don’t,” he answered. “Is that common?”

    “People do it all the time!” she declared. “And I can’t give up on this battle, I have to see it to the end.”

    “Knowing you’re gonna lose?” Jason shook his head. “Doesn’t seem like good sense to me.”

    “It’s how trainers battle! Pidgey, Sand Attack!”

    The teen frowned as he directed Pikachu, “Thundershock!”

    But this Pidgey was just as fast as its predecessor, and the gust produced by the beating of its wings was directed at the ground rather than at Pikachu. A cloud of dirt and sand was blown into Pikachu’s face just as it readied itself to deliver another bolt of electricity to its enemy – and it cried out “Pika-CHU!” at the same instant it flinched. The bolt went wildly astray and arced into the grass instead, turning it yellow and black.

    “Again, Pidgey!” the young Janice crowed. “And follow it with Gust!”

    Jason saw where this was headed, but he wasn’t willing to retreat Pikachu just yet. “Pikachu, try another Thundershock, just take your time for it!”

    But try as it might, Pikachu was thrown off once again by a rude spray of sand in its eyes, and it became evident that its accuracy was not going to get any better as long as it battled this Pidgey. Moreover, the Gust attack that followed Pidgey’s sand blasts was enough to knock Pikachu to the ground; it quickly rose to its feet, but now faced in the wrong direction and was aimed at Jason.

    This isn’t getting us anywhere. Jason brought up Pikachu’s Poké Ball. “Pikachu, return!” he declared, and the ball opened up to draw the blinded mouse back inside.

    Janice smirked, apparently pleased with the results she’d obtained. “Give up?” she asked cutely.

    “Not nearly.” She said battle smart. Let’s see where that’ll get me. “Let’s go, Weedle!”

    The girl’s eyes widened as Weedle arrived on the field. “You’re sending a Bug-Type Pokémon against my Pidgey?”

    “Hey, it’s how trainers battle, right?” he returned. “Weedle, String Shot!”

    “Pidgey, Gust!”

    Jason resisted the urge to flinch. Weedle’s gonna get creamed if this doesn’t work...

    To its credit, Weedle performed as ordered immediately, and let fly with a spray of silk that tangled itself in the hovering Pidgey’s wings, snarling it in mid-flight and forcing it to alight on the ground. Because it was bound in the rapidly-hardening strands, Pidgey fumbled its attack and the end result was considerably dulled – so although it was enough to knock Weedle over, the insect almost instantly righted itself and leveled a determined glare at its opponent.

    Jason smirked again. “Now we’ve got ‘em, Weedle. Show me a Poison Sting attack!”

    “No!” Janice cried. “Pidgey, get out of there and hit it with another Gust!”

    But it was too late. Weedle was already firing the pin missile seated in the top of its head, a dart that glistened with a purplish sheen. It was a hue that was instantly recognizable as having originated from a poisonous source, and that barb found its mark in the center of Pidgey’s chest. The bird squawked in obvious surprise and pain, but squirmed and fought its way out of the bonds that held it and spread its wings wide to create another vicious spear of air.

    This time Weedle was bowled backward, past Jason entirely and into the kept grass behind him. Jason twisted around, hoping against hope that the attack hadn’t injured Weedle beyond its ability to remain conscious. Just get up and let me know you’re all right back there...

    Weedle struggled to right itself, and then – amazingly – began inching its way back towards the battlefield. But before it could step back in front of Jason, Jason stood in its way and help up his hand to stop it. “Hang on there, Weedle, I think you’ve done enough for this battle.” He knelt down and offered the battered insect his left arm. “C’mon up here, you can watch the rest of it.”

    Janice, meantime, had her arms crossed and she was tapping her foot in impatience. “If you’re not gonna send your Weedle back in...”

    “Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty others.” Jason enlarged another Poké Ball and let it fly. “Think you can do some cleanup here, Caterpie?”

    Janice glowered at Jason as his other silkworm Pokémon arrived on the field. “You’re just making fun of me now,” she accused.

    “Far from it,” he assured her. “I’m challenging you, your Pidgey, and my own Pokémon, all at the same time. We all think it should be so easy for a bird to beat a bug ‘cause they eat ‘em. But what if the bug decides she doesn’t wanna run and hide when she’s attacked?” He gestured to Caterpie for emphasis.

    True to his description, Caterpie was standing firm and directing a penetrating stare at Pidgey. The bird Pokémon, for its own part, did not appear the least bit intimidated by its new opponent, and opened its beak to caw at Caterpie as if to prove its fearlessness. But the noise that emerged from its throat was not the one Jason was accustomed to hearing from a Pidgey – instead of being mid-ranged and strong, it was hoarse and bleating, a sure sign that the battle had taken an unexpected toll on it.

    An instant later, Jason saw why: the barb that Weedle had fired at it was buried amidst its feathers, and presumably had penetrated its skin, introducing into its bloodstream the purple poisons that most Pokémon knew to avoid. It’s poisoned, he realized, so if she keeps battling, she’s going to lose, no matter what. But she doesn’t sound like she’s gonna stop – so I can’t, either.

    Jason turned his gaze upon Caterpie and considered the enemy it would be facing in only another second or so. I need to at least slow it down to give Caterpie its best chance for survival until Pidgey drops. “Caterpie, String Shot!”

    “Pidgey, Gust!”

    The results of the two attacks were similar to those Jason had already observed during Weedle’s segment of the battle – Caterpie had been the first to strike and wrapped Pidgey in bonds of rapidly-hardening silk strands, but Pidgey was still able to muster enough strength to knock Caterpie over with the force of its wings. But Caterpie was able to recover from the strike even more quickly than Weedle, and it was already poised to strike only a moment later... a moment during which Pidgey was still struggling to untangle itself from the silk.

    Jason saw his opportunity. “Caterpie, Tackle!”

    “Pidgey, Gust again!” Janice implored.

    But Caterpie took advantage of Pidgey’s slowed condition even more fully this time, and charged forward at surprising speed, ramming headlong into the squirming bird. The top of its head struck precisely where the poisoned dart was still sticking out, driving it deeper into Pidgey’s flesh. The avian cried out in obvious pain and toppled onto its side; it frantically flapped its wings in an attempt to right itself, but Jason could see that it was on its last legs for the match. It was now shuddering on the ground and evidently unable to get back to its feet, which in Jason’s mind proved the existence of poison in Pidgey’s system and was the only criteria he felt was required to call the match off.

    “You don’t have any other Pokémon,” he said, “and if we keep this up, you won’t have anything to protect you on your way back to Pewter City.”

    “You tryin’ to give up?” she demanded.

    “No, actually, I’m saying I think you should. I’ll keep battling if I have to, but it’s cruel to make your Pidgey battle when it obviously can’t anymore.”

    “But... that’s how trainers are supposed to do it!” she argued, now with a fair degree of uncertainty in her voice.

    “Stupid trainers, maybe,” Jason shot back. “Aren’t trainers also supposed to know when they’re in over their heads? Aren’t we supposed to know when it’s time to stop?”

    The little girl pouted at his across the expanse for a long moment, then heaved a loud and exasperated sigh while hefting her second Poké Ball. “Pidgey, return,” she moped.

    Jason let his shoulders slump in relief while the red beam of energy ensnared her Pokémon and recalled it, leaving Caterpie as the last one standing. The grub Pokémon turned its head almost 180 degrees to look at Jason in curiosity; it wasn’t accustomed to seeing its foe vanish quite so suddenly from view.

    He gave a thumbs-up and a grin to Caterpie. “Get over here. You just won.”

    Caterpie squealed and skittered back towards Jason; Weedle, meantime, was making an odd squishing noise, which Jason had understood to be its own way of cheering. Caterpie crawled up Jason’s side and arrived on his opposite shoulder, where it made happy squeaks in counterpoint to Weedle’s strange squishing. Letting his smile stay on his face was perhaps the easiest thing he’d ever done in his life – it was a long way from the two attacking each other. Now they’re cheering each other on.

    Janice, on the other hand, was nothing if not displeased, and she continued to mope by sitting on the ground and crossing her arms and legs. Jason approached her and knelt down, supporting himself on one fist while seeking out her gaze. “Hey. You’re a good trainer. I bet you’re gonna get better at it, too.”

    “Cause I’m not good enough?” she sulked.

    “No, not that. I mean you’re gonna keep getting better at it. Just keep doing what you’re doing,” he said, trying to give his voice a reassuring cast.

    “This is the only time I quit before the end. The other boys will make fun of me if I keep doing it.”

    “Well... I guess, just do it the way you want to. Nobody can really make you do it their way,” he offered. “Not even me. All I can do is point out you owe me some money now.”

    “Yeah, I know.” She pulled out her PokéDex and began programming it; he did the same, and the transaction was completed within a matter of seconds. She glanced at her device just as Jason got to his feet, then offered him a quizzical look. “Your last name is ‘Crate’?”

    He let out a chuckle. “Is that what it says?”

    “Yeah. ‘Jason Crate’.”

    “Then I guess it is.”

    “You ‘guess’ it is?” she asked, giving him an odd look.

    He shrugged. “If that’s what it says, then that’s what it’s gotta be.”

    “You’re weird.”

    He turned and began to head further along the path. “Don’t I know it.”



    Long after the sun had descended beyond the horizon, Jason found a fresh pond where he felt comfortable setting up camp. He released all six of his Pokémon and prepared appropriate foods for the smaller ones – Gyarados, as usual, made sport of hunting its own. Jason paid special attention to Caterpie and Weedle, who for the first time were content to eat side-by-side. To them, he offered slightly more food than usual and stroked each of their backs while offering sincere praise and accolades for their performance... not just during their first trainer battle, but also for the subsequent ones.

    He’d encountered any number of others on the route beyond the young Janice – trainers with names like Colton, Ben, Greg, Sally, Calvin... all of them younger than he, and most of them evidently more enamored of the Pokémon on that route than he was. He’d only seen three deviations from the most prevalent Pokémon one could find in the local grasses: an Ekans, a Nidoran, and a Jigglypuff. The first two had required significant intervention from Weedle in order to minimize exposure to poison, since Weedle was immune; Jigglypuff, meantime, had been able to charm Rattata, Weedle, and Pikachu into recalcitrance, forcing Jason to rely on Pidgey and Caterpie. Not only that, but it had been strong enough to match Pidgey for strength.

    After the meal, Jason let his Pokémon remain outside their balls. He told them that they all deserved a night of sleeping out in the open with him... but the truth was, in the back of his mind, he was hoping that Caterpie and Weedle would take the opportunity to forge the cocoons that signaled their evolution.

    When the morning came, Jason awoke before the sun had begun to rise, and he immediately looked to where his Pokémon were resting. His suspicions and hopes were confirmed and realized in the form of the two Pokémon that were now situated between Pidgey and Pikachu – lying next to each other, no less. The creature that had been Caterpie was now housed entirely in a rigid green shell that looked like it could take a hail of gunfire; and what was once Weedle was something else again, wrapped in a golden-yellow exoskeleton that bore two spindly arms ending in sharp, needle-like protrusions.

    Metapod and Kakuna. Jason crossed his arms beneath his chin and watched their sleeping forms for several moments. Some forget that they were able to attack, and can only use the Harden move. But these two won’t forget. Should be interesting to see Metapod tackling things... and Kakuna’s Poison Sting ought to carry more of a bite to it.

    He would put them back in their balls, soon enough... but only after the others were awake, and saw what they were capable of achieving.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011

  30. #30
    Beginning Trainer
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    Default Re: Against All Odds (2011) [PG-13] - Pathfinder Part 3 up!

    Another great installment, I liked the battle between Jason and Janice a lot. Good to see Jason taking Nurse Joy's advice, it paid off well.

    Looks like there are some mysteries about gyms that Jason is starting to think about...can't wait to see what happens next!
    ------------------------------
    http://rkivic.com



    Thank you TPM Friends for the nice Award!
    Signature courtesy of Mikachu Yukitatsu

  31. #31
    Written Into A Corner... Cool Trainer
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    Default Against All Odds: Pathfinder - Part 4

    Pathfinder

    Part 4


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Jason began to understand more fully just how underwhelming were the other trainers who had occasion to face him. With his newly evolved Metapod and Kakuna, he continued to seek out trainers in the wild whose experience with training Pokémon, to say nothing of their experience with coexisting alongside them, clearly did not match his own. Though he might not have had constant contact with them, Jason had spent his entire life around Pokémon of many species and personalities, observing and interacting with them. He was realizing now just how much those experiences were serving him.

    He rotated his active roster of Pokémon, with the continued exception of Gyarados, so that they had ample opportunity to make mistakes and then learn from them in the field of battle. In so doing, they gained the experience they required in order to make them tough contenders, and he began to see greater and greater dividends from the wagers made – or accepted – by trainers who made the mistake of underestimating him.

    It wasn’t long before he found his credit line sailing past three thousand pokéyen, the initial amount Oak had extended him. As that amount soared up past four thousand, he resolved not to spend the first three on anything at all so that he would be able to, at the very least, pay the professor back in full. And it can also be a kind of insurance, he reasoned, in case somehow something goes sour.

    That bitter flavor never came, though. Days continued to come and go, and Jason and his Pokémon were sampling only the sweet taste of success. It was a sensation from which Jason knew he couldn’t stray, even as he and his Pokémon slowly and deliberately inched their way from eastern Pewter City toward the caverns of Mt. Moon. His success, meantime, didn’t stop merely with the victories against bug catchers, young lasses, and hikers; it was complemented with the continued growth, both physical and emotional, of the Pokémon at his side. He put them into situations in which they would be forced to cooperate in the hopes that they would begin to demonstrate respect for each other.

    Pidgey and Pikachu were his next success story in this area. The grasses yielded any number of wild Pidgeys and Spearows, which his two Pokémon would fend off with greater efficiency and aplomb – no longer at each others’ throats, but at each others’ backs, with the knowledge that neither one could stand on its own amidst as many birds as they had already seen. Their skill became such that it was clear further training in this region would be all but useless... neither would evolve against such base foes.

    Surprisingly, Metapod and Kakuna also fared well in the grasses outside Pewter City. Jason still didn’t feel prepared to put them against pecking Spearows, but other Pidgeys were in the vicinity and both cocoon-bound Pokémon were eager to show off their talents against a foe most considered superior to them. In Jason’s estimation, the two appeared to have been endowed with more than just physical evolution – now the pair appeared to compliment each other with their skills, as well as challenge each other to do better than they themselves were capable of.

    There’s just one thing missing.

    As good as those Pokémon are... he’s gonna want more.


    It was the one part of his deal with the Pokémon professor that he’d yet to even begin entertaining. He’d had virtually no contact with the lab. He was required to e-mail weekly reports containing information on the composition and condition of his team, but those were fielded by random staffers who only replied with token “thank you” messages. Contact with the professor himself was totally nonexistent – which simultaneously relieved and unnerved Jason. He didn’t want Oak berating him for not following through, but as each day passed, he worried about what the professor might decide to do if Jason didn’t follow through on that particular line item.

    Not like I’m hurting for resources at this point, he thought. I have enough money to cover more Poké Balls. What concerned him was not his ability to capture other Pokémon – an ability he felt he’d gotten down to at least a finer art than instructing Gyarados to bat at things with its tail – but rather the jealousy he knew his Pokémon would sense as he became more selective about the group he intended to foster.

    And that’s gonna happen, too, he knew. There’s no way I catch more Pokémon and not decide they offer some greater advantage that these guys don’t. And that bothers me way too much.

    Nevertheless, he knew it was required – and it wasn’t as if he would never see them again. I’ll rotate them as needed, as long as I’m out here on the route. If I end up working for Oak at the lab itself, then I’ll be able to see all of them pretty much whenever I want to. Works for me.

    Hope it’ll work for them, too.




    Another day followed before he could bring himself to speak to his Pokémon about his revelation. At the junction of Routes 3 and 4, Jason made camp for the evening and brought out his customary team of five, and left Gyarados in its ball. He’d already settled on keeping Gyarados on his team – although he hadn’t yet had need of the sea serpent in trainer battles, he knew that he could count on seeing it on the field eventually. I’ll run into more advanced trainers than the kids and casual battlers I’ve seen so far. I need to be ready.

    He released his Pokémon into the local grasses. Pidgey flapped about restlessly, while Rattata scratched behind one ear with a lower foot. Metapod and Kakuna, as he had predicted, remained perfectly in place and stared stoically at him; Pikachu, meantime, skittered in circles around Rattata, attempting to encourage it to play.

    “All right, kids, settle down,” he said after several moments; the directive brought Pidgey and Pikachu to rest in the grass on either side of Rattata, who was more than just settled down – it looked almost bored.

    He sat down in the grass and crossed his legs, then folded his hands between them. “Okay, here’s the thing, guys. I’m working for Professor Oak, helping him to put together notes on your various species, and you guys especially. But I need to bring him more than just notes on how you’re doing. He needs to see that I’m doing what he wants me to do, which is collect more Pokémon for his preserve. Everyone with me so far?”

    The mixed reactions from his Pokémon suggested that they at least understood he was asking them a serious question to which he expected a positive answer. He gave them a reluctant smile. “Good. ‘Cause this is where things start getting tough for me. I have to start catching and training other Pokémon. All the different ones I can find out here in the wild... well, there’s a ton of ‘em, and Oak’s basically saying... I’ve gotta catch ‘em all.”

    He let out a sigh that was half-groan at having uttered the phrase; it sounded too much like a cliché. “Here’s where the problem is. I want to hang on to all of you guys, have you all with me all the time. But I can’t. Not if I’m gonna catch a bunch of other Pokémon. They’ll need training too, and that means...” He hesitated, then tossed a helpless hand into the air. “Well, I’ll just say it. It means that probably most of you will be sent to his lab in Pallet Town sometime. I dunno if I’m gonna want to make a competitive team or anything, but I need a good mix with the Pokémon on my team. Able to do a lot of things that you guys might not be able to do.”

    Although Metapod and Kakuna were, predictably, entirely stoic about what he was saying, the other three seemed to understand... or at least sense that the idea bothered him. Rattata and Pikachu shared the look of a chastised pet in that they stared wide-eyed at him while their ears were hiding behind their own skulls. Pidgey rustled restlessly. But none chose to interrupt him, leaving an uncomfortable silence hanging in the air when he paused.

    He didn’t let the pause continue long. “Okay, so you guys know what I’m talking about, I guess. What I really need to know from you is how much it would bother you to be sent there. You’d be away from me, yeah, but Oak’s got plenty of other Pokémon there you can hang out with, goof off with... make lots of new friends.” He leaned backward. “And... I guess I’d like to know if any of you were wanting to go first.”

    Jason was thrown off, and yet not entirely surprised, when Rattata stepped forward and poised itself before him. The teen trainer raised his eyebrows at the violet rodent. “Really?”

    “Rat!” it barked, and then very nearly melted Jason’s heart by hugging his leg. “Rat, Ratta-tat-rat!”

    “Um... okay...” He felt confused. “Not sure I understand. Does that mean you want to stay?”

    Rattata wagged its head back and forth in its best imitation of humanity’s method for saying “no”. “Rat-Rat-Rattata!”

    My kingdom for a translator, Jason thought sardonically, but he knelt down and looked his Pokémon in the eye, hoping he might find there some motivation or reason for Rattata to leave the group. The contact of their gazes was not enough to drive a revelation of any significant import into Jason’s brain, but he was sure that he could see both loyalty and love for the trainer that had captured and trained it. This came as little surprise to him, as Rattata had displayed nothing but these things since its capture... but it did make him consider the possibility that Rattata knew whatever lay ahead, it was better than where it had started out. And should Jason ever have need of its services again, it would be only a call away.

    He gave Rattata a half-smile. “Know something? I think you’d probably enjoy it the most there anyway. There’s good food and lots of friendly Pokémon for you to hang out with. Probably way better digs than where you used to live... a hole in the ground with a billion brothers and sisters all fighting over the same mother’s milk all the time.”

    “Rat Rat!” The rodent bobbed its head in agreement.

    “You’re willing to do this for me, huh?”

    “Rat Rat!”

    Jason rubbed Rattata’s head affectionately and smiled again. “I’m glad. Thank you.” He got back to his feet and surveyed the rest of his team. “I’m likely to get way more than just one Pokémon. I’d appreciate it if you could all show me the same trust Rattata has. I won’t leave you in that preserve for the rest of time. I’ll be needing you all, every single one of you. It just might not be all at once for much longer.”

    Rattata returned to its post next to Pidgey, who still seemed as restless as before. It cawed at Rattata; Rattata shot a quick bark back in response.

    “Hey!” Jason snapped. “I dunno what you two are saying but it doesn’t sound so friendly. Don’t pester each other. You might not get to see each other for a little while.”

    The two Pokémon reluctantly backed down in submission, but they still directed quick glares at each other – a problem Jason didn’t feel the need to rectify just now. If they truly had issues, they could deal with them at some later date. He pulled out the Poké Balls. “Okay. I just needed to make sure you all understand. It’s what a Pokémon trainer does. It’s what pretty much all of them do. Doesn’t mean it’s easy for me.” He hesitated. “Doesn’t mean I’ll love you guys any less.”

    Before he could let himself get caught in the emotion of the moment, he returned Metapod and Kakuna to their balls, followed by Pikachu and Pidgey. Rattata was last... and Jason drew out the moment in which it was only the two of them looking at each other.

    He offered a sad smile as he held up its ball. “Return!”

    Once the ball had reclaimed its prize, Jason looked at the sphere in his hand for another long moment, the sad expression still adorning his features. Finally, he whispered, “See you soon.”

    He turned his gaze back up to the road, where he could see the lights of the Pokémon Center beginning to spear into the twilight sky. That was where he would contact Oak’s lab – to submit both his latest report and his first wild Pokémon into their care.



    “I’d been wondering when you were going to get around to this part.”

    Jason couldn’t quite help but flinch at the tone of the professor’s voice over the video link. The Pokémon Center on Route 4 had a convenient terminal at which trainers could transfer their Pokémon to and from various laboratories and preserves. Built into it was a video conferencing system, which was an invaluable asset in communicating with the staff one was likely to encounter at such locations. Staring at him through the video screen now was the wizened face of Professor Oak, who was clearly engaged in some manner of off-screen activity with his hands; both his arms were shifting randomly back and forth in front of him, but his visual focus was clearly the conversation at hand.

    “Sorry, Professor,” the teen replied. “I’ve gotten myself a bit... I guess caught up in training these guys.”

    “That doesn’t surprise me. What does is the fact that no Pokémon have yet come from you via instant transport. I’d have expected to walk in the vault and see a rack full of Poké Balls from you by now if you’re as engaged and successful as your reports claim you to be.”

    Jason blinked, not entirely sure he comprehended what Oak was saying. He tried to offer a satisfactory response. “Well, yeah, but like I said, I got carried away with the training. I got used to my team, I didn’t just want to send them back at random, you know, make them feel like they’re not wanted.”

    “I understand that, Jason. I’m talking about the Pokémon Management System’s instant transport function.” Oak tilted his head. “The look on your face suggests you have no idea what I’m talking about.”

    “I haven’t read the latest on Pokémon capture technology,” Jason admitted.

    “It isn’t all that new. I’m rather surprised you’re not familiar with it, given your background.”

    “I worked in retail, not tech support.”

    Oak actually chuckled at that remark. “All right. Well, it’s a rather long and involved explanation, but I’ll try to condense it for you.”

    “Yes, please.”

    “At the most basic level, the instant transport function activates after you’ve caught a Pokémon when you already have a full roster of six Pokémon with you. The tagging technology in your belt does the work for you here. If you successfully capture a seventh Pokémon, the instant transport will do to your Poké Ball what your Poké Ball does to the Pokémon inside it – it becomes a form of energy which is then drawn to the nearest Pokémon Center’s Pokémon Management System. It gets processed through the system, then automatically transferred here.”

    “So I don’t have to wait to send them to you and I don’t have to frustrate my team.”

    “Precisely.”

    Jason scoffed. “I don’t suppose you know how much money it cost to develop a system for that convenience.”

    “Probably more than the average trainer can look forward to earning,” Oak answered, “but we have access to it for free, which is the most convenient thing about that convenience.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “Does this mean I can look forward to seeing more Pokémon from you, then? I’d like to be able to interact with the ones you’re training, as well.”

    “You’ll see them,” Jason promised. “I just had to sit down with them, let them know I don’t mean it personally when I send them off to you.”

    “Getting awfully connected to your Pokémon, I see. Most trainers I’ve met value the majority of their Pokémon usually just for the prestige of having caught and trained those species. They only share an emotional bond with the select few they want to keep with them permanently.”

    “You know I’m not your typical trainer, Professor,” Jason replied.

    “You’re not my typical anything. But I’m glad that you’ve taken your assignment to heart.” Oak pointed a finger at Jason. “Now you have to take the next step. You know how to capture, you know how to train, you know how to battle. The next step is showing me the results of all three. Get out there and catch Pokémon – and not just the ones you think you need, but all the ones you can find.”

    Jason scoffed. “Catch ‘em all, huh?”

    “That’s right.” Oak toyed with a console on his left side, out of view of the screen. “By the way, Jason, you’re going to find yourself eventually building a team of Pokémon you trust implicitly, more than any of your others. Don’t worry that you’re offending the ones you keep out of your ‘main group’. Most Pokémon species are intelligent enough to demonstrate outstanding loyalty to their trainers... but not as many have the capacity for jealousy, or the ability to understand they’re treated differently.”

    “Yeah, well, Rattata’s got all of the above in a neat little package,” Jason responded. “So if he gets antsy, let me know.”

    “That, I’ll certainly do. The transport system here is ready.”

    “Thanks.” Jason hefted Rattata’s Poké Ball, then inserted it in the terminal’s nearest socket and closed the material vault; he hesitated a moment longer, then input the Transfer command. The machine whirred and hummed into life – then just as quickly lapsed back into silence.

    “Got him.” Oak held up the Poké Ball to the screen as proof.

    Jason blinked in surprise. “Seriously, that quickly?”

    “Seriously.” The professor hatched the ball open; upon materialization, Rattata chased its tail for a couple circles, then settled and inspected the man bearing its ball, releasing a curious bark. Oak glanced back at the video camera to cast a strange look at Jason. “Interesting specimen. Are you sure your reports have been doing this one justice?”

    “First time he’s done that.” Jason tossed his chin at the image of Rattata. “Hey, down there, you behave for the professor.”

    “Rat!”

    “Most Pokémon here don’t have much trouble with that,”
    Oak commented dryly. “I think he should fit in here just fine. But as for you, get back out there and do a job.”

    Jason cast a mock salute. “Yes, sir.”

    “Take care.” The connection was severed.

    Jason looked down at his belt, where there was now an empty socket in his number two slot. This is gonna take some getting used to, he thought. He looked up at the Pokémon Center’s front door. Better get out there and get used to it. It’s the life of a Pokémon trainer.



    He chose not to alter his training regimen with Rattata’s departure, but he took the next several days to backtrack along Route 3 instead of progressing into Mt. Moon. He had several reasons in mind for the change in course – first and foremost being he hadn’t caught every brand of Pokémon he’d seen there. He’d yet to plumb the flocks of Spearows through which his Pokémon had spent weeks of wading, and he’d heard from several trainers that there were a few Jigglypuffs in the vicinity; “hard to find, but worth the effort if you do” had been the words of a young girl named Robin, whose own Jigglypuff had nearly defeated the majority of Jason’s team.

    Jason wasn’t quite as certain about wanting to make use of a Jigglypuff on his team. He felt it wasn’t quite a reflection of his style as a trainer... although he knew if someone were to ask him what his style was, he’d have to spend a long time debating the answer. He was conscious of the fact that whatever Pokémon he caught next would need to remain on his team for a fair amount of time in order to catch up to the others in terms of ability. Of course, most Pokémon I catch from this point onward are likely to be that way, he mentally noted. If my Pokémon are able to beat a wild one to the point of capture, then that one obviously isn’t as ready as the rest of them, and it’ll need to be.

    Of the two species that had come most readily to his mind, he felt more inclined to capture a Spearow, notwithstanding the animosity his other teammates might have for one. He knew that Pikachu and Pidgey, especially, wouldn’t take kindly to that particular species being represented on his team. But Jason reasoned that those two had been able to resolve their differences and at least behave civilly towards each other, if not be each others’ closest pals. If I got them to accept each other, and I got Metapod and Kakuna to accept each other, then maybe I’ve got a chance of bringing a Spearow “inside”. I can’t ignore it’s a good Pokémon, and evolves into an even better one.

    That sentiment, Jason soon discovered, was much more easily conceived than executed. At first, Pidgey and Pikachu didn’t even consider entertaining the notion that a Spearow would be useful to the team. As a result, whenever Jason sent them against one in which he demonstrated interest, they sabotaged his efforts to catch it by driving it off with the sheer force and ferocity of their attacks. This made him feel very much like he was being forced into choosing among Metapod, Kakuna, and Gyarados as his instrument for wearing down a prospective capture – and he was well-aware that two of those three Pokémon, in spite of their hardened armor and boosted abilities, were simply no match for the kind of bird he was after. He was equally reluctant to send Gyarados in, even knowing a single tail swipe would be all the action he needed the sea serpent to take.

    Too tempting, he thought. And that pretty much eliminates my team. I can’t take Rattata back because he needs time at the lab – and I really don’t want to ditch any of my remaining Pokémon to keep them separate from a Spearow.

    He heaved a sigh at his performing Pidgey, which had just sent away yet another Spearow in a raking hail of feathers and clawed feet. The bird turned and looked at him curiously, letting out a call as it stared.

    “Yes, you,” Jason accused, responding to the unasked question. “I told you and Pikachu to knock that stuff off. What is it with you two? You think I’m going to love you any less ‘cause I’ve got a Spearow with us?”

    Pidgey chirped petulantly.

    “Yeah, well, you know what? Forget it. Look at Metapod and Kakuna. Those two hate each others’ guts, or at least they did. Look at yourself and Pikachu, for that matter. You guys get along fine now. I’m betting you can do the same for a Spearow.”

    Pidgey took flight and hovered in front of Jason’s face, cheeping at him with an angry glare. Jason scowled right back at it. “You know something, it’s not that easy keeping you guys in line all the time. I’m counting on you to do the things I need you to do, and if I can’t count on that...”

    He plucked Pidgey’s Poké Ball from his belt and held it up for the Pokémon to see. “...then I guess you can just get back in the ball and I’ll send you to the lab with Rattata, too.”

    Pidgey dropped to the ground then, and stared up at Jason, releasing a series of chirps that were far less loud and mocking. The trainer crossed his arms over his chest, the ball still in plain sight under his arm. “Okay, so now that we know where we stand, are you gonna work for me, or are you making it easy for me to decide who goes home next?”

    Pidgey performed an about-face – a gesture that was unmistakably human, and thus intended to demonstrate in Jason’s own language the Pokémon’s displeasure – and took flight again, its keen eyes scanning the grasses for more prey. Its search didn’t take long, and soon it had flushed out another Spearow and driven it into the open.

    Jason’s eyes narrowed as he watched the two spar with each other. It was true what Nurse Joy had told him: Pidgey wasn’t one to peck and scratch at its foes, preferring instead to manipulate the wind and air currents to its own advantage, whereas Spearow was very much otherwise. Jason considered directing his Pokémon’s movements; there was still a strong current of concern that ran through his mind with regard to how Pidgey would treat a Spearow, or any other newcomer to the team, for that matter.

    This time around, however, Jason could clearly see that Pidgey was holding back – he’d seen it execute any number of attacks that were far more powerful and effective against wild foes, but for this Spearow it held back and injured it only to the minimal degree. It was the smaller of the two battling Pokémon and it took advantage of that fact by harassing the Spearow instead of trying to face it toe-to-toe.

    Jason knew his cue had arrived when the Spearow was having difficulty rising from the fall it had taken from Pidgey’s last attack, a diving Tackle from the air that rolled its avian foe across several feet of beaten dirt path. He stepped forward, pulling an enlarged ball from his vest pocket as he moved. “All right, Pidgey, back off, I’ve got it from here.”

    The ball sailed through the air and struck the fallen Spearow’s chest dead-on. The bird was immediately sucked into the swirling vortex of energy, and for several breathless moments Jason stared at the ball intently while it wobbled back and forth on the ground. I threw it too early, he fretted, as the ball gave a second and third violent shake.

    But at that moment, the Spearow appeared to give up the fight, and the reassuring chime that issued from his belt informed him it had, indeed, been captured.

    Jason smiled and approached the fallen ball. When he knelt down and picked it up, he turned to Pidgey and held up the capsule. “See there? Got yourself another victory, and a fighting companion.”

    Pidgey let out a noise that, if it had been human, Jason was quite convinced would have been a harrumph. It did another about-face, pointedly looking away from him and sticking its tail up in the air. The trainer scoffed and held up Pidgey’s Poké Ball. “Fine, be a pill about it. But you’re gonna be that way in the ball. Return!”

    The next several days were devoted to trying to get Spearow integrated with the rest of the team. As a male, Jason fully expected for the Pokémon to have certain testosterone issues with the others – though he also expected it would offer Gyarados a wide berth, which it did. The teen’s expectations were fulfilled handily; for the first couple days, Spearow was standoffish towards the other Pokémon. Metapod and Kakuna demonstrated no reaction, though Jason suspected that was mostly because they weren’t easily able to show displeasure, faces hidden as they were within their shells. Nevertheless, it took a series of pecks and squawks at the two Bug-Type Pokémon – and a fair amount of lecturing from Jason – for Spearow to finally give up on provoking them. That was when the newest winged member of Jason’s team made the supremely unwise decision to pester Pikachu. The rodent reacted to a hostile peck with a quick jolt of electricity... after which, Jason had promptly returned Pikachu to its ball and admonished the still-shuddering Spearow.

    “Yeah, that wasn’t a very bright thing to do, now, was it?” he said, kneeling next to the quivering bird. He pursed his lips at it for a moment and waited for the spasms to stop; when they finally subsided, he reached out and patted Spearow’s wing. “There, that’s all the sympathy you get. Don’t be an idiot. Most Pokémon that tangle with him end up fried, like you. Birds especially. And while I’ve got you down here, would you stop bothering Pidgey? Dealing with her is bad enough now that you're here, she’s not liking either you or me very much.”

    Pidgey most definitely took the cake, as far as issues of dominance were concerned. Pidgey was not about to let itself be pushed around by a newcomer, and it was certainly stronger than Spearow – but that didn’t stop Spearow from trying to assert itself by harassing Pidgey. Jason knew it was equal parts race- and gender-related... in many Pokémon species, the male was dominant, and it was an embarrassment for the female to take that role away from the male.

    He kept both eyes trained on the two avian creatures and tried to make sure they behaved civilly towards each other when both were outside their balls, but more often he found himself keeping one inside its ball while the other was in the open. He couldn’t even consider allowing the two of them to battle in tandem; they continued to misbehave towards each other to such an extent that he began having to waste valuable resources patching them each up. Liquid spray potion that should have gone to injuries sustained in “real” battles instead was applied after Pidgey and Spearow raked each other with their talons and beaks.

    As the days passed, Jason noted improvement in Spearow’s behavior towards the others. It didn’t peck at Metapod and Kakuna’s shells, nor did it caw or flap at Pikachu. And it obeyed Jason’s directives when they were issued – but notably, it made an exception when it came to bothering Pidgey. No matter if Jason made a fanfare about releasing the female bird or if he tried releasing it quietly and in the opposite direction, Spearow always seemed to notice when Pidgey was no longer contained and would take the next available opportunity to start pestering.

    Nearly two weeks after Spearow’s capture, Jason had released Pidgey to let it seek out grubs for food in the mid-evening, a task at which the bird was having little success. At the same time, he was still in the midst of training Spearow to become a force of equal strength in comparison to the rest of his team, most of whom were elsewhere in the grasses and enjoying being outdoors. Pikachu, especially, seemed to have boundless energy and took great pleasure in running all manner of routes around Metapod and Kakuna. The latter two were in some degree of motion, but so sluggish in it that they might as well have been standing still next to the electric mouse.

    The battle Jason was orchestrating involved his Spearow versus a wild one, and it was clear that his had improved in its battle skills in the way it executed its moves. Each command was obeyed instantly, and sometimes didn’t even have to be issued in order for it to understand what Jason was attempting to accomplish. While it might have appeared a relatively even battle upon its commencement, it quickly became clear the wild one was simply no match for its trained counterpart, and it fled before it could be too badly injured.

    But the victory was apparently not enough for Spearow – or perhaps it was the adrenaline high from having earned that victory – and it darted into the grasses Pidgey was patiently hunting through. Its effort was met with a loud caw from its foil and a blast of air strong enough to knock Spearow back out of the grass... but simultaneously created such a ruckus it was clear Pidgey wouldn’t be feeding here.

    Jason groaned aloud and pulled out Pidgey’s Poké Ball. Guess there’s no hunting for tonight. I’ll have to feed her later myself and she’ll hate herself and me for that. “Pidgey, return!” he called, for what seemed the umpteenth time, and he scowled at Spearow. The avian had no repentance in its expression and released a loud caw as Jason returned Pidgey’s Poké Ball to his belt.

    Jason leveled a finger at Spearow. “I’ve just about had it with you!” he snapped. “You’re supposed to be a member of this team. But I’ve gotta say, right now, I’m thinking it was a mistake to ever make you a part of it!”

    Spearow tilted its head to one side and chirped inquisitively – “Spear?” – then fluttered its wings.

    The teen scoffed and waved his hand dismissively at Spearow. “Fine, you know what? Maybe you should just get out of here. I wasted the ball on you. If all you want to do is peck at a Pidgey, find some wild one to toy with. You don’t get to do it to mine.”

    Where no admonishment or condemnation had seemed to work, that expression of utter contempt seemed to bring Spearow to a standstill. Now the expression in its eyes had taken a significant change, and it cautiously stepped toward Jason. But Jason aimed his finger at Spearow again. “Stop. You stay right there. If you’re gonna act like this, I don’t want you as part of my team. You can go back to your nest and have a nice life, harass Pidgeys and anyone and anything else that comes around, or you can decide to stick with me. But you keep this up, and I’ll make sure you regret it the rest of your life.”

    Spearow chirped again. “Row?”

    “I’m dead serious.” Jason plucked Gyarados’ Poké Ball from his belt and thrust it out in front of him for emphasis – a movement that caused Spearow to visibly flinch. “You do it again, Gyarados will wring you out. You won’t even get Pikachu. You’ll get this guy. Either go home, or show me you’re gonna do things my way.”

    Spearow stared into Jason’s eyes. Jason stared straight back, eyes narrow but unblinking. Several long moments passed – and then Spearow dipped its head and turned its gaze to the ground directly in front of its feet. Jason let out a breath he didn’t even know he’d been holding. Slightly more dangerous game to play with Pokémon, he recalled having been taught, but effective for trainers when the unequivocal establishment of dominance is necessary.

    He put Gyarados’ Poké Ball back in his belt, then took out Spearow’s, enlarged it, and held it out. “Return.”

    Once the bird was safely back in the confines of the ball, he sat down on the ground and let out a heavy sigh. He stared at the blue sky – nary a cloud occupied it today – and asked it aloud, “Just what is it I’m supposed to do? I feel like I’m doing something wrong, here.”

    Maybe you are, a voice in his mind contended. Maybe you shouldn’t be training Pokémon. You wanted a Gyarados, doesn’t mean you wanted to be a pro at this. It’s a gig, nothing more than that. You build up your money while you’re figuring out what you really want.

    And I’ll bet you don’t even know what that is, do you?


    He knew the answer to that question. “Of course I know what I want,” he muttered. “It’s the one thing I can’t have.”

    And that’s just typical.


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011

  32. #32
    Written Into A Corner... Cool Trainer
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    Default Against All Odds: Pathfinder - Part 5

    Pathfinder

    Part 5


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Over the next month, Jason tried to do everything he could think of in order to get Spearow in line. To its credit, Spearow did not attack or harass Pidgey any further – instead, Spearow did everything in its power to flatly ignore Pidgey’s existence. At first, Jason had considered this improvement, as well as a sign that the Pokémon had taken his threats seriously. Its disposition was markedly more agreeable: it learned how to cooperate with Pikachu during attacks on bird nests, much the same way Pidgey and Pikachu had learned to cooperate. It even exceeded Pidgey’s ability in airlifting, and showed off by routinely lifting Metapod and Kakuna high over the grasses.

    Jason had never considered himself very good at reading the expressions and body language of even his own race, never mind the various species of Pokémon with which he was familiar, but he could tell from Pidgey’s disposition that it was becoming less happy with the passage of each day... and its attitude took an especially low dip every time Spearow went out of its way to show off for Jason. It didn’t seem to share in the joys of success the team shared as a whole; the capture of a Jigglypuff on Route 3, the back-to-back captures of an Ekans and a Sandshrew on Route 4, and even the combined evolutions of Metapod and Kakuna into Butterfree and Beedrill did nothing to lift Pidgey’s spirits.

    When the calendar transitioned from one month to the next, Jason knew the time had come to consider his options practically. Spearow is showing a ton of progress. Pidgey, on the other hand, is sliding into this depressed funk because she’s feeling like Spearow is outshining her. She’d probably have loved it if I decided training him wasn’t gonna work out and just kicked him off the team altogether.

    He stood at the entrance of Mt. Moon that night. He didn’t mean to enter, but he stood there and waited as if something was going to fly out of it and hit him in the face. And having learned about caves like this one, he thought, something very well could do exactly that. Caves like this one were most commonly known to have Zubats and Geodudes, either of which had the potential to go soaring at him and bowl him over – or worse.

    He crossed his arms and resisted the urge to heave a sigh. Taking one Flying-Type Pokémon would be okay. Two, on the other hand, is a bad idea. And I’ve got four of those on my team... that doesn’t even include Beedrill, who would also most likely get smacked around down there, if not taken out in his first battle.

    His gaze shifted to the local Pokémon Center, just a short distance away, and he pursed his lips. Okay, then. It’s decided.

    Minutes later, he was inside the center and dialing the Pallet Town lab. On the viewscreen, he was greeted by the face of the first girl he’d met there – Kelly, he reminded himself. She looked as taken aback as he felt. “Well, surprise, surprise,” she said. “You’re four days early on your report. Are you actually looking to overachieve someday?”

    “Right now, I’m just trying to achieve the same way we all do,” he answered – then he hesitated for a moment before continuing. “I’m sending you my Butterfree, Beedrill, and Pidgey. I’d like to get the Sandshrew and Ekans I caught last week.”

    “Leaving one spot open?”

    “Probably won’t be open for long.”

    “Mt. Moon?”

    She knows where I am?
    Jason’s eyes flickered at the upper left corner of the display, which read Pokémon Research Laboratory – Pallet Town, Kanto. Ah. That would be how. “Yeah.”

    “You haven’t gotten any cave-dwellers yet. Squeamish to go in there?”

    Jason scoffed. “Is it your business?”

    “I’m one of the people who reads your reports. It’s worth asking after. But if you’re sending two bugs and a bird back here, then you’re trying to make sure they’re not exposed to danger from Rock-Type Pokémon. Which means you’re sucking it up to go in... an idea whose time has finally arrived. Welcome to the portal to the rest of the world out there.”

    “You just love talking down to me, don’t you?”

    “Not just you,” she responded, a small smirk on her face. “I have the Pokémon you requested ready for transfer.”

    Jason placed the corresponding Poké Balls in the transporter. “Ready over here. So who else do you condescend to? Professor Oak?”

    “He’s smarter and more respected than me, and he’s in charge around here. I’d pretty much be a moron to talk down to him.”

    “If we’re gonna talk about brains and respect...” Jason muttered beneath his breath, as the transporter hummed to life.

    “Hey, I saw you say something to yourself there.” Kelly’s arms were crossed.

    “Last time I checked, I was allowed to talk to myself,” he retorted. “I take it the professor isn’t in?”

    “If he were, he’d be on the line with you right now and not me.”

    “Yeah... that was predictable,” he mumbled. “Say hello to him for me.”

    “You can say it to him yourself next time you see him.”

    “Don’t you have a paper you need to be writing?” he snapped.

    “I do, but I’m in here trading barbs with a Pokémon trainer who isn’t training very many Pokémon.”

    “Well, who says it’s a contest to the finish line in who can catch the most, anyway?” he demanded.

    “The professor did, when he let you become a trainer. He said you would be out there catching all sorts of specimens so that he could expand his preserve.” She tilted her head from one side to the other. “Was he wrong?”

    Jason couldn’t help but glower at the computer screen. “Must be awfully nice playing armchair quarterback,” he said.

    Kelly’s response was both amused and curious. “Playing what?”

    Jason narrowed his eyes. “Armchair quarterback. Don’t tell me you’ve never heard the phrase before.”

    “I’m a little busy with this thing I like to call a ‘career’, here. I don’t keep track of every catchphrase random neanderthals like to mumble to themselves like they think they’re being clever.”

    Jason considered his answer for only half an instant. “I’d be happy to explain it to you, but I’m a bit busy with this thing I call ‘training’ and I don’t need or want input from prissy snobs who never bothered to try it themselves.”

    Jason felt a small part of himself instantly regretting having said it, mostly because he knew he’d get an angry – and probably more intelligent – comeback. But instead, Kelly’s mouth snapped shut at that proclamation, and the look on her face was suddenly very different. Her lips now formed a pencil-thin line across her face and something strange shone in her eyes for a long moment.

    The last thing Jason saw her do was reach one arm to an area beyond the screen’s view, and the connection was severed.

    He turned his gaze to the floor, and to himself, hissed the very first curse he could recall ever uttering aloud.

    “Damn it.”



    Despite the vehemence of their conversation and her clear dislike of him, Kelly had done as he’d requested and sent him his Ekans and Sandshrew. Not very compatible as a fighting force, nor really as friends, the two newcomers to Jason’s team nevertheless did nothing to impede each others’ progress, nor did they demonstrate a single iota of jealousy of each other or any other Pokémon on his team. They demonstrated focus and dedication to the task Jason had in mind for them – namely, to gain strength and stamina to his satisfaction.

    As it turned out, that goal was more easily achieved by Sandshrew than by Ekans – which actually suited Jason just fine. He made every effort to conceal his biases, but he wasn’t that much a fan of snakes, other than the fascinated curiosity of a child discovering for himself the wonders of the insect encyclopedia for the first time.

    He was still reluctant to enter the caverns of Mt. Moon. True, it was the most expedient route to Pewter City, and one could find many trainers there at any given time, but Jason had lived most of his life with no love for caves. That lack of love had turned into a more deeply-seated contempt of them after nearly drowning in the system under Tangelo Island during Gyarados’ escape.

    Nevertheless, once he had brought Ekans and Sandshrew up to a speed he thought appropriate (a process that took another two weeks), he was finally able to screw up the courage to step beyond the cavern’s threshold – and was almost instantly challenged by a Zubat that was awake a little too early in the day. Jason saw an opportunity and tried to do battle with first Ekans, then Sandshrew, and eventually lost both to the debilitating effects of Supersonic blasts that rattled them into a confused stupor. It was after the encounter that Jason finally realized the stupidity of his initial choices: Ekans and Zubat used the same types of poison bile, making them immune to each others’ attacks, and Zubat could easily dodge any ground-based attack Sandshrew could have thrown at it. The trainer finally found his ally in Pikachu, who brought the small Pokémon down almost instantly with a Thundershock attack – and the Zubat was in a ball only moments later.

    Zubat and Ekans took a quick liking to each other and became fast friends – lots of Poison-Types will stick together, Jason thought, and Grimers aren’t the only ones out there. Even Spearow seemed willing to commune with the newcomer. But despite the new kind of camaraderie on his team, Jason wasn’t sure if this was the configuration he wanted to keep full-time. He missed Rattata and Pidgey. And he quickly realized how poor a choice Ekans was inside a cave – most Pokémon inside it would not succumb to poison barbs and fangs, lined as they were with rock. Ekans was capable enough, but the more Jason ordered it to bite its foes, the more the snake Pokémon wanted to jump the gun and so missed a move its opponent was making. This zealousness brought about a great deal of consternation for Jason, who wasn’t sure it was fair to admonish a Pokémon that was simply trying to please him by anticipating what he was going to tell it to do anyway.

    Unfortunately, the range of wild Pokémon within the cave wasn’t very wide. Mostly he encountered Zubats and Geodudes, neither of which were particularly weakened by the Bite attack – and most certainly weren’t fazed by the use of Wrap. Encountering a long series of Geodudes served to solidify the belief that he had made a mistake in calling upon Ekans, and he resolved to refrain from using it until emergence on the other side of the cave.

    As he continued through the cave, it became clear to him that Ekans wasn’t his only problem – he had almost entirely the wrong team to challenge the denizens of this area. Spearow and Zubat couldn’t hope to affect any Rock-Type Pokémon that reared their heads here, and were good only for battling against trainers who had made the even bigger mistake of bringing Bug-Types in with them. It was necessary to bench Pikachu from wild battles, as well, since electricity had zero effect against the long string of Geodudes that appeared to have no intent other than to block his progress.

    He became fed up with trying to mow through the seemingly endless torrent of Geodudes at one point and used Gyarados to intimidate several into backing off. One unfortunate and foolish member of the species which apparently thought it was equipped to handle Gyarados delivered a tackle that barely made the sea serpent flinch.

    Then it was doused with a gushing blast of water from Gyarados’ mouth.

    The Poké Ball that followed that attack captured the Geodude easily.

    From that point forward, Jason came to realize that the only Pokémon at his disposal which was properly equipped to handle the Rock- and Ground-Types that presented themselves was Gyarados. Jason had been feeling loathe to use it from the beginning, but even more so now. He brought it out for the occasional battle, so that it had something to take its frustration out on, but to use it during a long chain of unexpected battles seemed both risky and foolish to him. In his mind, Gyarados was already far more powerful than his other Pokémon, and didn’t need the battle experience nearly as much as they did.

    Nevertheless, there were few alternatives at his disposal, as deeply as he’d already delved.

    Bet Kelly’s probably having the last laugh on this one, Jason griped. Everyone at the lab knows exactly what Pokémon I’ve brought with me in here, and now I can’t use any of the ones that most need the experience.

    It seemed strange that he would think about her, but he couldn’t shake the image of her face when he’d insulted her – hadn’t been able to for several days. I thought I was sort of reaching with that remark anyway... I figured she’d try to school me about herself, say that she’s got way more experience than I do and... whatever. But she didn’t say anything, not a thing. I must have hit way too close to home.

    He decided to stop in a larger section of the cavern, into which some light poured through cracks in the ceiling, and he sat down on the cave floor cross-legged. None of his Pokémon were outside their balls – unlike Rattata and Pidgey, he didn’t feel comfortable enough yet with any of his current team to let them perch anywhere on his person. He rested his back against the wall behind him only after he was reasonably certain no Rock-Type Pokémon were hiding on it; he let out a sigh and closed his eyes.

    “Some Pokémon adventure, huh?” he muttered aloud, though to no one in particular. “Not really what you had in mind, but hey... the man puts a few pokéyen in your pocket and you’ll do anything.”

    “Prrrrsss?”

    His eyes snapped open and he instantly recoiled from the direction of the noise, trying not to yell in surprise as he moved. To his immediate right, a Paras had emerged from nowhere, and one claw was up and hovering near where his leg had been just a moment ago, as if to poke him in curiosity.

    He was tempted to rise to his feet, but the other half of his mind encouraged him to stay low, stay near the Pokémon that had decided he was interesting enough to explore. He planted one foot underneath him but settled on his opposite knee and looked at the intriguing creature. He recalled that the CBC had in their possession only a few Parases, and cultivated the mushrooms they grew on their backs for herbal remedies and supplements for other Pokémon on campus.

    This Paras waved its fat claws in the air. “Prrrss!” it declared, and then it scuttled towards him. The temptation to scamper away from it suddenly became more urgent within his thoughts, but perhaps to spite that temptation, he ducked his head down and knelt closer to the ground, holding out a hand in invitation to the insectoid Pokémon. The Paras chittered and approached his hand, its eyes flicking at the extremity and then up to their owner.

    “Hi there,” Jason said, feeling distinctly awkward. He’d yet to have a Pokémon walk up and introduce itself, yet this one seemed to have no trouble doing so. He inspected it; while of an average size itself, the pair of mushrooms it bore on its shoulders were small and sub-standard, with an odd coloration to them. He tilted his head. “Looks like you’re a bit out of your element.”

    It chittered again, then gingerly climbed across his outstretched arm and mounted his knee, putting it in a much better position to look at him face-to-face. For a long moment, the two simply looked each other over, as if sizing each other up. Jason raised his eyebrows. “So, what? You like what you see?”
    Paras seemed to take this as a cue to climb down off his leg, and it dismounted him on his other side, where his capture ball belt was in plain view. It poked a claw in the direction of the three balls on his left side, wherein Gyarados, Pikachu, and Spearow rested comfortably. Jason released a chuckle. “What, you want to meet my Pokémon? I could probably introduce you to Pikachu. You wouldn’t want to meet Gyarados and Spearow.”

    He pulled Pikachu’s ball out and emptied its contents to the cave floor nearby. Pikachu scampered towards its trainer and gave him a happy-sounding “Pika!”

    “Yeah, good to see you, too, I know it’s been a little while. This place doesn’t really give you a chance to shine, so to speak,” Jason apologized. Then he gestured at the Paras, which was staring intently at the two of them. “This one’s curious. Talk to him or something?”

    Pikachu stood back on its stubby hind legs and twitched its ears as it sized up Paras. “Pika?”

    “Prrrrsss. Prras.”

    “Pi pi Pikachu!”

    Guess it’s just one big, happy family around here, Jason thought, and he sat back on his heels and listened to the two jabber away at each other, not for the first time wishing he could understand just what information they were trading. Both gesticulated to emphasize whatever they were saying – though Paras was gesturing more wildly than Pikachu. Then Pikachu did an about-face and gestured with similar urgency in Jason’s direction. “Pi Pikachu! Kachu!”

    Jason couldn’t restrain the lame joke that came to mind. “Bless you?”

    “Pika pika!” the Pokémon responded loudly, waving its stubby arms about.

    “Okay, okay, buddy,” he said, holding up his hands, “calm down. I’m sitting right here listening to you.”

    “Pika! Pikachu!” The yellow-furred rodent waved its arms at Paras – whose stalked eyes were now steadily drooping closed. The wild Pokémon staggered to one side, and then its legs suddenly buckled underneath it, causing it to fall down on its broad underside.

    Jason frowned and scrambled to Paras’ side. Something’s going on with this guy... He recalled the methods of inspecting Bug-Type Pokémon without inadvertently harming them – having not dealt with many, he wasn’t experienced or even well-trained in that particular field. He remembered that checking the carapace for injuries was essential, and so he laid his palms on Paras’ back – doing his best to avoid the mushrooms on it. The last thing I need is poisonous spores flying up in my face.

    For the first instant, he wasn’t even certain what he hoped to accomplish in his feeble attempt at examination... but he discovered that where a smooth and hardened exoskeleton should have been, instead the shell was soft and dimpled with pockmarks. Jason tilted his head, then looked at Pikachu. “This guy’s been pretty beaten up, huh?”

    “Pika pika!”

    Jason scoffed. “Yeah... thought you’d say that.” He turned back to Paras. Well... I’m not a medical expert. I could use a potion on him, but I don’t know how much I should be using, and that might only be treating symptoms. Just ‘cause he got beaten to a pulp doesn’t mean that’s the only reason he’s collapsed.

    “Pika!”

    He snapped out of his reverie to see that Pikachu was now standing with its tail waving at him. More specifically, it was batting at his vest pocket – where he kept his stash of empty Poké Balls. Jason scoffed again. Well, that sounds like a reasonable option at this point. The ball will keep any other conditions he’s got from getting any worse until I can get to a Pokémon Center to get him treated properly.

    He nodded at Pikachu. “Okay. Let’s do it. But better do it carefully, don’t you think? I don’t wanna bash in his shell.”

    “Pika!”

    Pikachu scampered away while Jason pulled out a Poké Ball. Unceremoniously, he dropped it atop Paras from only about a yard’s length – the ball cracked open and performed its task, but didn’t even have the Pokémon completely encapsulated before it struck the ground. It offered no resistance to the capture, and the ball was immediately transformed into a mass of energy that shaded into the red spectrum, then vanished from sight.

    Jason glanced at Pikachu, who was again standing on its hind legs and staring at him. “Pi?” it inquired.

    “Eh.” Jason waved a dismissive hand. “He should be okay, long as he stays in that ball. Should be arriving at Professor Oak’s right now.” He hesitated. “...and they’ll want to take him out and document him. Damn it...”

    He got to his feet and picked up his pace through the cavern, Pikachu at his heels.



    Jason bent over and gripped his knees, panting and wheezing. Sweat dripped down his forehead and his clothes were drenched. His eyes flickered for an instant to Pikachu, who had stopped running and now was standing on its hind legs and staring at him expectantly. “Pika pi?”

    “Yeah... you know what?” he said hoarsely, gasps of air interrupting his speech. “Some of us... aren’t quite so blessed... with stamina.”

    “Seems we’re in the same hole, then, so to speak.”

    The teen’s lack of energy was such that, despite his heart giving a great start, he didn’t even jump or twist around at the sound of the deep voice booming out behind him. Instead he made a series of small shuffling steps to accommodate his bent-over position, and he craned his neck to see who it was that had spoken.

    The man looked a lot like his voice made him sound like he looked. He was large and broad, and he wore a bulky vest and an even bulkier backpack that occupied his entire back – as unbelievable as that might have seemed. His clothes, covered in dirt and grime, suggested that he’d been spelunking here for some time already, and there were flecks of food in his beard... indicating that even if his laundry had been done three hours ago, he would still not have had an aura of cleanliness about him. He also bore a cane, which appeared to be little more than ornamental in nature – surely a stick that narrow would have been unable to support a man of his girth.

    The hiker gave Jason a jolly smile and a wave with the hand that didn’t carry the cane. “Howdy. Having a hard time finding the exit?”

    Jason gave a single reluctant nod. “I was hoping to be out of here some time ago. I caught a sick Pokémon and it got sent to the lab ‘cause I have six on my team already, but they need to know he’s sick.”

    The hiker guffawed. “You ought not worry about that, son. Pokémon laboratories are well-equipped to handle ill Pokémon. They employ the best they can find... that is, anybody who second-chairs Nurse Joy.” He guffawed again, an infectious noise. “Anyway, do you truly think if they see a sick Pokémon, they won’t make sure it’s properly cared for? In a Pokémon lab?”

    Jason hesitated. “Sorry. I hadn’t thought about that,” he admitted, suddenly feeling more than a little foolish. “Guess I’m just not quite thinking.”

    “Happens to a lot of kids. Gotta take these things into account, you know.” The hiker tilted his head. “Speaking of kids, where’s your entourage?”

    “I beg your pardon?”

    “Well, usually young ones like yourself have at least one or two people along. I suppose it’s a safety in numbers thing, or maybe it’s the camaraderie. Good journeying with good company. Largest group I ever saw was seven. Not all of ‘em were that good... actually, really, only two or three of them were.” The hiker chuckled. “But you could hear ‘em from miles away. I’m surprised they even caught as many Pokémon as they did, a noise group like that.”

    “Uh...” Jason shrugged. “Well, I don’t have an entourage. It’s just me. I guess my Pokémon are my entourage.”

    “I suppose a Pikachu would have to be, down here,” the other man remarked. “Electricity isn’t much good around here otherwise.”

    “No kidding.”

    “What’d you catch?”

    “Uh.” Jason took a moment to consider whether he wanted to tell a stranger what Pokémon he’d just caught. And ringing the hiker’s waist in plain sight was a capture ball belt that carried three Poké Balls. The man’s a trainer. I’m surprised he hasn’t already challenged me to a battle...

    The hiker chuckled once more, evidently able to see the indecision on Jason’s face, and responded before Jason could. “You said it yourself, he’s not on your team. You want a battle, you won’t be handicapped... ‘specially since looks to me like you’ve got six.”

    Jason shrugged. “Okay, so it was a Paras. And six on three doesn’t quite sound fair to me.”

    “Who cares? It’s how trainers do it.”

    “Not this trainer.”

    The other man tilted his head and smirked. “You actually match your opponent for number of Pokémon in a battle?”

    “I always figured that’s how you were supposed to do it, honestly. Any trainer I saw as a kid already had six Pokémon so I figured there was some sort of honor system or something. Then I went to school, found out what I know now. The idea stuck with me anyway.”

    “Well, then, I like your style.”

    Jason wasn’t entirely sure what the appropriate response was. “Thanks, I guess.”

    “Welcome. So, a Paras, you said?”

    “Yeah. What about it?”

    “Said he was sick?”

    “Yeah.”

    “What’d he look like?”

    “Uh... well, sick.” Jason tossed up his hands, struggling to find the words. “I mean... the mushrooms on his back were wilting and badly colored, and he had a really soft and chipped-up shell. He got beat down pretty good.”

    “Sounds like it,” the hiker responded thoughtfully, stroking his beard, “but also sounds like he’s been here in the cave a bit too long. See, Parases are known to get themselves caught in here – cave dwellers like Mt. Moon for the caverns, but the Moon Stones inside it make it pretty tough on vegetation. You notice how there’s no foliage anywhere on the outside of the crater?”

    In all honesty, Jason hadn’t noticed that at all – and for that matter, he wasn’t all that familiar with Moon Stones – but he bobbed his head as though he had experience in those realms, and drew on what little knowledge he had of Mt. Moon. “Meteor crashed here thousands of years ago, so why hasn’t anything grown here since?”

    “You got it, kid,” the hiker declared. “And Parases, they need the mushrooms on their backs to grow, part of their own life cycle, right?” Another nod from Jason. “Yeah, right, so when they spend a little too much time in here, exposure to the Moon Stones can make those ‘shrooms go sour and foul, start turning more like tumors. It can also soften them up, which makes them pretty juicy targets for local Pokémon... no pun intended.”

    Jason winced as the image of a Geodude pounding its fist into a softened Paras carapace suddenly lodged itself in his mind. Yeah, that would be a pretty “juicy” result. “So does mine have hope to survive?”

    “Yeah, it can be treated, but better keep him away from here,” the hiker advised.

    “Not sure I’m gonna have to worry about that – I’ll be doing the same thing, soon as I find the exit.” Jason glanced around their current surroundings, which did not appear to lend themselves to an obvious exit. He turned back to the hiker. “What were you saying about Moon Stones? They put out some sort of... radiation or something?”

    “They’re evolutionary stones, kid. They all do that. But you’ll probably find Parases flourish more easily around, say, Leaf Stones. Whatever they put out is beneficial to Grass-Types. Moon Stones aren’t quite so kind to vegetables.”

    “Yeah, but Parases don’t evolve because of Leaf Stones, right?”

    “Right, but that doesn’t mean they don’t benefit from whatever energy the Leaf Stones have. For that matter, how do you figure the environment is affected by them? Leaf Stones are found most commonly in areas where vegetation is overgrown. Can’t be a coincidence, can it?”

    Jason tilted his head. “Hadn’t thought about that, but it makes sense.”

    “Course it does.” The hiker moved his large hand to his belt. “And with that, I think it’s about time for this battle we’ve been delaying.”

    “I’d been hoping to skip it for a later time,” Jason muttered, rolling his eyes. “I’d like to find my way out of here, one way or another.”

    “Tell you what, beat me and I’ll tell you where you can find the nearest exit. Should lead you straight out to Cerulean City.”

    Jason couldn’t resist the offer. “Okay, fine, but there should be some cash on the battle, too.”

    “Got three-sixty?”

    “Handily.”

    “Good, then you’re not a pushover.” The hiker pulled out the third ball on his belt and enlarged it. “By the way, name’s Marcos. Let’s go, Onix!”

    A gargantuan snake-like monstrosity apparently constructed of boulders and stone resolved from the neon light of the hiker’s Poké Ball and let out a jarring baritone roar. Jason’s hand instantly went to his own belt, and he enlarged and threw the first ball in one fluid motion. “Show them what we’re made of, Gyarados!”

    As Jason’s sea serpent came to his defense, the teen felt a smirk rise to his features.

    I’m starting to like this.


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011

  33. #33
    Written Into A Corner... Cool Trainer
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    Default Against All Odds: Pathfinder - Part 6

    Pathfinder

    Part 6


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Jason couldn’t help himself – he let out a noise that was a combination of a scoff and an incredulous laugh. “You’re a what, now?”

    “Hey, you can laugh, until you battle me and decide I’m better than you give me credit for.” The teenage boy that stood opposite Jason – a thin and wiry specimen who had identified himself as Herman – was garbed in orange pants that had a makeshift “tail” attached to them, matching claw-shaped shoes, a Charizard-face helm atop his head, and a white lab coat that was perhaps the saddest part of the outfit.

    “No, seriously, I don’t think I quite understood what you said,” Jason replied, resisting the urge to laugh into his hand. “You’re a Poké-what?”

    “Pokémaniac, and don’t make fun.” Herman scowled and crossed his arms defiantly over his chest. “There’s lots of us out there. Just ‘cause you’ve never met any...”

    “Hey, trust me, kid, I’ve met all kinds on this little trip already,” Jason answered. “But the ones I’m trying to meet are more Pokémon. I see an orange tail flailing around in the grass, you tell me what I’m supposed to be thinking, huh?”

    “That doesn’t mean you had to throw a Poké Ball at me!”

    “Okay, look, I’m sorry about the Poké Ball, all right?” Jason held his hands up in a show of conciliation. “Seriously, that tail is the best part of your outfit.”

    “Well...” The kid almost cracked a smile. “Yeah, I guess it does look good.”

    Not that good. Jason wasn’t about to say it aloud. “You know it. But what’s a Pokémaniac? Someone who dresses up like a Pokémon, I guess?”

    “Yeah!” Herman tugged on his lab coat. “But mine’s not really... finished yet.”

    “Didn’t think so. Still missing wings, there.”

    “And lots of other stuff, too.” He crossed his arms and tapped his foot. “So when’re you gonna accept my challenge?”

    Was hoping he wouldn’t notice I ignored it. “I didn’t really hear you issue a challenge,” he lied, “but even if you did, I’m not sure you want to go picking a fight with me. I’ve got six Pokémon and I’ve spent a lot of time training all of them.”

    “Hey, just ‘cause I only got two Pokémon doesn’t mean yours are better than mine!” the boy protested.

    “I didn’t say that,” Jason answered quickly.

    “But you were saying it!”

    “I wasn’t, I promise. You just need to know what you’d be up against, which is a courtesy a lot of other trainers out there won’t do for you. Most of those guys wouldn’t match you with two Pokémon, they’d go with all of the ones they carry. It takes more time to train six than two, sure, but you can’t just expect that a trainer hasn’t put in–”

    “I said you could battle me, not lecture me,” Herman interjected, and he tossed a Poké Ball into the expanse between them, emphasizing his point. “Go, Cubone!”

    Jason sighed at the sight of Herman’s Pokémon, a club-bearing creature that was reputed to wear the skull of its mother as a mask. To date, no one had ever seen or reported having seen what a Cubone’s face looked like beneath the skull... which led Jason to wonder if any of the species survived to see their children.

    He lobbed Gyarados’ ball into the air. “Gyarados, if you please.”

    The serpentine Pokémon appeared from its energy form and loosed a roar at Cubone. The opposing creature was clearly intimidated by its looming foe – it shrank away from Gyarados almost immediately upon its arrival – but it didn’t run back to its master and didn’t break eye contact.

    “Cubone, use your Bone Club!” Herman commanded.

    Jason couldn’t even pretend to feel excited about the battle; the two types were entirely mismatched. “Gyarados, Water Pulse.”

    Although Cubone’s rush towards Gyarados was admirable, the attack its trainer had chosen couldn’t have been a worse one to order. Despite its enormity, Gyarados was still easily able to avoid the swinging bone in Cubone’s hand by undulating its body away from its foe’s target points. Then it let loose a torrent of water from its maw, carrying Cubone back toward its trainer on a pressurized wave that would have been the envy of any firefighter.

    And that’s not the only thing it did, Jason thought, as he felt the rumbling in the ground subside. Using Water Pulse means using your voice while spraying and that can throw a Pokémon way off, assuming it makes it through the attack. He had already seen several instances where that had been the case after Gyarados was through.

    But Cubone didn’t rise from the flood, forcing Herman to quickly recall it. The boy gritted his teeth and hurled his other Poké Ball into the battlefield. “Slowpoke, your turn!”

    Jason frowned upon sight of the pink quadruped. The thing’s well-named, he thought. Even the PokéDex defines it as the “dopey” Pokémon. Only reason I’d ever have one is to get it to evolve as quickly as humanly possible. “Get yourself a Shellder, kid, and quick,” he advised.

    Herman scowled at him. “Slowpoke, use Confusion!”

    “Gyarados, Bite.”

    This time, Gyarados had the advantage of speed over its opponent – although it was a matter of debate as to whether that was because of actual stamina or simple reaction time to commands. Slowpokes were legendary for not catching on right away. Thus, Gyarados’ mouth was wrapped about its foe well before Slowpoke demonstrated even the slightest intent on loosing its psychic potential upon the water snake.

    Slowpoke’s reaction time to Gyarados’ attack was considerable, in and of itself, not even releasing a noise until Gyarados had spat it out and it had struck the ground. Jason held out his Poké Ball and called out, “Gyarados, return!”

    “Hey, what’re you doing?” Herman demanded.

    “Ending the battle,” Jason answered evenly.

    “We’re not done!”

    “Keep going and we will be.” He returned the ball to his belt and put his hands in his pockets. “Your Slowpoke doesn’t deserve to be beat up the way my Gyarados would do it and you need to be able to get to a Pokémon Center without both of your Pokémon being KO’ed. It’d be pretty mean of me to do that, and I’m not gonna.”

    “But...” The boy trailed off, and then he slumped his shoulders. “Okay, fine. Slowpoke, return.”

    As Slowpoke returned to its ball, Jason stepped across the expanse and tilted his head. “There’s always room for improvement. I wasn’t kidding when I said I’ve trained a lot. Do the same, you’ll get there.”

    “I hear that from everybody,” Herman sulked.

    “Well, they’re right. Just keep working with your Pokémon. Doesn’t happen overnight.”

    “You ever lost a battle?”

    “Sure, I’ve lost a few,” Jason admitted. “And against a couple bug-catching kids, no less.”

    “How did that make you feel?”

    One side of Jason’s mouth quirked up. “Yeah, pretty stupid.”

    “Anything make you feel better after it?”

    “Winning the next time.” Jason shot the boy a significant look. “Best way to do that is to fight smart. You don’t have to challenge everyone who comes your way. Go after the wild Pokémon in the grass, there’s plenty to choose from. It’ll help you.”

    Herman scratched his forehead. “How old are you, anyway?”

    “Fifteen. You?”

    “Thirteen. So I have another two years to go, huh?”

    Jason chuckled. “Maybe not quite that long.”

    Herman’s eyebrows shot up. “Really?” he asked, suddenly sounding hopeful. “How long have you been training?”

    “You probably don’t want to know, actually,” Jason answered. “But it hasn’t been two years. Hasn’t even been one, yet. So... just stick with the program. Sound good?”

    “Whatever, just don’t tell me to ditch the costume.” Herman wrapped his lab coat protectively about him. “I’ve had a lot of people tell me that already. I like it, I’m gonna keep it.”

    “Never said you shouldn’t wear the outfit, now, did I? If you like it, keep it. It’s already made my day that much more interesting.” Jason smirked. “I’ll be able to find you more easily next time I come this way, right?”

    Herman cracked a smile and nodded. “Yeah, I guess so.”

    “You guess so? I’ll know exactly what to look for now.” Jason turned back to the route and aimed a finger to the east. “Hey, if I keep going this way, this’ll get me to Lavender Town, right?”

    “Well, yeah, sort of.” The boy gestured at the ridge of tree-covered hills to the south. “The path’s gonna curve around that way in a little bit and when you get there, you won’t be able to get over that ridge on foot. There’s a river canal up against it and the cliff side is too sheer.”

    “So how do I get there?”

    “The path curls around again once you get to the canal, it’ll take you to Rock Tunnel. It goes right under the canal and the bluffs, takes you out right to the south end of Route 10.”

    “What about that building there?” Jason pointed. “I can see a roof. It’s not a gym or anything, is it?”

    Herman actually laughed. “No way, that’s the Power Plant. Lots of Electric-Type Pokémon like to hang out there so they built it to store all the spare electricity they make when they’re passing through.”

    Jason frowned. “You’re saying people just decided to put up a building ‘cause they thought Pokémon would stick around and play in it?”

    “Sounds crazy but it worked. You wouldn’t believe the amount of energy stored there. Some trainers like to go there, but I’d steer clear if I were you.”

    “What for?”

    “Same reason my dad always says whenever I wanna go there. He always says, ‘You really want to get zapped ‘cause some Electabuzz thinks you’re getting a little too close to his playplace?’”

    Jason had to concede that point. “Not really, no. So back to the path I’m following...”

    “Yeah, once you come out the other side of the cave, you’ll just keep going straight south and that’ll get you to Lavender Town.” Herman’s eyes suddenly widened at Jason, and a smile crept across his face. “Oh, you’re going there for the ghosts, aren’t you?”

    “Ghosts?”

    The boy’s eyebrows shot up. “Don’t tell me you didn’t know Lavender Town has ghosts! It’s famous for it!”

    “Not really from around here, kid, I’m just making my way through.”

    “But... how can you not know about Lavender Town?” the boy sputtered. “Everyone knows about the ghosts there!”

    Jason tried not to take the statement personally and brushed aside Herman’s shock with a wave of his hand. “Never mind, it doesn’t matter. Lavender Town has lots of Ghost-Type Pokémon?”

    “Not just Ghost-Type Pokémon, I’m talking about actual ghosts!” the boy exclaimed. “My friend Carly, she’s from Lavender Town, she swears she’s seen ghosts of dead people and Pokémon in the tower!”

    “Really.” Jason regarded Herman with a healthy skepticism.

    Herman frowned. “You don’t believe me.”

    “I don’t really believe in actual ghosts,” Jason admitted. “That’s just what they call Pokémon that can turn themselves into clouds and stuff. There’s science behind how and why they can do it, doesn’t mean they’re actual ghosts from the great beyond, or whatever you want to call it.”

    “Seriously, though!” the Pokémaniac insisted. “She was up in the tower just yesterday and said she saw this ghost of a Kangaskhan in there! She’s got a Gastly, she said it could barely even keep the spirit away from her long enough to get away!”

    “We’re talking about the spirit of a Kangaskhan running around in a tower?” Jason scoffed. “How does she know it’s not just some Haunter or Gengar messing around with her?”

    “She can hear the spirits talking. She said this one kept saying ‘Kangaskhan, Kangaskhan’. Haunters and Gengars can’t do that, can they?”

    “They can fool your eyes,” Jason replied. “Who’s to say they can’t trick your hearing?”

    “Well... uh...” Herman’s shoulders slumped again. “I guess it could be something like that... but she’s so sure of it. I was just online talking to her last night...”

    Oh, great, an acquaintance online. That’s just the kind of reliable source you need. Jason rolled his eyes. “All right, all right, I stand warned. If I see any ghostly Kangaskhan spirits, I’ll make sure to stay well away from them.”

    The look on Herman’s face as Jason began to make his way back to the path suggested he didn’t believe the older trainer was taking him seriously. But he evidently didn’t think there was anything else he could do to try to convince Jason otherwise, because he didn’t offer any further arguments or even a parting salutation.

    Jason thought that was probably just as well.



    Though not afraid of the prospect of ghosts, Jason was beginning to feel far more spooked in this cave than he had been in Mt. Moon’s tunnels. Some of it was due to just how bloody dark it was here – beyond the entrance, no rays of sun penetrated the murky depths, and he had no Pokémon available to him able to pierce the veil. Gyarados, Spearow, Sandshrew, Geodude, and Paras certainly had no power capable of creating light. Pikachu’s prowess with the manipulation of electricity might one day yield the ability to show Jason the way, but for now, that was out of its reach.

    That had left Jason to fumble around in the dark with little else but the hope that Herman’s report had been accurate and that the exit to this aptly-named “Rock Tunnel” would reveal itself to him. But so far that exit had not been forthcoming, nor had the trainers he’d encountered while here.

    And those battles weren’t what I’d call unqualified successes, he thought ruefully. It had been bad enough trying to navigate these caverns in total darkness, but trying to conduct a Pokémon battle there as well was almost too much for him to handle. That the opponents had all been carrying torches, lanterns, or flashlights was both fortuitous and frustrating – they allowed him to see just enough to direct his Pokémon to victory, but they told him their owners had all known beforehand the place would blind its visitors absent the aid of a flame.

    And now he was facing more than that singular lapse in judgment. He was running out of Pokémon to use in battle. Pikachu had been employed against the hordes of wild Zubats, and even the occasional Machop that had challenged his presence, but had eventually succumbed to a combination of exhaustion, muscle bruises, and poisonous bites – and that had been the one Pokémon even able to produce any manner of light by which Jason could see his foes. Paras had been crushed under the weight of boulders thrown by an overzealous Geodude and Jason wasn’t comfortable even risking exposure outside its ball until he was in a Pokémon Center. Spearow was useless to him in a cave, and Sandshrew and Geodude were close to collapsing from the sheer number of foes they’d suddenly been asked to face.

    That left Gyarados as the most well-rested and fit Pokémon on his team. This was, in and of itself, not unusual, since Gyarados’ power still dwarfed that of any other Pokémon he had. But despite Gyarados’ continued good condition, Jason had severe reservations about trying to bring it to bear against anyone or anything in the confines of a cave.

    Of course, if it were any other environment, I’d probably be thinking of other reasons not to use him. Jason’s fingers stroked over the sphere that encapsulated the great beast, still mounted firmly in the first slot on his belt. Gotta face reality, Jason... you need to find a way out of here, like, right now, no matter which direction you end up facing.

    “Hello?” he called out. His voice echoed through the cavern surrounding him. “Anyone hear me?”

    “Hello? I can hear you!”

    The voice was male, deep, and sounded like it belonged to a larger man. It was a fair distance away and echoed its way to him, and though he tried, Jason could not identify which direction it was coming from. He cupped his hand to his mouth. “Hey, you got a light or something?”

    “Yeah, just a second!”

    Jason stood in place and turned in a slow circle to his left, hoping that such a movement would eventually lead him to the sight of a lamp or lantern. After rotating what felt like a good two hundred degrees, he spotted his quarry, and was at once hopeful and disheartened. The light shining in his direction wasn’t from a flashlight or a lamp, but from what appeared to be the very distant screen of a cellular phone or other pocket-sized piece of technology.

    The light disappeared, and Jason cupped his hand to his mouth again. “Hold up, I saw that, turn it back on?”

    “It’s still on, I just turned around. Can’t figure out where you are. The acoustics in here are unbelievable. Hang on.”

    The light again appeared, and though it was small and faint to Jason’s eyes, it was still there, which beat none at all. “Right there!” he called.

    “All right, work your way over, then. We’ll have a pow-wow.”

    Slowly but steadily, the shine of the light got closer, and Jason could hear the shifting of feet on the stone floor as he approached. “Uh, hi,” he said, now close enough to inspect the light source for what it was – and indeed, it was a cell phone screen.

    “Sorry I don’t have something a little more powerful,” the voice said. “I’m used to this place. Most others I meet here have all kinds of gear to light up the place but I prefer the darkness. Makes it that much easier to sleep.”

    “You sleep in here?” Jason asked, incredulous.

    “Well, think of it,” the other man offered. “Long as you have your sleeping bag and at least one extra set of clothing, it’s soft enough. Keep one Pokémon out to guard you, and snooze without worrying the sun’s gonna blind you when you open your eyes next.”

    “I guess that makes sense,” Jason remarked. “But right now I’m just looking for a way out of here... preferably the closest one. I’ve been down here way too long and I can’t seem to feel my way to the surface.”

    “Here, take my hand.” The cell phone light suddenly shone on a large, meaty hand, which Jason reached out and grasped. The grip was firm, but the flesh was somewhat gelatinous and he couldn’t decide if there was more muscle or fat in it. “It’s gonna take a couple hours, you’re in here pretty deep, but I know the area down here. Should be a snap.”

    “How about wild Pokémon? My team’s about on its last leg. I really can’t afford to run into any more Zubats.”

    “Keep your head down and just move slowly. Shouldn’t be a problem.” Jason sensed his new companion’s body mass shift, presumably to face him. “By the way, my name’s Dudley.”

    “Jason. Good to meet you.”

    “Likewise. Now, let’s see if we can get you and your team out of here in one piece.”

    The confident tone in the man’s voice was the only reason Jason didn’t panic at the various implications that phrase carried.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011

  34. #34
    Beginning Trainer
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    Default Re: Against All Odds (2011) [PG-13] - Pathfinder Part 6 up!

    I'm so excited to see updates on this story! I last read Pathfinder Part 3, so I have a lot to catch up on tonight and comment on.
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    Thank you TPM Friends for the nice Award!
    Signature courtesy of Mikachu Yukitatsu

  35. #35
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    Default Against All Odds: Pathfinder - Part 7

    Pathfinder

    Part 7


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    It was only when they found their way to an exit – a trek of three and a half hours – that Jason was at last able to see the face of his rescuer. As he had anticipated, that face was broad, as was the rest of him, and he sported patchy stubble that did not quite seem to form a cohesive beard. Jason found himself wondering if the man found solace in the darkness of Rock Tunnel not just for the convenience of total lack of irritating sunlight, but also a much-lowered requirement to concern oneself with personal appearance.

    Outside it was bright and very muggy, and puddles dotted the landscape. Obviously, rain had recently passed through. A quick glance at Dudley’s face allowed Jason to catch him wincing at the mud, a facial contortion enhanced by the squinting he was already doing at the sunlight. The large man turned to Jason. “So, do you think you can make it from here?” he inquired, half-jokingly.

    Jason scoffed. “Yeah, I think I should be able to manage,” he answered sardonically. He glanced around to take note of local landmarks... and found that some looked quite familiar. To his left, a Pokémon Center ringed by a well-beaten path, and a flowing body of water beyond that... directly in front of him, a ridge of rocky cliffs...

    He frowned. “Actually, now that you mention it, I know I can, because I recognize this area. This is where I entered the cave.”

    Dudley shrugged his wide shoulders. “Well, it was still the closest outlet. We’d have spent a couple more hours down there looking for the south exit. It isn’t a quick jaunt.”

    Jason scowled. “Yeah, but that’s the exit I’m looking for,” he protested.

    The spelunker planted his fists on his hips and adopted an annoyed expression. “Then go get yourself a flashlight or some Pokémon that can light a cave, come back, and try again,” he advised. “And, you know, a little ‘thank you’ might not be entirely out of line.”

    Jason inhaled a breath through his nose, then bobbed his head in acquiescence. “Yeah, you’re right. Sorry. Thanks. I owe you one for helping me out.”

    “You can pay me back in a battle,” Dudley suggested.

    “Well, not right now, I can’t, but...”

    “I think that much was obvious,” the other man noted. “Just come find me down there and we’ll have our match. Ideally you’ll have a team that’s not at the end of its rope by then.”

    “Um, yes.” Jason extended his hand. “Seems fair enough.”

    Dudley gripped it firmly, then gave Jason a salute with a chop of his first two fingers. “See you around, then.”

    Jason watched the large hiker return to the shadows of the cave, then turned around and heaved a sigh as he made for the Pokémon Center. Not really what I had in mind, coming out this side of the cave. But whatever. Nurse Joy probably sees this happen all the time. Just go pick up some things and try again.



    When he stepped through the PokéCenter’s door, he expected to find Nurse Joy at the front desk with a jovial smile, a sympathetic ear, and an apparently requisite Chansey. He saw, instead, that there was a brown-haired girl standing in front of the desk, back turned to him, and neither Nurse Joy nor her Chansey were in sight. The girl, garbed in what appeared to be the clothes and gear of a Pokémon trainer, was tapping her foot impatiently and he could see her arms were crossed in front of her.

    He stepped up to the counter and leaned forward, hoping to catch her eye so that he could ask where Nurse Joy could be found. She evidently sensed his attempt and turned away from him, but didn’t back away from the desk, unwilling to give up her place there. He tried the more direct route. “Excuse me?”

    Instantly, she snapped and rounded on him. “Look, unless it’s an emergency–”

    Jason stepped back and he could have sworn he felt his jaw drop to the floor. Scowling up at him was none other than Kelly Shields.

    Upon sight of him, something strange flickered across her expression, and for an instant, he saw her frown disappear to be replaced by... Could that actually be relief? he silently inquired. But in the next moment, her frown returned, and she faced him more fully.

    “So here you are!” she declared. “Where the hell have you been?

    “I... what?” Now it was Jason’s turn to frown. “What do you mean, where’ve I been?”

    “Exactly that, genius!” she scoffed. “Nobody’s been able to reach you for two days! I had to resort to asking locals if they’d met you – last one I saw was a boy who said he told you to stay away from the Power Plant, so naturally, since there’s no telling you anything, I assumed you went there.”

    “I miss our talks,” he quipped. “That last chat we had, especially. I’ve gotta tell you, I really liked the part where you stopped talking.”

    That earned a darker scowl from her. “No such luck today. And by the way, this isn’t a question from me, like I care, so much as it’s from, well, my boss, so maybe you could get around to answering it sometime this century?”

    The professor’s been looking for me. Great. That can’t be good news. “I was in Rock Tunnel, I got turned around down there and only just got back out. My team needs some rest.”

    “From what? You haven’t been catching anything lately. You have thirteen occupied Pokémon capture ball cradles out of five hundred the professor gave you. There’s more in that cave than just Zubats and Geodudes.” She planted her hands on her hips and tilted her head to one side. “What is it, you have a fear of Onix? An allergy?”

    Jason felt himself grow defensive, more out of instinct than anything else. “No, but I’m not sure I want one,” he answered, his tone a little more petulant than he meant for it to be.

    She took full advantage of that tone. “Oh, you don’t want one?” she mocked. “I’m sorry, when did this become about you picking and choosing which Pokémon you wanted? Just because you’re not a competitive Pokémon trainer doesn’t mean you can ignore the responsibility that comes with the belt and the balls.” She flickered her index finger at him. “You... do have balls, right?”

    “Is that why you came all the way out here, to make fun of me some more?” Jason snarled. “You want to talk about ways we can all make ourselves more useful to Professor Oak, how about you go take yourself home and crawl back into that box you love so much.”

    This is how I’m being useful to him, or did you not notice the ridiculous getup I’m wearing?” Kelly gestured at her clothing, maintaining her scowl at him as she did so. “I came out here to tell you you’re not doing well enough by his standards. He wants to see you pick up the pace. Whether you’re planning to use the Pokémon you catch in battle isn’t important – he just needs more in his preserve.”

    “Yeah, so he can make a land grab.”

    Kelly held up a halting hand. “Think whatever you want about why he wants it done, but he gave you a Pokémon license with that agreement in mind. You don’t think he can get it rescinded just as easily? Exactly how much trouble do you think you could get into? Because I’ll bet you it’d be ten times worse than what you think it would be.”

    Jason took a moment to consider that statement. Oak could burn me, say he found out who I was and revoked my license, report me to the authorities, suddenly I’m alive and a fugitive running around in Kanto. Police will want me for questioning about the incident at Tangelo... and instead of turning it in, I have the Gyarados responsible for starting it in a Poké Ball.

    “No...” he responded carefully. “It would, in fact, be exactly as bad as I think it would be.”

    “You know something I don’t?” She huffed. “This is a new development.”

    “You mean other than how to train, right? ‘Cause that one isn’t new.”

    “If I don’t know how to train, mind explaining these?” She gestured to her waist, which carried a fully occupied capture ball belt. Each capsule on it was a standard-issue Poké Ball.

    Jason squinted at them for a long moment. “I probably could explain them, if I thought you were the type to have a boyfriend...”

    “Eyes up, wise guy.” Kelly’s hands were now planted on her hips and she was casting a deadly serious stare at him. “We’re gonna be spending some time together now, so either work on getting it all out of your system or put it somewhere it’s not gonna come out, ‘kay?”

    Jason frowned. “What’re you talking about, ‘time together’? Did Oak send you to watch over my shoulder, make sure I’m hitting whatever quota he has in mind?”

    “In a manner of speaking,” she replied, shifting her stance.

    “I don’t need a babysitter.”

    “No, because if you did, it would mean you’re more mature than I thought,” she answered without missing a beat. “And that isn’t the only reason, otherwise I’d have been able to insist he send someone else. I’m supposed to spend time in the field doing some, as you say, ‘real training’ anyway. The professor thought killing two birds with one stone would be the most efficient option, so you and I are gonna be training together.” She scoffed. “His idea, not mine.”

    Jason’s response was immediate. “I want to talk to him.”

    “Isn’t that the kind of talk that got this whole mess started in the first place?”

    “I don’t care, I want to talk to him.”

    “Wanting special treatment again?” she sneered.

    “What are you talking about, ‘special treatment’?” he shot back. “I told you the first time I wasn’t looking for any! Those ears of yours just for show or something?”

    She ignored the barb. “You’ll talk to him when he decides he wants to talk to you, not before then.”

    “Yeah, well, since you’re not his receptionist anymore, you don’t get to pass-block me anymore,” he retorted. “I can put in the call right now.”

    “You’re only going to get pass-blocked by someone else.” Her hand emerged from her pocket and in it was a folded piece of paper. “Maybe you’d like to read this first before you make any rash decisions.”

    Jason took the proffered item, unfolded it, and scanned through it, reading aloud only a few words at a time. “Jason, I haven’t been able... believe you require incentive... Kelly Shields will act as...” He held up the paper next to his face and gawked at Kelly. “Do you have any idea what’s going through the man’s head with this?”

    “What’s going through his head isn’t any of our business, quite frankly,” she noted. “We’re employed by the Pallet Town Pokémon Research Laboratory, which he runs, so it’s his job to tell us what to do and it’s our job to do it. He told me to come out here and find you, so that’s what I’m here doing.” She gestured to the empty desk in front of them. “The last place anyone saw you was here, and I just asked Nurse Joy for some help. Do you really think I’d want to get within three miles of you if I didn’t have orders for it?”

    “I really don’t care what you would or wouldn’t want,” Jason snapped. “What I want is to talk to Professor Oak and get him to change his mind about this stupid assignment he put you on.”

    “Oh, just like that, right?” she jeered, snapping her fingers in front of his face for emphasis. “You’ll be able to turn him right around with all your charm and wit. When that doesn’t work, you’ll be down on your knees begging – and that won’t work, either. He had his mind made up before I even knew I’d be packing for fieldwork, I saw it in his face.”

    “He could have sent anyone else to do this.”

    “And yet he chose me. Feel special. It’s the only time you’ll get to.”

    “Excuse me?”

    Both Jason and Kelly turned to the desk, which had somehow become manned in the last few seconds by a rather timid-looking Nurse Joy. She glanced quickly between the two, then settled her gaze on Kelly. “May I assume this is the Jason Creight you’re been looking for?”

    “Looking for and now found,” Kelly confirmed.

    “In that case, unless either of you has pressing business here, may I ask you both to take your argument outside? You’re disturbing a number of Pokémon trying to rest.”

    The two teens exchanged glances. Jason’s eyebrows shot up. “Hey, I’ve got legitimate business here. I’ve been down in the tunnel for the last couple days, my Pokémon have been marathoning, need a break.”

    Nurse Joy instantly handed Jason a tray with six scoops carved into it. “We’ll get them fixed right up,” she promised. “Now, if you don’t mind?”

    Jason quickly loaded the tray with his Poké Balls, then twisted around in search of Kelly.

    She was already heading out the door.



    Jason stepped outside and saw that Kelly had taken up a spot near the water, where she appeared to be staring at nothing in particular. Several voices in his head encouraged him to simply go back inside and sit quietly while waiting for his Pokémon to be healed, since any debate with her was likely to continue to devolve into childish name-calling. But instead he heeded the singular voice that told him to at least try to talk to her like a normal person – and perhaps therein forcing her to do the same for him.

    He took up a position several feet away and inspected the shore for a stone to skip across the water. He found three and tossed each of them in turn. None skipped more than twice. He let out a small sigh of resignation, then cast a sidelong glance at her. “The professor knows there’s no love lost between you and me.”

    “Most definitely.”

    “Then why send you? Surely he’s got others who need field experience.”

    “Well, as it turns out, nobody else who works there needs the time in the field quite as badly as I do,” she confessed. “I’m at least one thousand hours behind all the others.”

    “A thousand?” Jason frowned again. “How long are you supposed to be in the open?”

    “Forty-five hundred.”

    “That’s...” Jason paused, trying to do the math in his head.

    Kelly rolled her eyes. “Don’t bother with that, it’s six months straight of nothing but training, training, training.”

    “So when you say six months straight, you’re talking more realistically in the realm of maybe a year, year and a half?”

    “Ideally a year. But realistically, yes, probably closer to a year and a half.”

    “How many hours in are you?”

    “Forty-seven.”

    Somehow, even though he still vividly recalled the look on her face after he’d accused her of not knowing the first thing about training – the phrase that most readily defined that expression was “you hit way too close to home” – he still had not envisioned the number being quite so low. “How old are you?”

    “How old are you?” she jabbed. “What does age have to do with it?”

    “Not much,” he conceded. “And for the record, I’m fifteen.”

    “Fine. For the record, I’m sixteen.”

    “Not a competition, here,” he scoffed. “I was just asking.”

    “And I was answering.” She sat down on the grass and let out a deep breath.

    Jason regarded her for a long moment. “So... what is it you’re supposed to be doing? Watching me catch Pokémon, decide if my method’s up to snuff?”

    “If you read the letter, and I watched your eyes go over that page so I know you did, then you know precisely why I’m here,” she huffed. “And I can’t imagine it’s that hard for you to figure out I’d prefer to be somewhere else.”

    “No, you pretty much sealed that up tight.” He crossed his arms. “You know, he can tell me to go out and catch Pokémon, but I don’t think it’s such a good idea for him to tell me quantity matters over quality. I was never raised on that.”

    “Which, I suppose, begs the question what you were raised on,” she remarked.

    “Lots of yogurt and the occasional salad.”

    “And what else?”

    He shrugged. “And on the notion that everything you’ve worked so hard to get needs to not only have your attention, but keep it. You think I can keep all of my attention on five hundred Pokémon? Let’s forget how much money it would cost to buy all the balls it would take to catch that many... let’s just think about how much every single one of them is going to know that I’m the one responsible for them.”

    “You’re not, and that’s the point,” she insisted. “He wants you to catch them and transfer ownership of the ones you don’t want to him.”

    “And where does that leave them, in the meantime? I snag them just so I can pass them off to someone else?” he asked. “If I don’t want a Pokémon, I don’t want to make them think I did, only to break their hearts later. That shouldn’t be how this works.”

    “But it is,” she responded, turning to look up at him, “because you’re not breaking their hearts. You’re introducing them to an environment where they’ll be appreciated, loved, and taken care of.”

    Jason tried, but couldn’t summon an argument against that. If the condition he’d seen those lab-bound Pokémon in was any indication, they couldn’t have been treated any better. Unless you want to count the lack of open space they have to work with, he thought, in which case, Professor Oak really does need the extra land for them to roam free.

    He huffed and crossed his arms. “Fine. An Onix, then. What else am I missing out there that he thinks I need to be catching?”

    “You don’t have to catch just one sample of each species,” she remarked. “Some second-generation Pokémon learn abilities and attacks that their mothers never were able to, because it’s grafted into them from their fathers.”

    “I know about that already,” Jason commented somewhat impatiently. “But I’m not wild about the thought of capturing Pokémon just to make them breed. It all comes back around to the simple fact of I want to make sure I give proper attention to all the Pokémon I catch.”

    “Except it’s never that simple for trainers, not all the time.”

    “Forty-seven hours teach you that?”

    Kelly held up a finger. “That’s gonna be enough of that,” she said testily. “I’m not gonna let you hold it over me like I don’t know what I’m talking about.”

    “Yeah, well, ever since we met, you’ve made out like I don’t know what I’m talking about and you don’t even have a basis for it,” he noted. “So what, you’re older and maybe you’ve got more brains–”

    “I’ll have you know there’s no ‘maybe’ about that.”

    “–but not smarts.” Jason tapped his temple. “Sooner or later you’ll figure out I’m not just some idiot you can talk down to. I don’t know how that’s gonna feel for you, and I don’t know when that moment’s gonna come, but I’m hoping sooner rather than later.”

    He saw her pursing her lips and could tell that she was biting back a snarky response. For a long, awkward moment, no words were exchanged. He turned and faced the water again. “So... why so few hours?”

    “None of your business.”

    “I knew that already. I can’t help being curious.” He cocked his head. “You can’t fault me for that, you’re curious too.”

    “Really.” She leveled a stare at him. “About what?”

    “Anything and everything?” He shrugged. “If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be doing this kind of thing for a living. You want to learn about Pokémon. You’re totally absorbed in the textbooks and academics. So, what, too much of a lab rat to get out and see for yourself how things work in the wild?”

    She turned back to the water without responding. But he wasn’t content to let it go. “C’mon, forty-seven hours is barely even a week’s worth of training.”

    “I had forty-seven hours when I left Pallet Town,” she clarified. “I’m up a bit since then.”

    “‘A bit’ in this case means...?”

    She directed a glare over her shoulder, but answered. “Hundred five. One fifty-two now, altogether, and counting.”

    Jason blinked. “The professor sent you out here to find me and you almost tripled your field time doing it?”

    “No, he only sent me to find you last Tuesday. That’s the day of the week I have to report in. He was waiting for my call and he faxed me the letter.” She glanced up at him. “Can you imagine how maddening it was to have him, to my face, tell me I’d be pairing up with you? That’s the exact term he used, ‘pairing up’.”

    “I think I can imagine,” he responded wryly. Then he tilted his head. “Well, the letter said we still only had to report in once a week between the two of us. At least he isn’t requiring us both to come into a Pokémon Center on both Tuesday and Saturday.”

    “Yes, I suppose for the next few days, we’ll be looking desperately for all the little things we should be thankful for,” she remarked, sarcasm dripping from her tone. “For example, I at least have a Pokémon to ride around on, and help me get through a cave when I need to find my way.”

    Only a few Pokémon would fit that description... “A Ponyta?” Jason guessed aloud.

    At that, Kelly’s head snapped around and she aimed a pointed stare at him. “Who told you?”

    “I told you I’m smarter than you’ve been giving me credit for.”

    She sniffed. “I’m not handing out extra credit just yet.”

    “How about due credit, then?” He planted his hands on his hips. “If it’s what needs to happen for you to see I’m not a moron, let’s have a Pokémon battle.”

    “You seem to be down a belt of Pokémon.”

    “Once they’re healed up, they – and I – would be quite happy to demonstrate the results of the training we’ve gone through together.”

    “‘Together’?” She scoffed. “No, you train them, not the other way around. You keep a tight rein on them, make sure they’re well under your control.”

    He smirked. “You haven’t been doing this long enough, then. Never mind about the battle, you wouldn’t win anyway.”

    She glowered at him. “Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do.”

    “I think I will,” he returned. “If you don’t think the training works both ways, then I’m a bully for challenging you. You’re not going to pose a challenge to me and I have other things I’d rather waste my time on.”

    “Like what, skulking around on the training routes and saving your throwing arm?”

    He shoved his hands in his pockets and shrugged. “I was gonna go to Lavender Town. I hear there are ghosts there.”

    “Ghost-Type Pokémon, yes. It’s the best place to find them.” She stood up and brushed a clump of grass off her rear. “But first you’re going to have to find your way through Rock Tunnel.”

    “Well, now I have a better way of doing that, don’t I?” He nodded toward her. “Your Ponyta should do nicely.”

    “Go get your own,” she shot back. “Mine’s taking a rest.”

    “Oh, I’m definitely getting one. But they’re not indigenous to the Kanto mainland and that’s the only place I’m allowed to catch Pokémon, so that sort of limits my options, doesn’t it?”

    “Not my problem.”

    “No, but your solution for going through the cave was to illuminate it with your Ponyta’s flame anyway, right?”

    “I...” Her lips snapped shut, opened, then closed again. Finally she scowled at him. “She’s not your Ponyta to play with as you please.”

    “Who said anything about playing with her? It’s making use of her talents to guide us both through that cave, and you were going to use her for that anyway all on your own.”

    “That’s true, but you have a Pikachu that you could just as easily use to light up the way,” she reminded him.

    “Not quite,” he confessed. “Pikachu doesn’t know how to use Flash. Actually, I’ve been scouring every store I’ve come across since Mt. Moon and I haven’t been able to find it anywhere...”

    She adopted an annoyed look, then dug through her backpack and fished out a mini-CD jewel case containing a disc adorned with a gray label. “If you’re going to ask Professor Oak for favors, least you could have done was make sure he sent you with one of these,” she muttered. She held up the disc for him to see – written in black lettering across the label was the word FLASH.

    He crossed his arms. “I asked him for enough, wouldn’t you agree?”

    “I would, except obviously you don’t have enough to show for it.” She offered him the case. “Just run that on your PDA and your Pikachu should be able to learn it.”

    She’s being nice to me. There’s a first. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, he took the proffered object. “Thanks. So now we’ll have two Pokémon keeping the place well-lit.”

    “Two?” she asked, a hint of amusement in her voice. “If your reports are accurate, then your Pikachu’s certainly capable of doing it himself.”

    “Fine, you can walk behind me while Pikachu runs ahead and keeps a bead on whatever lies ahead of us, in a dark cave, where there are dangers lurking around every corner. That’s a great idea, I should have thought of that.”

    She cast another glower at him, but refrained from responding as she turned back to face the water again. He felt the smallest smirk rise to his features. Aha. Another victory for me. We’ll be seeing that Ponyta down there. He moved next to her and spoke quietly. “Okay, arguing with each other like this isn’t going to make things any better. If we’re gonna have to train next to each other, let’s work on at least having some kind of decent working relationship.”

    “What do you suppose that’s going to look like?” she inquired.

    “At first? Probably us wanting to rip each others’ heads off.”

    She scoffed. “Great start. Where to from there?”

    “Easing up, when each of us realizes the other’s someone that should be respected and treated decently. The alternative is being like sibling rivals, and I’d rather not do that.” A hint of wryness entered tone. “My last sibling rivalry didn’t pan out very well.”

    “Your last one?”

    Jason scratched the back of his neck. “My brother, Danny. We didn’t really get along. Actually, we got along about as well as you and me right now. Moments of calm in between a bunch of craziness.”

    “How much ‘craziness’ could you possibly have when you’re in a family that’s as well-off as yours?” she asked, a skeptical eyebrow raised.

    Jason couldn’t help his own double-take. “Excuse me?”

    “Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but your family’s pretty rich from all that business they do, isn’t it? Creight Breeding Center takes in however many thousands of pokéyen every day... so what sort of ‘craziness’ could you guys be running into?”

    I forgot, he thought. I told her how my name’s spelled and where I’m from, and she recognized it. He took a calming breath. Obviously doesn’t keep up with the news, though, which bodes well for me. “Competitive jealousy, I guess,” he said. “Danny’s, like, the older brother you love to hate. You do something good, he can do it better. He does great at everything. It’s like he’s completely unable to suck. So being the little brother to that... really sucks.”

    She appeared to consider that for a long moment, then looked back up at him. “You walked into the lab with literally nothing but the clothes on your back. Why?”

    “‘Cause I didn’t have anything but the clothes on my back.”

    She narrowed her eyes at him. “No kidding.”

    “Seriously.” Jason spread his hands wide. “What you saw was all I had.”

    “No money, no nothing except that?”

    “Well, my Gyarados, but he didn’t have a Poké Ball.”

    She shook her head. “I don’t understand. A family like yours? I’d have expected at least a four-wheeler and a belt already full of Pokémon that were professionally trained.”

    He scoffed. “You’re giving my family way too much credit. I’d have had to wait until I was twenty-one before I had a full belt of Pokémon. And all the money I had was what bought Gyarados.”

    “And you just decided to leave home behind and come to Kanto to ask Professor Oak for a job?”

    He shrugged. “Sure looks that way.”

    “Yes, it does, but why would you do that?”

    Jason glanced at his watch, then back in the direction of the PokéCenter. “We’ve all got secrets. This one’s gonna stay mine, for now. Ask me again when we’re more civil to each other.”

    “So I’ll be waiting on an answer about twenty-seven years from now, right?”

    Jason didn’t miss a beat. “Sounds about right. I’ll be back.”

    Back inside the Pokémon Center, he approached the counter, where Nurse Joy and her Chansey were now stationed and patiently waiting for walk-ins. He stepped forward and offered a polite smile. “How’re my Pokémon doing?”

    “Quite well, given the stress they’ve been under lately,” Nurse Joy replied. “You’re training them just the way they should be trained. They’re showing remarkable progress. You should be proud.”

    “I will be, once I get through that cave,” he muttered.

    Nurse Joy placed a tray stocked with the Poké Balls of Jason’s team on the countertop. “By the way,” she said, “when your friend out there asked for information on you, she was misspelling your name. Could you tell her that’s why I was having such a hard time with the system?”

    Oh, great. Jason bobbed his head nonchalantly. “Yeah, I can do that. Let me guess, she was spelling it C-R-E-I-G-H-T?”

    Nurse Joy blinked. “Yes, in fact. She was quite insistent about it.”

    He made a show of waving his hand dismissively. “That’s a common mistake. I know some people who swear up and down that’s how my name is spelled, I have to show them my license.”

    She looked a little uncertainly at him, but offered a single slow nod – a sign of reluctant acceptance of his explanation. “If you’re venturing into the Rock Tunnel again, it might be wise for you to pick up a lamp, if none of your Pokémon know how to use Flash.”

    “I’m going to teach my Pikachu.” Jason placed each ball back into his belt. “That’s pretty much my only option right now, anyway.”

    “If you say so.”

    He raised an eyebrow at her. “Know something I don’t?”

    “Well, your Paras could learn it. Your records show you also have a Butterfree and a Beedrill, each of those are able to learn it, as well.”

    He planted his hands on his hips. “Records. Got a particular interest in me?”

    “I’ll admit I’m curious. You’re clearly who she was looking for, but your description also fits the boy whose name she actually gave me. One Jason Creight – C-R-E-I-G-H-T – from the Orange Islands, but the Pokémon license for that boy was flagged inactive several days ago.” She folded her hands in front of her. “You wouldn’t happen to have a same-name twin living in the Orange Islands, would you?”

    He offered a shrug. “Normally I’d say that was far-fetched, but look who I’m talking to.”

    She flushed somewhat, evidently not having recognized the irony of her inquiry. “I suppose you have a point,” she conceded. Then she gave him a polite smile. “Stay safe on your journey.”

    He smiled back and actually chuckled. “You know, so far, that’s the best ‘goodbye’ phrase I’ve heard on my journey from Nurse Joy. I’d gotten used to hearing, ‘We hope to see you again’. Sounds a bit... sadistic, doesn’t it, hoping I’ll bring my Pokémon back ‘cause they need treatment?”

    She nodded. “I’m just trying out a new salutation. People seem to like it much better.”

    “Count me as one of ‘em. Thanks.” Jason turned around, ready to head out the exit–

    Kelly was standing in the doorway.

    And if the look on her face was any indication, she had overheard at least some of his conversation with Nurse Joy. Jason could find no exact means of describing Kelly’s expression; the best he could readily come up with was “dubious curiosity”. It wasn’t difficult for him to see why, either, as she had not been privy to the knowledge that his name had been intentionally misspelled on his current license.

    Well... she is now.

    He approached her and looked at her for a long moment. When she didn’t step aside or alter her expression, or really move in any way, he raised his eyebrows. “Shall we get back to it?”

    She didn’t respond for several seconds. When she finally did, it wasn’t what he expected to hear. “You should change your team first before we do.”

    He hesitated, and considered telling her to mind her own team first... but it made complete sense to him, and he knew that there would be any number of other things for them to argue over. And probably a couple of those things are coming in just a few minutes. I really only need one argument at a time.

    Wordlessly, he turned toward the transport terminal, mentally picking out what he would send home and what he would bring along. He already had the Flash TM ready to go.

    He wondered if, in the time it would take to teach the move to his Pokémon, he could come up with an explanation that would keep Kelly from asking too many questions.

    Yeah. Sure, I will.



    “And you think I pass you off as stupid?”

    Jason turned around and set his gaze on Kelly, who was struggling to catch up with him on the path. “You do pass me off as stupid, but let’s just get to the point. What is it you want to know?”

    “Nurse Joy couldn’t find your name attached to your current Pokémon license. Are you using an alias?”

    “Not really,” he lied. “My name got misspelled on my license and I didn’t realize it until they’d already printed and finalized it. They spelled it like the box. It was an innocent mistake.”

    Kelly shook her head. “Uh-uh. For Nurse Joy to misspell your name on your license, Professor Oak would’ve had to misspell it, too. But Professor Oak knows how your name is spelled, ‘cause he’s heard of your family’s business.”

    “Maybe the innocent mistake was there, then.”

    She planted herself in front of him. “You’re lying to me.”

    He shrugged. “What do you care?”

    “I care because when I have a conversation with someone, I like to be certain they’re telling me the truth. If you’re lying about this, what else are you gonna lie to me about?”

    “As I recall, when you and I first met, you said you didn’t want to hear a sob story from me about how I got here. True or false?”

    She narrowed her eyes. “True.”

    “Then I’m not gonna give you one. Far as you care, the mistake on my license was just an accident, and now you know what name to look for, if you ever need to come looking for me again.” He started to move forward again and stepped around her towards the cave.

    She stayed in place a moment longer. “You’re not just keeping the sob story from me, you’re trying to cover it up entirely.” She spun around on her heel to stare at him. “What is it you’re hiding?”

    “At the moment? Some pretty awesome muscles.” Jason flexed his biceps to accentuate his smarmy response.

    Kelly wasn’t even remotely distracted from her train of thought, which she continued to express aloud. “You’re from a rich family, but got here with nothing but your clothes and your Gyarados... no family connections when applying for your job... your name is misspelled on your license, and more than that, you convinced Nurse Joy that it was supposed to be spelled that way...” Her expression cleared and she crossed her arms. “You ran away. That has to be it. You decided you wanted to run away, for whatever reason, and you knew you had to run a long way, so you broke your Gyarados out of whatever confinement it was in. And you knew your family wasn’t going to let you just take off with their Gyarados, so you wanted your name changed so they couldn’t find you. Then you tampered with the Pokémon license application before handing it in.”

    “Sorry, you’ll have to try again,” Jason retorted. He gestured impatiently to the cave opening. “We have a bit of a distance to travel, how about we at least get started?”

    “Started, yes. But I won’t be finished until I find out what happened.”

    Jason rolled his eyes as he stepped through the mouth of the cave. We’ll have to see about that.

    But he knew he couldn’t fool himself. They had barely been together an hour’s time, and already Kelly was trying to piece together the secret he was keeping.

    And if she’s as smart as she says she is, she’s gonna figure it out eventually. If she’s curious enough, she might even look up who I really am and put the rest of it together.

    Once she does, my anonymity won’t last much longer.


    In the darkness of Rock Tunnel...

    Jason Creight marched on.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    End of Pathfinder

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011

  36. #36
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    Default Re: Against All Odds (2011) [PG-13] - Pathfinder Part 7 up!

    Great stuff. Finally caught up again. This is turning into quite the strange fiction. Kelly is one of my favorite characters, now I'm curious to what she has in her roster and how powerful it is.

    Jason and Kelly shipping

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    Default Re: Against All Odds (2011) [PG-13] - Pathfinder Part 7 up!

    Becky: Hope you're still enjoying! Looking forward to hearing more from you.

    MLG: Strange, is it? You've made me curious as to how. I've done a big revamp on Kelly from the last time I wrote this story... the sound of her voice in my head leads me to believe she really hates the "damsel in distress" stereotype, so at her insistence, I'm staying away from that particular schema. And you're shipping already! That's good news for me.

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    Default Against All Odds: Vindicator - Part 1

    Vindicator

    Part 1


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Jason Creight awoke in Room 108 of the Lavender Town Inn.

    It took him a few moments to assess exactly where he was; the fog of sleep insisted on clouding his vision for several moments after opening his eyes. As he moved his head about, he suddenly got an eyeful of sunlight through the crack in the blinds, from which he ducked almost instantly while mumbling an oath under his breath. He swore to himself he would never again let the front desk of this or any other motel assign him an east-facing room.

    His eyes landed on the other bed in the room. In it was Kelly Shields, who was wide awake and scribbling notes on a pad of paper. The sheets were bunched up around her legs, but they looked like they had been arranged just so. Jason suspected she must have been awake for a fair amount of time longer than himself.

    He still wasn't quite sure what to make of her. She'd looked so peaceful the night before, when she'd been asleep. Gone had been the scowl that seemed to otherwise perpetually adorn her features behind those glasses, replaced with the sweet nothingness of a good night's sleep. In fact, he'd found himself almost entranced by the blankness of her expression – as long as she had a perfectly straight face, Jason found himself even willing to admit she was fairly attractive.

    He pressed his lips together in a thin line and blew a breath out through his nose. The look on her face now implied intense concentration on whatever she was writing down. Likely as not, he thought, it's going to be notes on how her Pokémon are doing and what she did to train them yesterday through to last night. And she doesn't even need to turn those notes in for another four days. You could call that dedication or insanity... either way, it's pretty impressive.

    He wouldn’t have used the word “impressive” to define her behavior in Rock Tunnel, however – she’d stuck close to her Ponyta and jumped at the slightest noise from unseen sources. Clearly she had not been at all comfortable there, leading Jason to wonder just how much of her needling of him could just as easily be applicable to her. Maybe that’s why she’s been riding me so bad, she’s guilty of not doing her part, same as me, but she can’t admit it, so she goes all-out on me to compensate.

    Jason, meantime, had taken full advantage of the fact that both his Beedrill and Pikachu were able to learn Flash, and swapped them back and forth to give each other the rest he knew they deserved after lending their light. After consideration, he’d even taught the move to Paras, whose Grass-Type abilities provided a distinct advantage over Geodudes and even Onixes – one of which, Jason was able to capture. The catch had not endeared him to her, or at least not by any measure he was able to see, but he decided it was one less Pokémon she could accuse him of not capturing.

    From the sight of her profile, he could see her right eyebrow rise up. “Sleep well?” she asked, without looking away from her work.

    “Well as could be expected,” he answered, pressing a hand to the side of his neck – he felt at least one bone pop underneath the heel of his palm and let out a reactive groan.

    “‘Well as could be expected’? That’s a lame answer.” She scratched out a line of text on her notepad. “When’s the last time you slept in a bed?”

    “Been a while, and that’s the point. I was getting used to the ground. I could sleep flat there.”

    “You could’ve just thrown the pillows on the floor.”

    “And you care because...?”

    “You snore. I’d be asleep right now if you didn’t.” She cast a quick glance at him. “It’s a good thing you don’t snore when lying down flat or that cave would be way more alive than it already is.”

    “Lucky for you, I guess.” He pushed himself up and sought out the clock – it read 7:53 am. “You didn’t want to throw something at my head to get me to stop snoring?”

    “Of course I wanted to, I just didn’t think it’d be very humane. And yes–” She held up a hand to stop him from retorting. “–I do actually know what being humane is about and how to behave that way.”

    “Good news for me, then.”

    “Better believe it.” She clicked her pen shut and set her notepad aside, then folded her hands in her lap and looked to him. “So what’s on your agenda for today?”

    “We haven’t had a chance yet to check out Pokémon Tower,” he answered, “so that’s gonna be my agenda.”

    “That’s it, just Pokémon Tower?”

    He sat up in bed and arched an eyebrow at her. “You probably know even better than me what sorts of ghosts we’re liable to find in there, you think that deserves an ‘only’ to it?”

    “I know of Ghost-Type Pokémon ‘in there’,” she said, drawing quotation marks in the air with her fingers. “But actual ghosts, I think, would be fairly hard to come by.”

    “You would think that if you hadn’t heard the tale I heard.” He climbed out of the bed and sought out his backpack for a set of clothing. “According to at least a few people around here, there’s an angry ghost of a Kangaskhan in that tower. I wanna check it out.”

    “An angry ghost of a Kangaskhan?” She attempted to restrain a snicker, only to have it emit as a truncated snort. “Who’d you get this from?”

    “Kid I ran into on Route 10, said he got it from a friend of his in this town.”

    “A real friend or an imaginary one?”

    Jason rolled his eyes. “Look, I’m just curious, and what’s it gonna hurt to go up there and take a look around? We’re gonna be finding a bunch of Ghost-Types up there anyway, right?”

    “Supposedly, but really only a couple of species. Records say the tower’s full of Gastlys, maybe a Haunter or two. And they’re fairly hard to catch, especially with the team you’ve got.” Kelly gestured at his trainer’s belt. “Even your Gyarados is gonna find decent opposition. The best Pokémon you’ve got to battle them are your Sandshrew, Geodude, Onix–”

    “Gyarados can beat ‘em out of the ground if they decide to play shadow.”

    “Only against the likes of Gastly and friends, and Earthquake isn’t going to solve every problem you have. Besides, that tower will topple over the moment you try it in there,” she warned. “Gyarados isn’t the one you want to beat Ghost-Types. You’d be better off with Dark-Types, but at last count, you didn’t have any.”

    “And I’m not likely to encounter any native to Kanto, but Gyarados also knows Bite, and Spearow knows Pursuit.” Jason shrugged. “Getting the first Ghost-Type is always gonna be the hardest. They’re vulnerable to each other, so that’s something. Anyway, the whole point is to just go up there and see what the deal is. If there is an angry Kangaskhan spirit up there, that should give the professor something really juicy to report on. If there isn’t, then there’s still a bunch of Gastlys and maybe a Haunter or two we can spend time trying to capture. Either way, today’s gonna be a good day.”

    “If you say so.” She threw her covers aside and climbed out of bed. “I suppose we’d better get ready to go, then. We don’t want to miss check-out time.”

    Jason’s eyes flickered to the clock again. The time had barely budged two minutes. “Which isn’t until eleven.”

    “Right. Get packing.”



    The first thing that struck Jason about Pokémon Tower was how decadent it looked. Its construction was clearly from another century and restoration efforts to the building appeared to be a constant. It was built into a mound of earth that one couldn’t quite call a hill, but was certainly more than just a roll in the plain. The material he’d read about it indicated the mound was in fact a burial ground for trained Pokémon, and was itself not a natural structure, let alone the spire standing atop it now. Burial markers from as long ago as an estimated five hundred years still lurked in display cases within the “first floor” – that was to say, the mound itself.

    As he and Kelly stepped through the portal to the interior, Jason couldn’t help muttering under his breath, “Mausoleum’s a better word.”

    Straight ahead, there was a sanctuary that bore several pews, many of which were occupied by silent mourners. Some patrons apparently preferred to stand rather than sit, and they were milling about behind the pews, speaking quietly with each other; Jason thought it reasonable to assume they themselves were not there to mourn, but to accompany those who were. The room was round, and on its right-most bulge, there was a staircase that led up, presumably into the tower above. Immediately to the right of the entryway, however, there was a large space bracketed by countertops and private office space, where several well-dressed people were milling about, filing paperwork and counseling people who were obviously aggrieved. Jason restrained a scowl trying to work its way to the surface of his expression – turning any part of the burial ground into office space struck him as offensive, and the only reason for his restraint was the opportunity provided for counseling. Still, this isn’t a funeral home for people. They can get counseling at offices in maybe more appropriate places than this. This place is a breeding ground for Ghost-Type Pokémon.

    “People are in danger here.”

    Jason glanced at Kelly and raised his eyebrows at that utterance. “Pardon?”

    She turned to him. “All the Ghost-Type Pokémon here. Most Ghost-Types are known for causing trouble and mischief, and not all of it is safe. People come here to grieve, but look at those offices there.” She gestured and scoffed. “They’re in danger and they don’t even realize how stupid they’re being.”

    A half-smile crossed his face. “Yeah. But they’ll learn, eventually.”

    “Think so?”

    “Probably get driven out.” Jason swept his arm in a broad gesture at the sanctuary directly ahead. “They’ll wait until this area’s packed with people, to the point they just can’t stand having another one just walk in here. And they won’t be able to help themselves. They’ll want to cause trouble, and that’ll be their perfect opportunity. Then you won’t see a single soul in here for a long time after, I mean a long time after.”

    “Sure of that, kid?”

    Jason and Kelly both turned back to the right, where a young blonde woman of perhaps twenty-five was leaning on the countertop with both elbows and aiming an impish grin at them. “People can be pretty smart, you know.”

    “No, they can’t,” Kelly countered. “A single person can be smart. People are stupid. Intelligence and common sense completely disappear in groups of a dozen or more. It’s diffusion of responsibility and accountability run amok. And I think he’s right, eventually the ghosts upstairs are going to come down and make people pay for invading their home.”

    “A home that was built by those people in the first place?” A healthy dose of skepticism tainted the other woman’s tone.

    Jason stepped forward. “Built by people, built for Pokémon. We don’t have to turn this place into the World Church of Suffering Trainers to honor their memory.”

    “Exactly,” Kelly chimed in. “What’s the purpose of the place? A final resting place for the Pokémon that trainers cherished. For them.”

    “Except you two are saying it all by yourselves,” the woman replied. “The trainers were the ones that cherished them, they were the ones that brought the Pokémon here. Shouldn’t it stand to reason that the trainers then be allowed to linger so that they can grieve, spend a few more moments with their Pokémon before leaving them behind?”

    “The Pokémon have already left their trainers behind,” said Jason. “I’m not saying I think trainers should just, you know, dump the body and leave, but just look at that sanctuary.” He gestured at the pews – several of them were filled out with people. “How many of them actually lost their Pokémon within, say, the last three days?”

    “About half,” the woman answered. “And when a trainer passes away, nobody drives off the Pokémon grieving over their graves.”

    “That’s because people don’t like to cause mischief in a cemetery,” Kelly responded. “There are Gastlys and Haunters upstairs, plus if some sources are to be believed–” and here she shot a momentary look at Jason “–an angry spirit of some kind. Do you really think none of them would be interested in toying with a graveyard that’s overpopulated with the living?”

    The small smirk on the woman’s face had not yet gone away. “So what do you two think we should do instead?”

    Jason and Kelly exchanged glances. He was the first to answer. “Well, I suppose if people want to grieve... maybe set up a place where they can do that without having to worry about the Pokémon upstairs. Like an actual church or sanctuary. Whatever they believe in, I’ll bet praying over a grave and praying in a church would have about the same effect in the end.”

    “Yeah, and don’t have offices in here,” Kelly supplemented. “You can set up a place for that, too. Just being near where your Pokémon is buried would probably only excite and depress you in a way counselors can’t really help treat. Of course people should be allowed to keep visiting, but only to visit.”

    “And what about wandering trainers, like yourselves?”

    “Crowd control,” Jason answered promptly. “We can occupy the ghosts upstairs and keep their attention where it should be... harmless mischief.”

    “Mmm. And as for these so-called ‘angry spirits’, what do you propose to do about them?”

    Kelly frowned. “You’re mocking us.”

    “Not at all. In point of fact, you’re right about those. The Ghost-Types upstairs have been known to get whipped up into a frenzy. They won’t become cohesive, they just turn into one huge cloud of fog and harass anyone who visits. We let trainers go up there for, as you say, ‘crowd control’, but not that many feel like going back up after that experience.”

    “And it’s because of angry spirits?” Jason asked.

    The woman sighed. “Every once in a while, we’ll have a Pokémon arrive here who died some manner of tragic and terrible death. We perform the burial rites with them, same as with any other. But then we get claims from trainers and psychics who visit the upper levels that ghosts of the same sort as the recently-passed Pokémon are appearing and harassing them.”

    “Like?”

    “Well, three years ago someone claimed to see a ghostly Rapidash, setting the entire level he found it on ablaze. Of course, there was no fire damage to show for it. We’ve had others but that one was most memorable for me. I just started working here when it happened. The boy swore up and down that was what he saw.”

    “I guess the Rapidash died from something tragic?” Jason inquired.

    “Yes, she died from the flood of a breaking dam. She was bringing her trainer across a bridge on top of the dam at the time. The trainer was a little girl. She got her ankle caught in one of the stirrups on her saddle, couldn’t break free. They both died. Her parents buried her in the human graveyard outside town, brought the Rapidash here.”

    Kelly frowned at the woman. “How can you be so matter-of-fact about it? Doesn’t it bother you when things like that happen?”

    “Hey, I feel, same as you,” she responded, “but things like that do happen, and I’ve got no control over it. All I can do is try to give the deceased some dignity in a proper burial and help survivors let go so they can keep living their lives.”

    Jason pointed further down the set of counters. “Not much dignity in that,” he said.

    Kelly and the woman followed the direction of his gesture – at the far end of the counter space, there was a small kiosk set up where signs hung that declared Spell Tags For Sale! Weaken Ghosts When Your Pokémon Holds One! A well-dressed man was leaning on the countertop with an eager look on his face as he gazed about the sanctuary.

    The woman scoffed. “Him,” she said scornfully. She turned back to the two trainers. “You know, I’d be happy to get rid of him. That setup is an eyesore and I don’t think it honors the dead, but he brings us revenue. This place is non-profit and his is the most steady source of income we get. We have more trainers than mourners coming here, and they all want an edge up on Ghost-Type Pokémon.” She scoffed again. “Some of them have even heard the story about the Rapidash, want to see if they can actually catch a ghost.”

    “Think they can?” Jason asked.

    “Well, who knows, but my vote is no. I think anybody who goes up there for that is chasing shadows. Besides, even the channelers who go up there haven’t so much as heard a whinny for a couple years now. I’m guessing whatever was there is long gone by now.”

    “Channelers?”

    “Mystics and psychics who like trying to ‘contact the other side’. They think Ghost-Types are their best chance at that, so they go up where there’s a lot of them and ‘commune’. I think it’s a load of hogwash, myself, but so long as they come back down safe and sound, it’s not really my business.”

    Jason glanced at Kelly, who had started moving toward the kiosk. Inwardly, he snickered. If she plans to give that guy half the earful she usually gives me, he’s in for it. He was less interested in throwing himself into that fire, however, and so he turned back to the woman and directed a single nod to her. “Thanks.”

    “No problem. Good luck up there.”

    He moved away from the counters and towards the entry to the stairway, intrigued by the tale of the ghostly Rapidash. If there’s any truth to it, then maybe there’s truth to the Kangaskhan story, too. But before he could even begin to ascend, a shrill female voice cried out from behind him. “Don’t go up there!”

    Startled, he stopped in his tracks and turned around. All eyes in the sanctuary, whose silence had been pierced by the call, were now on a young raven-haired girl of no more than thirteen, wrapped in a loose purple robe and wearing a frightened expression. Had Jason actually seen her round eyes before the outburst, he suspected he would have seen a silent plea of similar nature.

    Kelly, who had only just begun to inspect the tchotchke-decorated kiosk, was also caught unawares by the outcry, and she snickered when she saw who had elicited the girl’s shout. “Think you need to pay the toll first, Jason,” she quipped.

    “Seriously, don’t go up there,” the girl said again, eyes locked on Jason. “You don’t want to make her mad.”

    “Make who mad?” Jason asked.

    One of the other patrons who was standing just beyond the pews – a young man who did not appear to be a trainer – made a face. “Carly here thinks there’s some sort of angry spirit up there,” he offered. “She’s been yelling at everyone who tries to go up. Kinda disruptive, don’t you think, Carly? People are praying in here.”

    “I wouldn’t be shouting if there was a sign up or something,” the girl shot back.

    “Why don’t you just stand in front of the stairs, then, just tell people to turn back and wave a magic wand at them?”

    “Don’t make fun!”

    “Whoa, whoa,” Jason interjected, holding both hands up to silence the two bickering parties. Then he pointed at the girl. “You’re Carly?”

    She nodded vigorously. “She gets mad whenever someone goes up there. Especially boys. Girls, not as much, but you can still feel it. The air gets cold, and you can feel her paws and tail pass by. Sometimes even her breath!”

    “You’re talking about the Kangaskhan, right?”

    She blinked in surprise – the first time Jason had seen her eyes close since setting his gaze on her. “Yeah! You know about her?”

    He nodded. “I’ve heard about her. Well, I should say I heard what you had to say about her, from Herman the Pokémaniac.”

    “You know Herman?” Her expression brightened considerably, and she actually adopted a fond smile. “He... he talked about me?”

    No wonder he believes this girl – she’s taken a shine to him. “Yeah, he did,” Jason confirmed. “It’s because of what he told me you said that I want to go up there.” He chucked a thumb at the stairs. “I want to see her.”

    “But...” Carly blanched. “But she’ll get mad! She could hurt you!”

    Jason moved closer to her so that their conversation could be held more quietly. He gestured at his capture ball belt. “I’m a Pokémon trainer, Carly. I’m always facing the risk of getting hurt, every day,” he said, trying to include a reassuring note to his voice. “I can handle an angry Kangaskhan.”

    “Not this one!” she burst out. “She’s a ghost! She can’t get hurt, but she can hurt you, and anyone else that goes up there who makes her angry!”

    Jason held his hands up again. “Okay, okay, just calm down,” he said. He gestured to a nearby pew. “Let’s sit down, huh?”

    She instantly scurried to the bench and sat, but didn’t even wait for him to do the same before she started talking again, just as hurried and excited. “The only thing that can slow her down are other ghosts, like Gastly. I have one, he keeps me safe.”

    “How?”

    “I...” She hesitated. “I-I’m not sure. He just calms her down. I guess he tells her I’m not a threat. If I’m upstairs and someone else comes, she’ll get mad, but Gastly blinds her to me so she doesn’t attack me.”

    “What does she want?”

    “I don’t know. She’s just... really sad, and angry. When she gets really mad, you can even see her. The fog up there, that purple fog, it just sort of becomes her. Trainers try to attack her and she just beats up all of their Pokémon, sometimes even knocks the trainers down the stairs!”

    “Then someone needs to go up there to calm her down, so she’s not a danger to other people, don’t you think?”Jason asked, keeping his voice level and calm. “Maybe even find out why she’s doing what she’s doing.”

    “You’re just gonna go up there and ask her?” Carly’s eyes had grown to the size of dinner plates again.

    Jason shrugged. “If that’s what it takes. I came here to catch a Gastly, maybe after I get one it can help me communicate with her.”

    “Don’t you need a psychic Pokémon for that?”

    Jason gestured at her. “You tell me. Psychics are weak to ghosts and you have your own Gastly to protect you from her. If she’s as bad as you say, I’ll need to make sure the risk is small, won’t I?”

    “A Gastly can only blind her, it can’t stop her,” she clarified. “I tried a Night Shade attack once. The attack didn’t do anything to her.”

    “Well, Kangaskhans are considered in the registry to be Normal-Type Pokémon, they’re not affected by ghosts,” Jason reasoned.

    The girl clenched her hands tightly together. “Yeah, but she’s a ghost, too, and Ghost-Type Pokémon can hurt each other real bad. I don’t understand it. But Gastly can at least hide me and that’s good enough.” She pouted up at him after a moment. “What’re you gonna do?”

    He raised his eyebrows and looked up at the staircase. “I’m gonna go do something stupid. It’s what I do best.”

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011

  39. #39
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    Default Against All Odds: Vindicator - Part 2

    Vindicator

    Part 2


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The second floor was exactly as Carly had described it – dark and unwelcoming, littered with headstones for Pokémon that had been entombed or cremated. Overhead lights had been installed in the place, but their light was no comfort, since only the most minimal amount reached the floor and pierced the strange purple fog only a few short feet in any direction.

    “Ponyta, come on out.”

    Jason glanced behind him; Kelly had followed him up the stairs and was already opening her Ponyta’s Poké Ball. A burst of neon light later and before them stood the flaming horse, who let out a loud whinny and rose back on its hind legs. At the same time, it lashed out with its forelegs and nearly knocked Jason to the ground – he jumped away at the last instant before its diamond-hard hooves could do him any harm.

    Kelly reached up to touch Ponyta’s neck. “Hey! Calm down!” she pleaded. “I’m right here! Just calm down!”

    Jason held back a smart remark – several came to mind – and fingered his own capture ball belt. Initial results aside, he knew she had the right idea, and he tossed the third Poké Ball of four mounted on his waist. “Paras, let’s go.”

    When the crab-like Pokémon emerged, it looked askance at Jason and chittered. Jason knelt down and gave one of the mushrooms on its back an affectionate rub – its response was a noise he had, since its capture, been able to identify as happy. He gave it an encouraging smile. “Hey, we’re needing some light. Give me a Flash, would you?”

    Obligingly, Paras shuddered its body so that the mushrooms on its shoulders quivered and knocked against each other. The mushrooms began to glow a harsh bright greenish-yellow, much in the manner of night-use glow sticks. The light seemed to force the fog back in a way that the overhead lamps could not, and the air immediately surrounding Paras and Jason became mercifully clear. The field of vision increased three-fold, and Jason could now make out a path amidst the seemingly random clusters of headstones. Paras started to skitter ahead. As Jason followed, his ears told him that Kelly had been able to get Ponyta to calm down; the Pokémon’s sharp footsteps clattered loudly across the polished stone floor. On his periphery, he could see an orange light that was also pushing away the fog, evidence that Ponyta was also using Flash.

    “So... we’re looking for a Kangaskhan spirit,” said Kelly.

    “Yep.”

    “And you’re looking to catch it?”

    “I didn’t say that,” he said, a bit defensively. “I’m more interested to find out what’s up with this girl saying there’s one up here.”

    “Well, nobody else downstairs seemed interested in what she had to say,” she pointed out, “so either she’s the only one who’s seen it, or it doesn’t exist.”

    “Fair point. But I’d like to see for myself.”

    “And if it does exist, what then?” She tilted her head. “I saw that look in your eye. It was the same one when you caught that Onix. You want to capture it.”

    “Maybe. I haven’t decided.”

    “You haven’t decided.” Kelly moved closer to Jason’s side to look at him more directly. “And you don’t think that’s maybe just a little arrogant, thinking you can catch an actual ghost?”

    “Depends on if you believe in actual ghosts. If you don’t, then I’m just being stupid and wasting my time.” He glanced back at her. “What do you believe in?”

    “I’m a scientist. I trust what I can perceive with my five senses.” Kelly stroked Ponyta’s back. “But there’s all kinds of things that happen that can’t be explained scientifically.”

    “Like what?”

    “Like what you’re doing right now. Chasing shadows and hoping to catch a ‘real ghost’ up here when there are so many Ghost-Type Pokémon to choose from.”

    Jason held up two fingers. “Gastly, Haunter. I don’t call that many.”

    “So you decide you’re just gonna look for the rarest specimen you think is up here because you heard the ravings of a little girl with an active imagination?”

    “Didn’t you just admit there’s all kinds of things that can happen without being explained?”

    “Well, how long are you expecting to prowl around up here? Surely not until the moment you see this Kangaskhan of yours.”

    Jason cast a slightly irritated look at her. “Hey, I’m not planning to spend the entire day up here or an overnight stay or anything. If I can catch even so much as a Gastly, I’m willing to call that a win. But I saved two spaces on my belt and I’m hoping to fill both.”

    Kelly scoffed. “Fine, but I’m gonna go back downstairs when lunchtime comes around. I don’t know about you and yours, but my Pokémon and I need nutrition.”

    “Head back down now, I don’t see anything stopping you.”

    “Very funny. You know that–” Kelly cut herself short and her eyes grew wide. She suddenly stabbed her finger right in Jason’s direction. “Ponyta, Flamethrower!”

    Jason knew better than to stand still when an order like that was issued, and he threw himself to his left as hard as he could while Ponyta’s mouth filled with flame. A stream of orange fire blasted out from between its teeth. As Jason landed on the floor and looked up to see what it was that Kelly had seen, all he was able to spy was a black shape letting out a hoarse cry as it was engulfed by the fire.

    Jason scrambled away and back to his feet. “Paras!” he called.

    His Pokémon obediently scampered to his side. “Prrrsss?”

    Jason pointed at the dissipating cloud of flame to the black mass within. “Flash that thing, show me what we’re dealing with!”

    Even as Paras’ mushrooms rebounded against each other again and speared searing light in the direction of Kelly’s as-yet invisible target, Kelly held up a hand. “Don’t you even dare, Jason!” she said. “This one’s mine! Ponyta, Ember, right in the middle!”

    This time Ponyta spit bolts of flame in rapid succession straight in the center of its target. Paras’ Flash move, however, continued without abatement and between each fireball Jason was just barely able to make out a pair of disembodied, clawed hands. “It’s a Haunter!”

    “I know that!” she snapped. “Good thing you jumped when you did, too, or you’d be Jason In-A-Crate!”

    He glowered at her. “Yeah, common courtesy not to shoot fire at someone who’s right in front of–!”

    Ponyta let out a loud whinny of protest as one of the floating claws found its way around the horse’s neck. Instinctively it reared back on its hind legs and lashed out with its front hooves, but they struck only empty air. Stomp attack, Jason thought quickly, but that attack won’t hit Ghost-Types. Her Ponyta only has fire to rely on and that won’t give her the edge up she needs.

    Jason’s gaze flickered to his Paras, who had not yet engaged the enemy Haunter directly and was still faithfully shining light upon it. I don’t care if she wants help or not, she needs it if she’s gonna get that thing off Ponyta. “Paras, use Spore on that Haunter, careful of Ponyta!”

    Kelly shot an angry glare at Jason as a forceful spray of thick spores ejected from Paras’ mouth and the two mushrooms on its shoulders and covered the attacking ghost. “What do you think you’re doing?” she demanded.

    “Saving your Ponyta,” he retorted, jabbing a finger in Haunter’s direction. “See?”

    Already the dusting of spores was having an effect – the Haunter’s claw fell away from Ponyta and the ghost itself was drifting lazily backwards. It let out a loud sneeze which abruptly shot it further back, and it stopped hovering and dropped to the ground.

    Kelly shot one last scowl at Jason, then reached in her pocket and brought out a capture ball that Jason didn’t immediately recognize. Her throw was underhanded, which he didn’t recall having ever seen before, but it was nevertheless spot on and hit the Haunter on top of its back, then bounced up and split open. It sucked Haunter into its energy vortex and snapped closed, then rolled around on the floor for several moments. A loud electronic whine erupted from it and for a moment, Jason thought he could see it cracking open from the middle... but the ball held itself closed until it stopped moving altogether, and the shriek subsided.

    Kelly made a satisfied noise and stalked over to the ball to pick it up. Jason squinted at it – while the bottom was standard white, the top was a bright green and had a series of small round marks surrounding the button. “What the heck kind of ball is that?” he asked.

    She scooped it up and quickly miniaturized it and tucked it into the final empty slot on her belt. “It’s called a Friend Ball,” she said archly, “and I’ll thank you to not remark on how stupid a name that is – it wasn’t my idea to call it that.”

    “How about thanking me for helping to keep your Ponyta from getting strangled?”

    “I don’t need some knight in shining armor coming along to rescue the damsel in distress!” she snapped. “I have four other Pokémon I could have brought out to deal with it all by myself, thank you very much!”

    “There.” Jason stabbed a finger at her. “That’s all I needed to hear, was that. ‘Thank you’. That was it. Now let’s move on.”

    “No, let’s not!” She stalked towards him and drew herself up to full height... which still forced her to look up at him. She planted her fists on her hips. “I don’t interfere in your captures, you don’t interfere in mine! That’s the way it works with all trainers, we make our own catches and we don’t rely on backup if we can’t cut it ourselves!”

    “Why not?” Jason retorted. “What’s wrong with helping when it’s clear that help is needed?”

    “You either can or you can’t do it. Pokémon trainers don’t rely on handouts from anyone, they fight for everything they have, and they do it on their own merit!”

    “And what, you think I don’t know anything about that?”

    “You’ve been trying to tell me all along you didn’t use any connections to get yourself this gig, that you did it all by yourself. You know why you’ve been trying to convince me of that? It’s called pride. Well, guess what – you’re not the only one who has it, and you take away from mine when you decide to toss in a helping hand when it isn’t wanted!”

    That struck a nerve with Jason; he honestly hadn’t even taken that into consideration. I don’t like it, but she’s right. It is pride. But... “It’s not just pride. It’s also true that I got what I got on my own merit.”

    “That’s right, and now I’d like to accomplish things on mine. I’m gonna catch my Pokémon on my terms. So back the hell off and let me capture Pokémon on my own!”

    “Just... hold on, here,” Jason said, holding one hand up; he took a step back to put distance between them. “Professional Pokémon trainers do this all by themselves. You and me, we’re not pros, we’re working for Professor Oak and we’re out here to catch specimens. So what’s wrong with working together to do that?”

    “Maybe you only want to be out here for that, but I’ve got different ideas.” She relaxed and let her arms fall to her sides. “If I’m going to be a professional in the science and study of Pokémon, I want to be a pro in all aspects of my job. That includes training.”

    Jason restrained an urge to laugh out loud. “To do that, you’d need credibility as a trainer. You’d need to be recognized. Which means you’d have to collect gym badges and participate in tournaments.”

    She crossed her arms and stared wordlessly at him.

    “Seriously?” His eyebrows shot up. “You haven’t even trained enough to cover a full week’s worth of hours. It’s like you haven’t wanted to train until now.”

    “Things can change. You should know that better than anyone.” She tilted her head. “One day, you’ve got a silver spoon in your mouth – the next day... did you just decide to spit it out?”

    Jason didn’t take the bait. “The next day the silver spoon was gone. Simple as that.”

    “I don’t believe you can adapt that quickly. I’m sticking with what I said before. You can try to throw me off as much as you like, but the facts can’t lie to me. Something had to go wrong. Something went badly and you left home. But you didn’t have time to pack anything, so it happened quickly.”

    He held up a finger. “I’m not talking about this. I’ll go hunt Gastlys and Haunters and Kangaskhans and maybe I’ll even find a Moltres in here, but I’m not talking about this anymore.” He snapped his head around and sought out Paras, who was still faithfully standing nearby with a pair of glowing mushrooms. “Let’s get moving, Paras.”

    The two moved forward through the fog and didn’t wait for Kelly and Ponyta to bring up the rear.



    “Paras, show me a Spore attack!”

    A cloud of yellow emitted from the insect Pokémon and mingled with the purple wisps that confronted both it and its trainer. Jason’s fist was clenched. This works, I can switch him out and... yeah, that’s it, that’s exactly what I want. A tight grin stretched his features as the results of Paras’ attack became evident: the gas pocket was solidifying into the form of the Pokémon he’d been tracking for the last hour. The face in the cloud had two glowing red eyes that were blinking rapidly and slowly, inexorably closing.

    Jason thrust two Poké Balls forward at once. “Paras, return! Spearow, let’s finish what we started with Aerial Ace!”

    While one Pokémon was retrieved, the other spilled out of its confinement and released a loud caw, then took wing and soared at its target. The Gastly was still conscious enough to realize it was under attack and so tried to duck away from Spearow’s stiff-winged dive. Jason’s grin widened. “Just what I was hoping for. Spearow, Pursuit!”

    Spearow kept its keen eye on the retreating Gastly and dive-bombed it with all the speed it could muster. The attack was well-rewarded, and the ghostly Pokémon lost its ability to vaporize almost completely. Between the spores and the well-placed attacks, it was down to its last erg of consciousness.

    And I’m not about to let him get away. Jason already had in mind the ball he wanted to use. Kelly uses specialty balls, I’ve got a couple of my own. He pressed the center stud of the Dusk Ball in his hand, and hurled it with all his strength.

    The ball ricocheted against the Gastly’s form and bounced so high it nearly struck the ceiling as it opened up to take the ghost into its recesses. This time the tractoring light wasn’t a spray of red, but of harsh orange that dappled the floor and the floundering Gastly at once. The rays encircled the Pokémon and sucked it into the ball’s interior.

    And exactly five seconds later, the ball stopped shaking across the floor.

    Jason pumped his fist in victory and went to collect his prize – but then Kelly stepped in front of him, bent over, and plucked the ball from the ground before he could. He crossed his arms and huffed. “You know, typically a trainer gets to pick up the ball that just caught his newest Pokémon...”

    “I know, I just figured I’d help you out in picking it up,” she replied airily.

    He snorted. “Very cute. Trying to give me an object lesson, right?”

    “What do you know, he can be taught.” She twisted the ball around in her grip, and her index finger drew across the orange-tinted central seal. “A Dusk Ball?”

    “Only have a couple of those right now, so be careful with that.”

    “You are aware they design these things to be infamously rugged, right?” Nevertheless, she handed the orb to him after another moment of inspection. “You must be better off than I thought. Those cost some serious cash.”

    “A thousand apiece, hence just a couple on hand.”

    Kelly glanced about their immediate surroundings – they had moved up another level in the building and the fog was even thicker here than it was on the floor below. “Ponyta, get yourself over here.”

    The clip-clop of Ponyta’s hooves sounded akin to gunshots in the polished-stone mausoleum but each step made as clear an impact on the fog as could be expected – it stretched and roiled at the noise, then gave way to the creature itself as it came back into view of its trainer. Kelly sidled up next to it and stroked its back, which Jason quietly decided was as much for reassuring herself as for the Pokémon.

    She looked at Jason with a measure of impatience. “So you’ve got your Gastly. You said that’d be a win for you.”

    “And it is,” he responded, “so feel free to go downstairs and get some munchies if you want.”

    Kelly let out an exasperated sigh. “Jason, there’s no Kangaskhan ghost up here. That Carly girl you were talking to said this thing’s supposed to get angry if a male shows up here but I haven’t seen anything showing me an angry ghost of any kind – even the ones we just caught haven’t been angry, just mischievous.”

    “Then you won’t object to me hanging out up here a little while longer ‘cause I’ll be out of your hair while you’re chowing down. You don’t want me hanging around making fun of your eating habits anyway.”

    “I’m supposed to be keeping an eye on you and making sure you’re catching Pokémon, not wasting your time on stupid fantasies,” she harrumphed. “Fifteen minutes and then I’m hitting you over the head with my backpack and carrying you out on Ponyta.”

    “Very classy of you,” he snorted. Then he turned to the fog, through which he couldn’t see further than perhaps three feet and he began to think aloud. “I wonder why she said that this Kangaskhan has such a problem with guys and not girls.”

    “All Kangaskhans are girls,” Kelly pointed out, “so it’s not a hard tale to make up on one’s own past the age of... I don’t know, three.”

    Jason began to move through the fog, eyes concentrated on nothing and everything at once. “You’re awfully hostile towards this kid. Is that just your default position towards everything, being hostile?”

    “My default position is I go at my own pace and not other people’s. You’re slowing me down by wasting time on this nonsense.”

    “No, I’m not. Professor Oak told you to stick with me, not the other way around. You go at my speed now, whether you like it or not. Besides, it’s curiosity, not nonsense. And the last few scientists I met didn’t mind a healthy dose of either one. Think about that.”

    “I’m thinking about food. It’s a hell of a lot more important than–”

    Jason frowned at the abrupt cutoff. “More important than...?” he prompted. Then he scoffed. “Wait, why should I even bother asking? You’re just gonna repeat what you’ve been saying a dozen times already. The way you act, it’s like you think I’ve got a hearing problem or something. Tell you what, my ears work just fine.”

    No response came. When he turned around, he realized that he could no longer see either Kelly or the flames licking her Ponyta’s mane. A frown flickered across his features. “Kelly?”

    No answer. And the fog seemed to be getting both thicker and darker around him. Visibility was being reduced to almost nil, and the overhead lights might as well not have even existed for all the good they were doing. Acting more on instinct than logic, Jason drew the neck of his shirt up over his mouth and nose and waved his hand in front of his face, trying to clear the smoke, but to no effect.

    “Well, isn’t this just dandy,” he muttered. Then, more loudly, he called out again. “Kelly? Are you still up here or did you bail?”

    “KellyareyoustilluphereordidyoubailKellyareyoustil luphereordidyoubailKellyareyoustilluphereordidyoub ail...” The words ricocheted throughout the room and he heard the phrase spoken again and again. As it finally began to fade, it became a constant hum of background noise that tickled Jason’s ears and refused to dissipate entirely. His frown deepened. I didn’t say it that loud... what’s going on up here?

    His fingers stroked the first Poké Ball on his belt for reassurance. “Gyarados,” he muttered, “I may need you in a second...”

    “GyaradosImayneedyouinasecondGyaradosImayneedyouin asecond...”

    He clamped his mouth shut. Great. If I even try to keep it quiet, whatever this is picks it up and broadcasts it through the whole room. Kelly’s complaining aside, I probably should get out of here. If this gas is what Gastlys and Haunters are made of and I breathe enough of it, I’m screwed.

    Problem is, I don’t have the first clue where the exit is.


    And it was true. In scuffling about, Jason had completely lost any reference point he might have had. And just striking out in any random direction doesn’t necessarily help me out in time to avoid breathing the fog. He moved his hand to the second ball on his belt, plucked it out, and resized it to release the Pokémon within. Part of him worried that perhaps the ball wouldn’t even open, or that some other event would occur that prevented him from summoning aid, so he was grateful when the ball split and spilled its contents just as it was meant to. The form of Paras congealed from the solid light and it chittered anxiously at the current predicament.

    “Paras,” he said from within his shirt, “use Flash and show me a way out of this place.”

    “ParasuseFlashandshowmeawayoutofthisplaceParasuseF lashandshowmeawayoutofthisplace...” As the words added themselves to the odd background hum that now buzzed annoyingly around them, Paras performed as instructed and bounced its mushrooms together to activate their glowing properties. But instead of illuminating a path or driving off the dense purple smoke that now cloaked the room and everything in it, the light only caused the fog immediately around his Pokémon to burn a brighter shade of violet.

    This really isn’t good. Jason fumbled at his belt, now feeling distinctly more desperate for a solution. I’ve got Gyarados, Geodude, Spearow, and now the new Gastly here... maybe Gastly will be in a good mood after the battle and help me out here? Well, that, or he’ll just vanish into the smoke and I won’t even be able to recall him.

    He found no comfort in that thought, but he released the gaseous Pokémon from its capsule all the same. To his surprise, Gastly emerged from its Dusk Ball directly in front of him and its glowing eyes were completely visible in the fog, while even Paras’ strongest light was not able to completely pierce the veil. “Gaaastly?”

    “We’ll do introductions later, but right now I need you to help me out... what’s happening?” Jason held his arms out. “I can’t find my way out.”

    “Nowayoutnowayoutnowayoutnowayoutnowayout...”

    Jason wasn’t entirely sure how much more furrowed he could make his brow, but he knew it was approaching its limit. Not only had he not spoken that precise phrase, it wasn’t being spoken in his voice, and it was rising up out of the ether of the background hum rather than receding into it. The voice was male, and in a lower range than Jason’s... and the phrase had been spoken with a tone that implied not fear, but confidence.

    And then another voice swam up out of the hum to join the first one. Male like its predecessor, this one’s vocal range was closer to Jason’s, and it overlaid the ricocheting first phrase, creating a jumble of words that Jason had to try very hard to parse out.

    “Getthebabygetthebabygetthebabygetthebabygetthebab y...”

    “Baby?” Jason said aloud, and he looked to Gastly’s floating eyes for confirmation.

    “Gaaaaast...” The Pokémon’s voice sounded almost... sad, Jason decided. Even for a Ghost-Type Pokémon, this one’s voice almost makes me sad and I don’t even know why.

    “What baby?” he demanded. “What’s going on?”

    “Themotherthemotherthemotherthemother...”

    “Takeherouttakeherouttakeherouttakeherout...”

    “She’sdoneshe’sdoneshe’sdoneshe’sdone...”

    “KANGASKHAN!”


    Jason shouted and staggered backward, startled by the vehemence of the roar, and then he felt an invisible force impact him from the front – the sensation was in no particular portion of his body, but instead struck him as if he’d landed face-down on the floor... except that in this case, the floor had met him while he was still standing, an invisible wall of force clobbering him at precisely his greatest moment of vulnerability. The impact hurled him further back.

    And he suddenly felt the landscape behind him drop and become nothingness as he tried to regain his footing. Only at the last instant, when his heel struck a hard surface a good four inches below where the floor was supposed to be, did he understand what was happening. I’m about to fall down the stairs!

    He shouted again and lashed out frantically with both arms. It was too late to hurl his body forward – his body was arcing too far back, and in the next instant, he would be tumbling down the stairway. His left hand found a narrow, round surface. The hand rail! He threw himself to the left while his fingers curled about the pole, and he landed painfully on his left knee... but now stabilized.

    “Jason!”

    He snapped his head around and looked down the flight of stairs. Purple fog poured down the steps but visibility was far clearer now and he could see Kelly at the bottom – and she wasn’t standing. She was spread out on the floor, one arm extended towards him. “I think I twisted my ankle!”

    Instantly he got to his feet, trying to ignore the crack his left knee offered in protest, and he raced down to the bottom to meet Kelly there. He knelt down next to her and gripped her hand. “Where’s your Ponyta?”

    “She got hurt, too. I... I think I passed out or something. Ponyta was already down here when I fell, and I think she hurt her leg. I put her back in her Poké Ball.” She winced and let out a pained groan as she tried to move her right leg. “I can feel it swelling up already.”

    “Can you move your other foot?”

    “Yeah, that one works fine. Help me up.” With Jason’s assistance, Kelly stood on her good foot and kept hold of his hand for support. “We should get down to the Pokémon Center.”

    Jason cast a glance back up the stairs. The pea-soup fog flowing down them had thinned out to chicken broth. His hesitation was perhaps a moment too long; Kelly snapped, “Jason, focus! Hurt people and Pokémon, here!”

    Jason started, then gave a slight nod and held her up as they made their way back along the convoluted path to the flight leading down to the sanctuary. Their arrival in that room did not go unnoticed, particularly by Carly, who scampered towards them as quickly as her legs could carry her. Immediately following her was an entourage of people who saw that both trainers were limping.

    “Oh my gosh! Are you okay?” the girl exclaimed, lending voice to the thought everyone else around them was experiencing.

    “She needs to get to the Pokémon Center,” Jason answered tersely. “Her Ponyta’s hurt. Kelly twisted her ankle kinda bad, too, might need someone to take a look at it.”

    Me?” Kelly spoke up. “What about you and your cracked knee, you went down on it and it sounded like a gunshot. You can’t tell me it doesn’t hurt.”

    “Sure I can, it’d just be a lie.” Jason looked around at the crowd gathered about them. “Someone help her get out of here? That Ponyta needs to get looked at pronto and she can’t walk that well.”

    “Hey, hang on!” Kelly gripped Jason’s wrist. “You’re not going to come with me?”

    “I have somewhere else I need to go.”

    “Like where?”

    “Back upstairs.” Jason pointed to the top of the staircase. “I left my Paras and Gastly up there, you think I’m just gonna let them go that easily?”

    She shook her head. “No way! You’re not going back up there!”

    “No, you’re not going back up there. You’re going to the Pokémon Center, and I’m gonna go get my Pokémon and find out what just happened to me.”

    “The ghost Pokémon up there are messing around with you, don’t encourage them!”

    Carly tugged at Jason’s shirt. “Did you see her?”

    Kelly scowled at both Jason and the younger girl. “And don’t let her encourage you, either!”

    “Would you get out of here, already?” he snapped. “Get the help you need, I’ll come find you once I’m done.” He pried her hand off his wrist and passed her into the care of a pair of a strong-looking young couple. Kelly resisted for a moment, but the couple was able to convince her to let them take her to the exit.

    Once Kelly was out of the building, Jason turned back to Carly. “I didn’t see her, but I heard her. She scared me into falling down. Tried to get me to fall down the stairs. I caught myself but only just in time.”

    “Just like the other trainers,” the girl mused. “There were five others that went up there and got pushed down the stairs, or just fell down.”

    “I gather the other trainers didn’t want to go back upstairs after that.”

    She shook her head. “No, they all decided they had enough and they left.”

    Jason got down on one knee so he could face Carly directly. “I need to know what happened to her. What’s making her this way?”

    “I don’t know,” the girl admitted. “Whenever she comes out, all I hear is voices. They sound like men, a couple of really mean ones.”

    Jason tilted his head. “Do they say ‘no way out’?”

    Carly’s eyes grew wider. “Yeah! One of them said that! And they were talking about getting the baby!”

    “And taking out the mother.” Jason set his gaze back on the stairs. “How many others heard the voices?”

    “I dunno. I dunno if they even heard them. Nobody ever said anything about them, they were too creeped out just by falling down the stairs.”

    “Well, I think we can figure out how she died,” Jason noted. He looked around the remnants of the crowd that had gathered – many had wandered off now that there was no critical situation in the room. To those still standing there, he asked, “Does anyone know about a Kangaskhan having died... or maybe been killed recently?”

    Everyone standing around shook their heads. Jason turned to the counter, where the woman he and Kelly had spoken with earlier was still stationed. He approached, trying his best to minimize his limp. “Hi again.”

    She leveled a small smirk at him. “Hello yourself. Jason, is it?”

    “Yeah. Sorry, I didn’t get your name.”

    “Rachel. And it’s okay, your girlfriend wasn’t screaming my name all over the sanctuary.”

    Jason made a face. “Not my girlfriend.” Then he leaned on the counter and lowered his voice. “There’s definitely something upstairs. Two floors up I almost got knocked over by a ghost with a temper, and I don’t think it was your usual Gastly or Haunter.”

    “You an expert on the subject of Ghost-Types?” she asked, eyebrow raised.

    “Not really,” he admitted, “but what I’ve read of their kind says they’re more interested in causing mischief than actual harm.”

    “What about your theory that they would put people in danger if they encroached on their territory upstairs?” she inquired pointedly. “Maybe they got tired of intruders. That’d be ironic.”

    “Maybe that’s how it went down, but I don’t think it’s coincidence that I was hearing voices up there talking about taking babies and killing mothers.”

    That got Rachel’s attention, and she looked at Jason more seriously. “You’re thinking this ‘spirit’ you’re snooping for was murdered for her baby?”

    “Sure sounded like it from up there. Have you had a Kangaskhan buried here? Or maybe cremated?”

    “We’ve got all kinds of Pokémon that were laid to rest both ways.” She pulled her gaze away from Jason and turned to a computer on the desk behind the partition, where her fingers flickered quickly over the keys. “The last Kangaskhan we had was...” She blinked. “Actually, it was just three weeks ago.”

    “You sound surprised.”

    “I was on vacation, but they usually keep me up to speed on what was buried and where.” She tapped the screen. “Says here she was cremated and the ashes were interred in the third-floor mausoleum.” A frown split her brow. “That’s strange, I should have been told about this.”

    “Any other information about her? How she died, what was done with her baby?”

    “No. Actually, this file’s all but completely blank. Someone really wasn’t doing their homework on this.” She typed a series of commands into the computer, but her confused irritation only increased after several seconds. “This was filled out all wrong. There’s no way this trainer’s license number is valid, there’s no autopsy information, no morgue tag ID... it’s like...”

    Jason leaned closer and saw that what she was saying was true – the file in front of her seemed to be an exercise in single-word fill-in-the-blank. Fields that were marked “required” hadn’t been filled in and there was a series of red-text alerts indicating such. “You guys aren’t supposed to ignore those red letters, right?”

    “No, we’re not. There’s no way someone was this bad at filling in a report by accident.” She glanced up at Jason. “So someone did it on purpose. Someone just stuck a Kangaskhan’s ashes upstairs and then gave us this weird quick-hit in the computer hoping no one would notice.” She pointed at the screen. “See here? No information about use of our crematorium. There’d be at least a mention of the crematorium, we don’t just accept ashes from anyone who comes walking in the door. Even if it’s not being used, they’d note that in the computer, but no notes here.”

    “So there’s a Kangaskhan’s ashes upstairs, we don’t know who or where they came from, and we don’t know how their owner died.” Jason raised his eyebrows at Rachel. “Sounding less and less like coincidence all the time.”

    “I should get up there,” she said, getting to her feet. “We can’t just have unauthorized burials happening in the building.”

    “Yeah, well, wait for me, I’m coming with you. I caught a Gastly upstairs and then left him there when I fell – I’m not gonna leave without him.”

    She shot a look at him. “I thought you said a ghost tried to knock you over up there. Sure you want to risk letting him try again?”

    “I’m pretty sure this ghost is a her. And it’s a risk I’ll have to take, I guess.” Because I don’t think it’s that simple.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    © Matt Morwell, 2011

  40. #40
    Beginning Trainer
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    Default Re: Against All Odds (2011) [PG-13] - Vindicator Part 2 up!

    I have a couple of things I've been meaning to comment on regarding this story. I like the depth you've given to the characters. Herman the pokémaniac was brilliant. I really wanted to dislike him, but I couldn't.

    I also like how you've portrayed Professor Oak. When he first appeared, I expected him to be goofy, but as Jason's quest progressed, it was clear that Oak had high standards, which makes him believable. Jason thought Oak would want more, but even he didn't realize just how many pokémon that would be.

    Along with that, you touched upon something that I've been wondering about with the Pokémon world (granted, some of this may be due to my ignorance). How does a trainer decide what pokémon to keep around and which ones to leave behind? Seeing Jason interact with his Rattata was touching, but also showed just how difficult of a decision it was for him.

    I'll follow up with more comments about the storyline, next!
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    http://rkivic.com



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