28th July 2006, 12:06 AM
The bedroom was extravagant: fifteen-foot ceiling, huge dimensions, blood red shag carpeting, expensive tapestries on the walls, and professionally arranged, illustrious furniture. One wall was dominated by a floor-to-ceiling four poster bed covered in silk drapes. The slender figure in the bed tossed with disturbed dreams, further entangling itself in the covers.
With a muted flash of light, a small, lupine creature walking on two legs materialized in a corner of the room, which was immediately filled with the sounds of a gruff, baritone bark coming from the indigo-hued canine that awoke at the foot of the bed.
The girl sat up straight in shock as the Pocket Monster leaped down from the bed and chased after the tan intruder. “Bruiser!” she yelled after her Granbull. The trespassing Pokemon teleported past the guard dog and ended up on the bed. It reached out and touched the frightened young woman, and they both disappeared.
A tall, lean man with thinning brown hair and thick glasses burst into the room wearing a striped bathrobe. “Liza!” he shouted. His attention turned to the scrambling, panicking Granbull, which turned to him and whined. The man turned and ran from the room to find the telephone while Bruiser began sniffing around the room again, trying vainly to pick up its mistress’s scent.
Long eyelashes parted, revealing shiny, sapphire blue eyes. Tony sat up on his cot, running his hands through his shaggy blonde hair as he stood up to his full six-foot height, yawning hugely and stretching his arms.
The barrack of the homeless shelter was a long hallway with twelve cots lining both walls. Tony was the only person utilizing the shelter’s services this morning, aside from the filthy, bearded old man who laid unconscious at the back of the hall.
From beneath his cot he pulled the plastic bag the shelter had given him and left the barrack. The men’s locker room was another long hallway, but the floor was linoleum. Along one wall was a row of showers and along the other was a row of sinks and toilets. Tony spilled the contents of the bag--a bar of soap, a mini tube of toothpaste, and a cheap toothbrush—onto a bench in the middle of the room. Taking the bar of soap, he entered a shower stall.
Ten minutes later Tony stepped out of the homeless shelter and into the warm coastal breeze of Pallet City. He slipped his hands into the pockets of his warn, holy jeans and began walking, although he really had no destination.
While his body wandered towards the beach, his mind drifted to his past.
Pallet City used to be a small, rural beach town, but now it had grown into a large, tourist-dependant city. It was the only home Tony had ever known. He had but the smallest, vaguest recollection of his parents, and for as long as he could remember he had been alone, roaming the streets and the beach.
Only once, when Tony was no more than about seven years old, had child services attempted to detain him and bring him to an orphanage, and even that endeavor had seemed halfhearted, almost as if it were just for show.
It was a big mystery; one that had plagued Tony since he figured out what was happening. Most homeless people in the city were either regarded with annoyance or pity. However, for Tony, the citizens of Pallet fell into three categories: those who totally and completely insisted on going to great lengths to pretend he didn’t exist at all, those who regarded him with utter contempt, and those who were distantly courteous to him.
The vast majority of the city’s population made up the first group, ignoring his existence. The second group was made of Tony’s few enemies who did their best to torment him, in addition to the odd citizen who frowned at him with an angry look in their eyes. The third group consisted solely of the kind old lady that ran the homeless shelter, and even she would never become close to him.
That was why Tony had never in his life had a single, solitary friend. It was also why he remained on the streets, since no one had ever given him a job (and since he refused to go to the orphanage, which was already filled with parentless children, and he knew he wasn’t wanted there, anyway.)
At thirteen years of age, Tony had decided on a way out of poverty and out of Pallet: Pokemon training. Training couldn’t be denied to him simply because no one liked him; anyone of age could obtain their trainer’s license and, one day out of the year, enlist in a Pokemon league and begin their attempt to rise through the ranks of trainers, to ascend from the common heard and be one of the elite: a media-mobbed, fan hounded, paparazzi dodging, world famous, multi-million dollar salary trainer.
For three years Tony had studied about Pokemon and Pokemon battling. He had read every single data file about the subjects in the public library, in addition to watching nearly every televised Indigo League battle.
Now he was sixteen years old, legally an adult, and today was Enlisting Day for the Indigo League. He was waiting for the business day to begin so he could go get his license and sign up for the league.
He put his hand into his pocket and habitually ran his finger over the smooth surface of a minimized Premierball. The white and silver orb was the only thing he owned, save for the clothes on his back.
Tony stepped onto the sand of the beach. In the distance he could see the silhouette of Professor Samuel Oak, a Pocket Monster biologist who was also Pallet’s resident Indigo League representative, standing knee-deep in the wake, holding a pokeball. A large, crustaceous Pokemon Tony knew to be a Kingler swam into the wake, reacting to commands barked by the old professor.
Suddenly Oak threw the pokeball into the water, and Tony watched a burst of red energy appear and then blink out. The Kingler grabbed the pokeball in one claw and brought it back to Oak, who slipped it into a pocket, recalled his Pokemon, and waded back onto the beach.
Oak walked off, heading back to his laboratory, and Tony followed. The lab was just down the coast, and a little higher upland. Tony watched Oak, who was about a hundred and fifty yards ahead of him, disappear into a large, plain white building. He was about a block away from the lab when he saw a car pull up to his destination. A kid about his age slammed the door and entered the lab.
Finally Tony entered the building, greeted by cool air conditioning. The room was quaint, dominated by a short wall, behind which was a security guard-slash-receptionist.
“You here for Enlisting Day?” the man asked Tony gruffly.
“Yes, sir,” Tony replied curtly, though it felt weird to use his voice, since he didn’t talk to people often.
“The professor is with someone right now,” the guard said, indicating an open door to his left. “You can wait for him over there.” Tony sat in one of the uncomfortable chairs, picking up a Sports Illustrated from a coffee table.
His interest in the article “Trainer’s of Today” diminished when he heard voices from through the doorway.
“I have several specimens of all four species,” said a friendly, elderly voice. “Might I explain something about the difficulty of each Pokemon I offer?” The person on the other end of the conversation must have nodded their head, because Oak continued.
“Bulbasaur is generally the easiest to deal with, you see, because by nature they are social animals, living in prides.
“Pikachu are slightly tougher to deal with, since they are mostly solitary in nature. However, they still form bonds with parents and offspring, so it isn’t too difficult to connect to them yourself.
“Squirtle and Charmander, quite on the other hand, are much more difficult to form a bond with. This is because both species are completely on their own from hatching; they make no bonds in the wild, meeting others of their kind only to mate.”
Tony had to strain to hear the reply, since the young trainer didn’t speak near as loudly as Oak. “I’ll go with Bulbasaur.” Moments later the young, dark haired kid came through the door, followed closely by Professor Oak. He waved goodbye to the old man and vacated the building.
“Ah, and who do we have here?” Oak asked, extending his hand to Tony, who was taken aback by the friendliness.
“Um, Tony,” Tony stuttered, and shook the man’s hand.
“Here for the league, I assume?” Tony nodded, and Oak gestured for him to follow him back through the door. The room they entered was large, like a gymnasium. Its walls were lined with computers, and the center was packed with tables cluttered with loose papers, thick, ancient books, and data file disks. Several of Oak’s assistants meandered around the room, moving from computer to computer or desk to desk. Oak led Tony to the back of the room, where they arrived at the largest computer of all. He plopped down onto the chair and began typing rapidly.
“If you’ll put your palm there,” Oak said, indicating the handprint shaped DNA scanning mechanism on the desk, next to the computer. Tony pressed his palm onto the screen. A light blinked on and off on the machine as his DNA was checked in a region-wide database. Both Tony and Oak watched the screen as Tony’s information appeared on the computer screen. Oak’s eyes reached the top of the readout, where the name was displayed.
“Tony...Katum,” Professor Oak muttered softly and slowly. His posture stiffened, and he bit his lower lip. Promptly he began typing again, but his joviality was gone without a trace. When he spoke it was with a kind of attempted courtesy, but he couldn’t completely suppress his slightly disgusted tone.
“Do you have a crest ready?” he asked. Tony nodded and withdrew a folded piece of paper that had been printed out of the public computers at the library. On it was a pattern with a blue base and an odd, red-glow design over it. Oak took the paper and placed it into a scanner.
After more typing, Oak stood up and walked over to a large machine in the corner of the room. From a slot in the apparatus popped a small, credit-card-like object. Oak picked it up and handed it to Tony, who inspected it.
The top displayed his name. On one side was a small image of his trainer’s crest, which would represent him in the league. On the right were six blanks spaces, which would show his active Pokemon team, once he actually caught some. The bottom left showed “$100,” which caused Tony recoil in surprise at having money to his name. The space on the bottom right of the card said “422nd.”
“This is your training license. It is vital that you don’t lose this, as replacing it would be quite expensive. It serves several purposes: it identifies you as a trainer and it shows your active Pokemon team, your crest, and your rank in the league. This card is also your bank; it holds the credit you get as a Pokemon trainer. It’s connected to the Trainer Database on Indigo Plateau, so it updates automatically every time you win or lose a battle or spend money.”
Tony put his license into his pocket. “Well, that’s about it. You know that the championship tournament is held annually, and only those with eight gym badges are allowed to enter.” Oak was speaking quickly, and it was all too obvious to Tony how bad the professor wanted him out of the lab. “So, you’d better be on your way.” Oak turned to lead Tony from the room. Near the door, Tony spotted a large, round table displaying many Pokeballs.
“But Professor, what about my Pokemon?” Tony asked cautiously.
“What?” Oak said, obviously disappointed that he hadn’t yet succeeded in getting the young trainer out the door.
“My Pokemon. You give beginning Pallet trainers a Pokemon to start off with. Everyone knows that,” Tony insisted, although he already knew how this conversation was going to end.
“I’m terribly sorry, but you’re too late, I’ve already run out.”
“But--,” Tony said, looking at the numerous Pokeballs on the table and recalling Oak’s conversation with the trainer that had come in before him.
“It’s a shame,” Oak interrupted him. “But I can’t help you.”
Tony gritted his teeth. “Fine!” he spat, and promptly left the building.
He was furious with the situation of course, but he was even more furious with the fact that he was furious. He had thought that he was over being treated like this, that he was used to it.
He turned to the beach and pulled the old, beat up Premierball from his pocket. “Time to put this thing to use,” he muttered to himself.
Liza Aboideau’s whimpers echoed through the small tunnel as she struggled against the ropes that bounded her to the wooden chair.
A man suddenly ducked down and entered the tunnel, coming to stand by her. He held a blue and white Greatball toward the woman’s kidnapper, who sat by on guard.
“Return, Louis,” he said, and the Abra disappeared into its pokeball. The man wore expensive looking clothes and had greasy black hair. He pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and withdrew one. Lighting it, he turned to face Liza.
“You’re going to make us very rich, you know,” he said in a smarmy tone of voice. The young woman refused to look up at him, keeping her gaze anywhere else. The man kneeled down in front of her and blew a ring of smoke in her face, making her cough.
“What’s-a matter, little girl?” he asked, putting his hand on her knee. He slid it forward a fraction of an inch and the girl whipped around toward him and spit in his face. The man growled, recoiling and standing to his feet. He wiped his face and turned to her, his stance menacing.
“*****!” he yelled, and slammed his flat palm into the girl’s left cheek. “You’re damned lucky you’re worth what you’re worth.” He reared back and slapped her on the other cheek. The man turned and marched out of the tunnel, turning to re-release his Abra as an afterthought.
Tears welled up in Liza’s eyes, but she refused to let them fall.
The method that Oak used to attract his Squirtle annually was interesting. A machine under the wake released food for the wild Squirtle every thirty minutes. Scores of Squirtle, as well as several other species, flocked to the machine. The Pokemon got free food year round, while barely a fraction of the number got caught per year.
Tony stood a few paces behind the mechanism, waves soaking the bottom of his jeans, his eyes on the water, Premierball in hand. He watched as several small Squirtle zipped up to eat the bits of food being extruded by the machine, but he didn’t throw the ball. The odds of any pokeball flawlessly capturing a completely healthy Pokemon were slim to nil, and he didn’t have any Pokemon of his own to weaken a prospect.
The machine released another piece of food, and another Squirtle approached. This Squirtle was much larger than any Tony had yet seen. Without actually deciding to do it, Tony hurled the Premierball at the Pokemon. The ball opened and sucked Squirtle in. The pokeball sank to the sand, three feet below the waterline, but Tony could see it with the morning sunlight shining through the water.
The ball quivered once and then burst open, and Squirtle rematerialized in the water. It swam on the top of the water and turned its cold gaze to Tony. Casually it opened its mouth and released a huge spout of water, which slammed into Tony and sent him sprawling six yards back.
Drenched, Tony stood back up. The Squirtle had stayed put, content to wait for more food, not considering Tony as any kind of threat. Cautiously, Tony edged forward to retrieve his Premierball.
The Squirtle, however, wouldn’t have it. It turned, opening its mouth threateningly at Tony, warning him to keep back. Tony obliged.
A predatory shriek rang through the sky, and Tony gazed upward to find the menacing form of a raptor. Judging by the long yellow feathers on the back of its head, he knew it was a Pidgeot. He also knew that Pidgeots normally roosted around rivers, lakes, and beaches, ready to pick off unlucky Goldeen or Magikarp. Tony followed this Pidgeot’s gaze, however, to the Squirtle.
The bird tipped into a dive, folding it wings to its side. Tony looked back at the Squirtle, who wasn’t aware that it was about to be picked up and flown off, probably to be fed to a bunch of newly hatched Pidgeys.
Tony ran to the Squirtle before it could react and pushed it away, just as the Pidgeot extended its talons for the kill. The razor sharp claws dug into his flesh, and the bird flapped to gain altitude.
The bird didn’t have a good enough grip to lift off with him, so its talons made exit wounds in Tony’s arm as it soared back up into the sky.
“Ah-h,” Tony moaned as saltwater lapped up onto the deep open wounds. He stumbled back on shore, and lowered himself roughly to the sand. The cuts were gushing ruby red blood. Tony stripped off his old, ragged t-shirt, revealing a toned, athletic upper body. Grunting in pain, he ripped it into four broad strips. One by one he pulled a strip over one of his long, gory abrasions.
Tony jumped in surprise when something nudged him on the elbow. He turned to find the Squirtle he’d saved, staring at him.
“Hey, little guy.” The Squirtle stared at him still, blinking slowly. Tony didn’t know what was going on inside it’s round, scaly head; Squirtle were cold-blooded reptiles with no attachments in nature and, like Oak had said, it was extremely difficult for trainers to connect with that kind of Pokemon. Pokemon intelligence ranged from species to species as well as from individual to individual, but when you got down to it, they were Pokemon, not people, and weren’t on the same level.
The Squirtle’s gaze shifted to the dressed wounds on Tony’s arm, and then back up to his face. It opened its mouth, and Tony prepared to dodge another Water Gun. Then he noticed a silver and white sphere drop from its maws. He reached down and gingerly picked up his Premierball.
The two of them sat there for fifteen minutes, staring at each other. Finally, Tony held up the Premierball, nodding to it with a questioning look, although he knew the Squirtle didn’t know what that meant. It still sat there next to him.
At last Tony gently dropped the Premierball on the Squirtle, who was dematerialized and sucked inside once again. The ball fell to the ground, and the red resistance light didn’t even ignite. The ball, without twitching even once, laid still on the sand.
Matt O’Shay was walking down a city sidewalk, bragging endlessly to his band of assorted followers and butt kissers about his new gear and Pokemon. As he pushed a stray strand of dark auburn hair from his eyes, his gaze fell through a glass door and into a small café where he spotted a chance for his favorite pastime.
He stopped abruptly and held up his hand. “Hold up, guys. Wait for me here.” Matt turned and threw the door of the café open. Inside, sitting at the end of the bar, was a guy his age.
But their similarities ended there. While Matt always held a high, confident posture--shoulders thrown back, chin held high--Tony Katum constantly gave off a guarded, closed air, rarely making eye contact and looking around ceaselessly. Matt always wore the latest style of expensive, perfectly coordinated clothes, whereas Tony made due with what little he could find. Today he wore a pair of ancient, ragged jeans with a newly purchased white Pallet City tourist t-shirt. Apparently he had been injured, because his arm was tied with several make-shift bandages. Where Matt wore his dark hair deliberately long, past his shoulders, Tony’s blonde locks fell wildly around his ears, eyes, and the bottom of his neck.
The biggest difference of all, however, was their social class. While Tony was dirt poor and literally homeless, Matt was the son of the second richest man in Kanto, an industrial millionaire and ex-member of the top five trainers in the Indigo League. The people of Pallet City expected Matt to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a famous Pokemon trainer. They expected Tony to either starve to death or die in some sort of street gang fight.
Tony saw Matt coming, but continued eating from his bowl of rice. Matt leaned up against the bar beside him.
“Tony Katum, old buddy,” he said in a cheery tone. “Where on God’s green earth did you find money for a bowl of rice?” Tony continued chewing, avoiding Matt’s eyes.
“Hey, check it out, Hobo,” Matt continued, earning a dark, brooding look from his victim. “I just came back from the lab. Got my license,” he said, pulling out his wallet and opening it to show off his new Pokemon training license. He indicated the shiny metal belt that was looped on his pants. Connected to it were three minimized Pokeballs.
“Sam Oak gave me this, and Father bought me these, not to mention this top of the line trainer’s belt.”
Tony finally opened his mouth. “Do you really think you’ll get anywhere as a Trainer riding around in Daddy’s car with air conditioning and your own personal pack of cheerleaders? Your father can’t buy hard work or talent.” He had stood up to look Matt in the eyes now.
Matt finally dropped the mock-perkiness. “Listen, Bum. Just because I have money does not mean I don’t know what it takes. My dad dominated the league, and that was before he had money. A year from now, you’ll be watching me decimating some loser in the championship tournament.”
“Wrong,” Tony interjected, “I’ll be watching you cry from the other end of the field while they cart your last Pokemon off to the hospital.”
“What?” Matt asked, confused. Tony plunged his hand into his pocket and pulled out his training license, holding in front of Matt’s face. Matt looked furious for a moment, but then let out a genuine laugh.
“You, a Pokemon trainer?” he asked, snorting derisively. “Fine. You ready for your first official League battle? Let’s take it outside.” Matt whirled around and vacated the restaurant, not looking back to see if his challenge had been accepted.
Tony’s hair fluttered in the wind as he stared across the stretch of sand that separated him from Matt O’Shay. Outwardly Tony looked mostly calm, but inside he was panicking. He hadn’t had a single opportunity to train his new Squirtle at all. After capturing it, he had gone straight to a cheap souvenir shop to by a new shirt, and then to the café to get lunch before he left town.
Matt had said that he too had just come from getting his license, so Tony’s apprehension was slightly abated. Then again, Matt looked pretty confident over there, boasting to several of his friends, who stood behind him, eager to watch the match.
“You ready to battle, or are you going to chat all day!?” Tony shouted to his opponent.
“Let’s do this!” Matt replied. He unclipped a Pokeball from his belt and launched it, releasing a Squirtle.
“Go, Axe!” Tony exclaimed as he hurled the Squirtle’s Premierball and called out the name he had chosen to give to it. Axe materialized as the pokeball jumped back into Tony’s hand. He stood up and looked at Matt’s Squirtle, which was an entire head shorter than it, and then looked back at its trainer.
“Gemini!” Matt shouted. “Tackle it!” The small Squirtle looked back at its trainer impassively and uncomprehending. It looked back at Axe, uninterested, and lied down on its stomach. Matt growled in anger.
Tony hesitated. He knew barking commands at the Squirtle would do no good, since he hadn’t had a chance to teach it to associate his words with its own abilities. Axe looked at him curiously, and finally Tony just pointed at the enemy Pokemon and bared his teeth like a Growlithe.
It seemed as if Axe was slowly grasping the body language. Finally he turned and charged at the smaller Pokemon. Before Gemini could react, Axe slammed into him, sending him skipping across the sand.
Furious, Gemini the Squirtle jumped to its feet and launched a blast of water toward Axe. Axe ducked and dodged with quick reflexes and fired its own Water Gun at its foe. The spout caught Gemini in the chest and the Pokemon was once again knocked back. Axe raced forward slashed at Gemini’s face and forelegs with its sharp reptilian claws.
Gemini fell down to all fours, and turned away from the slashing Squirtle. It brought its broad, scaly tail to bear and swiped at Axe with it. Axe caught a blow in the head and stumbled back a little before jumping back onto the smaller Pokemon.
Gemini finally pulled its tail, legs, and bulbous head into his shell as Axe opened his mouth wide and chomped down on it, attempting to get at its enemy. This continued for several moments, before Matt withdrew his first Pokemon with a flash of red light.
“Fine, then,” Matt said loudly. “But these have already been trained up to follow commands.” He indicated his remaining two pokeballs. He drew one and shouted, “Go, Chala!”
The Pocket Monster that appeared was a small quadruped with fine green scales covering its body. From its head grew a long leaf, and there were several green half-spheres protruding from all around its neck.
Before the newly arrived Chikorita could act, Axe took it upon himself to charge forward and tackle it to the ground. The Chikorita thrashed its head, and the razor sharp leaf slashed into Axe, leaving a long, bloody gash on his left foreleg.
Axe backed away, and Chala got to its feet.
“Chala, Leech Seed!” Matt ordered. One of the small jewel-like growths on the Chikorita’s neck flew out and pierced Axe’s right hind leg. Long vines with pointed spikes extended from the seed and gouged into other parts of the Squirtle’s body, though several were deflected by its shell.
Axe let loose his low pitched croak in pain, doubling over.
“Axe!” Tony yelled, ready to go to its aid. The Squirtle croaked again and stood back up. It looked at Tony and then back to his opponent, who was now charging at him at Matt’s command.
Axe dodged to the left and Chala skidded past him. He whirled around and hit it with a torrent of water, adding to its momentum and sending it into a face plant in the sand.
“Axe!” Tony shouted again to get his Squirtle’s attention. Axe looked back to his trainer, and Tony pointed to the waterline, just beside their makeshift battle arena. Axe hesitated a moment, and then took off toward the water on all fours.
“Chala, after it! You can handle the water.” Axe reached the water and dove in, followed by the Chikorita. Tony and Matt moved closer to the water as well, to see the action.
Matt was partly right: Chikorita, as reptiles, were perfectly capable swimmers and, as Plant type Pokemon, unharmed by the water. What Matt hadn’t taken into consideration was the fact that Squirtle, on the other hand, were adapted perfectly to the water, and in fact lived nearly their entire lives in it.
While Chala puttered competently in the water, Axe raced around artfully, with a beautiful grace. The Squirtle would build up speed, slam into the Chikorita, move off, and come back again before Chala could even react.
Finally, Axe stopped, and Tony and Matt could see the Chikorita drifting motionlessly in the water, short tail hanging limply and long leaf fluttering with the current.
As Matt withdrew Chala, Axe fell on all fours. The leech seed and its spines were still sapping energy from him. Tony ran forward and kneeled down beside it.
“Hey, you can’t enter the battle area!” Matt exclaimed. He laughed. “Your Squirtle’s disqualified. I win!”
“It’s an unmarked arena,” Tony shot back. “I can go where I want.” Matt made as if to argue, but stopped himself. Those were the rules of the league, and he knew it.
“You alright, Axe?” Tony said to his Pokemon, though of course it couldn’t understand him. Axe croaked in pain as it stood back up on its hind legs. Tony patted him on the head and then went back to his station.
“Go, Norca!” Matt’s third and final Pokemon was an extremely small, acorn-like monster with two small feet and no arms. “Solarbeam.”
The Seedot bent over, as if bowing to the Squirtle, and a broad beam of golden light shot from the apex of its rounded body. The beam hit Axe full-on, and he fell into the sand, ravaged from the Leech Seed and this new Grass type attack.
“That’s it,” Tony mumbled to himself. He hated the fact that he was going to lose his first league battle, and to Matt O’Shay none the less, but Axe was in agony. “Return, Axe!” he yelled at the Pokemon, but before he could bring the Premierball to bear, the big Squirtle got back to its feet and croaked a throaty battle cry.
“Okay,” Tony said, mostly to himself. “Never mind, then.”
Back on the battlefield, Axe ducked under another solar beam and charged forward, tackling the smaller Pokemon to the ground. It raised its forearms and began scratching Norca, which was making high pitched panic noises.
Axe opened his mouth wide and bit down on the Seedot, crunching into the acorn-like shell and to the flesh, drawing red blood. Finally Norca’s eyes closed, and he stopped struggling.
Tony’s eyebrows arched in surprise. It was over; he had won. Well...Axe had won; Tony hadn’t had a lot to do with it. He suddenly noticed that his Squirtle was still attacking.
“Axe!” he yelled. Axe turned away from the fainted Pokemon to look at his trainer. Tony knelt down and held out his hand. Axe trotted unsteadily on all fours toward him as Matt withdrew the Seedot.
“Way to go, pal,” Tony praised his Pokemon, reaching out to scratch it on its head. Axe looked up at him drearily, the pain getting to him.
“Here,” Tony said, holding up the Premierball. “You’ll feel better once you’re back in here.” He pressed the button and Axe was pulled inside.
“Big whoop,” Matt said, and Tony turned to find that his opponent had approached him. Matt’s supporters were nowhere to be seen.
“So you beat a guy that got his license five minutes before the battle,” he continued. “I’d never even seen my Pokemon before; whereas I’m sure you’ve been training that fat Squirtle of yours all morning.”
“Actually,” Tony said, unable to resist from rubbing it in. “That was the first time I let it out of its pokeball since I caught it. Didn’t you notice I didn’t give it one command?
“So...I didn’t really beat you after all,” Tony said, chuckling a little as he spoke. “My Squirtle beat you, all by itself.”
Matt was silent for a moment, brow knit as he contemplated what Tony said. Tony turned to walk away, slipping Axe’s Premierball into his pocket as he went.
“It doesn’t matter, one way or another, Katum,” Matt called after him. “After all, who’d sponsor a street rat like you?” Tony stopped in his tracks. Without looking back, he spoke.
“See you on the plateau, O’Shay.” He walked away.
“Maybe sooner,” Matt said, though Tony couldn’t hear him.
The estate was crawling with police. Bill Aboideau was pacing restlessly in front of his open laptop, which sat on the desk. His private office now held him and three detectives, who were all anxiously watching the computer screen.
Bill turned away from the glowing square, losing himself in his thoughts and worries. His precious Elizabeth had been kidnapped by God knew who, teleported off to God knew where, and though he tried not to think of what they might be doing to his darling little girl, bad thoughts cursed his mind, as they often do during a crisis.
“Mr. Aboideau, you have an email!” Detective Searles exclaimed. Bill jumped in shock and ran to the doorway.
“Lanette! Honey, they’ve made contact!” In a matter of seconds, his wife Lanette was there. Her long, light brown hair was unkempt, her clothes were wrinkled, and she wore no makeup.
“I have the message up,” Searles said. The Aboideaus rushed to stand behind the detective, who sat in front of the PC.
“That’s a sick way of asking for a ransom,” one of the other detectives commented.
“Is there a good way?” the other one asked, but the first had been right. The message consisted almost solely of a picture of Liza Aboideau, showing her from waste-up. Liza was holding the back of her arm toward the camera. Carved into the flesh of her arm in jagged bloody writing were a dollar sign and nine digits: $100,000,000.
The meaning was clear.
Under the image was a short line of text reading, “We will send instructions for exchange in one hour.”
Lanette turned and buried her face on Bill’s shoulder, weeping, and Bill held his wife tight, tears squeezing from his eyes.
“Good!” Tony said, commending Axe. The Squirtle bobbed its head and wagged its scaly tail happily in response to its trainer’s approval. “Now show me Water Gun,” Tony said, pointing to an apple hanging from a nearby tree. Axe puffed its cheeks and released a narrow stream of high pressured water, knocking the apple to the ground.
After defeating Matt, Tony had taken his Squirtle to the Pallet City Pokemon Center to heal its wounds and restore its energy. Once that was taken care of, they had headed past the northern city limits to start training.
Tony was keeping his tone and body language positive, to reinforce Axe’s training. However, Matt’s words were still ringing in his ears.
“Who’d sponsor a street rat like you?” Matt had said. He was right. Tony knew that a big part of becoming successful as a Pokemon Trainer was getting a sponsor or benefactor. The big names in the league were sponsored by the big names in commerce. Sponsors paid their trainers in addition to the money they earned by winning battles. In return, a trainer would represent their sponsor in the league, as well as use their popularity to endorse them. Some of the old Sony commercials featuring Matt O’Shay’s father still ran on television even now.
Tony’s mind snapped away from his troubles when he heard the distant, muffled sounds of yelling.
“Just get away from me!” came the distressed, muted cry of a young woman, followed by the unmistakable thud of flesh on flesh.
Tony instinctively crouched down, moving in the direction of the sounds. Axe followed behind him, but he was making too much noise as he walked through the grass. Tony silently withdrew his Pokemon into the Premierball.
It took several moments of searching the trees and ground before he finally spotted the source of the conflict. At the base of a small hill was a little opening that led to a large burrow, which had been dug out into a small cave.
Inside, Tony could see the silhouettes of a girl tied to a chair and a tall, imposing figure leaning over her.
Looking around, Tony spotted a large branch that had been knocked off a nearby mulberry tree. He picked it up.
Her vision was made blurry by the tears that filled her eyes, but Liza still watched the hazy figure of her captor rear back and slap her across the face once more. Involuntarily, she let a gasp of pain escape her busted lips as the man slapped his dirty palm onto the bloody wounds on her arm.
In a flash something whirled through the air, and her attacker fell to the ground with a thump. Her vision cleared and she saw her rescuer: a tall, lean teenage boy with messy blonde hair.
The boy was about to speak when he was suddenly lifted off of his feet and thrown into the wall. Liza watched as the sleaze’s Abra rushed the boy, who whipped a Premierball from his pocket and released an oversized Squirtle.
The Abra leaped toward the Pokemon trainer, but the Squirtle fired a burst of water into the attacking Pokemon.
“Attack, Axe,” the trainer said, and the Squirtle began battling the Abra without a further command from the blonde trainer.
The boy returned to Liza. “Come on,” he said, attempting to untie her bonds, but he couldn’t disassemble the knots made in the thick rope.
“He has a knife in his boot,” Liza spoke, indicating the unconscious figure on the ground. The trainer wordlessly moved to Liza’s kidnapper and pulled a large, blood encrusted knife from the sheath on the side of his boot. He immediately turned back and began sawing at Liza’s bonds.
After freeing her hands and legs, he turned to the largest set of ropes that tied her body and arms to the back of the chair. Liza stared at the boy’s face as he concentrated on his task. His features were somewhat sharp with a long nose, thin mouth, and pronounced chin.
He finished cutting through the rope and looked up at her, and his cold blue gaze met hers.
“Thank you,” she whispered. He smiled hesitantly.
He turned his attention to the Pokemon battle going on behind him.
The Squirtle had the Abra in its jaws, and the tan Pokemon was bleeding from its shoulder, where Axe’s sharp beak was tearing through the skin. Suddenly Abra disappeared from under Axe and reappeared several feet away. It thrust its forepaw and the Squirtle was hurled into the cave wall from a telekinetic blow.
“Water Gun, Axe,” the trainer said, and the Squirtle fired at the Abra, who teleported out of the way. Axe rushed forward to scratch the fox, who again teleported from danger.
The Abra appeared again behind the Squirtle, and in a flash Axe whipped his thick, scaly tail, batting the Abra to the wall.
“Tackle,” the trainer spoke, and Axe rammed the Abra hard into the earthy wall. The Abra wheezed a pitiful whine of pain and collapsed, fainted, to the ground.
“Good job, boy,” the trainer said, recalling Axe into his pokeball. He turned back to Liza, who was now shakily standing by his side. He extended his hand, and she took it. “Let’s go.”
As they walked through the forest toward Viridian City, Tony got his first good look at the girl he rescued. She was several inches shorter than him, and she had a perfect figure, which Tony couldn’t help but notice, as she was adorned only in a small, silk nightgown. Her hair was a medium shade of brown, and it fell wildly past her shoulders, the bangs over the deep brown orbs that were her eyes.
“So...” Tony began awkwardly. “What’s your name?”
“Liza,” she replied, holding out her hand. Tony shook it.
“I’m Tony.” He hesitated. “Tony Katum.” Whatever negative reaction Tony had expected never came.
He noticed her recoiling with every step, and his gaze fell down to her bare feet.
“Here,” he said, stopping. He pulled off his sneakers and handed them to her. “Take these.”
“No, it’s okay,” she said.
“Don’t worry, I have tough feet. Take them.” Liza graciously took the old, worn out sneakers and slipped them over her feet. They started walking again.
Tony discreetly stared at her as they progressed, and his gaze fell to the cuts on her arm. For the first time he realized that they were actual symbols carved into the skin, rather than random gashes.
“A hundred million dollars?” Tony asked incredulously.
“Oh...” Liza said, gazing at her arm. “Yeah, it was sort of his way of asking for ransom.
“That sick *******,” Tony muttered. He didn’t speak it, but he wondered what sort of parents this girl could have who to be a ransom target for that kind of money.
“Here, we should take care of that,” Tony said. He withdrew the Premierball from his pocket and released Axe. He pointed to thin air. “Water Gun.”
Axe let loose a high-pressured stream of water lose from his mouth. Tony held his hand up and then slowly lowered it slowly, until Axe got the picture and lessened the power of the spout.
Tony motioned for Liza to place her wounds under the water.
“That’s the best that can be done right now,” Tony said. “There’s nothing here that’s sanitary enough to use to clean out the cuts.” He then ripped the bottom six inches from his shirt and tied it around the macabre price tag. Looking out the corner of his eye, he couldn’t help noticing that Liza’s gaze was completely focused on him rather than what he was doing.
“That’ll help keep infectious stuff out until we get you back to Viridian.”
“Thanks,” she said, still eyeing him.
“Bruiser, what is it?” Bill asked his Granbull, who had gone from sitting placidly a moment ago to scratching wildly at the front door, barking loudly.
“Bruiser, heal!” Bill exclaimed, but it was no good. The Granbull finally backed up and lurched forward, knocking the huge door off of its hinges. It took off running towards the gates.
Bill walked out the door. In the distance he saw his dark indigo Pokemon charging at two figures that were walking through the huge golden front gates.
Suddenly Bill recognized the brown hair, the pink nightgown, and the unique walk. “Elizabeth!” he yelled. “Lanette! Lanette, come here!” he exclaimed before sprinting toward his daughter.
Bill reached his daughter and nudged off Bruiser, who had reared up to lick her face. He pulled her into his arms, hugging her tightly.
“Oh my God, Liza!” he exclaimed. “Are you okay?”
“I’m alright, Daddy,” she said, hugging him tightly. By now Bill’s wife Lanette had reached them. She clung onto her daughter as well, resulting in a sort of three way hug in which Liza was in danger of being torn in two.
After a few moments, Bill noticed his daughter’s companion.
“Mom, Dad, this is Tony, a Pokemon trainer. He rescued me.”
Bill parted from his wife and daughter and went to shake the boy’s hand. “Thank God for you, Tony. Thank you.” Tony shifted uncomfortably.
“I couldn’t...not do it,” he shrugged, and Liza laughed. Lanette walked over and hugged Tony tight, weeping tears of joy. Tony appeared even more uncomfortable now, clearly not knowing how to respond to being hugged.
“How can we ever repay you, son?” Tony didn’t have an answer, but he was saved from having to respond by the man who now joined them.
“Mr. Aboideau, what’s going on?” He finally spotted Liza. “She’s...but...what happened!?”
“This boy, here,” Bill said, indicating Tony. “He rescued her.”
“Rescued her? From where? From who?”
“I don’t know who,” Liza spoke. “But he took me to a hideout in the woods south of here. Tony knocked him unconscious, but he’s probably awake and long gone by now.”
Detective Searles had sent a team of police officers to investigate the woods, and then questioned Liza and Tony, getting a description of the kidnapper.
Liza’s father, who Tony had been shocked to find out was Bill Aboideau, arguably the wealthiest man in the world, had promptly insisted that Tony stay at their mansion while he was in town, still stammering about how he could repay him.
Now Tony was sitting on the edge of the balcony of a guest bedroom, watching the sunset. His first day as a Pokemon trainer had been exciting and, in the end, bizarre, to say the least.
Thoughts of his past and future were interrupted as Liza walked through the door to the balcony and sat down beside him. Her cuts had been cleaned and her arm was now wrapped in white bandages. The bruises on her face were already mostly healed.
“Hey,” she said.
“I just want to thank you again, Tony.”
Tony smiled. “Your welcome. Did the detective find anything out about the kidnapper?” he asked.
“No, nothing yet, but mom’s Murkrow is going to stay in my room tonight; it should be able to handle any more Abra attacks.”
Tony nodded, not knowing what to say further. He stopped worrying about it, though, when Liza laid her head on his shoulder, and they finished watching the sun go down.
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