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FourCartridge
26th March 2012, 4:41 AM
(OK, I've posted this Fic on PC and fanfiction.net, and after discovering I still have an account here, I thought I'd share to here. It is my first fanfic, so don't expect a Lord of the Rings esque epic. So, without further ado...)

When Greg Thomas, a life-dissatisfied Pittsburgher, finds himself in the strange and dangerous world of Unova after a freak training accident, he must brave dangerous monsters, the aftermath of an ancient war between creatures of legend, the sudden loss of his family and life, and Unova's resident group of thugs, Team Plasma, with nothing but his Beretta, a wrench, and his wits in order to find a way back home. His resolve and way of thinking will be put to the test as Greg's life is put on the line for a world he doesn't even know or care about.


The Ballad of Greg Thomas: Prologue



In a forest clearing that had Stration City within eyesight, a male trainer with a fairly nondescript appearance, so nondescript that it was a personal pet peeve of his that people forgot about him, named Anthony was training his Pokemon, an Alakazam. It had just newly evolved from a Kadabra with the help of Hyper Rare Candy, one of Silph Co.'s newest, and some would say greatest, product. It was a vastly improved version of regular Rare Candy, designed as something to help Pokemon Trainers frustrated with constant losses. Ever since they announced its research and development to the public, there had always been a huge following on it. Some people however were concerned, and protested about its alleged side effects to Pokemon. There was even some fringe group, Team Plasma, or whatever they were called, who had called the item "A testament to people's callous disregard for the well being of Pokemon". Anthony seriously doubted those claims however, as not only had the Hyper Rare Candy didn't show any of the alleged side effects, Kadabra evolved into the Alakazam he was now with almost zero pain. "Those Team Plasma guys couldn't be any more wrong about this Hyper Rare Candy", Anthony thought to himself.

Unfortunately for Anthony, after an investigation by freelance reporters, it was discovered that Hyper Rare Candy had several unlisted side effects. Though they had been from a prototype of the item, public outrage made Silph Co. do a mass recall of Hyper Rare Candy, and of course massive ratings for the reporters. Anthony was one of the few trainers, if not the only one, who had given Hyper Rare Candy to a Pokemon before the recall made as the item disappeared forever from Silph Co.'s catalog.

The Alakazam himself was enjoying his newly evolved form as the two were training. The Hyper Rare Candy had given him strength he couldn't believe. Almost all of his moves had evolved into more powerful versions of what they were before! His Disable could prevent a Pokemon using two moves instead of one for the whole battle instead of just a measly few moments, Psybeam now was guaranteed to confuse the target along with its massively upgraded power, and Protect could be used whenever he pleased, with no chance of failure. What most interested him and his trainer however, was his improved teleport move. It could, aside from telporting himself, teleport other objects, including Pokemon and attacks. The uses were endless for this improved teleport! It was so full of potential, in fact, that the two had spent the past few hours solely on developing it.

Already they were testing the improved Teleport in the forest clearing. They had started on simple small things, like pebbles and saplings, but were quickly moving on to things like thrown rocks. Eventually however, it was time to move to bigger fish.

"Dewott, come on out!" Anthony called as he released the Pokemon from his Pokeball.

"Dewott!" The Discipline Pokemon cried out in response.

"Hey, we need you to help Alakazam practice his new teleport attack-" Anthony was going to say more, but the Pokemon would have none of it. He crossed his arms in a huff, not wanting his strict and constant training to amount to being a target dummy. The fact he wasn't chosen to receive the Hyper Rare Candy was also part of the reason he was being so hesitant. Anthony would need to convince him to help in Alakazam's training.

"Dewott... How bout I have you solo the next Gym?" Anthony offered. The Pokemon refused to budge.

"Um, how about some grooming? Me letting out of your Pokeball for a while? Some vitamins?" The trainer offered, one deal after the other. Dewott eventually settled for the last one, and he reluctantly turned to help Alakazam train his new attack. The two Pokemon got into position.

"Alright, Water Pulse on Alakazam!" Anthony ordered the otter-like Pokemon. Soon, Dewott crated a ball of water and blasted it at Alakazam. The Alakazam's spoons glowed for a moment, and a split second later, Dewott was blindsided by his own attack. He was a water type though, so the damage was minimal.

Then Anthony asked Alakazam to try to lift an enormous boulder that was in the clearing, which was about the size and weight of a Wailmer. This was going to be the final test of Alakazam's new ability. It could do anything, lift Pokemon charging him, teleport himself out of harm's way, and even blindside enemy Pokemon with their own attacks! The duo could potentially have a move that could sweep the entire Pokemon League, from the new Gym Leaders in Stiration to Champion Alder himself! This ridiculous stunt was not a matter of "Why?", it was a matter of 'Why not?", when viewed in hindsight.

"Alright Alakazam, here goes the final test! I'm going to be exited just seeing this in action!" Anthony said in encouragement.

"Alakazam!" His partner replied in anticipation and then went to work on the boulder.

It took an enormous amount of concentration just to lift the huge rock up, let alone teleport it. The Alakazam still pressed on, with Anthony and Dewott cheering along all the way, their encouragement bolstering the Alakazam. This was going to be the moment that started a rise into the Hall of Fame...

However, Anthony had not read the warning label on the Hyper Rare Candy well enough. Even though the item was ultimately recalled, side effects were a constant concern amongst the various scientists that created the item, and even though they had "ironed out the bugs" for the most part, Hyper Rare Candy did not like Psychic types. The various chemicals in it almost always interfered with the functioning of the advanced brains of that type of Pokemon. Right now Anthony was learning this the hard way, as Alakazam was experiencing convulsions from said ingredients. The Alakazam still pressed on, not about to let this ruin his big moment. When he began to teleport the boulder, it disappeared in a bright flash, nowhere near their location.

Anthony rushed to his partner with Dewott and prayed to Arceus that he would be OK, as he was already beginning to regret buying that "improved" Rare Candy. When he reached him, Anthony checked his pulse, breathing and other vitals, and miraculously, everything was OK with the Alakazam. He lifted the Pokemon up onto his feet.

"Thank goodness you're OK! Is everything alright?" Anthony asked, to which the Alakazam grunted as an "A-OK" signal.

At that moment, a loud ripping sound from their side emerged. The two looked at the source, and saw a glowing, light purple disk of energy forming, about two and a half meters tall and two meters wide. There was little doubt it was a portal, caused by the teleporting of the boulder. The two approached it nervously, not knowing(or seeing) the other side. If movies had taught Anthony one thing, it was that it's never a good idea to approach dimensional gateways recklessly. Or leave them open, for that matter.

"You think you can close that?" Anthony asked.

"Alakazam!" his partner replied with confidence. His mind more or less returned to normal now, and he was certain it was only a one time experience.

Anthony flashed a thumbs up, and the Alakazam focused his power, his spoons glowing as he concentrated on the portal. It was going to be a long task, but not impossible. Thanks to the Hyper Rare Candy, his psychic powers had developed to the point where had limited control over space, hence his improved teleport attack. A few moments after Alakazam started closing the portal, a low rumbling sound could be heard, apparently coming from the other side of the portal. Alakazam redoubled his efforts to hopefully stop whatever was making the noise from going through. His focus, however, was broken by the sounds of the rumbling growing louder and louder, apparently loud machinery. It was soon joined by a high pitched squeal, and a constant and piercing "HONK!". Anthony and his Pokemon bolted and never looked back, never catching a glimpse of the object emerging from the portal.

What went through was a green performance sedan. It sped through the portal as its tires screeched in a vain effort to brake, leaving marks and fluid behind its path. Its driver, a man in a black casual suit and tie, screamed for his life as he attempted to bring his car under control. Despite his best efforts at wildly hammering at the vehicle's pedals and gears, the car spun out, and collided with a tree. The driver was knocked unconscious as engine parts and other debris flew wildly into the air, trapping the driver, whoever he was, into a strange and alien world far from his own.

FourCartridge
26th March 2012, 4:43 AM
The Ballad of Greg Thomas: Chapter 1: Car Crash of a Lifetime

March 8, 2012
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
7:14 PM

I drove my 2005 Crown Victoria down one of Mount Washington's winding, cold, and lonely back roads, looking to finish that errand my friend wanted me to do. The city had yet to decrease the speed limit along the many streets like this, but I doubt that Luke Ravenstahl, the current mayor of Pittsburgh, would let it stay the same, after yet another drunk idiot had careened off a guard rail, tearing it apart in the process. Not saying I hate the Steelers, quite the opposite, but some of their fans out there drink way too much, you know?

Wait... Oh, right. I haven't introduced myself yet. My name is Greg Thomas, born and raised in The Steel City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania since my birth on March 15, 1979, and currently going with my life nowhere, and fast, which was frustrating me to no end. If it could be described in a few words, it was the feeling that you would've gotten more from life, but never had the opportunity to. My childhood had been uneventful, and I always wanted to look for things to do as a result, my parents often heavily scolding me when they would find me at such weird places like the roof of the brown bricked, flat-topped, and bland Co-Go's corner store. Life always had that empty feeling, wanting to be filled, and I drifted through my education, which was full of ringing bells, overdue book reports, and mystery meat aimlessly until I landed a job, finally getting a chance to move out of my parents gray, boring house.

Said job was as a Quality Control Technician at Maxi-Tech. It was a medium-sized, for corporations, tech-based company, as if you couldn't tell by the name, that produced anything relating to tech, from iPhone parts to computer programs, and everything in between. My job was to test the parts out to see if whatever flux capacitor contraption the techies built didn't blow up in the customer's face. It was an entry-level job, and though the pay was decent, it was starting to grate on my nerves. You see, I had always been passed over for promotion despite five or so years of working at Maxi-Tech, and because of this, everyone was starting to think of me as an unambitious bum! I hate office politics, sticking me to a dead-end job like this.

Then there's the problem of my marriage. My beautiful wife, Kimberly, had met me when we were in high school. We were the school's unofficial couple, and when I proposed to her a very fancy and posh restaurant on Grandview Ave. after I got my job and a house, nobody really was surprised. We had a week-long honeymoon in, where else, New York, and then life just kinda ticked on. We do have a daughter, Jessie, who's only twelve, bless her heart. She spends most of her time playing video games, especially that blue 3DS of hers we got her for her birthday. She spends her time on that thing playing Mario Kart when she isn't with her friends, who probably also spend their time with her hurling killer Blue Shells at rickety go-karts.

Recently though, the lack of promotions on my part(curse you again, office politics!) has caused Kimberly to think of me as a lazy good-for-nothing. Our relationship has started to become strained as she keeps complaining on my "lack of drive" and frustration at living in a creaky house FDR built in the 30's as part of the New Deal. It was always an eyesore for realtors, with its constant dust, unsightly brown paint, poor ventilation, and extremely steep carpeted stairs that were bound to claim a broken bone sometime in the future. Honey, I love you and all, but I'm trying to find something in life myself.

So what's a man to do with an unstable relationship in a city like Pittsburgh? Go to the nearest dirty, dilapidated, and crowded bar and pray to god that the rowdy Steelers fans don't drown out your thoughts. Of course, that didn't mean I was "disloyal", much as I hate to use the term that way, but to be honest, I was in the beating heart of Steeler Nation. How else was I supposed to act? Before you gloat about a doubter in the ranks, Patriot fans, remember that we have the most Super Bowl rings in the league. You don't, so shut up. Even Kimberly and Jessie bled black and gold, so I was forced to wear a black vest and tie, the latter having the team's logo, and a gold-colored undershirt whenever I went to work so my relationship wouldn't be even more tense.

This is probably why that car dealer sold me my Crown Victoria for so cheap: it's green. How aren't you going to get looks when you drive everywhere in the color of the Eagles?

Anyway, the main reason I braved all that when I entered whatever tavern I went into was Ray Allison. He is a very close friend of mine, who I met when I had started visiting the bars after Kimberly started complaining about the house. I was somewhat depressed that my beloved wife was starting to form negative opinions of me, and Ray helped console me and helped to stay the course of our marriage. He is probably the big thing that kept me from being a basket case back then. He worked at some construction company, always complaining about the showers he had to take when he went home because of how dirty it was. Even when he was complaining about his own life, and work problems such as low manpower, machinery, and poor pay, Ray was one of the few things I could look forward to in life.

And that was daily routine for the most part: Wake up in a dusty bed at 5 AM, take a shower in cold water, get dressed, always in those tacky Steeler colors, go to work, hope the latest thing the techies crapped out didn't malfunction when you looked at it funny, go home, check up on little Jessie in the little game corner she calls her room as she subjects even more people to a constant barrage of Shells on Rainbow Road, check up on Kimberly in the living room, praying this isn't the day she explodes and files for divorce, go to a dinky bar and be subjected to the same Steeler chants and that admittedly catchy "Pittsburgh's going to the Super Bowl" song, have a drink with Ray, and go home under the cover of night and go to bed, only to repeat the process every single weekday.

Which brings me to why I'm driving on this rusted, disused back road. Ray wanted me to go fetch the toolbox he used in his job to his house, as he forgot it when he left for home. He had promised me a quick $15, and I needed to refill the gas tank anyway. Note to self; check air filter. Ray's tool box was lying on the passenger seat, the red coloring, lunchbox design, and black handle looking like some sort of inanimate object that was alive, constantly asking "Are we there yet?". I turned the hairpin corner, and as I descended the hill, I saw the weirdest thing in my life.

The headlights of the Crown Victoria were shining on was what could be only described as a large, swirling, floating, circle of light purplish energy, and it had apparently spawned a boulder that was rolling down the street. I quickly panicked and hit my fist on the horn, as it was hopefully going to warn other motorists of the incredibly unusual event that was certainly going to cause headaches for more than a few insurance agents.

It was at this time the car's transmission decided to bug out on me. You see, Jessie's Birthday was a few weeks ago. Because we were short on cash, I had to forgo the checkup on the car in order to get Jessie here 3DS, and now I was starting to wish Nintendo didn't price their handhelds so high. The loud "DING!" chime rang through as the transmission light flashed on. As the corner of my eye looked through the rear-view mirror, I saw fluid running down behind the speeding car. If I lived through this, I was going to sue Ford's pants off.

I desperately attempted to adjust gears; forward, reverse, even park, as the car skidded down the hillside. Nothing was working. In an attempt to get notice, I shouted every dirty word in the book. Every one. Even, in my utter panic:

"Curse you, God!"

Whoa whoa, did I just abandon what little traces of religion I had in me? I froze, thinking about what I had just said. Wait, am I not going to the afterlife? No I'm not! When pigs fly! What did I ever do wrong? I madly tried to grab the door handle in pandemonium, but it was too late, as I kept speeding on despite my best efforts, eventually going right through the swirling vortex, speeding at 45 MPH. I never said goodbye to Kimberly and Jessie before I left. I froze in place at the total regret and depression over that. They'll never know what happened to me...

After going into an eye shattering brown and white plaid that permeated everything, I went pale with fear at was for all intents and purposes the Enterprise's Warp 6. I screamed like a little girl in absolute horror as I banged on the glass trying to get... No wait, bad idea. Really bad idea. I instead scrambled the gears, hoping that by hitting the right one, I would magically find myself back in Mount Washington. Still nothing. Shoot! Then I banged the horn, pressed every pedal, and even knocked on my computer systems with no logical reasoning behind it all, in hope of finding a way to send me out of this... place is the best word I can describe it with. After a few moments I then saw a bright light, and the car drove through to the other side of whatever was this violation of the laws of physics.

The dark night of Pittsburgh had given way to a lush, green, yet alien forest, in bright midday. No matter where I looked, I could only see a thick wall of trees, which looked almost too perfectly arranged in a wall. Trees don't grow like that... Even if there was a route out of that maze of nature however, I was in a state of panic, over the loss of my family, my home, my friend, my job... Everything I called life. All of it gone in the blink of an eye. It did not take long for me to collide into one of the uncannily arranged tree lines head on as the engine block of the Crown Victoria was twisted into a unrecognizable mess. Luckily, the airbags deployed, and I fell into unconsciousness, blacking out when the white airbag hit my face...

FourCartridge
26th March 2012, 4:46 AM
The Ballad of Greg Thomas: Chapter 2: Arrival in a Strange New World

After a few minutes of lying limp in the driver's seat of the wrecked Crown Victoria like a dead body, arms and feet swinging about while the rest of my body remained motionless, restrained by the cushion, I was shaken back to consciousness by the airbags cutting off my breathing. My vision when being jolted back to awareness was simply the pure white of the airbag's nylon. I was completely unable to breathe, feeling a choking sensation on my face. The shock of the situation caused my body to squiggle and squirm for a way out, probably looking like one of Jessie's temper tantrums when she was younger. My brain was running out of oxygen, and so were all the other organs that needed air. The most I was doing was displaying a violent yet powerless struggle against The Reaper. In my head, the world was fading away. Everything started to go to the blackness known as death, as I was about to be killed by a safety device made to save lives.

In those final seconds of consciousness, one of my fists struck the airbag like a wrecking ball. It finally collapsed, the rapidly shrinking cushion finally giving me room to breathe. The windbag-like deflating noise, sounding like an angel at the moment, signaled that I got to live, if only for the next few moments. My vision got clearer and clearer as oxygen finally got into my brain and lungs. Even though I had made it out alive, my airways were still in pretty bad shape from the experience, so I had to spend the next few moments hacking and coughing heavily, making me think I was going to hack up a lung. The fit sent me rolling out of my totaled Crown Victoria onto the ground below.

After letting out a few last coughs, I picked myself up from the grass, taking a few steps to the car so I could get a closer look. The entire front of the car, including the hood, was scrunched together like a morbid accordion made of twisted fiberglass and metal. The engine had for all intents and purposes been folded into two, and the front bumper was a crumpled mockery of what it once was. The headlights and turn signals were smashed in on themselves, and the windshield was cracked so hard you couldn't see through it. The Crown Victoria was utterly smashed beyond repair. I kicked the passenger door in frustration, denting it. How am I going to get home without a car? Where is home from here in the first place? What do I do now? The loss of any sort of direction angered me to no end.

After a few seconds of stomping around in the ground as a display of bitter and confused frustration, my mind finding that I could think clearly for the most part now that I had air and a chance to blow off steam, I finally got the chance to get a better look of my surrounding area. I was sedan was speeding through this place, the trees were perfectly formed in a line, even intersecting with other "lines" to form a square around my current area. I was fairly certain that this did not happen naturally. Nature just doesn't work like that. Even the trees themselves had that artificial look about them, looking like a leafy, layered umbrella, almost like one of those cheap Christmas Trees you get at the shopping center. This did not look like something that nature would have built. Even the grass was this universal patch quilt of light green, with no breaks. Someone had to have designed this place with no input from the environment whatsoever.

I looked up to the sky to see if there was going to be any unusual weather I should look out for. To my surprise, the skies were clear, and the position of the sun indicated it was midday. Clear skies did not happen often back home in Pittsburgh. I checked again, and confirmed that, indeed, the sky was blue, with just one sun. OK, that's one more piece of evidence for you still being on Earth. No second sun, no green sky. It looked just like home. Then, my vision caught the only thing making the skies an unbroken sheet of blue, and I focused my vision on it.

What I saw was a phoenix-like bird... No, phoenixes aren't real. It was a large bird-of-prey - which species, I could not tell. It's main color was red, which it showed all around the top, sides, and wings of the creature. Aside from that, there was also a feathered-crest on the bird's head, and what wing feathers it had that weren't red, which amounted to the tips, had a green color. The creature's tail feathers were a gold color and I swore I saw a green ring around its neck.

First trees, now birds. Something was up with this place. A bird can't have those colors naturally. They'd be too easy to find for predators. Maybe there's some chemical plant nearby? That's the only reasonable explanation I can think of. Some bird crashed into it and had its feathers dyed in a freak industrial accident. To be honest, it was a wonder how it's still alive. I don't care that the chances of that really happening are a million to one. There's absolutely no other possible way that bird can look like that. Even if this was true, my surroundings were growing more and more strange by the moment, and the only thing familiar to me in here was a crashed and totaled Crown Victoria.

When my vision focused off the chemical-doused bird, my eyes saw a rainbow where their had used to be a part of clear sky. Wait, where's the rain? Isn't there supposed to be a rainstorm before people see rainbows? What I was seeing isn't supposed to happen in the wild. Wait a second... ROYGBIV... red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. All the colors of the rainbow, in their proper place. If that's a real rainbow, where did it come from? This makes no sense. What kinda rules does this place use, anyway? I prayed that the laws of physics were still around, unharmed.

After that... sight, I heard rustling in the nearby tree line. I snapped around to its source, and saw several small eyes dart about. From the very few details I could see, the figures were probably no larger than a house cat. After a few moments, the largest of the figures exposed himself. It was what looked to be ether a very old lion cub, or a very young lion. The fur was blue, although there a portion of its backside that was black, forming a pattern that made it look like it was wearing pants. The black tail was topped with what looked to be a yellow flail top, it had 2 yellow rings on each of the forelegs, and the creature's mane was black. From its skin and bones build I could tell it was very hungry.

Strangely colored birds, than lions? While I could be certain there was a chemical factory around here, thanks to the oddly colored wild life, why are there lions in a forest? Did the zoo have a breakout or something? The lion licked its lips and looked at me hungrily. Shoot! It must have heard my coughing spell and thought I was a dying animal, and therefore an easy kill. It lowered itself, ready for a pounce. There was only one way I was going to make it out of the ensuring fight alive.

In the arm rest compartment of the Crown Victoria, there was a Beretta 92 and four spare clips. I had gotten it when I brought my car, as the combination of the Crown Victoria having the colors of a rival Steelers team, and living in the Rust Belt meant that you could never be too careful when it came to crime. The gun was registered, of course. Even if it wasn't I still felt myself being covered in dirt on the inside. I thought I would never need to use that gun. Just point it a mugger and he goes away. What did the world come to when I need to use lethal force to defend myself? Why was it necessary, and now, of all times?

While I was in this inner debate, the lion began its charge, dashing towards me as fast as it could. I panicked, and dashed for the front door of the Crown Victoria. Footsteps grew louder and louder as I madly pulled on the damaged door. It took a few moments before it opened. I scrambled for the arm compartment, finding the Beretta, where I had left it, untouched for 3 years. The lion roared as he started his pounce, and I was turning the safety off at almost the same moment. When I pointed the Beretta at the creature, I saw the most vicious look in its eyes. It must have been starving. It was then, that I did something that I may never forget about.

I fired the Beretta; It's loud report was ringing through the air, the shot firing at a living being for the very first time in my life. The lead bullet zoomed toward the lion in what seemed like slow motion.

Luckily for my conscious, the gunshot only hit the lion's right foreleg. The moment the bullet hit, it squealed the loudest, highest pitched, cry of pain I had ever known. Its face was twisted in agony as it fell to the ground. The figures in the forest, who were watching this, had started fleeing, and the lion was taking their lead, as it stood up and limped toward the forest as fast as it could, leaving a trail of oddly yellow colored... blood I guess, in the wake of his retreat. I pocketed the Beretta, safety on, and stared wide-eyed at what I had just done. I could have killed that lion. I hoped I would never meet an animal like that again. Killing was wrong. I sensed that I might need to do what I just did again. Guilt took grip at my soul at that thought.

In any case, this clearing was no longer safe. Who knows what chemical-doused wildlife would attack me next? I went to the car to grab the spare clips for the Beretta to put in a coat pocket. I had the unpleasant feeling that I was going to need them, and it chilled me to the core. But even if I got ammo, eventually I was going to run out. I needed another weapon. I looked around for one, uselessly searching every square inch of the car, until I realized the perfect place was right under my nose, literally. I stared down at Ray's toolbox for only a brief moment, before I found myself flushing out the perfect tool for the job, a pipe wrench, putting it in another suit pocket. I then emptied the toolbox, save for a flashlight, dumping the rest of the tools on the floor, so I would have something to carry stuff in. Besides, Ray only said he wanted the toolbox, right?

After getting other things I needed, like my wallet, I crawled out of the car. I paused for a moment. The Crown Victoria was a faithful car while it was still running. It had mediocre gas mileage, sure, but I could rely on it not breaking down when I needed it most. Well, except for the last few minutes. Even though I felt betrayed by the car, I still poured a lot of money into making sure the car always ran as good as I could afford it to be. It's past seemed like a stark contrast to its ultimate fate, abandoned in some backwater, unnatural forest. I started to mourn it, with a heavy heart. No amount of remembrance would bring the car back, however, and I had to go it on foot if I didn't want to starve.

I waved a teary goodbye to the sedan, the last familiar thing I saw in this clearing, then left, hopefully finding civilization not too far ahead.

FourCartridge
26th March 2012, 4:50 AM
The Ballad of Greg Thomas: Chapter 3: Hostile Forest


I dashed alongside one of the forest's tree lines, and I had noticed that the "square" my Crown Victoria had crashed in had a thin passageway out of the clearing, which, if my inner compass wasn't going haywire, was leading east from here.

Hopefully it was a path out of the unnatural looking woods and into someplace where people lived. At the end of the forested corridor I ran into a small tree blocking the exit, like it was intentionally planted there. Growling in frustration at the path being blocked, I found that it was much shorter then the others, and looked weaker and less stable too. The tree lines were so uncannily thick I could not go around, but while I thought I could cut it down with something to proceed, I didn't have any tools for cutting with me at the moment. While Mythbusters did prove that you can shoot a tree down with enough bullets, I was hard pressed to conserve Beretta ammo, and really did not want to waste it on something like this. There was however, a pair of hedge shears in the trunk of the Crown Victoria, that I used whenever weeds got too out of control back home in Pennsylvania. Maybe those could do the trick?

I turned around and started back to the crash site, hoping to get the garden tool from the trunk. Eventually, as I got closer and closer to the Crown Victoria, I heard very fast footsteps, which were quickly approaching the crash site. Well, not really footsteps. They sounded more like hooves. Was it deer, horses, caribou, or some other misplaced and discolored wildlife? I didn't really know what to expect. Were they vicious and hostile, like the lion? For that matter, are there any friendly wildlife around this area? I hesitated, and decided to move quietly as possible toward the crash site as the feeling I was about to interact with the unknown filled me, hoping for the best that the new creatures I would see were the former.

I sneaked up to a corner to see what the newly arrived wildlife was doing at the crash site, as the Beretta's gunshot no doubt had something to do with them being here, and they would probably take offense to it's owner. Bad luck struck again as the only cover I could find to observe this was an outside corner of trees, so I had very little to hide behind if something took a look in my direction. Of course, carrying a Beretta and a pipe wrench, I could easily defend myself if it hit the fan. That lion was hurt by bullets like everything else in nature, at least I think everything is. Whatever was making the hoof-steps didn't sound too big anyways, so I was fairly confident that I could take it on if it turned hostile. But then again, fights are always tense things. You never really know if you're going to walk away from them.

The crash site now had three creatures standing in the area. They were sniffing around the area, searching for something much like police K-9 dogs, and it did not take a genius to know that they were looking for probably whatever had made the noise of the gunshot. I cringed in frustration. Nothing was easy around here, it seems. As I had guessed, they resembled caribou, deer, antelope, and other four-legged woodland creatures. I wasn't sure if they were covered in fur or not, but I could probably guess that they were, because if I was right about the local wildlife being subjected to a chemical spill, animals with colorings like that would probably have died from the poison exposure if it was bare skin.

The first one, the tallest, had an aqua body color. It had yellowish shark fins on its shoulders with a tail, at least I thought it was a tail, that was of a similar shape. Its lower feet were grey with black toes, which made the animal looked like it was wearing boots. This was making the rest of the body looking like nature's "take" on human clothing, and on closer examination it looked as if this creature had seen a 17th century portrait somewhere and had decided to groom itself to mimic it. There was even a patch of fur on its chest that resembled a cravat. Was this something to attract mates? Or simply what happens when an antelope fell into a chemical spill? I could see its face, which showed this feeling of iron will and determination, to the point where I thought it would be impossible to scare. It appeared to be giving orders to the other two animals, acting like the alpha male in a way.

The second one, shorter but not by much, had a light green color with a white underside and legs. Unlike the other two animals, the horns on this particular one had dull edges, and resembled hedge branches more than anything else. There were tufts of fur on the sides that, in a way, looked like wings, and its tail was made of end of fur that were more or less the same. Like the blue one, the green antelope apparently happened to look like an animal with its fur resembling human clothing. The one that caught my eye though were the hooves. They had pointed ends on the hooves and near the top of the legs. Pointed tip boots soon came to mind.

The third one, the bulkiest by far and built like a bear, had a kinda brownish-gray color about it, its beige underside joined by stripes. It had these orange-brown metallic blades on its shoulders, and its cutlass like black horns pointed downward. I saw what could be best described as bands on its lower legs and the hooves were actually clawed. The tail was stubby, and unlike the others, this creature had little in the way of features that looked like human clothing from the 17th century. It was pretty obvious that this one was the one with the most strength, and it probably was the brute muscle of the group.

It soon became obvious from that and the looks on their faces that they did not take kindly to whoever fired the gunshot, which was me of course. Were they pack soldiers from the lion I shot earlier, coming to get revenge on me? I trashed the idea, as I'm pretty sure cantaloupe and lions do not mix.

Suddenly, the green one, who was sniffing at the ground, looking like it had found something, perked up and grabbed something with its mouth. It quickly went to the blue one, the apparent leader with the thing it found. I squinted to take a closer look, and found that it was the spent cartridge from the pistol shot I had fired not moments earlier. The blue creature inspected it closely, and the look on its face as it looked at the cartridge made it clear that it had never seen such a thing before in its life. It made an angry expression, then spoke to the other two via strange animal sounds, most likely telling them to continue the search. I shuddered with fear, and immediately awful thoughts at what might happen to me if I was found surfaced.

The three animals looked and searched some more at the crash site. I really needed to get those hedge shears if I wanted to cut that tree and get out of the forest alive. These three creatures however, were not making my life easy. I needed to find a way to sneak out of them. I could fire a Beretta shot, but that will just draw their attention to me instead of the bullet. Throwing the wrench? No, it's my only melee weapon I have, I need to conserve ammo. I can't just sneak there, it's too much ground to cover, and there's no hiding spots, and I can't fight them; They outnumber me, I thought there was going to be only one animal at the crash site, not three. I needed to think of something, and I was stuck on what to do.

It was then that the creatures started to circle around the Crown Victoria. Getting a closer look at them, they were apparently trying to find for something inside it, certainly me. After a few moments, of a fruitless search, they made a few more animal language noises, then they went on to stand on spots around the car. After that, they turned their flanks towards it, and then I was horrified at what happened next. They were bucking the sedan with their hind legs, smashing everything the crash didn't! Several things I couldn't take with me were still in there. I looked with a light feeling of horror as personal things that were still in the car were bring destroyed. My insurance papers! Ray's tools! The hedge shears! My car was being busted!

After a few tense moments of destroying the Crown Victoria, the blue and green ones stepped back to let the brownish-grey antelope like creature to step forward near the wrecked vehicle. It turned around, and suddenly it kicked the car harder than a dump truck running over some unlucky squirrel. The sedan sailed through the air, flipping madly all the while as twisted glass, metal, and fiberglass flew madly about like a firework was being set off inside the car. Fortunately, the car landed down upright at the corridor's entrance. The trunk was right in front of me.

This was my lucky break. Right now I could get the hedge shears I needed to cut down the tree blocking the exit and finally escape from this hostile place. I just needed to fetch the car keys from the ignition and use those to open the trunk, then I can start looking for civilization. My only problem was being sighted, but now that there was some distance between the creatures and the hedge shears, I was fairly certain I could just book it and hopefully lose them before they caught up.

I started towards the driver's door as quietly as I could. Unfortunately, because of the gunshot and noises from the creatures totaling of the car, the forest was now dead silent after the Crown Victoria had been bucked to my area. It did not take much effort for the creatures to hear me open the door as they turned around their heads. Shoot! Upon eye contact, they turned around to face me, and did a loud growl I was pretty sure was meant to intimidate. In response, I drew the pistol, pointed it in the air, and fired a waring shot, hopefully scaring them off. They only responded by growling even louder, and preparing a charge or attack of some kind. It they didn't look like they were going to back down anytime sooner, I pointed the gun at them in disgust at having to use it again.

To my bad luck, the creatures did not stop. In fact, they looked like they were going to spring into action any moment now. I kept the Beretta aimed at them, feeling that this would not end peacefully. I was right. The animals started charging at me. They're coming right for me! Not again! Why does this happen to me of all people? Was everything here hostile and crazy? I frantically pulled the trigger of the Beretta to fire a shot at the blue one, hoping the gunshot and bullet whizzing by would scare them so they would retreat. The bullet zoomed through the crash site and hit the blue one square on, in the chest. Can I go just 5 minutes here without harming animals? I then heard a weird noise, best described as a gunshot hitting a metal surface. I turned pale as the creature did not seem like it had just taken a gunshot, only making a short wince in pain, the gunshot looking like it might heal soon. I fired another shot in panic, and another, only to be met by the same bullets hitting metal sound. At this point I was only succeeding in making it angry, so I hightailed it out of the clearing towards the corridor as fast as possible, at the brink of screaming wildly.

The creatures followed in hot pursuit, quickly gaining ground. I was almost at the tree blocking the way out when the animals caught up to where the Crown Victoria was at. The blue and green ones stepped aside to let the brown one get through this obstacle, as it was charging straight at the Crown Victoria. As it dashed wildly toward it, the animal started to lower its head the closer it got the car. The moment it got close enough, the brute bucked the Crown Victoria straight into the air. The twisted heap of metal and fiberglass spun around like it was sucked up by a tornado as it hurled toward me. I dived to the ground in a survival reflex as the car sailed on straight into the tree blocking the way out, the wreckage snapping it in two.

Luckily the hurling shell of a car missed me, but on a second look, it didn't really look like the brown one was trying to hit me with it. Instead he and the other two creatures resumed galloping closer and closer, probably to dish out the pain up close and personal. Even though the way was clear, there was no way I could outrun them now. I needed to slow them somehow. I searched the tool box and my suit pockets in desperation of something to use, when I caught a look at the flashlight I took with the tool box. It was one of those large 12" ones, though I have no idea why they make flashlight that long anyway. Maybe I could trip them with this? It's worth a try, I guessed. I did not want to think of the alternative.

My heart was pounding like some angry child wanting out of a locked room as I fished it out as fast as humanly possible, and then I made an underhand throw of the flashlight towards the three creatures. It rolled along the ground, and I could only hope that in the best case scenario that this crazy plan would succeed. Maybe the flashlight wasn't enough, I thought, maybe I needed something else to trip their legs? The feel of cold plastic suddenly came back to my hands, as I realized I was still holding the Beretta, safety off. The idea on what to do next quickly came into mind. As disgusting and wrong as it was, I really don't think those animals wouldn't let me walk away from this one if I let them. The blue creature was more or less unaffected by bullets, sure, but what about the rest of them?

When the creatures reached where the flashlight had dropped, I took aim, hands shaking like crazy, at the green one, as he looked the most frail out of all of them. I fired the shot. To my utter amazement, the bullet had struck it's intended target, and the creature was clearly showing signs of pain, panging my conscious with guilt. When the green one's hoof landed on the flashlight, the combination of a wounded leg and no friction from slipping on the flashlight bulb caused it to careen towards my left, heading straight for the other two. They collided and fell like dominoes, struggling to get up in what looked like the end of a really bad round of Twister, right hoof blue.

I scrambled for the newly created exit, deathly afraid for my well-being and never looking back.

FourCartridge
26th March 2012, 4:54 AM
The Ballad of Greg Thomas: Chapter 4: Happy Relief


A few moments had passed, and the antelope-like animals seemingly hadn't gotten up yet, as I didn't hear anything chasing me. I assumed that I had lost them, and began to slow down as the adrenaline from the chase slowly faded away, my heart rate and breathing returning to normal. Taking a breather, I took the next minute to gather thoughts about what had just happened, and trying to guess where exactly I am.

Starting from the beginning, I saw a strangely colored bird, and then was attacked by killer lions and deer. I thought that it was safer to assume that all the wildlife here was hostile in some way. It's really a pretty good explanation as to why I didn't see any humans around, even though I fired my gun five times in just a few minutes, something that should have drawn attention. But still, except for that blue animal, I hurt the creatures easily with my pistol. Maybe firearms are rare around here for some reason; Gun laws are getting pretty strict nowadays.

As to where I was, I has reached the end of the forest. The corridor where the chase happened had opened up into what looked like a walking path of some sort, made of dirt and surrounded by more tree lines like those in the clearing. It was wide enough that I could have driven my Crown Victoria on it, if I didn't crash and those three brutes didn't wreck it. Judging by the loads of footprints and a not really small width of the trail, it seemed as if it was often used. By now the sound of the forest's wildlife had returned, with various chirps and squeals of small animals, even though they sounded nothing like the fauna one would normally hear. I calmed down as the panic of the chase was gone, and I could think clearly again.

Even though it wasn't a real fork in the road, because I came into the path through woodland, it "branched" in two ways, left or right. My inner compass told me I was facing east, so I decided to go left, towards the north. It looked to be the least dangerous, as I could see that it was a straight line, while the other path turned into a corner. I really didn't want to go further in, and the straight path looked to be the fastest way towards a city or town. In the bottom of my heart I hoped that I was still in Pennsylvania, or even the United States for that matter.

While I was walking down the trail, I decided to see if all of the stuff one me still worked. First I checked my watch, being pretty sure a lot of time went by if I went from early night to midday almost in the blink of an eye. It read 7:36, apparently not being changed by the portal spitting me out into what was a different place or time of day. OK, so the watch wasn't changed, what about everything else? I went to my smartphone next. "No Service" was flashing on and off, telling me that service provider didn't have a cellphone tower for at least the next few miles. When I messed with it after a few moments, I found out that all the things that didn't need a connection still worked, like the camera, calculator, and recorder. I had luckily charged the batteries before I left the house, so I wasn't going to run dry for a day or two at least. I checked my wallet, and with relief saw that it wasn't changed too; My driver's license, debit cards, and other such things were still in their place. I even had all of my money! Everything else went the same way; connections were dead but nothing was really touched.

It took a few minutes, but the trail never took a curve, and eventually it went downhill offering a further look at where it lead to. I squinted my eyes to see ahead, and my heart jumped as I saw a city. From the first look it seemed to fairly large, not as big as Pittsburgh but still looking like it had a large amount of people. Its skyline seemed to be very short; It's tallest buildings apparently looked more medium-sized than like a real skyscraper. I guessed that the city had grown outward instead of upward, like most cities.

At the moment however, my mind did not focus on those things. I was more relieved at the fact I saw civilization, it being a large city to boot! I dashed toward the entrance, hoping I could finally get some answers as to where in the world I was, and why I couldn't get contact to the outside world. After then, finding a way back home would be easy, it only being a matter of getting a plane ticket back to Pittsburgh. I would soon be back and everything would be alright. In fact, I was fairly certain I was still in the US, and my phone just needed time to find a connection.

Then I had found that I had passed a sign when I was just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the city's buildings. The sign was colorful, and I could guess it made as a welcome sign, not being out of place on the Interstate. I had no idea where I was, so I stopped when I passed it, and went to take a closer look. It had three colors, red, blue, and green, arranged vertically, and had painted on it:

"Striaton City: Three Stand Together as One!"

My heart sank with confusion like a rock in the ocean. I was very sure that there wasn't any state or country that had a Striaton City when I did Geography back in school, but here it was, as if nobody had ever knew it existed. It didn't even look like they even tried to hide it. There was no way any person or satellite could miss a city this big. I grew wide eyed as my mind was filled with denial at the new revelation I had while it rejected the only explanation possible: I was not in Earth anymore. Instead I had found myself in an entirely new place that was far removed from home.

The realization made my mind turn to stone as it thought up of the possibilities. Maybe these guys have a completely different set of morals than us. Maybe they don't eat the same food. Maybe they have different manners and standards than us. Maybe they were even a completely different species than I was... Perhaps even those of the hostile deer and lion I meet earlier? The last one I prayed was false. If it was right than I was done for. There was only one way to really find out, as dangerous to my health as it was. With a heavy heart and mind, I walked forward to enter what was known as Striaton City.

Striaton City looked to be a fairly standard city once I actually got to take a look inside it. When I went though, I only saw walkways for the most part; actual roads for cars were very rare for some reason. To my relief, almost everyone in the city was human, or looked like it, though a few strange animals followed some around. Landmarks were few and far between for a city this size. I took back roads and alleys, mostly because I was totally lost, and found only a few: a large fountain in what looked to be a park, and a red-roofed, window-filled building that had this symbol of two half-circles, one up, one down, with a smaller complete one superimposed on them. Come to think of it, I saw that symbol pretty much everywhere I went in Striaton. Maybe it was some kind of national token. I really didn't know enough about this place to take a guess.

It was then, wandering around someplace, lost, that I then noticed what should have been the first thing I should have. Everything looked... Different. Even though I could recognize a walkway of tarmac here, a building of bricks and windows there, everything had this subtle feel to it. For example, the contrasts were more noticeable than they were back in our world, and there was very little in the way of dark or grimy colors. While a person or thing would have a variety of shades and hues, as a look at my hand showed, in here everything and everyone more or less didn't have those variations on their skin, clothing, or anything else for that matter. The biggest difference though, was in everybody else. They had larger eyes than my own, and while some of them more or less had the same clothes or hairstyle like back home, others had more exotic looks, like red and purple hair, even asymmetrical clothing. The hair didn't even look dyed. All in all, it was as if who or whatever created this world had taken a cartoon and brought it to life. Not just rotoscoping ether, it was like an actual cartoon, like Castle in the Sky met Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The fact my possessions and I still looked the same as they had always been made this all the more jarring.

I had wandered aimlessly for an hour or so, and was starting to feel exhausted from all the walking I did. At this point I was more worried about finding a place to stay or somewhere to eat than finding a way home. I was starting to lose hope at that option. Eventually, grasping at straws, I found myself walking through the front doors of a random building. Luckily, I saw myself in the lobby of what looked to be a very fancy restaurant. It was decorated with red carpets, cushioned chairs, fancy curtains and chandeliers, the works really. The atmosphere was polite and I could smell good food even from the entrance. I wouldn't doubt it if a magazine back home gave this place top marks.

A waiter, wearing a name-tag with the name Maxwell, who was apparently looking over the lobby, went up to me. "Uh, sir, do you have a reservation?"

I reeled back a little. Everyone here spoke English! Or at least some magical force was translating what language they spoke to English. I wasn't really sure. Either way, I was being spoken to about if I wanted a meal. I didn't know if I would get another chance like this, so I spoke back.

"...Table for one, please."

The body language and tone of my voice apparently signaled that I wasn't feeling alright with what I had just been though, as the host eyed me like he was going to call a mental hospital. It probably had something to do with my appearance too; When you look different from everyone else in just the wrong ways, you're bound to get some attention.

"Sure, I'll check if there are any open tables."

The host went back to check on the reservations, and after a few moments called me over.

"There's a small table for you at the back. Follow me please."

The waiter motioned for me to follow as he led me through the restaurant. As I got a closer look I saw that most of the people eating were having normal food for a meal, thank goodness, although I saw several more strange animals eating food with people at more than a few tables. In fact, every now and then, there were some empty tables where people sat with a group of creatures. All of said groups looked like they were preparing for a fight. Surely someone would notice this, and send them out? I didn't want to get caught in the crossfire, and I thanked myself I still had weapons for the time being, though I had no reason at all to pull them out now. Despite all this, I simply couldn't shake the feeling that there was something more to this restaurant than this first impression, as if it had a different purpose that I didn't know about.

Eventually, I was led to an empty, small table off along a back wall as I was seated.

"The waiters will be here in a moment. Please be patient." The host seemed to walk off a little too fast, certainly off to get someone.

With that I was left to myself. My table, even though it was off in the back, was still fancy. There were the usual things you would find, like a napkin, spoons and forks, and there was a lamp overhead that gave off good lighting. I took a quick look at the menu and saw that most of it was stuff you would normally find in a restaurant, like lasagna and steak, though there was a section marked "Pokemon Delicacies" that was apparently aimed towards animals, as it was made up of things like ground berries and "natural" versions of the usual meals. The prices though were highway robbery. $3,000 for a steak? Then I noticed that the dollar sign was different. It looked like a P with an equal sign put on top of it. My money was no good here, that's for certain.

However, it only took a few seconds for my loneliness to kick in. I was nowhere near home, alongside people I did not have the slightest clue about, my money wasn't good here, I couldn't get contact with anybody I knew, and I was even attacked twice a little over an hour ago. I was certain I was never going to see my family, co-workers, or friends again. I froze in horror at the realization that I was stranded, scared, tired, and alone.

"Sir, is something wrong?" A voice spoke, coming from my right.

I looked towards the source, and found three males, probably in their late teens, all of them wearing a waiter's uniform. The one on the left had dark blue hair in a peek-a-boo style and had a reserved air about him. The middle one was a redhead with actual bright red hair, who had it shaped like flames, having an excited feel. The last one, on the right, had a light green hairdo with the front looking like a tuft of grass. The trio's eyes matched their hair, and so did the bow ties on their clothing.

"Sir?" The redhead asked, sounding like the one who had asked the question before.

I hesitated for a moment before deciding to spill my problem out. "...I'm not supposed to be here."

The blue haired waiter responded. "But sir, you just told Maxwell to give you a table. what do you mean?"

"I don't come from here, or anywhere around here."

The green waiter took his turn. "What are you saying, sir?"

"I'm not supposed to be here. Is this Earth?"

The three waiters gave me looks as if they were going to send for asylum orderlies.

"No, sir." Said the redhead. "What's Earth?"

"It's a totally different world that's far from wherever this is. You want proof?" I took my wallet and fished out my driver's license to show it to them. The blue one took it and stared at it.

"Pennsylvania Driver's License... Greg Thomas... Pittsburgh PA 15211... DOB: 3/15/1979..." He rattled off it's various details as the other two leaned to take a look at it. He gave it back to me after a few moments.

"...Well, I never thought I would see something like this in my life. Someone claiming they're from another world, but actual proof? That shouldn't happen. In that case, let us introduce ourselves. I'm Cress."

"I'm Cilan." Chimed in the green haired waiter.

"And I'm Chili." The redhead finished off.

"Greg Thomas." I replied in turn.

Cilan took a turn. "So, Greg, if that's your name... Do you have a way home? Do you know anybody here?"

"No, I don't. I don't even know how I got here. I just walked through a set of doors at random."

Chili spoke. "Do you even know where you are?"

"Straiton City. But apart from that, no."

Cress talked again. "In that case, what do you know about here?"

"Well, everyone looks weird, and so do the animals. Everything's strange. I just want to go home."

"...OK then." Cress took a moment to think before he gave out orders. "Cilan, phone Professor Juniper. Get her to come to Stiraton City right away, to Fennel's so she can explain things to Greg here. Tell her to bring starters. Get Fennel on the line too." Clian ran off. Cress then pulled out an envelope and paper, and began writing on it with a pen, speaking to me.

"Greg, we would love to help you, but as you can see, we're a bit busy right now." He pointed to the rest of the patrons.

"So to help we're writing this letter. You want to bring it to a Dr. Fennel, a researcher who can better explain things to you better than we can. She lives in this city, so it shouldn't be long before you find her." He gave me directions to where she was at as I recorded them with the smartphone. Cress finished the letter and put it in the envelope.

"Take this too. I'll show Fennel we really did send you so she doesn't mistake you for someone crazy." He pulled out a weird-looking pin, shaped like a jagged piece of corn with a red, blue, and green kernel, and gave it to me. Then, what sounded like a young boy's voice rose up.

'You can't just give someone a Gym Badge like that!" the voice exclaimed. The three of us turned to its source.

Sitting at a table next to mine, there were three kids, two girls and one boy, all of whom looked Jessie's age. One girl had green eyes and blonde hair, and wore a white pencil skirt, orange vest, a green shoulder bag, and had a large green beret. The other girl, who had blue eyes and brown hair, wore short shorts, a black vest, a baseball cap with that symbol I kept on seeing everywhere, and a pink shoulder bag. The boy, who was the one who spoke, judging by the voice and that he was standing up, wore black jeans, a blue vest, and this white undershirt with a Y pattern. He had black hair and blue eyes, covered by glasses.

Cress spoke. "There's a reason for all of this. Just let me explain." He went up toward the three and started to tell the story, no doubt of me and my plight. "You see, that man's not really a Pokemon Trainer..."

Chili returned to look at me and narrowed his eyes a bit. "Now that I can get a close look, you look starving. You sure you're not hungry?"

I remembered that I had skipped breakfast and only had a light lunch, as I needed to save for a tune up for the car. That was before it was totaled, of course.

"You know, you're right. I barely had a bite to eat all day."

"And I know that you're money is doesn't mean anything here, right?"

"Pretty much."

"Than this one's on the house. Nothing expensive, and don't tell anyone else about this."

"Do I have a reason to tell other people?"

A free meal and hope for a way home. Maybe this place isn't so bad after all...

FourCartridge
26th March 2012, 4:56 AM
The Ballad of Greg Thomas: Chapter 5: Enter Team Plasma

After having a small meal of lasagna, I walked out of the restaurant with a small smile on my face. Already the thought of seeing my family again made some small feeling that the hope of seeing my own world again had something to hold on to. Of course, Cress had said that Professor Juniper and Dr. Fennel were only going to explain things to me, but still, if they really are a professor and a doctor, they could find some space-time gadget to get me out of here. If a portal can get me in, it can get me out.

I held the letter and pin, or badge as it was called, in my hand. The badge shone in the sun, as if I was expected to celebrate by jumping in the air or something. Instead I just put it in my suit pocket. No need for more stuff to make people think I'm crazy.

"Is that the Trio Badge?" A voice said off sightly to my left.

I turned to the source. Standing there was a young man, probably in his late teens, wearing a white shirt, khaki pants, and a black and white baseball cap. His eyes were a weird gray color, and he had long and fluffy hair with an odd greenish shade. There was also a weird planet-like necklace and a Rubix Cube with the center punched out; I think I remember my co-workers at my job calling it a Void Cube. All in all, he looked somewhat like one of those counterculture people you would find in the 60's, given this world's version of a makeover. Judging from the look on his face, he must have noticed the pin before I put it away.

If the reaction of the host back in the restaurant was any sign, my looks and body language alone were enough to imply that I was not right in the head. The teen I was facing just said something about a Trio Badge, and not knowing what it was, I did not want to alienate myself any more than I already had been.

"...No it isn't." I replied. "You must be mistaken."

"You're lying. Any Trainer can recognize the Gym Badges of the Pokemon League. I just saw you with the badge of the very Gym we're standing in front of." His voice was unusually fast, as he formed words at a rapid fire pace.

"Gym? That's a restaurant, not a gym. What kind of person would work out at a restaurant? Who would eat to the smell of athlete sweat?"

"...There is more to that building than what it looks like. Do you know the leaders of that Gym?"

"I'm telling you, it's just a restaurant. I didn't see any leaders there. Only a host called Maxwell and three waiters named Cress, Chili, and Cilan." Though a feeling of tension was rising, neither one of us was shouting, thank goodness.

"Those three waiters are the Gym Leaders. So, tell me, what was the gym battle like?"

"We didn't fight. We just had a few words and they sent me somewhere on an errand."

"They don't just give Gym Badges for errands." He paused a bit. "Why am I not hearing the voices of your Pokemon?"

Before all of this, I had never even heard of the word Pokemon, let alone know what it meant. For once in this place, I thought that someone else was crazy, and not the other way around.

"Pokemon? What in the world do you mean? What do you mean they're talking?"

"I can hear the voices of Pokemon, but it looks like you can't hear them, either. How sad. But with you, I can't hear them at all-" He stopped. Apparently my last few questions had just went though his brain, as he was now giving me the weirdest looks. He started talking again.

"You haven't heard of Pokemon, and yet I saw you with the Trio Badge. Impossible. There can't be anyone who has never known about Pokemon. So where are yours? You may hide them under Poke Balls, but as a Trainer, I can't stop wondering... Are they really happy that way?"

I stuttered out something to keep the conversation going. "I'm sure they're perfectly happy in them. Otherwise, wouldn't they just try to get out of them?"

"Perhaps... Let me hear your Pokemon's voice. How about a battle?"

At this point I was weird-ed out by the man, how fast he was talking, his behavior, everything really. I wanted to leave as soon I could. I did not know half of what he was talking about and I had two people to meet.

"No, thank you. This conversation has been too awkward for me. Goodbye."

I hurriedly left the area as fast as I could without looking too rude about it, trying to follow Cress' directions as best as I could. Thankfully, even though I got lost several times, Cress talked about places of note in case I got lost in the directions, so I could just start from an earlier direction if I lost sight of where I was going. While I was hoping for a bus or other way to get to Fennel's place quickly, I saw that things like those were rare for the most part. Did everyone really just walk from place to place? For the moment though, I wrote it off as the short-term result of a grassroots environmentalist movement.

Now that I had my mind on people, I noticed that the streets of Straiton were for the most part empty. This was way different than when I first went in, as while the city wasn't really packed with people, it was still more busy than it was now. There were no signs of mass disappearances, just emptiness. Where did everyone go? I found the answer a few minutes later.

If Cress' directions were right I was not far from Dr. Fennel's lab, and it was only a few more turns until I reached it. When I turned a corner, I saw a large crowd assembled in a public square. It did not take a genius to figure out that this was why there wasn't many people in the city when I had left the restaurant. Judging by how everyone was acting, I guessed that this wasn't something that happened normally.

Looking up to see what all of the fuss was all about, I saw a large stage propped up at the center, impressive looking for the fact that it seemed to be temporary. On it were eight figures, all of them in what looked to be a uniform.

The first seven, seemingly the lower members, were standing in a line trying to look impressive, and wore something resembling a gray-blue hoodie jacket, with an X stitched on the top. The leggings and sleeves were dark blue, and they had oversized gloves and boots that were the same color as the hoodies. All of this was topped off with a white cloak like over-garment.

The eighth one, seemingly the leader, wore a large cloak that only ended at his ankles. The cloak's design had a pattern like butterfly eyespots as painted by someone mentally unsound, each side having the other's color inverted. While there didn't look to be any sleeves, the cloak's neckline had a resemblance to a castle tower. His hair had a deer-antler like style and was gray-green, not unlike that of the teen I had met with earlier. On his left eye he wore a dark red eyepiece. This combined with the cloak's pattern, only helped to convince my gut feeling that there was something deeply wrong with this man. Nobody would look like that back home in Pittsburgh and not have someone call you insane.

On top of all of this, both the stage's back wall and the figures were showing a symbol, most likely of an organization of some sort. It was in the shape of a shield, with the left side white and the other black. On the middle a blue P was shown, superimposed over a mirrored Z. The lower members wore the logo on their chests, while the other one had it at the center of his robe's neckline.

The cloaked man stepped up to speak.

"Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I am Ghetsis, and we are here to represent Team Plasma. We would like to talk to you about Pokemon liberation."

Pokemon liberation? I had no clue as to what this man was talking about. I thought that this was something that everyone else knew something about, though the surprised reaction by everyone else said otherwise. After the shock the man, Ghetsis as he was calling himself, continued speaking.

"I know most of you believe that Pokemon and humans have, over the course of history, come to live together because it is thought that the two groups interacting with one another has made a better world. The Pokemon do most of the work alongside humans, and in return, we keep Pokemon fed, sheltered, and happy enough so that they want for nothing. Everyone wins and gets the most out of life as we share in our adventures and triumphs. Today, I am asking all of you this; Is that really the truth of our relationship with Pokemon?" He paused for a moment to let the question sink in.

While the rest of the audience was loudly thinking on the subject, I on the other hand didn't even know what he was talking about. Things called Pokemon doing work for humans, while they kept them feed? Don't we mostly use machines for heavy labor? Then why is he using Pokemon in the context of a living being?

"Let us follow through what life is as a Pokemon. When one is caught by a Trainer, it is accepted they they follow the Trainer's commands, and the Pokemon is told that it is a partner at work with the Trainer. This is true in Pokemon Battles, why Gym they challenge, almost everything they do. They follow them to the best of their ability, and they don't get any say in what to do. There is no thought in what the Pokemon wants when the Trainer decides to do something. There's even a good number of Trainers who selfishly put their own advancement above their Pokemon's well-being. In my experiences, I can say with confidence that there is truth in what I am saying. Right now I am asking you if you can say the same."

This only baffled me further. Why would someone speak like that, just for the sake of liberating whatever Pokemon were? His speech implied that Pokemon were abused, and society turned a blind eye to it. But I saw no signs of anything being badly treated, not even of the animals in the restaurant. In fact, they seemed fairly happy to be with humans. Then it hit me: If the crowd is just as confused as I was about "Pokemon liberation", yet there was nothing to show that fact, and weird knight uniforms on top of all that... They're extremists. Ladies and gentlemen, PETA has just gone medieval.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Pokemon are different from human beings. They can live without the need for polluting the environment, frivolous things like money, or even the need for most human conveniences. They are living creatures that contain vast and unknown amounts of potential. We humans have much to learn from them if we really want to make the better world that was promised when we formed our relationship towards Pokemon. If we want to continue living with them, we have a certain responsibility towards these wonderful creatures. I am not a man that takes his audience for someone who is not bright, so can someone tell me what is that responsibility?"

At this point I was getting too confused to not say anything about the speech. Whatever Pokemon were, this man was implying that they were far better beings than humans. He was on the verge of spouting out nonsense, and his somewhat creepy appearance only added to the effect. I needed to ether make him clear up what he was saying, or I was going to make him look like someone who doesn't know what he's talking about, because I didn't. I stepped up to the front of the stage.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. What in the world are you talking about? Pokemon liberation? I have never heard of such a thing in my life." I said, somewhat loudly so I could be heard. The crowd turned to look at the source, some of them, even some of the uniformed people, had looks of surprise and the like, no doubt at my appearance. One person on the stage even pointed to the Steeler logo on my tie as if to single me out.

The speaker responded. "Well, of course people have never heard of Pokemon liberation. The subject has almost never been brought up, and of course Trainers would love to see a blind eye turned towards it."

"Then why haven't I seen any signs of this 'Pokemon abuse' anywhere I've been?"

"Because people would naturally want to hide such things. It is in our nature to say one thing but in reality do the exact opposite."

"Really?" I stopped for a moment as I realized that if I pressed this farther, I was going to go into an argument about humanity and all the other stuff that usually follows. I had no real experience in this type of conversation. The only thing I really did that might count was a few years back.

Jessie wanted to see 9 because she thought the Stitchpunks looked cute and that it was a standard fantasy movie. It wasn't R-rated, so I figured "why not?". After that, let's just say that any 9 year old who watches a movie about the wiping out of humanity by steampunk-esque robots will be having nightmares for a few weeks. I tried to help Jessie by consoling her that the world wasn't going to be like that and it was all a movie, especially trying to tell her that everyone wasn't a wretched stain on the earth after almost every line 1 had being a condemnation of humans and science. Of course, Jessie wasn't the only one scared; The Fabrication Machine still haunts me to this day.

Ghetsis, as the man was calling himself, seemed to think almost the same thing with what he was saying. In this strange world, I was about to challenge that in an attempt to ease my mind. I resumed talking.

"Then why are hypocrites treated like dirt? Why do people constantly think that things like progress are a good thing, and that helping to build a better world is good?"

"To help them of course. What you call 'progress' is really peoples delusions that by serving themselves, they better the world?"

"If it wasn't for progress, we'd still be hiding in caves from lions, bears, and God knows what. Life was horrible before we tried to fix it. We split the atom, we learned to fly, we put a man on the moon! We did a load of human achievements. History is loaded with them!" Ghetsis and a large amount of the audience winced at me, acting like they never heard of most of the things I told about, as if they never existed.

"And the things humans have been hiding from, they capture and use them for sport, claiming that it deepens the bond between them." Ghetsis responded. My mind suddenly jumped to a conclusion. Ghetsis had been talking about how humans had captured Pokemon, whatever the things were, for sport. When he said that humans had been caught them in response to my sentence about animals...

"Wait, if I'm right, you say that humans capture these 'Pokemon' and decide to use them for whatever. You're implying that it's perfectly OK for someone to just wake up one morning and randomly think 'I'm going to catch a creature today' ...What kind of world do you live in?"

At this point the people on the stage were starting to get offended at what I was saying they were making somewhat angry faces and a giving off a small feeling of hostility. I decided it was not best to start an angry mob after me, so I backed off, and dashed off away from all this, continuing my trip to the place I was supposed to meet Dr. Fennel and Professor Juniper, whoever they were. Off the glimpse of my eye when I exited, I swore I caught a glimpse of that strange green haired teen I saw earlier...