View Full Version : Choice and Consequence

20th April 2005, 5:21 AM
This fic is PG-13 for violence and some swearing.

Disclaimer: Once again, I am only one of those poor, deprived fans of pokemon, with no affiliation to the franchise.

Any simularity between this and anyone else's fic is completely coincidental.

WARNING: Highly recommended you read 'Heart of the Magma (http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?t=61418)' beforehand.

Phew! Finally got around to putting in chapter links...
Chapter 1: To Dance Or Not to Dance (http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?p=1368580#post1368580)
Chapter 2: Myth and Shadow (http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?p=1376358#post1376358)
Chapter 3: The Facts Unseen (http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?p=1386640#post1386640)
Chapter 4: Tricks of the Trade (http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?p=1397415#post1397415)
Chapter 5: She's Got the Powder (http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?p=1411818#post1411818)
Chapter 6: Some Like It Hot (http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?p=1425063#post1425063)
Chapter 7: A Butterfree in the Hand (http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?p=1460280#post1460280)
Chapter 8: Blast from the Past (http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?p=1482298#post1482298)
Chapter 9: The Skylord's Wrath (http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?p=1524132#post1524132)
Chapter 10: Wings 'n' Things (http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?p=1548053#post1548053)
Chapter 11: Go With the Flow (http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?p=1571908#post1571908)
Chapter 12: The Price of Distraction (http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?p=1599997&posted=1#post1599997)
Chapter 13: Under the Rockets' Red Glare (http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?p=1892527&posted=1#post1892527)

~ I ~


The streets of Alto Mare were quiet, darkness hanging over the city like a thin layer of fog. Moonlight glinted off the graceful steel curves of the city’s various window frames and railings, their reflection rippling in the black canal water. Comfortably slumbering within their homes, the inhabitants of Alto Mare were unaware of the two shadows which flashed over the rooftops on silent feet, mirrored only in the water below.

Stealthily Keegan jumped from one rooftop to the next, crouching cautiously and looking around to make sure her presence had gone unnoticed. Like a shade, her eevee Hazel appeared at her side, her fluffy tail twitching with tension. Throwing a quick, slightly forced grin at the pokémon, Keegan lay on her stomach over the edge and rapped lightly on the glass pane of balcony door below.

“Ross!” She hissed. Something inside the room rustled and Keegan heard the sound of someone fumbling for the lamp nearby before light flashed on inside the room. She saw Ross rubbing his eyes sleepily, sitting up in his quilted bed, the white stripes on his otherwise blue shirt looking orange in the dim glow. Blinking, he slipped out from under the covers and padded across the wooden floor, running a hand through his sleep-tousled brown hair.

“Keegan?” He threw open the window, almost hitting Keegan in the face, and winced at her expression. “They said no, huh?”

“Good guess,” Keegan retorted, her voice unintentionally angry. Her cheeks were beginning to look flushed from hanging upside-down and her blonde hair glinted in the light from Ross’s room. “Listen, can we talk?”

“Sure,” Ross yawned. “It looked to be a nice night at sunset.”

“I… didn’t see,” Keegan admitted reluctantly. Usually all she looked at was the night sky… unless she was too angry at her foster parents to notice. She swung back up to the tiled roof as Ross clambered onto the balustrade of his balcony and hoisted himself up onto the edge to sit with his legs hanging down. Keegan brushed her hair out of her eyes and smiled gratefully, the faint burn scars on her arm looking shiny in the dim light. “Sorry for waking you,” she apologised, settling down beside him with her legs crossed.

Ross just waved a hand and smiled good-naturedly, the slight breeze tugging at his hair and clothes. “It’s no problem,” He assured her, and chuckled. “I should be used to this by now.” He gave her a quick squeeze around the shoulders and leaned back on his hands as Hazel crawled onto Keegan’s knees, a bundle of warmth compared to the chill night. “So what’s up?”

Keegan stroked Hazel’s fur absently, taking comfort in her pokémon’s presence as the eevee yawned and snuggled into Keegan’s lap soothingly. “It’s not fair,” she said, her tone frustrated beyond words. “It’s like my foster parents are trying to stop me from having a life. I mean, this is Alto Mare, for God’s sake, but they won’t even let me participate in the water chariot races!”

“You know they’re only trying to protect you,” Ross pointed out mildly, gazing up at the stars winking down from the heavens. There was a multitude up there, the only witnesses to Keegan’s nightly rooftop walks.

“Then they’re screwing up,” Keegan retorted viciously, glaring down at the water of the canal below where Ross’s boat bobbed gently. Hazel’s ears twitched and she looked at Keegan mournfully upon hearing her tone of voice. “Because they’re going too far. There’s a difference between protecting and coddling, and they crossed the line years ago.”

“Yeah,” Ross agreed sympathetically. “But when Pete and Simon found you, you were half dead. Ever since then you can’t stand the open sea or being under water. I guess they can’t see the difference between that and surfing.”

“Surfing I can control,” Keegan grumbled. “Out in the ocean you’re at the mercy of the waves – and underwater you can’t breathe. That’s the difference; how is that difficult to understand?” She plucked at her fire stone pendant with her spare hand broodingly. It flashed in the dim light emitting from Ross’s window and Hazel licked Keegan’s hand sympathetically. “But it’s not just the chariot races,” Keegan continued angrily, squeezing the pendant so the chain dug into the palm of her hand. “It’s like they think I’ll break apart if anything bad happens to me. I don’t even remember what happened that night, why do they assume I can’t handle the bad stuff?”

Ross shook his head, regarding his frustrated friend with a slightly sorrowful look. He didn’t want Keegan to be hurt as much as her foster parents, but he was closer to her in age and knew when to let well enough alone. But they’re good people. Sometimes I get the feeling she wants to do more and more dangerous things just because they’re trying to stop her. Instead of speaking the words which leapt to his lips, he said something else.

“You know what I don’t get?” Interested, Keegan looked up to find him studying the sky and followed his gaze. The wind whispered past, making goosebumps rise on her bare arms. “You come out onto the rooftops every night, which some people would say is practically trespassing, and your parents would definitely disapprove.”

Keegan snorted a little derisively. “Of course they would. I could fall off, I could get hurt, I could come across a real criminal and it breeds mischief.”

All valid points, you know. Was Ross’s immediate thought, but he squashed it. He wanted to give Keegan his support, not more doubts. If she felt he was the only one to whom she could rant, how could he estrange her by seeming to take her foster parents’ side? Damn, but they’re gonna hate me for saying this… Ross turned and shot a slightly forced grin at her. “So why haven’t you just entered the chariot races, with or without their permission?”

Keegan blinked and remained silent, thinking about the answer. “Because that’s crossing some major lines,” she said at last. “They don’t know about what I do at night, so we can’t argue about it – but if I entered a race, then they’re sure to see it.”

“So?” Ross shrugged, his next words honest. “You’re eighteen. That’s old enough to make those kinds of decisions in my book.” If only you would listen to them once in a while…

Hazel put her paw in Keegan’s hand and the girl looked down at her. “Bui,” Hazel mewed encouragingly.

Keegan chewed the inside of her cheek and gazed up at the stars thoughtfully. She remembered the fight she’d had with Miriam and Peter, her foster parents, mere hours ago, and again felt the anger rise. Ross and Haze are right, she thought to herself, her jaw clenching with determination. I should be able to choose for myself. I should be able to choose if I want to enter the race, and I should be able to choose if I want to leave Alto Mare. Then she remembered something and groaned, the excitement which had been building vanishing in an instant.

“It’s tomorrow,” she said dispiritedly. “And because it’s not the open chariot race, there’s no more time to enter.”

Ross laughed, covering up a twinge of guilt. “Hey, no sweat. You can take my place.” I just hope none of you overreact… maybe it’ll end up with a fight. Maybe you’ll start listening to each other. Discreetly he crossed his fingers, praying for the latter.

“Serious?” Keegan exclaimed, her blue eyes suddenly blazing with anticipation.

“Sure,” Ross shrugged. “I can redeem my loss next year.” He grinned truthfully this time. “I just have to hope Misty’s not there.”

Keegan laughed and threw her arms around him, disturbing Hazel. Fondly miffed, the pokémon scrambled out of Keegan’s lap and instead curled up beside her. “Thanks a ton, Ross,” Keegan hugged him fiercely. Ross just chuckled and put his arm around her shoulders while she twined the fingers of her spare hand into Hazel’s fur. The three of them looked up at the stars visible over the line of the buildings, listening to the lap of canal water against the curb long into the night.

The next morning Keegan hardly noticed her lack of sleep; she was too charged up, knowing she was about to participate in the water chariot race for Alto Mare citizens only. The fact that it was a secret from her parents just made the tension worse – she had to pretend she was still angry when really she wanted to jump for joy. Although she was directly disobeying them, the freedom of knowing she had made her decision was intoxicating.

She deliberately wore her denim shorts and her cut-off, sleeveless top. It could be cold, but at least her customary jeans wouldn’t weight her down. “Okay, Firefoot, today is gonna be different,” Keegan sat cross-legged on the wooden floor of her room, stroking Firefoot’s orange pelt. The growlithe pup gnawed playfully at her hand, making small growling noises in the back of his throat as his shaggy orange paws danced over the wooden floor. He wasn’t as good at climbing as Hazel or Keegan and so had to remain behind during the night.

Keegan grinned and tousled the white tuft of fur on the top of his head. “We’re gonna go to the library like usual,” she told him, lowering her voice so Peter or Miriam couldn’t hear. “But we’ll sneak out the back window first chance we get. I’m gonna enter the water chariot race, Firefoot.”

“Graawlth!” Firefoot barked, cocking his head and wagging his thick, fluffy white tail furiously.

Keegan chuckled. “So I guess it’s okay if I leave you and Hazel with Ross on the sidelines, right?” She glanced up at Hazel, lying on Keegan’s bed and chewing on her white-tipped tail.

“Eebui,” Hazel mewed, her brown eyes sparkling with her own excitement and not a little bit of pride that Keegan was finally making her own choice.

“Keegan!” Miriam called from down below. “We’re leaving for the library soon!”

“Alright!” Keegan yelled back, tugging on her running shoes. Hazel jumped off the bed, leaving behind an imprint and moulted fur on the quilt, and shook herself. “C’mon,” Keegan gestured to her pokémon, unable to resist a grin as she trudged downstairs. Firefoot followed closely, his wet nose occasionally bumping the backs of her legs, while Hazel squeezed past to lead.

While they walked to the library, Keegan barely listened to Miriam as the plump, good-natured woman chattered on. Her gaze was set absently on the cobblestone path in front of her and her mind dwelled on the race she was to run. Hazel and Firefoot bounded ahead of them, darting and playing blithely, dodging the other citizens of Alto Mare who were enjoying the early morning.

When they reached the library, Keegan was beginning to feel nervous, because she had to get away in time to reach the canal where the race was to begin. But that day luck was with her, for Miriam left her in the back room with orders to unpack the books stored in boxes while she herself went into the main area to watch over the looming shelves.

With a deep breath Keegan set to her task. Switching on the television to make some noise, she worked in the light of the round window overhead, illuminating the otherwise darkened room. Firefoot, nosing around a pile of books in the corner, squeezed past the perilous stack. Hazel, however, jumped nimbly onto the round table where Keegan worked to settle down and watch her trainer.

The next thing Keegan heard was a creak and she turned around just in time to see the tall, unsteady pile of books tumble down around Firefoot, making dust billow. Firefoot, sitting back on his haunches among the books with a look of utmost surprise, sneezed and shook his head, blinking owlishly. Keegan giggled, stepping carefully through the mess of books and removing a loose page which had floated down to land on Firefoot’s head.

“Bui,” Hazel sighed in a long-suffering manner, rolling her eyes skyward and licking her paw delicately.

Keegan began stacking the books carefully, checking the time, as Firefoot watched. The fine dust settled about him turned his black stripes grey and made Keegan’s eyes water annoyingly.

“Oh, I can’t take this anymore,” The girl groaned finally, grabbing Firefoot around the belly and lifting him up onto the top of the bookcase in front of the window. The growlithe, moving carefully against the slight rocking of the shelves, put his paws on the round windowsill and nosed open the latch. The window swung open as Keegan lifted Hazel up to the top and Firefoot bounded through, onto the slight ledge outside.

Within seconds, all three had escaped the stuffy office. Keegan pulled the window closed behind her and clambered down, catching each of her pokémon as they jumped from the ledge. “Okay, let’s hurry,” Keegan urged, checking the clock just visible through the glass for the umpteenth time, and the trio hurried off.

Behind them, the television blared to an empty room.

Ross scanned the multi-coloured crowd anxiously, searching for Keegan. I hope she didn’t get caught. I hope nothing’s happened. I wish she didn’t have to sneak away at all… in the canal beside him, his wailmer tugged impatiently at the leash, almost pulling him into the rippling water. Most of the other contestants were already at the starting line, waiting for the race to begin.

Finally Firefoot bounded out of the crowd, tongue lolling happily. Hazel squeezed her way past two legs and Keegan pushed through the crowd, tugging off her shoes almost as soon as she’d reached a relieved Ross.

“Good luck,” he murmured, handing her the leash. Maybe this will prove to Miriam and Pete that they don’t need to worry… I just hope you don’t forget why they’re so strict. He thought inwardly, his soft eyes regarding Keegan with unseen seriousness.

“Thanks, I’m gonna need it,” Keegan answered with a nervous laugh, stepping uncertainly onto the slick, streamlined chariot. She almost tipped over right there and then as the chariot rocked, making the water splash over the curb and drenching Firefoot and Hazel, but after a moment she regained her balance and Wailmer motored its way to the starting line.

Keegan found herself staring into the clear water. She could almost see the bottom, fragmented and distorted by the waves, and shivered. Falling in wasn’t going to be fun – but she wasn’t intending to fall in. She closed her eyes for a second and took a deep breath. When she looked again at the glittering water track in front of her, her blue eyes were determined. Water, yes. I’m not under it, so it doesn’t matter.

“Okay, Wailmer, ready to show ‘em what we’ve got?” she said to the round, rubbery blue pokémon. It nodded, making waves rock nearby chariots, and Keegan found herself grinning. Who cares if we win? She thought silently to herself, enjoying the bob of the chariot. I’m on the water, I’m about to go fast and I’m sticking to my decision for once. What does it matter if we win or not?

She cast a quick glance to the side, fleetingly touching her pendant for good luck, and Ross gave her a thumbs up sign; then she heard the xatu crow. Wailmer surged forward, already speeding through the water and throwing up two curtains of foam on either side of Keegan’s chariot.

Blonde hair lashing in the wind, Keegan leaned back on the leash the way Ross had taught her during one of the memorable nightly excursions. Someone cut in front of them, spraying Keegan with water, and Wailmer cut their speed abruptly to avoid the collision as Keegan’s spare arm windmilled frantically. Oh God, don’t fall in…! With a jerk the whale pokémon rushed forwards, dodging a spiky, scaled seadra to dart around the corner, hauling the chariot behind him as it skidded on the surface of the track against the force of its momentum.

Her heart pounding, Keegan caught her breath and her balance as they streaked towards the man in the lead, the walls and canals of Alto Mare blurring past her in a rush of exhilarating wind.

Back at the library, Miriam lifted the pile of old books she had just sorted from the shelves, heading to the back office where she’d ask Keegan to pack them away into a box for shipping to the library on the mainland. The salty water around Alto Mare made it difficult to maintain the library properly, so the oldest and most precious of books were kept elsewhere.

As she came to the door, Miriam heard the sound of the television and smiled. Of course Keegan would want to watch Ross in the water chariot race. Using her elbow, Miriam levered the door open and was greeted by an empty room. Shocked, she blinked, setting the books down on the table and looking around.

“And newcomer Keegan just taken the lead with former champion Ross’s wailmer, but Marlin and his golduck aren’t gonna let the race go that easily, as he tails her close behind –”

Miriam whirled about to stare at the screen incredulously, sure she’d heard wrong. But no, there was Keegan, balanced perilously on a speeding, streamlined chariot with her rival pulling up beside her. Miriam’s heart leapt to clog her throat as the water shifted, throwing the chariots together. The plump woman let out an involuntary cry of distress, clutching herself fearfully as they scraped each other, the announcer’s voice merely noise in the background. Keegan’s chariot rocked wildly, almost sending her plummeting into the water. Don’t let her fall, don’t let her fall, don’t let her fall…! Marlin leaned away, narrowly avoiding a second, more serious collision as the foamy plumes sprayed up around them, and Miriam let out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding.

She could have gotten herself hurt! Miriam thought tearfully, covering her eyes with frustrated apprehension. I don’t care how old she is, she acts like an irresponsible child! That’s half the reason we’re so strict with her, doesn’t she realize that? How could Ross have let her enter… she shuddered. Without looking again at the screen Miriam hurried out of the office, her adrenaline-weak legs fuelled by worried anger.

Back at the race Keegan swerved around the last, sharp corner, the chariot wobbling dangerously. The side scraped the brick wall and Keegan winced, her cheeks flushed with windburn and her fringe threatening to lash in her eyes. Not far ahead, Marlin was speeding towards the finish line.

“Let’s go!” Keegan urged Wailmer. With a deep rumble, Wailmer picked up the pace. His watery backlash made Keegan’s chariot veer from side to side but she had a firm grasp of its capabilities now and balanced skilfully against its roll as they drew abreast of Marlin. He glanced over at her and found the time to grin at her under his beard. Catching Keegan’s gaze, she grinned back as Wailmer slowly pulled in front, the water around them and the rainbow coloured audience ranged on the streets a mere blur.

The next thing Keegan knew, the finishing banner had flashed overhead and Wailmer came to a halt, slinging the chariot around as Keegan struggled to maintain her balance. Her adrenaline-weak legs collapsed on her, sending her careening into the clear, lapping water. Her shoulder jarred the chariot, making her hand tingle numbly as water closed over her head with a shocking of gasping panic. Nonono, God this was supposed to be fun! Terrified, choking on water, she scrambled for the surface as Wailmer came up beneath her, lifting her on its rubbery blue back to safety.

Trembling and weak with relief and exhaustion, Keegan coughed and took in a gulp of blessed air to calm her pounding heart, sitting with her legs sprawled on Wailmer’s back as she brushed her wet hair from her eyes with a shaky hand. She suddenly became aware of the shouts and calls coming from the sidelines and looked up to see Marlin give her a fleeting salute, which she returned with a weak, slightly forced smile. She glanced over to the side to see a worried-looking Ross, prepared to jump in the canal for rescue her. She threw him an unsteady grin and a thumbs-up. Relieved, Ross settled for waving his hands with reproachful elation as Firefoot jumped about excitedly, accidentally knocking Hazel into the water. Drenched, looking remarkably like a wet rattata, Hazel scrambled out of the water and glared at Firefoot, long fur dripping.

And then it finally began to dawn on Keegan, something completely unexpected: she’d won.

The medallion flashed in the light of the day, the path barely visible through the rippling, tinted glass. Keegan studied it, rocking it back and forth and admiring the way the sun brought out the different hues.

Ross chuckled, poling his boat along the canal beside her. “You’ve seen that thing a million times, you know,” he reminded her.

Keegan grinned. “Yeah, but that’s always after you’ve won it.” She rubbed her hand proudly over the raised glass outlines of Latios and Latias circling the Soul Dew, unaware of the troubled look which passed over Ross’ face.

She didn’t learn anything, he thought with the chill of sorrow. She got dunked in and she didn’t even realize why Miriam and Pete’s fears might be justified. He shuddered, remembering the look of terror on her face as Wailmer lifted her through the thin, crystalline sheet of the surface; the look which no one else had seemed to notice.

Firefoot jumped up onto his hind legs, forepaws stabbing in the air as he struggled to see the medallion, so Keegan lowered the medallion to let the growlithe pup take a look. Up ahead, Hazel stopped in her tracks with a gasp, then darted back and hid behind Keegan’s legs. Keegan giggled elatedly, too much on a high to realize something dire might have happened. “What’s the matter, Haze?”

“Grawlth, grrra,” Firefoot backed away slowly, nervously. Keegan finally looked up to see Miriam bearing down on them with hard steps, her brown curls accenting her furious scowl. She didn’t see the worry buried deep in her foster mother’s brown eyes.

“Uh oh,” Keegan went pale, having completely forgotten about the consequences of entering the race. “Listen, Ross, I – I’ll see you later, okay? No point in her getting angry at the both of us.”

Ross nodded, leaning on his pole and staring at Miriam between the long fringes framing his face. “Yeah, sure… ” He felt a pang, knowing that the upcoming argument was his fault. I’m the one who let her enter, I was just hoping that maybe – without finishing his thought or figuring out exactly what he’d been hoping he pushed off the curb, turning down a thin canal, and waved after him. Keegan raised a hand in answer, then glanced down at the medallion.

Once again she rubbed her thumb over the raised glass, her eyes darkening. It was worth it, she thought defiantly, and raised her chin to face her foster mother.

“What were you thinking?!” Miriam shrieked in her shrill voice once Keegan was in hearing range.

<<She’s not happy…>> Firefoot’s ears went down and he slunk behind Keegan’s legs to look at Hazel. His head lowered near the ground and his mournful eyes darted back to Miriam, his fluffy tail twitching.

Hazel rolled her eyes apprehensively in his direction, ears flickering. <<You think?>> she answered, her tone heavy with sarcasm as she rubbed her furry head against Keegan’s legs comfortingly. Oh Latias, when will this conflict end? She thought sadly, regarding Miriam’s round, red face.

“I was thinking about having fun,” Keegan snapped back to her foster mother heatedly, only half aware of the exchange which had gone on beneath her. Miriam grabbed her hand and began dragging her back home, while Hazel and Firefoot exchanged a worried glance and trailed after.

“There’s a reason your father and I stopped you from entering those races!” Miriam said angrily between breaths, yanking Keegan under a bridge down one alley and then another. It was as much for punishment as for safety, didn’t you see that?

Keegan tried to tug her hand away, but for a plump woman Miriam was amazingly strong. “Pete’s not my father!” the girl retorted, her tone just as angry as Miriam’s. Her spare hand was clenched around the medallion, the metal edges digging into her palm and the chain trailing behind her. “And you’re not my mother! You have no right to tell me what to do!” Miriam’s stride faltered and she gave Keegan a stricken look, stopping in the sheltered alley. Keegan wrenched her hand out of Miriam’s grasp, massaging her fingers, and ignored Miriam’s hurt eyes as Hazel and Firefoot crowded supportively at her legs.

She doesn’t think of us as her parents? Miriam swallowed through the hurt lump in her throat and took a deep breath. “We’ve been your only family for eight years, Keegan,” she began, her tone thick with forced calm. Keegan scowled into the ground, trying to fight off the feelings of guilt which were warring with her anger. There was already a lump in her throat and her eyes began to shine with unshed tears; she hated arguing. “I would have thought that meant something to you.” Miriam’s voice was unintentionally accusing.

Keegan gritted her teeth, looking away. How dare she use guilt on me like that! She raged inwardly, angry enough to say something she’d regret forever. “Well, it doesn’t!” she choked. “All you’ve done is hold me back! You won’t even let me compete in harmless chariot races! You won’t even let me leave Alto Mare!” she gestured wildly with the hand clutching the medallion, looking up finally to meet Miriam’s shocked eyes.

Keegan took a deep breath, tears spilling down her cheeks. “All I want to do is make my own decisions,” she continued stubbornly. “I want to be able to decide what I do and where I go, but you won’t even let me do that!”

“And until you learn to look at life seriously, I won’t!” Miriam snapped, finally finding her voice. I can’t! You might get hurt, you might accidentally hurt other people! “So far all you care about is having some fun and getting up to mischief! I’d thought that reading about Lance the dragon master and the other Elites might make you realize just how dangerous it is out there, but so far it doesn’t seem to have worked!” Keegan flushed and Miriam continued relentlessly, brushing her curls behind her ear as she tried passionately to make her stubborn foster daughter see, make her understand – “You of all people should know how dangerous the world is, Keegan. It’s because of those dangers that we came to call you our daughter.”

“It’s because of those dangers that you’ve chained me here to Alto Mare!” Keegan retorted in a trembling voice, her cheeks still pink under the tear tracks. “You’re afraid I’ll break apart or I’ll get hurt, but you don’t know that at all! How am I meant to prove myself if you won’t let me shoulder any responsibility? Facing danger is just part of that!”

“Facing danger is being stupid,” Miriam countered angrily. “You don’t go looking for danger, you have to take it as it comes.”

“I can’t take it as it comes if I can’t live my own life!” Keegan shouted, her voice shaking dangerously. “I don’t even know what I want to do with myself, because this city is all I remember!” she gestured around at the shadowed, ivy-swathed brick walls. “I don’t even know where – where I got this,” she tugged at her pendant vehemently, her wet eyes boring furiously into Miriam’s face. “When am I going to find out who I am, what I’m meant to do?”

“When you finally realize that life isn’t all fun and games,” Miriam answered heatedly. “The people here in Alto Mare know that better than anyone – the sea is dangerous, you have to take it seriously! It’s not a game! No matter where you go and what you do, there are always rules to follow – but you seem to dedicate yourself to breaking them! Until you learn a little responsibility and respect, you’re not ready to go out into the world.”

“Wha – how dare you decide that for me!” Keegan’s fists were clenched, and she was shaking and crying with fury.

Miriam sighed, her frustration draining out of her like a sieve. “Come on home, little fox,” she held out a hand, her tone as gentle as she could make it. Please, please come home. I’m only trying to protect you.

“Don’t call me that!” Keegan screamed, covering her ears childishly, and Miriam flinched with a jolt. “You can’t! You’re not allowed!” With a ragged, choked sob, she dodged down the alley, shoes pounding the stones.

“Grawlth!” Firefoot barked, darting after her. Hazel paused and looked up at Miriam with sad, accusing eyes; then she bounded after Keegan and Firefoot. Shocked, angry and guilty, Miriam watched them vanish around the next corner.

Keegan trudged down the path, wet eyes staring dully at the cobblestones before her. Hazel backed away in front of her, cocking her head to gaze at Keegan’s tear-stained face. Firefoot’s own stride reflected Keegan’s depression. He walked so close behind her his nose occasionally bumped the backs of her legs, as was his wont.

The usually slate-grey streets now looked golden in the late afternoon sun that flashed from across the ocean and most people had retreated into their homes to enjoy a clear, brisk evening. But not Keegan.

The breeze gusted through the lanes and canals of Alto Mare, making the water lap against the curb. It wrapped around Keegan and she shivered, suddenly coming out of her reverie to realize the day was cooling and she was still only wearing her denim shorts – hardly enough to keep her warm.

But she kept walking. Walking was the only way she had to exercise her frustration; and though her stomach rumbled with hunger and her limbs with weary with lack of energy, she felt she couldn’t stop.

The wind tugged insistently at her hair, drawing her ponytail over her shoulder and playing with it, shaking it in her eyes. Idly, Keegan brushed it out of her face and behind her ears, but it tangled annoyingly around her hand. Hazel tripped over a loose stone and tumbled backwards, her fur fluttering in the playful fingers of the breeze.

Suddenly Keegan realized she had reached the edge of Alto Mare and gazed out over the gold and orange lit ocean. The horizon was dyed with purple and red, the clouds etched over the sun dimming its bright glow. Keegan’s jaw clenched momentarily and she glared out at the sea. The snowy-white wingull cawed, darting and diving in the final hour or so of daylight. “Look at them,” Keegan said enviously, feeling wrung out and emotionally exhausted. “They’re free.” As she watched, a mantine broke the surface of the glittering water, rising in a graceful arc before vanishing back beneath the crystalline ocean with hardly a splash.

“Bubui,” Hazel mewed sympathetically.

“Gawlth,” Firefoot whined, and sat at Keegan’s feet, his orange-and-black fur blazing in the setting sun.

“There’s no way,” Keegan said bitterly, eyes following the wingull. “They can go where they want, when they want. Like Lance and the Elites,” she added broodingly. “Sure, they have responsibilities, but they chose to take on those responsibilities. I bet you if Lance were in my position he wouldn’t take all this guff. He’d go out and do what he thought was right, no matter what anyone said.”

“Graaw,” Firefoot cocked his head, soft puppy eyes looking up at Keegan.

Keegan sighed, depressed, and realized she still held the medallion. She lifted it, examining it in the golden light. Distantly, from the last house, she heard the sound of radio music, and tilted her head to listen.

‘I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance;
Never settle for the path of least resistance.
Living might mean taking chances, but they’re worth taking…’

Keegan’s heart skipped a beat; it was as though the radio echoed her frustration. Miriam and Peter just didn’t seem to understand that sometimes, to find your dream, you had to take risks. They truly were afraid of those mountains…

If I stay here, she thought to herself, would I be bowing to Miriam just to avoid a fight? Just to avoid hurting her? She tuned in to the song again, idly wondering what other advice it could give her.

‘Don’t let some hell bent heart leave you bitter;
When you come close to selling out, reconsider.
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance…’

Spellbound, Keegan’s gaze was drawn inexorably to the uppermost stars beginning to wink in the slowly darkening sky, and remembered telling Ross the night before that she’d been too angry at her foster parents to notice them. She spent too much time being bitter to see the beauty around her…

‘…tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder
Where those years have gone?’

I don’t! Keegan felt like shouting, but the lump in her throat stopped her from speaking. The next words she heard with a great deal of irony.

‘I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean…’

No trouble there. She thought with a sigh, her brow wrinkling forward as she stared at the lapping waves.

‘Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens…’

If I left now, one door would close… Keegan thought almost wonderingly. But how many would open for me?

‘Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance…’

I will.

‘And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance...’

Keegan lifted the medallion, tilting it from side to side. In the dying light of the sun and with the rippling ocean behind it, it almost looked at though Latios and Latias were doing just that: dancing. Free.

‘I pray you’re dancing…
I pray you’re dancing…
I hope you dance.’

For the first time in what seemed like years Keegan took a deep breath, suddenly realizing that her cheeks were once again damp. Though she still felt exhausted, it was a weariness that she’d never felt before; not angry or tense, but peaceful.

“You know what?” she said at last, to her pokémon.

“Eeeii,” Hazel purred, her voice vibrating. She felt the sudden change in Keegan, her oldest friend.

“Yeah…” Keegan smiled slowly, the breeze wisping past her and drawing her gaze, not for the last time, up to the sky. “I think… I’m gonna dance.”

When Keegan got home the horizon was still lit with the glow of twilight. The tentative calls of the hoothoot and noctowl were oddly comforting and the dust the ledyba and ledian scattered in a celebration of impending nightfall gave Alto Mare a strangely mystical aura.

Keegan pushed open the door and marched tight-lipped through the kitchen, ignoring Peter sitting at the table; in all likelihood Miriam was up in their room. Although it seemed that Miriam was the dominant one, because she got angry at Keegan’s antics more often than Peter, he was really the one who enforced their rules.

And that night there was no way he was going to let the girl go that easily. “Keegan,” he said, swirling his coffee with a spoon absently. Sitting on the table, his aipom held the sugar bowl, dipping his tiny fingers into the granules and licking them off quickly.

Keegan paused, one hand already on the banister of the stairs, and sighed inwardly. “What?”

“You’re grounded until further notice,” Peter’s voice was bland, somewhat depressed. I’m sorry, little fox. He apologised inwardly. I truly am. He had seen the race himself, on a tinny TV in the tackle shed where his sloop was moored. You fell in and you were terrified – and it has changed nothing. If you simply refuse to listen, then we have to try something else.

“Aipuu?” Aipom cocked his head and looked at the girl frozen at the stairs, one paw hovering above the bowl. He exchanged a warning glance with Firefoot, still at the base of the first step.

“Whatever,” Keegan answered so softly she could hardly be heard. Hazel’s ear twitched; she was already halfway up the stairs.

“No going outside except to the library,” Peter continued with a guilty pang. Aipom’s tail waved and he looked back at Peter with huge eyes but Pete looked away, instead studying the grain of the table.

“Uh huh.” Keegan continued on her way up as Aipom watched after her before returning to his sugar. There’s no way they can keep me locked up, the girl thought serenely. I’m leaving tonight, and they can’t stop that. She glanced down at the medallion, hardly noticing the slight smile that tugged at her lips.

Hazel was sitting in front of Keegan’s room, waiting patiently. Keegan threw open the door and headed straight for her wardrobe, letting Firefoot nose the door closed behind them while Hazel leapt onto the soft bed.

Keegan draped the medallion around her neck and opened the door to the wardrobe, grabbing her shoulder bag off the inside handle. She snatched up a pile of clothes and other necessities and stuffed them inside the bag. Hazel, standing on the bed, placed a paw on the tubs of pokémon food she had rolled across from the bedside table and Keegan made sure they were full before fitting them into the bag carefully. Firefoot padded over, Keegan’s belt in his mouth.

“Thanks,” Keegan murmured, taking the belt and brushing her fingers over his orange-and-black fur before buckling it on. She unclipped Firefoot’s pokéball and expanded it, gazing at it doubtfully. She had never once returned Firefoot to his pokéball, but knew that if they were to leave Alto Mare it was necessary. She held out the pokéball to Firefoot. “I have to return you, Firefoot,” she told him gently.

Firefoot cocked his head in an expectant manner. “Grrrawlth, grraw!” he barked.

Keegan smiled fondly, and gave him one last scratch behind the ears. “I don’t know what I’d do without you two,” she told him honestly.

“Eebui, bubui,” Hazel shook her head from side to side, making her ears flap. Keegan chuckled and raised the pokéball, returning Firefoot for the first time in the four years since Officer Jenny had given him to her. The growlithe pup had been too curious and uncommitted to be cut out for police work and a chance meeting on the street made Officer Jenny convinced he should go with Keegan.

Straightening up, Keegan shrank the pokéball and returned it to her belt, slinging her bag over her shoulder. Then she turned towards the window and turned the latch to push it open… but it didn’t budge.

“Bubui?” Hazel whispered incredulously. With a sick feeling of disbelief, Keegan rattled the latch, but it didn’t move. She tried pushing on the window, to no avail. Dropping the bag, she sank to the floor, stunned. Hazel nuzzled her hand, making sympathetic purring sounds. Her huge eyes locked onto something behind Keegan.

“How did they find out?” the girl choked, entwining her fingers into Hazel’s long fur.

“Officer Jenny,” a deep, grating voice, conditioned by a life on the sea, said behind her. Keegan turned around to see Simon leaning against her doorway, his sleeveless T-shirt making his tanned biceps seem even bigger than they were.

“Bui?” Hazel gasped. Keegan just stared blankly; she hadn’t even heard the door open.

“She came round while you were out,” Simon took a step into the room, his dark eyes studying Keegan over his bearded face. He felt a pang; her eyes looked so lost. “She was pretty disappointed, actually. Said she saw you creeping across the rooftops last night and thought we might want to do something about it. Some people wouldn’t take kindly to having a girl on their roofs.”

“But… but…” Tears spilled out of Keegan’s eyes. “But… I’m grounded… I can’t…” A sob wracked her, the peaceful feeling she had managed to sustain shattering. Too emotionally exhausted to even feel angry, she suffered only despair.

“Bui,” Hazel put her paws on Keegan’s shoulders, licking at the salty tracks down her cheeks, the pokémon’s eyes also shining with sympathetic tears. Keegan hugged her tightly, burying her face in Hazel's soft fur.

Simon glanced into the hall and quietly closed the door behind him, kneeling beside Keegan and putting a hand on her shoulder. “Come on now,” he said quietly. “Crying won’t help.” He held out his hand. “But this might.”

Keegan lifted her head, wiping her eyes, and picked the key off his palm, staring at it uncertainly. “You’re gonna let me out?” she asked, her voice wavering.

“I’ve never agreed with their way of raising you,” Simon admitted. “You’re a curious, adventurous girl, so trying to lock you up only made you want out even more. I’m surprised it took you so long to try and leave.” I just wish it didn’t have to be like this. You still have a lot to learn about the world, little fox – but if you refuse to learn it here, then you’ll have to learn out there, where the lesson will be harsher.

Keegan stood and unlocked the window, then handed the key back to him as Hazel jumped up onto the windowsill. “Here,” Simon held out a pokégear, a small device with several purposes; among those serving as a map, a radio and a phone. It looked small in his big hand. “This might help.” He grinned fervently. “And you’ll need this, too,” He held up a ticket. “For the next ferry out of Alto Mare. It’ll take you to Cianwood – from there you should be able to go to Olivine.”

Keegan took them, clipping the pokégear onto her belt, and stood staring at the ticket for long moments. This is the point of no return, she found herself thinking. If I use this… I can’t go back. She tucked it her back pocket and looked up at Simon, utterly speechless. ‘Thank you’ seemed so… inadequate. Finally she hugged him fiercely and whispered it anyway. “Thank you.”

He squeezed her back. “Get going, little fox. There should be one last ferry leaving tonight, but you have to get there quickly.” Keegan picked up her bag, slinging it over her shoulder once again. “Keegan…” the girl paused and looked back at Simon, who regarded her seriously. “You know they love you.”

Keegan hesitated, then nodded, her eyes downcast. “I know. G’bye, Simon.” Hazel grabbed onto the strap with her teeth and rode the bag as Keegan scrambled out of the window and onto the roof for the last time.

Keegan hurried over the rooftops, ignoring the chill wind that made goosebumps rise on her bare skin and checking the horizon anxiously. The trip to Cianwood City was several days long, and she couldn’t afford to miss the last ferry for a week, but she also knew they had to get out of the harbour before full night.

And yet she couldn’t leave without first saying goodbye to Ross. She dropped silently down onto his balcony, bathed in the yellow glow of his bedroom light, and rapped at the window. Instantly Ross looked up from the book he had been reading and tossed it aside, coming to the glass doors; Keegan stood away as he pushed them open.

He took in Hazel, standing on the balcony balustrade, and Keegan’s bag over her shoulder. “You’re leaving.” It wasn’t a question; his soft brown eyes were already resigned. It had to come to this, didn’t it? The only way you’d learn why Pete and Miriam did what they did – the only way they’d realize why you did the same.

Keegan nodded, her own eyes glimmering. “I have to hurry – there’s only one more ferry, and I have to catch it. But I had to say goodbye.”

“Eebui,” Hazel agreed forlornly.

“Well, then, here,” Ross grabbed an empty pokéball from his bedside table and held it out. “You can’t go around with Hazel free like that. Under the Pokémon Association’s rules, if she doesn’t have a pokéball, she’s wild and therefore fair game.”

Keegan took it gingerly, knowing he was right but not liking it one bit, as Hazel jumped down from the ledge, her eyes resolute. Keegan tossed the pokéball gently; it bounced off Hazel and enclosed her in a flash of red light before dropping to the balcony, rocking only once before locking down. Keegan picked it up and looked down at it somewhat regretfully; it represented just one more change.

Then Keegan drew the medallion from around her neck and looked at it briefly before handing it to Ross. “I was gonna keep it, as a reminder… but I think it’d do better here.” Ross accepted it reluctantly, and met Keegan’s gaze. She managed a shaky grin. “We’ll be okay,” she promised.

Ross smiled fondly. “I know you will,” he said simply before drawing her into his arms. She clasped him around the neck, embracing him tightly for as long as she dared. Then she let him go and gave him one last, fleeting smile before climbing lithely back onto the roof. Ross leaned on the edge of the balcony, the medallion still clutched in his hand, and gazed out into the slowly darkening city with a bitter-sweet pang as the wind whispered assurances in his ears.

Keegan ran as fast as she could, ignoring the stitch in her side and the annoying bounce of the pendant at her throat, her breath coming in short gasps. It was almost full night now, but she could see the ferry up ahead, still moored to the almost deserted pier.

A sailor still on the dock was untying the rope securing the small ship to the wharf. “Hey!” Keegan shouted breathlessly, and the sailor looked up. He waved to her, gesturing for her to hurry, and called something to someone in the shadow of the awning over the deck.

Keegan pounded up the gangplank, legs aching and chest heaving, and sank to her knees, exhausted. “Thanks,” she gasped to the sailor unlatching the gangplank from the ship, and he chuckled.

“It was a close one,” he said, pushing the railing clear of the ship. Keegan struggled to her feet, the salty breeze already cooling her off, and walked to the bow to stand watching the rolling sea as they cleaved through the water.

She looked back only once at Alto Mare. The city was still lit up by the lights of the houses, a glittering metropolis amid the churning, restless ocean. Then she turned forward to their destination and her future.

She was content with her choice; the first of many. Whatever the consequences were… she was ready to face them.


Lame? Yes, it is. So sue me. :P

For those who are interested, the song is called 'I Hope You Dance' by Ronan Keating.

Twilight Absol
20th April 2005, 5:45 AM
You read me like a book! I was just about to ask for that song....>.>
it fit in so perfectly with your situation, I thought you wrote the fic to base it off the song >.> I know, quite silly of me...
And yes I think I will sue you......for not recognizing a good fic when you see one...:P
well, I love this fic, and I would love to find out more about Maxie, hint hint...
Definitely able to be on the same level as Scrap

BTW, First post!

20th April 2005, 10:45 AM
Wow, that's the second time you've compared me to Scrap...
^.^ I'm flattered.

Finding out more about Maxie, huh? :P You might be disappointed... on the other hand, you might not. ^.^ We'll see.

Oh, that was the other thing... people who know the 5th movie well might recognise Ross as the charioteer who came second to Misty in the intro. ^.^

20th April 2005, 7:54 PM
Yay! I've been waiting every day since I read Heart of the Magma!!! This is great!!!!

Twilight Absol
21st April 2005, 6:11 AM
Hmm...literary allusion eh? I like, I like!
though what I really want to see is Maxie with his revenge against the ocean, only to find his daughter against him...
But then, it would be too predictable, and that wont make this a good fic >.>

21st April 2005, 6:20 AM
One word.


THIS FIC IS INCREDIBLE! The detail, the character descriptions and their interactions, the POKEMON! >DDDDD


Of course, I have a feeling this wont any normal badge hunt. :3

I eargly await the second chap, and am, from this moment on, A LOYAL-O FAN-O! :3

21st April 2005, 11:25 AM
Oooh, goody, I have a new fan! *claps hands excitedly* ^.^

Thanks for reviewing Saber, though whatever gave you the idea this might be a normal badge hunt anyway? :P But you're right, it's not. Although the badges may possibly have something to do with the sequel I'm already planning... *sweatdrop* which won't be begun until I finish this one. So I've better get writing, huh?

As for you, Twilight... *zips up mouth and throws away the key*
^.^ If you know the anime, then you might have guessed I'm using the same timeline - since Ross mentions Misty, whom he met in the 5th movie.
So you wanna know what happens to Maxie's revenge? Well, he does appear in the anime, after all...
And I've already said to much. ^.^ So thanks again to everyone who reviewed.

23rd April 2005, 3:19 AM
Okay, here's the second chapter ^.^

This one is different in one major way: At one stage, I write from a pokemon's point of view. So I'm mentioning this to avoid any potential confusion. From a pokemon's PoV, when they speak, they don't go around saying their name; they say words, straight out. So from here on, if any pokemon speaks straight out, then you know it's a pokemon's PoV. If it's too confusing, tell me, and I'll try to find an alternative.

Enjoy ^.^

~ II ~


The harbour glinted in the distance, seeming to signal to the ferry. The ocean sparkled before it with the rare rays of sunlight peeking through the clouds, the crash of the waves distant. Keegan stood at the bow, ignoring the strong breeze which threatened to tangle her hair, and watched with strange detachment as they drew closer. It seemed so surreal that she was actually there, like a dream she would break out of any second. Not just because she was actually free of Alto Mare – but because the crossing had seemed to last for years. With every lurch of the ferry her heart leapt into her mouth and the pounding of the waves against the hull at night kept her from sleeping. The closeness of land calmed that particular fear, but raised another…

Soon they were close enough for Keegan to pick out the buildings and the rainbow-coloured people scattered over the beach. The surf washed over the sand and she fancied she could almost hear the shrieks and laughter of the kids as they played.

The peaceful scene did nothing to calm her nerves. Okay, I’m out of Alto Mare, she thought, trying to force down the panic threatening to overwhelm her. And I’m nearly in Cianwood. Now what? She bit her lip uncertainly. Hadn’t Simon mentioned travelling to Olivine? What was in Olivine that was of interest to her, anyway?

Keegan closed her eyes, shutting out the sight of the city drawing ever closer and of the now grey, menacing ocean. She thought back to that night long past, when she had stood on the edge of Alto Mare and known that the answers lay beyond the sea. I’m doing the right thing. I know I am.

With some difficulty, she remembered Ross telling her about the three trainers he’d taken around Alto Mare after the open water chariot race not long ago. Hadn’t he mentioned they were staying at the Pokémon Centre?

She groaned to herself, much her panic melting away into irritation. Duh. The Pokémon Centre – I’ll be able to get information there. Keegan sighed, annoyed it had taken so long to remember something so obvious, and opened her eyes to find Cianwood much closer than it had been mere minutes ago.

And it was only several minutes later that Keegan found herself on the quay, dodging the crowd and rubbing her arms against the cool, salty breeze coming off the sea, her bag bouncing at her hip. She was intensely relieved to be off the water, but didn’t feel much like battling the throng of people to get into the city.

Instead she turned towards the beach, walking along the uppermost reaches of the soft white sand. The sky was overcast, making the beach almost as cold as the ferry had been; but it was strangely soothing, walking with scraggly bushes atop yielding sand dunes on one side and foamy waves beating up on the shore on the other. Once she turned back to look at her footprints trailing behind her, vanishing around the bend, but after two days confined on the ferry she didn’t feel like going back to find the Pokémon Centre. Not yet. The walking made her feel calmer – and gave her time to think about what she wanted to do next.

Before she knew it the sky was beginning to darken and Keegan realized she hadn’t left enough time for her to walk back before nightfall. “Feh,” she muttered, scrambling up the slight rise which turned from sand to rock and finding a flat place to sit. She released Firefoot and Hazel in twin flashes of light, the wind catching their fur almost as soon as they’d materialized.

“Grrawlth!” Firefoot barked happily, prancing about on the gritty surface of the rock. Keegan giggled, tugging at the lid to one of the pokémon food containers nestled in her lap. Hazel hung over her leg eagerly, sniffing at the rim.

“Well, at least you guys are gonna get something to eat before we get back,” Keegan sighed, tossing a piece of food to Firefoot. The growlithe snapped at it, but it bounced off his nose and landed on the rock several feet away. Hazel rolled her eyes and accepted the food Keegan offered with more dignity than the fiery pup, who snuffled about the rock and quickly wolfed down the food anyway.

Absently Keegan looked back to the ocean, studying the strange islands in the distance. They had passed by them on the ferry and she’d heard one of the sailors refer to them as the Whirl Islands, small but still habitable – all except the rocky crags to the southernmost edge.

Under the grey clouds, the waves battering relentlessly against the rock and the dark shadows lingering between sharp cliffs looked more menacing than they might have under a sunny sky. Keegan shivered, suddenly profoundly glad she wasn’t out there.

Then one of the shadows moved. “What…?” Keegan frowned, pushing the container off her lap and standing to move closer.

“Eebui?” Hazel, having followed Keegan’s gaze, cocked her head and stared curiously. Firefoot looked up, mouth full of food, and blinked densely.

A call echoed out from the crags, sending a shiver down Keegan’s spine. Deep, full and melodious, it resonated eerily. The silhouette rose up on long, slender wings, shadows sliding over slick, silver hide which was either feathers or fur; or both, a strange mixture of beast and bird.

Then, before Keegan could get a proper glimpse, it dived into the ocean like an arrow, stray sunlight glinting off the rows of blue fins on its back. The spray rose and fell, pattering across the bay like fleeting raindrops. “What… was that?” Keegan breathed, mesmerized. She’d never seen or heard anything so graceful and beautiful in her life.

“Eebuu,” Hazel whispered, her eyes wide. Firefoot just stared in mid-chew, astonished.

Keegan snapped out of her reverie and took a deep breath. “We should get going.” She turned her back on the ocean, absently brushing the dust off her jeans, and slipped the lid onto the container, tossing each of her pokémon one last piece of food. Firefoot gulped it down enthusiastically, but Hazel just looked out at the water with darkened eyes.

Idiot! Keegan berated herself as she ran. She shouldn’t have dawdled on the way back… she didn’t know if the Pokémon Centre had a curfew, after all, and it would be difficult to find in the dark.

Firefoot bounded at her heels, his bright orange fur like a beacon in the darkness. Overhead the streetlamps gave off their soft glow, barely splashing light over the front of the buildings on either side. Hazel was already tucked securely inside her pokéball, but Firefoot’s ember had helped Keegan find her way off the beach. Now the dim shine of the streetlamps was enough to light the path.

“There!” They rounded the corner and saw the centre, the huge ‘P’ over the glass doors illuminated with red light. Inside, the main hall of the centre was brightly lit, and Keegan could see several trainers still lingered, chatting on the comfortable benches.

The twin doors slid apart with a slight hiss as Keegan and Firefoot approached, and they slowed on the threshold to a more comfortable pace. The pink haired young woman dressed in a nurse’s uniform looked up upon hearing the doors open, her twin looped pigtails swaying gently. “Oh, hello,” she smiled and raised a welcoming hand. “I haven’t seen you around here before.”

Keegan blinked, then realized the nurse was addressing her. “Oh!” her cheeks went slightly pink, as they often did when she was addressed by a stranger. “Yes, I came in on a ferry this afternoon.” She frowned slightly; the nurse bore a striking resemblance to the one in Alto Mare. Oh, wait… Ross once said all the Pokémon Centre nurses looked the same. Nurse Joy, their names are.

“Did you want me to check your pokémon?” Nurse Joy suggested.

“Um, okay,” Keegan agreed, returning Firefoot to his pokéball and handing them over uncertainly.

Joy giggled at her doubtful expression, placing the two pokéballs in the machine behind the counter. “You’re a new trainer, aren’t you?” she asked with a knowing twinkle in her eye.

“I just started travelling, yeah,” Keegan admitted, slinging her bag more securely on her shoulder, and hesitated. “What kind of wild pokémon are there around here?” she asked in what she hoped was a casual voice.

Joy smiled, typing at the control panel of the machine. “Is there any particular one you’re looking for?”

Keegan debated whether or not to answer that question. The Joy in Alto Mare had seemed nice enough the few times Keegan needed to go into the centre, but this wasn’t Alto Mare... “I saw one this evening,” she said at last. “Out in the ocean – near the rocks which mark the beginning of the Whirl Islands. It was silver and had rows of blue fins on its back, but dived into the water before I could get a good look at it.”

“Oh!” Joy looked up from the panel, surprised. “Did it have wings?”

Seated at a vid-screen phone not far off in the corner, a burly clean-shaven man with hard eyes and dark green hair paused, lowering the receiver at his ear thoughtfully. Then, “I’ll call you back,” he said at the screen and hung up, moving closer to the counter unnoticed.

“Um…” Keegan wracked her brain before remembering that yes, she had seen wings and not arms or fins. “Yeah, I think so.”

“Lugia,” the man said instantly, making Keegan jump and spin around, startled. His thick eyebrows overshadowed narrow, calculating eyes which blazed with triumph. “Where exactly did you see it?” he demanded.

“I…” Keegan flushed. “I’m not sure. I walked for a long time before I got there.” She refrained from mentioning which direction. She didn’t like being snuck up upon, and she didn’t like the look in this man’s eyes. “Look, I’m not even sure what I saw,” she continued, feeling uncomfortable. “It was only for a second.”

The man just grinned. “If you saw a silver pokémon which looked like it was part beast and part bird, then you saw a Lugia, girl. The Whirl Islands, huh?” and he turned away, hurrying out of the Pokémon Centre and into the darkness. Keegan watched after him, unnerved.

I shouldn’t have said anything. She found herself thinking regretfully.

“I hope he’s not a poacher,” Joy echoed her feelings of trepidation. “Sometimes you can’t tell unless you see them in action.”

“You don’t think he’d try to catch it unfairly, do you?” Keegan turned pleading eyes to Joy, but the nurse shook her head uncertainly.

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “Sometimes even legendary pokémon hunters become too involved in their pursuit, and make rash decisions. He could be one of them.”

“Legendary pokémon?” Keegan echoed, surprised, but at the same time thinking she should have known. There were few pokémon which could match such grace and beauty.

Joy gave her a faint smile. “Oh, yes. Lugia are legendary pokémon around these parts, but especially around the Whirl Islands. They’re called by some to be ‘the beasts of the sea’.”

Beasts of the sea. Keegan sighed. It seemed she’d never get away from the ocean. “So what do I do?”

“I’m afraid there isn’t much,” Joy told her sympathetically. “You couldn’t have helped him overhearing, so if something happens don’t go thinking it’s your fault.” Keegan smiled reluctantly. That may be so, but it still didn’t make her feel any better. She had no doubt if one of the Elites had been there, they would’ve done something about it. “Here,” Joy handed her the pokéballs. “Your pokémon are fine.”

“Thanks,” Keegan took them, replacing them at her belt.

“If you’re interested in legendary pokémon, you should go to Ecruteak City,” Joy suggested.

“Where’s that?” Keegan wondered, tugging her pokégear off her belt and looking at it curiously. Joy pointed out Ecruteak on the tiny map.

“Of all the cities in Johto, Ecruteak has the strongest ties with legendary pokémon,” she explained. “Perhaps because of the Tin Tower. They say at least four Johto legendaries originated from there.”

Keegan looked down at the red dot, flashing on the screen, and already knew that she was going. It was as good a goal as any; after all, she didn’t have anything else to do. Besides… she had vowed to start looking at the beauty instead of the anger. After seeing Lugia… what could the other legendaries offer her? By searching for them, she might be able to find something out about herself…

* * *

The night was still. The only sounds to be heard were those of the pokémon, echoing in the motionless air. The sky overhead was overcast, making the night darker than it should have been and leaving shadows ominous and threatening – to those who feared them, at least. But for Keegan, shadows had always been a source of comfort.

After all, she wasn’t the very social type. Ross had been her only human friend in eight years. But that wasn’t the reason the darkness saw her stealing her way over the mesh-wire fence just west of Olivine City.

Crouching, her eyes well adjusted to the night, she darted behind one of the metal struts gleaming in the distant glow of the lighthouse. Her high collared black jacket was zipped up to her chin, and together with her black pants would have concealed her well within the shadow of the strut… if not for that tell-tale, red-blonde gleam of her hair. But Keegan had spent most of her time roaming the roofs of Alto Mare… she knew very well how to counter such disadvantages.

For an instant she stood still, listening hard for the sound of previously unseen security guards or late-night sailors outside the fence. All she heard was the distant crash of the sea. Slowly, a smile crept over her lips, and anyone seeing her would have been struck instantly by the sparkling, almost euphoric elation in her azure eyes. Now this was freedom... freedom she hadn’t even realized she had in Alto Mare. Only when it had been taken away did she realize what she possessed.

With silent agility, she scrambled up the side of the strut, using the triangular holes in the metal like a ladder until she reached the uppermost completed platform. From there she could gaze out over the thin strip of shrubbery which separated the half-completed Battle Tower from the edge of Olivine City.

But Keegan wasn’t interested in that. Instead she grinned, eyes twinkling, and wandered carefully along the edge of the tower, sometimes skirting obstacles and at other times surpassing them. To the south was the ocean, giving way to the black sky and a sense of openness which made her uneasy. She kept to the shadows, exploring the construction site with an almost childlike curiosity.

Then she heard them.

Voices, below on the ground amid the lofty, half-finished walls of the tower. If not for the stillness of the night, Keegan may not have heard them at all; but as it was she immediately shrank against the thick wall beside her, her black clothing blending with the shadow.

Idiot! She scolded herself for the second time in three days. She knew she wasn’t supposed to be there. And she’d left her pokémon at the centre… Firefoot was fundamentally a police dog, so there was no way he’d agree to such a venture. As for Hazel… at times such as this she was almost as bad as Miriam…

No matter where you go and what you do, there are always rules to follow – but you seem to dedicate yourself to breaking them… a voice sounding remarkably like her foster mother repeated her words, spoken only a few days ago.

Keegan shook her head subconsciously. Not breaking them. Disregarding them. There’s a difference.

But is there? The deepest part of her whispered, but she ignored it. Instead she crept to the edge of the terrace, laying flat on her stomach to gaze cautiously over the edge. At first she didn’t see anything; then she saw a shadow move, and soon her eyes had picked out the faint silhouette of a man dressed in black, standing beneath the gloom of a low balcony.

Now she had marked his position, it was easy to see the white gloves, looking grey in the darkness. Then someone spoke, and she jumped, startled. The voice sounded much closer in the still air.

“Where do we put it?” It was a male voice, sounding almost too young to be in a darkened construction yard in the dead of night.

The man looked from side to side, obviously searching. His black cap was pulled low over his eyes and Keegan could see the letter ‘R’ in dark red imprinted on the front of his uniform. Then he shrugged. “Put it anywhere,” he said impatiently. “They’ll find it; no one comes here this late at night anyway.”

Those words made Keegan’s stomach clench uneasily; for the man spoke true. No one would come to the construction yard this late at night. Not unless they were criminals themselves…

Who the hell are these people?! She’d heard of criminal organisations before… but one name in particular surfaced to her conscious mind: Team Rocket, as evidenced by the giant letter on the uniform. A sudden chill ran down her spine, and she shivered, a sick feeling low in her stomach as she realized exactly where she was and what she was doing… and why…

I’m not a criminal, I’m not! Her mind screamed to herself stubbornly.

Ah, but you’re here, aren’t you? The same, smug part of her said ruthlessly. It was then Keegan realized she was gripping the edge of the balcony so tightly her knuckles were white. Her body was like a coiled spring, tense with fear and uncertainty. Closing her eyes, she made herself take a long, deep breath, and relaxed.

I can argue my morals with myself later. For now, watch. She made herself focus on the scene below, just in time to catch the unseen agent’s words.

“I don’t get it,” the young-voiced man grumbled, moving for the first time from behind the crane which had been hiding him. “All this cloak and dagger stuff. Why can’t we just pass it on face to face? This is a waste of time.”

“Security,” the other man said shortly. “After the Lake of Rage incident, the Executive Triad judged it best to keep all parts of an operation separate.”

What happened at the Lake of Rage? Keegan wondered, her nervousness intensifying, and she watched with fascinated apprehension as the younger agent place a small bundle inside a broken concrete block.

“You took your time,” the more experienced agent snapped, his arms crossed impatiently. “The ferry needs to leave in a few hours, and we need to get out of here before the pick up.”

The younger agent straightened, brushing off his hands. Keegan couldn’t see his face but by the tension in his back she could tell he was annoyed. “Then why didn’t you do it,” he snapped. “And save me the trouble of coming out here.”

His companion just chuckled. “I’ll be damned if I’m going to do all the work around here. Let’s go.” Still hidden high above their heads, Keegan watched almost breathlessly as they vanished into the shadows. She heard the faint rattle of the mesh fence… and then the construction yard was once again silent.

For long moments Keegan lay still, hardly listening to the distant sound of the waves on the beach; not because she feared discovery, but because she was torn between curiosity and caution. She was dying to see what was in the little bundle…

Finally, before she’d even realized she’d decided, she swung down from the balcony onto a strut stretching across the would-be inside of the tower. For several seconds she balanced perilously, then caught her balance and shimmied over to the chain of the crane’s winch, dangling to the dusty, concrete floor below.

Within seconds Keegan had reached the bottom, the chain clinking gently. She cringed with every sound, her nerves tightly strung. Like a nervy fox, she scuttled across the half finished floor to the concrete block, and looked about one last time before pulling out the bundle.

The dark, nondescript drawstring bag was no bigger than her fist; it could have been dropped by anyone, used for anything. She opened it up and shook out the contents, wrapped in a piece of soft cloth. Flipping aside the leaves of the cloth impatiently, the object was revealed: a strange, faceted crystal.

Deep within its centre was a swirl of rainbow colours, but the outside surface was pure white. It was warm and seemed to vibrate slightly, almost humming. Keegan turned it this way and that curiously, strangely hypnotised by the smoothness of the facets, the comforting weight in her palm. Like her fire stone pendant, it had a soothing charm to it. Keegan wondered what it was, and how it was linked to Team Rocket.

But she had lingered too long. Her ears caught the sound of the fence jingling for the second time, and Keegan automatically shrank into the shadows, backing carefully through the littered tower interior. Moving with restrained urgency, she was already over the fence and halfway back to Olivine’s Pokémon Centre by the time she realized the crystal was still clutched in her hand.

Keegan paced the wooden floor of the room anxiously, one hand gripping her pendant as though for comfort. Curled up on the top bunk, Hazel was examining the crystal lying on the light blue blanket curiously, tail twitching. Then she shot a disapproving look at Keegan.

“I didn’t mean to take it!” Keegan blurted jumpily, seeing her. She glanced down at Firefoot to find that his intensely stern glare hadn’t changed, his posture as rigid as it had been when she released him. Somehow they both knew whenever she did something bad.

“Eebui, bubii,” Hazel hissed, her fur bristling as Keegan went to the windows, looking out at the trainers in the yard below before shutting them with a snap.

“I know, I know,” Keegan muttered, tugging at her pendant nervously. “I know this isn’t Alto Mare, and I know we were already bordering on illegal acts then. But the yard was just so empty and inviting…” she trailed off and sighed. “Okay, I shouldn’t’ve done it. And I should’ve taken one of you along. I’m sorry.” Immediately Hazel’s scowl lifted and her fur settled back down, all except for the white ruff around her neck which still stuck up in different directions.

Firefoot, however, just gave a disappointed sort of whine and turned his head away. Keegan fell to her knees before him, trying to catch his gaze. “Come on, Firefoot,” she pleaded with him. “Okay, so I sneak – but I’d never steal anything deliberately, you know that!” He tilted his head to look mournfully at her out of the corner of his eyes; then he licked her resignedly on the cheek. Keegan threw her arms around him thankfully and gave him a squeeze.

“Okay,” she sat back, brushing her hair out of her eyes and looking up at Hazel. “So what do I do with that thing? I mean, I can’t give it back…” she paused, thinking about that possibility, and shivered. “They were criminals. Real criminals.” Firefoot snuffled at her hand encouragingly. Keegan stared blindly into the blanket of the lower bed. “Who knows what they were gonna use it for?” she whispered almost mechanically.

“Grrralth, graa,” Firefoot barked, butting her shoulder with his head.

Keegan jumped to her feet, shocked. “You can’t be serious?!” she exclaimed, pale. “Give it in to the police?! That would mean admitting where I was – what I was doing!”

Firefoot’s stern look returned and he leapt up at Keegan, knocking her over in what, at any other time, might have been a playful challenge. “Grrraa,” he rumbled strongly, standing over her, but Keegan just pushed him off.

“I can’t,” she snapped. “I don’t even know what it’s for. They say Team Rocket is almost as powerful as the Pokémon Association – what do you think would happen if they had an agent watching over the police station and they saw me turn it in?” Firefoot’s ears drooped as he considered this, exchanging a worried glance with Hazel.

<<She’s right, it could be dangerous,>> Hazel conceded, her huge eyes shadowed with worry as Keegan got to her feet, brushing long orange fur off her usual jeans and sleeveless white top.

Firefoot turned his head away and sighed, the white ruff beneath his chin stirring under the force of his breath. <<That doesn’t mean I have to like it,>> he whined to himself, and Hazel let out a sound of agreement as they exchanged anxious glances once again.

Then the eevee nudged the crystal towards Keegan and the girl picked it up, her fingers tingling with tension and her expression darkening. “We’ll just have to keep it with us,” she decided, wrapping it in the cloth she had inadvertently brought with her and tucking it away into the deepest corner of her bag. “And we’ll have to be careful,” she bit her lip uncertainly, trying to dispel the heavy feeling the pit of her stomach. It took a moment before she managed to separate the fear from something else: regret. She shouldn’t’ve gone into the yard…

Then she took a deep breath. It doesn’t matter. She told herself sternly. You did it, and you can’t change it. So get over it. She shrugged on her sleeveless grey jacket, turning to her pokémon. “Let’s get out of here,” she said simply, praying that somehow, she might be able to leave her self-frustration in Olivine.

Fat chance.

* * *

Keegan stepped through the underbrush nervously, eyes darting around at the foliage with guilty paranoia. She was within a day of Ecruteak, but having passed through several towns on the way she felt uneasy being around other people. Unfortunately, the woods weren’t much better.

Something rustled in the bushes and Keegan froze, one hand flying instinctively to Hazel’s pokéball. Something shiny flashed in a beam of light forcing its way through the canopy, and a magnemite hovered out of the bushes. With a relieved sigh, Keegan lowered her hand. The woods near Olivine and surrounding Ecruteak were filled with the electric pokémon during the daytime, but Keegan hadn’t seen any until now.

“Maa…nem…iiite…” The magnemite’s single eye was heavily lidded and the magnets at its sides drooped lazily. It swayed slightly, floating low to the ground. On a human the posture might have meant intoxication. On a pokémon it just seemed… odd.

Keegan took a step back as the magnemite approached relentlessly, weaving unsteadily in a way that made Keegan revise her opinion – maybe pokémon could get drunk…

But then she lost interest in that subject, because the bushes rustled once more, parting to allow more of the electric pokémon through. Every single one of them was acting in much the same way as the first. Keegan backed away nervously as they approached, chanting eerily.

She jumped, feeling something brush against her, and looked down to find one of the magnemite pressed against her bag, eye closed blissfully. She shook it off and clutched her bag closer, turning around to run… only to find herself surrounded by the steely pokémon.

Do they know?! She cried inwardly, her eyes wide with panic as the magnemite once again approached, crowding her. Who cares?! She snatched Firefoot’s pokéball from her waist and threw it into their midst. With the customary flash of light Firefoot appeared, prepped and ready for battle, but the magnemite ignored him.

“Firefoot, use flamethrower to clear a path!” Keegan ordered, throwing off one of the electric pokémon clinging to her bag and swatting at another. Firefoot opened his mouth wide, showing off his canines, and let loose a stream of blazing flames. Keegan flinched away from it, and the fire licking over the steely bodies of the magnemite seemed to jolt them to their senses – until Firefoot closed his jaws, swallowing the last of the flamethrower.

“Come on!” Keegan took advantage of the momentary path swathed through the swarm of pokémon and fled, Firefoot loping after her. Behind them, several confused-looking magnemite floated off, burns seared across their steel. The rest, their eyes once again drooping dopily, followed an unseen trail left by Keegan.

Keegan jumped over a log, a stitch already growing in her side and her bag dragging at her shoulder. She could still hear the creepy chanting of the magnemite behind her. “What… the hell’s… their problem?!” she gasped to Firefoot, but the growlithe couldn’t answer. Not that he had a solution anyway.

Suddenly the woods ended and Keegan skidded to a halt at the edge of the low cliff, making dust billow. Down below, the woods were pressed to the side of the crag. In the distance, looming over the forest, was the Tin Tower. “Oh, great,” Keegan groaned, clutching the stitch at her side. The cliff was little more than fifty feet tall, but by the time she’d climbed halfway down the magnemite were sure to on her, and after that there was no way she’d be able to maintain her descent.

“Grrrraalth,” Firefoot turned and set his paws resolutely, head lowered and fur bristling in preparation for a battle.

“There’s too many,” Keegan scanned the cliff edge anxiously, searching for a way out. “They’ll swamp you!” Firefoot just snarled in answer, baring his teeth as one of the magnemite appeared through the trees. Keegan spun about and stopped in shock, touching her pendant fleetingly. The magnemite seemed to fill the air. Everywhere she looked there was another, some with burns from Firefoot’s previous attack but all with the same dopey look.

Keegan took in a deep breath, knowing they had the type advantage but the magnemite had numbers. “Alright,” she said as calmly as she could manage against the intimidating mass of magnemite. Her face was pale, but her eyes glittered with stubborn determination. There was the possibility of having Team Rocket on her trail; she wasn’t going to let a few wild pokémon faze her.

“Firefoot, use flame wheel,” Keegan ordered. Firefoot leapt forward into a full run, his fur blazing and paws leaving a trail of fire behind him. The hot air around him crackled and formed into a fiery shield as he ploughed through the magnemite, scattering them to either side. Some, their steel blackened by the fire and their eyes widening to show some glimmer of reasoning, vanished back into the trees. Most ignored the attack, and continued to approach Keegan mindlessly.

Firefoot spun about, charging back through the wall of steel bodies. The magnemite didn’t even try to avoid him, hypnotised by something neither Keegan not Firefoot could find. Bursting through the outer edge of the swarm, Firefoot skidded to a halt before the ledge, snow-white tail and ruff fluttering in the air.

“Miiite… maah…” the magnemite chanted, drawing ever closer. Firefoot snarled warningly, fur still blazing with the remnants of his flame wheel. Keegan gritted her teeth and lifted Hazel’s expanded pokéball, about to release the eevee for reinforcements; but then the matter was taken out of her hands.

A roar echoed through the woods and Keegan automatically turned her head to see what it was. A raging ball of fire, wrapped with flaming orange veins, streaked past her, hitting the ground in the centre of the swarm. The earth shook, throwing Keegan down, the ball flaring into a swift inferno. It enveloped the magnemite and swept out in a loose, quickly dissipating ring. Keegan covered her head protectively, Hazel’s pokéball still clutched in her hand, while the ring seared overhead, the heat drying her skin and leaving her flushed and blistered.

Keegan looked up, shaking, to find a pokémon standing away from her, watching as the magnemite picked themselves up dazedly and retreated into the trees. Like some great beast it towered over her, long brown fur still ruffling in the after breeze of its attack. Giant paws dug lightly into the burned dirt, the black manacles encircling each leg shining in the light, and a billowing cloud of smoke flowed over two jagged grey wings.

She stared, awestruck, at its awesome presence. The very air around it vibrated with heat, its strong posture screaming power, and she had no doubt that the beast was a legendary.

Then it turned its flat face towards her, revealing a mask-like visage with a yellow forehead flowing towards its rear and red cheeks spiking out to the sides. But what captivated her were its eyes. In them burned a raging fire not unlike the flames that seemed to burn within her pendant. Unconsciously, Keegan touched the stone at her throat, her eyes wide. Then the moment was shattered as the pokémon bounded away, darting into the trees with graceful, restrained speed.

Firefoot was paralysed. Paws set in the blackened dirt, he shook with overwhelmed awe. He could still smell Entei’s scent in the air, feel the heat of his attack in his fur. The growlithe’s heart was racing, and his legs, suddenly robbed of adrenaline, threatened to fail on him; but he couldn’t move.

Such power, he thought longingly, unaware of the faint whines deep in his throat. Such speed.

“Firefoot?” Keegan’s voice broke through his paralysis and he blinked up at his trainer. The naturally bad eyesight of all growlithe blurred her into nothing more than a faint shape, but he could smell her awe and concern at his reaction. “Are you okay?” the blurry figure shifted, and he knew she was looking into the trees where Entei had vanished. “Do you know that pokémon?”

<<Entei,>> Firefoot whispered, feeling ashamed. If he had known that attack, the ultimate of all fire attacks… if he was strong and fast like Entei… he would have been able to protect Keegan. <<The Lord of Flames.>> his sentence faded into a whimper and he lay down, burying his muzzle in his paws.

He felt Keegan beside him and she ruffled his fur comfortingly. Reassured, Firefoot leaned into her hand and closed his eyes. “You want to be like him, don’t you?” It was hardly a question; Firefoot could smell her certainty. “Don’t worry. We’ll get you that power. We can do it together.”

Firefoot cocked his head, wondering if she knew; if she realized that power was right in his paw prints. He didn’t have to sniff the air to sense it. He could hear it in the burning melody, feel it even...

In the tantalizing beckon of the Ho-Oh’s Eye jewel around her neck.

23rd April 2005, 4:18 AM

XD Now that I think about it, Arcanine IS like Entei.

Superb chapter.

Question: Will Keegan be alone the whole way? xD;;;

23rd April 2005, 4:33 AM
^.^ Thank you, Saber.

No, Keegan won't be alone the whole way. She eventually travels with up to two other people - one is a character from the anime. The other is one of my own invention.

I'm already working on the next chapter, and it should be done by Wednesday. ^.^ Thanks for reviewing.

Twilight Absol
23rd April 2005, 6:00 AM
Hm...even more so interesting....
i WONDER ...I wonder.... what is thy crystal?
hm... nice, but it doesn't seem as if it was from a pokemon's POV though >.>
great chappie...

23rd April 2005, 6:16 AM
^.^ lol, I don't mean the whole thing is from a pokemon's PoV. But at the end, I did write from Firefoot's PoV. I thought some people might be confused with the fact he suddenly started talking. <_< Obviously I just caused more confusion...

24th April 2005, 2:25 AM
Hm. I did that talking thing once with the pokemon. It confused people too... I wonder what Team Rocket wants?

26th April 2005, 3:32 AM
WARNING: This chapter contains some violence and the aftermath of violence.
But enjoy it anyway :P

~ III ~


The setting sun flashed over the forest, gleaming over the Tin Tower and dyeing the timber many different shades of brown. Beneath the canopy, the pokémon of the night were already emerging, while the citizens of Ecruteak, laid at the base of the Tin Tower, were retreating into their homes.

With a slight rustle of leaves, Keegan’s blonde head poked out among the branches of the oak tree, and she surveyed the horizon with annoyed blue eyes. “We should’ve hit Ecruteak by now,” she grumbled to her pokémon, both sealed within their pokéballs. She turned around, intending to climb back down, when she saw the Tin Tower looming over her, not more than a hundred or so yards off through the woods.

Keegan sighed. “Naturally.” After the incident with the magnemites, Keegan had discovered she had no idea where the path was. The only landmark she had was the nine-storey Tin Tower visible over the treetops, which was hardly a perfect trail to follow; especially since she’d been occupied with wondering why the magnemites had been acting so strangely.

Scrambling back down the tree, Keegan set off purposefully towards the Tin Tower, skirting the spinarak spinning their webs between trees and branches. She reached a high, wooden wall shadowed by the first of many tier roofs and scanned it with twinkling eyes; but before she could make a move, she heard the sound of a noctowl behind her.

Turning, Keegan found the owl pokémon staring at her with huge round eyes shadowed by its cream-coloured crest, resting on a nearby branch. Once she met its gaze it spread long, soft wings and glided silently to the next branch, looking back at her expectantly.

Keegan cast a regretful glance back at the wall of the tower, then followed obediently. The noctowl led her to a wide stone path leading to the entrance of the tower, landing on the bald head of a man dressed in brown robes. He looked at Keegan approaching uncertainly, eyes narrowed with suspicion.

“What is your purpose here?” he demanded, scowling at her under thick eyebrows, his thin face giving him an almost haunting look.

“I… I got lost in the woods,” Keegan explained. “But I managed to find my way to the tower. And then I came across your noctowl…” she trailed off as the monk looked up to his noctowl in askance. It fluttered off his head to a nearby branch, tipping its head and hooting in confirmation.

“Oh!” the monk’s expression cleared. “Very well, then.” He nodded down the stone steps nearby. “Ecruteak is down that way. You had best hurry; at night the spinarak cast webs across the path to stop intruders.”

“Oh… thanks…” Keegan turned from him and returned down the path. If the monk had seen her face, he would have noticed that her eyes were lit up with sparkling elation. Below, the forest ranged on each side, while a small wayhouse separated the tower from city; however, she had no intention of going into Ecruteak… the defences of the Tin Tower appealed to her special sense of adventure.

But at her belt, the pokeballs contained Hazel and Firefoot shuddered, and Keegan’s pace slowed. She plucked Firefoot’s pokéball off her belt and expanded it; through the surface of the ball she could see Firefoot’s intensely disapproving look. “Don’t look at me like that,” Keegan protested, her excitement dying down. “It was just an idea…” Hazel’s pokéball quaked once again, registering her objection as well.

With a sigh Keegan shrank Firefoot’s pokéball and replaced it at her belt, knowing they were right; but instead of continuing on her way she looked wistfully at the Tin Tower. Her curiosity and rebellious side wrestled with common sense; the last time she’d gone where she wasn’t meant to be, she’d run into Team Rocket…

But this was different… this was a well-guarded tower. So how do I know I’ll be able to get in there without being caught? She wondered, then grinned. I don’t. That’s why I want to do it. It was decided. Not for the first time, nor for the last, her insane curiosity had won over, and she stepped off the path to melt into the forest.

Keegan stared at the noctowl, eyes wide and unblinking. Crouched behind a bush to the left of the pokémon, she felt exposed; but she also knew that any movement would make it easier for the noctowl to spot her.

It cocked its head and scanned the trees again with a soft hoot, resting on a low branch. Keegan’s eyes began to water and she wished she could sit down; but her stubborn nature made her keep still, even in the face of discomfort. Such ventures required a certain kind of patience, and it was thanks to Keegan’s obstinacy she had that patience in spades. Finally, the noctowl spread its wings and glided off to patrol a different part of the woods.

Immediately Keegan let out a slow breath and relaxed cautiously. The tower was just ahead, beyond the tree the noctowl had been resting on. Carefully, Keegan crept from cover to cover, eyes darting about anxiously, until she reached her mark. From there she could see the tower’s wall; but she could also see something else – a spinarak’s web glistened in the scant moonlight, blocking her way. The instant she touched it, swarms of bug and grass pokémon were sure to descend upon her.

Instead Keegan looked up, thoughtfully considering the tree’s wide canopy. It was clear of traps, so without another second’s hesitation she swung herself into the branches.

And promptly found herself face to face with a sleeping pineco.

Keegan froze, not even daring to breathe. The slabs of bark layering the pineco’s spiky shell had disguised it completely from Keegan’s hasty inspection. Slowly, without taking her eyes off the slumbering pokémon, Keegan raised her hand to the branch above, levering her foot into a suitable position before raising herself past the pineco with careful, controlled movements.

Unfortunately the pineco wasn’t alone in the tree. Sitting tensely on the branch above it, she found herself surrounded by the bug pokémon, all likely to explode at the slightest disturbance.

Keegan winced. Great move, she growled to herself inwardly, climbing carefully around the pineco. Her muscles were already aching with the strain of having to hold her weight for such controlled periods of time, and it didn’t help that her skin was peeling and itchy from the heat of Entei’s fiery rescue.

But it was already too late to turn back. Even Firefoot and Hazel were wise enough to realize that. If either of them had burst out of their pokéballs, it was likely to land Keegan in even worse trouble.

Finally Keegan made it to the branches closest to the tower, where the outermost leaves just barely brushed the gently sloping tier roof. Keegan gathered her bag close to her chest and touched her pendant for good luck before she leapt for the edge of the dark canopy. Her scrabbling fingers managed to catch onto the wooden bar lining the edge of the roof and she swung crazily for several seconds, her bag pulling cruelly at her shoulder, before she pulled herself onto the roof.

Heart pounding, arms and legs feeling weary yet charged with adrenaline, Keegan shrank into the shadows of the next tier’s roof. She struggled to keep her breathing to a slow, silent pace while praying the still-rustling leaves of the tree she’d just exited would go unnoticed. When she finally judged the coast clear, Keegan shakily rubbed her damp palms on her jeans and turned towards the wide glass windows arrayed behind her.

Digging her fingers into the edges of the window frame, Keegan managed to pry one open; as she’d suspected, they were unlocked. The Tin Tower was undoubtedly a very old monument of Ecruteak, and any modern renovations would have destroyed the tower’s value. Besides, as far as Keegan had heard, it was a shrine honouring a legendary pokémon of the city; a good reason for the pokémon to protect it but hardly enough to install locks. After all, what was in there worth stealing?

Keegan slipped through the open window and dropped silently to the smooth, wooden floor with an intense feeling of satisfaction. Carefully closing the window behind her, Keegan grinned, eyes sparkling, and turned towards the wooden staircase up to the next level.

If she had lingered outside for several moments more, she might have seen three shadows gliding silently towards the tower from the sky above, framed against the dim stars.

Keegan rubbed her hand over the smooth, polished wood of the rail as she made her way up the consecutive staircases of the tower. So far each room had been much the same, boasting bare wooden walls with huge, shining brass bells secured in each corner by an ornate metal frame. At first the bells’ smooth surface had soothed and interested her, but now it seemed a little more… routine. And yet at the top… the view would have to be incredible. That thought alone kept Keegan’s interest.

Yet as she drew nearer the pinnacle of the tower, the air grew strangely warm. Laying a hand on the wall, Keegan noticed that the wood seemed to be retaining heat from a strange source. Looking up the staircases, she could see a strange glow emitting from the topmost chamber.

Is someone else up here? She wondered, gripping her pendant reassuringly as she mounted another staircase. If there was… she could get into very serious trouble. What if it’s someone else? Someone who’s not meant to be here? Keegan thought to herself, hardly able to draw breath with uncertain tension as she continued on her way to the next level. The chamber was identical to all the others below, complete with bells and all – only this time they were silver, set in a place of honour in the centre of the ceiling.

Keegan touched one gently, revelling in the coolness of its surface. Then she turned towards the stairs up. Hesitating for long, dangerous moments, Keegan considered her options, wiping sweaty palms on her jeans as she ignored the heat which permeated through the tower. After a time she decided; the strange, ethereal warmth left no doubt the tower was devoid of human life. Or so she thought.

With a deep breath, on carefully silent feet, Keegan climbed the last stairs, the air seeming to vibrate around her. As she emerged from the staircase, the first thing to meet her gaze was the biggest bird she’d ever seen.

It turned a gold crested head towards her, startled by her sudden appearance, and flared rainbow coloured wings to show a snow-white belly. Instinctively Keegan flinched back as the long, dazzling feathers filled the room. Then in a flash of fiery tail feathers, the bird was gone. Fleeing through the open canopy above, it lit the sky like a tiny sun.

Down below, in the wayhouse separating the tower from Ecruteak, the three guardian monks gaped, astonished, as a shining flurry of feathers lanced out of the tower, vanishing into the night. “Ho-Oh,” one gasped. “Something’s scared her!”

At the pinnacle, Keegan was too stunned by the bird’s size and quick escape to do anything but stare after it. The next thing she knew, something slammed into her with the force of a truck. Keegan sailed back down the stairs, tumbling across the wooden floor to hit the opposite wall with a loud thud echoed by the tinkling of the bells. Her bag slid across the opposite side of the room, lying half open on the wooden floor. Winded, Keegan gasped for air, her ribs and back aching and her limbs strangely unresponsive.

She tried to get up but her head pounded, her vision momentarily searing white. The room spun and distantly something snarled. Instinctively Keegan fumbled for her pokéballs, releasing both Hazel and Firefoot to combat her attacker.

Then her vision cleared and she found herself confronted by a snarling, mask-like visage preceding an electric yellow and black striped body. Shocked, Keegan scrambled to the side as the dark rain cloud on the tiger-like beast’s back flashed, sending a thunderbolt to sear the wood where Keegan had sat moments before.

Brushing static-charged hair from her eyes, her head throbbing sharply, Keegan saw Hazel rush at another cat-like beast. Blue with white diamonds and a strange long, turquoise crest, it was merely a blur as it dodged Hazel, its twin, ribbon-like white tails sweeping forward. It opened a long muzzle, firing a forceful beam of bubbles towards the eevee as the purple cloud on its back billowed, revealing a slim, quick body, and even in the midst of the chaos Keegan marvelled at its grace and beauty.

The bubblebeam caught Hazel harshly in the ribs and she was sent flying back, hitting the wall and crumbling to the floor, her fur sodden and tangled. With a melodious, almost purring cry, the beast raised its head, a glowing white sphere growing in its mouth. Recognising the onset of an ice beam, Keegan hastily returned her dazed, panting eevee.

But that proved to be a problem, because then the beast directed its ice beam at her. Keegan jumped to the side, flinching away as shards of cold ice splintered against the wall. Several arrowed past her, one leaving a long, shallow red scrape along her upper arm. Shivering in the ice-dust, Keegan scrambled away, eyes searching frantically for Firefoot.

Her stomach lurched when she caught a glimpse of a snarling, battered Firefoot standing up to towering, angry Entei. Then the wind was once again knocked out of her and she was driven back into the wall by a rapid stream of bubbles. Coughing, dazed and wet, chest throbbing hurtfully, Keegan found herself by the electric beast as it nosed feverishly at her bag, short, kinked tail twitching jerkily. It seemed worried, anxious, but Keegan didn’t have time to think why.

Grabbing the strap of the bag, she slung it over her shoulder and stumbled to her feet. With a thunderous bark, the beast jumped at her, knocking her over and standing over her, snarling furiously. Desperately, Keegan swung a double-fisted blow at its closest paw, knocking it off balance. It lurched to the side, almost falling on top of her. At the last moment it caught itself, but Keegan was already gone.

Firefoot tumbled head over heels, sprawled over the wooden floor. Sides heaving, fur matted with the blood of numerous cuts and scrapes, he struggled to his feet. Taking a resolute step forward, his right foreleg failed on him, a burn seared across his shoulder rendering it useless. The pup staggered, the scent of his own burning flesh in his nostrils, only to find Keegan beside him.

Keegan held out the pokéball, about to return Firefoot, but the pup, eyes blazing with furious determination, leapt for her. Shocked, Keegan only flinched when the growlithe knocked her over. His fangs scraped at her throat as he tore her fire stone pendant from around her neck, leaving a red mark as the chain snapped.

White light rippled over his bloodied fur, his wounds engulfed in the thickening of his coat, and a magnificent snowy white mane swelled over his head and shoulders. Keegan rolled to her side and watched, astonished, as white tufts flared back from his growing paws. Then the light faded, revealing a fiery dog whose size and majesty rivalled that of the beasts arrayed against him. Firefoot lowered his head, fur bristling, and growled as the now dim pendant slipped from his mouth and dropped to the floor with a clunk, sliding on the slick wood towards the beasts.

Keegan reached for it, but Entei roared deafeningly, making her head pound, and she clutched her ears, cowering. Firefoot stepped back defensively, but didn’t change his battle-ready stance. The lithe, blue beast drew back its head, about to fire another bubblebeam while sparks flowed over the striped beast’s fur.

My pendant! Keegan thought desperately, but Firefoot nudged her urgently. Reluctantly, Keegan reached up with shaking hands, grabbing onto Firefoot’s thick orange-and-black fur and swinging her leg over his back. With a short bark, Firefoot bounded down the stairs with newfound grace as the thunderbolt and bubblebeam collided on the floor where he’d stood, leaving a searing black mark and sending the pendant skittering over floorboards to rest beneath the gently tinkling silver bells.

Keegan hunched over Firefoot’s back, clutching onto his mane with all her might. Her legs were clenched tightly around his ribs and she struggled to keep her balance against the unfamiliar, supple flow of muscles beneath his skin which threatened to throw her off. Behind them, through the sound of her heart pounding in her ears, she could hear the trio of legendary beasts giving chase, determined to drive them from the tower in a flurry of fire, water and lightning.

As they burst down into another of the identical rooms, a startled, darkly clad woman with orange hair looked up. Paws scrabbling on the slick wooden floor, Firefoot tried to dodge around her. She dove to the side as he flashed past, and Keegan caught a glimpse of two astonished men dressed in the same uniform. Then the floor rose up around her and they vanished from sight as Firefoot continued on his downward escape.

Keegan turned away, eyes tightly shut and teeth gritted. The next instant she heard alarmed shouts and pain-filled cries amid the sound of roaring flames, shattering ice and cracking electricity.

Those disturbing noises were soon left behind and they finally exploded out of the tower’s entrance. But their worries weren’t over yet, as they came face to face with a leering, red-eyed gengar. Instinctively, Firefoot jerked aside, his jaws already open to bathe the gengar in flames; but the gengar wisped away into nothingness, hidden in the darkness, and the flames washed uselessly over the wide, white stones of the path.

“You!” a familiar voice shouted. Keegan winced, then raised her throbbing head and blinked blearily towards several blurry figures. She could feel Firefoot’s rumbling growls and blinked rapidly, trying to coalesce the figures into something recognisable.

“There’s -” she began, but then cut off short as her lungs complained about the damage they’d taken. Coughing harshly, it was several moments before she caught her breath, one hand pressed weakly to her chest. When she did, she looked up to find the same monk clasping his hands fitfully, his thick eyebrows drawn forward in an expression of utmost anguish.

“I told you to leave!” he cried accusingly, wringing his hands. Behind him were two other monks, one plump and the other elderly. Both peered past her with anxious eyes. Pale, Keegan shook her head helplessly, unable to speak, then regretted it instantly; it made the world spin dizzily.

“You say you saw this girl at sunset?” A blue-haired woman who was a perfect match for the Officer Jenny in Alto Mare demanded. Keegan took a deep, slow breath, stifling an outbreak of coughs.

The monk nodded worriedly. “She said she was lost in the woods… I told her to return to Ecruteak.” He turned to a yellow haired young man with a blue headband, staring thoughtfully at Keegan. His blue and yellow jumper stood out brightly in the darkness. “I should have guided her down there,” he apologised earnestly. “I’m sorry, Morty.” Morty nodded absently. At his side, a proud-looking brown-haired young man was glaring at Keegan suspiciously, arms crossed over his purple suit. His white cape fluttered slightly in the night breeze.

“Right,” Officer Jenny said briskly, and pointed accusingly at Keegan. “You’re under arrest for trespassing and breaking into the Tin Tower.” Instantly Firefoot growled, his hackles rising.

“No,” Keegan found her voice finally, her fist clenching momentarily in Firefoot’s striped fur. “There were – there were -” she coughed and continued determinedly through the tickle in her throat. “There were three people in there,” she managed at last. “A woman and – two men.”

Jenny glanced questioningly at Morty, followed by the three monks. He gazed at Keegan piercingly through lidded eyes, as though he could see into her very soul. Uncomfortably, Keegan flushed and looked away, her heartbeat finally slowing down. “She’s telling the truth,” he said at last, confidently. The monks gasped.

“Lead the way,” Jenny ordered. Firefoot glanced back at Keegan, his eyes concerned at the sight of her pale face and the red graze down her arm. Nonetheless, she touched him on the shoulder. Obediently, Firefoot turned around, only to find the gengar had blocked their escape back into the tower.

The gengar dissolved and reappeared at Morty’s shoulder, its grin widening. Firefoot padded into the tower, the slight breeze tugging at his fluffy white tail as Officer Jenny and her companions followed. He carefully stepped up the staircase and Keegan closed her eyes, leaning forward and taking slow, steady breaths in an effort to keep the room from spinning. The headache was beginning to make her feel sick.

As they ascended, Keegan listened intently for the sounds of the legendary beasts, but to her relief the tower was silent. And yet when they reached the correct floor, Keegan’s stomach lurched, and she swallowed hard. The room smelled of burned flesh, and she stared with horror at the scene as Firefoot entered, giving the others room to come in.

One of the men was pinned halfway up the wall with icicle spears. One had pierced his shoulder, but the edges of the wound were turning black with the sheer cold, stopping it from bleeding. He was unconscious, limply hanging from his icy restraints. His skin was pale, almost purple in the cold. His black-and-blue uniform and the navy-coloured bandanna covering his head were coated in a thin layer of glittering ice crystals. Keegan could see he was alive in the small puffs of cold breath.

Almost directly beneath him was the second man, in a bundle on the floor. His bandanna and the brown hair peeking from beneath it were sticking up with static electricity, and he still twitched occasionally. His body was scored with electrical burns and Keegan shuddered, absently fingering the pearly scars on her arm.

The third of the trio, the orange-haired woman, was slumped against the wall behind the staircase, her chest rising and falling slowly in evidence of life. The right half of her face was red and bloody, badly burned, and her hair and bandanna still smoked, almost completely gone. Her uniform, however, seemed more intact than the men’s. It also smoked, shiny with residue of flames, but appeared to be resistant to fire.

Firefoot backed away and Keegan slid off his back, finally noticing every ache and pain which afflicted her. Her legs almost collapsed, but Firefoot braced himself to hold her weight and she leaned on him weakly. Looking at the three other intruders, she felt a chill, realizing just how lucky she had been to get away with a few scrapes and bruises.

Of course, you led those pokémon straight into these guys… she thought to herself guiltily.

“Goodness,” the elderly monk gasped, paling as he entered. The plump monk clapped a hand over his mouth, horror-struck eyes travelling over the three unconscious intruders. He immediately waddled hastily up the stairs, evidently to escape the room and to be sure the upper levels were undamaged. Jenny checked the brown-haired intruder’s pulse, finding that he was alive, while Morty, seeing there was no threat, returned his gengar to its pokéball.

“Tell your arcanine to melt this ice,” the caped young man ordered, touching one of the icicles, then drawing his hand away with a hiss at its burning frostiness.

“Firefoot,” Keegan said faintly, leaning back against the wall and sinking to the floor. With a worried glance, Firefoot padded over and breathed gentle flames over the ice, slowly melting it until the half-frozen intruder fell into the young man’s arms. He set him down by the wall gently, tugging the ragged edges of the uniform over the frozen wound.

“You’ve defiled the sacred tower,” the thin-faced monk murmured anxiously. “Look… look at what you’ve done…” he swept an arm around the room, but Keegan’s head snapped up.

“I didn’t,” she denied, horrified. “I didn’t!”

“If you didn’t attack these people, then who did?” Jenny demanded, looking up from the three compact hang-gliders resting in the corner. She held out a scrap of black material. “And what’s this?” Keegan looked. Imprinted on the fabric was a blue emblem, similar to the tiny symbols on the intruder’s bandannas. In the centre was a circle, while at the bottom were two short lines, with a third at the top, making it look vaguely like an ‘A’…

“I don’t know,” she admitted, her words muffled by her knees. With her spare hand, Jenny reached for her radio, preparing to call for paramedics. “But I guess they were attacked by Entei and those other two beasts.”

At this, the caped man’s head snapped around, his blue eyes suddenly kindling with passion. “What other two beasts?” he demanded, rising from his crouch.

“Entei?” the elderly monk echoed at the same time. Jenny halted for an instant, also surprised, but then turned away and covered her ears to speak into the radio.

Keegan nodded, shifting her position to sit cross-legged. “I didn’t expect to come across any pokémon, truly I didn’t!” she appealed to them honestly. Which was the truth. The last thing she’d expected to find in the tower was legendary pokémon – after seeing Entei and Lugia, what were the chances she’d see others? Quite high, it now seemed.

“Tell us exactly what happened,” Morty turned around from checking the female intruder, his baggy jeans rustling, and fixed her once again with that eerie, intense gaze as his friend crossed his arms impatiently.

“I went up to the top of the tower,” Keegan explained, looked down at the now slick, wet floor as Firefoot lay heavily down beside her. “And… it was getting hot, all of a sudden. When I went into the top room, there was a giant bird…” her voice turned wistful. “Like a phoenix.” The monks exchanged astonished looks and Morty’s eyes went wide as sudden, fleeting envy flashed over his face.

“Except… I guess I startled it,” Keegan admitted. “Because it flew off. And the trio of beasts attacked me.” She fiddled with the hem of her jeans uncomfortably, absently breathing through her mouth to avoid smelling the air. There was no avoiding the fact she wasn’t meant to be up there, which had obviously been reason enough for Entei to attack her when he’d helped her before.

She looked at Firefoot proudly, and ruffled his fur fondly. “Firefoot carried me out. On the way down we ran across those three,” she nodded her head towards the intruders, ignoring the sudden stab in her temple which reminded her of the dull ache behind her eyes. “I guess they distracted the beasts.”

“Legendary dogs,” the caped man supplied, no longer seeming to care about her. His eyes turned elsewhere.

Huh. They looked more like cats to me, Keegan thought to herself idly, but seeing the young man’s sudden fervour kept her from saying so. She blinked, surprised, as he moved with swift, barely controlled zeal towards the stairs leading higher.

“Eusine,” Morty grabbed his arm and Eusine pulled away with a jerk, his eyes alight with smouldering passion. “Now’s not the time.”

For an instant Eusine glared at him, and Keegan thought he would hit his friend; but then he calmed out of whatever desire had gripped him and turned his gaze back to her, frowning at her with intensity altogether different from Morty’s. “But all that doesn’t explain what you were doing up there in the first place,” he snapped.

Keegan flushed again. “I…” Officer Jenny also looked at her sternly, apparently prepared to arrest her on the spot.

“It’s just as well,” the elderly monk pointed out suddenly, and bowed towards Keegan. “If these criminals knew that the legendary dogs and Ho-Oh were in the tower at the time, they could have injured one or all of them.”

“Her intentions weren’t malicious,” Morty agreed, and glanced at Jenny. “I’m inclined to let it slide. This time.” His last words carried a hint of warning which Keegan didn’t miss, and she nodded silently, her stomach roiling with annoyance. But it wasn’t irritation that she’d given in to her rebellious impulse; it was because she’d gotten caught… she felt a chill as she realized that, and bit her lip, disturbed.

Jenny stood, brushing her hands absently off on her blue skirt. “I’ll wait here until the paramedics arrive,” she volunteered calmly.

“Good,” Morty agreed, and pointed a finger at Keegan. “You should go to the Pokémon Centre. You’re not in perfect shape yourself.” And with those parting words he threw a stern look at Eusine and ascended the tower, followed by the last two monks.

Keegan held out Firefoot’s pokéball and returned him, then scrambled to her feet, anxious to escape the stifling, smoky air of the chamber. Eusine scowled up the stairs, then sighed and went to her side. He understood Morty’s wishes, and acknowledged it was probably for the best he remained behind. He wasn’t a guardian of the tower, after all, and really had no business being there.

Keegan took a deep breath, shunting off the dizziness that momentarily overwhelmed her. Then she obediently followed Eusine’s light touch on her arm as he led her back down the tower, hitching her bag more securely on her shoulder. Absently, her hand went to her neck in reassurance, only for her to remember that her pendant was still at the pinnacle of the tower.

* * *

The sun shone through the open window, splashing morning light over the wooden floor of the wide room. Within were two bunk beds, carved from richly coloured timber; but only one was currently occupied.

Keegan rose unwillingly out of her sleep to find herself burrowed comfortably under the warm blankets, hugging her pillow soothingly. Or it would have been comfortable… except for the fact she ached in places she didn’t even know she had. With a groan, Keegan rolled over, reaching up to touch her tender head. The action stretched the scabbed graze on her arm, and the events of the previous night came back to her.

“Oh… yeah…” blearily, Keegan sat up, cross-legged under the blankets. “Oooh, Hazel’s gonna kill me,” she groaned, hiding her face in the pillow. Her stomach was already twisting with apprehension and she wished the day was over. Why, oh why, couldn’t she learn?

With a sound of utmost disgust, she threw aside the blankets, turning to sit on the edge of the bed with the pillow still on her lap. Unfortunately she forgot about the bed above hers, whacking her forehead painfully on the frame.

Her head throbbed, reminding her it had already put up with enough damage in the past night. Leaning over the pillow, Keegan wished she could crawl back into bed. No, I shouldn’t stay here longer than necessary, she told herself sternly. It’s your own fault… you know it is… none of them are going to trust you as long as you’re around. Besides, that Morty guy is kinda creepy...

For several moments she sat there, trying to convince her body that yes, it was fine, and it would be able to handle getting out of bed. Finally, her muscles complaining the whole way, she tossed the pillow aside and got up.

Several minutes later she stumped wearily downstairs to find Eusine in the lobby of the Pokémon Centre, waiting impatiently. Oh, boy… maybe they’re not letting me off the hook as easily as I thought… She hesitated at the base of the stairs, but there was no other way out and the caped young man had already spotted her.

Nurse Joy peered at her as she approached the Pokémon Centre’s counter silently, not at all sure what to say. “Are you sure you should be up?” the pink-haired nurse asked with a frown. “You looked terrible when you came in last night.”

Keegan grinned, hiding any evidence of her aches and pains. It wasn’t the first time that she got herself injured, and probably wouldn’t be the last. “Yeah, sure,” she answered in a perky voice which belied the graze on her arm and the dark circles under her eyes. “What about my pokémon?”

Joy held out the two pokéballs with a slight smile. “They’ll be fine.” Gratefully, Keegan took them and added them to her belt before turning to Eusine.

“Look,” she began, looking down at the floor. “I’m really, really sorry I went into the tower last night. It was pretty stupid of me.”

Eusine shrugged, white cape flapping gently. “I’m not the one you should be apologising to,” he said honestly, but his tone of voice sounded aloof, as though she were a peasant and he the envoy of a greater power. “I’m Morty’s friend, but that doesn’t mean I have the right to enter the tower without permission either.” His expression darkened, the thin lock of hair which hung over his eyes making them seem slightly more accusing. “But I also know when to show respect where it is due,” he added, and Keegan flushed. That was very similar to what Miriam had said before Keegan left Alto Mare…

Eusine turned towards the exit, looking at her expectantly. “Come along. We have to go to the gym.” And he strode out of the Pokémon Centre. Wondering whether she should be worried or not and feeling slightly annoyed at his superior tone, Keegan trailed after.

She quickened her pace so she could catch up to Eusine as they passed a few early-morning trainers heading into the Pokémon Centre. “Are the other intruders okay?” she asked anxiously. Even though she knew they meant nothing but harm, she still felt guilty for getting them hurt.

Eusine glanced at her, his blue eyes serious and yet distant. “They’re fine,” he answered shortly. “They looked a lot worse than they are. The legendary dogs aren’t bloodthirsty by nature; most pokémon aren’t.” He frowned slightly in brooding contemplation. “No, that’s a disposition reserved for humans.” Keegan fell silent, considering that as they passed by a man opening his shop. Ecruteak City was beginning to wake up, the early morning making the air fresh.

“Why are we going to the gym?” Keegan asked after a while, her eyes flickering to the Tin Tower in the distance. The sun gleamed off the canopy at the apex, making it seem serene compared to the battlefield it had been the night before.

“Because that’s where the closest arena is,” Eusine answered flatly. “And I’m not letting you leave Ecruteak without a battle.” Keegan’s head snapped around to look at him apprehensively, suddenly charged with adrenaline. She couldn’t remember ever being in a proper battle in her life. “And Morty wanted to see you about something,” Eusine added after a moment, a slightly amused smile twisting his lips at her expression. It softened his eyes slightly, making them seem more down-to-earth and less superior. “I think he’s going to offer you a reading.”

“A… what?” Keegan blinked, confused and hardly listening, wondering whether Eusine would accept a rejection. Somehow she didn’t think so…

“Morty has a very special psychic ability,” Eusine explained. “Called distant vision. He can see things other people can’t.”

“Like what?” Keegan demanded, her heart skipping a beat in excitement and her mind leaving the issue of the battle in an instant. “Like, people? Pokémon? Lost objects?” her hand drifted automatically up to her throat, where she sorely missed the weight of her pendant.

“Many things, I suppose,” Eusine acknowledged thoughtfully, and his eyes darkened slightly, the amusement leaving his face. “I’ve asked him to scry for Suicune, on occasion; but legendary pokémon seem to be beyond even his sight.” Seeing her confused expression, he added, “Suicune is the legendary dog of water.” His tone was reverent, and Keegan realized exactly why he’d reacted the way he had the night before as his voice turned wistful. “I’ve been searching for her many years. The closest time I ever came to battling her was right here in Ecruteak.”

“I can understand that,” Keegan agreed quietly, remembering the utter grace of Suicune. While Entei had presence, Suicune had elegance, and the third beast had been somewhere in between; tough and quick. For an instant Eusine’s eyes flashed jealously and he glanced at her sharply to find she was gazing at the ground in remembrance. In her eyes he could see the same appreciation of beauty he possessed and his mistrust faded. He met very few people who could understand, let alone match, his respect for Suicune. Perhaps she’s worthy after all… he found himself thinking.

“So why’s Morty offering a reading to me?” Keegan asked suddenly as they approached the gym.

Eusine broke out of his reverie and shrugged, sending his thoughts scattering to the wind. Worthy or not, he’d soon discover. “But don’t think it’s going to come cheap,” he warned. “Just because he’s a gym leader doesn’t mean he’s set for life in terms of finances.” Keegan nodded, and Eusine pushed open the doors to the gym, leading her inside. He looked with a hopeful gleam in his eyes around the arena, but then Morty emerged from a room to the side and disappointment crossed over his features.

The yellow-haired gym leader gazed at Keegan sympathetically with lidded eyes. “You don’t remember much of your past,” he said, but it wasn’t a question. It was clear from his tone that he knew. Mutely, Keegan shook her head, and Morty held up her pendant, complete with a new chain.

Keegan gasped, her hand flying to her mouth. “Oh! I thought…”

“You’ve had this a long time,” Morty held the pendant back, its new golden chain dangling over his fist. “It was a gift; and it was given with a great deal of love.”

“You… you can tell that?” Keegan faltered, her heart pounding with excitement. If he knew that – what else could he tell me? She took a step forward, her eyes pleading. “Can you tell me who gave it to me?” she implored him, eyes wide. “Where they are? If they’re alive?”

“I could try,” Morty admitted. “But you received this a long time ago,” he waved the pendant. “And what I see might not be to your liking. Many things may have changed since it was given to you.”

“I don’t care!” Keegan cried passionately, her eyes shining, and she clenched her fists. “Do you have any idea what its like to know that you’re missing half of your own life?!” Eusine gazed at her speculatively, taking note of her fervour.

Morty nodded, accepting that as truth. Pressing the index and middle fingers of his right hand firmly to his forehead, he closed his eyes, gripping the pendant tightly. “Your arcanine used this to evolve itself,” he observed idly.

“Yes,” Keegan nodded, her eyes riveted him tensely.

Morty expanded to scope of his vision, searching for someone he knew could well be too far away even for him to see. And then… “I see a red-haired man, dressed in crimson and black… black or grey, I can’t tell. He’s the one who gave this pendant to you.” Keegan’s cheeks went slightly pink. The first person to leap to mind was Lance the dragon master. “But I can’t see his face…” Morty trailed off. “There’s also fire. And water.”

Fire and water. Keegan sighed. Fire and water. Why is everything fire and water? Damn ocean.

Morty was silent for several seconds longer before opening his eyes and lowering his hand. “That’s all – save that this man is currently in another region. Too far for me to see anything detailed.” He held out the pendant. Distractedly, Keegan reached out to take it, and as their fingertips brushed, Morty experienced an unexpected flash.

- hazy figures which looked vaguely like birds; they soared in the sky, the wind lifting them through the clouds -

Then Keegan pulled back and Morty blinked, startled. Usually for him to see anything he had to look for it first. However, sometimes passionate people unintentionally projected their inner values so strongly he could catch a glimpse of them. Eusine was one of these; that was how Morty had discovered his distant vision ability, and how they’d become friends in the first place. “You should go to Kanto,” he blurted before he’d had a chance to think.

Keegan looked up from her pendant. While it no longer had the flickering fire in its centre, the weight of it in her palm was comforting. “Why?”

“Because I saw birds,” Morty explained, and smiled briefly at her startled expression. “The last thing I saw. In Kanto are three legendary bird pokémon, the winged mirages. You should search them out.”

Keegan considered this, fastened her pendant back around her neck. After all, she’d come to Ecruteak for inspiration, and Morty had given her nothing if not inspiration. Besides, she thought to herself, her fist clenching around the pendant. He said the man who gave me this pendant is in another region. Kanto is as good a place as any to start looking.

She reached into her bag, looking for her wallet. “I understand that your services aren’t free,” she said honestly. “I may have snuck into the Tin Tower illegally, but I’m not a criminal. What do I owe you?”

Morty named his price and Keegan handed over the money as Eusine fidgeted, casting impatient glances at the bare, wooden arena. There was only one thing on his mind – Suicune. And the fact that Keegan had seen Suicune, even by accident… he wanted to show her the real power of a Suicune-hunter – before Morty tried to send her away and prevent him from reminding her of his challenge.

So when Morty opened his mouth to bid Keegan farewell, Eusine cut him off. “Are you still up for a battle?” he demanded of Keegan, his eyes determined and one fist clenched. Morty’s mouth snapped shut, his expression resigned.

For a few moments Keegan only stared at Eusine mutely, studying the resolve in his features. With a pang she realized that despite his superior attitude, he was a kindred spirit. He would search the world over, seeing beauty wherever he went, struggling to discover where his true place in life was. That’s why he chases Suicune. For inspiration. Idly, she wondered what her inspiration was; then she remembered. Her inspiration was the song she’d heard in Alto Mare – the one which had encouraged her to leave the city. The one which told her to dance.

Slowly, Keegan nodded, accepting his challenge.

Twilight Absol
28th April 2005, 3:54 AM
Another excellent fic, I loved the ending, and I ache to find out about the battle
and...Keegan shall dance the night away :P

28th April 2005, 4:18 AM

I luff you. >D Euisine is just like, RAWR! OBESSED! As usual. XD

The bloodyyyyyyyyyness was very good. :3 And Ho-Oh is teh woots.


Update soon. x3

28th April 2005, 4:35 AM
Oh, good ^.^ I was afraid Eusine was OOC, since I've never actually seen the episodes with him in it.
*cries* why do i have to live in deprived australia?!
anyway... :P glad to know he's as lovable as I've heard... although he's gonna be a combination of manga Eusine and anime Eusine, so go figure.

29th April 2005, 2:30 AM

I wonder who will win!

Can't wait!!!

Twilight Absol
29th April 2005, 5:45 AM
Hm.....What does that crystal thingie do? >.>
plx tell me?

30th April 2005, 3:03 AM
<_< you never give up, do you twilight? ^.^ There's no way I'm gonna tell you what it *does*. But I might consider giving you more info on what it *is*. Depending on how curious everyone else is. I don't wanna give out info if people don't want it - spoiler tags or no spoiler tags.

This chapter contains a little bit of violence again. ^.^ Enjoy.

~ IV ~


If nothing else, you have to admire his passion, the gym leader thought to himself, standing on the sideline of the arena as referee. On one side, Eusine was waiting grimly for Morty to begin the battle; on the other, the girl whose name they still didn’t know was looking uncertain but determined. But sometimes it’s like he thinks he’s the only one worthy of seeing Suicune – like with Ash a few weeks ago. A slight smile touched the gym leader’s lips. Although I am surprised he managed to wait until after I finished talking to her.

Keegan expanded Firefoot’s pokéball, releasing him in a flash of light. “Arrcth!” The arcanine barked, prancing happily about on the cleanly swept field with his tongue lolling.

“C’mon, Firefoot, this is a battle,” Keegan told him. He looked over his shoulder with the exact same, sternly mournful eyes he’d possessed when he was a growlithe, and cocked his head severely. “Aw, don’t do that,” Keegan groaned. “Okay, you were right and I was wrong. Happy?” Firefoot gave a short nod and turned back towards Eusine, eyes bright.

Eusine followed Keegan’s lead, releasing a female alakazam onto the field. The dark brown armour on her forearms, torso and knees almost seemed to absorb the light. Keegan had never seen an alakazam before, but she had seen abra around Alto Mare, and gritted her teeth. How am I meant to contest a psychic pokémon? She wondered nervously.

“Ka?” the alakazam tilted her head, puzzled. The next thing Keegan knew she had teleported right in front of her. “Kaahza?” Crossing her twin silver spoons, the psychic pokémon seemed to examine the girl through the scope, the two utensils travelling over her face and then down to her bag. Startled, Keegan stepped back, and Firefoot blinked densely.

“Alakazam!” Eusine snapped, also surprised. Instantly Alakazam teleported back to his side of the field in battle position.

“This will be a one-on-one match,” Morty declared, his tone resigned. “No time limit.” He raised his hands. “Begin!”

Okay. Let’s do this. “Firefoot, use flamethrower!” Keegan ordered, and Firefoot drew back his head, firing a stream of flames towards Alakazam as rainbow light swept over the field.

“Mirror coat!” Eusine returned. Raising her spoons, Alakazam narrowed her eyes, generating a barrier of pure energy to deflect the fire. Morty jumped to the side, raising an arm against a streamer of the flames which coursed past him before disintegrating into nothingness.

“Quick attack!” Keegan cried, and Firefoot darted forward, avoiding the reflected attack. He flashed across the ground, but just as he was about to hit Alakazam the psychic pokémon teleported behind him. Startled, Firefoot tried to stop as Alakazam raised her spoons once again, aiming a shaft of psychic energy towards the arcanine. Before Firefoot had a chance to dodge, it engulfed him in rainbow flashes of light.

Firefoot skidded across the arena under the force of the psybeam, shaking it off as best he could. “Flamethrower!” Keegan commanded again, her own fists clenched and her eyes sparkling with excitement. Obediently Firefoot sent another ribbon of flames towards Alakazam. The psychic pokémon just generated another mirror coat; except this time Keegan was prepared. “Follow it up with take down!”

Firefoot bounded forward through the flames of his own attack, but Eusine had seen Keegan’s plan. By the time Firefoot burst through the mirror coat, it was only to find a maze of the gleaming barriers, each one reflecting Firefoot’s startled expression and the strangely warped image of Alakazam.

“Tackle it, Firefoot!” Keegan shouted, and Firefoot leapt forward to tackle what he thought was Alakazam, only to have the mirror coat shimmer and vanish.

“Psybeam,” Eusine ordered calmly. Keegan watched keenly, waiting for Alakazam to reveal her position. The multiple images of Alakazam raised her spoons, firing a psybeam, not at Firefoot, but at one of her own mirror coats. With iridescent flashes of light, the psybeam ricocheted off the glimmering barriers with increasing power until it reached a confused Firefoot, engulfing him once again in light and sending him sprawling across the field.

The mirror coats faded, revealing Alakazam on the opposite side of the field as Firefoot staggered weakly to his feet. Physically he was fine; psychic attacks drained the spirit, an altogether different but nonetheless effective technique. “Use psychic,” Eusine told Alakazam, and she crossed her spoons.

“Ahhllaa,” she grunted, her eyes flashing bright, cerulean blue. Surrounded in that same colour aura, Firefoot was suddenly raised into the air, fur fluttering. Pointing with one of her spoons, Firefoot was thrown against the ground, the wind expelling from his lungs in a swift burst. Then Alakazam raised him up again; but this time his fur flared, flames veining their way through his mane and down his shoulders as his tail blazed.

Seeing this, the onset of a fire pokémon’s blaze ability, Keegan quickly ordered a fire spin. Firefoot opened his shaggy jaws, driving a roiling twister of flames towards Alakazam. They swept over the field, warming the ground and engulfing the psychic pokémon in fire.

Keegan grinned, confident she’d scored a hit. Firefoot’s blue aura faded and he plummeted to the ground, landing with a heavy thump. “Arrcnn,” he snarled, lurching to his feet.

“Take down,” Keegan ordered, and Firefoot leapt forward at a full run. The next instant the inferno glowed blue, shooting out in a blazing ring. Keegan ducked instinctively as the halo shot over her head, but the circle caught Firefoot in the chest and sent him tumbling back, his fire-resistant fur smoking. He hit the ground, slewed across the field, but didn’t rise. Alakazam, panting, still remained standing. Her armour was blackened, seared by the fire, and her golden skin held evidence of burning.

“Arcanine is unable to battle,” Morty declared. “Alakazam is the winner.” Anxiously, Keegan ran to Firefoot, kneeling beside him. She made to place a hand on his heaving side, but jerked back with a curse; his black and orange coat was scorchingly hot.

The arcanine rolled onto his paws and struggled to get up. Gingerly, Keegan put a hand on his nose, ignoring the uncomfortable warmth of his fur. “It’s okay,” she assured him, raising his pokéball, and smiled. “You did great for your first real battle.” With that she returned him to the safety and comfort of his pokéball.

Eusine also raised Alakazam’s pokéball, his expression pleased. “Excellent work, Alakazam,” he complimented his pokémon, and she turned a weary but grinning face towards him before disintegrating into the customary beam of red light.

Keegan stood, feeling dispirited. Her aches and pains, forgotten in the excitement of the battle, seemed to return tenfold. No wonder we were getting thrashed last night, she thought, depressed. How can I expect to get anywhere if we can’t battle properly?

Eusine, approaching, saw her expression. “You faced the wrath of the legendary dogs last night,” he told her, his eyes glittering, not seeming as ill-disposed towards her as he had been. “That is true power. This battle just proves that to chase a legendary pokémon, you must not only be strong – you have to have more than one trick up your sleeve.” So saying, Eusine raised a simple playing card; he passed over it with his other hand, and in its place was a small, crimson rose bud. With a slight bow and a small flourish of his cape, the enigmatic young man handed it to Keegan.

Keegan blushed and accepted the flower, impressed; then she offered an uncertain grin. “So. Strategy, huh?” She summarised, feeling a strange sense of déjŕ vu. She seemed to vaguely remember someone giving her similar advice.

“Not that Eusine’s strategies have helped him get very close to Suicune,” Morty said dryly, joining them, and Eusine scowled. “Besides,” Morty added. “Psychic pokémon are widely considered the most dangerous of all, because there are only a few other types with any immunity to them. It’s difficult to win when your pokémon’s attacks keep getting reflected right back at you.”

Why doesn’t that make me feel any better? Keegan wondered dismally before brushing the thought off. It doesn’t matter. I won’t let that stop me. She nodded firmly. “That’s no reason to give up,” she said with utter determination. “I can always get better. Besides, after seeing so many beautiful legendary pokémon here in Johto, I have to wonder what those winged mirages are like. And on the way, I can look for the man who gave me this,” she touched her pendant, still holding the rose.

Eusine’s scowl evaporated. Hah. If she can recognise the beauty of the legends, she can’t be so bad. Besides, with determination like that in the face of defeat, she could go far. Even if her curiosity did land her in trouble.

“Then I’d recommend you head down to Goldenrod City,” Morty advised Keegan. “You can take the magnet train into Kanto.”

Keegan nodded, her eyes profoundly grateful. “I don’t know how to thank you,” she began. “For giving me some hope. Maybe I’ll be able to find out about myself after all.” Her thoughts were already elsewhere, considering the possibilities; for if the key to her past was in Kanto, then she was almost there, just steps away. It was strange how a reckless decision such as breaking into the Tin Tower could end up being so beneficial… despite all the pain and guilt, it was worth it.

Painful ventures usually were, after all.

* * *

Far away from Johto, in a thriving city sprawled on the eastern coast of Hoenn, the Hoenn TV headquarters was a bustling hive of regulated chaos. It was nearing the end of the day and there were still many things to be done; though for the broadcast team’s chief, few of them had anything to do with his news reports.

In his cluttered office on the upper storey of the whitewashed building, Archie watched a recently recorded report with narrowed eyes, one hand stroking his bearded chin absently. The recording was about the recently instated Petalburg gym leader, but Archie was barely paying attention. His position as the chief of the station was borne of necessity, not interest.

One of his phones rang, shattering through the drone of the TV; not one from an employee down below, but his blue one. The one which he never let anyone touch. The one which could herald either success or disaster…

Muting the report, Archie answered the phone, eyes flickering automatically to glance out the soundproof window looking down on the main hall below, where most of the station’s editing and broadcasting was done.

“Sir, you should turn to IRC2,” a scratchy voice suggested on the other end of the line without identifying himself or activating the vid-screen. It didn’t matter; only three people could contact Archie using the blue phone. Immediately Archie did as the man suggested and the screen changed, showing a close up shot of a short-haired reporter with glasses standing in front of a timber constructed police station.

“…despite their injuries, have been recaptured,” the reporter was saying seriously. Behind her, Officer Jenny pulled up on her motorcycle and hurried into the station. “However, all evidence pertaining to their intentions and their background was destroyed in the attempted escape. It is now believed they have an accomplice on the outside, who may have even helped them break into the Tin Tower. Investigations are still being conducted into these new theories, and Officer Jenny requests that anyone with information come forward. Coming to you from in front of Ecruteak’s poli -” Archie shut off the television, having heard enough. The screen blipped into a single dot, quickly fading into matte black.

“So they failed,” Archie snorted. “What about the others?” His voice was deep and rumbling, booming almost like a wailord.

“So far there seems to be little opposition,” the hoarse man on the other side of the phone line answered quickly. “This may just have been bad luck.”

Archie tapped at the disorganized tabletop irritably with the remote control. “Bad luck or not, I’m not willing to give up on this operation yet. But we can’t afford to send in anyone else – it’ll just have to wait until Matts is finished. Tell him to continue as planned, then move on to Ecruteak.”

“What about our agents in custody?” the other man asked.

Archie shrugged, turning away from the window on his rotating chair. “If Matts has the time and manpower, he can retrieve them. If not, they can stay there.” His tone was cold. Every single one of his agents knew that he didn’t take failure, for whatever reason, kindly.

“Yes, sir.” The hoarse man hung up with a click, and Archie lowered the phone with a frown.

This may be more difficult than I thought, he reflected, then shunted the matter from his mind and turned the television back on. It was nearly time for the six o’clock broadcast…

* * *

Keegan trudged down the thin path, her legs aching. Idly she wondered if it was downhill all the way to Goldenrod. The woods surrounding her were thinner than around Ecruteak, and the trees often surrendered to hard, rocky ground. I have to be close, she thought. It was more of a prayer than anything else. The Joy at the last Pokémon Centre she’d visited had mentioned Goldenrod was within a day’s walk.

It seemed more like a year. Keegan was all for the quiet serenity of nature, but sometimes enough was enough. She was still sore from her venture into the Tin Tower, and had been tempted to remain in one place for a few days just so she could sleep in a proper bed. The only problem with that was, if she stopped, chances were she wouldn’t start again.

She was just debating whether or not to rest for a while when she heard a weak, wavering hiss. A weedle in a tree nearby paused and cocked its head. Keegan stood for a second, then stepped off the path and into the thin forest, following the noise. There came a harsh chittering sound, hardly audible over the sound of rushing water. Keegan came to a stream and hesitated; then the calls came again, and she ran alongside the stream.

The trees parted to reveal an elegant vaporeon backed against a natural monument of rocks. Its blue fur was slick with the blood of a thousand tiny cuts, and the fin around its neck was torn and ragged.

The vaporeon tried to dart past its foe, a spindly-legged ariados, into the safety of the water; but the ariados fired a small, sharp thread from its mouth, catching the vaporeon on the paw and pinning it to the ground. With a jerk and a pain-filled cry, the vaporeon slung about, its injured paw stretched out as it lay on its side. Its sides were heaving and its eyes were glazed not just with pain, but with some kind of sickness. It shivered and trembled, tail twitching, as the ariados reared back, mandibles snapping

Without hesitation Keegan expanded Hazel’s pokéball and threw it. The pokéball hit the ariados squarely on the head and bounced before it. Dazed, the ariados didn’t have time to react when Hazel bounded out of the pokéball and tackled it, sending it skidding back.

Recovering, the ariados clicked angrily, shooting a string of fine thread towards Hazel, but the eevee darted to the side and the string shot hit the rocks uselessly. “Quick attack!” Keegan ordered. Hazel barely touched the ground before she flashed across the clearing, striking the ariados squarely on it bulbous, red abdomen. The spider pokémon tumbled back as Hazel landed, defensively, in front of the now wheezing vaporeon.

The ariados hesitated, clicking uncertainly. Then it seemed to decide a battle was too much trouble and retreated, skittering easily over the forest’s debris. Approaching cautiously, Keegan could see now the vaporeon was a young male, and the ariados had probably targeted him because he was sick. Kneeling, Keegan pulled the barb out of the vaporeon’s paw. An eye slitted open and he coughed, struggling to his feet.

“Woah,” Keegan held out a hand as he staggered, flanks heaving. His injured paw looked like it was swathed in red silk, except for the tiny drops which stained the ground. His fin-like ears drooped, the darker blue markings on his head a sickly shade of grey. Keegan expanded a spare pokéball she’d bought in Ecruteak, intending to capture the poor thing to take to a Pokémon Centre, but at the soft whooshing sound the vaporeon’s head snapped up and he snarled, showing small, sharp fangs.

Hazel jumped between the girl and the pokémon, gazing at the vaporeon with wide, earnest eyes. Keegan lowered the pokéball to let Hazel talk some sense into him, chewing her lip.

<<You need help, cousin of the lake,>> Hazel mewed, her ears back with worry and her paws beating the ground in a dance of unease.

The vaporeon took a faltering step towards the stream, tail dragging on the ground. <<Brother will help me,>> he answered Hazel shortly, his voice weak and wavering with sickness. <<He’ll be back soon.>>

<<That may be too late, cousin,>> Hazel begged him, taking a step closer. Her thick tail swished anxiously, cutting the air like a blade.

The vaporeon looked over his shoulder through slitted eyes. <<Brother will protect me,>> he repeated stubbornly, as though it were an edict he didn’t quite believe but dearly wanted to. <<More than that human of yours will, little cousin of the wilderness.>> Hazel stiffened, her almond shaped eyes flashing angrily, and she hissed, her bristling fur registering her indignation. The vaporeon just chuckled wearily. <<I pray for your sake she’s not like the human I once knew.>>

<<She’s not,>> Hazel said proudly, raising her head and tilting her ears forward confidently. <<She’ll help.>>

The vaporeon took another limping step towards the stream. <<The only one who helps me is Brother. He’ll be back soon with a cure.>> A shudder ran through his light frame. Hazel bounded in front of him, blocking his path, but he didn’t try to escape into the water. Instead he hung his head, shaking and panting. Bending to look at his huge, black eyes, Hazel knew it was all he could do to keep his feet.

<<We’ll help you too,>> Hazel whispered, and looked pleadingly up at Keegan. Instantly the blonde haired trainer raised the pokéball and tossed it towards the water pokémon. He turned his head to look at the pokéball as it flew towards him, but could do nothing to escape its relentless, tantalizing grasp.

The pokéball rocked and locked down. With a comforting mew, Hazel put a paw on the shiny red surface, looking at the tired, wounded vaporeon within. <<You’ll be alright, cousin of the lake,>> she promised him, and Keegan picked the pokéball up, shrinking it to place at her belt.

“C’mon,” she hitched her bag more securely on her shoulder. “We need to get to Goldenrod.” Holding out Hazel’s pokéball, she returned the eevee in a flash of light, and ran out of the clearing.

Many minutes later, a dark, nimble umbreon trotted into the clearing, holding his head high against the weight of the green Lum berry in his mouth. His red eyes narrowed, seeing the trail of blood on the ground, and he dropped the berry, springing over it to examine the scene.

His tongue flickered out, licking his nose to take in the taste of the surroundings, and he picked up the familiar scent: a human. Paws jerking with wild fury, the umbreon vanished into a slit in the rock, but upon finding it empty he returned to the clearing, an angry growl rumbled deep in his throat. Tail and ears whipping, he darted out of the clearing and into the trees, leaving the berry behind.

Keegan paced the shiny floor of the Pokémon Centre’s lobby anxiously. Outside the high windows she could see people passing up and down the wide boulevard next to the centre. The sky was already dark, lit only by the streetlights, hanging like a shroud over the city.

“Chaanssi!” the pink, balloon-like chansey bounced up to Keegan, offering the pokéballs containing Hazel and Firefoot to her.

“Thanks,” Keegan smiled down at the happy-go-lucky pokémon, taking the pokéballs, and it bounced off to take care of a group of trainers just entering the centre.

The red emergency sign over a pair of double doors dinged off, making Keegan spin around to see Nurse Joy exiting the room, her heart leaping to her mouth. Joy smiled reassuringly, and Keegan breathed a sigh of relief, relaxing.

“Vaporeon was quite ill,” Joy told her, clasping her hands in front of her apron. “And with his injuries, it was just as well you came here so quickly. But after a night in our emergency ward, he’ll be fine.”

“Oh, that’s great,” Keegan sat down wearily on the cushioned bench nearby. She’d run most of the way to Goldenrod, and was feeling quietly exhausted.

Joy giggled. “You should get some rest yourself,” she suggested.

“Yeah, I think I might,” Keegan agreed gratefully, and retreated into one of the trainers’ rooms for a comfortable night in dreamland.

* * *

The next morning it was already quite late before Keegan finally dragged herself out of bed and trudged downstairs, yawning. Nurse Joy greeted her with a smile and a wave, gesturing for her to come to the counter.

Glancing blearily around the mostly-empty lobby, Keegan did so, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. Joy held up the vaporeon’s pokéball. “What were you planning to do with this vaporeon?” she asked mildly. “You said you only caught him because he needed treatment.”

“Uhm, I don’t really know,” Keegan admitted, putting her elbows and bag on the counter and leaning on it. “I never thought that far ahead. What should I do?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” Joy smiled. “I think all he needs is a good trainer to take care of him. He doesn’t seem as hateful towards trainers as some abandoned pokémon are. I just wanted to make sure you were willing.”

Keegan straightened, frowning. “Abandoned? How do you know?”

A sorrowful expression passed over Joy’s face. “I’ve seen enough abandoned pokémon to recognise the look,” she answered sadly. “They have a certain kind of manner about them.” She handed over the vaporeon’s pokéball and Keegan accepted it gingerly, looking down at the pokémon within. He looked happy enough, but he still wore a slightly guarded expression of doubt. With an inward shrug, Keegan shrank the pokéball and added it to her belt, dragging her bag off the counter and slinging it back over her shoulder.

“Thanks, Nurse Joy.” The girl waved goodbye and strolled out of the centre, raising a hand against the bright sun. She was blissfully unaware of the pair of red eyes which watched her malevolently from a nearby alleyway.

For a long while Keegan just wandered along the boulevard, dodging the throng and looking around at the various store fronts. Pausing at a wide newsagent’s window to avoid the large, laughing crowd coming down the paved path, Keegan studied the various magazines on the racks. One, a shiny edition with red, gold and white as its colours, boasted a huge picture of a pretty, grinning woman. Her pink hair looked soft and shiny, and she was giving a coy wink towards the camera.

‘WHITNEY! GOLDENROD’S WONDER ACTRESS!’ The title screamed. Beneath that was the caption: ‘Whitney – talented actress and pokémon trainer.’ Keegan snorted; she had very little respect for rich people who played at being strong pokémon trainers, and the expression in Whitney’s eyes seemed to mark her as one such person.

“Oh, please,” she muttered as the crowd passed behind her. “Like any bimbo air-headed actress could be a proper pokémon trainer too. Betcha all she cares about is her pokémon getting a broken nail.”

“Excuse me!” Turning, Keegan found herself face to face with the real, live Whitney. She was scowling angrily, arms crossed over a white and red-lined shirt. Keegan flushed, suddenly realizing the crowd must have been Whitney and her fans. Those same fans were also glaring at Keegan, several murmuring to each other. Beside Whitney was an older man carrying a cane, who cast his eyes up to the heavens.

Oh, great. Now I’ve gone and done it. Keegan thought to herself, wishing she could melt into the pavement. She hated being in the centre of attention.

“So you don’t believe I’m a real pokémon trainer, do you?” Whitney snapped.

Keegan, acutely aware of her red cheeks, raised her chin and held Whitney’s gaze rebelliously. “I’ve never seen you battle,” she answered. “So I guess I really can’t judge.”

“Sure sounded like you were judging before,” an anonymous fan sneered, and the crowd murmured with agreement. Whitney looked smug at her support, but the man beside her discreetly rolled his eyes, straightening his tie to cover it.

“Show her what for, Whitney!” someone else cheered.

“Right,” Whitney nodded, holding out an expanded pokéball almost accusingly. “Let’s battle! Right here, right now. The boulevard is plenty big enough. Right?” she glanced to the man beside her dangerously, as though daring him to disagree. The man shrugged helplessly, spreading his hands.

“Think I’ll pass.” Keegan turned away, fully intending to leave, but the crowd wouldn’t let her through. Instead they all glared at her jeeringly.

“What kind of a trainer are you?” Whitney demanded. “Refusing a challenge like that?”

“I never said I was a trainer,” Keegan snapped without turning. She was too busy staring down the tall, freckled girl who stood in her way.

“On the contrary, miss,” the older man spoke for the first time, gesturing with his cane. “If you have pokémon, then by the Pokémon Association’s rules you are considered a trainer.”

With a sigh, Keegan stepped back. “Fine,” she grumbled. “Let’s get this over with.”

“Oh, it won’t take long, don’t worry,” Whitney said snobbishly, turning around to walk to the centre of the boulevard. Keegan scowled, following to stand opposite her. Most of the shoppers browsing the boulevard stopped to watch, whispering, but some merely skirted the wide crowd lining the edge of the makeshift battlefield.

“A one on one battle sound good to you?” Whitney asked with false sweetness.

“Whatever,” Keegan muttered, looking down at the ground. Her cheeks had gone slightly pink again, for now she was even more in the spotlight than she had been before. Please, please don’t let me screw up, she found herself praying, and that annoyed her more than anything else. Why should she care what this obnoxious woman thought?

With a twirl and a pose, Whitney tossed an expanded to release a matronly pink cow pokémon, miltank. Keegan remembered seeing a farmful of them as she travelled to Ecruteak, but she didn’t know anything about its attacks or its type. Whitney smirked. “Your turn.” The miltank swished its tail, the small black sphere on its tip absorbing the sunlight, and yawned.

Hmn. Keegan frowned, wondering which of her pokémon to use. Then she shrugged inwardly. Good a time as any to test out the vaporeon’s abilities. She plucked his pokéball off her belt and expanded it. Inside, the elegant water pokémon looked as though he was trying – and failing – not to look interested.

“Awright, Tarn,” Keegan grinned, making the name up on the spot; “Let’s show ‘em.” And she tossed the pokéball, releasing the newly named pokémon.

“This will be a one on one battle,” the older man, standing with one arm behind his back between the two young women as ref, announced. “No time limit. Begin!” he tapped the ground forcefully with his cane to accent his words.

“Miltank, rollout!” Whitney rapped out before Keegan could say a word. Miltank curled into a ball and spurted forward, spinning towards Tarn swiftly, its pink and black markings a blur.

“Water gun!” Keegan cried, uncertain what attacks Tarn knew. Tarn blasted a stream of water towards Miltank, but it just blundered straight through, sending sprays of water shooting to the sides and drenching half the audience. At the last minute, Tarn jumped to the side, avoiding the attack. Whitney crossed her arms and smirked as Miltank skidded about in a sharp turn, barrelling back towards Tarn with increasing power.

I need something to stop it. But I don’t know what attacks Tarn knows… Keegan bit her lip and as though sensing her uncertainty Tarn cast a doubtful look towards her. Screw it. You know what attacks he can learn – so pick one! “Aurora Beam!” Tarn looked relieved and dodged away, firing a glittering, rainbow beam of ice towards the miltank. A barrier of glimmering ice surrounded the pink cow, and for an instant it seemed as though the rollout attack had been halted; then the miltank burst through, its speed proving too much as the ice wall shattered into a million shards.

Keegan winced, raising a hand as the sun reflected off the ice shards smashed on the boulevard. “Use quick attack to get away,” she ordered through gritted teeth. Obediently Tarn flashed across the pavement, avoiding the spinning miltank. For a moment he stumbled, then caught himself, and Keegan clutched her pendant worriedly. His paw might not be as healed as I thought, she cursed. I should’ve used Firefoot…

“What’s the matter?” Whitney asked smugly, seeing Keegan’s expression. “Out of your depth?”

Keegan scowled. She was, but that’s the last thing she wanted Whitney to know. It was only her second battle! And she’d been thrashed in her first… Of course. She remembered Eusine’s advice suddenly. Tricks. I need a trick!

“Tarn, use aurora beam on the ground!” she shouted. Tarn leapt up his full height, casting a sheet of glimmering ice over the boulevard until it gleamed with a sheath of frost. Miltank’s speed picked up, and Whitney laughed.

“You just made my pokémon faster,” she smiled arrogantly.

“Maybe,” Keegan snarled unconvincingly, her arms prickling with goosebumps in the chilly air hanging over the field. “Tarn, use the ice to dodge miltank!” Tarn slapped the shining surface with his flippered tail, sending himself skidding across the field on unsteady paws. The miltank spun into one of its sharp turns to follow, but it was then that the slippery ice played against it. The sturdy cow careened off course towards the watching crowd, out of control.

“Stomp!” Whitney shrieked, her fists clenched up to her chest as the crowd fled. Miltank unrolled itself, stamping the ice so hard it cracked. It skidded to a halt, leaving a trail of shattered ice.

“Water gun,” Keegan commanded, unable to contain a grin. The stream of water splashed uselessly over the shop window beyond as the miltank slithered onto the ice, gliding away unsteadily. Then it planted its hooves for a second time, stilling its drifting movement.

Unfortunately Tarn wasn’t as lucky; his padded paws made it impossible to get a grip on the ice, a fact which Whitney noted with glee. “Stomp your way over to Vaporeon, Miltank,” she called, flashing a triumphant grin to Keegan. Miltank tramped towards Tarn, making the ground shake slightly, the ice cracking. Tarn slipped and slid, struggling to keep his feet.

More than one trick up your sleeve… “Tarn, use mist,” Keegan commanded, praying he knew the attack. Instantly Tarn opened his delicate mouth, breathing a fine, chilly mist over the field. Keegan shivered and rubbed her arms.

“It won’t do you any good!” she heard Whitney screech somewhere through the mist. “Your vaporeon can’t move anywhere!”

Keegan smirked to herself. That’s what she thinks.

Whitney strained her eyes to see the girl’s vaporeon, her own pokémon’s pink and black body bright enough to provide a blurry figure in the mist. She shuddered but refused to rub her arms against the chill, refused to show that upstart little ***** any sign of weakness. Air-headed bimbo indeed!

She didn’t even notice that her miltank was shivering in the cold, her pink skin turning slightly purple and her black ears drooping. “Miltank, use rollout to clear the mist,” she ordered through gritted teeth. Obediently Miltank did so, the windy backlash blowing the mist away in streamers of frosty air before Miltank stomped the icy field again.

Whitney expected to see the vaporeon still struggling to keep its feet, but instead she found the field was covered in thick lumps of ice, rising from the ground and gleaming in the sunlight. The vaporeon was nowhere to be seen.

“Quick attack!” Keegan ordered Tarn, and the vaporeon flashed out from behind an ice rock, darting from one to next, using them to keep his balance.

“Body slam!” Whitney tried, but Tarn was too fast, bowling Miltank over and sending it skating across the ice.

“Cool it down even more with water gun!” Keegan called. Tarn bounded off an ice rock, changing direction effortlessly, and shot a stream of water towards Miltank. The blow and the slippery ice drove the pink cow back to crash into one of the ice rocks; dizzily, it slumped to the ground, shivering, and didn’t get up.

“Miltank is unable to battle,” the older man said firmly, tapping the ground with his cane. Whitney stared incredulously at her freezing pokémon, then burst into tears and returned it, running off down the boulevard. Her fans started chattering disbelievingly. Some followed after Whitney, but most didn’t seem to know quite what to do. Slowly, the crowd dispersed, skirting the frozen section of the boulevard.

Keegan held out Tarn’s pokéball. “Awesome, Tarn,” she said cheerfully, feeling happy enough to break into song or dance a little jig. She settled for a huge grin as the vaporeon bounded up to her, his slick blue fur glittering slightly from the ice particles still caught in it. His huge eyes were glimmering with satisfaction. Keegan returned him, releasing Firefoot at the same time.

“Firefoot, use flame wheel to melt the field, please,” Keegan requested, shrinking Tarn’s pokéball and replacing it on her belt.

“Arccth!” Firefoot barked happily, and bounded onto the slippery ice, his blazing paws and flaming shield melting a trail as he pranced about.

“Excellent battle,” the elderly man complimented her, tipping his round, stiff-brimmed hat. Keegan blushed a little, and managed a chuckle.

“Well, I’d’ve said it was luck,” she answered dryly.

“Oh, perhaps not,” the man smiled. “You certainly used the ice to your advantage. This, I do believe, belongs to you.” He held out a square, silver-lined badge, and Keegan looked at it curiously. “This is for beating Whitney,” the man explained. “She’s Goldenrod’s gym leader. If a gym leader is beaten in battle, they have to award the victor with a badge.” He smiled somewhat long-sufferingly. “Unfortunately, Whitney tends to forget that in the face of defeat.”

“Thanks,” uncertainly Keegan accepted it, examining the shiny, lime-green surface as Firefoot approached, splashing in a puddle of cold water and soaking the hems of Keegan’s jeans. “Aw, Firefoot,” Keegan groaned, shaking off the water, and the man chuckled. “So I don’t get it, how come you’re giving me this instead of Whitney?” Keegan waved the badge, hopping on one foot to wring out the hem with her spare hand.

“I work for the Pokémon Association,” the man said primly. “The Johto headquarters are based here in Goldenrod.” He touched his brim. “I should get after Whitney. Good day, lass.” And he strode off, vanishing into the excitedly chattering crowd, spread over the wet pavement that had served as a battlefield only minutes before.

Twilight Absol
30th April 2005, 4:05 AM
Ooooooooooh......2 battles in one chappie!! Excellent description on both of them too...
But I did found a few spelling mistakes....
In his cluttered office on the upper storey of the whitewashed building,

30th April 2005, 4:11 AM
That's not a spelling mistake... when referring to different levels of a building, 'storey' is spelt with an 'e'. But thanks anyway.

Hmn... note to self: people like battles... :P more coming...

Twilight Absol
30th April 2005, 6:28 AM
I dont think so...is it? It seems as if it doesn't look right....arggh, my spelling sucks...

30th April 2005, 6:32 AM
:3 Dr. P has done it again.

JOO MILTANK! xDDDDDD! Those things crack me up as well. >D I love your descripppppption. Your battles are flawlessly coregraphed. o.o SPELLING! xD


Shes so ronery.... *sings with Keegan is if drunk* :3

30th April 2005, 12:35 PM
*blink**blink* ^.^ ronery? that's not a word i've ever seen in the english dictionary :P

patience, grasshopper... :P she does travel with someone. eventually. before halfway through, anyway... i think... and I'm sure she would sing with you... although she'd make you run off in fear if you ever heard her... ^.^

thanks for the comment about the battles... i'm really paranoid about writing battles, it's nice to know i'm doing them right.

anyway, yes, twilight, I'm sure :P

the next chappie might take a while, because i'm also writing another short story... it's called 'brother my brother' and deals with the background behind Tarn and the umbreon... so keep an eye out for it.

Twilight Absol
30th April 2005, 6:12 PM
heh, oops...
so is the man that travels with her.......
Just tell everyone, pd...
*badgers pd for clues*

1st May 2005, 1:15 AM
>3 Umbreon=love.

ITS RONERY. Like, Lonely but with a R. From like....a movie. >D

UMBREON?! Was that Tarn's 'brother?' >D *confused*

1st May 2005, 3:16 AM
I swear you've made it your life to badger me for clues, twilight!
>.< and the worst part is, it's working!
:P no, the man she travels with is not 'him'. I'm not going to tell you who 'he' is. :P although at this rate, i would've eliminated all other options...
*ahem* anyway... the man she eventually travels with is called Jason, and she's already travelling with someone else when she meets him.

:P yeah, i guessed it might've been lonely, saber.
and yes, the umbreon was Tarn's brother... i thought ppl might've guessed that, because of the Lum berry and all... anyway. He's gonna follow Keegan around to try and steal back Tarn... and he makes a damned nuisence of himself, too.

1st May 2005, 3:31 AM

Sounds teh uber.

PS. Umbreon=Bestest Eevee evo of all time. :3

Twilight Absol
1st May 2005, 4:19 AM
hehe...will, Im very glad that it is...and you still havent told us what the crystal does yet >.>

1st May 2005, 5:50 AM
I know I haven't, twilight... ^.^ and I don't intend to. For one simple reason: I'm not quite sure myself! <_< sometimes I swear my own characters are holding out on me...
They've given me just as many hints as I've given you, but not the full story, so I don't intend on telling you guys anything until I know for sure.

Twilight Absol
1st May 2005, 6:17 AM
I know you have the story planned out, so I want to ask a question...Will Keegan be lucky enough to see every legendary?

1st May 2005, 6:21 AM
Nup. In Choice and Consequence, she only sees seven of the 22 or so legendaries. In Games of Dominance (the sequel, for those who don't know) she may - MAY, since I haven't got the entire plotline for that yet - see up to two more.

Twilight Absol
1st May 2005, 6:34 AM
2 more,eh? so she sees 2 of the birdies?

1st May 2005, 6:39 AM
*shrug* like I said, I don't have the whole plotline yet. So I guess I'll find out once Choice and Consequence is finished.
*evil grin* which means you have to wait! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!
*ahem* sorry, evil moment there....

Twilight Absol
1st May 2005, 6:40 AM
No, I meant that will she only see 2 of the bird trio?

1st May 2005, 6:50 AM
oh, I thought you meant... *whacks self on head with dictionary*
Right. No, actually, she only sees one of the winged mirages.

1st May 2005, 6:51 AM
Let's not spam now. >D When is the next chappie out? Wensday? (<Good day. XD) *gets ready to mark calendar*

1st May 2005, 6:58 AM
*salutes* yes ma'am! :P well, I'll try... it's going kinda slow at the moment... the whole 'boring bit before the action' thing...
And we're not spamming... we're still talking about the fic...

1st May 2005, 7:01 AM

Anyhoo, I have one tiny note to add. Team Aqua is after Ho-oh, correct?

What for? As I remember, they were solely formed to control and obtain Kyogre, what would they want with a fire pokemon?

1st May 2005, 7:07 AM
^.^ whoever said they were after Ho-Oh?
Although, they could be wanting it so use it as leverage over the fire-loving Magmas... guess you'll find out...

Twilight Absol
1st May 2005, 7:11 AM
hmm...I would've said that they wanted Suicune....or kill Entei and Ho-oh...I doubt they would ever want the phoenix...

4th May 2005, 2:38 AM
Hmn... strange... Korimura has disappeared...

Anyway ^.^ I finished this chappie on time, Saber, just for you! :P The beer you gave me helped, though, thanks *hands back empty case*

From now on its prolly best if you just assume each chapter contains violence such as all the previous ones... since I'm going to try to maintain that level throughout the story. I'll try to warn you if its gorier than usual, though. If anyone thinks I should change the rating, please tell me... I'm not much good at this stuff.


~ V ~


Lost in the city of Goldenrod, she was searching anxiously for the magnet train station. She’d stumbled around the urban suburbs for what seemed like hours, and had only just managed to find her way out. Now she was strolling between tall, looming buildings, broodingly wishing she’d asked directions before she left the Pokémon Centre.

Studying the pavement at her feet, hardly paying attention to where she was going, she was half in another world. Then she heard hurried footsteps coming from around the corner, almost drowning out the sound of someone muttering to themselves, and perked up. She could ask for directions…

Suddenly a young man dressed in a maroon suit and not that much taller than the girl rushed around the corner, clutching a pile of folders. He was looking down to the ground himself, and didn’t see Keegan just around the bend. Before she could step out of his way they collided, spilling his papers all over the pavement.

“Oh, dear!” he gasped, clutching the wall and clearly upset. He ducked his wavy, ochre-coloured head to scrape up the documents. Kneeling, Keegan gave him a hand, her cheeks slightly pink with embarrassment. “Oh, thank you,” the man sighed when she handed over a sheaf of papers. He rifled through them, eyes flickering, and gave another sigh. “Bother. Now I’ll have to sort them all over again.”

“Listen…” Keegan began hesitantly, and smiled apologetically when the young man looked up, surprised, as though he’d forgotten she was there. “Could you direct me to the magnet train station?”

“Oh, that’s on the other side of Goldenrod,” the man exclaimed. He pointed down the way he’d come, clutching the papers to his chest. “If you go back this way and follow the underground path, you’ll come out right opposite the station.”

Keegan looked at him blankly. “Underground path?” she repeated uncertainly, and the man sighed again.

“You wouldn’t happen to have a pen and some paper? No? Alright, if you come with me, I’ll just deliver these home, and then I’ll show you the way.” He tapped the thick sheaf of paper.

Keegan hesitated, then shrugged. The guy seemed sincere enough, and if things went bad she always had her pokémon. Besides, it’s not like she was pressed for time. “Okay, then,” she agreed, straightening her bag on her shoulder.

“Very well, then. This way,” He gestured towards the alley Keegan had just come down, and proceeded to lead her back into the urban suburbs. Keegan frowned as she followed him, studying his wavy hair and distant, faraway eyes. She was sure she’d seen him before… He seemed to forget she was there again, sorting through his papers and muttering to himself. Occasionally she caught a word or too, but mostly she just heard his tone; whatever it was, he was certainly irked about it.

Finally, as they passed a few small gardened homes, something in Keegan’s mind clicked. “You’re Bill the pokémaniac, aren’t you?” she blurted, suddenly remembering reading about him in the Pokémon Journal magazines Miriam had given her in Alto Mare. “You designed the transport and trading systems in the Pokémon Centres.”

“What? Oh, yes,” Bill said vaguely, his mind obviously fixed on whatever matter was contained within the folders. He held up one sheet of paper and considered it crossly. “You’re a pokémon trainer, aren’t you?” he fired the question at Keegan. “Miss…?” he cocked his head, waiting for her name.

“Keegan. And yeah, I guess,” Keegan answered, startled, as they passed by some kids playing happily in the spray from a blastoise’s hydro pump.

“Wouldn’t you think that a portable trading system would be helpful?” Bill waved the sheet of paper irritably. “That way trainers can trade all over the place! They wouldn’t need to go to a Pokémon Centre to do it!”

Trade? Keegan wondered, stepping around a parked car. No way. I wouldn’t want to trade any of my pokémon. “Well, I guess,” she admitted. “For those who want to.”

“Unfortunately the Pokémon Association disagrees,” Bill stared broodingly at the paper. “Too cost inefficient,” he muttered. “This isn’t the first time they’ve turned down one of my suggestions without careful consideration.” Keegan remained silent, not feeling qualified to comment. She hadn’t been aware Bill worked for the Pokémon Association.

“That last time,” Bill continued, talking more to himself than to Keegan, “…it was because – whoops!” He stopped suddenly, having just passed by the driveway to a nice, single-storey house, and Keegan almost crashed into him again. “This is my place,” Bill went a bit pink with embarrassment, and led Keegan up the driveway. “Well, my folk’s place, anyway. Usually I live just north of Cerulean City in Kanto.”

“What are you doing here, then?” Keegan asked hesitantly as he unlocked the front door, unsure whether it was her place to ask.

“Oh, I often come out here to Johto to visit my folks.” Bill dumped the pile of papers on a small, elegant table just inside the door and backed out again. “And of course I have to make sure the central transport system for the region is working properly,” he added, relocking the door. He turned around, tucking the key into his pocket and absently straightening his green ruff. “Now. The magnet train station?”

Keegan nodded mutely. “You’re quite lucky,” Bill assured her, guiding her back through the suburbs. “It only just opened. They thought it would take a good deal longer to complete than it did.” He sighed. “I must say it makes it much easier to travel between regions.”

“Oh.” Was all Keegan could find to say. She felt a little uncomfortable, walking down the street alongside a famous personage like Bill… with absolutely nothing to say. So she just said nothing. Bill also lapsed into silence, apart from the occasional, mumbled comment to himself, no doubt about his work.

Despite Keegan’s initial fears, the underground path’s entrance proved to be well kept and often frequented. It was a white-washed, low slung building flanked by a bookstore on one side and an electrical store on the other, the sign out the front boasting the path’s various shops.

“Oh, yes,” Bill murmured, watching several laughing trainers exit the twin sliding doors and stroll down the street. “The underground is a favoured training area.”

“Huh,” Keegan answered as they entered, glancing about at the small pot plants and benches which lined the walls of the small room, “I imagined some dingy little walkway.”

“Well, there are places like that, yes,” Bill admitted, standing aside courteously so Keegan could go down the thin metal steps first. “Many of the old corridors have fallen into disrepair. That’s where most trainers go to battle; but for the most part, the main avenue is well attended.”

Either Bill’s memory is faulty or he hasn’t been here in a long, long time, Keegan found herself thinking an hour later, unable to contain a small grin as she watched the pokémaniac looking about frantically for some kind of sign telling them where they were.

He’d been right; the central avenue had been teeming with booths and stores, not to mention shoppers. Well-lit by the huge round globes hanging overhead and decorated with long pot plants, there were colours and businesses galore; but then the avenue had split in two. And with badly hidden uncertainty, Bill had chosen the right-hand corridor.

Now as they progressed the corridor grew dingier. The walls were covered in stained and ripped posters, while the majority of the lights were smashed, their glass littering the floor. And yet, despite the oppressive gloom and the eerie, flickering lights, Keegan managed to find the whole thing funny.

“Somehow I don’t think this is the right way, Bill,” Keegan suggested as they came to an intersecting corridor, her tone clearly amused. Bill looked down both ways, frowning.

“Yes, well… you’re probably right,” he admitted reluctantly, rubbing his head with embarrassment.

Keegan shrugged. “So let’s go this way,” she suggested, gesturing down the left-hand passage.

“Very well… seems as good a way as any,” Bill agreed, still looking around as though expecting to see a neon exit sign. Keegan couldn’t help laughing, turning down the corridor, the glass crunching under her running shoes. “I’m frightfully sorry for all this,” Bill apologised, catching up with her.

“Forget it,” Keegan grinned, gripping the strap of her bag to ease the weight on her shoulder. “I wasn’t in any hurry, and we’ll find our way out of here eventually.”

“Yes, I suppose,” Bill agreed, their footsteps echoing down another intersection as they passed. “But be that as it may -” he was suddenly cut off by a dark figure which darted out of the passage beside him, ducking under their feet and almost tripping them both up.

“An umbreon?!” Bill exclaimed, astonished, as the pokémon dashed behind an empty pot just down the corridor. The next instant two darkly clad men also barrelled out of the corridor, skidding to halt upon seeing Keegan and Bill. Keegan’s stomach clenched, her body instantly tense; she recognised the uniform, the red letter imprinted on the shirt.

So did Bill. “Team Rocket!” he gasped, taking a step back. Keegan jumped, for some reason startled that he knew them, but looking at his pale face she didn’t feel comforted. Her own heart was beating too fast it seemed, and she felt like a giant hand was clamped around her lungs, making it difficult to breathe.

One of the Rocket grunts cursed, pushing back on his cap to reveal squinty eyes and thin, spiky black hair. “No one was supposed to be back here!” he snarled, expanding a pokéball. “It’ll be to your loss you were!”

Hands twitching with the overproduction of adrenaline, Keegan went for her pokéballs; but Bill got there first and released an exeggcute, the six egg-like seeds bouncing on the grimy floor. Their eyes flashed blue, surrounding the two Rockets with that same cerulean aura Keegan had seen in her battle with Eusine; then the pokéball dropped out of the grunt’s hand, clattering to the floor. Slowly, both men slumped to the ground. Bill and Keegan fled, the exeggcute bouncing along after. Behind them, the Rockets were sagged against the walls, fast asleep.

The two finally stopped in a small storage room filled with dusty, decaying crates. Bill bent over his knees, panting, while Keegan leaned against one of the boxes, gripping her pendant tightly. The wood half crumbled under her touch. “What the hell… is Team Rocket doing down here?” she gasped, wiping her forehead with the back of her hand as the exeggcute, looking confused, studied her.

“I’m not sure… I want to know,” Bill answered, straightening and smoothing down his lapels. “But… we ought to report it to the Pokémon Association as quick as we can. Officer Jenny and Whitney should be able to take care of it.”

At that, Keegan just snorted and rolled her eyes. “Whitney. Right.” Her heart rate was beginning to slow, though she was still shaking. Spying on two Rockets was all well and good, but she just wasn’t cut out for direct confrontation with the bad guys.

“Cucucu!” Bill’s exeggcute chanted, bouncing enthusiastically at Keegan’s feet. Feeling oppressed, backed against the crates, she nudged one of the pink seeds with her feet, trying to push it away.

“Why do pokémon keep on hanging around me?” she groaned, recalling the magnemite, Alakazam, and a few mareep she’d seen on the way to Goldenrod. Bill chuckled and raised the pokéball, recalling his exeggcute mid-bounce.

“Well, I suppose there’s only one way left to go,” Bill nodded at the corridor opposite the entrance they’d come through. Taking one last glance down the ominous corridor behind them, Keegan followed Bill as the young inventor set off at a brisk walk, obviously eager to escape the oppressive gloom.

It wasn’t long before they began to hear the faint chatter of the shoppers in the central avenue, and the condition of the corridor began to clear before they finally rounded a corner to see the brightly lit path ahead of them. “Thank goodness,” Bill sighed, tugging on his sleeves absently as they emerged into the avenue.

“Ah, it wasn’t so bad,” Keegan said cheerfully, jovial now that, in hindsight, the encounter had been relatively tame. “At least we got to see what was down there.” She nodded behind herself. Bill shuddered, but didn’t say anything. Nonetheless, Keegan giggled at his expression. It was clear he didn’t agree. “How much further is the magnet train?” she asked instead, hooking her right thumb on her belt, and then frowned, looking down. There seemed to be more space for her hand than there had been before…

“Not much further,” Bill turned to look up the avenue. “If we can just -” For the second time in half an hour, he was cut off, this time by Keegan’s curse. Startled, Bill spun around to find Keegan frantically snatching at the pokéballs on her belt, expanding them one by one.

“Tarn!” she cried, pale. “Tarn’s gone!” Bill gasped, gazing wildly back down the corridor; but when Keegan twisted about to run back the way they’d come, he held out a pacifying hand.

“Wait! You can’t! Team Rocket’s back there!” he shouted after her retreating back.

“They’ll never see me coming!” Keegan just yelled back, her pounding footsteps fading as she rounded the corner.

“Oh, dear,” Bill raised a hand and patted his thick hair uncertainly, looking around almost as though expecting to see Officer Jenny descend upon him helpfully. Then, tugging at his collar, he chased after Keegan.

Keegan didn’t slow until she reached the corridor where they’d met with the Rockets, now mercifully empty. The two criminals were long gone. Scouring the area frantically, she hardly noticed when Bill arrived, completely out of breath and clutching his side, mopping his face with an embroidered handkerchief. “Oh, I’m not cut out for this,” he groaned, sitting on the pot nearby.

“He’s not here,” Keegan cried anxiously, leaning over to check behind the pot and almost knocking Bill off his unstable perch. She clutched her pendant, looking down the corridor the Rockets had come by. “They must have taken him,” she whispered, jumping to the most logical conclusion. She chewed the inside of her cheeks nervously, no longer truly seeing the corridor. Instead she wrestled with herself, with her fear.

I’m not a hero. She thought silently, her grip tightening around her pendant. I can’t just… go in and make things right. Not like Lance does.

So? The ruthlessly smug part of her answered. So you’re gonna stand around here and let the Rockets win? You’re gonna let fear take over? You’re not gonna see what’s just around the corner? What was that line… you’re gonna fear those mountains in the distance?

Oh… she scowled with determination, hitching her bag more securely on her shoulder. “Well, here goes.”

“Wait on,” Bill exclaimed, grabbing her shoulder. “You can’t just go barging into danger like that!” But he’d said the wrong thing. They were almost the exact words Miriam had used back in Alto Mare, and only added fuel to Keegan’s rebellious stubbornness.

“Don’t look at it as danger,” Keegan suggested with an almost immature determination to avoid the reality. It was dangerous, and she knew it; but she also knew she had to see it as an amusement… or she’d run away screaming. “But more as a game.”

Bill shuddered. “That’s a game I can do without, thank you.”

“Then do without it,” Keegan said simply, and strode off down the corridor. Her eyes were already flickering cautiously about, her muscles tense and footsteps carefully light. She was set firmly in the frame of mind that Ross had affectionately called the ‘true’ little fox, the disposition which enabled her to break the rules without a qualm. Or not much of one, at the very least.

At the intersection, Bill hesitated; then he grimaced and followed after.

Voices echoed down the long, grimy corridors and Keegan held out a hand, stopping Bill in his tracks. He had already realized that Keegan knew a great deal more than he about sneaking up on people, and that he was probably only a nuisance; but how she’d gained such knowledge, he fervently didn’t want to know.

Cautiously, eyes riveted to the doorway ahead of them, Keegan crept forward. With exaggerated care, Bill stepped around the broken glass on the floor, staring down to make sure he made no noise. They emerged through the doorway to find themselves in a huge storeroom. The crates filling this room were larger and sturdier than the decaying boxes they’d seen previously, but still possessed a light layer of dust. The Rocket’s voices echoed in the high chamber, marking their position as somewhere beyond the wall of crates.

Keegan knelt down beside the makeshift barrier, closing her eyes to listen. Bill sank beside her, wishing with all his might he were somewhere else. “Well, you got that link up and running yet?” one voice snapped, sounding bored.

“Not yet,” the other grunted. “It takes time, you know.”

“Hurry it up, then. As soon as we hack into the game corner’s system, we’ll be able to link it with the lab we have under the one in Celadon.” He snorted, and Bill clutched at Keegan’s arm, eyes wide. “So much for their ethics. Where’d they think we were getting our pokémon prizes from, the breeding centre?”

“Breeding centres aren’t as well established in Kanto,” his companion pointed out, clearly only half listening to the rant. “Besides, soon it won’t matter. Once this connection is established, we’ll be able to take over, and use Goldenrod’s game corner as a front to create a second lab right here in the underground.”

“Yeah, we already got their first lab rat for ‘em,” the first Rocket laughed cruelly. There was a sound as though he’d kicked some kind of cage, and Keegan gritted her teeth.

Tarn. She thought instantly, clenching her fists silently. Then she turned her attention back to the conversation in time to hear the Rocket complaining.

“If you’re so bored, why don’t you go looking for those two idiots we ran into?” the second Rocket snapped. “If they go to the police we’ll be in a load of trouble.”

“Forget it,” the first Rocket answered dismissively. “The Association controls the police, and we practically control the Association.” At that, Bill let out a disbelieving squeak. He clapped both hands over his mouth, horrified, but the second Rocket had begun talking again, and it went unnoticed.

“‘Practically’ is the operative word there,” the Rocket pointed out scathingly. “We don’t have as much control over the Association as it seems, no matter what the higher-ups say.”

Keegan stopped listening. She doubted they had anything else useful to say, and she wanted to get Tarn out of there. She considered the height of the boxes, fighting down anxiety and trying to ignore the fact her stomach was twisting itself into knots. This is a game. This is a game. This is a game. She told herself firmly and turned to Bill, quaking beside her with wide eyes and his hands still covering his mouth.

“Does your exeggcute know sleep powder?” she asked softly, and Bill nodded, his wavy hair flapping. “I need some. Quietly.” Bill fumbled for his exeggcute’s pokéball and expanded it. Inside, the pokémon understood to need for silence and remained still as he released it.

Moments later, using Bill’s handkerchief to hold the sparkling dust, Keegan had a handful of green sleep powder. Carefully, she knotted the corners and tied it to her belt, slipping her bag off her shoulder while Bill returned his exeggcute. “How are –” Bill began in hushed voice, but Keegan had already stood and clambered silently halfway up the stack of boxes. Bill blinked, startled, marvelling once again at her skills and praying she hadn’t received them through illegal means. Then he forgot about that and started praying she wouldn’t get herself killed…

Tensely, Keegan peeked over the opposite edge of the crates, her body hugging the smaller boxes resting on the apex of the barrier. She saw the head of one of the Rocket grunts pacing as he muttered to himself, the spiky black hair jutting from under his cap marking him as the aggressor before. Across the other side, there was another wall of crates, just as tall as the one upon which Keegan rested.

Against that she could just see the top of a shiny, steel barred cage, reflecting the wide, long lights above. The second Rocket was so far unaccounted for… cautiously, heart pounding in her ribs, Keegan slid forward until she could see inside the cage – and immediately had to fight off a wave of despair. The pokémon in the cage wasn’t Tarn; it was the umbreon which had led the Rockets on them in the first place.

His glaring eyes tracked the pacing Rocket grunt, his hackles raised and ears back in an expression of defiant hostility. Where’s Tarn?! Keegan thought, beginning to panic slightly. She flinched when the bored Rocket grunt began talking again, but ignored his words, frantically searching out every visible corner of the room. Tarn had to be there… he had to… because if he wasn’t… then she didn’t know where else he could be.

Her eyes had swept twice over the umbreon before she noticed that though he was obviously intensely aggressive towards his captors, he wasn’t snarling. Not even close; rather he seemed to be clenching something tightly in his mouth. Ducking her head slightly, Keegan saw a flash of shiny red material, and breathed a silent sigh of relief.

The umbreon had Tarn. Why or how Keegan didn’t know, but she wasn’t going to leave him. She may be a coward but she wasn’t going to leave a friend behind, no matter how scared she was.

Keegan closed her eyes and took a deep breath to still her shaking hands; then she crept forward still further, until she was well within the pacing Rocket’s line of sight – if he’d cared to look up. It was only then she could see the crates serving as a makeshift desk just below her. Resting on them was a laptop computer with a dozen cords of varying sizes trailing out the back and leading into the array of crates where their path was hidden.

Seated on a small wooden box, glaring impatiently at the screen, was the second Rocket, his silky red hair just touching his shoulders. If he had looked straight up he may have seen the crates rocking slightly as Keegan eased herself on to nearest boxes to the little alcove in which the Rockets were hidden. To the left was a veritable mountain of crates; to the right was the path out.

Slowly, carefully, keeping her eyes on the self-muttering Rocket, Keegan reached back and untied the handkerchief from her belt, bringing it forward. She must have made some kind of noise, however, because then she noticed the umbreon had flicked an ear forward cautiously; but his aggression didn’t abate one iota.

Gently, Keegan sprinkled sleep powder over the redheaded Rocket grunt. He blinked once or twice before slumping down to the makeshift desk. The sound caught the attention of his companion, who clicked his tongue irritably and strode over to shake him awake and, no doubt, give him a tongue-lashing. Which was when Keegan scooped up a handful of the dust and dumped it over him too.

“Bill!” Keegan hissed over her shoulder to warn the young man and, without checking to see if he’d heard, scrambled hastily over the crates to drop to the floor beside the slumbering men, their caps and hair glittering with the powder. Searching the thin, black-haired Rocket lightly, Keegan found the key to the cage, rushing over there with jumpy, overanxious steps and inserting it into the hole. The umbreon growled, deep in his throat, but didn’t release Tarn’s minimized pokéball.

“Come on, come on,” Keegan muttered, fumbling with the key. Her hands were shaking with tension and her heart pounding somewhere in the region of her throat. She didn’t know how long sleep powder lasted… the cage clicked. Casting a worried glance over at the Rockets, Keegan tugged on the cage door – only to have it jam with a seemingly ear-splitting screech.

Keegan tugged at it uselessly, her breath coming in short, panicky gasps. With an irritated growl, the umbreon backed away and charged suddenly at the door. It slammed open with another screech, knocking Keegan back onto the concrete floor. The cage tipped forward, spilling the umbreon out and landing with a crash that could awaken the dead.

“What the…?” Keegan heard distantly, echoed by a “Goodness!” and knew that the Rockets had woken up, countered by Bill’s timely arrival; but she didn’t have time to worry, as the umbreon tried to dart under the cage and out to freedom. Without even thinking, Keegan grabbed him around the middle. Just as instinctively he snarled and whipped around, dropping Tarn’s pokéball and sinking his fangs into Keegan’s right wrist.

Tarn’s pokéball bounced, expanding as Keegan cursed loudly, freeing the umbreon. He dodged out of the crates as Tarn’s pokéball landed once again, releasing him in a flash of light.

“Give her another bite, Golbat!” Clutching her wrist, Keegan spun around to find the purple bat descending upon her, huge mouth open in a leer, fangs glistening.

“Vuubuon!” Tarn jumped up on Keegan’s shoulder, knocking her down for the second time in as many minutes. Golbat’s sharp fangs missed Keegan and grazed Tarn’s side, scraping several thin, bloody lines across his haunch. Tarn hissed, spinning on dainty paws to tail whip it into tomorrow. Caught straight in its huge maw, Golbat chomped down on Tarn’s slender tail.

Tarn howled shrilly in pain, automatically pounding the goldbat against the floor and leaving a smear of his own blood. Dazed, Golbat relinquished his grip. Tarn whipped his tail toward it once again, red droplets flinging off to scatter on the concrete and patter lightly over Keegan’s face; but he was then tackled by a thickly furred, muscular raticate and sent sprawling.

Sitting up with gritted teeth, ignoring the sharp pain in her wrist, Keegan went for her pokéballs, releasing Hazel just in time to bowl the raticate over and interrupt its impeding attack on Tarn. The vaporeon staggered to his feet, tail twitching, as Hazel spun on her paws, about to send the tawny raticate flying with her thick, fluffy tail. The golbat dived towards her, only to be interrupted by Tarn’s swift jet of water, driving it back into its trainer.

With a curse, the black-haired Rocket grunt jumped to the side, and his goldbat instead crashed into the crates, making them shake violently. Before they or the Rocket grunt could recover, the raticate followed. The crates careened, tumbling down upon the Rocket and his two dazed pokémon.

“Aurora beam!” Keegan snarled, and Tarn cast a restraining barrier of frost over the crates, preventing the Rocket’s escape. The ice flashed in the lights overhead, and Keegan turned her attention to the other Rocket in time to see his cubone flinch, the ice’s reflection blinding it momentarily to give Bill’s battered and bruised vulpix a chance to catch its breath.

It only received a moment before the redheaded Rocket released a second pokémon, a drowzee, while the cubone rubbed its eyes with a brown paw in a vain attempt to clear them, skull helmet shiny in the light. “Quick attack!” Keegan ordered of both her pokémon hurriedly, realizing the danger of a psychic pokémon in their midst. Instantly the two flashed forward, leaping over each other and striking the drowzee with two consecutive hits. It reeled back, long nose whipping the air.

“Fire spin!” Pale Bill commanded of his vulpix, clutching at Keegan’s bag on his shoulder as though for comfort. Before the drowzee could recover the fox darted between Hazel and Tarn’s retreating forms, spilling a roiling blast of flames from its dainty muzzle.

The Rocket flinched away from the flames, the light glittering eerily over the residual sleep powder in his glossy hair. His cubone, finally recovering its sight, swung its yellowed bone club at Bill’s vulpix forcefully, knocking the fox into the crates and making them rock dangerously as Bill’s handkerchief, left behind by Keegan, drifted to the grimy floor gently. Its breathing laboured, sides and paws harshly bruised from the cubone’s attacks, the vulpix struggled to its feet. The last of its raging fire spin dissipated into nothingness to reveal the drowzee slumped on the floor.

The Rocket swore heavily and returned it, his uniform smoking, while Tarn and Hazel surrounded the cubone menacingly. Taking one look at the melted, sparking computer, the Rocket returned the cubone as well. He fled, scrambling over the unruly mound of boxes without even glancing at the ice restraining his companion. “Water gun!” Keegan ordered Tarn. Determinedly, the vaporeon fired a stream of water towards the Rocket, but at that moment the mass of crates shifted and he slipped down among them, darting out of the jumble and down a corridor.

“Bubuon,” Tarn looked up at Keegan apologetically, but the girl smiled down at him reassuringly.

“It’s okay, Tarn,” she assured him, touching her pendant fleetingly in thankfulness, her limbs going limp with the absence of adrenaline. “It could’ve been a lot worse.”

“Goodness, are you alright?” Bill exclaimed. He was kneeling by the crates, cradling his tired vulpix as it snuggled comfortingly into his elbow. At first Keegan thought he was talking to his vulpix; then she realized he was looking at her with anxious eyes. After a second Keegan remembered the umbreon’s bite. As soon as she did, she again began to feel the sharp, throbbing pain in her wrist and the slight trickles of blood making tracks down her hand.

“Oh,” Keegan stared at it uncomprehendingly for a moment. Then Hazel butted her legs, offering up Bill’s handkerchief. Wearily, Keegan sat down in the middle of the floor, pressing the handkerchief against the four dainty punctures in her skin. “I don’t think they’re too deep,” she assured Bill as the pokémaniac stood, clutching his vulpix in his crossed arms as its fiery red tails drooped down.

“What do we do now?” Keegan asked him, worn out. Bill looked around at the charred crates, leaving a smoky scent in the air, at the black ash mixing with the glittering sleep powder and the twinkling ice-dust, the clutter of crates… the icy barrier.

“We should go to the police,” Bill bobbed his head firmly, his vulpix peeking over its ruddy-brown paws resting on Bill’s arm. Keegan didn’t argue. She tied Bill’s handkerchief around her wrist, dabbing away the trails down her hand, and stood before fishing at her belt for Hazel and Tarn’s pokéballs, returning them to the warmth and safety of the red and white devices.

“I’ll go to the police,” Bill added in afterthought. “You should go on to Celadon.”

“Why?” Keegan asked, reaching down to pick up her bag, still lying over the floor where Bill had left it. It was grimy with ash and powder, and Keegan swept it off absently as she slung it over her shoulder.

“Because you need to warn the gym leader about the laboratory under the Celadon game corner,” Bill explained, returning his vulpix to its own pokéball to rest and brushing inattentively at his suit. Keegan shrugged with one shoulder, stubbornly ignoring her throbbing wrist.

“Alright,” she agreed, wiping at the spots on her cheeks and looking briefly at the red smears on her fingers before remembering the blood was Tarn’s. “What about him?” she gestured vaguely at the sheet of ice over the crates. Bill hesitated. He didn’t want to leave the poor man to freeze half to death; but if they let him out he might escape like his companion. “We’ll leave him here,” Keegan decided when she realized Bill, for all his intelligence, obviously couldn’t make such decisions. His expertise was in pokémon critiquing and technology, not leadership. “You can send the police down here to come get him.”

“Very well,” Bill agreed reluctantly. “I’ll see you off first – the magnet train is right next to the police station; but we should hurry.”

“Yeah,” Keegan grumbled, forcing herself to be light-hearted when in truth she wanted to collapse with relief. “I’m starving. I sure hope Celadon has some good food.” Looking sidelong at the blonde girl as they exited the room, Bill found himself unsure whether she was joking or not. After all, how many people confronted two Team Rocket operatives on the basis of playing a game?

He didn’t even want to know what she was planning to do in Celadon…

Keegan winced at the loud chatter of the train station, touching an ear ruefully as they made their way through the multicoloured crowd. She had sensitive hearing at the best of times, but after the battle in the underground she was also getting a splitting headache. A part of her was wishing she’d never gotten out of bed that morning.

Glancing at Bill, the young man just looked glad to be out of the underground. If you ignored the dust darkening his ochre hair, the ash on his embroidered maroon suit and his still pale face, no one would have guessed he’d just come face to face with two Rocket grunts. Keegan smirked. “Have fun today, Bill?” she asked with a grin.

Bill shuddered. “Oh, no,” he answered, his bright eyes turning to Keegan with a mixture of dismay and incredulousness. “Please don’t tell me you did.”

Keegan shrugged. “Okay. I won’t.” She grinned a second time, her eyes sparkling. Bill shuddered again as the girl mulled over the events of the day. Looking back, Keegan discovered she had enjoyed sneaking up on the Rocket grunts very much. Despite her fear at the time, she couldn’t help thinking it had been fun, as though it really had been a game. But then, as Ross had laughed more than once, there was a reason she was called ‘little fox’.

The train’s whistle screamed a high-pitched warning and Keegan grimaced, covering one of her ears with her good hand. Bill pulled her to a stop, out of the flow of people. “Now listen,” he said seriously. “The gym leader of Celadon is called Erika. You’ll most likely find her at the Celadon University; she’s a lecturer there.” Keegan nodded, casting an anxious glance over at the train’s gleaming metal doors. “Tell her about the game corner and the laboratory,” Bill added.

“Sure,” Keegan bobbed her head, then regretted it at the slight stab at her temples.

“And one other thing,” Bill began, and looked at her with somewhat sheepish amusement, torn between real concern. “Promise me you’ll stay out of matters that don’t concern you.”

“Aw, Bill, are you afraid I’ll sneak into the game corner?” Keegan teased him, her cheeks going slightly pink. He already knew her too well – not that she’d been planning any such thing.

Bill also went slightly pink. “Yes, I am,” he admitted. “We were lucky, today. You shouldn’t be so reckless.”

The train’s whistle echoed through the station for a second time, the final note seeming to contain a new state of urgency. “Okay, I promise I’ll keep my nose out of danger,” Keegan agreed hastily. “Or… well, I’ll try anyway.” She grinned. “Have fun with your portable trading system.” She raised a farewelling hand and ran for the train’s door, jumping aboard as the chime went off, sealing them behind her.

As the train chugged forward, Keegan’s stomach leapt with excitement, and she tugged on her pendant. She was on her way to Kanto… and hopefully, the lost ten years of her memory.

Twilight Absol
4th May 2005, 3:20 AM
Wheeeeeee, Brother! I hope there will be an episode where all the eevee evos appear, chaotix! I loved the battles, nothing like like an action packed chapter, and Bill was Hilarious...although I was hoping for a clefairt suit >.>...you've done it again, pd, another great chappie

4th May 2005, 6:47 AM
XD All eeveelutions? I'd never actually thought of that. ^.^ I'm glad you found Bill funny... I was giggling constantly through the writing of this chapter... seriously, he practically took over and wrote all his pieces himself. I was just watching :P
^.^ Thank you, thank you *bows* lol, actually I was a little iffy about this chapter... <_< Keegan was being annoying...

5th May 2005, 5:03 AM
yay! Bill is... strange and forgettful...

6th May 2005, 6:42 AM


*dramatic music*

:3 I love him. You portrayed him so well I thought I would burst! >D Umbreon=GOD. >3

Kai gets an Umbreon. >D What should I nickname him?

*takes back empty beer case* Cheerio for a great chapter! *gives more and clinks bottles with* mwahahahha!

Twilight Absol
6th May 2005, 6:48 AM
Ooh Ooh, may I, May I? I think it should be ....DoomStar >.> or TimeWhistler...nvm, I suck at names...So the next chapter is due Friday right?

6th May 2005, 6:56 AM
>.< We'll see, Twilight... we'll see... if not Friday night, then hopefully Saturday.

^.^ I thought you'd like Bill, Saber... I've been dying to write his character since I started, I just had him so clearly in my mind ^.^ So thanks *accepts beer and clinks bottles* XD With this booster I might just get the next chappie done in time...

And I thought Kai didn't wanna nickname his pokemon?

Twilight Absol
6th May 2005, 7:03 AM
Well, you thought wrong I guess, Saber likes differences >.>
and for the fic, Can you let out a clue/spoiler for the next chappie ?....or, even better, bout GoD

6th May 2005, 7:21 AM
<_< You just don't give up... ^.^ I know exactly which clue you want for GoD. And you're not getting it. *points and laughs* hehehehehe....

*ahem* anyway... *ponders* >.< I'd give you an excerpt, but there's nothing really excerpt-able in what I've written.

Umn, okay, the next chappie is called 'Some Like It Hot', and I'm still a little hazy on the content... but it marks the debut of another major character, named Tynan. So far, his known team lineup is a flareon.

Oh, and glad to see you're still around Korimura ^.^

6th May 2005, 7:44 AM
And I thought Kai didn't wanna nickname his pokemon?


>D Well, He dosent nickname it. In the Johto Saga, Saber forces him to nickname all of his pokemon. >DDDDDDDDDD

AND OMFG! FLAREON! I have one in mah LG game....tis so kick ***....*__* *drools*

7th May 2005, 1:24 AM
That's for purple drake to know, and us to find out

7th May 2005, 3:13 AM
Yay! Someone's sticking up for me! ^.^
I'm gonna need it... *hides from twilight behind Korimura*

>.< Sorry, I didn't manage to get the next chappie done in time... there were some unexpected thing popping up which really needed double-checking; plus it was feeling rushed, and I didn't want to hand you guys a sub-standard chapter just for the sake of getting it in a day earlier.

^.^ But to make up for it, here's Tynan's most likely team line up by the end of the story: aside from Flareon, he'll also have a marowak, a murkrow and a milotic.

^.^ But if anyone wants to give suggestions as to any other pokemon, feel free; brainstorming can be pretty helpful.

So, the chappie will be in tomorrow. ^.^ 'til then.

Twilight Absol
7th May 2005, 3:19 AM
Hey now, I'm no villain, andfeel fre to update as you see fit, tis your fic after all >.>
as for suggestions, I'd like to see a Grumpig and a Wigglytuff >.>...
And as for the clues, I'm just curious, that's all, I dont have enough patience to wait until GoD for 1 little piece of info, and all I want to know are 2 pieces >.>

7th May 2005, 4:15 AM
^.^ lol, sorry. I just don't like disappointing people.

And I know you're just curious about the clues ^.^ it's amusing, not annoying. :P The problem with telling you those two pieces is that they're major aspects of the story; I don't like giving such important things away. By the end of CaC, you might be able to guess who the man is, anyway.

Twilight Absol
7th May 2005, 4:24 AM
Woops, I forgot that part >.>;, of course, if it wasnt important, i wouldnt want to know! ^.^

7th May 2005, 4:41 AM
XD lol, true... true...

Anyway, I just figured I'd better warn anyone else who wants to give pokemon team suggestions: I am very, very picky when it comes to picking my pokemon teams (just ask Twilight ^.^) so please bear with me.

Twilight Absol
7th May 2005, 7:00 AM
Picky? you aren't picky, that's an understatement XD
I have a question ( uh oh), when (abouth which chapter) will Keegan have a companion?

8th May 2005, 3:45 AM
Which chapter? Umn... I'm not entirely sure, since I haven't yet separated them into chapters. Maybe... eight? @.@

^.^ Anyway, here it is, my longest chappie yet! <_< which happens to be 700 characters over the text limit... so here's it is in two posts. Oh, there's some swearing too, so be warned :P

~ VI ~


Staring up at the sprawling, old-day building that was the Celadon University, she chomped contentedly on a leftover carrot from the salad she’d eaten not long ago. The wide structure was made of red brick with looked almost golden in the stray afternoon sunlight peeking through the clouds, ivy swathing the walls and beneath the many windowsills like green velvet.

With a shrug, finishing off her carrot, Keegan approached the wide, carved oak doors, pushing them open and peeking in hesitantly. The rich, wooden walls of the main hall were covered in paintings and tapestries, and there were myriads of plants brightening the room. To the left and right were gleaming stairways leading to the other floors.

Directly across from the entrance doors was another identical pair, standing wide open and leading to a grassy courtyard. Her footsteps echoing on the wide flagstones of the floor, Keegan made her way to the second pair of doors, turning about to look at all the artwork. Chattering and laughing voices drifted in from the outside, and standing at the doorway Keegan saw there appeared to be a class outside on the grounds.

They were crowded around wooden benches on the outskirts of a dusty arena, standing or sitting in groups with the wind tugging at their hair and clothes. They looked to be about Keegan’s age, all dressed in much the same uniform. The biggest difference was that the colours of the girls’ uniforms were red and yellow, and they wore skirts and bows instead of pants and ties, while the boys’ colours were blue and green.

Cautiously Keegan approached, standing uncomfortably on the outskirts of the group and unwilling to interrupt. From what she had overheard, the class was to practise pokémon battles, but their teacher was late and they instead passed the time by gossiping.

“Excuse me,” Keegan said finally to one of the girls seated delicately on a bench closest to her. The girl tossed her long, luxurious brown ponytail over her shoulder and looked at Keegan while her companions cast disgruntled looks at Keegan for interrupting them. As the girl’s eyes travelled down and then up Keegan’s ashy and worn – albeit well cared for – clothes and her windswept hair, her expression of distaste grew.

“If you want to join,” the girl said coolly, flipping back the gold ribbons in her hair as though to accent its shiny texture, “The office is on the next floor.”

Keegan blinked and frowned slightly at the young woman’s dismissive manner. “Oh, no,” she answered. “I was looking for the gym leader, Erika. I was told she’d most likely be here.” She suddenly became aware of the fact the entire class had fallen silent at her words and were now looking at her with a mixture of incredulity and scorn. She flushed slightly as the girl stood, smoothing down her red pleated skirt.

“So you think you can beat Lady Erika?” she asked without looking at Keegan, straightening her sleeveless, buttoned yellow jacket and tugged at the billowing sleeves of her white blouse.

“I wasn’t planning on challenging her,” Keegan snapped, her cheeks still red but determined to look the girl in eye, though she was reminded strongly of Whitney. “And if I was, I’d go to the gym, where it’s supposed to be done.”

“Don’t want an audience, sweetie?” the girl looked at Keegan smugly through her long eyelashes. “Afraid you’ll be beat?”

Keegan scowled. She’d just faced down two bona-fide members of the evil Team Rocket, she wasn’t gonna let this girl’s superiority get her down. “Yes, completely,” she answered sarcastically, brushing back her tousled fringe as the breeze teased it into her eyes.

“Oh, dear,” the girl said with false sympathy. Keegan’s movement brought Bill’s handkerchief, still tied about her wrist, to the girl’s attention. “Got a little boo-boo, do we?” A few of the others chuckled, and Keegan found herself intensely aware of their somehow intimidating examination as she glanced at the handkerchief. It was probably stained beyond restoration, but since it had served its purpose she took it off, tucking it into her bag.

“A pokémon bit me,” she said shortly by way of explanation and resisting the urge to show the supercilious twit up by telling them the story. The chances they’d actually believe her were laughable.

The girl clasped her hands with mock horror, her eyes widening comically. “Oh, dear, what was it? A magikarp?” she smirked.

“If it was, it was better company than I’m finding here,” Keegan snarled back, wishing she could find something to say which would end their quarrel completely in her favour. Unfortunately, she had never been good at arguments. She wanted to walk away, but her pride wouldn’t allow it.

“Oh, I’m hurt,” the girl wiped away a nonexistent tear. “And we were getting along so well.”

Keegan crossed her arms and smirked, a definitive report forming miraculously in her mind. “Well, I suppose to you this would be pretty much the highlight of your relationship experiences.” She shot back. “After all, there aren’t many guys out there who’d go out with a mangy rat, so I guess you’d take what you can get, no matter what.”

An incredulous whisper trailed through the crowd. The girl’s eyes widened, then narrowed, and she glared at Keegan, her fists clenching. She opened her mouth to answer angrily, but her reply was given for her by a smooth, haughtily amused voice. “And I guess you would know. After all, it takes a mangy rat to know a mangy rat.” The girl flashed Keegan a triumphant smile. Keegan flushed and turned to glare at her newest antagonist.

He was tall, but not too much so, slender but not scrawny. His turquoise blue hair tumbled naturally about his face in slight, loose curls. If it weren’t for the arrogant light in his strangely soft green eyes and the small sneer touching his lips, he would’ve made Keegan’s heart skip a beat. As it was, her flush deepened and she resisted the urge to look down at the ground.

Instead, despite her burning face and the s******s directed in her direction, she met his eyes squarely. “No, actually, I’m a fox,” she answered, quite aware that her reply was less than satisfactory – at least from her point of view – but her mind was fresh out of options. “The little fox.”

The young man sneered. “Oh really? And how many badges do you have, so called little fox?”

“One,” Keegan answered, determinedly not breaking her gaze even as the students broke into scornful peals of laughter.

The young man chuckled contemptuously, crossing his arms over his open green jacket. “One? That’s all?” he repeated disdainfully. “And how did you get that? Sweep the gym? Fetch the pokémon? Get a life?”

Keegan remained silent, having absolutely nothing else to say, witty or otherwise. Inside, her stomach was writhing with irritation. How dare they tease her like that… and to think all she’d wanted was to see Erika. Don’t let some hell-bent heart leave you bitter. Her ruthless, more cunning side reminded her smugly. That’ll piss ‘em off to no end.

Screw that. Keegan scowled to herself. She’d never wanted to show up anyone so badly before in her life.

“Well, since our lecturer has declined to bless us with her presence,” the young man smirked. “Let’s make our own fun.” He held up an expanded pokéball tauntingly amid whoops and encouraging calls. “What about a little battle?”

Keegan hesitated. She could save herself some embarrassment by just turning around and walking away… but then they’d call her chicken. So? Or she could battle him, but if she lost then things would be even worse… So? On the other hand, she could also win… which means they’d have to shut their faces…

So… what would Lance do? She wondered absently. He’d battle, and he’d have confidence in his skills…

Yeah, but he’s got years of experience up on you, a tiny, apprehensive voice noted. She squashed it.

What the hell. I’ll battle for the sake of battling. Her scowl evaporated. “You’re on,” she said aloud. Her desire to win burned brightly, but she refused to let it control her. She would not battle like the students did… purely to win.

Someone laughed shortly. “What’s the point, Tynan?” he said derisively as the two trainers took their respective places. “She’s only got one badge.”

“Because,” Tynan stared at Keegan intensely from under his brow, but didn’t bother to finish his sentence.

The brown-haired girl smirked at Keegan, standing off to the side. “Tynan is top of our class,” she told Keegan with a knowing sneer. “And ours is this year’s graduating class. He’s never lost; there’s no way you’re going to change that.”

“This’ll be a one on one match,” one of the other students, standing atop the referee’s stand, announced. “No time limit. Begin. Wipe the floor with her, Ty,” he added with a laugh.

“I intend to,” Tynan grinned, expanding and tossing a pokéball in one swift movement, his loosely bound blue tie waving. He released a fiery, blazing flareon, its flames casting strange shadows over the dusty field.

Interesting. Tarn’s still injured from the battle with the Rockets, so… Keegan’s hand drifted to Firefoot’s pokéball, but on a whim that shocked her she changed her mind and instead released Hazel.

“Fire spin!” Tynan ordered. Before Hazel had even materialized properly, she was enveloped in writhing orange flames. Keegan growled to herself, fists clenching; then she winced and opened her right hand, the tension making the bite ache. “Now follow up with quick attack,” Tynan added, smirking. His flareon flashed across the dusty field, vanishing into the raging inferno. Seconds later Hazel flew out the back in lashing streamers of fire as smoke poured off her blackened fur in ashy ribbons.

The fire spin dissipated into the air to reveal the flareon, its orange and red fur blazing with veins of molten flames, and for a stomach-wrenching second Keegan panicked. The fire pokémon had used its own flames to activate its intimidating flash fire ability. Then it aimed a powered-up flamethrower at Hazel, and the eevee flipped over in midair, landing lightly and springing away into a quick attack, avoiding the stream of fire. Jerkily Keegan raised an instinctive hand, ducking as the fire coursed over her head. The heat made her skin feel tight and dry.

Hazel hit the flareon full on, sending it tumbling back as Keegan recovered, gritting her teeth. Haze has a disadvantage, because she can’t use long-range attacks, she thought. I wish I’d trained more seriously before I left Alto Mare – then she might know some other attacks…

Who says she doesn’t? The smug voice pointed out as Hazel, panting, her fur still smoking, landed on dainty paws. Keegan’s eyes widened. That’s right… she could’ve learned any attacks before –

“Flareon, flamethrower!” Tynan swept his hair back with one hand arrogantly, the hot breeze coming off his charged flareon rustling his blue pants. Flareon’s fur blazed and it drew its head back, the flamethrower building in its throat.

“Haze, use shadow ball!” Keegan retaliated instantly, not knowing why she’d chosen that attack or even if it was an attack, only that every single one of her instincts was screaming for her to use it. With a slightly doubtful twitch of her ear, Hazel opened her dainty muzzle, powering a writhing mass of shadows in her maw. Dusty veins wreathed about her, mixing with the dark smoke still drifting off her fur. In the same instant as Flareon, she released the boiling mass of darkness, shadows streaming away behind it as it shot towards Flareon and met the flamethrower in a brilliant explosion of ash and mist.

“Take down!” Keegan coughed, covering her face against the dusty shadows which hung over the field. She prayed that Tynan wouldn’t dare attack while he vision was obstructed, but Hazel had plenty of experience in the dark – legacy of nightly ventures around Alto Mare.

The thin haze cleared in time for Tynan to realize the danger, but it was too late to avoid it and Hazel collided into Flareon with all the force she could muster. With a surprised cry, the flareon tumbled back, skidding across the hot ground to jump instantly to its feet. Instantly, but not without damage – it was panting as heavily as Hazel, its flaming coat dying down even as Tynan order another fire spin.

Hazel tried to dodge the roaring flames, but they twisted about her, enveloping her for a second time. “Quick attack!” Tynan sneered confidently, as Flareon surged forward through the outside wall of the inferno… only to appear, confused and alone, out the other side. “What?!” Tynan rocked back, astonished. Opposite him, Keegan’s scowl melted into an expression of surprise.

Suddenly the ground shifted, and dirt exploded around Flareon as Hazel burst up from beneath it, tossing the elegant fire pokémon into the air. Keegan felt a strange sense of familiarity, as though she’d seen this before – seen Hazel, with all her disadvantages, against raging fire. Was Hazel aware she even knows these attacks? Keegan wondered absently. Then, breaking out of her reverie, she ordered a shadow ball. Shaking soil and smoke from her scorching fur, Hazel fired a shifting mass of darkness towards the still-airborne flareon.

The ball engulfed Flareon amid the distressed cries of the onlooking students, and Tynan gritted his teeth angrily. As the outer edges of the shadow ball dissipated into the air, casting an ashy pall over the field, Flareon hit the ground with a hard thud. It staggered to its feet, gulping in huge breaths and trembling with exhaustion, one paw lifted half off the ground gingerly.

“Flamethrower!” Tynan tried one last time, but Hazel had already been flashing across the field before Flareon even landed, paws barely touching the dusty, ash-strewn ground. At the last second, using its fluttering, fluffy tail, Flareon kicked up the sand. It swirled about the eevee, getting in her eyes and nose. Coughing, Hazel faltered, her attack missing the lamed flareon by inches.

But Hazel had learned Eusine’s lesson as well as Keegan had. Using the momentum of her quick attack, she spun about blindly on a paw, her tail colliding unexpectedly with Flareon before it had a chance to move.

It was sent sprawling, ash eddying about it before settling around its prone form. Hazel, head lowered with fatigue and paws set sturdily on the ground, snarled, ears half back in a gesture of good-natured hostility. Her white ruff bristled, blackened and glowing with residual cinders. The flareon twitched, rolling onto its paws, but its attempt to rise failed. The match was over.

“Yes!” Keegan clenched her good fist before her triumphantly. With a weary sigh, Hazel sat, tucking her grimy tail around herself and licking her paw. She hated being dirty. Keegan raised Hazel’s pokéball, returning the eevee in the customary beam of light and whispering a word of praise to the pokémon before minimising the pokéball. Her heart was still pounding with excitement and she couldn’t stop the grin that spread over her face.

“No!” one of the girls on the sidelines shrieked. The brown-haired young woman looked shaken, her fists raised to her mouth in disbelief. As though the cry had been a signal, the students began chattering loudly over each other in incredulity.

“How?!” Tynan demanded, returning Flareon. He was shaking with rage, specks of ash and dust wafting down on the slight breeze to coat his hair lightly, making it seem grey. “How the **** could you win?! I know every attack, I’ve learned every strategy, how can a little eevee-rat beat one of its evolutions?!”

“Knowledge is useless if you don’t know how to use it,” Keegan pointed out coolly as she brushed at the grime in her hair, not quite knowing what she was saying, but knowing that it sounded good and suitably superior. Tynan gritted his teeth, jade eyes flashing. He was clutching Flareon’s pokéball so tightly his knuckles were white, and Keegan was surprised it didn’t crack.

The sudden, tensely disbelieving silence was shattered by the sound of soft, rhythmic clapping. Many of the students jumped, startled, and they parted for a pretty, black-haired young woman wearing a high-waisted pink skirt and a yellow shirt with long, draping sleeves. “Well spoken,” She folded her hands in front of her and bowed slightly to Keegan, her thick clothing rustling.

“Uh, thanks,” Keegan stammered, a little taken aback.

The young woman’s gaze snapped to Tynan. “You are very knowledgeable, Tynan,” she complimented him. “That I do not deny. But you cannot call yourself a trainer on knowledge alone; it is your experiences which will make you a true master of pokémon.” Tynan scowled, and the woman turned back to Keegan. “I am Erika,” she introduced herself. “You came for a gym battle, am I right?”

“Oh!” Keegan confusion melted away and she shook her head, her blonde hair bouncing. “Oh, no! I was asked to give you a message, from…” she hesitated, not sure whether Bill knew Erika well or not, then decided it didn’t matter. “From Bill the pokémaniac. I think it’s… it’s pretty important.”

At Keegan’s words Erika’s brown eyes had darkened. She turned and held out a hand towards the thick doors. “Please, follow me back to the gym.” To the students she added, “I apologise for my tardiness, but you’ll have to amuse yourselves for the remainder of this lesson.”

Hesitantly, eyes flickering over the hostile glares of the students, Keegan followed Erika. With a murderous scowl adorning his face, Tynan’s furious green eyes followed her until she’d entered the school and vanished from sight.

Glad to be away from the antagonistic atmosphere of the class, Keegan was thinking about how she was going to tell her story when Erika looked over her shoulder. “What does Bill have to say?” she asked anxiously, slowing to keep pace with Keegan. A few strands of her short hair escaped the pink headband and she brushed them impatiently behind her ear.

As they exited the school, Keegan began her story. While they walked through the city, many of the citizens bowed or called out reverent greetings to Erika, but the gym leader merely returned their hails with a nod, engrossed in Keegan’s tale. By the time it was finished they had reached the gym, a round building with a glass dome roof, standing upon a grassy knoll. Erika was deep in thought as they ascended the steps, but as soon as she swept regally through the glass doors into the airy, sunlit gym, a dozen surprised young women jumped.

“Lady Erika!” one girl with thick curly hair exclaimed, standing from the green wooden bench beneath a tree and brushing off her short, pleated blue skirt. “We thought you were going to be at the University until evening, or we would have come to pick you up!” the blue-tinged oddish standing on the bench tossed its leaves curiously.

“Never mind,” Erika said briskly. “Prepare to send a message to Officer Jenny immediately; I’ll pen it in a minute. Also, have someone go down to the game corner; remain there and keep an eye on it until further notice.”

“What’s wrong, Lady Erika?” the curly-headed maid asked anxiously as several of the other young women hurried off through the indoor forest to fulfil the gym leader’s wishes.

Erika closed her eyes momentarily, whether to gather her thoughts or compose herself Keegan wasn’t sure. “We now have reason to believe that Team Rocket have some kind of hidden laboratory beneath Celadon,” she answered calmly. The remaining maids gasped. Several returned their various grass pokémon and hurried off to take care of other matters unknown to Keegan.

“Please,” Erika gestured to the curly-headed maid, who straightened the short, puffy sleeves of her which blouse and returned her oddish. “Elise will take your pokémon and heal them.” Hesitantly, Keegan handed her pokémon over to Elise, then followed Erika through the forest, the grass soft beneath her shoes. They were tailed by a tall, short-haired maid.

The gym leader had Keegan go through her story a second time, with every detail she could possibly remember. When they reached Erika’s office at the back of the gym, Keegan was tired of the story. The maid stepped in front quickly and opened the door for them, entering last. Leaning over an elegantly carved mahogany desk, Erika quickly penned out a note addressed to Officer Jenny and handed it to the maid, who vanished back through the door, closing it behind her.

Wondering why Erika had wanted her to come, Keegan waited in silence as Erika stared at the tapestry over the desk. Finally she turned around and gave Keegan small smile. “Thank you for bringing this information to us so promptly,” she said gratefully. “Team Rocket is so well spread; we can hardly keep them at bay. Sometimes it even seems…” she trailed off and sighed. “Was there anything you wanted?” she asked, looking at Keegan with a soft, even gaze.

Well, I wouldn’t mind knowing what’s happening at the game corner, Keegan found herself thinking, and shook her head to clear the thought. “Uhm…” she frowned, considering Erika’s question, then realized that she had no idea where to go next. “Oh, yes. I’m looking for three legendary birds – the winged mirages?” Erika nodded in understanding, so Keegan continued. “Do you know where to find them?”

Erika shook her head, hands clasped over her skirt. “I’m sorry. Legendary pokémon aren’t my area of expertise. You should have asked Bill.” She smiled at Keegan’s crestfallen expression. “Never mind; I can call him quite easily. You said one of the Rocket agents escaped, and I need to know whether he was caught or not.” Touching the keyboard of the slim computer on the corner of the desk, the screen flickered.

An image of a hoppip carrying a sealed envelope appeared on the screen, floating against a green leaf-strewn background. A second later the computer beeped and Bill’s harassed face appeared. He was frowning slightly, his cheeks still bearing the ashy smudges of the underground battle which had occurred only that morning, but upon seeing Keegan and Erika his expression cleared. “Oh, good to see you!” he exclaimed, his eyes brightening.

“Good day, Bill,” Erika bowed slightly, while Keegan just grinned and waved. “I wanted to check in with you about the Team Rocket agents.” Bill’s vulpix appeared in the corner of the screen, paws resting on the folder-laden desk. It cocked its head and purred delightedly.

“Oh,” Bill’s eyes darkened. “Well, so far there’s been no luck with the fellow who escaped. The other was taken into custody, and that area of the underground put under guard. He hasn’t said anything yet, of course, but the manager of the game corner identified him.” He looked harassed again, patting his vulpix on the head absently. The fire pokémon leaned into his hand blissfully, mussing up the elegant curls between its pointed ears. “I’d send you the details, but the Association so far seems to think there’s no connection between the game corners, so you don’t need to know.”

“I guess the Rockets have more control over the Association than I thought,” Keegan muttered almost to herself, shifting her bag. She frowned, looking down inattentively at the red pinpricks on her wrist. “But if the Association isn’t fighting the Rockets, then who is? The gym leaders? Or is there something else I’m missing?” she looked up in time to see Erika and Bill exchanged a wary glance, and immediately knew there was indeed something they were keeping secret.

But before she could ask, Erika hastily changed the subject. “Do you know where to find the legendary bird trio, Bill?”

“Oh, you mean Moltres, Articuno and Zapdos,” Bill answered knowledgably, seeming to be relieved at the change. Keegan looked from one to the other, grinding her teeth with burning curiosity. “They’ve been rumoured to be seen all over the place, even here in Johto. Zapdos’s roost is thought to be the abandoned power station east of Lavender Town, Articuno in the Seafoam Islands off the coast of Fuschia City, and Moltres on Mount Ember on the Sevii Islands.” Beyond the edge of the desk, the chrome-pink seeds of the exeggcute bounced past the edge, straining to see the screen. Several folders on a nearby table were knocked to the floor and Bill jumped, spinning around in his seat and dropping the phone.

“You can get to the Sevii Islands by ferry from Vermillion Harbour,” Erika filled Keegan in, seeing Bill was occupied as the pokémaniac leaned down to pick up the papers. “And a ferry also runs to the Seafoam Islands from Fuschia City.”

“Ferries?” Keegan echoed weakly, touching her pendant gingerly.

Erika regarded her anxiously. “Why, is that a problem?” Keegan’s cheeks went slightly pink and quickly shook her head, shoving away her apprehension. She’d be damned if she was going to show fear in front of a gym leader and Bill…

“Thanks, Bill,” she said instead, directing her comment to the screen, only to stop short and giggle in sudden amusement. His exeggcute and vulpix had bounded onto the desk and were crowding the display, faces and paws pressed happily to the monitor.

Keegan examined the tiny green map of her pokégear thoughtfully as she wandered through Celadon, heading for the western guardhouse. Erika had suggested she go down to Fuschia City first and since Keegan had never been to Kanto before, she decided to follow the gym leader’s advice.

Pausing next to the busy magnet train station, a slightly smaller match for the central one in Saffron, Keegan switched off the pokégear and hooked it back onto her belt as she cast a regretful glance back into the huge, active city. Bill had made her reiterate her promise not to sneak into the game corner, and Erika had backed him up… but she was dying to know what as going on. Her eyes narrowed in thought, a slight smile twitching at her lips. Of course, if she did it well, neither Bill nor Erika would know she’d been there…

At her belt, as though sensing her thoughts, Hazel and Firefoot’s pokéballs rocked violently, with the utmost disapproval. Keegan winced, remembering their displeasure in Ecruteak. Besides, this time was different… this time she’d promised… with a regretful sigh, Keegan turned her back on the city and continued on her way to the guardhouse.

She had just vanished around the corner when a rainbow crowd of new arrivals flooded out of the station. Amongst them was a redheaded man in nondescript black with a hurried, controlled stride. Brushing impatiently as his glossy hair, tugging at the bag over his shoulder, he turned out of the throng – heading straight towards the game corner…

8th May 2005, 3:46 AM
* * *

“Oh, there you are, Tynan –” Erika looked up from the purple sludge-like swalot she was examining and blinked, surprised. Tynan was out of school uniform. He was clad in soft green pants and a same-coloured sleeveless coat designed to be worn open, save for a clasp at the chin at the silver embroidered collar, over a loose white shirt. The green tones brought out the shades in his hair and eyes, but that wasn’t what startled Erika. Tynan got away with breaking uniform rules an awful lot, what with having his tie loosely bound and all. What startled Erika was that he had an expensive bag over his shoulder and his hands tucked casually into his pockets, almost as though he had only dropped in for a visit…

“Tynan?” she frowned, rising from her crouch and patting the swalot on the head absently. Its moustaches wiggled with pleasure over a gaping maw. “What are you doing? Late for class, out of uniform?”

“I want a gym battle,” Tynan answered, his eyes shaded by his thick fringe as he looked down at the wooden floor. Several of his classmates gasped and immediately whispers broke out over the class of students, gathered around Erika in the pokémon care classroom.

“But…” Alyssa, the snotty brown-haired girl whom Keegan had crossed paths with, hugged her golden-brown bear-like teddiursa uncertainly. “We don’t need to collect badges here at the University.”

“Yeah, Ty, I didn’t know you even wanted to become a pokémon master,” someone else put in as the swalot sludged its way to its trainer, the black diamonds around its waist rippling.

“I don’t,” Tynan answered blandly. He finally raised his head, tossing back his fringe, and they saw his eyes were glittering with harsh determination. “I want to beat that girl at her own game. And to do that – I need badges.”

Erika frowned, one hand rising absently to her lips and her clothes rustling. “Keegan didn’t battle me,” she told him firmly. “She came to me for another reason.”

“She’s travelling,” Tynan retorted, brushing his turquoise hair back. “She’s a pokémon trainer. You were both lecturing us about experience. Well, if it’s experience she wants, that’s what she’ll get. I’ll prove who’s the better of the two of us.”

Some of the students murmured, but Erika shook her head and sighed. This isn’t a matter of ambition, she thought sadly. But humiliation and the desire for revenge. She knew Tynan. One of the brightest students she taught, he was also arrogant and stubborn. He wouldn’t stop until he felt he’d defeated and humiliated Keegan in the best possible way. “Very well,” she inclined her head, and gestured towards the open window looking out over the central lawn.

When they reached the overcast courtyard – the covey of students trailing after in anxious curiosity – it was to find an umbreon examining it, black paws padding methodically over the field, which had been restored since the battle the day before. As they approached his head snapped up and he growled, his dirty and matted fur bristling.

Staring into his frustrated, gleaming red eyes, Tynan clutched at his flareon’s pokéball, frowning. The umbreon’s ears twitched forward and he hissed as Erika took a step forward, one hand extended comfortingly. The gym leader halted, but the umbreon seemed strangely reluctant to leave, his scarlet eyes drawn time and again back to Tynan. Finally he turned around and slinked back the edges of the lawn, vanishing into the bushes, but Tynan, watching closely, saw the crimson pinpricks of his eyes through the thick, still dew-damp foliage.

“Shall we?” Erika sighed, taking her place at the field. Tearing his gaze from the bushes, Tynan stepped to his side as one of the students volunteered to ref, glancing uncertainly between the popular, handsome student and the petite, refined gym leader.

Brother watched in the bushes, caring not for the twigs which jabbed into his unkempt, black and yellow-ringed fur, nor for the sharp bark ships poking into the soft pads on his paws. His eyes were narrowed, his somewhat dully coloured vision focussed on the human dressed in green and white. The one which tasted of frustration and humiliation… and the desire for revenge…

“This is a three on three battle,” the student ref announced uncertainly, eyes flickering to Erika for confirmation, and the gym leader nodded slightly. “No time limit.” He raised his hands. “Begin.”

Instantly two pokémon flashed into the still air of the day. One, a massive jumble of grey-blue vines, stomped warily on the dusty field with red boot-like feet. The other, a black bird with splayed feathers and a crooked beak, cocked his head at the tangela. He squawked derisively, ruffling his dishevelled feathers. The tangela glowered furiously, stamping its big feet and making the dust bounce. Its vines whipped around in its rage, hitting itself and knocking off its feet. Tynan smirked; his murkrow’s taunting was unsurpassed.

The murkrow cackled harshly and flapped his wings, rising into the air with billowing gusts of dust. The tangela cringed against the lashing fingers of the sand, the squall threatening to throw it off its feet for the second time in as many minutes. “Murkow, night shade,” Tynan ordered, and the murkrow’s eerily red eyes flashed shadowy black, his feathers ruffling as he brought his wings together to fire a jet of pure darkness towards the tangela.

The grass pokemon’s vines whipped down, sending it in a voluntary tumble across the field as the night shade blasted the ground where it had been moments before. “Vine whip, Tangela,” Erika countered calmly. Rolling to its feet, Tangela’s vines lashed out towards Murkrow, its eyes narrowed in concentration. Ducking into a stoop, the black bird dodged close to the ground, sending up clouds of dust as the vines whipped overhead.

Desperately Tangela skittered backwards to avoid Murkrow’s sharp, gleaming beak, to no avail. With a rapid series of pecks Murkrow soared overhead, black wings spread wide to catch the nonexistent breeze. Green sap seeped from the pinprick wounds on Tangela’s nerveless vines as Murkrow banked around for another attack. Sweeping its vines across the surface of the field, Tangela made the sand billow.

“Krrraak?!” Murkrow beat his wings, eyes squinting shut against the dust. He didn’t see Tangela’s vines surround him until his wings were pinned tightly to his body, sticky sap dripping onto his feathers. The bird plummeted, the vines dragging him down with alarming speed until he hit the ground with a sickening crunch.

Dazed, Murkrow staggered, flapping his wings to get his footing only to cringe at the heavy bruises, his feathers sticking up every which way. “Vine whip once again, Tangela,” Erika commanded. Tangela pivoted on one foot, spinning about for increased power as its vines lashed towards Murkrow. The first sent him flying, blackening one eye as he beat the air uselessly. Before the next could hit, Murkrow vanished in a beam of red light, recalled by Tynan.

With his other hand, muttering a quick command to the pokémon within, Tynan lobbed another pokéball. Flareon was released in a swirl of flames, billowing up and scorching Tangela’s vines still stretched across the field. Tangela cheeped and cringed, withdrawing its burned and blackened vines as Flareon, fur blazing furiously, drew back his head and shot a scorching pillar of writhing fire towards Tangela. The inferno raged, a tornado of heat and ash with the grass pokémon trapped within.

“Quick attack!” Tynan ordered, and Flareon flashed forward with a patter of paws in a familiar strategy, leaping fearlessly into the flames. An instant later Tangela burst out the back, vines flailing as the fire crawled down then in veins of gold and orange. It tumbled across the hot field, squealing in pain as the fire reached the small body hidden within the folds of vines before sinking fainted to the ground, its mass of tendrils seared harshly by the fire.

“Tangela is unable to battle,” the student ref announced unnecessarily as Erika recalled it, speaking a slight word of encouragement to the pokéball before releasing her next pokémon.

The bellossom threw up its short green arms, grinning happily as it drifted around Erika in circles, the green and yellow petals which served as a skirt rustling with a soft ringing sound. “Petal dance,” the gym leader requested, and Tynan snorted derisively.

The twin red flowers on the bellossom’s head twirled rapidly, releasing pink flower petals that spun in swift, elegant spirals around the pokémon, as much a defensive shield as an attack as their breeze tugged at Flareon’s fur. The petals collided with the fire pokémon, sheer numbers making him cringe back, even as they flared uselessly in a short-lived spark of brilliance before falling to ash against his fiery, strangely sparkling coat.

“Use flamethrower to burn them, Flareon,” Tynan ordered as Erika looked on calmly. Obediently Flareon opened his muzzle, flames spilling out over his tiny fangs as he unleashed a stream of raging fire at the swirling wall of pink petals. The petals flared, the blaze spreading into a towering inferno, but the fuel was soon consumed and the flames swirled into nothingness.

Tynan squinted through the drifting ash eagerly to see the bellossom dancing slowly about Erika as though nothing had happened. The gym leader’s hands were clasped pensively before her, as serene as she had ever been. “A wall of flower petals is quite difficult to see through, wouldn’t you agree?” she said calmly at Tynan’s astonished look, and in a flash the young man realized that while he’d assumed the grass pokémon was still in the midst of the tornado, it had used the heat of the flamethrower to boost its speed and escape.

She should’ve attacked while she had a chance! Tynan snarled to himself, and called for a fire spin… only to find his flareon sprawled on the field, shaking and unconscious, his blazing fur dying down. “But… how?!” Tynan gasped, clenching his fists with disbelief as the flareon hacked and coughed, its fur seeming to sparkle slightly. Then he saw the dust on the ground glittering purple and indigo even despite the overcast sky and gritted his teeth with angry frustration. The petals had been coated with a deadly poison powder, distributed unnoticed through the air until Flareon breathed them in. And for the first time, the confident young man felt a jab of doubt.

“Flareon’s unable to battle,” the ref declared, casting an almost pitying look at Tynan. The green-eyed young man saw it and scowled heavily, returning Flareon with furious movements.

In the bushes, Brother watched the battle with almost nostalgic detachment. He knew he should leave, for he was in danger of being caught; but the battle made his blood race, made him wish he was out there on the field. The taste of the challenger’s furious determination filled his mouth. The umbreon twitched his ears forward to listen as the human muttered to himself angrily. Even from across the courtyard, Brother’s keen hearing picked up words not even the surrounding students could hear. “I won’t lose, I won’t… I’ll win this, and I’ll find her, I’ll beat the damned little fox, I’ll show her I can stand the heat…”

Brother snarled, lowering his head as his lips rolled back over glistening canines. Heat, he thought burningly. That human – the human who tasted of flames, who stole my brother away… he speaks of her! Without realizing, his ears flattened to his skull, his black-and-yellow fur bristling with fury and his muscles coiled like springs. This human and I have a common enemy… but can he be trusted?

I won’t lose like this, I won’t! Tynan plucked Murkrow’s pokéball off his belt with an angry jerk, sending the black-feathered bird back into battle. One of Murkrow’s eyes was swollen from his previous time on the field, but as he flapped his wings experimentally, rising into the air, his bruises didn’t appear to hinder him much. “Murkrow, peck it!” Tynan snarled, pointing at the bellossom drifting lazily, and in Tynan’s eyes tauntingly, around its serene trainer.

Obediently Murkrow dipped into a shallow dive, his sharp beak aimed toward the bellossom. “Petal dance, Bellossom,” Erika commanded, and instantly a flurry of the familiar pink petals swirled around the green, flower-like grass pokémon.

“Whirlwind them away,” Tynan changed his tactics instantly, fearing another secret poison powder. Murkrow spread his narrow wings and beat desperately at the air, struggling to halt his descent. The gusts made the petals wobble, destabilising their flight path. As they fluttered this way and that, reams of sparkling red, green and golden magical leaves cut through the swirl of petals.

They spun through the air towards Murkrow from all sides, the airstream of the petals having carried them high into the air and hidden them from Tynan’s view. “Krrakak!” Murkrow screeched, battered by colourful leaves from all sides, thin cuts sliced beneath his feathers. One tore through the feathers of a wing and he dropped as the remaining leaves gyrated overhead.

“Haze!” Tynan shouted desperately, his forehead beginning to bead with sweat. A second loss in as many days would completely ruin his reputation… Murkrow opened his crooked beak, casting an icy mist over the field. He beat his wings, directing the frosty mist down towards Bellossom. Yet he himself shivered slightly in the chill, ice crystals beginning to form on his blood-tinged feathers.

The mist shifted, fingers of a breeze clutching at the cold blanket of ice. Then in a swirl of frozen pink petals and shifting mist the fog opened, billowing back up to Murkrow and enveloping the bird. Bellossom was revealed spinning elegantly in the centre of a petal dance, its yellow and green skirt encrusted in a thin layer of ice. The wind from the petals cast the fog aside as they whirled up to Murkrow’s height.

The haze cleared, but not before Murkrow plummeted from the overcast sky, black feathers frozen with a pink tinge and beak solid with icicles. Shaking with frustration, bordering on depression, Tynan recalled Murkrow as the student ref announced its inability to battle.

Paws outstretched before him, Brother watched as the human expanded his last pokéball. He could taste the pokémon within and knew that it wouldn’t stand a chance against the two grass pokémon that remained to the boy’s adversary. His ears flicked in thought, paws kneading the ground restlessly. He wanted to battle, he knew if he joined the human he would be led to the pokénapper… but he had vowed, long ago, that he would never again belong to another trainer…

Scarlet eyes boring into the young challenger, his tail twitching, Brother reflected on this decision for the first time in his life. Carefully he weighed his hate for trainers against his desire to retrieve and protect his brother Bairn from the same. The bellossom was weak; the ice had done its work. Brother knew he could win the match. If it means saving Bairn, Brother growled, rumbling deep in his throat. I would strike a deal with the Demon Trainer himself.

Tynan regarded his last pokéball with cold detachment, looking at the grimly determined marowak within. It was worse than despair, worse than humiliation, knowing that the match was lost. Even if he managed to defeat the shivering bellossom, he wouldn’t survive Erika’s last pokémon. But he refused to walk away; just giving up would be worse than losing straight out.

He took a deep breath, his features feeling as though they were frozen into his harsh expression, and held out the pokéball, preparing to release his final pokémon… when suddenly out of the bushes flashed the umbreon, coming to a sudden halt before Bellossom and snarling a challenge.

Tynan lowered the pokéball, surprised, as the umbreon cast a slightly contemptuous glance over his shoulder at the trainer. The student ref looked at Erika indecisively as the gym leader regarded the umbreon thoughtfully. “Are you willing to accept Umbreon as your third pokémon?” the pretty young woman asked Tynan.

The umbreon glowered at Tynan with gleaming crimson eyes as though daring him to disagree. Tynan minimised his marowak’s pokéball and replaced it at his belt. “Yes,” he answered, his own green eyes flashing with renewed confidence.

The student ref looked shocked. “With all due respect, Lady Erika,” he exclaimed. “But isn’t that against the rules?!”

Erika folded her arms under the draping sleeves of her yellow shirt. “Umbreon is willing to fight for Tynan,” she answered calmly. “The fact that it is as yet uncaught is of little consequence. It is the spirit of the battle which matters, not such trivial issues.”

The student ref looked tempted to complain again, but the umbreon snarled, making him jump, and he kept his peace. “Alright,” he agreed somewhat reluctantly. “Continue.”

“Umbreon, screech!” Tynan ordered instantly. Hackles rising, the umbreon let out a hair-raising shriek, making half the class clap their hands over their ears and the other half wince. Bellossom shuddered, gliding back, its short arms raised to its ears as the thin sheet of ice on its skirt dribbled away, melting into streams of water. The umbreon flashed forward, hitting the flower pokémon full on and sending it flying back.

Erika, aware that Murkrow’s haze had taken Bellossom to the limits of its strength, held out the pokéball to return it before it fainted. As the red beam of light enveloped Bellossom,the umbreon sped forward in pursuit, becoming almost nothing more than a blurry shadow. Ethereal black jaws slashed through the light before Bellossom had been drawn completely into the pokéball and the dark pokémon came to a halt, ears and tail flapping.

Slightly shocked, Erika glanced down at the fainted Bellossom in the pokéball, then minimised it compliantly. “Bellossom is unable to battle,” she announced willingly, expanding her last pokéball and releasing her blue-toned vileplume, the wide, white-spotted red petals on its head weighing it down. Instantly the yellow rings on the umbreon’s body and head glowed, flashing brightly with bright sparkles and blinding the flower pokémon.

Dazed, the vileplume waved it short arms, trying to clear its vision. Instinctively, it fired a shot of glittering golden stun spore into the air, where it drifted down towards the umbreon. Scarlet eyes narrowing, the light-footed dark pokémon drew back his head, firing a writhing shadow ball into the midst of the cloud of spores, scattering them through the air and rendering them harmless.

But in diverting the stun spore he left himself open for another attack. Ears twitching, he heard the sizzling sound of acid and turned about in time to avoid getting a snoutful of the burning fluid. Instead the purple liquid splashed over his side, eating away at his fur with smoking fingers, and he hissed in pain. Still he managed to dodge another stream of acid, the searing burn on his shoulder making him stumble over his paws.

“Confuse ray!” Tynan commanded, and the umbreon’s golden rings lit up. They flashed in an alternating rhythm until discs of light flared out to surround the vileplume with dancing, glowing spheres. The flower pokémon tried to track the hypnotising globes with wide eyes, the red petals on its head cutting through the air heavily.

“Faint attack!” Shadows coalesced around the umbreon’s paws, swallowing the black pokémon in darkness. The gloom swirled, enveloping the vileplume. From the depths of the shadows the umbreon lunged forward, bashing the vileplume about with his legs and tail before darting off as the darkness dissipated.

Dazed, the vileplume shook its heavy head, dark bruises beginning to rise on the red bloom as the umbreon halted, smoke still curling off his side in wreaths. He was panting, the acid eating away at his strength. “Petal dance,” Erika ordered, and the pink petals swept out from beneath the shade of its flower-like head, eddying around the umbreon in vicious lashes.

Snarling at the petals which slashed at his fur, slicing paper thin cuts in his flesh, the nimble pokémon unleashed another shadow ball into the midst of the petals, blowing them apart in an ever expanding ring overhead. The wreaths of dusty shadow swirled about the vileplume and it coughed.

On dainty paws conditioned by a lifetime of struggling for survival, the umbreon darted forward, ignoring the searing pain in his side. He pounced viciously on the vileplume and sank his fangs into the flower atop its head, his eyes gleaming with something which bordered on bloodlust. The vileplume shrieked, waving its arms as light green sap dripping down the petals. Though it contained no feeling in the flower it panicked, jettisoning a thick stream of multi-coloured dust.

Tearing his fangs from the petal and leaving a shallow pool of sticky sap, the umbreon spun about, whacking the flower pokémon across the field with his tail. Its own dust fell in ripples of glitter around it, coating its blue body and red flower in deadly powder. Tynan’s eyes glinted with excitement, impressed at the sheer, single-minded power of the umbreon as the vileplume slumped to the ground, taken out by its own spores.

“Vileplume is unable to battle,” the student ref announced, sounding somewhat unwilling. “Um – Umbreon is the winner.” Erika returned her vileplume with calm acceptance, but the umbreon’s paws were set firmly apart on the ground. He was shaking with heaving breaths, his eyes shining with exhilaration. Though his black fur was matted and his yellow rings were tinged with pink from the thin cuts of the petal dance, he looked prepared to battle to the death if need be.

But there was no such need. Tynan, with a self-satisfied expression, expanded an empty pokéball and tossed it.

Brother turned in time to see the pokéball coming. His eyes flashed angrily, but he had made a promise… a promise to protect Bairn. Even if Brother had to break his own word to himself, he would not break his word to Bairn… those were his last thoughts before he was drawn into the safety and comfort of the pokéball.

The pokéball rocked back and forth, the metallic edges of the two halves flashing red as it struggled to contain the umbreon before locking down. Tynan caught it up and added it to his belt as he approached Erika. His expression was carefully blank but his green eyes shone triumphantly.

“Where did that girl, the little fox, go next?” Tynan demanded as Erika bowed respectfully amid the excited chatter of the students. In her hand she held the rainbow badge.

Erika studied him through her long eyelashes and sighed. “She went to Fuschia City,” she admitted reluctantly, offering him the badge. Tynan snatched it up, clenching it in his fist and turned away to leave. “I don’t know what it is you wish to do with yourself, Tynan,” Erika said softly behind him. “But you will never reach that goal unless you realize that winning and losing come hand in hand. You cannot hope to become a master unless you first let go of your petty spite.”

Tynan paused for only a split second; then he continued on his way, disregarding her advice as soft-minded female claptrap. I’ll beat her, he vowed burningly, his mind turning to the confident little fox as the students parted for him; some giving encouragement, others voicing regret at his leaving. I’ll erase that humiliation; I’ll prove who’s better. Thick fringe overshadowing eyes dark with single-minded determination, Tynan stalked out of the school which had held him back, out of his ivory tower and into a world where he was determined to win out.

No matter the cost.

Twilight Absol
8th May 2005, 5:51 AM
Bravo, Bravo, besides the few mistakes i have already told you about, this fic is exciting, and suspenseful....I love how the umbreon would sacrifice his own freedom for his loved...
and the 2 battles were fabulous, I love it!!!

8th May 2005, 6:12 AM
>D! Teh Tynan=funneh. >3

Wonderful battles and such, I like the idea of this Team Rocket takeover, my evilness likesssss it........*gollum noises*

:3! More more!

10th May 2005, 1:31 AM
"Heart of the Magma" and "Choice and Consequence" Review
Short Story and Chapter I


Sorry I've been delaying so long, but I've been too caught up in my studies, I haven't been able to read a Fanfiction for quite some time. Now, your Fanfictions are pretty lengthy, I'll tell you that, so I've been reading for a good half-hour for your short story and first chapter. Now, I've got to say, the characters in the story are so well-done, and well described, especially personality-wise.

As for Heart of the Magma, I've noticed a few typos, and a few missing words like absently, which is supposed to be absent-mindedly, I think, and the wrong use of the word hangar. You spelled it hanger. Otherwise, that was the most well-thought-out "short" story I've ever read in my career as a Fanfiction reviewer.

Now, as for description, you described the scenery a little too wishy-washy, so, it was a bit complicated to understand the place, and using the words to put fiction into reality. But, you just need to tighten just a little bit. The word choice was superb, and the characters' personalities, as I mentioned before, are terrific.

The length, obviously, was lengthy. It took two posts, because the story exceeded the amount of characters in it. Very good, purple_drake.

Now, let's head for Chapter I. The length was good, and the scenery was still a little too wishy-washy, especially the race. You should've used speed elements in there and imagined the city passing by at a fast rate. The water effects would've been good. Trainers' expressions, Pokémon expressions, the use of adrenaline. There's so much you can do to make that a better, clearer understanding of that part in the chapter.

Description, not as good as I hoped, but nonetheless, still good. The medallion she won was great, but Growlithe could've been described a little more. That's pretty much what you lacked.

But here's a plus side: This chapter felt like "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban". Every single professor in the school prohibited Harry from going anywhere, especially Snape, which made Harry the most angriest student at Hogwarts. Very good.

I give it four stars out of four stars. Congratulations. You are a great author, and you should keep it up. I will read the rest later...


10th May 2005, 4:10 AM
^.^ That's fine, take as long as you need. Thanks for reviewing, too, I needed a good critical review to pop my inflated head :D

Now, your Fanfictions are pretty lengthy, I'll tell you that, so I've been reading for a good half-hour for your short story and first chapter.

^.^ lol, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Guess it depends on the reader...

I've noticed a few typos, and a few missing words like absently, which is supposed to be absent-mindedly, I think, and the wrong use of the word hangar. You spelled it hanger.

Actually, absently is a safe alternative to absent-mindedly; but thanks for pointing it out anyways ^.^ and the hangar.

Now, as for description, you described the scenery a little too wishy-washy,

Can you give me an example? I'm not sure I get what you mean by wishy-washy; from either story, it's obviously something I'll need to keep an eye on. Thanks. ^.^

You should've used speed elements in there and imagined the city passing by at a fast rate. The water effects would've been good. Trainers' expressions, Pokémon expressions, the use of adrenaline. There's so much you can do to make that a better, clearer understanding of that part in the chapter.

Yes; I was a little iffy about the race, but no one commented on it, so I thought it must have been okay. ^.^ Thanks for setting that straight.

The medallion she won was great, but Growlithe could've been described a little more. That's pretty much what you lacked.

>.< Yeah, describing characters is one of the things I always forget to do; I don't like stopping and describing them in detail because I always feel it interrupts the flow, so I try to get the point across over the course of the entire story with adjectives. *shrug* but Psychic also pointed that out, so obviously it's something I gotta work on.

^.^ Thanks for reviewing, I look forward to your replies to the rest of the chapters.

20th May 2005, 2:24 AM
Okay, here it is, the next chappie! ^.^
Sorry it took so long, I promsie I'll try to update at least once a week from here on... <_< it's not like I don't have time, after all.

There's some very slight swearing, but I'm sure you'll all be right with that :P

^.^ Enjoy!

~ VII ~


She glanced around at the forest, seeming dark beneath the shade of the thick canopy and the overcast sky. Hidden in foliage and resting on trees were myriads of pokémon feeding, sleeping and playing. The air was filled with sweet scents and the overlapping sounds of twittering, squealing, warbling… it was restless with life.

It made Keegan uncomfortable. She seemed to jump at every single noise that sounded even remotely hostile, her nerves stretched thin. And it was annoying the hell out of her. “For God’s sake,” she grumbled to Hazel, trotting at her heals. She’d let the eevee out for a little company, seeming to hear the sounds of pursuit far too often – especially at night. Ears waving sympathetically, Hazel looked up at Keegan; but her huge eyes were a little smug.

The young woman had interfered where she didn’t belong one too many times. After the stories Bill and Erika had told her about Team Rocket in an attempt to head off her curiosity… Keegan shuddered. Out in the wilderness, away from the comforting bustle of a city, she half expected to find Rocket grunts swooping down upon her where she stood. It was a paranoid fear which was not quite groundless.

And quite frankly, Hazel was a little glad Keegan was feeling the pressure. At least she might learn not to stick her nose where it didn’t belong. Or so the eevee hoped…

Her frustratingly devious trainer was now studying her pokégear as she walked, frowning as the leaves brushed her head. “Do you have any idea where we are, Haze?” Keegan asked almost pleadingly, shifting her gaze from the pokégear to the eevee, who shook her head, long fur wavering. “Why is it we always get lost in forests?” the blonde trainer grumbled.

Hazel snorted, jumping daintily over a mossy rock. Keegan looked sidelong at her and grinned. “Okay, why is it I always get lost in forests. Happy?” Hazel purred and flicked her ears, conceding; but then those same sharp ears caught the sound of a distant shriek through the faint crash of a waterfall and the eevee abruptly stopped in her tracks, kicking up forest mulch all over her paws.

Keegan turned about, brushing some long fronds out of her way impatiently. “What’s up, Haze?”

“Bubui?” Hazel cocked her head, bounding over a mottled grey tree root and darting into the underbrush, ignoring Keegan’s shouts to wait. With a curse, Keegan chased after, raising a hand against the branches swatting at her face. Hazel’s bobbing white-tipped tail was just barely in view, sometimes vanishing around trees or through bushes and forcing Keegan to guess at her direction.

It wasn’t long before Keegan began to hear the waterfall as well. The forest peeled away before her and she stopped short on the edge of a short cliff, the precipice crumbling away beneath her with a scattering of pebbles which plunged into the white-foamed pond below. Hazel padded swiftly along the edge, the water’s spray dampening her long fur as she looked anxiously across the pond.

Over the crash of the falls, Keegan heard the sound of voices; of pokémon screeching and wailing, and the metallic screech of cages. Clenching her fists, she watched the scene that matched the noises. Two scruffy men with greedy eyes, one wearing a red beanie, were roughly jamming as many mesh cages as they could fit onto the back of their dirty truck. Its wheels were sinking into the soft grass beside the lake, the load already three cages high. Contained within were pokémon of all shapes and sizes, some furiously struggling with rage in their eyes and others lying injured on the blood-soaked floor of their enclosures.

Keegan found herself shaking angrily, her nails digging half-moons into her palms, but her mind was blank and devoid of ideas. “Bubui!” Hazel head-butted her legs, trying to get her to do something, to help free those pokémon. The eevee looked up at her pleadingly, then turned about and bounded across the debris bridging the melting sides of the upper riverbank.

Right. Keegan followed, feet slipping precariously on the slickly wet surface of the rocks and twigs. One shoe was dunked when a branch crumbled, sending the girl teetering dangerously, arms windmilling, over the empty space of the waterfall below. Choking back a curse, heart thumping and breath coming quickly, Keegan scrambled across the makeshift crossing, feet soaked and her clothes and bag damp with the spray of the savage water beating against the bridge.

She was relieved and surprised to find the men were still oblivious to her presence. She had seemed so loud to herself, but the poachers weren’t expecting company and the boom of the waterfall had covered any noise. Frantically, Keegan’s eyes swept the cliff face, searching for a way down as she touched her pendant unconsciously. Hazel jumped from place to place, spotting and then disregarding several paths in a matter of moments.

“Frii friii!” a shrill, resonating cry came bursting from the woods below. A blue and white blur burst out of the trees, knocking the startled, skinny man wearing the beanie aside before colliding with the stack of cages with a sickening crunch. The stack shifted, several of the cages on the opposite end toppling off with protesting screeches as the pokémon inside tumbled around within.

As the man picked himself up, heavy brow overshadowing squinty eyes in a deep scowl, his more portly companion swore. “It’s that damn butterfree again!”

Her red compound eyes screwed up with glittering, single-minded determination, the butterfree swooped down on the truck a second time, long toes trailing. The cages on the ground rocked, the pokémon inside struggling to get free. The beefy man expanded a grubby-looking pokéball, releasing a pokémon atop the cages in a flash of light. The thick purple sludge that was a grimer rose up, black maw gaping and formless paws reaching for the butterfree.

“Frii!” the butterfly pokémon banked with a jerk, narrowly missing the sludge as it expanded and melted back into a formless shape, ooze dripping between the cages. Even from the cliff Keegan could smell it, forcing her to breathe through her mouth or risk gagging.

Mind flashing with a dozen unlikely and dangerous ideas, Keegan expanded Tarn’s pokéball. She lobbed it as far as she could towards the truck, over the head of the scrawny poacher as he hurriedly shoved the crates back onto the Ute and lashed them down using wiry rope. With loud thud the pokéball bounced off the roof of the cab, opening and releasing Tarn onto the muddy, dusty surface.

“What the f-” the man caught sight of Keegan as the girl returned Hazel, grimly preparing to toss her and Firefoot down too. His bulging eyes narrowed and he snarled, showing yellowed teeth. He was then distracted as his grimer was caught in a crossfire of a water gun and a gust attack. Water splattered over the ground, the strong winds casting it about as the grimer clung on to its perch desperately.

The other man was scrambling into the passenger’s side of the cab when Firefoot materialized beside him. Instantly the arcanine knocked him down, soft paws dancing on the muddy grass and a growl rumbling in his throat. The poacher scuttled backwards on his rear, his already grubby clothes picking up even more dirt. With one hand he scrabbled at his ragged belt, releasing a pokémon as Firefoot pounced.

Instantly the dog was thrown off his feet by long pink tongue, fur stained and mussed with mud as he tumbled down the slight slope. “Get that bloody thing!” the man hollered, pointing at the vaporeon on the cab’s roof as the pokémon jumped aside to avoid a barrage of messy sludge bombs, the brown droplets splattering everywhere behind them.

The thick-set pink lickitung aimed its tongue up to Tarn, its beady black eyes slightly dopey and the tip of its bulky, folded tail jerking reflexively. “Arrrth!” Firefoot howled in warning, struggling against the melted banks of the lake, his white paws stained as they sank into the mud. Startled, Tarn jerked about, sliding on the roof to dodge the slimy tongue; but it wrapped about him with a snap, binding him around the middle and squeezing him tightly.

The truck shook under the force of the butterfree’s whirlwind, making it creak in protest as its tyres slipped on the soft ground. The sludge of the grimer was pinpricked with debris flung by the winds, rolling across the uneven surface of the cages and spreading thick gloop everywhere. Keegan hit the ground hard, dropping her bag. Her arms and face were scratched by the hard rock of the cliff she had just descended hastily, the scabs on her wrist weeping slightly with the effort.

Reaching out his pokéball, Keegan returned Tarn, the navy markings on the vaporeon’s head beginning to go grey with lack of air. With her other hand she flung out Hazel, already running towards the cages. Firefoot finally got the best of the mud as he bounded onto the lickitung, fur dripping, but the thick tongue wrapped about one paw, tripping him up and lifting him into the air. Hazel darted under the feet of the brawny man as he ran for the truck’s cab, shading his eyes against the debris in the squalling winds.

With a curse the man stumbled, his foot catching the eevee in the ribs and sending her tumbling. Before she could recover he kicked her once again. Winded, Hazel rolled across the mucky turf when the ground shook as the lickitung brought Firefoot down with all its strength. Keegan jumped away from the cage she’d been struggling to open as it shifted with the truck’s juddering, threatening to fall on her foot. Inside, the spiky pink nidoran watched her through glazed eyes, his mottled sides barely rising and falling as he shuddered, his muscles tense with paralysis.

Hair whipping in the strong winds of the butterfree, Keegan yanked at the mesh of the cage futilely. The truck shuddered, the engine chugging to a start before dying, echoed by a sharp curse. She was barely aware of Firefoot’s snarls and Hazel’s shrill yaps and made instead for the rope, thinking that if she untied it she could somehow push the cages off – not that it would help, I don’t have time and we’re getting thrashed because it’s too dangerous to use our best attacks –

She was suddenly hit by something that felt like a car. Sent tumbling away from the truck, Keegan landed heavily on her side, jarring her shoulder as Firefoot’s weight pressured all the air out of her lungs in a quick burst. Something brown and white flashed past and Hazel leapt for the lickitung as it waddled around the back of the truck, short fingers brushing the crescent-shaped cream markings on its belly. With a flip of its tongue it caught the eevee in midair, her fur going slimy as she struggled against it.

Winded, Keegan gasped for breath, lungs searing and hardly able to keep from gagging on the noxious fumes of the grimer. Firefoot stumbled off her and jumped to his feet, long fur matted and lips rolled back over his canines in a snarl. “This your little rat?” the scrawny poacher drawled from behind his pokémon as Keegan rolled onto her back, sides aching and head pounding with whiplash. Before either Firefoot or Keegan could do anything the butterfree swooped down with a high-pitched screech, aimed for the eevee struggling in the lickitung’s grasp; but the grimer, dripping over the edges of the cages, spat purple sludge over the backs of the butterfly’s wings. With a shrill cry, her wings stained by the sticky goo, the butterfree wavered, tumbling on her own slipstream to the ground.

“Firefoot,” Keegan coughed, and the arcanine’s ears tipped back to listen, eyes riveted on Hazel and rumbling like a miniature thunderstorm. “Use -”

“You do and it dies,” the poacher snapped, and Hazel let out a gasp as the muscles of the tongue tightened, squeezing her cruelly. Squelching disgustingly, the grimer peered over the edge of the cages, a giant maw opening in a wide taunting grin. One of the cages shook as the victreebel inside tackled the mesh, green leaves quivering with rage and screeching in fury as its bulbous yellow body pulsed with breaths. The butterfree rose unsteadily into the air, glaring at the man with indignant imperiousness. The truck’s engine finally roared to life but the poacher ignored it.

Something round spun before the man, blades flashing. It sliced a deep gash the tongue, and with a pain-filled shriek from the lickitung it bucked, tossing Hazel into the air as blood cascaded over the slimy surface. “What -”

The mysterious bladed pokéball rebounded off the cages, opening with a burst and releasing a golbat as Keegan rolled back. She caught a slimy and gasping Hazel as the poacher returned his injured lickitung with a curse. “Supersonic!” a calm, slightly harsh voice ordered. Instantly the purple bat opened its huge mouth, fangs glistening, and let out a shattering, drawn-out screech which rippled the air. Circular, almost visible sound waves rebounded off the surroundings in interlacing vibrations. Keegan clutched at her ears, unaware that the poachers and the pokémon were doing the same thing, only wishing it would stop.

Then it did. Panicking, confused, the grimer oozed a thick cloud of purple gas from its every pore as the poacher staggered towards the cabin. The fog obscured Keegan’s sight and she turned away from it, clapping a hand over her mouth to avoid breathing in the noxious fumes. She heard the squelch of tires on mud and the roar of the engine as the truck fled, spraying mud all over her. The cloud cleared into wisps of thin haze under the beating wings of the golbat and the butterfree.

Coughing, Keegan sat up, brushing mud from her eyes. Hazel, sprawled across her lap, lifted her head wearily, blinking. Her ears were down miserably and her fur was matted, stained a light purple by the gas, but she seemed unaffected. Not far away Firefoot lay on his side, shivering and hacking. The foam that bubbled from his mouth was tainted purple, the poison from the cloud already coursing through his veins.

Keegan cursed, scrambling over to him to place a gentle hand on his grimy fur as her eyes pricked with frustrated, helpless tears. She didn’t have any antidote with her; it hadn’t occurred to her that something might happen –

“Here,” something dropped in front of her, and she jumped. Hazel nudged the flask, yellow liquid sloshing up the inside, and Keegan took it uncertainly. She looked up at the tall black-haired man who had arrived at her side on silent feet. His lean face and slanted, narrow eyes made him seem even more sinister than the poachers had been. “Make him drink that,” he ordered, turning away, the end of the long red scarf around his neck fluttering over his shoulder.

Keegan fumbled with the flask, flicking aside the cap, and forced opened Firefoot’s jaws to give him the antidote, ignoring the specks of foam which lathered her hands. Firefoot choked, spitting out half of the yellow liquid and coating Keegan’s fingers in slime, but he managed to gulp down most of it and soon his shivers subsided. Hazel trilled happily as he heaved himself up, shaking off the sick tinge his fur had taken. Keegan wiped her hands on the grass before hugging him, relieved.

“Thank you,” she said humbly, turning to the thin stranger. Clad in a crisp, dark olive-green uniform, he had the stance of an experienced fighter and Keegan found herself feeling glad he wasn’t her enemy. He gazed with piercing eyes after the truck, frowning in thought and absently stroking his golbat on the head. The bat was perched securely on the square leather guard covering the top of his wrist, which extended over the back of his clenched fist.

“Think nothing of it,” he answered shortly, turning dark eyes to her. Keegan suppressed a chill, meeting his shadowed gaze resolutely. “Though your interference has almost certainly cost me the best chance to catch those men.”

Keegan flushed and looked at the ground guiltily. Firefoot just cocked his head, still under Keegan’s protective arm, but Hazel hissed indignantly, fur bristling. “Sorry,” Keegan muttered. “I just – I just -”

“I would suggest,” the spiky-haired man said coldly, “You end your Safari Game immediately and return to Fuschia City.” The golbat screeched, flapping its wings to punctuate its trainer’s words; then he released it and it zipped into the air above the canopy as a scout. Without taking another glance at Keegan, the man followed, running with sure, silent steps into the trees.

For a minute Keegan stared after him, a little shocked at his curt manner and unnerved by the dangerous aura which had surrounded him. Then she looked down at Hazel, glaring spitefully after him, and Firefoot, ears half back in uncertainty. “Well, guess that answers where we are,” she muttered, her mind sluggishly trying to catch up with the events.

“Frii frii,” Keegan spun about, startled. She’d forgotten all about the butterfree. She was gazing in frustrated dolefulness after truck as well, settled on the muddy grass, her huge compound eyes glittering in an echo of the dust on her wings. She looked tired, but the expression in her eyes slowly turned to steely determination.

Keep out of business that doesn’t concern you. Keegan hesitated, remembering her promise to Bill as the butterfree fanned her wings, preparing to rise into the air wearily. I’ve already made his business my concern, the girl decided. This time I can take a page out of my book in Goldenrod – this time I won’t panic. It’s a game, all a game. Besides, after Goldenrod, I think I can deal with a couple of poachers… I just hope I don’t run into that ninja guy again…

She scrambled to her feet, impatiently brushing at the mud splattering her clothes. “Firefoot, I know you’re tired, but can you track that truck?” she asked apologetically, and grabbed up her bag still lying at the foot of the rock face. The butterfree’s wire-thin antenna twitched and she turned about to look at Keegan with detached curiosity.

“Nnnrrth,” Firefoot snorted confidently. Keegan squeezed him around the shoulders thankfully and he winced at the bruises he’d sustained from being thrown about so much. Keegan held out Hazel’s pokéball and returned the determined eevee before turning to the butterfree, slinging her bag more comfortably onto her back.

The butterfly pokémon fluttered into the air, darting forward to examine Keegan challengingly. Startled, the girl jerked back instinctively, the pokémon right in her face. She could almost see her reflection in the butterfree’s huge eyes… then Keegan grinned nervously, and raised an empty pokéball. “I have an idea.”

Keegan peeked over the lip of the ridge, eyes on the truck parked at the base of the short, sloping hill, pointing away from the bank of a wide lake. The clamour erupting from the cages had been enough for her to find her way without trouble once she got close enough, and she was keenly aware that the only pokémon life around her was either contained within the cages or their pokéballs.

The two poachers were out of the truck, waiting edgily for something or someone. The heavily built one checked the watch on his thick wrist, while his companion tapped impatiently on the tailgate of the truck. He looked out over the water, appearing grey beneath the overcast sky. “Where are they?” he grumbled anxiously, casting a wary glance over his shoulder. “Koga’s prowling around, I wanna get out of here quick as we can.”

Koga? Keegan wondered, then realized it must have been the sinister ninja who’d helped her before and shuddered. I can understand why they’d want to leave with him after them… she held up a pokéball and aimed carefully before rolling it forcefully down the smooth slope, praying that her aim was straight. The pokéball lurched, tumbling towards the oblivious men as Keegan crossed her fingers and clenched her fists in prayer. It hit the rear tyre of the truck and burst open in a swirling cascade of sparkling green powder, dousing the two men in its glittering waves before they were fully aware of its presence. The pair drooped to the ground, the cacophony of captured pokémon punctuated by loud snores.

The butterfree flapped gently above the truck, tiny hands waving in glee as Keegan, grinning and gripping her pendant thankfully, scrambled over the ridge and down the slope. Stepping carefully over the dust glittering on the turf and the men slumbering, she didn’t see the few specks of rain drizzling down from the gloomy sky.

“Keep an eye out, will you?” Keegan asked the butterfree. The pokémon was looking around with cool confidence and sharp little jerks of her head while the girl made a beeline for the thick, wiry rope binding the cages to the truck. It was rough, rubbing her hands raw as she struggled with the fat knot. A timid exeggcute peeked through the bars of its cage with all six pairs of eyes, watching her while the butterfree perched atop the truck.

Then the sky did what it had been threatening to do all morning and dumped what seemed like an entire ocean of rain on top of them. Keegan jumped, shocked at the cold which was already seeping into her skin, drenching her bag and its contents. Then something even more terrifying filtered through the noise of the rain on the lake, pattering over the grass: a groan. It was the sound of the awakening poachers, the rain washing away the sleep powder.

Keegan cursed in a guilty, frightened voice, returning the butterfree as she shook her wings irritably, trying to keep them from becoming sodden. Then, heart pounding, fingers twitching, Keegan ran for the cab, sliding into the driver’s seat and tossing her soaked bag to the next as one of the men shouted behind her.

Frantically she rolled up the open window, thumping down on the locks as the portly man pounded angrily on the window and shouted profanities at her through the glass. Game. Game. Game. She tried to convince herself, brushing her wet hair out of her eyes, her shaking hands fumbling with the seatbelt before going to the key still miraculously inserted into the dashboard. She turned it, and the engine roared for several miraculous seconds… before it spluttered and died.

Her eyes flickered to the grim-faced scrawny man outside the door, having replaced his companion and focussed on some unknown task which would no doubt end up in an unlocked door. Swallowing through her heart in her mouth, Keegan turned the key again and again, each passing second winding her nerves into tighter knots until finally the truck rumbled to life.

Oh, man, I wish I knew how to drive - she pressed her foot randomly down on a pedal, hands gripping the wheel so tightly her knuckles were white. The truck surged forward with sudden, surprising speed, wheels spurting on the muddy grass, and the poacher jumped back with a startled curse.

Keegan squinted desperately through the rippled tracks of water streaming down the windshield, obscuring her sight. She tugged at the wheel, jerking away from every dark shape barely visible through the pounding rain. Branches and leaves lashed at the cab, making her flinch every time as the truck bounced over rocks and debris beneath. She suddenly realized her foot was pressed down to the floor in instinctive fear, making herself take a few deep breaths and ease off before she killed herself at some breakneck speed.

Unnoticed, her foot slowly pressed down on the pedal again as she peered over the wheel, her breathing too rapid and muscles coiled tensely. Something loomed abruptly out of the darkness in front of her; with a terrified oath, she yanked on the wheel and swerved left. The truck powered suddenly over the lip of an unseen ridge, kicking up mud as water and debris lashed at the window. Keegan wrenched at the wheel desperately, struggling to regain control, but she merely sent the truck fishtailing from side to side. The vehicle jumped and shuddered, rocking dangerously on its wheels. Keegan was unaware of the gasped, moaning prayers which escaped her lips.

Where’s the brake, where’s the brake, where’s the brake?! Her foot flashed from the pedal to another, pumping uselessly on it before moving to the next. The truck jerked, slowing, but the slippery ground and the downward slope kept its momentum and made it swerve, hitting a tree with a crunch and shattering glass. Keegan was thrown forward before the seatbelt wrenched her to a halt, drawing a ribbon of pain up her chest and shoulder, her neck rubbed raw by the rough material.

For several moments Keegan sat and trembled, taking in huge breaths in a struggle to convince her pounding heart and shaking, adrenaline-charged muscles that the truck had really, truly come to a halt. The rain dripped through the canopy to drip through the smashed windshield onto the crumbled dashboard. Numbly Keegan watched it, panting as she tried to open her clenched fists.

Finally Keegan managed to pry her shaking hands from the wheel, clasping them to her chest to still the tremors still shaking her body, unaware of the stunned tears which tracked down her grimy cheeks. The seatbelt bound her tightly, almost suffocatingly to the chair, forced at an odd angle by the steel crushed in huge wrinkles at her side.

That was when she realized her feet were being squashed by the metal of the dashboard. She wormed out, sharp metal edges grazing long scrapes along her shins. Drawing her feet up onto the seat, she rubbed her aching legs and choked on a shocked sob which forced its way out of her.

No time. The smug voice, the part of her that was the ‘little fox’, said to her sternly. They might be looking for you. And you still have to free the pokémon. But for long moments she could do nothing but struggle to contain the sobs, trying to convince herself that the world hadn’t fallen apart.

Finally she fumbled for the button of the seatbelt, reaching for the key at the same time, only for her hand to scuff sharp metal. She stifled a soft cry and looked down to see that the shifted position of the seat had crushed the lower end of the belt. She tugged uselessly on the material, but only ended up tightening the band across her chest.

Okay. Okay. Keegan closed her eyes to avoid the sight of the wisps of smoke from the crumbled engine out the windscreen, the bleeding sap of the tree, and took a deep, shaky breath. I’m alive; I’m fine. I can’t get out. What do I do? No room for a pokémon… oh, damn Bill for being right… Unknowingly her eyes had opened, and she stared blindly once again at the water dripping down the leaves and onto the shattered glass of the windshield. She was numbly aware of the ache on her arm and absently twisted her shoulder to look at the weeping, grimy cuts on her skin, scored there by the side window.

Think. Think. You must have something… Keegan glanced at the passenger seat, now covered in glass from the other window. Her bag had slid onto the floor, half hidden by mangled steel and too far to reach in any case. Then she became aware of the gear on her belt which dug into her waist. Oh, of course… she fumbled for the pocket knife which usually hung at her side and flicked out the blade. It looked puny and small compared to the wide, black material of the seatbelt.

But it was something. Though she was still slightly shocked, still numbed, it felt better to actually be doing something, no matter how useless. It seemed an eternity before the knife appeared to be making any dent in the material at all – and that was when she heard the soft crack of a pokémon being released. Keegan froze. Her heart began to pound once again and she clenched the knife protectively, tensing.

“Use acid, then your tail,” a familiar, cold voice ordered from outside, over the steady drum of rain on the cab roof, pattering over the canopy. Keegan peered through the window, a chill running down her back, but the seatbelt restricted her movement and she couldn’t see the ninja – Koga, if that was really his name. Then a narrow, purple head with a wide, splayed crest suddenly reared up, making Keegan jumped with a curse as the cobra pokémon, arbok, sprayed acid over the door hinges. Some splashed through the shattered window, burning a smoky hole in the seat as Keegan cringed away from it.

Keegan caught a glimpse of a purple tail; then the door buckled off its hinges, showering her with glass remnants and water as she recoiled, the knife held out defensively. “Air cutter,” came another curt command, and Keegan peeked through half-closed eyes to see a barrage of blades created from pure air whistling towards her. She automatically flinched back as they screamed past her ear, slicing through the seatbelt and the worn leather of the chair.

The band across her chest slackened and she shook it off, relieved at her new, relative freedom, but then someone plucked the pocket knife out of her hand before she could do anything about it. She blinked wordlessly at Koga as he held it up with a scowl, water dripping from his crimson scarf. “I told you to leave,” he snapped, holding out his arm so his golbat could alight on the leather wrist guard. Behind him, his arbok was wound halfway up a nearby tree, narrow forked tongue flickering out with a hiss.

Keegan flushed, the sudden pricks in her eyes heralding the onset of tears. Yet something else came with them: weary anger. She was too tired to maintain her control, instead welcoming the energy – whatever the source – and answered back hotly. “Oh yeah, and I always obey a complete stranger when they tell me what to do.”

“Foolish girl,” Koga growled, flicking the pocket knife shut and tossing it back onto her lap. “I’ve been tracking those poachers for a week now. Did you think they were random thieves, darting in and out? No, their scheme was more elaborate; they’ve been shipping pokémon out of the park through randomly set coordinates, but I’ve been unable to catch their accomplices. Now you’ve just ruined any chance of that.”

Keegan swallowed past the angry lump in her throat, her vision blurred by tears. She yanked the key out of the slot, the other keys on the ring jingling, and shoved her pocket knife into her pocket. “Well, I didn’t know that, did I?” she retorted in a shaking voice, rubbing her wet, aching eyes. “I was just trying to help some pokémon. You can’t blame me for that.” She leaned over, scrabbling for her bag and yanking it furiously from under the mashed metal. The soft material was wet and dirty, covering in dust and oil.

Koga snorted. “You just wanted to involve yourself where you didn’t belong,” he sneered, punctuated by an accusing screech from his golbat.

For a moment Keegan couldn’t find an answer – because he was partly right. She’d wanted to know what was going on. They’d almost beaten me, so I’d wanted to test myself against them again. God, it really is a game to me, isn’t it? That’s why I went to the Battle Tower… the Tin Tower… She suddenly realized she was flushed, the lump in her throat seeming as hard as an Oran berry; but whether it was embarrassment he’d seen through her so easily or something else, she wasn’t sure. Either way, it was a realization she didn’t like, she didn’t like it at all, and shoved the thought out of her mind at the same time as she pushed past Koga, sliding out of the mangled cab.

The arbok hissed, rearing up indignantly at her rough manner towards its master, but Koga flicked his hand and it settled down again, narrow, unblinking eyes locked on Keegan. The girl struggled up the muddy hill, ignoring the sting of her various scratches as leaves slapped against her arms and shins and the water which dripped from above.

“Maybe so,” she said shortly, finally answering as she jammed the key into the closest cage’s lock. Inside, the round, spiky blue nidoran watched her with wide, frightened eyes. The pokémon was too scared even to make a sound, unlike many of her fellow prisoners. “But right now, I really don’t give a ****. I got away alive and I saved a truckload of pokémon in the process.”

“The way you were driving, that remains to be seen,” Koga replied icily with just a touch of dry humour. “You’re lucky you didn’t kill yourself, let alone the pokémon.” Keegan ignored him, struggling with the lock. The key somehow slipped out of her cold, numb fingers and dropped into the debris underfoot. Keegan cursed, but Koga stooped and picked it up before she could do so herself. “I think,” he said coolly, holding the keys back from her. “You’ve done enough damage here. Now this time do what I say and go back to Fuschia.”

“But -” Keegan began, gesturing towards the truckload of wet, bruised and injured pokémon.

“I’ll take care of them,” Koga cut her off shortly, enclosing the keys in his palm. His narrow, calculating eyes bored into her and she looked away, suppressing a shiver.

I don’t trust him. I don’t trust him at all, but… but… he was trying to find the poachers, and – her weariness caught up with her, her anger melting away into exhaustion. She always seemed to be hurt and tired, it seemed.

That’s your own fault, you know. “Fine,” she conceded dully, turning around and almost slipping on the slick, muddy debris underfoot. She struggled off into the underbrush, swatting irritably at the leaves and water which dripped annoying in her eyes.

Koga watched her leave, the metal keys digging into his palm. When she was out of earshot he chuckled grudgingly. The girl had nerve, he had to admit that. Foolish, impulsive nerve; but it was there nonetheless. With his spare hand he reached into the overlapping fold of his over-tunic, his golbat rising into the air to roost on the stack of cages.

He pulled out a round device decorated like a golbat, cupping it securely in his palm. With a touch of his thumb on an eye at the top of the device, the reflective surface within the gaping mouth of the golbat shimmered. “Report,” he snapped into the device, still gazing thoughtfully after the girl. She had seemed strangely familiar, though he knew he had never met her before…

“The poachers are gone, sir,” a frustrated voice answered, the sound waves making the now opaque surface flicker. Koga bared his teeth angrily, his grip on the golbat-shaped device tightening with annoyance. “Their accomplices might have arrived before we got here.”

“Monitor the lake,” Koga ordered as rain dripped onto the strange, mirror-like tool, casting ripples across the glowing exterior. “They may decide to return; we cannot allow them to violate our territory.” He cast a contemptuous look at the victreebel glaring at him from within the confines of its cage. “Meanwhile, there’s a truckload of pokémon for shipment.”

“Yes, sir. We’ve got a lock. Is there someone we should look for – any idea who interfered?”

Koga’s eyes narrowed, gazing into the trees where Keegan had vanished. Familiar, yet unfamiliar… “No. None at all.” With a second touch on the eye, the surface faded to its original state. Koga tucked the device away, instead raising a bladed pokéball somewhat like a ninja throwing-star and returning his arbok. Then he tossed the keys carelessly onto the back of the truck, striding calmly away from the screeching, restrained pokémon with his golbat fluttering along behind him.

Keegan ran across the docks, drenched shoes pounding on the slippery concrete and one arm raised against the rain lashing her hair in her eyes. The docks were almost completely devoid of life – tourist life, that is. Keegan was already soaked and chilled to the bone, so she decided to find out when the next ferry left before escaping to the warmth of the Pokémon Centre.

A wave crashed again the side of the dock, salty spray mingling with the rain, and Keegan jumped, her heart leaping to her throat. For all her physical and emotional exhaustion, the sight of the dark, churning ocean made her feel charged with adrenaline. Though the rain was soothing on her scrapes, her feet and hands were numb with cold, her face windswept and hair tangled. “Excuse me!” she shouted over the gale to a sailor hefting a crate covered in a blue tarp. “D’you know when the next ferry leaves for the Seafoam Islands?”

The man paused, setting the crate down with a thump, and pointed at the ferry bobbing on the waves in front of him, his orange overcoat lashing in the wind. “This one’s gonna leave in a few minutes,” he answered loudly.

Keegan stared with astonished alarm at the ferry as another wave crashed against it. It tugged against its moorings as though anxious to leave, to battle the waves and wind of the open ocean. “What?! In this weather?!”

The sailor laughed, the sound almost lost in the howling wind. “Aw, this is only a small blow,” he assured her. “’Course, not many tourists would want to travel this way – we’re shipping supplies, y’see. But if you’re game, hop on. You can pay when we reach the other side.”

Nice challenge. Keegan looked at the ramp, swaying and creaking threateningly. The rubber surface was slick with water and grime. She hugged herself, shivering, as the wind flung her hair into her eyes. “Uh, okay,” she stammered, and immediately her fear increased tenfold.

You’re not serious?! The saner part of her shrieked as she took several uncertain steps forward. The sailor leaned on the crate, frowning, as she reached the ramp. She looked down into the dark, swirling water and swallowed through the frightened lump in her throat.

Yes, I am. I’m not… not gonna let a little… storm… beat me. Keegan stepped cautiously onto the ramp, clutching the rails with numb, shaking hands. That was when the storm decided to laugh in the face of her bravery; a wave caught between the docks and the ferry ricocheted off both sides, swelling high with lashing, foamy spray and breaking over the ramp. Keegan shrieked a frightened curse, jumping back off the ramp, her shoes scrabbling on the wet pavement.

– can’t breathe – cold, so cold, fingers of ice burrowing into her skin – tossed about helplessly, swallowing water, wind lashing it in her face… the world was made of wind and water… someone grabbed her arm, shouted in her ear – “Don’t let go!” –

Gasping and shaking, unnoticed tears mingling with the rain tracking down her cheeks, she turned away, one hand clutching her pendant for security. She’d never had so vivid a flashback before – never of that night.

“Miss, are you all right?” the sailor asked, brow furrowed in concern. He reached out to steady Keegan as she staggered from the edge of the wharf. Instinctively she jerked away, shaking her head violently.

“No, no,” she babbled, eyes wide. “I’m sorry, I… I can’t, I can’t –” whether she was apologising to herself for failing or to the sailor, she didn’t know; but she turned away from the sight of the bobbing ferry, ducking her head and hurrying away on rubber legs, shivering. There was one thought burning in her mind as she fled the docks, retreating to the safety of the Pokémon Centre.

Screw the Seafoam Islands.

Twilight Absol
20th May 2005, 4:01 AM
Ha! I knew which bird it is >.>
THis is one of those almost grammar problem free chappies, cause I found none. I like Koga, and somehow, I expect her to break the mystery, I also think that twould be nice if she got another pokemon, and yes, I noticed she got butterfree...just a few ideas here and there, I'll give a few more later..

Ryu Tck
20th May 2005, 10:05 AM
most exlent purple_drake, I loved the way you made Keegan to Scared to go on the ferry durring the storm.

over all I think this is turning out to be a grate fic.

btw I thought it was a nice twist that you did not make Keegan's fire stone turn in to dust like I have seen a few people do.

I also wonder what Maxie would do if he found out his doughter was not only alive but also has a Vaopreon and had interfered with two of his grunts. Err those pochers were magma grunts were thay not? =/

I Also loved how Brother gave up his freedom in order to try and free his brother from Keegan. nice plot twist.

But in anycase keep up the good work, hope you get the next chaphter up soon. ;)

~Ryu Tck

20th May 2005, 10:12 AM
Ryu Tck is still around! ^.^ I was wondering whether you were still reading along or not :P
Yes, I've often wondered what Maxie would say if he found out she had a vaporeon too... but no, those poachers weren't Magma grunts. I'm not sure where you got that from *looks sly* but don't think you've seen the last of them.

Anyway, Twilight ^.^ I'll be interested to hear some of those ideas <_< although some of the things you come up with... *shudder* :P

Anyways... ^.^ thanks for reviewing, the both of you, I'll try not to be so slack in writing the next chappie.

Ryu Tck
21st May 2005, 3:24 AM
yeah I am its just I waited untill I got caught up to reply, that and I did not notice you had this up until a cuple days ago because I am uslaly found over at the Pokémon masters in their ASB form, and stuff. wopps my mistake on the pochers though when are any mebers of Team magma going to show up, namly it be nice if some recinized her but then say somthing like "Naw it can be she dead..."

~Ryu Tck

21st May 2005, 9:47 PM
>D Screw the Seafoam Islands.

As usual, excellent chap Doctor P. I liked the sight of the legendary. >3

UPDATE SOON! >D I really shouldnt be talking though, I cant update today. I have a funeral to go to. :/

Twilight Absol
22nd May 2005, 2:10 AM
I shoulda known....Koga is related to Keegan....thx for reminding me of HOTM >.>;;;
Like I said, I have a really bad memory, so stop toying with it! T.T

22nd May 2005, 2:46 AM
namly it be nice if some recinized her

Oh, don't worry. ^.^ Someone does recognise her very, very soon. <_< Twilight's all but given that away though :P

As usual, excellent chap Doctor P. I liked the sight of the legendary. >3

Sight of the legendary? @.@ What legendary? Did I miss something? She never saw a legendary in this chappie... or she wasn't supposed to... :P

UPDATE SOON! >D I really shouldnt be talking though, I cant update today. I have a funeral to go to. :/

*gasp* YOU'RE NOT UPDATING?! *cries* aw, I've been looking forward to your update all week... <_< well, for the past two days, anyway. :P
>.< Mind you, considering how slack I was writing that chappie, it's perfectly reasonable to say :P
Bugger on the funeral though... hope it all goes well.

Koga is related to Keegan....thx for reminding me of HOTM >.>;;;
Like I said, I have a really bad memory, so stop toying with it! T.T

Related? Do you mean related as in he's got some kind of connection with her or related as in they're family? @.@ 'Cause they ain't family.
^.^ And prepare to have your memory toyed with constantly... I have a habit of putting in obscure references to things that'll happen in the future :P It might even help your memory improve... maybe... >.< not.

^.^ Anyways, I'll admit the next chappie may be a little bit lacking in the action factor... but it's got some important plot developments, so we'll all just have to deal with it. :P Thanks, peoples! ^.^

Twilight Absol
22nd May 2005, 4:04 AM
As in Koga and Maxie are good friends, and are considered brothers..and is the person that Keegan was originally gonna visit in Kanto...>.>...my memory isnt that bad that I dont remember what we said yesterday...

22nd May 2005, 4:21 AM
>.< I know some people's memories which are... :P
*shrug* It seemed like a plausible mistake >.< of course I'm the one who tends to make those mistakes, so I tend to see 'em more.

27th May 2005, 2:43 AM
Here it is, the chapter you've all been waiting for!
... Okay, maybe not. I just felt like being dramatic ^.^


~ VIII ~


Tiny droplets spat from the overcast sky, casting spots over the moist soil of the path while the leaves of the surrounding foliage drooped soggily. Tynan flicked at his damp hair irritably, inwardly cursing Keegan for travelling so quickly. Of course, if Erika was to be believed, then the girl wasn’t stopping to collect badges like Tynan planned. According to Nurse Joy, Keegan had left eastward two mornings before; Tynan guessed she was taking the long way up to Vermillion City, since he firmly believed there was nothing else of interest up the eastern coast. Though why she’d want to spend more time in the rain and mud, sleeping on the ground, was beyond him.

Now. Where’s this bloody gym? He trudged along the path, shaking off the wet dirt which clung to his stylish boots. He knew the Fuschia gym lay beyond the outskirts of the city, southeast of the sprawling Safari Zone. He also knew it was a ninja training camp and wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible.

The dripping, limp trees parted before him to reveal a sprawling mansion surrounded by a tall barrier. The roof tiles were faded green, the walls a weathered white. Tynan studied it, eyes narrowed. If he remembered correctly – and he always did – Koga had a habit of booby trapping the mansion. Cautiously treading through the open gate and approaching the tall wooden door, Tynan swung it open, a pokéball already expanded in his spare hand.

Dropping the red and white pokéball, it burst open in a flash on the doorstep. The umbreon glanced briefly into the narrow hallway before turning glaring red eyes to Tynan. “Koga is sure to have pokémon in there as traps,” Tynan said impatiently by way of explanation. “You should be able to find them before we get there.”

Brother’s ears went back irritably and he hissed, infuriated. He wants to play games?! Turning his back on the hallway, he instead scowled out over the dully coloured path, his short fur rippling in the light breeze. We should be following the pokénapper, not wasting time! “Breeen,” he rumbled resonantly. The action drew into his mouth a thousand different tastes, but only one was lacking to his mind: he couldn’t taste the human who’d stolen his brother.

“Hey!” Tynan nudged him with his foot, annoyed. Instantly the umbreon’s ears went flat and he snapped at the boot, fur bristling. “Damn you!” Tynan swore, pulling back with a jerk. He held out the umbreon’s pokéball and returned him. Instead he drew out Marowak; the short dinosaur-like pokémon had a good sense of smell and should substitute nicely.

His weathered bone leaning comfortably on his scrawny shoulder, Marowak peered through the eyeholes of his streamlined bone helmet. “Mmarr,” he rumbled, pointing insistently with his bone down the corridor. He toddled into the mansion, brown tail swaying gently behind him. Tynan strode confidently after, his chin raised high and long coat fluttering slightly behind him.

Following Marowak’s lead carefully, Tynan wandered through the seemingly deserted mansion, avoiding touch with the wood and plaster walls and only walking down corridors Marowak deemed safe. Several times they had to turn back, the way ahead blocked by invisible walls; others they were thwarted by electrified webs.

Ninjas traditionally use poison pokémon, so Marowak should have the advantage. Plus these narrow halls are like the caves he used to live in, so he’ll be fine in close quarters… The trainer considered his options, following Marowak as the pokémon hefted his bone alertly, his muscles already tense for battle.

This should be simple, Tynan decided, confident he could take whatever the ninjas threw at him. After all, he’d been the top of his class at the University. He’d barely thought it when he heard a whirring sound behind him. Spinning about, he instinctively jerked back with a curse as a pokéball modified into a ninja throwing-star cut past his cheek.

“Rrwak,” Marowak grunted, hurling his bone skilfully towards the source of the pokéstar; but in the same instant there was the crack of a released pokémon and a thin silken thread shot out from the ariados which had materialized on the wall. The silk caught the bone in midair, yanking it back towards Tynan. The young man ducked into a crouch, trying desperately to catch up with the events at hand. The bone whirled overhead and Marowak jumped up to snatch it, turning in midair to aim the bone like a club towards the ariados.

The red spider skittered away and instead the bone crunched against the white plaster wall, leaving cracks marring the smooth paint as flakes fluttered down to the floor. A sharp thread of silk darted towards Tynan from the ariados’s mouth, but Marowak jumped in its way, twirling his bone like a shield. The silk hit the spinning club, tangled around the yellowed bone. With a grunt Marowak tugged on it forcefully, yanking the ariados off its roost.

With a twirl Marowak changed his club’s direction, the remnants of the silk still clinging to its worn surface. It slashed through the air towards the tumbling ariados, the spider’s yellow-striped legs thrashing wildly as it struggled to regain its footing. Before the attack could connect the ariados vanished into red light, returned by its trainer.

“Perhaps not as stupid as we thought,” an unfamiliar female voice remarked from behind Tynan. Instantly he jumped to his feet, ready for battle, but he turned only to find an empty hallway. Dammit, he seethed. Coward… I could beat her fairly if she’d stop hiding in shadows… That was when the rounds lights, inset into the wooden ceiling, flickered off one by one, throwing the windowless corridor into surprising darkness.

“Mrraawk!” Marowak growled menacingly, but Tynan shushed him harshly, knowing now was no time for Marowak’s simulated tough-guy routine. The student was tense, his heart pounding in his ribs and his back prickling with the anticipation of attack. This must have been what they meant by experience, he thought silently, his pulse seeming loud in his ears. I never got this at the University. At the school he’d known his limits and the limits of his opponents… but here, he was in the complete unknown. It was a test like he’d never experienced before.

He didn’t like it. He didn’t know what was going to happen next; he had no control. He knew he had been lucky – Marowak was his father’s pokémon and had had enough initiative to handle the ariados… but Tynan, as the trainer, should have been able to think of something himself… I’ll conquer the unknown just like I’ll conquer the little fox. He thought burningly, eyes narrowing in the dark. I will not be surprised, I will not be defeated!

The young man glanced futilely towards Marowak, the pokémon’s outline barely visible. At least Marowak has good sub-light vision… one of the advantages of a species indigenous to caves… but he’s sure to have been targeted… his mind raced furiously, searching for some advantage. He heard the sound of leathery wings and ducked as something flitted overhead, ruffling his hair. A flyer! Tynan swore inwardly, thinking that he should’ve known, he should’ve guessed –

Never mind that, what do I do?! He cursed at himself, frantically searching his mind for something – anything – that would help as his eyes darted about frantically, squinting uselessly into the darkness. Marowak! “Marowak, do you see it?”

“Confuse ray!” the same female voice commanded before the pokémon could answer. The gloomy air shifted with a powerful gust and a bright orb suddenly flickered to life. It bulged and separated into a twirling, shifting circle of globes, their light absorbed by the shadows. They danced around Tynan, dipping and writhing in intricate spirals, humming a high, steady note which made Tynan’s skin rise in goosebumps.

Don’t watch them! Gritting his teeth against the chill running down his back, Tynan shut his eyes tightly; but he could still see them, shining eerily through the lids. So beautiful, he found himself thinking absently, peeking through half closed eyes at the nearest sphere. It winked and flickered, taunting, and he was slowly drawn to its sparkling splendour.

He shivered. Alone. He was alone, surrounded by darkness lit not even by the orbs… beyond the secure, comforting circle were enemies… he could feel them, sense them… they meant him harm…

“Mmrawwk!” something rumbled beyond the spellbinding circle of globes. A dark figure interrupted the beautiful dance, leaping through the ring.

Wants to hurt me! Tynan flinched away, fingers scrabbling for the pokéballs at his belt, but before he could find one something hard came down on him, glancing harshly off his skull. Snapping out of his daze, Tynan gripped his pounding head, his eyes watering.

Though the throbbing pain made it difficult to think it soon subsided into a dull ache and he forced his mind into some semblance of awareness. He realized almost at once what had happened; Marowak, unaffected by the confuse ray, had used his bone club to snap Tynan from the grasp of confusion. The trainer gritted his teeth, humiliated that he’d been overcome by such a trick. How dare she deliberately subject a trainer to a pokémon’s attacks! He raged inwardly and staggered to his feet, tugging Flareon’s pokéball off his belt vehemently.

“Will o’ wisp!” he commanded Flareon furiously, throwing the pokéball up and releasing the dainty pokémon in midair, fur slightly luminescent in the dark. He’d hardly materialized before thin blue flames lit the corridor, weaving in an ever expanding ring down the hallway toward the sound of fluttering wings.

The corridor was bathed in writhing, flickering shadows, revealing a plum-coloured crobat for an instant as red light surfing over its four wings, before it was engulfed in glimmering, sapphire flames. But when the strange ethereal blaze dissipated into the warm air of the corridor, the wood and plaster walls blackened by the ash of the weak flames, the crobat was gone.

Recalled. Tynan realized, gritting his teeth as the corridor was cast into darkness once again. “Show yourself!” he demanded angrily as Flareon landed daintily beside him. Marowak, hefting his bone alertly, was facing the opposite direction, eyes darting vigilantly. The air of the passage stiflingly warm, but Tynan ignored the sweat which made his white shirt cling to his back, his coat heavy on his shoulders.

“Perhaps I should adjust my opinion,” the unseen woman sneered with amusement. “So far it seems like luck has kept you safe.”

“I could beat you fair and square if you’d stop hiding, coward,” Tynan retorted, head turning this way and that as he searched for the source of the echoing voice.

The woman chuckled. “A ninja always attacks from the shadows,” she answered in a superior, knowing tone that Tynan had never before heard directed at him. He glowered unseeingly, fists clenching angrily. “A direct assault is not always the best approach.”

“Only a coward would attack the trainer, let alone from behind,” Tynan snapped stubbornly; then his tone turned contemptuous as he struggled to salvage his wounded pride. “You know you’d lose if you face me fairly.”

Something flashed in the faint iridescence of Flareon’s thick, glimmering fur, whirring past Tynan’s cheek for the second time in ten minutes. This time he flinched only minimally, refusing to pull away even at the sting of the shallow cut. “You’re at the mercy of someone stronger than you,” the woman warned. “Be careful what you say.”

“I’ll say what I damn well please,” Tynan hissed.

“Rrwa,” Marowak echoed threateningly. For an instant there was silence; then laughter reverberated through the stifling hallway and the lights in the ceiling flashed on. One or two flickered and died, damaged by the nonetheless weak fire of the attack, but enough were unharmed to illuminate the corridor dimly.

“What is your purpose here?” Tynan spun around, startled by the voice behind him. Standing at the end of the corridor was a confident young woman with dark pink hair tied in a short, spiky ponytail. The sash around her waist boasted several of the pokéstars, leaving no doubt she was the aggressor.

“I’m here to challenge Koga,” Tynan replied shortly, but the girl just chuckled, the lower half of her face covered by the pink-tinged scarf wound around her neck and draping down her back.

She crossed her right arm across her chest smugly, a pokéstar held at the ready in her hand. “I was more than a match for you. There’s no way you’ll survive a gym battle.” She looked at him somewhat coyly through her long eyelashes, her eyes almost too softly naive to belong to a hardened ninja.

“You took me by surprise,” Tynan accused, flinging out a hand to gesture behind him. Marowak thumped his bone on the floor to emphasise his trainer’s words. Flareon was seated with his thick tail curled about him, looking away from the ninja and studiously ignoring her.

The girl chuckled again softly, lowering her hand; the purple leather of her wrist guard looked shiny in the light overhead. “Life is full of surprises,” she responded. “If you can’t think on your feet, you won’t survive.”

“Who are you to preach to me?” Tynan demanded scornfully, his confidence returning. “I was top of my class at the Celadon University. I don’t need the instruction of a novice ninja.”

The girl flung out her right arm, bringing her other hand before her half-closed eyes, two fingers pointing in an upwards gesture of composure. “I am Janine, daughter of the Fuschia gym leader Koga,” she announced proudly, the thigh-length skirt of her purple over-tunic swirling around close-fitting mesh-textured leggings.

Tynan crossed his arms, unimpressed. “Is Koga so afraid of challengers he sends out his daughter to cut them off?” he sneered. Janine’s magenta eyes snapped open, flashing angrily. She spun about, throwing the pokéstar still in her hand with practised precision. It whirled towards Tynan, cutting through the air past his face warningly, but he didn’t even flinch. “That’s getting old,” he scoffed instead. “So if you’re done dramatising, get out of my way and tell Koga to get ready to lose.”

Janine crossed her arms resolutely, tossing her head petulantly. “As it happens, my father is unable to accept challengers at this point in time.” She reached for a scroll tucked into the back of her pink sash, holding it out with a flourish. The parchment unrolled with a bob to show images of two grubby-looking men. “He’s searching for these poachers who’ve been stealing pokémon in the Safari Zone. So if you see them, do be so kind as to report them.”

Tynan cast an uncaring eye over the images, turning away with a sound of contempt. “I’ve no use for gym leaders too afraid to face a strong challenger,” he said in a superior tone. Janine’s eyes narrowed angrily but she refused to rise to his bait a second time. Instead she withdrew the scroll, re-rolling it with a practised jerk.

“The exit is that way,” she said shortly, pointing towards the wall between them. Flanked by two narrow wooden beams was what appeared to be a board of wood which looked like part of the partition itself.

Marowak regarded her suspiciously, hurling his bone with a roundhouse throw. It glanced off the wood and rebounded back into the pokémon’s hand as the board swung in on a central rotating pole.

“That secret passage will lead you straight to the entrance.” Janine explained, tucking the scroll back into her sash. She started to turn away, her expression softening into smug shrewdness. “But if you decide to come back you should first learn how to command your pokémon, rather than them commanding you.”

Tynan scowled, gritting his teeth. He started forward, fists clenched, but Janine threw a superior half-smile back at him, hidden by her scarf and evident only in the glint in her eyes as she tossed down a pokéstar behind her. The modified pokéball burst open in a cloud of black smoke, obscuring the pokémon within and engulfing the pink-haired young ninja as she stared at Tynan with a smugly challenging expression.

The smog rolled through the stuffy corridor and Tynan coughed, almost gagging on the strong odour. He held out a pokéball and recalled Flareon. Marowak spun his bone club before him, using the windy backlash to clear the smoke. It washed away around him in wispy wreaths and Tynan looked up to snap at Janine irritably.

She was gone. Tynan glanced about himself uselessly before kicking at the floor with a curse. “Let’s go,” he growled to Marowak, and the pokémon waddled into the hidden passage. Useless gym, Tynan thought bitterly, following. If you can’t get a badge. But Janine’s last words haunted him; he thought he’d been prepared when he entered, only to be caught completely off guard. Not that he’d ever admit that to her.

It’s all Keegan’s fault, he seethed, hardly paying attention to the dirt floor beneath him, treading through the dim, barely lit corridor. If she hadn’t come to the University, if she hadn’t beat me… I wouldn’t have left. I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have been humiliated by that ninja-girl – even if she was right. The admission was like bile in his mouth, more painful than his aching head, and he scowled. First I’ll beat that upstart little fox at her own game. Then I’ll show the ninja. His eyes narrowed as the passage began to brighten, drawing closer to the end. But for now… Vermillion City.

* * *

Koga was crouched in the centre of the bare wooden room. Slitted shadows stretched across the wooden floor from the window, sunlight flashing through the vertical beams spaced in the opening. The index and middle fingers of his left hand were raised before his closed eyes, his right clenched in a relaxed fist in his palm. Aside from his calm, steady breaths, the gentle flutter of his long red scarf and the breeze which tugged at his loose olive-green pants and sleeves, he was completely motionless.

In the corner was the only piece of furniture the room boasted: a plain desk and chair upon which rested the latest in computer and video-phone technology. At the moment the screen was blank, aside from the flashing padlock icon in the corner which signified the phone line was blocked. Koga wanted no interruptions.

For the thousandth time in two days, his thoughts were turned to the Safari Zone – and the interfering young woman who’d prevented him from catching the poachers. It bothered him; not the fact that she’d meddled in his business, oh no. He’d had plenty of that before and usually it wouldn’t warrant a second thought. What bothered him was her familiarity.

He ran her image over in his mind once again. Slender, blessed with olive-toned skin, bright, inquisitive cerulean eyes shaded by a bobbing fringe, set in a thin face made larger by the blonde, red-tinged hair pulled back into a doubled-over ponytail. But that didn’t answer his question: where had he seen her before?

Perhaps I’m mistaking her for someone else, Koga thought, considering other possible alternatives. It hadn’t just been her looks which seemed familiar, but her single-mindedly passionate attitude, the knowledgeable, determined look in her eyes and the confident way she moved. He allowed his mind to wander, knowing if he tried to force the answer it would hide from him. And slowly, his thoughts turned to memories unnoticed for many years.

“I’m sorry, Master Koga, now is not a good time,” the agent on the other end of the vid-phone apologised contritely, his head downcast and his scarlet hood shading his eyes.

“So I’ve been told,” Koga answered coldly. “For two days. Now I will hear no more excuses. Put me through to Maxie immediately.” The agent winced at his tone, the grey horns on the hood bobbing slightly as he decided whose wrath he’d prefer to face: that of Maxie or of Maxie’s oldest friend. While their irritation was expressed in completely different ways, both were preferably avoided.

Finally the grunt sighed. “Very well. Of anyone who knows him, you’re probably the one most likely to…” he drifted off and sat up straighter, his tone losing the melancholic unease and regaining some measure of professionalism. “Stand by, sir.”

The screen flickered and went black. For a moment Koga thought he’d been cut off; then he saw the bright red cross flashing in the top left corner and realized it was because the vid-screen wasn’t activated. “Maxie?”

“I’m not in the mood for talking right now, Koga,” Maxie’s voice came through the speaker. He sounded hoarse and tired, his tone thick with reclusive emotion.

Koga managed a chuckle, leaning his elbows on the desk with his hands before his face in his customary gesture of calm. “Ah, takes me back to when we were boys,” he said with a grin, sounding carefully amused. “And you would lock yourself in your room for days on end when you were feeling angry or depressed.” His tone turned distantly cold. “Welcome to the world of reality.”

There was an instant of silence; then he heard something smash on what sounded like the keys and the screen flickered to life. “What are you implying, Koga?” Maxie demanded, glaring into the monitor. He was sitting up straight in his high-backed chair and his fist was clenched on the keyboard, making it obvious he’d activated the screen with anger. Behind him were the stone-cut walls of his most private of offices, lending credence to Koga’s assumption of seclusion.

Maxie obviously hadn’t slept at all in the past two days; his eyes were ringed with dark circles and he looked older than Koga had ever seen him, his face lined with grief. His usually immaculate red-and-grey coat was rumpled and creased, his straight red hair hanging in lank strings, but Koga was relieved to see that beneath the slight, anguished glaze over his eyes there flickered some of his friend’s old fiery spirit.

“I’m implying nothing, Maxie,” Koga answered blandly now he had his friend’s attention. “You thought I intended something, mm?”

“You usually do,” Maxie replied shortly, turning away from screen and sitting back in his grey chair. Settling his elbows on the armrests, he rested his chin on his clasped hands, eyes closed in contemplation.

Koga chuckled briefly. “As always.” His expression turned slightly mocking. “I am the ninja, Maxie. I am the one who is meant to hide, at the will of my master. That is my purpose; what is yours?”

Maxie’s eyes flickered open and he raised his head as though about to answer. Then, outside the range of the screen, there came the sound of someone knocking on the door. “Enter,” Maxie snapped, swivelling on his chair to face whoever the intruder happened to be, one arm resting on the desktop.

There was a slightly surprised pause and Koga guessed it was because Maxie had shown more life in his tone than he had for the past two days. Then there came the sound of the door opening. “I have some reports, sir,” Harland’s gravelly voice came through the speakers and he came into view to hand said reports to Maxie. His grim eyes flickered momentarily to Koga, who nodded slightly in greeting as Maxie rifled idly through the reports.

Koga expected Maxie to push them disinterestedly aside, next to another stack of reports barely visible on the side of the screen, but instead he froze, staring in disbelief down at one of the papers. Then he gritted his teeth, eyes flashing angrily. “What’s this?!” he exploded, jumping to his feet and yanking the report from the stack, uncaring of several other papers as they slipped off the desk and fluttered to the floor.

“That came in this morning, sir,” Harland answered, standing with his arms crossed behind his back. Maxie’s hands were shaking and his teeth were bared in fury.

“Call Courtney and Tabitha to my office immediately!” he ordered, the paper crumpling in his fist. Harland bowed slightly and backed out of the room, but not before casting a warning glance at Koga. It was enough for the ninja to know something was about to change.

“Something amiss, Maxie?” Koga asked mildly. Beyond words, Maxie slammed the report down on his desk angrily, where Koga could read the title. It was all he needed to see to know it was bad news.

‘New Team Arising – Aqua’ read the bold heading. Yes. That was when things changed… Koga could still see it, clear as day. That was when, by the rights of their professions, he and Maxie should have become enemies. Idly he wondered what had made this memory arise of all others. He knew what happened next and still didn’t know if it was for better or worse…

“You asked me what my purpose was, Koga,” Maxie said coldly, his rage beyond even emotion. “Now, my purpose is this,” he held up the creased paper, clenching it in his shaking, angry hand. “And this.” He raised the ornate picture frame which always stood on his desk. Inside was a single photograph of a grinning ten-year old girl; a ten-year old girl with blonde hair, clutching a purring eevee. And around her neck flashed a familiar fire stone pendant…

Koga’s eyes snapped open, realization hitting him like a blow. Of course! The girl… she had that stubborn manner, the fiery steadfastness; she held herself proudly, unafraid of adversity or opposition. Just like Maxie. That tiny detail had brought it back to him, the detail which he had seen and dismissed as female vanity – the golden-chained fire stone pendant around her neck. The only time he had seen an image of Maxie’s daughter.

He suddenly became aware of the fact he was shaking with silent laughter. So this is irony, he thought sardonically. Imagine… after all this time… and the little fox finally arrives for the visit we were awaiting eight years ago! His slanted eyes opened, drifting to the shiny green vid-phone beckoning in the corner.

No. Koga knew Maxie. Once something was in his head, he very rarely let it go. But if he knew there was even the slightest chance that Keegan was alive, and in Kanto! He’d set the whole of Team Magma to infiltrating it. And that would mean destruction for all of them. Powerful as Team Magma was in its own right, outside Hoenn it was nothing. Because outside Hoenn… was Team Rocket’s domain. And Team Rocket didn’t take kindly to other teams infringing on their territory.

Koga’s eyes closed once again. No. The best course would be to find her and set her on the right path myself. She must not remember, or else she would already be in Hoenn. But Maxie cannot know… not yet. For everyone’s safety.

The shadows had shifted across the floor, the light flashing through the slitted window turning orange as the sun dipped below the tree line and illuminated the horizon with streaks of red and gold. Ignorant of the twilight descending around him, Koga settled into a steady meditation, his thoughts turning to more important matters.

After all, there were still the poachers to be caught - and Team Rocket didn’t like intruders on their turf…


Yes, it is somewhat shorter than my other chappies.... it was originally longer, but the rest of the content didn't sit right with me. So now it's at the beginning of the next chappie! ^.^

Twilight Absol
27th May 2005, 5:20 AM
WIll o' wisp, so we hear more of Tynan? And somehow, I want Janine and Keegan to meet...hiny hint I like this chapter, a lot a re revealed, and more are left in suspense, nice job, I await the next chapter...

27th May 2005, 5:28 AM
Oh yeah ^.^ Janine and Keegan meet, have no doubt about that. Actually, I'm planning for Janine to play a big part in Keegan's character development... but not until GoD.
:P Hopefully the next chappie won't take too long, since I've already written some of it... and the rest is pretty much action-based, which means once I get into it I'll be able to write it quickly.

27th May 2005, 5:46 AM
HAAAAAAA! Janine kicks teh assorz.

:3 As in....Ariados. >D I love that thing!

Okay, flashbacks were awesome, and I am begining to dislike Tynan...o.o?

>D Much love.

27th May 2005, 5:59 AM
XD Well, I wasn't exactly trying to make him likeable :P
He's a stuck-up, arrogant prick; what's there to like?

^.^ Yeah, I love Janine... she's so awesome... such potential as a character...
Anyways... better get typing...

Thankees for the review!

Ryano Ra
27th May 2005, 9:27 PM
Yes, Ryano is here. ^^ Since you are helping me with my Fantasy Novels, I decided to give back the respect and review your story. Sometime next week, since I will be having a saga this weekend (tomorrow, the 8th Graders are going to Cedar Point from the time it opens to when they kick us out), but I'm posting to let you know that I've read only a little, but it sounds beautifully fantastic. Your writing is...long and lovely. I have only read a few pages of the First Chapter, but the review for them all will be coming soon. Until then, keep writing elegantly.

28th May 2005, 3:13 AM
@.@ This was unexpected.
^.^ Thankee, I sure will!

Ryano Ra
28th May 2005, 3:24 AM
Lol, I love to magically surprise good friends that help me in their story. I don't review that many Fanfictions, although all of Breezy's stories are on my 'To-Read-List'. I was just so curious and anxious to see what ability you hold in writing, and in my opinion, this is one of the best. I know that if you ever write a novel, it will be published someday. Your writing shows how elegant you are yourself.

28th May 2005, 3:35 AM
Aw, now look, you're making me blush!
^.^ lol, thank you. It's ironic, really; because I *am* writing a novel I intend to have published, but I was having some trouble with it. Since I had some fanfic ideas, I decided to post them and test myself. And I believe it's really helped; I've learned a great deal here.

28th May 2005, 3:52 AM
Heh. Funny. One would have assumed they saw a ghost.

Brian Random
31st May 2005, 11:50 AM
I've read Heart of Magma and two chapters of this fic and I have to say that they're very, very good.

The plot is something else, I mean a criminal organisation leader having a soft side for his daughter, when I was thinking that he'd be a little bit strict with her and get her to become a grunt for his organisation.

And the length and descriptions, I said it before and I'll say it again, 'J.K Rowling, eat your heart out'.

Negatives, I didn't get much 'spark' from the actions as of the actions as of yet, but I hope I will in the later chapters.

I didn't see anything awkward, didn't even spot any grammar / spelling mistakes.

Overall: I'll be reading more to see if I can find that 'spark'.

1st June 2005, 4:56 AM
^.^ Thanks for reviewing, Brian; I appreciate it. And you're the second person to compare me (sort of) to JK Rowling... that's a good sign. ^.^ She's one of my fav. authors, so I'm flattered.

But I really hope you do find that spark; to me, that could just about be the most important part of the story. If there's no spark, then I'm doing something wrong. Please keep me updated on that matter.

Anyways, to anyone else who may (or may not) be interested: I've edited Heart of the Magma slightly; the story is the same, I've just tweaked the description and the characters. Now Tabitha actually has a description and a personality! If you wanna refresh your memory, link's still in my sig.

As for the next chappie -_-; yeah, I admit it; I've been lazy. You have my permission to beat me over the head with a tiki torch (courtesy of Psychic). I promise I'll try to get it in by next weekend; now if I can just figure out which jar I stored my brain in, everything would be okay...

Twilight Absol
1st June 2005, 7:42 AM
I ve got the jar stashed somewhere in my house, now only I could bring it to you, and yes, I could tell you're "taking your time." and um...Who's Tabitha again?

1st June 2005, 10:16 AM
and um...Who's Tabitha again?

What can I say besides, 'typical'?

^.^ Sorry, Twilight. He's one of Maxie's admins - in the original he had a pretty flat personality and no description whatsoever.

And yeah, if you could bring me my brain it would make things *much* easier. ^.^ Now I just have to chase down Saber for a case of beer and I'll be set...

Billy Bob Pennywhistle
3rd June 2005, 5:04 PM
pd, ... wow. I love this fic. It is so well written and it really kept me reading late into the night. Nice job and keep it up.

Add another fan to that list of yours.

And, I may not be Saber, but you can have some of my beer if you want.

Twilight Absol
4th June 2005, 2:18 AM
..seriously, you are gonna end up drunk before you finish the chappie, if you want to drink, do it afterwards so we can still get our dose of the chappie. Meh, how am I supposed to remember every little detail in the story, be sides, you never bring up the ones I do manage to remember, so i just decided to read for the moment, and send everything to the recycling bin once im done. SOmetimes, I forget the beginning of the chapter that Im reading...perhaps you need more excitement ;)

4th June 2005, 3:44 AM
pd, ... wow. I love this fic. It is so well written and it really kept me reading late into the night. Nice job and keep it up.

Add another fan to that list of yours.

And, I may not be Saber, but you can have some of my beer if you want.

Ooh, this was unexpected! *adds BBP to list* ^.^

And seeing as how I haven't spoken to Saber, she hasn't given me any beer :P So thanks. But don't worry Twilight, I only drink in moderation to get me going ^.^ lol.

SOmetimes, I forget the beginning of the chapter that Im reading...perhaps you need more excitement

*cringe* Perhaps I also need to get my butt in gear and start writing more regularly to keep people interested....

Ryano Ra
4th June 2005, 4:02 AM
Ryano's Review
Well, well, well, look who decided to post their review! It is I, Ryano Ra, with such positive stabs I must take out now; I love your length, description, and character personalities. I especially love the length the most; I do not see how you can write such a long length for every single chapter. You must love elongated chapters. I only write long chapters if I'm over-inspired or I am battle-hungry in battle-chapters. Or when there is blood and assassin controtations/assassin memoirs or chronicles that I'm explaining. Anyways, I'm envious about your length and that Keegan character; you develop your characters quite well. Also, your choice of words is fantastic, I will use a few of them thanks to you. *huggles* So overall, this is a beautiful story that has such wonderful details and unique characters. Wonderful job!

4th June 2005, 5:27 AM
*waves* Hewwo Ryano! ^.^

Actually, the length of the chapters is rather ironic ^.^ because in my novel, the chapters are considerably shorter. I was surprised that they turned out to be so long. Another strange thing is, you're not the first person who's told me my word use is excellent :P but before I came here it was one of the things I thought about *least* with regard to my writing.
But thankees *huggles back* though I think they're somewhat generous words for an aspiring author :P Because I know there are flaws... I just have to find them...

Billy Bob Pennywhistle
6th June 2005, 3:48 AM
*impatiently awaits new chapter*

I thought chapter 9 was supposed to come out this weekend... I guess not.

Well, you can't rush artistic genius... but you can give them beer as motivation...

*stacks a case of beer in front of pd*

6th June 2005, 3:57 AM
*cries* I'm sorry. This chappie's just... not working. It's being stubborn.
*glares a computer screen* Just one of those chappies where everything you type turns out wrong.
^.^ Ta. *adds beer case to the empty stack in her room and pops one open* Right. Now I'm gonna beat this chappie to death and bloody well get it done before the apocolypse.

Billy Bob Pennywhistle
6th June 2005, 4:07 AM
Now that's the spirt!

*dances around pd's computer*

Oh, if you need to beat it, here's my titanium baseball bat.

*give pd baseball bat*

Now beat the crap out of this chappie!

6th June 2005, 4:20 AM
Aw....dont worry Doctor P.

*Pats on head and gives an inspiration pill*

MWAHAHAHHA! EAT NOW! And forever hold your peace. >3

6th June 2005, 4:31 AM
*eats pill and grabs bat*

I shall return!
When is another matter...

*vanishes from forums with a puff of smoke*

^.^ Tanks guys.

6th June 2005, 11:01 PM
*pants* That took my whole weekend to read. =_=

*ahem* Time to review. Your pre-sequal fic... "Heart of the Magma" was very well written. ^-^ I loved the dramatic events and the whole reason why Maxie has a vendetta against water/Team Aqua. Poor guy... he doesn't know about his daughter. ;_;

Tynan's so funny! *laughs* And Keegan's just so... awesome! You did a great job with her character. Also, it was pretty cool how you ironically made Keegan arrive in Fuschia City after what... 8 years?

Length and description is very good and so is everything else. (Especially the plot). Keep up the awesome job on your story! ;-)

Update soon! (I can't wait to read on!)

Twilight Absol
7th June 2005, 2:04 AM
PD, you have an overdue chapter to return....I though you were gonna post yesterday....

7th June 2005, 2:47 AM

^.^ Here it is, the only chappie to be beaten to death by a crazed, inspiration over-dosed drunken writer ^.^

I'm really sorry it was late and thanks so much for being understanding ^.^ *hands BBP her bat and hands out snorlax-sized cookies*

^.^ Thanks for reviewing Kanta; you're the second person to find Tynan funny, and I'm not sure why :P I love him in the beginning of the next chappie, though... hehehe, annoyed goodness ^.^

'Nways. ^.^ Enjoy!

~ IX ~


The pearly fog wreathed about in ethereal streams, drifting through the tower and wrapping its ghostly fingers around the gravestones. Keegan shivered; the walls of the tower were hardly visible, giving the impression she was walking through an endless, gloomy graveyard.

This place is creepy, she rubbed her arms, covered in goosebumps, but refused to leave. Refused to be defeated by an eerie tower. That made her laugh, and the sound seemed to be absorbed by the fog, sounding small and hollow. I really need to get a life…

Keegan wouldn’t have bothered to enter the Pokémon Tower at all, except by the time she reached the small, sprawling town, it was nightfall. So she had to stay overnight, and that had given her the opportunity she just couldn’t resist. Then she’d overheard two other trainers talking about the supposedly haunted tower… unwilling to stay much longer than the next morning, she only had two options: go into the tower that night. Or forget about it. To Keegan, it wasn’t even a choice. Feeling depressed and cowardly after the storm in Fuschia all those days ago, she recklessly wanted to prove to herself she wasn’t weak…

Keegan shivered again at the damp, chilly touch of the mist as she climbed up the narrow stairway to the next floor, wishing she’d thought to put on a long-sleeved jacket before she left the Pokémon Centre. It was a cold that seemed to seep into her skin, infecting her bones and infusing her with a constant quiver.

Okay… not much so far… she glanced around the next room and felt a wave of doubt. Every level had been exactly the same, filled with crumbling, rarely-tended tombstones and shrouded in mist. If she reached the top and met nothing, then that could only mean it wasn’t haunted; and the stories which came out of the tower were begun only by the eerie fog.

Nervously Keegan made her way through the haze, wreathing around her waist and seeming to absorb the sound of her footsteps. If possible, it had seemed to grow thicker; crowding her stiflingly until she could hardly tell she was in a room, let alone find her way to the next. Then she heard the whispers.

Keegan froze, hugging herself for warmth and wide eyes scanning the thick smog uncertainly. She couldn’t make out any words but with every breath of air, every shift in the mist, she was certain she could hear a voice. Without her noticing, the fog enveloped around her, surrounding her in a thick, chilly blanket. Trapped in an ethereal world, the mist sapped her strength. Before she knew it, her eyelids had drooped and she descended into a world of dreams.

Their jeers and insults rang in her ears over and over, their high, cruel voices imprinted in her mind. Why? She thought tearfully, walking down the somehow shrouded corridors, head lowered miserably and shoes scuffing shiny floor. Why were they being so mean?

“Bubui,” Hazel mewed comfortingly at her heels, stepping on dainty feet after her trainer. Her black eyes glittered with worry.

“Maybe they’re right, Haze,” Keegan whispered, and her thin shoulders began to shake with tears. “May – maybe what they’re s – saying is true. Ma – maybe they d – don’t like me at all.”

“Bui!” Hazel shook her head violently, her long ears flapping.

“Bu – but I was always p – playing tricks,” Keegan sobbed, wiping uselessly at her eyes with a fist. “A – and running away. And n – now I – I’m all alone.” They came to the end of the corridor, where a plastic cushioned window seat looked out through the porthole in the side of the ship. Sniffing, Keegan curled up on the seat, looking over her knees with wet eyes out the porthole as Hazel pawed at her lap insistently.

Alone. All… alone. No family… no real family. She’d always been on her own… wasn’t there anyone who cared? No. No, there wasn’t; because she was lost. Lost where no one would find her…

“Keegan, you know that’s not true at all,” a stern voice answered. Stern, but only in the respect that it had utter faith in its words. “You know he adores you.”


“You’ve had this a long time,” another, familiar voice rose out of the well of memories, but this time she knew who it was. She remembered that time; it had happened not long ago. It had given her hope… “It was a gift; and it was given with a great deal of love.”

But… why didn’t they look for her? Why didn’t they find her? Why weren’t they here?

“Never, ever think you’re not loved, little fox. Because no matter where you are, there’s always someone out there who cares.”


“…think you’re not loved, little fox.”

“Never think you’re not loved.”

“Never think you’re not…”


Keegan awoke with a start, every nerve alight and tingling with shock. She sat up so quickly her head spun and her scabs complained, shoving aside unfamiliar covers. The blue nidoran at the foot of the bed started out of her slumber, eyes blinking sleepily.

The dawn peeked over the windowsill, bathing the small, cluttered room with a warm glow. Surrounding the small wooden bed were dusty boxes and books sitting in perilous stacks. Keegan took a deep breath, closing her eyes to regain her sense of reality. How did I get here?

“Are you feeling better now, lass?” an old, but nonetheless chirpy voice asked. Keegan jumped, her eyes snapping open. She looked to the doorway to see a slightly stooped, scrawny old man in the doorway. His face was creased with the wrinkles of a thousand smiles around laughing eyes. The light gleamed off his bald head and he chuckled at her expression.

“Worry not at all, lass.” He assured her quickly, stumping into the room. There was a weedle around his bony shoulders, leaning blissfully into his hand as he petted it absently.

“Who are you?” Keegan asked uncertainly, clutching at the blanket. She didn’t have her pokémon with her… “And where is this?” The nidoran jumped off the foot of the bed and trotted happily over to the man, stumpy tail wagging.

“I’m known as Mr. Fuji around these parts,” the old man answered cheerfully, settling down on a taped up, dusty box to scratch the nidoran behind her wide ears. “And this is my house. I care for abandoned and lost pokémon.”

Keegan glanced out the window; in the distance, rising over the town and the sparse northern woods, was the Pokémon Tower. “Yes,” Mr. Fuji said, seeing where she looked. “There aren’t many who go up the tower these days, not with the ghosts around. But I still go in every day to make sure the graves are left undisturbed.”

“Ghosts?” Keegan repeated, staring at him with a slight shock.

“That’s probably what got you,” Fuji told her as the nidoran leaned happily against his legs. “They don’t like intruders, they don’t. Looked like one of ‘em had you in the grasp of a dreameater. You’re lucky I came along; they know me, see. They keep away.” Keegan didn’t answer, remembering Morty’s gengar. She didn’t need convincing to believe in ghosts…

Instead she looked down at the blue blanket, fiddling with it uncomfortably. “I’m sorry for –” she began, but Fuji waved his hand breezily, his short sleeves rustling.

“Oh, you’ve got nothing to apologise for,” he assured her with a twinkle in his eye. “It’s a public place, after all, but no one’s managed to get rid of the ghosts or convince them to live and let live. I’ve heard there was a trainer in the west somewhere who has a gift with ghost pokémon – maybe he can help.”

“I’m sure he can,” Keegan smiled weakly. Yeah. If he can spare the time away from Ecruteak… taking care of the Tin Tower looked like a full-time job to me.

“So if you’re feeling better, lass, you can continue on your way,” Fuji added, standing carefully to make sure the weedle didn’t slip off its perch.

“Thank you,” Keegan said sincerely. She didn’t want to know what might have happened if he hadn’t come along… her cheeks went slightly red. Talk about failure. Twice in a row.

“No problem, lass,” Fuji answered willingly, patting down the front of his apron, and left her alone in the room, the sunlight illuminating the dust motes in the air.

Fifteen minutes later saw Keegan on the edge of Lavender Town. Ahead of her were the eastern mountains. According to some of the more knowledgeable trainers in the Pokémon Centre the power plant was on the other side, next to the ocean. Chewing the inside of her cheek, Keegan turned to look back at the sprawling town. In the early morning sun it looked almost peaceful, the tower seeming more like a guardian than a threat.

Despite the chill that ran down her spine in remembrance of the night before, she felt strangely comforted. She didn’t remember what she had dreamed; a missed opportunity that should have made her feel frustrated. Instead she felt revitalised, as though her mind had recalled something which added fuel to a hidden fire.

Eyes alight with strange serenity, Keegan turned towards the thin trail she’d picked through the mountains, her face lit up with the glow of the morning sun.

* * *

The small pichu sniffed around the rusted metal of the drums, his tiny black nose twitching and his dirty electric yellow fur sticking up in matted ruffs. Cautiously, a tiny paw dipped fleetingly into the grimy puddle of liquid pooled around the ruined opening. Oil dripped down his paw, staining his fur with the grease of a thousand colours.

The pichu looked up at the rainbow fluid cascading silently down the side of the drum, trickling from an unseen source in the wall. Making a face, he turned and hopped away, his cleaner paw massaging his faded pink cheek-sac absently. Feh…wonder where the fresh water is, he thought to himself wearily. His short, square black tail bobbed after him as he bounded over the worn debris and grime littering the floor beneath the huge pipes lining the wall of the power plant.

He ducked under the low space separating the pipe from the floor, squeezing through until he popped out into the cluttered, rubble-strewn room beyond and startled several of his electric cousins.

<<Hey, Orchu,>> One of the yellow pikachu called, standing atop a crumbling piece of concrete with his long, black-tipped ears twitching. Orchu cringed as he did whenever one of the other pokémon called him by name. Orchu. Orphan pichu. It was the only name he’d been given when he’d been born not long ago, just after his sire’s death. And then his dam had drunk tainted water, unable to wander far from her den to find a pure source… he snapped out of his reverie in time to hear the pikachu’s question. <<Whatcha lookin’ for?>>

<<The water,>> the pichu mumbled, gesturing back the way he’d come with a grimy paw. <<It’s got rainbow juice in it.>>

One of the other pichu giggled, dainty paws raised to her small mouth in amusement. <<Well, if you’re going to that pool, of course it does,>> she exclaimed, and giggled again.

Orchu felt a flash of resentment. Well, how was I meant to know? He thought bad-temperedly. It’s not like I’m that experienced! <<I thought the other pokémon fed off the rainbow juice,>> he flared angrily.

The pikachu looked at Orchu with pitying contempt as his cousins broke into tinkling laughter. <<That pool is never cleaned,>> the pikachu pointed out slowly, as though Orchu was too stupid to understand his words otherwise. <<The rainbow juice always flows there. You’re lucky you didn’t meet up with ol’ Buzzik.>>

Orchu’s heart skipped a beat and his wide, triangular ears flicked nervously back behind him. <<But… I thought Buzzik was an electabuzz,>> he stammered uncertainly. <<What would he want with – with a pool of rainbow juice?>>

<<Haven’t you heard?>> the female pichu exclaimed with surprise as some of her friends continued to titter to themselves in amusement. <<Didn’t you ever wonder why Buzzik keeps himself to himself? They say…>> She looked around nervously and beckoned him closer. Unwillingly Orchu hopped over the debris, eyes regarding her suspiciously. <<They say…>> she gulped and leaned closer, her tone lowering to a whisper. <<They say he was owned by a – by a human!>>

The effect of her words, even so quietly uttered, was electric. The giggles stopped instantly, leaving the air still and heavy with tense silence as two dozen wide, frightened eyes flashed in her direction. Orchu looked at her nervous eyes and ashen cheek-sacs with surprise; then his own circular cheek-sacs paled and he shivered.

<<That’s enough!>> the pikachu snapped sternly, shattering the tight quiet and springing on all four paws from one dirty, rust-coloured steel rod to another as he descended the chunk of fallen concrete. <<It’s none of our business why Buzzik chose that corner of the structure for his den, and things like that are only rumours! No pokémon here has ever been owned by a human, and never will be. The only humans who come here get chased off quick-smart by the Skylord of Thunder himself.>> He then turned to Orchu, who flinched and cowered, partly withdrawing beneath the safety of the pipe.

But the pikachu merely waved one paw in another direction, towards the more populated areas of the power plant. <<There’s a spring that the grimer clean for everyone’s use. You can go there.>>

<<Thank you,>> Orchu muttered, stepping quickly away with his head lowered and his cheek-sacs blushing. He was still very young, only a few months old at the most, and had been forced to fend for himself after the death of his dam. So he was still very naďve to the ways of the power plant and his relationship with his cousins were tenuous at best – especially since they told him he was… strange. He had strange ideas; he seemed to remember things and far-away places he’d never seen. He’d learned to keep quiet about such things. No pokémon of the power plant had been beyond the mountains and no one wanted to associate with the child of a human-sympathiser…

Scrambling over the steel and concrete debris which littered the floor, Orchu maintained a cautious guard of the air above and of the ground below. The voltorb sometimes held races through the makeshift obstacle course of the decrepit structure and often the floor was grubby and slick with the trail remnants of the grimer. Overhead the mischievous magnemite could dart down and carry off an unwary pokémon in their magnetic field.

And then he felt it.

A tantalizing shiver in his skin. For an instant it made his fur stick up on end and he stopped short on the block upon which he rested. What…? At first his sudden fear flared brightly, as it would for any young mouse in the face of the unknown; but then it was dimmed by the strange, tingling sensation in his flesh. Listening hard with twitching ears, he fancied he could almost hear the sound of a faint, melodious hum. It was intoxicating, drawing him into a happy daze. Robotically, he forgot all about his thirst and turned from his path, ignorant of the sparks which jetted lightly from his cheek-sacs.

Elsewhere in the power plant a scarred electabuzz paused in his training, his long yellow-and-black striped tail swishing in agitation. His fingers spasmed in apprehension, the twin horns on atop his horizontal, diamond-shaped head sparking with an excess of electricity. He recognised that feeling… he knew what it meant.

Keegan stepped carefully over the debris, glass cracking under her shoes as she walked through the cluttered, broken-down halls of the power plant. Exactly what am I here for? She wondered absently, her depressed gaze downcast to the floor. Exactly what can Zapdos give me?

Her footsteps echoed in the high-ceiling room, and she shivered. I couldn’t get on the ferry. I was practically eaten by a ghost. How do I know I’m not gonna make some mistake here too? Her grasping fingers clutched at her locket, her bag pulling unnoticed on her arm. Lost in her own little world, she didn’t notice the dozens of half lidded eyes peeking at her from various hidey-holes and openings.

But someone else did. Hidden in the wall, Buzzik watched in detached horror as the electric pokémon swarmed through the plant, towards the human. Even now he himself could feel the tug of the trap, beckoning him with a comforting hum; but he had felt it before and the blemishes which marked his body reminded of him of the price he’d had to pay last time. Never again. He vowed, his already scowling eyes narrowing further as his horns sparked with electricity. He clenched his fists, allowing the thunder to spark over his black and yellow fur and the patches of skin which marked his scars...

A line of paws and shiny round surfaces appeared in Keegan’s sight. Looking up, she found her way blocked by a mob of electric pokémon. She froze, suddenly aware that she was surrounded by the blissfully smiling, obliviously approaching creatures. Oh man, she thought, her eyes darting around nervously as her heart plunged into her stomach, vanishing into the black hole which had replaced it. Not again. And this time, Entei isn’t gonna be here to save me!

Her fingers twitched towards Firefoot’s pokéball, cringing away from the multitude of floating steel pokémon which already seemed to press down upon her from above. Time for plan B. Let’s get out of here! Tiny paws clutched at her faded jeans, hugging her legs as she released Firefoot in a flash of light. He materialized on the floor, shoving aside an orange-and-black raichu which had been in the process of scrabbling over its weaker evolutions.

“Firefoot!” Keegan squeaked tensely, batting away a triple-eyed magneton which attempted to land drunkenly on her head. “Help!”

Firefoot cocked his head, his mournful eyes ironic at the strangely familiar sight. Then he woofed and ploughed through the sea of intoxicated pokémon on the floor, shoving them aside with his broad, shaggy shoulders and superior weight. He caught the scent of another pokémon; one which didn’t register as the same drunken, giddy pokémon he now waded through. In fact it smelt as though –

ATTACK! With a jolt, suddenly charged with adrenaline, Firefoot surged forward, huge paws knocking pokémon aside carelessly. Startled, Keegan had barely turned towards him before he ducked his head and swept her onto his back, his muscles working with heart-pounding speed.

His nostrils flared, filled with the scent of crackling, burning lightning. Desperately he leapt, paws scrabbling, for the jagged crack in the concrete wall. They blew through, the arcanine’s furry sides and Keegan’s legs scraping painfully on the sharp edges before bursting suddenly into the next corridor. Overhead the lights flickered, the hallway flashing with the light of the snapping electricity, and Keegan’s hair went frizzy.

Back through the split in the wall, the light suddenly vanished and there was silence as wispy smoke oozed through the gap. Firefoot paced uneasily, hardly fatigued at all. Clutching at his thick white mane Keegan looked back at the gap nervously. After a moment’s hesitation she slipped off Firefoot’s back, climbing the short cascade of debris to peek through the opening, oblivious to the bag dragging at her shoulder.

Slumped across the other side of the corridor was a scarred electabuzz, panting in exertion. His naturally scowling eyes lifted to meet Keegan’s pale gaze, strangely free of the euphoria which had trapped the other pokémon. Around him, some of the pokémon were scurrying for cover, fur standing up on end in sparks or shiny white-and-red surfaces seared with the marks of a thunderbolt.

The rest shook off the residual electricity and turned unseeing eyes towards Keegan. A chill ran down her spine as the blonde-haired girl looked back at the swaying, chanting army. Carefully she crept backward, her arms prickling.

But before she’d gotten far the ceiling exploded, raining steel and concrete debris over the unmindful pokémon. Instinctively Keegan ducked, her foot slipping on the slope before she caught herself. A screech echoed through the dust. Heart pounding, Keegan squinted towards the roof. A crackling pillar of lightning pierced the air, flashing down from the sky to hit the centre of the floor. The building shook, multiple cracks flashing across decrepit walls.

Keegan flinched back with a gasp, covering her head against the snapping strands of energy which whipped over her head, lashing at the crumbling concrete. Inside, the energy swelled across the ground in an ever-expanding wave, rippling off of the debris scattered through the room like in a pool of water before being absorbed by the groaning, unwilling walls.

For several seconds there was calm. Keegan peeked under her arm to find the host of pokémon looking at each other and up at Zapdos in confusion, who was perched upon a steel beam spanning the length of the ceiling. The sparking, scowling bird may have seemed large, but against the awesome size and rainbow feathers of the bird in the Tin Tower there seemed little contest. He cawed harshly, making Keegan cringe, her heart pounding in her throat. His glaring eyes were locked on the slit through which she was only half hidden, lightning dancing over his sharp, spiky feathers.

What the hell did I come here for?! Keegan demanded of herself, clutching at the broken bricks of the wall as her limbs shook, her muscles cramping slightly with all the electricity in the air. It was beginning to make her feel sick. How will just seeing a legendary help me with anything? Why did I ever think it would?!

And then something else caught her attention. “Pi…pi…pi…” Keegan straightened with a shock. A furry, pink-cheeked face appeared over the rubble, shining eyes half-crazed with drunken euphoria.

Buzzik’s stomach twisted in apprehension and he jumped to his clawed feet. His eyes widened with surprise as he watched the pichu slump for an instant, panting, but face glowing with bliss. How can he be unaffected by the Skylord’s attack?! The electabuzz cried inwardly. Then he felt a chill, suddenly recognising the scruffy pichu. Unless – that’s –

Zapdos’s eyes narrowed, watching the pichu as he struggled to the rise of the debris. <<Go no further!>> he screeched wrathfully, beating his wide wings and making dust billow. The pokémon below cowered, their attention torn between the legendary and the pichu.

The little mouse didn’t seem to hear. He continued to struggle up the rise, reaching the split in the wall. Beyond this side of the thick barrier, Zapdos saw the human draw back in surprise, her face pale. <<Is your purpose here to lure us into your trap?>> he hissed angrily to the human; but just like before, she didn’t understand, her blue eyes locked on the entranced pichu.

No pokémon should be under her control any longer, the bird seethed, his talons tightening momentarily on the rusty strut. He could feel the tingle in his feathers, the strange, alluring hum; but he shut it away firmly, its grip on him tenuous at best. So either he is human-bred and tainted by their tricks or he must desire to go with her – a traitor to this clan! Either way, the tarnish must be wiped! <<So be it,>> he shrieked. With a single beat of his broad wings he rose into the air, his feathers crackling with energy.

Keegan’s gaze was torn from the gasping, approaching pichu in time to see Zapdos stooping towards her, like an electrified bullet plunging from the sky. With a yelping curse, Keegan pushed herself from the wall, tumbling down the debris seconds before the wall exploded inwards.

Keegan coughed in the dust, wondering frantically what the hell she’d done to deserve being attacked every time she went somewhere new. Firefoot appeared at her side, his bright fur bristling anxiously. She scrambled onto his back and he darted away seconds before a shaft of lightning seared the floor where she’d been, reducing debris to dust and scorching a smoking divot in the steel and concrete floor.

The air of the corridor was filled with massive, beating wings and flickering electricity. Keegan ducked her head against Firefoot’s furry neck, her hands gripping his fur so tight they were cramping. “Arrcth!” Firefoot barked thunderously in an attempt to assuage the Skylord’s wrath. Instead he was force to dodge away from a thunderbolt, almost throwing an unprepared Keegan off his back.

I want to go home! She sobbed. I should never have left Alto Mare! Miriam was right all along!

“Stop!” she screamed at Zapdos, hardly aware of the frightened tears which tracked down her cheeks. “What did I do?! What did I do?! P – please – st – stop!” she choked on her tears and Firefoot came to a halt a little way down the passage, looking back at her before turning to Zapdos with mournful eyes.

The bird’s eyes narrowed, wings beating the still air of the passage to remain aloft. “We’ll go, just let us go!” the human cried, her face half buried in the arcanine’s soft mane. And Zapdos might have let it be.

But then out of the dust which was still settling on the floor a plump figure emerged, running along with gasping, desperate cries and outstretched paws. Still she snares the loyalty of mine! Zapdos’s anger flared with the lightning that surged along his wings. The tainted traitor will pay! He screeched defiance, the sound echoing deafeningly in the enclosed hall.

Keegan saw the pichu in that same instant, his eyes madly frantic and his black-lined ears flapping at he reached out for her – for some damning presence around her – imploringly. In a flash she saw the unreasoning fury in Zapdos’s eyes, saw his feathers charging with thick, crackling bolts – her hand darted to the pokéballs at her waist and she threw one without thinking.

It enclosed around the pichu, locking down in an instant to fly back to her secure hand a moment before a thunderbolt exploded on the floor where it had been. “Go!” she screamed to Firefoot as soon as the scarred, charged pokéball had slapped into her hand. He spun about and took off at a run, almost throwing her off despite her readiness.

Hugging his back, Keegan clutched the smoking pokéball to her chest, her fingers numb against the residual electricity which crawled over its beaten surface. Eyes squinted shut against her lashing hair and the dusty wind, she wished she’d never gone there. Behind her she could hear the swift, menacing beats of Zapdos’s wings. He swept overhead as they burst from the power plant, sharp talons scraping the air warningly around her. Then he broke off and wheeled into the sky as they raced across the lifeless, decrepit plain which sprawled before the plant, screeching his wrathful warnings all the while.

Watching from a smashed window on an upper level of the power plant, Buzzik felt a pang of regret for the poor pichu. Zapdos had apparently decided the pichu had betrayed him and the unspoken trust of all pokémon of the plant; but Buzzik knew better. He knew it wasn’t the pichu’s fault… he knew the pichu was different.

He knew.

* * *

He cowered before the wrath of the Skylord as the legendary rose before him like a giant, golden spectre, illuminated by the lightning which crashed around him. He tried to run, but there was nowhere to hide and Zapdos’s words rang over and over in his mind…

<<Tainted! The human has tainted you! You may see through her tricks but you will never be able to leave her side! You are bound to her! Tainted!>>

Orchu stirred, his tiny nose wrinkling as his eyes slitted open. Huh? Blearily he blinked, his vision coalescing into an unfamiliar, strangely clean and shiny room. He was lying on his belly on a high table. I’ve never seen this part of the power plant before… he thought, his ears twitching curiously.

Then he froze. He heard unfamiliar voices, voices that sounded like – <<Humans!>> he shrieked as the door opened, struggling to jump to his feet; but the humans had him bound to a strange, humming machine. He thrashed against the wires strapping him down, panic making him wild. Then gentle hands wrapped around his body, pressing into his fur and holding him down.

Terror blinding his judgement, he let out a thundershock, not caring if he jolted himself as well or not – but the electricity was absorbed by the wire taped to his cheek-sacs. “Pichu, it’s alright, Pichu,” a soft voice cooed, and slowly terror released its suffocating hold on Orchu’s heart to something that was only mildly stifling.

He shivered in the human’s hands, eyes squeezed tightly shut and expecting an attack at any moment, but the human merely continued to pet him, murmuring comfortingly. Why… why isn’t she…? He peeked through a lid at the gentle face of the pink-haired female and she smiled.

“There. That’s better, isn’t it? No one’s going to hurt you here, Pichu,” she reassured him, removing the wires and moving her hands to brush at the front of her white apron. Orchu stared at her, still cringing a little.

Not hurt me? Bu – but… all those stories, and… his ears went back in confusion and misery. Oh, Jirachi… that wasn’t a dream, was it? Zapdos really said those things, didn’t he? With that realization, the hazy memories began tumbling into place. Unaware of the huge, glistening tears which tracked down his now-clean fur, he sat and rocked wretchedly.

“Nurse Joy?” a familiar voice called, sounding as miserable as Orchu felt. He glanced up unthinkingly in time to see another human female enter the room. Her eyes had tired rings around them, as though she’d been crying a lot, but that wasn’t what made Orchu’s stomach jolt.

Surrounding her was a familiar aura which left a pleasurable tingle in his fur. Somewhere beyond the small room he could hear the faint hum, calling him. But this time, the sound and the sensation didn’t cloud his thoughts; instead it left him feeling almost as though he’d eaten something nice, but sickly sweet.

And he knew, without a doubt, that this was the human who had turned Zapdos and the power plant against him. She turned me out of the only home I had! Slowly, like a wrathful shadow, fury filled his heart, until he sat quivering with pure rage. He stared at the human with glowering eyes, his cheek-sacs sparking uncontrollably.

“Pichu will be fine,” Nurse said with a smile, but looking at him Keegan wasn’t so sure. He looked as though he was about to explode with fury. She felt a fresh wave of guilt, finding it difficult to swallow through the lump in her throat. “I’ll leave you two alone,” Joy added, leaving the room.

Uncomfortably, Keegan shifted her weight from foot to foot, tears blinding her eyes. “Look, I’m sorry,” she began tearfully, but with a vehement “Chuuu!” the pichu cast a thin, sparkling net of electricity towards her. She flinched back, but it evaporated before it reached her and the pichu slumped towards the table, panting.

“I didn’t mean to make Zapdos drive you out of the power plant,” Keegan pleaded with him, but he merely looked up at her murderously. “I don’t know why he did!” tears leaked out of her eyes, trailing down her still-damp cheeks. She’d spent most of the night crying. “This is just the final straw. I know now I’m not cut out for travelling – I’m going home to Alto Mare. And… I know this isn’t gonna take, but – but since I made you lose your home I figured the least I could do is – is give you another…”

<<How dare you pretend to feel sorry for me!>> Orchu shrieked irrationally, his cheek-sacs once again sparking. He didn’t expect the human to understand and of course she didn’t. But she understood his tone, flinching at the accusation in his voice.

“I didn’t think you would,” she muttered with a sniff, wiping at her wet cheeks. “And no wonder. All I’ve done since I left Alto Mare is royally screw up.” Orchu turned away and refused to look at her, his ears stiff with anger and fur bristling, until he heard her leave the room. Then he sagged, looking around the bright steel room forlornly.

And he cried.

Orchu shivered. His black and yellow fur was mattered with sweat, his eyes glazed with sickness. Lying on his belly, he hardly had the energy to move. His ears and tail drooped limply, his skin crawling and itching sharply with need like the acidic, sticky threads of an ariados – but ten times worse.

Why? He whimpered to someone – anyone – who might have been listening. He wished with all his might to Jirachi, Granter of Wishes, that he could somehow be back at the power plant, playing with his dubiously fond cousins and exploring the wide halls. Or that this was merely a dream sent by the arcane pokémon as a test. But when he finally pried his eyes open through the sticky grit which glued them shut, nothing had happened. He was still in this living nightmare.

<<You may see through her tricks but you will never be able to leave her side!>> Zapdos’s harsh voice echoed through his mind.

No! He cried. No, I don’t want to be with her! She did this to me! His vision went foggy, swaying and shifting oddly. A strange figure appeared, turning to glare at him coldly over a sturdy yellow-feather shoulder. <<Please don’t leave me here!>> Orchu sobbed, his mouth painfully dry. He stretched out his paws deliriously towards Zapdos, pleading for benediction. <<Please don’t forget me!>> But beyond his blurry, waving paws, Zapdos shifted, absorbed into the fog. Exhausted, Orchu fell into a deep and troubled sleep.

When he awakened, he felt weaker than ever; but as though his subconscious had been working on him as he slumbered, he gathered what little coherence remained to him to make his decision. Struggling to his feet, he shook off the wires which the pink-haired human had attached to him when he first became ill. Staggering across the slippery table he dropped to the floor, his head pounding viciously and making his vision go white at the edges.

No. he shook it off, lurching weakly towards the door. He didn’t even know if he had the strength to push it open; didn’t even know if he wanted to. But what he did know was that he was afraid of dying, of dying like his sire and his dam. And if he didn’t find that girl, then he had no doubt he would die. Because now he needed her tricks, or whatever had lured him to become her prisoner, to survive.

* * *

Keegan trudged forlornly through the scrubby path, her eyes fixed upon the rugged path before her. She knew she should tell her pokémon that she’d given up, but she couldn’t bear to see their looks of disappointment. She already knew she was a failure.

I shouldn’t have left Alto Mare. She thought for the thousandth time, a familiar lump clogging up her throat. I shouldn’t… shouldn’t have thought I was ready. I should’ve listened to Miriam.

She remembered looking over the ocean and knowing that her future lay out beyond it. She remembered standing on the ferry and knowing without a doubt that she was doing the right thing. But now it was but a distant dream, something that had happened a lifetime ago. How could I have felt such certainty? What would it be like to feel it again?

Even now, she felt terribly confused. She didn’t feel the same certainty about returning as she had felt about leaving. But what else could she do? She had made so many mistakes. It was better for everyone if she went back. Back… to the only people who knew and loved her.

“Pi pi pi!” a wavering, distant cry caught her attention. She stopped, dust billowing slightly to coat her white shoes.

Can’t be. She turned around to see the pichu, looking dusty and exhausted, struggling up the path behind her. Why…? He reached her feet and for long moments they just stared at each other, his eyes angry and defiant and hers uncertain and confused.

“Did you want to come with me after all?” Keegan asked finally.

“Pi.” The pichu crossed his tiny arms across the jagged black bib marking under his chin, looking away rebelliously.

“I… don’t understand,” Keegan whispered. “You hate me. Why…?”

“Chu.” The pichu turned towards the road ahead and began walking along it briskly, disdainfully, clearly not willing to stand around and theorize. Confused, Keegan watched him; then she lowered her head once again and trailed after. After all, they were going in the same direction.


Billy Bob Pennywhistle
7th June 2005, 3:38 AM
YAY YAY YAY YAY YAY YAY YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You updated!!!!!

Noooo..... Keegan can't give up! No! Well, I suppose this is where Koga comes into play and leads her to Maxie.

Man, I can't wait to see their reunion!

I really hope you update soon!

7th June 2005, 3:43 AM
*smirks* well, Koga comes into play in the next chappie - but he sure as hell doesn't lead her to Maxie. :P

^.^ lol, thanks; I really hope I update soon too.

Billy Bob Pennywhistle
7th June 2005, 4:03 AM
Well, Koga does like... point her in the right direction or something.... doesn't he? Keegan's not going to give up and go back to Alto Mare right? Well, I'm sure Ross would be happy but....

Brilliant chappie! You're leaving me guessing and I really hate it. A mark of a skillful author.

7th June 2005, 4:15 AM
Brilliant chappie! You're leaving me guessing and I really hate it. A mark of a skillful author.

XD talk about a contradictory line. 'Brilliant' but you hate it :P

^.^ lol, thank you. I'm flattered.

Twilight Absol
7th June 2005, 7:44 AM
=/ plot stirring, and the electabuzz cliffy was not nice, and which direction are they going anyways? Nice chappie, I liked actually starting a spark to get the flames going. I do have two questions though. Since when did Zappy have fists? or where you talking about buzzy? that was confusing... and:
his black-lined ears flapping at he reached out for her – for some are you sure it's not as?

7th June 2005, 8:41 AM
*grins evilly* MUAHAHAHA!

^.^ lol. It was intended as a foreshadowing, not a cliffy. And I prolly shoulda said where they're going, but I didn't realize there was no direction until after, and I didn't want to interrupt the flow... anyways, they're heading towards Cerulean.

Where did you get confused about Zapdos having fists, I'm sure I only ever referred to Buzzik having fists. But then, I did change PoVs quite often, so I was expecting a little confusion.

And you're right, that is meant to be 'as' :P thanks for pointing that out, Twilight ^.^

7th June 2005, 10:02 PM
^.^ Thanks for reviewing Kanta; you're the second person to find Tynan funny, and I'm not sure why :P I love him in the beginning of the next chappie, though... hehehe, annoyed goodness ^.^
Lol. Heh, no problem. I can't just leave a great story without giving a little review right? =P


Awesome chapter! But Keegan just can't give up yet! She has been through too much!

Also, I wonder why Zapdos depises humans so much to be mad at the poor Pichu. =/

Update soon!

8th June 2005, 4:12 AM
Well, I always imagined Zapdos to be impulsive, domineering and more prone to temper tantrums, so he's less tolerant towards 'impurity' than other legendaries.

And I don't think he hates humans so much as believes that humans and pokemon each have their own place. He sees the power plant as a haven for electric pokemon, where humans aren't allowed - so he protects them from being captured. But by the same token, he expects loyalty; turning over to an invader is a betrayal - especially since the way Orchu was attacted to Keegan was so unnatural.

If any of that made sense... =/

^.^ But 'nways. Thanks for reviewing; and let's hope I have more luck in writing the next chappie :P

Billy Bob Pennywhistle
8th June 2005, 4:21 AM
*has beer ready... and bat if needed*

I always imagined Zapdos to be impulsive, domineering and more prone to temper tantrums, so he's less tolerant towards 'impurity' than other legendaries.

Yeah, I do too. He is the... least tolerant of the legendary birds, where as Articuno, to me, would be the most tolerant, placing Moltres in the middle. That's what I think.

8th June 2005, 4:28 AM
^.^ Great minds think alike.

The pokedex entries for Articuno mentions that she saves people from freezing to death in snowy mountains - or something along those lines, so it's a good bet she's more civil. ^.^ I love writing about legendaries.

:P But anyways... I'm gonna get typing; let's hope that bat of yours isn't needed, BBP ^.^

*vanishes in a puff of smoke*

Billy Bob Pennywhistle
8th June 2005, 4:34 AM
*is left standing in front of a puff of smoke that was pd*

*looks around... puts on a purple cape... and runs around like a weirdo*

Great minds think. Small minds don't. Potatoes bubble when they think.

8th June 2005, 5:15 AM

Sorta. >3

I LOVED IT! This chapter was indoubtably the best!! The description of life at the Power Plant, Zapdos himself, EVERYTHING! And you made teh Pichu sound so cute. ^___^ Even when it was mad.

Great Chappie, Doctor P. *applauds*

PS. Moltres does the same things Articuno did. In fact, Blaine was lead off of a blizzard by the firey bird himself. Dont ask me why Moltres was in a blizzard, he just was. ^___^;;;

Twilight Absol
9th June 2005, 2:39 AM
=0 somehow, I still dislike the idea of having a pichu, reminds me too much of pikachu...especially since howpichu seemed cold at the start...

9th June 2005, 3:17 AM
Yeah, Twilight, but you're also a pikachu hater. :P Besides, I have a reason for it being a pichu; and it was really too late to change it even if I wanted to. The idea was already fixed in my mind.

'Nways, Saber, I think I remember reading that thing with Moltres - that's in the LG/FR games for Blaine's Fame Checker, isn't it? (I love that thing.... they so shoulda put it in Emerald...)

^.^ And I'm glad you liked it. I think I learned something during this chappie: when in doubt, put a pokemon PoV...

Twilight Absol
9th June 2005, 4:23 AM
I dislike Pikachu, not hate it, a rodent has became the mascot for POkemon, I think that Nintendo can do better...Pikachu is OU because of the cartoons, if it wasnt for that, Pikachu would never become mascot, and I wouldn't hate it...but meh, your fic is original enough =/

11th June 2005, 7:06 PM
Hey Can I say something? I am in luv this is the best fic I have EVER read, you honetly need to publish this. And can I ask a question, does Keegan ever get more than 2 pokemon? I am only im chapter 3, so I dont know if she has already caught one or not but I would like to know. And does she ever catch new pokemon? Like hoenn pokemon? But BTY keep up the awesome work, this is the BEST! (but heart of magma was so sad... I MISS HANK!)

12th June 2005, 3:17 AM
Hey, I have another reader ^.^
Lol, thank you; and yes, Keegan does catch other pokemon, but I'm afraid you'll have to read on to find out which :P
And thanks about HotM... my sister actually cried when she read that; I was surprised. I miss Hank too...

12th June 2005, 3:47 PM
Yah lol you should have seen me, I went in my room to finish it because I swear to you, I started crying. But one question, what was hank's pokemon?

14th June 2005, 4:11 AM
*gasp* Can it be?!
Yes! Doctor P is actually posting on time for a change!

Though I admit it's not quite as long as most of my other chappies, ^.^ it answers a few questions.

I thought I should warn you though, I've upped the rating to PG-13... I really should've done that a long time ago. And this chappie contains some swearing - including one instance of 'the f-word'. *gasp* So be warned!

^.^ Enjoy!

~ X ~


Marching through the dirt paths of the park east of Vermillion, his eyes were darkened in profound annoyance, his every step speaking supreme irritation. First I was delayed by another storm in Fuschia, he seethed. Then that stupid festival in some nowhere town. Now all these wannabe trainers! If one more of them challenges me to a battle, I’ll –

“Hey! Wanna –”

Before the poor kid could finish his sentence Tynan spun around, his shoulders tense with irritated frustration and his green eyes flashing. “No, I do not want to ****ing battle!” he roared wrathfully. Several pidgey in the nearby trees took flight in fear, their russet and white feathers flashing in the sun. The kid jumped, dropping his pokéball and startled half to death while heads all over the park looked up in surprise.

With a snarl Tynan wheeled around and stalked towards Vermillion City, leaving a shaken boy in his wake. I’ll be lucky if she’s not halfway to the Whirl Islands by now! He fumed. The last thing I need is more delays!

But when he reached the Pokémon Centre he was astonished to find that Keegan had apparently not arrived in Vermillion at all. “No, I haven’t seen any girl of that description around here,” Nurse Joy insisted.

Thinking that perhaps she hadn’t gone into the Pokémon Centre, he went down to the wharf; but the man selling tickets for the ferries hadn’t seen her either, nor had anyone by her name bought any tickets recently. Desperate, he went to the northern gates, but the guard hadn’t seen her go through to Saffron.

Damn. He swore, trudging back into the city and ignoring a plastic bag which scudded past him across the stones. That must mean she went up to Lavender Town. Why she’d want to go to that dump of a place… he considered his options, joining the multicoloured stream of people which were trailing through to the boulevard. After going to Lavender Town, she could do several things. Travel south and come into Vermillion the same way he did, go up to Cerulean or east into Saffron.

Wait… why’d she go to Fuschia City? He wondered suddenly, stopping in the middle of the pavement and ignoring the tourists which flowed around him. If she didn’t want a badge, there’s nothing of interest there except the Safari Zone or the zoo – and she didn’t stay long enough to go to either of those. So why…?

And then it dawned on him: She had gone to Lavender Town as well. And east of Lavender Town… the abandoned power plant. And ferries leave for the Seafoam Islands from Fuschia. A contemptuous grin crawled across his face. Gawd. She actually believes she can see the legendary birds? He smirked to himself, congratulating himself on remembering one of Bill the pokémaniac’s more interesting, albeit rare lectures. Get real. She’s got no hope.

But then… he looked thoughtfully in the direction the gym, up the coastline of the wharf and closer into the city. That means she’s got to come here next. Vermillion’s the only place which has ferries to the Sevii Islands. That gives me time to get the Thunder badge before I sweep the floor with her. Slowly, his eyes turned back to the park, and he smirked a second time. Might as well get in a little training before I go to the gym, though. If those little wannabes want to play trainer, I’ll show ‘em how a real trainer battles.

And he turned around, striding easily through the rush of people back towards the park.

* * *

“Are you kidding?!” Lieutenant Surge loomed over Sabrina menacingly, thick eyebrows drawn forward in an expression of leering annoyance. Most others would have been intimidated by his overshadowing brow and thick frame, but not Sabrina. The slender young woman merely turned away with a flip of her long blue-black hair to look out the wide, tinted windows of the tall Silph Co. building, located in the city of Saffron.

“You heard me,” she answered blandly, crossing her arms. The long black sleeves of the top she wore played a stark contrast to her short, short-sleeved white dress. “He has no place in my squadron. Not only did he abandon a team member, but he failed to complete the mission. Let him learn his lesson elsewhere.”

Surge growled, flexing his fists and making his muscles ripple beneath the rolled up sleeves of his mottled army jacket. “And what makes you think I’d want a little pantywaist like him in my squadron?!” he demanded.

“Now really,” A mild voice chastised them. “Haven’t you heard the saying, ‘discretion is the better part of valour’?” Disgruntled, Surge turned to their companion, standing half hidden in the shadows. “If he hadn’t run,” the man continued, “We would have no detailed knowledge of the incident.”

Sabrina made no hint that she’d heard him. Then she lowered her head, conceding the point. “Nonetheless, Koga, I don’t tolerate betrayal. He’d do better elsewhere.” Koga chuckled, his arms crossed over his chest. His golbat was perched on his shoulders, wings outspread like some strange purple mantle.

“Fine,” Surge grumbled, and Sabrina looked back at him with one eye, barely moving her head to do so. The spiky yellow-haired man scowled at the wall of the rather bare room, cracking the knuckles of one beefy hand. “He’ll learn the meaning of teamwork aboard the S.S. Aqua.”

“It also means we’ll have to forget our plans for the Goldenrod game corner,” Sabrina turned around to face her compatriots, leaning back against the window. The large red ‘R’ on the front of her dress looked black now it was turned into shadow and she braced one heel of her white shoe against the base of the wall. “The Association is on alert there now; but that is the least of our worries.”

Though she made no mention of the subject, both men knew what she was speaking of – a piece of technology so sophisticated they didn’t even know how to use it anymore. But that was hardly their fault; almost everyone who had been involved with the original project was dead. And now the object – they called it the ESP – was missing.

“Your Third Eye failing on you, Sabrina?” Koga remarked blandly. She stiffened, her fists clenching at her sides, and she turned furious eyes set within a stony face upon him. He merely chuckled, not at all nonplussed by her death glare.

“Don’t try to meddle in matters you don’t understand, ninja,” she snarled. “I have my suspicions as to where it is. There have been too many mistakes in the past. For all we know there’s a spy in our midst, passing information on to the Justice.”

Koga caught the tone in her voice, lifting his eyes to meet her steady, accusing gaze. “Are you suggesting it’s me?” he asked with a laugh. “Why don’t you read my mind and find out?” His golbat fanned its wings and screeched in what seemed like a taunting manner.

Sabrina ground her teeth in frustration, her shoulders quivering with annoyance. Arrogant ninja, she seethed, struggling to contain her anger at the smirk on his face. She didn’t want to give him the satisfaction. They both knew she couldn’t read his mind. For generations psychics had been the ninjas’ biggest threat, until all of them had learned the art of ‘mind closure’ which enabled them to block their thoughts from scrying clairvoyants.

“Whose jurisdiction was the bloody thing under?” Surge scowled, apparently ignoring this little exchange.

“Blaine’s,” Sabrina answered, her body relaxing as she leaned back against the window once more, her arms folding over her stomach. The corner of her mouth twitched, but she didn’t allow it to spread over her thin lips. “It seems I’m not the only one who’s failing their task. Isn’t that right, Koga?”

For an instant irritation flashed in Koga’s dark, slanted eyes and he snarled a little as Sabrina revelled in her triumph. “Apparently not,” the ninja answered coolly nonetheless, his hands tense on his arms. “Harry has had no luck in finding that damnable scientist.”

“Cinnibar is an island, how can one man elude the ninjas for so long?” Sabrina noted smugly, milking her victory for all it was worth. Koga scowled and didn’t answer. Satisfied, Sabrina turned away from him and instead looked at Surge.

“It was under the scientists’ jurisdiction,” she informed him calmly. “They were trying to figure out how it worked without Blaine’s help, but failed. Then Professor Sebastian took advantage of its ability to attract electric pokémon to use it as part of his Raikou-capturing system not long ago. Despite… complications, the two agents entrusted with the mission managed to retrieve it and had it delivered to the agents in Olivine.”

“Yeah, I know the rest,” Surge ground his teeth in annoyance. His ship had been scheduled to pick the ESP up, but it had vanished. Now one of Team Rocket’s most closely guarded secrets was in unknown hands. Not even the agents who carried it had known what it was. To them, it had merely been a product of a failed experiment. The only people who knew the complete truth were Giovanni and the Executive Triad.

And Blaine. But the traitor had no doubt spilled their secrets to the Justice, which meant that in all likelihood, they had in their hands the object which could destroy Team Rocket.

That is, if they knew how to use it. And since Blaine had been head of the experiment before he betrayed them, the chances were that they did. “You said you had your suspicions as to where it is,” Koga noted to Sabrina. “Care to share?”

“I have my doubts it’s with the Justice,” she said bluntly, which stopped Surge short. He’d been convinced it was with them; after all, who else knew its worth? “Erika has the Celadon game corner under watch, but they’ve made no move as yet. If they had it and they knew how to use it, then they would have already.”

Surge rubbed his clean-shaven chin and grunted an agreement, conceding the point, but that fact still didn’t ease his mind. It meant they had even less idea where the ESP would be. If it was in the hands of someone completely unknown, then the chances of getting it back were laughable.

“But the timing of its disappearance is rather coincidental, wouldn’t you say?” Koga put in with a smirk.

“Indeed,” Sabrina answered coldly, unsurprised that Koga had guessed her thoughts. Sometimes it seemed as though the ninja had mind-reading abilities of his own. “The Tin Tower in Ecruteak was raided by unknown invaders soon after. There is the possibility it’s with them.”

“Not unknown,” Surge smashed his fist down on the gently humming console ranging against the opposite wall. With a flicker one of the many screens flashed to life to reveal a white, vaguely ‘A’ shaped emblem. “Team Aqua.” He snarled. “I’d recognise that symbol anywhere.”

Koga and Sabrina both looked less than pleased, but they knew better than to contradict Surge. Neither of them had any experience on the ocean and Surge’s sailors knew a great deal more about the Hoenn region. “So,” Koga murmured, the tone in his voice indecipherable. “They finally decided that Johto was too much a temptation.” Sabrina glanced at him with narrow, appraising eyes. His own had darkened in thought, his manner losing all vestiges of amusement, but what he was thinking she couldn’t tell.

“Whatever their reason for being in Johto,” she said instead, tapping one finger irritably on her black-sleeved arm. “We can’t allow them to think they can wander in whenever they desire.”

“Agreed,” Koga responded instantly, and turned to Surge. “Ken?”

“Still on the Sevii Islands,” Surge informed them brusquely. “But after he’s finished there I’ll send him to Johto – then we might be able to find out if the Aquas have the ESP.” He paused for a moment, then smirked, rubbing his nose with a finger. “And that redheaded pantywaist of yours can go with him. May as well do something useful.”

“Meantime Ryu will remain in Celadon,” Sabrina said, then gave Koga a cold smile. “And I hope we can trust Harry’s efforts to catch Blaine on Cinnibar will be successful in the near future?” Koga never answered. Instead he turned from her spiteful eyes and strode out of the room.

He had other matters to attend to.

* * *

Keegan leaned against a rock in the lee of a small cliff, sliding down to slump, depressed, at its base. She’d thought the route to Cerulean from Lavender Town would be pretty straightforward, but then she’d found herself next to the ocean. In an attempt to find her way inland, she’d only gotten herself –

Lost. Again.

Hugging her legs miserably, she rested her chin in her knees and stared at the faded grass in front of her dusty shoes. Why don’t things ever go right for me? She wondered a little tearfully. Though it had been a while since Lavender Town, still she hadn’t managed to shake off the malignant depression and sense of failure which persisted in hanging over her like a dark cloud. Not even the smug voice’s constant insistence that she was being stupid and letting ‘them’ – whoever ‘them’ was – win could dispel it.

And Pichu didn’t help. He had refused Keegan’s weak offers of friendship, only taking food from her grudgingly and with a spiteful attitude. She hadn’t even nicknamed him, knowing the act would only erupt in scornful rejection. Now he was glaring at her irritably, tiny paws crossed over the black bib and wide ears flickering impatiently. “Don’t look at me like that,” Keegan protested half-heartedly.

“Cha,” the pichu sighed, looking away. He plopped to the ground with a grunt, oval-shaped back paws sticking out in front of him.

Why does he insist on following me? Keegan’s thoughts turned to Pichu as she gazed at him absently. He hates me – and I don’t think I even properly know why. Or exactly what I did to make the other pokémon get angry… the same thoughts which had been circling in her mind continued to whip up a storm, until her head ached and she wished, not for the first time, that she was already back in her comfortable, wood-carved bed in Alto Mare.

“Oi! Leave me alone, you – HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELP!”

Shocked out of her self-pity Keegan leapt up, looking around wildly for the source of the familiar voice. Pichu’s ears had perked up instantly, his eyes brightening, before he jumped to his paws and scampered off down a game trail. Hitching her worn and dirty bag up on her shoulder, Keegan chased after.

Somewhere in the trees Keegan saw a red-brown feathered fearow take off, its regal wings beating the air. Gliding low over the woods, it clutched a screaming, struggling figure in its talons, dangling dangerously over the sparse forest.

“Bill?!” Keegan gasped incredulously, and instantly took off towards the fearow at a sprint, ducking through the thin branches of the woods. Almost reluctantly, kicking up forest mulch, Pichu followed.

“Gwah!” Bill kicked his feet against the topmost branches of the trees which clawed at his shoes and the hems of his cream-coloured trousers. His hands clutched fearfully at the scaly ankles of the fearow, its claws digging through his shirt into the skin of his shoulders. Oh dear oh dear oh dear –

Down below, he suddenly caught sight of a bright orange and black figure, flashing through the foliage at a perpendicular angle to the fearow’s flight path. Then something else caught his attention: a small, craggy cliff which stretched through the woodland. And with a chill, he realized that was the fearow’s destination. Oh dear…

But before they reached it an arcanine bounded up the rough slope, fur blazing in the sun as it moved with liquid grace from one rock to the next. With a thrill of delight, Bill recognised the grey-and-white clad young woman astride the fiery dog. “Keegan!” he shouted, as pleased as anyone could be when they were being carried off by a giant, hostile bird.

The fearow snapped its long, slightly crooked beak irritably at the opposition, folding its wings back to dive at Keegan. Legs flailing helplessly in the air, Bill gripped its scrawny legs, eyes widening as he realized what it was about to do. But that was before a pokémon flashed into existence before them with a whirlwind of glittering green dust. Bill sneezed as the powder coated his lavender shirt and wavy hair, his eyelids drooping sleepily.

He wasn’t the only one. The fearow wavered, red-brown and cream-coloured wings unfolding slightly as it relaxed into slumber-land. Its dive was halted as it began to spiral towards the cliff before landing with a thump on a ledge somewhere below Keegan. “Friii!” the butterfree trilled, darting gleefully about with her long blue toes trailing.

Hah. Keegan smiled vaguely, patting Firefoot on his shaggy white mane. He barked happily, bounding down the huge rocks which marked the side of the ridge until they reached the ledge where the fearow lay, spreadeagle, on the dusty stone. Beneath it, Keegan could hear the sound of loud snoring. Despite herself, she smiled once again.

“Piich,” Pichu snorted, sitting on Firefoot’s rump and looking the other way rebelliously. Firefoot looked at him somewhat with somewhat dumb curiosity as Keegan slid off his back and the butterfree alighted gently on his head with the air of a reigning beauty contest competitor. Carefully the girl tiptoed over to the fearow and gingerly lifted a wing to reveal Bill’s snoring visage, sprawled beneath the long-feathered body of the bird.

“Bill,” Keegan hissed. The fearow shifted and she jumped, dropping the wing. Fortunately, that woke Bill up; unfortunately, it woke the fearow up too. Suddenly realizing it was down and surrounded by enemies, it screeched loudly and beat its wings desperately in an attempt to escape. With a squeak, Bill scrambled out from under pokémon’s clawing talons, half pulled by Keegan. They threw themselves to the side as the fearow spread its wings, almost knocking them over.

Then with a glare, spiky red crest quivering, it was gone. Keegan slumped back against the rock, feeling drained. Lying half-raised on his elbows nearby Bill sighed, one hand clutching his pounding heart.

“Pipipi!” Pichu cackled, pointing at Keegan fitfully as the butterfree cocked her head at him in a scandalised manner.

“Oh, shaddup,” Keegan mumbled, her cheeks flushing for no reason other than she was being laughed at.

“Goodness, it’s nice to be safe and sound,” Bill breathed a sigh of relief as he flung open the door of his seaside cottage, faltering a little at the cluttered mess inside. Boxes of semi-stored books and papers ranged against walls and under the stairs on the left. At the opposite end of the single room was a pair of huge cylindrical pods attached to a booth of computers, while at the right there were a series of untidy desks. Despite the disorder, the room was well-lit by the sun pouring through the many windows set in the walls. “Oh, excuse the mess,” he implored Keegan with a sheepish expression, patting his thick hair in embarrassment and turning to her beseechingly.

Keegan snapped out of her funk in time to manage a wan smile. “Uh, sure,” she replied as Bill set down the slim laptop they’d retrieved from the woods on a nearby desk, next to the vid-phone computer.

“Judging by that impish pichu of yours, I suppose you’ve already been to the power plant,” Bill noted cheerfully as he plugged the laptop into one of the many cables running around the walls of the house.

Keegan looked at Pichu doubtfully, who just looked away with a defiant, “Pi.”

“I guess,” Keegan answered quietly, her stomach nothing more than empty space in regret and a thousand other emotions too jumbled for her to identify.

“So then I suppose you’re going to the Sevii Islands next, is that right?” Bill continued, his voice muffled. He was half hidden beneath the desk, connecting the laptop to the network.

“No,” Keegan whispered, her eyes fixed on the wooden floor. “I’m – I’m going home. To Alto Mare.”

The pokémaniac jumped, hitting his head on the underside of the wooden desk before emerging, rubbing his aching skull ruefully. “Home?” he repeated, clearly surprised. “Aren’t you curious to see the legendary birds?”

“I…” Keegan began, shuffling her feet, but her mouth was dry. To her horror, she felt her eyes prick with the onset of tears. “I don’t know.” There was a pause in which she didn’t look up at Bill, struggling to contain the tears. She had seemed to cry a river of them in the recent past and was sick of it.

Then, before she could stop them, more words came flooding out. “I’ve made so many mistakes. I mean, I – in Fuschia, in the Safari Zone, I tried to – to help someone and I screwed up.” She squeezed her pendant, taking comfort in the hard, smooth facets. “And then because of the storm I didn’t get on the ferry to the Seafoam Islands. And then…”

In a flood of fumbling words, she poured out all her mistakes, fears and failures, everything she had felt in the recent past, beginning with Fuschia – except one thing: Koga’s accusation that she was playing danger as though it was a game. That thought, that statement, was locked so far deep inside that she’d almost forgotten it had been said, buried under a mass of depression and disappointment.

When she’d finally finished, she took a deep breath and wiped her cheeks, dimly surprised to find them wet. Then she looked up at Bill to find the pokémaniac looking thoughtfully sympathetic, one hand to his chin, and leaning against the desk.

Oh, dear. I don’t know anything about this, he was thinking, trying to maintain a calm manner. He was not helped by the pichu, sitting in the corner of the floor and doubled up in silent, smug laughter at Keegan's distress. Well, at least he has the courtesy to be quiet about it…

“You came this far to see the legendary birds, surely you want to continue,” Bill suggested, trying to coax Keegan into admitting she was even the least bit interested. Bollocks, but I would’ve given a lot to see Zapdos…

He should’ve known her well enough to realize that was the wrong approach. It only made Keegan’s stubborn streak kick in and she shook her head violently. “I’ll just screw up even more,” she said hopelessly. “Morty – Morty must have been wrong to send me after the birds. I mean, I didn’t even screw up in Johto as badly as I did here!”

“Morty?” Bill repeated, surprised. “I’ve heard of him – he’s hardly ever wrong.” He must have seen something about the birds! The pokémaniac thought inwardly, his bright eyes turning thoughtfully to Keegan’s pendant. That fire stone of hers… and Moltres on Sevii – he broke out of his reverie in time to hear Keegan’s decision.

“It’d be best if I – if I just went back. I mean, then I – I can’t get in anyone’s way – excuse me…” The stricken girl whirled around and fled the cottage, her shoulders shaking. Bill rubbed his head uncertainly as the door drifted closed with a slight thwack, feeling that perhaps this might not be as nice a visit as he had originally envisioned…

“Where’s the – oh, there it is, never mind –”

The next morning Keegan came downstairs to find Bill dashing about in a flustered and dishevelled rush. Tongue poking out in concentration, he was trying to force several thick binders into a shoulder bag. He looked only half-dressed; his blue shirt was still hanging open, showing a white undershirt beneath, and a long night-cap with stars on it was still perched atop his wavy-haired head.

Uncertainly, Keegan paused on the stairs. Pichu was sitting in amidst the mess of papers strewn about, front paws gripping his toes in churlish amusement. “Oh, dear, now I’ve gone and misplaced that account on –” Bill lifted up several papers, searching for the elusive report, before spotting Keegan on the stairs. He smiled fleetingly in greeting before returning to his search.

“Something up, Bill?” the girl asked hesitantly, coming down the wooden stairs.

“Oh, yes – urgent meeting, the Association wanted – well, I’m not sure if – I mean, it’d be more than my life’s worth to –” Bill rambled distractedly, now on his knees and rooting through a cardboard box of files. Then, with a satisfied, “Ah!” he clambered to his socked feet and squeezed the folder into the bag, now fit to burst.

Keegan fingered her pendant uncertainly. She would be the first to admit that she hadn’t been the best of company the previous afternoon, but Bill wouldn’t make up an excuse to leave her – would he?

The pokémaniac was now hopping around, tugging a shoe onto his second foot. Succeeding in that he ran his fingers through his hair, sweeping off his night-cap. He then proceeded to button up his shirt, noosing a tie around his neck and babbling hurriedly. “I’m sure you’ll be fine here on your own – of course, if you wanted to stay you’re welcome to, but I daresay you’d – oh, dear…” his gaze suddenly fell upon another bag, lying half-forgotten on the corner of one of the desks.

Bill grabbed it up, his expression profoundly distressed. “I promised Celio I’d deliver this to him as soon as I was able!” he exclaimed, distraught. Then he spun around, holding the bag out towards Keegan beseechingly. “Would you be willing to take it to him?” he begged, and Keegan stared at him wordlessly. “Please, it’s really quite urgent, but with this sudden meeting I don’t have the time to do it myself.”

I’m not sure I’m the best person to do this, Keegan thought, but the words were somehow halted before they reached her lips. Instead she looked at the floor and mumbled, “Okay.”

“Oh, brilliant!” Bill shoved the bag into her hands, his eyes bright with gratitude. “Celio lives on the Sevii Islands – Knot Island, to be exact.” He brandished a multicoloured ticket, which Keegan reluctantly took. “If you take the ferry from Vermillion, that ticket will get you there.”

Keegan watched, slightly bewildered, as Bill slung the heavy bag over his shoulder. “The key’s there on the desk – just slip it under the mat when you leave.” He snatched up one of the three pokéballs which had been scattered over a desk and pounded through the door, his tie whipping in the air. “Thank you!” he shouted over his shoulder; and then he was gone, vanished over the ridge.

Slightly bemused, Keegan looked down at the bag in her hands, chewing the inside of her cheek uncertainly. I hope you dance. A random thought suddenly burst out at her, a memory of days past. Her eyes hardened, and her sense of responsibility kicked in with her determination. Ferry, huh? Well, this time I won’t fail – Bill’s counting on me.

“C’mon, Pichu, get ready. We’re leaving.”

Still, it was an hour later before she walked out of Bill’s house, locking the door and leaving the key under the tattered mat. Then she strode purposefully down the dusty, foliage-lined road, heading for Cerulean while Pichu trotted rebelliously several steps behind.

Not far off in the bushes, Bill peeked out from behind a smooth-barked sapling and let out a sigh. “Finally. I thought she’d never leave.” With a grunt he picked up the bag, filled with random books and papers, still holding the pokéball he’d grabbed before he left. Feeling quite pleased with his performance, he began whistling a jaunty tune as he proceeded back to the cottage.

I was certain she should go to the Sevii Islands after she said Morty had sent her, he reflected. After all, that’s where Moltres is, and what with that fire stone of hers… he smirked, looking up to the cloud-wisped blue sky. Once she gets there, she shan’t be able to resist the lure of adventure. That girl is made for excitement.

“Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeah!” a screech pierced the air behind him and Bill jumped, shocked. Spinning around, he was horrified to find a familiar fearow bearing down on him, wings folded to its body in a dive.

“GAAAAH!” Terrified, Bill ducked as the fearow swept overhead. Then he pelted towards the door of his cottage as it wheeled gracefully about for another pass, the bag dragging cruelly at his shoulder and his breath coming in short gasps. Although this is quite enough excitement for me!

Mr. Blonde
14th June 2005, 5:24 AM
So much to catch up on...but I will make it. Eventually.

I envy you for so many reasons. The least of which is your superior understanding of Pokemon to my own. I have been out of the game for so long that I am only familiar with Kanto Pokemon, since I have only returned to fic writing out of nostalgia (the last time I wrote being when I was about 11/12). Even more than that, you give them all their own wonderfully unique personalities. Small details like capturing the way they sound is also something I picked up on.

Honestly, what I am saying is you hit everything on the mark. I have only been able to read the first Chapter (as well as Heart of The Magma), but I am looking forward to reading more. Such long chapters, it is going to take me a while to catch up, but you have a dedicated reader in me.

You have a great grasp of vocabulary, something that has always been a weakness with me. The way you describe scenes is - at the most basic - poetic and professional.

You have a bright future ahead of you with writing if you choose to pursue it. Congratulations on your talent, and I for one would like to tell you that you are an inspiration.

Kudos on a job well done.

14th June 2005, 6:18 AM
Oh, thank you ^.^
I have so many loyal readers already, every time another one pops up it's a surprise; especially since I know how length can turn people off. ^.^ But now I've put chapter links in the first page, it should be easier.
If you've been out of the loop for so long, I encourage you to get back into it; I admit I have done the same, but pokemon has it's own charm which draws me back time and again.
Funny... everyone says I have a great sense of diction, but before I began posting (when I wrote just for fun) I never really noticed; it was the one thing I just didn't pay attention to. But thank you.
I do intend to pursue writing as a career; I've got too many stories floating around in my head not to at least try and publish some of them. And if I'm an inspiration to even just one person... then I could say I've done something good with my life. So thank you, I'm glad. ^.^

Billy Bob Pennywhistle
14th June 2005, 6:30 AM
I wasn't even expecting an update! YESSSSS......!!

Sneaky Bill.... hee hee hee..... :P

Another wonderful chappie! Goodie, goodie.....

What is happening with Maxie? Wasn't he going to fight Team Aqua?


*runs around, purple cape flapping against ankles*

*gives pd another case of beer*

14th June 2005, 6:45 AM
^.^ lol! *accepts case of beer* I didn't think many people would be expecting an update :P So it was fun to post it! ^.^

Yeah, Maxie's fighting the Aquas :P but he's fighting them in Hoenn, not Kanto or Johto. Team Rocket controls Kanto and Johto, so the Magmas and Aquas aren't 'allowed' there.

Billy Bob Pennywhistle
14th June 2005, 7:12 AM
Ahhh.... I knew that... hee hee hee....

Well... I heart this story.

*cape now reads "The Beer-maestro"*

Twilight Absol
15th June 2005, 2:17 AM
soup? Hmmm, another foreshadowing chappie, and I have a question, I thought that erika was helping getting rid of team rocket? well, guess all the kanto gym leaders are team rocket executives from what you've said =/.
I love this chapter, the fearow was just hilarious, and i expect you to keep at a level at this!!

15th June 2005, 2:45 AM
HAHA! I love Bill! xD

And Sabrina? Koga? Lt. Surge? EVIL!? You're following the Manga sorta..eh? I never really read it...o.o! But it sounds exciting!

Awesome chapter, and Pichu is my new love. :3

*gives cookie*

15th June 2005, 3:31 AM
I thought that erika was helping getting rid of team rocket? well, guess all the kanto gym leaders are team rocket executives from what you've said =/.

No, they're not all Rockets; just those three - and Blaine used to be. By Erika keeping watch over the game corner in Celadon, I meant that she's keeping an eye on it because she knows it's a Rocket outpost. However, at this point in time she doesn't have any proof except the word of a teenage girl; hardly enough to warrent an investigation.
Actually, if you read carefully, I infer that Erika is part of something called 'the Justice.'

I love this chapter, the fearow was just hilarious,

Heh, thank you ^.^ I admit I took the fearow out of the manga - Bill gets turned into a rattata and a fearow carries him off - I just skipped the rattata bit.

HAHA! I love Bill! xD

And Sabrina? Koga? Lt. Surge? EVIL!? You're following the Manga sorta..eh? I never really read it...o.o! But it sounds exciting!

Hehe, I knew you'd like Bill ^.^
And yeah ^.^ I'm kinda combining aspects of the manga and the anime. So be prepared for anything. :P
And you should read it, it really opened my eyes to the possibilities. I never would've figured Lance to be an evil guy... but in the manga, he's evil... and hawtness...
*cough**takes cookie* ^.^ Thankees!

15th June 2005, 6:13 PM
Yes! An update! You update pretty fast... wow. =)

Hehe, nice chapter. =P And Tynan again, was very funny! He must really want to crush Keegan huh?

And yesh, it's a good thing Keegan didn't give up hope yet. If she did, the story would be over!

Also, I noticed how you used the manga since Sabrina, Surge, and Koga are a part of Team Rocket.

You didn't really tell much about Team Magma or Aqua though. *is wondering about them* But that's okay. ^_^

Ryano Ra
16th June 2005, 5:22 AM
Yes, you are updating pretty damn fast, but it is definitely worth it. I wish I had the ability to frequently do so, since I constantly get stuck with writing battles and such. Anyways, as usual, the length provides beautiful dialogue, vivid descriptions, and tons of actions. Sometimes, I wish I had flawless chapters as yours.

A beautiful story with a captivating author; that brings the beauty of the novel. Wonderful job.

16th June 2005, 5:52 AM
Aww. Im finally caught up, hah such a great story line and characters.... I think im in love!

16th June 2005, 6:38 AM
Yes! An update! You update pretty fast... wow. =)

Hehe, nice chapter. =P And Tynan again, was very funny! He must really want to crush Keegan huh?

And yesh, it's a good thing Keegan didn't give up hope yet. If she did, the story would be over!

Also, I noticed how you used the manga since Sabrina, Surge, and Koga are a part of Team Rocket.

You didn't really tell much about Team Magma or Aqua though. *is wondering about them* But that's okay. ^_^

Heh, actually I keep thinking I update slow, since when I first started I was updating every three days or something :P

And I msut admit I found Tynan funny at the beginning of this chappie too ^.^ he needs to control his temper... :P the next question is whether he succeeds in his goal...

As for Keegan, well, she's still not travelling for the sake of adventure... she's travelling because a friend is counting on her.

More info on Team Aqua and Team Magma is coming :P next chappie. Promise.

Yes, you are updating pretty damn fast, but it is definitely worth it. I wish I had the ability to frequently do so, since I constantly get stuck with writing battles and such. Anyways, as usual, the length provides beautiful dialogue, vivid descriptions, and tons of actions. Sometimes, I wish I had flawless chapters as yours.

A beautiful story with a captivating author; that brings the beauty of the novel. Wonderful job.

^.^ Thank you, Ryano; kind words. In actual fact, I frequently get stuck on motivation - once I start doing something I'm fine, but starting is the problem!

Thanks for reviewing you two, and omegasneasel too ^.^ Glad you enjoyed!

16th June 2005, 3:07 PM
Ok well that was alittle rude what bill did, but hey it got her going. And when is the next chapter coming out? I cant wait!

Twilight Absol
16th June 2005, 9:38 PM
^ Relax, she JUST updated, give her a bit of time to get the flow going...

17th June 2005, 3:01 AM
Heh, I honestly have no idea when the next chappie is coming; I can rarely predict their length or what problems might accur, so it really depends. That's why I often don't feel comfortable making predictions; so sorry about that.

17th June 2005, 5:01 AM
No rush no hurry, I can wait!! ^^

17th June 2005, 8:38 PM
Yay! It's manga Blaine! Heh, ever since I read about the manga, I think his manga self is much more interesting than his anime self. BTW, is Janine evil? I like her, but she's so devoted to her father that she might be. Oh, and is Keegan ever going back to Johto? I kinda miss having her there.
Edit: Oh yeah, I'm a new reviewer. I've just joined the forums, but I've been lurking for a while.

17th June 2005, 11:47 PM
This is one of the best fics I've ever read!! Your description of the battles is pefect! Can't wait for the next update!!!

18th June 2005, 3:29 AM
Whoo, two new reviewers! ^.^ *adds to list*

^.^ Thanks guys, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Teikra, I agree :P manga Blaine is so much more interesting. As for Janine, well, I guess you'll see ^.^ If you've read the Johto saga of the manga, then you'll a sketchy idea of what's gonna happen with her (but please don't advertise it). And yes, Keegan does end up going back to Johto :P

18th June 2005, 5:13 PM
i realy love this fic. and when i say that i mean it. and lugia thinks so to.
;249; just don't make that creepy guy catch me.

21st June 2005, 3:31 AM

*glomps BBP* I think your baseball bat of doom really scared my story into submission! ^.^ No problems at all from the past two chappies, how good is that?!

^.^ Lol, let's see if I can keep this up.

Let's see, there's some swearing - two uses of 'the f-word'. Tynan really has some anger management problems...

^.^ Enjoy!

~ XI ~


She squeezed her smooth pendant charily, eyes on the bobbing ferry. The sky was clear, the clouds mere wisps drawn across the horizon. The sea was calm, waves lapping gently against the wharf.

Why then, did the sight fill her with such fear?

Keegan watched the colourfully clad passengers cross the rubber-floor ramp, chattering and laughing, oblivious to the danger of the fickle-natured ocean. Her hand drifted over the lump in her bag gently and her eyes darkened. I have to do this.

She took a leaden step froward, making her reluctant feet move towards the ramp. Pichu scurried ahead, scampering across the ramp with the deliberate ease of a spinarak on a wall. He stood on the opposite side, waving his tiny yellow paws and bouncing gleefully. Anyone else would have taken it for excitement.

Keegan knew it was supposed to be taunting.

Keegan scowled, frustration flaring deep within; the first emotion to overcome to malignant depression. I won’t let this overcome me! She thought burningly, clenching her fist around her pendant and taking a step onto the ramp. It’s not storming this time, and I won’t let it win! Not after all those other times – not now! I did it in Alto Mare, I can do it now!

Before she knew it she was standing beneath the blue, gently flapping canvas of the deck’s awning. Though her hand still gripped the railing tightly, she smiled in relief. The first step was over; now she felt strong enough to tackle the crossing.

* * *

Tynan stalked furiously down the deserted path, his eyes scowling unseeingly into the distance. Still not there! What kind of gym leaders are these people, if they’re always away or refusing challenges?!

He’d just checked the Vermillion gym, only to find that though Lt. Surge had returned from an inland business trip, he was apparently still too busy to take in new challengers. What does a sailor like Surge want inland, anyway?

But he never got the chance to ponder that issue, for one of the pokéballs set into the leather pockets of his soft belt rocked violently. Frowning, Tynan reached for the pokéball, expanding it so he could glare at the umbreon within. “What?” he snapped irritably.

Not even my Da’s pokémon acted like this, he thought to himself, infuriated. And I wasn’t even their original trainer! That was one of the benefits of his upbringing – he had trained often with his father’s pokémon. When he’d left for the University, his father had given Marowak to him just in case. Though the dinosaur often had a mind of his own, he still obeyed Tynan.

The miniature umbreon snarled, butting the inside surface of the transparent container. With an annoyed sigh Tynan released him, but he was unprepared for the result. The black and yellow-ringed pokémon took off instantly for the harbour and with a curse Tynan pounded after him, his green coat flapping in the wind.

They came to the windswept, debris-littered wharf. The umbreon stood stock-still on the metal-lined edge and keened with high frustration. Shading his eyes and trying to calm his gasping breaths and pounding heart, Tynan searched the horizon for the source of the umbreon’s dissatisfaction. Don’t tell me…

And then he saw it: a ferry coursing through the water of the sea between Vermillion and the Sevii Islands. And on deck, looking out over the sparkling ocean, was a familiar blonde-headed, grey and white clad figure.

Incensed, Tynan let out a string of curses that would have scorched the ears of anyone else but the hard-bitten sailors nearby. He kicked angrily at several of the raised stones of the path and lifted the umbreon’s pokéball. “Return,” he snarled, and the umbreon flicked his ears irritably at him before dematerializing into red light.

Someone nearby s******ed. “Looks like someone’s got a problem with the world today.”

Brushing back his fringe which threatened to wisp in his eyes, Tynan turned about to scowl at the scrawny, scruffy man who was leaning on the peeling railing of a nearby boat. He was wearing a red beanie and casually dragging on a cigarette, his squinty eyes on Tynan. “**** off,” Tynan snarled, his eyes sparking fire; but his mind was racing. The man seemed strangely familiar.

The man chuckled, flicking ash into the blue-green water that lapped at the base of the streamlined, shiny water-bike tethered to the rusty boat. “Wassa problem, boy? Life treating you bad?”

“Not as bad as it’s gonna treat you if you don’t mind your own ****ing business,” Tynan shot back, the umbreon’s pokéball still clenched in his shaking, angry hand.

“I think someone missed the ferry to Sevii,” the man smirked, straightening up as a portly companion came up onto the grimy deck of the boat. Tynan’s gaze lit upon his bulging eyes and sagging cheeks, recognition flashing suddenly through the trainer’s mind. Unnoticed by either of the men, Tynan’s rage left him and he grew calm. A victorious smile played about his lips as he reached for the slim, high-tech phone secure in one of the pockets of his belt.

“Yeah, and we’re gonna miss our own deadline if you don’t shaddup and get to work!” the burly man snapped to his scrawny companion, who looked displeased as he flicked the butt of the cigarette into the water.

“Oh, I think you’re going to have a problem there,” Tynan commented, his thumb tapping with swift, experienced precision at the keys of the phone. “You see, I did miss the ferry to the Sevii Islands, but you’re going to help me get there.”

“Oh?” the chubby man sneered, coming to lean on the railing menacingly as his companion blinked and smirked. “How so?”

“You see,” Tynan’s eyes narrowed with vicious triumph and he spun the phone about to show them the message typed upon the tiny, highlighted screen. “If you don’t give me your water-bike, I’m going to send this message off to the Fuschia and Vermillion police. And then they’re going to come along and bust you for poaching in the Safari Zone.”

“Why, you little –” the big man raised an expanded pokéball furiously, but his grimmer and more level-headed companion grabbed his thick wrist as Tynan’s thumb played about the ‘send’ button threateningly. The poacher knew the boat wasn’t ready to leave yet; the last thing they needed was the law on their heels; and he realized Tynan knew it too.

The cocky young man smirked. “Well?”

Minutes later Tynan was speeding across the water, twin plumes of foam thrown up either side of him as his green coat billowed in the wind. He leaned over the handlebars, eyes shaded by his fringe whipping in the air. I’m coming, little fox.

I’m coming.

* * *

Keegan regarded the crashing surf of the channel against the strip of golden sand, absently raising a hand against the wind lashing her fringe in her eyes. The warm glow of pride at having delivered the bag to Celio, thus completing her task, still lit her belly. Having a success after all her failures gave her confidence and lightened her spirit, enough so that she decided it was time to conquer her fear once and for all.

The mountainous hot springs north of the town on Knot Island provided a locker for her to store her possessions. Since the rock-hewn establishment was so near the ocean, it also housed all kinds of beachside businesses – such a surfboard rental. In the warmth of the late morning there were many people enjoying the clear day, sprinkled over the sand like multi-coloured freckles.

Now she stood at the height of the ridge, gazing out over the ocean. Clad in blue-and-white knee-length board shorts and a same-coloured bikini, she looked ready to tackle the waves. One hand holding her waxed, rented surfboard upright, Keegan glanced down at Pichu. The yellow pokémon turned away petulantly. The hot springs hadn’t boasted a pokémon-care centre, which meant that Pichu had been forced to follow Keegan to the beach or risk being mistaken for wild.

Taking a deep breath, Keegan straightened the thin, water-wear belt she had for her pokéballs, tugging uncomfortably at her board shorts. There were quite a few surfers out there already and absently she prayed she wouldn’t make a fool of herself. Then she told herself she was being stupid.

And then she decided to stop theorizing and start surfing, so she picked up the heavy board to trail down to the sandy path to the beach, already considering how surfing would be different to the water-chariot races she was used to. Wading hip-deep in the swirling, foamy water, she laid the board on the surface. Pichu, paddling against the waves which threatened to swamp him, clambered on gratefully and shook the salty water out of his fur. At the rear, rolled up in a bundle, he spotted the tether-line meant to keep the surfer from being separated from the board. Realizing its use, the pichu unravelled it, strapping the Velcro harness around his waist.

Keegan stared out at the approaching waves and the surfers who whooped and yelled cheerfully, her feet somehow rooted to the spot. The hand which rested upon the waxed, white-and-red surface of the board trembled slightly. Feigning curious detachment, Pichu poked her fingers, the tether trailing behind him. Absently Keegan’s other hand went to her slender throat, to the pendant which she had decided was safe enough to wear in the water.

Now’s the time. Her eyes darkened, and she took a determined step deeper into the water, her feet sinking into the silted sand beneath. It’s all a game.

“Piich?” Pichu cocked his ears, looking at her set, resolute expression as she pushed the board further out. Then with a grunt he plonked himself down, studying her face expectantly as they continued. By the time they came to Keegan’s shoulder height, she jerked and started at every wave which splashed at her, her face pale and limbs shaking with fear which had sunk within her very bones and only now emerged.

Then she came to the point where her toes barely brushed the swirling sand. Keegan choked on panic as she was swept momentarily from her feet. She clutched at the board, pulling herself up onto it as the waves splashed around her and Pichu tittered at her ashen face.

“I’m not going back,” she asserted through gritted teeth, as much to convince herself as to convince him, but the pichu just snorted, flopping onto his belly to jab at the foam layering the surface of the water. The girl’s bare shoulders and arms were raised with goosebumps in the cool-seeming breeze, but her shivers were more to do with panic that threatened to suffocate her.

“I’m not going back,” she repeated through a frightened sob, visions of deep, murky water where the light has never shone whirling in her mind. She forced her leaden hands to move, halting the drifting motion of the board and paddling out towards the empty strait. Though her body was clenched in unreasoning terror there was a calm piece of her mind which told her she was being stupid.

And then she gone as far as she felt she could go. The water beneath was dark, obscuring the bottom, and the strength of the waves tested her resolution with every bob. With limbs already weary, Keegan turned the board around, struggling to keep it steady as she had seen the other surfers do. She focussed her attention on them to watch and learn, trying to slow down her heart-rate by convincing herself that if she’d gotten this far, nothing could go wrong.

It’s all a game. I am not helpless. I have something to float on. There is nothing in the water that’s about to drag me into the depths. There are other people around. They’re alright; I’m alright. She repeated the words to herself as the board dipped and swayed, until she’d almost convinced herself that she wasn’t even on the ocean, but somewhere in complete safety. The sky; the distant caw of the wingull; the crash of the waves on the shore; the shouts of the people; they turned surreal, nothing more than a dream she’d soon be rid of.

And then she heard the roar. Crouched readily on the board, Keegan looked over her shoulder and froze, her eyes widening. Bearing down upon them was a wave so large it was every surfers’ dream.

And her worst nightmare.

Strangely, she was calm. Her terror seemed distant, unrealized; she had watched the other surfers. She knew what to do. She wasn’t in the water; she was above it, she was in control. Just as if she’d been using a water-chariot. Turning about, Keegan began paddling with all her might towards shore, until she felt the swell of the wave, almost felt it breaking over her. Then she straightened, her feet finding their points of balance as easily as though she’d been in a water-chariot, hands outstretched as though gripping an invisible leash.

And for one glorious instant she thought she’d made it, riding atop the wave like banner in the breeze, unchecked, shouting her defiance to the world.

Then the board tipped and she plunged from her precarious perch into the sheet of darkened water which drove towards the shore.

CAN’T BREATHE! Keegan thrashed in the water, clutching at the light which shone in fragmented swirls on the surface, reality suddenly driving home with terrifying force. The currents tossed her about within the cool, murky world that was underwater, throwing her this way and that as she reached desperately for the surface. Panic seized her lungs, making her movements wild and jerky. The salt water stung her eyes.

NonononononononononononononoNO!! Her head broke the surface with a deep gasp but the waves swamped her, spraying her with foam and pitching her about. She got a mouthful of seawater and coughed, hands and feet kicking wildly as she tried to remain above the surface. If she hadn’t been so panicked she might have seen that the waves weren’t so strong at all; might have realized that all she had to do with let out Tarn.

Then something grabbed her shoulder.

She shrieked, flaying about with her hands, mindful of the unknown, shadowy depths of the water below her and the wide power which spread out to all sides.

“Hey, hey, cool it there!” someone shouted. Realizing she was no longer alone and had someone to rely on, Keegan calmed. She twisted about the water to find her surfboard beside her and clambered onto it, shaking and gasping.

Tears of frustration and fear pricked her eyes and she found it difficult to swallow through the defeated lump in her throat. She hadn’t managed to do anything after all. Looking up, she saw Pichu on the end of the surfboard, wringing out his sodden fur irritably.

“Thanks,” Keegan muttered into the relative silence of the ocean air, her legs splayed out either side of her as she continued to study the shiny, slick surface of the board.

“Hey, no probs,” an unfamiliar male voice answered easily. “But are ya sure you should be out here, little dudette? I mean, ya looked really freaked there.” He spoke in a peculiar surfer’s slang which Keegan had always thought was stereotypical and not at all real.

“Dudette?” she laughed slightly through a catch in her voice. “Who the hell talks like that?” There was silence and for a tense moment she thought she’d insulted him.

Then he laughed. Automatically, Keegan looked up to find a surfer bobbing on the water next to her. He had blue, coarse-looking hair which stuck up every which way, his fringe partly swept back over his head. He was tall and well-built, a tad on the muscular side but not quite brawny. Straddling his surfboard, his blue three-quarter pants half dunked in the water, he looked totally comfortable on the waves.

“Not many,” he answered with a good-natured grin, his tone changing completely and losing the surfer accent. “But the girls at my hometown seem to think it’s cool, so I do it to humour them. Guess I kinda fall back into the habit.” Keegan managed a tiny smile. She didn’t feel scared with someone so calm around. “I’m Brawly,” the surfer jerked a thumb at himself in introduction, the short, white-and-black lined sleeves of his pink shirt dripping.

“Keegan,” Keegan muttered. Abashed, she looked back down at the surfboard, tracing the red line which ran over its length through the centre.

“Yaha. And what’s someone who’s got a phobia of the sea doing out here trying to surf it?”

Keegan jerked and flinched. “Trying to get over it.” She whispered truthfully through the lump in her throat. She didn’t ask how he knew; he was a surfer, he’d probably seen it before.

“Doesn’t look like it’s working too well,” Brawly observed, and Keegan shook her head without looking up. “What frightens you about the ocean?”

Keegan’s hands motioned fleetingly towards the water, the glittering expanse which spread out in all directions. “The depth. The power. You can’t control it. It can kill you in an instant.” For a moment there was silence, but Keegan didn’t look up. Her stomach was twisting with embarrassed fear. He thinks I’m a coward.

“Y’see those waves?”

Startled, Keegan looked up to see Brawly nodding towards the foam-topped ripples breaking upon the unseen reefs that marked the boundaries of the channel, the two wings of hair which stuck out either side of his face fluttering in the slight breeze. Dumbly she nodded.

“They’re powerful all right. There’s not much you can do to resist them. There are some things that are just too strong to control.”

With an inward sigh Keegan wondered what his point was. She already knew that; waves weren’t the only thing it seemed she couldn’t control.

“But when power like that is there ready to be used, why would you want to?” Startled, Keegan jerked and looked at him. The surfboard dipped, splashing Pichu with water, and the pokémon scrubbed at his eyes irritably. “When you surf, you don’t resist the waves. You use their power to your advantage.” Brawly caught Keegan’s surprised gaze and grinned. “Likewise, your fear is too powerful to control. So don’t try.”

Disappointment flowed over Keegan like the waves she’d so recently been struggling to surf. “So, what, you’re saying I should just give up and let it control me?” she snapped, her voice clogged with frustration.

To her surprise, Brawly laughed. “Not at all! I never said the waves controlled the surfer, I just said the surfer used the power of the waves. Don’t resist your fear, but don’t let it dictate your actions either. Go with the flow, but understand when it’s time to remove yourself from it. Acknowledge the lesson it’s trying to teach you and use its power to spur you on to greater heights.”

For long moments Keegan sat still, staring at the surface of her board, her sluggish mind trying to absorb this rather cryptic-seeming information and put it to use. She looked at the sea, sparkling in the sunlight which reflected off its blue-green water, as she wondered how on earth her fear could help her.

Then she shook her head unconsciously, her eyes filling with confused tears before squeezing shut. “It’s too hard!” she blurted without meaning to. Her mind was going around in circles, uncertain what she felt or feared anymore.

“What’s too hard?” Brawly asked, and Keegan’s eyes blinked open.

“I… I don’t know,” she answered with honest bewilderment. “Everything.”

Brawly didn’t answer; he just regarded her thoughtfully, drawing one bare foot up onto his board to rest an arm on. “Why are you here?” he asked suddenly. “Why did you decide to surf?”

“To prove I wasn’t afraid.” Keegan answered almost immediately. “To prove that I didn’t need to be.”

“And what did you find out?”

“That I am.” Keegan whispered, ashamed.


“Because out there,” her hand darted towards the water. “I have no control.”

“So what do you do? Give up and mope about the fact you have no control? Or accept the fact you have no control and go along with it anyway?”

“I…” she stared at him wordlessly, her previously sluggish mind suddenly racing, memories and words rapidly coming back to her with clear clarity. The matter was no longer just about accepting her fear of the ocean. It was something more. To give up would mean taking the easy way out. To give up would mean selling out. To give up…

Living might mean taking chances, but they’re worth taking.

…would be to fear what might happen. You made this choice. You made it knowing that bad things might happen. You made it.

Now face it.

And for the second time in her life, Keegan felt that peaceful exhaustion, that serenity borne of weariness in which she knew without a doubt where she stood and that it was good to be alive. She took a deep breath, wiping at her eyes with the heels of her palms. “Thanks. I… thanks.”

Brawly grinned. “Hey, no probs, little dudette,” he said cheerfully, lapsing deliberately back into his surfer’s brogue with a wink. Keegan looked at Pichu to find the pokémon looking back at her with a slightly disappointed look in his eyes, as though he’d wanted her to continue tormenting herself with indecision.

“So what now?” Brawly rested his cheek in his hand, leaning on his knee with expert balance despite the waves still bobbing the surfboard. “You gonna try again?”

Keegan’s eyes drifted to the peaked mountain in the distance, on a belt of land beyond the channel, and touched her pendant for strength against the swath of ocean she still had to cross. “No. There’s something I need to do first. Somewhere I need to go.”

Brawly followed her gaze and grinned once again. “Ah. Fair enough. Maybe you could come out to my hometown of Dewford sometime then. The waves there are just awesome.”

“Yeah,” Keegan smiled at him. “Maybe I will. I’ve got time to spare.”

All the time in the world.

* * *

Where the hell am I? Tynan thought grumpily, glancing around at the rocky bluffs which towered above the ocean. The waves crashed against the darkened, craggy cliffs again and again, leaving nothing but spray. The water-bike bobbed gently, far enough back that Tynan didn’t get splashed. Damn ferry was out of sight by the time I got out of Vermillion.

He sighed. There wasn’t much point in having his murkrow scout for him; the wingull were likely to attack for violation of their territory. And besides, the rocks had to be part of an island, which meant if he followed them for long enough he’d reach a town.

Gripping the leather handlebars, the green-eyed young man gunned the motor and zoomed off along the edge of the nearest bluff, familiar plumes of water spurting out either side. He swerved sharply around the corner, confident in his handling of the bike – only to swear harshly, jerking the bike to the side to avoid crashing into the shiny hull of a boat.

The bike twisted and skidded, juddering harshly as he fought for control. He was almost thrown off, but then managed to kill the motor. The bike came to a stop, swaying on the waves. Tynan wiped salt water from his eyes, running his fingers through his sodden hair, and looked up to glare at the boat.

Just in time to flinch away as a bombardment of thick, muddy water bombs exploding into the sea beside him, casting up a wave which drenched his clothes. The bike swept to the side, drifting to a halt as the wave subsided.

Tynan gunned the motor and stepped on the gas, dodging as another barrage of the messy bombs blasted around him. On the boat’s deck stood a tall man wearing a cap with black hair and sideburns, the short ends of the red scarf tied around his neck whipping in the breeze. In front of him, eyes half lidded and round, jutting maw dripping with excess water was a red octillery, its thick, muscular tentacles wound around the shiny railing on the ship’s edge. But Tynan didn’t see that; what he did see was the bright red ‘R’ imprinted on the front of the man’s black uniform.

Team Rocket?! Stomach clenching in disbelief, Tynan worked the handlebars and the brakes with expert precision, sending the bike into a perfect, graceful 180-degree spin before streaking back the way he’d come, his wet-darkened coat whipping in the wind behind him.

The pokéball which had just recalled the octillery slapped into Ken’s white-gloved hand. “You, you and you, come with me!” he ordered, minimizing the pokéball as he motioned vehemently at several lower-class grunts who’d been up on deck with him. Then he pointed an angry finger at a fourth, who flinched under his superior’s wrathful gesture. “You! You’re in charge!”

With that the agent leapt over the rail and onto one of the water-bikes tethered below, mentally cursing their bad luck. Their work at the Tanoby Ruins was unfinished and there were meant to be no witnesses.

He gunned the motor as the agents dropped down beside him, pelting after the speeding, turquoise-haired figure in the distance.

* * *

Keegan balanced on the surfboard expertly, eyes half closed against the spray of the water which leapt up and lashed her in the eyes. In front, Tarn’s body worked with fluid grace, cutting through the water with the ease of any water pokémon as he towed the board behind him. Around his waist was bound the black Velcro of the safety-line.

Below, Pichu had a death-grip on the peg clipping the tether to the surfboard, one paw stretched with beseeching desperation back towards the main island. His wide triangular ears were whipping about his small head in the wind, his eyes squinted shut.

On the horizon, the shore of the volcano’s island rolled towards them. Within moments they had cruised up onto the smooth, shell-laden sand, letting Keegan to clamber off the surfboard gratefully. Tarn shook the salty water off his slick blue fur, his spiny, fin-like ears wavering slightly. “Great work, Tarn,” Keegan said cheerfully, raising the vaporeon’s pokéball. “You should have a rest before we head back.” The vaporeon dematerialized into thin red light, drawn into the pokéball as Keegan turned about to look up at the volcano thoughtfully.

Still on the surfboard, Pichu bounced anxiously on the end still half floating upon the gently lapping water, paws waving frantically. “Pipipipipi!” he piped shrilly, gesturing anxiously back towards the mainland.

Keegan shook her head. “I’m sorry, Pichu. I had to come. I was planning to come here before I got all depressed and stuff. I see no reason to change that, seeing as how we’re here now.” Her eyes darkened momentarily. “Besides, I… might as well give another legendary a try, right?” her lips twitched up in a slightly forced smile.

Pichu drooped, ears sagging, one paw still held out hopefully towards the strait. Then he snapped out of his momentary funk and balanced fretfully on one foot, both paws waving madly across the channel. “Pipipi!” he cried desperately, but Keegan ignored him, thinking that he was just being difficult.

Despairingly, Orchu allowed himself to tip over, landing with a slap on his belly as he looked out over the water with semi-glassy eyes. He knew he hadn’t given Keegan any reason to realize that this time, he might not be joking. His fur was already grimy with sweat and he shivered; but as far off as the familiar hum was, he could also feel a residual tingle locked into Keegan’s skin.

With a sigh, Orchu heaved himself up and scampered towards Keegan, leaving tiny divots in the sand. Whatever it was he was addicted to, he could feel that it had left a lingering sensation upon the human herself. His best bet would be to stick by her until they returned within range. The beach had been far enough; this wasn’t going to be pretty.

Keegan glanced down at the pichu as he came to her heels, ears wilted in depression, and she grinned. “Don’t worry. It won’t be that bad.” I hope, she added to herself mentally. She hadn’t forgotten the power plant. How could she, with the pichu as a constant reminder by her side?

It doesn’t matter now. What’s done is done. It’s time to get a move on. Tugging resolutely as the belt hanging loosely around her waist Keegan picked her way carefully up the beach, Pichu trailing along behind.

It took a while to climb the narrow, barely-existent path which trailed up the mountain. Occasionally the slope levelled out, revealing scrubby bushes. Most of the pokémon they saw fled long before they came within range, though one or two of the bolder ones perched upon rocks and watched them pass curiously.

“Whoo, are we nearly there?” Keegan grumbled absently, brushing at her sweaty fringe as they paused to rest in the shadowy lee of a cliff. She leaned against a rock, slipping down to sit semi-comfortably at its base, the grainy texture digging into her bare shoulders. I’ll be glad to get back in the water after this. Maybe.

“Cha,” Pichu sighed, scratching his cheek-sacs in weary resignation as he plopped down. For long moments they sat in silence, enjoying the slight breeze which wisped through the crags of the volcano.

Then they heard the echo of unrecognizable voices resounding through the ravine, distorted by the thin hive of gorges. I didn’t know anyone else was here, Keegan thought to herself with a twinge of apprehension. It probably hadn’t been a good idea to leave the surfboard on the beach, in plain view. But she’d been so sure hardly anyone would make the trip… almost before she’d made a decision the girl scrambled to her feet, dusting herself off and moving curiously in the direction of the voices. Wearily Pichu picked himself up and waddled after.

Stepping easily over rough stone, her feet conditioned to walking over coarse surfaces, Keegan fingered her pendant absently as the voices grew clearer. There were two; one was young while the other was deeper and more mature. For a moment she had a flash of déjŕ vu, and a chill crawled down her back. She’d been watching two Rocket agents, one young and one older, in Olivine.

This is different, she told herself sternly. I’m not breaking any rules this time, am I?

Good for you. The smug voice said dryly, but Keegan ignored it and continued on her way. As she rounded a corner, Pichu scurrying at her heels, one of the voices suddenly sounded out clear as a bell, and she froze.

“– why we’re here,” the younger one was saying. He didn’t sound at all petulant, unlike the Rocket in Olivine. On the contrary, he sounded honestly curious. “If we get caught –”

“It’s our job to make sure we don’t get caught,” the other, deep voice said calmly as Keegan crept closer. “But we’re to consider all options. You can bet Team Aqua have taken the other regions into consideration.”

The girl came to a slight bluff overhanging a thin, scrubby valley. Dropping to a crouch, her breathing slow and silent, Keegan inched towards the edge until she reached the rocks mounted on the precipice. Then she peeked over them cautiously until she caught sight of two men standing in the valley below, apparently investigating the rocks.

They were both clad in a baggy, sleeveless grey uniform, clinched at the waist by a belt. The hems of their pants were secured by thick red padding wound around their ankles and boots. Draped over their shoulders was a thick red mantle which reached almost to their waists, their heads covered by a demonic-like hood with twin grey horns set into the material, making it impossible to tell who was who.

“– about the only volcano it was safe to investigate,” the older man was saying as Keegan tuned back in after musing at their unfamiliar appearance. “Cinnibar is overrun by the Rockets and Mount Silver is dead. We’re sure there’re some other, minor ones around somewhere but haven’t found them yet.”

Why would they be interested in volcanos? Keegan wondered, watching as one of the men turned around, revealing a black emblem on the front of his mantle. It looked vaguely like an ‘M’. In his hands was a strange device, the function of which Keegan could only guess.

“What about Moltres?” he asked his companion, revealing himself to be the younger of the two. His face was shaded by the hood, pulled low over his eyes so she couldn't see any of his features. “It’s said to roost in this mountain.”

The other shrugged, brushing the dust of his black gloves and the red material of his wrist-guards. He’d just been examining the scant soil nearby using another strange machine. Idly Keegan noted it was interesting that, unlike the Rockets, these agents seemed to share the work and possessed at least some geniality, if not respect, for each other.

“If it shows up, we’ll catch it,” he answered neutrally. “If not, then it doesn’t matter. So long as we do what we’re here to do.”

That snapped up Keegan’s attention quick smart and her hands clenched momentarily on the rocks. Catch a legendary?! They wouldn’t dare! Then she checked herself for the stupid statement; obviously they would. Her hand drifted down to her belt, touching the pokéballs one by one uncertainly. If Moltres was in the mountain… she had to help it. These men didn’t strike her as the people who’d be unprepared for the catching of a legendary. That's what the Elites - what Lance - would do. They'd help.

“– eruption of the volcano would help Groudon’s power expand into Kanto,” the more experienced agent commented as Keegan focussed her attention upon them once more.

Groudon? Her fingers rested lightly on Hazel’s pokéball as she wondered at the strange name. What’s a Groudon? Sounds like a pokémon.

“Here,” the younger agent tapped at the rock, his attention fixed to the strange, semi-square machine which reminded her of an enlarged pokégear. He had wandered further away from his companion, one hand brushing the wall as though searching for something. “We can get through here. There should be a cave leading straight to the heart of the volcano.” He tucked the device away into his belt, unclipping a pokéball at the same time.

He released an orange and black torkoal, its obsidian shell absorbing the heat of the surrounding rocks and its stumpy legs set firmly to the ground. “I need something to work with here; a crack.”

Instantly his companion dug at his waist for a pokéball and he released a fiery magmar. The air surrounding the vaguely humanoid pokémon rippled and wavered with heat, but neither of the two men seemed fazed by it. “Use rock smash on the cliff,” the agent ordered. Instantly the magmar stepped forward on taloned feet, clenching a clawed fist.

Blazing tail whipping in the air, the long red spines on its back shifting as it drew back its fist, the magmar aimed a blow at the wall. The cliff shuddered, rocking, and Keegan ducked down instinctively; but for the most part, aside from billowing dust, the crag held. Then hairline cracks spread across the cliff-face and the magmar stood back, settling dust hissing against its red and yellow, flame-patterned body.

Keegan stared wide-eyed at the delicate pattern of fractures in the stone. That’s it. Her hand darted for her butterfree’s pokéball.

“Good enough,” the second agent grunted, and motioned his torkoal forward. But he never got a chance to order an attack – he was interrupted by the sound of a pokémon being released. Both men spun around in time to catch the sheets of billowing green dust which swept towards them.

“Ember!” they shouted of their pokémon as one, burning the glittering powder to ash which did nothing more than drift on the wind.

But when it had settled, there was no one and nothing in sight. “Keep on it,” the older of the two grunts ordered, his eyes darting around the surrounding ridges, on alert for the intruder.

His companion turned back to the wall, gesturing at his torkoal. “Use –”

“Shadow ball!” a female voice resounded through the valley. Too late to discover its direction, the men and their pokémon were sent tumbling to the ground as the rocks nearby exploded with wreaths of shadow. Clothes rippling in the wind, arms raised against the scouring dust, they waited for the haze to clear.

When it did it was for them to see Keegan standing atop the weathered boulders lining the ridge, Hazel landing on dainty paws beside her and her butterfree hovering with irritated imperiousness around her head.

The blonde-haired girl glared down at them, her mind racing with a dozen ideas. My element of surprise is gone, I don’t know how many pokémon they have, but hopefully we can match up to them battle-wise – she didn’t see their expressions of utter shock, the way they stared at her as though she was a ghost come back from the grave.

It… it’s not possible! Larry’s disbelieving eyes alighted on the girl’s cherry-blonde hair, its red highlights lit up in the sun of the early afternoon –

It just – can’t be!

– they tracked in mesmerized incredulity to the fire stone pendant around her neck which flashed ruby-bright –

Can it?

– and rested upon the bright-eyed eevee crouched readily on the rocks.

Then time began once again and his heart restarted, the world coming back to him in a slowly dawning whirl of awe. Oh my God… Oh my God… it is! It’s the little fox! He drew up a gasping breath he hadn’t realized he’d forgotten to take, then forced his stunned muscles to listen and staggered to his feet.

What it was he planned to do, he didn’t know. He was stunned, relieved, overjoyed, overwhelmed - but his movement made Keegan jump. Swiftly her hand darted out, returning the glaring butterfree which drifted at her head to its pokéball. Then she turned tail and ran, disappearing into the red-toned rocks as her eevee and a previously unseen pichu skittered after her.

Getting away! With a jolt Larry’s own pokéball lashed out, enveloping his confused-looking magmar in red light. “Brody,” he started to say, to snap his younger companion out of his stunned daze, but his deep voice came out hoarse and broken. He coughed and kicked dust at Brody, his grey pants fluttering. With entranced sluggishness, Brody got to his feet, his eyes locked on the crevice through which Keegan had vanished.

“Larry,” he breathed, his voice distant and shaking with thunderstruck wonder. “Larry, that was –” He stopped, shaking his head slowly from side to side, dumbfounded.

“Yes,” Larry answered grimly, expanding another pokéball. “And she ran. She ran, Brody! Is that the action of a girl who remembers us?” For several moments he gripped the pokéball, staring mutely into the ground. Then he shook his head, his red hood flapping. “We can’t lose her. Not again. Forget the volcano; Keegan is more important than all the volcanos in the world.”

Torkoal’s pokéball fwapped into Brody’s black-gloved hand as he regarded his usually ruefully amusing, completely dedicated companion wordlessly.

Then, spinning another pokéball into his grip, he nodded.


Note to those who may be confused: Brody is NOT the Team Magma agent in the episode 'Unfair Weather Friends' which recently aired. If or when that particular agent appears, he will be referred to by his Japanese name, since I don't think the name 'Brody' suits him.

Twilight Absol
21st June 2005, 4:27 AM
ACK! You can't leave us hanging!!!! *whacks with chopsticks*
Great chapter, oh sooo many happened...and thought provocative too!

*wants to say work of genius, but stops self*

Except for a bit of confusion, there were no mistakes, and it was definitely one of your best....My new fav until further notice! <3

Ahh if it only finished the cliffy!

Billy Bob Pennywhistle
21st June 2005, 8:16 AM
Noooooo!!!! I hate cliffhangers!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They make me wait.... *crys*

That was amazing! AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

*truckload of beer is given to pd, along with a plate of fresh baked cookies I made today*

Not even my da’s pokémon acted like this,

I think you meant dad's, not da's

Wow. I am in awe... wow. I love this fic! It is just so freakin good!

The impatient person inside me is cussing furiously at the wait.

Great, GREAT chappie! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE update very soon... PLEASE!

21st June 2005, 8:56 AM

^.^ hehe, I'm glad you enjoyed it; I certainly enjoyed writing the cliffy :P although I lost count of how many times I rewrote the Brawly and Magma scenes.

*wants to say work of genius, but stops self*

You can say genius, no one's complaining! ^.^

I think you meant dad's, not da's

Nah, I meant da's. I can't imagine Tynan being so informal as to say 'dad' but I can't imagine him saying 'father' either. Unfortunately people tend to pick it up as a mistake... but no, it's not.

Hehehehe... I *might* be able to update very soon *wink* I'll just use your baseball bat of doom to frighten the next chappie into submission!

*cough* actually, I have a feeling it's gonna be more difficult than that ^.^ but hey, with such wonderful people waiting, how can I not?

*munches on cookies and zooms off to MSW with beer in tow*

21st June 2005, 3:31 PM
OMG TIS AMAZING! Doctor P you outdid your self! Can I call you doctor P? And ohh my god that was just soooooo good! Yah I cant wait for the next chapter though, I hate cliffhangers waiting kills u!!! *cries* Ok well good job and I cant wait for the next chappie!

22nd June 2005, 12:41 AM
Cmon!!! It akes me two days top finally get this read and you leave me with her finally meeting her past!!! How cruel you are PD. Well anyway the whole thing was a great joy to read. It was exactly like I was reading from a book with cahpters being installed every once in a while. I love ty- whatever his name is. I always forget names. He's so funny and reminds me of an anime character that I can't remember, or someone else that I can't put my finger on. I really like the story and I hope you update it soon!!!
jirachiman out ;385;

22nd June 2005, 3:03 AM
Hey, a new reviewer! ^.^ *adds to list* Oh, and... *adds legendaryrider to list*

:P Lol, that chappie was just screaming for a cliffy ^.^ hehehe, it's very satisfying watching all your reactions. His name is Tynan, by the way, jirachiman.

And yeah, omegasneasal, you can call me Doctor P :P

It's prolly just as well I didn't post this before Saber left... she prolly would've killed herself out of curiosity - being unable to read it for a month!

Twilight Absol
22nd June 2005, 7:43 AM
xD PD is just soooo cruel, I'm not minding it that much since i've been busy, but I can't wait for saber's reaction...

22nd June 2005, 4:45 PM
I'm back. Sorry about the advertizing. I do have another question. Will we learn more about the butterfree's character? S/he seems kind of bland at the moment. All we really know about her/him is that s/he tried to free some poached pokemon. Other than that, I really like the characters in this fic.

22nd June 2005, 9:26 PM
Great chappie PD!! I can't wait for the next one! I hate cliffhangers, it drives me nuts thinknking about what is going to happen, but I love cliffhangers because they're so suspenseful!!(if that's a word) and since TA didn't say it, It's a work of genius!

23rd June 2005, 3:15 AM

IMA GENIUS!! *hugs snoringfrog and sticks tongue out at Twilight* see, some people love me!

^.^ Lol, sorry, j/k.

Suspenseful is a word, too; at least, I'm pretty sure it is.

Anyway, Teikra, I agree about the butterfree. I thought I pretty much established her as a 'she' in her cameo chappie, but I haven't had a big enough opening to establish her character properly yet. However, there is a chappie coming fairly soon where I might be able to get her to strut her stuff; I'll keep it in mind. Thanks for your honesty ^.^

23rd June 2005, 4:34 PM
that was SO AWSOME. please wright more please oh plsease oh please.
Bright eyes: she still can't spell worth ****^_^.
ZAPDOS ;145; sick him
Bright eyes: eep(runs being chased by zapdos)
^_^ ^_^Hahahaha seves him right whell anyway please wright more. ;151;

24th June 2005, 2:39 AM
aghhh! No fair leaving us hanging! So Keegan forgot about team Magma... same with Hazel?

24th June 2005, 4:15 AM
I'm not exactly sure what's gong on with Hazel. Actually I was rather hoping no one would point that out :P

At the moment, I'm toying with the idea that pokemon may not have long memories; since I figure it's a logical trait in animals. But that feels like a cop-out, even to me. I'll figure it out by the next chappie, though :P so keep an eye out for that.

And dun worry legendaryrider ^.^ I'll be writing more, promise.

Now, if I can only get some closet readers to review *coughmr.blonderyutckcough* *winks*

25th June 2005, 6:17 PM
thank you purple drake
Bright eyes: hola pd como estas
he means hi purple drake how are you he used to speake spanish but i taught him english so i would not have to spend long hour try to desipher what he said. Anyway thank you be cause i know a few people who have not posted anything for a month.

29th June 2005, 3:50 AM
Phew, sorry for being a day late :P real life actually intervened for once.

^.^ Anyway. Enjoy.

~ XII ~


She scrabbled over the crumbling rocks of the path, her feet aching and heart pounding, her breath coming in short gasps. Enfolded in one elbow was a shivering Pichu, his fur matted with sweat and his paws gripping her arm feebly as he condescended to be carried. His short legs had made it impossible for him to keep up on the rough ground.

At her heels, Hazel was bounding over pebbles and scrawny bushes, her paws quite often skating dangerously on the sand and debris. The white ruff around her neck was tinged a dusty brown and her long fur was caught with twigs.

When they reached the beach, Keegan sank down into the sand, gasping. Pichu was still clutched to her stomach, draped almost listlessly over her arm. Hazel, panting hard, pricked her long ears towards the mountains, her paws slipping and sliding over the loose white-gold granules of the shore.

The crashing surf drove her to distraction, so much so she couldn’t even hope to pick up the echoes of pursuit in the mountains. She soon gave up; instead her ears went back in thought and her eyes darkened in remembrance. The scent of those men had shifted something in her memory, something she’d known long ago but had set aside and forgotten.

Before she could recall it any further, Keegan’s voice interrupted her. “Haze, c’mon!”

Shaking out of her reverie, Hazel turned about to follow as Keegan lurched wearily towards the surfboard. And that was when her sharp ears caught it: the sound of buzzing wings. The sound of pursuit. “Eeeeebuii!” she yowled, her fur bristling as she bared her teeth towards the mountains.

Instantly Keegan spun about, startled, her bare feet kicking up sand. In the distance, amongst the crags of the mountains, she caught sight of two red-and-grey clad figures, held aloft by a sleek bird and a buzzing dragonfly. “Oh, ****!” she cursed, turning about once more and breaking into a staggering run towards the surfboard as she fumbled at her belt for Tarn’s pokéball.

The vaporeon flashed into existence by the lapping, foamy water as Keegan set Pichu down none too gently on the surfboard. Hazel jumped aboard as the girl began pushing it out, feverishly binding the Velcro harness around Tarn’s slender waist. “We gotta go, fast as you can!” Keegan ordered through breaths, her usual trepidation of the ocean engulfed by the very real fear of what those agents would do if they caught her. “Towards the rocks on the reef!” Maybe we can lose them, if we don’t crash first – the thought sent a shiver down her spine.

“Vuuuuubruun,” Tarn resonated, paddling through the water easily as Keegan clambered onto the rocking surfboard. He didn’t seem at all fazed by the sense of impending danger. On the contrary, he appeared delighted at the chance for some more constructive exercise and Hazel found the opportunity to roll her eyes at him as she steadied herself against the board’s rocking.

The drone of the vibrava seemed ominously close now, but despite the fact the skin of her shoulders crawled with fear of attack Keegan knew she didn’t have time to look around. “Go!” She shouted, crouched on the surfboard, holding Hazel and Pichu steady as Tarn put his dainty nose to the water. He surged forward with a sudden burst of speed, throwing up twin plumes of spray as he cleaved through the cove. Pichu once again took refuge at the pin of the tether, broad ears lashing, as Keegan regained her balance with the familiar ease of something similar to water-chariot racing.

The board pitched from side to side against Tarn’s backlash of speed, taking some moments to right itself; moments in which Keegan couldn’t afford to glance back. She also knew she’d have to concentrate on keeping the board balanced, but Hazel, gripped securely against Keegan’s bare leg by one of the girl’s hands, had her huge eyes on the approaching agents. No other choice.

“If they get too close, shadow ball ‘em,” Keegan ordered through gritted teeth, raising a hand against her hair lashing in her eyes. Hazel nodded briskly, struggling to see past the whipping strand of her own fur, but Keegan didn’t see it. She was too busy concentrating on rising to a stand without making the board tip over as the sea sped past around her.

Hazel lay close as she could on the board to avoid being knocked around. She ignored the thick, coarse feel of the salt in her fur and kept her eyes on the approaching men. No longer specks in the distance, they seemed to loom shockingly near, hovering just above the ocean. The buzz of the vibrava’s four emerald, diamond-shaped wings couldn’t be heard but the mere menace of their presence was enough. How close is close?! Hazel thought to herself desperately, eyes half squinted shut. Doesn’t matter. Better a granbull than a ghost.

She opened her muzzle, taking in a deep breath to power another writhing shadow ball. It roiled in her mouth, wisping veins licking and tickling over her nose and fur. Then she unleashed it towards the men, claws digging into the board against the backlash as the sphere seared the surface of the channel.

Brody swore as his agile swellow banked with a jerk, narrowly missing the dark shadow ball as it shot past them. The dust lashed at his exposed skin, choking him momentarily before Swellow’s beating, blue-feathered wings cleared it. The bird’s claws were digging so hard into his shoulders he was sure blood would soon be drawn, his hands going slightly numb.

“Vibrava, use –” to his left and slightly ahead of him, Brody heard Larry begin the instinctive command before checking himself with a curse. Neither of them could retaliate – they meant to capture Keegan, not hurt her.

“Fan out!” Brody shouted into the pokégear clipped onto the thick material of his wrist guard. He tapped at Swellow’s claw and instantly the bird banked once again, wrenching at his shoulders. The ocean sped past beneath him, but ahead he could see the tall pillars of the eastern reef. His sharp mind realized instantly that Keegan meant to lose them among the close-set rocks.

Oh, no, no, no! Hazel whined, the sound lost to the rushing wind as she glanced from one man to the other. They were both low to the water, now too far on either side for her to hit them both. She squeezed her eyes shut, frantically searching her mind for an alternative. What else can I do? I know there’s more than just the ghost-shadows, I know there is! Oh, Ancients, Keepers of Knowledge, tell me!

And then it came to her, out of the bowels of her memory: an attack whose substance was drawn from the force of the surrounds. Rising onto her only half-steady paws, Hazel snarled. Her fur bristled, lashing wildly as it was lit with a strange pearly glow. The ocean rippled, shifted; the water rose up in a huge wave, ready to crash down upon the two men which flitted beneath its towering peak.

Brody cursed as the height of the wave broke, sheets of water cascading down into the ocean. Swellow flared frantically, her wings beating madly, braking their speed with a violent jerk that cut claw-marks into Brody’s shoulders. Yet despite its sheer size and menace, the wave wasn’t a true one at all. It drove them back beneath its ethereal essence, a shadow of a wave with little real force behind it.

It was enough to send Brody and Swellow tumbling, almost bombing into the water before Swellow righted their flight path with energetic beats of her long-feathered wings. The water sprayed in a circle about them, her feathers almost brushing the foamy tips of the light surf. The shadow-wave evaporated into the sea as Brody ran a hand through his shaggy, lurid apricot-coloured hair in frustration. His clothes were relatively dry, mostly untouched by the wet, but his hood had come off in the blast and he tugged it back up self-consciously.

Off to his side, Larry had just regained altitude. The segmented, cream-coloured tail of the vibrava lashed wildly as his diamond-shaped wings buzzed furiously for height. But it was too late; for now they had fallen far behind and Keegan had reached the reef.

Down below, Keegan’s hands shot out, flailing dangerously wildly as she leaned with the turn around the tall rock which ascended from the crashing ocean. She had no leash to use to counterbalance herself, but not for nothing had Ross been the constant champion of the Alto Mare chariot races. Keegan knew she could’ve had no better teacher.

If there’s any way I can outride these guys, it’s only because of Ross. For a moment Keegan felt a pang on homesickness, but she forced her mind to the present as Tarn streaked around another sharp corner, sending up spray over the weathered pillar of stone.

Unprepared for the sudden turn, Brody and Larry swept straight past.

Hazel patted Keegan’s foot with soft paw, her mews lost in the wind. Keegan chanced a quick look backwards to see empty space between the close-standing pillars. She found the time to breathe a quick sigh of relief before turning her attention back to the surfboard. The water was rough around the pillars, crashing and swirling with foam. It was dark and looked deep; she did not want to fall in, and not just because that meant capture.

That was when one of the men exploded through the spray beside them, the vibrava swooping down towards them as the agent’s clothes fluttered in the air. Tarn’s eye rolled back to view the man through the foam and he swerved sharply as Keegan dropped to crouch. The man passed near overhead, his clutching fingers brushing Keegan’s whipping blonde hair before the vibrava lurched around a pillar in its way.

Heart pounding in surprise, Keegan got shakily to her feet. “Keep an eye out!” she shouted to Hazel and Pichu. Hazel nodded with wide-eyed, slightly shocked determination but Keegan had her doubts Pichu even heard. The electric pokémon remained gripped to the tether, curled up in a shaking, sweat-drenched ball.

“She’s good,” Brody muttered forebodingly into his pokégear, ignoring his aching shoulders as he watched Keegan ride the board skilfully around another corner. He was hovering just above the pillars and could sometimes glimpse her as she flashed through turns. “Almost like she was taught by the Aquas themselves.”

Larry’s head shot up to look at Brody from lower on the water as the older agent made off in pursuit of the girl. For an instant their eyes met and then Larry’s grim voice crackled over the pokégear’s speakers. “Don’t even think it.”

Brody remained silent. He didn’t like the idea himself – and he knew it would kill Maxie if it was true. As he trailed after his partner, Swellow’s wing beats faltering tiredly, he could only pray it wasn’t.

“Set down,” Brody warned Larry, speaking into his pokégear as Swellow deposited him gratefully on a stone with a flurry of wings. The bird crouched low over his shoulders wearily and he patted the red blaze which ran from her beak over her slim head, absently regarding the rough ocean which crashed between the pillars as she trilled contentedly deep in her throat.

This can’t go on, he thought silently, raising his arm to track Larry’s position on the tiny map of the upgraded pokégear. Swellow’s getting tired; she can’t use her agility properly while she’s carrying me. And Vibrava’s going to tire out sooner or later. He wished fervently that the Sevii’s communication range wasn’t outside that of the normal network – they might have been able to call for backup otherwise.

Doesn’t matter now. He took a deep breath, closing his eyes to take in the soothing sound of the crashing waves; the salty smell of the ocean; Swellow’s smooth feathers beneath his fingers; the feel of the wind tugging at his clothes. Action wasn’t his forte, and he knew it. It was Larry’s ability to think and act instinctively in the heat of battle. It was Brody’s to plan and strategise.

And that was what he did now; as still as the rock upon which he stood, aside from the fluttering of his mantle and pants and the constant, soothing movement of his hand upon Swellow’s head. Finally he raised the pokégear without opening his eyes, speaking with a great deal of calm. “Let her go.”

There was a pause in which Brody looked up towards the mountain that loomed surprisingly close; the one which ranged on the eastern side of Knot Island. Then, “What?” Larry asked incredulously through the pokégear.

“I’ve got a plan.” Was Brody’s only reply.

* * *

The bike’s motor roared harshly as Tynan cursed, jerked the handlebars into a sharp turn as one of the Rocket grunts erupted from behind the jutting grey rock. His knee almost scraped the foamy surface of the water and his damp coat dipped momentarily beneath as he leaned away, the Rocket barely missing him as the purple golbat on his arm swathed razor-sharp wings towards him. The bike skidded across the face of the ocean as Tynan fought for control, pitching this way and that.

“Golbat, go! Air cutter!” the grunt shouted, taking advantage of Tynan’s difficulty to attack. Instantly Tynan spun the handles, sending the bike into a sharp, not-altogether controlled 180-degree slide. Behind him the wind sliced into the water, casting up thin sheets of foam and spray before it settled.

Tynan stepped on the gas and the bike surged towards the grunt. The trainer’s face was grim, his turquoise hair whipping in the draught, and suddenly the grunt realized he meant to ram him –

Panicking, the Rocket twisted his handlebars and leaned away, his golbat flapping its wings frantically to keep its balance on his arm. The bike listed to the side as Tynan streaked past, casting up a thick wave over the grunt and making him splutter in the salty water.

“You idiot!” The hapless agent heard through the slight ringing in his ears, legacy of the loud engines. “Knot Island is over there!” Ken raged as he pulled to a coasting stop beside the drenched grunt. “We can’t let him get into the inhabited areas, you fool!” With a violent shove and a growling curse, Ken knocked the agent off his bike in punishment, leaving him and his golbat to flounder in the deep water as the first of the Elite Trio sped off after Tynan, his red scarf flapping.

Giving their flailing, gasping companion only a fleeting glance as he caught hold of the bike’s leather seat, the other two followed.

Ken gritted his teeth in frustration at the speeding green figure in the near distance. His eyes narrowed and he stepped further on the pedal, but the bike was already going at its top speeds. His cap kept threatening to blow off in the wind and his scarf was tugging annoying at his throat.

Damn him! Ken swore inwardly, his eyes flickering to the island which was sprawled close at hand. They were entering inhabited areas, where it would be dangerous to maintain pursuit and make it easier for the boy to escape. And that incompetent fool – he should’ve slowed the brat down regardless of damage to himself! He grinded his teeth angrily. Never mind. His attention flashed among the rocks which were approaching in the distance, considering a new plan to ambush the trainer.

And then, quite suddenly, his eyes were drawn to something else, something infinitely more important: two red-and-grey figures flying urgently towards the mountain ranging on the eastern shore of the island.

* * *

The billowing warmth within the hot springs’ locker room hit Keegan’s bare skin in a burst of thick, almost suffocating fog. A shiver ran across her bare shoulders at the sudden change in temperature and she tugged fitfully at the belt secured loosely around her slender waist, glancing about the empty, rock-hewn chamber nervously as her damp hair bounced around her neck. Hazel was now contained securely within her pokéball. Though Keegan had no doubt the eevee would have liked to wash the salt out of her fur at the springs, the girl didn’t want to waste any time.

At her heels, Pichu bounded along with relieved energy, his eyes bright and fur sodden with the damp of the inner room. He had regained his vigour as they approached the shore. Keegan could only guess it was because he was glad to be off the water, much as she was.

Off the water, but perhaps not out of danger. Should’ve left and gone to the police straight away, Keegan scolded herself for the umpteenth time, her stomach coiling and uncoiling with apprehensive regret as she twisted the key the facility had lent her, tugging the stainless steel door of the locker open vehemently. Figures I’d screw up again… just after I get over my depression… well, I’ll be damned if I’m going to let myself feel like that again. I’ll just go to Jenny now, maybe the agents haven’t left, though if they’re smart they would’ve scarpered right after they lost me –

Padding around the edges of the room, tiny nose wrinkled against the stifling smog, Pichu suddenly paused. His broad, black-lined ears flickered up inquisitively and his button-like eyes scanned the rock walls barely visible through the thick haze. On one wall was a patch of darkened shadow – a door into the next chamber, which the pichu remembered contained more lockers. As he watched, another cloud of steam billowed from within the adjoining chamber. Then, all at once, the cloying mist overtook him and he slumped to the damp, rocky ground.

Keegan tugged her bag out of the locker, slinging it over her shoulder without noticing Pichu had collapsed. Nor had she noticed that the fog had grown inexplicably thicker or that the fumes were harsh on her throat as she breathed. Then a wave of dizziness swept over her and before she knew what was happening her legs had buckled, sending her twirling into unconsciousness.

“Good.” Larry hurried out of the shadows of the next room, where he and Brody had lain in wait, and lifted Keegan gently so she sat against the steel lockers. He brushed her fringe from her forehead lightly, with a pang of remembrance. Larry had been one of Keegan’s constant companions when she was young. “She’ll be all right, yes?” the older agent asked as Brody trailed after, his torkoal stumping at his heels. Smoke was wisping from the ridged hole in the centre of the pokémon’s obsidian shell to mingle with the haze.

Brody nodded, returning Torkoal to her pokéball. “The smoke should’ve been filtered by the steam,” he answered, stopping to pick Pichu up gently. He cradled the little pokémon in his elbow, absently brushing at his ruffled fur. “So there shouldn’t be any lasting harm in breathing it in.” Still, he frowned. Using Admin Tabitha’s signature sleeping-smoke trick seemed to bode ill. “I’m just not sure it was a good idea to do this to the little fox, of all people.”

“You said yourself she’ll be fine,” Larry was quick to reassure him, slipping Keegan’s nondescript grey bag over his own shoulder.

“We can fix that!” an unfamiliar voice snarled from the door. Instinctively Larry jerked for his pokéballs, Brody only a little slower as he cursed himself for letting down his guard. But they weren’t quick enough; for the next instant a barrage of muddy water bombs slammed into them, sending Brody slipping on the slick floor. His head collided against the rocky ground with a hard crack, putting him out cold as Pichu flopped, still unconscious, against his wet and muddy clothes. Caught in the chest, Larry was driven back against the lockers with a clang. Winded and dazed he struggled for breath, but didn’t manage to retaliate before a swift, white-gloved fist knocked him out.

“Tie ‘em up,” Ken ordered the grunts accompanying him, rubbing his fist as his octillery squelched at his feet, its tentacles rolling across the floor. Instantly the agents leapt to do so, but one hesitated.

“And the girl, sir?” he asked uncertainly, gesturing at Keegan, still lying limply against the lockers. Ken considered her thoughtfully, judging the circumstances carefully. She probably didn’t know the Rockets were on Sevii, but what did she have to do with the Magmas?

Hidden far down the rocky corridor, his green coat and white shirt clinging to him in the humidity, Tynan watched through the still-open doorway, his damp fringe shading his eyes. He’d followed the Rockets out of curiosity once they’d forgone their pursuit, wondering at their purpose on Sevii. Makes no never mind to me, he decided, craning his neck to catch a glimpse of a grey uniform. But who are those other guys?

He risked a glance down the hall adjacent to him. The thick fog of the springs obscured much of the indoors and the complex was large enough that no one heard a thing in the muffling halls. Turning back to the locker-room, he studied Keegan’s sodden locks, obscuring her face. He could only just see her, half hidden by the wall. Stupid girl, he thought irritably, turning around to walk away silently. Getting herself mugged. Eh, she’s got nothing of value, so the Rockets are sure to let her go. And when she reaches Vermillion, I’ll be waiting – I’ve had enough of these damnable islands.

Anxious to get out of the stifling steam, he didn’t notice the vibration of a pokéball at his waist.

Within the device, Brother snarled and pushed once again. His mouth was filled with the taste of the humans and something else – Bairn. Bairn, exhausted; Bairn, locked within his own red-and-white prison. Go back! He screeched furiously, fruitlessly. He knew those humans in black were bad, knew if they got hold of Bairn they’d have no mercy, knew they were dangerous and evil – but they continued to travel away. Doesn’t he know, doesn’t he realize?! Brother looked hatefully up at his ‘trainer’ and hissed. So be it. Turn away from Bairn once more, and I’ll make you pay.

* * *

“Well?” Lt. Surge demanded, crossing his thick arms over his zipped up army jacket. The bare steel hull behind him boasted several small portholes, through which the ocean could be seen stretching out into the distance.

“Nothing,” Ken grumbled, standing with his own arms folded over his black uniformed chest. “Sir,” he added somewhat belatedly, but Surge didn’t seem to notice his slip-up. It was Sabrina who commanded total – and often fearful – respect from her underlings, not Surge.

“Ah, well,” Surge turned away to the porthole of the cruise ship, absently rubbing under his nose with a finger. “We always knew the Tanoby Ruins would be a long shot.” Not, the burly sailor reflected with a scowl, that it wouldn’t be nice to be given a bloody break.

“Fortunately we didn’t come away empty-handed.” Ken offered to his superior’s broad back.

“Eh?” Surge turned about as Ken tapped at the screen inset into a console on the opposite wall. It flickered for an instant before showing an image of three unconscious and restrained people still contained within the cargo hold of Ken’s ship. Upon seeing the semi-familiar red-and-grey uniforms in which two of them were clad, far from being angered, Surge just rubbed his square chin thoughtfully. “Heh,” he murmured. “The Aquas and the Magmas? Kanto and Johto are getting just too damned popular.”

Besides, now that the Magmas are in our hands, at least we can try and get something out of ‘em. His hard eyes focussed on the blonde-haired young woman slouched in a corner. Draped over her legs was a fur-ruffled pichu. “Who’s the girl?” he demanded.

Ken shrugged. “The Magmas wanted her for something. I thought she might know why they were here.”

Surge considered that, hardly listening as Ken reported the incident fully. “Move them to the hold of the S.S. Aqua,” Surge ordered once the agent had finished. “I’ll ship ‘em off to Cinnibar. We’re leaving soon for another run and there’s no Justice there to interfere.” His lips rose in a sneer. “Apart from Blaine, of course, but one man is hardly going to do anything.”

There came a slightly hesitant knock at the thick steel door. “What?” Surge snarled before it cracked open to reveal a familiar, glossy-haired redheaded agent. “Eh,” Surge grunted as the Rocket slipped inside quickly, shutting the door behind him. “Good. Ken, I want you to go to Johto next – the Aquas have been sighted in Ecruteak. Find out if they’re anywhere else and find out why. And take the pantywaist with you.” The sailor jerked a thumb at the redheaded Rocket, only to notice he was staring at the still active screen.

“That’s her!” the redhead blurted out, jabbing vehemently at the screen and clenching his other white-gloved fist. “That’s the girl who was in Goldenrod!”

Surge was only surprised for an instant; then a grin spread over his rough face and he laughed. It was a full-bodied, triumphant laugh which echoed through the room, making the redhead flinch. “Well, what luck,” Surge grinned. “Turns out she does know something after all, Ken.” But he didn’t wait to see either of his underlings’ answer; merely turned about once again, to study the screen in interest. “Awright, get going, the both of you. I wanna leave as soon as possible.”

Thus it was barely fifteen minutes later when the cruise S.S. Aqua coasted gently from the side of the harbour, the sailors busy on the slick wooden deck as they carted wooden crates down into the hold.

None of them noticed the lithe figure which darted past their lumbering, booted feet and down into the concealing shadows.

Tynan watched as the sleek ship sailed away from Vermillion, trailing rippling, foamy water behind it. His teeth were gritted in frustration, one fist clenched furiously as his coat swirled about his legs gently. His other hand was wrapped with a bloodstained green silk handkerchief.

Why?! He raged inwardly. Why me?! Stupid girl, gets herself captured – stupid Rockets, messing up my plans! Not long after abandoning the water-bike, out of fuel and engine overheated, he had chanced across the S.S. Aqua and had seen as several sailors and one semi-discreet Rocket transferred Keegan across from the sleek sloop he’d seen at the Sevii to the larger cruise ship.

And after that his temper had burst its seams. It had occurred to him, briefly, that perhaps he was too used to knowing things and thus assumed too much, but that self-derogatory thought was quickly lost within an onslaught of further rage. As he’d begun wandering angrily up the empty street away from the harbour, the umbreon had burst its pokéball and vanished into the shadows of the warehouses lining the docks. When he’d gone for his pokéballs, it’d bitten him; by the time he’d recovered from his fit of cursing and storming, the black-and-yellow pokémon had disappeared.

Tynan scowled dangerously, his uninjured hand touching the space on his soft belt where the umbreon’s pokéball had once rested. Meh, that bloody umbreon was more trouble than it’s worth.

His eyes darkened as the ship continued to fade into the distance, his thoughts turning back to Keegan. At least she got something she bloody well deserved – but what the hell do the Rockets want with her anyway? He pondered that thought as he spun about on his heel and began striding stiffly towards Vermillion’s Pokémon Centre. Useless, arrogant little know-it-all… how the hell am I meant to beat her now? God knows the gym battles aren’t working…

His hand dipped briefly into a pouch on his belt, raising the rainbow-coloured, flower-shaped badge he’d won from Erika. Now after all this time, I’m only even with her – one badge each. Lucky she didn’t go to Erika for a gym battle…

And then in a series of leaps, his mind came to a sudden and not completely unlikely conclusion. She didn’t go to Erika for a gym battle. She went for another reason. She said it was urgent. She said she had a message from Bill the pokémaniac. And both of them work for the Pokémon Association – both of them are enemies of Team Rocket…

He smirked. Oh, so that was it. She’d been asked to run a message for some superiors and apparently decided she was good enough to go legendary-hunting. It now seemed likely the Rockets wanted this message, whatever the hell it’d been. Well then. That changes some things.

He stepped down a different path, beside a road just as wide as the one he’d just been walking along, and headed for the guardhouse north of Vermillion.

Billy Bob Pennywhistle
29th June 2005, 4:00 PM

I only found 1 error...

At her heels, Hazel was bounding over pebbles and scrawny bushes, her paws quite often skating dangerously on the sand and debris. The white ruff around her neck was tinged a dusty brown, and her long was fur caught with twigs.

I think it's fur was.

Anyway, this was a really great chapter! The magmas have Keegan, the Rockets have the magmas and Keegan. I wonder what Maxie would say if he knew Keegan was alive. Wow.... fabulous story! It deserves much beer!

*has dumptruck full of beerdelivered to pd*

*bakes the largest cake ever and puts it on top of the beer*

There! Update soon! Bat IS ready if needed!

29th June 2005, 5:33 PM
Great chapter PD. The description on the chase was awesome. Can't wait until the next chap is up.

29th June 2005, 11:04 PM
that was awsome and you will be happy to know that my pokemon are on a criuse for a year. YES! So hazel stated to remembering team magma cool.
The rockets have keegan, larry and brody. And Brody and Larry have keegan?
So confusing o.0.

30th June 2005, 3:05 AM
I think it's fur was.

>.< How'd that get in there?! :P Thanks for pointing it out.

I wonder what Maxie would say if he knew Keegan was alive.

Hehehe... ^.^ I think that's the prevalant question in this thread... I can't wait til I write that scene... (yes, there is going to be a scene like that. You didn't think I'd be so crazy as to disappoint you like that, did you?)

^.^ Thankies for the beer AND the cake (though I like tarts or doughnuts better :P) Unfortunately, this next chappie is going to require a great deal of thinking, and some very careful writing... so I can't gaurentee my updating too quickly :P But I can try.

^.^ Thanks to all three of you, I'm glad you enjoyed it! (although I was pretty iffy about it... but that's beside the point...)

Billy Bob Pennywhistle
30th June 2005, 6:19 AM
Tarts and doughnuts. Right. Mental note made.

Well, my super mega bat is alway here if you need it. I've added little spikes on the end... ;)

Good luck! And I can't wait to read it! *bounces up in down out of sheer impatience*

Twilight Absol
30th June 2005, 8:49 PM
hmmmm, not bad, not bad at all, lots of action, and the ending was certainly a nice conclusion to the chapter. I woulda expected Moltres to appear though =/ maybe its not as predictable as I thought it was....and Darn those rockets! just when Keegan was about to findout her identity...i have a question though, what move did Hazel use to create the wave?

And I'm afriad there's some confusion going on:

The drone of the vibrava seemed ominously close now, but despite the fact the skin of her shoulders crawled with fear of attack Keegan knew she didn’t have time to look around. “Go!” She shouted, crouched on the surfboard; she held Hazel and Pichu steady as Tarn put his dainty nose to the water.

I'm curious why you lowercased Vibrava and capitalized Pichu, care to explain?

1st July 2005, 1:43 AM
TA, she capitalized Pichu because that is its actual name,what it is called. Vibrava was not capitalized because it was being used as a nonspecific name, if the trainer of Vibrava had said "Vibrava" it would have been capitalized because it would have been used as a name, not a unspecific one. I think :)

1st July 2005, 2:27 AM
Well, my super mega bat is alway here if you need it. I've added little spikes on the end...

^.^ lol, much appreciated.

I woulda expected Moltres to appear though =/ maybe its not as predictable as I thought it was....and Darn those rockets! just when Keegan was about to findout her identity...i have a question though, what move did Hazel use to create the wave?

Well, you can't really expect the birds to be in the exact place Keegan is all the time, can ya? :P I figured the chances of Moltres actually being there at that exact time were slim, so he simply didn't appear.

The move Hazel used was Secret Power; it's power remains the same but when you use it it's looks changes to suit the environment, see? In the game, though, when you use it, it also has a stat negating effect... >.< I had a helluva time trying to distinquish it from Nature Power, because there's no such stats in my story.

TA, she capitalized Pichu because that is its actual name,what it is called. Vibrava was not capitalized because it was being used as a nonspecific name, if the trainer of Vibrava had said "Vibrava" it would have been capitalized because it would have been used as a name, not a unspecific one. I think

Spot on, SnoringFrog. If you'll notice, Twilight, I also capitalise 'vibrava' several times too, because that's when they're calling him by name; and I lowercase 'pichu' when he's not being referring to by name (he is, eventually, going to accept a nickname from someone - but not Keegan).

^.^ Glad you enjoyed.

9th July 2005, 8:12 PM
GAH!!! Why must you torture me with her sitll not knowing of her past??? WHY!!! O well great chapter, had to read via e-mail so I have no idea if the mistake I did find got fixed. It wasn't much though. Well great job. I liked but I don't like being kept in suspense, especially when in forums where they are updated so slowly and you can't read it unitl they freaking post it. Ah well. great job for the third time.
jirachiman out 385;

9th July 2005, 11:42 PM
Gah! I'm beginning to really hate Team Rocket...

10th July 2005, 3:43 AM
*innocently* Don't you like being tortured, jirachiman? Well, you better get used to it. *cough*

Heh, yeah, sorry about the updating thing :P I went on a reading frenzy, and my attention was focussed on finishing a short story I started yonks ago. The link for that is now in my sig; meanwhile the next chappie will hopefully be done before I go away for a few days on Tuesday. So far it's looking pretty good ^.^ I shouldn't have any problems.

@ Korimura: :P Good. Hate Team Rocket... hate Team Rocket... ^.^ glad you both enjoyed, and thanks for reviewing.

Twilight Absol
19th July 2005, 10:49 AM
Have ya slacked off while I wasn't on, PD, You seem to be having a lotta trouble with this fic :-P If ya need help, contact me >.>

20th July 2005, 2:56 PM
^.^ Thanks Twilight, I appreciate it *huggles* Yus, I admit I have been slacking off. I tend to go to extremes - when I get passionate about something my life revolves around that one thing.

Unfortunately, where that obsession was once pokemon and writing, it is now Star Wars and reading (yus, I only recently saw Episode 3). All of which means my chappies won't be coming as quickly as they once did (not that they were very consistant anyway :P). But I want you to know I don't intend to give up on this fic, so don't be afraid of it fading into the bowels of the forum.

Zephyr Soul
26th July 2005, 2:52 PM
Um... hi. I just wanted to say that your story is AWESOME! You're the only reason I registered here.:) I've been reading it for quite a while.

27th July 2005, 3:09 AM
Oh! ^.^ Wow, I'm flattered, and glad you're enjoying it. I should really get my butt in gear and finish the next chappie, huh?

27th July 2005, 3:19 AM
OOOOOOOOOH! Tynan is..........evil! o.O And I love PICHU!

o.o Sorry I haven't reviewed in so long. I still love your story.


Brian Random
27th July 2005, 5:33 PM
I deeply apologies for not reviewing your after a while, PD but I’ve been busy with the job searching, driving lessons and such. In short, life sucks.

I deeply apologies for not reviewing your fic for a while, PD but I’ve been busy with the job searching, driving lessons and such. In short, life sucks.

Chapter III:
A couple of grammar mistakes here and there (I don’t think ‘wayhouse’ is a word. Don’t you mean ‘warehouse’?) Keegan can be so predictable because of her undying sense of adventure but then again that’s what makes her exciting. The actions were great but, for some reason, they didn’t blow me away.

When it was coming to the end where Keegan was told to go to Kanto if she wanted to find her past I was looking forward to what would happen next cos I was thinking that would find some ‘spark’ on the future chapters.

Chapter IV:
Once again, PD, a couple of grammar and spelling mistakes spotted but I really enjoyed the battle scenes and for once I have to say that I have found the ‘spark’.

One thing that got in suspense of what will that Umbreon do when he sees Tarn with Keegan. Well, I’ll be R&R’ing more of this fanfic. See ya!

28th July 2005, 4:32 AM
Oh! ^.^ Hello, Brian. I thought you'd forgotten about me, but I don't like to push people to read my story if they don't want to, so I didn't say anything. It's nice to see you still are reading.

Job searching and driving lessons are two phrases I keep on hearing quite often as well *shudder* so good luck with those.

Now, I don't suppsoe in future reviews you could point out the grammar mistakes? Or if they're generalized, then tell me what they are so I can go through and at least find them on my own? :P Thanks.

Anyway, in answer: no, technically 'wayhouse' is not a word :P but I'm sure I have seen it on published books, and I figured if no one knew what it meant they'd have mentioned it, right?

^.^ I'm glad you've found 'dah spark', and rest assured that Brother (that's the umbreon) will play major parts in the story. Brother and Tarn's relationship is actually one of my favourite things to write about, so I hope I manage to write it to standard. If you wanted to read up on some of their background, I wrote a short story about them called 'Brother My Brother' - the link's in my sig (that's not an official request, so it's up to you).

Thanks again for the review, and I hope you enjoy the rest of it ^.^

Oh - :P I didn't reply to you Saber, 'cause I didn't know what to say, but I figured I'd better let you know you're not ignored. I'll *try* and get a new chappie soon... but I've started getting into my non-pokemon novel... ah, well, see how it goes.

Billy Bob Pennywhistle
2nd August 2005, 5:15 AM
If you'd like, you can always barrow my bat.

...have a doughnut.

8th August 2005, 3:38 PM
wow, purple drake, that is a really awesome story, i love it and i cant wait for the next chapter, i cant wait!

we wante chaptery naow!!!!!!!!!(hugs it)

Zephyr Soul
8th August 2005, 4:20 PM
Yes... put a new chapter up soon, please!

11th August 2005, 6:00 PM
Yeah pleasie new chapter it is soo good :)

12th August 2005, 2:18 AM
Uh.... *sweatdrop* The new chapter's coming along quite well considering I've had major writer's block/procrastination - I can't promise you exactly *when* it will be done, but hopefully it will be sometime in the next week. Until then keep your pants on and only post if it's relevant to the story - while I'm flattered you like the fic so much, 'nooooooooo' classifies as spam, so please don't do it.

17th August 2005, 3:11 AM

YUS! This is an update! I apologise it took so long, but I had a phase of writer's block, writer's procrastination, an interest in other things and some general all-round laziness.

Oh, yeah, Achamo-chan ^.^ in answer to that question I keep forgetting (at least, I think I kept forgetting... now I can't even remember if I answered or not... oh well) - the redheaded Rocket grunt is just a random grunt whom I happened to take a liking to. Originally he was only gonna be in there for one scene, but I liked him, so he got a repeat role. He's an original character, so no, Ash-tachi haven't met him before.

SO! Let's get on with teh show! It's in two posts <_< again. gah, annoying... ANYWAY! There's some swearing and such in here :P Enjoy!

~ XIII ~


Several matte black trucks trundled along the dirt road, the darkness hanging around them like a blanket as they travelled with soft engines towards their destination. The landscape was dull with warm stone which muffled the sound of the vehicles as their wheels skidded and crunched over the loose, dusty track.

The one at the back of the small convoy bucked and juddered, rolling over a large pebble. Inside, Lt. Surge cursed as the crate he was sitting on bucked, threatening the throw him off. Across from him Keegan bounced against a huge wooden crate, tumbling against the hard corrugated floor. With a start she awoke, her skin prickling with goosebumps in the chill of the night air which billowed in through the black tarp fluttering over the rear of the truck. Automatically she raised her hands to brush her hair from her face… only to find them bound securely with thick, wiry rope.

The first thing she saw was Surge, his eyes overshadowed menacingly by a thunderous scowl as the truck righted itself and continued on its path. She blinked at him, dazed, before finally realizing she had no idea where she was and whose company she was in, or why they’d tied her up.

Then she saw the red ‘R’ on his white sweatshirt, peeping through his unzipped army jacket.

And her heart stopped.

For several petrified seconds she stared at that cursed letter, paralysed with pure terror. Then her lungs reminded her it wasn’t good not to breathe for so long and she took in a gasp of air as time started once again.

But that drew Surge’s attention towards her, and she could do nothing but try to swallow through the frightened lump in her throat and tremble in the corner as his scowl lifted and he grinned. “Heh,” he chuckled. “Didn’t expect you to wake up so quick. Doesn’t matter, anyhow.”

WhatdoIdohowdidIgethereWHAT ARE THEY GOING TO DO TO ME?! A whimper forced its way out of Keegan’s lips and her eyes pricked with terrified tears. Her vision blurred and she looked down at the floor.

Then, stop that! You’re making yourself look like a fool! The smug little voice snapped.

Right. She took a deep, shaking breath, blinking away the tears. She couldn’t even remember what had made her so afraid of the Rockets to begin with – only that she was. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let him see that any more than he already has. It’s a game. Don’t let him see…

Her jaw clenched and she raised her chin defiantly, shaking her hair back even as her hands shook with fearful adrenaline and her heart pounded in her chest. She blinked rapidly against the burning in her eyes as Surge chuckled a second time, leaning back against the side of the truck with his head resting comfortably on his arms and his legs stretched out. He didn’t seem interested in talking to her and the last thing Keegan wanted was more attention.

Her eyes flitted about, studying her surroundings as her mind raced. She felt like collapsing with relief when she saw Pichu, half hidden in shadow nearer the rear of the truck and tangled in the strap of her bag. He looked dazed and blood matted the yellow fur on his head as he blinked groggily. Keegan could only guess he’d hit himself when the truck lurched.

Hope he’s okay. She thought, slowly flexing her hands, half hoping she might be able to work out the trembling which still gripped them. Nonetheless, she felt calmer, forcing herself into a surreal viewpoint where the situation was not quite real and easier to accept.

That was when she realized her pokéballs were still clipped to her belt. For a moment she was stunned; wasn’t it the first rule of kidnapping to disarm your victim? Then she didn’t pause to think. Her hands darted to her waist, the rope tightening cruelly about her wrists. She fumbled for Hazel’s pokéball, elbows splayed outward.

“Don’t even think it,” Surge’s lazy voice said, and Keegan froze. She glanced up to find he was gazing at her through half-lidded eyes, a mocking grin still on his lips. He reached for the thick belt at his waist, unclipping and expanding his own pokéball threateningly.

“You’re probably thinking you’re lucky we ‘forgot’ to take your pokémon,” he said with a smirk. “Hah. Team Rocket doesn’t need to deprive its enemies of their pokémon. Besides, it makes it more interesting if we don’t. Makes them think they still have a chance.” Surge’s grin widened as Keegan considered that, her hands twisted painfully in the rope. “Besides,” he went on. “An attack from either of us in a speeding truck could end up with all of us, including you, as roadkill. Now, ya really wanna risk that?”

Keegan hesitated, glancing sidelong at Pichu. The little pokémon was tugging irritably at the strap, ignoring her. If Pichu wasn’t here – but I can’t risk him AND my other pokémon – she slumped and allowed her arms to relax, releasing the strain on her wrists as her stomach twisted with anxious uncertainty. Please don’t let me live to regret this! She prayed to whoever was out there.

Surge chuckled, replacing his own pokéball and getting to his feet. Keegan cringed, looking up at his tall frame as he grinned down at her, practically filling the back of the truck. In one step he was standing over Pichu, and a huge hand came down to lift the suddenly frantic pokémon around the neck.

“Pipipipi!” Pichu squealed, his cheek-sacs sparking, the weight of the bag dragging down at his plump body and paws as Surge held him up teasingly, blocking out the exit with his burly body.

“Worried about this little runt, are you?” Surge demanded with a smirk, dangling the pichu closer to the billowing tarp, where the gravelly road could just be seen rushing beneath the truck’s wheels. And beyond – the inescapable blackness of the night.

Keegan stared, wide-eyed and pale. He wouldn’t dare, he wouldn’t throw Pichu out, he wouldn’t –

He would. “Say goodbye,” Surge grinned, and with a small toss he sent Pichu flying through the tarp and tumbling onto the hard road outside.

Before Keegan had a chance to think, her legs pumped and she was on her feet, leaping to do something – before she realized it was too late, Pichu was gone, and sank back down to her knees as silent tears tracked down her cheeks, her ears ringing with Surge’s deep laughter.

Outside, Orchu’s paws kicked at the restraining length of material bound around his body, throwing it off as he tumbled from atop Keegan’s dirty, damaged bag and onto the pebbly road. His fur was covered in dust, matted with the blood of dozens of grazes and scrapes and his small body heaved, trembling with deep breaths; but he was alive.

Alive, thanks to the heavy weight of the bag which had landed first, undelayed by panicked scrambling.

Alive, and now… alone.

Or so he thought, as huge, pearly tears trickled over his grimy fur. I didn’t like her, Orchu thought forlornly, too tired and hurt to move. But now I’m completely in the unknown. At least then I had someone who knew what they were doing. Sort of. He sighed, slumping back against the bag, and cried. Oh, help me, someone! He begged the stars overhead. Jirachi – Celebi – Moltres – just – SOMEONE – help me!

Then a footstep crackled over the gravel. Orchu jumped, his heart leaping into his throat fearfully. Without thinking he buried his head into the semi-soft folds of the bag, a trembling ball of dirty yellow fur.

A calloused hand came down and stroked him gently. Twitching fearfully, expecting at any moment to be attacked, Orchu peeked up into the thin, shadowed face of an elderly human. He was bald with a white moustache and dark, circular glasses which obscured his eyes, but his lined face was somehow kind. Cautiously Orchu turned around completely, looking up at the human with unintentionally pleading eyes.

“Don’t worry, little one,” the human said reassuringly. “I’ll take you somewhere safe.”

Orchu hesitated. Humans can’t be trusted! Was his first instinct; but he had travelled far from the power plant since the days when he truly believed that. This one seems alright. Relief washed over him. He can take care of me. With a sharp jerk he nodded.

Blaine looked down at the pichu cradled in his right arm, pausing for a moment in the darkened lee of a warm rock. The little pokémon looked sound asleep, nestled comfortably in the white sleeve of Blaine’s lab coat, and the man felt a momentary pang at the sight of all his bruises, the memory of his fear.

Those Rockets, he thought with a sigh, have no compassion.

It was a source of great shame that he’d once been one of them. How he’d ever thought that Team Rocket could further his research… well, they had, but Blaine had sacrificed more than he ever intended for that to come true. He could only pray he could redeem that fateful decision.

Grimly Blaine hitched the bag up on his shoulder, his hand catching on the hasty knot he’d tied to repair the broken strap. His forearm tingled fitfully in way he hadn’t endured for quite a while… it troubled him as he continued on his way down the dusty path. He couldn’t afford to light the trail properly, not with that fool Harry after him. It was risky enough trying to keep an eye on Surge’s regular shipments, and now that Koga had arrived on the island to help with the search…

Having two of the Triad in the same place as him was not a good feeling. Although, in a way, he supposed it was a compliment.

That was when he heard the sound of distant voices echoing through the night.

Instantly Blaine halted, hiding in the concealing shadow of a line of rugged boulders nearby as his eyes darted about at the blackness beyond. On the threshold of sightlessness he could see figures shifting, but he couldn’t make out any details, nor hear individual words. And then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw the twinkling glint of piercing red eyes preceding an eerie configuration of bright yellow circles, appearing to hover past and behind unseen obstructions.

An umbreon?! Blaine thought, momentarily astonished as he watched the umbreon creep closer to the two distant silhouettes. It looks like it’s stalking them – do they have something it wants? He shifted his weight, leaning over the warm rocks to watch, his tinted glasses darkening the night further – but as his hand pressed on the soft rock it crumbled, a shower of pebbles hitting the ground with an unnervingly loud tinkle.

“What was that?” One of the figures moved, cutting off the voice of the other. With a reflexive jerk Blaine ducked, praying they hadn’t seen the movement in the darkness and hoping for the umbreon’s sake they hadn’t seen it either.

Because no matter how unlikely the circumstances, the Rockets were ordered to capture or kill any pokémon they saw – just in case. And an umbreon on Cinnibar Island, unless it happened to be in the hands of a trainer, was suspicious enough.

His hopes proved fruitless. “What the –”

A scorching hiss pierced the still air amid the sound of pounding paws, and then a startled cry was echoed by a curse. “Zubat –” a voice snarled, but was cut off by a howl of pain and the sound of bodies colliding. Then, before Blaine could decide to do anything, a living shadow skittered over the rocks up the slope.

The umbreon. It came to a sudden halt upon seeing him, its yellow rings flaring and lips drawn back in a snarl, its scarlet eyes flashing eerily. Blaine froze, eyes on the umbreon’s matted fur and heaving flanks.

Damn those Rockets! He swore inwardly. Nothing and nowhere is safe from them – except –

The sound of footsteps came loud, swelling up from the darkness around them, and the umbreon’s ears twitched.

“It’s just a damn umbreon, what’s the problem?” a frustrated voice grumbled.

“He took a bite outta me, that’s what!” another retorted furiously.

They don’t know where it went. Maybe… Mentally Blaine dimmed the noise, running a hand thoughtfully over his bald pate. “I can take you somewhere safe,” he murmured as quietly as he could to the umbreon.

Brother glared at the human, his heart easing up on its wild drumming on his ribs. His mouth was filled with the taste of blood and his fur prickled with the uncomfortable knowledge that enemies were near. He hated to trust a human, but he had lost Bairn’s trail.

But that pichu… that pichu was with her! If the pichu was there… perhaps he could show Brother the way to Bairn… but the human was unlikely to give him up… and yet, nor did he taste of greed or malice… <<Show me,>> Brother hissed, ducking his head warily, but cocking his ears forward so the human would know he meant no ill intent. Not yet, anyway.

Blaine hesitated, unsure whether the sound had been one of acceptance or challenge. No matter. “This way.” Carefully he eased down the slope, his shoes crunching softly on the hard pebbles and the bag swinging as his shoulder. Like a shadow, the umbreon followed after.

The volcano on Cinnibar was old and dormant, long since abandoned as a tourist attraction except for the hot springs it generated at its base. Which suited Blaine fine; because it meant that only the most zealous of climbers would dare the peak and even then the chance was slim anyone would see it.

A door, set into a darkened crevice. Made of steel, the volcano made it hot enough to burn the unwary. The path that led to it looked deceivingly rocky and impossible to climb, the boulders around it warm with the heat of the mountain, but Blaine had walked that track many times and knew it as well as he knew the back of his hand.

So it was that before the moon had risen into the early night, casting its silver light over the rippled ocean skirting the island, Blaine and the two pokémon were safe in the laboratory concealed within the volcano itself.

The laboratory had a tendency to be warm and stifling, even despite the lead-lined walls and extensive ventilation, but it was an uncomfortability Blaine was well adjusted to. The umbreon didn’t agree; as Blaine punched the plain, circular button to close the thick, electric doors, the black pokémon’s ears twitched irritably, paws silent on the semi-cool tiles.

“The Rockets don’t know about this place,” Blaine reassured the umbreon in his soft, hoarse voice as he moved into the wide room, skirting the equipment-clogged walls, and set his burdens carefully on a nearby desktop. The little pichu snuffled into his tiny paws, black-lined ears twitching, and his button-like eyes opened blearily. His hind paws skated on the desk as he clambered atop the bag, clutching at the material with a wearily blissful sigh.

Blaine ruffled the pichu’s matted yellow fur with a bandaged hand, frowning up at the wire-swathed ceiling as the umbreon paced the length of the room impatiently, heedless of his dirty and matted fur. “What do you seek from the Rockets?” Blaine asked the umbreon cautiously as the pichu leaned delightedly into his hand, seated atop the soft material of the bag. The girl. “Is the girl your trainer?”

If he’d poured gasoline into the volcano, he wouldn’t have gotten a more explosive response. Instantly the umbreon spun about on his paws with a guttural roar, fur bristling into harsh spikes which made him resemble a jolteon, his lips drawn back in a vicious snarl and ears tight against his skull. Wrong thing to suggest. Blaine froze and slowly raised a pacifying hand, long moustache twitching with nervousness. How can such a small, nimble pokémon make itself look so menacing?

Eyeing him with wary impatience, the umbreon flicked his ears and relaxed, allowing Blaine to do the same with a slow breath. Not the girl; but she’s not the only one the Rockets have kidnapped… “A pokémon, then?” the human hesitated, rubbing absently at the aching flesh of his bandaged hand, and uttered his next comment cautiously. “One of hers?” the umbreon snarled a little, ducking his head to glare fitfully at the pichu with his eerie scarlet eyes.

“Pipipi,” the pichu offered nervously, wide ears twitching timidly at the umbreon’s unnerving stare. Blaine settled back against the desk with a frown, tugging at his moustache as he considered the situation.

If the Rockets want to kidnap an innocent girl, they must think she knows something – a chill of grim realization ran through his skin, beginning with the ache of his bandaged arm – or has something –

And once the thought had begun, it wouldn’t be stopped. His distant eyes tracked to the nervy pichu who had always clutched at the soft material of the bag, always made sure he was close to it, but the scientist didn’t see just a weary, dirty pichu. He saw the myriad of electric pokémon who had been under his care –

– under my tyranny –

– who had desired and fought and even killed for the sake of being near it –

– the ESP.

Without thinking Blaine’s hand jerked to the pichu, plucking him off the bag and putting him down unceremoniously on the desk. “Pi?” the pichu rubbed his behind ruefully, eyeing Blaine’s clenched jaw as he flipped open the bag. Mentally the scientist apologised to the unnamed girl as he went through her belongings, tugging things both public and private from within the weatherproof bag and laying them out on the desk. The umbreon ignored him to pace edgily, eager to be away, while the pichu clutched his hind paws and tittered to himself at the sight of this invasion of privacy.

It wasn’t until Blaine reached the bottom of the bag that he found it. He felt it first as a lumpy, cloth-swathed item; but as soon as his bandaged fingers brushed the material, rivulets of pain streaked up his arm and he jerked away with a surprised grunt. She does have it! His chest contracted in sudden fear and he pulled away with a shudder. She does have it! But –

He turned away, massaging his arm, inattentively watching the pichu tug a bra from beneath the stack of clothes and pull it gleefully over his ears like a bonnet. Why did Surge throw it out of the truck – absently he began to shovel the girl’s belongings back into the bag, his bandaged hand clenching convulsively – unless he doesn’t know she has it. And I’d bet she doesn’t know either.

He frowned behind his darkened glasses, his body tensing as he realized the track down which his thoughts were leading him. Which means I have to get her out of there before they find out – and I have to get it off Cinnibar. I can’t keep it here; I don’t have enough faith that my lab will remain undiscovered – and my presence alone… he shuddered again, gritting his teeth against a sharp twinge in his arm. And it’s presence around me – no. It should go to Erika, and she’ll figure out what to do with it – perhaps Bill could figure out how the damned thing works –

“I need to go to the Pokémon Mansion,” Blaine said aloud with a grimace as he plucked the bra from the pichu’s possessive grasp and stuffed it back into the bag. How I’m going to manage that, with both Surge and Koga there –

The pichu’s eyes went wide, his ears standing up in shock as he immediately forgot the loss of his new toy, but the umbreon growled approvingly, paws dancing with skittish impatience on the shiny floor. “Pi!” the pichu turned away, studiously ignoring Blaine as the scientist grimly picked up the two pokéballs which had been lying in a shiny rack nearby.

Blaine felt a pang, realizing the pichu would not help rescue the girl – and realizing why. He follows her because of it. He can’t leave, he’s chained to her – he hates her. Is that how all those pokémon felt about me? He wondered, watching the pichu tug forlornly at an ear, frozen in an instant of remorseful, painful memory. At least, the ones who eventually gained their right minds – the ones who were driven to the threshold of insanity, only to wake up and find they could no longer survive without the influence of the ESP – the clones.

A snarl shook him out of his reverie and he turned to find the umbreon waiting by the door, looking back at him with an irritated glare. It doesn’t matter now, Blaine told himself forcefully, his footsteps echoing in the room as he walked away from the pichu and the reminder of his crimes. The clones escaped to live like normal pokémon – the Rockets lost the ESP and the knowledge of how to use it – and that’s something, at least. He slapped the button on the wall, letting the artificial light to blare over the warm rocks outside as he exited the safety of the laboratory. Now all I can do is keep it that way.

* * *

“Nothing,” Harry reported reluctantly to Koga, kneeling on the shiny, cool tiles of the Pokémon Mansion’s control room with his blonde, pigtailed head bowed in penitence and his cap shading his eyes. Koga scowled at the equipment-stacked wall beyond, arms folded across his chest.

Where could that old man have got to? The ninja thought irritably, grinding his teeth in frustration. Aloud he said, “Continue surveillance. He must be on Cinnibar somewhere.” And Sabrina’s smug superiority is getting on my nerves. The sooner we find Blaine, the sooner she can focus on her own tasks.

“Yes, Master Koga,” Harry ducked his head respectfully and stood, leaving the room in a series of quick footsteps and a swirl of his long red scarf. Several of the uniformed grunts and scientists who were overseeing the Mansion’s central controls sneaked cautious peeks at the executive, who apparently didn’t notice them; he was too deep in thought, staring at a flashing console nearby, his thin face expressionless and his eyes dark. The door slid open with the hiss of hydraulics and the room snapped back to attention as Lt. Surge strode in with a jaunty step.

“Blaine still being a nuisance?” Koga could hear the smirk in Surge’s rough voice without even turning around. The thin, black-haired man scowled and didn’t answer. “Well, I’ve got something to show, at least.”

“Oh?” Koga answered noncommittally, raising a preoccupied eyebrow towards the burly soldier as he came to Koga’s side with a sniff.

“Yeah. Ken captured two Magma grunts at the Sevii – I brought ‘em here for security.”

The only words to filter through into Koga’s distant thoughts were ‘captured two Magma grunts’, and it was only through decades of training that Koga managed to keep his face from registering his shock. Magmas in the Sevii – Magmas in Rocket territory – what is Maxie thinking?!

If Surge noticed Koga’s abrupt tenseness, his muscles suddenly wound up like a coiled spring, he didn’t say anything. “And there’s a girl, too,” Surge was adding absently, stroking his square chin. “The Magmas were after her for some reason – thought she might know why they were here, but so far the stubborn little fox hasn’t said anything.” Surge chuckled, unaware of Koga’s involuntary twitch.

“Little fox?” Koga repeated with a snort, his skin tingling with apprehensive anticipation. Don’t tell me, don’t – “Is that her name, or did you coin the phrase yourself?”

Surge grunted, scratching his blonde head as Koga waited impatiently for his answer. “That’s what the Magmas called her, according to Ken – appropriate, if you ask me.”

Damn. Koga swore inwardly, his body freezing and his chest tightening with anxiety. Outwardly he maintained a bland expression. “Show me the cell bays,” he snapped to a nearby technician. The violet-haired woman jumped, startled, and hastily worked the blinking console to obey. “And active the anti-pokémon field,” Koga added belatedly, wishing he could’ve avoided saying it – but if I hadn’t, Surge would have –

Two of the screens flickered, prickling with snowy static as they showed twin bare, grey rooms, smooth-walled and inescapable. One was already occupied with the two Magma grunts, one of whom was sliding a hand around the walls, presumably searching for cracks. Koga’s stomach tightened and he gritted his teeth, recognising both of them. Larry and Brody – two of Maxie’s most dedicated. They would have recognised Keegan instantly – they must have recognised her instantly –

And in the other room… he turned his attention to the other monitor as a familiar, blond-haired young woman wearing blue board shorts and a bikini was shoved unceremoniously into the cell. Damn. Koga cursed, his jaw clenching edgily. What Maxie would think if he saw this… Keegan looked battered and scratched, as much the worse for wear as she had been when Koga first met her. Her eyes were red, rimmed with dark circles, and she looked tired; but that didn’t stop her from grimly expanding one of her pokéballs and touching the release button with her thumb.

Which was when the anti-pokémon field came into play. The pokéball fizzled but didn’t open, casting a slight electric shock over its red-and-white surface that made Keegan jerk away with a curse, dropping the pokéball to the uniform grey floor. It bounced, rolling to the wall, and Keegan stared after it, her eyes huge in her pale face. She retrieved the ball and tried again, with the same result; but not the same reaction. With a vehement curse that made her voice crack with a restrained sob she hurled the pokéball at the door angrily. It just rebounded off, rolling to her bare feet as she sank to her knees, her shoulder shaking as she struggled to contain the tears which tracked down her grubby cheeks nonetheless.

Surge chuckled at the sight, but Koga didn’t join in. He was too busy finding it far too easy to imagine determined, eager Janine in Keegan’s place. His lips drew to a thin line, slanted eyes mercifully hard even as he seethed with apprehensive frustration inside. Leaving her there is unthinkable – but how could I get her out?

That was when another of the screens flickered demandingly and the slightly nervous voice of the technician broke into Koga’s thoughts. “Incoming call, sirs. Screen four.” She gestured at the monitor and made herself as inconspicuous as possible as Sabrina’s pale face fizzed into view. The last person I need to speak to right now, was Koga’s first irritable thought upon seeing her.

“I see you’ve arrived on time,” Sabrina said coldly to Surge, her voice coming through a little staticy over the speakers and her black-sleeved arms folded over her stomach. “I got your message. What was it you wanted to speak about?”

“The Justice,” Surge answered promptly. “Ken said there was a young man he pursued in the Sevii, who ran across them on their mission. Ken had to let him escape in order to capture some Magmas. He might be Justice, which means he could be heading back to Celadon to report to Erika.” Quickly the burly sailor described the trainer in question, but Koga hardly listened. His thoughts were no longer on Blaine as they should have been, but on Keegan.

“And the girl? Your message said she was in Goldenrod as well as Sevii. It’s likely that she’s Justice as well.” Sabrina noted with a slow blink. Koga twitched, but said nothing. For all he knew, Keegan was Justice…

Surge shrugged. “Possible. One of your psychics would be able to find out quick enough.”

I have to prevent that. The thought flashed through Koga’s mind, with no answer as to how he was supposed to accomplish it. Nor did it occur to him that he was now plotting the betrayal Sabrina had accused him of.

“So far Erika has made no move on the game corner,” Sabrina was saying as he tuned back in to the conversation. “But I’ll instruct Ryu to keep an eye out for that boy of yours.” She smiled then, an expression reminiscent of a cat with a mouse beneath its paws. “I see you have been silent, Koga. Perhaps Blaine is too much of a challenge for you.”

For just a fleeting second Koga’s hard-learned restraint broke beneath his frustration. His dark eyes flared angrily, his arms clenching to fists on his arms before he managed to reinsert his control. “I know my task, Sabrina,” he said icily in a voice which promised her all the pain his skills could provide should she retort. “Now why don’t you focus on yours?” With that he spun about on his heels and swept out of the control with a menacing swirl of his scarf.

Like a shadow Koga ranged the ridge broodingly, looking over the line of warm boulders which marked the edge of the small basin in which lay the Pokémon Mansion. Beyond the scrubby, rocky environment on the Mansion’s left, the nearest stretch of ocean to the Mansion glittered in the faint light of the semi-obscured stars overhead. To the right, laid out against the sea as a port and almost concealed by a hill of volcanic rocks, were the lights of the only city on Cinnibar.

Behind him was the shadow of the island, in which was hidden his quarry – the traitor Blaine.

Yet his mind was turned not to the concealing darkness, but to a young woman who was held within the stark, guarded corridors of the Pokémon Mansion.

Things would be much easier, he thought irritably as he prowled the edge of night, his dark clothes fading him into the gloom, if I could order her shipped to the mainland and stage an escape on the way. But he couldn’t, and he knew it. Ken had caught the girl and Surge was Ken’s Executive; any and all decisions with regard to the prisoners were made by him and him alone. For Koga to take control would be stepping on Surge’s toes – a thing which none of the Triad wanted the others to do. It would draw far too much unwanted attention to himself. It was a stretch of his abilities just to free Keegan; to free Larry and Brody as well was an impossibility. He’d have to leave them and hope Maxie’s skills as a diplomat hadn’t waned with his good sense…

I must somehow arrange for her escape without revealing it was I who planned it, or there would be a heavy price to pay. He considered carefully, ignoring the bright glow to his left which was the Pokémon Mansion’s outside lights. What he worried about most was that Surge might commandeer one of Sabrina’s psychics. True, mind-reading wasn’t nearly as simple as was commonly held, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t a threat. Koga had been around Sabrina long enough to know that reading another’s mind was much like reading their actions and body language. The mind lied, it concealed, it twisted the truth even from its owner – and then the owner would twist it further.

And that was just the average person, who didn’t know a thing about concealing their thoughts. For those that did, all that a skilled psychic could glimpse were impressions, if that. To complicate matters further, those that were adept at hiding their intentions physically could hide them mentally too – they had to, to trick the body into acting otherwise. Which was why she found him to be such a frustration. And why he wasn’t worried about Larry and Brody.

It was also why he was worried about Keegan. After his first and only encounter with her, he knew that she’d never be able to put up more than a minimal resistance. Of course, she could surprise me… Maxie has done that more than once and she is certainly his child… but that was a risk he didn’t want to take. Whatever secrets she had, they were best kept that way – at least from Team Rocket. Yes, I know what I must do… but how to do it…

He was broken out of his thoughts by the sound of soft footsteps, crunching on the pebbled dust not far ahead. Instantly he faded into the shadows, slanted eyes flickering expertly around the darkness from whence the noise welled, one hand resting cautiously on a pokéstar.

And treading cautiously out of the darkness, following the line of boulders which obscured him from the view of the Pokémon Mansion, came the lab-coated answer to his riddle.

Blaine ground his teeth in frustration, running a cautious, bandaged hand over his bald head as he regarded the scrubby, illuminated grounds of the Pokémon Mansion. Black-clad Rocket grunts patrolled the area like constant wraiths and occasionally he could see the twinkle of a security camera lens amongst the lights. Beside him the umbreon growled softly with a similar emotion, ears flickering irritably and paws pattered impatiently on the dusty ground.

There are too many of them for us to sneak in, Blaine thought with a mental sigh. It’s only a miracle we managed to get this far without being caught…

A second later he was forced to eat his words. “Ironic, is it not? I devote all my time and effort to finding you, and you come right to my doorstep.”

Koga! Instantly Blaine spun around, his wrinkled hand diving towards the pokéballs on his belt as his lab-coat flapped around his legs. But he was neither as fast nor as night-sighted as the umbreon, who spun about on his paws and leapt instantly towards a shadowed figure which Blaine could hardly see.

All he saw of what happened next was the swirl of a darkened red scarf as Koga dodged the umbreon’s mindless charge. Blaine expanded a pokéball, about to throw it, when Koga’s voice hissed from the darkness. “Don’t be a fool! The sound of a release will be enough to bring the patrols down upon you!”

What? Startled by Koga’s sudden warning Blaine snatched the pokéball back a microsecond before it left his hand, even as the yellow circles of the umbreon crouched on a rock nearby, warily watching Koga’s silhouette with scarlet eyes. Blaine’s fingers twitched over the smooth surface of the pokéball, uncomfortably aware of the fact Koga just had to yell to have him captured.

So why didn’t he? Aside from the fact it’s not the ninja way to call all their allies down upon them. But then, why did he warn me he was there – why didn’t he strike when he had the chance? Blaine knew Koga – knew that despite his sense of honour he never failed to take advantage of a situation. Then why…?

Carefully, moving with deliberate calm, Koga stepped into the faint light which was cast over the rocks, his slanted eyes considering the umbreon as cautiously as the pokémon regarded him. He held out his hands, empty of pokéstars, before folding his arms casually across his chest. He’s showing he’s not a threat – though any one of his pokémon could be hidden in the darkness –

“If I am to hazard a guess,” The ninja began smoothly as Blaine struggled to decipher his intentions. “I would say that you’re here to save the girl Surge recently captured.” Koga threw the scientist a knowing smirk, half of his thin face cast into eerie shadow. “Hmm?”

What’s he playing at? Blaine wondered nervously, his body tense with twitchy uncertainty. It’s not like him. Surge plays with his foes and Sabrina taunts them – but not Koga. Not unless he has something to say.

Koga must have read it in Blaine’s expression, because he chuckled softly. The umbreon’s claws scratched the surface of the warm rock, crimson eyes narrowing, but Koga ignored him. “I am here because I wish to help.” The ninja said simply, his face bland.

For long seconds Blaine was too shocked to speak, staring at the dark, utterly fathomless eyes of his enemy. Why would he care about a nameless girl? Unless to him she’s not so nameless – the umbreon’s disbelieving hiss brought him back to himself, and his scratchy voice sounded out with quiet suspicion. “Why?”

Koga shrugged. “That, you don’t need to know.”

I don’t like that answer. Was Blaine’s immediate thought, his pokéball half raised in preparation for attack. “I can’t trust you,” he pointed out quietly, itching to be free of the danger illuminated on his right side.

“That is not my concern,” Koga said flatly. “You want to save the girl. So do I. Whether you believe me or not is your choice.” Without waiting for an answer Koga pointed to the farthest visible corner of the Pokémon Mansion, facing the night-blanketed ocean. The scrub of the grounds bordered a narrow gravel path leading into the darkness.

“That path leads down to the Mansion’s old dock – which you should know, seeing as how you destroyed it.” Blaine tensed at the reference, his fingers clutching the hard plastic of the pokéball, but Koga’s tone was distantly mocking, not accusing. “As you no doubt also know, it has not been rebuilt, for fear it would attract unwanted attention. Nowadays supplies are transported overland from Cinnibar, so the doors on that side of the building are rarely used. They lead directly to the cell block and storage bays.” Koga flashed him a trademark sardonic smirk, but Blaine wasn’t fooled for an instant. Koga tended to hide his true intentions under dry wit and contemptuous haughtiness.

Still, the scientist could see where this was leading… but I can’t trust him. What’s his game?

Koga’s eyes flickered to the single shadow which stood by the peeling wooden post of the veranda nearby the doors in question. “It will be easy enough for me to sabotage the security system in that corner without revealing myself. The lights will go off to signal it is done and the agent will leave to investigate, leaving the area open for penetration. Once inside you will need a cardkey to unlock the cell doors. Beyond that, there is little I can do to help.”

A chill crawled unnervingly down Blaine’s back and he resisted a shiver in the semi-warm air. He mentioned little on escape. “Why?” he repeated his question, absently flexing his bandaged hand to loosen the ache which has set into his tense muscles. “Who is this girl, Koga? Why are you so willing to betray Team Rocket for her?”

For an instant a strange, almost uncertain shadow passed over Koga’s face. Then his jaw tightened and he turned about silently on sandaled feet, vanishing into the night.

Blaine sank to a seat beside the line of rocks, releasing a tense breath with a quiet sigh while the umbreon shifted restlessly on his rock. The scientist turned to examine the grounds, judging distance and time between the constant patrols before giving up in frustration. The only way I’ll get inside is with Koga’s help. Still he wavered. Why was Koga helping him? He had a position of such power with Team Rocket, why would he risk that? Who was this girl who commanded such control over him? I shouldn’t trust him. I should turn around and walk away, wait for another chance…

When the lights flickered off several minutes later, Blaine didn’t hesitate.

17th August 2005, 3:13 AM
Firefoot rocked against the inside of his pokéball uselessly, snapping at the smooth plastic in utmost frustration. High overhead, the strangely tinted and blurred image of Keegan was muttering apprehensively to herself while to the side Tarn watched Firefoot with mild and slightly pessimistic interest.

<<It’s no good,>> the arcanine whined finally, slumping to the spherical base of the pokéball in dejected misery. His fluffy head turned automatically towards Hazel as she put her paws experimentally on the interior surface of her own pokéball, rocking the red-and-white device gently on the concrete floor.

<<He just said it’s no good!>> Bramble, the butterfree, snapped to the eevee through the thin surface of her pokéball.

Hazel resisted the urge to bristle and instead settled for answering as mildly as she could. <<That’s his pokéball, Bram. This is mine. There might be something different.>> Get off my tail, you poor excuse for a trainer’s pokémon, she added waspishly, but only in her mind, and she immediately winced inwardly in guilt. Bramble rubbed the eevee’s fur the wrong way, and apparently Hazel did the same.

As though she’d caught Hazel’s thought, Bramble’s antenna waved in annoyance and her sparkling, dust-coated wings flared as her cheeks puffed up with indignant determination. “Frii!” she grunted, flying at the side of her pokéball with all the force she could muster in the small space. It only sent her pokéball skittering wildly towards Tarn’s, making it scatter as the vaporeon yelped inside.

Keegan’s still-bound hands came down and righted the pokéballs as Bram settled down with a glare, her red eyes fixed on Hazel as though daring the eevee to comment. Hazel wisely abstained. “C’mon, guys, if someone comes through the door we have to be ready,” their trainer’s voice murmured overhead, vibrating through the surface of their pokéballs.

<<What if no one comes?>> Firefoot asked apprehensively, gnawing on his huge paws as his mournful eyes regarded Hazel pleadingly. It surprised the eevee; she expected Tarn make the cynical comments, not Firefoot.

<<Someone will,>> Hazel was quick to assure him nonetheless, even though her fur bristled with anxiety. Firefoot looked unconvinced. <<Even if they’re not friends,>> the eevee added, and grimaced as her ears flopped around her head.

<<I know at least one friend is coming, cousin of the wilderness,>> Tarn said quietly, his soft voice keening through the material of the pokéballs in soft pulses. His tone was of utter confidence, one which Hazel rarely heard from the reserved vaporeon, and it made her ears flicker with uncertain surprise. <<Brother is coming. He will. He does. He always does.>> he subsided, curled at the bottom of his pokéball with a serenity that Hazel did not think was pure.

She exchanged a doubtful look with Firefoot, not wanting to burst the vaporeon’s hopes, but as usual tactless Bramble spoke anyway. <<Is this the same brother who gave you that ragged ear, forbade you from ever talking to a human, stole you from Keegan and bit her?>> the butterfree snapped impatiently, her wings fluttering slightly in her pokéball and making dust coat the bottom.

Tarn winced, subconsciously flicking the ear in question. The membranous fin which gave Tarn his ultra sensitive hearing wasn’t as sharp and smooth as the other, legacy of a wound Tarn had sustained in his eevee days.

Hazel saw he wouldn’t reply. He never did, when confronted – a fact for which only Brother could be blamed. <<He didn’t give Tarn the ragged ear,>> she said stoutly. <<That was a stantler, right?>> she looked at Tarn and he nodded reluctantly, shrinking below the semi-transparent red layer of his pokéball as though ashamed – or even frightened – of the argument. Bram fluttered her wings petulantly, but didn’t answer.

<<So here’s the plan,>> Hazel began, and Firefoot’s ears pricked up attentively.

<<We know the plan!>> Bramble exploded irritably. The only sign Hazel had heard her was a derisive flick of a long ear before the eevee continued.

<<Keegan can only throw one of us at a time, but sitting down means she could kick one of us out the door when it opens and do that at the same time.>>

<<I can’t believe I’m going to have to wait here until it’s all over,>> Bram muttered cantankerously, a comment which made Hazel roll her eyes. <<One sleep powder and there’d be no problem…>> she flexed her small hands gleefully, clearly relishing the thought of the valour involved. And that was all it was; Bram had a taste for being a hero, not one for bloodshed.

<<Not if they’re prepared,>> Hazel snapped, her hackles rising with exasperation. <<Two of us is better odds than one, and if you went you’d have to go alone or your sleep powder could backfire.>>

<<I know that!>> Bram flared. Tarn slunk below the line of his pokéball until he was no more than a shadow on the red plastic and Firefoot looked with mild interest between the two female pokémon.

<<I didn’t get chosen either, if that makes you feel better,>> Hazel said shortly, making herself calm down. <<It’s all up to Tarn and Firefoot, because –>>

<<Because their attacks are more controlled than any of ours and Firefoot doesn’t have to worry about getting wet because he grew up on the City of Floating Water,>> Bram finished for her in a swift, ill-tempered rush. <<I know.>>

<<Listen,>> Tarn broke into Hazel’s retort suddenly, his elegant head poking up above the line of red plastic on his pokéball. His sharp ears went back in embarrassment when Hazel looked at him in surprise. <<Someone’s coming.>>

<<There’s something that smells familiar, too,>> Firefoot added with a short whine, nudging at the side of his pokéball with energetic tension. <<Something like – like –>>

<<Brother!>> Tarn guessed in a rare explosion of excitement.

Firefoot cocked his head uncertainly, conceding the point of the identity but not the presence. <<No. I smell him on a human – they may have been together before, but… not anymore.>> Tarn mewed with apprehensive disappointment but didn’t get a chance to reply, because then Keegan began to hear the approaching footsteps too.

Swiftly the girl snatched up Firefoot’s pokéball, arranging her still-bare foot so that she could attempt to kick Tarn out the door. She shook her blonde hair out of her eyes and took a deep breath in an attempt to calm her pounding heart and adrenaline-shaking limbs. I have to get at least one of them out the door, or else they can’t be released, the plan whirled again through her mind as she braced herself, her muscles coiled for action.

Then, “Miss?” a soft voice came faintly through the thick door and Keegan almost dropped Firefoot’s pokéball in surprise, the thick rope scratching at her wrists.

“Ye – yes,” she stammered uncertainly as a thin-faced man with tinted glasses peered through the thick, plexiglass window set in the upper centre of the door.

“I’m going to open the door,” the man said quietly. “But the alarms will probably go off. You have to be ready to follow me, no matter what. It’s going to be difficult getting out, so have your pokémon ready.”

Keegan hesitated for a moment, apprehension crawling over her skin like a living entity and indecision thundering in her ribs. How can I trust anyone after everything that’s happened, but it wouldn’t make sense for them to lock me up and then let me out if it was a trick, so – hastily she gathered up her pokéballs, bending her restraints until red lines marked her skin so she could minimise Hazel, Tarn and Bramble and attach them to her belt.

“Ready.” Her voice came out strangled and cracking with fright as she scrambled to her feet, Firefoot’s pokéball cupped securely in her hands. She heard the faint, high keen of a cardkey being swiped through the lock and then the door slid open with the hiss of hydraulics, echoed by the similar sounds of doors on either side as they did likewise.

In the control room, several red lights flashed next to the blinking console of the violet-haired woman. Her nervous hands flickered to the buttons, her wavering voice cutting through the steady drone of noise. “Sir…”

“What?” Surge demanded, his large frame intimidating as he came up behind her.

“There’s been an unauthorised opening of the cell block doors…”

Can’t be. “Show me the cell block!” Surge thundered in a voice which made technicians and scientists all over the room flinch and jump, all apprehensive eyes turning to him. Hastily the technician moved to obey, her fingers flying over the keys until several screens wavered to life in front of Surge’s scowling eyes.

Showing empty grey rooms.

Surge let out a stream of obscenities which made the technician grimace shakily, the rest of the room immediately turning busily around to their console and making themselves as inconspicuous as possible. “Seal off the corridors to the cell block!” Surge snarled, and jabbed a thick finger at another of the technicians. “You, get security up there now or it’ll be worse than your hide!”

“Security gates closing,” the violet-haired technician reported, her eyes flickering towards Surge as the gym leader stalked across the room to the communications unit.

“Koga, get your sorry *** back here now. Blaine’s here, you useless son-of-a-*****!”

Out in the still, semi-warm night, Koga smirked as he deactivated his golbat communications device, feeling strangely satisfied with Surge’s frustration and the way things were panning out. If he was lucky, he could catch Blaine while still enabling Keegan to escape… and everything would be forgotten.

There is no betrayal here, Blaine – except yours.

“Hurry!” Blaine jerked anxiously on Keegan’s arm as her bare feet threatened to slip on the shiny tiles or trip over the shaggy growlithe which bounded at Blaine’s heels, the steel-barred security gate threatening to rattle to a close ahead of them. A stitch jabbed her side painfully and her lungs burned as she gasped for air, the taste of blood predominant in her mouth.

Blaine ducked beneath the falling gate and tugged her through with him, his tie flailing in her face as he accidentally yanked her off her feet. Keegan hit the ground with a blow, scraping her splayed elbows and knocking one of her knees so hard that her leg tingled numbly, but her feet skittered on the floor and she scrambled up without pausing to consider the nausea which swept over her.

“Damn!” A grunting curse came from behind her and Keegan looked around as Blaine paused to let her up, using his red-and-orange growlithe to snap the thick rope around her wrists. The agents in red-and-grey, released by the central lock system of the cell doors, were trapped on the other side.

“Come on,” Blaine cast the rope away and Keegan separated her wrists gratefully, turning to follow as the scientist hurried down the hall.

Then, “Little fox!” Automatically Keegan spun around, her breath catching in her throat at the sound of the familiar nickname – just in time to catch the spinning pokéball which hurtled towards her. Instinctively Keegan snatched it out of the air, her startled gaze taking in the grimly satisfied expression of the brown-haired agent before she felt Blaine’s hand on her wrist once again.

Obediently Keegan surrendered to Blaine’s urgent pull, her chest clenching and legs rubbery from fear and astonishment and a thousand other emotions too mixed for her to define as they fled.

Back behind the restraining security gate, Brody looked questioningly at Larry as the older man gripped the bars grimly, his narrow eyes watching Keegan vanish around the corner up ahead. “What did you give her?” The apricot-haired agent demanded.

Larry cocked his head and flashed Brody a slightly dry smile, even as the sound of approaching footsteps pounded towards them. “A reminder.”

17th August 2005, 4:51 PM
Yay! An update! I found one mistake.

or there would be a heavy price to pay.

I think it should be will.

I forgot so much about this story, it's been to long. I almost forgot that Maxie was Keegan's father, that Firefoot was an arcanine, and that Bramble existed.

I would've been the first reviewer of this chap but I had to get offline before I could post this.

17th August 2005, 6:36 PM
Yay, a new chappie, and srry about the spam purple_dragon, i didnt know it was spam cause i dont know what spam is

17th August 2005, 7:10 PM
Wowzers, I LOVE this story!

18th August 2005, 1:16 AM
I wonder what the reminder is a picture, a pokemon. But don't give hints kay.
I found no mistakes except for the one that SnoringFrog found.

18th August 2005, 3:15 AM
:3 Ima here now PD.....^_^;;;;



Anyway, teh best chapter evar. YOu keep getting better. ;-; *jealous*


*sneaks off to play Guild Wars* :3;;

18th August 2005, 3:44 AM
Yay! An update! I found one mistake.

I think it should be will.

I forgot so much about this story, it's been to long. I almost forgot that Maxie was Keegan's father, that Firefoot was an arcanine, and that Bramble existed.

I would've been the first reviewer of this chap but I had to get offline before I could post this.

Huh, I had to think about it for a while before I decided yes, it was a mistake :P

*hides* wow, really bad of me to leave it so long you forgot all that stuff... And you still were the first reviewer of this chappie :P

It's okay, BD. Spam is when you post something irrelevant to the subject of the thread.

And I have a new reader ^.^ *adds to list*

*pokes Saber* Yus, you took your time! :P Don't be jealous!

Thankies to you all for reviewing ^.^ and I'd like to inform you that this fic and I were nominated for several catagories in the Summer Fiction Awards... so you can go to the sticky at the top of the page to check it out, and maybe vote. *cough*hint*cough*

18th August 2005, 3:57 AM
*hides* wow, really bad of me to leave it so long you forgot all that stuff... And you still were the first reviewer of this chappie :P

It's not your fault, I read about 20 other fics while waiting for the update, I can't keep anything straight anymore.

Yay! I was still the first reviewer!

18th August 2005, 8:19 PM
FINALLY! Yay! I've waited forever for this chapter!

19th August 2005, 11:09 PM
well Pd I finally got ot it. I had no idea how she got thge butterfree. I bet the reminder is the POkemon that she used in the kinda prequel and she wanted to keep it.
I found no mistakes. Damn. Well I want more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
jirachiman out ;385;

20th August 2005, 2:13 AM
lol ^.^ Thanks to both of you.

Jirachi, she got the butterfree in the chappie 'a butterfree in the hand' and she's used her occasionally since then. *pokes* so either it's been too long since I updated or you missed something :P

20th August 2005, 2:22 AM
when's the next chappie, puple_drake

20th August 2005, 3:00 AM
I don't know. It'll come when it comes :P I don't like making promises because the time it takes to write a chappie varies.

20th August 2005, 4:51 AM
It's proll ybeen to lopng and I've been so in to the other fics I've reviewed that I totally had no idea of anything. Really I forgot for a second how keegan got captured. O well. That just goes to show that you need to update quicker. But take ur time. It can be within a certain amount of time.
jirchiman out ;385;

21st August 2005, 10:21 AM
Well, I was planning to review at FF.net, but I was afraid that doing so would involve wandering into slight spoiler land, as you've posted fewer than half as many chapters there as you have here.

Anyway, I'd say that overall this story is pretty well done. It's certainly very well written, the action scenes in particular. The plot is pretty good as well, though it's rather a tad too obvious for my taste. Pretty much your standard hero's journey, though pokémonized.

The weakest point of this 'fic is, I think, the characters. Keegan in particular, and her influence causes a ripple effect that touches some of the other characters.

However, before we get to that, which will be the main part of the review, I'd like to take note of the song moment in the first chapter, which is one of the things that I particularly disliked about the opening.

Firstly, whether you choose to remove the song or not, I'd recommend googling up some correct lyrics. I know that some of the ones you've used here are wrong, though I will concede that it's possible that there are different versions. From the spellings you use I'm guessing that you're not American, and the song may have different lyrics abroad. If so, let me know.

As for it being so thoroughly entwined with the piece... I'm not so sure of that. Aside from being the apparent catalyst that began Keegan on her journey, I've only seen it come up occasionally, when Keegan feels really down-and-out and recalls a particular line that suddenly gives her the courage to go onward. I would suggest finding some other, slightly less corny motivator to try to push her through. After all, when I'm feeling down, I don't tend to remember a song at random and suddenly find the courage and resolve to keep going. Though of course, that's just me. It seems to me that, based on Keegan's character, she'd be much more interested in perseverence due to the fact that she feels the need to prove to her self that she's able to go through with her quest. Dunno, I guess I really can't offer help with alternatives, except maybe that you should seek some... I kinda, umm, laughed when I read that section of the fanfic, and somehow I don't think that's the mood that you were going for when you wrote it...

You also have major plot hole issues with the Eevee, as others have pointed out. It just doesn't make sense that it would remember (or be able to access the memories of) how to use its special attacks but not remember anything else... if Eevee had terribly short memories, it doesn't seem like they'd be very good at battling, as they'd forget their special moves.

Anyway, moving on to what most put me off here. Namely, Keegan, who is, unfortunately a Mary-Sue. A nice, well-written Mary-Sue, but Sue nonetheless. Her symptoms are different from those of other Sues, namely in that you have her internal character fairly well defined, but external characterization is her largest downfall. A character is defined by their actions and how they perceive themselves, but are also defined by the actions taken by others towards them and by the attitudes expressed about them by those characters.

Taking a look at the supporting characters in this piece, I notice that a rather inordinate number of them really like Keegan, many of them despite themselves or despite their initial impressions of her or for no particular reason at all. They like her so much that they're willing to go out of their way for her, do special favors for her, or spout helpful advice when the time is right. I mean, Keegan seems to have quite the flair for attracting random famous people to tell her what to do in times of need. It gives the supporters a sort of surreal quality, making them sorta contrived and really only in there to help Keegan along, not to be characters in their own rights. I mean, there's not one non-evil person who's given Keegan bad advice, found themselves unable to help her, or accidentally given her poor advice. They're all upstanding types and ready to give her a nice pep talk and send her off on her way. Not that there aren't people like that. There just usually aren't quite that many of them in proportion to the other kinds of people that you meet.

There are a total of three non-evil people in this story, so far as I can tell, that don't like Keegan, those being Whitney, that girl in Erika's class, and... Tynan? Dang, I can't leave this page to go back through and look for his name in earlier chapters. Umm, yeah, him. These three all are very one-sided and flat. We pretty much get to see them being irrationally mean, and they are given few, if any, redeeming qualities. In fact, you treat them worse than your Rockets in terms of character development. Tynan has extremely exaggerated Rival syndrome, and the others are just really flat meanies. While, yeah, there are mean people out there, it's a bit coincidental that they're the only ones who don't like Keegan, mm? Well, actually, there's Orchu, too, (forgot about him for a second), but his character is just... strange. For some reason I can't put my finger on, I don't understand him at all.

Keegan herself feels angsty too much of the time for my tastes, but at the moment I can't whip up enough evidence to claim that it's overdone... but I get tired of reading about how she's so unlucky and keeps messing everything up.

Legendaries are sort of overdone, too... some of their appearances are starting to appear gratuitous. I understand that some are necessary to the plotline, but though Ash seems to attract an inordinate number of legendaries (though his is hardly a terribly refined character to use for comparison) he certainly didn't do so in such a brief amount of time. Keegan has seen every Johto legendary but Celebi and one of the legendary birds already, and so far as I can tell she's been on the road for only a couple weeks, perhaps a month. That's quite a short span of time, whereas ash has had... a couple years?

Your dialogue is a bit weak, too. It seems almost too perfect, if you understand what I mean. Sort of robotic, as though these people had rehearsed what they were going to say instead of just saying it, like they have prepared speeches instead of saying what pops into their heads. It's a difficult quality to pin down, but I think that it may have to do with my impression that some characters are rather locked in as plot catalysts only, and their dialogue has been very, very carefully mapped.

All that aside, I don't think this is a bad 'fic. As I said, action is very nice, and the plot is pretty good, though I can't say this is the first time I've seen "son or daughter of famous canon character is unaware of their heritage and begins some form of quest" and "team rocket infiltrates upper echelons of the League or similar organization and begins to control region(s)", but it's pulled together pretty well and laid out nicely. Time jumps are occasionally jerky but not that bad.

Keegan, though, is what I believe the 'fic's main point is. She seems to be dragging some of the other characters down with her as well. However, I can tell that you're perfectly good at writing nice characters; Koga, for example, is an excellent character. You've pulled off a nice, subtle characterization for him, managed to keep it in line with canon, and really explored his complex character quite well. Keegan is incredibly shallow in comparison to him, in my eyes.

So, yeah, there it is. No way can I go through and highlight all of the small mistakes in all these chapters. Proofing is nice and tight as it is, anyway.

22nd August 2005, 4:26 AM
Firstly, whether you choose to remove the song or not, I'd recommend googling up some correct lyrics. I know that some of the ones you've used here are wrong, though I will concede that it's possible that there are different versions. From the spellings you use I'm guessing that you're not American, and the song may have different lyrics abroad. If so, let me know.

As for it being so thoroughly entwined with the piece... I'm not so sure of that. Aside from being the apparent catalyst that began Keegan on her journey, I've only seen it come up occasionally, when Keegan feels really down-and-out and recalls a particular line that suddenly gives her the courage to go onward. I would suggest finding some other, slightly less corny motivator to try to push her through. After all, when I'm feeling down, I don't tend to remember a song at random and suddenly find the courage and resolve to keep going. Though of course, that's just me. It seems to me that, based on Keegan's character, she'd be much more interested in perseverence due to the fact that she feels the need to prove to her self that she's able to go through with her quest. Dunno, I guess I really can't offer help with alternatives, except maybe that you should seek some... I kinda, umm, laughed when I read that section of the fanfic, and somehow I don't think that's the mood that you were going for when you wrote it...

Well, I used the lyrics from the official booklet of a CD, so as far as I know they're correct. Not all the lines were pertinent to the situation, though, and I didn't want to write out the entire song - so I skipped lines here and there. That could be the reason you think they're incorrect.

I was re-reading the earlier chapters to see if I could revise it, and you're probably right; it wouldn't be impossible to take it all out - I just haven't been bothered going through the remove all references yet -_-;; I realize it is really corny, but it does happen :P lol, I speak from experience.

As for Hazel's memories... -_-;; I'm still trying to think of a reason for that :P

Taking a look at the supporting characters in this piece, I notice that a rather inordinate number of them really like Keegan, many of them despite themselves or despite their initial impressions of her or for no particular reason at all. They like her so much that they're willing to go out of their way for her, do special favors for her, or spout helpful advice when the time is right. I mean, Keegan seems to have quite the flair for attracting random famous people to tell her what to do in times of need. It gives the supporters a sort of surreal quality, making them sorta contrived and really only in there to help Keegan along, not to be characters in their own rights. I mean, there's not one non-evil person who's given Keegan bad advice, found themselves unable to help her, or accidentally given her poor advice. They're all upstanding types and ready to give her a nice pep talk and send her off on her way. Not that there aren't people like that. There just usually aren't quite that many of them in proportion to the other kinds of people that you meet.

Actually, I never considered whether they liked Keegan or not. It was more, she needed the advice or the help that they had to offer, so they offered it. They would've done the same for anyone else. As for not giving her bad advice, well, I do have plans for that; a better thing to say would be 'none of the advice she's been given can be classified as bad *yet*'. Although going to find the birds, only to be caught by TR isn't exactly sage advice. I have to admit, though, mostly they really *were* there to keep her going, but I was so focussed on that, that I never imagined that would translate into the narration... that's really interesting.

There are a total of three non-evil people in this story, so far as I can tell, that don't like Keegan, those being Whitney, that girl in Erika's class, and... Tynan? Dang, I can't leave this page to go back through and look for his name in earlier chapters. Umm, yeah, him. These three all are very one-sided and flat. We pretty much get to see them being irrationally mean, and they are given few, if any, redeeming qualities. In fact, you treat them worse than your Rockets in terms of character development. Tynan has extremely exaggerated Rival syndrome, and the others are just really flat meanies. While, yeah, there are mean people out there, it's a bit coincidental that they're the only ones who don't like Keegan, mm? Well, actually, there's Orchu, too, (forgot about him for a second), but his character is just... strange. For some reason I can't put my finger on, I don't understand him at all.

Well, Whitney and the girl in Erika's class are b*tches, period. I didn't give them much thought because they're not major characters, and would never have been in a position to *show* their redeeming qualities. It's difficult to portray a fully-evolved character when they're only in a scene or two. One may be making a return in the sequel, though, so I have been giving her more thought. Tynan, on the other hand -_-;; I know in the beginning he's pretty much a typical rival character, but I do have big plans for him, so rest assured he's got some character development of his own coming up.

As for the legends, I don't really know how to answer that, except for some of them you're probably right. :P I'm already getting ideas for alternatives. Fortunately I don't intend for this to be the final copy of the story - knowing me I'll probably end up rewriting it, so I will be able to revise all that sort of stuff. I just wanna *finish* it first.

Thanks for the compliment on Koga, by the way; he's one of my favourite canon characters, and the news that I've managed to peg him down correctly means a lot. So: some things I can't say I agree on you with, others I do, and others I never even thought of. :P In all, I'd say it was a very thought-provoking review - thank you.

22nd August 2005, 5:18 AM
As for Hazel's memories... -_-;; I'm still trying to think of a reason for that :P

purple, I thought that the reason was already known to you as, if Hazel was knocked out too in the accident, she might have received enough of an injury to earn loss of all beforehand memory like Keegan

22nd August 2005, 5:49 AM
Hmm, I too, agree with you on some points and don't on others. I realized that you had to cut parts of the song out because it's long and stuff, but some of the lines were misquoted; I googled up some lyrics and they seemed to support this. Namely, the "I pray you're dancing" ones... there's no mention of prayer anywhere in the song that I can remember, nor was there any in the lyrics I searched up. Meh, just thought I'd mention it; I know I'm not the only one who thinks the lyrics are different than that.

Good luck with writing the rest.

23rd August 2005, 2:47 AM
purple, I thought that the reason was already known to you as, if Hazel was knocked out too in the accident, she might have received enough of an injury to earn loss of all beforehand memory like Keegan

The problem with that is, if she lost her memory then she wouldn't be able to remember attacks learned before Alto Mare, as Negrek pointed out. Unless pokemon attacks work more in a way of physical remembrance... like in the way that they practice the attack so many times that the use of moves is instinctive. Hmn, I might be able to work with that...

Hmm, I too, agree with you on some points and don't on others. I realized that you had to cut parts of the song out because it's long and stuff, but some of the lines were misquoted; I googled up some lyrics and they seemed to support this. Namely, the "I pray you're dancing" ones... there's no mention of prayer anywhere in the song that I can remember, nor was there any in the lyrics I searched up. Meh, just thought I'd mention it; I know I'm not the only one who thinks the lyrics are different than that.

Good luck with writing the rest.

lol, it's okay :P and thanks. I'm taking it to mean you're not sticking around, yah? Well, luck to you in whatever you're doing :P

Zephyr Soul
25th August 2005, 4:59 AM
I finally reply. Great chapter.:)

Now I need more story.

Billy Bob Pennywhistle
31st August 2005, 5:20 AM
Brillant chapter PD, really, truely brillant. SO... what's in the pokéball... huh huh...

Really super job!

4th September 2005, 12:58 PM
Yes pleas more story :)

Brian Random
10th September 2005, 9:01 PM
Chapter V:
Quite an interesting read, this one. But I did spot a couple of errors, nothing too bad though.

She raised a farewelling hand and ran for the train’s door

The one underlined is the word that MS Word have spotted as a spelling error and I, myself, think that is unnecessary. Just put in ‘farewell’.

Occasionally she caught a word or too

Spelling error: Two

I got a little bit confused with the battle scene. Firstly, I looked around more than once to see the bit where Vulpix got heavily injured but I couldn’t find it. Secondly, did the Umbreon escape? Other than the confusing bit, the rest was good.

The ending bit was a little bit funny when Bill had this bad feeling about Keegan doing something bad when she gets to Celadon City and the way he reacted. It’s obvious to me that she would get into trouble, that’s why this fanfics interesting. Therefore, I’m gonna keep on reading.

One more thing, clever chapter name that one.

PS: Apologies for not reviewing this sooner. Why sooner, you ask? Let’s just say life sucks.

11th September 2005, 3:48 AM
Oh ^.^ hi! It's okay if you don't review quickly, real life takes priority - I symphathise with you and hope things turn out fine.

'She raised a farewell hand'? :P lol, no, I know what you mean. I know that it's technically not a word, but I'm not adverse to making up words when no one can mistake it's meaning, and somehow 'farewelling' appeals to me more for this particular sentence. And thanks for pointing out the 'too' -_-;; dunno how that one slipped through.

Anyway, yeah, Brother escaped. I was leery about whether that was clear enough when I first wrote it, but no one complained, so... *shrug* With Vulpix, there was too much happening for me to feel comfortable focussing on Keegan and Bill at the same time; so I focussed on Keegan and when she got the chance she looked to see what was happening to Bill, only to find his vulpix was injured, see?

^.^ Thanks for the compliments, although it's ironic you thught the title was good - I hated that title, I thought it was cheesily cliche, but it was the only one I could think of at the time. :P Thanks again, luck to you.

Sike Saner
4th October 2005, 2:50 AM
Blood and black feathers...

This could very well be the single deepest story I have ever read. Not only have you got an abundance of fascinating, impeccably well-developed characters, you've also achieved a degree of intrigue and mystery within the plot that is staggering. Furthermore, the structural integrity is flawless - I missed any present errors, or else more likely there simply weren't any.

Kudos for writing such a high-quality, multi-layered story. And kudos for BLOWING MY MIND.

7th October 2005, 9:57 AM
I must say I'm rather dissappointed PD. Here I am waiting weeks and weeks for a story alert at FF.net, only to join here out of bordem and what do I find, seven more friggin awsome chapters!

But I think I'll let that slide. After all the story's great. One thing I must mention though is that you seem to be ignoring the pokemon characters in favour of the human ones. Were I'm up to, both Tarn and the nameless butterfree have made very few appearances and even less is known about their personalities, though Brother My Brother helped. Also Hazel and Firefoot have been neglected as well. That's the only thing I don't like that much in this fic.

Keep up the good work.

EDIT: Okay, I just read the last chapter and admit that more pokemon character development, and a nickname for butterfree, were present, though just one chapter isn't really enough.

And the reminder is Mightyena.

9th October 2005, 10:24 AM
Oh! Reviews! *looks sheepish* huh, I feel so guilty now. I admit I've been neglecting CaC in favour of other franchises (PLEASE someone tell me there's a Stargate fan here somewhere?!)

*cough* Anyway! Really, Sike it's reviews like that which make my day! *blushes* thank you for the kind words.

As for you, BenJS, I do have a reason for my lack of updates on ff.net - perfectionism. I feel the story is flawed, and probably won't update on ff.net again until I get it right... which could take a while, considering I need to finish this first draft before I begin the rewrite, and the fact that I've got so many story ideas I can't focus on any single one of them (Gawd, I am sad... I need a life). Anyway, thanks for your opinion on the characters - I agree Bram has been neglected, but didn't actually think much of the others. It's things like that I really have the urge to fix up. As for your reminder, I haven't forgotten him - he just hasn't reappeared yet. *grin*

Thanks again, and please don't kill me for taking so long! I'm getting burnout from writing so much this year.

10th October 2005, 3:07 AM
I'm a stargate fan! Kinda. I don't get to watch it much but I like it.

Twilight Absol
11th October 2005, 7:46 AM
Heh, looks like I'mm not the only one that neglected things >,> Oh well, At least I'm not so lonely now...

Anyways, I'll review in a few days after I catch up wth the reading ...

9th November 2005, 11:18 AM
*pokes Twilight* so much for a few days :P but then, I didn't think you were even around, so this is a step up... and SF! Nice to see a Stargate fan!! <_< No one ELSE around here seems to KNOW of it, let alone WATCH.

9th November 2005, 11:29 PM
Aww man. I see a post by PD no less expecting a chapter and all I get is her talking about stargate. Not that there's anything wrong with that but it's just that you really let me down. How's the chapter coming if you're even going to work on this anymore.
jirachiman out ;385;

10th November 2005, 2:25 AM
...that's why I hate posting when I don't have a chappie. I feel so bad if people think it's an update and it's not.

I am *trying* to continue it; I'm working on it, I swear, but mostly it's for the plotline of the rewrite! I do wanna finish it first, though, it just might take a while, since I've never be known for consistancy and I'm stuck in a quandry right now. Yanno, other stories, too many ideas, that sorta thing. I apologise deeply.

10th November 2005, 11:16 PM
Yanno, other stories, too many ideas, that sorta thing. I apologise deeply.

Don't worry about it, I've been there. I'm still trying to finish at least one chaptered story, but I keep gettin hit with new ideas. One morning I got up and started to write a song, by th time I finished I had 1 complete song and 3 half-finished ones. So, just keep working on it!