Finally done...

(Oh, and whoever rated this three stars, could you speak up? If you didn't like something you should say so...)

Chapter Five - Fallarbor

It wasn't long before Lucki was out of the hilly area and on flat ground again. She waded through the tall grass, Flare bounding along a bit clumsily next to her. Peering ahead she saw that not far off the tall grass ended and the sandy tan path began, just before the edge of Meteor Lake. Over that lay the deep russet bridge, stretching out of sight, toward the distant opposite side.

Lucki made her way through the end of the grass and to the shore, where the clear blue waves lapped inches from her white shoes. They lapped over the edges of the bridge as well, so that the wood was soaked although not submerged. Up ahead she could see fishermen struggling to land Goldeen and Magikarp, causing water to surge up in huge waves where they were standing to swamp the surrounding area.

"I'd better recall you," Lucki mentioned to Flare. He nodded, eyeing the way before them nervously, and she took out his pokeball and recalled him.

Lucki began making her way across the wooden planks, moving careful to try not to splash water into her shoes as she went through the wetter areas. She narrowly avoided being directly splashed a few times when a fisherman suddenly hooked a pokemon, but the mist sprayed into the area left her somewhat damp by the time she made it to the other side.

She continued on along the now dark reddish ground, passing small ponds that dotted the area. Rather than grass there was some low-lying plant with round leaves and white flowers, and some petite, graceful trees with branches laden with greenery in clumps.

Lucki came upon an older, neatly dressed in dark grey man sitting on a bench by the side of the brown trail. A Poochyena with white-flecked fur lay beside him, eyes closed and head resting in its paws. Its ears twitched at her approach and the dark type raised its head and roared, then lay its head back down without even opening its eyes. Lucki looked at the bite pokemon, not sure what to make of it.

"Oh, don't mind him," the man explained, standing. "He just likes using the move." He reached down and scratched the thick salt-and-pepper colored fur on his pokemon's neck. "My name is Ian Jennings. What's yours?

"I'm Lucki Middling."

"Are you heading to Fallarbor?"

Lucki nodded. "Is it close?" she requested.

"You're nearly there," he responded. "Just a bit ahead. Could you do me a favor, though? You see, I've been trying to catch a Nuzleaf, but they're quite shy and my Poochyena can't stay quiet for any length of time, and as he's my only pokemon…" Punctuating this statement, the Poochyena roared again.

Lucki nodded again. She could see how that would be a problem. "I've only just started, so my pokemon aren't that strong," she told him. "But I do have a fire type. I'm sure he'd be able to handle a Nuzleaf."

"Really? Do you think I could borrow him? It shouldn't take too long, as I know where to find them."

"Okay, let me just explain to him." Lucki released Flare and told him what was going on.

"You'll be staying at the Pokecenter today, won't you?" Jennings asked. "I'll drop him off there, all right?"

"Sure," Lucki replied, "No problem." She waved goodbye as they headed off under the trees. As she started to go, the Poochyena jumped up and began to trot along with her like a small but very noisy escort.

The road turned sharply right and she found herself facing what looked like farmed fields, with small seedlings sprouting up in squares of cultivated, dark soil. She passed a house with a weird sign proclaiming Ultimate Fossil Expert in Residence! and then she had reached Fallarbor Town. The Poochyena roared yet again and then started back the way they had come, tail wagging cheerfully, no doubt intending to meet up with Jennings.

Looking around Lucki thought it seemed a lot more rural than Rustboro had been, with only a few buildings and houses, and unpaved roads a lot like the one on the route she'd just been traveling. Lucki sneezed. And dusty too. It seemed very dry, despite all the water she'd seen along her way in.

Lucki headed in, planning to head to the Pokecenter and stay the night. Along the way she saw a huge domed building. It had four red columns that curled to meet at the top, blue sides and white accents. In design it resembled the tent she had in her bag. Over the door was a huge copy done in blue and white of the four pokeball symbol of the Hoenn Pokemon League. She went over to investigate. The sliding doors opened automatically to let her in when she approached.

Lucki entered. It was spacious inside. She looked around and saw a girl her age with obsidian blue hair in a shoulder-length ponytail wearing a white shirt and short, pleated blue skirt. "Hi," she greeted. "What's this place?"

The girl turned, dark emerald eyes focusing on Lucki's face. "Oh, it's a Battle Tent," she explained. "It's a new competition they've just started. You have to battle people according to special rules. It's only here for two weeks, and then they move to a different town to hold a different competition. The last one was in Slateport, and I heard it had a different set of rules than here, but I missed it."

"Really? Cool. Thanks." Lucki trotted across the alternating dark and light round tiles of the floor, up to the short line by the counter. After a short wait she reached the front.

"What pokemon will you register?" the young brown haired man asked.

She only had Silver at the moment, so she handed him the white pokeball. "Silver, my Squirtle," she stated.

The man took it, nodding, and placed it onto a platform near his computer. The machine beeped. He gave her the pokeball back with a piece of paper that had 18 on it and pointed to one side. "Go through the second door to your left."

"Okay, thanks." Lucki headed over and opened the door. There were seven other trainers inside, each with only a single pokeball, as well as an adult dressed in white. Across from here were three more doors.

"Welcome, trainers," the man announced. "In a moment, you will begin your Battle Tent challenge. The rules are simple. You and your opponent have three turns to defeat each other's pokemon. If neither pokemon has fainted by the end, a judge will determine the winner based on three categories: Mind, Skill and Body. The first reflects how aggressively you battled, the second how effective your moves were, and the third how healthy your pokemon is by the end. Whoever makes it through three consecutive battles will be rewarded with a prize." He gestured behind him towards the doors. "You will battle in the rooms behind me based on your assigned number. 12 and 15, step forward." An orange-haired girl and green haired boy did so. The man directed them through one door. "11 and 18, step forward."

Lucki and another boy stepped forward and the announcer directed them through a different door.

Inside was another adult, the judge, behind who was another door. "Take your positions at either side of the area and begin," he ordered.

Lucki looked over at her opponent, who had short purple hair and seemed like he was her age. She hoped she could do this. She went to one side of the small wooden floored arena and sent out Silver. Her opponent released a Surskit, a small blue pokemon with a round body held up by four pencil-thin delicate legs.

"Okay, Silver, we've only got three moves, so be careful," Lucki called out. "Start off with tackle!"

"Quick attack, Surskit," the boy responded.

Silver nodded, running at her opponent. The Surskit raced along the floor as well, jumping at the last second to collide with Silver and bouncing it off one shoulder. Silver was pushed back a set as the Surskit skidded along the ground, splaying out its legs to keep its balance.

"Great, again," Lucki stated.

"Try to slow it down with bubble!"

The bug-water type began to spew a froth of tiny bubbles towards Silver as she approached, but the tiny turtle seemed barely hindered, pushing her way through the foam without effort to hit the pond skater, flipping it over and sending it back almost to its trainer's feet. It righted itself but Silver tackled it a third time, stunning it.

The judge declared Lucki victorious and told her to continue through the door.

In the next room was a red-headed girl in a light summer dress who Lucki recognized as another of the group from the start, as well as a healing machine for pokemon. The judge took Silver's pokeball and placed it inside. When it was finished, he told them to begin their battle.

Lucki and Silver took their places. The other girl bit her lip and then sighed, sending out a large Numel. Without hesitation Lucki ordered a water gun. The numb pokemon managed to force its way through the attack for a single tackle, but then with a sigh much like the girl's was knocked over by the water attack and didn't bother to get up. Anticlimactically the judge told Lucki she was the winner and she went through the last door.

The other trainer hadn't arrived yet, so there was only the judge waiting there. By the time Silver had been healed the other trainer had arrived, a dark grey haired teen. He sent out a Gulpin.

Lucki looked at the weird round green pokemon suspiciously. It had only two small protrusions for arms on either side of its huge head, and no real body. A yellow feather stuck up from the center of its forehead like a hat's plume. It didn't look like it'd be much trouble.

"Pound," her opponent stated.

The Gulpin began to hunch its body across the field toward Silver.

"Water gun, Silver!"

Silver shot out a jet of water. Unperturbed, the Gulpin opened its mouth widely and simply swallowed the attack, then returned to its slow crawl. Reaching Silver, it humped its body up and struck her over the head with one small arm.

Lucki remembered now. Gulpin would try to minimize damage by swallowing all projectile attacks. Inexperienced trainers would sometimes make the mistake of thinking it was absorbing the attacks without taking any damage, which wasn't true. It was only that a Gulpin's practically iron-clad insides were better suited to taking the damage. "Hit it in the side or back, Silver, you'll do more damage!" she called.

"Quick, poison gas!"

Silver ran to one side. The Gulpin started to turn to face her, but before it could finish she released another water gun. The Gulpin's soft side bent under the force and, shocked, its mouth opened, releasing a puff of amethyst vapor. The poison quickly diffused away, but part of it blew over Silver, whose skin took on a faint purple tint. She wobbled slightly.

"Use another pound!" the boy called.

"Quick, withdraw!"

Silver vanished into her shell. The Gulpin's attack glanced off her.

Lucki was about to try another move when the judge called, "Cease!"

She rushed over to Silver, administering an antidote before the poisoning could get worse, then looked to the judge. He seemed to be deliberating. "Both of you were equal in Mind. But the Squirtle did more damage in attacking and despite the poisoning is in better overall health." He turned to Lucki. "I declare you the winner." He took out a small bag and handed it to her. "Inside are a random selection of TMs."

Lucki thanked him and proceeded out through a side door, back into the main lobby and then outside again. She continued further on to the Pokecenter.

"Hey Flare," she called, seeing the fire type lying at the foot of one of the waiting couches. "How'd it go?"

He loped over. "It took a little while to find one," he replied, "But the rest went fine."

"Good. Okay, return," Lucki decided, pulling Flare's pokeball over her belt and pressing the center button. The flame pokemon was sucked inside. She then headed over to Nurse Joy. "Excuse me, could I have a room tonight?" she requested.

Nurse Joy nodded. "Of course, here," she responded, taking a room key out and handing it to Lucki. "Have you seen Prof. Cosmo, by any chance?" she asked. "He lives around here."

"No, I only just got here," Lucki stated.

"Well, if you get the chance, you should see him. Apparently he's found something interesting. He lives in the long white split-story house down the street from here."

"Thanks for telling me," Lucki replied. "I guess I'll visit." She said goodbye and headed out again, following the street for a bit. Before long she same to a place that matched Nurse Joy's description. Heading up, she read on the mailbox Cosmo. She walked up the steps and rang the doorbell.

After a moment a middle-aged man with dark brown hair and a long white lab coat answered the door. "Oh, hello. You're a trainer? Come in."

Lucki nodded, stepping through the door. "Nurse Joy told me you found something?"

"Yes, although exactly what I'm still working on. Would you mind letting me see your pokemon?"

"Sure," Lucki responded.

"Okay, come this way." He led her down the hall into his lab. The place was white with polished steel countertops, and everything was perfectly clean and uncluttered. A large pedestal shaped machine stood near the center of the room. A clear round dome covered the top, allowing her to see a large metallic stone sitting in the center. "I recently found this meteor, and I'm trying to discover its properties. Have you ever heard of moon stones?" he asked.

"Yes," Lucki told him. "They're a type of meteorite, right?"

"Exactly. This isn't a moon stone, but it seems to be something similar. I'm trying to see how it responds to different pokemon. Could you let out one of your pokemon?"

Lucki released Silver. The tiny turtle looked around with interest as Prof. Cosmo stooped to tap a few buttons on the machine. It hummed a moment, then quieted.

"And the other?"

Lucki recalled Silver and sent out Flare. The professor repeated his motions.

"Hm…" He sounded surprised. "This is problematic."

"What's wrong?" Lucki asked.

"I checked another Flareon earlier, and got a different result. I'm not sure what to make of this." He sighed. "Clearly, a lot more work is needed." He turned back to Lucki. "Which way are you headed?"

"I'm going to Lavaridge, then down to Mauville."

"Ah. If I find anything more, would you mind sending me your Flareon to retest? This might just be a glitch in the machine," he mentioned, not sounding convinced.

"Yeah, sure," Lucki told him. "Tell me if you figure it out."

"Of course."

Lucki said goodbye and headed back to the Pokecenter.