PM List updated. Welcome aboard! I'm glad you're enjoying the story, and I hope you like what I have in store for future chapters.
Currently working on completing Chapter 35...
Well, that was an interesting character.
Although, the researcher ... is he anyone we know?
Yes! He has appeared in the story five times so far, including this chapter. I was actually hoping someone would catch on, from the way I repeatedly described him as having glasses and a crew-cut, though I didn't want to be too blatant and list the same details about him every single time. Read back in the last few Hearthome chapters, the ending scene of Chapter 25 in Solaceon, and Chapter 32. This guy is an important character, and though his repeated appearances might seem unconnected, you'll soon find out that he has a goal in mind.
Thanks for reading!
Is he his own entity, or does he work for someone else?
After leaving the party, Michael and Henry returned to the peace and quiet of their room, where they set down their belongings and trailed off in separate directions—Henry to the armchair, and Michael to the desk, where he opened his notebook and began to leaf through the pages.
“Okay, so Marie’s Gym is Water.” Michael traced his finger along the type chart to find the corresponding row. “Strengths, obviously, are against Fire and Rock. Weaknesses are Grass and Electric. That’s not too bad. I have Turtwig. You have Burmy and Pachirisu. Then I have Machop and Ringo, who’re neutral, and Goldeen, who’s Water too. Caterpie… she might come in handy again, so I’ll keep her in my team to be safe. You have Clefable and Starly, neutral too.” He looked up at Henry. “Seeing as I don’t have anything Electric-typed, I’ll have to either catch one or teach my pokémon some Electric moves. But other than that, I think we’ve got it covered.”
Henry, who was resting his chin in his hand, gave a shrug. “Well then there’s not much to train for, is there?”
“I guess not.”
Michael watched as the boy’s gaze dropped to his knees again. He let out a sigh. “All right, what’s with you? Are you upset?”
“No,” Henry mumbled.
“Yes you are. I’ve known you and your little facial expressions long enough. Just tell me what the deal is.”
Henry remained silent, keeping his gaze fixed on the legs of Michael’s chair rather than meeting his eyes. Suddenly, Michael had an idea. “Is it Shella?”
Henry looked up for a split second, then almost self-consciously trailed his gaze away again. Smiling, Michael got up and nudged Henry’s shoulder. “Come on, spit it out. You like her, don’t you? Think she’s pretty?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Henry said. “She wouldn’t have anything to do with me anyway.”
“Pshaw!” Michael let out a laugh.
Henry sprang up out of the armchair, his face pink. “Oh come on, it’s true! You’ve had girlfriends, and I… well, I’ve never had any and I probably never will. While you’re off on your little dates, I’m just sitting here, being the good little kid I’ve always been. That hasn’t changed in years, and I know it’s never going to. I’m hopeless!” He let his arms fall to his sides in resignation.
Michael held down his chuckles with a feigned-serious expression. “Hold up. Who said anything about dates? All I did was talk to her today.”
“Yeah, and that Great Marsh ticket I found on the floor yesterday just fell out of the sky.”
Feeling another wave of laughter overtake him, Michael stumbled back onto the bed, collapsing into a half-seated, half doubled-over position. Doing his best to stifle the quakes, he drew himself upright, shaking his head. “Cat… first of all, you can’t look at a girl and automatically think ‘potential girlfriend’. It doesn’t work that way, and chances are, you’ll only creep them out and they won’t talk to you anymore. And second of all, no one said you were hopeless. You said that, and you’re only what you say you are.”
Henry knit his brows as if for a retort, but his willpower seemed to drain away at the last minute, and he sat back down again. Michael watched him for a moment, pondering over what to say.
“If you want…” he said with a growing smile, “I can take you to meet her.”
Henry narrowed his eyes in disbelief. “How?”
“We made plans to meet each other for a walk downtown. I don’t think she’ll mind if I took you along.”
Henry let out a sigh. “Thanks, but… if it’s your date, then I guess I don’t want to ruin it. Just go. You don’t have to feel guilty for me, I’m not upset.”
“It’s not really a date, to be honest,” Michael said. He was looking up at the ceiling now, studying the swirly strokes of white paint. “I don’t think I even like her that way. It’s hard to explain. She’s like a friend to me.” He looked down at Henry. “Being friends is good too, you know.”
“I know, I know,” said Henry. “I’m not expecting anything. I just want to have some fun for once.”
“And you will.” Michael beckoned him towards the door. “Come on.”
Henry jerked from the chair, eyes bulging. “We’re going now?”
“No.” Michael chuckled. “We’ll go in the evening. Right now, we gotta get ready. You in particular. If you want to make a good impression, you have to work on it.”
“But what about being myself?”
“It’s not about acting like someone else. It’s about being presentable the way you are. Take me for example—sure I dress up when I have to, but I don’t go overboard and wear stuff that I’m not comfortable in. Some guys show up to dates in freaking formal vests, and I think it puts girls off, to be honest, because they don’t want to see an image. They want to see you as you really are. And being yourself is all about being relaxed, which means dressing the way you feel is right for wherever you’re going. That in mind, you still gotta look good, and that means ditching the scaredy-cat too. You could work yourself up into a nervous mess when all a girl wants is to talk, and that kills her impression of you. So keep your cool. If you don’t have anything to say about something, then don’t. Keeping quiet is better than saying something stupid just to impress someone.” As Michael talked, he packed his backpack, placing in his pokéballs and notebook. Henry watched him in curiosity, eyes narrowed.
“So then where are we going now?”
“To town. We need to research move techniques, for one thing. And for another, we can get you something less dorky than that granny purse.” He pointed to the knapsack that hung over the back of the chair. Normally, Henry was proud of his unique, convenient solution to pokéball storage, but right then, his friend’s words seemed to pierce through his gloom, and coaxed from him a smile.
“Fine then. Let’s go.”
Without having been in the room for more than twenty minutes, the boys departed once more on another journey.
They brought all their trainerly possessions with them to the bus stop, and when they got off inside the downtown, Michael used his map to find the nearest library. Despite the building’s quiet, high-ceilinged grandeur, it hosted a casual public consisting of all ages—from elderly enthusiasts to children in reading groups. To neither boy’s surprise, the facility featured a Pokémon Training section that stood separate from all the others. There they spent the rest of the afternoon, pulling books on Electric moves and finding which pokémon could learn them.
Michael decided on Thunderpunch for Machop, and was pleased to see that the book he selected had diagrams similar to Ted’s, along with detailed text explaining what should be done. From another book he found the technique for Energy Ball, a Grass move, which he would teach to Caterpie as soon as she emerged from her cocoon. Henry gathered a list of more advanced moves for Pachirisu and Clefable, and studied the diagrams with great interest. The books gave varying prognoses on the length of the training period, all of which were within a week, give or take a few days. Michael and Henry chose not to risk it and decided to schedule their battles with Marie for next week. They would do their preliminary battles on Sunday, three days later, and hopefully glean a preview of what Marie had in store. In the meantime, they would dedicate their days entirely to training, practicing the move techniques till their pokémon could recite them backwards.
With their move-tutoring books tucked under their arms, the boys descended the stone steps of the library and emerged onto the noisy street.
“We should find a safe place to do these move routines,” Henry spoke up. “I’m thinking we should go really far away from the buildings, like way towards the marshes.” He made a slow motion with his arm as if to throw something across the street.
“Why? Last time we used the hotel courtyard and we were fine.”
“But that was when Ted was helping us. He said we should only try basic moves on our own, or we could get hurt. And Thunderbolt isn’t really basic.“ Henry bit his lip.
“Calm down,” Michael said. “He only meant that for really powerful stuff, not basic moves that even a Pichu could use. And given that we don’t have much else to work with, we ought to stick with this. Unless you want to spend another week looking for the resident Move Tutor of Pastoria, in which case, be my guest.”
“I know, I know. I’m just saying we should be careful. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to set the hotel on fire.”
Michael snickered. “I think it would be cool if we could just start shooting bolts of lightning into the sky. I can think of five good pranks we can pull…”
Henry shook his head and looked away. “Not listening.”
Michael rolled his eyes. As they neared the subway station, he stopped to look at the stone clock tower that stood in the middle of the walkway. “Shit, it’s almost five. I said I’d meet Shella at six. We have to get to Gracidea Park; it’s a few blocks from the Great Marsh.”
Henry adjusted his grip on the books. “What should I bring?”
“Just yourself. Maybe a wallet just in case we stop by somewhere for a snack. I know I can stand to ditch the bag for a couple hours.”
They took the subway back to the plaza and arrived at their hotel room minutes later. Michael changed his shirt for the tye-dye one he was particularly fond of, and ran a comb through his hair, settling it into its usual messy-orderly style. Henry hobbled towards the bed and let his books fall into a heap, then began to fumble for his wallet, clearly debating whether he should take it alone or bring the entire tote bag with him. When he found it he held it in his hand, and the straps of the bag in the other, weighing them against each other in indecision.
When Michael saw what he was doing, he shook his head.
“Just leave it. We’re going one a walk for Pete’s sake; you’re not gonna be battling anyone. Quit being a trainer for once and just be you.”
Henry sighed. “Fine.” He let the tote bag sink onto the bed and pocketed the wallet.
As Michael laced his sneakers, Henry walked over to the vanity mirror and lifted his own comb, running its teeth through his short brown hair. He didn’t have much to comb, but though his appearance was left more or less unchanged, the task seemed to relax him.
Michael, now fully ready, marched on towards the door and waited for the boy to join him. “Come on. You done?”
Henry looked at himself a second longer, straightening the edges of his shirt, and took a breath. “Yeah. Coming.”
He turned, and without a word, followed Michael out of the room.
The boys left the plaza for the towering city, taking the sidewalk that ran alongside the road, which teemed with cars and buses traveling to and from the downtown. Michael led Henry along the same route he had taken on his first evening in the city, waiting at the bus stop for a ride, then getting off to plow through the teeming crowds in search of the subway station. Henry followed each point of their journey in silence, eyes sweeping over the sparkling cityscape, expression shifting from wonder to deep thought as he shifted his gaze from one sight to another. Though Henry was making no conscious effort to hide his feelings, Michael found it hard to guess what the boy was thinking. He had withdrawn somewhere into his own mind, where he seemed to be working something out, taking only a surface interest in the flurry of colors and sounds that surrounded them. If Henry were nervous, then he didn’t say it, and for once, Michael didn’t try to reassure him. He had an odd feeling that, one way or another, the boy would find his footing, and in the moment when he would least expect it, finally stumble upon his goal.
They entered the subway station and began to work their way along the network of routes, getting off at the stop called Marshland, which was located across the street from the Great Marsh complex. But instead of crossing to the other side like Michael had done before, he led Henry further along the boulevard until they reached a park of smaller scale, enclosed by a wrought-iron fence and decorated with trees and flowering bushes.
Michael swept his gaze over the people that gathered in the vicinity, but Shella was nowhere in sight. “We’re early,” he remarked. “That’s weird. The clock in the subway said it was six.”
“No we’re not,” said Henry suddenly. “Look.”
He pointed to a bench that had been hidden from view by a tree, which now emerged into view as they came closer. A girl was sitting at the edge, her hands folded in her lap, watching other people pass by. Perchance, her gaze locked on Michael’s, and he gave a smile.
“Yep. That’s Shella.”
Shella stood to greet them, clasping Michael’s hand in hers.
“How are you?” he asked.
“Wonderful,” Shella replied. Her eyes found Henry a second later. Michael looked askance.
“Oh, this is my friend—”
“Henry.” The boy cleared his throat before Michael could finish, extending a hand. “I’m a trainer too. Michael and I met all the way back in Oreburgh, and we’ve been battling Gyms together ever since.”
Shella shook his hand, and looked at Michael with a sly smile. “You had a friend and you never introduced us?”
Michael’s face became grave. “Never got a chance. Henry’s a lot more dedicated to the League than me, so he doesn’t have much time for other stuff. He spends almost all his time training and making sure his pokémon are pumped up to the max. No joke. I keep trying to get him to do something else, like go outside, but the kid just keeps on trucking. You know, he beat the Hearthome Gym three to two.”
Henry lowered his chin a little, smiling.
“That’s pretty impressive!” Shella looked at Henry. “You seem a little young for a trainer, though.”
Henry gave a pause. “Actually, uh, I’m older than most of them,” he said. “I’m eleven. I started the League this summer. Most kids start it when they’re nine, but they do it for fun and don’t usually stick with it for long. I’m not like that. I didn’t want to do it when I was nine because I didn’t feel I was ready… and well, because my mom wanted me to focus on school. But now I’m ready for it.” He squared his shoulders, as if to transmit his certainty, and gave a smile.
“So you’re serious about the League?”
Henry nodded. “Yep! I already made up my mind. Mike and I are gonna aim for the top together. We might even enter the tournament together.”
“But that means we’ll have to battle each other,” Michael said.
Henry paused, giving a frown. “Well, then I guess one of us will have to win.”
“And we all know it’s going to be me…”
Michael responded with a shrug. “That or we make it a tie and force them to give us both the title.”
“You really think they’ll let us do that?”
“Sure, why not? It’s not like they can force one of us to win.”
“Yeah, I guess that makes sense…” said Henry. “But you have to promise. Deal?”
Michael rolled his eyes. “Fine. Deal.”
When the boys had made their compromise, Shella smiled. “I think it’s great that you two are in this together,” she said. “That’s what I always liked about pokémon training. Challenging the League sounds twice as fun when you do it with your friends. And not to mention easier.”
Michael glanced over to Henry, and responded with a chuckle. “True that.”
They set off down the path together and made more small-talk, pausing every so often to comment on a piece of scenery. At first, the comfort that Michael had started to feel in Shella’s presence seemed to diminish with Henry’s presence, though the tension he felt within himself eased when he saw that she had taken a fair liking to him. She asked him some more questions, pertaining to his life and hobbies, and seemed to delight in the fact that he knew a lot about the Sinnoh League, particularly more detailed topics which she hadn't been able to broach with Michael before. Henry, in turn, gradually loosened up in her presence and became his usual self, though Michael noticed that he was holding something back, keeping some of his usual mannerisms restrained behind a more grown-up composure. But at the same time, he never came across as rushed or pretentious, and apart from that brief moment of uncertainty when he first spoke to Shella, he never lost himself in front of her.
Michael gave him a hand when he could, filling the gaps of Henry's stories where he couldn't remember something, and giving his own spin on a tale. Together, the boys narrated all the colorful moments of their journey for Shella, like their first battle with Byron, their adventures in Hearthome, and their plight in Solaceon. When Michael told the story of how he had first used Goldeen’s water technique in his battle with Jerry, Shella hadn’t been able to handle it, and burst into laughter.
“I have to say, that’s really creative!” she said. “I never knew pokéballs could work like that. I imagine that blew the Gym leader’s mind when he saw it!”
Michael smiled. “You should’ve seen the look on his face. He practically dropped his pokéball. And Bertha, too. She was right there watching, and she nearly got soaked!”
Shella continued to giggle, covering her face with her palm. When she had calmed, she turned to the boys again, a new spark of interest kindling behind her eyes. “You guys never told me how you met her. I know she’s traveling to get signatures for her petition, but why did she decide to travel with you two?”
Michael gave a slight grimace. “Well, she sort of didn’t have a choice. There was this factory that got put up in her hometown that belonged to Team Galactic, and it was dumping a whole bunch of waste into the town, so she tried to get it to change its policy. She said that Team Galactic’s been getting too powerful for its own good, and that it was about time that some of the government’s money went back to the League. It’s because the government’s been cutting funding from the League to give it to Team Galactic, which is why the League can’t do a lot of things it used to.”
Henry, meanwhile, had cast his gaze down to his shoes, expression dark. “She didn’t have a Gym or anything,” he put in, after a moment. “She did all her battles in her house, and she had to give trainers a place to live and eat too, because there wasn’t a League hotel. That’s all because the League couldn’t work with the town to build her a Gym.”
“And she got into this huge argument with the factory’s management while we were there,” Michael continued. “I think she wanted something from them, maybe to get help with the petition, but before she could get anything done, the factory exploded.”
Shella balked at the sudden twist. “It exploded?”
“Yep. Right in the middle of Henry’s battle, too.” Michael exchanged a glance with the boy. “The whole town had to evacuate. Trains started coming in like crazy and people were boarding them and getting rides to all over the place. Bertha decided to go with us to Hearthome, because she had to meet with the next Gym leader to her his signature, and we needed to see him for our battles. And from then on, I guess, she tagged along wherever we went.”
Shella processed their story with a frown. “I think I remember seeing something on the news about an explosion… I can’t imagine what that must be like. Losing your entire home, all because some people were careless with their experiments. But I guess it’s a good thing she decided to move on. Taking action is much better than staying in one place.”
It seemed that she might have wanted to say more, but right then, she decided to remain silent.
Their conversation ended on a low note, but as they left the park to wander about the neighboring streets, Shella regained her spirits, and the trio strolled with renewed energy among the shops and kiosks. Here, in the northernmost limits of Pastoria City, life was comparably quiet. With the greatest attention reserved for the Great Marsh, the rest of the vicinity was devoted to small enterprises like cafés and souvenir shops, whose windows they skimmed by, peering in to glimpse racks of items. They visited a record store, where they searched for various groups among boxes of tracks, and played their favorite tunes.
Next, they located a candy store, which Michael entered in earnest, feeling a beast within him stir at the smell of chocolate. He browsed the aisles with the utmost attention, though for a long while he hung in indecision, for he had tried nearly every brand of candy on the shelf, many to the point where he could almost replicate their taste in his mind. He stood there for a while, until Shella beckoned him to the International section, which stood on a side wall. Michael lifted his eyebrows, as did Henry, as he glimpsed the rows of foreign titles, written in varying styles, often coming in odd shapes. By chance, Michael’s eyes landed on the Johto section, where he found one package out of many and took it from the wall.
“Rage Candy Bar?” He turned the package over in his hands. “That’s a weird name.”
“Oh, those are really good!” said Shella. “I’ve only had them a couple times. It’s really lucky that they have them here — even in Slateport they’re not always in stock.”
But Henry was eyeing the wrapper in shock. “I’ve heard of those! They’re made in this really exclusive place in Johto called the Lake of Rage. They use fat from Gyarados to make the flavor better!” He looked up at Shella. “Don’t they?”
Shella attempted a smile. “I heard a rumor… but I don’t think it’s true. At least I hope it’s not true.”
They both looked at Michael, who was still holding the candy bar. He lifted the flap of the wrapper to read the ingredients, eyes narrowed. “It just says chocolate.”
“Yeah, but it matters how they make the chocolate,” Henry said. “I don’t think we should get it.”
Michael frowned. He sought out the cashier, who was counting bills by the register, and pushed the candy bar over to him. “S’cuse me, is it true they make these things with Gyarados fat?”
The man looked up, and at the sight of the candy’s name, gave it an approving squint and nodded. “That’s some quality chocolate right there,” he said. “It’s not often we have them. They’re handmade by a man in Johto. He has a secret recipe that he won’t reveal to anyone, so he’s the only one in the world who can make them. As for the Gyarados fat, I highly doubt it. It’s just a rumor. And Gyarados are pretty hard to catch, mind you, so I doubt some lone fisherman is going to want to prop a whole business on Gyarados fat.”
Henry let out a sigh of relief.
“But I’ll tell you one thing.” The clerk held up a finger. “They’re called Rage Candy Bars for a reason. It’s said that there’s a certain species of berry tree that grows right around the Lake of Rage, and the juice that comes out of it makes a flavor that complements the chocolate perfectly, which is why the guy uses it. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but whatever that chocolate is, it can’t be beat.”
Michael eyed his companions. “Well that sounds good for starters. I’m buying it.”
He grabbed two more bars and paid for them, handing them each to Henry and Shella. Upon taking his first bite, Michael was astonished at the taste. It was chocolate of a surprisingly deep and rich quality, complemented by the subtle crunch of a wafer filling. It was easily better than anything he had had back in Jubilife. But when they returned to the cashier to ask if they had any more in stock, he responded with a shake of the head.
“We’re all out, I’m afraid. Sorry.”
Michael’s face fell into a frown, a crease forming between his eyebrows.
He pocketed the wrapper, promising himself that the next time he saw a candy store, he would look for them.
Shella offered Michael an apologetic smile, and out of guilt that she had led them into a dead end, she bought a bag of small chocolates, which they shared as they exited the shop and continued down the street. The sun was already dipping low to the horizon, dimming the sky, and they were beginning to search for a bus stop where Michael and Henry would be leaving. As they proceeded in the direction of the Great Marsh, the street gradually grew busier, and the crowds noisier. The area around the Marsh complex, which had been sparsely populated just hours ago, was now teeming with people who seemed to have assembled from all directions. There were several points in particular where the commotion was concentrated, among them a nearby news store, which stood just a few doors down from the Marsh. Michael’s gaze stuck to it as he passed by. The store was bursting with activity from within, where the shadows of customers could be seen pacing the room, gesturing angrily. Their rapid chatter wafted through the closed doors, reaching Michael’s ears even above the sound of traffic. People dotted the vicinity outside in a likewise state, talking at a frantic pace, their conversations garbled by the sheer quantity of voices.
“I wonder what that’s about,” Shella murmured.
Michael looked at the people who were gathered around the news store, registering the looks of evident anger and shock on their faces. “Better not wait to find out. Let’s go.”
He quickened his pace, and his companions followed suit, cutting across the next few blocks. They ran into no further obstructions, and soon found a bus stop, where Shella waited to see them off. They stopped together by the benches, facing each other.
“It was great seeing you again, Michael. And you too, Henry.” Shella gave the boy a smile. “I can tell you’re a really dedicated person. You’ll go places.”
Henry blushed slightly, but maintained eye contact.
“Maybe we can meet up again another day,” Michael offered.
“Definitely,” Shella said. “I was actually looking at an art museum downtown. It has a great modern collection with stuff from all over the country. I know it’s not as much of a thrill ride as a concert, but paintings are nice too, right?”
Michael nodded. “Cool. You up for it, Henry?”
“Great!” Shella beamed.
Moments later, there came a loud grunt as the bus came to a stop by the curb, sliding open its screechy doors. Michael and Henry boarded, paid the fare, and took a window seat to wave Shella goodbye. She lingered by the benches to see them off, the colors of her hair and clothing standing in contrast with the dull sidewalk, then the bus whisked them away, pushing her image aside as the rest of the block began to roll by.
Henry’s gaze lingered on the spot for a moment, then he looked down at his lap with a sigh. “Thanks for that, Michael.”
Michael gave a professional nod. Though he couldn’t keep from smiling.
Inside the bus, the boys were surrounded by relative calm. They rode without speaking, for with the close of their evening, they had each reached a point of contentment where words were no longer needed to express their thoughts. Everything had already been said between them.
The two boys spent their ride in silence, looking in different directions, glad to let their minds wander. Michael soon took to watching the window, hoping to eventually get some shut-eye before they arrived at the subway. But as he continued to peer out into the distance, he became aware of a growing disquiet outside, which, instead of fluctuating across points of varying activity like it should have, seemed to increase in magnitude the longer he studied the fleeting streets. People flocked together in groups of unusually large concentration, filling alleyways, dawdling in the middle of sidewalks, their faces all marked with the same dazed, puzzled expressions he had seen earlier by the Great Marsh. It was as if the commotion in that little part of town had taken hold of the city at large, stirring up a general intrigue whose tides were fast rising, soon to envelop everything within the city limits. But though he tried, Michael couldn’t pinpoint its source. There seemed to be nothing unusual going on in the streets or in the sky, nor were there any clear signs of a crisis, like traffic cones or flashing lights. He caught sight of a few TVs stacked in a store window, but they flicked past too quickly for him to see what they were showing.
As time passed, the other people in the bus seemed to stir awake, as they caught on to the same things Michael was noticing. He heard fragments of conversations all around him as the passengers pointed to various things in the distance, turning their heads, rustling purses and shopping bags. At one point, he thought he heard someone whisper: “Oh my God!”
Just as he was about to turn to Henry, he felt the boy tap his shoulder.
“Michael, I think I just saw some people standing with signs!” Henry pointed to the window across from them, which most of the passengers were now looking at, blocking the image with their silhouettes. Michael lifted himself from his seat to for a closer look, though he had acted a moment too late, and the image was obscured by rushing buildings.
He tried to push himself further forward, squinting to glimpse the walkway on the other side of the road, but saw nothing. “Signs? What did they say?”
“I don’t know. But it feels like it’s everywhere.” Henry gulped. “Something’s happening.”
When they arrived at the trainer plaza, the hotel appeared to be in its usual state, active and orderly. There were a few trainers lingering in the sitting room, playing games, while staff members pursued business of their own. Whatever was happening in the city, it had not yet reached the plaza’s ears.
Michael and Henry ascended the stair steps to their room without comment, but before they could go any farther, a door down the hallway swung open, and Bertha stepped outside, beginning a hurried walk towards the lobby. But upon seeing the boys, she stopped, eyes perking in surprise.
“Hello boys. Where were you?”
“We were just downtown,” Michael said. “Why?”
“I went to check up on you a while ago, but you weren’t in your room. Anyways, it doesn’t matter. You’re here now, that’s good.”
“What do you mean?” said Henry. “Did something happen?”
The look of worry that had lingered on Bertha’s face a moment prior vanished for a smile. “No, not at all. I was just wondering what you two were up to.” She pushed back a strand of hair that had fallen from behind her ear. “Today’s just been a strange day for me. Marie and I have been working to assemble all the contacts we got during the party, but the phone lines are all busy for some reason, and we couldn’t get in touch with half the people we wanted to. We were in her office all day trying to sort it out with the city hall, but in the end they just left us hanging, and we had to hang up. Then, just now, I got a phone call from Anita.”
Michael was taken aback at the mention of Bertha’s secluded friend, whom they had met only briefly in Hearthome. “Anita? Why would she call you all of a sudden?”
“I don’t know. She seemed worried, though. She said that my petition might have to be put on hold for some reason.”
Both boys balked.
“Why?” Henry asked.
“Beats me. She said she couldn’t explain it to me over the phone, but she said to check the news… and there’s nothing on the news.” Bertha gave a one-shoulder shrug and crossed her arms.
Michael exchanged a glance with Henry, but could find no means of shedding light on her words. When it was clear that they knew as little about the conundrum as she, Bertha let out a sigh. “Well, I’ll keep you guys posted, at any rate. Stay out of trouble.”
She gave them a final smile, and brushed past them on her way towards the lobby.
At that same moment, in Hearthome City, Nancy Bryan was sitting on the phone in her hotel room, waiting to be connected to the city press office. Her notebook lay open on the table before her, and she was tapping her pen against its surface, waiting to take notes from the person she was about to speak with. But the operator wasn’t responding.
“Hello?” she called into the silence. “Are you still there?”
Moments later, there came a huff as the lady sat back down. “I’m sorry, Miss Bryan, but he’s not available.”
“What?” Nancy slapped the pen down in frustration. She had been promised at least ten minutes of the man’s time, and now they were turning her away. “Please, at least leave a message for him,” she said. The operator responded with something else, her voice breathless, as if from a long run. “But he said this was his break. What do you mean, the line’s flooded?” Nancy pressed. “Where is he? Hello?”
She was cut off by a loud beep from her receiver as a call came in from the other line. Feeling the futility of her situation, she sighed. “Fine,” she told the lady. “I’ll call back later. Goodbye.”
She hung up the phone and switched to her new call, immersed in thoughts of irritation and hopelessness. She paused before answering, wiping her exhausted eyes, then leaned the receiver against the side of her face. “Hello?”
An answer came seconds later, sounding vaguely like Ned, but his voice was drowned out by the sound of cars and people. From what Nancy could gather, he had the others were caught dead in the city center, but the pay phone was either too old or too cheap to keep a good connection. Tom and Bobby tried to say something else, but they too were lost in the static.
Nancy narrowed her eyes as if to peer through a haze. “I can’t hear you guys! There’s too much noise!”
There came another rush of static, louder than ever, then suddenly it cleared. Ned had likely managed to adjust the wiring, and pressed the receiver to his ear anew. For a moment, all Nancy could hear was the sound of distant voices around them. Then came Ned’s, loud and clear, transcending the void between them.
“Turn the TV on. Now.”
Last edited by Mrs. Lovett; 27th June 2013 at 8:28 PM.
Oh my, a cliffhanger.
Whatever's happening on the news must have something to do with the people with signs.
You're right. Although it would be more accurate to say that what's happening on the news and the people holding the signs both have to do with the same thing.
Thanks for reading!
Having made this review solely while I was reading and then not bothered to edit the thing afterwards, some of these paragraphs may be quite a bit outdated, not taking into account the whole story. The first one was written just after reading 0.3. You can pretend I was around the whole time!
This fic is really really enjoyable; it's got creative, entertaining scenes and a very convincing way with characters, emotions, drama. I start reading and get totally absorbed watching everything go down, little details and big dramatic scenes; the paragraphs are a joy to read. That kind of immersion never happens when I'm reading on the screen. Also, it's so simply narrated that you don't notice how subtly the whole thing is constructed: big faint hints that whole scenes are giving, the general family stuff, and of course everything Micheal's going through. Like Chapter 2 I think:
Because it was comic and from Michael's perspective, I only realized in retrospect how well it describes a situation: a lot of public service, public education for children, food counters etc, where the load is so much and the infrastructure ancient, and low resources and mismanagement, that the children who needed something have walk away with a sense of getting half a deal. It's a funny scene, but I thought it was a sad scene too. You only mentioned the crying girl without a pokeball for two sentences but sure the heart went out to her. (Although, is she crying because there aren't any starters left? That can't be, since Michael picks one up, two minutes later.)"Get out!" Emerson yelled. Michael flinched slightly, and the man sighed. "Just... just get the hell out, kid... I have fifty more waiting outside the lab..."
The professor turned away. He sat down in a corner and began to light a cigarette.
Since this review was made over the 4-5 days of reading the whole thing, I'll give a MOOD WHIPLASH warning. 4-5 days fast-forwarding into one post, you know. Also, GIANT POST warning, by god.
I liked how you tied everything together in 0.4, lots of things happening in one stroke all continuously. I thought, is there going to be a sentimental photo album scene? But then there was a totally different reveal, Michael figured something out, everything went slapstick, and then everything went quiet. It didn't feel rushed at all. More like one of those nights where it looks like you're never getting to bed, things just don't stop happening.
What a nice line. The world must be looking gigantic right at that moment. Also, since I'm quoting, I'll point out a probable typo:The Stunky sniffed. Michael turned his head to face the street. It went down, down, down, all the way to the beginnings of the city. In that distant strip of land, Jubilife shone with nighttime activity.
Not totally sure what's going on there, but you might mean "his brother's".When did I ever have this? Michael wondered, staring at the patterned cover. He looked at the inside cover. The blank line had been filled by the phrase 'RICHARD ROWAN'. This had been his brothers.
In 0.5 there were a few things:
"it's", both times. You're shortening "it has", of course.This thing has cost me my summer, it cost me my freedom, its cost me my house, and now its cost me a chick. ****, I hate pokemon!
It sounds like the ground is actually moving, tilting away; if you said 'sloping downwards' it would do the job, right?He barely noticed that he was once again outside, and that the ground beneath his feet was slowly tilting downwards.
Those dream sequences are so fun! In the beginning of 0.6, before anything has to resolve or the sentences get totally businesslike, you let images just sort of hang around and make amusing effects. It doesn't just feel entirely dreamlike but a little like the reel you mention a few times, a '60s video clip. Interesting.
Both times you wrote 'Turwtig'. Later, I found even more 'Turwtig's; you might wanna do a find-replace on the whole chapter.A pokémon fight? Michael turned back to his tree. The Stunky was still there, watching curiously through the bars. Its ribcage was showing slightly through its skin. The Azumarill could pin it down in seconds. So the only thing left was... Turwtig.
Michael's heart sank as he went over to his backpack and fingered the pokéball nestled in the pocket. He twisted the knob and watched the Turwtig materialize before him. In the daylight, its blue-green skin seemed even brighter.
'bite his lip', you meant.What am I supposed to do now? Michael thought, resisting the urge to bit his lip.
Wait, Micheal gets Wally's sprite in the banner? I always thought of him as a Youngster or maybe later an Ace trainer.
I thought he'd shove it off as "easy victories". =P It actually sort of hints at his goodness to me. You've been very careful to show that Micheal is basically a good kid, deep down. His brother must be a really solid guy by now.Then out of the blue came Henry, the kid who wore a sunhat, almost a foot shorter than him, the epitome of middle-school nerdiness, and the first kid who had ever called Michael Rowan a good friend.
Heh, squalor. Again I get the government service vibe from it: stark regulation buildings that do the job with just a stamp of officialism for decoration. The gym is actually like a [i]real[/i[ gym! A room where fights happen."I guess..." Henry said, without enthusiasm. They continued walking, and now, Michael could see a large brick building up ahead. It was bordered by shrubs, which hid a thinning lawn. They neared it, and Michael could see a sign that jutted out of the soil: 'Oreburgh City Gym. Leader - Byron.'
One of his interns.The boy looked up at Michael. "The professor gave it to me. I'm one of is interns-in-training. It's a summer camp." He sighed.
This chapter's sequence actually has some of the excitement of real discovery in it, like taking apart electronics in your garage. In fanfic people try to explain or justify the game's weird logic, and it always comes out grudging, or condescending, or unconvincing. Even when the logic works out. It feels... laboured. But them talking about pokemon types, dex entries -- maybe I'm just excited for how you'll deal with the science, if you do deal with it -- everything feels new and unexplored.
Did I tell you I love period? I love it.Henry shook his head for both, and repeated the motion for every single big name Michael called out, his eyes blank like a child's. When Michael had recited every single band in his collection, and had each one of them rejected by Henry, all he could do was stare in amazement.
"What rock do you live under? Seriously! You can't tell me you've never heard of any of them! And the Beatles, dude. How can you not know who the Beatles are?"
Love it."No, I do. Their songs are really carefree and happy. You know, they make you feel good. And at the same time, some of them are really deep too. But my mom doesn't let me to listen to them. She thinks they're a bad influence."
"She thinks that if I'll listen to them, I'll want to do drugs and wear my hair long and stuff."
Over the it.Michael took a look around. Bushes were scarce, but they were full and large. He went up to one and ran his fingers over the it
Aw, yeah! They should have made Gold like this in the manga."You better not."
"Or what?" he sneered.
"Or I'll kick your fat ***."
Where it crashed, presumably.The sentence was left unfinished. Machop swung the spear, hitting the Geodude off towards the wall, where crashed just below the windows.
Ooh, creepy. Your battle descriptions are pretty convincing, they've got their noses pressed down to realism. Like the rest of the fic. A kid like me would always use shoujin glitter and colorful animations to describe Psychic.A pink glow lit up Bronzor’s eyes, and Michael looked up. He did not see the attack strike - all he saw was the flick of light as Bronzor descended, and the wince of his Turtwig as it collapsed. The Turtwig fought an invisible force for a while, shuddering and spitting, before going still.
This was clever -- I saw it as Bronzong lowering itself into the opponent's mind, so that the opponent starts seeing itself as bronzong or just muddles up identity really badly. That explains specifically why confusion can only make the pokemon hurt itself, even though in mind-scramble you'd expect it to do anything -- hesitate, go to sleep, juggle pies.“Go!” Michael snapped, and the Goldeen brought the Bronzor into focus. The theory was that if confusion reversed the pokémon’s understanding of its trainer’s commands, if the trainer told it to attack itself, the pokémon would attack the other pokémon on the field with it - the opponent.
Excellent. And I hardly expected the sentiment to appear in pokemon fic -- usually literature's like, money is filth, it's only evil businessmen who care about money. Actually, it's anyone who has to stand on their own feet.Michael slowly pocketed the money, and instantly, he could feel its familiar weight against his side - light, but heavy at the same time. Truly the best feeling in the world.
Just before the last sentence there's two words hanging, probably a relic.Burmy shed its cloak in a heartbeat. The leaves were back again, swirling through the air and raining down on the Geodude’s body. The pelts left deep indentations in the rock, crisscrossing around Geodude’s eyes and arms. The wind When the leaves had exhausted their purpose, Geodude lay still on the ground.
You can see from very early chapters what's Michael's deal: he can strategize quite nicely, but he doesn't care about the pokemon, barely gives them training, fobs off learning about their individual problems until the actual battle. I wonder if Byron mightn't have noticed that when he was giving Michael advice -- the kid hadn't even taken Machop out once, until the actual battle came.
That's pretty hardcore. Rowan should tell these stories in his lab sometimes, show the new kids how trainers get by.“Well, it’s more of a demonstration. Three boys, armed with nothing but a net and their bare hands. I guess we can still get by with two, but you’ll have to be on your toes.”
...Fuhahahaha!The fence he had anticipated stood about sixty meters away, and it was the tall electric kind. The green space leading up to it was utterly barren, like Professor Emerson’s giant bald head sticking out from the ground.
In the council meeting in 1.2 I was thinking throughout: how hard can it be to locate large white flakes coming from a factory? Put a cotton filter on their smokestacks for five seconds. Observe the perimeter of the building. I know Bertha was really dealing with a critical attitude problem, but she could have tried to eyewitness the things coming out of a factory that's pretty much across the street from her. Or pushed for some on-site testing; could Galactic refuse the government that? The chemistry doesn't matter on a casual reading, but that consideration can occur to someone very easily even if they don't have science.
It must be getting tiring to hear just monotonous praise from me; I can't really think of improvements. When I try to criticise the prose in some of the paragraphs I see how it is: sure I wouldn't agree with some of your sentence choices, and from an angle they could be seen as flaws. But a story's flaws depend on the context, in my opinion. Your fic has flair, and it always has solid, entertaining things to convey that it conveys in its own way. The scenes, characters, descriptions etc have the confidence of good writing that the author is clearly enjoying.
Speak of the devil, I thought of something:
I'm not totally convinced by your use of light to manipulate appearances. Once in 0.6 you made light hit that bully kid's fist arm, making it look intimidating, but I didn't really see how spotlighting something would necessarily make it look bigger and badder; it just draws attention to whatever's there, big or wimpy. Presumably it wasn't wimpy. Anyway, here too -- I remember reading "light hit something's curves perfectly" in other stories, but always felt it was a weak argument -- light can't make a shape look more shapelier than it is. It'll always just highlight details. In your polished fic it sticks out.That morning, a beat-up van had been parked on the curb by the marketplace. A logo, pasted in bold letters on the side, read: Jubilfe TV. The van was bulky and dirty, something that would be the subject of ridicule in most large cities, but here the light hit its curves perfectly, making it glow against the plain, undeveloped town.
I haven't mentioned how much I love Bertha (probably because, isn't it obvious? who wouldn't?). She shows some serious grit in 1.6, more than the serious grit she's been showing before that. Her city totalled and her basement gym gone, but she's still ready to be understanding in front of thirteen-year-olds.
Am I right in thinking Roots will never become very pokemon-centered, in principle? For now we're still waiting for Michael to get out of his abusive ways, but the fic doesn't really describe pokemon, basically, beyond a simple idea of the personalities, and they are pretty damn animal-like in this universe. (Admittedly when they do appear, they're always kind of adorable.) Though, if Michael ever gets serious about treating his pokemon right, it could be nicely implemented by fleshing out all the pokemon much more than before.
Your chart in 1.8 is totally invisible against a black background; don't make it transparent for chrissakes. A white background to the image might look ugly, but Michael's paper is probably white too.
The only two human feelings in his heart!It was out of respect for Bertha and pity for Henry that he didn’t comment on the petition when the subject came up.
Michael is doing his type thing, something he assumes no one's systematically done before, and will give him a big advantage over everyone else. (And perhaps it could -- one of the reasons the games are pretty easy to beat is that most of the battlers aren't very intelligent with type. Or with anything. That makes me think Michael's style is very much like the typical strategy-less noob who plays through the game for the first time: button-mashing your strongest move, only type matchups by way of strategy, high disregard for the actual characteristics and potentials of pokemon.) Right here I get a wave of Cutlerine's skepticism: really, no one's noticed such a correlation with types (and a thirteen-year-old did)? The only way I can justify it to myself is one thing you said with evolution -- individual people have noticed it, but privately, and they have private unsystematic ideas about it. So, like, in this fan community not everyone might understand how EVs and IVs work. And assuming fansites didn't exist, assuming no one widely disseminated that kind of competitive theory -- more likely in the '60s -- maybe it really wouldn't be well-known.
Anyway, I'm seriously smitten by Bertha. Just putting that out there. Little-boy-affections going all over the place. When she goes
my heart curls up. When she intimidates complacent Eterna businessmen I feel like taking pom-poms. When she's likeBertha smiled somewhat sheepishly as she guided them inside. “I did some shopping in my free time. I figured that while summer lasts, I might as well take advantage of city department stores.”
Bertha looked at them, and their unopened containers of food. “You boys can eat here if you want. I don’t mind. I could use the company.”
Henry smiled gratefully. Bertha pulled up an extra chair for herself and set Clefairy down in her lap. Michael and Henry ate their food, and she watched them, occasionally giving Clefairy a rub on the head, which always made the pokémon giggle, snorting softly through her stuffy nose.
i'm like COO TO ME BERTHA
Clefable: Don't worry. I'll never tell anyone what you did to that rattata when you were eight years old.With calm lucidity, the pokémon slowly uncurled itself from its slouched position, swaying a little with its unfamiliar height. All traces of sickness had faded from its appearance. The silver light of the moon traced its full silhouette, its no-longer-stubby legs, round belly, and pointed ears. Suddenly one of them flicked, and the pokémon turned to Michael, casting him a knowing sort of smile.
Heh, a Mr. Mime battle is so bizarre! Barely feel like you're battling a pokemon. Psychic pyrotechnics and weird camp imagery appear in rapid succession.
It's only just occured to me --it amuses me, really -- Michael has all these huge dreams, but it's already predetermined in this fic that they won't be fulfilled -- instead he'll have a different kind of success, more cutivated and responsible, a scientist's life he probably despises right now. Interesting to see this really distant turn of the story already -- his great ambitions getting neatly picked up and replaced by something he wasn't expecting.
The accent in the Solaceon chapters: you seem to sort of lightly pepper your apostrophes wherever there's a drawl. The apostrophe has a function, even when you're describing accents. You use it in place of letters that the speaker's completely omitted. You don't use it to convey drawls, weird consonants, anything except omission. Hence: op'n, f'r, eat'n', sic 'em, etc. This means ter'ms is incorrect because there are no missing letters between 'r' and 'm'; the whole word really is 'terms'. In words like sor'y and design'd it also becomes kind of meaningless, because the second 'r' in sorry is never really pronounced anyway, and neither is the 'e' in 'designed'. I'm surprised you're not familiar with the use of the apostrophe, since you have such a handle on everything else grammar and your "hasn't", "didn't", "he's" are all properly spelled.
****, darkness around 6:50? In summer? What latitude do they live in?
Riiiiingoooo! I barely liked the damn things until this fic! Their brainless half-verbal imitative pidgin is something I've never seen for talking pokemon (I haven't watched the anime's treatment of Chatot) and it is awesome to hear. Do you just knock yourself over the head and write down whatever comes?
I caught you misusing biology terminology! (On two other occasions I thought you'd made a mistake, but then with research it turned out I was the wrong one.) Dominant and recessive traits don't operate on that level, and recessive traits don't get 'evolved out'. You might be thinking of a vestigial trait -- though that's something that still exists in the present species.On the whole it seemed like a normal Cherrim. It didn’t have any special powers that its normally-colored kin didn’t. I think that the coloring is just a recessive trait, something that might have been present at an earlier time but eventually evolved out of the species.”
The mysteriousness of pokemon... explained not, like the game professors do, through the unknown diversity of pokemon (we know there are 649) or any of their mechanics (bulbapedia has all the data)... but by their being so unreal -- magical, illogical game creatures -- a quality that was always there and that is never easy to ignore.Ted shrugged. “Maybe. I guess it’s up to science to find out. Pokémon are very interesting creatures, perhaps even more interesting than us humans. What makes them have such unique, powerful abilities that we don’t? How did they develop? Why is it that by simply repeating a sequence of moves we can get them to command the elements with techniques like Blizzard and Solarbeam? We don’t know… and that’s the beauty of it all.” Ted leaned back in his chair with a smile.
Appall is a verb. Though 'shock', 'dismay' etc are both verbs and nouns, this is not true for 'appall'. ...Eheheh, grammar. The nicest thing seems to me "drew back appalled", that's pretty unimposing. Again (3.1):Michael drew back in appall. “No!”
Emboldened, the appall eases more comfortably into its noun position. Don't let it!As her gaze swept over the closet, she alighted upon the inner shelves, where other articles of clothing were balled up in Michael fashion. Patricia swiped her finger across the bottom surface of one, and found to her surprise that it was covered in dust. She was stricken by a momentary appall.
Generally though, you're my kind of writer. You choose your words intuitively. You go for the elegance of the sentence, the pleasure of interesting expressions. The tone, sometimes ditching the more snooty grammar rules, or forgetting to double-check your vocabulary. (In your Author's Profile you possibly imply English isn't your first language; if so, same here! Same here!) Very rarely, you also ditch the reader's pleasure of reading your words, in favour of the writer's pleasure of forming them -- that's a really weird thing for me to say, I'll keep my eye out for examples.
I like when you occasionally write about writing. Your story's writers are always spotting stylistic faults when they pass over their stuff a second time, and that becomes the gateway to sudden changes. We know how important a text can be to our ideals and passions.
3.1, corey and brendan's dialogue:
It might be dialect that I'm unfamiliar with, but the second sentence seems pretty much impossible for anyone to say in normal dialogue. "we'll find out in a little while" is already a little narrator-y considering it's just about to happen, but when he replaces "a few seconds" with "a few feet from now", that is totally a literary twisting of expressions, right?“Look, I don’t know! Just shut up and we’ll find out a few feet from now.”
I'm gonna steal that for my Hoennfic. The rain part. (Nah, I'm kidding. (...probably).) Disclaimer: I've already written a scene wherein a love-conversation includes talk of Fallarbor; that wasn't plagiarism. Oh god, that looks really suspicious now. Oh god, and the girl's from Mauville too.There’s this huge dormant volcano that blows its ashes into the routes surrounding it. The grass, the trees, everything would be covered in soot. Then, the rain comes and washes it all away.
I'm assuming Bertha has a friendly smile maintained throughout this sequence... in which case, narrowing her eyes makes sense, but a tiny secret-smile on top of the big one, not so much... unless she stopped smiling shortly after "Well hello there", which to me seems downright hostile. Ooh, and a paragraph in the same chapter with a whole trailing sentence:Bertha looked up at Shella and smiled out of reflex. But in the same moment, her gaze fell on Michael, and she narrowed her eyes by the slightest degree. “Well hello there.”
“Hi,” Shella said. “Are you… the Gym leader of Eterna? My friend Michael is a trainer, and he told me he battled you before.”
Bertha looked over to Michael. He saw her mouth curl into the slightest of smiles, though this escaped Shella’s notice. “Yes, that would be me—Bertha Herrida. And your name?”
Um. Here's a incredibly convoluted and long-term nitpick (3.5):On their way back from Bertha’s table, Michael and Shella took a long-winded stroll around the Gym complex, keeping a steady pace with each other. Everywhere, it seemed, the event was in full swing. There were other roster tables scattered about the grounds, manned by Marie’s staff, mixed with food tables and games. They stopped by to admire the bouquets of colorful balloons that bobbed in the wind, tied down with curly strings, and the souvenirs that were on display at countless booths. It surprised Michael how an event like this could be planned in such short notice, but with
Conversation flowed freely between him and Shella as they walked, and much like it had been on their first evening alone, he never had to forcefully change the subject or think too long about a response. Somehow their thoughts ended up trailing over to the Space Race, and they discussed its history, the discoveries, and the current stalemate between Team Rocket and Team Galactic. Michael, who hadn’t broached the topic in weeks, felt a strange feeling of hollowness where his passion used to be. It seemed like he had more or less forgotten about the Space Race during his travels with Henry, for his interest in it had been overridden by a matter more pressing — his battling the Gyms.
Michael now is pretty firmly well-adjusted teenager -- someone with vestigial bad-boy habits that are all turning into self-made-man qualities. But a few months ago when he left, he was way snottier and less mature -- which means, he WAS looking at girls as potential girlfriends. At least his attitude now is way improved from where he used to check out babes in swanky Jubilife districts. We can rationalize this as the effects of a journey, the effects of Shella, etc, not a problem. But it means his 'experience' at matters of love has got to have been pretty snotnosed until he started to grow up, right? Would he say exactly this kind of thing when he was still with Cory and Brendan?“Cat… first of all, you can’t look at a girl and automatically think ‘potential girlfriend’. It doesn’t work that way, and chances are, you’ll only creep them out and they won’t talk to you anymore.
I'll possibly quash that myself: Michael always had many conflicting natures in him, which is natural for his age. Children can and do make some very mature realisations, just not consistently and with their heart. So maybe how he spoke and reacted in the very first chapters is partly a matter of habit, girlwatching with his two hooligans, getting into any trouble that's fun and that pisses adults off. I can always imagine him stressing 'being yourself'; also when he talked to girls in Jubilife, being on much better behaviour than he usually would be. It's basically just a matter of your fic's tone changing at least a little after two years and 35 damn chapters -- which you mostly finessed really well, just some minor half-hidden cracks have to appear.
'Perchance' hath not the sense of 'by chance'; it means 'maybe'. Besides, it's Elizabethan language for cripe's sake. Very out of place here.He pointed to a bench that had been hidden from view by a tree, which now emerged into view as they came closer. A girl was sitting at the edge, her hands folded in her lap, watching other people pass by. Perchance, her gaze locked on Michael’s, and he gave a smile.
Ooh, a cliffhanger. I feel like I've just joined at the brink of a big wave. I think you've put shadows in all directions for whatever's about to come; that was why you focused on Pastoria's talk so emphatically in an earlier chapter. Guess: the fancy-schmancy businessman has something to do with Team Galactic. Easy. But also: the line of limousines has something to do with him, and what's more, he's Thealus Blue. You heard it first here, folks.
Oh lord I forgot! Fix me up for the PM list!
Last edited by Praxiteles; 6th July 2013 at 10:39 PM.
I recognize that username! I used to see you a lot around the forums a few years back. I remember you always made thought-provoking posts, and particularly I remember reading a story of yours that interested me. Then one day I log on and see that that person has not only returned, but they've also just reviewed my story. xP Allow me to express my delight and gratitude.
You've been reading chapters I haven't ventured to in ages, since I've been focusing more on moving the story forward. But I resolved a while back to return to the old chapters and spruce them up, since this story has changed a lot since I first set out to write it. So I always appreciate a reviewer who takes me back to my earlier posts.
That chapter was very enjoyable to write, and I'm glad you saw how it set the mood for the state of pokemon training in those times. I can see how it could be interpreted as a sad scene, too. The lab's staff do their best to turn Starter Day into a celebration, but let's face it, the Sandgem lab of 1963 is definitely not the sleek, pristine research center it is today. There's a lot of disorder that comes from mismanagement, especially from the fact that Professor Emerson has essentially no willpower anymore to keep the kids from acting up. The girl who left with nothing was so distraught by the mayhem and the other kids' rudeness that she just wanted to leave, with pokemon or without. But I imagine her parents took her back to the lab on another day to get her starter.Because it was comic and from Michael's perspective, I only realized in retrospect how well it describes a situation: a lot of public service, public education for children, food counters etc, where the load is so much and the infrastructure ancient, and low resources and mismanagement, that the children who needed something have walk away with a sense of getting half a deal. It's a funny scene, but I thought it was a sad scene too. You only mentioned the crying girl without a pokeball for two sentences but sure the heart went out to her. (Although, is she crying because there aren't any starters left? That can't be, since Michael picks one up, two minutes later.)
Yeah, it was supposed to be "brother's".Not totally sure what's going on there, but you might mean "his brother's".When did I ever have this? Michael wondered, staring at the patterned cover. He looked at the inside cover. The blank line had been filled by the phrase 'RICHARD ROWAN'. This had been his brothers.
I used Wally's sprite for Michael because I liked the hair. That's all there was to it. :P It's got that loose, messy style with the little scruff at the top that I always think of when I imagine Michael. Henry I see as a mix of a Bug Catcher and a Youngster, but I decided on the Bug Catcher sprite in the end because the tiny Youngster sprite would be misleading. Henry's not that little.Wait, Micheal gets Wally's sprite in the banner? I always thought of him as a Youngster or maybe later an Ace trainer.
Bertha has already witnessed the flakes from the factory, and thought that the evidence she already had would be enough to convince the council heads. But she wasn't expecting them to be so swayed in Team Galactic's favor that they'd be unwilling to accept anything less than a conclusive, staring-them-right-in-the-face proof. Getting the factory management to agree to on-site testing would have been hard for her to accomplish alone, but not impossible, and if Bertha had had more time, that would definitely have been her next move.In the council meeting in 1.2 I was thinking throughout: how hard can it be to locate large white flakes coming from a factory? Put a cotton filter on their smokestacks for five seconds. Observe the perimeter of the building. I know Bertha was really dealing with a critical attitude problem, but she could have tried to eyewitness the things coming out of a factory that's pretty much across the street from her. Or pushed for some on-site testing; could Galactic refuse the government that? The chemistry doesn't matter on a casual reading, but that consideration can occur to someone very easily even if they don't have science.
After reading this over, I have to agree with you there. I already thought of a better thing to say about the van, so I'll change it up.I'm not totally convinced by your use of light to manipulate appearances. Once in 0.6 you made light hit that bully kid's fist arm, making it look intimidating, but I didn't really see how spotlighting something would necessarily make it look bigger and badder; it just draws attention to whatever's there, big or wimpy. Presumably it wasn't wimpy. Anyway, here too -- I remember reading "light hit something's curves perfectly" in other stories, but always felt it was a weak argument -- light can't make a shape look more shapelier than it is. It'll always just highlight details. In your polished fic it sticks out.That morning, a beat-up van had been parked on the curb by the marketplace. A logo, pasted in bold letters on the side, read: Jubilfe TV. The van was bulky and dirty, something that would be the subject of ridicule in most large cities, but here the light hit its curves perfectly, making it glow against the plain, undeveloped town.
I'm glad you like Bertha. :) She and her situation with Team Galactic were responsible for an important change that occurred very early on when I was writing. She'll definitely have many great moments to come.
Considering what I've written and what I plan on writing in the future, I think now it would only be fair to say that Roots, in principle, is more about the people. I originally intended to make it more pokemon-centered, but the flow of the plot has constantly required me to switch the reader's attention to what's going on in the characters' minds and the world at large. But interestingly, with the plot turn that's about to happen, that might begin to change.Am I right in thinking Roots will never become very pokemon-centered, in principle? For now we're still waiting for Michael to get out of his abusive ways, but the fic doesn't really describe pokemon, basically, beyond a simple idea of the personalities, and they are pretty damn animal-like in this universe. (Admittedly when they do appear, they're always kind of adorable.) Though, if Michael ever gets serious about treating his pokemon right, it could be nicely implemented by fleshing out all the pokemon much more than before.
Looking back, I do regret not focusing on the pokemon as much as I intended to. It's something I'll have to keep in mind as I continue writing.
And here I was, thinking that it was just the coolest thing that Photoshop makes images transparent... "I'll be clever!" I thought. "I'll make it so that it looks good on any color background!" xP I guess a white background would suffice.Your chart in 1.8 is totally invisible against a black background; don't make it transparent for chrissakes. A white background to the image might look ugly, but Michael's paper is probably white too.
As for the type matchups, it is similar to the way EVs/IVs are understood in the real-life gaming community. I explained it to another member in an earlier post here. This is an explanation I'm satisfied with and will try to rationalize in the future, as well as in my back-editing.
I realized a while ago that it wouldn't be logical for Michael to be the first person to notice the type correlation, so I'm officially no longer sticking with that story. (I stuck with that story very early on, but as I started to write my first battle scenes and develop the League further, I realized that such an assumption would require too great a leap of faith on the reader's part.)
Or perhaps Michael will bring a bit of his own flair to the job? Just because he's destined to become a professor doesn't mean he'll have to throw all of his former dreams and passions away and become a stuffy scientist. Yes, he's going to become a professor, but it's Michael Rowan who's going to become a professor, and that's the most important part. xPIt's only just occured to me --it amuses me, really -- Michael has all these huge dreams, but it's already predetermined in this fic that they won't be fulfilled -- instead he'll have a different kind of success, more cutivated and responsible, a scientist's life he probably despises right now. Interesting to see this really distant turn of the story already -- his great ambitions getting neatly picked up and replaced by something he wasn't expecting.
I'll admit, I'm not experienced with writing accents, so I didn't really come prepared to write the Solaceon one. I assumed I could expand the role of the apostrophe to indicate pauses and drawls in speaking. I can picture in my head what the accent sounds like, but I guess the specific details of the sound aren't important to the story, so I'll probably end up just using the apostrophes when the characters make actual letter omissions. I'll leave the readers to imagine the rest of the sound with the description I gave of it in Chapter 22.
Pretty much. xPRiiiiingoooo! I barely liked the damn things until this fic! Their brainless half-verbal imitative pidgin is something I've never seen for talking pokemon (I haven't watched the anime's treatment of Chatot) and it is awesome to hear. Do you just knock yourself over the head and write down whatever comes?
Though for Ringo, I can make the statements astute. Since he has a somewhat conscious grasp over Beatles lyrics, he knows when to sing the memorable parts of a certain song. Like during Michael's battle with Lona, and the party scene in Pastoria.
Basically, the Chatots in my universe are very receptive to language, and if given the opportunity, they can learn to speak coherently. When around humans, they constantly receive new sound stimuli and can therefore expand their vocabulary, but when they're around each other, and get fairly little human interaction, they just start echoing each other and descending into brainless chatter. In Ringo's case, I imagine that a while ago, some trainers found him alone and started teaching him the lyrics to their favorite Beatles songs, which became so ingrained in his head that he gained the capability of reproducing them at will.
Now that you've got me thinking about Chatots, I think I'll definitely have to explore the quirks of their species some more. I haven't seen the anime's treatment of them either, but the things I've come up with are (I think) too funny.
I'll have to do some research on that one. Ted would definitely have to know his biology jargon, though since shinies themselves are a mystery right now, he wouldn't have a complete explanation for the actual phenomenon. Based on the research I did, I don't think 'vestigal' would be exactly appropriate, but I'll have to see. Thanks for pointing this out.I caught you misusing biology terminology! (On two other occasions I thought you'd made a mistake, but then with research it turned out I was the wrong one.) Dominant and recessive traits don't operate on that level, and recessive traits don't get 'evolved out'. You might be thinking of a vestigial trait -- though that's something that still exists in the present species.
To be honest, that's just what I heard Cory say when I was thinking about this conversation, and when I wrote it down it seemed semi-okay, though I did get the feeling that I was stretching the normal conventions of speech. My original line of thought was this: The boys are walking, they've come really close to the house, and all of a sudden Brendan starts voicing all sorts of questions as to what might await them inside, and Cory says out of annoyance, "We'll find out a few feet from now" to underscore the fact that they have literally only a few feet to go before they reach the door. But I repeated his statement a few times out loud just now. It doesn't sound quite right to the ear at first, but the more I say it, the more used to it I become. I don't know what that means for the phrase, but I've come to the conclusion that if I have to spend more than a minute thinking about it, it's likely that a reader will too, and that's not good for the flow. I'll see if I can come up with a better replacement.“Look, I don’t know! Just shut up and we’ll find out a few feet from now.”
It might be dialect that I'm unfamiliar with, but the second sentence seems pretty much impossible for anyone to say in normal dialogue. "we'll find out in a little while" is already a little narrator-y considering it's just about to happen, but when he replaces "a few seconds" with "a few feet from now", that is totally a literary twisting of expressions, right?
Hmm. Not sure how that happened, but I do see a problem with the imagery there. Bertha's smile at the beginning is more important; the second time she just looked at Michael slyly, in an "Is there something you'd like to tell me?" sort of way. I must have forgotten to edit out the double-smiling when I was finishing my final draft. But I'll fix it.I'm assuming Bertha has a friendly smile maintained throughout this sequence... in which case, narrowing her eyes makes sense, but a tiny secret-smile on top of the big one, not so much... unless she stopped smiling shortly after "Well hello there", which to me seems downright hostile.Bertha looked up at Shella and smiled out of reflex. But in the same moment, her gaze fell on Michael, and she narrowed her eyes by the slightest degree. “Well hello there.”
“Hi,” Shella said. “Are you… the Gym leader of Eterna? My friend Michael is a trainer, and he told me he battled you before.”
Bertha looked over to Michael. He saw her mouth curl into the slightest of smiles, though this escaped Shella’s notice. “Yes, that would be me—Bertha Herrida. And your name?”
Goodness me, don't I have a sharp eye when it comes to fixing errors... xP The sad part is, I probably forgot where I was going with that sentence, so I dropped it with the intention of returning to it, and never did. I'll go back and see if I can salvage anything of what I was originally going to say.On their way back from Bertha’s table, Michael and Shella took a long-winded stroll around the Gym complex, keeping a steady pace with each other. Everywhere, it seemed, the event was in full swing. There were other roster tables scattered about the grounds, manned by Marie’s staff, mixed with food tables and games. They stopped by to admire the bouquets of colorful balloons that bobbed in the wind, tied down with curly strings, and the souvenirs that were on display at countless booths. It surprised Michael how an event like this could be planned in such short notice, but with
I think I did the same thing in my Author's Profile too. I have no idea why I keep trailing off all the ti
My verb-like use of appall appalls me. I'll fix those up too, along with the instance of 'perchance' you mentioned.
And no, English wasn't my first language. I'm one of those people who grew up speaking one language with family and another with the rest of society, and the result is that I have an intuitive grasp of both. English was the only language I learned through formal schooling, though when writing, I always relied more on that intuition than grammar mechanics. Writing stories in English helped me loads, too. The more you do it, the more you pick up, I guess!
The way you analyzed it is somewhat consistent with what I have in mind, though I want to give a more in-depth explanation of where I feel Michael is in terms of character development right now.Michael now is pretty firmly well-adjusted teenager -- someone with vestigial bad-boy habits that are all turning into self-made-man qualities. But a few months ago when he left, he was way snottier and less mature -- which means, he WAS looking at girls as potential girlfriends. At least his attitude now is way improved from where he used to check out babes in swanky Jubilife districts. We can rationalize this as the effects of a journey, the effects of Shella, etc, not a problem. But it means his 'experience' at matters of love has got to have been pretty snotnosed until he started to grow up, right? Would he say exactly this kind of thing when he was still with Cory and Brendan?“Cat… first of all, you can’t look at a girl and automatically think ‘potential girlfriend’. It doesn’t work that way, and chances are, you’ll only creep them out and they won’t talk to you anymore.
I'll possibly quash that myself: Michael always had many conflicting natures in him, which is natural for his age. Children can and do make some very mature realisations, just not consistently and with their heart. So maybe how he spoke and reacted in the very first chapters is partly a matter of habit, girlwatching with his two hooligans, getting into any trouble that's fun and that pisses adults off. I can always imagine him stressing 'being yourself'; also when he talked to girls in Jubilife, being on much better behaviour than he usually would be. It's basically just a matter of your fic's tone changing at least a little after two years and 35 damn chapters -- which you mostly finessed really well, just some minor half-hidden cracks have to appear.
You're correct in observing that Michael has several conflicting natures within him. On one hand, he's a rebellious troublemaker, a persona which is allowed to dominate all other aspects of his character when he's with Cory and Brendan. And so we have the goofing off, the girl-watching, predicaments with authority figures, etc. But Michael possesses another aspect of his nature that sets him apart from his friends. That aspect is a seriousness. This part of him wants to amount to something more than the hooligan he's made out to be, and understands that he has to take the world seriously in order to do so. Hence his good grades and learning about things that interest him, while at the same time hanging out with Cory and Brendan, who couldn't care less, and letting his performance fall in things that don't interest him. Part of the reason for this 'seriousness' of his is that a lot of serious things have happened in Michael's life, and the other part is that he's naturally a kid who thinks, reflects, and analyzes. So while Cory and Brendan started being troublemakers right off the bat, Michael joined in because he chose to. He chose it over adopting a persona of a 'good boy', because he feels he doesn't identify with the latter. He feels that his mother (and by extension, all adults) are holding him down, and is therefore eager to prove them wrong. So for as long as he feels he's being true to himself, he'll continue to act like Cory and Brendan do. But at the same time, he knows he can be independent from his friends, and feels that he has a higher potential to reach, which he wants to do independently of anyone else. For this reason, Michael considers himself above Cory and Brendan in a sense, which allows him to sometimes rise above his usual level of behavior around them.
So yes, Michael's attitude towards a lot of things, including love, is much like Cory's and Brendan's. (And I don't think that the experiences he's had thus far on his journey are enough to remove that part of him completely. Not yet, at least.) But unlike his friends, Michael makes observations of the relationships he's seen and had and analyzes them, and thus considers himself an 'expert' in matters of dating. This translates to him feeling qualified enough to give advice, which is definitely not something we'd expect from a person like him! So if either Cory or Brendan were to come with him with a problem like Henry's, Michael would've put on the same philosophical face, patted them on the shoulder, and said something along the lines of: "Hey, man. I get it. I know you like her and all, but you can't expect her to fall for you that quickly."
This is what he does for Henry. This time around, however, he's a bit more sober, because the nature of his experiences with Shella. First he was fascinated by her in his old manner, being daring enough to flirt with her and see if she was girlfriend material. But when he got the opportunity to know her closer, he realized that he couldn't think of her as a potential girlfriend anymore simply because of the way he feels when he's around her. In fact, his experiences in first getting to know her (and some very important experiences that came right before) have brought out the serious side of his nature in more prominence than ever before. You should be able to see evidence of this in later Solaceon/early Pastoria.
Don't think I came up with all this at once. xP I pieced the facets of Michael's personality together gradually as I was writing. Two years is a long time, and like you said, my perspective of Michael's character and Roots at large have widened drastically. At this point I feel like I have a good grasp of where I am and where things should be going, so I'll soon be able to turn to the old chapters and revise them to be consistent with the new ones. But I won't get into it just yet... Right now I'm tempted to say that I won't get to the serious editing until the story's completely finished. I realize there are a lot of little holes and inconsistencies to fix, like the problem with the type combinations and evolutions, which in hindsight I think was a result of me sticking to a simple explanation of why these things are rarely utilized by trainers, when the story was becoming more complex before my eyes. I don't want future readers to get the feeling that I'm ignoring you and Cutlerine or anyone else who may mention this, but at the same time, I want to first get the story to a point where I can perceive it as a whole, so that I won't have to worry about any surprises that come when you're writing a work in progress. If I reach a stable point before the actual ending, though, I might start early. (I've already written a better version of the opening, for one thing. :P)
With all that said, I appreciate reviews like yours to no end. Even if they deal with stuff I haven't looked at in months, they give me a good sense of what I need to do to bring this story to its full potential. Your review has turned my attention to lots of things I need to tweak, and now in my opinion is the best time to tweak them, while I shamelessly leave everyone to ponder Ned's final words. Hehe. I'll fix the typos you mentioned and look over the sentences you quoted to see if I can make them better. Thanks for reading, and thanks a lot for the review!
And yes, you've certainly joined at a good time. Welcome aboard, and prepare for a wild ride!
PM list updated.
… …… …. …. …
”… T-minus ten…
…we’re on the air!”
“Good evening, this is Freddie Horner with Sinnoh News Net bringing you the latest updates from the top of the hour. It is currently 4:00 P.M., Jubilife Central Time, and I’m here live with breaking news.
“… It has been scarcely a month after the discovery of the space-pokémon Deoxys was announced, and now SNN has received word of a groundbreaking development... Team Rocket’s press release was made public in Hoenn just last night, and now, Sinnoh has received word that the two space organizations — Team Rocket and Team Galactic — have decided to unite, forming a coalition entitled GASP — the Global Allied Space Program. The terms of the alliance were negotiated during a special meeting between the governments of both countries and representatives from both companies, which took place in Ever Grande City and concluded on June 28th. While the space programs of both countries will continue to exist as independent entities, the bulk of their activities will be pooled into the common effort of GASP, which includes partnership in equipment building, collaborative endeavors, and the sharing of information pertaining to missions. In addition, both companies will now be able to share their federal funds for the purpose of financing missions that were previously unfeasible. Such an alliance will forge an informational and economic partnership between Hoenn and Sinnoh, the likes of which modern history has never seen.
“But if that wasn’t enough to stir the tides, this story comes with a second twist. During their first press meeting, the officials of GASP announced a project that, as we have been told, has been in the works for over four months since the space teams’ fateful encounter with Deoxys. This project is allegedly what originally inspired the alliance, due to its complex nature and goal. That is to continue the study of the pokémon Deoxys in greater detail than any pokémon has ever been studied before… and in an environment that will be more hospitable to research conditions, which will be far removed from the environment of the spacecraft, and much closer to home than what was earlier thought…
… ….. …… …… ….. …….. …..
June 30th, 1963.
THE SPACE RACE IS OVER!
ROCKETS AND GALACTICS JOIN TO UNVEIL SHOCKING OPERATION
Bringing an end to their mysterious silence, Team Rocket and Team Galactic have emerged to announce a momentous agreement: to unite under one international company that will represent the coalition of both countries in matters of space exploration. The union has been named the Global Allied Space Program, and with its creation, both companies have expressed their desire to end past differences and forge a stronger partnership between Sinnoh and Hoenn. The decision, which required several months of deliberation between the governments of both countries, has been called by a Sinnoh official as “the most important consensus that has been reached within these walls since the international treaty that unified the Pokémon League.”
It has been confirmed that Team Rocket and Team Galactic will retain their identities as individual companies, and the respective leadership of Dr. Allan Knight and Thealus Blue. However, their projects—which workers of both companies have claimed to be similar in their goals—will now be jointly funded, and the construction of spacecraft and equipment will be evenly shared, as these organizations strive to unlock the mysteries of the first extraterrestrial life form discovered in the history of humanity.
The preliminary studies of Deoxys are being conducted at the Mossdeep Space Center, using data obtained from previous months by the Hoenn spacecraft. Researchers claim to be learning more and more about Deoxys each day.
“It’s truly the most unique thing we have ever seen,” says Dr. Marrion, a spokesperson for the Space Center. “Its structure seems to be entirely inorganic, and yet it pulses with an energy that I can only liken to how a machine is powered by electricity. It seems capable of quite advanced thinking and emotions, though its language seems to be something entirely unknown to us. It communicates by sending various radio frequencies that it can change at will.”
GASP’s ulterior motive was revealed in nearly the same breath as the rest of Marion’s words, and was later confirmed by the upper-division deputies of Team Rocket and Team Galactic.
“We will bring it to Earth,” said the doctor. “That’s what I’m thinking.”
This statement has been supported by officials from various levels who have expressed that they had been considering this for quite a while since the pokémon’s discovery. Team Galactic has also reluctantly confirmed that plans have long been underway for the construction of a spacecraft that will facilitate the transport. The operation was temporarily delayed due to unforeseen events at a certain factory, but the project has since then been moved to a different location, and is currently proceeding on schedule. On the matter of the spacecraft’s exact nature and components, the team was silent.
GASP has confirmed that the building of the shuttle is incorporating the labor of Sinnoh factories as well as Hoenn’s assemblies, which will divide the labor and profits equally between them. But as for how the feat of the pokémon’s transport will be achieved, and what ramifications it will bring on the people of Sinnoh, only time will tell.
The joint partners of GASP hope that their alliance will serve not only as a sign of their peace, but also as an invitation to all other cosmically-active countries across the world, so that at the end of the day, there will be one umbrella that covers the whole of humanity’s efforts to understand the environment of space, and reaffirm, yet again, that we are part of a single world.
Written by Christopher Sands, Sinnoh Post.
June 31st, 1963.
DEOXYS CAMPAIGN MET WITH OUTRAGE
GASP’s plan to conduct on-Earth studies of Deoxys is not going as well as was originally hoped.
Following the shocking statement released by GASP officials, an unprecedented wave of dissent has swept across the cities of Sinnoh and Hoenn, igniting the airwaves with hundreds of voices, young and old alike, rejecting the international company’s aims and demanding their own say in the matter.
On June 16th, Team Rocket and Team Galactic officially announced their cooperation, forming a third-party union: the Global Allied Space Program. But the news of GASP was followed by a second development: The newly-formed team plans on bringing Deoxys to Earth in order to conduct more intensive study on the pokémon’s biological structure.
This decision was reached in light of recent insight into the nature of Deoxys, the space creature they had discovered in the previous month. The information that GASP’s laboratories have gathered reveals Deoxys’ biological structure as nothing short of a wonder, and further study holds the potential to change our current understanding of pokémon, and perhaps the study of life itself. All the more reason, assured GASP, to bring the pokémon home. However, in some newly-released interviews, officials have admitted that this may not be as easy—or safe—as they might have originally implied.
“The space probes have gotten in-depth pictures and samples from its body,” says one of Team Rocket’s scientists. “Deoxys may look like a giant piece of metal at first, but this is only its outer shell, and a very thin one at that. What lies inside is actually a fine network of nerves making up its entire body that send and receive the signals from the command center in the brain. Like the nerves in our bodies, they carry vital information to and fro across it. If we do succeed in ferrying it safely back to Earth, there’s no telling what might happen. It has grown and thrived in a vacuum environment, and my guess is that under Earth’s atmospheric pressure and overabundance of gases, it will either be crushed or injured. I will bet my payroll on it.”
Others from GASP emphasize the opposite, saying that if Deoxys was built for such harsh, oxygen-lacking environments, all they needed was to recreate such an environment on Earth, in a controlled laboratory. Still, the majority of people in Sinnoh side against GASP’s claims.
“For one thing, they don’t even know what it eats!” remarked a pokémon biology professor, who works in Hearthome City. “How are they supposed to provide for an organism if they don’t know where, if at all, it gets nourishment?”
Similar statements were made by townsfolk, among them a woman, who was seen standing on a street with a small group of protesters. “And what about us?” she remarked to Sinnoh Post. “If they want to bring some alien pokémon here, they should at least figure out what sorts of powers it has! For all we know, it could call its robot friends and launch an attack!”
Written by Ellie Beckett, Sinnoh Post.
“… As the recent tide of events has shown, GASP’s announcement seems to have taken the world by storm. And so far, the announcement of their mission has not been sitting well with a large number of people. SNN has already received a staggering amount of phone calls from citizens eager to express their views, or just wishing to clarify what’s going on. Hopefully we’ll be able to answer some of your questions today. Sitting beside me here is Steve Wilkes, a correspondent of ours, who teaches biology at the Jubilife University and has a particularly strong background in pokémon studies. Hi Steve, thanks for being with us today.”
“The pleasure’s mine, Mr. Horner.”
“Can you tell us anything about how this mission has been sitting with the academic community? Do the rumors of Deoxys’ weakness, or strength, against us have any credible basis?”
“Right now it’s hard to tell. So far, GASP’s scientists have kept their research secret, but I expect they’ll be forced to reveal more sometime soon, what with two whole countries hanging on to their every word. To their credit, Deoxys is the first extraterrestrial life form in history to be discovered by humans, so there can’t be a one-hundred-percent certainty in what I’m about to tell you. What we do know, we know, of course, from having studied pokémon species on this planet only. And in general, pokémon are highly adaptable to their environment. I’m sure anyone who’s ever had a Rattata infestation can attest to that… heh. But ah, more on the serious side, many species throughout history have spread from their initial habitats and can now be found in pretty much any place on the globe. Tentacool, for example, dwell in almost every world ocean, whether cool or moderate, and Zubat and Pidgeys, which originated in Kanto, have long been introduced to every continent, and are thriving as well as the native species. This doesn’t go for all pokémon by any means, but most species are surprisingly durable. Now, Deoxys has enabled itself to survive in what is essentially a void—no water, no nutrients, not even air. When it comes to Earth, it won’t need any of those things from us, and so it could very well be able to adapt to any environment it winds up inhabiting. That is, if the scientists’ assumptions of its durability are sound, and my guess is that they are.”
“Very interesting, Steve. But there’s also another side to the issue that I think is important, namely the relationship between the two companies, Team Rocket and Team Galactic. Two years ago, by all accounts, they were corporate rivals. They had completely different agendas—Team Rocket wanted to study the effects of space’s vacuum on biological processes, and last we heard from Team Galactic, they were interested in gathering metals and rock samples from the moon. In binding themselves together like this, they’ve put each other in an interesting and unprecedented economic position. Why would two companies, who had such different goals in the past, decide to take such a drastic step for a cause that neither of them shared before?”
“I’ll answer your question, Mr. Horner, but what I’d like to point out first is that the reason Teams Rocket and Galactic seem so different on the outside is because, on a functional level, they’re structured very differently. In reality, their mission is one and the same: To study space. But the way in which they go about it, and the things they consider important in their agendas, are influenced by the way each of the two companies is organized, which in turn was influenced by each company’s unique history. Team Rocket began in 1939 as one of the first space-oriented companies in Hoenn, and the majority of its staff came from some of the top universities in the country, from departments of biology and physics. At the time, aviation technology was becoming more advanced, and people were starting to experiment with more powerful propulsion systems, which held the potential to reach new heights—namely, space. The company was very interested in this new frontier, since it was without doubt far different from any place on Earth. One of the first questions about space that captivated people’s minds was whether or not anyone—or anything—could live in such a barren environment. The quest for life among the stars was one of Team Rocket’s most important early goals, and while they may have switched their attention to other things along the way, it’s very likely that after all this time, they’re still proceeding with that goal in mind.
“The history of Team Galactic, on the other hand, isn’t as well-documented. It was founded in 1951, but its predecessor, The Galaxy Corps, dates back to 1946, a time when jet propulsion technology was booming, and the environment of space finally seemed to be within man’s reach. TGC was one of the first companies in Sinnoh that centered its projects on matters of reaching space. It carried the torch for a while, before it dissolved, as many of us still remember, in 1948. But its activities were much more publicized than those of its successor, and I think that in order to understand the Team Galactic that exists today, we need to first understand TGC. Unlike Team Rocket, which, broadly speaking, views the environment of space as an opportunity to investigate biological and physiological questions, TGC’s projects were more focused on the technological aspect of space travel—how we could utilize our environmental resources to produce better and more sustainable propulsion systems, and in turn, how the secrets of outer space could be applied to life back on Earth. In short, TGC was interested in how the worlds of space and Earth could be tied together. That might have been a mighty goal if the company had indeed survived, and I think that when Thealus Blue picked up the pieces of TGC, he meant to continue that mission.”
“And, in discovering Deoxys, I think both the Rockets and the Galactics realized a point of common interest. And from that, they slowly began to see how they might be able to work together. Team Rocket has vast funds, along with the support of a highly capable intellectual community. Galactic’s got organization, infrastructure, and brainpower. And from some of the legislation that’s already been passed, you can tell that each side is utilizing the other’s strengths: GASP’s headquarters will be established in the Mossdeep City Space Center, from which the Deoxys operation will be conducted, when the time comes. At the same time, Team Galactic will likely take on much of the responsibilities pertaining to design and construction of spacecraft.”
“You’ve brought up a lot of interesting points, Steve, and thank you for the insight. What I can’t help but notice is that you used the word ‘when’. I don’t mean to grab your tongue, but do you think it’s an ‘if’ question on whether or not they’ll follow through with this plan, or a ‘when’?”
“I have a feeling it’s the latter. This decision to unite was a momentous thing to do, and I think they knew that once they made it, there’d be no going back. And now there sure isn’t. I think they definitely want to get something done. They’ve been wanting to do it for a while, and now they’re going to follow through with it.”
“So, in your opinion, the plan is finalized? Did I get that correctly?”
“You heard me correctly, Mr. Horner, that’s right. GASP’s operation has been unanimously confirmed by all top officials. They want to bring Deoxys here. To Earth. And one day that’s gonna be as real as a door slammed in our faces…”
Last edited by Mrs. Lovett; 9th September 2013 at 1:38 AM.
The sound of the two men’s voices blared from the flashing screen, which cast its glow over the dim sitting room of the Pastoria Gym, spilling over dozens of faces who were staring into the TV, blank and unblinking. The guests had arranged themselves as best as they could around the few chairs and couches that were available, many substituting comfort for closeness and sitting on armrests, or the edge of tables.
Michael was one of many among the crowd, sitting on the floor beside Henry and a group of other trainers. His mind was racing.
Deoxys. To Earth.
It was almost too wild to believe. But with the anchorman’s every word, it seemed, the news which had at first struck them all like a dizzying illusion became more and more solidified into reality.
The room of listeners remained dead silent as Freddie Horner and Steve Wilkes continued to converse, their voices droning on in a monotonous duet of starts and pauses, gradually assembling a complete picture of the event. Horner kept his calm, professional demeanor as he posed questions to Wilkes, who responded in an equally steady manner, nodding along whenever Horner voiced his speculations. The anchorman’s deep voice, which usually came across to viewers as reassuring, now took on the daunting air of the words he was speaking. Every pause seemed like a plunge into the darkness, every word a wary step into the unknown, whose dawn they all feared but wanted to face.
“… As the news broke through the region of Hoenn last night, there was an almost immediate torrent of response in the public, and now we’re seeing a similar pattern here in Sinnoh… People are coming out onto the streets, they’re calling news companies, and they’re rising up in entire communities, all over this one piece of news, which at the rate it’s going, is sure to become a topic of global debate. Of course, different people think different things, but what in your opinion is the most predominant reaction you’ve seen?”
Steve Wilkes pondered for a moment before replying.
“Right now, it seems that the reaction has mostly been negative among the general public, whereas the Sinnoh academia as a whole is taking a more moderate stance on the matter. Most of them are least willing to wait it out and see what other messages GASP has for us before jumping out in protest. This is interesting to note, because in Hoenn, there’s more of a mix. More of the general public there is approving of the Deoxys operation than the public here. There’s definitely dissent, but for every wave of protest in Hoenn, there’s another one happening at the same time in support.”
Freddie Horner nodded. “And what in your opinion would be the more sensible reaction?”
Wilkes leaned back in his chair. “Well, being, like you said, one of the academics, I certainly think it’s best to give GASP a chance to provide biological justification for its claim that Deoxys can survive. But at the same time, I won’t deny that the general public reaction has some truth to it. It’s my world too… and frankly, whatever things a study of Deoxys might have in store for mankind, GASP should first think about whether or not mankind is ready to take such a leap. That’s my opinion, at any rate.”
Freddie Horner pursed his lips, as he often did when he was in deep thought. Moments later, he looked up at the camera, his gaze boring into the eyes of everyone in the room, and those of millions of other viewers across the country, as he flashed the suave, trademark smile with which he closed all of his broadcasts.
“Well, you heard it first here folks. The GASP unveiling, the Deoxys operation… it seems almost too much to take in at once. But SNN will be gathering updates as soon as they come, so stay tuned for more. Until then, good night.”
The broadcast concluded, and the televisions placed around the Gym were gradually shut off. People began to stir from their seats, rising and stretching, moving slowly as if waking from a trance. Michael’s heart was still pounding. In a matter of minutes, all the mental buffers he had built around his passion for the Space Race had been demolished. Once more, he felt the familiar burning rage at the Rockets—only this time, they had pulled the most unforgivable stunt of all. They had entered an alliance, making all of Team Galactic’s work null and void. And now, the Sinnoh scientists would be nothing more than partners in what would inevitably be Team Rocket’s greatest triumph.
Henry was sitting on the carpet beside him, staring at the TV, his lips parted. When the boy turned to face Michael, his face was drained of color. “Michael, this means that they’re taking over! GASP can do anything it wants now!”
Michael shook his head. “You don’t get it,” he said slowly. Even his voice sounded strange, distorted. “This means that everything is ruined. Everything that Team Galactic is, everything it’s done, is going over to them. To Hoenn. That guy said it right to Horner’s face—GASP’s headquarters are in Mossdeep City. All the production is gonna be pumped out of us in Sinnoh so it can go over to them for finalization. It means we’re not getting any of the credit anymore. It means we quit!” Michael slapped his knee.
In a rage, he rose to his feet and looked around at the other people in the room. Many of them had been stirred into a similar state of agitation. They huddled together in groups, talking quietly, their gazes darting across various points in the dark sitting room. Even Marie, who was usually all smiles, had furrowed her brow in deep thought and remained put in her spot on the couch. Bertha seemed lifeless.
“Well... there goes the petition,” she mumbled. She rubbed her drooping eyes, and pushed her elbow off of the armrest, which she had been leaning on for the entire duration of the announcement. “If the government’s giving everything to GASP, there’s no way they’ll take funds from the Space Program. At least not for another good decade.” Her eyes found the blank TV again, and she shook her head, smiling in tired disbelief. “All for the sake of bringing some alien pokémon to Earth. Beautiful.”
Beside her, Marie gave a nod. “Yes, it’s quite a development.”
Bertha breathed a sigh. “But honestly… it doesn’t surprise me. Now, at least, I know why Galactic was so pushy when I tried to investigate their factory. Hell, they were probably making parts for Deoxys’ ship all along. If only I’d known!”
“Don’t be put out just yet,” said Marie. “I’ve seen my fair share of these sorts of things, and my instincts tell me that this won’t be their final word. We’ll have to see what Sinnoh and Hoenn think of this first, and mark my words, it won’t be pretty. What Freddie Horner said about the rising dissent is only the beginning.”
Bertha met her gaze, and despite the gloomy atmosphere, Marie gave a smile.
Rising from her seat, the Gym leader clapped her hands together and turned to address her guests. “All right, well I think that’s a fine note to end things on,” she said. “I’d love to stay open all night for you, but unfortunately, business has to keep moving. I’ll keep tabs on what’s going on, and if there are any more important broadcasts, I’ll open my doors for you again. But for now, I think it’s best to go home. Get some sleep, and maybe tomorrow we’ll get to hear more about this.”
The crowd began to disperse, trickling away into the lobby, taking the tide of low conversation with it. Bertha searched for Michael and Henry, and found them on the floor with a group of other trainers. She beckoned to them, and they stood to follow her.
The three of them were silent as they made their way to the exit. From somewhere behind them, there came a hurried rush of footsteps, and a female voice.
“Excuse me, Miss Herrida?”
Bertha turned. The boys followed suit, and Michael blinked in surprise when he recognized the girl who had approached. It was Shella. She looked slightly disheveled, though like everyone else, she seemed to have forgotten her exhaustion. She appeared troubled, but nevertheless satisfied, as if the news had been to her exact expectation.
“Hello,” said Bertha. “Shella, right?”
Shella nodded. “I was on my way to Grand Lake when I heard that there was some sort of an announcement on the news. I didn’t want to waste any time getting back to my suite, so I immediately came here. I had to follow your bus.” She looked at Michael and Henry with a smile. “Marie really knows how to get a crowd together. And for something as big as this, it’s no wonder so many people came.”
“Well, we might as well get used to it. This sure isn’t going to blow over anytime soon,” Bertha said. “There we were, following those space teams’ every move for five straight years, wondering who’d outwit who. And now, it turns out that they were playing the trick on us the whole time.”
Shella frowned. “I think it was only a matter of time before they joined forces. They might have been enemies in the past, but honestly, I think that out of all the things that happened in the Space Race so far, this is their smartest move.”
In response to Bertha’s raised eyebrow, and the boys’ quizzical expressions, Shella elaborated. “Think about it—this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Team Rocket and Team Galactic are finally working together, which means there won’t be any more of this silly competition stuff, so people won’t get hot about keeping score and will actually start paying attention to what these astronauts are discovering. They’ve put their differences aside, and now they’re doing what everyone else in Hoenn and Sinnoh should be doing—collaborating, instead of fighting.” But at this, Shella’s determined expression gave way for a wince, and her shoulders drooped. “The only bad part is what they’re collaborating on…”
“It’s completely unfair!” Henry blurted. “How can they just make a decision like that without asking anyone? Maybe the rest of us don’t want Deoxys to be brought here!”
Bertha put a hand on Henry’s shoulder. “Trust me, kid, you’re not alone. However strong GASP’s conviction is, it won’t go unchallenged. You can count on that. But for now, all we can do is wait until they give us more information. It might not be that bad.” She offered him a smile, though it faded quickly, signaling that she had trouble believing it herself.
With a sigh, she turned towards the door where other people were leaving, and nudged Michael and Henry along by the shoulders. “Come on, we better get going. You should get some sleep. You have battles to train for.”
Shella accompanied them out of the Gym, falling into step beside Bertha. “Just so you know, my offer still stands,” she said. “I’ll spread the world about your petition in any way I can. I don’t think you should stop what you’re doing just because of GASP.”
They stopped for a moment at the center of the square, where Shella took a backward step in the direction of the exit, and Bertha turned with the boys towards the hotel. Her gaze flickered over to the distant street, where headlights of cars rushed past in the dim twilight, and she lowered her head with a smile. “Oh, I don’t plan on quitting. Those astro-heads haven’t seen the last of me yet.”
She gave Shella a nod, and with that, they parted ways.
For much of that evening and for the whole of the next morning, the TV sets in the Pastoria Trainer Hotel remained lit, displaying the continuation of the announcement which was taking the city—and the rest of Sinnoh—by storm. News of GASP, the seemingly impossible alliance between two previously feuding space organizations, hit the country like a bolt from the blue.
Now that everybody in Pastoria knew what all the built-up tension of the previous days had been about, it suddenly exploded like a water balloon, its repercussions washing over the whole city until the entire population was swept up in a tide of jittery chatter. Reporters from local news companies rushed out onto the streets, panning their cameras across various points in the downtown and suburban areas, gathering footage of reactions from people of all ages. News channels filled their daytime slots with footage of people thronging around news vans, leaning against plastic barricades in the middle of streets, shouting and waving at the camera, hoping to get at least a moment of screen time. Reporters walked around, proffering their microphones to all sorts of passersby, from shoppers to street workers, anyone who looked like they had something good to say.
Towards midday, the camera stopped to focus on a young boy, who was standing in a group of protesters, who held up signs voicing slogans of disapproval.
“That’s bullshit!” he said, in response to the reporter’s question. “Now Team Rocket’s gonna get the upper hand on us! No way the Galactics’ll take that sitting down!”
The crowd surrounding him cheered, waving their makeshift signs, which expressed their dissent with various pictures and statements. Many people had simply copied their designs from someone else, which resulted in the same slogans being seen at countless points across the city, from banners tied to wire fences, to bumper stickers fashioned out of paper.
But still others voiced their unbending support for GASP, and established a presence in the city that was just as dominating as that of their opponents.
“This is the chance of a lifetime!” one woman proclaimed, standing in the middle of a busy sidewalk with a stroller and shopping bags. “I don’t see why Deoxys shouldn’t be brought to Earth! If you had the opportunity to study something that no human being’s ever studied before, wouldn’t you take the chance and do it?”
The Pastoria networks couldn’t have assembled a coherent program out of the interviews even if they wanted to, for the people’s reactions were as varied as the faces that represented them. But eventually, one thing became clear: the more time that passed, the more people seemed to be getting sucked into the debate, polarized between yes and no, for and against. The temptation to speak out, to be heard, for which the upbeat downtown was always known, now washed over even to the city’s outskirts—to the suburbs, the Valor Lakefront, and the Trainer Plaza.
Many trainers, like Michael himself, had also been fervent watchers of the Space Race, and with the latest news update, rekindled a spirit of competition that transcended their League rivalries, bursting the plaza into a storm of hushed, excited chatter. It was as if the sheen of blue sky above them had pulled back to expose the depthless void of space, making their trainlerly cares seem small and insignificant, like the Earth must have seemed in its place among the stars. Even those who hadn’t been caught up in keeping score for Hoenn and Sinnoh began to speculate on the circumstances of GASP’s alliance, and for a time, the trainers in the plaza discussed Deoxys and Team Galactic with as much fervor as they did their battles and the Championship.
But whether Michael liked it or not, as the week wore on, the buzzing shock of GASP shifted to the back of his mind to make room for a more pressing matter—his battle with Marie. He had already resolved to continue with the League challenge no matter what, even if the whole world ended (and though this was pretty darn close to it), he knew he couldn’t afford to lose his focus now. He and Henry stuck to the schedule they had laid out for themselves, practicing the Electric moves with their pokémon in the vast meadow beyond the plaza, relying on the simple routine of their training sessions to keep themselves going strong. With time, they got their pokémon to produce their first tentative sparks, which rapidly progressed to noisy bolts of electricity, which flickered out sporadically in various directions, crashing to the ground to leave burnt holes in the soil.
The light and noise of their displays gradually attracted a crowd of faithful viewers, who gathered around every time Michael and Henry practiced, laughing when their pokémon made a blunder, ‘oohing’ in awe whenever they achieved a perfect execution. Michael remained secretive about their methods, however, and when he was approached by curious trainers who wanted to imitate them, he simply directed them to the library.
Once their pokémon had mastered the moves and could more or less use the techniques, however shakily, Michael and Henry felt confident enough to schedule their preliminary staff battles. So far, everything was proceeding smoothly and surely.
But there was an energy in the air of a different sort than the sparks of Thunderbolt they were producing. With the break of GASP’s announcement, it seemed as if something new and unusual had dawned upon the world, plunging everything into an atmosphere of uncertainty and excitement. To Michael’s surprise, he saw that his pokémon seemed aware of it, and like many other trainers around them, seemed easily distracted by people’s passing conversations. It was as if by some invisible thread of communication between them and the world, his pokémon had received the message that something momentous had happened, and were now searching their surroundings in earnest for its signs. Ringo was more observant than usual, and kept a vigilant watch on Michael’s shoulder, turning in place to watch people go by, picking up details of their conversations. The bird squawked and fluttered his wings whenever Michael passed by a television screen, peering into the flat image, listening to the voices of the reporters and interviewers. Turtwig (who was almost a fully-formed Grotle, though for some reason Michael couldn’t get himself to call him anything else) enjoyed walking about the plaza at Michael’s side, sweeping his yellow eyes around the landscape. He served as a ferry for Caterpie, who was in the late stages of her transformation, but was still stuck in the cocoon, which over the days had grown to the size of a football. The membrane that enveloped her had thickened, becoming a shiny, silvery material which would later form Butterfree’s wings. But for the time being, she took shade beneath the bushels that sprouted from the grooves in Turtwig’s shell, and seemed on the whole to be hibernating, peacefully oblivious to the moving world around her. Goldeen, likewise, could escape her pokéball only on rare occasions, when the boys battled or visited a pond to give her a place to exercise. Being a Water-friendly facility, the hotel provided complimentary tanks for aquatic pokémon, which Michael took advantage of, figuring that Goldeen would be happier in a pool of water blowing bubbles, than in a cramped space being condensed like a white dwarf star.
The only member of his team that gave Michael trouble was Machop.
The boys had spent many a long afternoon in their hotel room with the TV on, seated at the round snack table, eating their dinner while watching the news. On occasion, they would let out their pokémon to give them a chance to relax, and Michael had made the mistake of sending out Machop. After his first few evenings of dinner theater, the pokémon had clearly found the flashing box to his liking, and now whenever Michael would let him out in the hotel room, he would plant himself on the carpet and sit still for hours, legs folded up against his chest, staring at the picture with wide, unblinking eyes. It soon grew common for the boys to leave him in the room while they went to get food, and come back to find that Machop hadn’t moved a single inch. If Michael tried to pry him from his place, Machop would fidget and squeal in complaint.
On the morning of July 8th, the day Michael and Henry were supposed to leave for their staff battles, Machop had wandered over to the TV set on his own and turned it on, and was watching it while the boys prepared to go. Michael was tying his sneakers by the door, and when he looked up to see what Machop was up to, he let out a groan.
In situations like these, he felt like the parent of an unruly child, and despite the contradiction his actions posed to his own principles, Michael nevertheless gave a smirk of satisfaction when he turned off the TV set and saw Machop’s lips part in confusion.
When the pokémon realized what had happened, he curled his fists and rose to his feet, narrowing his eyes as if to fight back tears.
Michael rolled his eyes. “You’re a big baby, you know that?”
Machop crossed his arms. Despite the fact that he could likely lift the whole TV set and hurl it out the window, he seemed incapable of fathoming his strength, and looked at Michael with an expression of grumbling submission.
“We gotta keep the pokémon away from the TVs,” Michael said to Henry. “Or they’ll stop concentrating.”
“I’m with you there,” Henry replied.
“Then again, we could just keep them in their pokéballs.” Michael twisted the silver ball in his hands, and when he saw Machop watching him, he waved it around in the air. “Yeah, you heard me. Maybe it was a mistake I let you out. Maybe I should send you back in. You want that?”
Machop shook his head.
Machop lowered his head. He remained silent and followed Michael dutifully as they left the room, falling into step with Turtwig and Clefable. Lately, the boys had been spending so much time walking to and fro from their hotel room to the destination of the day, that it had become impractical to recall their pokémon into their pokéballs every single time. So they fell into the routine most trainers had already caught on to, which was to keep at least a few of their team members out with them.
Despite it being only nine in the morning, a fairly large group of trainers had already arrived at the Gym. They were gathered around the TV set in the sitting room, which was playing the Pastoria local news, the same program Michael had turned off just minutes ago. Children and pokémon alike watched it with identical expressions of interest, all cares and duties discarded. It was only when Marge, one of the staff members, entered the room and shut off the TV that the crowd of kids snapped awake, eliciting a chorus of groans.
“That’s enough, break it up!” Marge called, and began to shoo the kids out of the room, ignoring their voices of complaint. “This is getting out of hand. You guys are here for battles, not news updates. Go on, get to your battle rooms! Chop-chop.”
Gradually, the kids dispersed, and the sitting room was left empty. Shaking her head, Marge walked up to the front counter, where Lace, the desk attendant, sat reading a newspaper.
“I might have to talk to Mrs. Wickham about shutting off the TVs in the hotel,” said Marge, leaning one arm against the counter. “This has got to be the biggest hype I’ve ever seen about anything. Two space organizations unite, and now the whole country’s gone to a standstill! Soon the kids might stop training for battles.”
Lace lowered the paper. “Well, you gotta admit, if there ever was a news story worth making such a big hype over, it’s this one. Stuff like this doesn’t happen every day.”
She herself was reading the Pastoria Local Gazette, a weekly newspaper which had begun to churn out daily issues dedicated solely to events in the city and the country. Sinnoh’s main national newspaper, Sinnoh Post, didn’t have the resources to keep up with the pace of events that were occurring on such a massive scale, since it was impossible to circulate such a mass publication more often than once a week. And so, cities had to rely on local newspapers, which could only inform them of goings-on in their vicinity, and even so, only at least two days after they happened. The most current and desired coverage was given by television, where networks like SNN and Lakefront National crammed as much information as they could into a six-hour block, saving the rest of the time for reruns. But in a city like Pastoria, which cherished news in all its forms, newspapers gave detailed coverage and information that, oftentimes, TV networks didn’t. Upon seeing the latest issue of the Gazette in Lace’s hands, Marge knit her brows in interest.
“Where did you get that?”
“A newsstand by the bus stop where I live. It’s the latest one, from this morning.”
“Can I see?”
Lace handed the paper to Marge, who began to skim the articles. But a few minutes later, she put it down with a shake of the head. “’GASP Heads Plan Mission Sabotage?’ That’s complete muckraking! They’re just writing down a bunch of theories without any solid evidence to back them up. That’s just asking to be criticized.” She squinted at the by-line. “Looks like they’re changing authors, too. They always used to have Shelley and Brant cover the pokémon-related stuff. But now they’ve got a new guy called Marvin Whitman.”
“Never heard of him.”
“Well, that explains it,” said Marge. “He must be one of those weird theorizers who’s taking advantage of the hype to voice his opinion.”
Lace shrugged. With a roll of her eyes, Marge placed the newspaper back onto the counter.
Right then, the glass doors to the Gym swooshed open, and Michael and Henry stepped through, their pokémon following along behind.
“Hi, we’re here for our staff battles,” Henry said.
Lace leaned forward. “All righty. Got your trainer cards?”
The boys nodded. They slid their trainer cards over to Lace, who checked a roster of available spaces and gave them each a number. They left the office building through a side door, emerging outside to the Gym’s back lot, where the battle rooms were lined up together in rows, their roofs conjoined by a pattern of waves. Each door was labeled with its own number, and had a tiny series of steps leading up to it, which reminded Michael of the administration buildings at his school.
Inside, the battle rooms were designed similarly to the ones in Solaceon, padded with tumble mats, their walls painted a light, simple blue. But they were also equipped with an added feature, a shallow depression that lined the perimeter of the room, carved out of the floor like the groundwork for some sort of pipe. Taking a closer look, Michael saw that it contained water, which flowed in a thin strip, making the battle floor seem like an island.
The staff pokémon called upon it when using techniques like Water Pulse, which brought the water out in graceful waves to surround its user, then rushed back into the pool when the attack was finished. The pokémon used Water techniques sparingly, however, as one would use any other sort of special move, the rest being a battle of physical stamina and strength. The staff pokémon themselves were either partially aquatic, or simply land-based with a knowledge of Water moves. With each new battle, his staff partner sent out pokémon that were swifter and tougher, and often further evolved than their predecessors. In his fist battle, Michael encountered a Marill, a Buizel, and a Goldeen, and in his second, an Azumarill, a Shellos, and a Wooper.
To his satisfaction, Michael found that his pokémon had grown used to battling, and was surprised at how easier it had become to relay his thoughts to them. They had been the ones he had pulled through Lona’s Gym with, and neither he, nor they, had forgotten it. Michael had lost and won so many times in Solaceon that the very process of battling had become like a boring chore to him, no longer infused with his raging desire for victory, but more like a mechanical skill that he had to perfect through sheer drilling. He found himself feeling calmer than ever before during his matches, concentrating not on the high stakes, but on the condition of his pokémon as the battle progressed. He couldn’t help but notice that they had seemed to learn something too. Whereas before, each member of his party had danced to their own tune, now, after countless move-tutoring sessions in grassy fields and hours walking about together, they all seemed more united as a collective, in-tune both with each other, and with him. And because of that, Michael found it easier to train them.
That day, he went through three battles of three pokémon, each with a break in between, when he would leave for the healing room, a small hut that stood separately from the battle rooms. There he would place his pokéballs into the heating machine and peruse the rack of snacks and sodas, then get a table to the side with the other trainers. The specialty drink was, of course, water—sparking and plain, flavored with lemons, strawberries, or raspberries. The breaks lasted fifteen minutes, after which he’d scurry back to the same room and battle again.
Both he and his staff partner rotated their pokémon for each battle, till they had tried out every member of their teams. Michael ended up winning his first two battles, then losing the third, after Machop fainted and Turtwig fell flat mid-run. Nevertheless, his work paid off, and at the end of the day Michael received a note of approval from his partner to challenge Marie.
Reentering the lobby of the Gym, Michael greeted Henry with his fully-healed team in tow, prepared for yet another day of move-training. Ringo was on his shoulder, Caterpie hitching a ride on Turtwig’s shell. Likewise, Henry had Starly on his shoulder, and Burmy in his arms. Clefable walked at his side.
Michael and Henry presented their slips to Lace at the front counter, and she gave them a smile. “Great job, boys! I’ll take your names down on the roster, so you’ll be free to come back whenever you like to book your battle. Mrs. Wickham’s procedure is somewhat different from what other Gyms do, but you won’t have to worry about anything specific, because you’ve received all the necessary preparation already. The only thing you should keep in mind is that you’ll only be allowed to bring three pokémon with you into the battle room. So choose wisely.” She winked.
The boys left the Gym, and once they were relatively out of earshot, Henry turned to Michael. “So what do you think of the battles?” he asked. “Easy, right?”
Michael nodded. “Yeah. Now that you mention it, they weren’t much different from partner battles in Solaceon.”
Henry bit his lip. “I don’t like it. I have a feeling that Marie’s going to be much harder.”
Michael took a moment to think. “I think she’s trying to test us. No way she’s going to stick with baby moves like Aqua Ring and use a couple of buckets to generate Surf. I think the reason she’s giving us so much leeway with the staff battles is so that we’ll have too much time to think about what she’s gonna do. Especially with the whole deal about us only being allowed to use three pokémon. That’s gotta mean she has something up her sleeve.”
Henry raised an eyebrow. “Then should we be worried?”
“I wouldn’t be,” Michael said. “In the end, it’s still, gonna be the type combination that wins. That’s the beauty of strategy.”
“You said the same thing about Lona,” Henry pointed out.
Michael grumbled. “I didn’t say I was finished, did I? That was Part One of the strategy. Part Two is now physical preparation. Happy?”
“Yes,” said Henry. He folded up his signed permission slip and put it in his pocket. “So when are we gonna schedule our battles?”
“I want to wait until Caterpie evolves,” Michael replied. “She’s almost there. Look, you can even see those little veins on her wings. “ He pushed aside one of the bushels on Turtwig’s back to reveal Caterpie’s cocoon beneath it.
But Henry gave an expression of uncertainty, wrinkling his nose. “I don’t know… What if she doesn’t evolve? It looks like it could take another few days.”
“So? I need her to be a Buttefree if I want to teach her Energy Ball. It’s the only Grass move I can get on my team. Without that, I’ll only have Machop and Turtwig as counters.”
“Still —it took us a whole week to get those Electric moves right, and our pokémon are still making mistakes. Do you really want to spend another eight days in Pastoria while you wait for Butterfree to catch up?”
Michael gave a disbelieving scowl, and Henry sighed. “Come on, think about it. You’ve got Machop, Turtwig, and Ringo all ready to go. You don’t need a Grass move. Look at me: For counters, all I have are Burmy and Pachirisu.” He paused. “Oh, and I guess Clefable… she knows Thunderpunch.”
Michael snorted. “Yeah. Exactly.”
Henry shook his head. “I still think you should do it. You’ve been practicing for a whole week with them, and if you ask me, I think they’re ready.”
Michael cast a glare at Caterpie’s cocoon, which was lying as still as ever on Turtwig’s back, then swept his gaze across his party as a whole. Neither Turtwig, nor Machop, nor Ringo looked particularly ready at the moment; once the tension of the battle session had lifted, they had all returned to their happy-go-lucky selves. Machop had gone from stabbing punches to swinging his arms at his sides like a toddler, and Turtwig was kicking at pebbles, gazing around in lax contentment, bearing no trace of the hard, focused demeanor that he adopted in battle. Even Ringo seemed eager to be distracted, humming along to some tune he had picked up from the radio, the clicking of his beak sounding loudly in Michael’s ear. Observing his pokémon in a casual setting, Michael suddenly felt like he had lost touch with all the progress they had made over the days, and couldn’t imagine any other way of reassessing it than battling again.
But when he looked again at Henry, he saw that the boy seemed utterly convinced by what he had said. Whatever had spurred him into thinking that his team was prepared, Henry now held onto the belief with an iron certainty. Michael let a brief silence pass between them as he thought it over, then spoke.
“Fine. I guess you have a point. Let’s just train till our pokémon get the Electric moves right, and when they do, we’ll schedule the battle.”
Henry gave a pleased smile, but Michael held up a finger.
“But,” he continued, “if Caterpie evolves before that, then I’m teaching her Energy Ball no matter what, and we’re gonna wait until she learns it. Got that?”
Henry let out a breath. “Fine.”
The boys followed the sidewalk along the plaza till it trailed off into the meadows out back. Usually, they went out all the way till they were in the vicinity of the forest, separating themselves from the other trainers as much as possible, both to get privacy and to avoid unwanted accidents. But presently, Michael found that a large number of trainers had shifted over to the distant fields, congregating in a large circle by the spot where he and Henry usually trained.
Michael quickened his pace, as did Henry, and the boys approached the gathering to see what was going on. The kids appeared to be holding a meeting of some sort, and were talking rapidly amongst each other. At the first glance, it did not appear to be anything interesting, and Michael began to turn back. But before he could walk away, a few trainers looked over their shoulders, and by chance, met his gaze. Their faces lit up with smiles of recognition. With a chorus of shouts, they broke off from the crowd and ran towards Michael and Henry, waving their arms.
“Hey! Wait up!”
Michael stopped. Five trainers approached, and the kid who led the party stopped right in front of him.
“Hey! You guys are the Lightning Boys, right?”
Hearing the unexpected title, Michael’s mouth spread into a broad grin. “Yep, that’s us.”
“You’ve inspired us!” said the trainer. “We’ve found a way to shoot a really high blast into the sky, just like what you did for Thunderbolt. Only we’re gonna use all the elements, and make it ten times bigger. We’re gonna reach all the way into space! We might even hit Deoxys!”
The trainers who accompanied him nodded in excitement.
Henry lifted an eyebrow, looking at the trainers in bewilderment. Michael narrowed his eyes, unconsciously hooking a thumb through his pocket.
“You serious about this?”
The trainer nodded. “We’ve been talking over how to do it for days. This one kid, Carl, got a plan finalized. See, Deoxys is supposed to be orbiting really close to the planet, along with Team Galactic’s satellites and stuff. If we can make a big enough blast, we might be able to get its attention. We should be able to get past the clouds, and if the pokémon hold out long enough, we might even get it to leave the troposphere.”
Michael cast a glance at Henry. The boy’s face was blank, but behind his eyes Michael could see a storm of a hundred shouts of protests, all screaming to be put into words. But it seemed that the boldness of the trainer’s proclamation had rendered him speechless.
Giving what he hoped to be a skeptical shrug, Michael turned to face the trainers again. “Well, I guess it’s worth a try. Let’s check it out.” But a smile threatened to break his straight face throughout.
Grinning, the trainers led Michael into the circle, and Henry followed as if pulled by a magnet, clutching Burmy with an ever-tighter grip against his chest. The circle of kids parted to accommodate Michael as he stepped through. At the center of the group stood a crowd of pokémon, surrounded by their trainers, consisting of four types: Grass, Water, Fire, and Electric. A boy with a Monferno paced around them all, managing the process, grouping all the pokémon together by type. When he saw Michael and Henry, he stopped, and turned to them.
“Hey. You here to help?”
Michael nodded, and looked down at the group of pokémon, whom the boy had gathered into a circle, the different types standing together like slices of a pie graph. “So how’s this thing supposed to work?” Michael asked. “You’re gathering a bunch of types that neutralize each other. How are you going to get them to make a single beam that won’t eat itself up?”
“Well, the theory we came up with is that if we have enough of each element, they’ll take a longer time to do damage to each other,” the boy replied. “We’re keeping Water, Fire, and Grass separated by a few Electric pokémon, just so the beams don’t mix early on. Then, we’re hoping that they’ll all combine together into one superpowered blast. Right now, we have five Fires, twelve Electrics, and five Waters. But we need a lot more than five Grasses, ‘cause we don’t want all the leaves to be burned up too early.”
Michael held up his hand. “Way ahead of you.” He snapped his fingers, and Turtwig scampered forward.
The boy with the Monferno smiled. “Great. Take him over to the others.”
Michael brought Turtwig to stand with the other Grass types, which included a Roselia, some other Grotles, and a few Cherrim. They waited a few more minutes, until several more trainers had approached with their Grass types. Henry remained behind with the rest of the onlookers, lips pursed, not tearing his gaze away from the group of pokémon at the center. Michael took his place with the other Grass trainers, and Carl went with his Monferno to stand with the Fire types. He whistled, and the chattering group of trainers fell silent.
“We’ll do it on the count of three!” he called. “If this works… then GASP is gonna bring Deoxys to Earth!”
“And if it doesn’t,” someone else put in, “then it’ll destroy the whole world as we know it! Robot attack!”
The crowd began to ooooh.
Michael stole a glance up at the sky, where white nimbus clouds trailed along the underbelly of a boundless infinity, and steeled himself. “All right, let’s do this!”
“Start the countdown!” someone said. “Three!”
The trainers gave their commands, and simultaneously, the pokémon gathered in the center of the circle all gave their cries. Beams of fire, water, grass, and lightning blasted upwards with a resounding boom, shooting up into the sky in pillars of dazzling color, which swirled together like wires into a single spear of light that continued to slice through the air.
The beam soared up and up till it seemed like it would strike the clouds, but then it began to lose momentum, slowing down like a jet of water from a fountain that had reached its maximum height. The beam slowed to a stop, then slowly, began to fall.
“It’s coming back!” a kid shouted. “Run!”
The trainers and pokémon all jumped back as the tower of light collapsed on itself, coalescing into a ball that plummeted to the ground with the roar of a rocket’s thrusters. By the time it hit the ground, it had lost nearly all its magnitude, but it still carried enough force to make the ground shake. The collision produced a shockwave that swept through the whole field, rippling past the kids to reach the plaza, toppling trash cans, making windows quiver.
Michael and the other trainers stumbled to regain their balance. Their pokémon had been stirred into a panic, and were bumping against each other, growling. Michael squinted at the plaza, where he saw people emerging from buildings, raising voices of complaint, looking around for the source of the disturbance. But by the looks of it, nothing was broken.
“Whoa! That was awesome!” one kid exclaimed.
“I think it worked!”
“No it didn’t—we didn’t even make a hole in the clouds!”
The trainers began to bicker, though in the end none of them could decide whether or not it had been a success. Finally, the boy with the Monferno let out a breath.
“There must have been a problem with the proportions,” he said. “I guess it’s back to the drawing board…” He turned away in dismay. The crowd of trainers dispersed, with only a few lingering around the point of impact to deduce what had gone wrong.
His interest in the endeavor dwindled, Michael called Turtwig over and went back to Henry. The boy had watched the whole thing from a safe distance, along with a few others, his expression mixed with fear and disapproval. But now, at their failure, he crossed his arms in satisfaction.
“Well, that went well,” Michael said, giving a casual glance at the charred hole they had made in the ground. It looked deeper than it actually was, mainly due to the grass that had been burnt away. The trainers were already trying to cover it up, using moves like Razor Leaf and Bullet Seed to patch up the bare ground.
Henry sighed, but did not respond. He remained silent as they walked away from the scene, then cast a dark glance back at the trainers. “I just hope we get our battle over with so we stop giving these people ideas,” he said.
But Michael, who was thinking of something else entirely, responded right then with an enigmatic smile. “Ideas? Hmm… ideas are good.”
And with that, the two boys went off the find their own space to train.
Last edited by Mrs. Lovett; 31st August 2013 at 5:51 PM.
...Under the sea!and in an environment that will be more hospitable to research conditions, which will be far removed from the environment of the spacecraft, and much closer to home than what was earlier thought…
I like that you give us one chapter for the actual text of whatever the public now knows about what's going on, and then the next chapter is for Michael's reactions, how it'll affect the characters.
You did! You heard it first here! Not that I predicted anything useful but still.“Well, you heard it first here folks.
Heh, 'taking the city by storm', 'bolt from the blue'... I like these nostalgic old news cliches that are continuing even beyond the news portion. As I like the water balloon metaphor.
You know Roots chapters always make me smile. The giant elemental beam scene was lovely, and it's awesome that in this update, you didn't show anything very high up in management -- we can all tell something ominous is going on between the administrations of the two teams, but the POV for now stayed on Michael, nobody turned into an ace investigator or spy, and it ended on a bunch of kids doing something obviously stupid and inevitably failing (though in another sense, not failing at all). Bless them! It's how the kids of Pastoria can think of a way to... hm, 'speak their mind', like you said, say something to the huge events happening that they care so much about. This scene really made me feel nice. You are a master of charming little situations and the ways they end. Another story could even finish entirely on a scene like this.
I'm surprised Shella is more spirited about Bertha's petition than she is... probably it's a case of Bertha knowing more, and being more informed about her opinion that she doesn't stand a chance. But I'm sure the petition business won't end here, even if the teams actually do unite. We all know there's something fishy going on with Rocket and Galactic. Bertha ought to eventually make jabs at that, the teams' hidden corruption, it's her best chance at getting something done. Shella's got a damn fine opinion about what the end of competition will mean for the space race. (From our history, though, we found out how competition turned out to be preferable to what we've got now -- NASA hasn't sent a man to Mars yet, probably because Russia isn't trying either and the President doesn't care. Shame on everything.)
I haven't got a single constructive thing to say. Still, I wanted to post something on the new update. I always like it when someone says anything about my new stuff.
Buuut, though, the radio thing at the very beginning of 3.6, a nitpick. Would a news channel really dare to put a cliffhanger ("much closer to home than was earlier thought...") on a broadcast about the breaking news? One not resolved by any of the other channels? They're pretty hard-pressed to the work of actually telling you the news.
It wasn't actually a radio transmission -- Freddie Horner is a TV news anchorman, and all the broadcasts with him are on the screen. I wasn't trying to imply that the broadcast actually concluded when he said "much closer to home than was earlier thought." I used the ellipses to convey that in reality, Horner said more than what I showed him saying, and I wrote 'End Transmission' so that Horner's broadcast wouldn't be confused with the newspaper headline that came next. I wanted the headline to deliver the real punch.Buuut, though, the radio thing at the very beginning of 3.6, a nitpick. Would a news channel really dare to put a cliffhanger ("much closer to home than was earlier thought...") on a broadcast about the breaking news? One not resolved by any of the other channels? They're pretty hard-pressed to the work of actually telling you the news.
Though now that I look back at it, I guess the 'End Transmission' line does point the reader in the wrong direction, so I'll remove it and just leave the dotted boundary. I agree, it wouldn't really make sense for a TV broadcast to end on a cliffhanger. That would be a risky stunt to pull, especially in a place like Sinnoh, in a year like 1963, for a broadcast as big as the GASP unveiling. :P
And I'm glad you liked the elemental beam scene! Did they fail, or did they succeed? Or did they do both? And what could that mean in light of their prediction? Hehe...
As for Bertha, she's a bit bummed out (who wouldn't be?), but she's far from calling it quits. As you'll see very soon, she'll find a way to use the GASP situation to her great advantage. (The teams have already united, by the way, which is what created GASP.)
And sometimes I often wonder what would happen if NASA or some other country's space program discovered an alien life form and wanted to bring it to Earth to study it. o.o I think that would revive a lot of people's interest in space! These are exactly the kinds of things that make the Pokemon world fun to write about. Legends and supernatural beings abound everywhere, waiting to be discovered.
Anyways, thanks for the review! They're always appreciated, whether you're criticizing or just casually commenting. :)
Now time for an update...
School has started up again for me. Unfortunately, it's looking to be pretty busy, at least till December, as I'm busy with college applications. I've written some scattered bits of Chapter 38, though I want to spend some time planning out the rest of the Pastoria series, since there have been a few minor changes in the development. In addition, these next few chapters will contain a lot of important information that will affect the rest of the story, and I want to make sure I present them in the exact way I want them to be presented. I can't give a definite posting date, but expect it to be at least a month.
So until then, see you all next chapter!
Well, I guess it's time to revive Roots from its holiday break! *dusts off snow and breaks icicles from the title*
First off, I apologize for being away. I can promise you that there won't be a chance of that happening again till summer -- and even then, it's only a chance, not a certainty, so it's too early to consider it an issue. With that in mind, I'm still aiming to get as much writing done as possible during these few months, because for some reason I feel like I'm slacking on Roots when I shouldn't be. I feel like I could have finished this fic a long time ago if I had put my mind to it, but I guess there's no point in reflecting now, because "a long time ago", and even a few months ago, I didn't have many of things worked out in my mind that I do right now. I guess there are always hidden perks in contemplating your story, even when you're not writing it. :P
Moving on to the point of this post: I don't have a chapter for you today (*dodges onslaught of rotten tomatoes*) but I do have news that one is coming very, very soon. Possibly even this week. (I wouldn't have made this post otherwise!) Chapter 38 is completely written, and features the long-awaited Gym battle, but I'm still editing the description, and have about four more pages of rough-draft material to go through. The chapter after that is about eighty percent written, with just a few scene-gaps left to fill. It should follow Chapter 38 in much less time than a month.
Besides those, I have outlines written for Chapters 40 and 41, which I did during the holiday break. My goal is to complete those chapters by February, while working ahead on Chapters 42 through 45... and beyond that, I think there's no point in setting lofty, speculative goals. For now. xP
Also, I feel like I have to point this out: Remember the post where I said Roots has fifty-two chapters? That is now wroooong. There are more. I won't tell you how many, because I'm afraid that might put you into countdown mode, and as the story starts coming to its actual close, you might even be able to guess the ending. And that would ruin the element of surprise, which I'll have to keep on my side for just a little while longer.
Hopefully, I'll be able to make my next post soon -- and that next post will contain a chapter. Until then!
Here be thy promised chapter, with a not-promised-but-hopefully-permissible-given-the-circumstances post split. Enjoy!
In the days that followed the unveiling of GASP, Sinnoh was thrown into a mayhem of a magnitude it had never seen. Airwaves were flooded with announcers and commentators, skeptics and speculators, who proffered every sort of explanation from commerce to conspiracy. Their frantic voices drowned out almost every other piece of news for over a week, and entire programs were cancelled to air reruns of the announcement that had aired on SNN that June evening, breaking the word to Sinnoh for the first time. The faces of Freddie Horner and Steve Wilkes filled television screens all across the country, their words blaring the same ominous message, which could soon be felt in the air like an obstructive mist, shrouding all other thoughts from people’s minds.
Much like Marie Wickham had estimated, the public’s response to the event was almost instantaneous. For every person that supported GASP’s decision, there was someone else who didn’t, and the latter struck a domineering presence on talk shows and commercials. Pastoria City became, like many others, a hotspot for news and debates, where people gathered in television studios to watch programs live on set, and circulated newspapers in a frenzy, keeping tabs on every development, whether official or opinionated. But on July 4th, just four days after the initial broadcast, a second announcement was made that turned the eyes of the whole world onto the city for a single day: GASP’s officials gave word that they would be holding their first-ever press conference to elaborate on the terms of their alliance and answer the flood of questions they had received. And it would be held in none other than Pastoria City, in the city hall at the center of town.
In a matter of minutes, the building’s perimeter was closed off by barricades and police cars, which amassed in incredible quantities with their flashing lights, scattered among vans and antennae from various news stations. Ordinary townspeople were left to flock around the boundary, with sunglasses and parasols to shield from the sun. At midday, the procession of sleek black cars, which had captured the Pastorians’ attention some days ago, reappeared on the city streets — only this time there was no question about who was riding inside. Allan Knight himself.
The Rocket leader was the third most-talked-about face in the Hoenn media. During the years of the Space Race, he was an almost constant presence on national television, appearing live behind his podium to announce Team Rocket’s projects, always sitting at the center of the panel during press conferences. Though he rarely went into detail about what went on during the missions, he revealed enough to make his entire country stir with fascination. Team Rocket’s updates were avidly watched by almost every Hoenn citizen, for with each milestone, each innovation, it seemed as if it wasn’t just Team Rocket that triumphed, but the whole of Hoenn as well.
Knight already had some notoriety in Sinnoh, due to all the interviews and press releases that had aired throughout the previous year, when the competition between the two space organizations had been at its highest. The thing that struck people most of all about him was his decisiveness. In response to repeated questions about Team Rocket’s projects, he responded swiftly and succinctly, in words that would seem to become Hoenn’s national slogan: “Get to the moon.”
To Hoenn, he was the miracle worker, the conqueror of the unknown. Up to that point, to Sinnoh, he had been the embodiment of the adversary. But now, he had become an object of instant fascination.
Upon Allan Knight’s arrival at the Pastoria City Hall, the entrance to the building was closed off, the gates reinforced by policemen, who continued to push back the ever-growing crowd. Reporters gathered in a jumbled pool along the fence, aiming their cameras at the building, and spent the next few hours talking about Knight and Team Rocket, filling in their viewers about the team’s history and recent activities, while the entire country waited for the conference’s commencement.
Halfway across town, business at the Trainer Plaza was going on as usual. After days of planning and battling, of polishing move execution and examining scenarios, reaching battle day was like falling onto the finish line of a ten-mile marathon. It still felt unreal in Michael’s mind. Their hotel room was strewn with remnants from a week’s worth of work: his notebook lying open on the desk, a stack of move tutoring books they hadn’t returned to the library yet, and silver pokéballs scattered in various places, him and Henry being too lazy to recall their pokémon after each training session.
Neither of them had been in the mood to get breakfast in the cafeteria, too worn out to deal with the noise, lines, and messy tables that had become routine over the days. Instead, the boys scavenged leftovers of previous take-out meals from the refrigerator, and used their final few hours of free time to settle into passive contemplation. Henry was sitting on the carpet with his back against the TV stand, reading magazines, his free hand resting on the back of Turtwig’s shell. The pokémon occupied various spots in the furniture around him. The window to the far right of the room was open, providing a slight breeze, and giving sunlight to Goldeen, who was was swimming around in her tank. The sound of her splashes just barely broke the silence.
Michael had isolated himself in the armchair, where he sat with his fist propped against his cheek, looking down at the Caterpie-cocoon which was lying on the coffee table. He had cleared the space of its usual clutter for the occasion of her evolution, which by the looks of it, would happen any minute.
But several of them had passed, and nothing changed.
Michael soon grew weary of sitting, and began to tap his foot against the carpet, switching his attention every so often to the magazine on his lap. His gaze jerked up whenever the cocoon seemed to budge, which in his state of impatience seemed to be every other second. But each time, he would find it in the exact same state as before, a football-sized mass of silvery webbing, which had melded together to such a degree that it now resembled a smooth shell. It didn’t have a single tear or crack.
“Michael, it’s been almost two hours,” came Henry’s voice. “Just give yourself a break. She’ll evolve when she’s ready.”
Michael, who had been sinking into a slouch without realizing it, snapped awake at Henry’s voice. After some thought, he dug around in his backpack and took out the moonstone, waggling it in the air in front of Caterpie.
“Come on, Caterpie… see the pretty moonstone? Come and get it. Go!”
But the moonstone was useless. Caterpie’s cocoon remained as still as ever on the table. Feeling a rush of hopelessness, Michael let his arm fall to his side with a grumble. He gave the stone a resentful glance, turning it over in his hands. “You know, I’m starting to feel like this moonstone thing was a one-time deal,” he told Henry. “Aren’t there any other pokémon besides Clefairies that it evolves?”
Henry shrugged. “I don’t know. Remember what that kid in Hearthome said? He said he got his from Mt. Moon in Kanto. So maybe it only affects species that live there. I know Clefairies do.”
“Zubats live in Mt. Moon too, but they don’t evolve by items. It’s just Zubat, Golbat, and Crobat, right?”
Henry paused. “Well, yeah.”
“So obviously the stone doesn’t affect them,” Michael said. But unwilling to broach the subject, he packed the moonstone away and settled back into the armchair. He stole a quick glance at the clock on the wall. There were seven hours left till their evening battle with Marie. Michael knew there was no hope in teaching Caterpie Energy Ball now — he had resigned himself to that fact three days ago — but part of him still wanted to see her come out of the cocoon, even if it was at least to reprimand her for doing it too late, as silly as that sounded.
Neither he nor Henry had any knowledge of what was happening in the city. A few hours later, they packed their bags as usual and left for the Gym to confirm their battle appointments, expecting the facility to be running smoothly and peacefully like it usually was. But to Michael’s surprise, there was a large crowd of people inside, both trainers and regular townsfolk, gathered around stacks of newspapers that had been placed at various points in the front rooms. Ringo tensed as they stepped through the doors, and began to turn around in place on Michael’s shoulder, trying to pick up what people were saying. Turtwig could do little but arch his neck up in the event that someone lowered their arm, but even so, the strange symbols on the pages held no meaning for him. He hung back with Machop, Clefable, and Pachirisu while Michael and Henry started towards the front counter.
But before they could go far, the doors to the Gym swung open, and someone rushed inside, a curtain of long blond hair billowing behind them. Michael turned automatically, and arched his eyebrows in surprise when he recognized Shella.
She was dressed functionally, in a knee-length skirt and sandals, the kind of clothing that was good for long walks. She waded through the crowd without noticing them, her gaze darting around the room in search of something. But when her eyes landed upon the boys, her attention seemed to switch, and she quickened her pace to meet them. “Hi guys. How are you?”
“Pretty good,” Michael replied. “What brings you here?”
“I wanted to talk to Marie about something, but I have to wait until she’s available. She’ll be doing battles all day to make some free time for the evening, but she said she might be able to squeeze me in during her break.” Shella gave him and Henry a quick once-over. “So what have you been up to? Are you still training?”
“Nope. We’re all done. We’re battling her tonight.”
Shella gaped. “Tonight? Already?”
“Yeah. We’ve been practicing all week. It usually takes us around four days to get ready for a Gym, but this time it took longer than usual because we were teaching our pokémon new moves.”
At this, Shella seemed to come to a realization, and smiled. “Oh, so it was you two who were practicing with that lightning, then, wasn’t it? I keep hearing about the ‘two boys who started it all’. Apparently some kids tried to fire a huge beam into the sky a few days ago to imitate them, and now everyone’s talking about it.”
Michael cracked a smile. In response to the trainers’ failed elemental-beam experiment, Marie’s staff had posted stern notices all over the plaza reminding trainers not to act up, and no one was foolish enough to disobey. Though from time to time, he still heard people mutter about the ordeal in passing. Fortunately, he and Henry had mastered the Electric techniques to their satisfaction, and didn’t have to practice them in plain view.
“We stopped a few days ago,” Henry admitted. “We were doing it as practice, but once our pokémon learned everything, we started focusing more on our battle strategies.”
Shella nodded. Her gaze fell on Turtwig, who was sporting his usual sunny colors, and the Caterpie-cocoon beneath one of the bushels in his shell. “Is there any particular reason your pokémon is carrying that Metapod?” she said to Michael.
“Uh… yeah, my Caterpie’s supposed to evolve soon,” Michael replied. “I want to see it when it happens.”
“Ah. That’s nice.” Shella smiled. She stepped aside as more people entered the Gym, till the trio was bunched together in the center of the room, and swept her gaze around everyone else. “Speaking of seeing things when they happen, have you guys heard about the conference?”
“There’s going to be a GASP press conference tonight, right here in the city. I saw it on the news this morning. Allan Knight’s going to be there, and so are people from Team Galactic. Everyone on the Valor Lakefront was talking about it.”
Michael frowned. “A press conference? I thought Galactic didn’t do those.”
“Well, they’re not just Team Galactic anymore — they’re part of GASP,” Shella said. “And if you’re forming a global company, publicity’s bound to come with the package. It’s kind of funny, because I’ve been meeting people who seemed to like the fact that their space program was a secret. It gave things a mysterious edge. But now that Galactic’s being more open, they see it as self-sabotage.” She gave a shrug. “I was actually talking about that with my friend over the phone this morning. He’s in Hoenn, and he says that a lot of people over there think the alliance is a good idea. And he agrees — he says that this way, both companies can share the benefits and no one will end up on the losing side.”
“That’s because you guys weren’t on the losing side to begin with,” Michael pointed out. “It’s easy to act all generous right after you one-upped your opponent.”
Shella pursed her lips. “Well, I think most of GASP’s supporters weren’t gone over the whole race thing to begin with. My friend and I weren’t. Though some of our other friends were, and to be honest, it got boring to hear them talk about it all the time.”
Michael continued to watch the people over by the front counter, and when the crowd had sufficiently cleared, he and Henry rushed over. They were greeted by Lace, its perpetual occupant, who was leaning back in her chair.
“Hello boys,” said the girl. She held a newspaper as well, her red nails standing in contrast to the gray paper. “What can I do for you?”
“We wanted to confirm our battles for tonight,” Michael said.
Lace gave a sly smile. “I don’t know… are you sure you’ll have your minds on battling today?”
“Of course we will,” said Michael. “And what’s everyone reading, anyway? Is it about that conference?”
Lace didn’t have time to answer, for right then a trainer turned to him and thrust a copy of the newspaper into his hands. “Someone totally slammed Knight!” he said. “In the Opinion column. It’s hilarious, check it out!”
Michael opened the paper to the section the kid indicated. There was no mistaking the article of interest, for the heading blared out at him in bold type, the text taking up nearly all of the page’s length:
Since the dawn of the Space Race, Team Rocket and Team Galactic officials have done nothing but hide their true motives and distort the truth by confusing the public of both their countries. They have been lying to you through their broadcasts since the dawn of the Space Race, so why should we believe that they have our best economic interest in mind now with this so-called “alliance”? Let’s call some examples to mind. Allan Knight, head of Team Rocket and now co-director of GASP, has long been notorious in Hoenn for masking the truth behind Team Rocket’s operations. As countless examples have shown, he prefers to give reporters just enough information to maintain public interest in Team Rocket’s missions, while withholding things that might lead the public to start questioning his actions.
Usually when people think of ‘secretive’, they imagine the tall fences surrounding Team Galactic’s factories, or the enigmatic persona of Thealus Blue, who could have colonized the moon by now without the public press knowing. But you’ll be surprised to learn that Dr. Knight isn’t so far behind him. Months have passed since the discovery of Deoxys, and still hardly anything is known about what happened behind the scenes. But details are slowly beginning to trickle in: Top sources confirm that it was indeed Team Rocket that sighted the pokémon first, but for some reason, put off announcing the discovery for several months. In fact, it has been confirmed by independent media sources that the actual discovery happened in early January. Yet, Knight and the Rockets happily announced to the Hoenn press that the discovery had taken place in June, and up to this point, it appears they have seen no need to correct their mistake. This may seem like a small issue at first, but upon closer investigation, it raises a host of critical questions. For one thing, what, exactly, could have led Allan Knight to put his own personal matters before the needs of his people, who have the right to be informed of their space program’s actions? One likely explanation is that Knight needed time — evidently, once he saw the political and social changes such a revelation would bring about, he prompted a change in policy, and began to work on forming an alliance with his corporate rival. Instead of trying to gain fame by surpassing Team Galactic’s capabilities, which Knight has been forced to concede defeat to on many occasions, he got the idea to push the notion of a global space program. This alliance would cloud people’s eyes with visions of a unified world, while it in fact existed to give Knight even more power than he has already, even if it meant being Thealus Blue’s equal.
Consider for a moment what some of this power might be. On the one hand, it would give Allan Knight world prestige, letting him bask in the attention of a global audience, thus satisfying the greedy thirst for appraisal that has been apparent in his behavior since the day he founded the company. And it would also put him in a position of unique authority, with the right to reveal or withhold any information he likes, with no regulations imposed upon him by outside sources. He would thus be free to do whatever he wants with Team Rocket’s funding, much of which might not even go towards space projects at all, but for projects having more to do with his lavish residence in Mossdeep City.
The fact that Knight was willing to go as far as to give Hoenn and Sinnoh outdated news reports about Team Rocket’s discoveries on the moon, while he was likely already collaborating with Team Galactic on the matter of the GASP alliance, points to the disturbing prediction that Knight has already lied this way to us several times in the past, and what more, that he will continue doing so in the future. And now he wants to come to Sinnoh to spin a sympathetic tale, while the whole conference had likely been scripted beforehand (as many of Team Rocket’s interviews are), and Deoxys long moved into its transportation pod, before a single protesting citizen had time to have their say.
Are you going to let someone like Allan Knight into your city?
Are you going to sit complacently as Team Rocket leeches your money and resources for their own personal gain?
As a Pastoria native, I have always been proud of the fact that my city, despite being a popular center of information, is nevertheless dedicated to seeking out truth and authenticity in all forms of media, something that’s incredibly rare to come by nowadays. Now, it saddens me to see Pastorians succumb to the lure of mass publicity and play host to a person who most definitely does not have the best interest of Sinnoh in mind. Pastorians, I call for you to take your city back. Let Dr. Knight know that if he wants to extend his corporate reach, let it be somewhere else.
- Written by Marvin Whitman.
Henry, who had been following along beside him, looked up in confusion. “So, they’re attacking Knight now?”
“I guess so,” said Michael. “Weird, ‘cause they used to love being jealous of him before. They used to say all the time how productive the Rockets were compared to Team Galactic. But I guess now they’ve changed their minds.”
Right then, Shella seemed to catch wind of their conversation and approached the counter. “Wait a minute, what?” She looked over Michael’s shoulder, and he gave the newspaper for her to read. When she finished, her eyes bulged. “Secretive? What are they talking about? Allan Knight’s always told Hoenn everything the Rockets were doing! He never hid anything, and he’s certainly never scripted his interviews!” She lowered the paper, fuming. “Whoever wrote this is a blockhead.”
Despite her serious tone, Michael couldn’t help but chuckle. “Who was it that said we shouldn’t get hot about things that don’t matter?”
“That was different!” Shella said. “I was talking about things that aren’t worth getting mad over, like the actual alliance. But the person who wrote this is downright lying! They clearly haven’t taken a look into a single Hoenn newspaper, because if they had, they’d have been proven wrong hundreds of times over! This writer ‘s just going off about things he doesn’t have a clue about, and it’s obvious he’s only doing it to stir a hype because he hasn’t given a single concrete example to back up anything he claimed about Knight. I sure hope not all Sinnoh news is like this.”
“Nah, it’s not,” Michael said. “The people who lie are probably just more profitable, so that’s why the news companies print them.” He cast his gaze to the dwindled stack of newspapers on a nearby table, and inadvertently thought of Nancy Bryan. Considering her crew’s pitiable position, there might have been some truth to his words.
Right then, another one of Marie’s staff entered the lobby, a lady with short, curly black hair. Looking around at all the newspapers, she smiled wryly. “So. Marvin Whitman strikes again?”
Lace smiled. “Yep. And unfortunately, this time it looks like he’s struck a nerve.”
Shella, who was standing with her arms crossed, gave a nod.
“You’re not the only one, honey,” said the woman. “If it makes you feel any better, he’s thrown mud at Galactic and GASP in general loads of times. And regardless of what you think of them, it’s still annoying to read. People assume that that’s all papers print around here and they stop taking them seriously.”
“There’s not much you can do about it, honestly,” Lace added. “The conference is tonight, so there has to be something controversial in the news. It’s practically a law of nature.”
The other woman looked at Lace. “I don’t know, I think this writer’s starting to break free of his reins. He’s getting a bit too passionate with his ideas — I saw a bunch of his articles in three different papers this week. In one of them he basically repeated what he mentioned in that first article, the one about mission sabotage. And in another he started ranting about how it’s only a matter of time before Galactic stoops to Team Rocket’s level and starts launching Skitties and Minuns into space.”
Lace began to laugh, covering her gaping mouth. “Ha! Wow.”
“Actually, launching pokémon into space was one of the most important things the Rockets ever did,” Shella said. “If it wasn’t for that, they wouldn’t have been able to study how space would affect terrestrial life forms, and there might not have been a manned space program at all.”
The black-haired woman held up her hands. “Hey, I’m not denying it. All I’m saying is that there’s no reason to get upset. People usually know who to take seriously. If Marvin Whitman thinks he can start a boycott of GASP’s first press conference in history, then he obviously hasn’t seen the downtown. If he took one look at it, he’d know right away that that’s not happening anytime soon!” She let out a laugh.
Michael turned back to Lace. “So you’re gonna be showing the conference from the Gym?”
“What about our battles? They’re not cancelled, are they?”
Lace flicked her hand. “Nah, I was just kidding about that. Of course Marie’s still going to be battling — the conference is at eight and she’s usually done by seven. It’s all a matter of whether you’ll be able to keep your blood cool till then. Heh.”
Michael looked at Henry. “Then we’re battling today,” he said. “Right?”
Henry nodded. “Of course.”
“Okay, then you’re all set,” said Lace. “Come by at five-thirty, and we’ll tell you which building to go to. Marie will meet you right inside.”
“All right,” Michael said.
Lace wrote their appointment on a notecard and gave it to him. Michael pocketed it, and he and Henry turned to go. Shella joined their side.
“Anyways, I guess I’ll hang around here until the conference starts,” she continued. “I don’t think going downtown is an option. The roads are probably all blocked.”
“Hey, since you’re here, maybe you can watch our battles!” Henry suggested.
“I’d love to, but I don’t think Mrs. Wickham allows it. Some Hoenn Gym leaders are like that too. I guess they don’t want their secrets spilled.” Shella gave a smile. “Anyways, I hope you two do well! Come see me after, and tell me how it went.”
Michael smiled. “No problem. We’ll show you what a Sinnoh badge looks like.”
“And we’ll show you the other ones we have, too!” Henry piped up. “You know, Michael, I heard if you put all eight of them in a circle together, you can make the outline of the three starters!”
“That’s probably a lie,” Michael said. “But I guess when we get all eight we’ll be able to test it ourselves.”
Shella gave a smile. “Well, I have to get going. I’ll be cheering for you! Figuratively, at least.” She waved, then left through the front doors, starting down the sidewalk and disappearing into the heart of the Plaza.
The lobby was quiet for a few moments, then all of a sudden, a loud bang made Michael turn.
“Will someone get that bird out of here?”
Several people spun around as a woman came running out of a side door with a hand covering her face. Papers were falling everywhere around her, and she was shooing at the air with a binder, deflecting a black bullet that came whizzing out after her. Ringo squawked and pecked at the binder, filling the room with the sound of his humanlike voice: “I’d like to be! Under the sea! In a Gyarados’s Garden — in the shaaaaaaaade—”
The woman grabbed her hair. “He keeps singing ‘Octopus’ Garden!' I feel like I’m going crazy!”
Indeed, Ringo was piping the melody of the song at full volume, which soon captured the attention of everyone in the room, some who laughed, others who backed a safe distance away. The woman continued to spin around in place, switching from waving the binder to tucking it against her chest. Finally, Ringo managed to latch onto it with his claws and began to pull it out of her grasp, but when he saw Michael, he immediately changed course and flew over to him. In response. Michael ran forward and pulled Ringo out of the air by one leg, trying to stifle the bird’s flapping wings.
“Ringo, shut up! What’s your freaking bag?”
Ringo screeched in his ear. “I”D ASK MY FRIEEEEENDS TO COME AND SEEE-EEEE—A GYARADOS’S GARDEN WITH MEEEE—”
The man-bird struggle continued for nearly a minute, till Michael managed to tuck Ringo beneath his arm like a football and clamp his beak closed with one hand. Everyone else was watching uneasily. The woman sighed with relief, and sank to the ground to collect her fallen papers.
“You need to put a leash on that bird or somethin’,” she huffed. “He just flew into my office and I didn’t even see. First I thought it was a boom box.”
“Well he didn’t wreck anything, did he?”
“I’m not so sure. I might have to retype some papers...” With the messy stack in hand, she turned back into the hallway. Ignoring the other trainers’ murmurs, Michael stomped out of the building and found a bench outside, where he sat Ringo on an arm rail and gave him a glare.
“I’m gonna stop sending you out if you keep doing this,” he said. “The whole point of messing with people is not to get caught. Now they know you’re mine! So if you do anything else, they’ll take it out on me!”
Henry came running out of the building moments later, followed by Clefable, Pachirisu, Machop, and Turtwig. “That was crazy!” he said. “I didn’t even see how Ringo got away!”
“Neither did I.” Michael crossed his arms. “It would’ve been fine if it wasn’t the day of my battle. Now what if that lady reports me?”
He looked down at Ringo, who continued to hum the tune of the song, peering up at the boys.
“He doesn’t seem like he’s listening,” Henry said.
Michael narrowed his eyes. “I’ll make him in a moment!”
Ringo growled and ruffled his feathers. “I’d like to be, under the sea, in a Gyarados’s garden, with Marieeee!”
Michael turned to Turtwig and pulled the pokémon forward by a bushel. “Razor Leaf Ringo, please.”
Turtwig obeyed, sending a few leaves that smacked Ringo’s face, doing no damage, but managing to break the bird’s rhythm. In response, Ringo messed up Michael’s hair with his talons, before diving into the pokéball that he held open for him. Smiling in satisfaction, Michael locked the capsule. “Remind me to keep him away from the chocolate,” he said to Henry.
The boy chuckled. “He must have been stealing people’s Rage Candybars.”
“And not sharing them with us? That’s third-degree offense, right there.” Michael balanced the pokéball on his forefinger, then caught it back in his palm. “So, what are we gonna do today? Want to have another battle? Last one for good luck.”
Henry crinkled his nose. “I don’t know… we’ve done it four times already. I feel like if we do any more we’ll get bored of it and not have enough energy left for Marie. Let’s just call it a day and relax.” He looked down at Turtwig, and brightened. “Hey, I have an idea. How about we take Caterpie out for a walk? Give her a nice place to evolve. I think it would be nice if she came out of her cocoon and saw something really pretty, like the marsh or a field of flowers, or… something.”
Henry blinked. The passivity in Michael’s expression quickly deflated his enthusiasm, and he fell silent. Michael simply shrugged.
“I say we just put her back in the hotel room. Turtwig’s been carrying her around for days and it’s making him all motherly now. Look at him.”
He budged his arm in Turtwig’s direction, as the pokémon turned in place to make sure the Caterpie-cocoon got enough sunlight.
“He can’t be like that in battle,” Michael said. “He needs to toughen up.”
“Well, what if she evolves today?” said Henry.
“There’d be no point. I can’t add her to my team. So to lighten the load, I say we put all the pokémon we’re not using back in our room, and take the rest with us.”
“But they’ll get bored.”
Michael turned his head till the tall clock at the center of the square was in view. “Six hours left. How are we going to entertain them for six hours?”
“I don’t know,” said Henry.
“I don’t know either.”
That turned out to be their final word on the matter. Returning to their room, the boys settled into to the same places they had occupied before, Henry in front of the TV and Michael in his armchair, where he opened up a magazine and put his feet up on the table where Caterpie’s cocoon had been. He allowed Turtwig and Machop to settle close by, Ringo to snooze on the back of the chair — while Caterpie herself was banished to the windowsill, where no one looked at her except Goldeen, through her blurry world of waves and bubbles.
Last edited by Mrs. Lovett; 9th February 2014 at 5:54 PM.
When the hour of their battle came, they went to the Gym and were directed all the way to the back of the complex, where Michael saw the largest battling house by far — a tall brick building that had been painted brown, with double doors and no windows. The strange glass dome he had seen when looking at the Gym from a far distance was actually its roof.
The boys pushed through the doors and entered a hallway, dim and smelling of chlorine. Henry had his new pokéball belt strapped around his waist, while Michael made do with a brown pouch. At the end of the path was a wooden bench and hooks for their personal belongings, after which they emerged into an enormous, sunlit battle room. The floor, which was lined with rough tiles, terminated after several yards for an Olympic-sized pool, which stretched all the way to the side walls, mirroring paintings of coral and sea grass, and the vast, domed ceiling overhead. The water was broken every so often by flat stone surfaces of various sizes, which looked like pools of dark tar, but appeared to provide sturdy ground for walking and jumping. Nevertheless, the battlefield was overwhelmingly dominated by water, making land travel a complicated maneuver.
It’s probably her defense against Water’s weaknesses, Michael thought. He knew that the Water type was one of the more vulnerable ones, and so he didn’t consider such a tactic to be above Marie’s capabilities. His battle with Lona had taught him well — he’d never rush into a battle blindly now. Every little thing, he knew, had to have a purpose.
Marie herself awaited them at the opposite end of the pool, standing with her arms crossed, idly checking her watch. A row of fountains played behind her for show, filling the room with sounds of rushing water. Upon hearing their approach, she looked up and smiled.
“Welcome! Right on time, too. Splendid!”
Marie clapped her hands, and opened the flap of her cross-body purse, which held her pokéballs.
“Um, Mrs. Wickham?” Henry said. “Which one of us will be battling first?”
Marie smiled. “Both of you. You’ll be battling me together.”
The boys drew back in surprise, and Marie gave a cackle. “Ah, I get that reaction all the time. Priceless. But yes — together. I find it gives trainers a whole different perspective on the thing, something they don’t normally get in Gyms. It’s twice the fun when your partner is someone you don’t know, of course, but I figured that since you two are already a traveling group, why not send the both of you off together? That is, if you win.” She winked. “As the river flows and is flexible, so must you be! Send out your first pokémon, each of you. I’ll send two of mine, and the games begin!” She took out two pokéballs, one in each hand, and held them open. “Go!”
Two bolts of light fled from the mouths of the opened capsules and crashed down into the water, shattering its glassy serenity with foamy splashes. Moments later, two heads appeared from beneath the water: a Quagsire and a Floatzel.
Michael and Henry immediately turned to face each other.
“Quagsire,” Michael whispered. “That’s what Wooper grows into.”
“And Bertha caught a Wooper,” Henry said. “The guy at the Great Marsh said it was Ground.”
“And Quagsire has to be Water for Marie to be using it, so it must be a dual-type with Ground. Which means… it’s extra weak to Grass!” Michael snapped his fingers. “Use Burmy. I’ll take Floaty with Turtwig.”
Henry gave an affirmative nod. They took several steps away from each other and sent out their battlers, holding their pokeballs high aloft to make sure they landed onto dry land. Burmy plopped down on a circular slab in his cloak of leaves, face tucked away to leave two blinking eyes peering out from it. Turtwig landed on a large patch of sand, where he shook himself awake, and began to survey the vicinity. The abundance of water seemed to intrigue him, and after a moment he seemed to grasp the limitations of the tiny field he had been cast upon. Turtwig turned his head back towards the shore, and when his eyes locked on his trainer’s, Michael gave his command: “Turwtig, you get the Floatzel! Use Razor Leaf!”
Henry joined in a moment later. “Burmy, use Leaf Storm at Quagsire!”
There was a loud rush that sounded like flapping pages as the two Grass-types whipped up a storm of leaves. Burmy’s spun around his body like a storm cloud, and Turtwig’s flew out from his bushels in tiny bunches. They drifted in the air for a moment, then Turtwig stomped his front feet against the ground, which made them launch forward like daggers. The Floatzel dove underwater before they could strike it, but the Quagsire wasn’t so lucky. Burmy’s cloud of leaves engulfed its head before it could go under, making the pokémon flinch back. It dove underwater seconds later, though its formation with the Floatzel was broken.
“Use Water Gun!” said Marie.
The Floatzel’s open mouth reappeared in front of Burmy, blasting him off his feet with a jet of water. Michael knew the attack would do little damage on its own, but seconds later he saw Marie’s motive. Burmy landed in the pool and began to flail about helplessly, his limbs too tiny to keep him afloat. The Floatzel grabbed Burmy with its paws and threw him up into the air, while it flipped over onto its back and prepared to give a kick.
But fortunately, Henry had come prepared. “Burmy, use Protect!” he said.
Burmy withdrew his arms and legs into his cloak of leaves, which solidified around him into a smooth green shell. When he fell within range, the Floatzel kicked, and the shell elicited a metallic clang which made the Floatzl withdraw its foot in pain. Burmy splashed into the water, where he bobbed like an empty egg, washing up onto another patch of land.
“Great job! Burmy, come out and use Razor Leaf!”
Burmy loosened the top layer of leaves and whisked them at the Floatzel, just as the pokemon lunged forward. The Floatzel fell back into the water, but just as its body disappeared beneath the surface, the waves around it began to swell, collecting into a swift tide that swept Burmy away in a powerful rush.
“Burmy!” Henry ran to the edge of the pool, trying to follow the still-encased pokémon with his eyes, but Burmy was soon lost in the torrent of water.
Meanwhile, Michael was standing a short distance away, egging on Turtwig, who was caught in a landlocked battle with Marie’s Quagsire. Both pokémon were roughly the same size, and were butting heads — one round, scaly and slimy, the other a chiseled, golden helmet. Despite its plump, flabby build, the Quagsire clearly had muscle, and managed to give Turtwig a hard enough time to push him just a few feet away from the water’s edge. Nonetheless, Turtwig held his ground, stirring up clouds of leaves and shooting them at the Quagsire at every chance he got. The super-effective Grass attack made a striking difference — the leaves hit the Quagsire full in the face, each time breaking its grip on Turtwig’s shoulders and making it stumble back. Turtwig would take advantage of the opening and lunge forward, butting his head into his opponent’s chest. At first, the Quagsire was able to gather its wits in time to push back, but gradually, its reactions grew slower, and its resistance to Turtwig’s advances began to falter.
All throughout, Michael watched with narrowed eyes, fist clenched at his side. “That’s it, nice and easy…”
He was so focused on the struggle that he didn’t notice Marie watching, until without warning, she broke her silence: “Hydro Pump!”
With a swift heave, the Quagsire pushed itself away from Turtwig and staggered back, shooting a blast of water from its large mouth. The jet hit Turtwig with such force that he was forced to turn away, succumbing to his own momentum and backing away towards the edge of the stone slab. Michael gritted his teeth. If Turtwig fell into the water, he would sink like a rock.
The Quagsire kept shooting water blasts at Turtwig every few seconds, drawing from some inner reserve in its body. Though they were weaker than the first, they kept Turtwig from advancing so much as a single foot from his place. Head ducked and eyes closed, the only thing he could do was step back even further, till he was standing just a few feet away from the ledge.
“Stay on the ground!” Michael shouted. “You can still cut through the water with your leaves!”
Turtwig cracked open an eye, just as the Quagsire had thrown its head back to prepare another blast, and sent a spurt of leaves whipping through the air. They struck the Quagsire’s belly right as the creature released another Hydro Pump, which Turtwig met head-on, leaping forward with his head ducked. For a moment, his entire body was swallowed by the torrent, then the tip of his glittering helmet sliced through. He landed before the teetering Quagsire and rammed into it with all his might, throwing the pokémon into a heap in the dirt.
Michael clapped his hands. “Yes! That’s what I’m talking about!”
But his elation lasted for hardly a moment before a shout came from his left: “Michael!”
Michael turned, and saw Henry pointing to the other side of the pool, where Floatzel was knocking Burmy against the walls, using Aqua Jets and Surfs to do the pushing for him. The tiny Grass pokémon was still inside his self-made shell, unharmed, but likely losing more nerve every time he struck the hard stone.
“He can’t get out!” Henry cried. “I kept going over the move with him but I think he’s too scared to drop his shield in the water! Do something!”
“Hang on.” Michael pressed his finger to his chin, working out a possible logistics for escape, when suddenly a flash of light burst forth from Marie’s pokéball and made him turn.
“Not so fast!” said the Gym leader. Michael caught a final glimpse of the Quagsire before it was sucked away by a beam of white light, and a second, larger body was deposited into the water. It was a Gastrodon.
The pokémon landed with a heavy splash, its flippers smacking the water and coasting over the choppy waves. Its body was almost the same shade of blue as that of the water, which from a distance made it look like a huge floating shell. Its face looked impassive, but dangerous. Immediately after gaining its balance, the Gastrodon launched a jet of water at Turtwig, propelling itself towards the island where the turtle was marooned.
Turtwig continued to retaliate with Razor Leaf, his leaves spinning in a frenzy over the sprays of water, but whenever he stopped to aim at a certain spot, he found that the Gastrodon had already sailed past it. The pokémon circled the island with surprising speed, shooting white jets at Turtwig from every possible direction, scattering soil and wet leaves all over the pool. Turtwig soon stopped retaliating and began to scamper around the shore, bogged down by the sheer force of water, closing his eyes as the waves surged and hissed around him. Michael watched in shock as Turtwig’s strength wavered, his motions growing clumsy and feeble.
Without preamble, the Gastrodon delivered a final blast, which struck like a spray from a fire hose and knocked Turtwig off his feet. He sailed past the ledge and landed belly-first into the pool, first freezing out of sheer surprise, then hastily tried to keep himself afloat with his bulky legs. Nevertheless, his body began to dip down, sinking tail-first beneath the water.
“Hurry up there!” Marie called. “You don’t want him to drown!”
Belatedly, Michael became aware of himself again, and took Turtwig’s pokéball from his pouch. He held the capsule aloft, and a beam of light rushed to snatch the pokémon out of the water. Once he had closed the capsule, Michael looked back at Marie. “So… do I send him out again?”
Marie shook her head. “Nope. League rules, kiddo. Once you send back a battler, you can’t bring them out again.”
Michael gave an inward groan, feeling both cheated and humiliated. His only Grass pokémon had been beaten by its own type matchup — not a good way to start.
He looked over to Henry, but the boy didn’t seem to be doing much better. Burmy was currently being thwacked like a ball against a coral painting, his Protect-coat thinned to produce a rubbery bounce. The Floatzel was using its paws now, lying on its back as if it were in a country club pool. With a sink of the shoulders, Michael realized that Goldeen would have come in handy. He studied the Floatzel for another split second, then looked back at Marie, who was tapping a finger against her wris****ch. Finally, he realized what he needed. He needed speed.
Reaching into his pouch, Michael grabbed another pokéball, one labeled with a musical note in permanent marker. He held it aloft. “Go, Ringo!”
The Chatot dove out of the capsule, wings unfurling as he glided upwards, till he was gliding among the tops of the painted sea-grass. Ringo flew a single loop around the pool, scanning the field beneath him with his large narrowed eyes, ones Michael knew could glimpse the smallest splash produced by the cresting waves. Turning around to keep the bird in view, Michael cupped his hands around his mouth. “Ringo, get Burmy!”
Ringo’s gaze locked on the green shell, and he swooped down, wings tucked against his body to form a torpedo. He dodged an Aqua Jet from the Floatzel, and when he got close enough to the water’s surface, spread his wings again and plucked Burmy right out of the pool with his talons. The Floatzel snarled in fury, launching blast after blast of water at the bird, but they fell through empty air as Ringo looped gracefully out of their way.
Elated, Henry jumped and pointed at the Floatzel. “Burmy, Razor Leaf!”
Burmy’s arms and legs emerged from his shell, and he sent spirals of leaves down at the Floatzel, slashing its belly and arms. Ringo changed his trajectory, swerving to the side to pass over the Gastrodon, where Burmy sent another wave of leaves, sprinkling cuts across the sea creature’s skin. The Gastrodon howled and swayed, turning its head to glimpse its attacker, but was cut short as more leaves struck its face and neck. Michael felt a rush of satisfaction as the Gastrodon was reduced to the same state that Turtwig had been in moments before, shooting jets of water sporadically at the air while trying to avoid the spinning leaves. He smiled. How do you like me now, ugly?
Beside him, Henry was smiling as well, watching the contest with his hands on his knees. All of a sudden, he seemed to get an idea, and began to hop on his toes again. “Oh, Michael, I know what we can do! Put Burmy on his back!”
Michael hailed Ringo with a snap of his fingers. “Hey Ringo! Drop him!”
He indicated the spot on the Gastrodon’s shell, and Ringo set Burmy down, then immediately turned his attention to Floatzel. The otter pokémon had been trying to get to its teammate, but the storm of flying leaves had clearly forced it to rethink its tactics. The Floatzel was still swimming from side to side, trying to find the safest angle to blast Burmy away, when Ringo landed on the back of its neck and began to peck. The Floatzel grabbed at the air with its paws, but for a lack of speed, couldn’t counter with anything besides a smack or scratch. In the meantime, Ringo switched to more sophisticated pestering, blasting the Floatzel with sharp gusts of air from his wings, performing high-dives to strike it with Aerial Ace. After one of his talon-swipes, the Floatzel’s strength finally gave, and it sank limp beneath the waves. Its body rose belly-up moments later, eyes closed.
From her end of the pool, Marie shook her head, and returned her fainted battler. But she didn’t look as disappointed as Michael would have hoped. As she took out her next pokéball, the ever-present smile returned to her face, and she tossed the capsule into the air.
The beam of white light shot into the air, molding into a bulky blob which became a Mantyke. Seconds after the pokémon fell into the water, another storm of Aqua Jets shot through air in rapid sequence, only this time the beams were slender and agile, like liquid daggers. They caught up to Ringo in a matter of seconds, one managing to strike him in the side, which broke him briefly from his flight path. The Mantyke skimmed along the tops of the waves for a few moments, eyes following Ringo as he regained his balance, then it thumped its large flippers against the water and lifted itself into the air.
Michael’s face fell into a scowl as the Mantyke began to glide over the water, moving its two antennae to psychically roughen the waves beneath it. Though it flapped its flippers from time to time, the Mantyke’s trajectory remained eerily level, which made it look like an alien hovercraft. It continued attacking Ringo from below, while the bird circled over its head in agitation, trying to figure out what to do. He began to beat his wings faster, stirring up a gust of wind to sweep the Mantyke away, but Michael shook his head.
“It won’t work — the thing’s too heavy! Just slice at it!”
Ringo clicked his beak, and switched from his previous tactic to perform an Aerial Ace. His claws sliced the Mantyke across the back, causing the pokémon to swerve aside with a cry. Gaining some measure of resolve, Michael turned his head to glimpse the other half of the struggle — Henry’s Burmy was still clinging to the Gastrodon’s back, amid a shower of slicing leaves, crawling to every slip of bare skin he could find to Bug Bite it. The Gastrodon’s frustration had driven it insane, and it was now rocking from side to side, coming inches away from tipping itself over just to get Burmy off.
The beast’s howling grew so enraged that the Mantyke turned its attention from Ringo, firing a desperate blast of water to strike Burmy. The spear missed by inches, but gave Burmy enough of a shock to make him let go. Without an anchor, he began to slip, rolling around the Gastrodon’s shell as the pokémon flailed about.
Henry grabbed both sides of his head. “Michael, pick Burmy up again!” he said. “He’s slipping!”
“Not now, I’m busy! Aerial Ace!” Michael grinned, his eyes following Ringo as he delivered another slice across the Mantyke’s back.
When Michael didn’t answer, Henry let out a huff. “Unless you want our only Grass counter to faint—”
Michael waved him down. “Fine, fine! But I have a better idea.” He pressed his thumb and forefinger to his mouth and whistled. “Hey, Ringo! Change course! Get to Gastrodon!”
Ringo chirped in affirmation, swerving over to the Gastrodon with the Mantyke’s Aqua Jets still following him . He swiped his claws against the Gastrodon’s face, and flew out of the way just as Mantyke gave another blast, which hit the Gastrodon in the same place and caused the pokémon to flinch away. Its rocking stopped, and Burmy continued to bite, till his venom kicked in and the Gastrodon’s neck drooped. At that point, Ringo swooped down and grabbed Burmy, who sent a cloud of leaves in Mantyke’s direction, striking it dead-on with their pointed edges. Michael gave a smile. Their pokémon knew how to work.
But moments later, in the corner of his eye, he saw the Gastrodon stir. The pokémon lifted its head, gathering its final ounces of strength, and produced a Hydro Pump that engulfed the flying duo, knocking them down with the force of a raging waterfall. Ringo managed to regain his altitude, taking off for a far-flung corner of the room, but Burmy kept falling, and without the shield of Protect, fell on a patch of soil and fainted.
“No!” Henry lunged forward, but Michael held him back.
“It’s fine. You still have Pachirisu. All we need to do is take out one more pokémon after this, then we’re done.”
After a moment, Henry bit his lip. “Right.” He fumbled for a slot in his pokéball belt, and returned Burmy to his pokéball. He switched him out for Pachirisu, who emerged onto the floor beside the boys, then sprang onto the nearest patch of land. White static crackled around his cheeks, which were lifted in his perpetual, eager smile.
The Gastrodon had rolled over onto its side in the meantime, and after five seconds had passed, Marie sent it back. She brought out a Starmie, from which Michael glimpsed a gleaming red gem before it cut into the water and disappeared.
Seconds later, out of nowhere, a spinning blue disc whizzed out of the water and struck Ringo, knocking the bird out of the air. Mantyke shot a Water Gun before Ringo had time to recuperate, and he landed into the water.
Henry smiled. “Not so fast! Pachi, use Thunderbolt!”
“Ssssssuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!” Pachirisu’s tail began to quiver, and the static that was jumping around his cheeks began to rise up from every hair on his fine fur coat. The sparks combined and thickened into a yellow aura, then suddenly, a lightning bolt flashed out from the haze, tearing through the air and striking the floating Mantyke. The pokémon seized up and began to twitch, its antennae bending at random. Seconds later Pachirisu launched another bolt at the Starmie, who fled underwater for cover.
By then, Ringo had regained enough energy to fly, and ascended towards the Mantyke, preparing to lunge. But right then, the Starmie lashed out of the water and struck him from behind, making him fall back down.
Michael spat. “Dammit!”
“You’re going to have to be a lot quicker than that!” said Marie, as Ringo floundered amid the choppy waves.
Meanwhile, the glow from Pachirisu’s body was intensifying every second, to the point where the sphere of electricity around him had doubled in size, and he shot horizontal lightning bolts into the air with hardly a second’s pause. The majority of his attacks rained down on the Mantyke, who began to fly around erratically in an attempt to escape them, before finally being struck down into the waves. Marie called the pokémon back, shaking her head with the same expression of humored disappointment.
Her Starmie continued to roam free, a dark-blue dot zipping to and fro beneath the water. No matter how carefully Michael tried to follow it, the Starmie would always slip from his gaze, getting lost somewhere among the medley of rocks. Then whenever it seemed like Ringo was about to fly up, the Starmie would spring out from a spot just a few feet away, its pointed arms spinning a solid blur, and strike him right back down. Once Ringo had exhausted himself, and was drifting listlessly like a duck, the Starmie began to shoot Psybeams from beneath the water. They pulsed towards Ringo in circular ripples, adding the effect of drooping eyes and thick, unintelligible grumbles.
For complete lack of a plan, Michael could do nothing but watch the pathetic scene, eyes following the Starmie as if he could make it faint with sheer loathing. Now that its opponent was confined to sea level, the Starmie refused to leave the water, and continued to dart about in constant vigilance of an attack.
He considered calling Ringo back just to avoid a fainting, when suddenly Henry grabbed him by the shoulder. “Wait, hold on Michael, I’ve got it!” He snapped his fingers and turned to Pachirisu. “Use Thunderbolt at the water!”
Michael’s brain snapped awake a moment too late. “No!”
He lunged at Henry to stop the command, but the boy’s words had already left his mouth. Pachirisu happily obeyed, and the aura around him pulsed as he drew even more energy from his inner reserves. The cloud began to drain away from his sides and condense into a tiny ball above his head, which in the blink of an eye produced a massive beam of lightning that shot up into the air. It climbed several yards overhead then came crashing into the water, dissipating into shockwaves that pulsed across the pool with painful brilliance. They struck the Starmie near the water’s surface and knocked it out instantly, then coursed into Ringo through his underbelly. The bird gave a screech, wings snapping open and closed at odd angles, his tongue lolling out from his beak. He fell fainted seconds later.
Pachirisu’s growl deepened and began to vibrate, as the beam of light connecting him and the water continued to flash, transferring a constant stream of energy into the water. It grew from yellow to white, singeing the air with the smell of burnt fur, but the squirrel’s back remained bent, eyes closed in concentration. He stayed that way for another solid minute, till at last his strength gave out and he collapsed from exhaustion. The beam of light shattered apart and dissipated in the air, and the sparky haze cleared around Pachirisu’s body to reveal a vacant, toothy smile. Henry had taken out three pokémon in a single move.
Michael slapped his palm against his forehead. “Henry, you ditz! I told you not to!”
Henry stared at Pachirisu in horror, lips forming soundless words. A moment later, the Starmie’s body gave a shudder, and the pokémon stirred back to life. Leftover static crackled around its body as it recovered from the paralysis, and began to swim around the pool once more.
Marie crossed her arms. “Your move, boys!”
With a grumble, Michael returned Ringo and took out his final pokéball. Henry followed suit, and together they brought out their last two battlers onto the field — Machop and Clefable. The duo landed on separate patches of land just a couple yards away from each other, and exchanged a few glances as they took in their surroundings.
The Starmie rose up to the surface and launched an Aqua Jet without preamble, striking Machop in the chest and causing him to stumble. Machop turned around just as Starmie came up behind him, and cartwheeled out of the way of another oncoming blast. The water rushed on towards Clefable, but lost most of its momentum by the time it reached her, enabling her to burst straight through without stumbling. She turned, and before the Starmie could pin her down, broke into a run and hopped onto another ledge.
Machop followed her example, hastily jumping from his own starting pad onto a smaller, less-even surface. He turned around in place for a moment, trying to decide where to jump to next, when he was jarred by a sudden blast of water that shot right over his shoulder, missing him by inches.
“Look out, will you?” Michael shouted. “Go faster!”
Machop gritted his teeth and sprang onto the next nearest surface, launching into a panicky sprint as the Starmie shot more Aqua Jets after him. At last, the Starmie seemed to tire of the game, and dipped back beneath the water. Machop landed on another surface and turned around, searching the water with puzzled eyes.
Michael groaned. “Stop staring! Move out of the way! It’s—”
But before he could finish, the Starmie sprang out of the water and flew towards Machop, its blade-arms spinning a frenzy. Michael winced in preparation for a shriek and a limp green projectile, but just as the Starmie was about to make contact with its target, he heard a loud boom. Smoke and static erupted from between the two battlers, and the Starmie ricocheted back, its red gem caved in and sparking.
It fell into the water with a heavy splash, exposing Machop, who was standing with one foot forward, his fist curled resolutely at his side. Michael let out a breath of relief, and smiled.
Machop shifted his stance. His eyes were now fixed on the surface of the pool, expecting the Starmie to reappear at any moment. But the dark blue dot had begun to dart uncertainly beneath the water, snaking around in a complicated path between Machop and Clefable. At last, the Starmie sprang out, this time launching itself at Clefable, though its spin wasn’t as rapid. Clefable backed away a couple of steps and caught it by two of its legs. She spun around in with it and threw it into the air like a Frisbee, sending it back in Machop’s direction. Machop Thunderpunched again, sending another boom rolling across the battlefield, and the Starmie flying back in an arc towards Clefable. Clefable drew back her arm, curling her tiny fingers, and punched the Starmie square in the belly. Lightning exploded around her fist, enveloping the Starmie as it fell into the water. It landed on its back and was overturned by a passing wave, which washed it up onto a nearby ledge, exposing its motionless body.
With a sigh, Marie took out her pokéball and returned the Starmie, whisking it away from the battlefield. Beaming, the boys exchanged a high-five. “Yes!”
They started to unscrew their capsules, but the Gym leader held up her hand. “Hold on there!”
The boys looked up, and she showed them another silver orb. “There’s still one more to go.”
Michael narrowed his eyes. “But Gym leaders have five!”
“Not all of them — I have six. That’s why my staff told you each to bring three pokémon, to make it fair from a doubles-match standpoint. It’ll be two against one for you fellas, but I’ll assure you I don’t go down easy!” Marie flashed a smile. “Go!”
She threw the pokéball into the air, where it reached its maximum height and froze for a moment, unlocking to release a torrent of light. Michael stepped back, holding up his arm to shield from the light, and through his fingers saw a giant serpentine body emerge into the pool. Moments after the light faded, he heard a low, rumbling growl, and lowered his arm to glimpse a giant opened mouth, and a chiseled, grimacing face. It was a Gyarados.
Older members of the species could have easily wrapped their bodies around the pool with length to spare. Thankfully, this one appeared to be young — its head loomed at the same height as Ringo had flown, and its belly was submerged in the water, leaving a small part of its tail to whip slowly from side to side. It dwarfed both Machop and Clefable in its shadow, and the pokémon had to back away to see its face in full.
“Let’s see what you little ones are made of!” said Marie to them. “Use Hyper Beam!”
A ball of light gathered between the Gyarados’s open jaws, and blasted outwards in a brilliant white beam, which crashed into the space between them and threw both pokémon back. Machop soared through the air and landed in the water, and Clefable plopped feet-first onto the edge of a rock, tipped over, and fell in as well.
The Gyarados began to swim around the pool, closing in on the two pokémon and trapping them in a cage with its body. The water began to cave inwards as it gained speed, exposing the pillars of rock that supported the patches of land, turning them into deadly river rapids. Machop and Clefable scrambled against the current to avoid them, though often they were pulled under and smacked against the rocks.
When they were sufficiently dazed, and the water had gathered enough rotational momentum, the Gyarados broke free of its formation and launched another Hyper Beam attack. The jet of light crashed into the middle of the vortex, throwing the battlers up with a large swell of water, which flung them into the air and dropped them back into the pool. Clefable came to first, shaking her head, and grabbed Machop by the arm before he could sink. Together, the pokemon paddled over to a patch of dry land and heaved themselves over.
The Gyarados slithered across the surface of the water and rose up before them again, another Hyper Beam gathering in its mouth.
“Look out!” Henry called.
Clefable and Machop jumped aside, and the Hyper Beam crashed into empty space, throwing up an angry tide of water against the wall. The pokémon landed together on another patch of land, and just as they turned around, the Gyarados lunged. Clefable leaped forward and struck its snout with a Thunderpunch, which threw back the beast’s head, causing it to flinch away. At the same time, Machop hopped over to a nearby ledge and grabbed hold of its tail.
“Yes!” said Michael. “Get on its back! Climb on!”
Machop jumped into the water and pulled on the Gyarados’s tail like a tug-of-war player, inching his way onto the pokémon’s back. Clefable followed suit, latching onto its body with her claws. Realizing what was happening, the Gyarados began to thrash its tail against the water, throwing up a flurry of splashes. It dove underwater and snaked through the rocks, rolling on its side and bumping itself against the rocks. But each time it resurfaced, Machop and Clefable were still there, now latched on to the blue fins that ran down its back. The Gyarados continued till it had exhausted itself, and swam to the middle of the pool with its head turning, unsure of what to do.
Michael looked over to Henry, who in turn looked at him, eyes slightly narrowed.
“Time for the lightning show?”
Henry smiled back. “Let’s do this!”
And they shouted in unison: “THUNDERPUNCH!”
Clefable and Machop raised their arms together, producing two balls of electricity that surrounded their fists, and jabbed them into the Gyarados’s back. They punched and punched with rhythmic synchrony, sparks erupting at every contact, eliciting feral screeches from the Gyarados, which began to flail about in renewed rage. Michael squinted against the light’s yellow glare, watching Machop as he fought to keep his hold. The fighter had inched his way up the Gyarados’s neck, allowing Clefable room on its torso, and was now hanging on with all four limbs, which barely wrapped halfway around it. The faster the Gyarados thrashed, the more desperately Machop clung to it, until even Clefable was thrown off-balance and had to grab hold of the Gyarados’s fin to keep from falling into the water.
The Gyarados began to swim around the battlefield, bumping its body against the rocks, contorting itself into seemingly every position it could think of. Finally, it turned its head all the way around to glimpse its back, which was covered in burns, and at the very top saw one half of Machop’s body, along with one nervous red eye gazing back at it.
With a snarl, the Gyarados lunged at Machop, its jaws opening to display rows of teeth in a mouth that could have swallowed him whole. Right then, Clefable delivered another Thunderpunch, which caused the Gyarados to snap its head forward again, and allowed Machop to begin inching his way down.
But before he could, the Gyarados swiveled its head around again, its gargoyle’s grimace flashing into view, along with one blue whisker that swayed ever so slightly forward as it growled. Without a second’s pause, Machop leaped headfirst off the beast’s neck and fell into a deadly plunge towards the rocks. For a moment, Michael thought he would land and shatter himself, but then he heard a wild cry, saw the Gyarados snake its head upwards in pain, and saw both of its whiskers float upward, held together by a tiny, wriggling body. Machop kicked the Gyarados in the snout with both legs, then before he could fall again, let go of its whiskers and climbed onto the pokémon’s head. He teetered there for a moment, then sank to his knees for balance, and began to punch.
His Thunderpunches joined in with Clefable’s, who soon picked up her pace as well, and the two pokémon began to jab at the Gyarados with stunning rapidity. The combination of their attacks plunged the whole room into a yellow haze, drowning out the Gyarados’s shrieks with the sound of crackling electricity. Finally, the Gyarados sagged into the waves, and the sparks around it cleared to expose Marie, who was fanning herself with her hands. Her gray curls were sticking out at odd ends.
“Well, I must say, that was... electrifying!” She twisted open the pokéball, and once Machop and Clefable had found their way onto a patch of dry land, called the Gyarados back inside. “You boys certainly don’t disappoint! Of course, I get a lot of trainers using Grass and Electric moves, so you weren’t terribly creative in that regard, but when you’ve battled as much as I have you naturally get a taste for the really unusual victories, the ones that make you snap back and think — what?! Like a couple years ago, I had two kids who managed to beat Gyarados with a pair of Geodudes. They sort of linked arms and flung each other at him one by one, and somehow made it so that they always landed on the same ledges… and before I knew it, my friend was lying limp like a noodle. I never saw anything like it! I still tell the story every time I go to a leader convention and I always get someone who doesn’t believe me.” She cackled. “But ah, anyways, it’s perfectly fine, don’t think I’m criticizing you for your tactics. A win’s a win, though I think it’s fair to say I held my own. Didn’t come across as a batty old lady who’s behind the times, right?”
Michael and Henry nodded.
“Good, good! And I’ll tell you why—” She held up a finger. “I know it’s not hard to deduce an element’s weakness after you’ve seen it in action a few times. Say, Water, for example, is weak to Grass and Electric. But that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. If it were, my pokémon would’ve gone down in a matter of seconds. I won’t tell you everything about how I train, of course, in case you two run off and form an underground Beat-Marie Coalition, but I will tell you that the key is to train your pokémon to have endurance. Both mental and physical. Getting your pokémon to trust you, and getting them to break their boundaries and reach their full potential, is where a trainer’s craft really shines. There are as many styles of training as there are pokémon, so the trick is to determine what’s best for each one. You can tell by just looking at a trainer and their team if they’re started to form that bond.” Marie looked down at Machop and Clefable, who were looking up at her like dutiful students. She smiled. “And you two made the grade! It helps of course that you’re both adorable, but that’s just an aside.” She flicked her hand, and zipped up her purse. “Now here’s how it’ll work,” she said to the boys. “I’ll go freshen up, and tell Lace you’ve won. Then when you get to the lobby, she’ll give you your badges. Sound like a deal?”
“Yeah,” said Michael and Henry together.
“Great! And congratulations! It’s not every day you get to battle a Gyarados, eh?” Marie winked, and turned to leave through a door behind her.
Machop and Clefable paddled their way to the shore, coming up to the boys scarred and soaking wet. Henry kneeled down and met Clefable in a bear hug.
“You were awesome! One minute I thought you’d both let go, but you hung on!” He pulled away to glimpse her face, and placed his hands on her shoulders. “I remember when you were this tall.” He indicated a spot below her waist, which had been her height as a Clefairy. “And you were battling those Shinxes and Glameows by Oreburgh. Now look, we beat the fifth Gym!”
Clefable smiled, covering her mouth as she giggled.
Michael looked down at Machop, who had approached him meekly, arms hanging at his sides. But when he stopped, he held them out and began to look them over, as if awed by what they could do. Michael took the pokémon by the wrists and held them apart. “See that? That’s what you get from hard-core practice. It’s fine to watch TV and hang around, but if you do that too much, people might start thinking you’re a slack. So you gotta prove them wrong.”
Machop fixed his large eyes on Michael’s own. He spoke an incoherent sequence of phrases that all sounded the same — Ma-chop, chop-chop — and though they carried no meaning for Michael, they still somehow transmitted a faint, tightening resolve.
“You could’ve spent less time running, though,” Michael said, and narrowed an eye matter-of-factly. “Lucky you had Clefable with you. If she hadn’t pulled you out of those rough spots, you would’ve gone under. Not that that’s a bad thing—she’s a good friend to have. And sometimes, you’re gonna face opponents that you can’t take down by yourself, so you’ll need your friends to help you. Even if they’re stronger, or a bit weaker, you have to work with them, ‘cause they’re all you’ve got.”
Machop stared back at him mutely, though when Michael let go, he gave a tiny nod. He and Michael looked askance as Henry was packing away his belt with Clefable. The two pokémon caught each other’s eyes, and Clefable gave a wink.
Smiling, Henry hoisted his tote bag over his shoulder. “Come on, Michael, let’s go!”
Michael went to get his backpack and zipped the pokéball pouch inside. He left the battle room with Henry, and emerged into the warm evening, where the sound of chirping Kricketune pervaded the air. The boys veered onto the lamplit path between the rows of battle houses, and started on the way towards the main building, Machop and Clefable ambling along between them. The sky above them glittered with stars.
“Sorry I made Ringo faint,” said Henry after a minute. “I guess I got so caught up with teaching Pachi how to use Thunderbolt that I didn’t think I'd have to teach him how to stop."
Michael gave a chuckle. “I guess you made up for it in the end. Though if we lost, I would’ve shunned you for a week.”
Henry scratched the back of his neck. “Heh… I bet you would have!”
“Relax, I’m kidding.” A moment later, Michael narrowed his eyes. “And speaking of Ringo…”
He slowed to a stop and scanned the vicinity for a nearby bench. When he found one, he dropped his backpack onto the seat and took out Ringo’s pokéball, twisting open the cap to release him. Ringo plopped down in a seated position, and after a moment began to stir. His body was covered in burns from the electric attacks, but nevertheless he remained conscious, and peered out at the boys with a steady gaze.
Michael snapped his fingers. “That’s what you were trying to tell me! Marie had a Gyarados!”
Ringo clicked his beak. “I asked my friends to come and see!”
Henry clamped his hand over his mouth. “So… Ringo flew into one of the staff people’s office, looked at her papers, and saw Marie’s team members?”
“I guess so.” Michael looked back at Ringo and tapped the bird’s head with his finger. “That was some good thinking, man. Spot on.” He turned to Henry, meeting the boy’s horrified stare with a grin. “That’s my kind of pokémon.”
Henry crossed his arms. He didn’t say another word as they entered the Gym, though he kept casting Michael stern glances throughout. Once Lace saw the boys, she waved them over to the front counter. “Hey fellas. Mrs. Wickham just called me and told me about the battle. Great job!” She slid two shiny badges over to them. Then she leaned under the counter and placed two Rage Candybars beside them, showing their pristine silver wrappers. She winked. “They’re Mrs. Wickham’s favorite. I’m sure you can guess why.”
Michael’s lips spread into a tired, wordless smile. After putting away the badge, he unwrapped a candy bar and broke off a piece, savoring the flavor of chocolate that washed over him. “Sweet.”
Henry gave in a moment later, and they left the Gym in contented silence, sharing only the crinkle of wrappers. They both finished by the time they reached the hotel, stopped to throw out the trash, then kept going towards the Pokémon Center. But midway, Henry stopped.
The boy turned, and at the sight of his panicked eyes, Michael frowned. “What?”
“Caterpie! You left her by a window!”
“Butterfrees have to practice using their wings before they can fly! We forgot to close the window, and we’re on the eighth floor! If she falls, she’ll hit the concrete!”
Last edited by Mrs. Lovett; 9th February 2014 at 5:54 PM.
HEY LOOK MRS. LOVETT'S BACK THERE'S A NEW CHAPTER LET ME REEEEEAD!!
*ahem...Sorry about that. I've been a bit of a closet fan of this fic for a while, and I wanted to gush a little before starting a review. Is that OK? It is? Great. Let's get started.
When I first found the fanfic sub-site, this was one of the first fics I read. I think it's safe to say that it's been one of my favorites for as long as I've visited Serebii. All of the characters are so relatable and likable, the battle sequences are some of the best I've ever seen in a fic, and the prose doesn't seem pretentious or cocky in the slightest. Also, the addition of a "Beatles"-singing Chatot (or the Beatles in general) is just plain awesome.
However, before I go into the review of the chapter, there's one thing I'm extremely confused about, but it may be something I've missed. The Team Rocket in most incarnations is from Kanto. Is there any particular reason that this Team Rocket's from Hoenn? I'm kind of curious.
Anyway, enough of that. On to the actual chapter!
I'm not entirely sure that "a" is necessary. I always remember seeing the phrase as "thrown into mayhem," but I may be wrong.Sinnoh was thrown into a mayhem of a magnitude it had never seen.
I really like how you portrayed the public's response to the news. Completely overblown press coverage was commonplace in the 60's, and you encapsulated that perfectly.Much like Marie Wickham had estimated, the public’s response to the event was almost instantaneous. For every person that supported GASP’s decision, there was someone else who didn’t, and the latter struck a domineering presence on talk shows and commercials. Pastoria City became, like many others, a hotspot for news and debates, where people gathered in television studios to watch programs live on set, and circulated newspapers in a frenzy, keeping tabs on every development, whether official or opinionated. But on July 4th, just four days after the initial broadcast, a second announcement was made that turned the eyes of the whole world onto the city for a single day: GASP’s officials gave word that they would be holding their first-ever press conference to elaborate on the terms of their alliance and answer the flood of questions they had received. And it would be held in none other than Pastoria City, in the city hall at the center of town.
This little tidbit had me laughing hysterically. Michael's impatience is shown perfectly in these few lines. (Or is it the impatience of all kids/teens? Either way, it works.)Michael had isolated himself in the armchair, where he sat with his fist propped against his cheek, looking down at the Caterpie-cocoon which was lying on the coffee table. He had cleared the space of its usual clutter for the occasion of her evolution, which by the looks of it, would happen any minute.
But several of them had passed, and nothing changed.
It's gonna be really hard for him to get out of his "yelling at Pokémon" habit, isn't it?“So obviously the stone doesn’t affect them,” Michael said. But unwilling to broach the subject, he packed the moonstone away and settled back into the armchair. He stole a quick glance at the clock on the wall. There were seven hours left till their evening battle with Marie. Michael knew there was no hope in teaching Caterpie Energy Ball now — he had resigned himself to that fact three days ago — but part of him still wanted to see her come out of the cocoon, even if it was at least to reprimand her for doing it too late, as silly as that sounded.
I'm guessing that's a typo? That should probably be an "s." Easy fix.The was dressed functionally
I'm not going to copy the whole opinion article onto my review ('cause it's really freaking long), but I loved it. You seem to have a real talent for creating fictional news stories, as this is only the latest example in this fic of how realistic you can make Sinnoh's media. This is actually one of the aspects of this story that I found so impressive when I first read this, and it isn't showing any signs of slowing down.
...I love Ringo. That is all.The lobby was quiet for a few moments, then all of a sudden, a loud bang made Michael turn.
“Will someone get that bird out of here?”
Several people spun around as a woman came running out of a side door with a hand covering her face. Papers were falling everywhere around her, and she was shooing at the air with a binder, deflecting a black bullet that came whizzing out after her. Ringo squawked and pecked at the binder, filling the room with the sound of his humanlike voice: “I’d like to be! Under the sea! In a Gyarados’s Garden — in the shaaaaaaaade—”
The woman grabbed her hair. “He keeps singing ‘Octopus’ Garden!' I feel like I’m going crazy!”
Again, I'm not going to post the whole battle, as I loved the whole thing equally and it's really long. However...
Double Thunder Punch = Fus-ro-dah. It was that epic.Michael looked over to Henry, who in turn looked at him, eyes slightly narrowed.
“Time for the lightning show?”
Henry smiled back. “Let’s do this!”
And they shouted in unison: “THUNDERPUNCH!”
Again, minor nitpick, but I think this one's better suited as two separate sentences. The new one should start at "Didn't.'A win’s a win, though I think it’s fair to say I held my own, didn’t come across as a batty old lady who’s behind the times, right?”
...I still love Ringo. That is all.Michael snapped his fingers. “That’s what you were trying to tell me! Marie had a Gyarados!”
Ringo clicked his beak. “I asked my friends to come and see!”
Henry clamped his hand over his mouth. “So… Ringo flew into one of the staff people’s office, looked at her papers, and saw Marie’s team members?”
“I guess so.” Michael looked back at Ringo and tapped the bird’s head with his finger. “That was some good thinking, man. Spot on.” He turned to Henry, meeting the boy’s horrified stare with a grin. “That’s my kind of pokémon.”
Wait, Caterpie evolved? Oh, this could get messy.“Michael!’
The boy turned, and at the sight of his panicked eyes, Michael frowned. “What?”
“Caterpie! You left her by a window!”
“Butterfrees have to practice using their wings before they can fly! We forgot to close the window, and we’re on the eighth floor! If she falls, she’ll hit the concrete!”
Anyway, this was an amazing chapter. You definitely came off of your hiatus running. I look forward to your next installment. Also, can I get on your PM list, please? That would be awesome.
Quick note: Metal Coat isn't a move but an item, unless you're referring to Iron Defense or something along those lines.
PhalanxSigil: Hey there! It's always nice to see a new face, and I really appreciate the fact that you've been following! It's wonderful to hear that my work on battle scenes is paying off. Sometimes I sit for entire thirty-minute sessions obsessing over one paragraph :P It's the same with my characters, though my "work" on them is spread across the story as a whole, so to me it seems subtler. If you can relate to them, then already I'm extremely happy.
I remember talking about that a while ago, way back when this thread was just getting started. Basically, when I was writing the beginning of Roots, I knew I wanted to have two rivalling space organizations, one of them being, of course, Team Galactic. I also knew that the other country involved would be Hoenn, because they have the Mossdeep Space Center, and at least in my mind, a stronger connotation with Deoxys than Kanto. When I started brainstorming ideas for the company's name, Team Rocket immediately flashed in my mind, just because it was such a dead giveaway that it seemed to be asking me to choose it. :P And also, I just thought it would be awesome if a space company actually gave itself that name. "Team Rocket" is a short-and-sweet, Exactly-What-It Says-on-the-Tin kind of thing, and now that I'm at this point in the story, I see it fits with the company's history and personality very well. So even if I had been able to come up with a more Hoenn-related name, I think I would've decided on "Team Rocket" in the end.However, before I go into the review of the chapter, there's one thing I'm extremely confused about, but it may be something I've missed. The Team Rocket in most incarnations is from Kanto. Is there any particular reason that this Team Rocket's from Hoenn? I'm kind of curious.
What that means for the Pokemon canon, I don't know. Maybe by the '80s and '90s Hoenn's Team Rocket changed its name, then Giovanni adopted it for a reason of his own. But my Team Rocket is 100% Hoenn-based, and is in no way related to the canon Team Rocket. It's not a predecessor, and Allan Knight isn't Giovanni's grandfather or anything. So if that was anybody's hidden worry, you can rest assured.
Anyways, I'm glad you liked the chapter! It certainly had a lot going on, from the opinion article, the Gym battle, and Caterpie's upcoming evolution -- which definitely felt like a lot to juggle when I was writing it. So I'm happy it came out well! And I'm glad you like Ringo as much as I do. For a while now, I've been listening to Beatles music to get myself in the mood of this story, and Ringo is sort of a reflection of that.
The phrase "a mayhem" stuck on me from the beginning, but to be honest I didn't look into whether or not it's correct to write it that way. I'll search around and decide what to do with it. I'll keep it for now, but if it turns out that writing "a mayhem" is horridly bending the laws of English, then I'll change it. Deal?I'm not entirely sure that "a" is necessary. I always remember seeing the phrase as "thrown into mayhem," but I may be wrong.Sinnoh was thrown into a mayhem of a magnitude it had never seen.
I swear, these typos come out of nowhere. Unless my subconscious wanted to write "The Shella" for some reason. :P I'll fix that.I'm guessing that's a typo? That should probably be an "s." Easy fix.The was dressed functionally
I see your point there, so I'll look over her dialogue again. Marie talks without pause here, so I wanted to get that across, but I'll see if there' a less-awkward way to phrase what she says.Again, minor nitpick, but I think this one's better suited as two separate sentences. The new one should start at "Didn't.'A win’s a win, though I think it’s fair to say I held my own, didn’t come across as a batty old lady who’s behind the times, right?”
Your intuition is correct -- the battle with Marie really was long! It's my longest battle scene to date, actually, but since the later Gyms feature tougher pokemon, they'll naturally take a longer time to knock out.) As for Caterpie, Michael's been getting pretty impatient waiting for her to evolve, though with the word "reprimand", I didn't mean yelling -- maybe just a grumble and a quick few words. But we'll see the ramifications of all that very soon.
And if you like 1960s Sinnoh press coverage, then you'll love Chapter 39. That's all I can say, though you probably already know what big event is going to take place. In the meantime, I'll definitely add you to the PM list. Welcome aboard, and thanks so much for reading!
Ga'Hooleone: ... I was completely sure that Metal Coat was a move. Thanks for saying something. xP
I looked back at some previous chapters just now and realized that originally, the move Burmy learned was supposed to be Protect. Then, by some mystical occurrence it got changed to Metal Coat in my notes. This looks to be the only affected chapter, so it's not as embarassing. But I'm telling you, the conviction I felt when writing the battle was unshakable.
Speaking of editing things, I also want to make another announcement that I left out of my previous post. Lately I've been looking back at the early Roots chapters in my computer and making edits to them, most of them stylistic, other times involving a few new additions. I've written a new opening for the first chapter which does more justice to the story's current state and direction, as well as edited some description in the later ones that I felt could be improved. Periodically I'll be updating my old posts with these edits, but I won't usually announce them unless they happen to fall on the same day as I post a chapter. The reason is that the edits won't be major (no new events will be added; I won't suddenly take something old and spin it in a completely different direction), but I will be tweaking description, adding lines of explanation and deleting others, and basically refining the old chapters so that they fit in spirit with the new ones. But I won't revamp them to the point where you can't recognize them, and I won't make any change so big that the future plot will confuse you if you haven't seen it. My main focus right now is to keep Roots moving forward, but periodically I'll return to tend to its older parts.
I'll post the revision of Chapter One soon, and will continue expanding my draft of Chapter 39. Chapter 39 should be shorter than this one, and will hopefully be here by early to mid-February.
Last edited by Mrs. Lovett; 24th January 2014 at 10:45 PM.
I am so late. I procrastinate a lot. ;_;
The use of 'presence' right there definitely looks off to me. I kind of see what sense you're using 'presence' in -- the impression the latter kind of people gave was stronger. But I've just never sen that syntax before -- to strike a presence -- it doesn't feel correct.For every person that supported GASP’s decision, there was someone else who didn’t, and the latter struck a domineering presence on talk shows and commercials.
Missed a 'to' there, I think.Though he rarely went into detail about what went on during the missions, he revealed enough make his entire country stir with fascination.
I like the air of tired dispersion at the beginning of the Michael/Henry scene, it captures that pre-exam feeling very nicely. You reach that point on the day just before where you'll be damned if you're going to lift another book, whether you need to or not. I'll also bring up your style of using line spacings again to appreciate the effect; that kind of pause (eg between the scene being set and Michael staring at the metapod) seems really unique to narration, and what I find cool is how it lets you stay unbound to dramatic pacing conventions that were probably borrowed from other media, where the scene has to have a distinct start and finish and you have to get a bite-sized amount of plot out in a more or less straightforward flow of time. In this scene they're trying to kill that last, dispersed, unproductive day where there's hardly any space to achieve anything more, so the day basically has these scattered moments where things happen that could possibly be relevant or possibly lead nowhere. (God, I apologize for all these run-on sentences, damn.) It hardly ever occurs to me to narrate in such a loose, chill way.
Oh, and I hadn't even noticed your way of handling pokemon plurals. Clefairies, zubats. It certainly has its appeal.
She sounds like she has serious business. I wonder?“I wanted to talk to Marie about something, but I have to wait until she’s available. She’ll be doing battles all day to make some free time for the evening, but she said she might be able to squeeze me in during her break.”
The title of the Marvin Whitman article sounds all old-fashioned, like a Communist propaganda poster. I love how Shella gets personally incensed by it when she was so level-headed and nonconfrontational about the GASP alliance five minutes before -- it seems like everyone has a sensitive spot where a team they side with is concerned.
It only just occured to me that, since you've set up this fic canon of the evil teams being government-backed in the 60's, the denouement is probably going to play a role in how this fic ends/turns out -- I can be pretty sure you're going to handle how the teams go officially criminal within this fic. Pretty obvious, but that at least gives me some idea of what to expect as we near the climax. Michael and Henry haven't been the most politically conscious throughout, and this fic is not completely about regional politics -- not so far, anyway. It'll be interesting to see how Michael and Henry's personal story intersects with the other plotlines you've been developing.
That's the best song to hear while being violently pecked to death XD Did you choose gyarados because it fit the syllables?The woman grabbed her hair. “He keeps singing ‘Octopus’ Garden!' I feel like I’m going crazy!”
I love all your gym leaders, their personalities are all so emphatic and distinct. How many characters could a reader identify from just the dialogue? A good census to take on someone's fic.The boys drew back in surprise, and Marie gave a cackle. “Ah, I get that reaction all the time. Priceless. But yes — together. I find it gives trainers a whole different perspective on the thing, something they don’t normally get in Gyms.
I didn't realize Gastrodon was so fast. Its speed stat is pretty low, apparently. Marie's pokemon must outlevel Turtwig a lot, I guess. (Well I mean it uses sprays of water to speed itself up, but anyway, isn't pokemon speed about being quick on the ball (who lands a hit first)? Its attacks are really quick-fire.)
Every time Ringo gets to be the hero I cheer. XDReaching into his pouch, Michael grabbed another pokéball, one labeled with a musical note in permanent marker. He held it aloft. “Go, Ringo!”
This part is awesome. I'm reminded of Pokemon Adventures and its complicated scenery-intensive strategies.The Gyarados began to swim around the pool, closing in on the two pokémon and trapping them in a cage with its body. The water began to cave inwards as it gained speed, exposing the pillars of rock that supported the patches of land, turning them into deadly river rapids. Machop and Clefable scrambled against the current to avoid them, though often they were pulled under and smacked against the rocks.
That's probably a matter of being trained really well. Machop and Clefable are quick on their feet in a hostile environment, they're not getting tired or shaken off, and their moves are tenacious. Gyarados probably had enough power to finish off both of them, but it couldn't get a proper attack through.His Thunderpunches joined in with Clefable’s, who soon picked up her pace as well, and the two pokémon began to jab at the Gyarados with stunning rapidity. The combination of their attacks plunged the whole room into a yellow haze, drowning out the Gyarados’s shrieks with the sound of crackling electricity.
Michael is too tough on Machop. Though the pokemon can probably handle it.
Oh my god cliffhanger. D: I hope Caterpie is in control of herself enough not to get hurt, but a newly-evolved pokemon in an open room is never a good idea.
It's all right. It happens to everyone. Me included :PI am so late. I procrastinate a lot. ;_;
Hmm. To be honest, I just wrote this paragraph the way I heard it in my mind, and didn't think to edit it, because it sounded all right whenever I read over it. But I'll see what I can do. (I don't want to replace the "struck" with "had" because for some reason it doesn't ring as well... though that could be just me. If you come back in a few days and see the 'had' there, you'll know I caved in after much deliberation. xP) I've also added the missing 'too'.The use of 'presence' right there definitely looks off to me. I kind of see what sense you're using 'presence' in -- the impression the latter kind of people gave was stronger. But I've just never sen that syntax before -- to strike a presence -- it doesn't feel correct.For every person that supported GASP’s decision, there was someone else who didn’t, and the latter struck a domineering presence on talk shows and commercials.
I want to emphasize that Hoenn's Team Rocket has nothing to do with the criminal Team Rocket in Kanto. They have never been, nor will they ever be, anything but a space program. But Team Galactic is a delicate matter. It's definitely the predecessor to the Team Galactic of the games (otherwise there wouldn't be much fun in writing about it), but their degradation into a criminal organization headed by a crazy man who wants to recreate the world isn't a direct downward plunge. What I can tell you is that at the time of this story, there aren't any seeds of Galactic's future madness, since it's headed by a leader who has a different vision entirely. For as long as Team Galactic remains Sinnoh's official space company, its goal will only be to study space. By the end of Roots, you might get an idea of how Team Galactic eventually veered from that path, but the most I'll do is hint at it. I do have an outline of the whole tale, but after a certain point it doesn't have anything to do with Michael anymore, so there wouldn't be a point in making it a part of Roots. I might post Team Galactic's story someday as a companion fic, when I manage to organize those pseudo-story notes into a plot.It only just occured to me that, since you've set up this fic canon of the evil teams being government-backed in the 60's, the denouement is probably going to play a role in how this fic ends/turns out -- I can be pretty sure you're going to handle how the teams go officially criminal within this fic. Pretty obvious, but that at least gives me some idea of what to expect as we near the climax.
Thank you! I wanted to make the Gyms and the Gym leaders a highlight of the story from the beginning. Aside from Bertha and Byron, I hardly knew what type of people they'd be, but when I started writing, their personalities started unfurling on their own. I think that's awesome to no end.I love all your gym leaders, their personalities are all so emphatic and distinct. How many characters could a reader identify from just the dialogue? A good census to take on someone's fic.
I think you know why I chose Gyarados now. And the song. :PThat's the best song to hear while being violently pecked to death XD Did you choose gyarados because it fit the syllables?The woman grabbed her hair. “He keeps singing ‘Octopus’ Garden!' I feel like I’m going crazy!”
I don't look at pokemon's official base stats as often as I should. What I had in mind was that Gastrodon was swifter in water than Turtwig was on land, and was able to swim circles around him while he galumphed back and forth. I didn't mean to say that the Gastrodon sped itself up using the water jets, though I think I know what might have gotten you to think that:I didn't realize Gastrodon was so fast. Its speed stat is pretty low, apparently. Marie's pokemon must outlevel Turtwig a lot, I guess. (Well I mean it uses sprays of water to speed itself up, but anyway, isn't pokemon speed about being quick on the ball (who lands a hit first)? Its attacks are really quick-fire.)
Here, I meant that the Gastrodon propelled itself using its own strength, at the same time as it shot the jet of water.Immediately after gaining its balance, the Gastrodon launched a jet of water at Turtwig, propelling itself towards the island where the turtle was marooned.
Anyways, I might edit the battle description to make Gastrodon a bit slower. Now that I think about it, Gastrodon doesn't really need speed, as it would still have the advantage over Turtwig just by being in the water. I'm also liking the idea of a long, drawn-out battle between two slow pokemon, in which Gastrodon keeps striking with power and accuracy, deliberately taking its time to wear down Turtwig's defenses. Kind of like when you're battling a Blissey -- it takes forever to lower that thing's HP, but you don't have any choice but to suffer through it. Michael's reaction would be pure gold.
Thanks for the review, and I appreciate your reading, as always! I'm very excited to post the next chapter, as it will reveal a lot of things about lots of things. No matter how hard life may try to pry my keyboard from my hands, I will valiantly resist and attempt to post it by mid-February. Mid-February!
Hey everyone. Sorry for the delay; this chapter's been done for a while, but there were some final changes I had to mull over before I posted. Hope you enjoy it!
(God, I really was not expecting the post split this time. Believe me. xP)
In a matter of seconds, Michael was torn from his former calm and pushed into a crazed run after Henry, who took off for the hotel as fast as his legs would allow. Michael managed to lock a hand around the strap of Henry’s tote bag and tried to get him to slow, all the while complying with the boy’s frantic turns and leaps, which caused many passersby to stare.
“Cool it, man!” Michael called. “Stop running!”
But Henry didn’t respond, nor did he make the slightest attempt to mask his alarm. Behind them, Clefable and Machop hustled to catch up, dodging other people’s legs. At last, Machop gained enough speed to latch onto Michael’s free hand, and Clefable followed soon after, grabbing his backpack. The four-member train burst through the hotel doors, and Henry broke free to approach the elevators, mashing his thumb against the nearest ‘up’ button.
As soon as a pair of doors slid open, Henry went inside, and Michael trudged after him with the two pokémon, head spinning from agitation.
“You don’t even know if she’s going to evolve!” he said. “Why are you flipping out?”
“Because it’s dangerous!” Henry replied. “You think she knows we’re on the eighth floor? She could be trying to get off the windowsill and make a wrong move, and end up tipping over the wrong edge!
Michael rolled his eyes. “Look — I’m her trainer, I’ll do the worrying. And right now, I don’t see a point in worrying at all. I’m sure Caterpie has a brain. If she comes out of her cocoon, her first thought won’t be to turn and fly out the window. She’ll obviously notice that we’re gone, so she’ll wait for us.”
Henry crossed his arms. “She was my Caterpie before she was yours, you know. And she’s not the type who sits around all day. She likes to explore things.”
To Michael, this seemed completely absurd, but realizing the futility of arguing, he kept silent. Beside him, Machop and Clefable exchanged uncertain glances.
The elevator came to a stop moments later, and the doors slid open to reveal the hallway. Henry approached their room at the same quickened pace, and unlocked the door.
Inside, it was dark and quiet. Michael flipped the light switch and swept his gaze across the area, but when he looked to the window, he drew back in surprise. The windowsill and the carpet around it were littered with shreds of torn webbing, which were strewn with magazines and paper flowers that had fallen from the coffee table. The spot beside Goldeen’s tank was completely clear.
Henry grabbed the sides of his head. “She fell! She fell!”
He ran to the window and slid the glass up as far as it would go, sticking his head out to peer over the edge. “I can’t see anything — it’s too dark… oh God, I’m so stupid, why didn’t I just close it… Wait, hang on, I think there’s a tree somewhere down there! Maybe the branches caught her! Or maybe someone saw her down below! Michael, we’ve gotta go back down there!”
Henry turned around, shaking his finger at the window in earnest. But Michael shook his head.
“You’re overreacting. Look.” He pointed down to the thickest strip of webbing, which lay on the floor like an unfurled ribbon, rolling away from the wall and out to coffee table. “The webbing fell this way. That means she must have landed on the floor. She’s probably around here somewhere.”
Michael lowered his backpack and began to pace around the room, looking in various gaps between the furniture. He ducked behind the TV box and combed his hand through the jungle of wires, but found nothing on the tiny slip of floor. Next, he lowered himself beside his bed and checked underneath it, squinting to make out its contents in the darkness. After a moment, he began to see the outline of a hazy shape.
“Hang on, I think I see something…”
He started to ease himself under the bed, but right then, a small green head peered down from the other side. “Machop? Chop-chop?”
Michael looked up. “Hey, great — you’re tiny. Can you try to crawl in and see what’s lying against that wall?”
Machop got down to his belly and slid himself under the bed, inching his way forward with his arms. Michael crawled back to give him more room, and when Machop got out, he saw the pokémon hold up the object at arm’s length. It was someone’s sneaker.
Michael frowned. “Well that’s not it.”
Machop turned the shoe over in his hands, then tossed it back under.
Meanwhile, Henry got up from beneath the other bed, his shirt covered in dust. “She’s not here either.”
Michael crossed his arms. “Well then we better start from scratch. Let’s just comb through this whole place, and once we’re absolutely positive that Caterpie’s not here, we’ll go downstairs and ask around. For now, don’t touch any of the webbing. It could give us clues.”
He stepped closer to the coffee table, being careful not to disturb any of the fallen objects, and tried to glean some sort of pattern from the paper-like shreds of webbing. But a moment later, he stopped in his tracks. “Hold it! We might not even need to do all this. We’ve got a prime witness right here.” Michael swept an upturned palm in Goldeen’s direction, and went over to her tank. “You probably saw everything that happened!”
He brought his face close to the wall of the tank, and Goldeen swam over to him, moving her lips.
“Where’s Caterpie?” Michael asked. “Did she fall?”
Goldeen blew a few bubbles, but no sound came out.
“Okay, I’ll try again. Is Caterpie still here? Swim up and down for yes, swim to the side for no.”
Goldeen began to shake herself from side to side, then suddenly switched and began to jab her horn in Michael’s direction. But just as he was about to speak, he felt a light breeze, and a pair of tiny feet landed on his head.
Slowly, he reached up, and his fingers brushed against what felt like a heavy, silken leaf. Michael jerked back in surprise, and the weight lifted with the sound of gently-flapping wings. Moments later, a dark purple body swam into his field of vision, silhouetted by silver, and landed on the windowsill beside Goldeen. A pair of red, bulbous eyes met his gaze. Michael stared at them for a split second, then the realization hit him like a punch.
“Butterfree!” Henry approached with his hands clamped over his mouth.
“In the flesh,” Michael replied, and his mouth spread into a smile.
Henry approached the pokémon and took her into his arms. “You had us so worried!” he said. “I swear we shouldn’t have left the window open like that. I was so afraid you’d fall! But I’m guessing this means you got out of that cocoon okay? You didn’t get hurt?” He began to look her over, checking her skin for any cuts or bruises. But she appeared to be in perfect condition. Satisfied, Henry held her out at arm’s length. “Well, I should’ve left you on the chair, at least! Being on the floor probably wasn’t the best welcome for you.”
He gave a chuckle, to which Butterfree responded with a smile, then he passed her on to Michael. Butterfree was now slightly heavier than Ringo, and up close, Michael saw that her simple-looking wings were thick and heavy, and backed by strong muscles. But most importantly, with her enlarged size, he was finally able to see the subtle beauty that had been hidden in her features all along — the delicate fuzz on her skin, the pattern of her compound eyes, and the symmetrical black veins that laced her wings. Michael couldn’t help but be amazed that this pokémon had once been a tiny green sausage.
He looked at Butterfree’s eyes again, not knowing what to say. What did you say to a pokémon when it evolved? Congratulations? Thanks for all the times you didn’t crack your shell when I sent you out against the Fighting types? Idly, he wondered if he looked any different to her, now that she was peering at him through eyes the size of tennis balls. He thought of reminding her, just for the sake of saying something, but thankfully, moments later, he saw her expression flash with recognition.
Michael turned her around some more, then gave her a light toss, and Butterfree rose into the air. Her wings fluttered soundlessly as she drifted over to his shoulder. She couldn’t fold them like Ringo could, however, so he would constantly feel one of them brush against the back of his head.
“Let’s take her outside!” Henry suggested. “She’ll love a nice, open space.”
“Sure thing,” Michael said. “Now that she’s out, at least.”
“Come on!” Henry beckoned and rushed towards the door.
The boys went out into the courtyard, Machop and Clefable following behind, where Michael lifted Butterfree into the air and let her go in front of a flowering tree. He watched her flutter in circles around the leaves, drawing her snout close to the blooms, then slip into the crown and vanish from view. A few passing trainers were drawn in by the sight, and stopped to watch as she flew around, beaming whenever a silver wing flitted into view from between the branches. Butterfree emerged from the tree’s crown and drifted over to the next, her eyes and wings glowing like bicycle reflectors in the moonlight. She explored the neighboring trees in the same fashion, and returned to the boys with two fistfuls of flowers.
Michael caught her with both hands and helped her crawl up to a comfortable position on his shoulder. The other trainers drew closer, stroking her wings and lowering their heads to catch her eye. But Butterfree seemed impartial to the attention she was getting, busying herself instead with the blooms, chewing off the petals and discarding the stems.
The trainers lingered for a while as she ate, then gradually began to leave. Michael swept his gaze over them one last time, then turned to Henry, his arm upheld. “Well, I guess that’s it.”
Butterfree returned his glance with a smile. But her large eyes were glittering and unblinking, making her look like an alien creature. Henry followed Michael to a bench, and continued to look at Butterfree from various angles.
“They have poison dust on their wings,” Henry said. “It comes from somewhere in the scales, I think. Once she learns how to dislodge it, it could come in handy during your battles!”
“And they’re rain-repellant too,” Michael said. He looked askance at Butterfree, lowering his chin till his gaze was level with hers. “You know, you would’ve really helped me if you evolved before the Gym battle!”
Butterfree replied with a flick of her wings that almost resembled a shrug. Michael chuckled.
“Well at least we won’t have to worry about someone stepping on you. Can you still do String Shot?”
Butterfree spit out a tiny silvery string and let it hang from her mouth like dental floss. She sucked it back up.
“Cool. Now what about Bug Bite?”
Butterfree flashed her pointed fangs, and Michael turned his face away. “Never mind. Obviously.”
He set her down onto the bench. “Well, what else? Any new moves? You should be able to learn a lot of special attacks now.”
Butterfree lifted her stubby arms and began to shuffle her feet around in a funny dance. Michael shook his head. “That’s not exactly what I meant, but whatever.” He crossed his arms. “Anyways, now that you’re a flier, we’ll have to change up our strategy. Maybe you can double up with Ringo and make a boss flying duo. Or I could teach you Psychic and you could do a tag-team with Goldeen. You have wings, and she has her water, so you’ll be able to keep up with each other. It would be awesome if you both could just Confuse every opponent before they launch a single move. I could even make you two my opening in double battles. We’ll hypnotize everybody’s pokémon and watch their teams knock themselves out! How great would that be?” He smiled as he contemplated the picture, then put on a serious expression. “But I’m telling you, it’s gonna be a lot of work. Starting now, you’re officially a full-time member of the team, and that means no slacking off. All right?”
Butterfree flicked her wings in a gesture of agreement. She paced about the bench, turning to Machop and Clefable as they approached her. The three pokémon met near a handlebar and began an exchange of sounds and gestures, each one saying something in its own special language, yet somehow understanding its companions. Machop touched the edge of Butterfree’s wing with his index finger, and the Bug pokémon looked up at him. At first, Machop tensed with apprehension, but gradually relaxed the longer he and Butterfree faced each other. A series of thoughts seemed to swirl behind the latter’s eyes, and she smiled. Though Henry probably didn’t notice, Michael saw Machop move his thumb ever so slightly behind his back. He snickered.
“So are you still gonna teach her Energy Ball?” asked Henry after a moment.
Michael shrugged. “Maybe. But that’ll be in Sunyshore. Unless Bertha has some crazy reason to stay in Pastoria longer.”
Henry smiled faintly, gazing out at the distant city. “I don’t know… I think everywhere’s gonna be the same now.”
Michael was about to ask him what he meant, when all of a sudden he heard a rush of footsteps and the shouts of approaching trainers. He looked up to see a group of kids run past them, then one boy stopped in his tracks and pointed ahead to the Gym.
“Hey you two, get to the Gym! GASP’s on TV! They’re here, they’re live!”
In a snap, Michael lowered his arms to his sides and spun around towards the bench. He lifted Butterfree from the seat and beckoned to Machop, while Henry heaved his tote bag over his shoulder. Once the five of them were ready to go, the boys broke into a run, chasing after the rivers of people who were coming from all points on the plaza, collecting in front of the Gym’s entrance.
Inside, the Pastoria Gym was submerged in darkness. The lamps in the lobby were dimmed, and the hallways were filled with shadowy figures. People moved about the rooms in hushed agitation, shifting chairs and laying blankets onto the wooden floor. Michael and Henry attached themselves to the next incoming group, and were directed by Lace to the main sitting room. Nearly all the furniture was pushed against the walls and burdened with TV sets, which had been brought in from various locations, and plugged into every power outlet in sight. The room was filled to bursting with the greatest variety people imaginable: Trainers sat beside townies, Gym staff among store clerks and librarians. Michael and Henry settled down in at a spot in front of the couch, their pokémon squeezing in between them, and shifted every so often as more people stepped through the aisles. Michael set Butterfree in his lap and stilled her wings with his hands.
“Keep those as quiet as you can,” he said. “This is history in the making, right here.”
Butterfree lifted her head to glimpse the screen, which was currently showing an outer view of the Pastoria City Hall, illuminated by white spotlights. Crowds were thronging about the fence on all sides, their cheers just barely audible in the distance.
Noticing her attention, Michael pointed up to the image. “See all those people? They’re here because there’s gonna be a conference tonight. It’ll be the first time Team Galactic’s ever stepped out into the public, and they’re gonna do it right from this city. You’ll get to see all the other people from GASP, too — that’s the name of the alliance between Galactic and the Rockets. It’s weird, I know. I never thought it would happen either, but I guess the times call for desperate measures. Remember Deoxys? That’s the reason they got together. They’re planning this huge operation to bring it to Earth, and now both countries are losing their minds.” He looked down at Butterfree, who in turn tilted her head up to look at him, and shook his head in pity. “You missed out on a lot.”
The pokémon clicked her jaws, and to his left, Machop gave a hmm.
Suddenly, the televisions flickered. The chatter in the room died down, and everybody stilled. The image of the outer building lingered for a second longer, then the screens switched to show the interior of a large conference hall, headed by a panel of GASP officials, raised on a platform above a sea of reporters.
At the center of the long table sat Dr. Allan Knight, identified by the silver plaque in front of him. As it turned out, Michael’s initial imagination of him hadn’t been far off — Knight was a portly, dark-haired man, with a straight face that nevertheless looked like it could break into a mischievous smile at any moment.
Once the initial introductions and formalities were over, Knight cleared his throat and looked down at the papers in front of him.
“Ladies, gentlemen. It is my immense pleasure and honor to announce to the people of Hoenn and Sinnoh the alliance that has been forged between our two organizations. Where in the past, Team Rocket and Team Galactic may have had some discrepancies and misunderstandings, now they’ve been set aside for the greater good of pooling our efforts. Mr. Blue and I hope this will help both of our organizations reach their proper potential, and will allow us to treat the situation at hand with the care and seriousness it deserves. I have spoken at length with the director following the discovery of Deoxys, and we have agreed to cooperate in light of our findings so that further study can be approached from a politically-neutral standpoint. It is neither Mr. Blue’s intention, nor mine, that this alliance should be viewed as anything but what it is. So long as GASP exists, Teams Rocket and Galactic agree to retain their individual enterprise and autonomy, but cooperate when needed in the field of missions and discovery. As of now, the two members of GASP have one policy only — to study Deoxys. This GASP’s official mission as it stands at this moment, and both agreeing sides are working equally, and solely, to achieve it.”
There was a chorus of shouts and stamps as reporters rose with their cameras, proffering recording devices to the air.
Michael took the moment to observe the other men on the panel. Some of them were Team Galactic members, marked as such by the ‘G’ logo on their name plaques. They appeared to be sitting in order of rank, like the Rockets, with the highest official sharing the center with Dr. Knight. It wasn’t Thealus Blue, however, but a man by the name of Stephen Adams. He had short red hair and a steady, narrow-eyed gaze.
“How do you plan on responding to the concerns about Deoxys’s safety?” a reporter asked.
Stephen Adams proceeded to answer. “We have investigated the matter extensively and are continuing to investigate it. We have no intention of ignoring public scrutiny on the matter, and when we have drawn up a reasonable mission plan, we will release it to the public.”
There was another chorus of voices as reporters rose from their chairs.
“What will be the nature of Team Galactic’s activity in Sinnoh now that you have decided to split the financial burdens?”
“On behalf of our director, I can assure you that our intentions will be fixed on engineering and production of equipment vital to the project,” Adams replied. “Development of the rocket is underway, and while I can’t provide any estimates yet as to when it will be completed, we are hoping to have a final prototype by the end of the year.”
“And for the record—” Allan Knight cut in, leaning forward, “—Team Rocket will be doing the other half of the job. We will concern ourselves with assembly of the launchpad, and when the time comes, facilitate the launch. But as soon as we have liftoff, as soon as we pass through that atmosphere, we become workers of GASP, with no political or corporate boundaries.” He folded his hands. “Of course, it’s much too early to be thinking about that. For now, we’re focusing our efforts on planning the missions and designing the spacecraft to accommodate Deoxys’ needs — which, I assure you all again, we are examining.”
After another interim of chatter, a third reporter’s voice rose above the din: “How will your new policy of financial cooperation affect the respective financial policies of Sinnoh and Hoenn?”
One of the Team Rocket members answered. “The project is still in its infancy, so as of now, we’re not able to answer that question. We can only assure you that all federal funding received by each company will be treated as common property of GASP for the duration of this mission.”
The next question came moments later: “What is Deoxys’s current status?”
“Deoxys is still in its former orbit around the Earth, closely followed by a Hoenn spacecraft that transmits signals to Team Galactic’s satellites, and to the Mossdeep Space Center. The pokémon knows of our presence, but does not appear to be attacking or fleeing.”
“What have you discovered about Deoxys so far that would warrant reasonable belief that it can survive on Earth?”
Dr. Knight smiled. “Ah, the one we’ve all been waiting for.” He clasped his hands together and looked straight ahead at the crowd. “Let this be known by everyone — Deoxys is not like any creature that lives on Earth, so all our biological preconceptions about what life is have to be modified in order for us to study it. The first thing I’d like to point out is that Deoxys is a creature of energy, not of flesh and blood. It doesn’t feed, but rather fuels itself by absorbing background cosmic radiation, which keeps its body alive almost like electricity runs a machine. The amount of radiation Deoxys experiences can vary, of course, depending on whether or not there are any stars or planets nearby, and if Deoxys is a traveling creature, which we have no doubt it is, then it would’ve had to have found a way to get the necessary dosages no matter its location. On Earth, the amount of cosmic background radiation we experience is much lower due to our atmosphere, but nonetheless there are lots of terrestrial sources of radiation that could serve as a substitute. Radiation can be found concentrated in certain strains of rock and soil, for example, which is produced by radioactive isotopes left behind from the planet’s formation. It’s also produced by the naturally-occurring processes within the Earth’s crust, and, perhaps most importantly, by that big bright star that’s only about ninety-three million miles away from us.” He jerked his thumb over his shoulder, and some people in the crowd chuckled. “Now, obviously we’ll have to construct machinery that will contain this energy for Deoxys, but given the wealth of our resources, we believe we have all the necessary tools to provide Deoxys the dosages it needs, once we find out what those dosages are.”
“The second dimension to this issue is the factor of Earth’s climate,” said Stephen Adams. “It is, as of now, the more pressing problem. After we find Deoxys’ required intake for radiation, we must examine the effects that atmospheric pressure will have on its bodily structure. We’re looking at a creature that has lived its entire life in a pressureless void. The fact that Deoxys can alternate between extreme heat and cold, such as when passing in close proximity to the Sun or to the far side of the Earth, is a sign that it may have similar adaptations to changes in gravitational fields. But of course, we have no way of knowing whether or not Deoxys has landed on planets before, or simply drifts through space. Our transport and containment chambers will mimic the environment of space as closely as possible, with airlock, antigravity, and temperature control features.”
“As Deoxys’ transport is with no doubt a global issue, will other countries be involved in this process?”
“Yes,” said Adams. “They have been notified of the development, and it’s been agreed that once all the scientific work has been finalized, a global summit will be held to make a final decision. As of now, the project concerns Hoenn and Sinnoh only, since we are the countries responsible for conducting the research and planning the mission.”
Another reporter rose. “Apart from the way in which it obtains energy, how does Deoxys differ in biological structure from terrestrial pokémon?”
“As of now, our knowledge is limited only to pictures, and a limited number of samples that we managed to collect,” replied a Galactic official. “Deoxys appears to be made of a material similar in durability to that of spacecraft. Whether this is its body's natural form, or a provisional form that it adopts when in flight, we have no way of knowing right now. We can’t collect more detailed samples because both we and Team Rocket lack the necessary equipment aboard our ships. From what we have seen of its outer behavior, we know that Deoxys propels itself by generating psychic blasts, which may classify it as a Psychic type. Due to the tremendous variety of pokémon species even on our own planet, it could very well be that Deoxys originated on Earth, yet somehow managed to adapt itself to space. But even if this were the case, it would still have been a tremendous feat to accomplish, and therefore certainly worth studying.”
“Have you decided on a location for Deoxys to land, and if not, what factors will influence your eventual decision?”
The officials on the panel whispered amongst themselves. After looking to them for a moment, Dr. Knight answered. “We haven’t finalized anything yet, but we’re certainly considering several options, according to their altitude and relative isolation from the main continents. We certainly don’t want to land Deoxys in the middle of an urban area. But at the same time, if we choose an isolated location, it will have to have a decent source of natural radiation, something to the effect of the Coronet Mountains or Meteor Falls. Another option would be to conduct the study from places that are part of a larger landmass, but would enable us to draw radiation from a nearby source, such as the Three Lakes of Sinnoh…”
There was some muttering at this. But rather than continuing, Knight shook his head. “At any rate,” he said, “I don’t want to give you the impression that anything’s been decided, because nothing’s been decided yet. Rest assured that when we do reach a decision, we’ll announce it immediately, and won’t take action until we’ve made arrangements with any countries that might be affected.”
This did not seem to entirely satisfy the reporters, but nevertheless they sat down again.
From that point on, Michael tuned in and out of the dialogue, gazing idly at the faces on the panel while he dwelled on various things that they mentioned. The officials went into more intricate details of Deoxys’s bodily structure, and the status of the astronauts and equipment that were current in orbit. When the conference ended, all twelve officials on the panel stood, and the entire crowd of reporters rose from their chairs to see them off. Cameras flashed as Dr. Knight and Stephen Adams turned to leave the room, the rest of the Rockets and Galactics swarming around them.
Moments after the panel members left, the picture froze, switching to a shot of the Pastoria City Hall, where a female reporter stood against the fence that bordered the building. Behind her, the group of black cars was leaving through the gates, followed by massive crowds who were cheering and waving.
“And there goes Dr. Allan Knight with Stephen Adams, along with the rest of the GASP management, who’ve stepped out before the world for the very first time. People all over the city have come to watch them leave, and you can literally feel their excitement as they finally catch a glimpse of the people they’ve been waiting to see since morning. GASP has certainly been welcomed with open arms in Pastoria, though undeniably the debates about Deoxys are still ongoing, and now that the company has laid out a plan of action, it’ll definitely have to execute it and be mindful of a watchful public. As we speak, the officials are making their way to the airport where they will leave the city, some heading off to Mossdeep, others to the Galactic headquarters in Veilstone. Dr. Knight has released a statement of thanks to Pastorian government, stating that the time he spent in Sinnoh has opened his eyes to the high morale of Hoenn’s new partner, and he feels honored to have gotten to know a city that, in his opinion, captures the Sinnoh soul like no other.”
The woman smiled in farewell, and moments later, an anchorman appeared on the screen. “Thank you, Debbie. GASP has certainly given Hoenn and Sinnoh a lot to think about, particularly about Deoxys and the ever-looming possibility of an Earth landing. But as it turns out, that’s not all the news we have for you today. SNN has just received word that the Sinnoh Pokémon Rights Activist Group convened for an official meeting just a few days after GASP’s unveiling at the beginning of the month. And now, they’ve come forward to make an announcement of their own. Let’s tune in to their live broadcast from Sunyshore City.”
The image switched to a man standing behind a podium, reading a speech to an auditorium full of people.
“… we will not sit back and let the people’s complaints go unanswered. It’s time that the proponents of science learn that they can’t do whatever they want with the universe we all share. On behalf of the Pokémon Rights Group, I call the people of Sinnoh and Hoenn and all other nations to join us in protest, so that for one day, all the airwaves and TV networks of the country will be focused on us — on the pokémon, and on the sanctity of life.”
The anchorman’s voice sounded over the picture, drowning out the rest of the audio. “The Pokémon Rights Activist Group of Sinnoh has planned a protest rally in Sunyshore City that will take place on July 23nd, intended for all opponents of GASP and of the Deoxys operation. Preparations have been slowly progressing since the space companies’ unification, and now the Activist Group has confirmed that the protest will take place in the Grand Assembly Square, a ten-acre field located at the center of Sunyshore. Normally, this space is reserved for concerts and fairs, but now, it will be the host of the most significant gathering of the decade, and the promised beginning of a nationwide movement.”
When the broadcast concluded, Michael snorted. “Great. The PRAG again.”
Beside him, Henry frowned. “Why, what’s the problem?”
“Come on, when was the last time they did something remotely useful? All they do is get together and talk about how pokémon are ‘disadvantaged’. And they start scandals about the stupidest things — like the time they flipped out at the Crown City Fire Department for using Floatzel and Gravelers to put out fires.”
Henry laughed. “Hey, yeah, I remember that.” But he looked up at the TV again, and pursed his lips. “Still, you gotta admit, they could be onto something. Bringing Deoxys to Earth isn’t exactly risk-free. The GASP people said it themselves.”
“They said that they’re working on it, smart one. All they need to do is build a chamber that counteracts gravitational pressure, and Deoxys’ll be fine. It’s just the panicky reporters that blow everything out of proportion.” Michael fell into a brief silence, watching Butterfree wiggle her feet in contentment. “You’d think with all this crap people are shooting that GASP wants to tear down the Space-Time Tower or something. I bet that’s why Team Galactic kept all its work a secret. Thealus Blue probably knew there was no point in trying to explain himself to people, so he just didn’t bother. And after all this, I think I’d do the same.”
He cast his gaze over the rest of the room and rose to his feet. All around, people were collecting into chattering groups, and though their voices all blended together, it was clear that they had the same things on their minds. Others were headed for the exit, forming slow-trickling lines in the open aisles. Henry got up moments later, and together the boys and their pokémon made their way into the lobby. Topics from the conference hung in the air like a heavy cloud, but the news of the protest had stirred up an equal, if not greater, excitement.
They searched around the rooms for Shella and Bertha, but found neither of them, and as the Gym began to empty, they were forced to call it quits. They went back to their hotel room and got as much sleep as they could, though every now and then Michael was stirred awake by hushed voices in the hallway, and the sounds of people who were still wandering about the plaza.
The excitement continued well into the next morning. The cafeteria downstairs was packed with staff and trainers, and buzzed with the added noise of televisions that had been placed around the room’s perimeter. Michael cast frequent glances to the screens as he and Henry proceeded through the food line, then they found seats at the edge of a table and watched the broadcast close-up. The anchorman did a recap of the previous evening’s press conference, but devoted much of his time to elaborate on the Sunyshore protest, which Michael looked down from only occasionally to eat his breakfast.
“I wonder how they’re going to set that whole thing up,” a trainer remarked across from them. “I’ve been to Sunyshore, and that assembly square is huge.”
“Are they really going to get other countries involved?” asked another.
“If they do, it’ll be one heck of a crowd.”
Indeed, the estimates were staggering. A reporter appeared to broadcast live from Sunyshore, and confirmed that the whole city would be closed for the event, and that it was expected that a crowd of more than a hundred-fifty thousand people would be gathered in and around the protest’s location. The images it brought to Michael’s mind made his thoughts race in a confused storm. He himself had never been in an auditorium of more than twenty-thousand people. When he imagined an entire city halting its business to host a protest, it felt like the whole world had stopped moving.
They left the cafeteria a short while later. As they passed through the hotel lobby, Michael saw the front doors open, revealing Bertha, who was carrying her briefcase.. Seeing them, she smiled and quickened her pace to meet them.
“Marie told me you finished your battles,” she said. “Congrats! Now we have to get a move on. I want to get to Sunyshore early to make it in time for the protest preparations.”
Michael balked. “Wait — we’re going?”
“Of course!” Bertha blinked in surprise. “The biggest crowd of Team Galactic opposers in history is coming together in our own backyard, and you expect me to sit here answering phone calls? No way. I could get almost a hundred thousand signatures right then and there. Not to mention publicity... oh, sweet publicity.” A smile spread over her face, and with a sink of the heart Michael realized she had the point that couldn’t be beat.
Bertha placed her hands on their shoulders and gave them a gentle nudge. “Go on and pack your bags, boys. I’ll meet you down here in a few minutes.”
Having no choice but to comply, Michael and Henry turned for the elevators. Meanwhile, Bertha disappeared behind the door to the stairway. Once the boys had reached the solitude of their hotel room, they began to pack, too lost in thought to say anything to each other. It was only when they had cleared the room of their possessions, and isolated themselves by a tree near the hotel’s entrance that Henry finally turned to Michael.
“Well, what now?”
Michael shrugged. “We’re going to Sunyshore, that’s what.”
“No, I mean the Gym. How are we going to prepare if the whole city’s going to be closed for the protest? How do we know if the Gym’s even going to be working?”
“I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Henry’s gaze dropped to the sidewalk. “As long as we don’t end up being stuck there for weeks again…”
“Well, we won’t exactly be bored out of our minds,” Michael said. “We have to start planning ahead for the next two Gyms. If they’re anything like this one was, we’ll need at least five days of training before each battle. We can’t risk winging it. That’s why I think we should get the rest of our research done in Sunyshore.” He unzipped his backpack and took out his notebook, flipping to the chart to check its bank spaces. “I want to know what types the last three Gyms are, and what pokémon the leaders have, so that we can spend more time getting our teams ready and less time running around libraries. And Bertha will be busy with the protest stuff, so we’ll have loads of time on our hands to work on our strategies.”
Henry nodded in agreement.
“And you know,” Michael continued, “I’ve been thinking. What’s the point of us doing all this work for the chart if it’s just going to die with us when we finish the League? We should really spread the word to others. That way, no matter if we win or lose, other trainers will be able to benefit from what we did. It’ll be like making our mark, almost.”
Henry lifted an eyebrow. “You mean you want to publish your chart?”
“Well, not publish, but at least get the information out. It would be too risky to spread around an exact copy, so maybe I could stick with writing articles, and let the information out slowly. We have a whole bunch of stuff on type combinations, and some of it most average trainers might not even know. Think about how easier it would make their lives if they had it all down before they started the Gyms. They’d never catch a pokémon blind — they’d know exactly what each battler can do, and how to maximize each of their potentials. They wouldn’t have to waste time with battle items or training classes. They’d be able to make their teams flexible, so that they’ll be able to counter any Gym under the sun.” He fixed his gaze on Henry. “Don’t you see what we could do? We could completely change the way trainers do the League. It won’t be some kiddie competition anymore; it’ll be a real challenge, for people with real brains. And we’re pretty much the ones who started this, so it’s our job do to pass down our method to the next generation.”
“Mm. Maybe.” Henry’s tone was neutral, though Michael detected a smile of temptation breaking through his attempted calm.
“Not maybe — definitely.” He smiled. “It’s not like it’s illegal. We used our own minds to come up with it, so it’ll just be publishing what people could technically have figured out for themselves. That’s not cheating, right?”
Henry shrugged, suppressing a giggle. Michael jostled him with his elbow. “Right?”
A mellow, singsong voice issued from behind. Michael turned around, as did Henry, realizing what was happening a second before he was confirmed, with an almost audible drop of his heart, by the lean figure of Bertha Herrida. She stood before them like an apparition, hands on hips, a sly smile twisting her lips.
Michael scrambled to shield his notebook behind his back, but Bertha stopped him with a shake of the head. “Save it, Michael. I’ve already seen it.”
Michael balked. “What? You—?”
“Uh-huh.” Bertha gave a nod. “Every word. I know you two have been gathering information about the Gyms. I know you’re making a type chart, and I know you’re using it to win your battles.”
Henry’s voice had receded to a whisper. “How?”
Bertha crossed her arms. “Come on. Do I look that clueless to you? We’ve been traveling together for weeks. I see how you two battle, how your teams’ moves almost always end up perfect counters against your opponents, and how before every important battle you have at least one new pokémon or move that carries the day with the leader’s team. You don’t have to be a genius to know that can’t be an accident. Just this morning, I asked Marie to tell me how you guys battled, and you know what she said to me? She said that she was impressed at how the majority of your pokémon were good with electric attacks, and that it was rather lucky that you found yourselves in a battle with a Water-type trainer. And on my part, I thought it was rather strange that two boys should suddenly start training with electric moves, when they’d gone fine without them in the past.”
“But that could mean anything,” Michael said. “What if we just wanted to teach our pokémon new moves, and didn’t get a chance until now? That’s pretty ambiguous evidence, if you ask me.”
“Why would you suddenly want your pokémon to learn Electric moves now, though? And only Electric moves?” Bertha gave a solemn smile. “You can’t fool me, Michael. I’ve seen everything — all those little conversations, all those books you rent, all those moves you teach. We don’t spend a single day in a city before you two run off and start investigating, and while I admit I haven’t heard everything you guys have ever talked about, what I did was more than enough to convince me that you were up to something. Like just now.”
Michael narrowed his eyes. “So you knew before?”
“I had my suspicions since Hearthome, but I didn’t put two-and-two together till Solaceon,” Bertha said. “At first, I thought you were only adapting to difficult circumstances with Jerry. I realized that after my Gym, being in such a big city could have been daunting, which would make you want to bolster your teams as much as possible to prepare for an opponent you weren’t familiar with. When we got to Solaceon, I figured you’d adapt the same way to the style of Lona’s Gym. But when I checked up with the staff to see how you were doing, they only ever told me one thing — that you were two of the only trainers who seemed to have a strategy of their own. They said right from the get-go that you were unusually restrained and focused, and perhaps too often lucky with type combinations.” She paused. “Not to mention, that one day when I walked by, you practically shouted your theories about Lona’s team to the whole room. I appreciated the effort of you hiding your notebook, Michael, but that, I think, was when I knew for sure that something was up. So later that day, I asked the hotel staff to let me into your room, and I did a quick look-around. Nothing major, I just wanted to see what you had on your desk, on the shelves, stuff like that. And there it was, lying on the table, opened up to a page with notes for your battle with Lona.”
Michael managed to snap out of his stupor enough to make an incredulous expression. “Then why didn’t you say anything to us when we left Solaceon? Maybe we just didn’t know any better, and you let us keep on with it!”
“Hold on there, tiger. I didn’t come to my conclusion right away. It was gradual. And I know that what you two were doing wasn’t an accident. It was too well thought-out for that. But you should have been more careful, especially since you have a League official on your shoulders.”
By now, Henry was white in the face. “What are you going to do to us?”
Bertha remained silent for a suspenseful moment, then smiled. “Fortunately for you, I’m not going to turn you in… yet. You guys are bending the rules a little too far, and just because there’s nothing in them that explicitly prohibits what you’re doing, doesn’t mean that the League won’t ever have the grounds to penalize you. That’s why I’m going to give you boys the chance to correct yourselves. I’ll pretend I forgot everything that happened before, and you’ll both start fresh. From now on, I don’t want you two collaborating. At all. That means no more charts. No more exchanging tips before battles, or gathering counters for the next Gym type. In fact, I’m going to enforce this by making sure each of you has somewhere to be every day without the inclusion of the other. The most I’ll allow is for you to have practice battles, and during your Gym challenges, I’ll let you cheer each other on. But after that, it’ll be back to solitary confinement, so to speak.” In response to the boys’ perplexed expressions, Bertha gave a shrug. “If you think this is harsh, you haven’t seen anything yet. The League can pass a fine faster than you can count the zeroes. I’m doing this for your own good, because I feel I’ve known you long enough to believe that you generally meant well, and in my eyes a couple of teenagers don’t exactly deserve to have their record marred for life. So I’ve decided to help you learn from your mistakes. From now on, you play by my rules. And don’t think I’m not being serious. If I hadn’t caught you now, then at the rate you’re going, you two might have ended up facing charges for League felony.”
Henry’s eyes widened. “Felony?”
“Hey, it’s happened. You could do a lot worse than make a type chart, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. I want you boys to understand the serious side of League business. If you keep walking boldly in unknown territory, you’ll end up springing a trap. So think of me as strike two. I want you on your best, rule-abiding behavior from now on, or I will report you.”
Michael and Henry exchanged a glance, then nodded submissively.
Bertha beamed. “Great. I’ll call a cab.”
The taxi arrived in a matter of minutes, whisking them away from the Trainer Plaza and back to Valor Lakefront. Michael and Henry trailed behind Bertha in silence as she navigated through the crowds at the rail terminal, not even willing to meet each other’s gazes. After she purchased their tickets, they proceeded to the sitting room, where half an hour later their train was called. They were just about to make their way to the gate when suddenly, a voice sounded from behind.
Michael turned to see who had spoken, and with a flood of shock he recognized Shella. She was running towards them with a luggage bag in tow, a train ticket flapping from her free hand. Seeing the girl, Bertha smiled in greeting.
“Ah, hi Shella. Nice to see you.”
“Are you leaving for Sunyshore?”
Bertha nodded. “Afraid so. I gotta get these two rabble-rousers to their next Gym. And I have some petition-related business at the protest, so the sooner we get there, the better.”
Shella took a breath, and placed both hands on the handle of her luggage bag. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to join you.”
The boys balked. Bertha seemed equally surprised, and lifted her eyebrows. “Join us, as in, help with my petition?”
Shella nodded. “I know it might seem counterintuitive, because on the one hand, I really want GASP to have a chance to prove itself. But at the same time I think your petition will help everyone in the long run. The more time I spend in all these cities, the more I see that Sinnoh’s having trouble finding a balance between two cultures — science and pokémon training. Most people nowadays see one of them as the new and the other as the old, so they’re favoring one over the other. I think the same is happening in Hoenn, too. But honestly, I think that if the governments could give the League a fair chance to save itself, everyone would be better off.” She shrugged. “I’ve talked with Marie about what you’re doing. She said you could always use a helper, so I figured…”
Bertha considered her for a moment, and seemed ready to smile, before she remembered something and paused. “Wait a minute. Aren’t you on vacation?”
Shella waved a hand. “I already checked out of Grand Lake. I technically have another month and a half before I should go back to Hoenn, but I think it’s much more interesting to travel this country than to stay cooped up in a penthouse. I spent enough time doing that in the past, unfortunately, but now with all this GASP stuff going on, I really want to be in the thick of things, for once. To see them happen myself.”
At this proclamation, a smile curled the corners of Bertha’s mouth. “I like your thinking, girl. Welcome aboard!”
Shella’s elated gaze fell to the boys, who gave halfhearted smiles in response. With her team of three in tow, Bertha passed through the gate to the platform and led the way into the sleek, silver train. The grin lingered on her face throughout, growing ever wider as they settled into their own compartment with a view of the horizon outside. A minute passed as the last few passengers boarded, then the train doors swooshed closed.
Meanwhile, near the outskirts of town, a silver Cadillac DeVille sped down a two-lane road, cutting through a neighborhood of long, low-roofed houses. It traveled for a few minutes before slowing, and pulled into a small, bare driveway. The engine stopped, the driver’s door opened, and out stepped the man in the business suit and glasses. Moments later, the two back doors opened as well, and a pair of men in plain city clothes joined his either side.
The man took a moment to survey the house, then proceeded to the door. One of his companions withdrew a spare key from his pocket and opened it, and the trio filed into a spacious, minimally-furnished entrance room. The sound of their footsteps was soon joined by a subtle clicking, which grew louder and louder as the men neared one of the inner rooms.
The bespectacled man stopped before a half-open door and pushed it, exposing a small office with a desk, a lamp, and some file cabinets. The occupant sat with his back to the new arrivals, head bent over a typewriter. His fingers were strumming the keys with hardly a moment’s pause, ironing out what seemed to be a long, dense article.
The newcomer waited several moments, till his companions had closed the door behind them, then approached the desk, hands on his hips.
“Well, well. Marvin Whitman.”
The writer jerked, nearly pushing the typewriter aside in surprise. He turned around, just as the newcomer stepped forward, where light from the window spilled over his face and brought him into full view. Seeing him, the writer seemed to freeze, and his eyes darted across the men’s faces in bewilderment, as if they had been ghostly apparitions. The two bodyguards stepped away from the door and closed in on the desk, their faces impassive. The bespectacled man folded his hands behind his back.
“Let me guess… Helfer sent you here, didn’t he?”
The writer was silent.
“Gave you some papers, some records… and a rather nice cover story back at the Headquarters, I must say. Unfortunately, he miscalculated the power of the public press, which is all the more ironic since he believes he can use it for his own purposes. Next time you might want to try diluting your publications, lest you lay the very paper trail that leads the authorities straight to you. Mr. Blue is already less than pleased with him, and I’m sure that when this reaches his ears, he’ll have even more reason to take action against his little collective — you included. Spreading false information about the company you work for is both dangerous and highly foolish, especially since said company is more important to Sinnoh at this moment than any other. Is a lawsuit what you really want?”
The writer cast his gaze aside with a grumble. “No…”
“Then I suggest you decide which operation you support: The one that will bring decades of work to ruin, or the one with the potential to change the world.”
The two bodyguards that flanked the man stepped forward. One took the typewriter, along with the stacks of unfinished articles, and the other lifted the writer from his chair, handcuffing his hands behind his back. The bespectacled man led the way out into the driveway, stopping beside the car, where the writer tugged and squirmed from the guard’s tight grip.
“Where are you taking me?”
“To Veilstone City, to have a little chat with the director,” the man replied. “I’m sure you can provide him with information on Alfonso’s whereabouts, along with his other followers. And with the Sunyshore protest on the way, I’m sure you’ll understand our need to tread with the utmost care.”
The writer grumbled in spiteful compliance. The bodyguards opened the doors of the silver Cadillac and sat him down, taking their places on either side of him. The bespectacled man himself got into the driver’s seat.
Once all the doors were closed and the engine had hummed to life, the man took a glimpse at the writer in the rearview mirror, and smiled. His glasses winked in the sunlight.
“I say it’s time to tell the world the truth. Won’t you agree?”