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Thread: Meridian

  1. #1
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    Default Meridian

    Hello all. This is my debut piece on the Serebii forums. It started off as a fun little idea, then became a vast storyline, and I felt compelled to share it.

    It's called "Meridian."

    It is the story of the adventures of a group of non-canon characters living in a non-canon region of the Pokémon world.

    Rated PG for mild violence.

    Enjoy!


    Chapter One



    Shawn ran.

    He knew his pursuer wasn’t far behind him, out of view somewhere. Shawn couldn’t hear or see him, but he knew he was there.

    The trees flew by him. He narrowly avoided hitting a couple of branches. He was breathing hard now, his legs started to hurt, but he couldn’t stop. Not yet.

    Finally, he found a break in the trees, a small clearing. In front of him, the land sloped gradually downward. He could see for miles and miles. The forest extended down the gentle slope and into the distance, and beyond the forest was a great marshland, dark and mysterious. The light of the setting sun cast a deep red hue over the marsh, giving it an ominous, captivating glow.

    He had paused a second too long. Something collided with his ribs and he fell to the ground. Rolling over he saw a flash of sharp white teeth and heard a low growl.

    He grinned. “Okay Poochyena! You got me!”

    The small gray dog barked happily and licked Shawn’s face. He laughed and pushed the Pokémon away. He stood up as Poochyena hopped around at his feet, and he looked out at the distant marshland again. He loved coming here at the end of the day. The view was magnificent: the green forest sweeping down the side of the ridge, sloping down away from him, with the glowing red marshland in the distance beyond. It was that glow, in fact, that gave the marshlands their name: the Blood Marsh. Past the Marsh lay the vast, sparkling blue ocean, stretching out and away to meet the sun at the horizon.

    Shawn had never been to the Blood Marsh. He didn’t know anyone who had. That region was supposedly dangerous, full of wild Pokémon and harsh terrain. There were stories of people traveling into the Marsh and never coming back, though Shawn didn’t know how many of those were actually true. And of course, the ominous name of the marshlands did not help their reputation. But despite all of this, Shawn still loved to look at it. He found the dark mystery of the marshlands exciting and enchanting.

    Poochyena seemed to think so, too. He stood next to Shawn, staring out at the grand view, seemingly lost in similar thoughts. Shawn could tell the small Pokémon would love to go exploring the wilderness before them. Something in the way the little dog stared, the way his eyes gleamed, the way his legs tensed up as though he were about to charge down the ridge, told Shawn that he dreamed of adventure.

    But the setting sun, slowly disappearing over the ocean, taking the daylight with it, reminded them of the time. It was time to go back home. Shawn’s mother would be furious if he stayed out past dark.

    “Come on, Pooch!” Shawn called. He turned and ran back through the trees again. Poochyena barked and chased after him, nipping playfully at his legs as they ran. By the time they reached the edge of the trees, they were both panting happily. They walked out of the trees and back into town.

    Loland Town was fairly small. Mostly everyone in town knew each other. A few people waved courteously at Shawn as he walked by. He would give a small nod in return. Shawn was not very close to any of these people. He didn’t exactly dislike them, he just didn’t really get along with them very well.

    When he entered his house, his mother’s voice came to him almost immediately: “You know I hate it when you stay out so late.”

    “It’s not even dark out yet.”

    “It will be dark very soon.”

    “And I’m home now.”

    His mother sighed and gave up. “Dinner’s on the table. Get washed up please.”

    Shawn washed his hands and face, set out some food for Poochyena, then joined his mother at the table. He ate his food quickly while she told him about how the flowers in the garden were doing, and about the new potting techniques Mrs. Donner had told her about today.

    “She said she read about it in that gardening magazine she gets. I don’t typically listen to magazine articles, as I find my own techniques work just fine for me, but I must admit, her azaleas have been looking particularly colorful – my goodness, do you even taste your food?”

    Shawn was already standing up from the table with his empty plate. “I get hungry running around town all day,” he explained as he went into the kitchen to wash his plate. Poochyena was finished eating as well. Shawn and Poochyena had a playful tug-of-war with the food dish until Shawn finally won, cleaned the dish and put it away. When he came back into the dining room, his mother was on the phone.

    “Are you sure you can’t come back just for a couple of days?” she was saying. He knew who she was talking to without asking. “Well, what are you going to do then? . . . Of course I can’t send him, he can’t go alone. . . . There isn’t anyone. Almost nobody makes that trip these days. . . . I’ll ask around, I suppose. . . . I’ll see what I can do. . . . Of course. And I’ll let you know. . .”

    As she hung up, Shawn asked, “What’s he forgotten this time?”

    His mother sighed as she collected her own plate, “There’s a file of some important documents that he left in his office here. I swear I don’t know how your father managed on his own before he met me.”

    “I thought he was coming home tomorrow.”

    “He meant to, but the workload has been immense this week. He says he won’t be able to get away. He’s sorry, but he thinks he should be able to break away and come home in a few weeks’ time.”

    Shawn’s father worked for the trade and travel business in Blueport City. His job was apparently very important, as he organized a good deal of the products and people that came in and out of Meridian Island. Shawn wasn’t really surprised that his father wouldn’t be coming back tomorrow. His job kept him so busy that he only came home every few weeks at best, and usually only for a few days at a time.

    “The trouble is,” his mother continued, “he needs those documents in order to process a set of major shipments next week and I don’t know of anyone who is heading up there who could give us a ride. Besides I can’t leave now, there’s work to be done here.”

    “I’ll take them to him. I know the way.”

    Shawn didn’t really know the way very well, but he knew he could figure it out. Really he was excited at the idea of getting out of Loland Town for a while.

    “I’m sure you do,” his mother answered, “but I won’t let you make that trip alone, particularly not with the stories coming off the road these days. You’re far too young.”

    “I’m not ten. I’m not a baby anymore.”

    “Of course not, but being fourteen does not make you an adult.”

    Shawn didn’t bother arguing any further. He knew his mother had made up her mind, and he wouldn’t be able to change it. “So what will we do?” he asked.

    His mother looked up thoughtfully, “I’ll think about it. I’m sure I’ll come up with something.”

    Shawn headed up to his room, wishing he could come up with an idea. The truth was, he knew it would be dangerous to make the trip alone. When he was younger, he and his mother used to travel north to Blueport City to visit his father rather often. Blueport was almost all the way on the other side of Meridian Island, but it used to be fairly easy to hitch a ride with someone heading up there. By car, it was only a day’s travel. His father forgot things almost every time he came home, and when Shawn had gotten a bit older, his mother would let him go off to visit his father while she stayed home, so long as he was riding up with people she knew.

    But these days were different. Over the past couple of years, the roads had grown increasingly worse. Now and then, stories came to their small town of strange occurrences. Freak storms would cross the roads, making travel difficult, and some people even reported being attacked by violent wild Pokémon. Nobody was sure what was causing this strange behavior, although they storms and the attacks were probably related. And besides that, there were even rumors that small groups of bandits had been taking advantage of the recent chaos, and that some people were known to have been confronted and robbed while on the road.

    Stories like this were still relatively rare, only happening from time to time – it wasn’t like the island was in chaos – but it was just enough to make people reluctant to travel. People rarely ventured outside of Loland Town these days, and those who did usually went only to Treline Town, not too far away. Product shipments from the bigger cities in the north came fairly infrequently and only delivered essentials. People in the small towns of Loland and Treline were very busy these days working to provide for their own towns and families, and had little time – or desire – to worry about travel.

    Poochyena trotted into Shawn’s room and looked up expectantly at him. The small dog knew the boy was thinking about adventure, and was excited by the idea. Shawn smiled at the Pokémon, “Sorry boy, looks like we won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.” Poochyena whined in disappointment and nuzzled Shawn’s arm. Shawn petted him on the head.

    Shawn hadn’t traveled outside of Loland Town in well over a year now, and it was starting to wear on him. He didn’t mind the people here, but it was a small town, and he got bored of the same old day-to-day process, and sometimes he just needed to get away. Staring at the Blood Marsh and daydreaming could only satisfy him for so long.

    And he could tell Poochyena felt the same way. Back when they used to travel, they would have a great time watching the road go by as they drove, and running around the streets of Blueport City while Shawn’s dad yelled after them. He could tell that Poochyena was thinking about it, too, missing the relief of getting away for a while.

    Poochyena was by far Shawn’s best friend; he shared a bond with the little dog that he had never felt with any other Pokémon or even human. He could tell what Poochyena was feeling, what he was thinking. They could communicate wordlessly, reading each other’s expressions and body language. Even when one of them felt like being off alone for a while, the other would understand, and so they would split apart until it was time to come back and spend time together again. No one understood Poochyena like Shawn did, and vice versa. They were an inseparable pair.

    As the small Pokémon curled up next to Shawn, the young boy let himself get lost in daydreams about travelling together across the island. Someday soon, he thought, we’ll get back on the road, and out of this town. Someday soon.

  2. #2
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    Chapter Two


    Someday soon.


    The next morning, Shawn found his mother in the garden behind the house. Her Pokémon Budew and Lombre were beside her, helping her tend to the vegetables.

    “Oh good, you’re up,” she said, seeing him coming near. “I need you to head over to the market and pick up some things.” She handed him a small crumpled piece of paper with a short shopping list on it. “And while you’re there, tell Mrs. Whetley that our cucumbers and peppers are growing very well. We should be able to get a good price for them this season.” She directed Lombre to spray a line of plants with a sprinkle of water. “And I’ve got some new recipes to try out once these vegetables are grown. I think we can look forward to a delicious year.”

    At Shawn’s feet, Budew waddled over and looked up at him, smiling in the bright morning sunlight. Shawn often saw his mother stroke the little Pokémon’s petals, which Budew seemed to like a lot. Shawn figured it was hoping he would do the same. It stared up at him expectantly, and he stared back. “Well, get going,” his mother urged him from across the garden.

    Shawn left Budew and walked across the yard and began heading down the street. Poochyena wasn’t with him, but he had known before leaving the house that the little dog didn’t want to get up just yet; he was still curled up sleepily on Shawn’s bed. The boy looked back at the house as he walked away, in case his friend had changed his mind, but the little Pokémon didn’t emerge, and so Shawn walked on.

    Even this early, many of the townspeople were up and about, working and shopping. Mr. Coleman the electrician waved to Shawn as he hoisted a tangle of cables from the back of his truck. Farther down the road, Mr. Stepford called to him, “How’s your mother like those new shoes she bought from me? Tell her she can get a second pair at a discount!”

    When Shawn reached the market, he was met with the teasing aroma of dozens of fresh foods. He walked to the back, where he found Mrs. Whetley.

    “Hello Shawn! What can I do for you today?”

    Shawn handed her the list and she shuffled off, gathering up the items he needed. As she packaged the food, she said, “You know, something’s been getting into my berry patch recently. It’s not that little pooch of yours, is it?”

    “No, Mrs. Whetley.”

    “Are you sure?”

    “Yes, Mrs. Whetley.”

    “I work very hard to grow those berries, you know. It takes a lot of time and care to get them to grow as juicy and tasty as they are.”

    “Mother says her cucumbers and peppers are looking great this season.”

    “Oh good!” Mrs. Whetley said. “I can’t wait to get them in. Your mother’s vegetables sell very well in this store, young man. You should be proud.” She handed him the bags of food and leaned in close, “When you get home, maybe check the dog’s teeth for berry juice, hm?”

    Shawn took the food from her and walked out. He knew Poochyena hadn’t eaten Mrs. Whetley’s berries. She loved to blame the Pokémon for her misfortune. A number of people did, actually. For some reason, they found it hard to trust the little dog, or to like him. It wasn’t surprising that Poochyena didn’t want to go on errands like these. Sure, some people were nice to him, but the way people like Mrs. Whetley looked down at him, it was enough to make anyone want to stay at home.

    Shawn returned to his house and started unpacking the groceries. Poochyena ran into the kitchen holding a ball in his mouth. Shawn reached down and wrestled it from the dog’s mouth. “You wanna play? Is it time to play? You want this ball back, I know you do,” Shawn waved the ball high in the air as Poochyena followed it with his eyes, bouncing back and forth with excitement.

    Shawn’s mother’s voice came from outside, calling him. He sighed, “I guess we’ll have to wait a little longer.” He tossed the ball into the air and Poochyena caught it deftly in his mouth and rolled over. The Pokémon dropped the ball on the floor sadly as Shawn walked outside.

    “Great news!” his mother said. “I’ve found a way for you to go help your father.”

    Shawn was suddenly very excited, “Is someone driving up there?”

    “Do you remember Carrie Teague?”

    Shawn knew the name. Carrie was a girl about his age. She lived in Treline Town, but he’d seen her on the occasions when the Loland and Treline schools had cooperated in field trips or other activities. He didn’t know Carrie very well.

    “Yeah, what about her?”

    “Mrs. Donner was just telling me about these flyers she saw around town. Carrie is apparently an experienced adventurer and traveler, and she’s advertising her services to people who need to go places. She can take you to Blueport to see your father!”

    Shawn was not so excited anymore. He didn’t like the idea of traveling across the island with a girl he barely knew. On top of that, if they were walking, it would take them several days to get to Blueport City. Why couldn’t he just go alone? Just him and Poochyena?

    “I thought you said I was too young to make the trip,” Shawn said defiantly. “She’s the same age as me.”

    “She’s a few months older,” his mother argued, “and besides, she comes from a very impressive family. Both of her parents are doctors. The girl must be very bright. I’ll feel much better having her go along with you as a guide. You’ll be much safer.”

    Shawn was torn. On the one hand, it looked like he had gotten his wish to get out of town and travel again. But on the other hand, he’d have to deal with the company of another person, someone he hardly knew. And he could tell by his mother’s face that she was about to make up her mind for good. If he was going to convince her otherwise, he’d have to do it right now. But he couldn’t think of anything to say.

    “When do we leave?” he asked, sighing.

    His mother looked thrilled, “Well, according to the flyer, Carrie is here in Loland Town now! She’s staying with Mrs. Beadle down the street. I called up the house and spoke with Carrie and she said she’d be ready to leave tomorrow! Hurry inside and pack up for your trip. Make sure to bring plenty of clothes and water! I put your backpack out by the stairs and left some money in it for you. I’ll call your father and tell him you’re coming. Oh, but first bring out a bag of fertilizer for me!”

    **********************

    Shawn walked outside very early the next morning, carrying his packed backpack with him. He had filled it with clothes and food and water, as well as a couple of Poochyena’s toys, in case they got bored playing with sticks and rocks on the road.

    He saw Carrie walking up the street toward his house. She seemed to have a lot of energy for this time of morning, her round face was set in a big smile, and her curly brown hair bounced as she walked. Her backpack looked very heavy. His mother rushed out of the house to meet the girl, greeting her and thanking her repeatedly for her help.

    “Oh it’s no problem at all!” Carrie said happily. “Thank you for calling me, Mrs. Downes.” She turned, “Hi Shawn!”

    “Hi,” he said unenthusiastically.

    His spirits rose a bit when Poochyena came bounding out of the house, leaping up and down on Shawn’s legs. Shawn smiled. The little dog’s excitement was contagious.

    “You’re not taking that Pokémon with us, are you?” Carrie asked, frowning.

    “Yes I am,” Shawn said firmly.

    His mother shook her head, “You just can’t separate that boy from his dog. I’m afraid you’re stuck with both of them, dear.”

    “Not a problem!” Carrie bounced back quickly. “Shall we go?”

    Shawn’s mother hugged him and bid him goodbye, reminding him that he needed to sleep right, not push himself too hard, be careful – as though he didn’t know these things.

    “Goodbye Mrs. Downes!” Carrie waved. “We’ll be back in no time!”

    “You two be careful!” His mother called. “And do say hello to your parents for me, Carrie!”

    Shawn walked ahead of Carrie as she continued to shout back to his mother. He was already feeling apprehensive about this journey, but Poochyena hopped along next to him, barking happily, and Shawn couldn’t help but catch some of the dog’s excitement. He decided to look on the bright side: they were leaving Loland Town for a while. Finally, they were heading back out on the road again.

  3. #3
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    Chapter Three


    On the road again.


    They headed north.

    North was actually the only way to go. Loland Town sat nearly at the southern tip of Meridian Island. Shawn knew that Meridian Island was nearly two hundred kilometers long, running north to south. The road they were on was Main Ridge Road, so named because it followed a high ridge that ran along the center of the island, from the southern shore all the way to the mountains in the north. If you strayed far enough to either side of the road, you would see the land slope gradually downward off of the ridge, just like it did back home where Shawn liked to stare out at the Blood Marsh.

    Shawn had only traveled across the island on foot once before. Several years ago, he had gone on a class trip with school. They had first walked to Treline Town, where they had met up with the Treline school, and then trekked three days north to Mountain City, learning about the environment and geography and wilderness survival the whole time. Shawn knew that Blueport City would be only a days’ travel from Mountain City. So, if all went well, they would be in Blueport in just five days.

    That is, if he lasted that long.

    “Those berries on that tree are great for cooking,” Carrie was explaining. “My mother uses them in stews all the time. But don’t eat them raw! They’re toxic, and they’ll put you in bed for days! And those leaves there are very special. They turn yellow in the winter time, but no one is quite sure why…”

    She was a bottomless pit of useless knowledge about the plant life. When they had started out of Loland Town, Shawn thought for sure that she would run out of things to say soon, but they had been walking for over an hour already, and she hadn’t let up yet. He felt like he was on another school trip.

    Poochyena didn’t seem nearly as perturbed by Carrie’s lectures as Shawn was. The little Pokémon was running around, sniffing trees, barking at rustling leaves, jumping around at Shawn’s feet. As Shawn watched, Poochyena charged forward and tripped over a branch, tumbling into a pile of leaves and grass. Shawn laughed as the dog attacked the leaves in revenge, tossing them here and there.

    His laughter interrupted Carrie in the middle of an explanation about tree bark. She watched the Pokémon for a moment. “Does he always stay out of his Pokéball?”

    “Usually.”

    “He does have a Pokéball, doesn’t he?”

    “Yes,” Shawn said. He had Poochyena’s Pokéball in his bag. He knew many people kept their Pokémon stored inside the small balls and released them when they were needed, but he also knew many who didn’t. He had always liked having Poochyena around, so he rarely returned the dog to his ball.

    “Does he have a nickname?” she asked.

    “Not really.”

    “Why not?”

    Shawn shrugged. He had never felt the need to give his friend a nickname. He was fine just calling him Poochyena. Or “Pooch,” sometimes.

    “I think a Pokémon should have a nickname,” Carrie said. “Otherwise how can you tell one Poochyena from another?” She adjusted her backpack on her back. Shawn thought her bag didn’t look very comfortable.

    “What do you have in your bag?” he asked.

    “Clothes, water, lunch, some extra supplies, and plenty of books, of course.”

    “Books?”

    “Naturally. These books are my source for all sorts of wilderness information. It’s an essential part of being an adventure guide.”

    “How many books do you have?”

    “Let’s see,” she counted on her fingers. “I’ve got the Field Guide to Fruits and Berries; the Field Guide to Island Trees; the Field Guide to Pokémon of Meridian Island; the Field Guide to Bird Pokémon…”

    Shawn shook his head and went back to watching Poochyena chase insects in the bushes.

    ********

    They kept up a good pace for the next few hours. Around midday they decided to stop for lunch. Shawn walked off the road to find a good spot to sit. Carrie hurried after him, shouting about how he shouldn’t wander too far from the road.

    They found a nice flat patch of grass and settled there. Shawn thought it was a great spot; they were only several meters from the road, which made Carrie happy, and it had a decent view of the forest running down the western slope of the ridge. Carrie immediately pointed out several species of tree.

    Shawn ate his lunch quickly and then got up to play with Poochyena. He snapped a branch off of a tree and waved it around as the Pokémon leapt up, trying to grab it with his teeth. Finally the dog got fed up with him and tackled him hard, sending them both rolling to the ground.

    Carrie shook her head, “How silly.” Shawn ignored her. He was having fun.

    Suddenly there came a roaring sound from the distance. Looking down the slope, they could see a small group of Pokémon making their way through the trees. They were too far away to notice the adventurers at the top of the ridge.

    Carrie already had her book out. “Those are Vigoroth,” she said. “The book says it’s pretty rare to see them so close to the road.”

    The Vigoroth were covered in white fur and had long arms. They leapt from tree to tree, swinging on the branches or jumping around on the ground, making a lot of noise as they did. Shawn and Poochyena stopped playing to watch them; they were quite a sight to see, and besides, Shawn figured it was best not to attract their attention by making noise.

    “Shouldn’t you send out your Pokémon,” Shawn asked Carrie quietly, “in case we need protection?”

    “I don’t think that’s necessary,” she said confidently. “So long as they stay down there, we’ll be fine.”

    Eventually the Vigoroth disappeared into the denser forest farther down the slope. Shawn and Carrie packed up and headed back to the road.

    After a few more hours of travel, they came to a split in the road.

    “The road ahead leads to Hiland City,” Carrie said. Shawn knew this. “But we don’t have time left today to make it there, so we’ll take the path to the right, which leads to Treline Town.” Shawn knew this, too.

    “Treline Town is where my family lives,” Carrie said. “It’s a very nice town. As we follow the road, we’ll be walking down the slope off the main ridge. You’ll notice that the forest on the ridge is fairly open, but if you go far enough down the slope, you hit a point where the trees quickly become denser. Treline Town sits right on that transition. In fact, that’s where it got its name - the town that sits at the dense tree line. The denser forests of Meridian Island haven’t been explored very much, so…”

    Shawn tuned her out. He had learned quite enough about forests today.

    ********

    It didn’t take them much longer to get to Treline Town. By this time, the sun was beginning to set over the ridge behind them, and Shawn’s feet were starting to hurt from walking all day.

    Treline Town had the same small town feeling that Loland Town did, except that it lacked the ridge-top view that surrounded Loland. Treline instead had forest all around it, denser to the east. Shawn wasn’t sure he liked being surrounded by trees like this.

    As they entered the town, Carrie was greeted by several people, and she cheerily waved back at all of them. Shawn felt somewhat liberated being in a town where nobody knew who he was. He didn’t have to force a smile at anyone or promise to tell his mother anything.

    “Oh, Cheryl! Hi!” Carrie called to a girl standing outside a nearby store. “Shawn, come meet my sister!”

    She led him over to the store – a bookstore, by the look of it – and introduced him. Cheryl was tall, with curly hair just like Carrie’s. Shawn guessed she was a few years older than her younger sister. On her shoulder sat a big, colorful Pokémon, which Shawn recognized as a Beautifly, with big blue eyes and bright multi-colored wings. Shawn didn’t like the Beautifly. They way its antenna twitched slightly, the way its long proboscis extended and curled slowly; Shawn felt uncomfortable looking at it.

    “Cheryl is a teacher at the Treline school,” Carrie explained. “She’s a very good teacher, too. We’re all very proud of her.”

    Cheryl smiled, “It’s nice to meet you Shawn.”

    “You too.”

    “Is that your Poochyena?”

    He looked down. Poochyena was staring at the Beautifly on Cheryl’s shoulder. He didn’t seem to like it either.

    “Yes.”

    “He’s very cute,” she said.

    “Thanks.”

    “We’re headed toward Blueport City!” Carrie said to her sister. “I’m leading Shawn there as his adventure guide.”

    “That’s exciting,” Cheryl said. “Is it safe? I’ve heard the roads aren’t very good for traveling these days.”

    “It’s actually been just fine,” Carrie said. “We made it all the way here from Loland Town with no incidents at all!”

    “Well that’s good,” Cheryl smiled. She looked at Shawn, “Are you having a good trip so far?”

    Shawn grunted unenthusiastically.

    “It’s been great!” Carrie said. “Have you heard from Matthew recently?”

    “Not recently. I’m sure he’s doing just fine.”

    Carrie turned to Shawn, “Matthew is our brother. He’s sixteen, two years younger than Cheryl. He’s a Pokémon trainer. When he was fourteen, he took off for the Sinnoh region, promising to be a great Pokémon battler. Last time we heard from him, he said he had earned two gym badges already! We’re all very proud of him.”

    Cheryl nodded, “Looks like his Dustox is taking him places.”

    “Cheryl and Matthew each caught a Wurmple when they were younger,” Carrie explained to Shawn. “But Matthew’s evolved into a Dustox instead of a Beautifly! Isn’t that strange?”

    “Do you have a Wurmple?” Shawn asked Carrie.

    “No, our Carrie hasn’t caught a Wurmple,” Cheryl said, grinning at her sister.

    Carrie smiled, looking embarrassed for some reason, “No, not just yet.” She suddenly got more serious, “But anyway, it’s getting late. Shawn and I should find some dinner and get some rest, don’t you think, Shawn?”

    “Sure.”

    “It was nice to meet you,” Cheryl said as Carrie led him away. Shawn stared back at the Beautifly’s big blue eyes for a second, then turned to follow Carrie.

    “Will we stay at your parents’ house tonight?” he asked.

    “Oh, no,” she said quickly. “Wouldn’t it be nicer to sleep out under the stars? That’s how true adventurers do it, anyhow. I know some wonderful places just outside of town where there is soft grass and some really neat trees.”

    Shawn wondered for a brief moment why Carrie would want to sleep outside instead of at her own home, but he pushed the thought aside. After all, if that was “how true adventurers do it” she was probably used to it. He was relieved actually. It meant he wouldn’t have to force pleasantries with anyone. Sleeping outside in the woods, away from the townspeople, sounded just fine to him.

  4. #4
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    Chapter Four


    Just fine...

    “Even though Treline Town is located close to Loland Town, they weren’t founded anywhere near the same time. Loland Town was founded much earlier. In fact, it wasn’t until most of the northern cities already existed that people decided to put a town here.”

    They had gotten up nice and early that morning to get back onto the road, and Carrie was just as verbose as ever. Apparently her expertise extended to useless historical knowledge as well. Neither Shawn nor Poochyena was much of a morning person (or Pokémon), but they were feeling pretty good this morning. Sleeping on the soft grass had been wonderful; it really made them feel like they were traveling, like real adventurers. Even Carrie’s lectures seemed slightly less boring today.

    They followed Treline Road back up to Main Ridge Road and continued north. It was a great day for travel, Shawn thought. The sun was bright; they could hear birds chirping in the forest all around them. Shawn took out Poochyena’s ball to play with. He would toss it down the road ahead of them, and Poochyena would run and tackle it, then carry it back. Shawn even caught Carrie smiling at the dog’s antics.

    When the sun was directly above them, they sought shade under some trees and ate lunch. Carrie took out a book to look up a nearby berry that she couldn’t identify. Shawn looked into the distance. Far away, over the tops of the trees, he saw an area where several trees were swaying, and leaves were flying into the air in some kind of miniature whirlwind. He felt a moment of concern, remembering the stories he had heard about dangers on the roads, but then the strange phenomenon had ended. He stared at the spot, wondering if it had been just some wild Pokémon. He decided not to worry about it. After all, they had gotten through all day yesterday without any trouble. Maybe the stories were exaggerated. His mind turned to other things.

    “Carrie, you said your brother is a trainer, right?”

    “Yep. He’s travelling all over Sinnoh to become strong!”

    “You said he had two badges?”

    “Yes. He’s defeated two Gym Leaders.”

    “What does that mean?”

    “You don’t know how Gyms work?” she asked. “Well I suppose it makes sense, since we don’t have any here on Meridian. Well, in a lot of regions, there are Pokémon Leagues. Each League has eight gyms. Each gym is headed by a Leader, and they are all really strong Pokémon trainers. If you can defeat the Leader, he’ll give you a commemorative Gym badge. Eight badges means you can challenge the Pokémon League, a team of the strongest Pokémon trainers in the region.”

    “Wow,” Shawn says. “Sounds like it’s really tough to beat the Pokémon League.”

    Really tough. Only the strongest trainers can do it. Defeating all eight Gym Leaders, the Elite Four, and the League Champion is a huge accomplishment. My brother can do it, though. He’s a really skilled trainer.”

    Shawn thought about this. He wondered what it would be like to travel around battling with Pokémon. He’d sure like the travel part. “Does the rest of your family battle?” he asked.

    “Mostly it’s just my brother. My sister used to battle a bit when she was younger, but now Beautifly is just around for show, really. Do you battle with your Pokémon?”

    “No,” he said. “I mean, me and Poochyena used to have little practice battles with other kids in town, but I never really got into it. Never really saw the appeal. I think my dad used to, though.”

    Shawn looked at Poochyena. He knew the little dog knew a couple of attacks, but had never seriously thought about battling, and Poochyena never seemed to want to battle all that much. Although, Shawn remembered, the few times they had battled, Poochyena had been really excited. Maybe someday they could learn how to battle. Maybe someday they could even battle Gym Leaders.

    “What do you think, Pooch?” he said. “Travel around the world battling?”

    Poochyena rolled over and stuck his tongue out. Shawn took that as a maybe.

    ********

    After another couple hours of travel, Carrie informed Shawn that they were getting close. “You see that big tree with the black leaves?” she said. “That means it’s only a little bit farther to Hiland City.”

    Shawn was excited. It had been a long time since he had been in a bigger city. He remembered running around the streets with Poochyena. There were lots of hiding places in a big city, and their hide-and-seek games could go on for hours.

    “It’s interesting, isn’t it?”

    “What?”

    “The name of the city.”

    “Oh.” This was another history lesson.

    “Hiland City is named ‘High-land’ even though there are three other cities at higher elevation. Don’t you wonder why that is?”

    Not really, thought Shawn.

    “Well, back when Meridian Island was first settled,” Carrie went on. “The first settlement was called the Low-Land settlement, because it was at the lowest point of the ridge. Later, they built a second settlement farther up the ridge, and called it the High-Land settlement, since it was the higher of the two. Today, we still call those two settlements Loland and Hiland. The history of the island is very – Shawn, what are you doing?”

    He was staring at the big tree with the black leaves. “I thought I saw something moving in the tree. I can’t see anything now though.”

    “Well, I didn’t notice anything,” Carrie said. “I can’t even hear any birds chirping in that tree.”

    Again, Shawn thought he saw the leaves move, ever so slightly.

    “Actually,” Carrie continued. “I can’t hear any birds chirping anywhere. I wonder why that is?”

    SSSSSSNAP!

    With an explosion of leaves, a huge face shot out of the tree above Shawn. He yelled and fell over, and a pair of jaws snapped shut inches from his face, two enormous red fangs just barely missing his skin.

    Carrie screamed and Shawn rolled away, bouncing to his feet. Poochyena was barking angrily at the attacker.

    They watched as a huge snake lowered itself out of the tree. It was dark with bright markings, and it held both its head and its tail a few feet above the ground. Two red fangs, almost comically long, stuck down out of its mouth, and its tail ended in a large, deadly-looking blade. All in all, the snake must have been twice as long as Shawn’s entire body.

    Shawn stared at the snake, and it stared back. Its thin red eyes were mesmerizing; Shawn found himself fixated on them. He couldn’t look away. Carrie yelled at him, urging him to move. He took a tentative step, but his body wouldn’t listen to him. He couldn’t stop staring at those eyes as the snake swayed slowly side to side, and slithered slowly closer.

    Suddenly, Poochyena charged forward and tackled the snake, and Carrie threw a large rock at its head. The snake recoiled from this double attack. Carrie grabbed Shawn’s arm and pulled him along, “Come on!”

    Shawn overcame his strange paralysis, and the three of them ran off the road and into the forest. They could hear the snake hissing angrily behind them. They ran through the trees until they couldn’t hear the snake anymore, then Shawn pulled Carrie behind a big tree. Breathing hard, leaning up against the bark, he whispered, “Now would be a good time to send out your Pokémon.”

    “Um…” Carrie seemed uncertain.

    “What are you waiting for?”

    “I … I don’t have any Pokémon.”

    You don’t have any Pokémon??

    CRASH!

    They both screamed as the bladed tail of the snake sliced into the tree trunk next to them, sending splinters and dust flying. They ran again, back toward the road this time. They shot across the road and dove into a shallow ditch on the other side. Shawn tried to calm his breathing as he lay in the ditch, trying to remain as still and silent as possible. They could hear the snake slithering onto the road behind them. Carrie was shaking beside him. What to do… He could hear the snake hissing softly as it scanned the trees, looking for them.

    Shawn looked at Poochyena. “Poochyena,” he said, as quietly as possible. “We need you to distract it, get it away from here.”

    Poochyena growled a low reply and crept off into the woods. Shawn looked at Carrie. She mouthed the question, “Will he be okay?”

    Shawn nodded. Poochyena was extremely good at running away from people. They would often chase each other around for fun, but when the little Pokémon really wanted to escape someone, no one could catch him.

    They waited for many excruciating seconds. They couldn’t hear the snake moving anymore. Was it closer? Was it right above them, ready to strike? Shawn was too terrified to look.

    And then, a distant howl, coming from the forest south of them. Immediately they heard the snake’s hiss. Shawn was horrified to hear how close it was. And then they heard it slither off quickly down the road. They waited a while to be sure it was gone, then Shawn very slowly raised himself to look at the road. There was no snake.

    They got back up and stepped onto the road. A few minutes later, Poochyena reappeared, bounding out of the forest. Shawn grabbed him in his arms and hugged him tight. “Good job,” he whispered. “Great job, Poochyena.”

    “That sure was close,” Carrie said breathlessly.

    Shawn rounded on her, so quickly and angrily that she recoiled from him. He had a lot of things he wanted to say to her, but with much effort, he stopped himself. Now wasn’t the time. Now they had to keep moving. “Stay close,” he said. “And don’t talk to me.”

    They walked down the road in silence. The forest that had before seemed so majestic and wonderful was now positively frightening. With every minute that passed, Shawn expected some monster to leap out at them.

    None did. The rest of the trip to Hiland City was silent and terrifying, but uneventful. When they reached the city, Shawn made a beeline to the Pokémon Center. Hiland City was actually one of the few places on Meridian Island that had a true Pokémon Center. The smaller towns had no need for them. Shawn knew that the Pokémon Center would have spare rooms for travelers to spend the night, and more importantly, a nursing staff to check on tired or hurt Pokémon. Once inside the Center, Shwn immediately took Poochyena to the counter to have him looked at. He wanted to make sure his friend hadn’t been hurt. The nurse assured him that Poochyena was fine, exhausted by the excitement, but otherwise alright. Shawn thanked her gratefully and took Poochyena back. The dog licked his face happily.

    Carrie was sitting in a chair with a book open on her lap. As Shawn approached her, she said, “According to this book, that was a Seviper. This says they’re only ever seen by the Swamp. I know that in Loland Town, you call it the Blood Marsh, but this book calls it the Southwestern Swamp. I wonder what it was doing so far away from there.”

    “Who cares what it was doing there?” Shawn shouted, startling her. “I’m more worried about how you almost got us killed!”

    She looked shocked, “M-me?”

    “Yes you!” He nearly screamed. “What do you mean you don’t have any Pokémon? How are we supposed to protect ourselves? What kind of guide are you? How many times have you even made this trip?”

    Her lip trembled, “Well, I … I went with school that one time. Remember? You were there.”

    He was beyond enraged. He wanted to scream and yell, but no words came to him. He mouthed silently for a second, then turned around and walked quickly toward the door of the Center, shaking in rage. He slammed the door open, nearly running over a young woman making her way inside. “Excuse me!” she shouted. Shawn didn’t answer. He didn’t care. He was so angry.

    Poochyena wasn’t following him. Good. He wanted to be alone with his anger. He stalked around the outside of the Pokémon Center, talking to himself.

    “She lied to me! She lied to my mother! How could I have trusted that idiot? No Pokémon! We could have been killed! To think of all the danger we were in with every step we took!”

    By the time he had made one lap around the Center, he was cooling off a little. He was thinking a bit more clearly. It was obvious that he was going to have to take things into his own hands. Carrie plainly had no idea what she was doing. He couldn’t go back home, his dad needed him. But he couldn’t go on like this, without any security. The next wild Pokémon attack could do them in.

    He saw Poochyena waiting for him outside the door to the Pokémon Center. The little dog had done a great job saving them from Seviper, but he might not be so lucky next time. Shawn needed more help.

    He needed more Pokémon.

  5. #5
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    Default Chapter Five

    Chapter Five


    More Pokémon...


    Carrie sat alone in the Pokémon Center, trying to calm herself down. Poochyena had only stuck around for a minute or two after Shawn had stormed out, then the little Pokémon had run off as well, leaving her alone.

    What was she going to do? She had failed at her job. She was supposed to guide Shawn all the way to Blueport City, but … how would she do that now?

    “Excuse me, did you see that Pokémon?”

    She looked up. An older girl was standing next to her chair, looking at Carrie’s book, which still lay open on her lap.

    “Oh … yes,” she said. “One attacked me and my friend on the road.”

    “Did you battle it?”

    Carrie shook her head, “I couldn’t. I don’t have any Pokémon. My friend had his Poochyena distract it, and we got away. But now he’s mad at me and I don’t think he’s ever coming back. I was supposed to be his adventure guide and I messed it up.” She took a deep breath and stared at her lap, trying to hold back a sob.

    The older girl smiled, “I’m sure he’ll be back.”

    “You think so?” Carrie looked up.

    “Sure. Boys are like that. They get themselves in a huff and storm off, but they don’t hold grudges very long.” Her smile was reassuring.

    Carrie smiled back and wiped her eyes. “Thanks.” She looked down at her book, “Why did you ask about Seviper?”

    “I was wondering where you saw it. I didn’t realize there were any on Meridian Island. I was hoping to find one to battle, maybe even capture it.”

    “Oh. Are you a Pokémon trainer?”

    “Yep,” the girl said. “Always looking for new Pokémon.”

    “Do you have a field guide?”

    The girl laughed, “No, I don’t. I could probably use one. I usually just kind of wing it.”

    Carrie laughed too. She liked this girl. “My name’s Carrie.”

    “I’m Reagan.”

    ********

    Shawn wasn’t exactly sure how to catch a Pokémon. He had never done it before. Poochyena had been a gift from his parents when he was younger, and he didn’t have any other Pokémon. But people caught Pokémon all the time. Supposedly you battle a wild Pokémon, and then when it’s weak enough, you toss the Pokéball and if you’re successful, you capture it. He had bought some Pokéballs at the store in Hiland City. He had Poochyena with him. Now he needed to find a wild Pokémon.

    He wandered around the forest just outside of the city, looking in the trees and the bushes. He saw a couple of bird Pokémon, but they flew away before he even got a good look at them. Poochyena had picked up on how serious Shawn was, and had dutifully set himself to the task at hand for a while, but was starting to get bored of snooping around. He tugged at Shawn’s leg, hoping to run around a bit.

    Shawn wouldn’t have it. “You have to be in top form to battle for me,” he
    said. Poochyena whined in protest. “Sorry, Pooch, but we need some more help if we’re gonna make it to dad. Carrie sure isn’t any help to us.”

    With a rustle of leaves, a small tan-colored Pokémon waddled out of a bush in front of them. It looked like a strange, plump mushroom with green spots. It didn’t look very impressive, but it was the only Pokémon they had gotten close to all night, and Shawn was determined to catch something.

    “Alright, Poochyena,” he said. “Are you ready?” Poochyena growled a response and stared intently at the other Pokémon.

    Shawn only knew one attack that Poochyena had that could help, so that’s what he used.

    “Tackle!”

    Poochyena slammed into the tan Pokémon, sending it rolling over in the grass. Shawn grinned in triumph. It looked like a good hit.

    The mushroom Pokémon got to its feet and charged forward. It ran up to Poochyena and pushed up against the dog with what looked like a small spout at the top of its head, and for a moment it seemed to suck the energy right out of Poochyena. The little dog yelped and leapt back.

    Shawn had no idea what kind of attack that was, but he didn’t like it. He sent Poochyena forward again. This time, when Poochyena tackled it, a small cloud of purple powder burst off the tan Pokémon’s body and clung to the little dog’s fur. Shawn barely had enough time to wonder what it was before the mushroom tackled Poochyena, sending him falling to the ground.

    As Poochyena stood back up, he shuddered a little, and looked like he was in pain. That powder was poison, Shawn realized. Poochyena’s poisoned.

    He couldn’t give up now. “Tackle!” Poochyena tackled the other Pokémon again, but his opponent immediately jumped back up and used its energy-sapping attack again. Poochyena stumbled backward and shuddered violently as the poison worked at him.

    Shawn was worried. Poochyena was barely standing, but the other Pokémon looked like it was doing okay. He had to do something. Another hit – another second, even – and Poochyena would be down. They could run … but Poochyena had tried so hard to help him catch this Pokémon, and Shawn knew that poisoning effect would be extremely useful to have on his team. He knew that a Pokémon had to be weakened before it could be caught. Was this Pokémon weakened enough?

    It was either run or throw a Pokéball. He threw a ball.

    The ball hit the mushroom Pokémon on the head and sprang open. There was a flash of light and the plump Pokémon was absorbed into the ball, which fell to the ground. The Pokéball wobbled back and forth as Shawn and Poochyena watched tensely, and then, it stopped wobbling and lay still.

    Shawn had caught the Pokémon.

    ********

    In the Pokémon Center, there was a spare room set aside with a row of beds for travelers to sleep in overnight. Carrie was the only one in there. She claimed one of the beds by placing her bag on it, and walked back out to the lobby. She saw Shawn waiting by the counter and slowly made her way towards him, wringing her hands.

    When she got close, she spoke in a quiet voice, “Shawn, I’m sorry.”

    He didn’t answer.

    “Really, I-“

    The nurse came out of the back room and handed Shawn two Pokéballs. “Good as new,” she said. Shawn thanked her.

    He turned to Carrie. She started to talk, but he interrupted her, “Get some sleep, we’re back on the road tomorrow.”

    “Are … are we going home?”

    “No. We’re going to Blueport City. That’s still the plan.”

    “But … will we be safe?”

    Shawn didn’t answer. He stared silently for a moment, his dark eyes fixed on a point just beside Carrie, a flicker of uncertainty on his face. Then he snapped back to attention, turned and walked away.

  6. #6
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    Default

    Finally, he found a break in the trees, a small clearing. In front of him, the land sloped gradually downward. He could see for miles and miles. The forest extended down the gentle slope and into the distance, and beyond the forest was a great marshland, dark and mysterious. The light of the setting sun cast a deep red hue over the marsh, giving it an ominous, captivating glow.
    This is very good, it gives a very good feel of what the area looks like. As a whole I would say you are very good at describing areas and painting a picture in the mind. One thing you could improve upon (unless its deliberate) is giving a description for the main character. Maybe I am being dumb and missed it, but I don't think you included one. Anyway, other than that, this is very good, so good luck with this fic!
    Fallout: Hoenn
    Fallout, but with Pokemon

    Update 5 out now!

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    Default

    Thanks for the review, Jamusio! It actually did occur to me recently that I didn't include a description of the main character. That wasn't necessarily intentional, but I think I'll leave it like that for now. Lets the reader imagine what they want.

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    Happy holidays everyone! I'm back with the next chapter! It's a bit longer than usual. Think of it as a last-night-of-Hanukkah present.


    Chapter Six


    Will we be safe...


    They headed out shortly after breakfast, taking Main Ridge Road as it passed straight through Hiland City and continued north outside of the city. Today would be a short travel day. Shawn remembered the stops they had made on that school trip to Mountain City. They had gone from Loland Town to Treline Town to Hiland City, and then they had stopped at a place called the Outpost.

    The Outpost was a building that sat alongside the road about one-third of the way between Hiland and Mountain City. The trip between the two cities was generally considered too far for a single day’s walk, so a local family had set up the Outpost; they lived in the building, but had plenty of spare rooms where travelers could rest and recuperate overnight. They would even offer food if their guests hadn’t brought their own.

    The following day would be a long trip, from the Outpost to Mountain City, but today wouldn’t take nearly as long, and Shawn was happy about that. Even with his newly caught Pokémon, he was terrified of running into more dangers on the road.

    Carrie was silent as they walked away from Hiland City. Good, Shawn thought. This is her fault, after all. They walked for a while, until the city disappeared from view behind them. Then she finally spoke.

    “Shawn, I’m sorry.”

    He didn’t answer.

    “I’m sorry I misled you. I know you hate me.”

    Shawn still didn’t answer. He wasn’t sure he could deny it.

    “I just … I wanted to help. I wanted to do something important.”

    Shawn didn’t say anything. He didn’t want to hear about her feelings. Poochyena walked quietly beside him. The Pokémon seemed to pick up on the tension, and kept calm and silent.

    They walked for a while without talking, listening only to the leaves rustling in the wind and the sound of their own footsteps on the road. Even in the bright morning sun, Shawn found himself projecting horrors into the trees around them. Every rustling leaf could be a creature stalking them, though he couldn’t see anything nearby. Finally, he found the silence unbearable. He needed something to distract him, even if it meant talking to Carrie.

    “Do you know of a small polka-dotted Pokémon that looks kind of like a mushroom?” he asked.

    “Um, I can’t think of any,” she said. “But I can look in my field guide.”

    “Sure.”

    She rifled through the pages as she walked. “Here! Shroomish. Is this it?”

    Shawn looked at the page, “Yeah that’s it.” The guide listed attacks that a wild Shroomish might know. Tackle. Absorb.

    Absorb. That must be the attack it used to suck energy from Poochyena. It sounded useful, but according to the book, Absorb doesn’t poison Pokémon. So how had it done that? Shawn would have to find out.

    “Is that the Pokémon you caught yesterday?” Carrie asked.

    Shawn looked at her curiously.

    “Well, at the Pokémon Center, I noticed the nurse gave you two Pokéballs. I figured you had battled a wild Pokémon and captured it.”

    Shawn looked back to the road. “Yeah, I caught one.”

    “Oh good. Will it help keep us safe?”

    “I hope so.”

    ********

    It wasn’t long after lunch that the Outpost came into view. A three-story building standing alone by the side of the road. Main Ridge Road continued straight past it, but another road branched off and went straight to the west, disappearing over the ridge and into the forest.

    “That’s Westedge Road,” Carrie offered. “It leads to Westedge Town. Westedge Town is supposed to be all the way on the west coast of the island. People from there rarely ever interact with the rest of the island. That town is almost entirely isolated.”

    Shawn wondered what the west coast looked like. It was no wonder people never went there, he thought. He wouldn’t want to take a road that went all the way through the forest. Who knows what you might run into on the way?

    It was only the afternoon, and it was a clear, sunny day, so there was no warning for the sudden storm that kicked up a second later.

    The wind swirled viciously around them, whipping up sand and pebbles that stung the bare skin of their arms and faces. The air was soon so filled with sand and dust that they could barely see. Shawn heard Poochyena yelping in surprise.

    “Let’s get to the Outpost!” Shawn shouted over the wind. He coughed and spat out sand as they ran, covering their faces against the stinging wind. They were almost at the building when the sandstorm subsided, disappearing as quickly as it had sprung up. The air was clear again.

    “Where did that come from?” he asked.

    “I don’t know!” Carrie said. “I’ve never heard of a sandstorm coming up out of nowhere like that!”

    “Oh well. Let’s get inside before it happens again.”

    “Uh oh. Shawn, look.”

    There was a large sign hanging on the door. In big red letters, it said CLOSED. Looking in the windows, he could see that all the lights were off. There didn’t seem to be anyone there.

    This was bad. He hadn’t counted on the Outpost being abandoned. This meant they couldn’t spend the night here. But if they went back to Hiland City, it would be well past dark before they got there, and they’d still have to find a way to Mountain City, which was an entire day’s travel from the Outpost.

    “Oh no, what will we do?” Carrie said, wringing her hands and echoing Shawn’s thoughts. “This is bad, Shawn. Where will we stay? I mean, I think we could make camp nearby, but is it safe to-“

    She stopped abruptly. Shawn turned and immediately saw why: four Vigoroth were emerging from the forest at the edge of the road. They had wide white eyes, and each had a blood-red patch of fur on its forehead. They approached slowly and calmly, but were clearly full of energy. One of them swayed back and forth, two of them bounced slightly up and down, and another dragged its long arms to and fro on the ground, leaving gouge marks in the dirt with its claws. They all bared their teeth and hooted softly, staring menacingly at the humans.

    “Shawn,” Carrie whispered very quietly. “What do we do?”

    Poochyena growled threateningly, but Shawn stopped him. “You stay back, Poochyena!” He pulled Shroomish’s Pokéball from his pocket. I hope you can do it, he thought. He threw the Pokéball, and the mushroom Pokémon appeared in a burst of light. The Vigoroth seemed undisturbed.

    “Alright Shroomish, I need you to poison those Vigoroth, okay?” Shroomish stared back at him blankly. Did it not understand? “Can’t you …?” Shawn began. “Alright then, an attack. Use Absorb!” The Pokémon hesitated a moment, staring at the intimidating Pokémon team in front of him. “Go on!” Shawn urged.

    Shroomish set itself, then charged forward. It stuck the top of its head into the belly of the nearest Vigoroth and drained at its energy. The Vigoroth stared down at it for a moment, and then snarled and swung its claws viciously. With two swipes of its arms, it sent Shroomish skidding across the road. The little Pokémon did not get up.

    “Oh…” Shawn said. The Vigoroth all started growling and flexing their claws. The battle – if you could call it that – seemed to have invigorated them.

    Shawn called Shroomish back into its Pokéball, and said “Run!” He, Carrie and Poochyena ran for the door to the Outpost. Please be unlocked, Shawn begged silently. Please be unlocked.

    It was. Shawn tore the door open and they all dove inside. Turning, he had a brief glimpse of the wide, angry eyes of the charging Vigoroth before he slammed the door shut. He could hear the Vigoroth crash into the door and begin beating and clawing at it, trying to make their way inside. The door seemed to hold firm, for now.

    Carrie ran around the lobby, making sure the windows were all closed and shutters drawn. The building was dark and cold. All of the chairs were stacked upon the tables, and the furniture was covered with a fine coating of dust. The place was abandoned.

    They headed up to the second floor and found one of the spare bedrooms. There were two beds in the room, but they had no coverings, just bare mattresses. They sat down on the floor, pressed up against the wall, listening to the sounds of Vigoroth attacking the building from outside. They could hear the Pokémon beating at the windows and climbing up the walls. Shawn knew it couldn’t be very long before they managed to find a way inside. And what would they do then?

    They sat there for what seemed like a very long time, and still the Vigoroth continued their unrelenting attack, their cries melding with the howling of the wind outside. Shawn heard the walls creaking downstairs.

    “Shawn, what if they never leave?” Carrie said, her arms wrapped around her knees. “What if they break in? What will we do?” She had her eyes clenched shut as if she were trying to close out the image of the attacking Pokémon.

    Shawn didn’t answer. He looked at Poochyena. The little dog was crouched low to the ground, standing at the door to the bedroom, teeth bared and ready for an attack. Just the thought of battling the Vigoroth made Shawn feel ill. They had defeated Shroomish with hardly any effort at all, and Shroomish had nearly beaten Poochyena the day before. Shawn was sure Poochyena wouldn’t last long against them, and he didn’t want to put his friend at risk.

    “Do you have any way of contacting help?” Shawn asked Carrie, trying to hide the desperation in his voice.

    Carrie shook her head, her eyes still clenched shut, "I don’t have a Pokégear or anything. They’re very expensive. I don’t know many people who have them at all, but oh, I should have begged my parents for one. An adventure guide really should have one! Oh, now we’re-“

    “Wait,” Shawn said suddenly, cutting off her rambling. “I think they’re gone.”

    They listened. Outside everything was silent. The banging and hooting of the Vigoroth had stopped. Even the wind seemed to have died down. After listening to the din of the Pokémon for so long, the silence was eerie and uncomfortable.

    “I don’t hear them,” Carrie whispered. “Should we check to see if they’re gone?”

    Neither of them got up.

    From downstairs, they heard the sound of the front door opening. They sat perfectly still. Who could have come inside? They hadn’t seen another person on the road the whole time they had been traveling. Had the Vigoroth figured out how to open the door? Shawn thought with a shudder.

    Despite his fear, Shawn pushed himself to move. He stood up slowly, and crept out into the hall, as silently as he could. Poochyena and Carrie followed close behind him. Peering down the stairwell, they couldn’t see anything, but they heard the front door close, and then footsteps walking around the lobby.

    “Hello?” a voice called from downstairs. “Anyone here?”

    “It’s a person!” Carrie whispered excitedly, and before Shawn could stop her, she called out, “We’re up here!” Shawn silently cursed her. What if this person were a bandit or something? She could be endangering them all. Again.

    A face appeared at the bottom of the stairs and smiled up at them, “Well hello.”

    “Reagan!” Carrie yelled. She jumped up and ran down the stairs to greet the older girl.

    She knows this person? Shawn thought. He looked at Poochyena, but the Pokémon looked as confused as he was. So he went downstairs to meet the new arrival.

    Reagan was a tall girl who looked to be a few years older than Shawn. She had long, straight brown hair and wore a relaxed, confident grin. Shawn thought she seemed oddly good-spirited for someone standing in a cold, abandoned building on the side of the road.

    “What are you doing here?” Carrie was asking.

    “I’m headed for Mountain City,” Reagan answered.

    “Oh, us too! But the Outpost is abandoned.”

    “I knew that,” Reagan said. “It sounds like you didn’t.”

    “Ah … well, no, we didn’t.” Carrie went a little red.

    Reagan chuckled, “I heard a couple of men talking about it a few days ago. They said the family that used to run this place had enough of freak storms and Pokémon attacks so they picked up and left.”

    “How did you get past the Vigoroth?” Shawn asked.

    “Oh, Reagan, this is Shawn,” Carrie introduced him as he walked down the stairs.

    “We’ve met,” Reagan smiled at him.

    “We have?”

    “Yes,” Reagan said. “You nearly ran me over coming out of the Pokémon Center in Hiland. The pleasure was all mine, I assure you.”

    “Oh.”

    Reagan smiled again, “No harm done though.” She gave a friendly wave to Poochyena, who eyed her apprehensively. She then turned to look at the front door. “I saw the Vigoroth run off into the forest as I walked up the road. They left a whole lot of scratches on the walls outside, though”

    “Are you planning on staying here all night, Reagan?” Carrie asked, sounding hopeful.

    “I might as well,” she said. “It’ll be dark out pretty soon. We can head for Mountain City all together tomorrow. Have you guys eaten dinner?”

    “No. We don’t have much food. We were hoping to get food here at the Outpost…”

    “Well it’s a good thing I’ve brought plenty.” She opened her bag and pulled out a couple of packs of food. “Hungry?”

    Yes,” they both said.

    ********

    Shawn, Poochyena and Carrie all felt a bit better after eating. By now the shock of the Vigoroth attack had worn off and it looked like they would have a place to stay after all. Shawn still wasn’t quite sure what to make of their new friend, though.

    Reagan stood up and stretched her back, “If you’ll excuse me. I’m going to see if the ladies’ room still works.” She walked off.

    A moment later, Carrie asked, “How old do you think Reagan is?”

    “Um…” Shawn was caught off-guard. He wasn’t very good at guessing people’s ages, and he didn’t particularly care.

    “I think she’s probably 17 or 18.” Carrie said. “That would make her my sister’s age.”

    “Sure.”

    “She’s a little older than my brother then,” Carrie observed. “I bet they’d be great friends. Reagan is a Pokémon trainer, just like him.”

    A Pokémon trainer. A real Pokémon trainer. Shawn wondered if she was good enough to protect them. She had to be better than he was.

    “So, what exactly happened with the Vigoroth?” Reagan asked, returning to the room.

    “Do the bathrooms work?” Carrie asked quickly. Reagan nodded and pointed, and Carrie hurried off.

    Reagan looked at Shawn, her question still hanging in the air. He sighed, “They came out of the woods at us. I tried to fight them off, but my stupid Shroomish couldn’t hurt them at all.”

    “I see. How many were there?”

    “Four.”

    “Did Poochyena fight?”

    “No. They looked really strong, so we ran into the building. They must have been banging on the walls for an hour before you got here.”

    Reagan nodded and gathered up the packaging for her food, putting it neatly back in her bag. Carrie walked back into the room, yawning. “Reagan, you’re a Pokémon trainer. Does that mean you can protect us from wild Pokémon like those Vigoroth?”

    “I sure hope so,” Reagan said cheerfully. “But I suppose we’ll find out as we go, huh?”

    Carrie and Shawn did not return her smile.

    “Well, let’s leave that to tomorrow,” she continued. “For now, why don’t we curl up on some nice empty mattresses and get some rest. It’s a long way to Mountain City.”

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