Hello everyone, this is Solovino after a looooong absence. I had this idea for the Serebii "Interpretations" contest that I hope you may enjoy.
The questions leading to the interpretation are simple… how dangerous are the arenas and stadiums in the Pokémon World? You probably have wondered about that back in the recess of your head. We know from the anime – not exactly the best source, but it's what we have - that the audience is hosted in the same building and within throwing distance of creatures that can essentially nuke or mindrape an entire block on a whim; even more so in places like a Battle Tower or a ceremonial battle chamber where available room is constrained and a shot the wrong way could mean death crushed under the weight of a mountain.
Of course in a “real world” we can't have it like the games where no matter if the battle takes place at a forest, inside Sylph's building or 200 m underwater, we magically switch to a Featureless Plane where nothing you do affects the outside world. Or can we?
However at the same time we know the people of the Pokémon world have lived with these dangers forever, after all the Pokémon are not a new thing, they've been there long enough to wage wars with and alongside people. So, it is only understandable that Pokémon world's humans have come up with their own solutions to the problem of how to wage personal little wars in a way that is safe™ and fun™ for everybody.
Like what ways, one wonders? Well, let's take an example look of one of the alternatives.
Hope you all enjoy this small story.
Revision note: This contains (or should contain, barring meta exposition) the first internal revision, and thus the entry to the contest as was sent to the judges. Eventually I might post an updated revision.
BUILT FOR RISK
How to Excel at Containing Devastation for Fun and Profit
“Tickets on hand! Tickets on hand!”
“B-14, it's right up the third corridor.”
The sound of an Excadrill yelling in the distance and the orange-ish light from some projectile attack that was for a moment visible at the end of one of the corridors lured the mass of people still trying to get to their seats, many having arrived in delayed transports for the battle event today.
“I hope she sends the Venipede out to fight, I love the way she tries to evade the attacks.”
“Now, if you behave during the matches, we can talk about that Murkrow you want as a starter.”
People are enjoying themselves today, showing their tickets and entering the corridor to walk steadily but eagerly towards the arena where a Semifinals battle was taking place, the first of the day. A soft tremor shakes the corridor for a moment, though no one bats an eye, there's nothing to worry about – the effect in the arena of course had been far worse after the Torterra had managed to land an Earthquake on the cornered Excadrill.
A group of students along with their teacher and a couple of parents take one of the corridors towards a reserved terrace specifically designed for larger groups. The children are of course eager to climb the stairs instead of taking the elevator, which would take more time - they have a match to watch, and Pokémon to be amazed with! The teacher, for the most part, is concerned about the building's safety, but one of the staff officers is quick to quell his concerns.
“…and it's not going to happen, the terrace shielding was tested by letting three Rhyperior fire their…”
Another officer is tending to a well dressed couple and their accompanying Pokémon, a well groomed Serperior. The staffer handles himself with elegance, ignoring the noise and the pressure of the other groups as he leads the couple and the Pokémon to a private elevator guarded by officers in blue uniforms; he then designates one of the guards to accompany the couple and the Pokémon to “VIP box number four”, with the woman commenting in a snazzy tone that with any luck she could meet “the President's wife” during the break.
People push to get into the terraces and watch the battle that ensues. A man in more formal clothing walks in, as stuck to the wall as he can, trying to find a place where he can sit for a moment and tend to the insistent ringing of his cellphone. He manages to find a comfortable space right by the vending machines where a group of kids and their Pokémon are trying their darnest to get drinks and snacks before the corridors close. There are some problems, one of the machines gets stuck and perhaps due to a misunderstanding it is blown up by one of the nearby Pokémon, causing a ruckus; the man decides to walk away and tend to his business somewhere else.
More officers are carefully leading the latest groups of attendants into the corridors and pointing each one to their designated seats, as well as warning about the accommodations and cautions required for those of them who brought their Pokémon along. A young couple rush towards the entrance door that is about to close, the girl hugging a little Absol as if for dear life.
A busy day that is starting well, thinks the well-dressed man. After the last group of people entered the corridors, one of the officers approached a panel on the wall and pressed some buttons; there was some mechanical noise, a couple of lights turned on and off, then a couple of metal bars emerged from the roof and attached themselves to the floor. Orange flags with a sign reading “ACCOMMODATIONS FULL” and “PREFER SOUTH ENTRANCE” popped out of the bars and adorned the area before the corridors. The doors past them closed just as there was a sudden tremor that managed to shake the floor and the ceiling, and the sound of the audience cheering in excitement at a Torterra clashing against a Excadrill can be heard still strong despite the distance and the notorious sound and vibration absorption properties of the building.
All that remains before the arena entrances is the well-dressed man talking on his cellphone, citing some numbers and requesting to whoever was at the other end of the line that more care would be taken with provisions coming by zeppelin.
After a moment the man finishes his call, walks to a nearby table and picks a newspaper from it. He casually heads to a magnetic lock door and slides his card against it, the access granted that allows him to disappear past, into a world of order and silence, as he starts reading the newspaper.
The first part of the match pits the first trainer's Excadrill versus the second trainer's Torterra in a flat artificial arena separated from the surrounding audience both by small foldable graphene-hempcrete panels and by translucent energy shields raised and maintained by a group of Pokémon orbiting the arena, hidden in a small service ring running around it.
Both contenders are quick to take advantage of the battleground's material, a graphite-based derivative of Rhyperior plaques, which, while making harder to use techniques such as Dig as an attack or a maneuver, does provide convenient shielding when the panels are lifted off the ground, just in time to block an incoming Ice Beam or other kind of beam attack.
After a while that grows boring and tiring though, partly because one of the two Pokémon can use his natural shielding instead and the other one does not have techniques that can draw advantage from sustained long-range strategy. In fact none of the two Pokémon have missed a shot so far, yet they have not really damaged each other. Both Pokémon have now to resort to more direct confrontation in the hopes of dealing enough damage to finish their foe, prompting the audience to pay more attention and respond with eager cries and cheering.
It is in these circumstances that one of the Mr. Mime notices a particular motion the Excadrill was performing and decides to warn his partners - a Loudred and a Fraxure - to request their help; just in time, for the Torterra is hit with the full force of a Giga Impact and sent flying off the hardened part of the arena. The first defensive panel was pretty much folded into nonexistence by the impact and the entire mass of the Pokémon continued its way towards the terrace-holding pillars... only to crash against the kinetic barrier held in place by the three Pokémon. The vibration resulting from the impact spreads around and wrecks the supports of several cameras and sensors nearby, but what matters is the audience is unharmed and cheering – and most importantly the pillars that hold the terraces and boxes above them have avoided pretty much all damage.
The Mr. Mime's handler, an old man, watches one of the screens above, indicating a high number in the Mercalli scale, then with a wry expression turns to the seats nearby where some adolescents had nearly tossed themselves up from - as if hoping that the Torterra would have run them over. What kind of demented sport was this was beyond the poor man's comprehension.
The Torterra manages to right himself up after bouncing off the shielding the wrong way, precious time for a counterattack lost as he returns to the battleground – no ring outs here. His head in tremendous pain from the shock of the impact, he takes a time to register his surroundings and then realizes that the Excadrill is ready to attack his cornered form again. Perhaps taken by a momentary fear, the Torterra rapidly charges up Grass-type energy in his muzzle and fires up a Energy Ball aimed at the Excadrill, who only manages to jump above it because he had not yet compromised his maneuverability by starting his own attack. The projectile leaves a tremendous mark on the arena grounds, spreading cracks on the tiles that extend in a ten meter radius.
One of the stadium staffers quickly dashes through the underground service ring to examine the three Pokémon, who growl their assurance that they are okay and can still handle the battle; still, at least the Loudred is made to eat a berry to restore some of his stamina. Then the staffer listens for a moment to the wild roar of the audience, most of them rooting for the Torterra to somehow escape his cornering as the Pokémon attempts to hold the Excadrill at bay with a Swift barrage – a tactic that seems to work thanks to the somewhat hesitant nature of the Excadrill. The man takes a look at the terrace right above then where a well-dressed man can be seen applauding at the displays of power, and wipes the sweat off his forehead as he blesses his luck.
The Presidential box is still safe and sound.
Now the service officers and their Pokémon can return their attention to the Torterra finally having gained the upper hand, such turn of events secured by him assaulting the Excadrill with Razor Leaves.
“EIGHT DEAD, TWENTY SIX INJURED IN ARENA BATTLE GONE WRONG – Trainer responsible also banned as Stealth Rock cripples opponent's Charizard for life”
“Police investigation costs skyrocket in the 'walk-thru walls items thief' case, chief inspector questioned for not heeding 10-year old trainer's warning”
“Crop floodings bring licensing of weather-altering moves into question, pitchfork-and-torch mobs into TV stations”
Armando Pedraza is not a man to laugh at bad news. Anyone can get hit by an Air Slash any day, for any reason, he says. However, in his current position and after all of his hard work, he does allow himself a smirk and a nearly silent “told you so” as he reads the foreign newspaper.
Other people can afford to be careless perhaps, but he, he's devoted ten years of his life to taking care and making sure that the people who are careful can showcase themselves as the trainers of the very best that Nature has to offer.
The Lega Runa Battle Tower, a 600 m tall building made of the strongest materials the alliance between humans and Pokémon can provide, stands as the pinnacle of his life's work. Built at a forest that is now being restored as much as possible to its original ecosystem, its foundations held in place by three pillars dug 40 m under the ground -each one as wide as house and made of a directionally tensile material developed after studies on the morphology of Aggron's chestplates – and a staff of over 1400 people and Pokémon working 24/7 as well, in the various operational facets of such a complex facility, it can be said Armando's work is one that functions at a level that can be described as near-perfection.
The man walks down the corridor towards an elevator casually, reveling in the high performance of his masterwork. He can't see it from the enclosed section of the building he is traversing, but 400 meters below him, in the lobby, various Pokémon assist the security measures. He needs not concern himself with this, all functions as it has to; instead, he enjoys the weekly humor vignette included in today's edition.
Bug-type Pokémon, naturally adept at detecting various chemicals, help the cashiers identify counterfeit money or IDs. Each car and truck is checked by canine and feline Pokémon before being allowed into the parking lot. A team of six psychic Pokémon assist a group of engineers in maintaining a molecules-thin forcefield that dulls the effect of the summer sunlight on the people still waiting outside. The guards's Pokémon are allowed to roam mostly freely and to mingle and socialize with the wild Pokémon population living in the forest around the Tower, providing them with good sources of food, information and support for the rare chance some hooligans are angry that their favourite Trainer just lost a championship.
After a couple of minutes the man reaches a private elevator. There are only a couple of seconds between him pushing the button and the door opening, from which the man concludes he must be one of the first ones arriving to the office or, much more likely, that someone went out recently for reasons related to the match. Perhaps the tremors he has been feeling for the last few minutes have to do something with it, but unless the ceramic walls start cracking and unmaking themselves, announcing serious damage to the gigantic building's structure, then he's not to worry, he feels.
Inside the building things are not too different. The skeleton of the first floors is built with a special titanium-gold alloy tested by the top percentage of Machamp and sustained by special tissue, derived from Ariados silk, that helps distribute the weight and pressure across floors. Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday two teams of engineers accompanied by Loudred and Zweilous inspect the core of the building, listening for any signs of fatigue or leakings. To assist in speedy and clear communications, each floor's ceiling has a thin layer made of a gelatinous compound that, derived from studies on Reuniclus carried in Unova, helps transmit designated psychic signals clearly.
The airport at the top is constructed entirely from carbon fiber and a variety of wood bark extracted from a forest where the trees have sustained the might of Tyranitar for countless generations, and is watched over not only by two radars but also by a team of a Luxray, a Gardevoir and a Dragonite, all using their incredible abilities to detect any possible intrusion, accidental or not, and deal with it.
The cherry on top is not the three specialized battle arenas, each equipped with arm-thick tiles of hempcrete, four-tiers material drainage, energy antisaturation systems and dispersion platforms below as well as energy rerouting screens and multivariable sensors above, nah; that was just mere ISO Standard for battle towers anymore, yet they have experienced quite some accidents.
The man feels the elevator slowing down, reaching its destination, and raises his eyes just in time to hear the bell and see the doors open. A greeting to the old lady sitting to the left, a careful look at the clock hanging from a wall. Before him lies the Accounting Floor. The battle and the cheering going on are six floors above him now, but he knows he is going to return to that level soon enough, he smiles at the certainty that he is going to continue his work, just as everyone else around him, no matter how dangerous things are turning out upstairs.
The cherry on top is what is going on right outside the battle, outside every battle, ensuring that such systems, installed and functioning in such a constrained space, are able to hold against the might of the fiercest Pokémon on the planet besides those acknowledged as cryptids or gods. Machines are powerless against accidents, but humans and Pokémon together are not, as Armando said in an interview for national TV back when construction of the Tower started.
As Armando arrives to Accounting, he meets one of the workers from the Insurance and Legal department waiting for him, sweating nervously. He requests to inform Armando about a developing situation as soon as possible, and is instructed by the manager to walk along. This is how Armando finds out the big scoop: the President is on site, watching the semifinals, in a surprise visit. When how did this happen without the Tower staff being informed and properly prepared, the worker from Legal explains that the visit was actually unplanned for – the Presidential Zeppelin had suffered notorious damage for undisclosed reasons and his security detail has brought him to the Tower in the meantime, deeming the place as the most suitable safe haven within their immediate reach.
Any other manager would be highly concerned that the President was here, exposed and unannounced at one of the battle arenas featuring the most fearsome Pokémon unleashing elemental barrages and pieces of the landscape against each other. Armando is concerned, mind, but for much simpler reasons, and leaves the man from Legal with a simple instruction.
“Have sent a bottle of Carménčre to the Presidential box as well as my apologies to the President for not being able to welcome him to our facilities in person.”
The grasp of the Drapion is way too strong. Numbers in the screen above the stadium increasing rapidly as the Pokémon exerts more strength to crunch his opponent. The Floatzel struggles to release himself from this grip, tries everything up to inflating his sac, but even that seemed to fail.
Not seeing a ready exit and in a very uncomfortable position, the Floatzel then does what next comes to mind – attack directly at the hand that was torturing him. Unable to bite, he starts casting what little Flying-type energy he could muster in his fins to slash at the pincer a couple of times, to no effect; quickly the Floatzel changes strategy again and using his tails he sends an air slash aimed at the arm, this time the Drapion feeling the pain and screeching in response as the screen above shows a small pool of the Pokémon's vital ooze forming right beneath the Floatzel.
«…first hit that manages to draw blood, or whatever that is, in this match, but we can see clearly that is not enough to intimidate a Pokémon like Drapion!»
Drapion of course is quick to answer to this change in strategy, and before the Floatzel could do more damage his head meets the tiles of the arena as the Drapion bashes him against the floor. Once lifted again, the battered Floatzel aims a slash from his fins again to slightly better effect as the Drapion visibly recoiled; still, the Floatzel is not let go and his face once again meets the ground, to much “owwww!” from the audience. One of the screens above lights up with a zoom on the dent the poor Pokémon left on the tile.
Trying to take what little advantage he could from the proximity to his opponent, the Floatzel releases yet another slash aimed at the Drapion's head this time; Drapion is quick to move his entire self aside, not without a yelp, dragging the Floatzel along, and the energy slash impacts the barrier directly behind them instead, its energy dispelled into thin tendrils of green light.
«…bodes not well for the Floatzel. With that grip and another hit like that, I tell you, that Drapion will knock you down!»
The Drapion and the Floatzel both seem to notice now the presence of the barrier behind them – they were close enough to it that each could use it to their advantage if things came to that point. And it is the Floatzel's mind that made something out of it first, though it can not be said it was any a sensible plan.
An Ice Beam is fired at the Drapion's face right as the Pokémon was about to turn around and try crush the Floatzel against the energy barrier, the shot lucky enough to cover the Pokémon's eyes. But the Drapion won't let his prey go without a final punishment, for which he raises his tail and prepares what in the wild would be a fatal sting.
That's the moment that the Floatzel uses to gather all his elemental manipulation power; he lets go the air of his sac and before the Drapion can choose not to tighten his grip further, encases himself in a very strong jet of water that propels him and his captor right against the energy barrier, and from there upwards some good 20 meters in the air before the Drapion finally lets go out of the surprise. All the while the energy barrier managed to hold, absorbing the energy and dispersing it in a combination of blue-ish sparks and an annoying noise that reminded every adult in the arena of their old schooling days back when the teachers used chalkboards.
«Man, that puts a new meaning to the phrase 'sweeping the floor with your foe'!»
The pain was not only something for them, but for the Espeon and the Kadabra who were holding that section of the energy barrier as well. Perhaps due to the noise, perhaps due to the pressure, the Espeon loses focus for a moment, just enough that the barrier is dispelled and the two fighters and the water around them start plummeting down. With a loud call the Kadabra warns her partner about what was going on, but the Espeon is not very lucky today – just a moment after she is soaked in a veritable amount of water, thus completely ruining her fur and her concentration.
As the two fighting Pokémon get to their feet and eagerly resumed their battle stances to start going at each other again, a service worker from the ring approaches with a worried face, trying to pet the Espeon, who hisses at him mostly because of being wet. The man kneels and offers her a rest, an offer which is promptly accepted with a blink and a purr, then he radioes one of his colleagues for a replacement. The response he gets is that one had already been sent on his way; in effect as soon as the human turns around he is faced with the inquisitive stare of a Noctowl.
Management Offices will be a mess today, Armando mutters on his way to the elevator. Too much work to do, an unexpected visitor of the utmost importance, and two incredible matches that the people working there would not want to miss.
It takes him a moment still to reach the final elevator, custodied by a man in blue uniform and his Scyther, both walking circles near the button and the door they are tasked to guard.
“Afternoon, Mr. Pedraza,” greets the guard respectfully. The Scyther, other than leering at the manager menacingly, makes no motion nor sound.
“Afternoon, Coldivar.” He takes a look around and up the stairs to the left. “Everyone at the offices yet?”
“Yes… Well, except for the VIP manager. I guess you heard the news.”
There is a curt nod, Armando being well aware, it was part of what made him a bit nervous, and his staff more so.
As he is about to enter the elevator, Armando notices the Scyther still leering at him. He feels a bit uneasy, which is natural when around a C-class Pokémon, but also feels there is a hint of a challenge that should not have to be given at a place or time like this. The Pokémon was not yet well trained, or at least that was what it seemed.
“That your Scyther?”
The guard turns and looks at his Scyther for a moment, then returns his sight to his boss, apparently having perceived in the faces of both what was going on. He explains that the Scyther female does not like this post at all, probably because of the lack of natural light, the narrow passageways or the carpeted floor; Armando then reminds the employee that guard rotations are scheduled every Thursday and that if he cares for his Pokémon he should be more insistent in pushing for a parking lot shift or something similar, “we don't bite proactive people here”.
After being given thanks by the guard, Armando enters the elevator in a rush, he is probably already late for the opening of the match.
It takes a whole minute for the elevator to reach the designated floor, and the doors open to reveal the Management Offices. Armando is greeted with the secretaries's gestures and the waves of hands from the accounting personnel. He makes his way past them with the customary greetings and brief exchanges of information about the weather, battle scheduling and industrial espionage, then continues towards the staircase that leads to the Observation Station, where his office and the room of the department's pet, a young Ninetales, are located. Not once is the visit of the President mentioned.
The Ninetales is quick to peek out of the door, chewing a small toy he had been playing with. Armando pats the Pokémon, who then climbs down the stairs to request that one of the secretaries plays with him.
As the door of his office closes behind him, Armando feels some sort of rumbling everywhere around him; he listens to one of the commentators in the room's monitor as they announce the second parties of the first Semifinal leaving the battlefield. A sigh, oh well, with any luck the battle will last long enough for him to get to take a look.
The Ampharos screeches in pain as the Earthquake from the shiny Salamence takes its toll, swinging him around like a Pokédoll, despite the opponent Pokémon having landed the attack at a safe distance, about half the arena away. The Ampharos rolls and manages to get back up with quite some effort, he glares at his opponent gone airborne and mostly out of reach again, he knows well, if he can't end the match now he will lose for sure.
The Salamence looks at the world below him, at his opponent strafing slowly, his tail swinging back and forth as he looked for a good angle, but the Salamence is wise and well self-aware, he is not going to let himself open to attack like that with a body build that is prime subject to long-range antiair attacks. Perhaps it is a good time to stop fighting like a dragon, he must have thought, and instead play a game of Glameow and Rattata; yes, after a guttural sound that could have easily been mistaken for a purr had someone been close enough, the disposition of the Salamence changes completely and he starts circling the air, building up draconic, mystic power as he roars an archaic chant in the form of a Dragon Dance.
The concerns now lay not only at ground level but also below, as a group of five Pokémon of strong body build are trying to hold the ceiling -the layer sustaining the very floor of the arena above them- in place while a group of engineers comes in with tools to handle the damage. The Salamence's Earthquake attack dealt damage that overtaxed the already stressed battleground infrastructure; after the Torterra's explosive blasts cracking the ground and the Floatzel having Surfed the battlefield in a late attempt to evade his opponent, the last Earthquake had the nasty effect of cracking both the pipes of the drainage system, flooding the underground supports, and weakening the supports themselves. The one-meter-thick layer of dampening material had meant not a thing now that pretty much the entire surface of the arena had suffered breaking point damage of some sort.
Still, while the underground Pokémon and humans make their move to ensure that the battle could continue, it is the task of the now infuriated Ampharos to end it as soon as possible. A strong bleat resonates in the arena and the disposition of the Ampharos also changes, his smile gone, his eyes focused on the dragon Pokémon and his tail stiffened. The crowd knows what is about to come and they howl and cheer in expectation.
It takes five seconds for the Ampharos to fall back closer to the edge of the arena, a maneuver that surprises the Salamence. As soon as the dragon tries to aim a Flamethrower towards his opponent he has to move away though, as a Signal Beam from the yellow Pokémon's tail orb barely misses the Salamence's head. The Salamence turns towards the edge again, to fire his attack, but can see no mon there.
A gasp from the audience, the Salamence has been fighting in arenas long enough that he knows to turn to the TV cameras to locate his opponent... and he goes agape as the Ampharos has leapt right into the energy barriers, using his electrokinetic power to attach himself to it as a Treecko would a tree, then starts running upwards it to reach about as high as the Salamence is flying. Running!
«Ooooh we're seeing it now, no more nice Ampharos anymore, he's about to rain destruction!»
The Salamence is quick to fly ahead and just about to fire a Dragonbreath towards his opponent when the Ampharos stands on the barrier on his two feet and then extends both his arms. A blinding light, a zapping sound, and the Salamence barely manages to evade two simultaneous Thunderbolts before being hit by the third one, coming from a slightly different angle. The dragon shrieks in pain though fortunately paralysis does not kick in; past him, the sound of the two other Thunderbolts hitting the barriers at the opposite side and being absorbed reminds the Salamence that it is time to move and attack.
The Dragonbreath hits squarely on the barrier, managing to harm the Ampharos, but the electric Pokémon stays attached to the barrier wall and moves freely across it, suddenly eliminating the advantage that flight gave to the Salamence. A couple of seconds later the Ampharos stops again and this time the Salamence can see him charging Tunderbolts from both paws and from his tail orb – the Pokémon is going all out!
This time the Salamence can not avoid the attacks, but manages to endure them. He responds with an angry roar and completes his Dragon Dance circle that was interrupted before, to then fly at the barrier as fast as he can and swipe it out of existence with a mighty Dragon Claw, the Ampharos yelping as he has to leap to the ground below. He lands just in time to roll away from a well-aimed Flamethrower, and makes a run for the next wall with the Salamence chasing behind ready to fire.
Left behind by them is the place where two medics and a Houndoom come to the service ring section right where the barrier was and pick up the Medicham who is there nearly passed out from the pain, sustained at holding a barrier under such circumstances. Not long after, fortunately, a backup team including a Meganium and an Alakazam arrives to erect a new barrier. The man in charge is about to radio his colleagues to notify of the exchange when his sight is blinded by a burst of yellow light that he covers from, followed by the yelp of a Pokémon; an instant later he looks again to see the next section of the ring, the energy shield now gone after receiving the direct impact of the Salamence's Outrage, the two Reuniclus tasked with the shield having been blown a good ten meters off the ground and lying knocked out against a wall. The shadow of the Salamence covers them for a moment menacingly.
More reinforcements are called, which start arriving at full speed, and the shield that was just gone is re-erected immediately. One of the reinforcement Bronzong circles the way around the stadium to assist the Pokémon there in resisting the blast from a triple Thunderbolt from the Ampharos, and this time the shield manages to resist the enormous power, though at the cost of it having spread across the shield and to the various electronics above and below in the form of tendrils of electricity, causing various TV cameras and control devices to just blow up and a random sprinkler to activate on the stadium roof. Instead of any degree of worrying, this only caused the audience to explode in whistling and applause.
The Ampharos and the Salamence continue their all-out attack on each other, one climbing and attaching to the next energy shield available to lash out arcs of electricity that reach everywhere, the other circling around in a roaring revenge, trying to regain the advantage of altitude while raining slashes of destruction on the arena; both of them taxing the infrastructure of the battle arena to a level not often seen and earning endless praise and howling from the audience for it.
The first round of the Semifinals is over already, and the reports continue arriving to the Management Office providing trustworthy and terrific information about the experience the gigantic building has just gone through. The arena is now empty as are most of the seats, the audience taking a well deserved break. Those who don't have a break though are the operatives from the Engineering department, who are working with the utmost dedication to replace the damaged tiles and repair the drainage and the battleground infrastructure before the next match.
Most staffers, after reporting their results and commenting with their colleagues, are worried that something might go wrong in the next match scheduled to start in half an hour. Armando looks at them from his seat, they are right to be worried, that's what they were hired for. But he feels they worry for the wrong events. Nothing is going to go horribly wrong during the battles, let alone during the Final match tomorrow, he assures everyone; the things that can go wrong can go wrong outside the arena, where the situation is not wholly under the control of responsible people who know the true meaning of power.
That is the speech he has always given to his people, ever since the project began. The concept is admittedly simple – all they are doing is offering control for Trainers to use, it is them and their Pokémon in the end who are the stars and right any wrong that gets to happen.
Though, Armando has to admit, he does sometimes allow himself to worry. There are things that could go wrong, anytime, anywhere, like a heartstroke, he thinks as he looks at the cup of tea that is being served to him. Not everything can be secured... or should; for if there are no risks, how can the comfort of safety be adequately met? That's the big question he considers the greatest Trainers answer for the entire world.
He reminds himself of the things that he had seen today as he walked the same corridors that the people wanting to enter the arena. There was this boy in purple shirt who showed him, in an unconventional way, how a safety measure could easily be broken.
“Come on! That's my ride back to port!” the boy had yelled, exasperated, as he punched the machine to no avail trying to force it to give back change.
Then the boy's accompanying Pokémon, a Magnezone who seemed to be on the timid side of things, cautiously floated nearby and, taking advantage the boy's distraction of trying to call for a staff member, shot a beam of green-yellow light to the vending machine, breaking the glass and destroying some of the internal mechanisms. Needless to say, snacks started flying around everywhere and soon a crowd – of men and mon – was gathering to try and grab what they could.
Armando had frowned at the development, as it had distracted him from a phone call, not that he'd care very much, Security could deal with the mess, but there was one thing the boy did…
“…gonna blame us for it! Why did you have to DO that!”
The boy had shaken his hands, reprimanding his Pokémon, who after the attempt of what obviously was meant as assistance to his Trainer, opted to move closer to the opposite wall and return to a timid posture.
Armando turns his sight from his tea cup to the Engineering report on the kinetic dampeners several floors below. All green indicators of course. It is not fair on any of the two, the boy or the Pokémon, he thinks. In a place like this, machines are not supposed to fail to begin with. Or else…
Or else what? There are Pokémon around to deal with whatever happens. They'd help the people. So… what?
There is, or might be sometimes, the reminder that Pokémon do not always want to get stuck with us, Armando thinks with a hint of sadness. They have their own lives, and with them come their own fears, sometimes greater than ours despite the apparent simplicity of their lives.
Right after the incident with the vending machine Armando had tried to look for a place to complete his phone call. He tried retracing his steps back to the entrance of the arena floors, but not long into it he was met with the sight of an enormous group of schoolers and youngsters surrounding a female figure and her boyfriend. The girl, dressed entirely in black and holding a young Absol, was trying to make her way in while trying to evade the amount of people asking for her autograph.
It took some effort for the security detail to provide the girl and her boyfriend passage into the corridor while the mob was held back and instructed to move to the other entrance of the battle arena. Armando of course gave a curt nod to his staff's good performance in handling the situation, but then he noted, as the girl and the boy were walking past him and producing their tickets, that the Absol accompanying them seemed to be everything but eager to march into the seats section.
“Come on, Yin!” spoke the girl in a soft but obviously infuriated tone. “This is not the end of the world, can you for once behave?”
The response of the young Absol was to hiss his disapproval and to claw himself to the ground like a Purrloin would do. It took a couple of minutes of insistence from the young couple before the Pokémon would finally agree to go with them.
All the while, Armando remembers, there had been only one question in his mind.
What is there to ever fear here? Or rather, what is the use of fearing?
We can handle it.
The time for the second Semifinals match has finally arrived. Armando feels actually happy that he'll get to watch this one, if at least for a while - lawyers are insufferable like that.
The manager, tea cup in hand, looks down the window to the renovated battle arena as the information panels start displaying some stats about the upcoming contenders; the crowd gasps and cheers as, much to the dismay of the staff of the service floors - right below the large arena, the radar charts showcasing the contenders's prowess go clearly off the scale, right as the two Pokémon make their way into the battle arena. As the Trainers move to the command benches, Armando frowns, wondering for a moment how long will the rock-solid material of the battleground hold in one piece for this match.
«Ladies, gentlemen, Pokémon and various assorted, welcome to the second Semifinal of this year's Lega Runa Tournament! As the sun sets the titanic clash is about to begin…»
One of the Engineering managers present at the office to give his report can not help but whistle as the commentator introduces the Trainers and their leading Pokémon. The screens turn on with the representation of each Trainer and their teams of three, as the battle commentators proceed to introduce the first Pokémon to be sent out on each team.
«…you have seen him in the news, when he single-handedly held off a squad of Golurk during the attack on the Usonian Presidential Palace earlier this year. We bring to you…!» – and the panel on the left side turns on to reveal the portrait of a Staraptor.
«…during the destruction of the city of Otrea. Revered as Empress of a wild mountainrange where rumor has it poachers dare enter no more. We bring to you...!» – and the right-side panel lights up showcasing the portrait of a Nidoqueen.
Watching the (accurately) overblown statistics again, that feeling of nervousness and contempt at self that Armando and his staff had been feeling earlier during the day returns with full force. He is sure his people have done a good work – while he could not go check it himself, he implicitly trusts the people he sent downstairs to check the damage and the reparations after the audience was moved outside the stadium. While their report was clear in stating that the systems and logistics were back at full operative capacity, it was also clear about the damage suffered during the first Semifinal being about thirty-five percent above the Intelligence department's assessment, both in terms of costs and downtime.
“Kennigan?” he asks one of the staffers who was speaking on the phone. “…I think you better go warn the staff at the kinetic decouplers. This might get ugly.”
The man who answers to the name Kennigan hurries his phone call and, once the situation is explained to him, takes action real fast. He signals for two of the integrity checkout staffers to accompany him and the three take the the elevator out of Management as solemnly and as quickly as they can.
By the time they arrive it is too late to prevent the damage, but not too late to deal with it. How it happened there was no time to find out, it could just as well been the Staraptor slicing the tiles apart to rip the ground open, or the Nidoqueen getting annoyed at the even ground and deciding to just go and kick it into misshapeness. Two of the sustaining pillars beneath the battleground were already cracked and the Engineering team had their hands full trying to prevent the entire thing from collapsing onto the service ring, while the two titans raged above, energy shields casually popping out of existence.
A sudden tremor shakes the entire Management Office, nearly knocking one of the medical officers present there off his feet. A couple of pictures also shatter as they drop from their places in the wall, and the power actually goes out for a second. The Ninetales, puzzled by the event, goes to sit besides one of the broken picture frames and stares at it quizzically, as if expecting it to just reassemble itself and go hang from the wall again.
“…We are holding out well, people.”
The secretaries stare at their boss, a sole sweat drop running his face, then nod assuredly at the statement. Some staffers are quick to move towards the elevator, headed to provide whatever help they can. Armando remains calm and makes a gesture for Ninetales to come, offering him a cookie.
“Why don't you go and follow Kennigan? Just in case he gets in trouble.”
Ninetales nods in understanding, Kennigan will need his help more than Armando or the secretaries will. The Pokémon licks his hand and walks away, while Armando can't help but listen to the cheering of the audience and chuckle at the thought that he is doing things right, that his system works.
Anywhere else that was an unruly land, these powerful creatures would bring utter devastation to whoever opposed them, in the name of whatever and whoever they held dear. But here, they are knighted as entertainers and teachers, bringing to the lives of people not only amazement and excitement but also, perhaps in the heart of a child or a young adult, a special desire to one day train one like them – or better than them.
Yet as he walks to his office's window and watches the tremendous battle unfold below, a voice speaks in the recess of his mind, reminding him that in the end he is just a human, fallible to sin as any. He can do and has done awesome things but, he reminds himself, he must take care to work with Nature and not against it.
Armando chuckles as the Nidoqueen explodes a Water Pulse against one of the containment panels in an attempt to splash-damage her opponent, the defensive panel shattering into pieces, and various Pokémon from the service ring quickly gathering to strengthen the energy shield that still remains; still, it only lasts for a moment as the shield explodes into sparks of aimless energy as the Staraptor's attempt at a Close Combat hits it instead of his opponent. He looks down to the other side of the stadium, to the higher seats, and smiles more openly as he notices the President and his wife drinking a fine wine and whispering to each other's ear, enjoying the battle.
Two more attempts to reraise the energy shields and substitute the panels end up in failure, but the warring Pokémon decide to move away from the area as the Staraptor climbs the air in search for a good angle of attack, then dives in an attempt to Brave Bird his opponent. The Nidoqueen's response is to run towards the center of the arena and start spraying above her. The audience yelps and cries in excitement as all of the panels and shields manage to withstand the saturation, shouting even more as the Staraptor casually bats his wings in a variation of Defog – of all things, must the less-experienced trainers be thinking – to unleash a wind current, powerful enough to swat away all the darts headed his way, and reach the ground, clearing it of dust and momentarily blinding the Nidoqueen.
Armando blinks as he comes to realize that the hardened glass of the window has just been pierced by three or four teal-ish needles, one embedded outside the window, right in front of his arm, evidencing the tremendous reach and power those Pokémon have.
He raises an eyebrow at the development and breathes in relief. If this is the ultimate test his masterpiece must endure, well, he'll say it again, “we're doing very well”.
True, there'll always be this side of him who would rather have ran away with the little Absol when he had the chance, pushing the responsibility and the blame onto someone else.
But he can keep it at bay every morning because his people and their Pokémon are, truly, the Very Best at this work.
You can also read the ruling of the judges on this one. Special thanks to Negrek for assistance in solving doubts related to participation in the contest.
“Pokémon” and the individual species are blah blah Gamefreak woof woof Nintendo you know the whole legalese already.
The characters featured in this story are mine© unless otherwise™ specified where follows®.
The following characters are of the authorship of the members of the We Are All Pokémon Trainers (WAAPT) community who have given their consent to use in this story in the WAAPT discussion forum as of June 1st, 2013:
The Excadrill, Floatzel and Ampharos characters by Tracer Bullet (Spiteful Murkrow here in the forums); the Torterra, Drapion and Salamence characters by Umbramatic (InsaneTyranitar here in the forums). The Staraptor character by Tagg; the boy and the Magnezone at the vending machine by Crow; the girl and the Absol by Mezzopiano; the girl's boyfriend by Memyseldandi.
Insert ISO standard “all persons fictitious” waiver here, you know the Excadrill. No, not the above Excadrill.
No Presidential transports were conveniently damaged during the making of this fanfic.