Hi all! For those of you unfamiliar (make that everybody), I'm Bulba the Great! I frequented these forums in my youth, and wrote two fanfictions, part of an ongoing story arc. The first two are completed, and if you want you may read them at the following links:
One of Many
I now present to you, after a near five year hiatus, the next part of this story. Please read and enjoy, but most of all, comment - I would like to write if not as a profession, at least as a regular hobby, and always look to improve.
Without further ado, here is chapter one!
Earth, Air, Water, Fire
The lighthouse stood in solitary opposition to the blood red sun setting on the wide horizon. A harbor bell rang from across the sea, hollow and without echo. Sitting alone on the battered, weathered dock, a lean figure tossed a stone over the water and watched it break the magnificent streams of color reflected from the sun.
His hair was a brilliant shade of magenta, a striking departure from the rest of his appearance. He was clad in a suit coated with intricate patterns of murky blues and grays, which blended easily with the jetty in the fading light. The only other defining feature that separated him clearly from the beaten stones around him was the gleaming opalescent holster fixed around his waist, a gun jutting out from one side, the other bearing three miniature orbs, half-red and half-white.
A barely audible rustle to his left was enough to cause his gloved hand to shift adroitly to the side of his belt containing not the gun, but the spheres. He removed one, allowing it to enlarge in his hand, an unseen energy pulsing from it.
“Show yourself.” Out of the shadows stepped a second figure, this one female. She was adorned in the same cloudy colors as the man, although her outfit was clearly a mass-produced uniform. A shape half her size skulked behind her, hovering about a foot off the ground, its four wings beating furiously but silently.
“Gabriel, the boy has been spotted.” The man stood at once, stepping to the same level as his subordinate. The ball remained ready in his hand.
“You’re sure it’s him?” The girl nodded. “I see. Where is he?”
“He’s heading this way, as you predicted. The city has been set for his imminent arrival. Once he’s passed through the second gates, he’s ours.” The man nodded, a hungry look in his eyes.
“Good. I’m trusting you’ve secured the western perimeter as well. The last thing we need is for him to escape into the Battle Frontier, where his potential allies will be dense.”
“We have every exit carefully monitored, sir.” The man returned his gaze to the expanse in front of them, his electric blue eyes seeing further than the disappearing sun.
“Return to your post, Natalia. And alert me when he arrives. I’ll be in the lighthouse, likely. Waiting.” The girl saluted, a gesture he did not return, and turned to her partner.
“Come on, Crobat.” The winged creature flared up, opening its wide mouth to reveal deadly-looking yellowed fangs. It puffed its body, the rubbery purple skin expanding. She grabbed one of its stubby, half-formed feet and turned to say a parting sentence to Gabriel, but in her three seconds of distraction, the man had vanished without a sound. She frowned, used to his enigmatic ways but still disappointed. “Let’s go.” She tugged at her Pokémon and the misshapen silhouette of the two rose twenty feet in the air and glided slowly toward the city overlooking the water.
“Low kick, now! Now, now, now!” Alec Gideon was impatient. His Machop’s reflexes were far too slow, and it was for that precise reason he’d lost against Whitney, he just knew it. The short, ash-colored creature was sweating profusely, trying to obey his trainer’s orders under the weight of the brace that was pulling at every one of his tiny muscles.
“Machop...Ma...” it panted, dropping to the ground and extending its leg in a feeble attempt at an attack. Alec groaned, yanking his rucksack from the ground and closing the distance between him and his shuddering Pokémon.
“The point of the Macho Brace is to make you work, Machop! It’s supposed to increase your muscle mass by at least ten percent! And until you show better results than that dismal failure against Happiny, you’re keeping that on. Now here...” He produced a zippered green bag and pulled out a Super Potion. “Drink this. We’ll take a break, but don’t think you’re getting out of push-ups every half hour. Got it?” Machop nodded wearily, propping himself into a sitting position and taking the medicine with shaking hands.
Alec Gideon hated to lose, because it was simply not an option in his family. For generations his fathers had made significant advances in the history of the Johto region, and each son the Gideons produced was always followed by the question, “Will he live up to his father?” Because of this, Alec had every moment of his life mapped out for him, to the point where it had all become too much for him. After three years of technical school, Alec dropped out and left his house a disgrace, with nothing more than the clothes on his back and his family’s most precious heirloom, stolen and now hidden in the deepest pocket of his rucksack.
“Now according to the map...Olivine City is still eleven miles from here. We’ll make it by nightfall if we factor in dinner and training. You done yet?” Machop was not finished with his drink, but he nodded just the same, crushing the orange container and tossing it aside. Alec scanned around. Route 28, though showing signs of population with its scrubbed picket fences and neatly laid gravel road, was currently deserted. A baby Rattata, its amethyst fur just sprouting and its front teeth barely protruding from its lips, crawled nervously across the path to its mother. The Raticate locked eyes with Alec and bared her massive incisors, stamping her three-toed feet and snarling. The trainer merely grunted. He threw his bag back over his denim-clad shoulder and produced Machop’s Poké Ball. “Off we go.” Machop reduced to a thin beam of glowing reddish light, pulled into his container with a gentle click. The trainer took a deep breath and began again on his long trek from Ecruteak City.
He knew he wasn’t an advanced enough trainer to even attempt challenging Morty, the Ecruteak Gym Leader renowned for his symbiotic relationship with Ghost types. If his luck had run out against the Normal-type Leader Whitney, he felt the only other gym his Pokémon might fare well at was the Olivine Gym, its owner specializing in the Steel type. The journey straight from the city of Goldenrod to Olivine was long, though; he and his Pokémon had been walking without stop for five days straight, only pausing for brief two-hour naps.
The boy had taken no more than a dozen paces when his Poké Gear began vibrating, ringing at a high intensity that could only mean a phone call. Rolling his eyes, he unhooked the device from his belt loop, expecting another pointless update on the adventures of his friend Tim and his Geodude. The number was blocked on his screen, which caused him some confusion. He was under the impression Poké Gears could identify any number. He answered hesitatingly, waiting for the caller ID to kick in, but the screen, instead of displaying the image of his caller as was custom, went blank.
“Alec Gideon?” The voice was male, soft and smooth.
“Who...is this?” Alec was not in the mood to be played with, not having eaten since eleven.
“My identity is of no importance.” Of course not. “You have something I greatly desire, and it is my wish that you surrender it without a fight. However, I know your family and I know the blood that runs through your veins. Cooperation from you is unlikely. So do me a small favor? Take care of yourself.” Alec was utterly bewildered. He had very low tolerance for mind games.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean? Show yourself and tell me what you actually mean, or I’m hanging up.” The man on the other line seemed prepared for this abrasive response. Suddenly, the video clicked on; but it didn’t display a face. All Alec could make out was a body. Dead or alive, he didn’t know. He struggled to keep his face calm, knowing his caller could see him. “Who is that?”
“This is the person that gave us your number! Be sure to thank her, if you ever meet up with her again.” The figure shook and let out a noise that seemed somewhere between a croak and a shrill scream. Alec recognized it, his heart skipping a beat. It was his best friend from grade school, Amber Janson. She had called him yesterday after years of silence, and Alec hadn’t picked up. It had seemed random and uncalled for at the time, but Alec was fast to make the connections in his head.
“I understand this girl was once very precious to you. She will be kept alive until we meet. But until then...” A shadow passed the screen. A large, winged Pokémon, nothing distinguishable other than its cruel golden talons and crimson plumage, plunged into the image and grabbed the frail body ruthlessly. “My Pokémon, of course, are very accident prone. So better sooner than later, no?” A click was heard off-screen - mechanical, cold, chilling. “The choice is yours. When we meet tomorrow--” The Poké Gear went blank. Alec shook it, sweating profusely.
“When? Where? Where are you??” He didn’t know whether to be more frightened of encountering this man or...not. He didn’t want to think what would happen to Amber if she was left to the mercy of the man armed with both Pokémon and, it seemed, a gun. Should he go to the police? No, only ordinary people needed their assistance. This was his problem and he would handle it his way. He produced three Poké Balls, his hands still trembling ever so slightly. The spheres opened, and three small, humanoid figures materialized slowly from the plasma-like energy the balls produced.
“I need you to be my eyes and ears for me. Keep on alert. We’re going to reach Olivine before nightfall. We have to.” The three Pokémon nodded obediently, not questioning their trainer. Alec gathered himself, took a swig of water, and shouldered his bag again. “Let’s go.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, the S.S. Helen will dock in Olivine Harbor by nightfall. Please be sure your luggage is together for departure. We hope you have had a pleasant voyage and that you enjoy the rest of your time on board. Thank you.” A click was heard, and then a short series of beeps. “Lord, this has been a long trip. I’m getting too old for this, Terry. I can’t even stand half the people on this boat. It’s hard enough smiling at them at meal time, let alone making small talk about their absolutely captivating adventures through the wondrous and magical land of Unova. Give me some of that. What is it, Fuchsia’s Best?” Evidently, the captain had not pressed the correct button.
Chase Tang sighed and beat his forehead three times, attempting to clear his head. He couldn’t help agreeing with the captain. This had been the voyage from hell. Aside from seasickness, which he had gotten over after vomiting into the small sink in his cabin three times, the trip had simply lasted too long - nine days now. He had become so jaded by his time at sea he had resorted to frequenting the casino with his companion. The trainers aboard had all proven far too inexperienced to pique Chase’s interest in battle, and Logan was more than happy to relax the vigorous training style her friend lived by for a day or two.
Chase was a handsome young man, going on twenty and growing into manhood well, sporting a dark eleven-o-clock shadow on his otherwise fair features. His off-white hair hung loosely about his face, and his eyes burned with an intensity that more than enough females found alluring. There were secrets there that few could guess at.
In the four years since starting her journey, Logan Clements had become almost unrecognizable from the carefree girl with flowing blond hair and soft, forgiving features. Her hair was cut short to her shoulders now, and although still attractive, her face had a hardened, world-weary expression, her robin’s-egg eyes distant and veiled.
“I’m telling you, it’s the third from the top right!” Chase ignored his partner’s advice and went with his instinct, flipping the card second from the left. His instincts sucked. With a sinking feeling, Chase stared at the glowing miniature Voltorb under the card and nodded, bracing himself. The red-and-white globe was pulsing angrily, letting out angry metallic screeches and bulging dangerously.
“You were right, I should’ve picked the--” Chase’s lamenting was cut off by a blinding light and a series of explosions as the game self-destructed. All eyes turned to Chase and Logan’s station. Although the conceit of the game was to detonate when the challenger lost, it was still highly embarrassing to admit defeat in such a manner (and to wear the loss in the form of slightly singed eyebrows). The pair didn’t say a word, but it was agreed that the game was finished. Logan wanted to finish packing and Chase had lost the majority of his savings. Before going back to their room, they decided to allow their Pokémon one final venture around the ship’s luxurious promenade deck.
As they exited the room, smoke followed them into the hallway. Logan looked down both directions of the corridor before beginning the thought she’d been biting back since breakfast.
“You know that today--”
“I know what day it is. Trust me, I know.” Chase didn’t seem terribly interested in discussing the significance of the date, which Logan seemed to find rude.
“I know you never liked him, Chase, but in the end...well, he didn’t turn out to be awful--” Logan’s voice shook a little bit.
“Actions speak louder than words. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to relive--”
“But we got to! Chase, he didn’t mean for it to happen! There’s no denying that, you just can’t! Think of what he did for Tra...” But Logan grew silent. Chase seemed incensed by her final sentence, walking slightly faster down the richly-panelled hallway.
“He didn’t help Tracey much in the end, did he? And I will never forgive him for what he did to Sceptile. Never.” Logan’s eyes were watering, but this sign of weakness seemed to irritate her companion even more.
“He was still an honest and brave person, and that needs to be honored, Chase.” They had reached the elaborate mahogany door that led out to the large, open space between the ship’s funnels, specifically designated for trainer battles and recreation.
“Logan, you don’t celebrate someone’s death. Especially not someone who...you know.” Chase reached down to his belt and produced six Poké Balls, prompting Logan to do the same. Begrudgingly she released her party alongside his, not satisfied with the tactless ending to their argument. Chase solved all his problems by turning to his Pokémon. He was kneeling down next to his smallest team member. It was lime-green and serpentine, with intelligent bright-red eyes and a pure white underbelly. It stood on tiny hind legs, but it was clear without the support of its long tail it would collapse.
“Do you know how hard it is, looking in his eyes sometimes? All I see is his father.” Chase gently stroked his Servine’s smooth head and stood, facing his other teammates. “Alright, guys, we’ve got til nightfall. Let’s let loose!”
“Chase...” Logan’s voice was gentle, pleading. He looked at her with a fierce expression that clearly stated, “Not now.”
“Last one to the pool’s a rotted Slowpoke tail!”
“It’s too dark to read...Magby, use Will-o-wisp.” Alec was getting nervous. Night had fallen without consequence, but he was still hoping against all odds that the wooden post bearing a battered sign in front of him announced his arrival to Olivine City. A snore sounded out in the night. Magby had fallen asleep in the two minutes since the traveling party had stopped.
The miniature cherry-colored creature was curled in the fetal position, its beak-like mouth wide open and emitting wisps of smoke. Alec rolled his eyes. He had a strong suspicion Magby slept only when out of the confines of his Poké Ball, and wasted his precious free time in the sphere running and exerting all of his energy on pointless activity. Any time he was actually needed, he was exhausted.
“I swear to Arceus...” Alec produced his water bottle and shook it close to Magby’s ear, letting a drop escape onto the ground next to him. The Pokémon’s eyes snapped wide open and he sprang to his feet, absolutely terrified, shooting sparks of flame into the night. Realizing he had been tricked again, his demeanor shrank and his bulbous head lowered in humiliation.
“Magby, Mag maa,” he apologized frantically.
“I just need to check that we’re not lost. Can you use Will-o-wisp to light up this sign?” The trainer’s voice was not unkind, but direct and anxious. Magby nodded and tightened his stubby hands into fists, emitting a low humming sound as his internal fire lit. His whole body seemed to illuminate translucently in the falling dusk, and with a puffing of his chest he produced the specter-like flames needed to light the sign. They hovered just above Alec’s head, blue and purple streaks of excruciating heat to the touch that somehow chilled the surrounding air, making Alec draw his coat a little tighter to his body as he peered at the peeling sign, leaning forward to read it. His body sagged.
“Olivine City, five miles. What time is it?” he asked to nobody in particular, producing his Poké Gear and flicking it on. According to the miniature icon that represented his movement on the map function, they were right on top of the massive seaside city. He stared out into the night, his hazel eyes screwed in confusion. He could see lights to his right, but couldn’t judge how far, nor whether there were enough to constitute a population.
“There’s something weird going on. The light was useful, Magby. You can put it out. Well, we’re gonna have to pick up the pace, that’s all. Push-ups!” He and his Pokémon dropped to the ground instantly, mechanically pumping their arms to get blood flowing freely. Machop finished last, the Macho Brace tugging against his slender muscles. Alec sprang to his feet, pulling his denim jacket straight and giving each of his partners a piece of RAGE candy bar, devouring his portion. “Alright, let’s jog the next mile! We’re making good time, but it could be better.” He took off, leaving his partners to follow in his wake.
Olivine, it seemed, had experienced a blackout. It had been just out of sight, hidden in the gloom of the night. The lights Alec had seen belonged to a small, privately owned farm devoted to breeding Miltank and cultivating its milk. The worn travelers had stopped in for a brief pick-me-up, against Alec’s better judgment.
“Thanks for the Moomoo Milk, sir. We were running low on supplies, and times being how they are, you know.” Arthur Redding, patriarch of the ranch, shook Alec warmly by the hand.
“Just promise me you’ll treat your Pokémon slightly easier, Mr. Gideon. That poor Machop was nearly buckling from that dreadful brace.” A smile split his scrubby gray beard, revealing several decaying teeth. “Now I’m sure they’ll have an opening at the Inn, I’m friendly with the owners. Drop my name if you want a discount. Now you just take care, young man.” Alec turned to leave, but before he could take his first step he felt Mr. Redding’s hand on his shoulder, calloused and firm. “Be on alert, too. That call you mentioned...sounds to me like you should enter that city on your guard. Rumor is, Team Skye is gathering strength again, worse than before, and if that was them...just keep your friends close. Goodnight!” He laughed jovially and the cabin door swung shut. Alec stood in the thick night, listening to the gentle hum of a Ledyba nearby.
Impulsively, he grabbed a Poké Ball from his belt. He released an olive-green, horned Pokémon, who shivered slightly from the cold but stared up at her trainer intently. Her horn was the same size as her rocky, sleek body, and peering out from sunken, scarred sockets, her eyes dilated, adjusting to the dark.
“Seems Team Skye is the likely culprit for that call earlier. I want you to keep me company to Olivine. Just you and me, Larvitar, just like old times. You in?” The lizard-like creature nodded, puffing her chest in importance.
The hike to Olivine was long and uneventful, excepting Larvitar’s brutal pummeling of a sleeping Farfetch’d in an effort to defend her trainer. Just as Alec’s stomach gave a lurch in hunger, a sweeping archway came into focus just to their left.
“Larvitar, look! The entrance. Finally.” The cry of Wingull could be heard even where they stood. The smell of saltwater enticed Larvitar; she took a step forward, nose extended curiously.
“Larv...tar...” she whispered in wonder.
“Come on, Larvitar. Let’s find that inn Mr. Redding told us about.” The gate was unlocked and unguarded, which Alec found unusual, but he was too tired to care at this point. Not fifteen feet away from the gate was a towering set of very solid-looking oak doors. Alec shook his head. “Well-protected, this city.” With Larvitar’s help, he pushed the creaking doors open and the two took in the view of Olivine, a harbor city that extended uphill from the seafront. Not much detail could be picked out from the door; the blackout seemed to be a serious one. The only light in the gloom came from a lighthouse standing alone on a crumbling cliff which jutted out over the water. A rustling sounded overhead as they stepped into the city. Alec glanced at the stone overhang he had just passed under. Perched atop it, still and silent, was a Xatu, its brilliant green down barely breaking the black engulfing the city. Its eyes were trained on Alec.
“Where’s the inn in this town?” he asked aloud, not expecting an answer but more to keep the eery silence broken. Xatu spread its patterned wings and soared into the night without a backward glance. Alec looked at Larvitar, who shrugged. “Let’s take a look around, then. Even with a blackout, things are too peaceful.” Trainer and Pokémon stepped into the unknown, oblivious to the eyes watching their every move.
From inside the lighthouse, Gabriel watched Alec advance into the city that had been awaiting his arrival for fifteen hours. Beside him, head buried under its broad wing, a Pokémon stirred.
“Ready yourself, Mandibuzz. We’ll be joining in on the proceedings this time.” The vulture’s right eye snapped open, glinting in the blazing light emanating from the center of the circular room. It crooned, flaring its wings and lifting its head. Gabriel paced to the far edge of the room, stroking the ancient wall and allowing himself a smile.
“The plan nears completion.” His Pokémon screeched hungrily.
To be continued...