Oh noes! My fic got deleted. I knew I should have done a spam post before a month had passed... (I'm kidding! ...kinda). Oh well, here's a shiny new thread with the first chapter. The next two (yes, TWO! *is still ridiculously excited about finally finishing chapter three this morning*) will be added shortly. Enjoy! ^_^
(ETA: *sigh* I'm an idiot. I just remembered that I ought to have posted this in Shipping, not the regular fanfic section. Is there a mod around who wouldn't mind moving it for me?)
Taking A Chance
Sky Masterson: Drew
Sarah Brown: May
Nathan Detroit: Ash
Miss Adelaide: Misty
Benny Southstreet: Brock
Nicely Nicely Johnson: Jessie, James and Meowth
Arvide Abernathy: Norman
General Cartwright: Nurse Joy (from ‘Showdown in Dark City’)
Big Jule: Butch and Cassidy
Lieutenant Branaghan: Giselle
Chapter 1 - Fugue For Tinhorns
Chapter 2 - The Oldest Established
Chapter 3 - I'll Know
Chapter 4 - A Bushel And A Peck
Chapter 5 - Misty's Lament
Chapter 6 - Guys and Dolls
[Official report from the files of the Pokémon League]
For the attention of whomever it may concern,
I am writing to the Pokémon League with the intention of making a proposition. It came to my notice some years ago, and continues to trouble me today, that there are a number of problems affecting this region’s economy, employment, crime levels, education and technological growth, all caused by the practice of allowing young children to become Pokémon trainers at the age of ten.
No ten-year-old is fully equipped to brave the world’s dangers and responsibilities with nothing other than their Pokémon for company. Nor can anybody realise his or her life’s ambitions at such a tender age. If any Pokémon trainer should come to regret their decision, it is too late: they will already have dropped out of school, their educations incomplete.
This has a knock-on effect on the country’s economy and technology – with so few skilled workers, the development of the nation has been stunted. The emphasis our culture places on Pokémon means that, apart from the fact that anyone who chooses not to pursue a career that involves Pokémon will find it incredibly difficult to find work, nearly every technological advance we have achieved in the last decade has gone towards creating devices like the Poké-ball, the Pokédex, and the equipment used in Pokémon Centres. But what of such matters as transportation and health care? It is exceptionally rare to see a car on the road these days, and buses and trams are almost non-existent. Most people choose to walk from place to place, which is highly impractical and time-consuming. If we devoted our energies to developing roads and railways for people, instead of complicated devices for transporting Pokémon, think what we could accomplish! And as for the practice of medicine, I find it shocking that Pokémon Centres are fitted with the most up-to-date equipment, yet our (comparatively few) hospitals are pitifully under-staffed and have to, for example, make use of superglue to set broken bones.
There is also the problem of crime. Young trainers who have only just begun their Pokémon journeys are easy targets for muggers and bandits. Pokémon are loyal to their masters; that means that if a human wishes to commit a crime, their Pokémon cannot rebel. Pokémon are extremely powerful, and when in the wrong hands, they can wreak havoc.
To me, the solution is clear: the League must implement new laws that prohibit trainers from receiving a Pokémon until they have graduated from some kind of institution of learning (e.g. Pokémon Tech.), and passed a rigorous set of exams. This will have many benefits: as the tests will be far too difficult for a ten-year-old to pass, people will no longer set off on journeys until they’re older, which means that they will spend more time in education. A degree of competency will need to be displayed, meaning that failure levels among trainers will drop. Many will be discouraged by the prospect of spending so much time learning theory, and pursue other careers instead. And the annual Pokémon League will no longer be cluttered with hundreds of trainers, instead admitting a smaller group with higher skill-levels.
I believe that my idea would be greatly beneficial to the nation as a whole. I realise that it must seem radical, but I humbly request that you consider it with an open mind all the same.
[Name omitted by request]
Fugue For Tinhorns
The sun rose over Pewter City, casting shadows under awnings and window boxes. Not ten years ago, the scene would have been one of tranquillity, with shopkeepers and a couple of postmen the only residents stirring from their beds. Now, trickles of people were already emerging onto the streets; mostly important-looking men in suits, clutching briefcases under their arms, headed to the railway station (for public transportation had advanced considerably since the days when Pokémon trainers still roamed the countryside collecting badges), or the trade and commerce centre. Once famous for stone, Pewter City was now a leader in the travel industry, and one of the most popular tourist traps in the Kanto region. With so much business available, and so much money to be made, it was no wonder that most people chose to get an early start in the day.
In some households, however, old habits died hard.
Ring-ring-ring, ring-ring-ring, phone call! Phone call!
Brock Harrison paused in the middle of sweeping the floor of what had formerly been known as the Pewter City gym, and listened, head cocked, for any sounds of movement in the rooms above him. After thirty seconds had elapsed, he heaved a sigh, laid down his broom and trudged towards the reception desk.
Brock’s father, Flint, had first come up with the idea of converting the gym into an inn five years ago, after his plans to open up a giant rock warehouse fell through. His first action was to sell their old house and use the money to build an extra floor, so that they’d have somewhere to put the guests. Unfortunately he’d failed to take into account the fact that his own huge family would require somewhere to sleep, too. After a few inventive manoeuvres involving fashioning beds out of sock-drawers, he was at last able to squeeze himself, his wife, nine teenage children and a grown-up son into three small rooms. Together, they ran the inn, making a comfortable profit, while the memory that the building had once been a gym faded from the townspeople’s minds.
Despite there being twelve of them, however, for some reason Brock was still the only one who appeared capable of answering the phone.
“Hello, Harrison’s Family Inn, how may I help?”
The image of a young, redheaded woman appeared on the view-screen. “Hey, Brock!” she said cheerfully.
“Misty!” Brock beamed at his old friend. “How are you doing?”
“Not too bad. My sisters are making me do rehearsals all day, though.” Misty huffed and raked an errant strand of hair out of her face. “They still think that just because they’re a few years older, that gives them the right to boss me around. I’m meant to be a gym leader, you know. If a challenger showed up these days, I wouldn’t even know about it.”
Brock clucked his tongue sympathetically. “That’s too bad.”
Misty and her sisters had worked out a deal back when the new system had been put into operation. Since Daisy, Lily and Violet owned the gym, they would continue to let Misty live there for free and run it as she pleased. In exchange, she had to appear in their shows whenever they wanted. It hadn’t been a bad bargain at first; Misty’s sisters didn’t often want her services, not liking to share the spotlight. However, as business had picked up, and as performances grew more and more extravagant, the prospect of a free extra became too tempting for the Sensational Sisters to pass up. Now, Misty spent most of her time in rehearsals and concerts, while the gym stood empty. Not that it had exactly been full to bursting before, admittedly; it was really thanks to the income from the Water Flowers’ shows that Misty could even afford to keep it open. In that sense, at least, she was luckier than Brock had been.
“Look on the bright side,” Brock said bracingly. “At least you don’t have to cook for over eleven people every night.”
Misty laughed. “That is a comfort. Especially since I’d probably poison everyone by mistake.” She paused slightly before adding, “Though I bet whenever Ash stays over, it’s more like cooking for twenty people.”
Brock gave Misty a look. She wore an expression of calculated, wide-eyed innocence that wasn’t fooling him one bit.
“This coming from the girl who once ate twelve desserts in one sitting?” he remarked, neatly sidestepping any mention of Ash.
“Hey, those were special circumstances!” Misty protested. “How often do you get the chance to eat twelve free desserts?”
Brock smiled blandly at her. “I guess you’re right.”
There was an awkward pause. Brock bit down a laugh, wondering how long it would be before she cracked. Three… four… five…
“So, um. Have you seen Ash around at all?”
Six seconds. “Ah, so that’s why you called,” said Brock, grinning slyly. “And here I was thinking you just wanted to talk to me.”
Misty had the decency to look embarrassed. “I did want to talk to you,” she insisted. “Really. I was just a little worried, that’s all.”
Brock’s grin faded. “Worried? What for?”
“I haven’t heard from him in a while. I know he’s meant to be staying at the Pokémon Centre in Viridian City, but I’ve called there about seven times in the last three days and he’s never been in. I’ve left loads of messages too, but he hasn’t called me back once.” Misty tried to shrug it off with an unconvincing laugh. “I guess it’s probably nothing…”
Brock made a non-committal noise, hoping he didn’t look too guilty. He had an idea what his friend might be doing in Viridian that would cause him to be away from the Centre so much, and it wasn’t exactly something he could talk to Misty about.
“He actually stopped by here yesterday,” he lied, hoping to put her mind at ease. “He seemed fine.”
Misty visibly sagged with relief. “Oh, good. At least he hasn’t done anything stupid. More stupid than usual, anyway.”
“If I see him again, I’ll tell him to ring you.”
Misty gave him a grateful smile. “Thanks, Brock.” She glanced down at her watch and jumped. “Aw, man, I hadn’t realised that was the time. Sorry, but I gotta go. If I’m late, Daisy will make me wear the cowgirl outfit again.”
“Now that’s a fate worse than death. OK, see you around, Misty.”
“Bye!” Misty smiled and waved, and the screen went blank.
Brock clicked on the ‘end call’ icon and stood up, stretching. He paused briefly to listen out for any sounds that might indicate that the rest of his family had joined him in the world of the living, and upon hearing none, turned to go back into the main room. He still had to finish up that sweeping.
However, before he could take a single step, he saw something in front of the reception desk that stopped him dead in his tracks. A pretty woman with a heart-shaped face and thick, lustrous chestnut locks stood with her arms folded, tapping one Gucci-clad foot on the floor. Behind her stood a short, sandy-haired man in a neat blue suit.
Brock turned pale. “Aaagggh! I mean, hi there, Giselle.”
“That’s Officer Giselle to you,” the woman replied icily. “And I’m here to ask you about Ash Ketchum.”
“He sure is popular this morning,” Brock joked feebly.
Giselle was obviously not amused. “Mr. Harrison, I’ll be blunt. I want to know where Ash is, right now.”
Brock cast about for a suitable lie, aware that Giselle’s eyes were narrowing in irritation. The fact that she had picked out one of her shorter skirts to wear that day wasn’t exactly helping him think.
“Which Ash Ketchum would that be?” he finally blurted, and immediately mentally kicked himself.
Giselle’s expression did not flicker. “The Ash Ketchum,” she said in a deceptively sweet, even tone, “who runs a floating Pokémon tournament.”
“You mean on a boat?” said Brock, trying out Misty’s patented innocent face.
It didn’t look as though it fooled Giselle. “I mean,” she snapped, “that he has been hosting illegal Pokémon matches every weekend for the last eight years, and getting away with it by moving to a different spot each time. And I’m asking you because I know that you’re his friend.”
“You are. I hardly need remind you, Mr. Harrison, that it is a crime to give the police false information. Just as it is a crime to engage in a Pokémon battle without first passing the League’s standard exams.”
Damn. This wasn’t going well. “I don’t know where Ash is,” Brock said, half-truthfully. “I haven’t seen him in a few days.”
Giselle submitted him to a piercing stare, as though trying to ascertain his honesty. Either he passed the test, or she decided she wouldn’t get any more information out of him, because she said, “Fine. When you next see him, kindly inform him that he’s not going to get away with his scheme this time. I’ve contacted every unlicensed trainer in the city. They all know that I’m on to them, and I know that they won’t dare step over the line as long as I’m an officer of the Pokémon League. Is that clear?”
“As crystal,” said Brock unhappily.
“Good.” Giselle snapped her fingers at her assistant and swept out of the inn. The young man shot Brock a commiserative look before following at a more languid pace. Brock was left alone, thoughts churning.
Seconds after the pair had left, there was a shuffling noise on the stairs, and Brock’s father emerged at last, yawning vastly. He greeted his oldest son with a grunt. Taciturn at the best of times, the elder of the Harrison clan could scarcely be called a morning person. Brock noticed that his shirt was on inside out.
Flint grimaced at the shaft of weak daylight pouring in through the windows. “Who was that?”
“Uhhh… no-one, dad. No-one important.” Brock came to a decision. “Say, you know that time you tried to sell a rock to the Mayor and he thought you were attacking him and had you arrested and I paid your bail?”
Flint fixed him with a suspicious stare. “I… think I remember. It was a fine rock, too,” he reflected bitterly.
“Well, something’s just come up, and I really ought to go sort it out as soon as possible. Would it be OK if I took the day off?”
Flint just looked relieved that Brock hadn’t called in a weightier (or more expensive) favour. “Of course,” he said. “And now we’re even, right?” he added quickly.
Some things never changed. “Sure, we’re even,” said Brock, chuckling. “Thanks, dad. I’ll see you tonight.”
Flint raised a hand in farewell. Brock grabbed his coat and walked through the doors into the street. Immediately, he set off towards the bus stop at a brisk pace. He had to get to Viridian City right away.
He just hoped that Ash had some good news.
Brock wasn’t the only person feeling troubled at that moment. In the next town over, Viridian City, Ash Ketchum had just come to the conclusion that he was in something of a pickle. In fact, that was putting it mildly.
Ash, with Pikachu at his side as always, had searched the entire town in the hopes of finding a place for him to hold his tournament. He’d checked all of the usual places: the hall at the local primary school, the stockroom behind the city’s only bar – even the back of the police station might have done in a pinch. One of the officers down there was sympathetic to Ash’s plight, and he could usually be relied upon to make sure Officer Jenny stayed out of the way. But he was going to be out of town that weekend, the school now had a lock on the door, and the bar had been taken over by a half-blind old woman who probably wouldn’t make a great scout even if she had no objections to putting her neck on the line for Ash. That left only one possible spot in the whole of Viridian, and the odds of him being able to use it were fairly slim.
He and Pikachu eyed the Viridian Pokémon Gym from across the road with apprehension. In recent months, it had spent more and more time standing empty. The gym leader there was a mysterious figure, practically a recluse, who chose to keep his identity secret. He had rarely, if ever, given gym battles himself over the last decade, usually sending some subordinate to fill in. The frequently empty building had led most people to assume that either the leader’s employees were slacking off, or he was losing interest in running the gym at all.
Still, using it to host illegal Pokémon battles was a dangerous business. There was always the possibility that a challenger would arrive at an inopportune moment – a remote possibility, but still enough of a risk factor to give Ash pause. And then there was the fact that, of the few things that were known about the gym leader, one of them was that he was a huge supporter of the new system. Ash had no doubts that, were he to find people using his gym in defiance of these laws, he would not hesitate to prosecute.
On the other hand, it was the only place left, and Ash was always willing to take a few chances in the name of Pokémon battles.
“No harm in checking it out, right Pikachu?” he said to the electric mouse on his shoulder.
“Pika pika,” said Pikachu in agreement.
Mind made up, Ash started across the road.
Before he had reached the other side, however, the door to the gym opened, and someone emerged. It was a pretty brunette, slightly younger than him, carrying a large sheet and a stepladder.
Ash hesitated, unsure whether to go over and ask what was going on, or retreat to the end of the street and observe from a discreet distance. As it was, he ended up standing in the middle of the road to watch, which looked rather peculiar. Luckily, the girl didn’t notice him, intent as she was upon her task. Balancing precariously on the stepladder, she began to tack the sheet (which upon closer inspection turned out to be a banner) above the door to the gym. Ash edged a little closer out of curiosity. It read:
‘VIRIDIAN CITY POKÉMON GYM, UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT’.
“New management!” Ash exclaimed. “You know what that means, Pikachu?”
“They might hate the League’s rules as much as we do.”
A gleam appeared in Pikachu’s eyes. “Chaaa!”
Ash grinned. “Right then, let’s go see who’s taken the place over.” With that, he began walking towards the gym once more.
However, somebody else beat him to it - a group of about five men, at least two of whom Ash recognised from the tournaments. They stood about three feet away from the girl’s stepladder, taking in the sight of both the banner and her with about equal interest.
Eventually, one of them called out. “Hey, miss!”
The girl jumped and almost fell off the ladder. “Aaah! Oh – um – can I help you?”
The man who had spoken jerked his head towards the banner. “What’s all this about then, love? You bought up the gym?”
“Yes!” the girl replied brightly. “My dad’s in charge of it now.” She climbed down the ladder, stumbling a little on the last step. “We moved here from Petalburg City.”
Ash raised his eyebrows. “Petalburg City?” he repeated, exchanging a look with Pikachu. “Isn’t that in the Hoenn region?”
Ash had just been about to set off for the Hoenn region when the new bill pushed forward by the Pokémon League had been approved. Needless to say, the journey had been cancelled, and it now looked as though it would remain that way forever.
The five trainers also looked suitably impressed. “That’s a long way to travel,” said one in a slow Texan drawl.
The girl nodded. “It took us three days to make it down here – I hope it’ll be worth it. We used to own a gym in Petalburg, but nobody ever went in there anymore, so Daddy thought if we moved here there might be more interest.” She began to fold up the stepladder, still babbling away. “We have a whole marketing campaign and everything, and Daddy says there’s a Trainer’s Festival here in Viridian in three days time, so that’ll bring in a few people –”
The five men were all exchanging amused looks, and Ash could hear a couple of snickers, hastily silenced. He could understand why they were laughing; if she thought that there was a wealth of trainers all dying for a new badge in Viridian City of all places, she was going to be sorely disappointed.
“What’s your name?” one of them asked.
“It’s May.” The girl suddenly spotted the Poké-balls at his waist, and her eyes widened in excitement. “Say, are you all trainers?”
Another chorus of badly disguised s******s went up. “I guess you could call us that,” said one man, who had a handlebar moustache.
“Then why don’t you come in for a gym battle? My dad’s going to be back soon, and we’ve just got the badges in stock.”
This time, nobody even tried to hide their laughter. May’s brow furrowed, obviously wondering what was so funny.
“What’s the matter?” she asked.
“Let’s just say,” the moustache man wheezed, “that we aren’t exactly what you’d call traditional trainers. Unlicensed, you see.”
May’s face fell.
Another man chimed in, “As are most people in these parts. So unless you’re the type of girl who’d be willing to turn a blind eye to certain, ah, legal technicalities, you won’t be getting any gym battles out of us.”
“You mean… there are no trainers around here?” May whispered, crest-fallen.
“Oh, there are plenty of them. Not our fault if the League doesn’t see it that way.”
The group’s expressions darkened. A few feet away, so did Ash’s. He’d done his share of ranting and raving when he’d first discovered that, according to the law, he was no longer considered a Pokémon trainer. Now, he preferred not to dwell on it too much. It was enough to know that he was resisting the system in his own way.
“I guess there won’t be much more of a market here than there was in Petalburg City,” said May, sadly. “At least you guys are honest. Back there, we used to have challengers come in and pretend they were licensed when they weren’t. It was pretty stupid of them – we’d just check their papers, and if they weren’t allowed to use Pokémon attacks, we’d call the police.”
Ash raised both eyebrows. That was pretty harsh. Misty had had a couple of challengers try that tactic, but she had only kicked them out with threats to beat them with a mallet if they ever returned. Ash never thought he’d see the day when Misty’s approach could be considered the more humane option.
“You’re not really the forgiving type, are you?” said the man who had first spoken.
“Well, my parents aren’t fans of illegal trainers,” said May stiffly. If her expression was anything to judge by, neither was she.
Ash could see flickers of anger on various faces. “Uh-oh,” he muttered.
“Piii-ka,” said Pikachu worriedly.
Most of Ash’s regular customers took their defiance against the League very seriously. Whenever somebody criticised their way of life, there were usually a few vocal individuals who could be relied upon to fly off the handle.
“Well, a trainer’s got to keep up,” said the Texan in slightly chillier tones than before. “Otherwise, the ones who were lucky enough to pass the tests first time get way ahead of the rest of us. Pokémon training’s not something you can take a break from for a few years.”
The others nodded in strong agreement. The need to keep one’s hand in wasn’t the only reason, either; Ash knew as well as any other trainer that raising Pokémon was more a way of life than a profession. When the League had taken away his license, they might as well have told him to give up oxygen, for all the notice he would have taken.
May, however, only scoffed. “If you don’t mind me saying so, that’s not a very good excuse,” she said. “If those people are that serious about Pokémon training, then why didn’t they work hard enough to pass the exams first time round?”
This was possibly the worst thing she could have said. The five men visibly bristled; Ash felt a surge of fury, and Pikachu’s cheeks momentarily crackled with electricity.
“You know, Miss, we can’t all be as smart as you,” snarled the moustached man. “I’ll bet that you passed with flying colours, huh?”
May looked alarmed at the men’s threatening expressions, but she stood her ground nonetheless. “Actually, I didn’t even take them,” she said. “I don’t really like Pokémon.”
Every jaw dropped.
“Piiiiiii-kaaaaa?” squeaked Pikachu in astonishment.
“She doesn’t… like… Pokémon?” Ash whispered.
Was that even possible? He had never heard of such an abnormality before. His anger vanished, and pity sped in to replace it. This girl was obviously sick. She probably didn’t have a clue what she was saying.
“If you don’t like Pokémon, then what are you doing working in a gym?” the first man said, sneering. “Then again, the amount of challengers you’ll get, staying inside a gym’s probably the best way to avoid them.” He and the others laughed heartily.
They had evidently struck a nerve. “We’re going to get lots of challengers!” May yelled. Her face was flushed, and her hands were balled into fists at her sides. “You just wait and see! My dad’s a great gym leader and a great Pokémon trainer – something you wouldn’t know anything about!”
With that, she picked up the ladder and strode back into the gym, kicking the doors closed behind her. The five men looked as though they had a lot more to say. Instead, they sloped off one by one, shooting dirty looks at the gym as they passed.
“Well, I guess that place is out,” said Ash gloomily to Pikachu.
Ash turned away, sighing. The gym had been his last hope, and it had been taken over by a family of fanatical do-gooders. Just his luck. He supposed he might as well go back to his room at the Pokémon Centre. Maybe he’d get an idea later.
He made a quick detour to buy a cup of coffee – he’d discovered a few years ago that it made a much more effective brain-stimulant than getting Pikachu to electrocute him – and trudged back to the Centre. The only thing on his mind was getting to a quiet place where he could be by himself and think.
However, as soon as he stepped through the doors, he saw something that made him stop in his tracks. A tall, dark, squinty-eyed something.
Standing in the lobby, looking as though he’d run all the way down from the train station, was Brock.