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Thread: The Age of Harmony (12+)

  1. #26
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    ~~~ *** ~~~ *** ~~~
    8. Chili con Carnage
    ~~~ *** ~~~ *** ~~~


    Dalton shut his eyes tightly, face screwed up against the assault of bright, golden light. The change in sky color was obviously a sunset, Dalton thought, as he and Talia had been walking for what must have been several hours. The canopy of trees was not nearly as thick in this area, and he could see this orange light in the distance.

    “We shouldn’t be too far from the edge of the forest now,” commented the girl in front of him. He could barely see Talia with all the light flooding in through the trees. “And don’t even think about asking for a break. We need to get to Striaton City – or at least out of this forest – by nightfall. If we don’t… well, I don’t know, and I’m not sure I want to find out.

    He became suddenly aware of the danger as the words left her lips. That would seem like the type of thing. As a rule of thumb, nighttime anywhere was a bit less safe than daytime in that same place. In a forest like this, though, they would likely be walking in pitch darkness, or close to it. A particular tree on the wayside caught Dalton’s attention. He could have sworn he’d saw two glimmering, blinking… something. Maybe (he thought as a chill went through his body) they were eyes. He also became more aware of the symphony of buzzes, trills, and distant cries that had accompanied him through his entire trek thus far. They no longer amounted to a strangely beautiful soundtrack, as they had before. In fact, Dalton was starting to think that the sounds were kind of creepy.

    The hairs on the back of his neck were standing up – then again, that might have been because an evening breeze was blowing right through the little clothing he had. He glanced ahead. He was now extremely thankful Talia had found him when she did. It wasn’t quite cold, but spending last night outside in the buff might have been more than his body could have handled.

    “You okay back there?” Talia was looking over her shoulder at him. “You seem a little bit quiet.”

    Dalton didn’t respond. He was just that way in most cases… quiet.

    “It’s all still a little bit much for you, isn’t it?” she asked seriously, turning around and frowning as she looked upon Dalton as if he was something to be pitied. Dalton averted his gaze. He hated pity. “C’mon… say something. I mean, you haven’t said anything almost all afternoon. What are you thinking? What’s going through that head of yours?”

    “… … …”

    Dalton had to shade his eyes further as they at last emerged from the forest. Talia was still a few steps in front of him at what looked like the top of a hill, but she had stopped. Dalton felt the setting sun beating against the left side of his face. He blinked furiously as his eyes tried to adjust to the new light level.

    Talia, meanwhile, was shielding her eyes and looking forward. A smile broke out across her face.

    “Hello, Striaton,” she said. “Long time no see.”

    Dalton approached the top of the hill and squinted forward. Large, blue mountains occupied the horizon, and in their shadow, buildings of various shapes sizes and colors were nestled into sprouting trees. In this place, it was almost as if nature and the advance of man had ceased to war and had agreed to a truce instead. Most of these many-floored structures sprouted from the ground like the trees, almost as if trying to blend in with the forest scenery. Dalton wondered how large the expanse of town was, but it was clearly somewhat bigger than Accumula.

    “You’ve been here before?” Dalton finally asked her.

    “Once or twice,” she answered. “Last time was four years ago. Dad had to pick up some papers from a friend of his. It was the middle of summer, so he let me tag along.”

    Dalton felt a pang of jealousy as Talia spoke so fondly of her father; he wished he’d had parents like that. He couldn’t remember his father, Floyd, being a particularly cheerful man even when the family had been relatively stable. Then again, Kallen had always been their father’s favorite. Dalton supposed his father had been proud of him at one point – he had always been a good student. What little relationship they had, though, was completely severed when Kallen was taken away.

    Dalton coped with his family issues the same way he coped with everything else. Keep moving and it’ll all just end up behind you. That’s what he told himself. That’s why he could never stop. Ever since Lucy had died, he’d felt all the pain of his last seven years of existence gaining on him again, as if the latest tragedy had somehow given his scars a second wind in their lifelong pursuit of his spirit.

    But he refused to be crushed. He refused to let himself feel too much of the pain. A bit, yes; after all, to completely deny pain was to deny reality. But he determined to leave his past behind him. He never did learn the art of painting a smile upon his face, like some people; but he’d learned to fake not crying – and that was good enough for him.

    “You’re still serious about the Pokémon trainer thing?” Talia’s voice broke him – probably fortunately – out of his daydream. He had traveled some distance without his brain having noticed. His feet, in contrast, noticed a lot; they took his reawakening to his situation as a cue to begin pulsing with pain again. Dalton’s slate gray eyes did a quick inventory of his surroundings. These buildings were all several stories high, for the most part. They had looked like toy models from up on the ridge at the forest’s edge; but Dalton knew better than that. “Dalton?

    “Hm-what?” he muttered, looking at Talia as if he’d just noticed her standing next to him.

    Earth to Dalton.” She tilted her head. “Come in. I was asking, are you still serious about being a Pokémon trainer?”

    “Wh-what? Yeah, of course I am,” he replied, wishing it hadn’t sounded quite so defensive. She grimaced, almost as if she didn’t want to respond for a second.

    “Well…” she murmured. “I thought you’d probably want to know… there’s a Gym here in town.”

    About two or three conversations came flooding back to Dalton’s memory at once.

    “Gym… like, the place where you win the badges?” he asked.

    “Yup. That’s the one,” Talia replied.

    “Where is it?” he asked quickly.

    Talia frowned. “Dalton –”

    “Where’s the Gym?” he repeated, this time more urgently. “Do you know?”

    “Dalton,” Talia repeated, more urgently as well. “I don’t think you should…”

    Dalton had run out of patience. “Hey!”

    He’d shouted at a young passerby – a teenager by the looks of her. Brunette and mini-skirted, she had jumped horribly at the yell and done a full three-sixty around her to find its source. By the time she’d turned her head around again, she was looking straight at Dalton. She gasped and jumped backward.

    “Sorry, sorry…” he muttered. “Hey, listen – do you know where the Striaton Gym is?”

    Her voice came out as something of a high-pitched squeak. Whether that was normal or because Dalton had frightened her, he didn’t know. She also looked quite flustered, as if Dalton had distracted her from something. “The Gym? I… uh… sorry. I’m not even from here. I’m here from Nacrene visiting my cousin. We came out to shop and now I can’t find her. Ohh… Charlene!

    And she walked away from him, screaming through the streets and leaving him standing there awkwardly.

    “Boy, you sure have a way with women,” Talia chimed in after a couple of seconds – tauntingly, Dalton thought.

    “Yeah, well maybe you could be a little bit more helpful,” he snapped.

    “I am being helpful,” she retorted. “There’s no point in you going to the Gym today.”

    “Why not?” asked Dalton, a bit irritated.

    “Well…” Talia hesitated. “Well, first off, the Gym closes at sundown. It’s pretty much dusk already. Second, you’d have to be an idiot to try to take on the Gym right now.”

    “Really? Why’s that?”

    “Because – well, we’ve been traveling all day,” reasoned Talia. “Even strong Pokémon need to rest before they take on a Gym. Weren’t you talking about how tired you were?”

    Dalton eyed Talia for a moment. He couldn’t help thinking that Talia wasn’t being completely truthful about why she didn’t think it was a good idea for him to challenge the Gym that evening. What was true, however, was that they had been traveling for most of the day. What was also true (although she hadn’t mentioned it) was that his feet were throbbing, and that his legs were probably going to collapse underneath him if he had to do much more walking.

    “I guess you’re right,” he finally said.

    “So where do you think we should go to rest?” she asked, sort of as if she already knew the answer to her own question.

    “I dunno,” Dalton muttered – but he had an idea. “Is there a Pokémon Center somewhere in town?”

    Her face broke out into a smile. “Look at that. You really do pick up quick.”

    They started walking again. After a bit, Dalton caught sight of a somewhat large, rustic-looking building that appeared to be some sort of restaurant. “Café Striaton” was its name, as the script lettering over its door revealed. For some reason, though, it had a sign out to its front. The sign was probably about waist-height from the ground, with a drawing of a broken circle that Dalton, after a couple of seconds’ examination, recognized as a Pokéball. Before he had the chance to ask what that meant, however, they had already passed it, and Dalton had caught sight of a quite large building in the distance. He had only seen it once before, but the distinctive red coloring and the wall of windows at its front served as a clear giveaway.

    Dalton walked past Talia and started toward the doors. She froze in mild surprise for a split second, which was lucky; right as Dalton darted for the doors, someone else darted out and smacked right into him going full-bore.

    “Oof!” Dalton grunted as the figure hit his chest and sent him staggering. He looked down. The runner had fallen right onto her behind. Her eyes were shut tight in an expression of pain. At least, Dalton was pretty sure it was a girl. She was, after all, wearing a very long, green dress…

    Long green dress? She also had golden blonde hair. She looked up at him. Her eyes already seemed to be naturally large, but they widened even further upon seeing him. It was an unmistakable look of recognition.

    …Which would make sense, thought Dalton. They’d seen each other before.

    “Wha?” The blonde girl scrambled to her feet. “It’s you! The homeless guy from Accumula! What are you doing here?”

    “Homeless?” piped in Talia. The blonde girl’s eyes shifted to those of the redhead. The former’s face went a bit pink.

    “I meant – er…” She sounded flustered. Her face fell. “Never mind. Oh, I’m late again… Cher’s gonna be so mad at me…”

    And, for the second time that evening, Dalton and Talia watched a teenage girl run off with an unknown objective.

    “Who was that?” Talia asked as they walked inside. Dalton looked around. This Pokémon Center was quite a bit larger than the one in Accumula Town.

    Dalton racked his brains. He should have been able to remember – he’d just seen her in Accumula the day before. He shook his head. “Dammit. Started with a ‘B’.”

    “But you have seen her before, right?” she asked.

    “Yeah – back in Accumula Town. She’s friends with that Whitlea girl. I think she was in the room next door to ours at the Pokémon Center, too,” Dalton said.

    “What’s with her calling you ‘homeless’?” she asked. Dalton rolled his eyes and let out a growl-like utterance of frustration.

    “They all found me on that park bench and…” Dalton shook his head. “It’s not important.”

    Talia’s lips were drawn in a strange way. It looked like she was trying very hard not to smile. “So now they all think you’re a hobo.”

    Dalton frowned. “Technically… they’re not wrong,” he reasoned. “I don’t have a home. Not here, anyway.”

    As they approached the desk where the Pokémon nurse had been at the last Pokémon Center, Dalton scoffed to himself.

    “McCourt said ‘adventure’… I bet he didn’t have a damn clue this was gonna happen…”

    “Hmm?” Talia uttered questioningly.

    “Nothing,” replied Dalton, just as they reached the semicircular desk. Dalton pulled up short; a pink-haired nurse was there to greet them with a warm smile.

    “What are you doing here?” he uttered without thinking. In doing so, he managed to get the pale-faced young woman to stop smiling. Her expression was more confused than upset.

    “…I work here,” she said slowly, as though determined not to rush for fear that her listener might not get the whole message.

    “But we just saw you in Accumula Town,” Dalton reasoned. She shook her head, the smile returning to her face.

    “You’re not the first person that’s made that mistake,” she said. “A lot of people say my second cousin and I look just alike.”

    “Second cousin?” Dalton repeated, his jaw slightly unhinged. “You look like identical twins. How can – you know what? Never mind. So you’re the nurse here, Miss –”

    “Call me Joy,” she said with a nod.

    “What?” replied Dalton flatly, looking at Talia.

    “I don’t know, either,” she said. She approached the desk herself. Dalton promptly backed away, figuring he’d done enough damage. “We – that is to say, Dalton and I – both have Pokémon that we’d like to have looked at. Do you think you can help us?”

    “I hope so,” she said seriously. “Are you traveling here from somewhere?”

    “Accumula Town,” Talia replied.

    “Accumula Town, that’s right,” Nurse Joy said hastily. “For the League, I’m guessing?”

    “He is, not me,” Talia said, pointing with her thumb behind herself and at Dalton, who suddenly felt like he’d had a spotlight shone upon him.

    “Really, now?” Nurse Joy asked. “I thought a Pokémon Trainer would know all about the Joy family. How long have you been at this now?”

    “…About a day or two,” Dalton muttered, not meeting her eyes. “It’s a long story.”

    Joy opened her mouth, perhaps to ask. Talia must have sensed the danger, because she immediately echoed, “A really long story. Please, Nurse Joy, could we just get a room?”

    “One room?” Nurse Joy looked from Talia to Dalton, then back to Talia.

    “Two rooms,” Talia said hastily.

    “We don’t have two rooms,” Nurse Joy answered.

    “Again? Okay… one room,” Talia groaned.

    “You’ll be fine, won’t you?” asked Nurse Joy. “You seem friendly enough. Now, about your Pokémon – will it be a quick health scan or a full check-up? If you do the second, it’ll be overnight.”

    “Might as well do the full check-up,” Dalton reasoned. “We’re gonna be here overnight anyway.”

    He put the Pokéball containing Nina onto the desk.

    “Speak for yourself,” Talia said, following suit with her Vulpix’s ball. “I’d like Sionna back, thanks.”

    “Well, you’re not getting ready for a Gym battle, so…” Dalton murmured. Talia nodded in grudging assent and walked off. Dalton watched her leave and waited until she was well out of earshot. Then he turned back to Nurse Joy.

    “Something else I can help you with?” she asked.

    “What time does the Gym open tomorrow?” Dalton queried.

    Nurse Joy’s answer seemed well-rehearsed and, frankly, a bit canned. “All Pokémon League Gyms in Unova are open from seven in the morning until dusk unless otherwise noted. But…

    She had said somewhat forcefully, as Dalton had tried to leave. He stopped and turned on a time, facing her again. Her face said very clearly that she thought Dalton was quite bizarre, but she went on anyway:

    “Chili sometimes opens the Gym a bit earlier,” Joy answered.

    “Chili? Does this Chili person run the Gym, then?” Dalton asked.

    “Yes and no,” answered Joy. Seeing Dalton’s bemused expression, she explained, “Chili is one of the three Gym Leaders of Striaton City Gym.”

    “Three?” repeated Dalton.

    “Yes…” Joy nodded. She seemed to be wordlessly acknowledging that it wasn’t a normal thing for a Pokémon Gym to have three leaders. “The boys’ father died suddenly several years ago, and the League couldn’t decide which one of them would run the Gym.”

    “So Chili’s one of the brothers?” Dalton asked.

    “Yes. Along with Cilan and Cress – but those two are much more… well, reserved,” explained Joy. “Chili’s very eager, but he’s also very capable. He specializes in Fire-type Pokémon.”

    “Fire-type Pokémon,” repeated Dalton. Talia’s explanation about Pokémon types rang in his head:

    “ There are seventeen types of Pokémon. A type is…well, it’s almost like the kind of energy that fuels a Pokémon’s essence.”

    A bit absentmindedly, he wandered away from the desk to see where Talia had gone. After a few moments, he found her near the PokéMart’s long counter, talking to a trio of teenagers. They were all likely younger than she, judging by their heights. (Then again, Talia was somewhat tall.) She was holding what looked like a piece of paper in her hand that the younger children were eyeing intently. They all shook their heads, almost in stereo. She pocketed the paper just as Dalton approached and the children departed. She made no attempt to hide her expression of disappointment.

    “Ugh… had to figure that wouldn’t work,” she muttered to herself.

    “Getting something from the shop?” Dalton asked, indicating the nearby counter with a jerk of his head.

    “Are you kidding? We’ve barely got enough money for food as is,” she said distractedly.

    “Is this going to be a problem we’re going to have the entire time?” Dalton asked, finally giving a voice to a concern that had plagued him for the last day or two. Talia didn’t answer him for a moment.

    “Probably,” she muttered, shaking her head as she brushed past Dalton and walked elsewhere. He didn’t understand why she was so agitated all of a sudden, but it was clear that she had no interest in talking to him at the moment. So he turned to the two male shop workers and asked the question he’d meant for Talia.

    “Excuse me… guys?” he uttered. The two young men turned in his direction. “I was kinda wondering… how does a Pokémon trainer manage to keep money in his pocket?”

    “Most of ‘em don’t,” one of them said, sounding a bit cynical. “That’s why a lot of ‘em give it up as a career after about a year… or less. They go back home, start working on getting normal jobs they don’t really like all that much…”

    Dalton could tell from this youth’s tone that he was speaking from firsthand experience. He wasn’t going to go digging, though.

    “But it’s doable, right?” he asked. “To make a career out of being a Pokémon trainer?”

    “Sure, it’s doable,” the cynical young cashier said. Dalton could almost hear audibly the unspoken part of the sentence. It sure as hell isn’t easy, though.

    “You’ve gotta be good. That’s the simple fact of the matter,” the other young man finally piped in. The first shot him a resentful expression. “Trainers usually wager money against each other in unsanctioned matches. Gyms pay out pretty well for a victory, too. But you have to win. If you can’t win, you can’t make money.”

    Dalton looked over his shoulder. Talia was conversing with more people, holding up the glossy paper which Dalton now figured to be a photograph. Her earlier comment now began to make sense.

    A sudden upsurge of dislike for the red-haired girl welled up within him. He resolved to suffer with her one more evening, then no more.

    Talia made things surprisingly easy on him. She didn’t talk much, apparently frustrated by something. They ate a dinner provided by the Pokémon Center (which, to Dalton’s surprise, actually wasn’t quite horrible) and went up to their room. It was at this point that Talia finally spoke – and it was a strong admonishment to him not to attempt to peek at her while she took a shower in the small, adjoining bathroom. Dalton was all too happy to oblige her; she was now a hideous beast as far as he was concerned. When she emerged, Dalton switched places with her, with him showering and leaving her in the main room to stare at the ceiling from her bunk. When he came out, black hair still limp and dripping with water, he found her staring at her photograph and muttering to herself – or perhaps to it. Dalton ignored her strange supplications to the picture and toppled into his bottom bunk bed, where sleep claimed him fairly quickly.


    It had been a sign of how much he had wanted to get away from Talia that, with no alarm, Dalton awoke quite early indeed. Muted light was coming in through the room’s one shuttered window, and Dalton took this to mean that it was dawn at the latest. Nevertheless, he arose (stifling his initial yawn to make sure Talia did not hear her) and departed, leaving her behind and inside the room alone.

    A strangled sound, halfway between a moan and a sob, escaped the covers on the top bunk as the form within them rotated restlessly.

    He trudged languidly into the main atrium of the Pokémon Center, which he saw was very nearly empty in the middle, except for a pair of brown-haired teenagers that were seated at one of the atrium’s many tables. As close as their faces were to each other – Dalton would have called it near-kissing position – Dalton supposed they might have been a couple. Although they did look awfully alike…

    The girl drew back, and Dalton’s heart instantly jolted. Her hair was long and wild and the clothes she wore were unmistakable. But she had her arms folded vaguely across her belly and was not smiling.

    “My stomach hurts, Blake,” she whined.

    The boy opposite her was wearing a cap that seemed only to highlight further the wildness of his own brown hair. The name rang a bell and Dalton’s heart jolted again. He had seen this boy in the strange dream. This was Whitlea’s brother – the youth that chose to stand against Ghetsis and N, but loved his sister too dearly to destroy her for the sake of his victory.

    He had hesitated… and he had paid for it with his life.

    “It’s just nerves – that’s all,” he said. His voice was a bit lower than Dalton would have expected for a boy his age. “You’ll be fine.”

    “What if I’m not fine?” Whitlea moaned. “You know I don’t have your talent, Blake.”

    “Don’t say that,” Blake replied, his voice becoming more firm but not harsh. “You’ll be fine. You need to get something to eat, though. If you don’t eat, you’ll be hungry and you won’t be able to think straight.”

    “…And if I do eat, it all might come back up during the match,” she said morosely, gripping her stomach with her forearms. “I’m sure the Striaton Gym crew wouldn’t like that.”

    The word ‘Gym’ jolted Dalton out of watching the scene and reminded him immediately of his own intentions. He backpedaled a bit and turned to face the Nurse’s counter.

    “You’re up early,” she remarked. Dalton caught an ever-so-faint whiff of coffee on her breath. Not that he could blame her; coffee was usually how he got through his mornings, too.

    “Uh, yeah…” he muttered. “My Nidoran?”

    “Nidoran…” she repeated, typing something in the computer. “Dalton Gregg, right?”

    “Yes.”

    “Your Nidoran didn’t show signs of anything wrong besides the usual battle fatigue,” she said, crouching out of sight for a moment. She produced a Pokéball from under the counter and placed it on the surface for Dalton to take. “Are you planning on meeting Chili this morning?”

    “That’s the plan,” he said. “Except… I’m not entirely sure where the gym is.”

    “It’s easy to miss,” Nurse Joy explained. “Just go to the Café Striaton and ask for the breakfast special.”

    And she went back to her work. Dalton frowned. He felt she’d been a bit terse with him. Nevertheless, he turned and started his walk from the Pokémon Center. Looking over at the two brown-haired teenagers, he caught the eyes of the boy, whose gaze seemed to be following him very intently.


    Arriving at Café Striaton didn’t take long. Dalton remembered passing it the day before, and simply had to retrace his steps. It stood out among the buildings of Striaton City with its rustic architecture. Taking a deep breath, Dalton walked up to the door. He gave the handle a hard tug, but instantly felt the lock resisting him.

    “Sorry, breakfast doesn’t start until seven,” called the voice of a young man from behind Dalton. He whirled around. Standing there was a tall, skinny teenager wearing a waiter’s outfit. Red hair erupted like a flame from the top of his scalp, and the morning breeze only served to add to the effect.

    “But I’m here for the breakfast special,” said Dalton. The red-haired youth’s eyes lit up.

    “Really?” he asked. “Awesome. Name’s Chili.”

    “Dalton,” Dalton replied, as Chili went to his pockets. Dalton stepped aside as the other teenager produced a set of keys and unlocked the front door with one of them. He pulled it open and disappeared into the darkness. Dalton, after a moment’s hesitation, followed him.

    Blackness pressed in on Dalton’s vision for a quick moment before lights switched on above. They were in a quite large room in what looked like a fancy restaurant. Empty, well-set tables dotted the room for most of its length. The last quarter of it, however, looked to be left bare. Sand-colored, hard ground occupied the last portion of the room.

    “I can’t wait,” Chili was muttering to himself. “After all these rookies – finally, a trainer with some experience! Just the thought’s got me fired up!

    Dalton remembered what the Nurse Joy in Accumula Town had said about his being old for a first-time Pokémon trainer. For a moment, he contemplated telling Chili that it was his first Gym battle… but he thought better of it.

    “We might have to wait a while,” Chili said. “There’s no one here to referee for us.”

    “We’re gonna battle… in here?” Dalton asked.

    “Right over there,” Chili said, sitting down at one of the tables and pointing over his shoulder with his thumb to the bare floor at the far end of the room. “Maybe one of my brothers will be here soon…”

    Just after he said that, a young man with somewhat droopy, blue hair appeared in the doorway.

    “Cress!” Chili jumped to his feet. The blue-haired teen responded with a loud, gaping yawn.

    “Don’t yell so loud,” he murmured.

    “I’ve got a trainer here ready for a battle!” Chili said impatiently. “Come on, let’s get it warmed up!”

    “Chill out, man,” Cress groaned in annoyance, trudging forward. His voice was slow, and so relaxed that it bordered on lethargy. Dalton supposed it was because it was so early in the morning. Still, the last time he’d heard a voice so blissfully apathetic… well, special plants had been involved. “Why are you so impatient all the time? Just go with the flow… When’d you get into this habit of showing up half an hour before opening time? Cilan’s not gonna be happy…”

    “Well, last time I checked, Cilan wasn’t the boss of me,” Chili snapped. “C’mon – before the place fills up for breakfast. This shouldn’t take long, right?”

    Cress sighed. Dalton had a feeling Cress was used to Chili pushing him around a bit.


    “This official Unova League Gym Match will now begin,” Cress said about two minutes later, once he had gone to collect a pair of flags. Chili and Dalton were standing on opposite sides of the bare floor. “Between Chili, Leader of the Striaton Gym, and the challenger… what’s your name, man?”

    “Dalton Gregg,” Dalton replied.

    “Dalton Gregg from… wherever,” Cress uttered a bit lazily. “Each trainer will use one Pokémon only. No time limit. You guys ready?”

    “Yeah,” Dalton uttered calmly, trying to resist the soporific power of Cress’s voice. He wondered whether Chili used his brother as a secret weapon to lull his challengers to sleep.

    “Flame on!” screamed Chili so loudly that he might have just awoken half of Striaton City.

    “Lame,” yawned Cress flatly, staring at his brother. “You stole that from a movie.”

    Never mind that, Dalton thought. Chili’s hyper enough for the both of them.

    “So what if I did?” Chili replied loudly. “Let’s get on with this!”

    He produced a Pokéball from his hip and reared back with it so far Dalton felt an urge to duck. “Pansear, let’s turn up the heat!!”

    He launched the ball into the air. From it came a small, orange monkey.

    “Pan! Pan!” the primate creature screeched.

    Dalton tilted his head… he’d certainly never seen one of those before. He threw his own Pokéball. “C’mon out, Nina!”

    Dalton caught the ball as the light that had exploded from it shaped itself into his Nidoran. She bounced up and down on all fours (“Ran! Ran!”) and looked eager to fight.

    “Whoa, that’s interesting,” Cress commented lazily. “I don’t think that species is from Unova, bro.”

    “Yeah, you’re right,” Chili answered. “You’re one of those trainers from a foreign country, aren’tcha? We get a few every year.”

    “Foreign country?” Dalton smiled ironically. “You could say that.”

    “Whatever,” chuckled Chili. “Pansear, open up with Scratch!”

    “Nina, dodge it!” Dalton yelled – but Pansear was too quick. In a flash, the reddish monkey Pokémon was upon the horned rodent, swiping her with suddenly sharp claws. Dalton cringed. Nina fell to the ground with a pained squeak, but bounced up to her feet straightaway. “Nina!!”

    “Ran-ran…” She shook her head.

    “Watch out, it’s coming again!” Dalton warned.

    “Scratch!” Chili cried out a second time. Nina was able to react and clear herself just in time, but the Pansear was relentless; turning on a dime, it lashed out and attacked again. This time, Nina caught the claw across her face, letting out a horrible screech as she fell to the floor.

    “Damn!” snarled Dalton. He felt powerless to stop this onslaught. Pansear kept coming and coming, and all he could do was warn Nina to dodge, which was very little help. Fresh bruises, cuts, and scrapes blossomed around Nina’s small body with each blow. At one point, Pansear sent her flying halfway across the battlefield with a hard strike. She landed on her flank and bounced as Pansear stalked backward, putting some distance between itself and its battered opponent.

    “Time to turn up the heat for real this time,” Chili said. “Pansear, use –”

    “Okay, Chili, that’s enough.”

    Chili looked to Dalton’s left. Dalton’s eyes turned in that direction as well. A youth with green hair and eyes stood several feet away, about as tall and as skinny as Dalton himself.

    “Cilan, when’d you get here?” Chili asked.

    “Cress, call it,” Cilan didn’t answer the one brother, but turned instead to the other. Cress nodded.

    “Nidoran is unable to battle. Pansear is the winner. Match goes to Chili, the Striaton City Gym Leader,” he announced, pointing one of his flags in the direction of his red-haired brother. Pansear flipped itself over and started walking on its hands by way of celebration. But Dalton only had eyes for Nina, who lay broken and unconscious in the middle of the floor. Some of the cuts on her flesh had started to purple and ooze with something that couldn’t have been anything but blood. One of her eyes appeared to be swollen shut. He walked over to the fallen Pokémon and knelt in front of her. His first thought was to scoop her into his arms, but he felt unworthy to touch her. This had been all his fault. He returned her to her ball and, swallowing a great, boulder-sized lump in his throat, stood up to his full height.

    Cilan, the green-haired brother, was standing in front of him. “You probably want to get that Nidoran to a Pokémon Center. You’re allowed to challenge the Gym again in three days – but given how things went this morning, I’d advise you to think about w—”

    “Thanks,” Dalton said in a dead, hollow voice, departing through the middle of the restaurant.


    Dalton handed his Nidoran over to Nurse Joy at the Pokémon Center, who directed him to the waiting area, where he waited. And waited. And waited. It must have been about an hour. Dalton started thinking terrible thoughts. What did it look like if a Pokémon ever died? Would Nina ever be the same again?

    “Dalton Gregg?” Dalton heard his name and stood up. He walked up to Nurse Joy’s desk to find her smiling a bit grimly (if such a thing was possible.) “Your Nidoran will be fine. She’ll have to stay the night, though. That was quite a beating she took. What happened? Most trainers don’t do that badly against the Striaton Leaders, even if it is their first serious battle.”

    “He choked, pretty much,” a voice came from behind Dalton, who whirled around. It was the brown-haired boy from earlier – Blake. “I got there just in time to watch the end. He just stood there, not ordering an attack and letting his Pokémon get the crap beaten out of it.”

    Blake was glaring at him.

    “How’s that your business?” Dalton asked.

    “My business?” snapped Blake suddenly. “I should have you reported!”

    “Reported?”

    “Blake—” Whitlea had appeared from out of nowhere, trying to restrain her brother.

    “No, get off me – people like you make me sick!” Blake snarled. “If you’re so weak, find a way to get better or just stop the cruelty!”

    “How am I cruel?!” questioned Dalton.

    “If you need me to answer that question, you don’t need to be training Pokémon! You had no idea what the hell you were doing – and you probably knew that! But you insisted on making your Pokémon battle anyway… that’s cruel! Pokémon are living creatures. It’s guys like you that make the rest of us look bad! It’s no wonder there are people like that Ghetsis hanging around, trying to tell the rest of us that Pokémon have no place with human beings!”

    Blake was spitting mad now – Whitlea was trying to hold him back.

    “It’s pretty clear you’re hopeless as a trainer,” Blake finally said, his voice deathly quiet. “So spare yourself the embarrassment, and more importantly, spare your Pokémon the pain. Just… go home.”

    “Blake, no!

    Anger started coursing through Dalton’s veins. He could barely keep himself from shaking. Everything that had happened to him, all the confusion at what had happened to him the last few days, everything that he’d been keeping buried under his veneer of stoicism… all of it came to the surface.

    “You… you…” he muttered. “You wouldn’t get it.”

    “I wouldn’t get wh—” Blake started to ask, but Dalton exploded:

    “I – CAN’T – GO – HOME!!”

    “Stop!!”

    He reared back, balling days – and perhaps years – worth of rage into a clenched fist. He saw a quick movement of brown hair as he sank his punch into a jaw and knocked his target to the ground.

    “Whit!” He heard Blake’s voice.

    Dalton snapped out of his rage and staggered backward. Nurse Joy had her hands clasped over her mouth.

    …And it was Whitlea who had fallen, and Blake who was kneeling over her.

    Dalton felt the throbbing in his knuckles and studied them for a second. He turned and bolted, tripping over himself as he ran. He heard a bellowed string of oaths, then a roar of “YOU’RE DEAD, YOU –” and then more swears. He didn’t dare look behind himself. He wouldn’t have seen much, anyway; his eyes were already swimming and he was running half blind.


    He finally ran out of breath in the middle of an area of flowered green that looked nothing like the rest of the city. He sank down into a bench, and with no regard for who or what was around him, inhaled through his sobs and screamed an ear-splitting curse to the heavens.

    If only that rifleman’s bullets had taken his life. That was what was supposed to happen. That was what would have happened, if the cosmos itself didn’t hate his guts. With each day that passed, it seemed to be contriving new, fresh ways to make his existence miserable.

    Maybe they should have shot him in the head instead. There wouldn’t have been any coming back from that…

    Out of all the questions he had about life itself, there was one that was starting to pierce his consciousness: What good reason did he have to live in this or any other world?

    “There you are!” Dalton looked up. It was that hideous beast… he looked down again.

    “Come to gloat, have you?” he muttered.

    “Gloat?” Talia – or Fox, or whatever the hell her name was – assumed a voice of (more than likely) mock confusion.

    “You said last night I wouldn’t be good enough to be a Pokémon trainer, and you were right!” Dalton snapped. “You were right! You happy now?”

    “I never said—”

    “Yeah, but you were thinking it, weren’t you?” retorted Dalton. “You know what? Just go away. I’ve already got enough messed up in my life without you making things worse.”

    “If you’d just stop and listen for a second—” Talia started – but Dalton had reached the end of his patience. He started to get to his feet.

    “Stop? I can’t stop! You don’t understand what it’s like—”

    SMACK. Dalton fell back into the chair, holding his face.

    “NO! I’m sick of people talking down to me!” Talia was beside herself. “You’re going to sit on that bench and you’re going to listen to me, you – miserable, stubborn, ungrateful son of a *****!

    She was breathing like a bull in the middle of a rampage.

    “You’re not gonna be able to keep up the way you’re going right now!” she went on. “That Blake kid was being a jerk, but he was right – how far do you think you’re gonna get going into battle half-cocked over and over like you’re doing?! I mean… God, you don’t even know any of Nina’s attacks!

    “What the hell am I supposed to do, huh?” asked Dalton. “I have to do something to survive in this world.”

    “Is that your attitude, huh? Survival?” Talia spat. “Just scraping by? Sounds like a pretty miserable way to live.”

    Dalton looked up, but Talia headed him off.

    “Yes, you’re miserable, and if you say anything different, you’re lying to yourself. I’ve only known you a couple of days and I’ve never seen anyone so unhappy.”

    “You try living the last week of my life,” Dalton said bitingly. “See if it doesn’t dampen your spirits just a little bit.”

    “Don’t be stupid, you weren’t happy where you were,” Talia said, slumping into the bench right next to Dalton. “A world with no Pokémon that sounds like it’s run by some sort of weird dictatorship… I’d be surprised if anybody that comes from that could be happy at all. Now you get to travel, see new places, experience new things… you’ve got some freedom. Can’t you enjoy that just a little bit?”

    “I think you’re a hypocrite,” Dalton said. “You didn’t sound too happy this morning when you were crying in your sleep.”

    Talia made a sour face for a moment. “I never said I pretended all the painful things in life didn’t exist. But I also treat the good things in life the same way…”

    “Good things in life… hah,” scoffed Dalton. “Like what?”

    “You get to experience what it’s like to be around Pokémon,” Talia said. Taking a deep breath, she added, “You’re about to travel Unova. It’s spring, so the weather’s nice. And… if you’d stop pushing them away… you’d have some friends, too.”

    Dalton paused for a moment. Talia spoke no further. They sat in silence for what seemed like forever, until Dalton grimaced and shook his head.

    “Why did you come along, anyway?”

    “Like I said, to look for my father,” Talia answered briskly.

    “Why’d you really come along?” asked Dalton.

    “Because I was lonely, and bored, and I hated my life,” she said flatly. “I mean… if I stayed home, I’d probably get a decent job in one of the stores. Then I’d meet an average guy and we’d get married. Maybe I’d have a couple of kids, I’d raise ‘em… everybody would grow old… and maybe, if I was really lucky, my children would think enough of me to help me through my last few years with some dignity.”

    “Well…” Dalton asked. “…what’s so wrong about that?”

    “There’s nothing wrong with it,” Talia answered. “I just don’t know why it has to be that way.”

    She took a deep breath.

    “You can choose something other than what’s obvious to you,” she said. “It may not be as easy, but… I think you’ll be happier in the end.”

    She stood up and started back (Dalton guessed) toward town. She halted for a moment and looked over her shoulder.

    “We’re both fighting futures we don’t want, aren’t we? Rebels gotta stick together.”

    Dalton studied Talia’s face for a moment.

    “‘Rebels’, huh…?”

    He rose to his feet.

    END

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.




  2. #27
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    Typical... you try to stop a fight and you get knocked down instead. While Talia and Blake made good points, Blake was extraordinarily tactless. Well, at least this butt-whupping made for a good wake-up call. Dalton needed one. Badly.

    Cress and Chili made me smile: their interactions further set their personalities at odds and made for a refreshing look at the triplets. No matter what Chili says about not marching to Cilan's fife, it's clear to see just who's in charge at the Striaton Cafe.

    Well, time to regroup, rebuild and and try harder, I guess. I wonder if Dalton will get the monkey (or if he'll even accept it)...

    L@er!
    The Corei Quest's latest chapter: Chapter Forty Seven: Tricks of the Trade (24 April 2014)
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    HEART OF SEVEN STONES IS ON INDEFINITE HIATUS (REAPED) UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE
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  3. #28
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    Yeah, yeah... I know... "a month!? A MONTH!? WHAT THE @$#& WERE YOU DOING WITH YOURSELF?!"

    Well... other projects, then getting my *** kicked by writers' block... then getting my *** kicked by what I'm pretty sure was one mother of a flu bug that rendered me completely unproductive for about a week and a half... and then writers' block.

    Quote Originally Posted by Air Dragon View Post
    Typical... you try to stop a fight and you get knocked down instead. While Talia and Blake made good points, Blake was extraordinarily tactless. Well, at least this butt-whupping made for a good wake-up call. Dalton needed one. Badly.

    Cress and Chili made me smile: their interactions further set their personalities at odds and made for a refreshing look at the triplets. No matter what Chili says about not marching to Cilan's fife, it's clear to see just who's in charge at the Striaton Cafe.

    Well, time to regroup, rebuild and and try harder, I guess. I wonder if Dalton will get the monkey (or if he'll even accept it)...

    L@er!
    Well... let's take this in one swoop, shall we?

    Blake's a bit abrasive... okay, unless you're counting his sister and anyone he truly cares about, he's a di- well... yeah. I'm sure you know this guy/girl that you look at and you're like "your friends are saints for not hating your guts, let alone hanging around you." Blake's that guy.

    As for Whitlea's fate... that's actually inspired by a real life event I saw in middle school. If you MUST break up a fight, the smart move is to pick whoever looks lighter, then get behind them and hold them back - as opposed to trying to jump smack dab in the middle, which can result in... well, in my real life case, the full-grown man who tried to break up the fight getting knocked out cold by a 13-year-old girl.

    As for Cress... sometimes you just have a vision in your head and you can't do anything about it but go with it. No matter how many times I re-wrote that scene, he was either slightly effeminate, or a total stoner. So I went with the latter. He may or may not have taken a drag from Seemore's shrooms right after he woke up that morning. Or he's just not a morning person. Whatever you find more entertaining.

    As for the monkey... welp, won't give anything away.

    And with that... it's (finally) time for a new chapter. :-)


    9. The Glad and the Indomitable

    “…I can’t believe you let her punch you in the face.”

    Evening had fallen, and Dalton and Talia had again taken up refuge in the lodgings at the Striaton City Pokémon Center. Talia was sitting at the small table, her legs upon it; Dalton was in the bottom bunk with a bag of ice on his jaw.

    “Well, what was I supposed to do?” he uttered. “It’s not like I thought she’d hit that hard.”

    “Was it really even necessary, though? I mean… not to be a jerk, but she kinda brought it on herself, didn’t she?” Talia queried. “You weren’t aiming at her. You were going for Blake’s face and she stuck hers in the way.”

    Dalton shook her head. It was almost humorous when Talia put it like that. “I shouldn’t have thrown the punch. But I wouldn’t have felt so bad if it had been him.”

    “So you just walked up, turned your cheek to her and gave her a free shot. That’s sweet of you,” Talia commented with a chuckle. “Or, at least as sweet as someone could be in this situation…”

    “Can we move on now?” groaned Dalton. “That was kind of the point.”

    “I still think Blake’s gonna hate your guts for the rest of eternity,” Talia remarked.

    “Who cares about him? I hate his guts, too. You hear what he said to me?” Dalton asked incredulously. “‘It’s only because Whit asked me not to that I’m not beating your ***.’ And then I offered to battle him, and he just goes, ‘Nope. You’re not worth my time. Macy and I have better things to do.’”

    “Maybe that’s not a bad thing. He might have wiped the floor with you,” Talia murmured haltingly.

    “Who cares?” groaned Dalton, his expression lemon-juice sour. “He’s a cocky little –” and then he called Blake a word that made Talia snicker guiltily. “Next time I see him, I’m gonna bring him down a peg.”

    “Can we just worry about Chili first?” sighed Talia. “Before you start picking fights with everyone else?”

    Dalton frowned. “How do I avoid what happened this morning? I didn’t even do any damage to Chili’s Pansear… I think it’s called a Pansear…”

    “Well…” Talia grimaced, obviously wondering about what she was going to say next. “Did you order Nina to attack it?”

    “I don’t know what attacks Nina can use,” groaned Dalton, covering the non-iced half of his face with his free hand. “It’s like you said… I don’t really know what I’m doing when I battle. Unless there’s some… Pokémon battling school around here somewhere…”

    “Yes.”

    Dalton sat up, letting out a high-pitched whimper. Talia pursed her lips and looked away, trying hard not to laugh. In his haste, Dalton had let the ice pack slip from his grasp. It slid off his face and landed directly in the crotch of his cargo shorts. Dalton threw it aside.

    “‘Yes’?” he repeated. “You mean, there is a school like that?”

    Talia nodded. “It’s just up the road. You probably ran right past it and didn’t even notice, huh?”

    Dalton sighed heavily.

    “I’m really making a mess of this.”

    No,” said Talia a bit too brightly. Then her eyes dropped. “Well… yeah. But… I guess I couldn’t blame you. You didn’t grow up with Pokémon as a part of your life, after all.”

    Dalton threw himself back onto the bed.

    “Are you just gonna lay there and mope forever?” Talia asked.

    “I’m not moping,” replied Dalton, covering his face with his forearms. “I’m… thinking.”

    “…It’s not gonna do you any good to dwell on what happened, you know,” Talia remarked, trying too hard to sound offhand.

    “And you know what would do me some good?” asked Dalton, a bit more forcefully than he’d meant to out of frustration.

    “Food, probably,” Talia remarked. “It’s almost lunchtime.”


    They found a nice little café-type place toward the center of town, with a covered terrace where they could eat while enjoying the spring air. Thankfully, it wasn’t terribly expensive. They were running extremely low on money and had to find some way to stretch that money for at least three days. Dalton ate – or, rather, nibbled – his food, watching Talia eat a sandwich that was quite large but seemed to have more lettuce and tomato than meat.

    She looked up from it a moment. “Are you actually going to eat or what? No wonder you’re so skinny.”

    Dalton frowned. Talia, of course, was right; and the clothes she had gotten for him, which were all a size too big, had worsened the effect.

    “You don’t talk much, do you?” she asked, putting her sandwich down entirely.

    Dalton grimaced. “Well, what do you want me to say?”

    “I dunno,” admitted Talia. “Something. Eating with someone that just won’t talk is worse than eating alone.”

    “There’s not a whole lot to say,” Dalton said, shrugging. “I mean, unless you want to hear about Harmonia, which you don’t…”

    “Did you have any hobbies?” asked Talia. “Before you came here?”

    Dalton had to resist the urge to laugh. “Hobbies? Who’s got time for that? I was too worried about getting through school.”

    “So you ate, slept, and did schoolwork – nothing else?” Talia asked. “I have a hard time believing that.”

    “Believe it,” Dalton advised her. “My friend Evan tried to get me into skateboarding, but it wasn’t my thing.”

    “Was it not your thing,” Talia queried coyly, “or did you just suck at it?”

    “Both,” Dalton replied flatly. “First time I ever did it, I got my weight too far forward and slammed my face right into solid concrete.”

    Talia made a face like she was wincing but also trying very hard not to laugh. “Your face didn’t win that battle, did it?”

    “Nope,” Dalton answered, raising his eyebrows.

    “Don’t worry about it,” she laughed. “I don’t think you got any lasting damage.”

    “…Good to know,” murmured Dalton, returning to his sandwich. It wasn’t easily occurring to him what to say to Talia to keep a conversation going. Keeping conversations going – or starting them, for that matter – wasn’t one of Dalton’s strong points. It had never been much of a problem with Evan. Evan was the type of person you just let talk, and eventually, he’d settle on something mildly interesting – then you could chime in. She buried her face in her sandwich and Dalton took that opportunity to study her for a moment…

    “Did you have…” he started a bit uncertainly. “I dunno… career goals?”

    “Career goals?” echoed Talia, looking up from her lunch.

    “Yeah, I mean… was there anything you wanted to be when—” Dalton stopped himself. He’d almost said, “when you grew up,” which would have sounded patronizing at best. “I mean, after you got done with school?”

    Talia grimaced. “Never thought about it. I probably should have. I mean, I’m sixteen, after all. But honestly, what is there to do in Accumula Town? I know an okay bit about Pokémon. Maybe I would have helped run the shop at the Pokémon Center or… someth—you know, isn’t it stupid how we have to always conform to whatever society we live in?”

    Dalton made a bewildered face. That had come out of nowhere.

    “I mean… there’s always the illusion that you can be an individual,” she said. “March to the beat of your own drum… but when you have to grow up, you realize that’s all it is – an illusion. That’s when it hits you – there’s no such thing as dreaming for grown-ups.”

    “That why you don’t have any dreams, then?” he asked. “Is that your way of trying to seem more… mature, I guess?”

    “You don’t have any dreams,” she commented a bit defensively. Dalton gave one of his ironic chuckles again.

    “You’re joking, right?” he asked. “My dreams are pretty much all I have left.”

    Talia and her blue eyes gave Dalton a glowing look for a split second and then stared down at the tablecloth. “I didn’t have you pegged for an idealist.”

    “I’m not an idealist,” Dalton said seriously. “I’m just really, really desperate.”

    A giant slurping sound came from the other table. Talia was trying to sip a drink that had been empty a long time. As she did it, she looked up at Dalton with an expression that made her eyes look a bit bigger than normal.

    “I wonder if Pokémon dream?” she asked.

    Dalton raised his eyebrows.

    “I mean… they’re not too much different than human beings in a lot of other ways,” Talia went on with an almost childish innocence. “I wonder if they dream, too?”

    “I’m certain they do,” came a voice from nearby. Talia started horribly and turned around. Sitting by herself at a table right next to them was a bespectacled woman. She was still quite young and quite beautiful, with dark hair that was so long that it almost touched the ground. She was wearing a long, white coat that at least looked like a lab jacket. “Oh… I’m sorry. I couldn’t help but overhear.”

    “Yeah… sure…” said Talia, eyeing the young woman a bit nervously.

    “My name’s Fennel,” she said, smiling. “I’m a Pokémon researcher, and my main area of interest just happens to be that of Pokémon dreams.”

    “I’m Talia Renard,” Talia answered. Fennel gave her a strange look.

    “You’re not related to Andreas Renard, are you?”

    Talia’s eyes went wide. “My father? You know him?”

    “‘Know’ is probably too strong a word,” admitted Fennel. “We’ve met once or twice, and correspond every so often. But I haven’t gotten anything from him in about a year. I didn’t even know he had a daughter.”

    “A year?” repeated Talia. “I haven’t seen him in three. What do you know?”

    “Not much,” said Fennel, obviously a bit put off by Talia’s aggressiveness. “Just that he was looking into the relationships between humans and Pokémon. He wanted to see what effect, if any, that human dominance of an area had on those relationships. So he went to the most human-dominated area he could find in Unova – that is, the largest urban area.”

    “Castelia’s the largest city,” said Talia hungrily. It wasn’t a question.

    “By most reckonings, yes,” replied Fennel, still apparently wondering if Talia was going to eat her alive. “Like I said, though… that was a year ago, and if you’re looking for him, there’s no guarantee he’s still there.”

    “It sounds like a good place to look, though.” said Talia.

    “It’s very strange…” Fennel mused. “Some sciences are filled with politicking and rivalry – but Pokémon research has always been a cooperative, communal venture. We share our findings with our fellow researchers, hoping to find links or connections. So any researcher worth his salt wouldn’t simply disappear for a year without communicating with anyone…”

    “Are you saying my father’s not a good researcher?” asked Talia. Dalton could see her ears turning red. He didn’t know her all that well, but his gut said that this probably wasn’t a good sign.

    “Exactly the opposite,” said Fennel. “I believe he was, which is why it’s so strange that no one’s heard from him in a while. I mean… Amanita, even if she leaves, calls in every hour. But I guess that’s different…”

    “Who’s Amanita?” asked Talia.

    “My assistant… who also happens to be my little sister,” she said. “Right after I left school, our parents died in a car accident, so I had to take care of her…”

    “Fennel?” Dalton piped in. She looked at him with a surprised expression. “Sorry… I’m Dalton Gregg. You say you’re a Pokémon researcher?”

    “…Yes,” Fennel answered slowly, as if this should have been obvious.

    “Do you have any information on what attacks certain species of Pokémon learn?” he asked. Fennel frowned.

    “Not off the top of my head. That’s more Professor Juniper’s field,” she admitted.

    “Sorry… Professor Juniper?” repeated Dalton. Talia winced.

    “He’s, erm… not from the area,” she interjected.

    “Oh,” Fennel uttered, looking like she thought this was a poor excuse. “Well… Professor Aurea Juniper happens to be a classmate and friend of mine. She lives in Nuvema Town. Actually, a couple of her protégés are off helping me with a project – and, actually, I need to see to that now.”

    She stood up.

    “If you could do me a favor, though, I may be able to get my hands on a Pokédex for you,” she said, looking straight at Dalton.

    “What’s a –”

    “Almost anything you need to know about Pokémon,” Talia interrupted to explain, “you can find in a Pokédex. They’re supposed to be expensive, though. You’d really do that?”

    She was looking up at Fennel, who gazed down at her from her standing position.

    “I can’t promise anything,” Fennel said. “But if you can fetch Amanita for me, I might be able to help. She’s usually at the Trainer’s School.”

    “That’s so sweet,” mewled Talia. “She really must like learning about Pokémon.”

    Fennel laughed. “Actually, she’s probably there tutoring someone. She’s very bright, my little sister.”

    “Well… I guess that’s convenient,” Talia said, looking at Dalton as if waiting for him to protest. “We were just planning on heading over to the Trainer’s School. What’s she look like, your sister?”

    “She’s twelve years old,” Fennel answered. Dalton didn’t see how this information answered Talia’s question. “But she’s very, very small, so she looks younger. She’ll have blonde hair – probably in pigtails – and glasses a little like the ones I’m wearing… even though she doesn’t really need them.”

    “Small, blonde, glasses,” repeated Talia.

    “Well, if you’ve got all that…” Fennel commented. “I’ve got to get over to the Dreamyard, so… see you later?”

    Talia nodded. “Later.”

    Fennel departed, leaving the two teenagers with one last smile. Talia turned to Dalton.

    “I guess now’s as good a time as any,” he sighed.


    The Trainer’s School was on the west side of town, and quite a smaller building than Dalton had anticipated. It was no wonder that Dalton had walked right past it once. The way the desks and blackboard were set up, it did remind him vaguely of his primary school in Johto – which was ironic, given his old school’s aversion to anything having to do with Pokémon.

    To Dalton’s surprise, the age groups seemed to vary inside the building. There were small children, probably about as young as nine or ten, walking around with tiny, basic-looking books. There were teenagers as old as Dalton himself – including a familiar, blue-haired fellow standing at the front near the blackboard.

    “Hold on, that’s Cress,” remarked Dalton, pointing him out to Talia. “The Striaton Gym leader… or one of them, anyway.”

    “I guess it’d sorta make sense, the Gym leader coming to teach a class here,” she replied. Dalton, however, thought Cress looked somewhat tired and disinterested. Then again, that might have just been his normal facial expression…

    “But you know who I don’t see?” asked Dalton darkly, scanning the room again in case he was wrong. “This Amanita girl. I wonder if Fennel sent us on a wild goose chase?”

    “Why would she do that?” asked Talia. “Honestly, Dalton, you’re too paranoid.”

    “Better that than too trusting.” Dalton scanned the room again. No sign of a girl matching Amanita’s description. Groaning in frustration, he settled into a chair, in front of a desk clearly designed for someone a bit shorter than six feet tall. Talia glanced at him semi-apologetically.

    “Well… might as well learn something while you’re here, I guess,” she said, whisking away. Moments later, she’d come back with a rather thin book. The front cover read “Basics of Pokémon Battling” and honestly looked like it was designed to be read by someone half Dalton’s age.

    “What… seriously?” he uttered. The book landed in front of him with a light smack instead of the dull THUD he was used to hearing.

    “You have to start somewhere,” she said, shrugging and sitting upon one of the desk. He grumbled to himself as he opened it. Talia heard him; she added, “It’s really basic concepts. You should be able to get them in about fifteen minutes, right?”

    He was flipping through the pages, absorbing information as he went. Until, at last, something stopped him. “Sometimes Pokémon get special conditions during a battle. Not all of them are good.” The picture featured a couple of Pokémon obviously in the middle of fighting each other. One of them – a Patrat from what Dalton could tell from its back – looked a sickly purple color. “What’s happened to this Patrat?”

    “Poison,” a smaller voice answered instead of Talia’s. Dalton turned his head to his right very slowly.

    Amanita – or at least a girl looking very much like Fennel described – was standing right over his shoulder, peering over half-moon spectacles.

    “Uh… Amanita?” Dalton asked. The little girl (and Fennel was right, she was indeed little) looked taken aback.

    “You know my name?” she queried. Dalton stared at her for a moment, thinking this was obvious.

    “What do you mean, ‘poison’?” asked Dalton.

    “It’s exactly what it sounds like,” Amanita explained. “A substance has invaded a Pokémon’s body that doesn’t belong there. End result, it pumps through a Pokémon’s body and gradually drains away its energy the longer it goes unchecked.”

    She’d said all of this off the top of her head. The flabbergasted expression Talia was giving indicated that even she wouldn’t have been able to come up with an explanation nearly that thorough.

    There was something… vaguely… familiar about Amanita. Dalton simply couldn’t put his finger on it.

    “Do you need help with anything else, Mister…?” she asked.

    “Dalton. Just Dalton,” Dalton replied. “And no. Actually, Fennel sent me here to find you. She says to come home.”

    Dalton thought Amanita would have protested, but instead her eyes went wide, as if this was the best news she had heard all day.

    “Really? It must be real this time,” she said, wide-eyed. She whisked away for a moment and reappeared with a small purse, from which she produced what couldn’t have been anything other than a cellphone. (Dalton had to remind himself that Amanita, as petite as she was, was very nearly a teenager.)

    “Sis?” she spoke into the receiver. Dalton couldn’t hear the response on the other end, but Amanita nodded and said, “Yeah. I’ll be back by two.”

    She hung up.

    “Should we show you back?” asked Dalton, just trying to be polite. This didn’t go over well with Amanita.

    “I’m not a child,” she said indignantly, folding her arms. “I come here by myself all the time.”

    “It’s kind of a moot point, isn’t it?” Talia pointed out. “Fennel said she wanted to see us anyway.”

    “And you don’t know where we live, do you?” Amanita asked. Both Dalton and Talia shook their heads. Amanita smiled a mischievous smile. “I guess I’m the one that’s leading you, then.”

    Dalton stood and, along with Talia and Amanita, made to walk out. But Talia suddenly snatched something from his grip. Dalton turned to give her a dirty look, but immediately saw “Basics of Pokémon Battling” dangling from Talia’s hand.

    “There’s no need to steal books from the Academy,” Amanita remarked. “I’ve got that same book at home if you’d like to see it. I might have to dig it out, though… I haven’t read it since I was about six.”

    Dalton’s face fell. He couldn’t tell whether Amanita was making fun of him. But she grinned and gave him a wink. It was then that it occurred to Dalton that he’d seen that face – or one very like it – before.

    But… he thought to himself. Nah… that’s impossible, right?


    The three of them (a motley crew if Dalton had ever seen one) strode out onto Striaton’s Main Street. Amanita, in fact, went to the middle of the road, squinting and looking at something. Meanwhile, Dalton saw something bearing down on the girl from her left.

    “Hey, kid!” an approaching form screamed. “Move it!!”

    Dalton sprang to action before he even knew what he was doing. “Amanita!”

    He got there right before the other runner did, and flung Amanita aside. He felt a tremendous force barreling into him soon after, and he and another human being collapsed in a heap in the road.

    Once Dalton had cleared the cobwebs from his brain, he realized he was looking upon a very strangely dressed individual who was scrambling to his feet. He was wearing a helmet and a cheap imitation of courtly attire. He looked vaguely like a knight out of one of Kallen’s old bedtime stories…

    Then Dalton saw it. The electric-blue monogram.

    “You…” he murmured.

    “Dalton, are you okay?” he heard Talia ask vaguely. Something must have cowed the other young man, because he took one look at Dalton, turned tail, and ran. Dalton stared blankly at his back, watching his form shrink into the distance. “Dalton? Dalton!”

    Talia’s yell brought him back to earth. She was looking straight at him, and a fair bit of color had drained out of her face. Her brow was creased in a frown of concern.

    Dalton thought for a moment of giving chase; but his hesitation had cost him. There was almost no way he would catch up now…

    “I…” he uttered blankly. He felt his face contorting, almost against his will. Snarling (Talia jumped) he tore his eyes away and set them on Amanita.

    “Are you okay?” Talia asked, once Dalton failed to find his voice. Amanita stood, dusting herself off.

    Meanwhile, Dalton stared blankly into the distance, his eyes trying to pursue a target he could no longer see…



    Dalton knocked gently on the door to what Amanita said was Fennel’s apartment. He drew back. There was no response. He tried again, knocking three times on the door.

    “Fennel?” called Talia. Amanita rolled her eyes.

    “You’re both doing it wrong,” she said. “Fennel gets so focused… you have to act like you’re going to storm the place.”

    And with that, she stepped in between the two of them. Raising a fist, she hammered the door with it harder than Dalton thought possible. The door visibly shook on its hinges. Amanita put her mouth to the keyhole and shouted loudly, “Open up!!”

    “Coming!!” a voice shouted from within. The door swung open several minutes later, revealing Fennel, who was still in her lab coat but also noticeably barefoot. She ogled Dalton and Talia for a moment, as if wondering what they were doing there.

    Amanita must have saw the look, because she frowned and asked, “Didn’t you invite these two? To go fetch me? Which, by the way, was completely unnecessary.”

    Without preamble, Amanita stepped across the threshold. Dalton and Talia looked at each other for a moment before the latter went in. Dalton brought up the rear, hands in the pockets of his oversized cargo shorts.

    The goosebumps broke out on his pale legs and arms as soon as he was across the threshold. He managed to stop himself from looking utterly pathetic by shivering, but it was a close thing. Talia must have noticed it too; she subtly held her arms closer to her body.

    “I’m not a little child anymore, Fennel. You could have just called me instead of sending a pair of strangers.” Amanita continued to scold her older sister, which Dalton found a bit comical. Still, though, there was something so, so familiar about this little girl and her bearing: something that made Dalton feel nostalgic, and at the same time extremely uncomfortable.

    “Well, you might’ve had your phone off,” Fennel answered. It was obvious that the sisters went back and forth like this fairly often.

    “Why would I – never mind. So, what’s the story? What’s so important?” Amanita asked. Dalton looked around the room, wondering inwardly (because he’d never have the guts to do so aloud) where, exactly, Fennel and Amanita slept. The kitchen, if it could be called that, was nestled in a corner of the apartment. Everywhere else seemed to be occupied by books and computer equipment, the most prominent of which was a monstrous machine that chugged and whirred quietly opposite the kitchen.

    “We found it,” Fennel said.

    “You’re joking!” explained Amanita. “The Dream Mist and everything?”

    “Yep!” exclaimed Fennel.

    “Well, where’s…” Amanita looked around. “Um, what’s-her-face? Whitney?”

    “You mean Whitlea? She’s left already,” Fennel said.

    Dalton glanced at Talia again. She was thinking the same thing he was; Fennel and Amanita had forgotten about them.

    “Um… excuse me?”

    Amanita and Fennel turned toward them, in that order.

    “What’s Dream Mist?” asked Talia - but Dalton would not be distracted.

    “Sorry if I’m being blunt, but do you have the PokéDex?” he asked.

    “You need a PokéDex?” blurted out Amanita, disappearing into a door that Dalton wouldn’t have seen if he hadn’t been looking right at her walking into it. A few seconds later she emerged with a small, red device. Fennel let out a gasp. “You can use this one.”

    “But that’s your modified –” Fennel started.

    “No,” Amanita interrupted her. “And even if it is, why’s that any of your business?”

    Fennel nudged Amanita with her hip, and for just a split-second, Dalton couldn’t help noticing that Fennel’s lab coat was not doing her justice. Amanita looked up at her sister, decided to ignore her, and handed the red device to Dalton.

    “Well… turn it on,” Amanita said, after Dalton spent several seconds staring at it blankly.

    “Turn it on?” Dalton repeated. “I’ve never seen one of these before.”

    Amanita’s jaw unhinged slightly. “What do you—”

    “Long story,” interrupted Talia, who didn’t seem to appreciate having been ignored.

    “Oh, okay…” Amanita conceded, taking the device from Dalton and pushing the largest button. Dalton frowned at his own inability to figure out the obvious. Suddenly, Amanita started speaking again. “Welcome to the PokéDex Version Five Point One.”

    The voice was a bit distorted, as if being forced through a small speaker. Dalton realized after a split second – the voice he was hearing was Amanita’s, but it was coming from the PokéDex instead of her.

    “You’re really going to give him that?” Fennel sounded surprised. “After all the work you did on it?”

    “Well, if I’m going to get Miss Aurea to make my modifications official, I need to find out if it works, right? And to do that, I need a beta tester,” Amanita explained.

    “So this… PokéDex… it’s not like other ones?” asked Dalton.

    “They’re mostly the same in basic function,” replied Amanita. “But I tried a few new experiments on mine. Ask it the weather here.”

    Dalton stared at Amanita. “You mean, talk to it?” He looked askance at Talia, who shrugged.

    “Go ahead – do it,” Amanita urged him.

    Feeling a bit foolish, Dalton held the PokéDex close to his mouth and asked, “What’s the weather in Striaton City?”

    “The current weather in Striaton City is: Mostly sunny, current temperature is seventy-one degrees Fahrenheit, approximately twenty-two degrees Centigrade,” the PokéDex said in Amanita’s voice.

    “Why’d you record your voice onto it?” asked Talia. “Seems a little bit… I dunno, vain to me.”

    “Well, I’m easier on the ears than the creepy phantom robot woman, right?” answered Amanita briskly. Talia grimaced, obviously feeling like the younger girl had a point.

    Dalton turned the device over in his hand. “So, does it know anything about my Pokémon?”

    “I should think so,” Amanita said. “That PokéDex has data on most well-known Pokémon – even Pokémon native to other regions. It’s got at least some info on mostly every Pokémon species that’s been discovered.”

    “How many is that, exactly?” Dalton asked curiously. He’d seen a fair handful in the several days since he started journeying.

    Amanita, to Dalton’s surprise, looked at Fennel, who answered Amanita with, “Why are you looking at me? You know I never remember.”

    “Nobody remembers,” groaned Amanita.

    “Well, that’s because the number keeps going up every two or three years,” said Fennel in exasperation. “A couple of generations ago, people only knew about a hundred fifty or so different species – so researching them was a heck of a lot simpler.”

    “Will it know anything about a Nidoran?” asked Dalton.

    “Why don’t you ask it?” Amanita queried.

    Dalton looked down at the device and, still feeling a bit stupid for talking to a machine, asked clearly, “What do you know about Nidoran?”

    He watched as the screen went white for a moment. Images of two Pokémon appeared on it soon afterward. One might as well have been Nina’s twin, its buck teeth exposed in a rodent-like grin. The other was a bright pink and much spinier and aggressive-looking. “Nidoran is known as the Poison Pin Pokémon. It is most commonly found in the Kanto/Johto landmass. Nidoran is the first Pokémon discovered to have sexually dimorphic traits.”

    “…Um… translation?” asked Talia, looking at Amanita – but it was Dalton who answered.

    “Sexual dimorphism,” he said. “It’s when the two sexes of the same species have very visible contrasts. I mean, besides the obvious. Probably even more obvious than the obvious.”

    “That’s the long way of saying things,” Amanita replied. “Basically, it usually means that the male and female of a species look completely different.”

    “Like… wait, I thought you explained this to me,” Dalton said, staring at Talia. “I mean, you’re the one that told me that you knew my Nidoran was female because of her blue coat. So I’m guessing the male is this spiky, pink one.”

    That’s all that means?” Talia replied. “Well… geez, why do you have to use such a long term for something so simple?”

    “No idea. If you’re gonna be a scholar or scientist, it’s part of the job description…” Fennel said, shrugging.

    “Never mind that,” said Dalton, looking down at the PokéDex and thinking of something. “Can this thing tell me what attack techniques the female Nidoran can use?”

    Amanita’s voice, from her and not the Pokédex, immediately answered, “Nope.”

    Dalton frowned. It had been worth a try.

    “The attack database is so large, that’ll probably require a device all its own one day,” Amanita went on. “But, right now… I just don’t have the time.”

    “You’re twelve years old and don’t have any time?” said Talia, frowning. “Geez. Get out and live a little.”

    “Well, what were you doing when you were twelve?” asked Amanita, her hands on her utterly shapeless hips. “Probably worrying about makeup or your first bra, while I’ve been modifying world-changing technology.”

    “Hey, nobody gives a sh—” Talia suddenly started, looking aggressive.

    “Shouldn’t we get going?” interrupted Dalton. “I mean… back to the Academy.”

    Talia looked at Dalton for a moment, and then at Amanita. With a huff, she turned on her heel and made for the door.

    “And I’m thirteen, by the way!” Amanita shouted after her.

    Fennel looked down at her. “Since when?”

    Amanita looked up at her sister coolly. “Since today.”

    “Tod-oh, my gosh…” Fennel put her hands to her mouth, looking horrified. “Oh, my gosh. Amanita, I completely forgot. I’m so sorry…”

    “Wouldn’t expect you to remember,” Amanita sighed. “Not with you wrapped up in your research all the time. And you wonder why you’re still single…”

    “Hey – that’s a cheap shot,” Fennel replied, her face going pink about the nose area.

    Feeling awkward, Dalton haltingly murmured, “I… think I’ll just show myself out. Thanks for all your help.”

    He’d made it outside the apartment and halfway down the stairs when he heard someone calling his name uncertainly.

    “Hey… Dalton, was it?”

    It was Amanita.

    “Hmm?” he uttered.

    “There’s something weird about you…” she said, taking a couple of steps down toward him. “But I can tell you’re pretty smart. I like smart.”

    “Uh… that’s good,” muttered Dalton, not quite sure what to do with this information.

    “So, you know…” She leaned her head against the stairwell’s railing, wearing a very demure expression Dalton was sure he’d seen before. “If you’re ever ready to chuck Miss Hothead down there and have an intelligent conversation with someone… you know where to find me.”

    Dalton chewed on absolutely nothing for a couple of moments. “I’ll, uh… keep that in mind, I guess?”

    “You’d better,” Amanita replied. “And make sure to remember anything weird my Pokédex doesn’t do right, so you can tell me about it when you come back. Bon voyage!

    She winked at him and skipped up the stairs. Dalton turned around, half mortified and half amused, if that was at all possible.

    “Was she coming on to me just now? That was creepy… and where have I seen that expression before?”

    “Dalton!!” A loud exclamation made him jump. Talia had yelled back up the stairs for him. “Are we going back to the Academy or what? We’re wasting time here!”

    Dalton sighed to himself, shaking his head. “Women…” he muttered. “…as if I didn’t have enough weirdness to deal with…”

    END
    Last edited by EonMaster One; 15th February 2013 at 4:30 AM.

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.




  4. #29
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    The weirdness is never enough, Dalton. Never enough... :P

    So, other than 12/13-year olds hitting on him (and slightly older girls just plain hitting him. Freaking priceless, even if gallant) Dalton has now become the test-dummy for the new PokeDex. And with Amanita's voice admonishing him every step of the way together with Talia's, the poor guy's journey hasn't even begun yet. Speaking of which...

    “You’re twelve years old and don’t have any time?” said Talia, frowning. “Geez. Get out and live a little.”
    Ouch.

    “Well, what were you doing when you were twelve?” asked Amanita, her hands on her utterly shapeless hips. “Probably worrying about makeup or your first bra, while I’ve been modifying world-changing technology.”
    Touche.

    When those two meet again, all hell will break loose. Just saying.

    Well, it looks like Dalton and Talia are on their way back to the Academy. Hopefully, for Nina's sake, Dalton will learn enough to help her survive future battles. Again, just saying.

    L@er!
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  5. #30
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    Ah, an update. Have I mentioned yet that I love those? This one was especially conveniently timed, since I lost all my bookmarks, including those linking to fanfic. One less I have to find right now

    Anyway, two little things that got me confused here. One might be because of me not being native, the other is more, I suppose you could cal it a logic problem.

    Talia started horribly and turned around.
    This is the possibly not native problem. What I assume here is that started should be startled, then it would make sense to me, even though I'm still not completely sure that it'd be correct English.

    The door swung open several minutes later,
    Of course, this might just be because she's so adsorped in her research, but still. A few minutes to open a door that's almost unhinged? Sounds somewhat strange to me, then again, it might be part of Fennel's personality.

    Now all that's left is waiting for the next update Don't feel put under pressure, I don't mind the wait. It's worth it.
    Last edited by Emeraldfan; 17th February 2013 at 7:47 PM.

  6. #31
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    (TAKES IN DEEP BREATH). First off this if not a random comment. . Also note that my autocorrect kept changing Fic to Fix. Four or five years ago I was just really getting into writing. I was working on a novel at the time (Still am) and was also looking for something to read. I came upon the fan fix forums here and somehow or another found Advent Phoenix. You were probably already thirty or so chapters in (Its been so long I do not really remember) but I was a huge fan so I caught up within a night or so. I wanted more and discovered that you had a link to the first fix; Johto. I went to that and decided to read all of it before I got back to reading the second journey for Travis and crew. I did just that but than for a while I quit getting on the forum for various reasons. Every once in a while though I would check up on your story and catch up on what chapters I missed. Sometimes it would be one, and sometimes it would be ten or more. I always likes when it was more because of how much I enjoyed reading the fic. This went on for a long time but eventually I finished reading your second fic as well.

    All the while I was continuing working on my novel but sometimes I would hit a major writing block. Usually I could get past this block but when it became expessially hard or if I needed some inspiration, I would come back to read your fic. I want to be clear that I did not and do not plagiarize anything. I just find your fics to be excellent and they have really helped me. For instance if I am struggling with the structure of how to to do something I can look at how you did something similar and be like "Okay I could do it like that.... or I could do something similar to that but also do this." Another thing I like to do is see how well you mold your characters because it helps me do the same. Like I said, I do not copy any of your ideas but I look at it and can often find ways that I can incorporate something similar with mine. THAT WAS A REALLY BAD EXPLANATION. If you want a better one I would be glad to explain farther.

    Anyway... I was on another particular bad writing block. I had a whole day set aside for writing and I sat and stared at my computer literally the whole day- I wrote one sentence the entire day I believe. So I went back to try and find some artistic motivation by reading through the chapters I missed in Maverick Heart (a lot of them). It helped. I was surprised to see that you decided to put it on hiatus but I totally get that. I started off with a plan for one novel but that quickly exploded into a series. But whenever I didn't feel motivated to write that story but I still wanted to write I would work on another story and before I knew it I had a whole network of stories that I am still (happily) working on. Long story short: I totally understand where you were coming from when you put it on hiatus.

    This is my first ever post because I just joined today. I had been visiting for years but never as a member. I decided to join so I could have some constructive conversations in the Authors Cafe but I also had another reason; I have been a huge fan of your writings for years so I decided it was time I let you know that someone really appreciated your writing. I seen in an earlier comment that you said you were not sure how many people read yours and it was hard for you to keep posting because of that. Well I am proof that you can read, and REALLY LIKE it without posting or even being a forums member. Your writings have been inspirational to me for nearly half a decade (or longer) and I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your writing. It has entertained me for a long time now.

    As for this story. I just finished catching up and hopefully I can be a little better at keeping up now. It shines in all of the areas your fics often do. You do a great job of developing characters and making the reader understand without just sating "He is X and this is why he acts this way in this situation." Also your dialogue is awesome. The way you write conversations, especially casual ones between characters is fantastic in my opinion. I like Dalton. He is definitely different, from a trainer standpoint than any of your other characters as Travis knew plenty about training and Lucas did too (although he wasn't technically a trainer.). I like Fox too and was actually kind of wanting that to be her actual name.

    You surprised me with the Black and White game characters/ story line being present just because your fics have always been kind of an off shoot of that. They were certainly in the same cannon but I do not think they were ever this intertwined. With that being said I think you are doing a good job at it. I am going to let someone else focus on Grammar Issues (Mainly because I am not familiar enough with the site to quote specific parts of the story). If you have a P.M. list you can throw me on it and I look forward to continue reading.

    (NEARLY PASSES OUT. BEGINS TAKING HUGE BREATHS TO RECOVER FROM TALKING FOR SO LONG).
    Last edited by Random Comment Guy; 26th February 2013 at 7:48 AM. Reason: Errors.

  7. #32
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    Well I'll be darned, finally decided I'd better post and someone with a similar idea posted just a few days before me.

    I guess I'll start by saying I really appreciate your work on all of your fanfics. I am a read-aholic and I enjoy these just as much if not more than some of my favorite books. I originally found your stuff about 5 years ago while you were in the middle of AP (dang, that is scary similar to the above post). Back then, I went back and read the entire Johto Saga and then started AP, but I was also slowly becoming less active on SPPF as I found other interests. I never got around to posting comments then and eventually went inactive on the forums. About a half a year ago, I decided to pop back on to see what had been happening on SPPF and I found at the time your latest story Maverick Heart. I started reading the first few chapters and fell in love. I had read to the current chapter and the few updates after that before it went on hiatus. I also have read all of this wonderful tale as it has been updated. Your writing has gotten me to check on SPPF for an update every week or two and I haven't even touched any pokemon stuff in a few years. I guess I want to stress that people read this even if they don't speak up. I think right now I'll probably go back and read the first story and then actually finish AP. I am a silent fan of long chapters BTW, but that's just because I enjoy having more to read.

    Enough of my insignificant tale, though, I should speak about this recent work. In my case, you have succeeded in delivering that nostalgic feeling that you set out to express. As I read these chapters, Dalton's naivety reminds me of my golden days as a child learning about the realm of pokemon. Once again, just like in all of your works, there is top-notch characterization. Dalton is interesting and different from Travis (from what I remember >.<) and Lucas. I haven't played a pokemon game since Diamond/Pearl so the world of Unova is quite interesting to me. I don't know how much personality is shown in the game, but your take on Amanita and her interactions with Dalton/Talia are quite fun. I can't wait to see more of her though I figure her voice through the Pokedex might satisfy me.

    Welp, EM1, reading your fanfics are personally important to me. I can't get enough of any of it- the characters, the story, or the occasional hilarious line (Amanita/Talia trading words). I guess its sort of selfish, but, please don't stop writing because you think there isn't an audience. I'm joining the exclusive readers of your work club now.

    /end fan(boy) rant
    I think I am back?!

  8. #33
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    Default Review Responses: Chapter 9

    Air Dragon:

    So, other than 12/13-year olds hitting on him (and slightly older girls just plain hitting him. Freaking priceless, even if gallant) Dalton has now become the test-dummy for the new PokeDex. And with Amanita's voice admonishing him every step of the way together with Talia's, the poor guy's journey hasn't even begun yet. Speaking of which...
    I dunno. I feel like Whitlea would punch hard. Although not as hard as Blake - so Dalton got off easy.


    When those two meet again, all hell will break loose. Just saying.

    Well, it looks like Dalton and Talia are on their way back to the Academy. Hopefully, for Nina's sake, Dalton will learn enough to help her survive future battles. Again, just saying.
    It would really be messed up if I dragged this out over several chapters like certain seasons of the anime where there were about 12 episodes between a gym loss and the rematch... :P



    Emeraldfan:

    I'm glad I managed to time that update perfectly, then. Sucks you lost your bookmarks, though... that's no fun.

    This is the possibly not native problem. What I assume here is that started should be startled, then it would make sense to me, even though I'm still not completely sure that it'd be correct English.
    Actually, the word "started" as I used it was correct. That particular definition just isn't used very often in English.

    (From Dictionary.com

    5. to give a sudden, involuntary jerk, jump, or twitch, as from a shock of surprise, alarm, or pain

    And that's where the verb "to startle" comes from, actually. It essentially means, "to cause someone to start."

    Of course, this might just be because she's so adsorped in her research, but still. A few minutes to open a door that's almost unhinged? Sounds somewhat strange to me, then again, it might be part of Fennel's personality.
    Absorbed, you mean? And, yes, that's part of the reason. She did forget her own sister's birthday, after all, so the sound of a door that may not be hers (she lives in an apartment building) wouldn't really cause a blip on her radar.


    Random Comment Guy:

    First of all, your actual username is "Random Comment Guy?" And it wasn't already taken? That's freaking awesome.

    First off this if not a random comment. . Also note that my autocorrect kept changing Fic to Fix. Four or five years ago I was just really getting into writing. I was working on a novel at the time (Still am) and was also looking for something to read. I came upon the fan fix forums here and somehow or another found Advent Phoenix. You were probably already thirty or so chapters in (Its been so long I do not really remember) but I was a huge fan so I caught up within a night or so. I wanted more and discovered that you had a link to the first fix; Johto. I went to that and decided to read all of it before I got back to reading the second journey for Travis and crew. I did just that but than for a while I quit getting on the forum for various reasons. Every once in a while though I would check up on your story and catch up on what chapters I missed. Sometimes it would be one, and sometimes it would be ten or more. I always likes when it was more because of how much I enjoyed reading the fic. This went on for a long time but eventually I finished reading your second fic as well.
    O.o Holy. ****. You read 30 chapters of AP in a day or two? You deserve a medal. My chapters were long as hell back then. That's no mean feat. I'm glad I was able to keep your attention that long. And I'm sorry you had to slog through the first one first, and I applaud you for doing it. Not only was it much more necessary than it should have been to understand all the characters in AP, but it wasn't my best work, which I'll get to later.

    All the while I was continuing working on my novel but sometimes I would hit a major writing block. Usually I could get past this block but when it became expessially hard or if I needed some inspiration, I would come back to read your fic. I want to be clear that I did not and do not plagiarize anything. I just find your fics to be excellent and they have really helped me. For instance if I am struggling with the structure of how to to do something I can look at how you did something similar and be like "Okay I could do it like that.... or I could do something similar to that but also do this." Another thing I like to do is see how well you mold your characters because it helps me do the same. Like I said, I do not copy any of your ideas but I look at it and can often find ways that I can incorporate something similar with mine. THAT WAS A REALLY BAD EXPLANATION. If you want a better one I would be glad to explain farther.
    No further explanation necessary. Me and Air Dragon bounce ideas off each other all the time. And as for how many sources went into my writing of AP? Well, it'd make your head spin. Lessee, the Pokemon movies and anime, obviously (although much, MUCH more so than the games), the Gundam series (Gundam SEED in particular), a game most people have probably never heard of called Suikoden, Dragonball Z... yeah, it was pretty ridiculous. And to tell you the truth, what you take in as a creative writer is often what comes out, even when you don't plan for it to come out. Output of any art is usually a pieced-together sum from anything and everything an artist takes in. It's like making a casserole. Or not.

    Anyway... I was on another particular bad writing block. I had a whole day set aside for writing and I sat and stared at my computer literally the whole day- I wrote one sentence the entire day I believe. So I went back to try and find some artistic motivation by reading through the chapters I missed in Maverick Heart (a lot of them). It helped. I was surprised to see that you decided to put it on hiatus but I totally get that. I started off with a plan for one novel but that quickly exploded into a series. But whenever I didn't feel motivated to write that story but I still wanted to write I would work on another story and before I knew it I had a whole network of stories that I am still (happily) working on. Long story short: I totally understand where you were coming from when you put it on hiatus.
    It was probably about 15 or so chapters into MH when I realized that it wasn't a Pokemon fic. It was a fanfic with Pokemon shoehorned into it. Most times I went to use them felt forced, so I wasn't entirely satisfied with it. Not to mention I was gradually approaching critical mass for my character cast, which seems to happen to me in everything I write. :-(

    This is my first ever post because I just joined today. I had been visiting for years but never as a member. I decided to join so I could have some constructive conversations in the Authors Cafe but I also had another reason; I have been a huge fan of your writings for years so I decided it was time I let you know that someone really appreciated your writing. I seen in an earlier comment that you said you were not sure how many people read yours and it was hard for you to keep posting because of that. Well I am proof that you can read, and REALLY LIKE it without posting or even being a forums member. Your writings have been inspirational to me for nearly half a decade (or longer) and I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your writing. It has entertained me for a long time now.
    I'm really humbled. Honestly. Words don't do justice to how much I appreciate that. And welcome (officially) to the forums! May we possibly see some output from you in the future? ;-)

    As for this story. I just finished catching up and hopefully I can be a little better at keeping up now. It shines in all of the areas your fics often do. You do a great job of developing characters and making the reader understand without just sating "He is X and this is why he acts this way in this situation." Also your dialogue is awesome. The way you write conversations, especially casual ones between characters is fantastic in my opinion. I like Dalton. He is definitely different, from a trainer standpoint than any of your other characters as Travis knew plenty about training and Lucas did too (although he wasn't technically a trainer.). I like Fox too and was actually kind of wanting that to be her actual name.
    Character development's my favorite part of writing. I've been trying to adjust my style to trim some of the fat - you'll probably notice that my chapters here aren't nearly as long as they are in AP... partly because AP was a multiple-POV epic, a bit like A Song of Ice and Fire. And as for the dialogue, I favor deadpan, sarcastic, side-door-type humor with a dash each of wordplay and exaggeration - even in my own real life interactions with people. So, naturally, that comes out when I write.

    Dalton's an interesting character for me to write personally. Being 17 and very educated, he's dedicated himself to a singular pursuit most of his life. On the flip side, he doesn't really know who he is outside of that environment, and a big part of this journey is going to be about him finding that out. At the same time, being 17 (as opposed to 12-14 like my other protagonists) and having had to help take care of an aging widow for a while, he's naturally got a bigger grasp on responsibility. He also comes from a world that's literally the polar opposite of the one he now inhabits, though, so in that sense, he's like - or perhaps a bit worse off than - the stereotypical "kid off on his journey for the first time" because he literally has no idea what the hell is going on most of the time. It's all foreign to him.

    You surprised me with the Black and White game characters/ story line being present just because your fics have always been kind of an off shoot of that. They were certainly in the same cannon but I do not think they were ever this intertwined. With that being said I think you are doing a good job at it. I am going to let someone else focus on Grammar Issues (Mainly because I am not familiar enough with the site to quote specific parts of the story). If you have a P.M. list you can throw me on it and I look forward to continue reading.
    I'm not going to give much away, but let me say this: I'm just getting warmed up with those guys.

    Thank you so much for reviewing, and I hope to hear more from you in the future.


    OrangeDonphan:

    I guess I'll start by saying I really appreciate your work on all of your fanfics. I am a read-aholic and I enjoy these just as much if not more than some of my favorite books. I originally found your stuff about 5 years ago while you were in the middle of AP (dang, that is scary similar to the above post). Back then, I went back and read the entire Johto Saga and then started AP, but I was also slowly becoming less active on SPPF as I found other interests. I never got around to posting comments then and eventually went inactive on the forums. About a half a year ago, I decided to pop back on to see what had been happening on SPPF and I found at the time your latest story Maverick Heart. I started reading the first few chapters and fell in love. I had read to the current chapter and the few updates after that before it went on hiatus. I also have read all of this wonderful tale as it has been updated. Your writing has gotten me to check on SPPF for an update every week or two and I haven't even touched any pokemon stuff in a few years. I guess I want to stress that people read this even if they don't speak up. I think right now I'll probably go back and read the first story and then actually finish AP. I am a silent fan of long chapters BTW, but that's just because I enjoy having more to read.
    To your last comment first; if that's the case, then you'll LOOOOVE AP because the chapters are LOOOONG. D-:

    I'm really glad you circled back to the forums. Actually, if you read Pokemon Revolution: Johto, you'll probably notice a subtle upswing in quality around the chapter 25 mark. Well, that's actually because my computer broke and I was more or less forced into a hiatus for about a year and a half. Those first 24 or so chapters were written way back in 2004, so I've been doing this a fair while.

    Enough of my insignificant tale, though, I should speak about this recent work. In my case, you have succeeded in delivering that nostalgic feeling that you set out to express. As I read these chapters, Dalton's naivety reminds me of my golden days as a child learning about the realm of pokemon. Once again, just like in all of your works, there is top-notch characterization. Dalton is interesting and different from Travis (from what I remember >.<) and Lucas. I haven't played a pokemon game since Diamond/Pearl so the world of Unova is quite interesting to me. I don't know how much personality is shown in the game, but your take on Amanita and her interactions with Dalton/Talia are quite fun. I can't wait to see more of her though I figure her voice through the Pokedex might satisfy me.
    Thank you very much for your kind words. I find Unova to be one of the more interesting locales in the Pokemon-verse, also. And it doesn't hurt that it's the current region... well, until October, anyway. Hopefully people still care about Unova in seven months because I seriously doubt I'll be done by then. ^_^; I'm also glad you find my characters interesting. As much as I love working with new worlds, I believe fully that people connect to people - which is why I pay special attention to characterization. Like I said before, thanks so much for reading and I hope you continue to enjoy my work.

    - EM1
    Last edited by EonMaster One; 5th March 2013 at 3:46 AM.

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.




  9. #34
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    Default Chapter 10

    10. At Last, A Victory

    For Dalton Gregg, darkness and silence should have been the perfect environment for what he was trying to accomplish – falling asleep, that is. But the quieter and the darker it got, the more voices started to ring around in his head. He cursed his awful luck. Of all days, of all nights not to be able to sleep…

    “Voo… voo…” Sionna squeaked in slumber from somewhere above him.

    “Dalton?” Talia’s voice came next – as if he didn’t have enough voices in his head already.

    “Hmm?” he uttered.

    “You’re not asleep yet?” she asked.

    “Mm,” he hummed stoically.

    “You really need to sleep,” she said, sounding a bit like an overly worried mother. “Your brain doesn’t work as well when you’re tired.”

    “You think I don’t know that?” he moaned. He wasn’t trying to be cranky; he was just frustrated. “I’d love to sleep, I just… can’t.”

    More silence.

    “You know… my dad used to hum a tune to me when I had trouble sleeping,” said Talia fondly.

    “Please don’t,” pleaded Dalton. Talia let out a laugh.

    “It’s just as well. Dad couldn’t sing worth a damn, and neither can I.”

    “Voo… voo…”

    “…Hey, Talia?”

    “Hmm?”

    Dalton grimaced. This had been bothering him for the last day or two. “Suppose you lose to the same Gym a second time. What happens then?”

    “Come on, now, don’t start thinking like that,” she answered, very briskly and somewhat sternly.

    “I’m just curious,” Dalton insisted. “What happens? Do you know?”

    “Well… you go back,” Talia said. “Only this time, you have to wait a week. And if you lose a third time, it doubles again – two weeks.”

    “Brutal,” Dalton murmured.

    “I think it’s a good rule,” Talia disagreed. “Otherwise, some trainers would just come back day after day after day… and then force their Pokémon to get their asses kicked day after day after day. That’s pretty messed up, if you ask me.”

    Dalton growled.

    “What’s wrong? You don’t think so?” asked Talia.

    “…Reminds me of something Blake said,” he replied sourly.

    “…Forget that guy,” Talia advised him. “He wasn’t being helpful – so as far as you’re concerned, he can go screw himself.”

    Dalton couldn’t help but let out a bit of a laugh. “I wish it was that simple… but it’s not.”

    “I’m not gonna ask why,” Talia deadpanned. “But he’s long gone anyway, right? He won’t be watching you battle. I will.”

    “Thanks,” Dalton uttered. “But I’m not sure how much ‘moral support’ is gonna help me. Just get your sleep. I’ll handle it. Then we can move on to the next town, wherever that is.”

    “That’s chivalrous and all,” Talia murmured. “But I’ve already decided.”

    “You’re very stubborn, aren’t you?” Dalton asked a bit loudly.

    “Yes,” Talia answered very simply.

    Dalton rolled his eyes.

    “Good night, Talia.”


    “OH – ”

    Roughly seven hours later, from the same room, came a roared profanity best left unprinted.

    Dalton snarled, seemingly leaping from his bunk bed to the adjoining bathroom in one rather impressive motion. (Impressive because the bathroom door was on the opposite wall.)

    “That’s why I said to set your alarm before you fell asleep,” said Talia casually from the top bunk, in an ‘I-told-you-so’ sort of voice.

    “Vool-piiiix…” Sionna sang, swishing her six tails playfully.

    “C’mon, don’t tease him, he’s under enough stress,” Talia laughed, rising from her back to a seated position and leaping from the bunk. She had barely been on the ground for five minutes before Dalton came running out of the bathroom again, fully dressed but with his black hair sopping wet. “Did you really just shower that fast?”

    “You get a lot of practice when you’re in college,” he muttered, looking distracted. Fumbling around in the pockets of his cargo shorts, he murmured for a moment… then swore again – so loudly that it scared Sionna, who squeaked and hid behind Talia’s ankles. “Dammit!! My keys… where are my keys?”

    “Dalton? Dalton!” Talia shouted. Dalton whirled around and turned toward her, wide-eyed. “Dalton, you don’t have any keys.”

    Dalton stopped dead.

    “Yeah. Yeah, that’s right, I don’t…”

    He turned away from Talia, who frowned. “You okay?”

    “Yeah,” murmured Dalton absentmindedly. “I’m fine.”

    He didn’t move for a moment. Then he felt a hand on his shoulder.

    “You don’t have to do this, you know,” she said.

    “Yes, I do,” Dalton answered.

    “Why?” she asked. “I mean… what do you have to prove? There are other ways of testing the bond between Pokémon and human beings without being a Trainer.”

    “That’s great,” Dalton answered. “Most of my life, I’ve been losing. Losing fights, losing homes, losing friends, losing family… there’s just a point where you get sick and tired of losing. You want to win, and you don’t really give a damn what it is. You just want to win something.”

    “Hmm…” Talia uttered, a smile crossing her face. “Anyone ever told you that you’ve got a way with words?”

    Dalton smirked ironically. “That’s about the only thing anyone thinks I’m good at.”


    The last time Dalton had come to Café Striaton, it had been completely empty, and well before seven in the morning. This time around, it was half-past-eight, if not a bit later, and the restaurant was anything but empty. The steady murmur of a full house assaulted Dalton’s ears about a step or two across the threshold. The door had been left wide open to let the fresh, pleasant air of the late spring morning inside. At a podium that Dalton hadn’t noticed before – probably because it had been vacant – Dalton noticed the tall, lanky, vest-clothed form of the green-haired brother. He and Dalton exchanged glances – a flicker of Cilan’s green eyes told Dalton that the young Gym Leader recognized his face.

    “Welcome to Café Striaton,” Cilan said with a smile, seemingly trying very hard not to make any assumptions. “Will you and your, erm… lady friend be ordering anything?”

    Dalton sighed. He already had a feeling that Cilan had said “lady friend” but had been thinking “girlfriend.” There honestly wasn’t much point in trying to set that particular record straight, either.

    “I’ll be having the breakfast special,” Dalton said. Cilan smiled.

    “So you will, hmm?” he asked. “I’ve gotta be honest; after what happened last time, I wasn’t sure if we’d be seeing you again.”

    Dalton grimaced. “Well… surprise, surprise.”

    “Surprise, indeed,” Cilan repeated, stepping from behind the podium. “Let’s give these folks a good show to go with their breakfast, shall we?”

    “Where’s Chili?” Dalton asked immediately. Cilan tilted his head.

    “Chili’s already occupied at the moment.”.

    “Well, un-occupy him,” Dalton said flatly. “Please.”

    “I don’t think that’ll be necessary,” Cilan answered diplomatically – although Dalton could tell he was getting annoyed. “A match against Cress or myself carries the exact same weight with the Unova Pokémon League…”

    “It doesn’t matter,” Dalton replied. “Chili’s the one that beat me the first time. He’s the one I want.”

    “Hmm… stubborn one, aren’t you?” Cilan asked. “Keep in mind, a second loss to this Gym means you have to wait a full week before challenging it again.”

    He turned around.

    “Follow me,” he requested. Dalton and Talia did as instructed. Restaurant patrons looked up from their meals at the passing trio. All of a sudden, it hit Dalton that all of these people would likely be watching his battle. A few eaters were looking at him with interest. Dalton reminded himself that he was very obviously older than many of the usual challengers. As he looked to his left (a man wearing what looked like a lab coat looked up at him from behind a newspaper and a pair of thick glasses), a random whistling sound pierced his ears from somewhere in the opposite direction.

    “Pig,” he heard Talia mutter. Apparently, the practice of wolf-whistling at attractive women wasn’t confined to Dalton’s time. Dalton didn’t think Talia was exactly helping her cause with her choice of wardrobe… but he wasn’t about to be idiotic enough to say that to her face.

    “I’m going to have to ask you to stay here, Miss…” Cilan started politely.

    “Fox,” replied Talia. Dalton registered the renewed use of her alias. “And why? You can bring up to two others down to the Gym floor with you. It says so in the rules, doesn’t it?”

    Cilan tilted her head. “That it does… but… you’ll be a distraction for my brother. I want this to be a fair match, and I’m guessing your friend here does as well.”

    “Distraction? Go on,” Talia said, turning from Cilan to Dalton (who descended the stairs onto the arena floor) and then back to Cilan. “Why?”

    “Glutton for punishment, huh?” Chili’s voice was so loud it could be heard over the crowd’s murmuring. Dalton saw the other teenager take his place in the opposite square on the long, tawny field. Even from this distance, his shock of crimson hair was clearly visible. “You know you interrupted my breakfast, right? I’m gonna have to cook you up a double helping of pain for that one!”

    Dalton saw Chili look up at the crowd. He noticed that Talia had taken a chair right across the table from the glasses-wearing newspaper reader.

    “You flamed out pretty bad last time around,” Chili commented. “Let’s hope you bring a little bit more heat this time… or else you’re just gonna get burned again!”

    Dalton’s lips contorted. He was starting to notice Chili’s strange way of speaking. “You like fire way too much.”

    “There’s no such thing!” Chili exclaimed in response.

    “Yes, there is. It’s creepy,” Dalton said with hardly any inflection at all.

    Cilan, meanwhile, had finally gotten himself ready to carry on with the battle. “This official Unova Pokémon League Gym match will be one-on-one, with no time limit, between the challenger, Dalton Gregg from the Johto region, and Chili, leader of the Striaton Gym! At stake is the Striaton City Gym’s Trio Badge! Are both participants ready?!”

    “I sure hope so,” Dalton muttered to himself as he fingered the Pokéball containing his only Pokémon.

    “Flame on!!” Chili had thrown his Pokéball. From it emerged the familiar, crimson, simian Pokémon known as Pansear.

    Dalton looked down at the Pokéball in his hand as he enlarged it. “Well…” he murmured. “Take two.” He flicked it into the air. The spiny Poison Pin Pokémon emerged from it, looking behind herself.

    Niiiih-nih-doh-nih,” Nina squeaked. Dalton wasn’t sure how, but he could detect more than a hit of sarcasm in her tone. Not that this helped anything; if she was saying something sarcastically, he had no idea what.

    “Don’t look at me – look at Pansear,” Dalton uttered worriedly, pointing in their opponent’s direction so she would get the message. She flipped her head around.

    “Ran!?”

    “Pansear, use Lick!” shouted Chili.

    “Pan…” Pansear sprang forward, its eyes shut tight as it opened its mouth. A long tongue – seemingly much too long to fit inside a mouth that size – rocketed forward. Dalton wasn’t sure what kind of damage that tongue could do… but clearly there was more to it than met the eye.

    “Nina, dodge it! Get outta there!” Dalton shouted, surprising himself with how commanding his voice could be. Nina wasted no time, sidestepping the flicking appendage. It folded back into Pansear’s mouth. Pansear looked around.

    “Scratch, Pansear!” Chili screamed. The monkey-like Pokémon crouched low, rearing back with an arm that suddenly ended in a group of razor-sharp claws.

    “Oh, no, you don’t,” snarled Dalton. “Scratch, Nina!”

    Pansear leapt. Nina responded. A horrific metallic sound rang through the air as the two Pokémon crossed each other and landed on opposite sides. Dalton wasn’t sure at all who, if anyone, had caught the worst of that exchange. One thing was for certain – the breakfasting crowd was now eating this match up. A chorus of cheers rose from the tables.

    “Turn up the heat!” shouted Chili. “Incinerate, Pansear!”

    “Incinerate?” muttered Dalton, figuring Chili was just using another metaphor. That was up until Pansear opened its mouth and sent a jet of red-hot flames in Nina’s direction. “OH—”

    An ample explosion and a short, clipped screech drowned out Dalton’s oath. He stared at the smoking spot in utter shock for a moment. Cold sweat ran down his brow. He was sure, absolutely certain, that he had just seen Nina blown to pieces right in front of him.

    “Enough!” snapped the bespectacled gentleman at the closest table. “Pull your Pokémon back this instant. It doesn’t deserve to die for you!”

    “Shut up!” shouted Talia, leaping to her feet to tower over the seated man. “Who do you think you are?”

    “A concerned human being,” the man answered loudly, slowly rising. “Which is better than can be said for most of you! These living creatures are commanded by human beings to violently attack each other until one can no longer go on. And if that weren’t bad enough, you all treat it as sport – mild entertainment to go with your morning coffee and scrambled eggs. And you wonder why we say that Pokémon are much better off without human beings.”

    “‘We?’” Talia replied. “You and who else?”

    “The people that believe as I believe,” the man answered. “The people that have seen the light, and have refused to return to the barbaric darkness that drenches our society.”

    He walked around Talia, not bothering to avoid bumping her with his shoulder.

    “I beg of all of you – see the light!” the man said loudly. The battle had stopped. Even Chili stood transfixed on the stranger. The only one not distracted was Dalton. He was watching the dust clear. At last, the cloud of smoke finally settled, finally revealing Nina, who was not only in one piece but still standing, albeit with a few burns and bruises. “The king – the one they call N – will show us the way.”

    Dalton’s eyes flickered –

    “He’s with them!” he screamed, turning toward him. “He’s with the Party!”

    The crowd began to murmur. Talia looked at Dalton and seemed to be trying to warn him with her eyes. But Dalton would hear or see none of it.

    “I know nothing of a ‘Party’,” the man said silkily. “I only know that this world is sick… and we intend to help heal it.”

    He backed away from Dalton and turned on his heel to exit. However, by a faraway table, he crouched for a moment and paused. He seemed to be having a conversation with a pair of individuals sitting there. He rose and swiftly rushed from the building afterward. Meanwhile, the other restaurant patrons were murmuring uncomfortably amongst themselves.

    “Who the hell was that?” snarled Chili.

    “Bad news,” Dalton said sourly, turning his head back toward Chili.

    “Hmm,” Chili said with unnerving calmness. “Incinerate, Pansear!”

    “You bastard, I wasn’t – Nina, MOVE!!”

    The crowd erupted again as Nina barely dodged another sudden fireball. Out of the flames came Pansear, its claws exposed and ready to strike. Nina held her ground…

    “Use Scratch!” Dalton cried.

    Nina’s move was so subtle that the naked eye could barely perceive it, but she had drifted ever so slightly toward Pansear’s attacking arm. Dalton heard a tearing sound and a squeal and, for one panicked moment, wasn’t sure who had come off worse. It was Pansear that had hit the ground and rolled back to its feet. Nina leapt toward it, but it was able to roll out of the way and retreat to Chili’s side of the field. It was then that Dalton noticed something…

    “Nina!” he commanded. “Nina, look at me!”

    The Nidoran turned around, her head tilted askew as if she didn’t think this was quite the time. Dalton, unperturbed, tapped his right leg a couple of times with his hand, wondering inwardly whether this would work. “He’s coming again… and when he does, take it out.”

    “Don’t know what you’re planning, but it won’t work!” Chili exclaimed! “Pansear, let’s finish this! Use Fury Swipes!”

    Pansear advanced, and the difference became even more obvious. Its left arm was lagging ever so slightly. Meanwhile, the cogs in Dalton’s brain were working at double speed.

    Left arm’s hurt from the last attack… so he’ll probably lead with the right side first…

    Pansear raised his right arm this time, claws extended.

    There it is… see it, see it, please see it, Nina, c’mon….

    Nina leapt toward Pansear’s attacking arm. Pansear’s eyes lit up. Dalton cringed.

    Almost quicker than thought, Nina changed directions, scampering under Pansear’s flailing arm. She sunk her claws deep into the simian creature’s left leg, upending it and sending it to its back. Turning on a dime, she leapt into the air, claws on all fours exposed and aimed for Pansear’s downed body. Pansear, who had been writhing in pain for a moment, had the wherewithal to roll away. Nina landed on the ground. Her claws dug into the arena floor, leaving long, gritty runs. She gave a snarl of frustration, then leapt away to put some distance between herself and her injured opponent.

    “Almost…” muttered Dalton. He was starting to feel it. He could do this. He. Could. Do. This.

    “You can still attack at range, Pansear!” shouted Chili. “Use Incinerate!”

    Pansear opened its mouth and a small stream of flames blazed forth. Nina wasn’t able to dodge in time and simply turned her body to protect her face and eyes. Squinting against the heat and the pain, she locked her one open eye upon the youth with a gaze as blazing as the flames that were eating away at her. Then, with no warning, the firestorm came to an end. Pansear had stopped attacking, and was now standing limply, obvious beads of sweat running down its simian face. The monkey-like Pokémon looked like it was slowly melting toward the ground in fatigue… but Dalton wasn’t taking any chances.

    “Nina, attack!” he shouted. “Double Kick!”

    Nina sprang into a fearless but light-footed, headlong run. Approaching Pansear, she leapt at the last second, upending herself, driving both of her hind feet square into Pansear’s face. The small, orange Pokémon teetered drunkenly and directionlessly, obviously out on its feet.

    “Seeeaaarrrr….” With a last, pained squeak, Pansear fell backward, hitting the ground with a thud that seemed to echo with finality.

    “DOWN!” shouted Cilan very suddenly. “One! Two!”

    Dalton grimaced, hoping this final count wasn’t something ridiculous… like a hundred. That’d be just his luck…

    “FIVE!” Cilan yelled very emphatically. “Pansear is unable to battle! Nidoran is victorious! This match’s winner – Dalton Gregg!”

    Appreciative applause littered the restaurant; in his focus on the battle, Dalton had nearly forgotten that so many people were watching him. He caught sight of Talia sitting at the table nearest to the dividing railing, and could practically read the smile of thinly veiled smugness on her face as she applauded for him.

    Not bad… for a newbie.

    Dalton’s eyes fell on Nina, who had either collapsed in a heap of relieved exhaustion, or had simply decided that now was as good a time as any for a nap. Either way, Dalton couldn’t very well let her spread herself out on the floor of a battlefield. He trudged over toward her, hands in his pockets, feeling awkward again in clothes much too large for his gangly body. He scooped her from the ground, and she gave a start with the suddenness of the movement – he always expected her to be much, much heavier. She squirmed free of his grip and came to settle on one of his shoulders. He wasn’t quite sure what, if anything, to say to her. I mean… it wasn’t like they could really understand each other, could they?

    “I wish you knew what I was saying…” Dalton murmured, a bit sadly. “How are you supposed to be friends with someone who can’t understand your language? Maybe those guys were right… NO. They were wrong – I know it! I think I felt it – felt what Talia was talking about… it was like I was seeing things through different eyes for a second. Through your eyes, I mean… Tch. What the hell am I talking about? It’s not like you can understand all this anyway, right?”

    Nina didn’t respond. Instead, to Dalton’s great shock, she bit him on the cheek. Well, not really a bite – but she did touch her buck teeth to his face. It wasn’t until she leaned against his head slightly that he realized that the gesture had been closer to a kiss than a bite. Then, Dalton heard, in a feminine voice, clear as a bell:

    You think too much.

    Dalton whirled around, looking for Talia. She was still standing perched on the railing, as if she had half a mind to vault herself over it. She was not, however, next to him. Dalton, somehow, wasn’t surprised. The voice didn’t sound anything like Talia anyway – and, yet, sounded like someone Dalton had known for a while.

    “I must be tired…” he muttered. “I’m hearing things.”

    Dalton didn’t see Nina’s ample ears droop dejectedly.


    It was a very sad and morose-looking Nina that Nurse Joy took into her care half an hour later at the Pokémon Center. One certainly couldn’t tell by looking at her that she had won perhaps the toughest battle of her life so far. Even Dalton’s initial elation at winning his first badge (which had spent most of its time being held and ogled by Talia) was tempered by the sadness on his Pokémon’s face… and more than a bit of confusion on his part.

    Talia nudged him.

    “Hmm?” Dalton uttered.

    “You look like you’re at a funeral. What’s up with you?” she asked.

    “Nothing,” lied Dalton. “Just… thinking, that’s all…”

    Talia put her hands on her hips. “You think too much.”

    Dalton groaned. “You’re the second person to say that to me today. Or not.”

    Talia looked bewildered. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

    Dalton took a deep breath. He already knew that Talia thought that he was crazy, and he certainly wasn’t wild about reinforcing the idea… but he had no one else to ask. “When you talk to Sionna… and she talks back… can you understand what she’s saying?”

    Talia looked taken aback. “Well… sure, I can. Pokémon are smarter than a lot of humans give them credit for, you know.”

    Dalton shook his head. “Smarts doesn’t have anything to do with it, does it? I mean… I could be smart and you could be smart, but if you speak a different language than I do…”

    “Look, don’t ask me to explain it, okay? Because I don’t know,” Talia cut him off. “It’s one of the things my dad enjoyed researching. I just know that… when I first got Sionna, I didn’t understand her. Then I could pick up emotions or body language. Then… I woke up one morning and realized that I was talking to her – just like I’m talking to you right now. And she was talking back.”

    “And you don’t know how, exactly?” Dalton asked.

    “I couldn’t give you some concrete reason using science, no,” Talia answered thoughtfully. “Maybe… maybe because there isn’t one. I’ve never seen the point of questioning it.”

    “So… you just believe it?” Dalton looked at her skeptically. “I’ve never put much stock in belief, myself…”

    “Is that right?” asked Talia. Then, looking down at Sionna, who was at her ankle, she called her.

    “Pix?” The Vulpix looked up curiously.

    “Do me a favor?” Talia asked. “Go stand on Dalton’s feet.”

    Sionna tilted her head for a moment, but she did as told. Dalton looked down to find the fox Pokémon standing on his feet. Her fur was very warm against his toes.

    “Vool-pix-vool,” she mewled, looking up at Talia.

    “Sionna says your feet are cold,” Talia translated nonchalantly.

    “Yeah? Well, it’s freezing in here…” murmured Dalton. He gave a start as Sionna suddenly climbed up his leg and up to his shoulders. She leapt from there and Talia caught her out of the air.

    “Silly,” Talia giggled as Sionna settled atop her shoulder. Dalton tried to pet her atop her head. For whatever reason, though, Sionna wasn’t having any part of it. She leapt from her perch and Dalton’s hand landed right on Talia’s shoulder. “AH~!”

    “Er…” Dalton murmured, pulling his arm back as quickly as he could.

    “Mr. Gregg?” Nurse Joy, fortunately, was there to save the day, and Dalton needed telling twice. He tore his eyes away from Talia and darted up to the counter, where Nina was waiting for him, seated on the counter, ears pulled back and snout up in the air.

    “Is she okay?” Dalton asked.

    “Better than okay,” Nurse Joy answered. A rather large, pinkish cream puff of a Pokémon was standing next to her.

    “Au-di-no….” it sang sweetly.

    “You still mad at me?” Dalton asked Nina.

    “<Don’t be such an idiot,>” was the reply.

    Dalton could have burst, he was so happy. “How are you feeling?”

    Nina’s ears drooped.

    “<I’m hungry.>”

    Dalton laughed as he picked her up. “Maybe we can do something about that.”

    When he walked back over to Talia, the latter had her free hand on the shoulder where Dalton had touched her.

    Frowning, he asked, “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

    She looked up. “Why? You think I bruise easily or something just because I’m a ginger?”

    Dalton squeaked. “What? No, I didn’t mean…”

    Talia walked up to him and very halfheartedly punched him in the jaw. “Your running away after it happened was hilarious, by the way. What are you – eleven? I thought you said you had a girlfriend back home.”

    “We weren’t going out,” Dalton groaned. “Not technically. We didn’t even…”

    “‘Didn’t even’ what?” asked Talia, a knowing glint in her eye. “It’s probably in your best interest not to trail off like that.”

    Dalton took a deep breath. “Where can we find Pokémon food? Nina says she’s hungry.”

    Talia put her hands on her hips. “She said that to you?”

    “Yes – now, can we get her some food before she starves?” Dalton replied irritably.

    Talia grinned.

    “Just checking.”

    With Sionna skipping merrily in front of her, Talia led Dalton to the Pokémon Mart at the other side of the building. Neither one of them noticed the man at the table nearly – a white-coated, tall, thin, beanstalk of an individual, removing his bespectacled face from a newspaper, eyeing their every motion…

    “Power in unity?” the man muttered placidly to himself. “Is it possible? What a curious proposition. This demands more… research.”

    END

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.




  10. #35
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    Well, that chapter seemed aptly titled. About time, indeed... At least Dalton didn't choke this time. Plus his bond with Nina's getting deeper... nice.

    Also, a mysterious researcher/scientist/nerd/geek makes his appearance? Is this gonna be trouble? (I know who he is. Just not spoiling... )

    OK, will be waiting for the next one, Captain!

    L@er!
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  11. #36
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    Only one thing that stood out as possibly being not right:

    “Mr. Gregg?” Nurse Joy, fortunately, was there to save the day, and Dalton needed telling twice
    It would make more sense if Dalton doesn't have to be told twice, this being a save and all.

    Then, about what you said about your chapters being long, at least back in the days of PR. I personally don't mind. It was probably about a year or so that I, via ways I don't remember, stumbled upon one of the PR fics. Since I at that time had about one hour to spare every day, I quickly finished both Johto and Phoenix, probably in about a week, and I enjoyed every second of it. Lots and lots of characters, each with a story to tell, intense battles and an intriguing story.
    I find that, when I really enjoy a story, or anything for that matter, time just flies whilst it feels like mere seconds are passing. So I suppose that the conclusion of all of this is that, as long as you like a story, long (or short for that matter) chapters really don't bother you. I might even find the longer chapters better, since it gives me more to read.

    Anyway, looking forward to the next chapter, wondering how you'll make each character act, especially since I haven't yet played through Black/White 2 and some of these characters seem to be from those games

  12. #37
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    Well, well. EM1 comes up with another great fic. I've read the Rev trio, and Ellipse so I know your style. Or at least I thought I did.
    Amazing fic. Every aspect of it seems very good to me. Catch ya later.
    Pm list?

    Grav§
    Formerly Grav.
    If you have a fanfic that no one wants to review, PM/VM me and I'll give you a hand.

  13. #38
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    Default I'm alive..... MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA....

    Air Dragon:

    Well, that chapter seemed aptly titled. About time, indeed... At least Dalton didn't choke this time. Plus his bond with Nina's getting deeper... nice.

    Also, a mysterious researcher/scientist/nerd/geek makes his appearance? Is this gonna be trouble? (I know who he is. Just not spoiling... )

    OK, will be waiting for the next one, Captain!
    Naughty, naughty... you're trying to bait me into spoiling. Sorry, but no dice. ^_^


    Emeraldfan:

    Only one thing that stood out as possibly being not right:
    That's because it wasn't right. That's what I like to politely term 'mental flatulence'... or, to use the more common phrase, a brain fart. *le edits*

    Then, about what you said about your chapters being long, at least back in the days of PR. I personally don't mind. It was probably about a year or so that I, via ways I don't remember, stumbled upon one of the PR fics. Since I at that time had about one hour to spare every day, I quickly finished both Johto and Phoenix, probably in about a week, and I enjoyed every second of it. Lots and lots of characters, each with a story to tell, intense battles and an intriguing story.
    I didn't mind as much, either. I didn't have a life back then, so I could write as much and whenever I pleased whenever I wasn't doing schoolwork. If I tried those chapter lengths with my current schedule (and I know people that do it, although I'm not going to name names) you'd be getting a fresh chapter roughly every 4 to 6 months. I'm not sure I'll be able to pull it, but I'd like to be done with this by the end of next year, and then pray that Gen VI has some shelf-life left. I may release the Gen VI-based fic (if I do it) in early 2014 and run it parallel to this one. Or I may go back to Maverick Heart. Or I may take some time off from writing and dedicate myself to more reviewing so I'm not so anonymous around here. I dunno what I'm doing. :|


    Anyway, looking forward to the next chapter, wondering how you'll make each character act, especially since I haven't yet played through Black/White 2 and some of these characters seem to be from those games
    Most of them... aren't. So take comfort in that. :-)


    Grav:

    Well, well. EM1 comes up with another great fic. I've read the Rev trio, and Ellipse so I know your style. Or at least I thought I did.
    Amazing fic. Every aspect of it seems very good to me. Catch ya later.
    Pm list?
    I've been averse to PM lists because it got to the point that no one on the PM list was even reading actively anymore and I was sending them out for nothing. But I might start one up again, and if I do, you'll be on it. :-)

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.




  14. #39
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    ~~~ *** ~~~ *** ~~~
    11. Adversaries and Agents
    ~~~ *** ~~~ *** ~~~


    Dalton Gregg watched silently as an orange, six-tailed Vulpix, and a lavender, large-eared Nidoran, skipped around each other happily. Completely healthy and fed, the two new friends played with gusto as their owners sat on a bench nearby, pondering their next move… or not.

    Talia closed her eyes and let out a sigh as she stretched her arms vaguely upward. Dalton leaned away a bit as one of her clenched fists swung dangerously close to his jaw.

    “I love, love, love this time of year,” she mused. “The weather’s absolutely perfect. Warm enough… but not too hot. And it’s not rainy like the first part of spring, either. Does it feel any different to you?”

    She turned her head to look at Dalton.

    “I dunno…” the boy murmured, smoothing down his black hair – a habit of his whenever he was nervous or uncomfortable. “Never really thought about it before.”

    Talia grimaced. “You know… it’s okay to smile every once in a while. There’s no law against it. Not here.”

    Dalton looked at Talia out of the corner of his left eye. “Was that supposed to be a joke?”

    “Only sort of,” Talia answered casually. “And don’t tell me you can’t smile. I saw you smiling right after you won your match. It’s funny how much younger the simple act of moving a few muscles in your face can make you look.”

    Dalton didn’t respond. His mind was always processing, always trying to take in new information and analyze it. But this latest thing was giving him a bit of trouble. This strange, new creature in front of him was something for which his mind found itself woefully ill-prepared.

    Maybe it was because he’d had so many other pressing concerns at the time – far too many to pay attention. That would be understandable, wouldn’t it? He had been trying to find his way in a completely new world – a world that was literally the polar opposite of the place he had once called home. But this had been his first chance, truly, to breathe. He had won his first badge, and even though he knew where the second of the eight was located, he hadn’t had an immediate inclination to travel anywhere. Maybe the fact that he was still wearing ill-fitting cargo shorts and sandals not meant for long treks had something to do with that. So, for maybe the first time in years, he had taken two days to do nothing – to soak in the surroundings.

    “Hey, Dalton, you’re spacing out again,” Talia said. Dalton gave a start. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

    “I’m fine,” Dalton answered. “Just… trying to figure out what to do next.”

    “Isn’t that kind of obvious?” Talia asked. “We know where the nearest Gym is, right? Nacrene City.”

    Talia’s eyes sort of lit up.

    “I can’t wait to see Nacrene,” she mused. “I hear it’s a hub of art and music. A place like that has to be interesting, don’t you think?”

    Dalton smirked. “Unless it’s bad art and music.”

    “You’re so cynical,” chuckled Talia, shaking her head. “You don’t think you’re cynical?”

    “Everybody…” sighed Dalton, trailing off – but Talia was staring at him with interest, refusing to be deterred.

    “Go on.”

    “Everybody around me,” Dalton said, staring right at the fountain and the two Pokémon playing around it, “thought our lives were pretty much perfect. Everything was in order. But the longer I’m here, the more I start to feel like…”

    Almost involuntarily, his fists clenched with anger.

    “We were lied to. All of us. And now… now I’m not sure who or what to trust.”

    Talia didn’t respond right away. “What was life like… in Harmonia?”

    “Well… in Azalea City, it rained too damn much,” Dalton deadpanned. That was the first thing he thought of when Azalea City came to mind – all the rain. Talia apparently found this funny and stifled a laugh with her hands. “Maybe it was just me… but it seemed to rain every day. It almost made me wonder if the Party was screwing with the climate somehow. And… of course, there were no Pokémon. Well, I take that back. There were Pokémon. It’s just that we never got to see one up close. And anybody that did usually didn’t live long enough to talk about it…”

    He felt his words catch in his throat, with no warning. He shut his eyes tight.

    “Were they that good at controlling us with fear?” Dalton finally asked, looking down at his hands. “Or were we all that weak?”

    “You…” Talia seemed to be fishing for words. “They… I mean, everyone except you… didn’t know any better, did they? That’s what they were born into – that’s all they knew. It was comfortable for them.”

    “Then, what made me so different? Why was I always so curious?” snapped Dalton. “I spent my whole life feeling like an outcast… like I didn’t belong. I didn’t take any pride in feeling the way I did. I just thought I looked like a freak. I don’t belong there… but I don’t belong here, either.”

    “Really?” Talia asked.

    Dalton was so astonished, he almost had to laugh. “I don’t belong in this world, Talia. I barely know what a Pokémon is, let alone how to live with them around me…”

    “That’s not true,” said Talia, almost scoffing. Dalton scowled as he returned her gaze, but she turned away from him, smugly adding, “I’m sorry… but it isn’t.”

    “Listen, just because I’ve got this… badge or whatever doesn’t suddenly make me an expert on–”

    “You’ve – been – here – a week.” Talia’s voice was quiet, but sparks were shooting from her blue eyes as she rounded on him. “A week ago, you didn’t know what a Pokémon Center was. You’d never seen a Pokéball before. And now you’ve got a Gym Badge. You did more in the League in five days than people who have been around Pokémon their entire lives. Maybe… maybe you belong here more than you belonged there.”

    “So you’re saying I was born about a hundred and fifty years too late?” Dalton said flatly. “That’s really comforting…”

    Talia frowned.

    “So I’m to understand you seek truth as well?” Dalton heard a familiar voice. He looked up. Coming toward them at a slow trudge, carrying a book of some kind, was none other than the white-coated man who had yelled at him during his Gym match. Dalton leapt to his feet. The other man saw the aggressive motion and put up his hands. “I’m not here for a fight. I am here… simply… to talk. You seem like an intelligent young man – a young man that can be reasoned with.”

    “Have you been following us around?” Talia asked loudly, jumping to her feet. Almost on instinct, Dalton stretched his long arm out to block her.

    The man smiled. “That’s a spirited lady friend you’ve got there.”

    “Who – are – you?” Dalton asked.

    “Just a simple scientist,” the man answered. “If you must call me something… call me Colress.”

    “What are you doing here?” Dalton asked through grit teeth.

    “I suppose you could call it ‘research’,” replied Colress. Quietly, he reached inside his lab coat…

    Dalton didn’t have time to guess or wonder—

    “Talia, get down!” he snarled, shoving her backward and trying to shield her from Colress’s line of sight.

    “Easy, easy,” drawled Colress, yanking his hands out of his coat and holding them up to show that he had no weapon. “I don’t have any desire to hurt you… at least, not yet. I’d like to ask you some questions first.”

    “You’re not bringing me in,” Dalton replied, fear and hatred twisting his face into an unhinged smile. “Not alive, anyway.”

    “Hm?”

    Dalton rushed him. If Colress indeed had no weapon, it would come down to a hand-to-hand fight – a fight Dalton would win because he must. Colress jumped aside as Dalton swung wildly…

    A burning pain pierced the small of his back and spread through his entire body. Muscles were seizing in tandem; his insides were on fire. Worse than a blow from a fist, worse than a bullet (and he would know). He felt himself sink despite his will to stay standing. It was as if his entire body had frozen – as if someone had locked it, then thrown away the key. He felt grit on his lips, and now the iron aftertaste of fresh blood. His buzzing ears barely registered a piercing scream of his name. He was flipping in and out of consciousness. Spots were dancing before his eyes, which were the only things that could move.

    “Stay back!”

    “Don’t worry – he’ll live. He’ll just be numb for a while. I don’t suppose you know the answer to my question, then, Miss…?”

    Dalton struggled to move and managed a feeble sort of flail.

    “What do you want from Dalton?” He heard Talia’s voice.

    “What is it…?” Colress murmured. “This thing that allows a Pokémon to go past its natural limits? How did Dalton Gregg win against a stronger Trainer with a Pokémon that was clearly overmatched?”

    “It’s not something you would understand,” Talia replied.

    “Then help me.”

    Dalton closed his eyes. He was feeling muscles in his body start to twitch on their own. Something rubbed his face and he felt wetness.

    “Wake up… please… come on…”

    Dalton’s eyes snapped open. He recognized that voice! Whatever was talking to him had taken a step back.

    “Nina…?”

    The Nidoran was trembling furiously and not meeting his eye.

    “<You’re stupid.>”

    “What…?”

    Nina looked down at the ground for a moment. She tried to fix a hard gaze on Dalton, but fat, wet tears were obviously running down both of her cheeks.

    “<I SAID YOU’RE STUPID! You’re going to die, and then what am I gonna do!?!>”

    “Nina…”

    “Can you stand?” Now Talia was hovering over him, apparently distracted from Colress by his voice. Dalton felt a bit weak; he tried to rise to all fours. He moved gingerly, expecting one of his limbs to buckle under him. They shook, but they held. He staggered to one foot… then two.

    “Are you alright?” This question came from a most unlikely source – Colress himself. Dalton whirled around.

    “‘Alright’? What the hell did you do to me?” he snarled. Colress removed what looked like a short, black wand from his lab jacket. He pressed a button on it and a small, but very bright spark flew from the tip.

    “You made things more difficult on yourself than they needed to be,” sighed Colress, putting the strange taser-stick away. “I am not looking for a fight… well, not between us. I am simply looking for answers to my questions.”

    Dalton didn’t answer.

    “I’m not like the rest of the sheep…” Colress said. “A good scientist knows, above all other things, to think for himself. After all, that’s one of the few ways to discover something that hasn’t been discovered before.”

    “Get to the point,” asked Dalton. “What do you want?”

    “The power I’ve seen from your Pokémon was beyond anything I thought possible,” Colress said. This time, making a quick move to his lab jacket, he revealed his own Pokéball. “Are we taking the wrong approach…?”

    “You’re asking the wrong person,” Dalton muttered.

    “Am I?” Colress stared at the Pokéball in his hand briefly. Then, without further preamble, he tossed it into the air.

    Dalton watched as the Pokéball landed in front of Colress and burst open at its belly, spilling forth white light onto the cobbled ground. Even as the light began to take shape, Dalton realized he was dealing with a creature a bit larger than his own companion. The beast was black, four-legged, striped, with electric-blue eyes and a jagged mane that zigzagged up into a horn shaped like a bolt of lightning frozen in time.

    Dalton frowned, going to the pocket of his cargo shorts. “What’s that?”

    He pointed his new Pokédex at the unfamiliar creature. It took barely a second for a portrait of the creature to appear on one of the screens. “Blitzle – the Electrified Pokémon. When thunderclouds cover the sky, it will appear. It can catch lightning with its mane and store the electricity.”

    Colress’s eyes gleamed forebodingly behind his glasses. “I’ve showed you mine – now show me yours.”

    “I thought you guys’ utopia was a world where Pokémon are off-limits to human beings,” Dalton said.

    “That’s what N desires, at any rate,” replied Colress. “But then, N has the idealism and purity of a child. He questions nothing. You and I, though… we’re seekers of truth. So… it’s only appropriate that we test our truths against each other.”

    Dalton swallowed hard. “Nina, are you feeling up for it?”

    Nina approached at his ankles, looking at the rearing Blitzle. “<Is this where I’m supposed to make some sort of speech about how you protected me and earned my undying loyalty? …Fat chance.>”

    “Heh,” Colress chuckled as a smirk crossed his face. “And to think, I half expected you to back down. Blitzle, use Quick Attack!”

    Blitzle reared up onto its hind legs and closed the distance between itself and Nina so fast it looked like little more than a dark blur. Nina leapt out to meet it but the Electric-type’s speed and power were too much. It slammed into the Nidoran, sending her flying through the air in a long, slow arc.

    “Geez!” groaned Dalton as Nina landed on her feet in front of him and skidded back. “Nina, are you okay?”

    “<Don’t get all bent outta shape. I can take a hit, you know,>” Nina replied.

    “Alright, then… Scratch!” Dalton responded. Nina launched herself forth, bouncing her body off the Blitzle, who staggered backward a bit but didn’t appear to be too damaged. Her fangs bared in a snarl and she threw herself at Blitzle again, raising a claw. This time, with a panicked whinny, Blitzle jumped. Nina passed under it and hit the ground hard, rolling to a stop. Relentlessly, she bounced to her feet and again charged Blitzle, whose flank was exposed.

    A pained screech was the signal that this latest attack had hit its mark. Blitzle staggered sideways, shakily teetering on spindly, unstable legs.

    “Hold your ground, Blitzle! Quick Attack!” Colress shouted.

    Reacting quickly, Dalton cried, “Dodge and use Double Kick!”

    Nina leapt as high as her small, stubby legs would allow – just high enough for Blitzle to miss. Then, with a crunching thud, she drove all four of her feet into Blitzle’s back once – then again. She leapt away to Dalton’s side of the field.

    “Careful, Dalton!” came a warning shout from Dalton’s left. In the heat of battle, he’d almost forgotten Talia and Sionna were there. “Nina’s getting tired!”

    Dalton looked down at his Pokémon and, indeed, her breathing was heavy and labored.

    Dalton knew he had to end things quickly.

    “Nina, use Double Kick!” he shouted. Nina took a couple of deep breaths, steeled herself, then took off after Blitzle. For some reason, though her movements appeared sluggish, as if some unseen force was resisting her every motion. Blitzle dodged easily and, for good measure, sunk its horn into Nina’s back, sending her skyward, where she landed in a nearby fountain with a loud splash. After a tense second, Nina emerged, spitting and spluttering.

    “Well, looks like you’re all wet,” said Colress, a thoroughly malevolent smile crossing his pale face.

    “No!!” shrieked Talia, suddenly and desperately. “Dalton, Blitzle’s an Electric-type!”

    It took less than a second for Dalton to connect the dots. “NINA, MOVE!!”

    “Shock Wave, Blitzle!!” Colress snarled. The lightning-bolt horn on the equine Pokémon went a dazzling electric blue and began to crackle ominously. Zigzagging blue light struck the struck the water almost faster than the naked eye could track. Nina had jumped, trailing water back down into the fountain. The thunderbolt zigzagged upwards from the stirred waters, catching Nina in midair.

    “NOOOOO!” roared Dalton, his cry mingling with a hair-raising shriek of pain. He watched helplessly as his Nidoran fell, limp, into the fountain.

    “Hmm… it seems I’m left with more questions than answers,” Colress said a bit blankly, returning Blitzle in a red flash of light.

    “Nina!!” Dalton exclaimed, sprinting to the fountain and leaping into it to retrieve his Pokémon. His hands tingled a bit as they grasped her and lifted her from the water. She was shivering and convulsing.

    “I don’t necessarily agree with Ghetsis’ point… but I see it,” Colress muttered, seemingly to no one in particular. “To separate Pokémon from all human beings may be a bit extreme… not to mention terribly impractical. However, perhaps the world would be better off if we were to…”

    He looked up at Dalton through his gleaming glasses.

    “…Take that responsibility away from those not competent enough to handle it.”

    He turned on his heel and started away from them.

    Dalton fumed, eyes watery, snarling against the massive lump in his throat as he held Nina’s twitching form in his arms.

    “Vool-vool-piiiiiix,” mewled a worried-sounding Sionna.

    “Is she okay?” asked Talia next.

    “Okay?” snapped Dalton, shooting Talia a dirty look. “Let’s douse you in water and pump you with a million volts and we’ll see if you’re ‘okay’…”

    “Alright. Don’t bite my head off,” said Talia uncomfortably.

    “Well, that was slightly embarrassing, wasn’t it?” a low, silky voice sounded as Dalton waded his way out of the fountain, Nina in his arms. Both he and Talia turned toward the bench where they had been sitting a few minutes before. Relaxing there, arms and legs splayed wide, was a man with golden hair, a black fedora, and several days of stubble that didn’t quite add up to a full beard.

    Dalton went to step forward, but Talia pulled him back. Shooting a glare at the fedora-wearing man, she snapped, “I don’t know who you are, but we don’t have time for you right now. C’mon, Dalton. Let’s go.”

    And Dalton took off back toward the city at a sprint. Talia made to follow him, but stopped and whirled around.

    “If you’re following us… don’t,” she warned the mystery man, backing away before turning into a run.


    The first sign (other than Nina trembling and shaking violently) that something was seriously wrong was that Nurse Joy had taken one look at Nina and then had her ushered to the Pokémon Center’s Urgent Care Unit. Thus, Dalton and Talia ended up in the white-walled waiting room, which looked ominously more like a hospital than the rest of the Pokémon Center that Dalton had seen. In fact, this small, quiet room with hard-armed chairs and magazines seemed like the sort of place where good news was hard to come by.

    Dalton sensed Talia’s presence in the chair to his right. He’d spent nearly the whole time staring at his knees. A news channel played from the hanging television on the opposite wall, but as Dalton didn’t recognize any names, places, or things on the broadcast, it quickly became little more than background noise.

    “A new development in the case of the strange radical group that has been seen holding anti-Pokémon rallies across the region…”

    Dalton finally looked up. A suited man was explaining the situation, and Dalton caught sight of a flag with a very familiar symbol.

    “Without giving many details, the Chief of the Goldenrod City-based International Police said that the group was, officially speaking, classified as an activist group, protected by Unova’s dissent laws. He intimated, however, that a few known members of the group were being investigated for connections to several cases of Pokémon robberies – and that Interpol was closely monitoring the sect, as they do with all political extremists, for any potential ties to terrorist activity.”

    Dalton’s head dropped again. None of this information was new – nor did it surprise him at all.

    “Maybe…” he muttered. He shook his head. He couldn’t allow himself to think like that. But it was too late. Talia had heard and was staring at him.

    “Hmm?”

    “…Maybe all that stuff Ghetsis said…” he murmured in his quietest voice, as if ashamed of the notion. “Maybe…”

    Talia shook her head furiously. “No,” she said. “Of course not.”

    “Maybe Colress had a point, then,” said Dalton morosely. “At least people who can’t take care of Pokémon… shouldn’t have them.”

    “Pokémon get hurt, Dalton,” Talia said, putting a hand on his shoulder with the air of trying to explain a heavy topic to a small child. “It’s part of –”

    “The territory?” interrupted Dalton. “All part of battling? Why the hell are we battling, then? How can we – how can I…?”

    He buried his face in his hands.

    “Pokémon are living creatures,” he said quietly, shakily. “What if… what if your own family told you to go fight another family’s kid while the rest of the town stood and watched? That’s your idea of entertainment around here. It’s cruel.”

    Talia took a deep breath. “It’s only cruel if you don’t see what happ—”

    NO!” cried Dalton, leaping to his feet and away from Talia. “How can you… how dare you… there’s nothing you can say to justify this!!”

    “Mr. Gregg?” a very soft but very close voice uttered directly behind him. Dalton whirled around. He was staring right into the white hat (given the height difference) of Nurse Joy. She was half-smiling, seemingly realizing she’d walked in on an awkward situation. “Your Nidoran’s going to be just fine. Her injuries aren’t as bad as we originally feared. I’d probably recommend that she stay the night to rest up, but she should make a full recovery.”

    Dalton felt himself go weak-kneed with relief.

    “Also…” Nurse Joy added as a postscript as she walked away. “She wants to see you.”

    And, in a moment, Dalton felt steel return to his spine as his mind settled on a decision.


    It was horribly jarring to see Nina stretched out on a white bed, wires attached to machines streaming from her body. But Dalton thought of the alternative, and was instantly content – perhaps even a bit thankful. He slumped into the chair next to her bed, trying not to look at her.

    “<Are you okay?>” He could now hear and understand her speech as clear as a bell. There might as well have been another human being speaking to him.

    “Don’t say things like that,” Dalton muttered, still struggling against the lump in his throat. He stole another glance at her. She was laying on her side, curiosity in wide-open red eyes. But the sight of the dozen or so cords streaming from her tiny form made his decision that much more clear. Whether she would like it or not, he didn’t know… and, frankly, he no longer cared. He took a deep breath. “I’m letting you go.”

    “<Wait… what?>” Nina seemed very much shocked.

    “I’m going to release you back into the wild,” Dalton repeated. “Where you belong.”

    “<Wh-what?>” Nina’s voice turned into a heart-wrenching squeak. Dalton dared not look at her; he knew just by the sound of her voice that the tears were coming. “<Why? What did I do? Was it because… was it because I keep losing? Was it because I’m not good enough?>”

    “No,” Dalton tried to answer firmly, but found his own voice breaking as well. He tried to keep his eyes focused on the opposite wall. “It’s because I’m not good enough. I can’t do this. I can’t watch you keep getting hurt. I just… I just want you to protect you from getting hurt.”

    “<And you’re doing a great job, by the way,>” Nina responded bitterly. “<And after you throw me away in the nearest field a million miles away from home, then what am I supposed to do?>”

    “You can fend for yourself just like you’ve always done,” said Dalton.

    “<How can you say that?>” replied Nina. “<You know I can’t…>”

    “Then find another human, then,” snapped Dalton, jumping to his feet and making for the door. “One that will treat you a little bit better.”

    “<Do you hate yourself that much?>” Nina asked.

    Dalton stopped dead.

    “<I thought you had a dream,>” Nina said.

    “Yeah, I did, too,” Dalton answered. “But what right do I have to give a Pokémon orders? To tell it to do things that might get it hurt? Pokémon are our equals…”

    “<You don’t believe that,>” Nina growled.

    Dalton turned around.

    “<You don’t believe that,>” she repeated flatly. “<If you did, you’d let me decide what kind of job you’re doing as a Trainer… you know, since I’m the one that’s getting beat up and knows what it feels like.>”

    “I don’t need you to tell me how bad a job I’m doing,” Dalton answered. “You’re here because of me.”

    “<I’m here because of you,>” Nina repeated. “<I’m here because someone cares enough to make sure I get help whenever I get hurt. I didn’t have that on the outside. I haven’t had it… since…>”

    She shut her eyes tight and made a pained, choking squeak.

    Dalton felt his heart sink. “It’s okay. You don’t have to…”

    “<No… you need to know,>” she replied. Staring blankly ahead, she said, “<When I was really young, I lived with my parents near one of your huge camps. ‘Cities’, I think you call them. Your city kept getting bigger… and there was less food for us. Then, one day, my mother and father went looking for food… they never came back. Ever since then, I’ve been on my own.>”

    Dalton’s face fell as a terrible confirmation struck him; the gun turrets on the walls of Azalea City were never meant to be used on other human beings…

    “So, no family…” Dalton murmured. “Kind of like me…”

    “<The day we met…>” Nina went on. “<I thought you were going to die when you were lying there.>”

    “Then why’d you come back?” Dalton burst forth, realizing that he’d meant to ask this question ever since that fateful morning. “Why’d you come back after I told you to get away?”

    “<Because… I guess it was my way of saying thank you, to be there for you while…>” Nina trailed off. “<You didn’t deserve to die alone. Of course, we sort of got attacked by a strange Pokémon when…>”

    “What?” Dalton uttered. He hadn’t seen anything like that…

    Suddenly the door swung open. A head with flaming ginger hair peeked inside, wearing a serious face.

    “Dalton,” she said, “you might want to come out here.”

    And she whisked out again.

    Dalton stood. “Nina, you don’t owe me anything.”

    She had closed her eyes. She opened them. “<Has your leg healed yet?>”

    Dalton had to look – this seemed like such an out-of-left-field question. “No… it’s scarred over…”

    “<I’m sorry I hurt you,>” Nina murmured. Dalton thought this was a strange apology for her to make, seeing as neither of them had brought it up. “<I was trying to…>”

    She trailed off and turned her head away from him. She had been trying, if Dalton remembered correctly, to climb up on his knees.

    “<In the forests where I grew up…>” she said, still turned away from him. “<We used to mark things. So when other Pokémon came along and saw the mark, they’d know someone had already claimed it. I was the only one of my species in the forest. So everyone else knew, when they saw my claw marks on something… if something ever happened to it, I’d make them pay.>”

    Dalton blinked blankly as he stared at Nina’s back. He reached up and stroked her. “I’m not sure if I should be touched or scared.”

    “<Shut up,>” she said quickly. “<You’re not going to get rid of me that easy. If you leave, I’ll just chase you down.>”

    “You’re so stubborn,” sighed Dalton, standing up and heading toward the door.

    He had barely crossed the threshold back into the hallway when he saw an unwelcome sight – or at least, half of one. Talia was standing there (she wasn’t the unwelcome half), leaning against the wall as the fedora-wearing gentleman that had taunted him earlier stood there. Now that Dalton saw the man on his feet, he saw that he was a bit larger than average – about Dalton’s height, maybe an inch or two taller, and with quite a bit more bulk to him. But Dalton wasn’t so much concerned about the man’s size…

    “Took you long enough,” the blond man chuckled, finally removing his fedora. His hair was slicked back off his forehead, stopping right about his neck, at the borderline between ‘medium’ and ‘long’. “What were you doing in there – having some sort of deep conversation?”

    “Who are you?” Dalton got right to questioning, eyeing the man distrustfully. Looking down the hall, he added, “And how the hell did you get back here?”

    “On foot,” the man answered wryly. Dalton rolled his eyes.

    “I mean, past Nurse Joy.”

    “Gimme a break,” the man said sourly. “You think pretty, dainty, little Nurse Joy could stop someone if they really wanted to get in here? She’s gotta be a hundred pounds soaking wet.”

    Dalton’s eyes widened.

    “Don’t worry – Joy’s perfectly safe,” he said, trying to sound reassuring. “But it does prove my point about how lax security is in these Pokémon Centers.”

    “You didn’t answer my question,” Dalton said, undeterred.

    “Let’s just say, being me has its privileges,” the man said.

    “And who are you?” Dalton asked again.

    “Not a small-talk sort of guy, are you? Right to the point. I like that,” he replied, extending his hand. “Special Agent Phineas Assad – International Police, Unova branch.”

    Dalton stared at the hand for several seconds.

    “You’re Interpol?” Talia asked incredulously, walking around Phineas to Dalton’s side. She had her arms folded. “Prove it.”

    “Didn’t take my word for it, huh?” Phineas replied, going into his long jacket and pulling out a gleaming, silver badge. Not that Dalton would have known, but it sure looked well enough made to be real. “Not bad. They’ll have a hard time stuffing you into a van.”

    “What’s that supposed to mean?” Talia asked, hands on her hips.

    “It means it’s a good thing you have a decent head on your shoulders, because being pretty and stupid is a really bad combination. Anyway,” Phineas replied, turning to Dalton after saying this all very flatly and in one breath (Talia folded her arms and huffed very loudly), “it’s you I’m primarily interested in – completely from a personal and professional standpoint, you understand.”

    “I’m going to pretend you didn’t make things worse by saying that,” Dalton replied. “What do you want?”

    “Well… I’ve been monitoring your movements…” Phineas started – that’s when Dalton threw up his hands and groaned an oath. Phineas ignored it. “And I noticed you’ve rubbed shoulders with the group calling themselves Team Plasma a fair few times.”

    Dalton frowned. “So what?”

    “So most people that come into contact with them think they’re just a bunch of reactionary nut-jobs that celebrate Halloween year-round,” Phineas said. “Every time you come across them, you like to pick a fight. It’s pretty obvious you know something about Team Plasma that ‘most people’ don’t. But you’re not affiliated with any police force or investigative agency. In fact…”

    He paused significantly.

    “I’ve done a bit of digging and there isn’t much record of your activity before you showed up about a week ago to register for the Unova League,” he went on. “The League Registry says you’re from Johto. Is that true?”

    “Yes,” answered Dalton.

    “But something doesn’t add up…” Phineas said. “A seventeen-year-old from Johto just suddenly up and decides he wants to train Pokémon and just happens to butt heads with Team Plasma along the way? What’s your angle, really? Are you really gonna try to take down Team Plasma by yourself?”

    “If I have to,” Dalton said.

    “Why?” Phineas asked.

    “I have my reasons,” replied Dalton.

    “This is such a pain in the ***,” Phineas said, shaking his head. “Officially, Team Plasma is an activist group and not a criminal organization, so officially, to bring you in for questioning would be a huge kick to the Unova Constitution’s balls.”

    “Not to mention, you probably know more about Plasma as they are now than I do,” Dalton muttered.

    “‘As they are now’?” replied Phineas, shooting Dalton a questioning look. He shook his head. “Never mind. What I can tell you is that, ‘as they are now’, Plasma are a very strange group. Potentially dangerous. So watch your ***.”

    Dalton frowned as Phineas turned away from him. He was expecting to find out something he didn’t already know.

    “Don’t think you’re the only one that knows Plasma’s bad news, either,” Phineas added once he was several paces down the hallway. “If people know you’re fighting against Plasma, some of them will try to help you.”

    Dalton noticed the warning tone in his voice and replied, “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

    Phineas sighed heavily. “Let me put it this way. You already have a good number of allies. Just make sure you find the right ones. Oh, and another thing; I know she’s cute, but you might want to think long and hard before dragging her along with you into this.”

    Without any further explanation, he walked away.

    Dalton’s lip curled. “I hate guys like that. What’s the use of having a conversation with someone if you’re gonna leave them with more questions than answers?”

    “Was he…” Talia uttered haltingly, walking up to Dalton’s side, “trying to hit on me?”

    “If he was, then that’s pretty sad,” Dalton said, rolling his eyes. “First off, I think he’s about thirty…”

    “Not thirty. No way he was thirty,” Talia interrupted. “And even if he was… I could pass for a young-looking twenty-year-old… couldn’t I? I mean… I look old enough. I think…”

    Talia’s eyes flickered down to her chest region before she looked up at Dalton again. Dalton, however, didn’t see this. “Uh… isn’t that beside the point? He doesn’t know you. It’s creepy.”

    “Almost as creepy as you hitting on a fourteen-year-old,” said Talia wryly, folding her arms.

    “Okay, I wasn’t hitting on Whitlea. Jeez. How many times –?” Dalton sighed. “Why are we having this conversation?”

    “Because I enjoy seeing you get flustered,” Talia replied, grinning. “It’s entertaining. So… are you okay?”

    “She’s going to be fine,” Dalton uttered. “Probably pretty soon. She’s back to cracking snarky jokes at me again…”

    “Oh… she’s the sarcastic type? Why am I not surprised?” laughed Talia. “But… are you okay?”

    There was a long pause.

    “I don’t know.”

    Talia frowned. “You look confused.”

    Dalton swallowed hard. “I am confused.”

    Talia paused for a second. Then, before he could react, she engulfed Dalton with her arms. She had a deceptively strong grip – Dalton wasn’t sure if he could have escaped even if he’d wanted to.

    “What was that for?” Dalton asked as she stepped backward.

    “For earlier,” she answered, not meeting his eye. “I mean… I know it turned out Colress didn’t have a gun, but… it’s the thought that counts, right?”

    Dalton swallowed hard. “I’m hungry.”

    “Me, too,” Talia said very quickly. “Lunch?”

    Dalton nodded wordlessly. Talia stepped closer to him and ducked, tilting her head. “You gonna talk this time?”

    Dalton’s lip twitched. “Maybe.”

    Talia smiled, apparently satisfied with his answer, and traipsed down the hallway. Dalton took one last glance over his shoulder, to the door to the room where Nina was recovering…

    Can a Pokémon choose a human being, then? I still don’t understand. Or, I don’t understand enough.

    I guess I have to keep going, then.


    END


    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.




  15. #40
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    Dude, really? It's meant to be YOUR birthday today, not ours... :P

    So, Colress utterly dominates. I'm surprised he didn't use a Magnemite, considering his final line-up. But then again... they don't learn Shock Wave as early, do they?

    We also see Assad, and despite the facade, methinks someone likes him... or the attention... :P

    Dalton, you silly goose, your journey's only getting started. You better get with the program before Nina does more that scalp your leg...

    L@er!

    P.S. Happy birthday! ^_^
    The Corei Quest's latest chapter: Chapter Forty Seven: Tricks of the Trade (24 April 2014)
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  16. #41
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    Well apparently it was your Birthday at some point so Happy Birthday.

    I have been coming on here every few days to see if you have posted a chapter. Or replied to my first post. I didn't search the fics to find yours because I expected a message in my inbox saying you replied or something... I am still getting used to the forums. So Im sorry I missed the last chapter review.

    He got his first badge, so that is exciting. I don't know how to put the little spoiler button in but SPOILER ALERT: I wonder how long his gym quest will go on. Clearly it is important to him but I think his plans to stop Plasma could get in the way... And rightfully so. I could definitely be wrong but its just my thought. END SPOILER ALERT.

    Its been about a month since I played any of the games and I couldn't remember all of the characters so I had to do a google search to ensure that the inter pool agent wasn't an actual character. If my google search is correct you made him up so that is interesting... It will be cool to see how you intertwine all of this to either fit in with the Games storyline or possibly expand/re work the story.

    Dalton is thinking hard about a very valid question. Does he have the right to force his Pokemon to fight? The answer is no. But that isn't what training is. The Pokemon go out and compete, they don't get forced to fight. I think he started to possibly get his first exposure to that in the Pokemon Center with his conversation with Nina.

    As for your reply to my first comment; How much you like character development is obvious in how much attention you pay to it. As I said earlier you make us understand your characters quite well.

    I completely understand what you mean by a growing character list. I have face that issue myself. I often find myself adding characters and expanding their roles. In the early days of my novel I had a character that was only supposed to be in one chapter. I enjoyed writing that character so much that she has now taken a much larger role in my story. An even better example was in a rough draft of mine I has an unnamed character that was only supposed to be in the story for a few paragraphs. Some how or another I decided to give him a name.. and then a character that I really enjoyed to write began to form so I gave him a back story... and then he became a main character in my story lol... There is obviously a limit and I have found myself having to address it too. In the end you just have to say I don't think I can fit that in this story without hurting the story in the long run. Some times something you really like has to be left out but that doesn't mean it needs to be forgotten. An unused character or an idea could always find a new role in a different story. But I think it is okay for it to happen because you are the author. It is your story. if you like an idea, do it. I write because I enjoy it so if I find a character that I really enjoy writing than I have no problem adjusting my story and expanding the character's role as long as long as you don't get too carried away.

    As for posting something on here. I would really, really like to but I have my hesitations for a few reasons. First off is I am not comfortable making any of my works public yet because I don't feel the stories are ready yet. I feel like I still have a lot of work to do on them. Until I am comfortable with them I don't want to make them public... I have not let anyone read more than a few tiny bits of the overall story. My second issue is that I plan on publishing my story someday and I don't know how it would work with protecting my rights to my story if I am posting it online for everyone to read? I don't want that to sound bad, I really want to share my story but I want to make sure I have the opportunity to publish it someday. (IT HAS A LOT OF WORK LEFT BEFORE I AM AT THAT POINT)

    With that I leave with one final remark. I really enjoyed your explanation for about getting inspiration from creative writing. We actually have a few things in common; I am a big fan of Gundam Seed and its sequel. You said "What you take in as a writer is often what comes out, even if you don't mean it to." I think that is a great way of stating it. I also enjoyed the casserole metaphor... for some reason I pictured it as tatertot casserole. But as you said you have a long list of things that you found inspiration in. But I think that is good because as a writer I try to soak in everything around me. Music, tv, movies, video games, books, Fan Fics, my own experiences and observations... the list is long.

    Looking forward to the next chapter.

  17. #42
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    Hey EM1

    So, this is definitely nostalgic coming back to your stories. I started reading way back in PR:J, and If I remember correctly that was back when I was in high school. It was great being able to come home and escape to the world that you created. I found myself reading through AP but ended up stopping, being that pokemon became less and less a part of what I did. But for whatever reason, two years later I still remembered your story, and decided to go back and finish. And man, what a climax!

    I saw your new novel here, and since you opened the story I knew it was something I was going to fall in love with. I'm officially addicted, and you've finally made me come out of my proverbial reader's closet because I had to comment on how wonderful your writing has become and is. I'm actually in my last year in college, and STILL enjoy your stories. I sincerely hope you pursue a career as a writer because I definitely will pick up your first novel.

    Anyway, PLEASE for the LOVE of ALL that is GOOD and JUST in this WORLD keep posting chapters.

    love,
    Your closet reader.

  18. #43
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    So I woke up this morning, came onto SPPf and realized... holy crap, it's been SIX WEEKS since I last posted. That's... no good. :-\

    Air Dragon:

    Dude, really? It's meant to be YOUR birthday today, not ours... :P
    I'm generous like that. :-)


    So, Colress utterly dominates. I'm surprised he didn't use a Magnemite, considering his final line-up. But then again... they don't learn Shock Wave as early, do they?
    Lots of things can happen in two years, no? (And, no, they don't learn Shock Wave nearly as early. Not to mention that if we're keeping to the original BW Pokedex, it wouldn't make sense for him to have a Magnemite, would it? That doesn't mean he can't get one later, though. ;-)


    We also see Assad, and despite the facade, methinks someone likes him... or the attention... :P
    Was that rhyme accidental? :P


    Dalton, you silly goose, your journey's only getting started. You better get with the program before Nina does more that scalp your leg...
    It's possible to scalp a leg? I'll have to ruminate on that one for a little bit.


    Random Comment Guy:

    I have been coming on here every few days to see if you have posted a chapter. Or replied to my first post. I didn't search the fics to find yours because I expected a message in my inbox saying you replied or something... I am still getting used to the forums. So Im sorry I missed the last chapter review.
    Actually, I think you can have that happen for you if you subscribe to this thread. That's up to you, obviously, if you want to do that. Thanks for the birthday wishes, too!


    He got his first badge, so that is exciting. I don't know how to put the little spoiler button in but SPOILER ALERT: I wonder how long his gym quest will go on. Clearly it is important to him but I think his plans to stop Plasma could get in the way... And rightfully so. I could definitely be wrong but its just my thought. END SPOILER ALERT.
    I believe the [SPOILER] tag is the tag you were looking for there. But as that really wasn't so much a spoiler as pure speculation, I don't believe it would have been necessary. And as for the answer... even if I knew, I obviously wouldn't say at this juncture, but the fact is, I don't know. I'm still in the stage of tooling around with various ending scenarios for this story. I do plan to some degree, but not so much every specific detail of the fic. Phineas Assad was a fairly late addition into the character cast. Nothing's final until it's posted, basically.


    Its been about a month since I played any of the games and I couldn't remember all of the characters so I had to do a google search to ensure that the inter pool agent wasn't an actual character. If my google search is correct you made him up so that is interesting... It will be cool to see how you intertwine all of this to either fit in with the Games storyline or possibly expand/re work the story.

    Dalton is thinking hard about a very valid question. Does he have the right to force his Pokemon to fight? The answer is no. But that isn't what training is. The Pokemon go out and compete, they don't get forced to fight. I think he started to possibly get his first exposure to that in the Pokemon Center with his conversation with Nina.

    As for your reply to my first comment; How much you like character development is obvious in how much attention you pay to it. As I said earlier you make us understand your characters quite well.
    Nope, Phineas is an original character...a good one, I'm hoping. Otherwise, there's really no reason for him to be there. And, yes, Dalton, as much as he hates what Team Plasma stands for, also wonders if they might have had a point. It'll likely be something he goes back and forth on for a while. Keep in mind, he's still new to all of this. And I'm glad you like my character development - but some time away from this fic (to work on music and some other writing projects) has sort of uncovered some holes in this character cast that I hope to fill in future chapters.


    I completely understand what you mean by a growing character list. I have face that issue myself. I often find myself adding characters and expanding their roles. In the early days of my novel I had a character that was only supposed to be in one chapter. I enjoyed writing that character so much that she has now taken a much larger role in my story. An even better example was in a rough draft of mine I has an unnamed character that was only supposed to be in the story for a few paragraphs. Some how or another I decided to give him a name.. and then a character that I really enjoyed to write began to form so I gave him a back story... and then he became a main character in my story lol... There is obviously a limit and I have found myself having to address it too. In the end you just have to say I don't think I can fit that in this story without hurting the story in the long run. Some times something you really like has to be left out but that doesn't mean it needs to be forgotten. An unused character or an idea could always find a new role in a different story. But I think it is okay for it to happen because you are the author. It is your story. if you like an idea, do it. I write because I enjoy it so if I find a character that I really enjoy writing than I have no problem adjusting my story and expanding the character's role as long as long as you don't get too carried away.
    I feel like it's almost harder in a fanfic than it is if you were just writing your own fiction novel. The last thing you want in fanfiction, IMO, is for the canon characters not to be well-written. I feel that disconnects readers from the original universe and makes that universe come off as a stolen framing device that you pasted your own characters into because you were too lazy/uncreative to create your own universe. That's part of the reason that I stopped Maverick Heart. I tried for some originality and I think I achieved it, but at the cost of giving respect to the universe that the story was supposed to be based in. I don't know if that make much sense to you, but... there you have it.


    As for posting something on here. I would really, really like to but I have my hesitations for a few reasons. First off is I am not comfortable making any of my works public yet because I don't feel the stories are ready yet. I feel like I still have a lot of work to do on them. Until I am comfortable with them I don't want to make them public... I have not let anyone read more than a few tiny bits of the overall story. My second issue is that I plan on publishing my story someday and I don't know how it would work with protecting my rights to my story if I am posting it online for everyone to read? I don't want that to sound bad, I really want to share my story but I want to make sure I have the opportunity to publish it someday. (IT HAS A LOT OF WORK LEFT BEFORE I AM AT THAT POINT)
    Well, I wish you all the luck with that. I'm more a hobbyist writer myself. I haven't ruled out maybe being a published writer if I ever come up with a good original story, but I actually devote most of my creative juices to music nowadays.


    With that I leave with one final remark. I really enjoyed your explanation for about getting inspiration from creative writing. We actually have a few things in common; I am a big fan of Gundam Seed and its sequel. You said "What you take in as a writer is often what comes out, even if you don't mean it to." I think that is a great way of stating it. I also enjoyed the casserole metaphor... for some reason I pictured it as tatertot casserole. But as you said you have a long list of things that you found inspiration in. But I think that is good because as a writer I try to soak in everything around me. Music, tv, movies, video games, books, Fan Fics, my own experiences and observations... the list is long.
    I actually liked Seed but was sorta meh on the sequel. It was almost as if they couldn't decide who they wanted the main character to be. My favorite Gundam series is actually Wing, followed by Seed. Gundam 00 ranks pretty highly up there for me, too, in terms of storyline. Characters, not so much. Not human enough. And don't forget the classic MSG, too.

    And I've actually never eaten tatertot casserole. ^_^


    Venastois:

    Hey, old friend! Great to see you again!! :-)

    So, this is definitely nostalgic coming back to your stories. I started reading way back in PR:J, and If I remember correctly that was back when I was in high school. It was great being able to come home and escape to the world that you created. I found myself reading through AP but ended up stopping, being that pokemon became less and less a part of what I did. But for whatever reason, two years later I still remembered your story, and decided to go back and finish. And man, what a climax!
    I've probably said this a hundred times, but I'll say it again. I apologize to you and everybody that had to read that long slog of a final epilogue chapter. I believe it was something on the order of 60 pages. I know it required a quadruple post. Simply awful. I'm glad you at least enjoyed it, though. :-) And yep, it's been a while since PR:J was released. We're actually coming up on ten years since I wrote the first chapter (I believe it was somewhere around February 2004. I was on the forums under a different name back then.) We've all become old fogies in the process (I'm three years removed from college myself, actually...) and I hope, somehow, that I've become a better writer in that long span of time.

    Wait... it just occurred to me - do you graduate this/last weekend? If so, then CONGRATS!


    I saw your new novel here, and since you opened the story I knew it was something I was going to fall in love with. I'm officially addicted, and you've finally made me come out of my proverbial reader's closet because I had to comment on how wonderful your writing has become and is. I'm actually in my last year in college, and STILL enjoy your stories. I sincerely hope you pursue a career as a writer because I definitely will pick up your first novel.

    Anyway, PLEASE for the LOVE of ALL that is GOOD and JUST in this WORLD keep posting chapters.
    Like I said to Random Comment Guy, my first love is actually music and I'm working on getting that career off the ground. However, if I get a good story idea to gain traction, I might consider it one day. :-)

    And, yes, I'll continue posting chapters.... and I'll try not to wait six weeks before the next one.
    Last edited by EonMaster One; 18th May 2013 at 3:46 AM.

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.




  19. #44
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    May 2005
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    ~~~ *** ~~~ *** ~~~
    12. Lake, Superior?
    ~~~ *** ~~~ *** ~~~


    Panting desperately, Dalton Gregg collapsed alongside a proud tree.

    “<Hey~?>” squeaked the Nidoran that ran up beside him. Her vaguely rodent-like ears turned downward as she looked up at an approaching shadow. “<I think he’s done.>”

    “Someone needs more exercise.” The girl knelt in front of him. Dalton, still breathing heavily and clutching the stitch at his side, looked down at the Nidoran.

    “I need… a break. You’re not… tired, Nina?” he asked.

    “<I’m not about to collapse and fall over,>” Nina answered matter-of-factly.

    “<Tee-hee! I told you not to make him carry the bag,>” another voice yelped as a six-tailed fox bounded to the girl. It was strange. Once Dalton had learned to communicate with Nina, Sionna (though the two were not as close) came rather easily.

    Groaning, Dalton leaned his head back against the trunk of the tree and looked up into its boughs. It was a thick, strong, majestic thing, a veteran of many summers and winters. Its leaves screened the sun like a loose canopy, the wind causing their shadows to dance back and forth along the ground below. Light cooing could be heard in the distance – from where and from what, Dalton wasn’t exactly sure.

    “You’re not moving, are you?” asked Talia. Dalton shook his head. Talia sighed. “Guess we’re making camp here, then.”

    “Camp?” Dalton looked up.

    “Yeah,” Talia answered, slinging a backpack off her shoulder. “Past here, there’s a huge lake with a bunch of long bridges to cross. We don’t want to get caught halfway when it gets dark.”

    “Just as well,” Dalton replied, trying and failing to move. “We’ve been going all day.”

    As Talia busied herself setting up camp, Dalton ran his hand over his black hair and sweaty, now somewhat tanned face.

    “Damn it,” he swore. “That was, what, six battles? Eight?”

    Nina shook her head. “<I lost count.>”

    “Who the hell thought up the bright idea to give Pokémon to pre-schoolers?” groaned Dalton.

    “It’s actually not all that uncommon,” Talia replied, her voice shifting around in Dalton’s head space as she continued moving. “A lot of parents give their young children a Pokémon to help raise. It helps them learn responsibility and all that. One of the projects my dad helped with was gathering info for a study on young adults who grew up with a Pokémon in the house and comparing them with those that didn’t.”

    “Like me, obviously,” Dalton answered.

    “Well –” Talia stammered apologetically. “Yeah, I guess. Speaking of Pokémon…”

    Dalton remained silent. He didn’t know where Talia was going.

    “Hey… up here.”

    Dalton looked up. Talia was hanging from one of the branches, her hair falling in a reddish sheet. She turned herself over and landed gracefully at Dalton’s feet (which were now sporting some new shoes that were more travel-worthy). Dalton always wondered how she did that.

    “Isn’t it about time you filled out your team?” asked Talia.

    “Team?” Dalton repeated, frowning in confusion.

    “Of Pokémon,” answered Talia, as if Dalton should have known this already. “You only have Nina, right? And, I mean… she’s good, but… hardly any Gym Leader or Trainer you’re gonna run into is only gonna use one Pokémon. Nina can’t battle all of them.”

    “Well –” stammered Dalton, taking a brief glance at the Nidoran and then looking back at Talia defiantly. “Why can’t she?”

    “Well, first off, because there’s only one of her,” Talia answered. “She can only take so much fighting.”

    “Are you calling Nina weak?” Dalton asked, staggering up to his feet. Talia grimaced.

    “Come on… no. But even strong Pokémon get worn out. They can only battle so long before they get tired. I hear the Champion has six Pokémon on hand – all fully evolved, too. I’m not saying it’s impossible to beat a team of six with just one Pokémon… but why put that burden on yourself, or on Nina?”

    Dalton looked down briefly at Nina.

    “It’s just food for thought, is all…” Talia replied, going back to busying herself. Dalton slumped back down to the tree.

    “Wish we could have some food for my stomach,” he muttered.

    “<No kidding,>” Nina agreed.

    “So, what do you think?” asked Dalton.

    Nina’s ears drooped. “<No way.>”

    “You don’t think Talia has a point?” asked Dalton.

    “<I don’t care if she has a point. That’s not the point,>” Nina answered. “<I thought you said we were going to do this.>”

    Dalton then had a flash of a vision flit through his head – two large, rampaging dragons…

    “I’ve just got this feeling that…” Dalton muttered, shaking his head. “We should take all the help we can get.”

    “<I can’t believe this…>” Nina staggered backward. “<You don’t think I’m good enough.>”

    “You don’t understand—” Dalton started.

    Nina rolled her eyes and then muttered, “<I’m going for a walk.>”

    “Nina…!” grunted Dalton. He swore as he struggled against his cramping thighs to get to his feet. “Do we have to do this right now…?”

    He limped after Nina, cursing himself several times over.

    “<Hey!!>” yelled Sionna. “<Where are you going?>”


    “C’mon, Nina!” shouted Dalton, struggling against his cramping legs as he walked through a thicket what seemed like hours later. “This isn’t funny anymore!”

    His eyes flicked up into a nearby tree as he wondered whether Nina had climbed it to hide from him. Could Nidoran climb trees? He’d never bothered asking. He noticed that the sky was a duller blue than it had been.

    “Damn… that late already?” murmured Dalton, smoothing down his dark hair. His heart sank. What if he didn’t find Nina before it got dark? If he went much further from camp, he would get himself lost for sure. Would Talia come looking for him? He was a bit surprised that she hadn’t already…

    What if Nina simply never came back? Was he supposed to catch another Pokémon? It wouldn’t be the same. Of course, the fact that he had contemplated catching another Pokémon was the start of all this mess…

    A loud whipping sound startled Dalton. He looked up and glimpsed several creatures seemingly sprouting from a wooded area in the distance. There had to be at least two dozen shadows, all with furiously beating wings as they tried to ascend into the evening sky, raising a cacophony of squawking.

    “What was that?” Dalton asked, mustering up a bit more energy and continuing to walk, this time in the direction of the disturbed woods. He found himself leaving the beaten path and ambling through trees and bushes (wincing slightly as outstretched branches carved shallow scratches into his exposed legs). The brown shadow of what looked like a Patrat darted away in front of him. Strange cries were now audible in the distance. Dalton shuddered. This was exactly why he hated forests at nighttime. Not to mention bad things seemed to happen to him in the woods – like getting shot, for instance. Not that he expected something quite that disastrous. A week of knowing where (and when) he was had finally cured him of the fear of seeing Union Party soldiers behind each tree and around every other corner. Talia would probably call him an idiot for venturing this far into the wilds with no Pokémon at his disposal. Then again, if his Pokémon was at his disposal and hadn’t run away to God-knows-where, he wouldn’t be wading through grass and brush trying to find her. A vague neighing sound – a familiar noise that made Dalton’s heart skip a beat – echoed in the distance.

    “<Nobody’s bothering you!>” another yell came soon after. “<Just go away!>”

    Dalton’s breath caught in his chest. It was Nina – she was in an argument with another Pokémon. And if Dalton knew what any Pokémon cry sounded like, he knew that one. As he drew nearer to the sounds, he heard Nina shout, “<I’m warning you – don’t come any closer!>”

    Dalton peered through the tall grass. Nina was standing in a clearing, and across from him, unmistakable with its black-and-white striped body, was a Blitzle. Behind Nina, crumpled on the ground, was a small, grayish lump that seemed to be struggling to move. Blitzle reared up on its hind legs and whinnied louder than Dalton thought a Pokémon that size was capable.

    “<You don’t scare me!!>” Nina shouted back – but Blitzle’s motion had caused her to wince noticeably. Dalton grit his teeth…

    “HEY!!!” He jumped from behind the bush. He felt something catch the arch of his foot…

    Damn.

    Thankfully, he had just enough to time to get his hands down. They hit the ground first instead of his face. Nina and Blitzle both jumped and turned to the newcomer.

    Nina blinked twice. “<Nice entrance.>”

    Dalton groaned in pain and annoyance, picking himself up from the ground.

    Blitzle went on with a shaky bit of whinnying and snorting. It was almost like…

    “<HEY!>” snapped Nina. “<It’s not funny! Okay… maybe it was kind of funny, but you’re not allowed to laugh!!>”

    Blitzle did stop laughing, suddenly giving Nina a stare that was utterly unfriendly.

    “<Y-you wanna fight?>” Nina uttered, and her voice seemed a bit squeakier than normal. “<You wanna fight?! Come on, then!>”

    Soft, cooing came from the gray lump. From this close, Dalton could make out a short but very pointed beak.

    “<Hey – you shut it!>” Nina snapped, turning back to the beaked creature. “<I know what I’m doing.>”

    Dalton thrust his PokéDex at the grayish lump of feathers.

    “Pidove,” Amanita’s voice answered from the PokéDex in a tone of affected maturity. “The Tiny Pigeon Pokémon. Each follows its Trainer's orders as best it can, but they sometimes fail to understand complicated commands.”

    “Doesn’t sound very smart,” Dalton commented.

    “<You’re telling me,>” replied Nina.

    Blitzle neighed again.

    “<Shut up!>” Nina seemed to lose her temper. She rushed Blitzle for all she was worth. The pony-like Pokémon simply moved aside and dodged the Nidoran’s sweeping claw. Rearing again, Blitzle broke into a gallop, accelerating and accelerating until it was no more than a blur. Nina turned around, but she was not in time. Blitzle slammed into her, driving her backward. Dalton winced as Nina smashed into a nearby tree back-first and then landed painfully on one of its outstretched roots. Blitzle lowered its head. Its thunderbolt-shaped horn started to crackle…

    “Nina, heads up!!” Dalton yelled.

    Blitzle buckled. With a whinny of shock and pain, it looked up. Something gray and winged was flapping its wings furiously. Dalton noticed that the wind had picked up very suddenly as well.

    “<No! Idiot!>” Nina snarled. “<Get out of the way!>”

    A strange wave was unleashed from Blitzle’s horn and body. Whatever it was, it caused Nina to wince in pain and felled the Pidove from the sky almost instantly – not to mention making Dalton’s hair stand on end.

    “Nina, use Double Kick!” Dalton shouted. Blitzle lowered its head and (to Dalton’s great horror) tried to pin Nina to the tree using its horn. Nina managed to escape just barely and slammed her two back feet into one of Blitzle’s legs, buckling it. She leapt upon Blitzle’s back and used it rather violently as a springboard. She slid to a stop at Dalton’s feet, turning around to face her battered opponent.

    “<You see?>” she breathed. “<I’m… all… you… need.>”

    This caused Dalton to hesitate, as he’d been going into his pocket. Nina looked at him. Dalton quickly slipped the Pokéball back into his shorts. He eyed the Blitzle for a moment. Its leg was injured. It would not be able to escape easily.

    Or at least, that’s what Dalton had thought. To his surprise, the Blitzle jumped up and bounded away into the shadow of the trees.

    “<And don’t come back!>” Nina shouted after it.

    The Pidove cooed thankfully, stretching its wings, which were singed but still attached. Dalton did nothing for a moment and listened to the conversation between the two Pokémon. From what he could gather, this particular Blitzle had been bullying the Pidove in the area for a while. Thinking back, Dalton realized that the flapping gray shadows he’d seen leaving the area must have been the rest of this Pidove’s flock. It had stayed behind to stand up to this Blitzle but had come off worse in the fight, which was why Nina had needed to step in.

    The two Pokémon’s conversation seemed to be growing a bit louder. Finally, Nina jumped back.

    “<That’s just fine with me! I hope you see that Blitzle again, and I hope it kicks your –>”

    Nina,” Dalton interrupted. Nina turned her head toward him. “It’s getting dark. We should probably head back to –”

    Dalton was cut off – a strong and very sudden blast of wind staggered him. Nina, meanwhile, was caught up into the air and pitched halfway across the clearing. She landed hard on her back and rolled several times. Meanwhile, Dalton caught sight of the Pidove taking flight, while Nina rolled to her feet, looked up, and started shouting a litany of phrases and interjections at it, none of which could have been translated into polite speech. She stood there for a moment, fuming, so angry that it looked like her ears were changing color.

    “Can we go back to camp now?” asked Dalton.

    “<Did I prove my point?>” asked Nina.

    Dalton sighed and kneaded the bridge of his nose.


    When Dalton (with Nina in tow, atop his shoulder) arrived at the camp again, he saw that Talia had gathered a pile of wood, presumably for a fire later that evening. As for Talia herself, though, she was nowhere to be found. Sionna was there, though, her tails swishing as she rested next to the log pile. Her eyes had been closed; but she had heard Dalton’s footsteps. Her eyelids snapped open.

    “<You’re alive,>” Sionna said. “<I thought something in the forest got you.>”

    “Not really,” Dalton chuckled. Nina, meanwhile, growled mutinously.

    “<What’s wrong with you?>” asked Sionna. Nina leapt off Dalton’s shoulder.

    “<That…>” Nina murmured. Then, she cut herself off with another growl.

    “Where’s Talia?” Dalton asked, looking around.

    “<Oh…>” Sionna answered nonchalantly. “<She went for a walk.>”

    “A walk?” repeated Dalton. “Why didn’t you go with her?”

    “<Someone has to watch the camp,>” Sionna answered.

    “The camp?” Dalton repeated. “Well… who’s watching her?

    “<Tee-hee,>” Sionna giggled. “<You can, if you want.>”

    Dalton tilted his head. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

    “<Just go look for her,>” Sionna sighed. “<I’m staying here to watch the camp.>”

    Dalton sighed. “Fine… Nina, you coming along?”

    “<Sure, I guess,>” murmured Nina, not sounding fully committed.

    “<You look tired. Get some rest,>” Sionna advised.

    Nina thought that was strange and gave Sionna a bewildered look. The two seemed to have a wordless conversation until Sionna looked at Dalton and said, “<I don’t think she went too far away.>”

    “Geez, that’s a comfort,” muttered Dalton, finally giving up and stalking away, hands in his pockets.

    Nina looked at Sionna.

    “<Why didn’t you go?>” the Nidoran asked.

    “<Simple,>” Sionna answered. “<She went where I couldn’t follow her. Water and I have a love-hate relationship – I love to hate it.>”

    “<Water?>” Now Nina was even more confused.

    “<There’s a giant lake close to here,>” answered Sionna.

    “<She’s underwater?>” uttered Nina, her face now shocked. “<That’s… a problem, isn’t it?>”

    “<Just relax,>” Sionna said, punctuating her comment with a giggle. “<So, um…? How long do you give it?>”

    “<What?>” asked Nina a bit tersely.

    “<How long?>” repeated Sionna. “<Until they… you know…>”

    Nina shook her head. “<I’m not following you.>”

    Sionna sighed and then dropped her voice to a whisper. “<How long do you think until they mate?>”

    If Nina had been a human being sitting in a chair – or even just sitting in a chair – she would have fallen out of it. “<Wh-WHAT?>” she uttered, her face going red.

    “<Well, if humans don’t mate, where do all the other humans come from?>” Sionna queried, tilting her head – a fair question.

    “<That’s not the point!>” exclaimed Nina. “<I don’t think…>”

    “<One’s male, one’s female. Come on, Nina, don’t make this difficult,>” Sionna laughed.

    “<I don’t think it works like that,>” Nina cut her off. “<Humans aren’t like us.>”

    “<Are they really that different?>” asked Sionna.

    “<Can you walk on two legs?>” answered Nina snarkily.

    Sionna didn’t answer – she just laughed.


    Meanwhile, Dalton had followed the path as far as it would take him. He ran out of natural land, but a manmade bridge seemed to be covering the gap between this strip of land and… something. It had become too dark to see very far, although small lanterns seemed to pepper the sides of the bridge, and the moon was shining quite brightly above.

    His eyes were failing him in this darkness. Dalton was a bit nearsighted anyway, and he’d been due to get an eye exam for some contacts before this little temporal snag. He’d just have to live with it now. Maybe a few weeks – or months, or years, or however long it took – without staring at his laptop would reverse some of the damage.

    Probably not.

    Finally giving up, he decided to try the old, time-tested method:

    Talia!!

    He put his hands to his mouth so the shout would travel as far as possible.

    He walked several steps onto the bridge.

    Talia!!

    “Damn, can you be any louder?” a familiar voice sounded from (how was this possible?) right below him. Dalton looked down and into the water. Staring up at him, reflecting the moonlight, were the blue eyes of Talia Renard. “Seriously. My eardrums are bleeding.”

    She turned around.

    “Where’s Nina?” she asked, drifting away from the bridge. Dalton didn’t answer. She scoffed. “You idiot. You know you’re not supposed to go wandering off without your Pokémon – let alone at night.”

    “Look who’s talking,” answered Dalton. “Miss ‘I-think-I’ll-leave-my-Pokémon-at-the-campsite-and-just-go-for-a-quick-dip.’”

    There was a long silence.

    “You might as well stick around,” Talia said offhandedly. “Water’s not bad for it not being that warm out.”

    “You mean… get in?” Dalton grimaced. “Yeah, I think I’ll pass. Swimming in a lake doesn’t sound like my idea of fun.”

    “You don’t know how to swim, do you?” asked Talia very quickly.

    “Why would you say that?” replied Dalton, also very quickly.

    “It was a guess.”

    Dalton grimaced.

    “I mean… sure, I can swim… kind of,” answered Dalton. “I mean… I know how to keep my head above water and not drown.”

    “Well, that’s fine. I wasn’t planning on doing laps or anything…” Talia answered.

    “Yeah, well… I don’t have anything to swim in,” Dalton murmured. He realized something. Then he hesitated. Then he decided to go ahead and say it, “And when did you get a swimsuit? I don’t remember you going shopping.”

    The fact was, since he’d won his badge, they hadn’t been separated long enough for her to have time.

    “Why do you ask so many questions?” Talia replied. “It’s dark and there’s no one out here but us, so why does it matter?”

    “Because I’m not a fan of skinny-dipping,” answered Dalton flatly.

    “Geez…” Talia whispered, rolling her eyes. Suddenly, she pushed down on the ground right in front of Dalton and rose from the water. Dalton turned his eyes away, and Talia must have noticed, because she said, “I’m not naked, okay?”

    And indeed, Talia was covered, but not much. She was wearing what seemed rather like an imitation of a swimsuit, with a strapless bra and the shorts that she normally wore under her dress. Dalton had glimpsed the shorts a couple of times – completely by accident, of course. And, for as much as she was willing to let Dalton see her in a semi-undressed state, she didn’t seem very comfortable about it. Her body language was uncharacteristically shy. In fact, after a few seconds of uncomfortable silence, she slipped into the water.

    “Just leave your shirt and shoes right there,” she instructed him, nodding vaguely toward the place she had just been.

    Dalton sighed awkwardly. “You think you could… turn around?”

    Talia rolled her eyes again. “Seriously? I’ve already seen what you look like without… anything, really.”

    “That doesn’t mean I’m okay with it,” Dalton said. Talia shook her head emphatically and turned around. After Dalton got rid of his shirt and shoes, he slipped into the water. It was a bit cold, which caused his body a nasty shock. He tried to stop his teeth from chattering, which didn’t work out well. Talia whirled around. To Dalton’s surprise, she had a smile on her face.

    “Worried about what Loretta’s gonna say to you? Or Whitlea, maybe?” she taunted. Dalton shut his eyes tight.

    “I don’t…” he murmured.

    “So is Loretta the jealous type?” asked Talia.

    “COULD YOU STOP IT ALREADY!?” Dalton exploded, before really even knowing why. Talia’s face grew serious.

    “You must really miss her.”

    “Of course not!” snapped Dalton. “I mean… I don’t know. We were never really… going out, technically. I thought I told you that. Besides… it wouldn’t have worked, anyway.”

    He looked up distractedly at the moon.

    “I don’t think she really understood me. We didn’t really even know each other that well. We weren’t really friends. We didn’t hang out at all. We went to school together. That’s it. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if it wasn’t all some… sick joke.”

    “It sounds like you didn’t trust her very much,” Talia replied.

    “I don’t trust anyone very much,” Dalton said.

    “…That’s a sad thing to admit,” remarked Talia.

    Dalton disagreed. People who trusted too easily hadn’t grown up enough yet, in his opinion.

    “Is there anybody you do trust?” she asked.

    “Nina,” answered Dalton. It hadn’t taken him very long. “And…”

    “And?” Talia repeated, her tone sounding somewhat hopeful.

    Dalton swallowed hard. “You, too.”

    Talia smiled weakly. “You really mean that, Dalton?”

    A bit jerkily, Dalton nodded. She floated toward him.

    “Let me teach you how to swim, then.”

    Dalton tilted his head.

    “I already know how to swim.”

    Talia shook her head. “You know how to tread water. It’s not the same thing.”


    Sometime later, the two were headed back to the camp. Dalton was shivering.

    “I don’t kn-know…” he stammered, “h-how the hell you conv-v-vinced me to g-g-get into that f-f-f-fu-fu-freaking water.”

    Talia was trying very hard not to look cold, but her arms were clasped tightly around her body. “It’s a talent, I guess…”

    “I’m gonna… gonna be p-pissed if I w-wake up w-with a c-cold tomorrow,” said Dalton.

    They approached closer to the camp and saw a faint, orange glow. Smoke wafted from somewhere behind a tree.

    “Is that fire?” asked Dalton. “How long have we been gone?”

    “How should I know?” replied Talia. “An hour? Two, tops?”

    Dalton frowned. “Hope all of our stuff’s still there… how screwed are we if all of our supplies got stolen?”

    Talia’s jaw slackened for only a split-second; clearly, she hadn’t thought of that at all. Trying to regain her composure, she said, “Well… the human body can survive without food for… a few days, I think… but I don’t think it’d ever come to that.”

    For Dalton had just given her a horrified look. Talia smirked and, to Dalton’s surprise, grabbed hold of his forearm.

    “I sure hope not, anyway…” she said, her eyes glinting. “I think, if you lost any more weight, you’d simply cease to exist.”

    “Yeah, real funny,” Dalton said, pulling his arm away.

    “Really?” asked Talia, throwing her hands behind her head. “I thought so.”

    Their camp came into view as they rounded a tree. Crackling and trembling, the light of a burning wood fire shot dancing golden sparks into the air.

    Whoa,” uttered Dalton. “Who set this?”

    “Probably Sionna,” said Talia, smiling. “That’s the great thing about having a Fire-type Pokémon. You never need matches.”

    Dalton tilted his head. Maybe it was because he hadn’t seen it done, but it had never crossed his mind that Pokémon could be useful for things other than companionship and protection.

    “What would… would a Pidove be useful for anything?” asked Dalton.

    “Well… Pidove can’t make fires, obviously,” Talia answered. “I guess, maybe… if you wanted to look for something or someone from the air, you could use a Flying-type. But I’ve heard that Pidove aren’t the smartest Pokémon around… aww, look at that…”

    They arrived in front of the fire. A long log from what was once a tree was fortunately placed close enough to be used as a bench. Not very far from it, two Pokémon were curled up closely to one another, both obviously asleep.

    “They’re so cute together,” mewled Talia, “almost like long-lost sisters.”

    Dalton didn’t say anything. It wasn’t very manly to call attention to that sort of thing. Still, though, the sight was oddly heartwarming – or maybe that was his shirt starting to warm from the fire nearby.

    Dalton and Talia sat upon a log, staring into the crackling flames for a few seconds. A stiff breeze caused both to shiver and tried to snuff the fire out, but the flames held strong. Talia rubbed her shoulders.

    “Still kinda cold…” she muttered. “Should we sit closer?”

    Dalton looked at her.

    “Uh… to the fire, I mean.”

    “Yeah, sure… as long as I don’t get my face burned,” Dalton deadpanned.

    So they sat down on the ground. More silence. Talia looked thoughtful as she peered into the fire. “Nacrene City has a… museum, I think.”

    Dalton didn’t know what Talia’s point was. “O…kay.”

    “It’s got a lot of artifacts that they say have to do with Pokémon,” she continued quietly. “You might be able to find some leads there.”

    “…Leads?” repeated Dalton, still confused.

    “How to go back home?” Talia asked, almost as if she was hesitant to broach the subject. “I mean… it’s a shot in the dark, but you might find something…”

    Dalton’s shoulders slackened. “Azalea City seems so far away now. I mean… I guess I was there longer than I’d been anywhere else. About three or four years, actually. But… the longer I’m here, the longer it starts to feel like just another place I left behind.”

    Talia’s lips pursed. “Is that good or bad?”

    Dalton heaved a sigh. “I don’t know. And even if I wanted to go home right now… if I went back, there’d still be the Union, the Professor would still be dead… nothing will have changed. Nothing… except that now I know what it’s like to live in a world other than that one… and I’d just want to leave even more than I did before. What I mean, I guess, is… I have to at least try to stop Ghetsis before I even think about trying to find a way back home.”

    “So you’re really going to go through with it, huh?” Talia asked. Dalton nodded. “What about becoming a Pokémon Trainer?”

    Dalton’s gaze hardened. “All part of the plan.”

    “Part of the plan?” repeated Talia, a bit too incredulously.

    “If I become a strong Trainer…” Dalton said slowly, almost as if his intentions were taking shape in his head as he spoke them. “If I become a strong Trainer… I turn into everything that Ghetsis hates – everything he stands against. If I become the best Trainer here in Unova... then, if he still wants to make his utopia, he’ll have to go through me to do it.”

    Talia swallowed hard. “You’re not worried about… you know, getting yourself killed? I don’t know much about these guys, but if Interpol’s involved, that’s not a good sign.”

    “Why else am I here, then?” Dalton said. He wasn’t surprised at Talia’s change of expression; he could even hear the desperation and angst in his own voice. “I should have been dead. I was dead. So why was I spared? Spared to come through time, and not just anywhere – to here, now. Ghetsis created the dictatorship that took my family away from me, so I want to stop him. I want to stop him more than anything. But I don’t just want to stop him. I think… I think I’m meant to.”

    Talia swallowed hard and blinked. Dalton’s jaw slackened. He hadn’t expected that reaction. “So… you want me to leave? Is that it?”

    “No.”

    Dalton studied the fire for a few moments.

    “I want you to come with me.”

    Talia looked stuck. “Really?”

    “I mean… you don’t have to if you don’t want to…” Dalton answered. “That Assad guy from Interpol was right. It’s gonna be dangerous.”

    “Well, it’s not like I have anything better to do,” Talia answered a bit sourly. “Besides… I… kind of like traveling with you. Even though you’re a prudish nerd with next to no social skills.”

    “Gee, thanks,” deadpanned Dalton. “Glad to see you think so highly of me.”

    Talia grinned.


    The next morning came, and Dalton, to his great surprise, found himself up with the sun – with no regrets, to boot. The morning was brisk, and the grass dewy. Sionna and Nina had awoken first, the former bouncing around like she was on a sugar high, and the latter awakening much more slowly and not too thrilled about her companion’s overbearing energy. Camp was packed up even more quickly than Talia had set it out, especially with Dalton helping. The terrible cramping in his legs from the night before had been replaced by a dull full-body ache. Dalton wasn’t sure which was worse, but at least he could move around now.

    It wasn’t long after that, that Dalton’s feet were throbbing in pain again. He had probably done more walking in the last week than he’d done in the last several years of his life. But he was determined not to stop, not to ask for a break. Even when Talia offered, Dalton turned her down.

    About halfway across the series of bridges where they had taken their little swim the night before, Talia stopped, frowning. “You don’t need to push yourself too much, you know. We’re making really good time. We can be in Nacrene with daylight to spare at this rate.”

    Dalton sighed, rubbing his legs. “Let’s keep going,” he said stubbornly. “If I keep moving, I don’t have to think about how my legs are feeling.”

    “Can we stop here?” asked Talia. “Just for a second?”

    Dalton let out a half a groan. He hadn’t been lying; the longer they stood still, the more he felt his calves burning. “Sure… if you say so.”

    The morning was still crisp and a bit breezy, but the sun was just high enough to start cutting through the mild chill. Creatures were breaking the surface of the blue water every so often, flailing and floating before disappearing with quiet splashes. Dalton could see reflections of the few puffy, cotton-ball clouds that were drifting lazily overhead. A single cry of something aloft directed his attention upward. Dalton shaded his eyes against the sun. Whatever it was obviously had wings, and seemed to be circling… them. Just when it banked far away and Dalton thought it was gone for good, it came back, banking in a wide arc over the water as it descended lower, and lower, and lower…

    “Is that Pidove coming toward us?” asked Talia, who had noticed it as well.

    Sure enough, the gray, beaked bird landed on the ground several feet away, looking straight at Talia and Dalton. It let a loud coo to the sky, flapping its wings aggressively.

    “Hold on… I think I might remember this Pidove,” Dalton commented. Talia turned around.

    “They all look the same. How are you supposed to be able to tell?” she asked.

    Dalton grimaced, pulling out a Pokéball. “I guess there’s one way to find out.”

    He tossed the sphere into the air, where it hit the ground and split open. Nina had obviously taken the opportunity to take a nap in her ball, because she rubbed her eyes blearily upon appearing and didn’t seem completely awake.

    “<What’s going…>” she murmured. Her eyes focused on the Pidove and widened. “<You!>”

    The Pidove flapped its wings again, lifting off from the ground just a hair – and then came beak-first at them.

    “Whoa!” Talia exclaimed, leaping backward.

    “Heads up!!” Dalton shouted. Nina was able to leap out of the way as Pidove, now little more than a gray-and-white streak to the naked eye, came zooming through the air. Nina whirled around just in time to see Pidove several feet above ground, flapping its wings repeatedly. Dalton and Talia staggered under the force of a sudden wind, but the much smaller Nina slid backward, not helped by the wet wood of the bridge underneath her.

    “<Come on!!>” she snarled, aiming her short horn up at the approaching Pidove. A small, glowing arrow of white burst forth from it. Pidove tried to bank out of the way, but the projectile was too fast. It caught Pidove on one wing, sending the bird Pokémon into a tailspin. Pidove righted itself and accelerated, becoming a fast moving streak of white once again.

    Dalton knew he was in trouble. Pidove had left Nina no time to dodge. “Oh, sh-”

    Pidove slammed into Nina full force, bowling her over. The Nidoran staggered to her feet as her winged opponent took to the air again.

    “Double Kick, Nina!” shouted Dalton.

    “<Not from here!>” Nina yelled back simply. Dalton snarled in frustration. He glimpsed a white trail beginning to follow Pidove again.

    “Careful, it’s coming back!” Talia warned.

    “Nina!” Dalton yelled. The Nidoran whipped her head around toward him. “Aim for the wing – Scratch, on my signal!”

    Pidove banked widely and began to descend yet again. Nina held her ground as Pidove streaked downward like a feathery missile…

    “NOW!” yelled Dalton. Nina leapt, but the force of Pidove’s blow turned her head over heels. Pidove, however, went into an abrupt spiral, crashing hard into the bridge on its back.

    Talia smirked. “Guess that’s one way to flip a bird.”

    Nina whirled around, hyperventilating with fatigue and looking very, very pale.

    “<Get up again, I dare you!>” she snarled, seemingly overcome with battle rage. “<Get up!!>”

    Then, she staggered backward, growing paler and paler by the second. Her body was pulsating with white light…

    A sphere came out of nowhere, striking Pidove over the head. Nina stopped glowing instantly, shaking her head in shock. The sphere opened. Pidove’s head looked up briefly as the Pokémon turned into shapeless, red light, which the ball promptly swallowed. The sphere tapped against the bridge and began to twitch nervously. For a moment it looked like it was ready to roll away… then it simply stopped moving.

    Dalton took a step back, staring at the dormant ball in surprise. Talia, meanwhile, was looking from the ball to a blank-faced Nina. She had seen the whole thing just now… and couldn’t believe anyone’s timing could be that awful. “Do you know what just happened?”

    Dalton went to pick the ball up. He pored over it for a moment and then looked at Talia. “I just caught a Pokémon for the first time, right?”

    Talia opened her mouth for a second or two. Then she smiled. “Yeah… that, too, I guess…”

    Meanwhile, Dalton had gone into his pocket. He’d had to use much trial and error to find out exactly what his new Pokédex could and couldn’t do. He knew that the scanner on this PokéDex was a powerful feature, so he thought this might be worth a shot. He brought it out and pointed it at the Pokéball in its hand.

    “This Pokéball contains a Pokémon,” Amanita’s voice replied. “Species: Pidove. Gender: Female.”

    “Oh, it’s a girl!” Talia exclaimed with the air of one announcing a new baby. “What are you going to name her?”

    Dalton grimaced; he actually hadn’t thought that far ahead. “Umm… lessee....”

    He looked up and around him.

    “Lake.”

    Talia’s eyes darted from her right to her left. “Lake? Well, if you say so…”

    And she skipped ahead, which Dalton took to mean that she was ready to start traveling again. Dalton brought up the rear, trudging to where Nina stood stiffly. He smiled down at her.

    “Thanks for your help,” he said. “Want a ri-OUCH!”

    For Nina had just swiped her claws toward his proffered hand, leaving a painful cut. She turned her head away from Dalton pointedly, growling and trembling. Dalton frowned.

    “C’mon, Dalton!” Talia yelled from a ways away. She had nearly crossed the last bridge onto dry land again, and she was waving at him furiously. “I thought you said you were in a hurry!”

    “Gimme a second!” Dalton shouted back, then looked down at her. “Listen… I don’t know how strong Ghetsis is, but I do know this… if it’s gonna help beat him, I’ll take as much help as I can get. Maybe we’ll have time to be proud when this is all over. Besides…”

    He seized her around the middle and lifted her into his arms. Unsuspecting and surprised, she kicked out with her short stubby legs rather feebly. Dalton had to fight down a laugh. He turned her around so she would face him. A sort of plaintive look was in her red eyes, and her face had the shadow of a blush on it, as if she was torn between embarrassment and enjoyment at her own vulnerable position.

    “You’re the first Pokémon I ever met,” Dalton said. “The very first. If I caught a thousand Pokémon, that wouldn’t change. Don’t worry, I’m not planning on catching that many…”

    For Nina’s eyes had nearly popped out of her head for a moment. Then she looked away.

    “<Um...>” she uttered, eyes elsewhere as if ashamed. “<Can I…>”

    “Hmm?” uttered Dalton.

    “<Can I stay outside?>” she asked. It was with a heavy pang of the heart that Dalton realized how familiar her tone was. “<On your shoulder?>”

    Dalton had to swallow a lump in his throat before he answered. He wasn’t sure why.

    “Yeah,” he finally said, a bit unsteadily. “Sure.”

    So she scampered up his arm and settled on his right shoulder. He felt her press her nose against his cheek for a second.

    “<I hope you know… I still don’t like her.>”

    “Maybe you will. Once you get to know her.”

    “<I doubt it.>”

    “Well, can you two at least not kill each other? For me?”

    “<I think I can do that… I think. No promises, though.>”

    “Haha…”

    “<You’re such a big softie,>” she said quietly.

    Dalton snickered. “Look who’s talking.”

    “<Shut up.>”

    And with that, they continued on.

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.




  20. #45
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    So, the question of numbers was asked, friendships were deepened and rivalries born as well. I will say this for Lake, though, her species may not be bright, but she certainly has "stones" (speaking of which, another female? Dalton's gonna get into so much trouble. Where's Evan when you need him?)

    Maybe someone can catch a male soon? Preferably with some feminine sensitivity. Or maybe Talia will let Dalton know just what he interrupted. Well, it won't be long now, given their pace.

    That, and skinny dipping aside, the dialogue at the end of the chapter was great and you can pretty much see Nina's awkward cuteness as you read it. Nicely done...

    OK, now I'm feeling guilty about sitting on my thumbs so long. This chapter is getting done, and soon.

    L@er!
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  21. #46
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    Well I missed this one too. I'm gonna have to figure out the subscribe thingy majiggy. Anyway, I am still getting used to your significantly shorter chapters but its great that your able to do it without cutting out any of the things that make me enjoy your writing.I personally have no problem with lengthy chapters but I understand the want to shorten them. ( I actually think its better to kind of switch short to long throughout the story but that wouldn't have the same effect in a fanfic).

    Anyway, I liked the capture. It will be interesting to see how his team unfolds. Including rather or not he gets a Nidoqueen. (One of my favorite Pokemon.) He finally asked Fox (That's her name to me) to join him, so the question of will they stick together is probably answered. Either way I look forward to seeing the story progress.

    My favorite type of pudding is Tapioca.
    Last edited by Random Comment Guy; 23rd May 2013 at 4:27 PM.

  22. #47
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    Well, look at that... it's been over two weeks already. I always seem to lose track of when I post chapters. -_____-

    Air Dragon:

    So, the question of numbers was asked, friendships were deepened and rivalries born as well. I will say this for Lake, though, her species may not be bright, but she certainly has "stones" (speaking of which, another female? Dalton's gonna get into so much trouble. Where's Evan when you need him?)
    It's not that Lake is dumb. It's just that... well, you'll see. :P


    Maybe someone can catch a male soon? Preferably with some feminine sensitivity. Or maybe Talia will let Dalton know just what he interrupted. Well, it won't be long now, given their pace.
    A male with some feminine sensitivity? Good... ****ing... luck.


    That, and skinny dipping aside, the dialogue at the end of the chapter was great and you can pretty much see Nina's awkward cuteness as you read it. Nicely done...
    Enjoy that while it lasts... I'll leave it at that. :-)


    Random Comment Guy:

    Well I missed this one too. I'm gonna have to figure out the subscribe thingy majiggy. Anyway, I am still getting used to your significantly shorter chapters but its great that your able to do it without cutting out any of the things that make me enjoy your writing.I personally have no problem with lengthy chapters but I understand the want to shorten them. ( I actually think its better to kind of switch short to long throughout the story but that wouldn't have the same effect in a fanfic).
    I try to keep it in the middle. Most readers aren't so hardcore and long chapters scare them off, especially when they're several chapters behind as is. But if they're too short, it's hard to get all the story out.


    Anyway, I liked the capture. It will be interesting to see how his team unfolds. Including rather or not he gets a Nidoqueen. (One of my favorite Pokemon.) He finally asked Fox (That's her name to me) to join him, so the question of will they stick together is probably answered. Either way I look forward to seeing the story progress.
    Well... not spoiling anything... :-)


    My favorite type of pudding is Tapioca.
    Uh... ... ... ... ... ... ...okay. ^_^
    Last edited by EonMaster One; 5th June 2013 at 5:21 AM.

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.




  23. #48
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    Default Chapter 13

    ~~~ *** ~~~ *** ~~~
    13. Skull Session
    ~~~ *** ~~~ *** ~~~

    Simply put, there were few words that did justice to how good hot, running water felt against sore muscles – and it was even better when one was bathing properly for the first time in two days. Dalton knew that the water was borderline too hot – he didn’t care. He wasn’t being scalded, and his sore back seemed to like it. Besides, the concept of moderation seemed to have been lost on whoever controlled the plumbing. If it wasn’t this hot, the shower was bone-chillingly cold – and cold water on one’s lower extremities is not a good feeling at all.

    Eventually, like many of Dalton’s showers, he had reached the stage where he had stopped washing and started trying to solve existential dilemmas in his brain. In other words, it was time to turn the water off and step out. He’d probably have someone banging on the door soon anyway…

    Why did the towel have to be clear on the other side of the bathroom? That seemed really counterproductive…

    The door swung open. Dalton’s heart stopped and dove somewhere into his belly.

    A blonde had opened it and frozen dead in her tracks. Dalton staggered backward, his hands going straight to his crotch. Why in the hell did this keep happening to him?

    The blonde gave a squeak. She wasn’t petite, but Dalton absolutely dwarfed her at his height. Not only was she pretty, but she was wrapped from shoulders to shins in a towel that could have only been covering two things – either a quite skimpy undergarment set with no straps… or (what was more likely) absolutely nothing.

    “Wh-wha-who-whuh?” Dalton stammered dimly.

    “Why are you looking at me like that?” the girl asked demurely, sounding genuinely confused. It was then that Dalton picked up the voice.

    “Wh-Loretta? How the hell…?”

    Loretta Burgess – or, at least, this girl that looked very much like her (although Dalton had never seen Loretta quite like this before) – rolled her eyes. She wasn’t wearing glasses, which for some strange reason Dalton found disappointing. Then again, she wasn’t wearing much other than the towel. “Uh… I live here. And you do, too.”

    Dalton eyed her suspiciously. “This is a dream.”

    “And what if it is?” asked Loretta, her voice growing more sultry by the second. “What… do you wanna wake up?”

    “Er…” Dalton uttered noncommittally. She stepped toward him. He took a quarter-step back. He had nowhere to go except back into the shower – and part of him was really contemplating it, just to see what would happen.

    “Do you want to see?” Loretta asked, relaxing her grip on the towel just enough for Dalton to notice. “Is that it?”

    “See what?” Dalton asked. Loretta smirked knowingly.

    “Never mind that for now. You never gave me that kiss, you know.”

    Dalton frowned. “I was kind of busy…”

    “You’re not busy now, are you?” asked Loretta. “So let’s try again.”

    Dalton swallowed hard. “This is a dream.”

    “Then, don’t wake up this time,” Loretta whispered, drawing closer. “Stay a while.”

    And before Dalton knew it, her lips were on his. Complicated though their relationship was, Dalton wasn’t about to stop her – not that he could even if he wanted to. It was as if his body was on autopilot. Even his hands seemed to be moving of their own free will, finding their way to and through his one-time almost-lover’s flaming orange hair…

    …Flaming orange hair?

    He’d opened his eyes for just a split second and seen it. He drew back and was looking into another pair of blue eyes…

    Talia Renard.

    Red-haired, blue-eyed, covered (as far as he knew) in naught much else but a towel.

    “What’s the problem?” she asked, biting her lip and wearing a fox-like grin. “You were enjoying yourself, weren’t you? You know, deep down… this is what you want.”

    She took a step toward him again, angled her head, closed her eyes…

    He could have yelled, said something. But he didn’t…

    Was she right? Did he really want this? Want her?

    No more or less than any other guy would, a voice in his muddled brain said to him. I mean… just look at her.

    She didn’t kiss him with her lips first. Her forehead and nose touched his.

    Yes, she’s pretty. But Loretta was pretty, too. A lot of them are. But this is… different, somehow…

    She put her hands up around his neck. Dalton tried to look her in the eyes, but that towel was slipping just a bit with every move she made. As she caressed his face with her thumbs, though, she didn’t seem all concerned that she was one twist or turn of the body away from being (literally) laid bare. Her hands arrived gently at his shoulders and shook… and shook… and shook…

    “Dalton?”

    …and shook…

    “Dalton??”

    …and shook….

    “DALTON!”

    His world went black. He had sense of his eyes again; they were closed. He opened them gingerly, blearily. Again, the face of Talia Renard was floating over Dalton’s field of vision.

    “Tali….” murmured Dalton, dropping the last syllable in his fatigue. He felt the soreness from general fatigue. On top of that, his whole body was stiff…

    Some places much more (and much more embarrassingly so) than others.

    “Why’d you have to get me up so early?” Dalton grumbled, turning toward the wall. He winced immediately as soon as his face was out of sight. Of all possible ways to have framed that question, that one had been the worst.

    “Early?” repeated Talia in disbelief. “It’s eight-thirty.”

    Dalton was calculating. Finally, he jumped to his feet and blew by her without a further word.

    Talia stared at the bathroom door bewilderedly for a moment. She slowly curled into a ball and curled into the empty bunk bed.

    “<Enjoying yourself?>” the voice of a Pokémon asked a few seconds later.

    “My bed’s too far away,” murmured Talia blearily. Moments later, Sionna jumped onto the table.

    “<Right… sure,>” she said, laying down upon it. “<So… are you going to do that thing with him?>”

    “What thing?” uttered Talia quickly, her head raising up off the bed.

    “<That thing,>” Sionna repeated innocently. “<That thing you humans do with your mouths when you really like someone.>”

    “You mean, kiss him?” Talia uttered, her face turning red. “What gives you that idea?”

    “<You want to, don’t you?>” Sionna asked, tilting her head.

    Talia rolled over onto her back. “It’s not like that.”

    “<Oh… so you want to do that… other thing,>” Sionna said knowingly.

    “You know… I can bring Fluff out right now,” Talia said calmly.

    “<No, no… that’s okay,>” squeaked Sionna, looking very uncomfortable.

    Moments later, Dalton reappeared.

    “Why do you take speed showers?” asked Talia, sitting up quickly. “It’s not like we have anything in particular to do.”

    Dalton frowned. “Well, you could’ve told me that… and I would’ve gone right back to sleep.”

    Talia laid down on Dalton’s bunk bed. “You mad at me?”

    “Mildly irritated,” Dalton said flatly, sitting on one of the chairs. He sighed heavily. “Well, I guess we can take an early shot at the Gym, right?”

    “Gym’s closed,” Talia responded immediately.

    “What?”

    Talia grimaced. “Yeah, there was some sort of… robbery or something like that.”

    “Robbery?” repeated Dalton, his jaw agape in disbelief. “What the hell would somebody rob from a Pokémon Gym?”

    “Well, it’s a Gym, but it’s also a museum and a library… it’s complicated,” sighed Talia. “In any case, the Gym’s not accepting any new challengers until they take care of that whole situation.”

    Dalton tilted his head suspiciously. “So why did you wake me up?”

    “I want you to meet someone,” Talia replied. She pulled out a Pokéball, which she opened without her throwing it. Light shot into the air and Dalton wondered for a moment whether this was the best place to be doing this. Fortunately, the Pokémon that appeared was quite small. The sound of flapping wings immediately filled the room, but the Pokémon didn’t looked to be shaped even remotely like Lake, the Pidove Dalton had caught the day before. This thing looked rather like a cotton ball with bat wings, if that made any sense. If it had eyes, they were hidden under huge, gray tufts of fur. Prominent on its face was an enormous, pink nose, shaped (unless Dalton was seeing things) like a heart.

    “<Oh ->” squeaked Sionna, leaping off the table and diving under the bunk bed. A second later, a short groan came from underneath the bed. Nina staggered sleepily into view.

    “<What’s all the noise…?>” she murmured.

    This new Pokémon was chittering as it settled atop Talia’s head, still flapping its wings and making quite a mess of the girl’s red hair. She giggled and gently removed the creature in response, holding it in her arms. “This is Fluff.”

    The Pokémon greeted Dalton with a chitter and a wide grin featuring a single, lonely tooth.

    “Hmm…” murmured Dalton, rummaging around in the pocket of his cargo shorts.

    Woobat, the Bat Pokémon. It emits ultrasonic waves from its nose to learn about its surroundings,” Amanita’s voice said a moment later. “It lives primarily in caves or dark forests, but it’s not unheard of for one to appear in the open by night.

    “That’s pretty much what happened,” Talia explained. “I went out for an early walk this morning, caught him napping in a tree. He woke up and put up a fight initially, but not much of one. I think he sort of wanted to come with us.”

    “<Can you put him away?>” a voice mewled. Sionna’s head peeked out from under the bed a moment later. “<He’s creepy.>”

    Fluff turned on the spot, his toothless grin growing wider. “<My sweet!>” he exclaimed, fluttering down to Sionna, who promptly disappeared under the bed again. Grimacing, Talia held the Pokéball out toward him. “<Alas, we must part again! But I promise you, my dear lady, my only thoughts will be – >”

    He’d spoken very quickly, but had not managed to finish the sentence before the Pokéball sucked him in and shut with a snap.

    “I think he’s a little bit… taken with Sionna,” Talia said. Meanwhile, Dalton felt pressure building in his nostrils and face. A bit of a snort escaped him.

    Then both teens burst into peals of laughter. Meanwhile, Nina looked from one human to another, shook her head, and slunk back under the bed. Talia gasped loudly, doubling over one of the chairs; she’d laughed herself short of breath. She opened her blue eyes and set them right on Dalton. And that was when a voice said in Dalton’s head:

    Don’t go there.

    He looked away. It must have been a noticeable motion, because Talia immediately asked, “What’s wrong?”

    Dalton couldn’t really tell her – not because he didn’t want to, but because he simply didn’t know.

    He was jolted back to his senses by a muffled yell. Voices were coming closer.

    “We need some sort of plan, Blake!” a girl’s voice shouted – still muffled, as if the sounds were coming from outside the walls. Talia looked at Dalton again, an expression of recognition seizing her face.

    “ – that!” another familiar voice – this one of a boy – exploded, milking the profanity he had used to start the short statement for all its worth. “We don’t have time! We shouldn’t have even come back here! Those guys could be halfway to effing Castelia by now!” he added – only he didn’t say ‘effing.’

    “Don’t curse me out!” the girl yelled, sounding hurt and angry at the same time. “This isn’t my fault, Blake. Besides, Burgh said he’d go on ahead…”

    “I don’t trust Burgh. Do you trust Burgh?” asked Blake. “I look at Burgh, I see a pretty boy that wouldn’t have the balls to get his hands dirty.”

    “What’s that supposed to mean?” the girl asked.

    “Never mind…” Blake grumbled after a brief pause.

    “Are you really gonna chase after them while Sturm’s still in recovery?” asked Whitlea.

    “You think Sturm’s my strongest Pokémon? I caught him, like, two days ago,” said Blake, a bit of sarcastic bite in his voice. “Look, I’m taking Macy and Jude and I’m going.”

    “You don’t wanna do that,” advised another voice that Dalton recognized.

    “What the—” muttered Talia, but Dalton, wanting to hear the whole conversation, put his finger to his lips emphatically and started moving toward the door. “Dalton, no. You remember what happened last time you guys…”

    “Who the hell are you?” asked Blake brusquely.

    “Somebody you might want to show a little bit more respect,” said the other familiar voice.

    “Interpol?” snapped Blake. “This is a Unova problem. Why’s Johto sending their guys all the way out here?”

    “Exactly the type of thing a kid would say. Typical,” muttered the other familiar voice.

    “What did you just say to me?!” Blake shouted. “Get – off, Whit!”

    “Dalton?” murmured Talia. Dalton sighed, kneading the bridge of his nose.

    “I’m gonna regret this…”

    “If you’d actually bothered to read the badge, kid,” the man snarked, “you’d see that I’m originally from the Sinnoh Interpol branch – well, I’ll be damned. This is just turning into one great big party, isn’t it?”

    Blake and Whitlea (the latter with her brown hair floating in gravity-taunting fashion) whirled around on a dime, for Dalton had just emerged from his room into the hallway, and Talia had (somewhat reluctantly) followed. Blake was going white, his lip trembling unsteadily. Dalton tried to avoid looking directly at him. First off, he was rather preoccupied with the appearance of Phineas Assad a few paces up the hallway (looking even scruffier than at their initial meeting, if that was at all possible). Second, for being just fourteen (Dalton guessed), something was seriously off-putting about that kid. There was something just… not quite right, and it had nothing at all to do with the fact that Dalton had hit his twin sister in the face the last time all three of them were together…

    “Fancy meeting you here,” Phineas chuckled. “Haven’t given up yet, have we?”

    “It’s been three days,” Dalton said flatly.

    “What the hell are you doing in Nacrene City?” snapped Blake. Dalton was actually expecting Blake’s first sentence toward him to be a bit more… explosive.

    “I’m here for a Gym Badge, obviously,” Dalton answered, trying his best not to roll his eyes at the younger boy.

    “You? Gym Badge?” Blake asked, punctuating his comment with the driest, most mirthless laugh Dalton thought he’d ever heard. “At least someone’s got a sense of humor, ‘cause this has been one hell of a day already.”

    “You’re an arrogant little s—t, you know that?” snarled Dalton, finally losing his temper as he came nose to nose with Blake, who regarded him with a steely gaze that showed no sign of intimidation. Dalton was tall, but Blake, for being several years younger, wasn’t all that short himself. Not to mention, he looked overall much better fed than Dalton did. (Then again, so did most people.) “We can fight right now if you’re so sure you’re better than me.”

    Blake raised his eyebrows, his gaze turning into one of smug indifference. “You still haven’t learned your lesson. Pokémon aren’t weapons of war.”

    “Who said anything about using Pokémon?” growled Dalton, clenching his fists. Blake’s eyes flashed.

    “Is that a threat?”

    “Alright, ladies, break it up,” drawled Phineas, physically interposing himself between the two boys and shoving them away from each other. His eyes darting from one to the other, he said in barely above a whisper, “We’ve got more pressing things to attend to.”

    “ ‘We?’ chuckled Blake, physically guiding Whitlea away. “I only work with Cheren, Bianca, and my sister. Those are the only people I trust. And by the way…”

    He was almost to the door that led to the stairwell. “Hmm?” Phineas uttered.

    “Look at my sister that way again, and I’ll saw your balls off and shove ‘em down your throat. I don’t care if you’re an agent,” Blake said ominously, nevertheless putting an arm around his sister’s shoulder in a mind-bendingly affectionate manner. The reluctance in Whitlea’s eyes was obvious as she disappeared into the stairwell, casting one final look at Dalton before falling out of sight.

    Phineas said nothing to this threat, although it did cause him to raise his eyebrows. “Charming kid. A little bit overprotective, though…”

    “Overprotective?” repeated Dalton without even meaning to. “She’s fifteen.

    Phineas didn’t even turn his head, but his eyes darted over to Dalton. “Bull.” (And if you think there’s something missing from that word, rest assured, there is.)

    Dalton shook his head. “Fifteen, if that. Probably fourteen.”

    “Ah. That’s awkward. Well, for what it’s worth…” said Phineas sourly, still looking ahead. “Fourteen-year-old girls don’t look like that where I’m from.”

    “Where are you from?” asked Dalton.

    “Sinnoh,” Phineas answered. “You didn’t hear me just say that?”

    “It’s cold as –” and then Dalton used the best swear you could think of, “— in Sinnoh.”

    “Who are you telling?”

    “I hate to break up your witty repartee,” Talia piped in, sounding like she was just on the edge of losing her patience, “but there is a third person here.”

    “Oh, yeah. You. You didn’t get rid of her?” Phineas turned immediately to Dalton and asked.

    “I’m here because he asked me,” Talia interrupted, rolling her eyes.

    “You asked her…” Phineas muttered to Dalton, tilting his head knowingly.

    “I don’t know anything about this region,” Dalton answered. “I need a guide.”

    Phineas’s eyes flattened out. “A guide. A guide. God, you’re hopeless.”

    Dalton sighed, although he could feel his eye twitching and wondered if it was visible to anyone else.

    “Do you have some sort of business with us?” Talia asked.

    Phineas cracked a mirthless smirk. “Funny thing about that… you’re just the people I needed to see.”


    Fifteen minutes later (and to Dalton and Talia’s pleasant surprise) the three of them were at a café on Nacrene City’s main street. A dark-haired girl with her nose pierced was sitting on a nearby bench, playing a guitar and singing a song Dalton didn’t know. She didn’t seem to be drawing a lot of attention, although passersby would drop cash in her guitar case every so often. This being the sort of town that it was, Dalton supposed that busking was a normal occurrence.

    Phineas looked over his shoulder at the girl, who locked eyes with him for a moment. Then Phineas went back to his coffee for a moment before looking at Dalton, smirking.

    “Don’t pretend you don’t think she’s cute,” he chuckled. “I’ve seen you look over there at least twice.”

    “Not a chance,” laughed Talia – rather quickly and sharply, Dalton thought. Elbowing the youth, Talia quipped, “She’s too old for him. I guess she’s, what, sixteen?”

    “Shut up…” sighed Dalton. “If you have to know… I’m not used to live music. There wasn’t a lot of it where I lived.”

    “…Oh,” Talia uttered, sounding a bit sad, which hadn’t been Dalton’s point at all.

    “Anyway…” Dalton tried to change the subject. “What’s up with this location? If you’ve gotta tell us something, shouldn’t you have picked a place that was a little bit more… private?”

    “Haven’t you seen any good spy movies?” chuckled Phineas. “It’s counterintuitive, but if you’re having a secret conversation, safest place to do it is in as crowded an area as you can. If you’re not yelling, it’s almost impossible for someone to overhear you on accident.”

    “So what’s this big piece of ‘secret’ information you need to tell us?” Dalton asked, rolling his eyes.

    “It’s pretty simple, actually,” Phineas said, raising his eyebrows. “I want – well, actually, no, I don’t… I need to come with you when you go to Castelia. Or, it’s probably more accurate to say that I need you to come with me.”

    Dalton tilted his head distrustfully. “And why would you need me to do that?”

    “My boss wants to meet with you,” said Phineas. CLATTER. Talia dropped her fork and looked up at the two young men, her mouth slightly agape.

    “The Chief of Interpol wants to meet with… Dalton?”

    “Ha!” Phineas threw back his head and laughed. “You must think really highly of yourself. The Chief of freaking Interpol. That’s funny. No, I’m talking about Sinnoh’s Inspector – top guy in our Detectives division.”

    Dalton grimaced. “Does this guy have a name?”

    Phineas raised his eyebrows. “We all call him Looker. Whether that’s his real name or not, nobody knows… and nobody’s stupid enough to ask.”

    “So is Phineas Assad your real name?” Talia asked. Phineas seemed to bristle at this question.

    “It’s the only name I know,” he answered.

    Dalton sat silently for a moment, wondering if it would have done him any more good to have registered for the Unova League under an alias. Then, he thought about it. If Phineas was an assumed name, he probably changed it to protect loved ones of his from any consequences of what happened in the field.

    Dalton, on the other hand, didn’t have any loved ones to protect… and if he had, none of them would be in this century.

    “Hang on a second…” Dalton uttered. “I thought you said a couple of days ago that you couldn’t bring us in for questioning.”

    “You’ve got an annoyingly good memory,” Phineas commented in reply. “We can’t detain you with the purpose of interrogation, no, but if you’re not brought to us by force, it’s not officially an interrogation.”

    “You guys sure like your loopholes,” Dalton said suspiciously, looking askance at Phineas.

    “We’ve got to, or else nothing would get done,” deadpanned Phineas in annoyance.

    “So you can’t force me to come, huh…?” asked Dalton eyeing Phineas for a moment. “Let’s just say, for the sake of argument… I said ‘no.’”

    Phineas’s jaw twitched. “‘No’?”

    “Someone in your position isn’t used to hearing that word, right?” Dalton replied. “But I had – I have – other plans. Plans that don’t involve you or your ‘unofficial’ investigation.”

    “Those plans wouldn’t happen to involve Pokémon Gyms, would they?” asked Phineas casually. He affected a frown. “Funny… I thought you cared about stopping Team Plasma more than you cared about a few badges—”

    CLANG. Dalton had smashed his fist into the table, starting Talia. On the other hand, other than reaching up to steady his toppling mug of coffee, Phineas showed no sign of emotion at all. (In the background, the busker had stopped playing and was now looking at the tense standoff.)

    “You don’t understand what I’m trying to do,” Dalton said, half-risen from his seat and looking down at Phineas. “That’s fine with me. I don’t care if you understand or not. But don’t – ever – say I don’t care about stopping Team Plasma.”

    “Let me ask you something,” Phineas answered in a maddeningly calm voice. “I watched you battle Colress. And, frankly, he went so far up your *** that I’m surprised you’re even able to sit down. Do you seriously think you’ve got the strength necessary to bring down Ghetsis and Team Plasma all on your own?”

    Dalton’s lip curled, but he eased back into his chair. “…I’ll take my chances.”

    Phineas chuckled to himself. “You’re one of those ‘lone vigilante hero’ types, huh? Not one for organized authority?”

    “Not one for bureaucracy,” Dalton corrected him. “By the time you and your people get through enough red tape to actually do something, it’ll already be too late. Trust me. I’ve seen how this plays out.”

    Phineas closed his eyes. “But we – that is, Looker and I… we’re not part of the bureaucracy. We’re more like you. We want to get things done. And we’ve gotten things done. That’s why, even though we’re Interpol’s ‘problem children’… we’re still around.”

    “Who’s to say your way’s better?” Talia piped in. Again, Phineas looked at her as if he’d forgotten she was there. “Yes, I know you didn’t ask for my opinion, but I’m giving it anyway.”

    “Listen, you don’t have any stock in this,” Phineas responded. “Actually? You’re probably better off just staying out of it –”

    “You’re a pig.”

    “Talia –” Dalton uttered, caught off guard.

    “No – he’s a pig,” repeated Talia. Then, rounding on Phineas, she fixed a steely glare on him. “You’re not saying it because you don’t have the guts, but I know what you’re thinking. Women pop out babies and that’s their only contribution to the world, right? You’re just like my mother.”

    “For your information, I don’t think like that,” Phineas answered flatly. “But it’s funny you should bring up your mother. Virginia Ellsburen?”

    Talia’s eyes narrowed to dangerous slits, as if Phineas had pronounced some terrible curse upon her.

    “She’s filed a report on you. Missing persons,” Phineas sighed. “Unova police are under orders to return you home if they find you.”

    Talia made a horrible face of disgust at this revelation – the kind of face someone would make after having someone projectile vomit right onto their shirt. Dalton was thoroughly disturbed; not even she could make that expression look attractive.

    “What am I, a lost pet?” she said disdainfully. “She can go to hell as far as I’m concerned – and you’re not taking me anywhere.”

    “Did I say I wanted to? Even if I did, I’m an Interpol detective, not Unova police. It’s outta my jurisdiction.” Phineas shrugged his shoulders. “But you’re still not an adult yet in the eyes of Unova law. If I take you under my care and something happens to you, that’s my *** – and probably Looker’s, too. So, frankly, I’d rather you just went away. You can obviously take care of yourself a little bit, so as long as you stay away from any cops, you’ll be fine.”

    “And I’ll bet Virginia conveniently forgot to mention my birthday, didn’t she?” Talia asked. The expression on Phineas’s face answered the question. “Of course she did. I turn seventeen in a week and a half – so what do you have to say to that?”

    “Well, once you turn seventeen, you’re not my problem anymore,” Phineas said, raising his eyebrows smugly. “But you know Murphy’s Law – if I agree to this, you’ll probably find a way to get yourself killed within a week.”

    “Great,” Talia deadpanned, leaning back in her seat. “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

    “Don’t get your blood pressure up,” Dalton sighed wearily. “I’ll make sure nothing happens to her.”

    Both Phineas and Talia gave Dalton the same incredulous look for a moment. Talia looked down at her knees and went silent, but –

    “You?” Phineas showed some of his teeth in an amused smile.

    “I’m the one that asked her to come along,” Dalton replied simply. Phineas’s smile, still there, began to tremble a bit.

    “You’re trying my patience, Dalton Gregg. You seem to be under the impression that this is a negotiation,” he said, the tone of his voice changing as he spoke through his teeth.

    “That’s exactly what it is, isn’t it? You’re not using force – like you said, you can’t,” Dalton answered. “Which gives you two choices. We can do a really good job watching each other’s backs until we have this meeting with Looker, or… you can go back to your boss empty-handed and tell him you couldn’t get the job done because you were too damn stubborn.”

    Phineas sighed through his nose. “Tell me one thing, then… Pokémon Training – at least at the level you’re doing it – is a kid’s game. Why does a guy your age just up and decide to jump in?”

    Dalton pondered this question as he looked down at his hands. “Mostly… just making up for lost time.”

    ~~~ *** ~~~ *** ~~~
    Meanwhile, at the Nacrene City Pokémon Center…
    ~~~ *** ~~~ *** ~~~

    Small rocks in this manmade river caused its waters to prattle serenely. It wasn’t real nature, confined inside this manmade fence and directly behind this rather large, manmade building, but Nina supposed it was close enough. At any rate, it was just the sort of place she needed at the moment. Her face contorted as a fierce sort of anger rushed through her, unbidden. She fought down the urge to lash out and attack whatever was nearest for at least the tenth time that day, shutting her eyes tight and listening to the babble of the brook until it was all over.

    She tried to ignore the loud cooing up above. A Pidove was circling overhead, spiraling downward effortlessly.

    On a tree, a winged ball of fur appeared to have its face buried in a trunk. She supposed he was taking a nap, which wasn’t a bad thing. He was much, much less bothersome that way.

    “<What’s wrong?>” a perky voice asked. Nina opened one of her eyes. Staring at her was another Pokémon, its brownish-orange head tilted in confusion.

    “<I feel…>” Nina murmured blearily. It was hard to put into words. “<Weird.>”

    “<That’s… helpful,>” Sionna the Vulpix said. Nina could tell she was being sarcastic – mainly because sarcasm wasn’t something Sionna usually did. “<What kind of ‘weird’?>”

    “<I don’t know,>” answered Nina in exasperation. “<I feel… bloated. Like something’s going to explode from inside me, but it won’t come out.>”

    Sionna angled her head in mild bewilderment. “<You sure you didn’t just get a hold of some bad food?>”

    “<Very funny,>” Nina deadpanned. She let loose a loud growl of frustration and groaned, “<When’s he coming back?! I need to hit something…>”

    “<I don’t volunteer,>” Sionna answered very quickly, taking a VERY long leap backward.

    “<You could always fight me if you like,>” someone cawed from overhead. The Pidove was still lazily circling.

    “<I’ll pass,>” Nina said. “<I promised not to kill you. Why don’t you go bother Fluff or something?>”

    “<No!>” moaned Sionna in protest.

    “<What’s so bad about Fluffy?>” Lake asked in a high, ringing coo. “<He seems okay to me…>”

    “<That’s because you haven’t seen him awake yet,>” Sionna answered, her six tails bristling uncomfortably. “<He’s a total creeper.>”

    “<Creeper?>” Lake repeated, fluttering to a halt atop a limb on the tree to which the freshly caught Woobat was hanging, upside-down and (apparently) by his face. She fluttered her graying wings and sang airily, “<Yoo-hoo….>”

    “<Please don’t,>” muttered Sionna, wincing. All of a sudden, Nina growled. Sionna jumped and turned to look at her and Nina was staring back, standing and as tense as a rope pulled so taut it might rip in two. She seemed to be struggling against something.

    “<What’s wrong with her?>” asked Lake a bit tactlessly.

    Nina, meanwhile, had her eyes shut tight and had started shaking horribly. Then, as quickly as it had come, this attack of… whatever it was… had gone away. Nina slumped to the ground.

    “<You’d better get away from me,>” she murmured weakly.

    “<I want to help,>” said Sionna.

    “<You can’t!>” snarled Nina. Sionna backed away a step, cowed by Nina’s sudden fierceness. She hung her head hopelessly.

    “<My sweet!>” Sionna winced again; Fluff had awakened and fluttered down to Sionna’s side. “<What seems to be the matter?>”

    “<Could you please stop calling me that?>” she asked flatly.

    “<As you wish.>” The Woobat angled himself downward in an imitation of a bow. “<But might I ask why?>”

    “<Because it’s creepy,>” Sionna said, squirming.

    “<What is this ‘creepy’ you speak of?>” Fluff replied. “<I only wish to be of help to my dearest…>”

    “<Look, I’m not your ‘dearest’ anything, okay? So knock it off!>” Sionna screeched.

    “<Why do you reject me?>” Fluff queried, finally showing a hint of emotion. “<I only wish to express my undying…>”

    “<You want to test that ‘undying’ part?>” snapped Sionna, her patience at an end. “<Because if you keep talking, I just might kill you.>”

    “<Can both of you please… shut – UP!>” Nina screamed all of a sudden – except her choice of words was a bit more colorful.

    Fluff gasped audibly. “<Such coarse language! Fear not, milady, I shall remove this vulgar creature from your sight!>”

    “<You want vulgar, huh?>” Nina uttered, her eyes wide as she backed away, crouched low as she fixed a murderous gaze on the Woobat. “<‘Vulgar’ is what I’m going to do to you if you don’t get the hell out of my face by the count of three! ONE….>”

    “<A warrior of honor such as myself never backs down from a challenge!>” Fluff puffed himself up. “<Female or not, if you wish to strike a blow, then you shall fall by my hand!>”

    “<You don’t have hands!>” interjected Sionna.

    “<TWO…>” growled Nina, and she was well and truly ready to go berserk now.

    “Nina! Lake!”

    “Sionna! Fluff!”

    This non-Pokémon shout got everyone’s attention.

    “<Hark! Our lady beckons us!>” chirped Fluff, flitting toward the humans that had walked in.

    “Oh, look at that,” Talia mused with a smile as Fluff settled onto her shoulder. “He knows me already.”

    “You all been behaving yourselves while we’ve been gone?” Dalton asked Lake, who arrived first, fluttering around his head at eye level.

    “<Honestly, if I told you, you wouldn’t believe me,>” she chirped.

    “Hey,” Dalton said to Nina, who came trudging up last. If looks could kill, Nina’s eyes would have been a weapon of mass destruction. “You’re not still mad at me, are you?”

    Nina made no response – she just kept growling.

    “I know what’ll cheer you up,” Dalton said, kneeling down next to her. “I heard the gym leader’s back in town. We’re going to another battle tod—”

    As soon as the word ‘battle’ left Dalton’s lips, Nina darted through the nearby doors.

    Talia blinked blankly. “Somebody’s eager.”

    Dalton frowned, scratching the back of his head. “I think she’s had a little bit of a chip on her shoulder lately…”

    “<Um… ‘scume?>” came a chirp from vaguely behind Dalton.

    “Hmm?” Dalton whirled around.

    “<Um… can I come, too?>” she asked quickly. “<I can fight. Can I come? Huh? Please?>”

    “Of course you’re coming,” replied Dalton. “You’re part of the team, right?”

    “<Really?>” Lake chirped jubilantly. “<AWESOME!>”

    And she soared through the open doorway.

    “Dalton, I think your Pidove’s heart pumps energy drink,” Talia answered flatly.

    Dalton (feeling a slight lurch in his belly as Talia accidently brought up yet another thing that reminded him of his old friend, Evan, who used to chug energy drinks like nobody’s business) grimaced and replied, “Yeah, I think so, too…”

    When the two made their way to the front of the Pokémon Center, Phineas Assad was already waiting for them, but to their great surprise, his appearance had changed drastically. The trenchcoat was gone, replaced now by simple outfit of cargo pants (sort of like Dalton’s shorts but longer) with what had to have been half a dozen pockets – what the hell was he keeping in those? – and a black jersey shirt. Gone also was the scruffy beard. He had shaven clean, taking perhaps a good ten years off his age, to the point where he now didn’t look much older than either of them. Talia pulled up short.

    “What’s wrong with you?” asked Phineas, addressing Talia for once instead of Dalton. “Not used to seeing what a real man’s arms look like?”

    Dalton had kind of figured by Phineas’s build that he was cut – he just didn’t realize how cut.

    “W-what’s that supposed to mean?” she uttered, her eyes flickering over to Dalton before looking at Phineas again.

    “What’s the matter?” asked Dalton, now that he’d realized what Phineas was implying. “Got tired of the hobo look?”

    “I’ve been told I look like two different people based on if I have a beard or not,” Phineas commented. “As much as I don’t want to look like I’m… fifteen?”

    He glanced at Dalton.

    “Seventeen,” Dalton said, suppressing a strong desire to punch Phineas right in the jaw.

    Seventeen,” repeated Phineas in a mocking squeak – his voice was marginally lower than Dalton’s normally.

    “Keep pushing it,” Dalton warned him. “Just because I agreed to this doesn’t mean I can’t change my mind.”

    “What?” Phineas raised his hands defensively. “I mean… come on. You’re skin and bones and you’re a rookie Trainer – at seventeen! They start when they’re about ten or eleven where I’m from. Not to mention you still think girls are yucky. Okay, maybe that’s going a little far… but you don’t have the balls to ask one out. You’re like a twelve-year-old stuck in the body of an awkward teenager.”

    “What? I don’t –” Dalton stammered, giving Talia a quick, panicked glance. He was about to say ‘he didn’t think of Talia like that’, but that wasn’t true. Especially not after what had happened that morning. She was still a girl that happened to be friends with him. But she was an attractive girl that happened to be friends with him, who he probably wouldn’t have turned down if she wanted to do… other things. “That’s – that’s none of your business.”

    “Haha…” chuckled Phineas. “Look at that… they’re both blushing. They’re so cute when they’re that age.”

    Dalton’s face was certainly quite hot, but he was as determined not to look at Talia as Talia was not to look at him.

    “So we’re going to the Gym, right?” Phineas added. “Okay, then… bring your little girlfriend and let’s get this over with.”

    Dalton, fists clenched, watched Phineas’s back.

    “Y’know, Interpol’s gonna be short an agent if he keeps it up,” he muttered, trying to distract himself.

    “Are you really going to go through with this?” Talia asked, walking forward to Dalton’s side and sounding concerned.

    “Not sure yet,” Dalton muttered distractedly.

    The two locked eyes for a second. Dalton found it suddenly difficult.

    You’re really gonna let that idiot get you wound up?

    “Something wrong?” asked Talia.

    Dalton took a step vaguely toward her. Talia backed away.

    “What’s up?” she asked, her voice noticeably shaking. A smile flickered on her face, then disappeared, and then her lip did this funny twitch-purse thing that Dalton wouldn’t have noticed if he hadn’t been looking right at her. He shook his head.

    “Just… thought I forgot something in the room, but I’ve got it,” Dalton said. “Let’s go.”


    When they found the Nacrene Museum, however (Phineas was nowhere to be seen), they also found that they were not alone. No less than four teenagers were standing at the entrance, each of them contemplating it. All of them were familiar as well.

    The one nearest to Dalton’s approach was a boy, nearly as tall as Dalton and also nearly as thin.

    “Hm?” he uttered, turning his head and looking at Dalton and Talia through his half-framed spectacles. “Hey, guys – we’ve got company.”

    Whitlea craned her, neck out, but unfortunately, Blake did, too.

    “You again?”

    “Yes, me again,” Dalton replied in irritation. “Can you quit blocking the gate? I’m trying to get to the Gym.”

    “Gym, huh?” Blake asked. “You’re gonna have to wait in line. The four of us got here first, so we’re trying to decide among ourselves who gets first crack at Lenora.”

    Dalton smiled a twitchy smile. “That’s cute. So take your rock-paper-scissors game over to the side, and while you’re doing that, I can have my match.”

    Blake relaxed his rather tense gait. “You’re not getting the first shot at the badge; not after all the hard work I did to get that Dragon Skull back. If it weren’t for me, the Gym would still be closed and the cops would still be chasing those Plasma jackasses around Pinwheel Forest.”

    Dalton grimaced. “You talk too much. How about this? We battle for it.”

    “When are you going to get it through your thick skull?” Blake snapped. “You weren’t worth my time when Chili was tearing you a new *******. What do you think’s changed in a week?”

    “You’d be surprised,” Dalton answered.

    “Surprised… probably not impressed,” Blake said dismissively. “You might have taken a step to get better in the last week, but I guarantee you I’ve taken two or three.”

    “Prove it, then,” Dalton bit back.

    Blake’s mouth curled. “You make me sick. Your Pokémon are going to get beat to hell and back if you battle me, and you’re still going to force them?”

    “Listen to yourself,” Dalton answered in disgust. “You sound just like those Team Plasma bastards.”

    What did you say to me!?” Blake’s eyes flashed dangerously as he tried to break from the group. However, Whitlea pulled him back.

    “Calm down,” she said imploringly. Blake raised a taut finger with his free hand and pointed it directly at Dalton.

    “You don’t get to talk down to me,” he said, seething. “You don’t know a damn thing. Not about me, not about Team Plasma, not about Pokémon training. You’re nothing but a drifter, here in Unova to stir up trouble.”

    “At least you got the ‘drifter’ part right,” Dalton said, revealing a Pokéball from his pocket and enlarging it. Blake responded in turn. Talia, Whitlea, and the other two teenagers whose names escaped Dalton at the moment (the blonde girl had noticeably been completely silent) started to back away. “As for ‘trouble’? Well, that depends on whose side you’re on.”

    “Show me the strongest Pokémon you have,” said Blake. “That way, when I win, you won’t have any excuses.”

    “Suit yourself. Nina, let’s go!”

    “Macy – fight time!” Blake echoed.

    Both thrown Pokéballs burst open, releasing two different but equally agitated-looking species of Pokémon. Nina’s entire small body, from her stubby tail to the spines on her light blue ears, seemed to be on edge. She and Dalton stared across the small, paved gap. The Pokémon they saw was very canine in appearance. Four brown, short, but stout legs sprouted forth from underneath an iron gray canopy of fur. Cream-colored whiskers on the Pokémon’s muzzle made it look vaguely like a man with a very robust mustache. A vague chiming sound filled the air and sparkles shot forth from its body as it raised its head to the sky and let loose a loud howl.

    “You look confused,” Blake said. “Macy and I have been together for nearly three years. I found her as a Lillipup, staggering around Nuvema Town, injured, and nursed her back to health. She’ll fight like the devil if I ask her to…”

    Macy released a loud bark in assent. Blake smiled.

    “But I don’t think that’ll be necessary for an opponent of your skill level.” Blake’s eyes widened. “Macy, use –”

    Blake pulled up short as the sound of an opening Pokéball interrupted him. They both saw the flash of light – Dalton to his right, and Blake to his left. A tall, slender, green Pokémon that could best be described as a snake with feet stood in front of Blake’s twin sister, Whitlea.

    “Thanks, but no thanks, Whit,” Blake said casually. “Macy and I have more than enough strength to knock off these guys. We don’t need any help.”

    “Who said we were helping you?” asked Whitlea, raising her eyebrows. “Rikki needs strong opponents.”

    Another strange sound, but Dalton had seen exactly what had happened this time. The other black-haired boy, previously standing silently and observing, had suddenly decided to reveal a Pokémon of his own. (The blonde-haired girl, apparently wanting no part of this exchange, backed away to stand vaguely between this other boy and Whitlea.) This Pokémon was mostly a ginger shade and was quite squat. It flexed its short, stubby arms confidently, the nostrils on its angry red snout flaring.

    “Sorry, Blake,” the boy said, closing his eyes and pushing his half-rimmed spectacles up his thin nose. “But I’m not gonna take a backseat to you or anyone else.”

    His eyes opened again, revealing a sudden intensity.

    “I will become the Unova League Champion – even if it means going through my best friend to do it!”

    END

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.




  24. #49
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
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    Behind you...
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    1,292

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    Aww... he woke up? Boo, rating... :P

    Interesting fantasies aside, that wasn't exactly the best way to wake up. No wonder Dalton's so anti-social... I know it's not fun to watch the socially-awkward fumble and stumble after reading Assad's needling (wonder what he and Looker want with Dalton and not Blake), but sometimes you make it painfully fun to watch/read.

    Speaking of Blake, I thought he was a bit of an aggravation (bit = understatement), but after that chapter... I dunno how to read him: an obnoxious saviour or the guy you love to hate, who isn't quite all there? Sure, he saves a Lillipup, will tear his sister's aggravators a new one, and he has enough empathy/moral fibre to retrieve a stolen museum artefact. Oh, and he hates Burgh. :P

    However, all those good things can be counteracted: if the Lillipup IS shiny, then you could claim he's an entitled jerkass. Whitlea can clearly handle herself (thinking back to her decking Dalton on request) so you could debate him being WAY TOO overbearing. Odds are he didn't save the Dragon Skull alone (if Cheren's Tepig's evolved as well and Whit's Snivy can keep up with them) and they're arguing about who goes first (if he did the 'most', he could argue going first himself - 'not all there', remember?). If that's why they saved the skull, one would wonder how much selflessness the guy has. And who with a brain (and without a crush) DOESN'T hate Burgh (or his attitude)? Must have met some pretty boorish boys growing up, and that's as sympathetic as I can get. (And they call me 'aggressive'...)

    After seeing how close Nina cut it last chapter, I'm not surprised she's a bit restless to cut loose. Fluff's an interesting add as well. Sionna must be VERY cute if bats can be affected... holy moly. This free-for-all is getting intense, and Nina's going to break the mold on their butts... or at least get Jerk- I mean, Blake- off his back. ^_^

    Well, that was a lot to write. Keep the good stuff coming!

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  25. #50
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    1,058

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    Y'know, maybe you should bring a couple of friends with ya... ;-)

    Air Dragon:

    Aww... he woke up? Boo, rating... :P

    Interesting fantasies aside, that wasn't exactly the best way to wake up. No wonder Dalton's so anti-social... I know it's not fun to watch the socially-awkward fumble and stumble after reading Assad's needling (wonder what he and Looker want with Dalton and not Blake), but sometimes you make it painfully fun to watch/read.
    Hehehe... I'm evil like that.


    Speaking of Blake, I thought he was a bit of an aggravation (bit = understatement), but after that chapter... I dunno how to read him: an obnoxious saviour or the guy you love to hate, who isn't quite all there? Sure, he saves a Lillipup, will tear his sister's aggravators a new one, and he has enough empathy/moral fibre to retrieve a stolen museum artefact. Oh, and he hates Burgh. :P
    How about an obnoxious savior that you love to have, who isn't quite all there? Or, in layman's terms, anti-hero who may or may not be completely sane.


    However, all those good things can be counteracted: if the Lillipup IS shiny, then you could claim he's an entitled jerkass. Whitlea can clearly handle herself (thinking back to her decking Dalton on request) so you could debate him being WAY TOO overbearing. Odds are he didn't save the Dragon Skull alone (if Cheren's Tepig's evolved as well and Whit's Snivy can keep up with them) and they're arguing about who goes first (if he did the 'most', he could argue going first himself - 'not all there', remember?). If that's why they saved the skull, one would wonder how much selflessness the guy has. And who with a brain (and without a crush) DOESN'T hate Burgh (or his attitude)? Must have met some pretty boorish boys growing up, and that's as sympathetic as I can get. (And they call me 'aggressive'...)
    Well, is a guy with a shiny really entitled, or is he just incredibly lucky? Especially for a Pokemon that, besides that one deliberate difference, wouldn't be all that spectacular? As a Trainer from Nuvema Town, he was 'entitled' to one of the three starter Pokemon, all of which are much more rare and presumably stronger if raised right. So why did he not take one of those? Interesting question, hmm?

    As for being overbearing, it may be somewhat true, but it also may not be without his merits. Based on what you'll find out about Assad later, he probably wouldn't have been the type of guy Whitlea could have overpowered.


    After seeing how close Nina cut it last chapter, I'm not surprised she's a bit restless to cut loose. Fluff's an interesting add as well. Sionna must be VERY cute if bats can be affected... holy moly. This free-for-all is getting intense, and Nina's going to break the mold on their butts... or at least get Jerk- I mean, Blake- off his back. ^_^
    Well, Vulpix are very cute as a rule... but Sionna's a mirror version of her trainer - cute but not completely innocent (parallel Talia's reference to her playing doctor with a friend with Sionna's very frank musing that Talia's going to want to jump Dalton's bones sooner or later) and even a bit naughty/mischievous. Fluff... well, Fluff is Don Quixote, basically. Lake's hyper and possibly a hot dog or two short of a cookout. Hopefully, I'm getting as good a feel for Pokemon personalities that I had in the old days. I'll really need it this time around.


    - EM1

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.




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