/ Chapter Two /
"Hoenn Sweet AAAAAAAAAAHHH!1!" - Part II
Littleroot Town, Hoenn ~ 3:30 PM; present day
Hazel sighed, crossing her arms. "OK, let's try this again: let me through."
"No," said the girl obstinately. "I told you - it's dangerous. You need your own Pokemon to pass through here, or else, wild Pokemon will -" she checked anxiously to make sure no one was listening, and then beckoned Hazel closer.
"Yeah?" said Hazel, leaning in.
"They'll ... jump out at you!" the preteen cried, shuddering as she fled to take up her position beside a lamp-post, from where she had originally ambushed Hazel.
Hazel waited until she was sure the girl was gone, and then strode off the road and into the woods once more. But, just before she could get more than a few steps in, the little girl popped out in front of her for the umpteenth time, crying, "No! You can't go in there without your own Pokemon!"
"Oh, great," Hazel muttered. "Might as well go home now ..." She headed back to her house and opened the door, pausing to take a quick look at Littleroot. It was a small, verdant town, with a population of a few hundred people or so. Small cobble-roofed houses were set out along the main street, with a few other side alleys. Flowers in every imaginable colour (except Hoolovoo) lined the streets and gardens could be find on roadside corners everywhere. The day was a fine sunny afternoon, and so people were outside, watering lawns or chatting affably with neighbours.
Hazel walked inside the house and went upstairs, where she found Angie setting up a GameCube in her room.
"Hey, honey," Angie greeted her. "What are you doing?"
"Nothing," her daughter replied, fidgeting with her hair. "There's nothing to do, anyway."
"Well then." Angie gave up trying to untangle the wires and sat back on Hazel's bed. "Why don't you go find Norman's friend? His name is Professor Maki Birch," Hazel started at this but Angie didn't seem to notice, "and he's a well-known scientist in Hoenn. He was a teacher's assistant in Norman's university, and that's how they met. He specialises in studying the way Pokemon behave in the wild and comparing it with how they behave when caught by a Pokemon Trainer ... or something like that."
"Like I care," Hazel muttered. Then, in a louder voice, she said, "So ... who is this hotshot, exactly?"
"Well ..." Angie frowned, trying to remember. "Remember last year there was a huge furore when Samuel Oak won the Nobel Prize for Study of Pokemon, for successfully compiling the world's first electronic Pokemon encyclopaedia? Well, I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I think Birch wrote a paper that got him nominated. Even though Oak's nomination was controversial, they went ahead and gave him the Prize anyway. People in Hoenn got pretty mad about that."
Hazel nodded. "But there were other reasons for all that sh - stuff people were saying, right? Like that the trainers who compiled the actual data for him weren't recognised, and stuff?"
"Oh, sure. The thing was, Oak gave out a couple of PokeDexes for completion - nine, I think it was? - and there's a rule that only three or less people can win the award. Oak's entire team of trainers were really angry with him after that, and one of them even got involved in some legal problems after an alleged hit-and-run happened with Oak's grandson -"
Hazel interrupted, "Didn't that kid help him with it too? The one who took down the Mafia in Kanto?"
"Yep," Angie said, looking a little irritated at the intrusion, "it's a known fact that ... that ... damn, I can't recall his name. Yes, that kid did contribute over 60% of the entries, but the committee's rule that not more than three people can win the prize made all of them obsolete. So Oak gets all the credit." She jumped up. "Why am I wasting time like this? I should probably go unpack some more of our stuff. Hazel, see that house over there?" Angie pointed out the window and Hazel looked over to see a small two-storey house, similar to theirs, on the opposite side of the street. "That's the Birch house. They have a son your age, but I forgot his name. You can go and say hi, and make friends with him!"
"Um, Mom?" Hazel pointed out. "I'm a teenage girl. I don't go out and say hi to strangers."
"Oh, get off it," Angie said sharply. "I need you out of the way, and this town is perfectly safe."
Hazel sighed. "Oh, all right, I'll do it." She strode out, pausing for a moment to inhale the summer air deeply - and to remind herself why exactly she was performing this unsavoury task - and then walked across the street to the Birches' house, realising as she did that it was practically identical to theirs in every respect. She knocked at the door and it swung open in a few seconds. Hazel found herself looking at a beaming Japanese woman in her thirties or forties.
"Mrs Birch?" she asked.
"That's me," the woman answered. "And you must be Hazel! I'm Ayame. Please, come in." As Hazel followed Mrs Birch inside, her host asked, "Tea?"
"No thanks," Hazel said. "I'm just here because my mom -"
"Oh, that's right!" Mrs Birch interrupted. "Angie did say she'd send you over to see our son. He should be upstairs, in his room. RICKY!" she bellowed, and Hazel, too startled to cover her ears, was almost deafened by the loudness of the woman's voice. "THERE'S SOMEONE TO SEE YOU!" Mrs Birch smiled at Angie, her voice returning to its former volume. "All right, dear, that should have done it. Go upstairs, his room is right in front of you. You won't mind if I don't accompany you, would you? I have some housework to do."
"No thanks, Mrs Birch," Hazel replied, but what she really wanted to say was: Seriously, woman? I'm sixteen. I don't need an escort to hustle me up the damn stairs, for God's sake, and I doubt your snot-nosed brat needs to be yelled at. Though, if he is the hormonal little sh*t I think he is, well then, I shudder to think what may happen to him if he sees a real live girl walk into his room.
Nodding in an absent-minded sort of way, Mrs Birch seemed to forget Hazel's very presence and resumed whatever nondescript chores she had been performing before Hazel knocked. Speaking of Hazel, the brunette strode upstairs, and found herself in a hallway that looked like the Jango Fett Procedure had been carried out on the one in her own new home. On walking into her new neighbour's room, Hazel realised that the Birches' son's room was exactly the same as hers, but it sported a sleek, black Xbox 360S rather than a GameCube, and it was, undisputably, a boy's room. There were boxers, hung offensively on a chair, the bed sheets were strewn on the floor, and there was a journal and a few encyclopaedias lying on the table, as well as a small, red device on top of them. Curious, Hazel walked over to it and was about to pick it up when something else drew her attention.
There was a PokeBall rolling on the floor. Hazel scooped up the small red sphere and checked it out; Norman and the Internet had taught her a little about how it worked.
Essentially, a PokeBall served as a sort of door into an alternate dimension known as HammerSpace. The switch on the front of the PokeBall was currently in the 'off' position. When the switch was thrown, the PokeBall would go into the 'on' position, activating the HammerSpace portal. From there, there were two outcomes.
If the PokeBall was currently empty, it would usually be thrown at a Pokemon that needed to be caught. After the three-second timer completed counting down, the ball would produce an attractive field (attractive field as in magnetic attraction) that was configured such that the Pokemon was absorbed into HammerSpace. In order to avoid accidents and slavery, the field was of such a type that only Pokemon would be absorbed into it. Pokemon would struggle against the effect of the field, usually. If they overcame it, they would burst out of the PokeBall (shattering it in the process). If they didn't, the PokeBall would click and register the Pokemon within as caught. Pokemon in HammerSpace were generally placed in a form of suspended animation until they were next called on. (There was a complex algorithm that took into account the strength of the attractive field, the Pokemon's power level relative to that of a newly-hatched Magikarp, its ability to fight back, and certain special effects produced by the PokeBall (certain makes were such that they would work better underwater, or on a Pokemon of a certain type), as well as countless other factors, the end result being a value that showed how hard the Pokemon was to catch.)
However, instead, if the PokeBall thrown was not empty, the Pokemon within would be called out of HammerSpace, ready to fight. Whether the PokeBall was empty or not was displayed by a small LED by the switch, which flashed green if empty, simply shone green if a Pokemon was within, shone amber if the timer was counting down (or if the attractive field was being produced while catching a Pokemon), and, if the PokeBall was locked, the LED would glow red. Usually, one could only register six Pokemon as 'active' in their party. All Pokemon caught after the initial six would have their PokeBalls locked, until the owner logged on to the official Pokemon Registry website from a computer and manually switched an active Pokemon with one in a locked PokeBall. From the green LED, Hazel could tell that the PokeBall contained a Pokemon within it. She crouched down by it and was about to throw the switch to 'on' to see what Pokemon was within, when she felt a presence behind her.
Hazel spun around to find a scowling teenage boy. He looked around the same age as her, wearing a red-and-black shirt with the collar turned up and baggy black shorts that came to his thighs. His hair, she noticed, was wild and shaggy, a dark shade of brown, and his eyes were an odd shade. They were scarlet, a deep, angry red, more like pools of lava than blood.
The glowering boy said nothing, so Hazel took the initiative. "Um ... hi?" she said weakly. Growing more confident, she continued, "I'm Hazel, Hazel Ruby. You must be ... Actually, I didn't get your name?" The last bit was said in a questioning tone.
Still he was silent.
The tension in the air was palpable.
Finally, Hazel groaned. "Why don't you say anything?" she complained.
The scowl vanished off the boy's face, replaced with mild amusement. He grabbed a backpack from off the floor and, to Hazel's surprise, he fit his whole arm up to his shoulder in it. After a bit of rummaging, he produced a deck of worn, dog-eared bits of thick paper. Once upon a time, they were probably playing cards, in a similar way that you were once a monkey, but now each had something written on the blank side. He shuffled the deck expertly until he found the card he wanted. With a grin of satisfaction, the teen handed it over to Hazel.
"'Hey there'," she read. "'My name is Rikuya Birch'." She looked up. "Couldn't have just said that, could you?"
Rikuya took back the card he'd given her and handed over another. This one read, 'I am under an year-long vow of silence because of a bet with my Dad'.
"Well, that sucks." Hazel tossed her head so that her bangs fell back, and continued, "So, Rikuya ... You don't speak much, do you?"
He gave her a look which Hazel interpreted as meaning, I've taken a vow of silence. Yeah, I don't speak much. She giggled at his unspoken sarcasm, and, confused, the boy tilted his head at her. Now that the tension had diffused, he seemed a lot more friendly, so she gave him a smile, and stuck out her hand. They shook.
And so a friendship was formed ... Wait, why am I spouting sentimental sh*t?
Hazel's sappy thoughts were interrupted by a scream. The two rushed to the window, looking down. Outside the house, a little girl - the same girl who didn't let Hazel in the woods earlier in the morning - was screaming, her voice filled with terror. Hazel strained her ears to make out what the girl was saying, and distinctly made out a few words. "Pokemon something something Birch on somewhere ... what the hell?" the brunette said in surprise.
Rikuya, on the other hand, had heard it perfectly. Looking stunned but determined, he snatched the PokeBall from off the floor and a small white object (as well as the red device Hazel had seen) and put them in his backpack. Grabbing a sheet of paper, he scribbled something on it quickly and threw it in Hazel's direction before racing down the stairs. Astonished, Hazel read the note. It took her a while to decipher his hurried, flowing cursive, but once she had, it shocked her even more.
The note read:
A wild Pokemon is attacking Professor Birch in the woods! Stay here, give to my mom, DON'T COME AFTER ME IT'S DANGEROUS.
Well, now that he'd forbidden her from coming after him, she just had to, didn't she?