Lurking in the Shadows

Chapter 11: Contests and Brawn and Interviews, Oh, My!

On her way back to the Pokémon Center and her hotel, Lisa saw a building that caught her eye. It was red in color, with Pokéballs and ribbons of various colors painted on it. The place was boarded up with plywood and weeds growing all around it.

A voice called out, “Hey, you! This building is off limits!”

Lisa looked up at the man, a burly, dark-skinned individual with a shaved head. He had on khaki cargo pants and a red button-up shirt. Lisa stammered, “Sorry, I was wondering what this place is about.”

“All right. I thought you might be up to trouble, but you don’t look like it. My name’s Bernie and I’m the Gym Leader in another town, visiting the Gym Leader here.” Bernie got a closer look at Lisa. “You’re Lisa, right? I thought I recognized you from what the Pokémon League had told us Gym Leaders. Please, come with me. Since you’re fighting the criminal element here, I suppose I should tell you about that facility.”

They passed by the Gym, which had a sign posted that read, “Gym Leader will not accept challenges until tomorrow.” Lisa thought to herself, “In a way, I’m relieved. I really don’t feel like another battle today.

Arriving at the Pokémon Center, Lisa sat down with Bernie, and he began to tell his tale. “That building used to house events called Pokémon Contests, which are competitions between Pokémon. However, they are fundamentally different from a traditional battle, so they require a somewhat different training regimen. They were very popular in Fourtix until we had to shut the operation down.”

“Why? Were they illegal?”

“The contests themselves were perfectly legal, but the way they were financed certainly was not. You see, soon after contests started here, so did a series of takeover-style armed bank heists and ransom kidnappings. When family members of me and two other gym leaders – Wendy and Reed – were kidnapped, the three of us started an investigation aided by Lorelei to recover our them.”

Lisa looked intrigued. “Wow, sounds like a real mystery.”

Bernie continued. “We traced patterns and determined that the crimes occurred in a specific city while the local contest was in town. During this investigation, we found out that contest judges, staffers, and promoters were directly involved in all of the robberies and kidnappings. The Contest HQ in Marquis City held a treasure trove of evidence. As it turns out, the head of the contest operation was a man named Karl Eugene Jenkins, though he was using an alias. A real stupid one, too. Something like ‘Contesta’ or some dumb name like that. I mean, how blatantly obvious can you get? Well, anyways, it turned out he was wanted in the U.S. for armed bank robbery.”

Lisa nodded. “Yeah, I heard about that guy. He mostly operated in Macon and Valdosta, Georgia.”

Bernie then revealed some more information. “The final championship for the contests was called the Grand Festival. Karl Jenkins and his associates had come up with a plan to steal every single Pokémon that entered the Grand Festival, as all Pokémon had to go through post-event check-ups. It was an ingenious plan, but fortunately, we were able to foil it by fielding a contestant of our own who worked undercover.”

“Well, I hope they threw everyone involved in the slammer!” Lisa exclaimed angrily.

Calmly, Bernie answered, “Indeed we did. We threw all of Karl’s associates in prison and extradited him so the FBI could convict him for his Georgia bank robberies. He’s now serving 65-90 years for armed robbery and extortion in lockup in Atlanta.”

“Good. That’s right where that slimeball belongs,” Lisa fumed.

“They were the first real organized crime ring in Fourtix, with Thrash being the second. Unfortunately, Thrash is even more deadly since they actively use Pokémon in their criminal acts, and they seem to be much better organized. Not to mention the chemicals they use and the guns they carry. I urge you to take the utmost caution when facing them. Also, if you want to fight for a badge, the gym leader will be back tomorrow. And I’ll be waiting in the next town, which, ironically, bears your family name, since it was built up around your father’s company. It’s the newest town in the region and I’m the newest gym leader. But, don’t take me – or any Gym Leader – for granted. I’ll be waiting for you!”

“Okay, see you then.”

Bernie headed out of the center, presumably to rendezvous with the gym leader.

Lisa headed back to her hotel and took a nap. After the battle with Arton, she definitely needed one. She woke up in time to meet Alexis and Shannon in the lobby. After a quick meal at Wendy’s, the three girls headed back to the hotel.

Alexis and Shannon had fed their Pokémon already, but Lisa had not. The three of them laid out food for Lisa’s Pokémon. Once again, Spheal made a glutton out of himself, and the other Pokémon were forced to aggressively protect their own food. Eventually, Lisa had to call Spheal into his Pokéball.

“Geez, he might be a Spheal, but he eats like a pig!” Shannon observed.

Lisa let out a small laugh. “Yeah, it just seems like he enjoys eating. Looks like I’ll have to increase my food budget. Okay, girls, what should we do now?”

Alexis said, “TV, I guess. Ain’t much else to do.”

“Alright, sounds like a plan.”

After several hours of watching romance anime on television with surprisingly little conversation, the girls decided to get some sleep. Shannon and Alexis pulled out the sofa bed while Lisa put on her nightgown. Then all three went to bed.

The next morning, Lisa got dressed, putting on her gray business suit, the one she had worn for her first gym battle. Alexis and Shannon had woken up a half hour earlier, and were already in the hotel’s breakfast area. The tardy teen met with the two younger girls in the lobby.

“Ah, I see you’re finally awake,” Shannon joked.

“It’s only 9:30!” Lisa complained. “Well, I guess it is time to move out.”

With her Meowth walking beside her, Lisa made her way to the gym. Alexis and Shannon followed.

On the way, Lisa noticed a bright light emanating from her bag. She opened it to see that her egg that she had won after the math competition was glowing and shaking. The egg began to crack, and give off a blinding white light. When the light wore off, the egg was replaced by a silver Pokémon with a red eyeball and white claws on the other end of its short, metallic body. Somehow the Pokémon was able to float in the air. All three girls were focused on the newly hatched Pokémon.

“Oh, cool! Must be a new Pokémon! Let’s check it out!” Alexis excitedly shouted.

“Beldum, the Iron Ball Pokémon: Beldum uses magnetic waves to float above the ground. It also uses those waves to confuse enemies. At this time it can only use Take Down.”

Lisa quickly glanced at the Beldum, then at her PDA screen again. “That’s weird. The Pokédex shows it blue in color, but mine is clearly silver.”

“Must be a really rare specimen. That one’s special.” Shannon observed.

Lisa then said, “Yeah, the letter that came with the egg did say something about this Pokémon being carefully bred and unlike others of its species. That must be what they meant.” Lisa called her new Beldum into its Pokéball.

“Alright girls, let’s get ourselves over to that gym.”

Outside the gym, Shannon and Alexis stopped. Shannon explained. “We both beat this guy yesterday and he was really steamed. I don’t think he wants to see us again, so we’ll wait out here.”

“Gee, thanks, guys...” More light emanated from Lisa’s bag and Beldum reappeared. the Steel-type floated toward the entrance to the building.

“Wait – you just hatched, and yet you want to take on this Gym Leader? Are you sure?” Lisa asked, tilting her head to one side.

Beldum slowly moved up and down, as if this was its way of nodding. “Okay…” Lisa aid, a bit apprehensive.

The gym was a large building constructed of red brick. As Lisa walked in, she was immediately stopped by a man wearing a black ninja outfit. Meowth and Beldum nearly bumped into the back of their trainer.

“I am Kurtis. You are here for a challenge, right? Step this way and prepare to meet the Gym Leader.”

Lisa approached the Gym’s stadium, with Meowth and Beldum flanking her on either side. A muscular man wearing a karate uniform stepped out of the shadowy depths of the gym and lumbered toward the opposite end of the arena. He had black spiked hair with a short beard.

“My name’s Armond! Bernie told me you were in town and I thought you’d show up here! I don’t like talking so let’s get it on! I’ll show you true muscle and power! Kurtis! Now!”

“The match between Greenville City Gym Leader Armond and Lisa from South Carolina will begin! Single battle, two Pokémon each! Only the challenger may switch out Pokémon! Begin!”

“I choose Machop!” Armond sent out a short grayish blue Pokémon that was rather humanoid in shape. Its large red eyes darted about as it vainly flexed its muscles, much like its trainer was doing. “Machop: The superpower Pokémon: Machop has a body consisting almost entirely of muscle. It trains in a variety of martial arts.”

“Okay, then. Looks like Beldum’s ready to go!” The girl’s sparkling silver Pokémon had already taken its place on the field. Its single red eye carefully scanned the battlefield, fixated on both opposing Pokémon and trainer. “Remember, this is your first battle, so be careful!”

“Machop versus Beldum. Commence battle now!” Kurtis announced.

“Get ready for a display of my power! Karate Chop now!”

“Chopppp!” Machop jumped in the air and prepared to come down with a sweeping hand motion. Beldum quickly darted to the right, then came in and struck Machop while it was still planning its next attack.

“Good job! Let’s nail it with another Take Down!”

“Low Kick now! Hammer her!” Armond shouted as he punched the air with both fists.

The little Fighting-type jumped into the air, its foot extended and ready to strike. Both attacks met in midair, causing both Pokémon to fly backwards. Machop was first to recover and delivered a punch to Beldum. The powerful blow sent the Steel-type hurtling backward, but it regained control before hitting the Gym’s wall.

“It’s okay! You can get this one!” Lisa said to her new Pokémon, though she was fidgeting a bit already.

Beldum quickly brushed off the attack, then came in at Machop again. The wily fighter jumped right over Beldum, but, without turning around, Beldum charged in the opposite direction, hitting Machop as it was about to land.

“Arrgh! Machop! Give her a taste of your Cross Chop! Try to beat this muscle, little missy!”

“Okay, you did NOT just call me that! Beldum, right fifteen inches then Take Down!”

As the Steel-type hovered out of the path of Machop, the fighter ended up missing its target, as both its hands swiped only air. Beldum took advantage, ramming into and knocking Machop down again. Without missing a beat, Machop was able to grab ahold of its foe.

“Uh, oh! This looks bad!” Lisa shouted, panicking. Now she was sweating and frantically grabbing at her dress.

“Right you are! Seismic Toss!” Armond boasted with a laugh.

Jumping up almost to the ceiling with Beldum in its arms, the muscular foe suddenly descended quickly, hitting the ground with great force. As it turned out, however, Beldum had managed to move around just enough so that Machop’s head also struck the floor hard. Surprisingly, both combatants were still ready for more, as each was quick to get back up.

“Beldum, Take Down!”

“Machop, use Mega Punch!” roared the muscular Armond.

“Okay, change of plans! Twelve inches left!” Lisa commanded.

At the last second, the silver machine-like Pokémon dodged left. Machop missed with its attack but stopped its charge before hitting the wall.

“Mega Punch it again!” Armond yelled impatiently.

“Beldum, you know what to do.” Lisa whispered quietly.

As Machop rushed in, its fist extended and glowing with power, Beldum floated straight up. The wily fighter stopped in its tracks and looked around, unable to find its foe.

Lisa grinned. “Now, airborne Take Down!”

Beldum, in a vertical position, quickly sped downward in a straight line and slammed directly into the grayish creature’s head. Like a drunken redneck, Machop stumbled around before tripping over its own feet.

“Machop is unable to battle. Beldum is the winner!”

Armond had a stunned expression on his face. “WHAT! No way! Makuhita, go!”

Lisa was now confronted with a small, chubby yellow Pokémon with squinty eyes. It wore dark blue gloves and had a strange appendage that made its head vaguely resemble a tied-up sack or bag.

“Makuhita, the Arm Thrust Pokémon. Despite its size, Makuhita is known for its indomitable spirit. Very rarely will it give up a fight unless its energy is completely depleted.”

“Makuhita versus Beldum. Begin!”

“Ready to go?” Lisa asked. “All right, Take Down!”

Beldum quickly struck Makuhita, knocking it over. Makuhita reacted by delivering a punch that landed a direct hit.

Lisa looked at Beldum. Though it was still conscious and ready for battle, Lisa figured it had taken a number of hard hits.

“Looks like you can use a rest, Beldum. Return! I will now make a substitution of variables! Pidgeotto, go!” Lisa figured Beldum could still battle in a pinch, if things came to that point. She called Beldum back into its Pokéball and sent out her bird Pokémon. “We’ll give it a nice Wing Attack!” The light brown avian Pokémon flew overhead, scanning her surroundings.

“Makuhita versus Pidgeotto. Continue!”

Pidgeotto struck Makuhita hard with her wings. The chubby yellow creature flinched from the sudden strike, but was quick to delivered a series of quick slams with its arms to the larger brown bird.

“Hahaha! Like my Arm Thrust, little girl?” Armond asked, a boastful smirk on his rugged face.

“It’s okay, but watch this. Gust!”

Pidgeotto started flapping her wings frantically, whipping up a small cyclone that headed toward Makuhita. It took the attack directly but responded with a swift chopping motion that used two crossed arms. This did some serious damage to Pidgeotto, sending her toward the ground. But the bird was quickly able to regain flight, then strike back with her broad wings before quickly flying out of range of another Cross Chop.

Lisa now understood this one’s strategy. Makuhita would take whatever damage was headed toward it, then strike back right after the attack was executed.

“All right, we need to attack this from a different angle. Pidgeotto, go in for another Wing Attack but make sure you pull up and away fast, before it can strike you.”

Pidgeotto swooped in, her large wing prepared to knock the plump little fighter silly. Sure enough, the foe made no move to avoid the attack. Pidgeotto flew upwards to avoid the retaliatory strike, but the airborne Pokémon couldn’t avoid a jumping headbutt followed up with four punches right to the face.

“Uh, oh!” Lisa shouted, looking worried.

“Enough games! Time to unleash all of our muscle!” Armond roared.

Makuhita now went on the offensive, landing a hard punch on Pidgeotto before she could take flight. Undaunted, Pidgeotto let loose another swirling Gust that knocked Makuhita over. This gave her the opening to take to the air once again.

“All right, we can take it! Dive at it again for another Wing Attack!”

This time, however, the Makuhita jumped on Pidgeotto’s back and grabbed it by the throat.

Oh, no!” Lisa began to nervously shake in the knees. “This doesn’t look good! I don’t think Pidgeotto can survive this!

Armond laughed. “Oh, yes! Seismic Toss now! Finish it!”

The little Fighting type jumped high into the air, firmly grasping the larger bird. It delivered several headbutts to Lisa’s defenseless Pokémon during its ascent. Makuhita suddenly came crashing to the ground with Pidgeotto in tow, causing the ground to shake as it made contact with the ground. Pidgeotto was knocked out completely, making no motions whatsoever. Makuhita was still standing, but breathing heavily in exhaustion.

“Pidgeotto is unable to battle.”

Lisa looked on, worried. “No, Pidgeotto! Return! Sorry for that, but you did good...just what I needed to soften it up.”

“Ha! Now I win!” Armond announced triumphantly.

“Not yet,” Lisa said, suddenly forming a smirk on her face. “I call out Beldum again!”

“WHAT!?” he shouted in stunned surprise.

“You forget, Armond. Beldum was not down and out when I swapped it out.”

“Fine, I’ll crush it anyway!”

Kurtis announced, “Final round: Beldum versus. Makuhita! Go!”

Lisa merely said to Beldum, “You know what to do.”

Beldum just sat and waited.

The girl could almost see the veins popping on her burly adversary’s face. “Grrr! You’re trying my patience! Mega Punch now!”

Makuhita rushed at Beldum, fist extended. However, at the last second, Beldum floated upward. Makuhita ran right under it. Then Beldum slammed into Makuhita before it stopped charging and slammed it into the Gym’s wall.

“NO! How is this possible?!” Armond dropped to his knees and hung his head low.

“Makuhita is unable to battle. Beldum wins. The winner of this gym battle is Lisa from South Carolina!"

Lisa ran over to Beldum. “All right, we did it!” Lisa summoned it back into its Pokéball, before happily jumping up.

Standing up, Armond turned his back to Lisa. “On that table there... it’s the Glove Badge... take it and leave my gym. I am shamed...”

Lisa picked up the boxing-glove shaped badge and added it to her collection. She pumped her fist in the air in excitement. “The Glove Badge is ours! Two down!” Meowth cheered and jumped up and down.

With no further business with the Gym Leader, Lisa, with her Meowth in tow, exited the Gym, with Armond still refusing to make eye contact with her. The victorious teen met her two friends outside the gym.

Shannon asked, “Well, how did it go?”

Lisa proudly showed them her newly acquired badge. “Right here. He’s got a lot of power, but he’s lacking in strategy. And he doesn’t like to talk to those who defeat him. Okay, girls, I’m gonna head back to my room to rest up. Then we’ll grab dinner and then time for the interview!”

Lisa first headed to the Pokémon Center and fished out Pidgeotto’s Pokéball. She handed it and Beldum’s to the male attendant. When he came back, he had some bad news for Lisa.

“Your Beldum is fine but Pidgeotto suffered some serious injuries. I would advise you not to use it in any battles for the time being.”

“All right. I’ll send her to the lab so she can get rested to full health.” Lisa replied. The girl headed over to the area with the phones and contacted Professor Sequoia.

“Professor, I just earned my second badge but my Pidgeotto got beaten up pretty badly during the battle. I’m sending her back to you so she can rest for a bit. I think she’ll like the wide open spaces on your Pokémon ranch.”

“Okay, will do. And congratulations on your second badge!”

“Thanks. Hey, how are my other Pokémon doing?”

The professor sighed. “Aron seems to be enjoying himself, but you were right about Nidorino. He’s just so stubborn, I can’t get him to do anything. I’ve got to keep him on a short leash or he’ll attack others. I can see now exactly why he was causing you so much trouble.”

“Thanks for the update. Oh, and tune in to ‘Most Wanted’ tonight. They’re going to interview me in a segment.”

“Okay, I can’t wait. See you later!” The professor hung up her phone, and Lisa followed suit.

Lisa’s next destination was her hotel, where she changed clothes. Now she wore the same blue dress and green cardigan that she had worn when she first set out on her journey. After resting up and cooking a quick microwave meal of ramen noodles, she headed back to the Pokémon Center. It was nearing seven and her interview would begin shortly.

Lisa was greeted by a tall man with a brown suit and graying hair upon entering the building.

“Greetings, Lisa. Joel Madison, host of ‘Most Wanted.’ We begin our segment in thirty! These two girls those friends you told me about?” he asked, motioning toward Shannon and Alexis, who had arrived before Lisa.

“Yup, there they are. Hey, girls!” The pair waved back to her.

Lisa had a glass of lemonade before going on the air. Her legs began shaking and her fingers were inching close to her delicate white pantyhose. Finally, as Lisa began to calm herself, the Thrash segment was about to start.

“Hello, and welcome back. Now we will profile the infamous Thrash Brotherhood. As you know from past segments, Thrash is the second organized crime ring to plague Fourtix, the first being the violent crime ring perpetrated by Pokémon Contest officials. Thrash has proven themselves to be much more dangerous, however.”

As images of Thrash thugs in their standard red uniform were shown on screen, Joel continued. “Unlike the Contest perpetrators, Thrash is set on harming Pokémon as well as capturing them and making money. With me are Lisa Northwood and two of her friends. Lisa was chosen by the Pokémon League to help them infiltrate and ultimately put an end to Thrash’s activities. We’ll interview Lisa in a few, but first, I had the chance to talk with police investigator Leslie Morgan and Pokémon League Covert Ops commander Lorelei.”

After that clip played, it was time to interview Lisa.

“So, Lisa, you’ve been involved in numerous battles with Thrash members. How big a threat do you believe they pose?”

“A very significant threat. Not only are they armed with military-style assault weapons, but they’ve developed chemicals to force evolution and make Pokémon become extremely angry. So, in essence, they are using science to manipulate Pokémon.”

“And what about the Shadow Pokémon rumors?” Joel asked.

“None have been created yet, according to the team’s bosses. I found out about their plans through eavesdropping and by their direct words to me. But the team is developing a device to make Shadow Pokémon. Fortunately, it appears that they are still several months off from completing it, which gives us some time to stop them.”

“You’ve raided a few of the team’s facilities. Can you tell us a bit about them?”

“First was a basic training-style boot camp in Chromo Forest that they apparently put both their operatives and their Pokémon through. From what I’ve heard, it’s basically a torture chamber. I was captured and locked in a cell for a short while but my Meowth got me out of there and I was able to defeat the leader in a Pokémon battle, buying the police enough time to shut it down. Then, right in this town, the gaming casino was a front for the team. It was a source of money and a way for them to smuggle and sell illegal substances. I helped close down shop here. Both facilities are now out of operation.”

“I also understand that you have a history with a man who allegedly has some connection to the group. Please, explain.”

Lisa answered, “Yes. A man named Tommy Junger claims to be the father of the team’s boss. He used to work for my own father, but he was convicted of several charges including fraud and extortion. But now he’s out on parole. He’s challenged me to a couple of Pokémon battles but I have been able to defeat him. The last battle, he was using some of Team Thrash’s Pokémon-altering chemicals.”

“You know what, Lisa? That is enough evidence to suspect he’s working directly for Thrash, and thus is in violation of his parole. Do we have his mug shot? I’ll have the officers issue an APB for him. Okay, here we go. Thomas Frederick Junger is 67 years old. He has blue eyes, though he wears designer contacts which give them a menacing red appearance. He is balding with white hair and a white beard. He is 6’2" and weighs about 220 pounds. Should be considered armed and dangerous, and he is a Pokémon trainer.”

Joel concluded, “Well, thanks to Lisa Northwood for her time and remember that all Team Thrash members should be considered armed and dangerous. Trainers would be putting themselves at serious risk if they choose to confront them. Do the right thing and call the police. That’s the best way you can help us put these scumbags behind bars where they belong.”

After the segment, a police officer approached Lisa. He was a chubby little man, with bright blond hair and a well-developed beard. “I’m Officer J.C. Hauston. I’ve recorded everything you’ve mentioned in your interview and I’ll be reporting it to my superiors. Great job. I’ll be seeing you.”

“Okay, see ya.” Lisa watched as the officer headed out of the building. She was a bit baffled, but decided not to think too hard about it.

Alexis and Shannon came up to Lisa. “Great interview, Lisa! Hey, the two of us decided to travel together and we’re heading onward tonight. You’re welcome to join us.”

“Sorry, but I think I’ll spend the night here and start out tomorrow morning.”

“All righty. Hopefully we’ll meet up with you later on. Bye!”

“Good luck, you two!” Lisa waved to her friends as they headed out.

Lisa headed back to the hotel and her room. As a reward for a gym victory, she opened up some premium gourmet Pokémon food and all of her Pokémon devoured it happily. Such food was much too expensive for everyday meals, so Lisa broke it out only for big victories and special events.

Afterward, her Pokémon all retreated into the calm and serenity of their Pokéballs. Lisa slipped on her nightgown and watched some TV before falling asleep. The next morning, she quickly threw on the clothes she had worn last night, then went down to the lobby to check out and grab some breakfast. She set out toward the next town, the town that bore her family’s name and was home to her father’s company.
*******

On Route 507, secluded by a dense forest, sat a badly dilapidated and abandoned single-wide trailer. The TV was the only light coming from the living room. It was tuned to ‘Fourtix Region’s Most Wanted’. As soon as the commercials started, the TV went off and a small light went on.

“Blast!” Tommy smashed his fist on a table. “That little brat told them all! And apparently, she just broke up Operation Game Boy! I was just there a couple days ago and things were going fine!”

The sinister voice of the mysterious leader responded. “You know what this means, father? It means that we must resort to other means to obtain money. I don’t want to have our agents pull off bank robberies, but thanks to that girl we have no choice! I’ve also had to call off Operation Kanto Investigation before our operatives even took off from the factory! It’s time to put an end to her games. I want you to wait for her to get out to this route, then eliminate her...”

The elderly madman interjected. “No. I have a better idea. Her father’s company is based in the next town she will be passing through. I want your permission to assemble a group of agents and invade the offices. We will steal whatever we can get our hands on and sell it. Maybe they even have money around...”

Bart Sy’s usual calm, colleted demeanor began to diminish, as he was clearly intrigued by the plan suggested to him by his father. “Excellent plan. I will dispatch a group of agents to the alley behind the Northwood City Pokémon Center. You will meet them there and begin the invasion. Yes! That little teenybopper will be so traumatized by our invasion of her dear daddy’s company that she’ll just give up and go home! Well done! We can leave this hideout now.”

“Good thing, too. I hate this place.”

Both men exited the trailer. The masked figure in the red cloak got into a black Infiniti SUV and drove east. The bald old man started to walk west toward a large city visible on the horizon.

Chapter 12: When Pikachus and Old Men Attack!

There were three roads leading out of Greenville City. Based on recommendations from the hotel staff, Lisa headed toward the eastern exit, passing the abandoned Contest Hall, the gym, a high school, and several residential neighborhoods. At the city limits, the road split into two.

The north fork was a new, six lane freeway with a center dividing wall, reminiscent of Interstate 85 near Lisa’s hometown. Signs posted on that road read, “SPEED LIMIT 70” and “NO PEDESTRIANS MOTOR VEHICLES ONLY.” The black asphalt ribbon stretched as far as the eye could see. The south fork was the traditional dirt path flanked by grass and trees. “Looks like I’m taking the southern road,” thought Lisa as she continued down the dirt path, as cars and trucks of various stripes took advantage of the newer highway. “I could be cruising on the freeway of love right now…

Lisa passed a sign reading, “Route 506.” Almost immediately a small yellow Pikachu ran out and blocked her path. It immediately tried to zap the stunned girl. She had to jump quickly to avoid the attack. Then Pikachu turned around, mooning Lisa before farting right in her face! “CHUUU!” it squealed in Pikachu’s typical high-pitched voice.

“Dah! You rude little...” Lisa screamed.

Then Pikachu faced Lisa again, flipping her off with its tiny hands before attempting a kick aimed at her head, yelling, “Pika!” in a playful voice! Once again, Lisa just barely avoided its attack.

The girl, now angry, boomed, “Okay, you want a piece of me?! Time to teach you some manners! Trapinch, you’re up! Let’s start by kicking up a Sandstorm!”

Lisa sent out her small orange Pokémon with distinctive large jaws. She immediately started to whip up a large could of dust. Pikachu attempted to land a jumping kick but the blinding sand threw its aim way off.

“Now, Dig underground and hit it when it least expects it!”

Pikachu attempted an electric shock attack that just simply bounced off Trapinch. Unfazed, Trapinch disappeared into a hole underground.

“Foolish Pikachu! Your electric attacks are useless!” Lisa laughed before she broke out into a song, complete with awful looking air guitar. Meowth, outside of her Pokéball and watching all this, simply rolled her eyes.

“Now I’ve got you in my sights with these
Hungry eyes
Now did I take you by surprise...”

With that, Trapinch did take Pikachu by surprise, landing a heavy hit on the offensive little Pokémon. Pikachu launched another, stronger electrical attack that struck Meowth who was standing on the sidelines. She was knocked down by the sneaky attack

“Oh, no! Meowth!” Lisa ran over to the cat Pokémon and knelt before it. She shot an angry look at the giggling Pikachu. “Hey, you annoying little rat! What you’d do that for? You’re not fighting Meowth! Trapinch is your opponent here!” The Electric-type merely stuck out its tongue.

Just then, Lisa noticed that Meowth was surrounded by small bolts of static electricity that crackled on the tips of her fur. Letting out a loud growl, Meowth discharged the electrical energy by launching a large yellow lightning bolt aimed right at Pikachu. The electric rodent wasn’t expecting it, and looked surprised as it was zapped.

The girl watched with a stunned expression as her starter Pokémon hit her attacker with a taste of its own medicine. “Weird… She’s never been able to fire off electric attacks. Must be that Pikachu’s doing…” The girl pulled out her PDA and the device started up automatically. “Meowth has now learned Thunderbolt.”

The teen’s surprised look slowly morphed into a smile. “Awesome! I guess you were good for something, Pikachu. But now the fun and games are over! Sand Tomb!” Lisa pointed at the Pikachu, who was continuing to flip off her and Trapinch.

Trapinch dug underground and started to create a vortex of sand, drawing Pikachu into its fast-rotating core. After about a minute, the sand subsided. Trapinch appeared out of her hole, slamming into the rat’s underside and sent it skyward. As Pikachu crash landed, the Ground-type was now facing an unconscious Pikachu, lying motionless on the dirt path.

Lisa dusted herself off. “That’s what you get for messing with me. At least you were kind enough to equip my Meowth with Thunderbolt.”

Just then a boy ran up to where the battle had taken place. He wore a matching red tank top and shorts with Pokéball logos. His shaved head, backwards ball cap, and gold-plated plastic jewelry completed the wannabe gangsta look. “Hey! My name’s Billy! I saw that last battle. Why’d you have to be so nasty to that poor Pikachu?”

The girl shot Billy an angry look, her face red. “Um, hello!? Pikachu was the one who flipped me off and farted in my face!”

“Don’t blame it on Pikachu! I suppose I’ll have to teach you a lesson! Zigzagoon and Spearow, go!” He sent out the small avian Spearow and a small brown Pokémon with jagged, bristly hair that quickly ran on all fours out to the trainer’s side. Spearow flapped its tiny tan wings furiously to stay airborne.

Sighing in exasperation, Lisa said, “There is just no rest for me, is there? Oh, well. I call out Spheal and Meowth to battle your Pokémon.” With Meowth already out, the girl tossed out the Pokéball containing her blue mammalian Ice-type, who looked on as Billy’s Pokémon stared him down.

“Prepare to lose, you meanie girl! Before we start, though, I’m gonna rescue that Pikachu! Go, Pokéball!” Billy threw a Pokéball at the Pikachu, catching it. “Don’t worry, that meanie won’t hurt you any more. Now, let’s go!”

“Fine with me, if you want a Pokémon that’s as rude as they come! Now, Meowth, use Fury Swipes on Zigzagoon! Spheal, I need you to use Ice Ball on Spearow!”

Before the foe could react, Meowth charged in at Zigzagoon and landed four quick slashes before Zigzagoon was able to shake her off its back. Meowth flew off the opponent’s backside but was able to land on her feet. Zigzagoon began crying out loudly, with several slashes visible across its back.

Spheal spit out a small ball of ice that struck Spearow’s wing and froze it fast. As Spearow came crashing to the ground, Spheal launched another, larger chunk of ice that compounded the damage. Try as it might, Spearow was not going airborne with its wing covered in a heavy layer of ice.

“No! Spearow can’t fly like this!” Billy knew he was in trouble already He began stomping the ground.

“All right, we’ve immobilized half of his crew. Let’s hit Spearow with more ice before that wing thaws. And Meowth, keep hammering away at Zigzagoon!”

Meowth leapt in at Zigzagoon, but the brown Pokémon quickly dashed right and avoided a downward claw slash. With the cat caught off guard, she was an easy target for a full-body Tackle attack from Zigzagoon. Though the hit knocked her into the air, she recovered before even landing and flung several coins at her foe while in midair. The spare change struck Zigzagoon in its face just as Meowth gracefully landed behind it.

“Nice recovery!” Lisa cheered. “Let’s keep it up!”

Spearow tried to drag its frozen wing, but struggled to even move on the ground. As a result, it was a sitting duck for Spheal’s onslaught of shimmering ice. After a couple more hits with blocks of solid ice, Spearow collapsed to the ground, completely encased in an icy tomb.

“No! Spearow!” Billy called back his flash-frozen Pokémon and started to pout. “You’ll pay for that!”

“Okay, Spheal, back up Meowth as we go after Zigzagoon!”

Meowth came at Zigzagoon with its claws at the ready. Zigzagoon ran right at Meowth and both Pokémon landed hard blows on each other. Both shook the other’s attack off and came charging at each other again.

But this time Meowth had some backup. Spheal unleashed a Water Gun that stopped Zigzagoon’s charge dead in its tracks, enabling Meowth to land multiple hits without any resistance. Zigzagoon let out one final, pained cry before it slumped down on the grass.

“No! No! No!” With a stunned look on his face, Billy called back his last Pokémon. As the young boy continued to pout, an older girl in a red halter top and khaki shorts ran up to Billy and Lisa. Her blonde hair partially covered her face.

The girl glared angrily at Lisa as she raised a finger to point at the brainiac. “Hey! That’s my kid brother you’re picking on! My name’s Shirley and I won’t let you hurt him!”

Lisa matched Shirley’s glare with a cold look of her own. “Um… RUDE MUCH? We were conducting a Pokémon battle, and he was the one who challenged me!”

“Well, then, you won’t mind battling me then! Go, Bellsprout!” The young woman summoned a small yellow bell-shaped Pokémon with thin root-like legs. Its “arms” were essentially leaves and its eyes were little more than two black dots. It walked, though its legs didn’t give it much stability and it looked unsteady.

“Now you’re gonna get it!” Billy taunted. “My big sis is gonna cream you!”

“Fine. Meowth and Spheal, return!” Lisa called Spheal back into his Pokéball and Meowth returned to her side. “Now I call out Beldum!” Lisa thought, “Man, this is getting old…

The small silver Pokémon glittered as it appeared out of Lisa’s Pokéball and began to float. Its single red eye soon locked onto the plant-like adversary.

“Go, Bellsprout! Vine Whip!” Shirley commanded, pointing at the chrome-colored Beldum.

Bellsprout shot out two vines that knocked Beldum and sent it spinning in midair. Despite the harsh-looking hit, Beldum seemed unaffected by the strike and flew right in and knocked Bellsprout over.

“Use Acid attack, Bellsprout!” yelled Shirley, who looked determined to avenge the honor of her fallen brother. She was gritting her teeth and shaking her fist furiously as Billy looked on, still fuming.

Bellsprout shot a chemical out of its mouth, but it simply splashed off of Beldum. Not knowing what else to do, Bellsprout slammed Beldum with its thin leg, but that again seemed to do very little as the levitating silver Steel-type retreated backwards from Bellsprout before slamming into it again. The unsteady plant fell over, and it looked shaky as it got back up.

“Great-looking Take Down, Beldum! Keep it up and we’ll win this thing!”

Despite the Grass-type’s best efforts, it soon became apparent that it was outmatched. All Beldum had to worry about was being knocked backwards by Vine Whip. Bellsprout’s Acid attack did absolutely nothing to stop its onslaught. With a few more high speed Take Downs, Bellsprout fainted without very much resistance. The little plant Pokémon collapsed out of exhaustion.

Shirley could only sputter, “But… how? Why?”

As both trainers recalled their Pokémon, Shirley screamed, “Fine! Get outta here and don’t bother us again!” She began pouting much like her younger brother had only moments before.

Lisa sighed. “Ohh… kay… Sore loser much?”

“GET OUTTA HERE!” she bellowed at the top of her lungs.

“Fine, fine, I’m going!” Lisa wasn’t going to try and argue with the family of rude and obviously unskilled trainers.

As Lisa continued down the path, she heard Shirley scream, “Why you rude, ungrateful little excuse for a hearing-aid battery! How dare you flip me off!” Lisa cracked a smile, knowing that Pikachu was someone else’s problem now. Just then, Lisa’s phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Lisa, it’s Mom. Listen, could you pick up your sister at our branch headquarters in Northwood City? You know, the one that’s named after us. She was getting bored staying with us and she wants to travel with you. We flew her in to Northwood Airport today. Just stop by our offices. Branch Director Arthur Sweeney has been watching her since we flew her in.”

“But, Mom…”

“Thanks, dear!”

After she hung up, Lisa stopped walking for a moment to rest her aching feet. Her escalating stress level might have had something to do with it, though. “Great. How did I get roped into this, now? And how did she get out of school to come over here? It doesn’t make any sense…” It wasn’t that her sister was annoying, but Lisa’s life was dangerous enough without having to look after her nine-year-old sibling as well.

Lisa finally continued her walk. She saw many wild Pokémon, and made mental notes on their temperaments. The Pidgeys and Zigzagoons would, for the most part, just watch curiously as she walked by, while the Poochyenas, Rattatas, and Spearows would more than likely try to attack her. The teen used the latter group to help her Pokémon improve the accuracy of their attacks, particularly with Meowth and her new Thunderbolt, as well as Spheal’s Ice Ball.

She would also find the odd Weedle, and sic Beldum or Koffing on them to avoid the effect of poison. Beldum seemed to take these battles in disdain, as if battling a mere Weedle was a waste of time for it. The silver metallic Pokémon would just hover there as Weedle made a futile attempt to bombard it with poisonous barbs that bounced off while leaving nary a scratch. Ultimately, Lisa realized she would just have to use Koffing to battle them.

Lisa had not encountered any trainers since battling Shirley, and soon realized she had wandered off the path and was now lost. As darkness fell, she was starting to get desperate for a place to spend the night. “Come ON! There has got to be something around here! I DO NOT want to have to camp out here where anything can attack me! There must be some sort of shelter nearby!” Her Meowth had long since grown tired and retreated into her Pokéball for rest.

“Oh, wonderful!” she screamed out in annoyance. The girl had found herself confronted with a stand of trees. Lisa took out a flashlight and proceeded with caution, using the light to avoid stepping on anything that she would regret. And there were plenty of obstacles. Sinkholes, mud puddles, fallen branches, and tall weeds – each of them requiring the frustrated girl to proceed with caution, or risk ruining her outfit. She made her way through the thick brush, somehow avoiding getting her dress or stockings snagged on anything. “Where’s a hotel when you need one?” she yelled to nobody in particular. As soon as she cleared the forest, she saw exactly what she had been looking for.

It wasn’t quite a town, but two large, lighted signs advertised, “Howard Johnson” and “HESS”. The new highway was located directly behind the complex. She never would have figured that her “light at the end of the tunnel” would say “Howard Johnson.” Lisa ran right to the triangular, orange-roofed structure that served as the hotel’s lobby. After checking in, she proceeded to the two-story structure.

She noted that it was an older hotel with a balcony outside her second floor room. A set of horizontal wood beams spanned the width of the ceiling. A panel by the bed contained four light switches. The girl discovered she could control all the lights in the room from this panel. There were two sinks, one in the bathroom and one located just outside of it. The room showed some wear and tear, but not anything too bad. Wasn’t the best place, but it was clean and would suffice. She flipped on the TV and a news report caught her attention.

“A bank in Greenville City was hit this afternoon by a gang of about six armed bandits. Armed with assault rifles and wearing ski masks and body armor, they stormed the bank and executed a violent takeover-style robbery right during an armored car drop-off. The entire robbery only took three minutes and the gang made off with over $290,000 in unmarked bills. This is the first armed robbery in Fourtix since the Pokémon Contest crime ring, and police suspect Team Thrash may be involved, though they cannot say for sure yet.”

Lisa thought to herself, “It probably is them. After all I just shut down their casino, their major source of income. They’re probably strapped for cash right now.

After settling into her room, Lisa laid out some food for each of her Pokémon. All of them dove in except for Beldum, who just floated there without taking a bite. Spheal happily took advantage and ate Beldum’s share. “Beldum ate the food I laid out last time, but it’s not even interested in this batch. I wonder why?

While they ate, the Pokémon took the opportunity to converse among themselves.

“Don’t you want your food?” Meowth asked to Beldum.

“Negative…” droned the Steel-type in a mechanical voice. “Food does not meet minimum standards for consumption…”

Koffing replied, “I also noticed that you really didn’t want to battle any of the wild Pokémon we ran into on the way here. Any reason for that?”

“Encountered Pokémon were not sufficiently powerful to warrant the initiation of combat…” came Beldum’s answer.

“Hey, as long as it means I get more food, I’m not complainin’, nope, nope!” Spheal said.

“I see…” Trapinch mused. “It’s an interesting concept you have there, battling and eating only when it meets a minimum standard.”

The silver-toned Pokémon didn’t take offense to the comment, replying, “Affirmative. Sensors indicate sleep is now necessary… I will be retiring to my quarters… I look forward to another opportunity to converse with all of you…” With that, it returned itself to its Pokéball. Spheal followed suit.

“Man, all dat food made me sleepy! I’mma go night-night now!”

This left the three females, Meowth, Koffing, and Trapinch left to chatter.

“Well, I don’t know what to think of that Beldum. It seems pretty cold to me, not to mention stuck-up,” Trapinch said, her face not showing her annoyance.

Koffing replied, “It is a different color than the typical Beldum, and it gives off that odd sparkle. Before my days with even my first trainer, there was a Weezing like that in the old factory where I used to live. He had blue skin that also sparkled like that, and he was arrogant and fussy as well. It might have something to do with the odd coloring.”

“Well, to be fair to Beldum,” Meowth started, “it is a mechanical Pokémon. Before I traveled with Lisa, I spent all my time in this big building with all sorts of Pokémon. Among them was a Voltorb. It acted cold and mechanical at first, but eventually it started to open up and become more friendly. Perhaps that attitude is a trait of mechanical Pokémon. Plus, it just joined our group. It really hasn’t gotten to know us.”

“Yeah… Maybe we should give Beldum a chance before we write it off,” the Poison type said in agreement.

Trapinch added, “All right, we should give it a chance…”

“Well, I don’t know about you guys,” Meowth said, “but I’m ready for a nap!” Her two companions nodded in agreement, before heading over to their teenage trainer to let her know they were finished eating.

After her Pokémon were fed, Lisa headed to the adjoining restaurant and had her standard order: burgers, fries, and lemonade. She decided to pass up on the restaurant’s signature dish, its fried clams. She made her way back through the motor lodge’s winding corridors to her room. Then quickly, without even changing, she jumped into bed and fell asleep in record time. She didn’t really care that her dress would get all wrinkled; she figured she would only run into random trainers and would change in the next town.
******

In the fields behind Dr. Sequoia’s Pokémon ranch, Lisa’s Pidgeotto and Aron had just finished up their lunch.

“Ooh, that was some good food,” Pidgeotto cooed as she rubbed her stomach with her wing. “And the fact that I didn’t have to whip up a single Gust makes it all the more enjoyable.”

“You are correct there, my friend,” Aron replied. “I know that the others of my kind like to test their strength by ramming into rocks headlong, then eating them, but I never saw the point of it. I mean, I know we had to smash those rocks to bits in order to eat them, but why not eat softer food, like what we get here, you know?”

“Well, I would imagine there’s not much of a choice in a cave…”

“Ah, true. But I never liked it in the caves. Honestly, I’m perfectly happy right here. Good food, relaxing setting, and if I ever get the urge to battle, those Golem over there are always willing to oblige.” Aron called out, “Hey guys, how’s it going? We up for a battle later today?”

The group of large rock-like Pokémon nodded and waved to Aron, then went back to eating their own food.

“That’s great! As for me, I don’t even need to battle – I’m perfectly happy just being able to relax and spread my wings out and fly everyday.”

“So, what’s with the ornery fellow who also belongs to our human? What is his problem?”

Pidgeotto scoffed. “Don’t ask me. He’s been that way since he was first caught. He hates the girl, thinks the rest of us are soft because we’ve warmed up to her a bit, and causes all sorts of trouble. I really think the guy needs an attitude adjustment.”

Meanwhile, the subject of the conversation was off on his own, deep in thought. “This is pathetic. My wife and kids are out there, and I can’t do anything to protect them because I’m cooped up here. Dammit! What kind of a father am I? Wait, this is not my fault! That stupid human… if she would have just left us alone, my family wouldn’t be out here alone!”

“Um, are you okay?” A tiny green bird, with a round body and short stubby wings, saw Nidorino by himself and hopped over to him.

Noticing the curious Natu, the Poison-type spun around, teeth grinding. “What the hell do you want? Get back unless you want me to drill this horn right in your face!”

Terrified, the Natu hopped away as quickly as its two tiny feet could move it. Once again turning his back to the rest of the ranch’s population, Nidorino snorted loudly.

“I’m surrounded by idiots. Idiots who don’t know enough to leave me alone.”
*******

Lisa ended up sleeping until 11:00 in the morning. She sat bolt upright in bed. “Oh, no, I missed breakfast! Ah, I can’t worry about that now. Time to head out so I can get to the next city before nightfall!”

The girl quickly checked out and went on her way. After the long rest, Meowth was ready to follow her on foot. The two barely got out of sight of the hotel when they ran into the one person she didn’t want to see at this point. Lisa found herself staring into the wrinkled, bearded face of Tommy.

With a sinister grin, the balding old man told his teenage adversary, “I’ve been waiting for you. I was gonna ambush you in the city, but you were taking too long, so I had the boss delegate our operations in that town to some of our other elite trainers!”

“What operations?” Lisa scowled, folding her arms across her chest and giving the elderly parolee a cold, hard stare.

Tommy’s grin widened as he pulled two Pokéballs from his suit’s pockets. “That’s for me to know and for you NOT to find out, ‘cause I’m gonna reduce you to pulp right here and now! Gyarados, Houndour! You are up! Crush her!”

The weak Magikarp from last time had evolved into the vicious blue serpent – this time without Tommy using any chemicals. With an expression of pure rage on its face, the beast let out a deafening roar as it slammed its tail on the ground. Its black canine partner also appeared angry, as it snarled and began to gather flames in its mouth. It crouched down on all fours, preparing to strike.

“Fine, you wanna play games? I’ll take you on. Like any good math problem, the key to solving this situation is through thinking ahead. I summon Spheal and Meowth!”

Lisa unleashed her spherical ice Pokémon and her beige cat-like Meowth. Both Pokémon stared down the opponent’s, though Meowth’s facial expression looked more determined than Spheal’s smile.

“Hah! Lame math jokes will only spell your doom!”

Ignoring the old man’s comment, Lisa yelled, “We’ll start out this one with a couple of moves that’ll knock your socks off! Spheal, Meowth, you both know moves that can make quick work of these two. Let’s take him by surprise.”

Spheal spit out several small blasts of blue water directly at Houndour while Meowth released a concentrated shot of electricity from her fur, directly striking Gyarados and causing a great deal of pain. Gyarados continued to howl in pain as Meowth hit it with more electricity.

“WHAT? How did that thing learn Thunderbolt?!” Tommy screamed.

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Lisa asked smugly.

Houndour rushed the Ice-type, dodging Water Gun strikes from Spheal. The black canine bit down on him with its sharp jaws. Spheal yelled out, but was able to roll away from trouble with a few bite marks on its round body. Gyarados finally shook off the damage and attacked Meowth with a Bite of its own. The cat reeled from the attack as Lisa looked on nervously.

“Hawhawhaw! Now you’ll experience true pain!” Tommy grabbed two syringes filled with some of Team Thrash’s chemicals and prepared to use them on his Pokémon. Houndour began to glow and grow in size, emerging as a fully evolved Houndoom. Gyarados let out a loud, deafening roar and swiped at both of Lisa’s Pokémon with its long tail. Meowth was able to jump over it but Spheal was hit and sent rolling. Before hitting any obstacles, he straightened himself out and shot out another Water Gun aimed at the Pokémon that was now Houndoom. The attack splashed off the dog’s face and caused it to cringe.

“Your Pokémon are weaklings and mine are fully evolved AND mad as hell! How do you think you will counter them?” Tommy boasted.

Remaining calm, Lisa replied, “Like this. Both of them have already sustained heavy damage, so I calculate that a few more hits and they’re going down, before you have the chance to strike back.”

“Not a chance! Both of you! Frustration, now!”

Spheal hit Houndoom directly with a Water Gun, but it didn’t deter the enraged dog’s charge and it slammed right into Spheal. But he quickly got himself upright again and launched another blast of water, which Houndoom jumped clear of.

“Now you lose, Lisa!”

“I don’t think so. I have the right formula to solve this equation!”

Meowth quickly zapped Gyarados with electricity and quickly dodged the incoming flying sea serpent’s rushing charge before hitting it with another, more powerful Thunderbolt from behind. With a pained howl, the huge beast collapsed to the ground.

“One variable eliminated.” Lisa smiled and put her hands on her hips.

“Gah! That’s only one! I call out Magnemite!” screamed the elderly trainer.

Tommy replaced Gyarados with his levitating magnet Pokémon. It gazed at its opponents with its single round eye.

“Fair enough. Now I’m gonna make a variable substitution! Spheal, you’ve done well. Return and rest up! Now, I call out Trapinch! Now, let’s hit Magnemite with Water Pulse and Sand Tomb!” With that, Spheal disappeared from play in a flash of red energy, replaced with the big-jawed Trapinch.

Meowth hit first, letting loose a stream of water with pulsing currents that knocked Magnemite backwards. It immobilized the magnet long enough for Trapinch to dig a hole and whip up a vortex of sand that sucked Magnemite in and drew it toward the hole that Trapinch was hiding herself in. The intensity of the sand was so great that the Electric-type had no hopes of breaking free.

“Fool! You are no match for me! Houndoom! Combine Ember and Frustration and knock out that stupid Meowth!”

The girl was now livid, her face turning red and her expression contorting into a scowl. “THAT’S IT! Nobody calls my Pokémon stupid, least of all my Meowth! Show ‘em what you’re truly capable of and nail him!”

Meowth appeared very insulted at Tommy’s last comment. She nodded at Lisa before facing the much larger Houndoom.

Houndoom charged in at Meowth, spitting out flames while running. Meowth was able to avoid all of the flames but Houndoom itself slammed Meowth with all of its rage and frustration powering the strike. But, like cats usually do, Meowth landed on her feet and shot out a Water Pulse. The agile Houndoom dodged the attack but when it landed, it was visibly exhausted. The dog panted and wobbled unsteadily on its feet.

“That Houndoom isn’t going to take much more! One more Water Pulse should do it in!”

Meowth fired a final Water Pulse, knocking Houndoom for a loop. The Pokémon began to glow white as it reverted to its original form and fell on its side. Tommy pulled it out of battle and replaced it with a drooling blue plant with red bulbs on top of its head. “Gloom! If you fail me you shall pay serious consequences! Destroy her!”

With its eyes closed, Gloom immediately shook its head and released a cloud of powder that rained down on Meowth. The kitten promptly made herself comfortable down on the ground and started to snore.

“Lights out!” cackled Tommy.

“This is no time for a nap! Meowth, come back!”

Meowth was called back into her Luxury Ball as Lisa sent out Koffing.

“Now, Koffing, hit Gloom with Sludge!” she instructed.

Koffing launched a glob of purple slime that splattered as it struck Gloom. Meanwhile, Trapinch was having her way with Magnemite, knocking it around repeatedly while it was still trapped in Sand Tomb.

The sand subsided and Magnemite readied an electrical attack. However, when launched, the attack ended up coming straight down and striking Magnemite itself. It was apparently still confused after Meowth’s initial attack. Gloom started spraying powder from its head but Koffing shot out some more poison and stopped the powder before it affected Lisa’s Pokémon.

“Good job, Koffing! Great move! Now, let’s hammer Gloom while it’s still vulnerable! Sludge!”

Gloom tried to launch some leaves to break up the poisonous sludge, but the heavy slime just sailed right through the leaves and landed another direct hit.

Smiling, Lisa asked, “What are you gonna do now, Tommy? Oh, and by the way, how did you like seeing yourself on TV last weekend?”

“Don’t...You... Because of you, I have to constantly be looking over my shoulder! You shall pay for ruining my lifestyle!”

“Right now, it doesn’t look like it. Let’s finish him!”

Magnemite fired another shot of electricity that struck Koffing. Recovering quickly, Koffing started emitting black smoke that engulfed both enemies. Meanwhile, Trapinch used the veil to quickly dig underground before emerging and slamming into Magnemite from below. This finally put the electric Pokémon out of commission, sending it slamming on the ground hard.

At the same time Tommy recalled his Magnemite, Gloom unleashed another cloud of powder that ended up affecting Trapinch, who promptly fell asleep.

“Wahaha! It’s lights out for you!”

Lisa gritted her teeth. “So, that’s the way you want it? Fine. Return, Trapinch, and enjoy your nap. Now, Koffing, finish Gloom off!”

Koffing hurled a final Sludge attack at Gloom, finally causing the plant Pokémon to fall in defeat.

Without saying a word, Tommy threw up a smoke bomb. By the time the cloud dissipated, Tommy had recalled his Gloom and disappeared.

“Silly Tommy. He still fails to realize the key to being a skilled trainer, always relying on brute strength.”

Chapter 13: Bad Luck Lisa

The clear sky above Route 506 began to fill with clouds as a large vintage Chrysler Newport police car rolled past, the trooper inside paying Lisa no mind. She figured, “Well, that was the reason Tommy took off in a huff instead of making his normal empty threats and ‘I’ll get you next time’ and ‘blah, blah, blah’ and whatever. Although I’m impressed with this region’s ability to keep old patrol cars in use.” The clouds cast a measure of darkness over the area. The dirt path stretched as far as the eye could see, flanked by grassy plains. Trees were few and far between. “Man, how far IS it to the next town?

Soon, Lisa came across a young man wearing a dark red jacket and baggy jeans. His black hair was short and sloppily combed. Still, he had the look of a man who was well-traveled. Upon seeing Lisa, he pulled out two Pokéballs and asked her, “You there! How about a battle? We’ll have a two-Pokémon Double Battle, all right?”

“Okay, I guess I could entertain you for awhile. I’ll call out Beldum and Koffing!” Lisa responded, sending out her silver machine-like Pokémon and her poisonous purple orb. Beldum’s single eye moved back and forth, scanning the area. Koffing let loose small puffs of smoke from the openings in her round purple form.

“My name’s Bruce and I suggest you remember that! Now, get her, Camerupt and Xatu!”

Bruce heaved two Pokéballs which opened up to reveal two formidable Pokémon. The Pokémon called Camerupt was a huge, lumbering beast with red fur and two rocky volcano-like humps on its backside. It let out a low grunt, revealing a set of white teeth as it smiled tauntingly. Bruce’s other Pokémon was a green bird with two white wings spread wide. Its form and markings were reminiscent of the ancient Aztec culture. Camerupt let out another low growl while Xatu silently rocked back and forth, as if thinking about something.

“Camerupt, the eruption Pokémon. Camerupt occasionally release huge amounts of fire and molten lava when the volcanoes on its back erupt. Xatu, the mystic Pokémon. This Pokémon is revered in some cultures and is believed to be a link between the past, present, and future.”

“Let us begin!” Lisa began the battle by having her two Pokémon rush in at their much larger opponents. That strategy didn’t work very well, as Beldum just hovered in place and the both of them were forced back by powerful waves of psychic energy as well as intense blasts of fire.

“Don’t you realize you’re badly outmatched? I am the 2001 Hoenn League Champion!” boasted Bruce.

“Gee, nice of you to tell me this now… And aren’t you modest,” muttered Lisa. “No matter, attack with Take Down, Beldum! Koffing, use Smog when Camerupt tries to launch fire again!”

Having seen the power of its foes, Beldum finally decided to cooperate. The shiny silver machine sped toward Xatu at high speed, knocking the mysterious green bird over. Without missing a beat, the mystical creature righted itself, seemingly unfazed by such a futile attack.

Koffing waited for Camerupt to begin flaming at the mouth or the humps, but the wily foe had other plans. The hulking four-legged Pokémon shot large stones from its humps instead of fire, with more than a few striking Koffing directly. Shaken up by the strike, Koffing could only react with a heaping pile of purple sludge, which the furry red behemoth easily shook right off, smiling at Koffing once again.

“We’re not down and out yet!” Lisa announced, but Bruce could easily detect more than a bit of worry and panic in her voice.

“You seem a bit unsure of yourself. The trainer who lacks confidence cannot prevail!” advised Bruce. “Now, Flamethrower and Drill Peck!”

“Try to dodge that and then give them a Take Down and Sludge, guys!”

Xatu spread its large wings and took flight. After a few tries, it was able to nail the floating purple orb with a direct hit from its fast-spinning beak. Meanwhile, Beldum found itself completely engulfed in a bright orange stream of flame emanating from Camerupt’s mouth. Lisa could only gasp and look on in concern as her two Pokémon fell to the ground.

“No! Are you guys okay?” she cried, frantically pulling at her dress and stockings. Both creatures eventually struggled back into contention, but the wear and tear of this lopsided contest could be seen in their battle scars and their heavy panting.

With a smirk, Bruce prepared to launch his next attacks. “Now, Camerupt, it’s Eruption time! Xatu, deliver a nice Psychic as well!”

“See if you can dodge that, you guys!” Lisa yelled, quite concerned that she was horribly outmatched here. Still, she could tell from her Pokémon’s expressions that they would not give up until the end. She began grabbing at her dress and her white pantyhose nervously.

The massive camel-like creature shot a huge burst of lava from its humps. The smoldering blast of fire struck both Koffing and Beldum. Lisa’s strategy of using Smog to ignite fire backfired this time, as the poisonous purple Pokémon couldn’t release the gaseous purple cloud in time. Instead, the explosion was triggered right in front of Lisa’s Pokémon, sending them hurtling right into Lisa and knocking the three of them to the ground as all three let out loud, pained cries.

They landed in a heap just as the enigmatic psychic bird launched its attack, distorting the air around the three of them right before telepathically lifting the two Pokémon. Koffing and Beldum, surrounded by a blue aura, were helpless as Xatu used its mystical powers to slam the both of them on the ground, barely missing Lisa’s outstretched leg.

After taking a moment to recover from being knocked down, Lisa picked herself up and called back her two Pokémon, sadly admitting defeat… again. “I’m sorry guys… I didn’t think I’d be up against someone this tough. You did your best, though…”

With a confident smile, Bruce called back his Pokémon, who appeared like they hadn’t broken a sweat. “And that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Heh.”

“Well, I suppose I can’t win them all,” she mumbled as she started to walk away, head hung low.

“Wait!” Bruce yelled. “Give them these!” he instructed, throwing Lisa two bottles of healing potion. One hit Lisa on the head, knocking her hat off.

“Sorry!” Lisa said as she picked up the potions and her hat off of the ground. “I never was any good at sports.” She quickly sprayed Koffing and Beldum’s Pokéballs with the potions.

Bruce had one final word of advice to Lisa. “You didn’t do too bad considering you were up against a trainer as strong as me. But you will need much more practice before you are ready for the Pokémon League. I suggest you practice and improve your skills. Farewell.”

Lisa watched as the strong trainer walked down the path in the direction she had come from. He had left before Lisa had a chance to thank him for the advice.

As Lisa continued down the path, rain started to fall, and quickly intensified into a fairly bad storm. The occasional cold wet droplet on Lisa’s face soon turned into a drenching downpour that had Lisa running as fast as her high heels could take her.

The crackling of lightning and booming thunder only persuaded her to run even faster. But the route ahead of her seemed to stretch forever. Lisa soon found herself soaking wet, her hat doing little to keep her dry. “Why did it have to rain now? Why couldn’t it have waited until I found someplace to crash?

To add insult to injury, Lisa realized that she had somehow ripped her pantyhose during one of her recent battles, perhaps while nervously fidgeting with her clothes. There was now a significant run that spanned most of the length of the right leg. “Oh, wonderful… Another pair ruined…

But the worst was yet to come. As she continued her blitz to the next town, the heel on her left shoe broke off and sent her falling into a big puddle of mud.

“Whoa! Ahhhh!”

The teen took a look at the dirty aftermath of her sudden fall. Her bright blue dress with its flower pattern was now simply a mass of slimy, sticky brown mud. She then heard the ominous noise of fabric ripping. “No… this can’t be happening…

“Oh, no!” Lisa started to cry, her brown eyes welling up with tears. “What else could go wrong today? My favorite outfit is ruined! Waaaaaah!” Knowing she had to get out of the mud, the girl got up to her feet. She trudged over and picked up her hat and bag, which had landed clear of the mud. Lisa put her hat into her bag, lest some other disaster happen to ruin it as well. Then she dropped to her knees and started sobbing once again. “My poor adorable outfit… I’m sorry… Why is this happening to me?

Lost in her own world of embarrassment and sorrow, Lisa never noticed the large figure casting a shadow over her cowering frame until its low, booming voice began to speak.

“Haha! Lookit the little crybaby! Aww, did Little Miss Perfect fall down and get herself dirty?” Lisa looked up and saw a rather tall Team Thrash Grunt standing above her, in their distinctive red attire. This one was wearing a black helmet that protected him from the torrential downpour. “I should just capture and eliminate you now, but I’ll let you go if you can beat me in a battle! I summon Poochyena and Grimer!”

Lisa got back up and her face turned red with anger, shoving the much larger Thrash member to the ground. “The last thing I need is to have to deal with you clowns! Beldum and Meowth, you’re up! Get him!” she hissed.

Meowth looked on trembling, a bit scared of her trainer’s look of rage. She stopped to shake the water off of her furry white coat. Beldum’s mysterious eye scanned Lisa and the grunt. The agent’s black wolf and purple mass of slime made the mistake of looking into the girl’s fiery eyes, and immediately began to cower. So did the thug after picking himself up. Perhaps he should have thought this through. But the match was called, and Lisa for one would see it through. The sizzling lightning and rumbling thunder off in the distance set the stage for the showdown.

“Uh… maybe this isn’t the best time…” the man stammered.

“You don’t know the half of it, buddy! Get them!” she snarled.

Both of Lisa’s Pokémon leapt into the fray, landing quick, strong blows without letting up. The opposing Pokémon attempted to use Tackle and Pound attacks to shake off Lisa’s Pokémon. After being struck by the physical tactics, Lisa’s two Pokémon did retreat from their foes, with the small cat switching to a long-range approach.

Meowth used a combo of Water Pulse followed quickly by Thunderbolt to electrically charge the watery attack and do extra damage to Poochyena. The heavy rain only intensified the effect of the soaking, sizzling attack. Howling in pain, the small wolf couldn’t begin to approach its feline adversary.

“Keep it up, guys! I want to finish this guy as quickly as possible!” After suffering repeated embarrassments, Lisa was ready to redeem herself. She had a look on her face that could scare even the most hardened criminal, and her opponent was too terrified to even issue a command. Instead, he took a step backward, his face frozen.

With a look of both fear and anger on her face, Meowth sprinted toward both foes and quickly slashed both. Beldum could also detect its trainer’s anger and quickly flung itself at the purple Grimer, knocking it back several feet. Because of the rain-slicked ground, it was propelled much farther than even the Steel-type aggressor predicted.

“Go, go, go!” Lisa shouted. “This guy picked the wrong person to mess with!”

Beldum continued repeatedly ramming into the living mass of purple slime, who could only counter with weak strikes with its slimy hand, which barely fazed the tough metallic Pokémon. With a look of desperation, it also tried completely useless Smog attacks, where the purple cloud simply hovered around the floating silver creature before dissipating in the heavy rain.

Meowth angrily taunted the gray wolf with her front paws, beckoning it to attack, almost as if asking, “You wanna piece of me?” Poochyena charged in at Meowth with its teeth ready to clamp down on the kitten, but Meowth stopped it in its tracks with a barrage of coins. While the opponent was still stunned, Meowth landed four more Fury Swipe slashes, causing the small gray wolf to faint. At the same time, Grimer finally succumbed as well to a final ramming attack from the silvery Pokémon.

Still soaking and muddy, Lisa angrily growled, “You don’t wanna mess with me right now.” Her fists were clenched and she looked ready to fight anyone who dared get in her way.

The grunt recalled his Pokémon and then turned tail and ran after getting a close look at the enraged teenage trainer. Bad guy or not, he knew better than to anger this girl even more. Lisa took off her remaining shoe and hurled it at the fleeing villain, but her throw ended up far short of its goal. Anger apparently does not make one a better football quarterback.

She let out a loud, deafening roar of anger and frustration before calling her Pokémon back and trudging on. Because there was now nothing protecting her feet except for a thin layer of nylon that was ripped in parts, Lisa could feel the “squish” of every step of the now muddy trail. But she would not risk walking in the grass and getting something sharp stuck in her feet.

Because of the heavy rain, the teen didn’t see much more of anyone, trainer or Pokémon. “Apparently everyone else was smart enough to stay indoors…” She did manage to see a few delicate white Wingull in the sky, one of which promptly left a messy white “gift” on her shoulder.

Why am I NOT surprised?

The trees were becoming more abundant as the path entered a forest of sorts. Not anything too dense, as the trees provided little cover from the intense rainfall. Night started to fall and once again Lisa was hunting frantically for a place to sleep. Seeing no sign of civilization, and becoming too exhausted to continue hiking, she eventually stopped for the night under a large tree that was located near the dirt path.

“Ugh… I CANNOT go any further! Where is the rest of civilized society?” she screamed at nobody in particular.

Of course, because she had not planned to ever have to camp, Lisa had no sleeping bag, so she had to lie directly on the soaked, muddy ground. Lisa absolutely hated camping out, and had avoided it entirely after a few days at summer camp about eight years ago. But now nature and circumstance forced her to do what she had thought she would never have to do again.

Sleep would not come easy. The thunder and lightning in the distance had little to do with it, though. The girl was completely unprepared for an endeavor such as sleeping outside in the elements. “Oh, how I wish for a Quality Inn right about now!” She tried to make herself comfortable at her makeshift camp, but Lisa failed miserably at doing so. She was cold, wet, and terrified to death that something would get at her. At fairly regular intervals, she would shriek things like, “What’s that noise?!” and “What’s crawling up my leg?!” Sometimes she would toss and turn fearfully.

At other times she would curl herself into a ball, bury her head into the tattered remains of her favorite dress, and sob hysterically. After hours of worry and panic, Lisa finally drifted off to sleep, literally crying herself to bed.

When Lisa woke up in the late morning, she found herself staring right into the cross-hatched grill, chrome bumper, and gold hood ornament of a late-80’s Chevrolet Caprice Classic! “Was it all a dream? Had I just imagined the whole Pokémon quest thing while working on my car? Did I even leave South Carolina?

The cold, wet clumps landing on Lisa’s face gave her the answer. No, it wasn’t a dream. This was all real. Although the storm had dissipated after she had fallen asleep, the rain was still coming down, albeit as a light drizzle as opposed to a full-on downpour. Lisa took a look at her clothes. Her dress was still as muddy as ever, attributed to her tossing and turning for most of the night. “But if this is all real, then why is my car right in front of me?” she wondered.

“Well, you’re finally awake,” said a brawny man with a handlebar moustache. In her groggy state, it took a minute for Lisa to realize that the man before her was Police Inspector Morgan, but with a new moustache.

“Oh, it’s you! Am I glad to see you here! The past day has been horrible!” Lisa exclaimed, now completely awake.

“Lisa, you look awful covered in mud! Come on, I’ll drive you to the next town so you can clean up and get out of those filthy clothes,” Morgan replied.

“Thanks a lot! I don’t know how to thank you,” Lisa murmured as she got herself up.

“That’s okay. Just let me put a cover on this seat.”

After Morgan placed a towel on the seat, Lisa sat down and closed the door. As soon as they started driving off, the rain subsided.

“NOW it stops raining. Go figure,” Lisa scoffed.

Lisa had a look at the dark gray interior of Morgan’s car. She suspected this one was his personal car, as it had the luxury LS Brougham trim package, with the plush velour seats and upgraded radio. The car was very similar to her second car except in color. Looking down at her ruined dress, she saw that some of the original color and pattern was showing through the caked-on mud. Unfortunately, there was also a fairly large tear in the dress as well.

As they proceeded to town, she needed to get the topic of her destroyed outfit out of her mind. Lisa talked at length about her two cars with Morgan, who seemed to have similar tastes in automobiles.

“You know, I have a car that’s almost exactly like this one back home,” Lisa said. “Well, mine’s dark burgundy, but it’s got the LS Brougham package and everything.”

Morgan let out a hearty laugh. “I never expected someone your age to be interested in old cars like these. Most of these young kids, they want the small sporty cars.”

“Ugh, no way! I can’t picture driving something like that! I need my acres of room and my smooth ride and my V-8 power!”

“This here’s an ’88 model. What year is yours, Lisa?”

“I’ve got an ’89. Mostly the same as yours. I believe the main difference is that I’ve got the fuel-injected V-8. In ’88 it still had carburetion.”

“Well, the V-6 in 1988 had the fuel injection.”

“Yeah,” Lisa responded, “but who in their right mind buys a Caprice with a V-6?”

Both the girl and the police inspector shared a laugh. “Anyway, Lisa, how did you get your car?”

“It used to be my parents’ car. But when they heard that GM was canceling their full-size cars in ’96, they rushed out and bought a Buick Roadmaster Estate wagon, and that became their main car. But they couldn’t bear to get rid of the Caprice, so they gave it to me, even though I was only five at the time. Funny thing is, I still won’t be old enough to drive until next May!”

Inspector Morgan laughed. “Hey, it’s never too early to get a start on a car collection! Well, you may have noticed how a good number of our patrol cars in this region are older.”

The girl nodded. Morgan continued, “A few years ago, our region’s police department had a vote whether to switch to Chevy Impala police cruisers or keep our current fleet and restore them. There was only one guy who voted for the switch. The rest of us realized that a fleet of old, V-8 – powered police cars could beat a V-6 – powered one any day of the week.”

“Amen to that!” Lisa said.

“Probably the stupidest decision GM ever made was their decision to cancel their full-size cars in ’96. That left Ford wide open to take over the police car market, and if Chevy thinks their ‘Wimpala’ is gonna keep up, they’re in for a rude awakening.”

‘You know, that’s exactly what my parents said when they bought the Buick wagon. It’s a pretty nice wagon, and I wouldn’t mind owning a car like that someday.”

The trip wasn’t too terribly long, but Lisa would not have been able to make it in one go on the previous night. Their talk about cars helped the miles go by faster.

After dropping her off at the Pokémon Center in Northwood City, Morgan told Lisa, “Sorry I can’t stick around, but I’ve got to train some officers in the next city down the road. I’ll see you later!” As Lisa got out of the car, Morgan warned her, “Um, Lisa, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but… you’ve got a hole on the back of your dress and parts of your panties are showing.”

A panicked Lisa immediately slammed both hands over the hole in an attempt to “cover her rear,” so to speak. “Oh, no! I’ve go to go! Thanks again for giving me a lift, though!” she called out before Morgan drove off in his gray sedan with matching gray vinyl roof cover.

The girl dashed into the building as fast as she could. Before even checking her Pokémon in, Lisa, hands still firmly on her rear end, sprinted upstairs to shower and change clothes, yelling, “Sorry, gotta change first!” Lisa put on her frilly pink dress with the purple, orange, and red floral print. She had to put on her last pair of dress shoes and her last pair of white pantyhose.

Her other dress had gotten ripped up pretty badly when she fell, so cleaning it could not save it. Lisa reluctantly had to throw out what had been her favorite dress and outfit, wiping a few tears from her face while doing so. Lisa’s mind began to wander, thinking about her recent past.

I got that dress as a college graduation gift about two years ago, and I actually wore it on stage when I graduated…. It’s the end of an era… my beautiful dress… Even after two years, it still fit me perfectly. It was the cutest dress ever made, but it’s now gone…

Finally regaining her composure, Lisa put on a windbreaker-type jacket on over her dress. The jacket was purple with a small orange paw logo embroidered on the right side. Lisa then made her way down to the nurses’ station. She handed over her Pokéballs, telling the thin male nurse, “Please have a look at my Pokémon, although they haven’t battled in a while. In fact, they’re probably better off than I am right now.” Leaving her Pokémon in the care of the attendant, she walked to the Target down the street to buy some clothes and other accessories.
******

“Is everything set for the invasion tomorrow?” Tommy asked into his cell phone. He was standing in the orange-roofed lobby of the Howard Johnson that Lisa had stayed in the night before.

A woman’s voice on the other end answered, “Yes, hon. We’ve got about twenty agents on standby at our motel. But is it wise for us to be the only two with Pokémon?”

Tommy let out an annoyed huff. “The other agents have guns. If things go south, just command them to open fire. But let them know they’re not to fire a shot without you giving them the go-ahead. Boss’s orders. Frankly, I don’t know why he’s taking so many precautions. If it were up to me, I’d just enter with guns blazing.”

Another voice, this one male, answered. “I think it is some liability issue. He probably does not want to draw undue attention to our operations.”

“It’s a little late for that!” the old man bellowed. “We’re already all over the damn news, and this operation tomorrow is hardly gonna be low-key. I swear, that man might be my son, but sometimes his decisions absolutely baffle me!”

“Look, calm down,” came the woman’s voice. “We have everything under control. We received the blueprints you faxed to us, and we’re planning our invasion now. Besides, he’s the great leader, and we both have faith that his decisions are the right ones that will lead us to salvation.”

“Yeah, whatever… just make sure you do not fail.” With that, Tommy ended his call, but immediately began dialing another number. He began talking as he walked out of the lobby of the motor lodge.

“It’s me. Everything is set for the big invasion tomorrow. Our agents are in place and ready to strike.”

“Excellent. After Arton’s failure in Greenville City, it is vitally important that this not fail. Fortunately, our bank heist provided us with additional capital to fund our future research, so the impact of the loss of our casino will be lessened. And I am hoping that our take from this invasion will further improve our financial standing. We need that funding before we can even consider dispatching Skrub.”

“Understood. The top agents in charge have assured me that they can handle the Northwood girl in battle. Plus, they will have armed reinforcements.”

“Let us hope that is, in fact, the case. You will be held responsible for the success or failure of this operation. That is all.”

As Tommy clicked his phone shut, he muttered, “I’ll be held responsible! How the hell am I responsible if those two idiots screw up?”

Chapter 14: A Corporate Affair

Now all cleaned up, Lisa took to the streets of the big city, looking to buy a new dress that even vaguely matched her ill-fated blue one. She walked down the main road into town, passing row upon row of motels, specialty shops, restaurants, and gas stations. It was certainly a busy part of town, with cars constantly pulling in and out of parking lots and cruising down the six-lane thoroughfare. In the distance, huge skyscrapers loomed. Finally, Lisa found the plaza where the local Target was located, and quickly rushed into the entrance underneath the huge red bullseye logo.

Walking back to the girl’s apparel section, Lisa couldn’t believe what she saw. There, right in front of her, was a blue dress with a purple and green floral print. It was identical to the dress that she had just ruined on the last route! Everything was the same, right down to the decorative tie ribbon on the back and the frilly trim on the bottom of the skirt. On another rack, she also found a green cardigan that closely matched her old one.

Wow! I can’t believe it! This is exactly like my old one! How do you figure I stumble across it here?! Maybe my luck is finally improving...

While in the store, she also picked up a red blouse, a purple frilly skirt, and some dress shoes. She got a pair of black strappy heels with open toes, as well as a pair of flat shoes, colored white. Lisa picked up as many pairs of white pantyhose she could find, as well as a small collapsible parasol, in case she got caught in the rain again.

Outside, the girl noticed a huge crowd had gathered. She noticed that the Target store was flanked by a Lowe’s and CarQuest auto parts store among other businesses, and that the NASCAR race cars sponsored by those three businesses – the Target #41, Lowe’s #48, and CarQuest #5 – were on display in the parking lot, apparently arriving after she started shopping. Lisa was able to get photos of her taken with all three cars on her digital camera.

These will look great in my photo album! Okay, after the disaster that was yesterday, things are starting to look up now...

Lisa returned to the edge of the commercial district to pick up her Pokémon from the Pokémon Center. Then she went in search of a place to spend the night. That didn’t take very long. She quickly decided on the Quality Suites Airport, a huge, eight-story hotel with a façade of glass and brick, which was located not far from the Pokémon Center. The front of the hotel boasted a dramatic white water fountain. Once inside, Lisa was welcomed by a beautifully appointed lobby.

An impressive-looking, though still faux, chandelier hung from the lobby’s high ceiling. A large wood table, plush velvet couch, and several thickly upholstered chairs and recliners surrounded a warm brick fireplace. Elegant red velvet curtains decorated the large windows that looked out into the parking lot. The front desk itself was made of beautiful mahogany wood, with the top surface finished in granite with elegant gold leaf trim throughout. On the wall behind the desk, the words “Quality Suites Airport” were spelled out in gold letters. On either side of the nameplate were plaques announcing the numerous awards the hotel had received.

The clerk greeted Lisa with a friendly smile. “Hello, and welcome to the Quality Suites Airport, the only hotel in town owned and operated by Northwood Industries International. Our suites are $159.99 a night and… wait, aren’t you Lisa, the daughter of our CEO?”

“Yes, I am,” Lisa replied, showing the young woman her ID.

“Excellent! I thought you looked familiar! Remember me? I’m Nicole Rozzelle, I used to be a secretary at your dad’s office back in South Carolina!”

“Hey! I was wondering what happened to you! Good to see you again! How have you been?”

“Well, you certainly meet a lot of interesting people working at a place like this. Not so much trainers – our rates are a little high for most of them to afford. But, yeah, I’m doing pretty good. And you? Looks like your folks have got you training Pokémon now!”

“Yeah,” Lisa answered. “I probably wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t for them, but I’m slowly getting the hang of things.”

“That’s always good to hear. Keep at it! Well, since you’re related to top management, we can give you a room at half price. It’ll only be $79.99 for you!”

“Thanks! I certainly wasn’t expecting such a nice discount… or such a nice hotel!” Lisa was completely surprised at her changed luck.

Nicole continued, “Your room is 415. Here is your card, and please let us know if there is anything we can do to make your stay more pleasant. Enjoy your stay, Lisa!”

“Thank you very much,” answered Lisa as she made her way to the elevators. She then saw a poster on the wall of the lobby, reading, “Karaoke Night and ‘80’s Party Tomorrow Night! Located inside the hotel’s lobby lounge.”

“Oh, sweet! I am SO there tomorrow night!”

Beyond the lobby was a huge, spacious atrium. Bright and airy, it included a restaurant, tropical plants and palm trees, and plenty of seating areas. The beautiful glass elevators afforded an excellent view of the entire atrium setting. Lisa headed up to her suite, a true two-room unit that was the size of two standard hotel rooms. The “living room/kitchen” featured a kitchenette, small table with four chairs, a cordless phone, large 32” TV, a DVD/VCR combo unit, two recliners, a sofa bed, and a stereo. The main bedroom featured a king-size bed, desk with PC, another TV, and another phone.

She set her belongings and new purchases on the bed, then set out food for her Pokémon before letting all of them out to eat. Beldum refused to touch the food, so Spheal simply ate its share. Lisa had noticed before where Beldum would only eat the gourmet Pokémon food that she saved for special occasions. Lisa told them, “Hey guys, just so you know, yesterday was really bad, so if I did anything to anger or frighten you, I’m sorry. I really am…”

Koffing asked, “What’s she talking about?”

Meowth answered, “She ran into quite a bit of trouble yesterday, and for a while she really lost her temper. I’ll admit it – I was scared for awhile…”

Beldum added, “Aggression level forty-six percent higher than normal during the previous battle…”

“This does concern me…” the Poison-type said, a hint of fear in her voice.

“I don’t think it’ll be too much to worry about…” The cat Pokémon attempted to reassure her partner. “This is the first time she’s ever gotten this angry, and she really was having a rough time. She was covered in mud, there were tears in her eyes… Besides, she seemed really apologetic just a few minutes ago. And she never took it out on us, just on that guy that tried to take advantage of her. Though her voice sounded terrifying.”

“Yeah, you do have a point there… And as long as she wasn’t mad at us… Well, hopefully, she won’t turn out bad like my last trainer.”

“You keep mentioning your last trainer. Care to explain?” asked Trapinch, who had been listening intently up until this point.

“No… I’d rather not…” Koffing mumbled.

“That’s okay. I understand. Sorry for bringing it up.”

“No, don’t worry about it. It’s okay. I was the one who mentioned it in the first place.”

Trapinch added, “As for my opinion on the girl losing her temper, those things do happen to everyone, even us. One outburst doesn’t mean she’s a bad person.”

Meowth said, “I know. I was absolutely furious when that Pikachu blasted me with its electricity. I would’ve ripped its head off except that it did help me gain the use of electricity. Anyway, I’m getting off topic. Considering the circumstances, I really can’t hold this little outburst against Lisa. but what about you, Beldum?”

“I do not believe it to be an issue that will adversely affect me or my companions…” the floating silver Pokémon droned.

“What’s Spheal’s take on this whole situation?” asked Trapinch.

“Who knows? He fell asleep right after eating.” the kitten scoffed.

Koffing let out a loud yawn. “He might have the right idea, though. I need some sleep!”

After eating, her Pokémon were ready to sleep, so Lisa summoned them back into their Pokéballs to let them rest. “You did real good the past couple of days, guys,” Lisa said quietly before leaving the room to eat. She had not eaten in a long time and was ready for a good meal.

Lisa chose the upscale restaurant within the hotel, which her father had obviously named after her. After enjoying a great dinner of fried shrimp and fries at “Lisa’s Restaurant,” Lisa was ready to turn in for the night. She decided that tomorrow she would stop by the company headquarters to pick up her sister before heading to the gym. Then tomorrow night she would get her ‘80’s groove on in the hotel’s club. She settled in to the wonderfully soft pillow-top king bed, easily the best bed she had ever slept in. “This bed is awesome! I love it! This definitely makes up for last night.

Come morning, though, Lisa would regret her procrastination...

In the morning, Lisa threw on the pink floral dress she had put on the previous day, along with her hat, white pantyhose, and the strappy black dress shoes she bought yesterday. While eating a hot made-to-order breakfast in the lobby she caught a news report.

“In a breaking news story, armed men have taken over the Northwood Industries International complex in Northwood City...”

Team Thrash... don’t those losers ever give up?” Lisa thought to herself. Before even finishing her breakfast, Lisa sprinted out the door and toward her parents’ company. On the way, she reached into her bag and replaced her dress shoes with her white ballet-style slippers, as they would make less noise while sneaking around the facility.

Approaching the complex, Lisa noticed a guard standing watch outside. She used her phone to call the police and have them make arrests after she got inside. Afterward, the girl called forth Meowth and prepared to have her take out the guard.

“This time, it’s personal. Let’s get dangerous. Okay, on my word, let’s hit him with a Water Pulse charged with Thunderbolt. Ready? Go!”

“Meow meow!”

The tiny cat Pokémon unleashed a stream of water, then hit the water with electrical sparks, causing the water to crackle and flash with lightning. The attack struck the guard and knocked him cold. She looked around and discovered that there was not a police officer in sight. “Weird… I know Morgan’s in the next town over, so I’m not expecting him, but there has to be some reason why there’s no officers here.

A bit concerned, Lisa called the police. “Hey, I don’t see any officers outside the Northwood headquarters. I’ve knocked out the guard at the entrance to the building so it should be safe for your officers to enter now.”

The dispatcher answered, “I know. But we’ve got a bit of a dilemma. Most of our officers are dealing with a hostage situation across town. Officer Hauston is the only one close enough to respond. We’re dispatching him now.”

“Okay, I’ll meet him inside.” But the girl thought, “Why would that other situation take precedence? This one’s all over the news, and I would think there would be more captives here than at the other location. Something’s fishy…

Lisa and Meowth made their way past the stunned guard and into the building. There, right in the lobby, stood a large group of Team Thrash agents, along with a man and woman who appeared to be calling the shots. He wore a black suit with bright red shirt and tie. He was also decked out in a top hat and monocle, completing his look of wealth and sophistication. She was wearing an elegant, flowing white gown and a silver tiara. She also wore frilly white lace gloves on her hands. Both had blond hair and looked to be in their early thirties.

The thugs had gathered all of the employees and tied them up. They were all seated on the floor, scattered about the lobby, with an armed guard always nearby. Then Lisa spotted her little sister, Lindsay. The nine-year-old girl was tied up just like the employees. She was wearing a white sweater, red plaid skirt, and red tights. She saw Lisa and called out, “Big sis! Help us! These people are threatening to kill us all!”

“Don’t worry. Their days are over!” Lisa announced.

Just then, the agents took notice of the intruder. The two leaders approached Lisa. The woman was the first to speak, in a relaxed Southern drawl. “My, aren’t we the rude little thing? A little girl in a cute pink dress should not be so brash. I am Jane. And this is my husband, Justin. We fight for the Brotherhood because we believe our leader will lead the world to salvation once he is ruler. It will be a new perfect society without any of the flaws that are oh so prevalent in this modern society. Even though you are a darling little girl, I am afraid we cannot allow you to interfere with destiny. In fact, it will be impossible for you to stand against us when all is said and done. But, alas, you have already given up your chance to join our cause. So, we are left with no option but to exterminate you like the annoying little pest you are.”

In a haughty British accent, Justin continued, “Right! So, bring it on! We’ll show you Double Battle moves that’ll knock you over! Ready? We call forth Manectric and Gyarados!”

Jane tossed a Pokéball into battle, revealing a large wolf-like creature. The yellow chunk of fur on its sides contrasted with the blue fur that covered most of the rest of its body. On top of the creature’s head was a mass of yellow fur that converged to a point at its tip. It barked loudly, its mesmerizing red eyes locked on Lisa. Justin called out an all too familiar creature, the angry blue sea monster. It let out a deafening roar, swinging its serpentine, finned tail wildly about. Its white underside and fins almost glowed under the light in the room.

“Oh, is that all? Come forth, Meowth and Beldum! Let’s get this started!”

Lisa’s small cat Pokémon let out a loud “Meow!”, her gold charm shimmering under the light. The little creature extended a set of razor-sharp claws from both of her front paws, and began to taunt her much larger foes while standing upright on her two large hind feet. The kitten’s tail moved from side to side as she awaited the showdown to begin.

The glittering silver machine-like Pokémon hovered a few feet above the ground, its white claws facing Lisa while its glowing red eye scanned both foes in front of it. It let out a low, monotone “Beldum,” seemingly indicating it would cooperate, as its preliminary scan indicated these to be worthy opponents.

“Oh, darlings, let’s commence this battle with a little Tackle action, teehee!” Jane tittered.

Both foes attacked with powerful charging attacks that knocked over both of Lisa’s Pokémon. Undaunted, both Meowth and Beldum got right back up and struck back at Manectric with their Fury Swipes and Take Down attacks.

“Okay, we need to get rid of that Manectric before we can launch any electrical strikes at Gyarados. So, let’s knock it out with Take Down and Water Pulse now!”

Meowth struck first, knocking the electrical wolf Pokémon back with a powerful blast of water. Manectric stumbled around a bit, then unleashed an electrical attack. But the attack ended up coming right back down, striking itself. After being hit with its own attack, its movements began to slow significantly as it glanced around the room in a daze. Gyarados used its huge tail to protect Manectric from Beldum’s attack, knocking the metallic Pokémon backwards.

“It really is a bloody shame that you oppose us, since I do believe you would make a fine addition to our ranks. Perhaps I can convince you to reconsider. It is not too late.” Justin adjusted his monocle before letting out another smug, arrogant laugh.

“I don’t think so!” Lisa hissed at her well-dressed foes.

“Oh, you are not half as nice as your cute outfit would suggest! Therefore, I see no reason to let up on you.” Jane crossed her arms and sulked at Lisa.

Manectric attempted to charge in at Meowth, but its movements were sluggish and Beldum had plenty of time to ram the disabled electric wolf at full speed. The creature fell on its side and took several seconds to right itself, during which time the kitten pelted it with shining silver coins.

“I think that Manectric’s paralyzed. Let’s take full advantage. Meowth, use Pay Day, then accelerate the coins with Water Pulse. Aim right for Manectric. Beldum, you go up and use Take Down on Gyarados’ head.”

The injured Manectric could not jump out of the way of the incoming barrage of water and coins from Meowth. The force behind the attack was enough to knock the wolf to the ground, and it was slow to stand back up. Beldum floated up and landed a hard hit to Gyarados’ angry-looking face. The vicious sea serpent responded by chomping down on its foe’s glittery, silver body with its sharp fangs.

Gyarados let out another roar, and storm clouds began to fill the lobby of the office building. Everybody in the room, captured employees and Thrash underlings alike, looked up in awe and confusion at the sudden indoor downpour. Lisa pulled out her newly purchased purple parasol just as rain began to fall…on the inside of the building. Jane did the same with a huge frilly pink parasol.

“Like our Rain Dance? It’s the crux of our battle plan and I doubt you can overcome it. Now, it’s the end of you, sweetie!” Jane announced. “Manectric, honey? Time to lay some Thunder down.”

Calmly, Justin ordered, “Now, Gyarados, use Water Pulse.” The thin, sophisticated man adjusted his monocle once again before letting out a hearty laugh.

Gyarados spit out a stream of water while Manectric released a shot of lightning from the top of its head. The lightning was absorbed into the clouds above, before a huge yellow blast of electricity came crashing down on Beldum from above. Both attacks struck Beldum head-on while Lisa looked on with fear and concern.

“Oh, no, that looked like a harsh hit! You okay, Beldum?!” Lisa cried, nervously fidgeting with her dress. When the smoke from the attacks cleared, Beldum was glowing a bright white. When the blinding light died down, Lisa saw that her Pokémon had grown in size. Still the same color, it now had a well-defined head and two arms coming out of its underside, both resembling Beldum’s form, sans the eyes. The Pokémon’s head consisted of two mysterious red eyes and a silver spike that resembled a nose. The general shape of the creature resembled a stereotypical UFO with two appendages. This newly evolved Pokémon waved one of its arms in a taunting manner.

The Pokédex booted up. “Metang, the Iron Claw Pokémon: Metang uses its telekinetic energy to stay afloat. It possesses the brainpower of two Beldum. It has picked up the attacks Confusion and Metal Claw.”

Now excited, Lisa shouted, “All right! Go, Metang! Let’s show these punks who’s boss! Confusion, now! And Meowth, keep blasting Manectric with Water Pulse!”

“What the bloody hell?! Gyarados, use Water Pulse!”

“Oh, boo! Finish them off with Thunder!”

Metang avoided Water Pulse and unleashed a wave of energy that distorted the nearby air, as well as blasting the mighty blue beast with unseen mental energy. Meowth launched a Water Pulse at Manectric as it summoned another huge bolt of electricity aimed at Meowth. Both attacks hit their respective targets, but the yellow and blue wolf howled in pain as it succumbed to the watery onslaught. Meanwhile, Meowth was able to harness the electricity and fire a Thunderbolt of its own at Gyarados. That was also enough to defeat the rampaging serpent.

“Oh, you rude, rude little child! Pikachu, come forth!” Jane twirled around once before sending out her next Pokémon.

“Get them, Mantine!” Justin simply heaved his Pokéball into the fray, rain still beating down on the lobby turned battlefield.

The two of them sent out a dark blue flying stingray Pokémon and a small yellow rodent that Lisa was all too familiar with. The winged creature flapped its large appendages, revealing a light gray underside and a small blue fish Pokémon attached to one of the wings. Its huge tail fin billowed gracefully behind it. Its diminutive partner began emitting small sparks from the red dots on either side of its face while wagging its lightning-bolt shaped tail playfully. Try as it might, the little rat did not come across as intimidating, even in the hands of high-ranking officials.

Meowth and Metang immediately launched Thunderbolt and Confusion attacks at Mantine, who countered with a powerful stream of bubbles that knocked the mysterious machine backward. The yellow rodent zapped Meowth with more electricity, who, in turn, gave it back to the large aquatic Pokémon in a powerful bolt of bright yellow electricity. Mantine cried out in anguish, this attack delivering the pain right where it hurt.

Lisa smirked. “You fools. Your strategy is a joke and your training is insufficient. Allow me to show you just how much it affects your probability of victory. Now, hit Mantine with everything you got, guys!”

“Bah! Have you no honor?” asked Justin.

The dark blue stingray managed to fly up and avoid both attacks before spitting a final stream of round, clear bubbles at Metang, finally doing it in. The machine plummeted to the floor with a crash, as Lisa cringed.

“Metang! No! I won’t let you win!” Lisa declared. She reached for Metang’s Pokéball. “Good job, Metang,” Lisa whispered as she withdrew her silver machine-like Pokémon in a flash of red light. “But now, it’s Koffing’s turn to join the party!”

The floating orb of poison let loose puffs of smoke from her expandable body before launching a heaping pile of purple goop at the large winged creature. The slimy substance splattered over Gyarados’ face, temporarily blinding it.

“You are the light of my life, Pikachu! Thunder!” Jane commanded.

“Chuuuu!” The powerful electrical strike emanated from the storm clouds above, and came down on the cat Pokémon hard, as Lisa’s eyes grew very wide with worry and panic. Koffing shot some poison at the rat, but the agile yellow Pokémon easily avoided the hit. It countered by striking Koffing with another devastating Thunder.

“No! Are you all right, guys?” Both Pokémon got back up and indicated that they were still good to go. “We can’t keep taking hits like that! All right, let’s deal with Mantine first, then we can exterminate the rat!”

Lisa’s Pokémon hit Mantine one last time with a heaping pile of poison and a strong electrical shock, and it came crashing to the ground.

As Mantine was recalled by the British chap, the rain and storm clouds subsided.

“Oh, you are SO nasty, little girl No matter though, my little sweetie-pie Pikachu will teach you that lesson you so desperately need!”

Pikachu enveloped its small body in a layer of electrical pulses before charging in at Meowth, delivering some serious shock treatment. This time, the hit was too strong for the tiny kitten to endure. Pikachu looked on, arrogantly smiling and flipping off the fainted Meowth.

“No, Meowth!” Lisa screamed, as she called her back. “I’m sorry. I’ll make it up after we get out of here.” Grabbing another Pokéball, Lisa pitched Trapinch into the battle. “Use Dig and Sand Tomb to trap Pikachu! It will pay!”

The small orange Pokémon quickly snapped its jaws furiously at the yellow rodent, who continued to mock Lisa.

Trapinch dug a hole in the floor of the lobby and started to create a cyclone of sand that headed straight for Pikachu.

“Sorry about that hole in the floor. Put it on my tab,” Lisa said to two employees in back of her.

Pikachu was pulled in to the spinning Sand Tomb despite its best attempts to outrun the attack. With the electric rodent trapped in a vortex of blowing sand, Trapinch drew the swirling cyclone and Pikachu closer and closer to the hole that she was hiding herself in. Pikachu eventually disappeared into the hole. After a few more seconds, Trapinch came flying straight up from the hole, sending Pikachu flying, then crashing to the floor. Pikachu struggled to get up, but a final volley of poisonous slime from Koffing sealed its fate.

Calling back her Pokémon, Lisa bragged, “Looks like Y’ALL are at the end of your ropes. ‘Tis a BLOODY shame, isn’t it?” But Lisa was all too aware that her Pokémon were in need of medical attention.

Jane recalled Pikachu before making some idle threats. “Fine. So we lost. This is only a minor setback. You cannot change destiny. That is what our leader has promised all who follow him. And we will stop at nothing to make sure the prophecy of the great Lord Hirojuto is fulfilled!”

Justin continued the rant. “We will arm ourselves with even more powerful Pokémon and technology! And you don’t want to know what sort of technology our R&D department is coming up with. It’s almost too scary, even for us. We must be departing, but you will see us again. And next time, we shall emerge victorious. Remember that fact!”

The two of them beat a hasty retreat. The subordinates pulled out their guns, but seemed torn between opening fire and following their leaders. Police sirens in the distance helped them make their decision, as they dashed out of the building ahead of the patrol cars.

As Lisa started to free the employees, Officer Hauston finally showed up. Lisa went over to talk with him, Meowth and Lindsay in tow. “What took you so long? All of the Thrash members escaped! And I’ve gotta get to the Pokémon Center!” she screamed. The girl was livid. “There’s no reason he had to take so long to get here!

“Sorry about that. I had car trouble, so I had to wait for a dispatcher to send someone with a new patrol car before I could come here. But I had to wait for the hostage situation to end before someone could be sent,” was his frank reply.

“How did that other incident turn out?” asked Lisa, raising one of her eyebrows as if she suspected something.

“Um…I heard that they were finally able to talk the man into surrendering to officers and releasing his two kids. We have local officers questioning him now.”

Impatiently tapping her feet, Lisa quickly said, “Well, I suppose there’s nothing for you to do but to get witness statements. I have to get going, so I’ll give you the rundown. The two in charge of this invasion were named Jane and Justin. Accompanying them were about twenty other agents. They challenged me to a Pokémon battle. The water damage here was caused by a Rain Dance attack and I kinda had one of my Pokémon dig that hole over there.”

“I see. Where do you anticipate going next?” asked the officer, his notepad at the ready.

“Well, I figure I’ll beat the Gym Leader, then rest here tonight, then head east the next morning,” Lisa answered hastily, nervously fidgeting. “My Pokémon need medical attention! I don’t have time for this!

“Okay, thanks for your time,” Hauston replied.

Lindsay spoke up. “Wow, big sis! You were great! Maybe someday I can become a great trainer like you!”

“Well, I’m not that great… but I just couldn’t let those guys take over the company. After all, Mom and Dad built this corporation up to what it is today. All right, let’s get going. My Pokémon really need to be checked out at the Pokémon Center.”

“Wait, Lisa!” An employee stopped her. “Please, take this as thanks for helping us out.”

“Sorry, but I’ll have to come back after I get my Pokémon back to health! Come on, Lindsay; let’s get to the center. I have to make sure my Pokémon are okay.”

“Gotcha, sis!”

Lisa and her sister barged in the local Pokémon Center. “Hey, my Pokémon just had a tough battle against some Thrash bosses. Please let me know if they’ll be okay.”

The nurse examined the Pokémon and answered, “We’ll have to send your Meowth and Metang to our special care unit, but I think they should be just fine.”

“Thank you. May I… may I watch to make sure?”

“Sorry, but for security reasons, we can’t let trainers in the medical unit. You’ll have to wait out here.”

“Okay…” Lisa sighed. For the next two hours, Lisa paced back and forth, her Pokémon firmly in her thoughts. “I think they’ll be okay, but what if they’re not? Oh, no, what if something happened to them? I…I couldn’t handle that… No, they WILL recover! They have to! They…must make it out okay…They…they have to…

Lindsay wasn’t sure what to make of her sister’s actions, but she figured it was best not to interfere. She remained silent.

The nurse came back to the desk and Lisa ran to her. “Are they okay?” she whimpered quietly.

“They’re just fine.” the nurse answered, handing Lisa back her Pokéballs.

“Oh, I’m so relieved! Thank you!” Lisa waved as she and Lindsay made their way out of the center.

Lisa made her way back to the company headquarters as she promised, where the grateful employees were waiting. Staffers were just beginning a long cleanup process, the entrance still looking like a war zone. Officer Hauston had long since left. An older man in a business approached Lisa. The man handed Lisa a Pokéball. “Go ahead, open it.”

Lisa released the Pokémon, revealing a little brown Pokémon with a fluffy tail. It had pointed ears and a big puffy white “collar” of fur around its neck. Looking up to Lisa with its big brown eyes, it shyly let out a meek, “Eeev?”

“Aw, it’s an Eevee! So cute! I… Whoaaa!” Lisa then tripped backwards, hitting a table. The impact caused a yellow stone to fall from the table and bonk Eevee on the head.

“Oh, no, I…”

Lisa then saw the Pokémon start to glow white, transforming into a much larger yellow Pokémon. Its ears were now more pointed, and its entire body was covered with pointed, bristly fur. Even the white collar around its neck was now spiky in appearance. It now looked at Lisa with its sleek, mesmerizing black eyes, its fur sparking with a bit of static electricity. It cried out “Jolllt!” with a good deal more confidence than it had before getting beamed on the skull with the yellow rock. Lisa booted up the Pokédex.

“Jolteon, the Lightning Pokémon. Jolteon’s fur is capable of absorbing a great deal of electricity, then shooting it out at foes.”

“Geez, looks like I inadvertently evolved that one. Oh well…Welcome to the team, Jolteon!” Lisa got off of the floor and called her new electric Pokémon back to its Pokéball as Lindsay looked on.

“Smooth move, sis,” she snickered as Lisa rubbed her aching shoulder.

Then the two sisters headed to the Quality Suites. They made their way through the spacious atrium and up to their roomy fourth floor hotel suite and turned on the TV. Lisa happened to catch it at just the right time.

“Attention Northwood City citizens and visitors: Due to the incident at the Northwood headquarters today, Gym Leader Bernie will not be accepting challenges today. And we would like to thank the daughter of Northwood’s president for battling the invading Team Thrash bosses and freeing the hostages.”

“Wow, Lisa! You were mentioned on the news!”

“Thanks, but... I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to challenge Bernie. Oh, well, might as well take a walk. But first, Lindsay, how did you get out of having to go to school?”

“Well, I decided to transfer to Fort Barnes so I could take the Pokémon training qualifying exams, like you did after graduating college. Unlike you, though, I don’t plan on waiting five years before finally starting! Anyway, both Mom and Dad thought it would be a good idea to tag along with you to get a feel for how it works.”

“Okay, makes sense… I guess. Well, let’s get going.” Lisa still wasn’t sure what kind of strings her parents pulled to get Lindsay out of school.

The girls left their room and headed out of the hotel’s front door. Outside, Lisa called out all of her Pokémon. Then she found a passerby to take a picture of her, Lindsay, and all of her Pokémon under the large green sign that read, “Quality Suites Northwood Airport”. After the picture was taken, Lisa noticed a large group gathered around a battle in the parking lot of a hotel called the Wellesley Inn across the street.

“Wow, Linds, wonder what’s going on over there.”

“Well, let’s go and see!” Lindsay shouted, pulling her sister by the hand.

She called back all of her Pokémon except Meowth and headed over to the large crowd. There, she saw the final strike of a battle between a young man her age and a mysterious figure wearing a black cloak and holding a red scepter. A massive dinosaur-like blue Pokémon with a horn on its head and a gray saddle on its back fired an icy blast at a Pidgeotto, causing the unfortunate brown winged creature to come crashing down to the parking lot, missing a older brown parked car by inches.

The young guy recalled his Pidgeotto. Lisa was able to identify the other Pokémon as Lapras before the masked figure recalled it. “Lapras: The transport Pokémon: Lapras was once popular prey for hunters, but now they are protected and their population is on the increase again.”

Lisa also identified the parked car as an ultra rare 1975 Mercury Grand Monarch Ghia. She breathed a sigh of relief. “A car that rare doesn’t come by every day!” She quickly ran over and started snapping pictures of the vintage four-door sedan with its distinctly pointed front end and well-defined front fenders.

Unseen by the distracted young girl, the shadowy figure spoke in an unusually deep voice. “You have potential but you must continue to hone your skills to become a true master. Farewell and good luck.” The mysterious man threw up a smoke veil and disappeared.

As the crowd dispersed, the teen who had lost the battle approached Lisa and Lindsay. He tapped the pink clad trainer as she was fawning over the car’s sculpted front end. “Hey, you’re the girl who helped drive Thrash out of town! My name’s Marvin Excellus and I was wondering if you would like to join me for lunch?” The boy had short brown hair and was dressed in a red hoodie and baggy jeans. He flashed a quick smile at Lisa.

“Okay, sure,” Lisa answered, looking a bit vacant. She started to think, “He’s kinda cute,” when Lindsay yelled out.

“Hey! Don’t be spacing out like that! You know what I mean!” She glared at her older sibling, with both hands on her hips.

“Okay, fine...” the teen muttered. Already her little sister was getting annoying.

At the restaurant, Lisa asked Marvin, “Who was that strange trainer?”

“I’m not sure, but he might have been the mystic trainer Yggdrasill.”

Lisa thought, “I know I’ve heard that name on Ah My Goddess and Tales Of Symphonia, but...

The two people at the next booth over turned around and said, “Perhaps we can fill you in.”

Lisa recognized one of the men, the muscular dark-skinned one dressed in red, as Gym Leader Bernie, but she didn’t know the old bald guy.

Bernie spoke up. “Ah! Lisa! Marvin! Fancy meeting you here. Oh yeah, this is the local historian, Neil Miche.”

The well-dressed Neil started, “Before I can talk about the mystic trainer, I wish to first explain the history of the Pokémon League here. This is the youngest of all the regional Pokémon Leagues. This region never had a large enough population to support a Pokémon League until the early 1970’s. For our league, we tried a couple things different. First, we established ten gyms, in contrast to the eight gyms in other regions. This was due to the fact that this region is more compacted than other regions, and the two extra gyms compensate for the shorter distances between towns. Also, the last Gym Leader has a... unique strategy. I won’t spoil it for you, and you’ll have to find out for yourselves!”

Lisa nodded as she took down some notes from Neil’s speech.

The elderly man in the black polo shirt continued his account. “Anyways, back to Yggdrasill. The first Pokémon League tournament in Fourtix was held in 1975. Among the participants was a mysterious trainer who only identified himself as Yggdrasill. Rumor has it he went through all ten gyms without having a single Pokémon get KO’d. He repeated that feat at the very first Pokémon League tournament in 1975, and it has never been done since. Afterwards, though, he disappeared. He did not return in 1976 to defend his title. However, he has been spotted all over the world, mysteriously appearing, battling, and then disappearing again. According to all that that have battled him, he has defeated each and every one of them. Yggdrasill has appeared in Kanto and Orre, and now appears to be returning to our region. Whoops! Looks like I’m getting called to work! I must be going. Farewell,” he said as his phone started to go off.

Marvin got up. “Well, Lisa, I’ve gotta be heading out, too. Since I already battled Bernie, I should be moving on. Maybe I’ll see you again sometime.”

“Yeah, bye...” Lisa found herself at a loss for words, as she waved while staring at the man blankly.

Bernie asked Lisa, “Is that girl next to you your sister?”

“Yeah, her name’s Lindsay and I have to baby-sit...Ow!” The older sister received a kick to the leg from her sibling.

“She is not my babysitter! Oh, sorry for being rude. My name’s Lindsay. Nice to meet you, Bernie.”

The muscular man smiled. “Same to you. Anyway, although I said I wasn’t accepting challenges, I’ll make an exception in your case. Please, come with me to the Gym. I look forward to our battle.”

“All right, we’re ready! Let’s go!”

Chapter 15: Turning Up the Heat - Eighties Style!

The gym in town was a single-story red brick building that actually looked rather plain and modest. However, the bright red lowrider ‘64 Impala parked outside did not.

“Right there’s my baby. Cost me over seventy grand to restore and customize. Come, let’s go inside so I can introduce you to my officiator, Derek.”

Inside the gym, Bernie introduced Lisa to a thin man with black hair and a stuffy-looking suit. Aside from the flames painted on the walls, and the fact that the thermostat was turned way up, the battlefield was pretty standard-issue.

“Now, the gym battle between Gym Leader Bernie and challenger Lisa from South Carolina will begin! Double Battle, four Pokémon each! Only the challenger may substitute Pokémon. Begin!” Derek announced.

“Ready to turn up the heat? I call up Vulpix and Torkoal!” Bernie released an orange fox Pokémon with multiple tails and a large orange turtle Pokémon that emitted thick gray smoke from holes in its black shell. The tiny fox wagged its curled tails while looking up at Lisa with deceptively cute eyes. Its pointed ears and fluffy curled fur on its head did look cute, but Lisa knew better than to be fooled by cuteness. After all, another cute Pokémon had flipped her off not long ago. Torkoal made no attempts to act cute. The squinty tortoise moved sluggishly, occasionally lighting up its shell in a dim orange glow while blowing small puffs of smoke from its nostrils. As it prepared itself for battle, the amount of smoke it released steadily increased.

“Vulpix, the fox Pokémon: Vulpix has a single tail when born, that branches out into multiple tails during its first year. Torkoal, the coal Pokémon: Torkoal generates energy for battle by burning coal within its shell.”

“Okay then, I’ll call out Jolteon and Koffing! Let’s launch some Sludge at Vulpix and zap Torkoal with a Thunderbolt!”

Lisa’s newest Pokémon emerged, giving an impressive show of sparks emanating from the tips of his yellow pointed fur. His ears stood straight up as he assumed his battle position, crouching on all fours. Koffing, like her hard-shelled adversary, loosed puffs of smoke from her purple circular body as she hovered a few feet of the ground.

The quick Vulpix easily jumped clear of Sludge but the slow-moving Torkoal couldn’t avoid the electrical strike. Both of Bernie’s Pokémon responded with Ember attacks that both of Lisa’s Pokémon were able to avoid with quick sidesteps. Koffing then shot some more poisonous goop at Vulpix, catching it off guard. At the same time, Torkoal threw up a cloud of smoke and slammed headlong into Jolteon in the confusion. The Electric-type was knocked backward, but remained on his feet.

“That Torkoal’s tough. Nail it with Thunderbolt and Sludge!”

“Protect, now!” commanded Bernie.

Torkoal withdrew into its shell. Both of Lisa’s attacks just bounced off it. Meanwhile, Vulpix fired out a steady stream of flames, striking Koffing.

“Uh, oh, big sister’s in trouble!” Lindsay said worriedly.

He can’t use Protect again this turn, so we’ll hit Torkoal again.” Lisa was planning her next move carefully.

Sure enough, the lumbering armored beast’s attempt at using Protect again failed, and it got hit hard by the electrical and poisonous assault from Lisa’s Pokémon. Once again, the tiny fox-like creature used Flamethrower, this time aimed at Jolteon.

“Grrr… that Vulpix will just keep blasting us with fire until we take it out… Okay guys! Focus both attacks on Vulpix this time, but use Smog instead of Sludge!”

Torkoal quickly hid itself in its shell but it wasn’t the target this time. Jolteon was first to strike, nailing Vulpix with a powerful electrical blast. The small fiery creature prepped another Flamethrower, but Koffing’s Smog attack connected first, triggering an explosive blast that finished off Vulpix and sent it crashing against a wall.

“Vulpix is unable to battle. Bernie, please select your next Pokémon.”

The Gym Leader smirked. “Very good, Lisa. But I’m not done yet! Flareon, incinerate her!”

Bernie’s next Pokémon was another fox-like fire Pokémon, but this one was larger and with only a single fluffy tail, with matching fur on its neck. The rest of its body was covered in bright red fur, and the Pokémon took a few moments to fluff out that fur. Its ears resembled Jolteon’s but its black eyes were slightly more rounded than its electric-type counterpart. It let out a high-pitched “Flare!”

“Flareon, the flame Pokémon. Flareon is capable of using the power of the Fire Stone to store and release fire at will.”

“We need to shut down Flareon! Let’s go with a Thunder Wave to stop it in its tracks! Koffing, use Poison Gas on Torkoal!”

Jolteon shot out a weak blue electrical charge. Flareon’s movements suddenly became very stiff and slow. Koffing’s attack also hit, and Torkoal began crying out in pain. Still, both foes were able to release powerful Flamethrower attacks. Both were aimed directly at Jolteon and were enough to knock him down. Jolteon made a couple of attempts to get back up before finally collapsing, as Lisa gasped and looked on.

“Jolteon is unable to battle. Lisa, choose your next Pokémon.”

“Sorry about that! But, that was good work, crippling that Flareon. Why don’t you rest up while Meowth picks up the battle. Return!”

As Lisa summoned Jolteon back into his ball, the energetic kitten came charging into battle, shooting out a Water Pulse attack that knocked Flareon back.

“All right! That’s the way!”

“Both of you, attack Koffing with Flamethrower!” Bernie directed.

“Torrr!”

However, only Torkoal was able to get off an attack, as Flareon’s body had tensed up too much to even move. The orange tortoise unleashed a scorching shot of bright orange flame. Koffing was able to easily avoid the attack before launching more volleys of thick purple poison at the “other” fiery fox. At the same time, Meowth unleashed a steady stream of water at Torkoal. Surprisingly, the large turtle was able to withstand the attack.

“Torkoal, Protect! Flareon, Flamethrower!” Bernie commanded.

Torkoal hid itself once again, but Lisa was on to that tactic by now. Both of her Pokémon pounded on the already paralyzed Flareon.

Torkoal emerged from its shell and breathed more fire, aiming the fiery trail directly at Meowth, doing its damage as Lisa could only look on with a worried look on her face. Somehow Meowth was able to withstand a direct hit, and the teen breathed a sigh of relief.

“Finish off Torkoal now! Give it a Water Pulse!”

Meowth hit the sluggish, lumbering creature with a huge blast of water, finally bringing it down. Torkoal’s legs gave out, and it landed on the floor with a loud bang.

Derek yelled, “Torkoal is unable to battle. Send out your final Pokémon, Bernie.”

“Haha. My last one is my best. Charmeleon, you’re up! Turn up the heat!”

The fearsome creature was a bright red reptilian being that stood on its hind legs. With sharp claws on its hands and an intense flame burning at the tip of its tail, it waved both around threateningly. Like so many other Pokémon, it had a light-colored underbelly that clashed with the color of the rest of the body. Slashing the air in an attempt to intimidate, it hissed a low, extended, “Charrrr…”

“Charmeleon, the flame Pokémon. Charmeleon is known to spit out intense bursts of fire. Apparently the flames become more powerful if it is angry or frightened.”

Bernie cracked a confident grin. “Now, get a load of this! Overheat!”

“Counter it with Smog!” Lisa commanded.

“Ah crud!” The Gym Leader realized what his opponent was planning a moment too late.

Charmeleon’s body began to glow bright red. It opened its mouth ready to release flames, but the poisonous Smog struck first, triggering a huge explosion that knocked Charmeleon backwards. The flaming lizard recovered fairly quickly from the hit, however. At the same time, Flareon dealt a final blow to Koffing with a scalding Flamethrower. Meowth followed up with a final, devastating Water Pulse at Flareon, the intense blast of water sending the fiery furball smashing against the gym’s brick wall. Both trainers looked concerned for their recently knocked out Pokémon.

“Both Flareon and Koffing are unable to battle. Lisa, send out your final Pokémon.” Both trainers called back their fallen partners in flashes of red light.

“Come back and rest, Koffing! You softened them up just like we planned. Return, and go, Spheal!”

As Lisa sent out her round blue Pokémon, Bernie suddenly looked very worried. Despite his playful appearance, this little blue ball-shaped mammal would be resistant to every fire-based strike that the big Gym Leader had in his arsenal. Brushing off his concerns, he ordered, “Charmeleon, Overheat, now!”

Charmeleon started glowing red and shot out a moderately-sized fiery blast of energy, striking Meowth directly.

“Oh, no! Meowth!” Lisa started nervously fidgeting with her pink dress. But Meowth had endured the attack. The kitten still stood, albeit breathing heavily.

“Overheat again! Finish it!”

This time, though, the agile little cat dodged the next Overheat attack, which was scarcely bigger than an Ember this time. She attempted to swipe at her larger, hot-headed opponent, but the wily lizard performed a sidestep and only got hit with the kitty’s tail.

“Now, hit Charmeleon with Water Gun and Water Pulse and show it some watery fury!”

Charmeleon quickly spit out a searing line of hot flames at the icy little creature, which seemed to do very little damage. Then Meowth and Spheal prepared to launch their water attacks so they would hit simultaneously.

Both Lisa and Lindsay watched, hoping this would be the final curtain call for this battle.

Even after being knocked off its feet by the two watery blasts, Charmeleon was somehow still standing. It spit out a brilliant stream of intense flame, hitting Meowth and taking her down for the count as Lisa let out a loud, “Nooooo!” and tore a big hole in her pantyhose.

In a bright flash of light, Meowth retreated into its Pokéball. “Sorry about that, but you did really good, sweetie,” Lisa whispered, “but now it’s time to end this! Spheal, Water Pulse!”

A burst of water, energy pulses running through it, directly hit Charmeleon in the stomach. Charmeleon emerged and staggered around a bit before finally falling to the ground.

“Charmeleon is unable to continue. The match goes to the challenger, Lisa!”

“Yes! I won my third badge! Go, me!” Lisa jumped up and down in excitement and made a peace sign with her right hand.

Both trainers called their Pokémon back. Then Bernie walked up to Lisa.

“It goes without saying that no trainer likes to lose. However, ever since I saw you in Greenville City, I had a feeling that you would have the skills to defeat me. I truly enjoyed our battle, and I wish to present you with the Blaze Badge as a memento of our battle. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.”

“Thank you. I will keep our battle in mind as I continue to advance toward the Pokémon League, as well as escalating my battle against...”

Bernie’s cell phone went off. He picked it up and his eyes suddenly grew wide. “WHAT! I’ll head there now! Lisa! Lindsay! Please follow me!”

The three of them ran out of the gym. They no sooner got out of the building when a red Honda Element almost ran them over as it tore up the lawn.

“We’re too late! I just received word of a bank robbery that just took place down the street. I believe that was their getaway vehicle that almost killed us.”

Lisa rolled her eyes. “Great. Another bank robbery. And now they’re using butt-ugly SUV’s as their getaway vehicles.”

“I agree. That is one ugly vehicle, but at least it’s recognizable. Listen, Lisa. You’ve had enough to worry about. You head back to your room to rest. I’ll take care of this bank robbery situation. I wish Morgan was in town… Hauston’s just incompetent.”

“Yeah, I know. He didn’t even show up at the company offices until everyone had already cleared out. Well, I’ll catch you later.”

Lisa checked her Pokémon in at the Pokémon Center and was assured that her team had not suffered any serious injuries. She breathed a sigh of relief when the nurse returned her Pokémon after only fifteen minutes.

Back at the Quality Suites, Lisa and Lindsay were relaxing when Lisa suddenly jumped out of bed. “I forgot! There’s an ‘80’s karaoke party in the lobby tonight! I gotta get ready!”

After about a half hour, Lisa emerged from the bathroom. She had her brown hair tied back with several orange scrunchies. She wore a red tank and a purple floral ruffled skirt. Under the skirt she wore a pair of black leggings and huge pink legwarmer socks.

Lindsay looked at her sister with complete shock. “You...you’re not going out dressed like THAT, are you?”

“Sure, why not?”

“Umm...I’ll stay here.”

“Okay, but you’re missing the fun. Oh, here...”

Lisa called forth all of her Pokémon from their Pokéballs. “Lindsay, we’re going to be traveling a lot with my Pokémon, so why don’t you take the time to get to know them? Okay, everyone, this is my sister. Make sure you don’t give her a hard time. Oh, and Lindsay? Make sure you don’t give my Pokémon a hard time. Okay, I think the party starts in about thirty.” Lisa laid out some of her expensive Pokémon food to celebrate a gym victory, and Metang decided to eat its share this time, much to Spheal’s dismay. But the glutton cheered up when he noticed Jolteon yawn and offer his food.

Meowth walked over to Lisa.

“Hey, you wanna go down with me and party like it’s 1987?”

“Meow meow meow!”

“Sorry, but Meowth wants to come with me. You can still get acquainted with the rest of my Pokémon, though.”

“Okay, Lisa, but try not to do something too embarrassing down there.”

“Please, when have I ever embarrassed... on second thought, don’t answer that...”

As Lisa made her way down to the lobby, she hardly noticed the mother and daughter checking in at the desk, only hearing the young woman say, “Reservations for Katherine and Sadie Catherwood?” and catching a glimpse of the daughter’s long black hair.

Instead, her focus was on a room located off the lobby where the party was held. It was full of people having a good time, dressed in a variety of really bright and loud 80’s outfits. Then it was time for the karaoke to begin. Several brave souls began the show.

“Whoa-oh, we’re halfway there...Whoa-Oh! Livin’ on a prayer!”

“Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto, Domo...Domo...Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto...”

“We come together cause opposites attract and you know...”

“How can I fall, how can I fall, when you just won’t give me reasons, just won’t give me reasons at all...”

“I… get weak when you’re next to me, weak from this love, I can’t speak when I look in your eyes…”

“Just a foolish beat..of my hear… hearrrrrrt... I could never love again, the way I loved you...”

Soon it was Lisa’s turn to sing at the top of her lungs. She took the stage, ready to sing her heart out. “All right! My time to shine!

“And we can build this dream together, standing strong forever, nothing’s gonna stop us now...”

Unbeknownst to anyone in the party, there was some commotion in the lobby.

Lisa continued singing. “and all that I want to doooo... .Is love you forever, ever and ever...”

During Lisa’s embarrassing air guitar solo, a man in a red outfit suddenly kicked down the door and ordered everyone to the ground.

Not now, not during my big karaoke act...” Lisa thought as she got on the floor.

The man, wielding a large shotgun, started laughing. “Do you idiots realize how stupid all of you look? On orders from the leader of the Thrash Brotherhood, I have been ordered to rob you blind. Hand over all cash, jewelry, credit cards... Yeah, I know it’s embarrassing that we have to stoop to this level, but if that dumb Lisa girl would stop interfering with us...”

“You mean me?” Lisa stood up and faced the armed intruder.

“So there you are. You look like an even bigger moron dressed like that! But you can’t do anything. In your haste to join this pathetic little retro party, you probably forgot to bring your Pokémon.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. Meowth, let’s get this guy!”

“Growlithe, stop her! Now you’re doomed, little girl. For, as you know, dogs will always prevail over cats on the food chain!”

The small orange puppy wagged its fluffy tail and bared its teeth while snarling viciously, with the fluff of white fur on its head standing on end.

“You watch too many cartoons, punk! Everyone clear the way. This could get ugly... But I think I’ll start with a long range Pay Day attack to get things started.”

Meowth started the show by throwing large piles of coins at Growlithe. Instead of ordering an attack, the thug got on the ground and started picking up the money. Lisa could hardly believe her eyes.

“Hehehe... Is Team Thrash really that strapped for cash that you have to get on your hands and knees to pick up a Pay Day Attack?” Lisa laughed at the thug making a fool of himself.

His face red with anger, he barked, “Grrr... YES! Because of you! And don’t disrespect us by calling us ‘‘Team’ Thrash! We are a Brotherhood, a tightly knit group dedicated to fulfilling our master’s destiny!”

Lisa rolled her eyes. She had heard this all before. “Whatever. Flood it with Water Pulse then zap it with Thunderbolt.”

Before her foe could even react, Meowth blasted the puppy Pokémon with a stream of water, then followed up with a bright yellow electrical strike. The water served to intensify the power of Thunderbolt, causing Growlithe to yelp and howl in pain as its entire body was lit up. Emerging from the attack singed but still ready for more, the dog responded with a barrage of small flames, which the fast cat-like Pokémon easily jumped clear of. But the flames did destroy the karaoke equipment.

“Guess the party’s over. But the battle’s just getting started. Hit it with Water Pulse then move in close for a Fury Swipes. Man, this guy is weak...”

Growlithe’s next Ember attack was easily extinguished by Water Pulse, and Meowth took advantage, landing several sharp strikes with its claws. She only backed away after Growlithe used its sharp teeth to chomp down on Meowth. The cat jumped backward before landing gracefully on her feet.

“Time to end this. Charge a Water Pulse with Thunderbolt and send it right at Growlithe!”

Meowth used a combination of the two attacks to send a sparking wave of water right at Growlithe, sending the furry Pokémon flying and knocking it into the wall.

The Thrash member called back his defeated Pokémon, then raised his gun and aimed it at Lisa. “I may have lost the battle, but you will lose your life! Prepare to die!”

Lisa took a step backward, knowing she had to react fast. “Thunderbolt, now!”

Meowth released electricity from her fur and zapped the shotgun, causing it to explode in the shocked suspect’s hands.

The man looked on, stunned, as the crowd began standing back up. They looked none too happy at having the retro party disrupted.

“Blast! I’m outta here!” He ran out the door and right into Inspector Morgan.

“Yup, and you’re headed right to jail.” Morgan escorted him out the hotel’s front door in handcuffs.

“Take THAT!” Lisa called out to the apprehended suspect, who in turn shot her a scowling glare before being shoved into the back of a Dodge Diplomat.

“Hey, so you’re back in town! I thought you were training officers.”

“Well, it turns out that because of the Northwood company invasion and the bank robbery, they needed the extra manpower. I got back in town just in time to see that guy run into the hotel.”

“Yeah, for once in this town, the police actually respond in time to catch the suspect.”

Morgan frowned. “Yeah, I apologize for this. Looks like I’ll have to have a word with the officers here, especially Hauston. Too many thins went wrong, and I need to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Well, I’d talk longer, but I need to get this guy locked up. Bye!”

Lisa waved to the departing police inspector before she headed back into the hotel. Afterward, all of the guests were thanking Lisa for saving them. Unfortunately, she also found out that the party was over early because of the attack. “Great… ruined my night of fun…

Lisa headed back to her room with Meowth. Lindsay asked her, “Is the party over already?”

“Yeah, thanks to Team Thrash... Listen. This trip won’t be all fun and games. From time to time I’ll have to venture into dangerous territory and I don’t want to put you in any unnecessary risk. So if I ever have to leave you in the care of friends or a Gym Leader or Pokémon Center, please don’t make a big fuss about it. It’s for your own safety and I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

“Thanks, sis. Oh, and one more thing.”

“What is it?” Lisa inquired.

“Take off that horrible outfit! It hurts my eyes!”

Lisa let out a laugh. “Ah, one day you’ll learn to love it!”

The girls decided to take a few days off to relax and take in the sights. After all, Thrash had just been dealt a harsh blow, and both Lisa and her Pokémon were ready for some fun. They took trips to the museum, the mall, and a large amusement park. Lisa even gave her Pokémon a spa treatment during their break. Every night the sisters would return to the beautiful Quality Suites, enjoy a gourmet meal, and relax in their spacious and comfortable suite. During the last day of their planned vacation, Lisa and Lindsay made another visit to Target to stock up on last-minute supplies.

The next morning the two sisters prepared to leave for the next town. Lisa was wearing the same skirt and top from last night, but now she was wearing pantyhose and had returned her hair to her normal hairstyle, complete with her white hat. Lindsay was wearing the same outfit as before: Her justification: “The only clothes I packed were all of my identical school uniforms. These are clean! Trust me!”

Lisa checked them out of the hotel. After making a final stop at Wendy’s for lunch, the two girls left the outskirts of the city and proceeded toward the next city. Once again, the road branched off into a freeway and a dirt path. And once again, Lisa and her sister took the dusty dirt road. The path seemed to lead into a dense forest that was barely visible on the horizon. Before reaching it, though, Lisa and Lindsay would pass through more picturesque grasslands. Picturesque, but rather boring.

It didn’t take long for the girls to encounter wild Pokémon. In a span of about a half hour they had run into a Rattata, Oddish, Ekans, and Poochyena. Each of them had jumped out in front of Lisa. Ekans and Poochyena had even tried to attack her. Lisa had used Koffing to subdue Oddish and Ekans and Jolteon to deal with Rattata and Poochyena.

Suddenly the normally bright path turned dark with overgrown dead trees. Lisa noticed a cemetery to their left. Its black wrought-iron gates and old gray tombstones definitely gave an air of menace to the whole setting.

“Jeez, this looks like something right out of a Halloween movie…”

“I know, sis. I… I’m not scared, though!”

The sisters took another two steps when they found themselves surrounded. A group of about five round gaseous Pokémon floated, making orbits around Lisa and Lindsay. Crying out “Gaaaastly!” in deep, haunting voices, the black circular beings continued to taunt the two girls, their huge eyes fixated on the both of them.

A sixth Pokémon, this one gray with a skull-like face, then made its appearance behind the circle of Gastly. It had one glowing red eye that moved from left to right between its two eye openings. Like it buddies, it also floated in the air. Unlike them, it waved around two poorly-defined appendages which Lisa believed were arms.

“Gastly, the gas Pokémon: Consisting entirely of gas, this Pokémon can turn invisible and then sneak up on and startle enemies. Duskull, the beckon Pokémon: Duskull wanders the lonely streets at night. Its reasons for doing so are unknown.”

The Duskull appeared to be giving orders to the other Pokémon. As soon as Lisa realized this, she spoke up. “What are you doing? I challenge your leader to a battle. If I win, you must let us pass.”

“Duuusssssk…” Duskull ordered the Gastly back, then floated toward Lisa. Lisa moved her hand in her bag and grabbed a Pokéball, ready to battle.

“I summon Jolteon! First we’ll stun it with Thunder Wave, then we’ll move in for the Bite!”

Jolteon let loose a weak electric shock, then charged in and clamped down on Duskull. The ghost forced the electrically-charged mammal back by firing a black ball of energy at him. The agile yellow Pokémon shook it off, then let loose a stronger electric blast. The mysterious cloaked being faded out of sight, then reappeared behind Jolteon and struck by ramming into him backside. This knocked the spiked yellow Pokémon down, but only for an instant.

Then the wily ghost made contact with Jolteon again and started to drain energy from both of them. Both Pokémon glowed in a sinister purple color as Duskull was doing so. As soon as Lisa’s electric-type turned around, the small ghost’s enigmatic eye grew bright red, almost blinding. Jolteon appeared mesmerized and angered by this latest tactic, snarling loudly at the floating Pokémon.

“Dussskk,” the opposing Pokémon moaned in a taunting tone.

“No, not a Curse/Mean Look combo! Looks like I have no choice!”

Lisa pulled out an empty Pokéball. “Give it a full power Thunderbolt one more time!”

“Jolllt!” Jolteon zapped Duskull again before writhing in pain. The Curse was taking effect. But the Thunderbolt also did a number on Duskull. The little Ghost-type was struggling to remain levitating.

Lisa heaved her empty Pokéball at the skull-faced being that was floating in midair. After several seconds of struggling, Duskull finally resigned itself to capture. The Pokéball then vanished, and Lisa’s Pokédex started up.

“Confirming transfer of Duskull to Professor Sequoia’s Lab for safekeeping.”

Pumping her fist in the air, Lisa shouted, “All right! I captured a Duskull!” Lisa called back Jolteon. “You did really good there. Have a rest. I think we’ll all stop here soon to get some sleep.”

All of the ghosts had disappeared except for one Gastly who was communicating with Meowth. Lisa wondered, “What are they talking about?”

Suddenly the round gaseous Pokémon enshrouded Meowth in a black cloud, causing Lisa to look on, a bit concerned. When the cloud dissipated, the two Pokémon exchanged a few more words in their language, then Meowth shot out a shadowy black sphere at a nearby tree, putting a sizable dent in it.

Lisa’s Pokédex announced, “Meowth has learned Shadow Ball.”

Lisa faced the Gastly. “Well, I suppose I should thank you for teaching Meowth a new move. But try not to startle any more travelers through here, okay?” She gave the Ghost-type a small smile, and it winked one of its large eyes at the girl. Meowth gave Gastly a friendly wave.

With a final cry of “Gaaaastly...” it headed back to the cemetery.

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