Lurking in the Shadows

Chapter 36: Production Failure

Lisa put her hand on the corroded door handle, but hesitated and turned to Lorelei. “Something wrong?”

“No. I’m trying to analyze the threat level and also determine the purpose of this facility. Come, let us proceed.”

Opening the door, they arrived in a large office. The shelves on either side of the room were bare, the carpet was soiled and frayed, and the antiquated wallpaper was peeling off from the wall. The only source of light was a naked light bulb dangling from the ceiling. The bulb was not lighting at full power as it was running off the emergency generator.

Behind the old wooden desk stood two more familiar enemies. A short woman was running her lace-gloved hand through her long blond hair, her huge white ballroom gown looking out of place in the old, poorly maintained factory. Her much taller male counterpart also had blond hair, but it was neatly trimmed, as was the man in general. The thin man wore a handlebar moustache and monocle on his face, and a neatly trimmed black tuxedo on his body. Once again, he seemed completely out of place here.

“Darlin’, I don’t think we’ve met, though we have unfortunately had to deal with your little friend before,” the woman drawled to Lorelei. “My name is Jane, and this is my husband, Justin. Have you not yet realized that the glorious goals of the Brotherhood are the only way to go? Now granted, we’re not too sure about the Brotherhood using their weapons and chemicals and stuff, but I suppose if it’s for the greater good…”

“We cannot worry about that now, my dear. We must defeat these two girls and switch the power back on, so we do not disappoint the leader again!”

“Manectric, honey, time to show these rude little pests a lesson!”

“Gyarados, get them!”

This was the second consecutive battle in this place that the girls had seen the blue and yellow electric wolf. But this one seemed different from Fred’s. Indeed, its eyes seemed to have a look of determination that the lesser Admin’s Pokémon did not. This time around, the sparking creature snarled as it attempted to shoot yellow sparks at both girls.

Gyarados took to the field, slithering its huge, scaly serpentine body on the lab’s floor. Its lengthy blue body was segmented, with fins located on the partition closest to its head. The beast had a three-pointed appendage just above its viciously glaring eyes. A pair of white fins and two whiskers were on either side of its huge, gaping mouth that would let out a deafening roar. Slamming its massive tail on the ground, it gazed furiously at its two opponents.

Grabbing a Pokéball, Lisa declared, “I suppose Vibrava will have to shut you down!”

The smallish green dragon took to the field, using her angular wings to keep herself airborne. Her tail culminated in a pair of dark green appendages that looked like smaller versions of her wings, featuring the distinct shape of a rhombus. On her head, two short antennae peeked out between two bulging green eyes, giving her an insectoid appearance. She could not stay in the air for long, as she occasionally stopped flapping her wings and landed on her four thin feet.

“Time for action, Starmie!”

Upon emerging from its Pokéball, the star-shaped Water-type stood on two of its points. It featured a octagonal jewel that was flanked by its multiple-pointed purple form. Because of the poor lighting in the room, the gem in Starmie’s center did not shimmer as brightly as it normally would have.

“Oh, sweetie? Time to start a storm with Rain Dance!”

“Manectric, we shall begin by laying a Thunder into Starmie.”

Lisa turned and whispered to her partner, “Let’s eliminate Manectric first so we can proceed with Electric attacks later.”

“Good idea. Starmie, use Psychic at full strength!”

“Okay, Vibrava, run interference then use Dig!”

Letting out a deafening growl, the slithering sea serpent summoned in dark clouds that hung rather low within the office. Instinctively, Lisa reached into her backpack and pulled out her collapsible purple parasol. As the slight drizzle soon developed into a full-fledged downpour, Lorelei pulled out her own umbrella. Jane had a white parasol of her own, though her husband chose to tough it out in the rain.

“Hun, this dance is just getting started!” teased the southern belle gone bad.

The tip of Manectric’s head began gathering an ever-increasing amount of electric energy. After a few moments a single yellow bolt shot straight up into the clouds. Soon enough, a massive lightning bolt came crashing down from the ceiling accompanied by a startling booming sound. As the attack closed in on Starmie, it used its mental powers to elevate its Ground-type ally, positioning the winged Pokémon directly in the path of the descending yellow strike. The electrical assault hit Vibrava directly and spared her partner the brunt of the force.

Completely unfazed, the green creature landed on the ground and began to burrow her way through the weakened tile floor. At the same time, Starmie’s core began glowing, alternately displaying the colors of the rainbow. Barely visible amid the soaking rains, the distorted energy rays knocked the blue and yellow Pokémon onto its side. Reacting in fury, Gyarados swung its huge, scaled body at the Psychic-type, sweeping it off of the two points that served as its “feet”. Both Starmie and Manectric were quick to recover from their respective hits, however.

“To confuse Manectric, use Rapid Spin and follow it up with a Psychic!”

“Your Starmie shall pay! Wrap it up then let Manectric take care of the rest!”

The fearsome Water type extended its snake-like form until it was nearly straight, before slamming it down on the floor. It began to curl up its body, surrounding the aquatic star-shaped Pokémon. As it continued to tighten its grip, its target suddenly began spinning, breaking Gyarados’ grip and ended up flying across the room. Once again, the Electric-type was preparing to send its attack crashing from above. Though Starmie used its Rapid Spin to quickly move around the office, the massive lightning strike still found its mark, sending the current racing through the Water-type’s purple body.

Manectric crouched on all fours, ready to leap in at its stunned opponent. However, the lurking green dragon picked the right time to come out of hiding, striking the wolf’s underbelly and actually sending the larger mammal airborne momentarily before the pointy-headed Pokémon descended and landed hard on its back. Quickly righting itself, Manectric growled at its Ground-type adversary before laying into the other foe with another perfectly aimed Thunder.

Adjusting his monocle, the soaked gentleman observed, “That Vibrava is proving troubling, Gyarados… Take care of it!”

Lorelei called out, “Let us proceed. Ice Beam!”

I hate this… I can’t break out Jolteon and toast Gyarados until the other one goes down… but I don’t want that thing gaining too much of an edge either... What to do?” The teen finally made her decision. “Okay, try a Dragonbreath on Gyarados! Maybe we can slow it down!”

The crafty Psychic-type showed off its speed and stealth, quickly spinning away from range seconds before a tail swipe from Gyarados would have struck it down. The not-so-nimble bug-like dragon was not so fortunate, as one powerful whack from the scale-covered appendage sent the unlucky Pokémon flying across the darkened room. Seeing her Pokémon slam against an old wooden desk, Lisa let out a panicked gasp as she began grabbing at her pink dress, wrinkling it up.

Starmie came to a stop directly behind the Electric-type, and exacted vengeance by firing off a crystallized beam of chilled ice aimed directly at the wolf’s rear. The impact from the hit caused Manectric to do a face-plant on the floor, landing snout-first. Getting back to its feet, the four-legged Pokémon turned around and bared its jagged white teeth – at the rain that was still falling in sheets. Once again, the star-shaped Pokémon had outwitted its foe by using its unpredictable Rapid Spin to get away from its foe.

Lorelei pointed at the stunned couple. “Your Pokémon do not seem to have the ability to keep up with my Starmie. How unfortunate. Now use Psychic on Manectric!”

“Ha! Don’t think you’ve seen the worst from us! Gyarados, it is time to bloody finish them!” replied the British-accented man.

Vibrava was also gone, but a second hole dug through the timeworn floor was a clue to her whereabouts. The slithery sea serpent surrounded the subterranean shaft. Opening its maw, it released a torrent of water aimed at the opening of the hole with the intent of flooding its winged adversary out of hiding. But before this tactic could work, the green creature had already emerged, positioning herself near Manectric, who was squaring off with the Water and Psychic type on the field. Now fluttering next to her ally, both of the girls’ Pokémon let loose with attacks. Vibrava opened her tiny mouth to unleash a thick orange cloud, while Starmie sent a blast of ice toward the Electric Pokémon. After taking both hits, the wolf leaped toward its opponents, but both quickly pulled their disappearing acts once again.

I rather like how we can totally confuse their Pokémon, but playtime’s over!” Lisa turned to her opponents and gave them a smile. “It’s time to solve this equation!”

“Sweetie, I am so afraid that it’s you who is going to be schooled! Come, let us show off our dazzling Thunder!”

The wily Psychic-type was now behind Gyarados, and took aim with a nearly invisible shot of mental energy. Despite landing a direct hit, the enraged beast was not even close to fainting. But before the aquatic serpent got a chance to launch a retaliatory strike, its sparking partner did the favors, summoning a bolt of incredible energy from the ceiling. The yellow blast of electricity found its mark, making its way through the body of Starmie.

Lorelei groaned upon seeing Manectric’s Thunder attack strike her Starmie, but knew it would take more than that to defeat her Pokémon.

Satisfied with its deed, the electric wolf held its head up high in defiance. But that cockiness was about to cost it big time, as a patient winged dragon came burrowing out from underground, knocking the larger Manectric to the floor. To add insult to injury, the Thunder attack it had used was still not enough to finish off Starmie, as the latter had once again gotten back up.

“So, you’ve beaten my Manectric. You certainly are just as rude as your friend there!” Jane sulked at Lorelei. “Raichu, it’s your turn, sweetie! Go!”

Unlike its smaller yellow brethren, this electric mouse actually looked like it could do some damage, giving its foes a hard, determined stare with its beady black eyes. Its chubby orange body was supported by a pair of large webbed feet, and its extra-long tail was swaying back and forth as both the tip and the Pokémon’s yellow cheek markings began sparking with thin yellow bolts.

“Vibrava! Good work, but I’ll need to save you for the end! Return! Time to introduce a new variable into the equation! Jolteon, it’s you!”

After taking a second to yawn and rub his eyes with his front paws, the four-legged Electric Pokémon sparked to life, as his yellow pointed fur began standing on end. A network of static charges enveloped Jolteon’s entire body before the lightweight creature began consolidating that voltage. Condensed into a large cluster of energy, the swift Electric-type sent a crippling electric bolt toward its aquatic opponent.

Looks like I’m sending their strategy down the drain… but I still can’t be careless…” Lisa issued her battle order. “Jolteon, fry Gyarados with another Thunderbolt!”

“Raichu, hun, I need you to go and stop that mean spiky Pokémon from harming Justin’s Gyarados!”

“Starmie, draw Raichu away.”

“Gyarados!” shouted the man in the (now completely drenched) top hat. “See to it that Starmie is finished, post-haste!”

The spiked Jolteon began charging power for his attack while the wily Starmie began building energy. The orange mouse began charging at its rival Electric type with its fist positioned to sucker-punch the foe. The serpentine blue beast prepared to swing its tail at the other Water-type, but a powerful bolt of lightning interrupted its assault. The attack was released not a moment too soon, as Raichu gave a surprise punch to its opponent’s rear end, knocking down Jolteon. Suddenly, a massive beam of ice struck Raichu directly on the head, knocking it down. As its partner clutched its head in pain and shivered violently, Gyarados went on the offensive, opening its huge jaw and loosing a massive wave of water that swept Jolteon off his feet.

“Don’t take that from those guys! Finish off Gyarados!”

“Little girl, do not act like you can just do as you please with my Pokémon! Now, Gyarados, use another Hydro Pump followed up by a nice Hyper Beam!”

The spiky-haired Pokémon launched his attack first, zapping his much larger opponent with a mighty bolt of yellow sparks. The brutish Water-type howled and cringed because of the pain, but nonetheless was able to unleash a mighty stream of liquid fury at its electrified enemy. Jolteon quickly jumped up to avoid the first hit, but the serpent’s second attack – a brilliant yellow beam of condensed energy – found its mark, knocking the hapless Pokémon out of the air and sending him nose-diving to the floor below.

Lisa nervously watched and fidgeted as she watched her Pokémon slowly and unsteadily rise to his feet. However, the girl’s face became much more relieved when her teammate managed to get off another Thunderbolt, bringing Gyarados’ rampage to an abrupt end. Letting out one final, pained roar, the once-mighty sea monster came crashing to the floor, making a deafening “thud” as it landed.

With his mouth hanging wide open, a stunned Justin recalled his fallen beast, not being able to utter a word. He took out another Pokéball, but was still in such shock over his Pokémon’s defeat that he just held it while staring blindly at the other battle participants.

While those two were sparring, Raichu and Starmie were having quite a bit of a scuffle of their own – though Raichu was gaining the clear advantage since the steady rain ensured that every single one of its Thunder strikes would hit, while it was also able to deftly avoid many of the attacks doled out by its star-shaped opponent. Finally, the embattled Psychic-type was able to lay into the rotund foe with its hard-hitting Ice Beam strike. Rattled but not out by any means, the electric rodent summoned another bolt of lightning from the sinister gray clouds above, and this was the final nail in the coffin. Starmie fell to the ground, no longer spinning or making any movement.

Justin had finally decided on his next Pokémon. “Ludicolo, it’s you! It is time for us to win for the sake of the Brotherhood!”

Showing little emotion, Lorelei called it back. Pulling out another Pokéball, she said, “You have done well, Starmie. But it is time to unleash my strongest Pokémon. Lapras! Come forth!”

An interesting-looking light green Pokémon emerged from Justin’s Pokčball. Dancing about and shaking its two arms like a pair of maracas, the egg-shaped creature would have looked more at home at a fiesta than in the dreary lab. The sombrero-like appendage on its head was perfectly shaped to collect rainfall from the intense downpour. As the Pokémon executed several spinning moves, it let out a bizarre chant of “Ludi! Ludi! Ludi!” from its gaping duck-like bill.

In stark contrast, Lorelei’s large blue Pokémon remained calm. It roughly resembled a dinosaur, but with four large flippers instead of feet. The massive creature seemed to be well-suited for water transport, with a large saddle-like protrusion on its back. A tiny horn, the same shade of blue as its body, was positioned on its forehead.

“Hey, tell your Pokémon that the ‘South of the Border’ party is over! Jolteon, hit it with a Thunderbolt!” Lisa shouted.

“Lapras, acquaint them with your Ice Beam.”

“Ludicolo! Shut down that Jolteon with a Water Pulse!”

“Oh, Raichu, honey,” drawled the exquisitely-dressed Thrash admin, “Time to use a nice Mega Kick!”

Charging up the tips of its fur with sparks, the nimble yellow Pokémon sent an electrical blast at its dancing opponent. Raichu then struck its rival Electric-type with a flying kick, the mouse’s large brown foot connecting with Jolteon’s face.

Lapras let out a roar and began condensing blue energy in its mouth. The Water-type unleashed its frigid attack in the form of a crystallized beam. The attack struck its target directly, further dishing out damage to the rather bizarre Ludicolo. The chilled assault interrupted the wide-beaked Pokémon’s own attempt to drench its opponents with water. As Ludicolo was reeling from the hit, the rainstorm began to let up and the black clouds overhead quickly dissipated.

“Arrgh! We need that rain back! Ludicolo, now!”

“Raichu, I need you to keep those two nasty Pokémon busy while we get the rain set up!” Jane added as she took the lull to try to shake off some of the raindrops from her parasol.

“Jolteon, if at all possible stop that Ludicolo from doing Rain Dance again!”

“Let us show them how we chill, Lapras. Blizzard!”

Seeing its fellow Electric-type preparing to launch a long-range strike, Raichu rushed headlong at the spiky foe, hoping to bowl Jolteon over before it could release its sizzling assault. The latter barely had enough time to fire off its Thunderbolt before getting sacked by the orange mouse and being knocked offside. But Jolteon had been fast enough to successfully zap the dancing Water-type, putting a halt to the sombrero-sporting creature’s attempt to summon another torrential rainfall. Raichu, confidently smiling as it stood before its sidelined rival, didn’t see a storm of frozen projectiles flying in at it until the razor-sharp shards of ice began slicing and cutting up its rotund body. Falling to the floor as it continued to writhe in pain, the long-tailed rodent was now an easy target for Jolteon. Seeking revenge for being manhandled earlier, the yellow Pokémon wasted no time in kicking and biting the chubby orange body in front of it, purposely aiming its hits to further compound Blizzard’s damage.

“Oh, no! How dare you brutes do that to my dear Raichu! Show them some manners with a Thunderbolt!”

Raising a finger and pointing it directly at the Mexican-themed Pokémon, Lorelei commanded, “Another Ice Beam, if you please, Lapras.”

“Back up Lapras! Use Thunderbolt on Ludicolo!”

Releasing a sizzling yellow blast of electrical energy, the pointy-furred creature gave the fiesta-loving Water-type a nice shocking. However, the dancing one was not quite ready to give up the ghost. Teaming up with its own Electric-type partner, the two Thrash-owned Pokémon ganged up on Jolteon. First, Raichu launched itself into the air before throwing its entire body weight on top of the yellow creature. After flattening its opponent, the rotund mouse leapt off to allow Ludicolo a clear shot with a highly concentrated ray of blue water launched directly from its gaping bill. After the liquid assault was complete, Lisa noticed that her Pokémon was not moving or making attempts to get up. Frowning, the girl called it back into its holding sphere.

“You did well, Jolteon. Sorry about that… But now I think I’ll reintroduce Vibrava into the equation and go for the solution!”

As the bug-like Dragon-type made its reappearance, Lorelei commented, “Glad to see you still have a knack for mathematics.” Just then, she noticed that Justin’s Grass-type had been struck with a concentrated shot of ice from her Pokémon’s attack. The attack hit at an angle that actually caused the egg-shaped green duck to spin around twice before toppling to the floor.

“Blast it… my wife will make you pay for that!” the well-dressed admin fumed as he recalled his Pokémon. “She will easily defeat the both of you.”

Really? She’s going to defeat us when it’s two-on-one and my Pokémon resists electric attacks? Yeah, don’t think so!” The parasol-wielding teen then taunted, “Don’t count on it! Vibrava, use Mud Slap, and then Dig!”

“Combine Water Pulse and Blizzard. Shut them down.”

“Raichu, Mega Kick the both of them! The Brotherhood is counting on us, and so is Justin!”

As the bloated rodent jumped up and prepared to knock around the winged green creature with its webbed brown feet, Vibrava opened her tiny mouth and spit out a clump of damp brown mud at the incoming Pokémon, knocking Raichu off course. Before the Electric-type had the chance to attempt another Mega Kick, the intended target used her thin legs to break through the crumbling floor and retreat underground.

Turning its attention toward the Ice-type, Raichu was able to land some hits on Lapras, but the hefty seafaring creature seemed to brush off the blows. To get the long-tailed orange Pokémon to back off, a concentrated spray of rippling, pulsating water emerged from the dinosaur-like Pokémon. Targeting the flabby belly of the electric mouse, the waves of liquid made Raichu’s existing injuries even worse, causing the victim to clutch its body and cry out in pain.

It was the beginning of the end of Raichu’s run, as the green, bug-eyed Dragon-type emerged, smashing into the mouse’s body from underneath and somehow launching the heavier orange creature into the air. While the Electric-type was airborne, a brilliant beam of crystallized ice came hurtling at it, striking the victim right on the face and sending it careening back to earth. Landing in a violent nosedive, Raichu had definitely been depleted of all of its strength. The big Lapras let out an authoritative roar as the wounded, battle-worn mouse was called back into its Pokéball.”

With a confident smile, Lorelei shouted, “It is all over for you!”

“Way to go! Looks like we came out on top!” Lisa added.

“Aww, no! How did we lose?! The prophecy of the Brotherhood stated…” Jane started.

The door came crashing down as Inspector Morgan led his team of troopers to apprehend the couple. “Freeze! Hands in the air! It’s all over for you two!”

Instead of throwing a tantrum like Fred, the couple quietly and solemnly submitted to the officers. However, they did exchange a few words among themselves.

“Justin, dear, if the prophecy of the Brotherhood is true, then we should not be in prison for long, so do not worry.”

“But I am worried, Jane. I am worried that the prophecy is not the truth, and that we have been tricked into following false promises and lies. After all, if the members of the Brotherhood really are a chosen group, then none of our previous ventures should have failed and none of our followers should have been placed in prison.”

“You do have a point there. Perhaps it is better that we are headed to prison. If nothing else, it will give us a chance to carefully think about the Brotherhood’s activities and beliefs, and our involvement in them.”

As the well-dressed couple was led away, Morgan approached the two ladies. “On behalf of our entire police force, we need to thank you for helping to apprehend these top Thrash agents.”

“It’s fine. Back in Kanto, the Pokémon League and I had to deal with Team Rocket quite a lot. I am quite used to this type of situation.” Lorelei answered.

“Yeah, don’t mention it,” Lisa added. “I’m always ready to put a few Thrash slimeballs behind bars.”

“Okay, while my officers finish up here, I’ll give you a lift to the Pokémon Center. I know it’s not far, but I’m sure you’re tired.”

“Thank you, it would be most appreciated,” Lorelei replied.

“Okay, shall we get going?”

After exiting the building, Lisa said to Lorelei, “Team Rocket, huh? The guys that Giovanni used to command.”

Lorelei replied, “Yes. Back then, they were a major threat. But since Giovanni left them, they haven’t been very much of a problem.”

“Well, Giovanni’s quite the established battler, so I can see how they would’ve been a major force with him at their helm.”

“Indeed. I am relieved he is working for us now, as his strength is now an asset for the Pokémon League. Come, we must make haste to the Pokémon Center.”
*******

The Pokémon Center at this location looked a bit worse for wear, as the exterior paint was peeling off in spots and the metal trim on the entrance door was a bit corroded. Inside was more of the same, as the cream-colored wallpaper was cracking and peeling in several spots. The place was rather clean; however a good renovation was long overdue. Checking her Pokémon in at the front desk, Lisa noted a sign reading, “This Property Owned and Managed by Desai Hospitality Group Under License Agreement with Pokémon Center Franchise Systems, Incorporated.”

“Great… even these Pokémon Centers are run under a franchise operation now… guess that explains the varying quality I’ve experienced…”

Lisa noticed that Lorelei and Lindsay were sitting on a faded red velvet couch chatting with each other. “Lindsay’s probably telling her some embarrassing story about how geeky I am… typical little sister…” Receiving her Pokémon back from the middle-aged man who looked to be of Israeli descent, Lisa asked, “Is there any hotel nearby for us to spend the night?”

“Hotel? Sorry, nearest hotel is in next town, and you won’t make it there on foot until after midnight.”

“WHAT!?” the teenager shrieked before bolting out the door in hopes that Inspector Morgan would still be there to drive her and her sister to the next town. But the officer’s gray Caprice Classic was long gone. Running back into the building, Lisa almost thrust herself over the counter. Panting and quivering, she frantically asked, ‘Well, are there any more rooms here?!”

“Sorry, we are full up. Looks like you have to sleep outside. We close our lobby at 11:00.”

“NO WAY! This is NOT happening! I CANNOT sleep outside!” By now, Lisa had attracted the attention of everyone in the building. The girl snapped back, “Oh, get back to whatever y’all were doing! I mean, y’all got rooms! I hafta sleep outside with the bugs and the wildlife and… ew, gross!” Before the attendant could even complain to Lisa about her conduct, she had stormed out of the building, with Lindsay and Lorelei chasing her out.

“Does she always go berserk when she realizes she has to sleep outside?” the older woman asked with a sigh.

“Oy, you should have seen her when Mom and Dad decided to make her try summer camp. To save everyone’s sanity, the camp put her in a hotel in Charleston.”

Lisa had tried her very best to make it as far as possible to the next town, but it eventually became too dark to continue. Still, she carried on her tirade. “Look at this! Humans were not made to sleep in this kind of environment! We need nice, soft beds! We need air conditioning! We need high-speed wireless internet! We need…”

As Lisa continued to name off every hotel room amenity that came to mind, Lindsay turned to Lorelei. “Hey, can you have a Pokémon put her to sleep, because I do NOT feel like listening to this all night!”

“Yeah okay,” Lorelei answered and sent out her Lapras. “Use Sing on Lisa.”

“… need electronic card-key access! We need… spacious… flexible… conference rooms…” the older sister finally trailed off and began to snore loudly.

“Thanks for doing that. I think we’ll both sleep more peacefully.”

After recalling her Lapras, Lorelei took out a memo pad and pen and began writing. After taping a hand-written note to Lisa’s dress, she told Lindsay, “That should keep her napping long enough for natural exhaustion to settle in. It looks like I must be going. We shall meet again.”

As the older woman walked toward the next town, Lindsay waved to her. “Bye!”
*******

“WHAT THE HECK WAS I DOING SLEEPING OUTSIDE?!” Lisa’s shrill shriek would have scared away any Pokémon in a five-mile radius. “Do you realize what could have happened? I could have been robbed! I could have been raped! I could have stained my dress…”

“None of that happened, so shut up and get changed! If you want to get to the next town already, I suggest we get moving!” Lindsay scolded.

“Fine…” Lisa muttered as she went to change clothes. While changing, she found a note taped to her dress.

To Lisa,

Sorry for having to leave without telling you, but I have just received orders of a new location I am to investigate. Our paths will likely cross again, but next time, PLEASE learn to camp outside without whining or going completely nuts. Your sister was quite annoyed with you, and such behavior is not becoming of a professional trainer.

- Lorelei.


“Jeez… I’m surrounded by nature fanatics!” she muttered from behind a tree.

The older sister finally emerged, wearing an orange “Carolina Girls” T-shirt and a purple floral skirt, with a pair of black leggings and her white hat topping off the outfit. She had tied a red ribbon sash around the waistline of the skirt. “Looks like Lorelei must have already left.” Lindsay didn’t say a word.

“I’m sorry… Lindsay? Are you mad?”

*******
“S…Sir, I regret to inform you, but our agents at the factory have been captured.”

“Dammit… It was that blasted Lisa, wasn’t it?” fumed the robed man as he sat at a huge steel desk, a pair of Pikachu in front of him. One wore scratches and battle scars, while the other’s body was free of wounds, but was of a more deep color than its counterpart. This second electric mouse’s fur also gave off a glittery sheen. Both rodents were cheerfully squealing and playfully wrestling with each other.

“Sir, I’ve never seen that Pikachu before,” commented the young man who was playing the role of messenger.

“Yes. I had a group of associates go out and capture large packs of Pikachu, Poochyena, and other common Pokémon for us to experiment with our Shadow Pokémon apparatus. Speaking of which, I’m expecting an update from him in a few minutes. Anyway, among the Pikachu Dr. Tony collected was this shiny one, so I had him bring it to me. As you can see, it immediately took a shine to my own Pikachu, who still wears the battle scars from that damned girl’s Persian! I hated those blasted things before, but now…” the enigmatic figure continued, as his speech began to take on a more menacing tone. Just then, a video monitor came to life on the side of the opulent office opposite the boss. On screen, a bald, dark-skinned man wearing glasses and a white lab coat began to speak.

“Sir, I need to announce that we’ve made significant headway on the Shadow Pokémon development, but there are still flaws…”

“Well, if there are still flaws, how the hell can you say you’re making progress?!”

Hesitating, the scientist answered, “Sir, please let me explain. We have been able to increase the power of the Shadow attacks that our created Pokémon use in battle. We’ve also found a way to alter their emotions so they willingly fight other Pokémon to the death when instructed to do so. They will no longer stop attacking of their own free will if a foe is fainted but still alive. They will now ‘finish the job,’ so to speak.”

“Then, what is still wrong with them?” the boss asked, glaring intently at the professor and raising a suspicious eyebrow.

“With their extra power and rage caused by our creation process, the Shadow Pokémon have very short lifespans after being converted. We’re talking no more than forty-eight hours, and that’s if they don’t battle. If they do, then they die as soon as their opponent is defeated and killed. Apparently, once they start releasing their built-up energy, they cannot stop. And if there is no target for them to take their aggressions out on, it builds up within their body before the creature spontaneously combusts. And I’ve calculated that it’s powerful enough to level a town the size of Vernon City.”

“What about if you don’t increase their strength and aggression levels with the apparatus?”

“Their life expectancy is still only a week or so. And once again, after finishing a single battle, there is a large explosion; not as large, but still enough to wipe out a smaller town like Fort Barnes.”

“Arrgh… Ardos never mentioned any Shadow Pokémon exploding during his tenure at Cipher, not even their doomed XD001 project…”

The nervous and sweaty chief researcher explained, “This is a very different process than what Cipher used. We have confirmed that the Krane Purification System will not be effective on them since we constructed his machine and ran our test subjects through it. Unfortunately, that meant imbuing them with incredible amounts of energy, just to provide total resistance to Krane’s system.”

Slamming his fist on the metal desk and startling his pair of Pikachu, Bart Sy roared, “This will not do, Tony! First of all, we need the supercharged Shadow Pokémon to survive long enough so they can wipe out any and all resistance! Then we need our standard-issue Shadow Pokémon to live more than a week if we are to be able to introduce them to the wild and distribute them to starting trainers once we have seized control of the Pokémon League! If you had gotten this done sooner, we would have been able to destroy that girl by now! Get the thing perfected or it’s back to teaching noobs ‘How to Use a Pokéball 101’ at the community college for you!”

After his boss had hung up on him, Tony was left speechless. Soon regaining his composure, he turned to his assistant, Lethco. “You heard what the man said! Get the Shadow Pokémon Creator tweaked so that our test subjects do not spontaneously combust from incredible amounts of energy!”

“What?”

Sarcastically, Tony bellowed, “Fine! Let me spell it out for you in terms that even YOU can understand, Lethco! Make the shiny machine over there make Shadow Pogeys that actually DON’T go kasplodie! Got it?! Good! I’m headed to TJ McTipsy’s! Damn, I need a drink bad! Get to work!”

As his supervisor left to grab some drinks at the local bar, Lethco picked up a wrench and opened the front panel of the machine. “Jeez, why am I even doing this crap… All Tony does is yell at me and then go to McTipsy’s to get loaded…” the man muttered as he began his work.

Back in the leader’s chambers, the video monitor displayed test battles using various Pokémon. In nearly every trial, a Pikachu would win the fight but would explode immediately afterward, with nothing left of either Pokémon after the smoke cleared except for ashes scattered about the bare and sandy test field. The battleground itself was leveled as well, along with the cameras that had been filming the footage. The observers themselves were nowhere near Thrash’s remote desert testing grounds during the trials, keeping a safe distance away in an observation deck.

Bart Sy had called back both his Pikachu before watching the videos Tony had submitted to him – he didn’t want them to see the carnage caused by or to their brethren. Carefully examining the battles, he commented to himself, “The power of those boosted Shadow Pokémon is certainly impressive, but the fact that they explode after battle is most troubling… I don’t dare use them against Northwood until the process is perfected… I mean, sure, we’ll kill her and her Pokémon, and our members are expendable, but… those explosions were enough to attract the news teams to investigate ‘explosions in a remote part of the Orre desert.’ If we were to have the Pokémon explode in a populated area, it would destroy the surrounding area and draw undue attention to our operations. No… as tempting as it sounds to go all kamikaze on Northwood, it’s too risky until we can get our Pokémon so they can’t explode…”

Settling back in his chair, the leader called back out his two Pikachu and began rubbing both behind their pointed ears. “Soon enough, my friends, once those idiots downstairs finish perfecting our creation device… we will hold the world in our grip!”

Chapter 37: A Chance to Reflect

The Northwood sisters made their way toward the next town. The dirt path quickly gave way to a paved, six lane superhighway, as the foot path finally connected with the newly constructed highway. Not far off, the girls could see the outline of a sandy white beach and the crystal blue ocean. Sure enough, the incoming breezes from the sea actually made this portion of the route feel quite a bit warmer than the routes they had previously traversed. Lisa and Lindsay soon made their way over to the sidewalk that flanked the side of the strangely vacant highway.

“Well, it is the winter season. I doubt that few beachgoers are going to be in this area in early December. Which also means we’ll be able to get into a fancy hotel on the cheap.”

Lisa had found it odd that despite repeated warnings about the mass Pikachu outbreak, she had only seen (and easily subdued) the occasional solitary one for most of her journey thus far. “Perhaps they’re a bit north of here, around where the Safari Zone is,” surmised the teen. “Whatever the reason, I suppose I’ve been fortunate.

As the route neared the beach, it suddenly turned to head almost due east, paralleling the shoreline. The sisters continued, with the road on their left and a sandy white beach on their right. Directly in front of them was the outline formed by numerous highrises located on the side of the road facing the beach. But something more immediate caught Lisa’s attention.

A group of wild Poochyena, with their gray fur ruffling in the sea breezes, appeared to be swarming over something. Snarling and pointing their short black snouts at something, their red eyes were focused squarely on the same target. Along with the small wolf-like Pokémon was a familiar yellow rodent. In its own high-pitched language, the pointy-eared Pikachu appeared to be giving orders to the pack of wild Pokémon, as it pointed one of its chubby hands toward the center of the action. Peering over the small Pokémon, Lisa discovered the distinctive brown star shape of the Pokémon, Staryu. It was clearly being attacked by the Poochyena, with Pikachu calling the shots. Staryu’s red circular jewel, located centrally on its body, was not giving off the glow that it would if the Pokémon was healthy. The teen decided to put a stop to this attack.

“Jolteon, go! Zap those Poochyena one by one! Careful, they’re attacking another Pokémon, so don’t hit it by accident!”

Grunting in agreement, the pointy-haired yellow Pokémon carefully shot out electrical charges at each of the smaller gray wolf Pokémon. Upon getting the shock treatment, each of the Poochyena turned tail and ran off. Once all of the underlings were dispatched, Jolteon quickly ran to a position between the wounded Water-type and the commanding Pikachu who had lost its troops. And not a moment too soon. With an angry, yet still sickeningly cute expression, the electric rodent had fired off charges of its own. Fortunately, the larger Electric-type was able to absorb the entirety of the attack.

Thinking quickly, Lisa pulled out an empty Pokéball from her purse and lobbed it at the badly injured star-shaped Pokémon. As the capturing device worked its magic, the girl also whipped out her cell phone and began to dial Sequoia’s Pokémon ranch. The capture was successful and the Pokéball soon vanished, followed by a confirmation message from the PDA: “Staryu was successfully transferred to Dr. Sequoia’s laboratory.” While this was occurring, the enraged Pikachu was still attempting to subdue Jolteon with its electric blasts, its tiny brain failing to register the fact that its efforts were all in vain.

Dirk, the assistant from Roy’s gym in Bluefield City, answered. “Hello?”

“Hey, it’s Lisa Northwood. Listen, the Pokémon I just had transferred, a Staryu, needs medical attention. It was being attacked by a gang of Poochyena taking orders from a Pikachu. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to take care of some unfinished business.”

“All right, I’ll let you go. See you later!”

After hanging up the phone, the girl prepared two Pokéballs in her hand. First, she called back her Electric-type. After dodging a few electric bolts aimed directly at her, she called out her Vibrava. “Now, it’s personal!” she screamed at the Pikachu. “Time for you to learn some manners! Vibrava, Sand Tomb and Dig!”

Before the small winged dragon could even make a move, the electric aggressor tried zapping Lisa again – and this time it succeeded. Letting out a loud scream as the current from the electric assault flowed through her, the teenager fell to the ground, her body and clothes now charred with electric burns. Her usually combed brown hair now stood on end, making Lisa look like those punk rockers she loathed so much, for both their attitude and their unintelligible “music.” Her hat had flown off the instant the attack hit, and had landed safely next to the other sister.

As her sister was screaming in pain, Lindsay also let out a terrified shriek. Rushing to her sister’s aid, she looked on in horror as Pikachu was preparing to send another electric charge their way. Fortunately, this time Vibrava was at the ready, hurling a pile of messy brown mud at the rodent before it could let off its attack.

“Lisa! Are you okay?! That attack looked really painful!”

Finally, the older sibling came to, and upon realizing that her sister was in the line of fire, shouted, “I’m fine! Now hurry and get away from here before you get shocked, too!” As Lindsay fled to a safe location with her sister’s hat in hand, Lisa brushed herself, before shooting the Pikachu an enraged glare. The electric mouse matched the girl’s stare with its own angry expression, flipping her off before taunting her with its finger, as if telling her to “Bring it.” But of course, the now seething Lisa was more than ready to do so.

“Chuuuuuu!” The small yellow rodent tried to electrocute the girl again, but she was ready to jump and dodge its assaults. Concentrating on Lisa, Pikachu was taken completely off guard as a massive brown whirlwind of dust and sand ensnared the pesky Electric-type in its swirling vortex.

“Arrgh! My hair! My clothes! I look like a freak! And you are to blame, you little punk! But you’re lucky this ain’t my good outfit; otherwise I would have taken care of you personally! Now, Vibrava, time to take out the trash! Use Dig and Dragonbreath to take the little pest by surprise!”

While the yellow annoyance was still trapped within the blowing and swirling sand, the green Dragon-type swiped at the dirt furiously with her thin black legs and promptly retreated underground. The electrical rodent ran to the hole and sent a fury of brilliant electric charges down the opening. Despite lighting the Pokémon-made cavern up like the Fourth of July, it failed to even stun its Ground-type foe. The winged Vibrava soon popped back out from the same hole she had dug, smacking Pikachu in the face and sending the rotund little rat into the air. As her foe began to descend, Lisa’s dragonfly-like Pokémon aimed her small, bug-eyed head upward and unleashed a cloud of thick orange fog from her mouth, further compounding the damage. After landing with an excruciating crunch on a pointed rock, the mouse let out a loud squeal. Not wanting any more pain brought on by Lisa, the rat turned chicken and scampered away as quickly as it could.

“Ain’t so tough without your crew, are ya?” Lisa called out to her retreating nemesis.

Having dispatched her nemesis, Lisa called her Pokémon back and then ran to where her sister had taken refuge. Both girls were still shaking. “Oh, my God, sis, are you okay? You’re not hurt, are you? Please, you can’t be hurt!”

“Relax, I’m fine. Luckily, those things aren’t that strong. Just had the wind knocked out of me. Hang on, I gotta check up on that Pokémon they were attacking,” she continued as both sisters continued their walk. Pulling out her phone, Lisa proceeded to dial the ranch while trying to comb down her spiked hair with her other hand, with some success. Once again, Dirk was the one who answered. Lisa started, “Hey, did you get a chance to look at that Staryu that was sent to the lab?”

“Yeah, and I do have good news. I saved a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to Geico. No, seriously, though, the Pokémon’s injuries aren’t serious, and once it recovers, it’ll be added to your collection of stored Pokémon.”

“Okay, thanks for that, and I’ll see everybody later! Take care!” As she clicked her phone shut, Lisa had realized that the girls had made it into the next town. The decorative wooden welcoming sign read, “Plum City, A Beautiful Beachfront Resort.”

Of course, the beach was hidden by massive, multistory hotels that lined the side of the road facing the beach. On the opposite side stood smaller buildings, ranging from beach stores to souvenir shops and from coffee shops to tropical-themed restaurants. Most were empty, with signs noting that they were closed for the off-season. Behind the storefronts loomed numerous parking decks, all of which were nearly vacant. Indeed, there was very little foot traffic and most of the automobile traffic seemed to be merely passing through. Then again, this was expected for a beach resort town in early December.

As they passed the hotels, Lisa finally spotted one that would do for their time here – the Marriott Grand Beachside Resort. An impressive building that spanned twelve stories high, the entrance was decorated with an impressive white marble fountain that was easily at least two stories tall. Once inside the lobby, the girls were in awe at the level of elegance that was contained within. With marble flooring beneath their feet and a massive glass chandelier hanging over their heads, both sisters took in their posh surroundings with their jaws wide open.

Black leather couches were arranged throughout the lobby, as well as fancy antique-style end tables and lamps constructed of some dark-colored wood – mahogany, most likely. At the check-in desk, a well-groomed man wearing a black suit greeted the sisters. The red Marriott logo was stitched into his suit jacket, and he had a surprise for the girls – a $69.95 room rate.

“No way… only seventy dollars… for a Marriott?” Lindsay could hardly believe her ears. Lisa, however, did not seem so surprised.

“It’s the off-season; they don’t have nearly as many guests this time of year, so they’re willing to lower their prices to try to attract more business.”

The clerk chuckled. “Well, it looks like someone has studied up on how hotels price their rooms. But yeah, this is a 408-room hotel and right now we have about forty of those rooms occupied. Anyway, your room is 736, it has a beautiful view of the ocean and boardwalk. Please enjoy your stay, and let us know if there’s anything we can do to serve you better!”

“Okay, thanks a lot!” Lisa called back as she and Lindsay made their way to the glass-lined elevator.

Once in the room, though, the girls were let down a bit. Sure, the room had the fancy duvet covers and two king beds with a mother lode of pillows, but other than that and the balcony looking out onto the ocean, the room was no better equipped than the Quality Inn they had previously stayed at. Still, this was several cuts above a Pokémon Center room, and paradise compared to the horror called sleeping outside.

Lisa commented, “Well, the room is clean and everything, and the view is beautiful. But, with a lobby that nice, I guess I was expecting a little bit more. I mean, even the other places we’ve stayed at have had in-room micro-fridges.”

“Sis, please stop debating hotel rooms and just relax for a while.”

“Yeah, I suppose you’re right, Linds. After being electrocuted, I suppose I should just stretch out and take a load off. But first, I need to get out of these clothes – hopefully Pikachu didn’t ruin them, as I would need to return to South Carolina to buy another of these ‘Carolina Girls’ T-shirts.”

Lisa had put on her familiar blue floral dress and green cardigan, along with her white pantyhose. After slipping off her ballet flats, the older girl sprawled out on one of the beds. Just as she was getting comfortable, though, her PDA received an email message. Lisa read it aloud.

“Dear Lisa,

If you happen to arrive in Plum City today, join us at the Captain’s Quarters club inside the Doubletree Hotel tonight; they’re supposed to have an announcement about where this year’s big worldwide Pokémon championship tournament is going to be held. There’s also supposed to be an after-party. Hope to see you there!

Alexis and Shannon.”

“Oh, you KNOW I’m gonna be there! Let me email them back really quick! Oh, wait, I have to get my hair done, rent a dress… I gotta get going!” Turning around, Lisa asked her sister, “Oh, are you thinking about coming too? You’re welcome to if you want.”

Lindsay answered, “No thanks, I’d rather just stay here. But can you leave some of your Pokémon and their food so I have something to do while you’re gone?”

“Okay, sure!” Just then, the teen remembered what happened the last time she went to a party – a Thrash member had attacked, and she just happened to have a Pokémon on her to defend herself. Aloud, Lisa added, “But I guess I’ll take Persian with me in case anything happens. Okay, I’ll be back later tonight! You stay out of trouble, ya hear?”

“Yeah, yeah, I know the drill, sis! Jeez…”
********

Lisa had decided to go all out for this event. “No way am I giving up an opportunity to dress myself up and have a great time tonight!” With her hair still sticking up somewhat from the Pikachu attack, the girl’s first destination was the local hair salon.

The girl hesitated outside the entrance. “Usually, I don’t concern myself with my hair and makeup, but then again a Pikachu DID make my hair stand on end and I am going to this big fancy party, so I figure I should at least try to fix myself up.” Entering the shop’s mall entrance, Lisa flagged down a pair of staffers. “Hello, I’m going to that big party tonight to announce the location of the international championships, and I need my hair looking its best!

“Ma’am, that party is…” one female employee started before a larger male hairdresser elbowed her and whispered something in her ear. “…Oh, yeah,” she finally continued, “that party is the event of the year! Come, you look like a wreck! Let’s give you our full treatment package!” As the woman led Lisa back in the salon to work on her hair, the male employee chuckled under his breath.

Nearly an hour and a half later, the girl emerged sporting a new look. Her brown hair now fell completely behind her back, instead of having the two thick strands that would normally drape over the front of her shoulders. It had a brilliant, lustrous sheen, as the beauty salon expended much effort to ensure that Lisa did not look as if she had been on a Pokémon journey. She walked out of the back exit of the salon into a mall and proceeded to her next destination – an upscale department store on the other side of the mall. Browsing the store’s formal dress section, Lisa soon came across one that tickled her fancy.

“Hello,” she said to two female clerks. “I’d like to rent this dress for the big party tonight.”

“Which party?”

“The one where they’re announcing the location of that big international tournament.”

Once again, the girl noticed that the two women whispered amongst themselves and tried to stifle their chuckles. Lisa was confused for sure; she didn’t know what to make of this behavior.

“Okay, sweetie, there you go. It’s going to be $105 for one night, and damages will be assessed when you return it.”

After the girl handed over the money, a third clerk handed Lisa a black garment bag containing her rental dress.

In a quiet part of the mall, the young teen was making a call on her cell phone. “Yes, is this Universal Taxi? Yes, I will need a ride from Cherry Blossom Mall to the Marriott Resort. Okay, you’ll be at the entrance in fifteen minutes? Okay, thank you very much!” Hanging up the phone, Lisa thought to herself, “I do not want to ruin my newly styled hair or this rented dress should some incident occur on the way back to the hotel.

Back in the hotel room, the older sister asked the younger one, “Linds, are you sure you don’t want to come tonight?”

“No, sis, you have fun tonight. Big parties aren’t really my thing, so have a great time and I’ll just relax here with your Pokémon.”

“Okay, but you don’t know what you’re missing! Now, I need to find a good limo service so I can arrive in style!” Taking the yellow pages out of the nightstand’s drawer, Lisa began thumbing through the directory until she found what she was looking for.

“Sis, a full hair makeover, a fancy dress, and now a limo?! Not to mention all these hotel rooms! How DO you afford all of this?!”

“Well, it’s mostly due to me running an online tutoring business. Oh, and some clever stock trades. Anyway, I gotta make this call now!” Using the hotel’s phone, she dialed up the number of a local limo company. “Hello, is this Prestige Carriage Limousine? I have a limo request for tonight…”
********

A black Lincoln Town Car stretch limousine pulled up under the canopy of the Doubletree Oceanside Hotel. Stepping out of the back of the car was a girl barely recognizable as Lisa Northwood. She had kept her shimmering brown hair straight and was careful not to do anything that day to mess it up. The girl wore a silky sleeveless red dress that came down to her ankles. The dress sparkled under the lights of the hotel, and it was decorated with a wide purple ribbon across the waist. On her head, she wore a glittery silver tiara that completed her striking appearance.

Lisa entered the hotel’s banquet room only to discover that she had indeed gone all out for this event – everyone else was dressed pretty casually, with most simply wearing jeans and T-shirts. Most everyone stared at her, as if she was a fish out of water. The teen’s face immediately turned to a shade of red that very closely matched her dress.

Okay, I feel pretty stupid… But I LOOK fabulous!

“Lisa! Over here! We’re over here!” shouted a familiar female voice. Lisa made her way through the darkened banquet hall and eventually located her friends. But, in addition to Alexis and Shannon, there were two others seated with them. In an instant, Lisa recognized the other two – Marvin Excellus and Kim Harris.

“Hey, long time, no see! Would’ve been nice if you told me I didn’t have to dress up for this party! Oh, whatever. So, what have y’all been up to lately?”

“Not much, Lisa,” Alexis answered, “but we did have a run-in with some of your buddies from Team Thrash! Seems those clowns never learn!”

“Really? And where did y’all run into my so-called “buddies?””

Shannon fielded this one. “The Safari Zone of all places. You never would have guessed that it was actually a front for a drug-smuggling ring run by Thrash. Battled the weirdest looking couple, too. They apparently liked the colors silver and purple.”

The taller Alexis continued, “They also did weird stuff like pointing up at the ceiling and stuff. Really odd pair, those two were. Oh, hey, we also met that old guy who has a grudge against you. Tommy, isn’t that the guy’s name? He was trying to Molotov Reed’s Gym!”

“Really? Reed never told me that. Well, at least y’all shut him down!”

“Yup,” answered Shannon as she played with her straight black hair. “We battled him and sent him packing. Hopefully, he’ll think twice before trying terrorism again.”

“Other than that, it’s been the same old, same old. Just keeping up the training game,” added Alexis.

Kim spoke up. “Well, it’s been the same for us for the most part, except that neither Marvin or I have encountered any members of Team Thrash. I don’t know how you guys keep running into them when we haven’t seen those guys at all.”

“Hey, be lucky you haven’t had to deal with them. Those guys are seriously bad news,” Lisa responded as she took a bite of her chicken wings and fries – she had ordered some appetizers before the main meal would be served. “But, we’ve gotta find something to talk about besides Thrash. What about some other interesting battles we’ve had? Both my battles with Reed were pretty intense, and losing the first time made me rethink my strategy against him. In fact, I decided to use a strategy I saw another foe use against me and I taught Weezing Fire-based attacks.”

Alexis answered Lisa as she took a sip of her soda. “Well, we both beat the Gym Leader here earlier today. She seemed a bit spaced out, so it really wasn’t a tough battle. In fact, we think she had her mind on something else – perhaps this party tonight. Perhaps she’s here tonight, though with all these other people here, I don’t see her.”

“Oh, here, Lexy and I got you a little gift,” the dark-haired Shannon said as she and her taller blond friend handed Lisa a small silver box.

Opening the package, Lisa pulled out a sparkling gold necklace. On the front of her new jewelry was her name spelled out in a pretty script. “Aww! It’s so cute! Thanks, you two!” Lisa exclaimed as she quickly put on her brand-new necklace.

“Okay, quiet, they’re about to make the announcement!” Kim warned.

A set of red velvet curtains at the front of the room opened, revealing a large, widescreen television. On-screen, a gray-haired man in a suit stood at a podium, with two men and two women standing directly behind him. All were formally dressed, but as the spotlight was on the older man in front, their specific details were hidden.

“Greetings folks! As many of you know, my name is Lord Travis Charleston. As the spokesman and official Chancellor of the Pokémon League, and with our very own Elite Four accompanying me, it gives me great pleasure to announce the venue for the “All-Region, All-Star Tournament,” which is the event to decide who is the best Pokémon trainer in the world! From our region, only the top four in our regional championship tournament will be invited to participate in the world championships, and there they’ll meet expert trainers from all over the world. It truly is a meeting of the very best.”

“As per tradition, the All-Region, All-Star Tournament will be held in a neutral location, in a region that does not have its own Pokémon League. Fourtix hosted it in 1959 and again in 1973, before our own league was formed in 1975. So far, nobody from the region has ever taken the top prize, but I have a feeling it’ll be different this year! Anyway, here’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for – the location of this year’s world championship tournament! The venue is…”

The banquet hall fell silent as the spokesman prepared to reveal the location that would host the year’s most intense Pokémon battles.

“… located in the United States, in the northwestern corner of the state of South Carolina. Specifically, the battles will take place at Frank Howard Field at Memorial Stadium, in the city of Clemson. Housing for the event will be at local hotels, and attempts will be made so that the impact of the tournament on the local university will be minimized…”

“No way… I can’t believe this… they’re practically holding this thing in my hometown… I used to live within walking distance of that stadium when I went to school there… couldn’t they have chosen a more exotic location?” Lisa stammered as her eyes were opened as wide as they would go.

“Well, look at it this way,” Kim suggested, “if you make it there, you’ll have come full circle. Not to mention your home-field advantage!’

“Well, when you phrase it like that…” Lisa conceded.

Afterward, the hotel served a buffet style dinner, and the event concluded with a night of dancing and karaoke. And this time, Lisa would end up actually getting through her song. Somehow knowing that her trainer had taken the spotlight, Persian had emerged from her Luxury Ball and was sitting next to Lisa’s now-vacant seat.

“When you feel the sunlight
Fade into the cold night
Don’t know where to turn
I don’t know where to turn
And all the dreams you’re dreaming
Seem to lose their meaning
Let me in your world
Baby, let me in your world
All you need is someone you can hold
Don’t be sad, you’re not alone”

“I will be here for you
Somewhere in the night
Somewhere in the night
I’ll shine a light for you
Somewhere in the night
I’ll be standing by
I will be here for you”

Taking a bow, Lisa announced, “That song… was dedicated to all my beloved Pokémon… No matter what, I will be here for you.”

As the overly formally-dressed teen returned to her seat amidst applause, Kim congratulated her. “Great job out there, Lisa! You were great and the song was lovely!”

“Yeah, but now it’s our turn to sing, and we’ll one-up you in the ‘sappy love song’ category!” boasted Shannon as she and her taller best friend took to the stage.

As a soothing piano melody began to play, Persian came began to nuzzle against her trainer. “Hey, did you like that song? Let’s listen to our friends as hey do their song now, okay?” Lisa received a soft meow in response from the beige cat-like Pokémon. As the singing started, the girl began to go through some thoughts in her head, all the while petting and rubbing her cat’s furry head as the Pokémon dreamily looked on, smiling.

We were strangers starting out on our journey
Never dreaming what we’d have to go through

I don’t think anyone knows what’s in store for them as their life unfolds… no- only the Lord knows that. It’s no different for you or me. I was a young girl, with no knowledge of Pokémon other than in books or on websites- like I wasn’t even planning to BE a trainer, you know? And before all this, you- you were a cute little Meowth, enjoying your time just playing around the professor’s lab- not a care in the world. Both of us so clueless, so naďve Well, anyway, now look at us. I never figured I would ever had made it this far as a trainer! And how could we know then that you would grow to be the beautiful and strong Persian- your elegance always being an inspiration for me- who’s helping me take on the biggest challenge of both of our lives? Simply amazing how far I’ve come, isn’t it- no, I’m sorry- I should have said, ‘we.’ We’re a team now, and I HAVE to try to remember that. I mean, I- I would be nothing… NOTHING but a nerdy brainiac without your help… Oh, jeez, and I can’t forget about the rest of the team! Man, I’m so forgetful!

Now here we are and I’m suddenly standing
At the beginning with you

Remember when we first met? I was eleven and it was my first time in Fourtix. My parents had just bought the house in Fort Barnes and I was introducing myself to the professor. I was the new girl in town but for whatever reason, she wanted to meet me. She said that you had just been born from a Pokémon egg- you were so tiny I could almost hold you in one hand! Bet I can’t do that now, huh?! I remember when our eyes first met, you formed the most adorable smile on your face. Now, I’m usually not a sucker for cuteness- and you know that from all those Pikachu we crushed- BAM! Hah! We pwned those noobs, right! Wait, I’m getting way off track! Jeez, ya shoulda told me! Somehow, though, you- tiny little thing you were back then- you won me over with just one smile! I don’t know how you did it, must be just part of your unique charm. I was like, “SO CUUUUTE!” and that’s something I don’t do often! From then on, whenever I went to see the professor you would always come up to me wanting to play. And with your cute face and playful antics, how could I resist? How could anyone resist? With your big eyes and coin thingie on your head both shimmering and glittering, and with the adorable way your face used to wrinkle when you smiled… you even made a hardcore geek like me notice!

All those times I was in the lab when the professor was handing out starters, you’d always run over to me. And I’d tell you, “They won’t bite” in my softest voice, but you wouldn’t budge. You weren’t comfortable around others, but… somehow, it’s like you took a shine to me from the very start. Looking back at how well we got along- I don’t remember you scratching me once, believe it or not- I guess we really were destined to be partners. I know that we got partnered up for my Pokémon quest because of that Thrash invasion of the lab- and that must have been hard on you, seeing your home get ruined and seeing Amy all tied up- but maybe… just maybe, that was destined to happen…


No one told me I was going to find you
Unexpected what you did to my heart

I never really thought I’d enjoy Pokémon training this much! I mean, I’ve got a college degree- in math, no less- and I was never the one to want to go out into the world. Oh, why am I telling you? You know that already… seeing how much I freak out all the time when I can’t find a room. I’d be like, “AHHHH! WHAT’S THAT?! GET IT OFF ME!!!” And making myself suffer like that didn’t seem to have a point at the time- it’s not like I needed to do this to earn a living- the two online businesses I own would’ve been enough to support me. Besides, I always thought Pokémon training was a hobby for little kids, not anything a college grad like me needs to get mixed up in- but, wow, this journey has taught me a LOT!

But somehow- perhaps my parents realized I needed to do this. I often did wonder why Mom and Dad wanted me to take on this challenge, and I did doubt their decision. They were like, “Lisa, you need to get away from the books and go explore the world with your Pokémon!” And I was like, “But I don’t wanna leave my comfort zone, it’s comfortable!” But that’s two things about parents.. one, they know best, and two, they always get their way at the end! Okay, so I was on the way to the lab, grumbling to myself about things like, “This better be worth it,” and, “These shoes are already hurting! This better REALLY be worth it!” Not to mention the fact that I had no idea who I’d be partnered with. I figured, “With my luck, my first Pokémon is gonna be a royal pain to get along with…” But as soon as I found out that you were going to be my partner, and how eager you were to get out of the lab and begin a grand adventure… well, I guess some of that excitement rubbed off on me. What can I say? Well, okay, I guess I should admit that this has turned out to be very worthwhile for me. Together- See? I remembered that we’re in this together this time!... Anyway, together, we’ve had challenges that I think have shaped who we are. You agree with me there, right?


When I lost hope you were there to remind me
This is the start

Hardships. Challenges. As we’ve learned- sometimes the easy way, sometimes the hard way- they’re part of the package when on a journey. But who thought we’d face the challenges that we have? I mean, Tommy tried to kill the both of us before we had even started out… and this whole business with Thrash… I don’t think either of us could’ve predicted what they’d put us through. Especially those two at the weather center- if not for the cops arriving when they did, neither of us would… would… b-be here… N-No, I don’t want to think of that either, but it WAS a real possibility at the time… But through it all, we never gave up. Even those times when I would lose- and I guess it’s the perfectionist in me that hates to lose- and I would start crying and regretting even starting on this journey, you and the rest of the team would always come to my rescue. Others would laugh, call me a ‘crybaby,’ but… but not you. And not the rest of our partners, either. Y’all understood that I was- and still am, I suppose- really sensitive to failure.

When I was wallowing in self-pity and blaming myself for being a failure- like I was when Reed wiped me out the first time, you guys would be the ones to reassure me… usually by getting close to me and showing me you still cared for me- Persian, I know you’d rub me gently- with your nice, warm paw- while the others comforted me in their own way, whether it was Sealeo and Jolteon nuzzling my leg, or Metang petting my head and trying not to knock me out, or even Vibrava and Weezing who would try to reassure me with their cries. All of y’all would try to ‘soothe the pain,’ so to speak- and help me feel a little better about myself. You know, give me the strength to continue… at exactly the time when I needed a confidence boost the most… It’s like you and the rest of the team KNEW when I was down and I needed cheering up- it’s like in all those cute movie scenes where everybody’s like, ‘AWWW!’ and they begin to tear up- I LOVE those moments!. And I really need to thank you for everything you do to help me. Thank… thank you… I’m sorry, I really can’t say it enough!


And life is a road and I want to keep going
Love is a river I want to keep flowing
Life is a road now and forever
A wonderful journey

I’ll be there when the world stops turning
I’ll be there when the storm is through
In the end I wanna be standing
At the beginning with you

We were strangers on a crazy adventure
Never dreaming how our dreams would come true

It’s certainly been a wild ride, hasn’t it, Persian? We’ve met all sorts of people and Pokémon in the past few months, from the nice to the nasty to the downright bizarre. I STILL have to laugh at that oddball Fred, who thought barking would lead him to victory. I mean, really- he tried to come off as a tough guy, but I don’t think anyone could take that dude seriously! And you showed him that cats are better than dogs when you completely WIPED HIM OUT! And who could forget my old friend, Reggie? You probably don’t know him since he never used Pokémon, but this guy was nuts! He stalks me, comes at me, and thinks he can beat ME at a contest of wits? Puh-leeeze! Does he not know who he’s dealing with?! Then there was that psychotic nurse, the weirdo pirate, and… and probably some others that I can’t think of right now! Who knew such weird and crazy people lived here among us? It has made for an interesting trip through this region, meeting, talking, and battling all these different people. Ah, but it wouldn’t be the same if we were just battling for badges… we’ve needed these wrenches thrown into the mix to keep us on our toes. After all, it just wouldn’t be fun any other way!

Now here we stand unafraid of the future
At the beginning with you

So far, though, we’ve been able to rise above the challenges that have presented themselves. At times, I wasn’t sure if we could overcome the odds stacked against us, but we always did find a way to pull through. Of course, it would be impossible to do it on our own. I also have my friends and their Pokémon to thank as well. Even better than the battling, better than the joy of victory… I’ve enjoyed just venturing out and meeting all sorts of wonderful friends!

We have made some very good friends- and boy, have I needed them! Alexis and Shannon- they both handed me losses early on, but you know something? I am a much better person for having met them. Just like you, they helped me gain more confidence. Granted, they were sometimes a bit harsh with me… but with me, sometimes being harsh is the ONLY way to get through to me. I seem to remember them most fondly… maybe it’s because they’ve helped me out so much- helped me become a better trainer and person, helped me to understand you and the rest of our team just a little bit better and… and… they were even there to take care of me when those thugs almost broke my leg! You’ve always been there for me, and as I hear them put their all into their singing right now… well, I feel like I should make the most of this ‘crazy adventure’ I’m on with my Pokémon!

And how could I forget Lindsay, my dear sister? I never thought she’d become a traveling partner- how my baby sis convinced Mom and Dad to let her out of school, I’ll probably never know. But, despite everything- despite all the times she’d make fun of me for my love of math, and all the times she would drag me along, we… we make a pretty good traveling team, don’t you think? As much as I enjoy the company of you and my other Pokémon, I do need the company of other people as well, you know? Yeah, but you enjoy her company too, don’t you? I mean, she can get a bit annoying, but she IS a sweetie, you know? And I know she likes being around my Pokémon. Right now, she’s probably having fun just talking and playing with the rest of our group back at the room. I think she’ll make a great trainer someday, don’t you?

And thanks to my Pokémon and my friends, now I have a lot more confidence in myself as a trainer and a person. I feel that no matter what the future holds for us, as a trainer and Pokémon partnership, we can overcome! A girl and her Pokémon, rising up to meet the challenges of the world!


And life is a road and I want to keep going
Love is a river I want to keep flowing
Life is a road now and forever
A wonderful journey

As much as I hesitated to become a trainer in the first place, I now realize that this is just the next stage in my life. And while it is the most challenging yet- the first time I’ve been challenged physically as well as mentally, and the first time I’ve suffered the bitter taste of defeat- I suppose that’s really the point of it. Each new road in life should present new roadblocks to get around and new traffic jams to suffer through, but I have faith that all of them are designed to mold us into the person- and Pokémon, of course- that the Lord wants us to become. For that alone, it’s been worth it. But I’ve also been blessed with an excellent group of friends and Pokémon to share the journey with.

There’s Weezing, who I found abandoned and who came to my aid in my very first battle. Then there was Sealeo, who was a gift from Lorelei- it’s impossible not to have a lot of respect for her, and yet I think she saw something in me, as well. But Sealeo really needs to learn to control his eating! Next one I caught was Vibrava, who I happened to run into while stumbling through that dark tunnel- she’s been a tough battler ever since. I can’t forget about Metang, a rather unexpected prize for showing off my calculus skills! If only I could figure out how it decides if it wants to battle a particular opponent or not… And Jolteon- I remember how he evolved… it was my fault for falling over and making a Thunderstone clobber him on the head- I’m sorry! But all of you- I’m so glad I had the chance to meet and battle alongside you during this adventure.


I’ll be there when the world stops turning
I’ll be there when the storm is through
In the end I wanna be standing
At the beginning with you

But Persian, you were with me before I even started out. Years before actually beginning, we had already built up a sort of bond… and now that we’ve been through so much, I feel that bond is unbreakable! I know that I’m far from perfect- and that you’ve had to endure my math ramblings and constant complaining. But despite my flaws, you’ve accepted me for who I am. I think that’s a sign that we’re going to be together for a very long time to come. You agree, right? I mean, everything we’ve been through, all the hardships and roadblocks we’ve had to overcome- we’ve always been able to emerge from it- maybe a little scraped up and sore, but also stronger, wiser- and closer together- than before. I think that’s a sign that we truly ARE meant to be life partners, no matter what the rest of our lives have in store for us- whether it be battling or not. Whatever the future brings, we’ll be there together to take it on!

I knew there was somebody somewhere
Like me alone in the dark

Can you believe it, though? We’ve known each other for years, but I’m sure back then we never could imagine we would be doing this. I mean, we both had lived very sheltered lives, me as a college student and the daughter of a rich family, and you as a personal pet of the professor. Pokémon training has been a BIG wake-up call for the both of us. I had brains, I had bucks- not many girls my age can say they’ve got a college degree and two businesses that they run. I can integrate a function around anyone, as I’ve proven time and again. My involvement with student government and residence life made me feel like a big shot- like the big girl on campus, which is ironic since I was one of their youngest students! But when it came down to it, I… I quickly found out that there’s more to life than equations and school- and I have you- and this Pokémon adventure as a whole- to thank for opening my eyes.

But you weren’t any more prepared for this wild ride than I was. Before we started out, you were so innocent- perking up your tiny pointed ears whenever you caught a whiff of your food- how you smelled it without a nose, I’ll never know! Then you’d come running up, almost tripping over your two big brown feet, curled tail wagging excitedly. Dr. Sequoia would tell me time and time again that you were always getting into something. But then you would look at her with your big, bright eyes, and somehow… that would make everything better. But I think that you quickly found out that Pokémon battling was a whole different ball game. We both had to face the reality that we could be hurt, and a part of our innocence died. But it did wonders for helping us mature into what we’ve become. I think that’s the beauty of the two of us venturing out into the world together, as two inexperienced partners who needed to learn a lot from the world- and from each other. And I hope we have many, MANY more learning experiences together!


I know that my dream will live on
I’ve been waiting so long
Nothing’s gonna tear us apart

No matter what happens to us in the future, we’ll always remain partners. We’ve been through so much… harsh challenges, fun and relaxing moments, tight situations, and even embarrassing moments… but the important thing is, we’ve been through everything together. We’ve been able to get closer to each other and understand a bit more about each other, as well. Our time together has been SO important to me, and I’m sure it has been to you, too. From the way we work together in the heat of battle to simple downtime like this- every moment we share is one to be cherished. And that is what makes this adventure truly rewarding- not the glory of victory, or the excitement of a lab invasion, but the fact that we’re in this together! And together is how we’ll remain- forever and ever! Thank you… for always being there with me!

As long as you’re by my side, I don’t really need to be doing anything to be able to enjoy life, you know? Sometimes it’s just relaxing to sit like this, letting all of my emotions free with you here next to me. I can’t help to think that somehow… in some way, you’re able to understand my thoughts right now. I’ve noticed you inching even closer to me… thanks for being here with me tonight. It’s… it’s so important to me. I mean, thanks for staying with me throughout this entire journey. Side by side, working in harmony- we CAN overcome anything the world throws at us! You were my very first Pokémon, and though my other Pokémon are all very important to me, you hold a special place in my heart. In the future, I know that we’ll be there for each other- congratulating each other, comforting each other- and that is one thing I would not change for the world. No matter what happens, we’ll ALWAYS be partners and friends- I promise!


And life is a road and I want to keep going
Love is a river I want to keep flowing
Life is a road now and forever
A wonderful journey

I’ll be there when the world stops turning
I’ll be there when the storm is through
In the end I wanna be standing
At the beginning with you

As the pair finished, Lisa was left speechless, with tears in her eyes and her hands gently massaging her Pokémon’s head. “Wow… that was beautiful!” When Alexis and Shannon returned to their seats, they were met with a gushing Lisa. “Incredible! Y’all are really good at this! It brought back so many memories about the start of my journey! I hope the next song is as beautiful and uplifting as yours!”

Much to her dismay, the heartwarming few minutes were officially over when the first few lines of the next song started.

“I like big butts and I cannot lie…”

“Oh well,” shrugged Lisa as she joined the group of partiers heading to the dance floor. Persian, realizing that their bonding time was over, silently made her way back into her Pokéball.

After a bit of dancing, an exhausted and sweaty Lisa returned to her seat as the next round of singing started. Unfortunately for her, the songs that these individuals chose to play were of the angst-filled rock variety. Disgusted by this turn of musical styles, the girl got out of her seat.

“You leaving already?” asked Kim. “You got all dressed up for this when nobody else did, it would have seemed like you would have wanted to hang around a bit longer.”

Observing several folks who were clearly drunk begin to brawl, Lisa answered, “The music’s gone downhill and people are starting to have one too many. I think it’s smart that I get out of here before things get out of control.”

“Okay then, we’ll come with! You shouldn’t walk back to your room alone! Alright girls, let’s get a move on!” declared Marvin as he and the four girls got up and left. About thirty seconds after they left their table, a wooden barstool came crashing down on it, splintering the stool into dozens of pieces and leaving a big dent in the table’s aluminum surface.

“Um, guys, I didn’t exactly…” Lisa started.

Outside, the limo was waiting. As Lisa got in, her four friends just stood there, with their jaws hanging wide open.

“You… you rented a limo? You sure did go all out for this party!” exclaimed Kim as she and the rest of the group piled into the limo. After they had traveled a few blocks, Lisa suggested, “Why don’t we all get out and take a nice walk on the boardwalk. It might not be all that warm, but the views are probably still lovely.”

“Good idea!”

The five friends exited the limo and Lisa paid the driver before he drove off. Making their way between two of the beachfront hotels, the gang soon found themselves on the paved boardwalk that paralleled the beach. Walking to the south towards the Marriott, Kim asked Lisa, “I think we all decided that once the Pokémon League is done with this year, we’ll maybe travel to another region and try their League. We’ve just really enjoyed the experience. What about you? Where are you headed after this year’s League is wrapped up?”

Lisa answered with another question. “About that… What would y’all think if I went back to school after completing the Pokémon League tournament this year? I seriously don’t expect making it all the way to the worldwide championships; I’m not nearly as good as y’all!”

Alexis was the first to respond. “Lisa, stop being so hard on yourself! You’re a great trainer! Sure, you’ve had some difficulties, but who hasn’t? More importantly, you’ve done more to stop Thrash than any other trainer we know of! That’s gotta count for something!”

“Yeah, you’re right,” the nerdy girl conceded, rubbing the back of her neck. “I’ve really gotta stop comparing myself to others. I have come a long way, after all!”

“Anyway, to answer your question,” Shannon added, “I’d be careful about leaving your Pokémon behind to pursue college, especially since you’ve already formed a bond with them. I’m sure you know that you can’t have Pokémon in most college dorms…”

“Residence halls,” Lisa corrected.

“Sorry. Anyway, if you do decide to pursue college, make sure you find time to make it back to the professor’s lab to check back with your Pokémon. You’re obviously rich enough to rent a limo and prom dress to a casual party; you should have enough to buy a plane ticket back to this region every so often. If you don’t, think about how your Pokémon might feel, with the possibility that you abandoned them.”

“You’re right,” she realized. “I should have thought of that!”

Kim added, “And don’t forget there’s always Fourtix University. From what I’ve heard from Dr. Sequoia, they’ve already started building a freeway from Bluefield to Fort Barnes, so commuting shouldn’t be a problem. Just carpool with a friend or something.”

The young trainer let out a sigh as she continued walking down the beach wearing her formal dress. This was exactly the type of relaxing break from training that she needed.

“Actually, I…um… I have a car here. Well, not here, but at my place in Fort Barnes.”

“You… have a car, too?” sputtered Marvin. “What kind of car is it?”

“1989 Chevy Caprice Classic,” proudly announced Lisa.

“Hmmm… never heard of it.”

“Yeah, she’s an oldie, but that’s the way I like my cars!”

Kim continued, “Cars aside, if I remember, since Fourtix University does offer Pokémon-related classes, trainers can have Pokémon in their dor- I mean, residence halls, and there are fields for practice battles. So you might want to consider going there!”

“Well, it’ll depend on the quality of their programs. After all, as Shannon pointed out, I can fly into the area periodically to check back on my Pokémon. But if they’ve got good programs, then I’ll certainly consider them!”

The group took a few minutes to take in their surroundings. To their left was the beach, with the crystallized white sand still giving off a lovely sparkle from the huge full moon above. The seawater also gave off a glittery glow as the sound of waves gently crashing upon the shore. The cries of Wingull and the distinct smell of the beach completed the tranquil shoreline scene. The gentle sea breezes felt surprisingly warm against the faces of the five walkers, helping slightly to warm them against the cold night air. To their right were the hotels, towering toward the indigo sky, most of their rooms without their lights on. Many of their restaurants occupied the ground levels looking out onto the beach, but they were nearly all closed. During peak season, they would be bustling with activity well into the early morning, but on an early December morning, they did not detract from the serenity of the boardwalk and beach.

Seeing the relaxing environment, Lisa then decided to let Persian out to walk with the group. “I didn’t want Persian to know of my future plans yet, but since I’m changing the subject, I think it’ll be okay if she walks with us back to the hotel.

“Hey, there you are! Long time, no see!” Alexis said as she kneeled down and began to pet the Pokémon.

“Yeah, I figured I’d let Persian get some fresh air. Wow, this beach is beautiful at night. It’s just so peaceful. Too bad there’s no beach around us back home.”

“But, I thought Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head were in South Carolina?” Shannon inquired quizzically.

“Yeah, but I live on the opposite side of the state. We’re a good three hours from the beach, historic Charleston, and basically anything interesting. The biggest thing near our house is that stadium they mentioned where college football is very popular for whatever reason… And yet Math Team doesn’t attract eighty thousand spectators for some other reason…”

“Gee, I can’t imagine why not…”

As Persian gazed out to sea, Lisa sighed, “Oh, well, folks will figure it out one of these days!”

“Math was never really my strong point, “ Shannon admitted. “Wasn’t terribly good at gym either, but I did enjoy history and English. Oh, and the Pokémon training classes.”

Her taller best friend then told the group, “Actually, gym was my strong point, but I wasn’t too bad at math. But I never could remember history facts or analyze literature. I did get my grammar rules down pat, though, so I wasn’t entirely bad at English! And I did enjoy the hands-on Pokémon classes where we actually battled instead of just sat through theory lectures.”

The only male among the five then said, “I enjoyed the battle simulators and trial battles with the school’s Pokémon. I was good at gym though I never liked participating in the activities. And for whatever reason, I enjoyed reading books for English but I never did well on the tests. Guess I’m weird like that.”

“Well, since everyone else is talking about school,” Kim replied, “I guess I should say I’m kinda like Lisa since I did enjoy math and science, though obviously not to the extent that she does. I’m not sure if anyone enjoys math like Lisa does, though!”

“Oh, man, y’all are as bad as my sister! If you ever hung out at a math department at any university, you’d meet all sorts of people who love the subject like I do!”

“Calm down, we’re only kidding!”

“Oh, snap, here’s my hotel! It was really nice chatting with y’all but it’s way past my bedtime, as my mom would say! I’ll see y’all later!” Lisa called out as she and Persian ran into the rear entrance of the hotel, through its restaurant, as her friends waved back.

Finally arriving back in the hotel, the older sister and her starter Pokémon entered her room as silently as she could, trying not to awaken her sleeping sibling and the rest of her team. Lindsay, Jolteon, and Sealeo were fast asleep on one of the queen-size beds, while Weezing and Vibrava had stopped levitating and were snoozing on the other bed. Metang was also grounded, laying on the floor next to the room’s desk. Fetching the Pokéballs from her yellow handbag, Lisa called all of her Pokémon back into their containment devices. After all, she needed a place to sleep, even though she would need to be awake in a few hours.

Tonight was wonderful… sometimes a girl just needs to have time off to relax…” Lisa thought as she settled into her bed and drifted off to sleep.

Chapter 38: Waterlogged!

Despite partying into the wee hours of the morning, Lisa was still awake at the crack of dawn. After all, she had to return her rented formal dress – and take the GRE test for graduate school. As she made her way back from the testing center, the teen stopped in at the Marriott’s front desk to ask a question. “Do you know if there’s a gym in this town?”

“Yes there is,” answered the clean-cut man. “It’s located within…” His face cringed as he said the next couple of words, “… the Radisson six blocks down.”

“Thanks…” Lisa replied dejectedly as she headed toward the elevator. “I was really hoping for a break from battling, but I guess that isn’t going to happen…

Lisa popped her head into the room to see her sister still sleeping. Gathering her Pokéballs, she quickly wrote Lindsay a note on the hotel stationery telling her where she would be. Silently leaving her sibling to sleep, the older girl made her way back to the main road and toward the gym-within-a-hotel. Once inside the Radisson’s lobby, signs were posted directing the girl to the gym – which appeared to had been created by combining an indoor pool area with a conference room by knocking down a wall.

Once inside the space – which featured a large swimming pool with white plastic patio furniture set up around it – Lisa could make out two females relaxing comfortably in lounge chairs. The younger girl, who was about Lindsay’s age, had short red hair and was wearing a black one-piece swimsuit. Her companion was a woman in her early twenties, with long blond hair and a dark blue swimsuit.

“Oh, man! I was just getting around to relaxing when a challenger just HAD to show up! Katie, I suppose we have to get ready for another battle now!” the older one called out, directing her words toward Lisa. The younger girl named Katie slowly walked toward a chair located at the pool’s midpoint as the other instructed, “You! Challenger! Step to the pool’s edge and let’s get this over with! It’s like a girl can never relax…” she trailed off.

My thoughts exactly…

“Well, I suppose I need to tell you who I am. I am Riviera, and I’m the Plum City Gym Leader. And you are?”

“Lisa Northwood, from South Carolina. What are the rules?”

“Before we begin,” the blond-haired woman announced, “if you have a bathing suit, I suggest you change into it now, seeing as how that dress looks kinda expensive. During these battles, a lot of water tends to get splashed around and trainers usually get soaked.”

“Sorry, I don’t have one.”

“Why can’t these trainers show up prepared for battle…” Riviera muttered aloud so Lisa could hear her annoyance.

“Sorry…”

The young girl walked over to a locker and pulled out a wad of purple Spandex. “Here, this one looks like it’ll fit you. Don’t worry, it’s clean. There’s a changing room over there; come back when you’re ready to start.”

After changing, the teenaged challenger returned to the main pool area wearing a purple one-piece swimsuit that actually fit her quite well. Underneath, she still had on her white pantyhose, as they could air-dry fairly quickly if they should get soaked.

“Okay, now that we’re all set, time to begin. One round, double battle, two Pokémon each. My niece Katie will call the match. Ready?” the gym leader asked.

“All right! The Pokémon gym battle between Plum City Gym Leader Riviera and Lisa from South Carolina will begin now! Send out your Pokémon!”

“Wartortle and Milotic, I’ll use you two!” Riviera responded as she tossed two sky-blue Pokéballs into the air.

One of her Pokémon was a medium-sized turtle of a deep blue color. Among the creature’s unique features were a pair of wing-like white ears which the Pokémon was wiggling ever so slightly. Swaying back and forth in a more pronounced manner was its bushy, white, cloud-like tail. The tail seemed like an oddity on the Pokémon. Standing on its hind legs, Wartortle was able to walk in a surprisingly steady manner given the hard brown shell on its back. It stood at the edge of the pool.

Riviera’s other Pokémon had a long, slender, serpentine body, similar to a Gyarados in this regard. However, the similarities between the two ended there. Milotic’s long, cream colored body exuded an air of elegance as its sleek form dove underwater. The blue fins at the tip of its tail resembled a peacock’s feathers, and almost seemed to dance along with the water currents. Two long red appendages sloped downward from the Pokémon’s head as its aerodynamic body enabled it to move quickly underwater.

“Wartortle: The Turtle Pokémon: The amount of fur on its tail is indicative of its age; however the fur is angled so that it does not affect the Pokémon’s speed in water. Milotic, the Tender Pokémon: Its graceful form is considered to be the most beautiful among all Pokémon.”

Well, clearly whoever programmed this thing has never seen a Persian in their life! Man, I’ve gotta talk to Dad about the people he hires for doing the Pokédex entries! Anyway, she’ll try to use the pool as cover so my Pokémon will need to stay out of that water…” Quickly, she made her decision. “Jolteon and Metang, you two are up! Okay guys, we’ve got a system of equations with two variables. Time to find the solution!”

“Jooooolllllll…” The fur on Jolteon’s body was actually curled up when he first emerged. After yawning, he began to generate waves of electricity, straightening out his yellow hair into the pointed form that it usually took. Rubbing his eyes, he suddenly perked up. He was joined by a chrome-colored being whose shape resembled a dish with two arms attached. Its two red eyes moved back and forth in a steady rhythm as the Pokémon emitted mechanical noises. It hovered a few feet above the floor, waving its two arms.

“Now, begin!”

“Dive underwater, you two,” Riviera commanded with a bored expression on her face.

Wow, what’s wrong with her?” Focusing on the battlers, Lisa yelled out, “Jolteon, fill the whole pool with electricity!”

To the challenger’s dismay, the electricity simply sparked on the water’s surface before dissipating. Both aquatic Pokémon continued to swim below the surface of the pool, and did not appear at all affected by the electrical attack.

“Oh, please,” the yawning Gym leader calmly responded, “did you really think I wouldn’t have a defense for a cheap shot like that? The pool has a series of lightning rods installed throughout. Unless you hit my Pokémon directly, your electric charges will just be absorbed harmlessly. Now, I suppose I should end this. Double Water Gun!”

Okay, looks like I’ll have to get more creative…” As she saw both opponents emerge above the water, the girl yelled, “Dodge Aspen Sedan those Water Guns and zap ‘em before they dive again!”

Squinting at both opponents, Jolteon saw both creatures open their maws and fire off several quick bursts of water. Quickly jumping up, the Electric type loosed a bright yellow Thunderbolt, barely striking the heads of both aquatic Pokémon before they could retreat to the safety of the underwater depths.

“So, that’s the way you wanna play it, huh?” Riviera appeared like she was finally getting into the excitement of the battle. “Fine, then! Wartortle, hang back for now! Milotic, use Wrap to drag Jolteon into the pool!”

“Metang, if Milotic gets its tail around Jolteon, use your Confusion to try to release its grip! Meanwhile, I need you to try to avoid the incoming tail. Give it a nice Thunderbolt if you can.”

As the graceful water creature’s tail shot up from the water, the pointy-haired yellow Pokémon delivered some electroshock therapy to it, causing the Milotic’s blue-finned rear to recoil and retreat back under the cover of the chlorinated blue liquid. Accompanied with a low pitched, effeminate howl, the tail resurfaced again, but Jolteon jumped clear. Instead, Milotic ended up wrapping its serpentine body around Lisa’s legs and dragging her into the pool instead.

“Help! I can’t swim! Get me out…gurrgrggggh…”

“Stop the match!” the Gym Leader commanded. “Milotic, I know it was an accident, but you have to let her go now. Soon after, a brown-haired figure emerged, gasping for breath and flailing her arms about frantically.

“Help! I can’t keep this up much longer! I’m getting tired!”

Sighing, Riviera said, “Milotic, help the challenger out of the pool.”

The long beige body once again coiled itself around Lisa, but its grip wasn’t as tight this time. After the Pokémon had set her on the deck, Lisa rose to her feet, trying to wring some of the water out of her hair. “Well, now… I see why you had… me change!” she said between gasps.

“Yeah, sorry about that! Are you ready to continue the battle?”

“Please give me… five minutes… I’m tired…” Lisa huffed.

“Fine, we will take a five minute recess. Jeez, you would think that trainers would know how to swim…” Riviera replied before making her way to a patio chair. After the requested wait, the blonde-haired lady sauntered back toward the edge of the pool.

“Okay, it’s been five minutes! Are you ready to proceed?” After receiving a thumbs-up from her challenger, the leader told her referee, “Katie, let us resume the battle!”

“All right, this gym battle is officially underway again!”

“Okay, Metang, it’s your turn to shine! You know what to do now!”

“Whatever you’re planning, it won’t work!” was her opponent’s taunting reply.

Metang, wanting a piece of the action, closed its red eyes and appeared to focus on a particular part of the pool. Soon enough, a blue figure appeared, being lifted by an unseen force. The befuddled Wartortle looked downward in stunned surprise as it moved farther and farther away from the water, its mouth and eyes both opened as wide as they could go.

Now I’ve got Wartortle right where I want it!” Slamming her right fist into her left hand while smirking, Lisa shouted, “Now to lay the hammer down! Thunderbolt on Wartortle! Metang, try to keep it suspended in the air as long as you can!”

“No way! Intercept them, Milotic!” countered Riviera, hands on her hips and scowling. This girl had disturbed what should have been a day of rest. No way was she getting a badge without a fight.

With the shelled blue reptile still suspended in midair, Jolteon took advantage of its vulnerability by pumping it full of electricity. Letting out a cry of anguish, Wartortle shirked back into its shell in an attempt to protect itself. But both battlers knew it was a reflex action, and the Pokémon was still feeling the pain despite being in hiding. With a huge splash, Milotic came hurtling out of the water, straight at Metang.

“Jolteon, switch targets!” Lisa advised.

Without a second of hesitation, the Electric-type changed the trajectory of his assault, delivering a quick zap to the incoming Milotic, just enough to send it back into the pool with a huge splash and the Water-type’s haunting howl. Without missing a beat, Jolteon then picked up right where he left off with Wartortle.

“Milotic, now!” was Riviera’s next vague command.

With Jolteon, Metang, and Lisa all focused on bringing the pain to the hard-shelled reptilian Pokémon, the slender Water-type was able to get in a sneak attack, wrapping its lengthy body around the spiked Pokémon’s body before dragging him into the pool and underwater.

“No! Jolteon! Metang, forget about Wartortle for now and see if you can locate Jolteon under there!” The invisible aura that held the turtle in midair had finally let up, causing the creature to fall into the pool. The Steel-type began scanning the pool area for its partner, when two tiny bits of yellow poked up from the water’s surface. “I gotta get Jolteon outta there! I hope Metang can locate him soon…

After a few tense seconds, Jolteon’s spiked ears appeared, followed by his head and two front paws which were batting the water in a desperate attempt to stay above the surface. His eyes were shut and he was breathing heavily as two rippling cascades of water collided with his pointed body. Despite having Milotic repeatedly ramming him with its head, and having Wartortle bite and kick him from several angles, the Electric-type somehow kept his head above water.

“Now it’s completely vulnerable! Milotic, Wartortle, you two can have a field day now!”

A huge wave appeared out of nowhere within the confines of the pool. With both aquatic creatures riding atop it, the Surf attack came crashing down on Jolteon, creating massive riptides as the yellow Pokémon disappeared from sight. The wave attack also caused quite a bit of water to fly up from the pool in the move’s wake, drenching Lisa with more water. The girl, wearing no shoes, slipped and fell on her rear end, barely avoiding falling into the drink again.

Somehow, despite taking a devastating hit, the fox-like head of Jolteon once again popped up on the water’s surface. Seeing her Pokémon struggle to keep afloat by dog-paddling, Lisa tried grabbing for the dress that she wasn’t wearing at the time, instead only getting handfuls of air. “No, we gotta get you outta that pool, Jolteon! Metang, use Confusion to lift him on top of your head, if you can support his weight!”

Pumping one of its arms in the air, the chromed Pokémon focused its mind on the frantic yellow Pokémon below. Surrounded by a nearly invisible aura, the Electric-type saw himself being lifted from the water and going airborne. A brown turtle shell shot up from the water’s surface in an attempt to ram Jolteon and disrupt the reconnaissance mission.

Uh, oh, here it comes!” Lisa urged, “Hurry, Metang! Incoming!”

Focusing its mind even more on its partner, the lightweight spiky Pokémon began to ascend faster, and the concealed Wartortle ended up sailing harmlessly below Jolteon, missing the bottom of his feet by a couple inches. As Metang telepathically set Jolteon atop its head, the large shell crashed into the wall behind Lisa, with Wartortle’s limbs and head popping out from inside the protective structure. The reptile’s eyes were shut and its breathing was labored and heavy.

“Wartortle’s vulnerable! Zap it now before it can get back in the water!” Lisa quickly yelled.

“Milotic, knock that Jolteon off Metang and send it back into the water!”

Once again, a large splash of water accompanied the serpentine Water-type as it emerged from the pool. Its eyes were intently focused on Lisa’s Pokémon duo, the head positioned to ram directly into the Electric-type that was hitching a ride on his partner.

“Jolteon, hit it now!”

Being careful not to hit his ride with his attack, the spiky yellow Pokémon loosed a bright yellow Thunderbolt from the tips of his fur, striking the incoming Milotic and sending it falling back into the water with a pained scream. During this attack attempt, Wartortle had managed to regain its senses and was also back in the protection of the pool.

Pumping her right fist, Riviera declared, “I’m sending that Pokémon up the creek one way or another! Wartortle, use Hydro Pump!”

“When it appears, hit it with more electricity!” the girl commanded. “She just won’t give up on trying to get Jolteon in the water, will she? But I know that’ll put her at an advantage again.

Two furry white ears appeared above the surface of the water before vanishing again. A moment later, a brown turtle shell shot out of the water, with a massive stream of blue liquid being launched out of its head opening. Jolteon quickly fired off more electric shocks, landing another direct hit on the shell of Wartortle.

Falling back to earth, the reptilian Pokémon’s extremities once again popped out of concealment. However, the Hydro Pump struck its target as well, and Jolteon was in the same predicament. While the Electric-type was in a collision course with the pool, the Water-type was falling toward the pool deck. Before either battler landed, both were withdrawn from the battle by their respective trainer.

Sorry, Jolteon… no way was I gonna let you land in that pool again…

Katie announced, “Wartortle and Jolteon have both been withdrawn from battle and are ineligible to participate in the battle beyond this point. Metang and Milotic are the only battlers remaining! Continue!”

“Metang, use Confusion to drag Milotic out of the water!”

Giving her opponent a smug smile, the gym leader simply replied, “Just let her pull it off, then work your magic.”

Soon enough, Milotic was being pulled out of the pool by a mysterious unseen force. But while the Steel-type was able to use its mental prowess to control its opponent’s movements, the Water-type was still able to rotate its head. Taking advantage, the wily Milotic pointed its head toward its control-freak foe and doused it with a massive blast of water that broke Metang’s concentration. Now free, the slender beige Pokémon dove back underwater. Shaken but not defeated, the silver Pokémon recovered from the soaking hit and pointed a claw towards where Milotic had dived underwater.

“Looks I need to submerge that Metang as well! Fine, then! Milotic, Water Pulse and then slam that thing into oblivion!”

Peeking its head above water, the elegant snake-like creature shot off a blast of blue fluid complete with pulsing energy waves. The liquid assault struck the chrome-colored Pokémon cleanly, causing it to spin around several times in a reflective silver blur as its foe retreated underground.

Uh, oh, if Water Pulse doesn’t confuse it, the dizziness will!” Lisa then yelled out, “No, Metang! Try to recover from that if you can!”

Milotic made itself visible again, using its long slender body to give the Steel-type a hard whack to the underside. This knocked Metang up into the air. As the Pokémon was airborne, its silvery body began to emit a white light that soon engulfed its entire dish-shaped form. As the light intensified, its size began to increase, and so did its velocity as the expanding area of light fell back down toward the pool.

Whoa… I think it’s evolving! Awesome! Uh, oh… I think it’s gonna create quite a splash when it lands…

Creating a massive riptide and a loud crashing noise as it landed hard on the bottom of the pool, the glowing white figure sent waves of water over the edge of the pool, further soaking both trainers and the referee. As the white light faded, Lisa was presented with one huge Pokémon, still partly submerged in the water that was still left in the pool.

Though still roughly resembling Metang in its color and general shape, the much larger being sported four massive legs instead of two arms. It was also firmly planted on the bottom of the pool, with the water level decreasing slowly. The evolved Pokémon didn’t move at all, and it was then that Lisa noticed the massive gold-colored “X” plastered across its front, with its piercing eyes – still blood-red and located within dark recesses – in between the upper and lower “arms” of the “X.” The overall effect was a being of great size, power, and stature.

At this point, the water was nearly drained out of the pool. The heavyweight Pokémon must have cracked the bottom of the pool in a way that allowed the water to drain out. Lisa decided to check on the details of the newly evolved creature.

“Metagross, the Iron Leg Pokémon: As a result of the bonding of two Metang, this Pokémon has four brains that gives it the calculating power of a supercomputer.”

Wait… where the heck did the second Metang come from?” Shrugging off this thought, the girl proceeded to congratulate her newly evolved Pokémon. “Awesome! You evolved into Metagross! Wait… where’s Milotic?”

Lisa’s answer came when she looked over at the wall behind where Riviera was standing. The serpentine creature was on the floor, not moving at all. Its sleek body had taken a beating, as it wore the bruises of having been slammed repeatedly.

Well, chances are that when Metagross landed in the pool, Milotic was swept out of the pool along with all of that water, and the force was enough to send it crashing against the wall.

“Milotic is unable to continue battling. The winner of the battle is Metagross, and so the victor is Lisa from South Carolina! Lisa, please dry off and change back into your clothes, then meet us back out here to receive your badge.”

“Great job, Metagross! How do you like being fully evolved now?” Lisa excitedly asked.

“Meta!” the Pokémon replied in a deep, booming robotic tone. It tried to move its four legs, but found that it had been wedged in the pool and was stuck. Realizing this, its trainer pulled out its Pokéball and called it back into its spherical home.

“Sorry about that… I guess you did get a bit stuck there! Oh, right, I’ve gotta change! Be right back!” With that, Lisa took off toward the changing room.

Riviera gave a hard stare at Katie. “Oh, right!” the girl realized. “Guess it’s time to call Bill and have him repair the pool again!” She received a nod from the Gym Leader in response.

Upon changing back into her classic blue dress and green cardigan, Lisa handed the bathing suit back to Katie.

“Um, why don’t you keep that. After all, the routes to the rest of the gyms are over water and you may need that.”

“Thanks,” replied Lisa.

“Well, it looks like you won. At least the match didn’t take too long.” Yawning, Riviera reached into her handbag and, after some fumbling, came up with a small badge that depicted a beach scene. “Here you go, it’s the Shoreline Badge,” she drawled, handing the metal symbol to Lisa. Turning to her niece, the gym leader added, “Katie, tell the front desk to put a ‘Gym is Closed’ sign out in front. After the big party last night, I need some SLEEP!”

As both the leader’s niece and the victorious challenger headed out to the lobby together, Lisa asked, “So, Riviera was at the party last night during the big announcement?”

“Yeah, she went to the after-party too… it’s a wonder she was even able to drag herself out of her lounge chair to battle with you!”

Rubbing the back of her head, Lisa let out a small laugh. “Yeah, she seemed a bit ‘out of it’ today. Wonder if I should have waited to battle her?”

“No, don’t worry about it. If she wanted to postpone the battle, she would have told you, but she chose to go through with it, so she lost fair and square. Well, I suppose I should wish you the best of luck on behalf of both of us.”

“Thanks, I…”

The teen was interrupted by a loud shout coming from the gym. “Owww, my head! Oh, jeez… I think I’m gonna head back up to my suite now… Owwie!”

Katie merely shrugged before waving to the departing Lisa. Once outside, the girl noticed a flyer on the door. It read, “Special Exhibition Battles! Battle the Mysterious Rhythm Pokémon Master while teaming up with a random trainer! December 7, from 8:00AM till 11:00PM at the Marriott Resort Conference Salon B!”

Well, it is tomorrow, so I suppose I should partake. I can rest today, at least.

Back at the hotel, Lisa slipped off her shoes and spread herself out on the bed. Lindsay had just finished showering and was wearing one of her schoolgirl outfits when she came out of the bathroom to see her sister spread-eagled on one of the queen beds.

“Sis! Have you no shame!”

“Eek! Sorry!” the older sibling shouted, quickly slamming her legs back together as she sat bolt upright on top of the bed. Raising one eyebrow, Lisa realized, “Wait a minute… I’ve got thick white pantyhose on… what’s wrong with me spreading out?”

“Sis, you should know that those things aren’t completely opaque. But that’s besides the point, Miss I-Went-To-Battle-The-Gym-Leader-Without-Awakening-My-Little-Sister-Who-Would-Have-Liked-To-Watch!”

“Linds, there was water and stuff splashed all over the place…”

“And unlike you, I brought a swimsuit. So there! Nyahh!” The nine-year-old stuck her tongue out at her older sister.

“Well, I have a swimsuit now, so ‘Nyahh!’ right back atcha! Anyway, if you really want to watch me in action, tomorrow there’s an exhibition Pokémon match in one of the conference rooms. Supposedly, it’s against this ‘Mysterious Rhythm Pokémon Master.’ Should be interesting.”

“Okay, deal. I’ll stop yelling at you about not waking me up if I get to watch you battle tomorrow. But wake me up first!”

“Aww, but you look so peaceful when you’re sleeping!” Lisa replied in a whiny voice.

“Don’t care! Just make sure I don’t miss this battle!” the young girl demanded, hands on her hips. “Anyway, what are we doing today?”

“Taking it easy. I suppose I should check out where we have to go next. I was told that the next gym is across some body of water, so I need to find when the ship takes off. Well, let’s grab some lunch, I guess.”

In the hotel’s restaurant, there was only one other patron – a boy about Lisa’s age, give or take a year or two. The bespectacled young man had hair in an interesting shade of dark blue, and it was tied into a small ponytail in back. Eating a sandwich, the boy – wearing a zipped-up blue jacket and baggy green cargo pants – looked up when the two sisters sat at a table next to his. After the waitress had taken the girls’ orders, the other customer rose from his seat and sauntered over to them.

“Um, hi… Can we help you?” Lisa nervously asked.

Looking the girls over carefully, the boy finally answered, “Sorry, just looking for something… Oh, my name’s Tony Parito. And yours?”

When he noticed Lisa hesitating to answer, Tony bit his lower lip, trying to disguise a look of nervousness and only partially succeeding – the sweat on his forehead was a dead giveaway. “Did my looking over her make her suspicious of me or something?

“Sorry,” the teenage girl finally replied, rubbing the back of her neck. “It’s just that… I’ve had a run-in with someone named Tony before. He’s a scientist who’s part of this criminal terrorist group called the Thrash Brotherhood.”

What?! Those are exactly the group of rogues I was sent here to investigate! Somehow I’ve got to get information from her without spilling my true intentions…” Tony’s thought process was interrupted when Lisa spoke up again.

“Jeez, I didn’t even give you my name! It’s Lisa Northwood, and this is my younger sister, Lindsay. Nice to meet you, and forgive my absentmindedness. I wanted to ask you, though, have you heard of Thrash before?”

Excellent! This could be the perfect chance for me to dig up some dirt on Thrash!” Replying to the girl, the young man said, “I’m from the Johto region where they aren’t active, but I’ve heard them mentioned on some of the TV shows like ‘Johto’s Most Wanted,’ so I have a vague clue as to who they are. Are they that big of a threat here?” Of course, the whole bit about only vaguely knowing about the team was a lie. Tony’s superiors had briefed him on everything they knew about the organization before sending him over.

“From what I understand, and this is coming from the mouth of their leader, is that they’re guided by some ancient prophecy. I’m guessing they use brainwashing tactics like some of the other big fanatical cults have done in the past. I also understand that so-called ‘Shadow Pokémon’ may also be part of that plot, though they’ve also dabbled in mind control devices and special capture orbs.”

“Shadow Pokémon? I’ve heard of them. Wasn’t it Cipher who created them?”

“Cipher… name does ring a bell,” Lisa replied, rubbing her chin. “You know, I think Thrash has recruited several members from that organization, and they’ve become card-carrying Thrash members. But I’m sure you want to talk about something else besides Thrash, like, I don’t know, my honors thesis on the Number Field and Quadratic Sieves?”

Is she just kidding, or have I just met someone just as geeky as me? No, wait, she can’t be kidding, she wouldn’t know a term like that unless she was serious…

Lisa let out a rather forced laugh when Tony didn’t answer her question. “No, of course not, nobody ever wants to hear about my papers. I’m used to it by now,” the teen rambled on while Tony was lost in thought. “It seems like math just doesn’t rank high on people’s interests…”

“Actually, I wouldn’t mind hearing just a bit about your paper. I actually find it quite interesting that someone your age would already be so accomplished at math.”

“Really?!” Lisa perked up. “I… I don’t know what to say… nobody has expressed an interest in my studies who wasn’t affiliated with the mathematics department at some university.”

“Really, though, it’s amazing that you have such a command of math at your young age. My friends used to accuse me of being a brainiac but you definitely have me beat there! What else do you enjoy?”

“Well, there’s chemistry, computer programming, hotel chains, highway systems, classic cars… I could go on forever! What about you?”

She had caught Tony off guard, as his vacant expression showed that the bespectacled young man’s mind was elsewhere. “M…me? Well, actually, my big thing now is investigating and halting terrorist activities involving Pokémon. I’m part of this group that specializes in… oh, crap! I wasn’t supposed to reveal that! Look, I gotta make a phone call real fast! Please don’t go anywhere or talk to anyone about what we discussed!”

As the panicked boy sprang out of his seat and rushed toward a corridor on the far end of the lobby, the girl looked on with a confused look on her face while the waitress returned with food that the sisters ordered – one big double hamburger with fries for each of them. Between bites, Lisa said, “Hey, Linds, sorry for ignoring you there, but I kinda got tied up talking to that guy. I think it’s nice how he took an interest in my studies and all, but I do think he’s a bit… odd. I mean, anti-terrorist operatives? I don’t know if he was joking or not. According to Lorelei, the Pokémon League is in charge of hiring agents to counter terrorism plots, but this guy mentioned nothing about being affiliated with them.”

“Okay, sis, first off, anyone who takes an interest in your style of hardcore math is odd in my book. Secondly, what?!

“Ah, forget it. Quiet, he’s coming back.”

“Okay, listen,” Tony addressed both girls, with a rather serious look on his face, “I got distracted back there and revealed some things that I probably shouldn’t have. If any details of my operation here were to be leaked, and Thrash somehow got wind of it, our whole investigation of them up to this point would be compromised. And so would the lives of many people that I care about. So, I need you to promise that what we discussed here remains between us.”

Lisa eyed the blue-haired young man suspiciously, scratching her chin. “One question before I agree to anything. I was originally recruited by the Pokémon League’s investigation unit, specifically by three agents – Lorelei, Giovanni, and Eldes – to combat Thrash. I want to know if you are affiliated with the League or its investigation branch, and if not, are they aware of your group’s activities?”

“Though some members of my group are also members of the League’s investigative unit, the League as a general body does not know of our activities. But, you have to believe that I’m working the same side as the Pokémon League – putting a stop to these terrorist groups.”

“All right, I suppose I’ll agree to secrecy,” Lisa replied while raising a suspicious eyebrow once again. “But if I later find out you’re working for Thrash or some other group, well… let’s just say that any agreement to secrecy will be null and void, and once Lorelei and her associates get the news…”

Standing up, he retorted, “Look, I’m not a member of Thrash, or any other crime syndicate! I can’t reveal too many details to you, but you have to believe me! Please! Damn, I shouldn’t have mentioned all of that in the first place!”

The older girl held up her right hand. “Look, calm down or you’re going to draw unwanted attention to yourself! I believe you! Besides, from what I’ve seen, Thrash isn’t known for being covert, at least with dealing with me. If you were part of them, you would have already either pointed a gun at my head or had sent out Pokémon to battle me. So I don’t really think you’re with them, and I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt.”

“All right, thanks for trusting me. Man, I let one thing slip from my mouth and suddenly everything gets so complicated…” His forehead was soaked in sweat at this point.

Lisa’s voice became calmer and more soothing. “Hey, don’t worry about it. Everybody has a tendency to blurt out the wrong thing sometimes.”

“Thanks for that. But, listen, I have to make another call. I wasn’t informed that the Pokémon League already had someone recruited to take out Thrash, so I have to find out how they want me to proceed.”

As their companion got up to make another call, Lisa faced Lindsay. “Okay, now I need you to promise me you’re not going to tell anyone about what you heard just now.”

“Okay, I promise not to tell. But really, sis, who would I tell, anyway? It’s not like I know a lot of people here, anyway,” Lindsay replied quizzically.

A few minutes later, and after the waitress had picked up the girls’ dishes and left the bill, Tony returned with some news.

“Okay, Lisa, here’s the deal. My group wants me to observe how you perform in battle, and they’re trusting me to use my own judgment. If I think you’re capable enough, they’ve instructed me to pull out of the region and leave things up to you. If not, they want me to travel with you in order to give you backup.”

The teenage girl was taken aback. “Well, I certainly didn’t get this far in the fight against Thrash if I wasn’t capable! But regardless, I’m competing in that exhibition battle thing in this hotel tomorrow. You’re welcome to accompany me to that, as long as you don’t try any funny boyfriend/girlfriend stuff. I’m only fifteen, anyway!” she replied as she placed some bills on the table.

Laughing, he replied, “Okay, no funny business. So, tomorrow, I’ll meet you in the lobby at eleven in the morning for this battle thing?”

“Yes, and I guess we’ll meet up then.” With that said, the sisters and the enigmatic young man parted ways, at least for the day.

Back in their hotel room, Lisa flipped on the flat-screen TV and started flipping through channels. It didn’t take long for her to find something to watch. And she had caught it just as the show’s theme song began to play.

“Professor Blaine, the Science King!”
“Professor… Blaine… the Science… King…”
“Blaine! Blaine! Blaine! Blaine! Blaine! Blaine!”
“Professor Blaine the Science King!”

“Science is red hot!”

“Professor Blaine, the Science King!”

“Combustion requires the presence of oxygen.”

“Blaine, Blaine, Blaine, Blaine, Blaine, Blaine!”
“Professor Blaine… the Science King…”
“Blaine! Blaine! Blaine! Blaine! Blaine! Blaine!”

“T-minus seven seconds…”

“Professor Blaine, the Science King!”

A familiar bald old man took the stage on the television. Brushing his white moustache with one hand while adjusting his dark round sunglasses with the other, he looked over his white lab coat. With the Periodic Table as his backdrop, Blaine began today’s lesson.

“Today, our lesson will be on… WATER! Now, I know what you’re saying. As a Fire-type Gym Leader, I must hate water, right? Not true! Water is essential to all life on this planet of ours. Without it, all of us, even my Fire-type Pokémon, would die! And besides, even my Pokémon enjoy a nice bottle of Aquafina after a vigorous run around Cinnabar Island! So now you’re asking me, what about what Team Magma said in their ads? Well, let’s see… Rick, roll tape!”

Man, after that battle, I’ve seen enough water to last me awhile… but this Team Magma clip should be interesting…

The scene switched over to a redheaded fellow Lisa knew as the double-crossing Maxie. He stood wearing a red suit and holding a bottle of Gatorade. In his nasally voice, he said with a crooked smirk on his face, “Now kids, remember: Water sucks. Gatorade not only quenches your thirst better, it tastes better too.”

Behind Maxie, a group of Team Magma grunts, all wearing red hoods, began singing, “Water sucks! It really, really sucks! Water sucks!”

“So there you have it. Drink Gatorade and join the cause of Team Magma to rid the world of water. Which sucks, by the way!”

The scene returned to Blaine. “Now, notice the flaws in his logic. First, I have a bottle of Gatorade right here. Let’s read the ingredient list. Oh, whaddya know? The first ingredient is WATER!” The old scientist emphasized this last word as the camera zoomed in on the bottle’s ingredient list. Sure enough, the first thing listed read, “WATER.”

“So, without water, our pal Maxie over there wouldn’t have his precious Gatorade to quench his thirst! Second, let’s explore how much water comprises our planet as well as our bodies. About seventy percent of the human body and the planet Earth is comprised of water. Therefore, if we were to eliminate water, we would be getting rid of about seventy percent of our planet. Not to mention the fact that our bodies would all shrivel up and we would die without it. Therefore my diagnosis is: We need water and Maxie is off his rocker!”

Lisa began laughing loudly at Blaine’s last comment. “Oh, man, ain’t that the truth! Good thing Maxie’s locked up where I hope the prisoners are making him drink the shower water!”

“Now, let’s explore the chemical make-up of water.” Taking out a long wooden pointer, Blaine continued, “A water molecule consists of two atoms of hydrogen,” he said, positioning the end of his pointer at hydrogen’s place on the Periodic Table before whacking the table twice. “And it contains one atom of oxygen,” he said, moving his stick to oxygen’s slot on the table before hitting his pointer against it once. “Therefore, the chemical formula is H2O. The “H” represents hydrogen on the Periodic Table, the “2” means that two atoms of hydrogen per molecule are present, and the “O” is the chemical symbol for oxygen. Since there is only one atom of oxygen in the water molecule, no number follows it.”
*********

After the amusing science lesson, the older sister commented, “Well, that was certainly an interesting show, even though I already know all of that stuff. What did you think of it, Linds?”

“Well, unlike my teachers, this guy actually makes science interesting! Why can’t more teachers be like that?”

“Huh, I thought my teachers were just fine.” Lisa picked up her bag and headed for the door. “Lindsay, I’m headed outside to feed my Pokémon. You wanna come?”

“Wait, you’re not feeding them in the room?”

Opening the heavy metal door, the older sister answered, “Metang evolved into Metagross during the gym battle earlier. It now weighs over half a ton, and I don’t think the hotel staff would appreciate me sending it out in this room.”

“And once again, I miss the evolution because YOU chose not to wake me up!”

“Sorry, sorry, I’ll make sure to wake you up next time! Now, are you coming or not?”

“Yeah, I’m coming, sis! Wait for me!”

Chapter 39: Gonna Battle Like It's 1979!

Lisa Northwood, wearing a green dress and a blue jacket, was shaking her sleeping sister in an attempt to awaken her. “Linds, wake up! Wake up! C’mon, you’re the one who wanted to see this battle today! Get up!”

“Huh…wha? Lisa?” the young girl mumbled as she rubbed her eyes.

“Oh, so you are alive!” joked Lisa. “Seriously, in thirty minutes, I’m headed downstairs to meet that Tony guy and battle this ‘Rhythm Pokémon Master.’ If you’re going to watch, I suggest you… MOVE IT! MOVE IT! MOVE IT!” she screamed, sounding for all the world like a drill sergeant.

“Jeez! Okay, okay, I’m up! Take it easy! I’m going to get ready, okay! Man, you’re worse than Mom!”

Lindsay headed into the bathroom to get ready. Without even showering, she put on her white sweater and red plaid skirt.

“Wait, aren’t you going to wear your new dress I got you?”

“Sorry, sis, but I’m not gonna wear it unless I have enough time to shower and clean myself up first. Now, I suppose we better get going.”

Makes sense, I guess…

The pair rode down the glass elevator, moved through the lobby and toward the ‘conference center’ portion of the hotel. A sizable crowd was waiting outside the specified battle location, Salon B. As they pushed through the crowd of spectators, Lisa felt a tap on her shoulder. Turning around, she saw the figure from yesterday – a bespectacled young man with both hands inserted into the pockets of his blue jacket. It was Tony, his dark blue ponytailed hair being unmistakable.

“I am looking forward to watching this battle today,” he told Lisa, looking around cautiously.

“For some funny reason, so am I,” she replied. “I mean, I would like a break from all these battles, but this guy I’m facing sounds like he’s got an interesting style.”

“You two! You’re next!” a voice screamed out. Lisa, Lindsay, and Tony looked to see a short bald man wearing dark shades an a black suit pointing at them. “Are you two girls both trainers?” he asked, stroking his brown goatee.

“Only I am,” answered Lisa.

Letting out a sigh, the man focused his attention toward Tony. “What about you, sir? Are you a Pokémon trainer?”

“Me? Y…Yes, I am.”

“Fine, then!” announced the man while adjusting his tie. “You two shall be the next two trainers to go up against our ‘Rhythm Pokémon Master!’ I wish you the best of luck, and believe me, you’re gonna need it! Our master has participated in twelve matches so far today, and has only lost twice. Are you ready?”

Both trainers nodded in agreement.

“Excellent! Come with me, then, and you can bring your little friend if you want. Don’t want to leave her alone in this big crowd, now do we?”

Lindsay sulked at being insulted, but she knew the man was correct.

“All right, people, move it! Clear a path for our next challengers! Don’t want to keep the Master waiting, you know!” the man shouted as he shoved and pushed bystanders out of the way, with the trio following close behind.

Upon entering the conference room, it could be seen that a makeshift battlefield had been set up. But even more interesting was the lighting in the room. The chandeliers that normally would have hung from the ceilings were temporarily removed and stowed in a corner of the room. Instead, a large number of mirrored disco balls were attached to the ceiling and multicolored spotlights were set up throughout the room. If not for the familiar markings of a Pokémon battling arena, the room could be mistaken for a disco nightclub from 1979.

As the bald man made his way toward the sidelines, all the lights dimmed. A white spotlight clicked on, illuminating the trainer space opposite the challengers. Smoke filled the room as an announcer called out, “And now for the next round of challengers! First, our Rhythm Pokémon Master, a man who needs no further introduction, the myth, the legend… It’s the dazzling MIROR B.!”

As the smoke cleared, a bizarre figure somewhat resembling a Pokéball attached to a purple stick appeared. Upon closer inspection, the “stick’ was actually the body of an extremely thin and lanky man in a purple suit, and the “Pokéball” was actually the man’s massive afro – colored to match the popular capturing device.

“Fwohohohohoho! A new set of challengers!” Miror B. began. “What are your names, darlings? Ah, it’s not important! What is important is how you battle me! You shall soon learn that raw power alone cannot beat me! You need grace, elegance, and finesse to win! Now, this shall be a four on four double battle, with event coordinator Chester McLean as the referee! Now, let the music play! Fwohohohohohoho!”

As the disco balls and colored lights came to life, the enigmatic disco trainer launched himself into a backflip before executing a perfect midair split, tossing his Pokéballs out from underneath his body as he was in mid-split. Landing on both feet, the man began dancing to the beat of the infectious disco music that had started playing.

Both Pokéballs opened to reveal identical creatures. Both looked like eggs with lime-green sombreros on top. Dancing around in a somewhat random fashion, their gaping orange duck-like bills emitting some sort of bizarre warbling sound. The Pokémon retained the vacant look in their small eyes as both continued to bounce around on their two stubby legs and shake their equally short arms. One was a few inches shorter than the other; this was the only way to tell the two apart.

“Well, it looks like we’re working together on this one! Okay, Sealeo, it’s your turn! Factorize this clown!”

The icy blue sea mammal appeared in a brilliant flash of red light. Slapping his front fins together while barking happily, the hefty Pokémon’s white moustache appeared to wiggle a bit. Realizing that it wasn’t mealtime, his happy barking turned to a semi-intimidating low growl as he stopped clapping and instead used his fins to drag his cumbersome body along the floor of the carpeted conference room.

“Genghis, it’s you! Let’s go!”

The dark purple form that emerged glared at its twin opponents with a sinister smile. Its body, with numerous protruding points, hovered in the air. Two disconnected hands seemed to motion for the opponents to make their move.

Whoa… creepy…” Lisa thought, taking a step backwards from the specter of a Pokémon.

“Nah, don’t mind Genghis. He may act like he’s all scary and stuff, but it’s mostly for fun. Okay, let’s target one of them with a Thunderbolt!”

“Sealeo, let’s try to get them eliminated one at a time! Aurora Beam on that same Ludicolo!”

Spinning around, both Ludicolo began to sing a bizarre chant, and black storm clouds filled the conference room, accompanied by a steady rainfall. With their opponent concentrating on the Rain Dance, both Haunter and Sealeo were able to take the larger Grass-type by surprise, sending electricity surging through its body while simultaneously cooling it down with a rainbow-colored ray of chilled energy.

“Oh, I hope you don’t think it’ll be that easy to take me! Time to exploit Rain Dance! Let’s get funky tonight!”

Perfect… and Sealeo really can’t use Rain Dance to its advantage against this Pokémon type…” Lisa yelled out, “Try another Aurora Beam!”

Tony added, “And Genghis, let’s charge a Shadow Ball with your Thunderbolt and show ‘em just how shocking you can be!”

Laughing in a sinister manner, Genghis prepared for his attack by gathering dark matter in his hands while his body began to give off sparks. To help buy his partner some time, the big seafaring mammal released two quick bursts of rainbow-colored energy, each striking one of the Ludicolo and halting their attacks. The shorter one recovered right as Genghis was ready with his attack.

Both Pokémon unleashed their attacks at the same time – the lime-green Pokémon let loose a rippling wave of blue liquid as the cackling ghost used his hands to heave a black sphere charged with electric sparks toward the other Ludicolo. Both attacks found their mark. Genghis cringed as the Water Pulse hit square on his head, while the combination Ghost-Electric assault sent the other Ludicolo skidding backward on the floor before the hapless Pokémon fell right onto its back. Seeing an opening, Sealeo sent a full-powered Aurora Beam speeding right toward the other sombrero-sporting Grass-type. Despite taking the full brunt of the hit, the Pokémon continued to charge in at Lisa’s Pokémon.

“Wanna get physical, huh? Fine then, use Body Slam!”

“Fwohohohohoho! I’m rather enjoying this battle. But let’s see you keep pace with this tempo! Giga Drain now, and follow up with Razor Leaf!”

The charge move was merely a bluff, as the crafty Grass-type stopped in its tracks. Sealeo cried out as a mysterious green energy was drawn from his body and toward the Ludicolo. The other Mexican-themed creature began to spin, whipping up a storm of leaves that flew right at Sealeo. The sharp-edged projectiles were able to cut through the thick blue hide of Lisa’s Pokémon, carving up his skin.

This is not gonna be good… Going after them one at a time is gonna leave Sealeo vulnerable to the other’s attacks.” Changing tactics, Lisa turned to her partner. “Tony, ready to split the duties? I’ll take on the bigger one with an Aurora Beam!”

“Fine by me, Lisa. Genghis, nail the other one with a Shadow Ball!”

The Ludicolo pair were surprisingly quick on their stubby feet. One of them loosed a rippling blast of water from its bill while the other spun on one foot while shooting a flurry of green foliage. The water struck Genghis, sending him reeling, while the leaves cut into the thick skin of Sealeo. Shaking off the blows, Lisa’s Pokémon blasted the taller foe with a chilly rainbow-colored energy ray.

Also able to quickly recover from the soaking hit, Genghis nailed the other Grass-type with a mysterious black Shadow Ball. Winking at each other, the Ludicolo duo then pulled off a double Razor Leaf assault, pounding the slow-moving aquatic mammal with an ongoing onslaught that he couldn’t hope to dodge. Sealeo howled in pain as the cuts from the previous assaults began to open wider.

Great… I don’t think Sealeo can take much more of this…” Lisa held a large bit of her dress in her clenched fist.

“Fwohohohohoho! This battle is going just peachy, isn’t it, darlings?” Miror B. taunted.

“Genghis, one more Thunderbolt should fry it!”

“Hey, now, it should chill out with Aurora Beam!” Lisa added, pointing at the now-stiff Ludicolo.

Giving the stunned Grass-type another taunting grin, the wily Ghost-type began loosing electricity just as his partner released a brilliant multicolored ray from his maw. The yellow sparks surrounded and encircled the Aurora Beam as the combination attack struck the hapless Ludicolo, sealing its fate. As Miror B. recalled his fallen Pokémon, its shorter counterpart exacted revenge, shooting off a bright blue beam of water, which struck Genghis and sent the Pokémon flying backward uncontrollably.

“That’s only one Pokémon down! Now Shiftry, get down with your bad self! Fwohohohohoho!”

The Pokémon that emerged had a brown body that had the appearance of finished wood. A white hairy mane covered its face and ran down its back. The Grass-type was rhythmically waving its arms up and down. Doing this caused the huge leaf-like fans on its hands to whip up some wind. It glared at its enemies with an angry stare, its distinctive pointed nose aimed directly at Sealeo.

“Looks like a good candidate for an Aurora Beam! Sealeo, now!” Lisa yelled.

Tony scratched his chin. “Hmmm… I’ll focus on that Ludicolo. Alright, Genghis, use Thunderbolt!”

Before any other Pokémon could make a move, Shiftry moved in on Sealeo, delivering a quick swipe with its green leaves before backing away just as rapidly. The sea lion Pokémon didn’t appear to have received much damage, but he seemed frozen and unable to move. Exploiting this, Ludicolo unleashed a flurry of leaves on the hapless mammal, further cutting his blue skin open.

Sensing impending danger, the purple gas Pokémon released a sizzling blast of yellow sparks at the weird dancing duck Pokémon, interrupting its train of thought – and its attack. Finally regaining his senses, Sealeo shot out his multicolored Aurora Beam, striking Shiftry and knocking it down, However, the sneaky tree-like Pokémon was quick to get back up despite its visible shivering and shaking.

“Let’s try Aurora Beam on Shiftry again! I think we’ve cooled and slowed down its movements, so we should be able to hit it!”

“Genghis, use your combination attack on that Ludicolo. I have a feeling it’s fixin’ to cause trouble,” Tony advised.

Spinning rapidly to create a lime-green blur, the bizarre Ludicolo whipped up a torrent of flying leaves. While the sea lion’s attack did make its way through the storm of foliage, it failed to stop all of the leaves from finding their mark. The tree-like Shiftry was knocked clean off its feet while Sealeo cringed and recoiled as the Razor Leaf strike cut into his thick hide, leaving visible marks on his sky-blue body.

Ludicolo began laughing in its warbling voice. Taking full advantage of the Pokémon’s boasting, Genghis fired off another electrically charged Shadow Ball, knocking the Ludicolo over and silencing its taunts.

“Check it, darlings, Miror. B’s got a big nasty surprise for y’all, and this one is too fast for your Sealeo to keep pace with! Bullet Seed, Ludicolo!”

The dancing green Pokémon’s bill began to emit a lime-colored glow before a series of sharp leaves and hard round seeds shot out. The combination projectile attack struck the bulky sea lion right in the face, causing him to cry out in pain. As Ludicolo increased both the concentration and velocity of the attack, Sealeo’s trainer realized that her Pokémon’s heft was putting him at a disadvantage.

“Sealeo, return! You did well, but I think it’s time you rested. I call out Weezing!” Pitching the Pokéball into battle, the device opened to reveal the girl’s double-headed Poison-type. The lightweight violet creature released a thick gray smoke veil from her ventilation holes to blanket both foes.

“Fwohohohohoho! Nice try, but I’m ready for that! Shiftry, blow the gas away with your fans!”

Waving the leaf-like green appendages on the end of both arms, Shiftry was able to waft away the smoky cloak – just in time for Weezing to get a clear shot at Ludicolo. The odd-looking Mexican-themed Pokémon was knocked backward after the ball of slime exploded on its face. Trying to wipe off the muck with its maraca-like hands, the wobbly green Pokémon tripped over its stubby feet.

Seeing an opening, both Weezing and Genghis loosed long-range attacks on the hapless Ludicolo. The wily ghost gathered dark matter in his hands before shooting off a Shadow Ball. After getting the hit off, Genghis found himself the victim of a surprise attack when Shiftry nailed the hovering ghost with an odd invisible energy wave. However, Weezing still had a clear shot at the sombrero-sporting Pokémon, launching a volley of violet goop at the creature.

“Oh, you are quite the mean one for outdancing my Ludicolo!” the afro-sporting trainer responded as he called the fallen Pokémon from the battlefield. “But it’s not over yet! Electrode, time to boogie!”

Except for a pair of eyes and a mouth, the sizable sphere sent out by the dancing disco master could easily have been confused for the massive afro worn by the enigmatic trainer. The Pokémon began spinning and loosing electrical sparks, becoming a circular blur of white over red.

We’ll have to be careful and attack from a distance…” The girl pointed at the Grass-type. “Weezing, launch a Sludge Bomb!”

“Watch out for that electricity, and give Electrode a taste of a Shadow Ball!”

The massive sphere began rolling on the floor, picking up both speed and static electricity as it was able to charge the ghost with its stored up energy even if its body passed right through the gaseous Pokémon. As an incoming glob of poison was moving in, Shiftry used its leaf-like fans to swat down the purple projectile, causing it to land harmlessly on the ground.

Well, that didn’t go very well… We’ll have to distract Shiftry or take it by complete surprise if we’re going to get a shot in on it…

“Genghis, try to stop Electrode as it’s coming toward you! If we can knock it off course…”

“Fwohohohohoho! Looks like I have you two darlings cornered! Shiftry, time to get down and get funky! You too, Electrode!”

Raising both arms in the air, Shiftry was prepared to change the weather yet again. The low clouds began to dissipate as the rain let up. From a skylight in the center of the room, intense sunlight began beating down on the room as the battlefield began to brighten and the temperature slowly crept higher. To ensure that its partner completed its Sunny Day without distraction, the spherical Electric type shot out numerous volleys of electricity, alternating targets between Genghis and Weezing so that both received the shock treatment.
Annoyed with being blasted with the small yellow bolts, the Ghost-type gathered the dark matter for a Shadow Ball in his hands before firing the sinister sphere at Electrode. The large ball closed its eyes and cringed as the projectile made contact. Still, the Pokémon was quick to recover, and unleashed a full-power Thunderbolt on its ghostly adversary. And this time, it was the Haunter’s turn to brace for a hard-hitting attack.

Tony clenched his fists and gritted his teeth. “This is not going well… Genghis, try to Shadow Punch Electrode and send it spinning into a wall!”

Lisa smiled. “I have the perfect way to take advantage of this now!” Confidently, she called out, “Now that the sun’s out, let’s try something that Shiftry can’t deflect! Fire Blast!”

Miror B. took a step back and began sweating. “Uh, oh, I didn’t anticipate this dance move…”

Rapidly contracting and expanding her twin heads, a faint orange glow could be seen inside Weezing’s purple body. Finally ready, the Pokémon opened her mouth to spit out a massive red fireball. The heated strike spread out into a five-pointed formation, and despite Shiftry’s frantic moves to avoid it, found its mark.

A sparking Electrode rolled in toward Genghis at high speed. But the ghost had a sinister plan in store. Laughing and staring down the incoming blur of red and white, it formed a fist with one hand. At the precise moment, the shadowy fist made contact with the spinning ball, sending the Electric-type rolling in the opposite direction and crashing against the far wall. However, the attack was not without its cost, as the Ghost-type still found itself electrocuted by the errant sparks that Electrode had given off.

“Okay, Weezing, let’s go in for a more physical approach! Tackle it!” Lisa commanded.

“Oh, but that is simply not gonna work! Shiftry, knock around that Weezing, then go in for the kill!” the disco master retorted.

As the purple Poison-type approached, the mysterious plant creature used its fan-like arms to bat its adversary away. Shiftry then joined its electrical partner in knocking around Genghis. After Electrode used its sizzling Shock Wave to send electricity through the ghost’s gaseous form, the sneaky Grass-type pulled a disappearing act, reappearing behind the purple specter and taking him by surprise with a well-aimed swipe.

Seeing his frowning Pokémon yell out and clutch his forehead with both of his disconnected hands, Tony realized that it was time to play his trump card. “Fine, Genghis, you’ve done well enough! But, I have the perfect strategy to end this, and it involves Steele! It’s time to shake things up!”

An immense snake-like creature emerged, opening its jagged mouth and letting out a roar. The segments of its body were shaped like rocks, but gave off a silvery sheen not unlike Lisa’s Metagross. The big Pokémon was able to twist individual parts of its serpentine body as it gave a hard stare at its opponents.

Sweet! Now we can really make some progress! As long as Tony knows what move to make…

“Steele, Earthquake, now!”

Man, how could I ever doubt his judgment…” Brushing off these thoughts, Lisa called out, “Weezing, Fire Blast time!”

The two-headed floating orb began to pump up the heat within her body in preparation for a fiery strike while her partner raised its long tail high in the air. The Grass-type encased itself in a green protective bubble while Electrode attempted to fire a blast of electricity at Weezing. The Thunderbolt successfully interrupted the Poison-type’s assault, but then the Steelix’s tail came crashing down.

The resulting Earthquake shook up the entire room, as Lisa had to grab onto Tony’s arm to keep from falling down. The Electric-type sphere was actually sent airborne as a result of the impact, and it crashed down with a horrendous slamming noise. The protective aura then faded, revealing an unscathed Shiftry. The airborne Weezing also emerged unhurt by the tremor.

“Okay, Weezing!” yelled Lisa, “it’s time to end all of this! Fire Blast on Shiftry!”

This time, Shiftry was not able to avoid the attack, which quickly spread out into a wide star of flame, creating visible burn marks on its leaf-like fans. Though the Grass-type had tried to use its wide appendages to protect itself, it still felt the heat from the intense attack. However, it was able to fire off a Solarbeam after only a few seconds, striking Steele right in the face.

Undaunted, the big snake raised its metal tail into the air before slamming it on the ground. Yet another quake shook and rattled the room, upsetting both of Miror B’s Pokémon as well as the trainers and spectators in the room. After the latest round of blows, Electrode looked the worst for wear. Its spherical form now wore a frown, and the red and white Pokémon was not rolling or spinning as fast as it had been when it came onto the scene.

“Electrode’s not doin’ so well,” Tony observed. “But watch it, as that’s when it’s most dangerous!”

“Right you are, young man! Shiftry, Electrode, now! Whooo!” Miror B. spun around once and pointed into the air with his left hand.

“Steele, wrap your body around Weezing! If I’m correct about this…”

The Grass-type enshrouded itself in a green energy field while its spherical partner began to emit a white glow. At the same time, the hefty Steel-type coiled itself, leaving enough room for Weezing to tuck herself inside the circle created by Steele’s hard, protective body. And sure enough, Electrode blew itself up, causing massive amounts of smoke and a deafening boom as the force of the released energy knocked Lisa to the floor.

Heh, I thought he’d try to do that…

“Need a hand?” Tony asked, extending his right hand out to the now-sitting girl.

“Yeah, thanks,” she replied, grabbing on as the boy helped her to her feet. “Looks like our strategy paid off!”

“Oh, man, we didn’t make as big of a blast as I was planning! Electrode, return! But it’s not over yet, kiddies! Shiftry, time to fry that Steelix with a Solarbeam! Woot!”

If I can block that sunlight, he’s stuck trying to charge that attack and his Pokémon’s helpless!” Aloud, Lisa taunted, “I don’t think so! Weezing, block the light with a Smokescreen then hit Shiftry with a Sludge Bomb!”

Drawing energy from the sunlight, the wily tree-like creature was gathering and synthesizing it, preparing for attack. The toxic Pokémon began to spew a thick black substance from her vent openings, effectively blocking the intense light beams coming in from the room’s skylight. Sure enough, Shiftry was now struggling to collect energy for its Solarbeam strike.

“We’ve got him now!”

“Oh, no! Shiftry’s in the middle of an attack! It can’t get rid of the smoke now!” Miror B. took a step back, quivering in his platform shoes.

“Right you are!” proclaimed Lisa. “Now, finish it with Sludge Bomb!”

Tony added, “Steele, back her up with an Iron Tail!”

The tail of the mighty metallic serpent began to give off a blinding white glow as it came down hard on the helpless Shiftry, who was still attempting to gather power for its Solarbeam. The impact sent the tree-like creature flying backwards before slamming into the wall of the room. To add insult to injury, a volley of purple slime struck the Grass-type in the face, ending any attempt to get back up.

“All right! R-O-C-K, we rock, we rock!” Lisa cheered, jumping up and down.

Remaining calmer than his partner, Tony smirked. “Well, that was pretty impressive.”

“What! No way! My tempo must have been off for that battle!” Miror B. stuttered as he collapsed on the floor.

“I can’t believe it! Miror B.’s Shiftry has fainted! Steelix and Weezing are the winners, and our champions have emerged victorious!”

“Well, darlings, I hate to lose, but I know when I’m wiped out! As your rewards, you have earned the Miror B. Medallion and a prize of five hundred dollars! I trust you can use both wisely! Now, Chester, hand my Pokéballs to Trudly and Folly and have them refresh them! My next pair of challengers awaits me! Farewell, you two!” the afro-sporting trainer replied as he handed the two trainers a badge with his own likeness on it, as well as a wad of bills.

As Lisa and Tony waved to the mysterious man, they met up with Lindsay who had watched from the sidelines. “Well, I guess we should head back out to the lobby.”

Having escaped the crowds in the relative quiet of the hotel’s well-decorated entrance, the young man told his fellow brainiac, “Well, I was certainly impressed by your battling skills today. In light of that, I need to call my associates to find out what they want me to do.”

Hmm.. Wonder if we’ll have someone else traveling with us now… He could be both an asset and a burden… I mean, the guy knows how to battle, but…

As Tony once again headed off to make his private phone call, Lindsay told her sister, “Wow, that battle was really exciting, but, man, was that guy you fought weird!”

“I certainly don’t think I’d mistake him for any other trainer, that’s for sure! Okay, anyway, here’s where we’re headed from this point on. There’s a big cruise ship anchored at the far end of this city, at the docks. It departs at four in the afternoon, so we have plenty of time to make it there. And don’t worry about tickets; I bought both of us one-way tickets to our next destination, which is called Sphinx City. Supposedly, it’s on a tropical island or something like that. The ship’s called the S.S. Anne; apparently it’s on a worldwide tour and we just happened to catch it at the right time, as it’s moored here. Let’s get lunch here and then head down to board the ship.”

By this time, Tony had returned with an update. “Okay, ladies, I’ve been told that, since I believe that you can handle things here, that I can pull out of this region. However, in case you find out any new information about the Thrash Brotherhood, I want you to call me. I’m giving you my cell phone number. Even though my group has assured that it’s untraceable, don’t give it away.”

“Okay,” replied Lisa as she took out her phone to register the number. “But how do we know my messages aren’t being intercepted?”

“It’ll always connect to voicemail, but the greeting will be a generic one. However, the generic message will be in my voice, and my phone number will be repeated exactly four times during it. That’s how you can confirm you’ve got the correct number. In your message, tell me what you’ve found out, as any bit of information will help us understand more about the team.”

“Okay, will do. But tell me, where are you going to be headed?” the older girl asked, her eyebrow raised.

“Keep this a secret, but I’m checking out a remote desert area of Orre where there apparently have been reports of mysterious explosions and earthquakes. I need to find out what’s causing it, as I suspect some terrorist group is behind it. Might be Thrash, might be Cipher. We don’t know yet. Well, allow me to wish you the best of luck in the future, and if you find out any more information, please let me know! Thanks again for showing me a great battle! Bye!”

“Bye!” Lisa and Lindsay waved to the young man as he ran out of the lobby, then walked back to the elevator. The plan was to shower, gather their belongings, check out of the hotel, and grab a bite to eat. Then they would make their way to the cruise ship.

Orre… Wonder what happened there… and if Thrash is behind it…
*********

“Hey, Maxie, forget your Gatorade?!”

“Stupid loser, you got owned by some old dude on national TV!”

“What’s that smell? Oh yeah, it’s Maxie, ‘cause he don’t wanna use the shower! He’s scared of a little water!”

“Maxie sucks! He really, really sucks! Maxie sucks! He really, really sucks!”

Scowling and burying his face into his handcuffed hands, the redheaded radical environmentalist was led down the corridor of Fourtix Federal Penitentiary’s “D” block by a pair of guards. Passing each steel-barred chamber, he faced laughter, insults, and derision from the occupants of every cell that currently housed a prisoner. Even as he passed by his subordinate Tabitha’s cell, the prisoner within yelled out to him, “So glad that ad was made before I joined!”

“Oh, shut up!” Maxie snapped back before the guards grabbed him and pulled him further down the hallway.

All Maxie had seen for the past month had been the gray interior of the prison and the orange jumpsuits that he and his fellow prisoners were forced to wear. The man had neglected to shave; he now sported a thick red goatee. His bright red hair was no longer neatly trimmed; it, like his goatee, had grown unchecked ever since arriving at the maximum security facility.

Finally the disheveled man was facing his own cell. The guards escorted him inside before slamming the sliding prison door. After the loud clanging of the heavy steel divider, there was silence. Maxie made his way toward his bed and sat on the hard, thin mattress. “I can’t believe that Blaine… And to think I used to idolize that man as the ultimate Fire-type trainer…”

Indeed, Maxie had seen the episode of “Professor Blaine the Science King” the previous night during his designated television hour. And when the former Magma leader saw his face on the show, with Blaine – his idol, his role model – openly mocking his ideas and his beliefs, he was livid.

“Blaine… How could you do that to me? I respected you… I looked up to you… You were the ultimate trainer, then you do something like that to me? You’re a Fire-type trainer! You’re not even supposed to like water! And the fact that you betrayed me stings worse than being the laughingstock of this entire cellblock! CURSE YOU, BLAINE!”

The prisoner in the cell to the right of Maxie’s pounded on the wall, yelling, “Why don’t you shut the hell up and let the rest of us sleep, Gatorade Boy! Or maybe you need a nice cold shower!”

“… I stand corrected… Hell, I’ve gotta find a way to get outta here… Either that or get the guards to put me in solitary confinement…”
********

“Oh, perfect!” Lisa sulked as she and Lindsay rushed down Plum City’s main drag toward the port at the opposite end. “I can’t believe it took that restaurant over an hour to serve up some fries and a burger! Now I can only hope we’re not late for the ship!” Lisa had on her favorite blue floral dress, with her green cardigan tied around her waist. At least the fifteen-year old had the foresight to wear a pair of black ballet flats instead of heels. Her younger sister had on her purple floral dress that had been received from her older sister. Both siblings’ brown hair were flowing out from behind them, as Lisa had to keep a firm hand on her white hat to keep it from blowing off her head.

Glancing at the ticket she held in her other hand, Lisa noticed that they had exactly thirty minutes before their ship was scheduled to depart. She could see the outline of the dock and giant cruise ship faintly on the horizon. “Come on, Lindsay, there’s the port! We can still make it! Hurry up!”

“I’m coming, sis! I can’t run as fast as you! Wait up! You know… if you had planned this better…”

WHAT?! How DARE she place the blame on me! She knows all the stuff we went through!” Lisa snapped back at her sister, “Look, Linds, I didn’t plan for having to wait so long for our food! I didn’t plan for having to wait an hour for the… water to heat up before I could shower! And you know I am NOT the type of girl to waste hours putting on makeup! Honestly, with the hotel nearly empty… I don’t know why the water heater took so long…” Lisa snapped back between her panting heavily.

As the sisters continued their run, their target gradually came into focus on the horizon – a massive white ship with a red stripe running across the front. The ship’s cabins easily rose a good seven stories above the deck, if not more.

“Um, sis… your right shoe came off!”

Sure enough, only Lisa’s white pantyhose separated her right foot from the black pavement below. Without hesitating, the older girl simply continued toward the dock, paying her lost shoe no mind.

“Can’t worry about that now, I’ll put on another pair once we get aboard this ship! Besides, I’ve got pantyhose on, my feet aren’t gonna get that dirty…”

“Yeah, but they’ll probably get ripped…”

“And that is why I bought fifteen pairs in the last town. See, Linds, there are SOME things that I do prepare for! Now run! We’re almost there!”
*********

“Oh, man! I can’t believe this! I never should have gotten off here! I should’ve just gone straight on to Kanto!” panted a short black-haired girl as she sprinted down that same main road past a seemingly endless line of hotels. She was a good distance ahead of the Northwood siblings and was likely in less danger of being left behind.

“First I find out that this region doesn’t have any contests, then I’m forced to ask Mom to buy another ticket for the next leg of the trip! Oh, man, and Mom did NOT sound happy over the phone when I told her! I’m worried she’ll take away my cell phone privileges for this!”

Her white shirt and lavender skirt creating a blur as she made her way through the empty street, the girl ran as fast as her legs could carry her. She had now cleared the line of hotels and had entered the port area. Though this young lady would clearly make the ship on time, she still expressed her worries aloud.

“Not only that, but I’ve been having to sleep in the Pokémon Center for these past couple of days. And now I get up late and have to run to catch this ship in time! Man! What else could go wrong?!”

Arriving at the makeshift ticket booth, consisting of a white “concession” trailer, the girl stopped running. Bending forward and with both hands on her knees, she took a few seconds to try and catch her breath.

“Finally… I made it… Here’s my… ticket…” she panted, digging the slip of paper out of her purse and handing it to the disinterested man sitting in the ticket booth.

“Show me some ID,” the man with the black mullet said frankly.

After showing the man her trainer ID card, the staffer instructed her, “Go through the turnstile up there and follow the signs posted to get on. Take this. Your room assignment and key are in there,” he mumbled, handing her a small manila envelope that was the size of a credit card.

“Thanks… gotta go!” As the girl ran past the gate, the man took out a cigarette and lit it.

“Damn kids… always waiting until the last minute… What?! More lousy kids?!”

“Sorry… we’re late… we just booked our tickets… yesterday and… food took forever…” Lisa told the man while she and Lindsay tried to catch their breaths. “Whew! Looks like we just barely made it!

“Look, just show me your ID and I can look up your name on the computer.”

Thinking instinctively from her college days, Lisa pulled an orange and purple ID card from her wallet and handed it to the man. He looked at it quizzically. “What is this? Some ID card from some faraway college? I need to see your TRAINER ID!”

“What, y’all don’t accept the Tiger 1 Card here? Is it ‘cause I’m too far away from campus?” the girl joked. The angry glare of the man showed that he didn’t find her attempt at humor to be funny. “Sorry, here’s my card. My sister here isn’t a trainer yet. Will that be a problem?”

Looking over Lisa’s trainer card and his ancient Windows 95-equipped computer, the man told her, “I don’t give a damn. Take this. Your room card’s in that envelope. You’re both confirmed, so get yourselves on the ship before it takes off. Not that I care if you get left behind…”

“Yeah, thanks…” the teen replied before leading her sister onto the walkway that led to the massive white cruise ship, with “S.S. ANNE” written in red script along the side of the seafaring structure. “Rude much?” she muttered to herself.

The first stop for Lisa was the restroom. The girl examined the bottom of her right foot. Though it was black with dirt, she didn’t see where the white nylon had been ripped anywhere, so she didn’t bother to change her pantyhose. Instead, she pulled a pair of black heels from her backpack and slipped her feet in them. Outside, her sister was impatiently yelling, “C’mon, sis! Let’s get to our cabin so I can rest for awhile!”

“All right, I’m ready!” Lisa shouted back as she emerged from the ladies’ room. As the sisters rounded the corner, they were in for an unexpected surprise.

BAM!

Chapter 40: Adventures On Deck!

“Owww…” Lisa found herself on the deck of the ship along with another girl with dark, raven-colored hair, who was also rubbing the top of her head. Upon making eye contact, both girls yelled out, “Oops, sorry!” Lisa quickly added, “Jinx! You owe me a soda! And I’m not talking about the Pokémon Jynx, either!”

The other girl couldn’t help but let out a giggle. “Okay, but I can’t buy you a soda unless I know your name.”

“Sorry, it’s Lisa Northwood, and the girl there who didn’t run into you is my younger sister, Lindsay. What’s your name, so I can thank you for the soda?”

“Oh, it’s Sadie Catherwood. Nice to meet you!” she replied as she helped Lisa to her feet, having already gotten up herself. “Hey, do you know where cabin… um… let’s see… four-seven-nine is?” she asked as she took her ticket out of her handbag.

After getting herself back to her feet, Lisa took a look at her ticket. “I’m in… four-seven-nine, too! Hey, that’s the same room we’re in! Looks like we’re roomies!”

“Yeah,” Sadie replied, “imagine the coincidence of bumping into each other like this!”

“Come on, ladies, let’s find our room now, shall we?” Lindsay insisted.

The trio walked down the ship’s deck, trying to dodge other tourists and trainers doing the same. They had to maneuver through whatever holes they could find in the crowds, sometimes having to shove their way through too-small gaps in the mass of travelers.

“Man, this is nuts! I can’t believe they didn’t have the foresight to design this place to accommodate all of these tourists!” a frustrated Lisa yelled, holding the top of her head.

An older man with graying hair snapped back, “Hey, watch it, you damn kids!”

“Sorry!” Sadie hastily replied as she and the Northwood sisters continued to try and to pull through the crowd.

Finally making their way into the main part of the boat, the three approached the elevator. “Well, since the room number begins with a four, I assume we’re on the fourth floor. Might as well make our way down there.”

“Perfect! This is a huge maze of rooms! We’ll never find ours!” whined Lindsay.

Lisa told her sister, “Quiet! If we follow the signs, it shouldn’t be too hard! If this is anything like a hotel, the rooms should be in sequential order. Anyway there’s a map here and… oh, wonderful!” she remarked with a frustrated frown on her face.

“What is it, Lisa?” Sadie asked.

“Our room is all the way at the other end of the ship! It’s a straight line there, but it’s one heck of a walk… great, just great…” she sighed, waving her arms in the air.

The group had no choice but to walk the long distance down the hallway, passing rows upon rows of identical sky-blue metal doors set against a tropical-themed wallpaper with palm trees.

Upon finally locating the room, Lisa collapsed in front of the steel door while Sadie took out the room key-card she had received at check-in. The oldest of the group had slipped off her heels and was rubbing both feet. “Owww… all that walking took a toll on me…”

The dark-haired girl had unlocked the door. She entered, followed by Lindsay. Lisa finally pulled herself to her feet and walked into the room, carrying her shoes in her hand.

The room itself was painted white, and was arranged and decorated much like a typical hotel room - two queen beds situated next to each other across from a walnut-veneer dresser with a flat-screen TV on top, placed across from a small desk and recliner. A painting of a beach scene hung over one bed, and a photograph of a black and white lighthouse kept watch over the second bed. Looking up, Lisa recognized the lighthouse instantly.

“Hey, that’s the Hunting Island Lighthouse! I remember when we used to visit there on our vacations!”

Seeing her new friend rubbing her feet, Sadie asked, “How can you even stand wearing heels and pantyhose on a Pokémon journey? Isn’t that uncomfortable?”

“Yeah, it gets pretty uncomfortable, but sometimes I do cheat and wear ballet flats,” Lisa answered. “But still, do you like the dress?”

“Oh, the dress is really pretty! And your sister looks cute, too!”

“Aww, thanks!” Lisa’s face turned a bit red as she smiled. “Your outfit looks pretty cute too, except that I don’t think sneakers and skirts should ever go together…”

“Well, at least I’m comfortable!” replied an annoyed Sadie, sulking at her older companion.

“Sorry, sorry, but I just don’t like that particular look. It just seems… like a weird combination to me. But I do understand that it does make it easier to travel. But then again, so would a car… like a nice Caprice Classic LS Brougham…”

“Well, you know, most trainers don’t have a car. Plus, it kinda ruins the experience.”

“True, I can see that, but still, wouldn’t it be nice… traveling these long distances in a nice full-size sedan, enjoying the air conditioning, soft velour seats, and the smooth ride, stereo playing your favorite late-eighties love songs…” Lisa rambled, her eyes closed as she lost herself in a vision of a leisurely cruise down an Interstate.

“Sis! You’re daydreaming! Come back to reality!” Lindsay interjected, which got her older sister’s attention.

“Okay, I’m back!” Lisa yelled out as she proceeded to slip her shoes back on.. Sadie started giggling at this exchange between the siblings. “Okay, my feet feel better now, so I want to explore the ship. In particular, I need to find a store or something where I can buy a new pair of ballet flats. I kinda… lost one running out to the ship.”

The older girl set her purple backpack on the floor and dumped the contents of her handbag onto one of the beds. She filled the handbag with only her Pokéballs and room key, leaving the other items – including her PDA, cell phone, and graphing calculator - on the bed. Sadie simply dropped her bag on the carpet. “Okay, I’m ready!”

The three girls left the room, making sure the door was locked. Heading back to the elevator, they found themselves back on the top deck again. Though there were still numerous people walking about, the crowds had thinned a bit since they had boarded the vessel earlier.

As they passed by the pool, Lisa felt herself being shoved from the right. “What the heck? Whooooa!” Waving her arms and trying to find a footing, she toppled right into Sadie despite her best attempts to keep her balance. Both girls tumbled right into the pool. As Lisa flailed her arms in a panic, both Lindsay and the person who had pushed her in looked on.

Oh, no! What happened! Man, I don’t need to be soaked- again! This is ridiculous! I hope my outfit’s okay…” The girl threw her hands up in frustration before she began sinking into the water. Reacting quickly, she resumed her frantic arm motions to try to stay afloat.

Lisa had managed to make her way back to the pool’s edge. She looked back and saw that Sadie had also managed to get to the surface of the water. She was still moving her arms to remain afloat and wore a stunned look on her face. Lisa looked up and met eyes with the person who had shoved her into the water. She began scowling as soon as she recognized the aggressor’s face.

“Hahahaha! Once a loser, always a loser, I guess! Looks like you’re sunk, you little wannabe!” The young man, with his red hoodie and baggy blue jeans somehow looked familiar.

Trying to grab hold of the side of the pool, Lisa realized, “It’s that jerk Terence I met before! What’s he got against me, anyway?!” She shot a piercing glare at her attacker, gritting her teeth.

“Hey! Leave my big sister alone!” Lindsay began running toward the man.

Her sister’s facial expression changed from rage to worry. “Linds, no!” Lisa shouted. But her warning came too late.

“Man, back off, short stuff!” Calmly, Terence extended an arm and shoved the young girl into the water, joining Lisa and Sadie. Lindsay had in fact toppled right into her older sister, causing Lisa to lose her grip. “Don’t even try messing with me, noob,” the young man retorted before turning to the crowd of onlookers. “And that, my friends, is how Terence Mason, your defending League Champion, deals with annoying little prudes!” he announced while removing his sunglasses and bowing to the group.

“Sadie, can you grab her? I can’t swim!” Lisa yelled as she began flailing about, trying desperately to remain afloat while making her way back toward the end of the pool. Sadie swam toward Lindsay, who was wildly moving her arms about, also struggling to stay above the surface of the water. “You creep!” Lisa shouted, using one hand to shake her fist at Terence. “How dare you do that! What kind of a jerk are you?”

Putting his hands on his hips, the man answered in a condescending tone, “I’m the type of guy who owns losers like you. You’re just lucky my Pokémon aren’t getting their hands on you, fool!”

The nerve of this guy!” Finally grabbing hold of the side of the pool, Lisa tilted her head up, looking at the group gathered around the pool. Facing laughter and pointing from the crowd, the teenager’s face turned scarlet as she turned away from the group. “Man, what a way to make an entrance...

“And now I am off! Come, it is time for this champion to retire to his personal quarters!” As Terence walked off, many of the people gathered around the pool followed him off. The others lost interest and walked off, without anyone bothering to help the girls.

Oh sure, leave us sitting here in this water!” The girl’s face was still red as she angrily watched the crowd disperse.

Sadie, now with Lindsay grabbing onto her right arm, swam to where Lisa was still clinging onto the side of the pool. “Lisa, take your sister, she’s just a bit heavier than she looks. I’ll get out, then I’ll pull the two of you out one at a time.”

Lisa had to take several deep breaths to calm herself down. “Okay,” the girl replied as she took her younger sister’s arm. Once all three were back on deck, they proceeded to check over their clothes wring the water from them the best they could. “Well, now we have to get back to our room and change again…” Lisa said as her sister sighed.

Once again throwing her hands in the air, Lisa yelled out, “Perfect! Just perfect! I just changed into my favorite dress a few hours ago, and now I have to change again! Man, that guy’s lucky nothing worse happened to this outfit! Or else… or else…” She was livid, breathing heavily with her fists clenched.

“Calm down, Lisa, don’t let punks like him get to you… besides, I think your sister needs you.”

“I can’t believe that guy…” Lindsay whimpered. “Look what he did to that dress you bought me…” The younger sister’s eyes began welling with tears.

After more deep breathing to calm herself, the older sister kneeled before her sibling and put her arm around her. “No, it’s not that bad… just a bit wet. Nothing that a trip through the wash can’t deal with. Believe me, I’ve ruined several outfits over the past few months.”

“Yeah, it’s okay,” Sadie added. “Let’s get back to our room where we can change clothes and try to put this behind us. But I can’t help but wonder, Lisa… What does that guy have against you?”

As the drenched girls began walking back to their room, the oldest one heaved a sigh. “I don’t know, actually. I ran into him once before, and he immediately began giving me a hard time there, too. Maybe it’s because I’ve been on the news for helping to beat this gang of criminals.”

“Really? I’ve been through a major crisis, but still… how is it that ordinary trainers like us get roped into this stuff?”

“If only I knew… Man, I’m suddenly feeling cold with all of this water on me. You doing fine, Linds?”

The young girl was shivering with her arms wrapped around her midsection. “I’m fine… but a bit… cold… please, can we hurry and get to the room?”

“Yeah, we’re almost to the elevator,” answered her sister, before she felt a shiver of her own.
*********

A young, blue-haired man with a ponytail and a bespectacled woman with bright red hair opened a wooden door marked “Interrogation Room.” Inside, two police officers were struggling to restrain their prisoner – a muscular, bald man who was squirming, snarling, and drooling as the pair of interrogators entered.

“Lorelei, Tony, glad you two have arrived. We’re having trouble with this one.”

“Tony, perhaps we should have this man restrained by both his hands and feet.”

“Agreed, Commander. This guy seems like he’s got a short fuse.”

The officers did as suggested, first handcuffing the prisoner’s wrists and ankles. They then sat him in a hard metal chair. As an extra precaution, chains were used to secure the suspect to his seat. The interrogators sat across from the man, with a wooden table between them and their prisoner.

“Frederick James Tomlin,” Lorelei began.

“You will NOT refer to me like that! You are to address me as ‘Fred the Dog Master!’ Do you hear me?! Woof! Arf! Grrr….”

Tony slammed his fist on the table. “Listen, Freddie, you are our prisoner, and you’re no longer the master of your dogs because they’ve been put up in protective custody. Now, we have a few questions we need to ask you.”

“Ask away, scumbag! But don’t expect any answers from me! You haven’t won! When Thrash takes over this world, I ain’t gonna be in jail no longer! Arf! Arf! Arf!” was Fred’s angry reply.

“Um, we’re not the scumbags, and your barking is getting really annoying, sir,” Lorelei said.

“Does it look like I care? If I wasn’t chained to this chair, I would beat your stupid little heads in! You’re lucky ya got me on a leash, but that ain’t gonna last long! Hell, I don’t know nothin’! I don’t really care ‘cause I’m just the damn muscle! I don’t need to know every little detail of our grand plan, only that I’m helping towards our goal. And that’s plenty enough for me!”

Tony whispered, “I think this guy’s right. Considering how stupid he’s acting, I’m not surprised his superiors wouldn’t want him to know anything.” Turning back to face Fred, he told the muscular convict, “Fine, then I guess this interview is over. You can just return to your cell and annoy the other prisoners with your barking.”

As the two officers unshackled the snarling man from the chair, Lorelei turned to her partner. “Well, there was a couple that was arrested at the same factory where they picked up this guy. They seem more ‘with it,’ so we may be able to get some info from them. We’ll interview them tomorrow, I guess.”

“Well, I really wanted to get out to Orre to check on those mysterious explosions, but I guess one more day here couldn’t hurt, especially if these other two can provide us with some sort of clues as to Thrash’s plans here,” the blue-haired young man replied as both got up from their seats.
*********

“Well, that was certainly nice of them!” Sadie exclaimed. “One call and staff comes up to take care of our laundry, and they agree to deliver it back to the room, too!” The dark haired girl, who was now wearing a green T-shirt and blue denim skirt, walked over to her bed while Lisa finished checking her PDA for new messages.

“Yeah, we just need to make sure someone’s in the room when the clothes are done… but I really wanted to tour the ship this afternoon – hopefully without running into that jerk Terence again. Also, I need to get a bite to eat and buy a new pair of shoes.” Lisa, now wearing her pink floral dress and another pair of white pantyhose, was tying her brown hair back with a large red ribbon. Her white hat was currently being put through its paces in the ship’s laundry machines along with the rest of the girls’ outfits.

“Hey, sis, can I stay here and feed the Pokémon?” Lindsay, who was wearing one of her old school outfits, complete with stained and ripped red tights, was fingering the Pokéballs inside Lisa’s still-wet handbag.

“All except Metagross – it’s too heavy that I’m afraid the floor can’t support its weight,” her older sister warned. “Anyway, I’m out of the fancy Pokémon food, and it never eats the standard-quality stuff, so I don’t think it’ll mind. In fact, I think I’ll take Metagross along just in case something happens out there. Okay, just make sure y’all stay out of trouble and we’ll meet up later! And remember, don’t open the door for strangers!”

Lindsay sulked. “Yeah, yeah, sis, I know!”

The two older girls left the younger sister in the room, being sure to lock the door behind them.

“Heh, you know, we would have returned to the room anyway even if we hadn’t gotten soaked – I forgot my wallet the first time around!” Lisa admitted, rubbing the back of her head.

“But you’ve got it this time?” Sadie asked.

“Yup, I made sure to bring it with me!” The older girl pulled her wallet out and made sure her money and cards were inside.

This time not venturing out onto the deck, the two girls made their way to the ship’s gift shop. There, Lisa bought a couple of pairs of shoes while Sadie picked up a couple of souvenir T-shirts. “I hope Mom and Rena like these!”

Meeting back together at the entrance to the store, the girls’ next destination was in plain sight – one of the ship’s restaurants. Decorated in a nautical theme, the sea-blue walls were adorned with various objects, the most noticeable being a massive black anchor attached to a huge fishing net. The net was stretched out and covered over half of the restaurant’s ceiling.

Sadie and Lisa sat down and pored over the menu. After a few minutes of waiting, a waiter came by with two glasses of water. “What can I get you two ladies to eat this afternoon?”

The older girl went first. “Okay, this looks good… I’ll take the fried shrimp plate with fries and a lemonade, please.”

“Okay, and what about you?”

“Let’s see – the salmon and house salad look pretty good. I’ll just have mine with the water, if that’s okay.”

“All right, I’ll get these orders in as soon as I can. Thank you, ladies,” the man replied as he collected the menus and headed back toward the kitchen.

Turning to Lisa, Sadie asked, “I don’t know much about you, Lisa. What do you enjoy doing?”

“Mostly calculus and algebra. Oh, and working with large numbers to either find their factors or determine that they’re prime. It’s what I did in college.” The math nerd then looked to see her companion in a state of shock, with both her eyes and mouth wide open. “What? Was it something I said?”

Sadie nearly fell out of her seat, staring at her roommate. Taking a moment to recover her wits, the black-haired girl stammered, “Math? You’re into math? And you’re a college grad at that?! I’ve never met anyone like that! Personally, I’m not that good at it… I have to contact this tutoring company a lot. Ironically, it’s called ‘Doctor Lisa’s Math And Science Help Forum.’ They’re really good and my mom says they’re worth the money!”

Now it was Lisa’s turn to be surprised. Her mouth hung open at the realization that her roommate was also a customer of her company. “Really?! I’m the one that runs that tutoring company! Though to be honest, I don’t have a doctorate yet – only a bachelor’s degree. But as soon as I’m done with the Pokémon League here…”

“Man, what’s a genius girl like you doing training Pokémon?”

The brown-haired teen shrugged. “I might have a degree, but I’m still only fifteen. So when my parents said I had to go train Pokémon, I had to do it. Though, actually, I’m rather enjoying it now, though it’s sure different to life back home.”

“Where’s home for you?”

“Anderson, South Carolina. I really like the neighborhood I’m in there. I’m close to restaurants, shopping, and pretty much everything I need. Where are you from?”

“I’m from the Sinnoh region, in a small town called Sandgem Town. Not much there, really, mostly just some houses and your basic stores. There’s also a Pokémon laboratory there, but it’s not any big-time operation. Anyway, Lisa, what else are you interested in?”

The girl began rubbing her chin in thought, a habit she had picked up from her battle alongside Ein. “Let’s see… I like staying in hotels, I enjoy computers and large cars, and I like listening to love songs from the 1980’s. What about you?”

Sadie took a few moments to answer. “Okay, um… Well, I like reading a lot. I also like being outdoors a lot – you know, taking care of plants, playing outside, that sort of thing.”

“Yeah, though I don’t really like being outside. I mean, it’s kinda gross and I really can’t be comfortable out there. I guess I’m okay with walking around, like on my journey, but as for sleeping outside – don’t get me started on that… Especially not my horrible summer camp experience.”

The other girl straightened out her slouched body. “What happened?”

“Well, my parents wanted me to try summer camp so badly, so I caved. Turns out it was unbearable! I mean, no high-speed Internet, no cable TV – I was completely lost! Then, when I was told that our ‘cabin’ – honestly, it was worse than a Motel 6 – would be camping out in the wilderness, I snapped. I did so much yelling and complaining that the camp counselors paid to put me up in the Quality Suites Charleston for the rest of the week. And that was the one and only time I was ever grounded by my parents.”

“Wow… I would have enjoyed that… and don’t worry, I’ve been grounded a lot more than once!” Sadie let out a small chuckle as she ran her hand through her dark hair.

“Anyway, what brings you to this corner of the world?” Lisa asked.

“Well, I was hoping to compete in some Contests here, but then I found out about that whole conspiracy deal, so I’m moving on to Kanto to participate in the Contests there.”

“Well, good luck with that! Oh, hey, I think our food’s here! Let’s eat!”

“You said it!” Sadie agreed, picking up her fork. “I’m starving!”

Wonder how my Pokémon are doing? I hope Lindsay’s feeding them well.
*********

“Come on, Jolteon, you need to eat something! I can’t keep this dish from Sealeo forever!” Lindsay said as she presented a bowl of food in front of the yawning Electric-type with one hand. She was using her other hand to try and keep the gluttonous Ice-type away from the dish. “No, Sealeo, you’ve had enough!”

She heard a knock at the door. “Your laundry’s ready!”

Lindsay said to herself, “Sis told me not to answer the door, but she also said for me to pick up the laundry when it was done. So… I guess I should answer it…” The young girl went to answer the door, where she was greeted with the gentleman who had taken the girls’ soaked clothes a couple hours earlier. He was dressed in an employee’s uniform and was holding their outfits, all neatly wrapped in garment bags.

“Here are your clothes, all clean and dry!” the man told the small girl as he handed her the clothes.

“Oh, um…” Lindsay reached for some bills left on the dresser. “My big sister wanted to give you a tip, so please take this.” The younger sister handed him the money.

“Well, thank you very much, and you have a nice evening!” Lindsay closed the door after he had left, and set the clothes flat on the bed. The rattling of food pellets accompanied by slurping and chewing noises alerted the girl to Sealeo sticking his nose into Jolteon’s food dish.

“Hey, I told you to stay out of Jolteon’s food!” she scolded, snatching the bowl away. She scanned the room, looking for the Electric-type. Her eyes began to grow wide and her fingers began cinching her skirt. The bright yellow – and highly visible – Pokémon was nowhere to be seen. Panic gripped her whole body as Lindsay let out a scream. “Wait – I don’t see Jolteon! Jolteon? Where are you? Jolteon! Jolteon! Uh, oh…”

The other four Pokémon stopped what they were doing upon hearing Lindsay’s anguished calls for the Electric-type. Persian perked up her ears, and Weezing and Vibrava turned around to face the younger sister. Even Sealeo stopped going after the food and looked up at Lindsay, letting out a concerned bark.

Lindsay quickly ran over to the phone and frantically dialed her sister’s cell phone number. She wasn’t going to like Lisa’s reaction, but she didn’t have any other choice. “Sis, we got a big problem…”
*********

Okay… Somehow I need to remain calm… I’m sure Jolteon didn’t run off on purpose…” Lisa thought to herself. The three girls and four Pokémon were now gathered in the guestroom, going over a plan to find the lost Electric-type.

“It’s… it’s all my fault, Lisa. I let… Sealeo eat Jolteon’s food… I’m really sorry!” Lindsay sobbed.

“No, that isn’t it,” Lisa replied, rubbing her sister’s hair. “Jolteon’s never been a big eater, and Sealeo’s gone after his food before without Jolteon minding it, so it’s something else… but what?” The older girl glanced around quickly, hoping her Pokémon would have returned to her. To her dismay, the Electric-type was still nowhere in sight.

“One thing’s for sure, though,” Sadie added. “We’ve got our work cut out for us. It could be anywhere on this ship, so we better start looking right away.”

“Right. First, I better recall my other Pokémon,” Lisa started, but she was interrupted by a loud meow. Startled, the girl jumped up.

“Persian? What is it?” The cat answered by walking to the door and looking back at the girls.

“You know, maybe Persian’s picked up on Jolteon’s scent or something… Perhaps we should let it lead the way,” Sadie suggested.

“True,” the older teen replied as her other three Pokémon were engulfed by red energy and disappeared from the carpeted floor. “Lindsay, stay in the room in case Jolteon comes back. If he does, you should be able to hear him scratching on the door. Let him in then call my cell. And I’m leaving my other three Pokémon with you, just in case. Okay, Sadie and Persian, let’s go!” Despite her attempts to remain calm, Lisa’s shaking legs gave it away – she was worried.

The Normal-type led the two older girls as Lindsay was left in their room. The younger Northwood sister whispered, “Please find Jolteon… Please…”

Lisa and Sadie followed the feline Pokémon as she led them down the hallway and down the emergency stairs. “Wait… Usually on these ships, all of the mechanical equipment is on the bottom… Why would Jolteon come all the way down here?” Lisa called out, “Jolteon?! Can you hear me? Where are you? Please, come out! Jolteon!” She no longer tried to hold back her tears, and they began flowing freely down her cheeks as she ran down each step, nearly losing her footing more than once.

The group had reached the bottom floor with no sign of the wayward yellow creature. Lisa and Sadie began looking around and Persian started to scratch at a door marked, “Mechanical – Employees Only.”

“What?!” the older girl shouted, as if she was on edge. “You think Jolteon’s in there? Let’s try it out!” As Lisa began to turn the corroded knob, she found it wouldn’t budge. The sound of running footsteps on the steel floor and a booming voice stopped the girls and the cat Pokémon dead in their tracks.

“Hey! You girls aren’t allowed down here! What do you think you’re doing?!” The man, wearing a navy blue work outfit and sporting a scruffy brown beard, gave them a suspicious stare. Both girls’ bodies tensed up in surprise as Persian turned around and assumed a defensive stance.

“S-Sorry!” Lisa stammered, still releasing tears from her clouded brown eyes. “We’re looking for a lost Pokémon, a Jolteon. My Persian indicated that he had somehow found his way down here. Do you know if any lost Jolteon have been found by anyone?”

“No, not to my knowledge. Now, out!” the man hastily replied. Dejectedly, the three made their way back up the stairs. Lisa’s head was hung low. If Jolteon was in the mechanical room, there was no way she would be able to get to him. As the group prepared to open the door that led to the fourth floor, Lisa’s phone began ringing. Upon answering the phone, Lindsay’s voice on the other end blasted into Lisa’s ear.

“Sis! There are a couple of men outside the door who claim they’ve found Jolteon. I’ve looked through the door peephole and they are really holding a Jolteon, but I don’t know if I should let them in.”

“Okay, tell them to hold on and I’ll meet up with them in a few minutes.” Lisa snapped the phone shut. Then she informed her friend, “Lindsay just told me that a couple of men have supposedly found Jolteon. But what I’m unsure of is how they know it’s mine and how they found out what room we’re in.” She now sprinted up the steps, with Sadie and Persian struggling to keep up.

“You’re right. Watch out, it could all be a trap.”

As the two girls and their feline Pokémon companion made their way to the fourth floor, they caught sight of the two men waiting outside their room. Lisa breathed a sigh of relief when she saw who they were.

The larger of the two was holding a Jolteon. Upon seeing Lisa, the Pokémon jumped from the man’s arms and ran toward his trainer. As the girl began hugging her found Pokémon, she looked up at the two Gym Leaders who had found the wayward Electric-type. Both the muscular, dark-skinned Bernie and the tall, clean cut Reed were watching the reunion with relieved smiles on their faces.

“Bernie and Reed? You two found Jolteon?! Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! But, what brings you aboard this ship?” she asked as the group entered the room. She told Sadie, “These two are Gym Leaders, so don’t worry.”

Bernie replied, “There will be time for a proper welcome later. What concerns us now is the reason why Jolteon ran off. We are staying on the second floor. On our way up to the deck, we happened across your Pokémon. But, even as we tried to pick it up, it resisted. It wasn’t violent it all, but something did seem to be distressing it. It looked like your Pokémon, so we first called up the ship’s staff to find out which room you were in.”

Reed continued, “We called Elektra concerning your Jolteon’s behavior. She told us that Electric-type Pokémon can sometimes grow agitated if they sense that an electrical device might cause some type of mechanical problem. Perhaps it senses something amiss in the electrical room. In any event, we need to check it out.”

As Reed was telling Lisa this, Jolteon wrestled himself away from his trainer’s embrace. He now pointed his snout down the hall, back toward the stairwell.

Wow, really? I never knew that!” Reaching into her bag, Lisa said, “Okay, let’s go! Persian, return!” After the cat had returned to her Luxury Ball, the group moved out again, this time with the spiked Electric-type leading them.

Lindsay had once again chosen to remain inside the room. “All this searching for Jolteon’s worn me down. I’m gonna rest for awhile…”

Jolteon, the two girls, and the two Gym Leaders had made their way back down to the bottom level mechanical room when the same employee from before tried to stop them again. This time, however, Bernie interrupted. Showing his Pokémon League ID card, he told the man, “Bernie Davis, Northwood City Pokémon Gym Leader. We have reason to believe that something is amiss in the mechanical room. Something is upsetting this Jolteon and it’s led us here.”

“No,” the employee replied, looking at a huge set of meters and gauges on the wall, “nothing’s wrong with any of our equipment.”

“Then perhaps Jolteon is sensing some additional electronic device that is causing problems. In any event, as a representative of the Fourtix Pokémon League, I request permission to search the mechanical room.”

“Fine, but I need to come with you,” he responded as he unlocked the door. With the Electric-type once again taking the lead, the group of five people and one Pokémon entered the poorly lighted room, passing rows upon rows of generators, water heaters, and other machines. Jolteon led the humans to a location behind one of the generators.

The yellow Pokémon was pointing his nose at something in the darkness. The ship employee shined his flashlight in that direction, and everyone’s eyes grew wide in shock.

“Look at that thing!

In front of the group was a massive gray steel box. Situated atop it was a countdown timer, which currently displayed 21:57 in red digital numerals.

“Oh, my God, it’s a bomb!” Sadie shrieked.

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