Lurking in the Shadows

Chapter 46: Bad Lisa, Bad Lisa, Whatcha Gonna Do?

Lisa could only stammer as the officers picked her off from the ground. “Wh… what charges? I don’t understand this!”

“Five counts of armed bank robbery. You’re going up the river for a long, long time. You’re looking to be put away for at least thirty years,” answered an officer as she shoved their suspect into the back of one of the Chargers.

Bernie, Lindsay, and Sadie emerged outside. The Gym Leader was the first to ask, “What’s going on here?”

A male cop explained, “Leader Bernie, this girl matches the description of a serial bank robber we’ve had in the area. Even without one of her trademark hoodies, that hairstyle is unmistakable. We’ll see what the forensic evidence says, but right now she’s the only lead we have.”

“Look, I know for a fact that this girl was on the SS Anne until she fell overboard a couple days ago. Look, I’ll dig up passenger records and surveillance footage from the ship to prove it. I know this girl is innocent!”

Lindsay, with tears in her eyes, shouted out, “My big sister would never do such a thing! She just… wouldn’t… I can’t believe you’re taking her away!”

Sadie argued, “And she was with me practically the whole time! So I know she wasn’t the one committing those crimes!”

“Sorry folks,” the policeman said as he shrugged his shoulders. “Until we get definitive proof that she’s not the guilty party, we’ll have to hold her in custody.”

One by one, all of the police cars left the area save one – the only Chevy Caprice police car in the fleet. The officer in that car had just finished taking some notes before he stepped out of his cruiser. Lindsay recognized him immediately.

“Officer Morgan! How could you let this happen to Lisa?” the young girl cried as she ran up to the muscular police inspector.

“Sorry, but this wasn’t my doing. Apparently someone in the Pokémon Center recognized Lisa’s hairstyle as matching the criminal’s, and called the police. Listen, I’m off the clock right now, so let’s get a room in here and try to go over the facts. Frankly, I’m convinced Lisa’s innocent too, but proving it won’t be easy. And I’ll need all of your help to do it.”

Bernie held up his right hand. “Hold it. I’m going to collect information from the ship first, so I’ll have to meet up later.” With those words, the Gym Leader left Morgan and the two girls to begin his own phase of the investigation.

“Good luck on finding information! Now girls, let’s head up to a room and look over some facts.”

Soon, the three of them were seated around a large table, with numerous photos spread out in front of them.

Inspector Morgan explained, “These are all surveillance camera stills from each of the five robberies where the “Hoodie Bandit” has struck. Notice how she wears a different hoodie in each of the robberies, and how, like your sister, she has two strands of brown hair draped in front of her shoulders, while the rest of her hair is concealed.”

“Um… What does ‘HSU’ mean on this one?” Sadie asked, pointing to one of the pictures in which the bandit wore a red jacket.

“Hmmm…” murmured Morgan as he rubbed the stubble on his chin, “I think it’s Hoenn State University, so the bandit may have a connection to that school. Or maybe they’re a fan of their basketball team. That’s a sharp eye you have there. We weren’t able to make out what letters those were until we digitally enhanced the photo.”

The three began to closely examine the mess of photos in silence, carefully scanning each one for clues before moving on to the next one. This disorganized process continued for several minutes before Lindsay let out a shout.

“Hey, you two, I think you better see this!”

The young girl held up a picture that was shot as the girl was leaving after a robbery. Her right index finger was pointed to the visible lock of hair on the right side of the face. “Take a look at this piece of hair. Doesn’t it look like it’s hanging by a thread?”

“Now that I take a closer look, it does, doesn’t it? Well, I’m thinking this means that the girl was wearing a disguise and was purposely trying to look like Lisa in order to frame her. You know, it’s funny how nobody at the station was able to pick up on these things. Guess all we need was a fresh pair of eyes. Well, now I think we need to be looking at Thrash more closely.”

“Thrash? You mean that organization that Lisa was telling me about?” Sadie asked, a puzzled look on her face.

“Yes, I have a feeling they’re somehow connected to this. Now, what I need you girls to do is to head over to Four Corners. It’s an outdoor market district in town that’s a popular hangout for kids. See if you come across any girls there that might be suspects. They might have large amounts of cash, they might wear similar hoodies, and they might be wearing Hoenn State clothes. But they may or may not have brown hair, as the ‘Lisa-locks’ were most likely a disguise. We’ll wait here for Bernie to return, then I’ll drive you out to Four Corners to set up our surveillance.”
*********

On a television set in a darkened room, a news reporter was delivering some breaking news. “Sphinx City Police are pleased to announce the arrest of a suspect in the ‘Hoodie Bandit’ case. Because the subject is not of legal age, her name is not being released. News Four has exclusive footage of the arrest.”

The video showed a group of officers leading a handcuffed and sobbing Lisa from a police cruiser into the station. Though her face was blurred out, her outfit made it clear who the girl was to the man watching the report.

“Oh, this is simply beautiful!” yelled out Tommy Junger as a wicked smile formed on his wrinkled face. “That little wretch and her family got me sent up the river; now let’s see how SHE likes it! Man, I hope she gets violated by a dozen prisoners her first night in jail! That would just be the icing on the cake!”

“It sure is great when a plan all comes together, isn’t it, Gramps?” asked a teenager standing next to the couch.

“It sure is,” laughed the bearded man as he lit up a cigarette and opened a can of beer. “And I bet I get a nice raise once the boss finds out about this!” Tommy was careful not to let his granddaughter know that his son and her uncle was that boss.

“So, when can I pull off the next robbery?”

“Actually, since that stupid girl is in jail, we’re done. Mission accomplished.”

“Aww, come on!” the girl whined. “I was really having fun! Reminded me of back when I beat kids up and stole their lunch money!”

Tommy rose from the ragged couch, beer still in hand. With a stern look, he explained, “Listen carefully. I don’t want that girl to be set free because the ‘Hoodie Bandit’ is still committing crimes even after the arrest. So if you’re going to be hitting any more banks, it can’t be under the ‘Hoodie Bandit’ disguise. Get a ski mask or something. And you’ll have to find someone else to aid in your getaways.”

The teen sighed. “All right, I think I can find someone who can help. Anyway, I’m off to Four Corners to meet up with some friends. See ya!”

“Yeah, bye.” As the granddaughter left the house, Tommy began laughing softly under his breath. “Life is good.”
*********

“Awww, what’s a cute girl like you doing in a prison like this?”

Lisa Northwood, now wearing an orange prison jumpsuit that was two sizes too large for her, was being led down the dingy, dreary corridor of a prison, being subjected to catcalls and insults. However, one prisoner in particular took special interest in the teenage inmate.

“Well, well, look what the pigs dragged in. I, Fred the Dog Master, will enjoy making your every waking minute in here a living hell! You better be ready for it! Arf! Arf! Awoooo! Bwahahahahaha!”

Sneering at the muscular lummox, Lisa was nonetheless relieved that at least her cell was nowhere near Fred’s, as his cage was barely in sight as the officers finally arrived at her new home. As the guards slammed shut the heavy steel door with an echoing clang, the girl sat herself on the thin mattress and started crying.

And I thought being stranded on the beach was bad! At least there I had someone to talk to! But here… this is madness! And I certainly DON’T want to know what Fred has planned for me…

Trying to make the best of her dire situation, the girl laid her body on the bed and closed her eyes, hoping her dreams would take her to a happier place than the prison where she currently was housed.

I… I just can’t believe this is happening to me… I didn’t even do anything wrong! Oh, man, if I’m found guilty, I will not be able to find a decent job anywhere… Why? Why is all of this happening?

Beginning to sob once again, the girl tried to ignore the sounds of the inmates surrounding her.
*********

Among the cars driving into Sphinx City’s Four Corners shopping district was a nondescript Buick Century. But this unassuming blue family sedan was rigged with hidden cameras and a concealed police strobe light. It was the police department’s undercover investigation vehicle. The car slowly made its way down a row of parked cars, with its driver hunting for a spot. Finally finding one with a clear vantage point of the area, the undercover unit pulled into a spot next to a red Dodge Diplomat.

“Okay, here’s the deal,” Inspector Morgan said to Sadie and Lindsay as the two girls clambered out of the back seat. “I need you two girls to take a seat over there,” he explained, pointing to a picnic table with a white umbrella offering shade. “Be on the lookout for any female matching the clues we discussed. Four foot ten, medium build, may be wearing Hoenn State University clothes. Remember, don’t only look for brown hair; it may have been merely a disguise. If you see anything that might be of interest, speak with me on walkie-talkie and I’ll take it from there. Don’t put yourselves in danger. Good luck.”

As the two girls left the car and headed toward their designated stakeout spot, Lindsay whispered, “You know, I’m a bit scared. I’m really worried about what could happen to us.”

“Well, so am I,” Sadie admitted. “But, remember, we’re doing this for your sister.”

“You’re right. We have to do this. For Lisa’s sake.”

The girls took their seats and began scanning the outdoor shops surrounding them. Morgan had told them that school had just let out, so if their suspect was a teenager, she’d most likely show up at this local watering hole. Just as they settled in, a large group of teenagers began filing in. Some had driven, some had walked, but now all of them were making their way toward the outdoor shops.

Lindsay gasped. “Whoa! With all these people, how are we supposed to look for this one girl?”

“Looks like we’ll have to wait until the crowd thins out, or try to spot people as they leave.”

“Hey,” Lindsay said, “how did Lisa deal with having to sleep outside? If she went crazy and screamed and ran all up and down the beach crying out in terror, I want to know about it!”

“She actually took it better than I thought she would…”

“Aw, man!” exclaimed the young girl, frowning. “And here I was, thinking I could pick on Lisa for going nuts!”

Sadie laughed. “Hey, be nice to your big sister! No, Lisa had a nightmare about summer camp, but other than that, she was pretty calm. I was pretty surprised myself, especially after hearing the stories you told me.”

“Man, I swear, that summer camp thing is gonna haunt her for the rest of her life! I went to that same camp the year after, and I had a great time!”

“Yeah,” Sadie replied, scratching her chin, “I never thought summer camp was that bad… I wonder how Lisa’s coping being in jail. I hope she’s okay…”

“Yeah, me too…” Both girls grew silent as they continued to keep an eye on the outdoor market.

Back inside the car, the police inspector muttered to himself, “Come on, school’s letting out and just about every high-schooler on the island gathers here to let off some steam… She’s gotta show eventually…”
********

Panting, a husky man burst through the glass front doors of a police station, two videotapes in one hand and a large brown book in the other. Slamming the book down on a wooden desk in front of an officer, the man yelled, “You have an innocent girl in custody!”

“Excuse me? Who do you think you are barging in here?”

“Bernie Davis, Gym Leader. I have records from the SS Anne that show that the girl you currently have arrested for the Hoodie Bandit robberies was on board during the time of the crimes!”

“Fine, let’s see what you got.”

Opening the book to an earmarked page, Bernie asked, “The name of the girl you currently are holding is Lisa Kimberly Lynn Northwood, am I correct?”

Looking up some records on her computer, the officer at the desk answered, “Yes, that is correct.”

“Well, here,” the Gym Leader said, pointing to an entry in the log book, “is her name on the records of people who bought tickets for the SS Anne for its run between Plum City and Sphinx City. And here,” he continued, flipping to another page, “it’s recorded that Lisa did indeed board that ship as it left port in Plum City. Now, can I borrow that TV/VCR combo for a few minutes?”

“Sure,” the cop replied, as she took the first of Bernie’s tapes and inserted it in the tape slot. Pressing “Play,” the television screen came to life with surveillance footage of the ship’s seafood restaurant.

“Pause it right there!” Bernie yelled. On the still frame, he told the officer, “See the three girls walking out of the restaurant? Look closely at the girl on the right. Look at her hair. Isn’t it styled in the same manner as the girl you had arrested? And wasn’t she wearing that same outfit earlier today when you took her into custody?”

“Let me look it up…” she replied, turning to her computer. “I wasn’t the arresting officer, nor did I take her booking photo. I just work the desk…” The woman’s eyes grew wide. “You know what, it is! Look at the mug shot!”

The picture on the computer monitor was of a very forlorn-looking Lisa. But, more importantly, the very top of her green blouse and blue dress were visible in the photograph.

“Still, that video is dated before the first robbery took place. For all I know, she could have stolen a lifeboat, made her way to shore, and then gone from there.”

Bernie slapped his forehead in frustration. “Now, that’s just absurd! Fine, I have another video, this one shot yesterday during a Contest on the ship. Can you switch tapes for me?”

“Sure,” the officer said as she took the second tape from Bernie’s hand. Exchanging the two videos, the second one depicted the contest scene as Persian was etching the formula onto the wall.

“Look at the girl on center stage. She changed her hairstyle for the Contest, but doesn’t she otherwise look like the same girl?”

The young woman craned her neck to get a closer look at the screen. Half muttering, she said, “You know, she kinda sorta does… Still, all your evidence is circumstantial.”

Sighing in exasperation once again, Bernie had another question. “Okay, that’s all the evidence I have. But, when your officers located the getaway cars, were you not able to lift fingerprints from them?”

“No. We think she was wearing gloves.”

“What about hair?”

“We got some hairs from the car, but they were black. There was also some brown hair, but that hair was synthetic and could have come from a wig…” Suddenly it dawned on her. “So it’s possible that our suspect was wearing a brown wig to disguise herself?

“Yes, that’s what I think happened. I know I met that girl on the ship, and that’s what the videos show.”

“Well, I’ll bring in my supervisor and see what he thinks. But personally, I think we have an innocent girl in custody.”
********

Back at the Four Corners district, the investigation team was also making some headway. It did not take long – an hour at most – before a girl walked right up to their table. The girl was not wearing a hoodie and had short black hair, but her T-shirt bore the letters “HSU.”

“Ain’t seen you two around these parts. Name’s Robin. What’s your names?”

The two girls looked at each other nervously.

“C’mon! I’m not gonna bite! Just wanted to welcome you to Four Corners!”

“I’m Sadie, and this is Lindsay.”

“See, that wasn’t so hard! C’mon, let me buy you a drink!” Seeing that the pair was hesitating, Robin pulled out a large pile of money. Flashing the bills in front of the girls, she urged, “Look, don’t worry about me! I got lots of money to spend! So, what’ll it be?”

“Um… I’ll take a Pepsi,” answered Sadie.

“Make mine a Sprite,” Lindsay added.

“You got it!” Robin replied as she headed off to the market area to buy the girls their drinks.

As the girl left to make the purchase, Lindsay looked at Sadie, nervous and shaking. “I… I think that was her… the… the shirt, the money… e-even her face looks the same…”

Sadie quickly glanced between a bank surveillance photo and the girl in question. Nodding, she said, “Right. I’ll call up Morgan and see what he thinks.” Making sure Robin wasn’t looking, Sadie’s hands moved toward her two-way radio.

Inside the car, the inspector picked up his walkie-talkie.

“Hey, it’s me. Check out the girl with the red and white T-shirt and short black hair at the ice cream stand. The letters ‘HSU’ were on the shirt and she looks like the robber. Uh, oh, I have to get off now!”

Coming back to the two girls, Robin raised a suspicious eyebrow. “Who were you on the phone with?”

“Um… just our uncle. He told us he’d be late and didn’t know what time he’d be back,” Sadie lied, trying hard not to sweat or shake.

Robin’s face gained a more relaxed expression. “Oh, is that all? Here, I’ve got your drinks!”

A group of teens arriving at the complex shouted out, “Hey, Robin, we over here, dawg!”

“Whoops, there’s my posse! Hey, maybe I’ll catch you later!”

“Thanks for the drinks!” Lindsay called back, receiving a friendly wave from the mystery girl.

Turning to each other, both Lindsay and Sadie began sweating. “Wow, that was close! But I think we got our robber!”

Peering through a pair of binoculars, Morgan zoomed in on Robin as she left the girls and made her way toward the hot dog stand. “Looks like we got our suspect.” Radioing to Sadie, Morgan instructed, “When she leaves, I’ll trail her. You girls just stay there and I’ll arrange for Bernie to pick you up.”

Their subject was not quick to leave. Sitting down with a group of friends with her food, the teenager began conversing with them, once again whipping out a handful of bills from her jeans pocket.

“Could this girl BE any more obvious?”

Morgan continued to keep tabs on his target, who he was now convinced was the actual bank robber. He compared facial features with pictures taken during the robberies and determined them to be a close match for the girl he was watching. After a couple hours hanging out and browsing the stores, the subject walked out to her car – a bright red Nissan 350Z.

Morgan gave Sadie one final message. “Our suspect’s getting into her car. I’m moving out. Good work.” As the sports car pulled away from the shopping district, Morgan followed closely in his Buick. When the Nissan failed to come to a full stop at a stop sign, he decided it was time to pull the girl over. But as soon as Morgan started up his undercover car’s strobe light and siren, Robin’s powerful coupe took off like a shot.

“This is Officer Leslie Morgan, requesting backup. I have a subject trying to flee southbound on Cherry Road.”
********

In the jail’s mess hall, a line of orange-clad prisoners were lined up to receive their dinner. Lisa Northwood grimaced as she was presented with a bowl full of gray broth and a plate of raw vegetables. “Ugh… I can’t believe they expect me to eat this stuff… Even though I haven’t eaten in two days…

As Lisa made her way toward an empty seat at the far end of one of the long tables, she tried her best to avoid the stares of her fellow inmates – most of them young delinquent males with their arms covered in tattoos. Finally arriving at a seat, the girl sat down and began to reflect on the day’s happenings as she stared glumly at the steaming “food” on the tray in front of her.

Lisa had chosen not to partake in her ‘free hour’ out in the prison yard. Knowing full well what the other prisoners might do to her, she elected to remain in the relative safety of her cell. She sprawled out on the thin mattress and attempted to get some shut eye. It wouldn’t come easy.

Comparisons of jail to summer camp came up in Lisa’s mind, and she decided that despite the circumstances, her present situation was still preferable to her nightmarish experience at camp. True, the prisoners kept giving her unnerving stares and there was the Fred factor, but summer camp had the Peter factor, not to mention the fact that the brutes at summer camp did more than just stare. They actually caused her physical and emotional harm. Additionally, nobody at the prison had made her run twenty laps around the complex or forced her to do pushups. And the guards here weren’t that mean; in fact some of them seemed to feel sorry for her. Finally, Lisa rationalized that at least the prison was in a city and not out in the middle of nowhere.

Lisa’s mind was brought to attention when a muscular arm came from behind and trapped her in a headlock. She began to let out a scream but was stifled as another inmate covered her mouth. The first assailant whipped out a makeshift shank and held the crude weapon’s edge up to the girl’s neck. Lisa knew not to try to struggle and fight the man; perhaps it would mean the difference between life and death.

“Awooo! This time, you’re finished, little girl! There’ll be no outsmarting me in a battle here! This is MY world and we fight by MY rules!” Fred grinned evilly as he began pressing the blade against Lisa’s jugular. “I’m killing you right here for the sake of the Brotherhood! And they can give me life; I don’t give a flying f…”

Lisa’s life was spared as three guards bum-rushed the attackers and tackled them to the ground. As two of them escorted the convicts out of the mess hall, the third, a short stocky man in a navy blue uniform, helped Lisa get off the ground.

“Are you okay there?”

Lisa nodded. “Yeah, I don’t think it cut me any more than a little scratch. Thanks for coming and saving me.”

“Heh,” the gray-haired guard mused. “Looks like we got here just in time. We just got a call saying that you’ve been cleared of all charges and came to get you, but we ended up saving your life as well.”

The girl simply stared in stunned shock. Finally, she muttered, “You… you mean, I’m free to go?”

“Yep. Turns out evidence ended up clearing you. In fact, some of our officers are chasing who we believe to be the real robber.”

“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!”

“There’ll be time for thanks once we’re out of this mess hall. Let’s go.”

The two made their way out of the room, with Lisa barely avoiding being hit by a mashed potato that was thrown at her head.

In the front office of the prison, a receptionist handed Lisa a box with her clothes inside. “There’s a bathroom to your left; you can change in there.”

“Thanks.” As Lisa rummaged through her clothes, she had a question. “Wait, I was wearing a pair of white pantyhose when I was arrested, but I don’t see them in here. Where are they?”

“Well, um… about that…they got a hole in them as a result of tackling you to the ground, so we had to, um, throw them away…”

“Oh, wonderful…” Lisa threw her hands in the air before picking up the box and heading to the restroom to change, muttering, “It’s still better than summer camp, though.”
********

Inside a hotel lobby, a small crowd was gathered around a television.

“Tonight, on ‘Deadliest Police Chases’ we have a chase that was filmed live by Sphinx City Police earlier today. When an officer tried to pull this Nissan over for a simple traffic violation, the driver took off. Watch as the driver, a sixteen-year old girl who has only been licensed for six months, hits speeds of over a hundred miles per hour, using any open lane – even the median, shoulder, and parking lots – to elude her pursuers. At the next intersection, she barely darts around cross traffic at a red light, not caring who she might injure. She’s running too fast and too hard to merely be fleeing from a traffic ticket, and pursuing officers have to wonder what else she’s got to hide.”

During the broadcast of the pursuit, the camera view shifted from an in-car dash-cam to an overhead view of the chase captured by a police helicopter.

“Now on the freeway, more lives are in danger by this teenage renegade. Her nimble 350Z can easily dart between other cars, and the standard police cruisers can’t keep up. But these officers are about to unleash their secret weapon – a high-output Camaro that can keep pace with this thrill-seeking brat and her fast ride. Seeing that the cops have matched her sports car with one of their own, she bails off the freeway, nearly hitting a pickup truck on the exit ramp.”

Both cars barely negotiated a tight turn on the exit ramp. At the next intersection, another police Camaro was waiting to join in the chase.

“Now with two high-performance pursuit cars on her tail, the teenage suspect continues to weave around slower-moving vehicles. Now, watch as officers use one of the tricks in their arsenal, the Pursuit Intervention Technique – the PIT Maneuver.”

Inching up on the red Nissan’s left rear flank, the black patrol car made slight contact with the girl’s fender – little more than a tap. But that was enough to send her car spinning and skidding, as the vehicle performed a complete 360.

“But, with the tenacity of a NASCAR driver, she regains control of the car, even after it ricochets off a lamppost. Now watch as an officer in front of the chase tries to lay down a spike strip. She actually lunges toward the cop, and only quick thinking saves his life.”

The car veered to the shoulder of the road, where the officer was holding one end of the spike strip. He jumped and rolled over the hood of his own car as the Nissan sideswiped it, knocking the outside mirrors off both cars. As a slow-motion replay of the near hit was shown, the show’s narrator commented, “And now she’s added attempted murder of a police officer to her list of offenses. And she’s not done yet.”

The 350Z, despite some damage, continued, barreling through an intersection as a pedestrian in the crosswalk barely avoided her. The car drifted over into the opposing lane of traffic, swerving out of the way of an eighteen-wheeler at the last second.

“After playing a game of chicken with this big rig, this teen speed demon has cops planning their next move. When the sports car bails onto a deserted side street, officers see their chance. With one hand on the steering wheel and the other on the trigger, this officer manages to shoot out the fleeing felon’s left rear tire with his sidearm. Now, with her options running out, the suspect in the crippled car makes one last desperate bid for the freeway.

Back in rush-hour traffic, the red Nissan continued to swerve and weave around other cars. But now, a brilliant trail of white-hot sparks were shooting out from the flattened tire.

“Her car’s putting on an Interstate fireworks show, and now she’s finding the disintegrating machine tougher to maneuver. It’s time for cops to pull a maneuver of their own – the PIT Maneuver.”

To avoid the sparking and now flaming left rear tire, the officer approached the car from the right. Once again just barely touching the fender, the patrol car sent the suspect careening toward the right side of the road, where the front end was demolished by the guardrail. Bouncing off the barrier, the ruined car rolled forward toward the left side of the freeway. It still had enough momentum to smack the concrete wall dividing the two directions of traffic before finally coming to a stop. The girl emerged from the mangled wreck and sprinted across the opposing side of the freeway.

“After this awesome crash, the teen terror tries to flee on foot. Somehow dodging past four lanes of traffic, she makes it to the other side. Unfortunately for her, police have been paralleling the chase on side streets. When she crosses their paths, she’s as good as captured. Officers later found out that she was wanted for multiple bank robberies locally. Ironically, an innocent girl was in custody for the crime when this chase took place. But with the evidence found in this suspect’s car and in her home, the police knew which girl was guilty and which one was not.”

Among those watching the chase were Bernie, Lisa, Lindsay, and Sadie. Lisa had a look of relief on her face. “Man, I am so happy to be out of that prison. Lindsay… do Mom and Dad know I was in there?”

“No, everything just went crazy after you got arrested, I never got the chance to tell them. Do you want me to mention it to them?”

“No, I’d rather you not. They’re probably worried enough as it is about me having gone overboard. So, what’s all this about some protestors at the Pokémon Center?”

Bernie answered, “Have you seen those Pokémon Center ads with the robot nurses and the weird afro-wearing disco dude?”

Lisa nodded. “Yeah, we all had a good laugh about that there.”

“Well, apparently, one of those robot nurses was put into operation at the Pokémon Center here today, and the public isn’t too happy about it. From what I could gather from the protests and picket signs, the management of the Center fired all but three employees to make room for the new machine, and that’s what’s got everyone in an uproar.”

Lindsay added, “Yeah, and they have the whole entrance blocked so nobody could get inside.”

“Well, it’s a good thing the Radisson was nice enough to open their lobby up to everyone – and even better that they have a healing machine at the front desk. You know what? Even though it’s a bit more expensive than what I would normally pay, I think I’ll get a room here for us to stay at. That okay with you, Linds?”

“Sure, works out fine.”

Turning to Sadie, Lisa added, “And of course, you’re welcome to stay with us too.”

“Thanks. I might not have a choice with the Center all blocked off. And the less money I have to spend, the better.”

Lisa took a look around at the country-themed lobby of the hotel. Aside from the usual trappings of an upscale hotel – the granite tile floors, the ornate chandeliers, the big mahogany-trimmed front desk – this Radisson also featured a homey lounge area with a big-screen television, plush velvet couches and easy chairs, and a huge fireplace, the warmth and light from its flames casting a glow over the entire space.

Bernie stretched out his legs before standing up. “Well, you know, as much as I’d like to relax here in front of this warm fireplace all night, it really is time for me to be heading out. So, hopefully I’ll see you girls again.”

“Okay, bye!” The three girls waved at the muscular Gym Leader as he left the hotel.

Lisa let out a contented sigh. “As much as I don’t want to get out of this nice comfy seat, I suppose I better get us a room before they get full up. With the Pokémon Center out of commission…”

A loud female’s voice interrupted her. “Lisa Northwood, I finally found you!” The girl being addressed spun around to see who had called her name.

Standing not ten feet away was a familiar face – a tall woman with short red hair and wire-framed glasses. Her black vest and purple skirt matched her cool but serious demeanor.

“L…Lorelei? What brings you here?”

Walking toward the group, Lorelei explained, “Remember that couple that got busted back at that factory?”

Lisa nodded. “Yeah, they were there along with that behemoth, Fred.”

“Well, they opened up during interrogations, and apparently Thrash is plotting some huge operation in an underwater cave that’s called Glacier Cavern. I talked with Archie, and he thinks they may be trying to awaken a Pokémon slumbering deep within that cave – a mythical Pokémon called Kyogre.”

“Archie told me about that! Is he on his way here as well?”

Taking a seat, Lorelei answered, “Yes, he and Shelly are on their way here, and they said they’re bringing reinforcements. If Kyogre is indeed in Glacier Cavern, and Thrash manages to awaken it, we could have one hell of a battle on our hands…”

“Lisa! There you are! We’re so glad you’re safe!” Despite being in heels and a business suit, a tall blonde-haired woman ran up to Lisa and threw her arms around her. “We’re so glad you’re safe! Lindsay called to tell us you got thrown overboard, so we came as soon as we could!”

“Mom! I can’t breathe!”

“Sorry, honey, but I’m just so happy to see you!”

Finally free from her mother’s bear-hug, Lisa noticed that her father’s normally neat brown hair was messy and unkempt, in sharp contrast to his clean-cut suit.

“Mom, what happened with Dad’s hair?”

“Well, honey, thanks to a mix-up at the rental car place, your father’s rediscovered the joy of driving a sports car again!”

“Oh, you should have seen the faces on those kids when we left their souped-up Civic in our dust!” Douglas Northwood proclaimed, pumping his fist in the air.

“Um, is Dad okay?” Lisa asked, staring in stunned shock.

“Yeah,” her mother answered, “we just got a Mustang from the rental car company, and I think he’s just reliving his youth right now. It’s kinda funny, actually. And cute.”

“Well, it’s scaring me!” Lisa countered, crossing her arms on her chest. “Now y’all got me thinking our next car is gonna be some muscle car!”

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” her mother reassured as she put her arm around her oldest daughter. “I’m sure he’ll come to his senses soon. Anyway, I believe some introductions are in order.”

Sadie stood up. “Um, I’m Sadie Catherwood. I met Lisa back on the ship and we’ve been hanging out together since. Nice to meet you.”

“Well, I’m Brooke Northwood, Lisa and Lindsay’s mother. It’s good to hear that the both of you are safe after your little adventure. Now, Lisa didn’t give you too much grief, did she?”

“Mom!” Lisa whined in protest.

“No, not really,” Sadie answered, her lips curling into a smile.

Finally calmed down, Lisa’s father introduced himself. “I’m Douglas Northwood, the father of those two fine young ladies that you’ve become friends with. How are you doing?”

“Okay, I guess.” Sadie shrugged.

Meanwhile, Brooke and Lorelei were engaged in a side conversation of their own. “Now Lorelei, I hope that all this business with this terrorist group isn’t putting my daughter at risk.”

“I have to be honest – there is some risk involved. However, your daughter has done a very good job as far as dealing with them. And, she’ll always have the Pokémon League as backup.”

“Well, that makes me feel a little bit better, but just don’t let anything happen to her.”

“Don’t worry, ma’am, her safety is always a top priority when we ask her to go on these missions.”

Ignoring Lorelei’s status as an elite trainer, Brooke rose from her seat and confronted her face to face. “That girl is my daughter, and if anything happens to her, make sure the league knows there’ll be hell to pay…”

“Can I get everyone’s attention, please?” Lisa called out. “I’d like for all of us to have dinner tonight at 7:30 in the hotel restaurant. I’m gonna reserve a room for us girls, and if anyone needs to take a shower, they’re welcome to use our room. But I get to use it first!”

“Actually, I can’t join you for dinner,” said Lorelei. “There’s some important business that I need to attend to, but I’ll be talking with Lisa later tonight.”

As the enigmatic ice Pokémon trainer left the lobby, Lisa’s mother stared after her. “You’d better be right about her safety being top priority,” she fumed.

“Honey?” Douglas called to his wife. “I’m going to reserve us a room too.”

“Huh? Oh, okay…”

Chapter 47: Lisa and Sadie: Grounded?

The Radisson’s in-house restaurant was decorated in a sports theme, with various memorabilia hung on the wood-paneled walls. In one of the booths, Sadie and the Northwood family sat down and began looking over their menus.

“Well, this sure was an unexpected visit,” started Douglas.

“But I don’t think anybody was expecting us to get thrown overboard,” Lisa added, “so that was really an unexpected adventure. Oh, the fried shrimp platter looks good.”

“Well, I guess the old saying, ‘anything goes,’ can be applied here.”

“Still, it’s great to see you guys,” Lindsay chimed in. “It’s been so long since we’ve seen each other last!”

Lisa looked at her sister. “Huh? It’s only been a couple of months.”

“Yeah, but it feels like forever!”

Brooke cut in. “Now, Lisa, don’t tell us that you don’t miss your dear old Mom and Dad!”

“Wha…Wh… Of course I’ve missed you guys! Don’t be silly!” Lisa’s blushing face was a bright red.

“Anyway, we can only stay a couple nights. We need to get back to South Carolina for work, but we also want to stop by the house in Fort Barnes first.”

“Hey, Dad,” Lisa asked. “Can you do me a favor? I’d like to see if you can get my car shipped back home, to our place in Anderson.”

“Yeah, we can take care of it, but why?”

“Well, chances are I’ll never be able to drive it here, what with the roads in such bad shape and all. Plus, since Grandma and Grandpa are staying there, they can run the engine every so often. And if I ever need a car down here I can always buy one.”

“Sure, it shouldn’t be a problem. We’ll take care of it.”

“Oh, thanks, you guys! Oh, wait, I think they’re ready to take our order.”
*******

“Freeze! Get on the ground, now!”

These words were only heard by the tactical team. The house they were raiding had been abandoned.

“Looks like the residence is clear. Also appears like it was vacated in a hurry.”

Sure enough, the inside of the house showed all the signs of a quick departure. The television was left on, broadcasting a game show. A computer in the den was also on, with a game of Minesweeper on the monitor. One of the bedrooms had the drawers pulled out and articles of clothing strewn everywhere.

One of the officers spoke into his radio, “Junger residence is unoccupied. Wanted subject Thomas Junger appears to have fled the area. Set up roadblocks leading into the airport as well as all docks and sea ports.” Clicking off the device, the man muttered, “If only that girl would have given up that information sooner, we might have had him. Damn!” He slammed his fist on the wall in frustration.

The team made their way into the house, being careful not to disturb any potential evidence. Two members split off and headed toward a bedroom, this one belonging to Robin Junger. In a closet, the officers found several hooded jackets.

“We need to take these jackets as evidence. They look like the ones used in the various robberies.”

In Tommy’s bedroom, meanwhile, officers were mortified at what was under the old man’s bed. Guns, and lots of them. Everything from .357 Magnums to M-16 assault rifles were present, along with hand grenades and bulletproof vests. A chill ran down the spines of the officers. They were now relieved that Tommy had chosen to run; had he remained at the residence, a dangerous shootout would have been all but guaranteed.
*******

On a car ferry from the Sphinx City island was a black Infiniti coupe with a single elderly occupant.

“Dammit! I hate life on the run! At least I beat the cops to the ferry, but… I had to leave everything behind! My computer, my TV, my guns…” The man’s right hand gripped tightly on the handle of a .40 caliber Glock, the only weapon he had left.

“Both of my plans to have Lisa eliminated ended up failing! And now I’m getting hell from my own son for even trying to get rid of her! Can my life get any worse?” The old man grabbed the sides of his head with both hands. “Oh, perfect! Now I’m getting a damn headache! What else can go wrong?!”

Tommy’s face was clean-shaven: an impromptu attempt to change his appearance. He had also donned a baseball cap and sunglasses in a further attempt to conceal his identity. Given his age and the charges against him, he knew that getting arrested would put him away for life. He was determined not to let that happen to him.

“Right now, I’m thinking I shouldn’t even show up for this one-on-one. All that’s gonna happen is I’m gonna get yelled at and lectured and all that. Hell, I don’t even care about the team’s mission anymore. I might as well just ditch them and focus on my own agenda – killing that girl and staying out of jail.” Fuming, Tommy began to blame the others for his misfortune. “This ain’t even my doing. If my idiot son had been smart enough, he could’ve wiped Lisa out and I wouldn’t have even had to plot the ship bomb and bank robberies. Then there’s my dimwit granddaughter. I swear, she was asking to be caught! What, am I the only intelligent person in this entire family? Unbelievable!”

The old man placed a sunshade up against his car’s windshield and reclined his seat back. He would get some sleep now and plan his next move in town.
*******

“This food is really, really good!” exclaimed Sadie, taking a bite of her grilled chicken.

“You’re right, this isn’t half bad,” agreed Douglas. “Usually hotel restaurant food isn’t this good.”

“Lisa,” Brooke began, “I’m just a bit concerned about you fighting against this criminal organization. Your father and I don’t want you to put yourself in unnecessary danger. Right, honey?”

“Grubummum…. Huh?” Douglas looked at his wife quizzically, food still in his mouth.

“Ugh…” The mother shook her head. “I swear, that man takes one drive in a Mustang, and suddenly he’s a kid again… Anyway, I just want to make sure you stay safe, Lisa.”

“Well, I’ve been in my share of tight spots, but… I’m here, right?” Lisa smiled and began rubbing her head. “After all, I had to deal with summer camp – now THAT was a dangerous experience!” She, along with Sadie and Lindsay laughed. All three stopped when they saw the scowling face of Brooke.

“Lisa, I’m trying to be serious here. I don’t know what we’d do if we lost either of you. We were scared stiff when you and your friend went overboard – scared enough to take time off work and come out here.”

“I understand, Mom, but these Thrash guys… well, they’ve done things to me personally, and it’s like I have a target on my head. If I sit back and try to ignore the situation, they’ll find and kill me anyway. So I have to fight back.”

The woman let out a sigh. “I see where you’re coming from. But still, don’t do anything rash, especially with your sister in tow.”

Lisa finished eating a few fries and told her, “Don’t worry. I always try to leave Lindsay in the care of someone trustworthy – usually the Gym Leader or these friends I know – whenever I go do anything dangerous.”

“Well, I’m glad to hear that…”

“But that usually means I miss out on all the fun!” interrupted the younger sister.

“No, no, you’re not missing much,” Lisa reassured, rubbing her sibling’s head playfully. “Besides, hopefully by the time you become a trainer, you won’t have to go through all this crime-fighting stuff and can have a normal journey.”

“But, sis! That’s boring! I want action!”

Lisa heaved a sigh. “Look, it may sound fun now, but after having to dodge criminals and having them use unsavory tactics against you, you’ll quickly grow tired of running into them.”

“Fine.” Lindsay pouted and folded her arms across her chest.

“C’mon, Lisa, let your sister have a little fun!” Sadie teased, nudging her.

“Guys… fighting these guys isn’t fun. It’s serious business.”

“Listen to Lisa, you two,” advised Brooke. “In fact, I’d rather Lisa not get mixed up in this, but according to Lorelei, you really weren’t given much of a choice.”

“And I really didn’t want to get involved in the first place. But, it can’t really be helped…” Lisa took another shrimp and popped it into her mouth.
********

The throngs of protestors outside of the Pokémon Center had gone home for the night, allowing anyone a clear path into the facility. Inside one of the rooms, four people sat around a table.

“I did one last check of the weather before we departed, which was a couple days ago. And those heavy storms were still centered over Glacier Cavern. It is entirely possible that Kyogre is still there.” Archie leaned back in his seat as he scratched his light beard.

“You know, you shouldn’t lean like that,” his redheaded wife scolded.

“Aww, come on, Shelly, I… whoa!” The blue-clad weather expert soon found himself sprawled out on the floor.

“Told you so,” taunted Shelly.

“Ahem, down to business now,” said Lorelei with a hint of irritation on her face and in her voice as Archie took her words literally to heart and muttered, “Everyone’s a comedian.”

The Ice-type trainer continued, “If memory serves me right, the only way to get out to the cavern is via boat rental. And the place is run by the Gym Leader here. So, I’ll talk to Lisa about joining us, then the five of us will…”

“Sorry, but we’ll have to sit this one out,” interjected Shelly.

“Why?”

“We were the ones responsible for sending Kyogre into a rage in Hoenn,” Archie explained. “If Thrash has indeed awoken it, I’m fairly sure that seeing our faces will only make it more angry. Besides, that’s why we brought along our associate here.”

“And you are?”

The dark-haired man in shades rose from his seat, extending his right hand while brushing off his gray lab coat with the left. “You may call me Ein.”

“Ah, yes, the former Cipher head scientist. But why are you interested in this?”

Scratching his chin, Ein answered, “It is because I believe that Thrash intends to turn it into a Shadow Pokémon. As I am still trying to atone for my misdeeds as a part of Cipher, I deem it necessary to do this as part of that atonement.”

“Fair enough. So, it’s settled then. I will speak to Lisa tonight about the whole Kyogre situation, then we shall embark to Glacier Cavern. As you requested, the two of you may remain behind.”

“Agreed. We’ll be contacting you via two-way radio during the mission, in case you need any help that way,” replied Shelly.

“Now, I’m going back to speak with Lisa. The rest of you, I suggest you try to get some sleep. It will be a long day tomorrow.”
********

“Absolutely not. My daughter will not be joining you on this ‘mission.’ It is far too dangerous.”

Those words resonated through Lisa’s mind as she slipped on her pink floral-print dress. Not taking the time to admire its red, orange, and pink print, she instead was focused on how those words changed her plans for the day. Now, rather than getting mixed up in another Thrash scheme, she was going to be taking on the local Gym Leader.

She recalled the scene clearly. She and her mother had met Lorelei in the hotel’s lobby after dinner. The Ice-type trainer had not even gotten through her whole explanation before her plan was shot down. Lisa, for one, was relieved. As tough as Gym Leaders were, they would be cake compared to going up against a legendary Pokémon.

Surprisingly, Lorelei had not argued. Instead, she had nodded and said that she and a small party would head out to sea immediately to investigate. She hadn’t mentioned who else was going but Lisa had figured that Archie and Shelly were among them. She had not heard from Lorelei or the others since, but she figured they were close to their destination, if not already engaged in a battle of epic proportions.

Lisa hoped that they could handle it, but she knew she had to focus on her own battle. Quickly pulling on a pair of black leggings and slipping her feet into ballet flats, she made her way down to the lobby, where Sadie and Lindsay would be waiting. Her parents had turned down the chance to watch her in action, stating that they ‘had important online business to attend to.’ The teen didn’t mind; she half expected that response from them anyway.
*******

“Wait, are you sure this is the place?”

A white GMC Savana van with the Radisson logo on the side door dropped three girls off in front of the city’s Gym before driving back to the hotel. The structure that loomed in front of them looked for all the world like an ancient tomb built into the side of a mountain. In fact, the area of Sphinx City south of the freeway was like a whole other town – dusty, unkempt, and a far cry from the beautiful antebellum homes that populated the rest of the city. The houses in this section of town looked old, but they lacked the charm of the rest of the city – these homes were merely beat-up.

A young man in hiking gear emerged from the tomb’s opening. “So, I assume that you’re here for a Gym battle? Come, come, the Leader awaits.”

The hiker led the three girls down the dusty, dark corridor, which was only lit by torches attached to the walls. Those walls, made of stone and clay, had some mysterious writings on them. The letters vaguely resembled the standard alphabet, but each one had an eyeball as part of its overall form.

Finally arriving in a clearing, Lisa took in her surroundings. The large stone plateau was presumably the battlefield, but the gray stalagmites emerging from the ground would hinder movement during combat. The stalactites overhead would make mobility difficult for an air-based strategy as well. A medium-sized opening in the roof allowed for some sunlight to enter the cavern, illuminating the crystallized minerals on the cavern walls. A cascading waterfall flowed on the side opposite.

A burly man with a white moustache and a dark green explorer’s outfit emerged from behind the waterfall. “Joseph,” the man boomed, “are these our new challengers?”

“Yes, sir!”

“Welcome to Sphinx City’s Pokémon Gym! I hope you noticed how this part of town is different. This is the real Sphinx City – rugged, ancient, wild. This is before the city planners took that trip to the United States and took all the primitive character out of it. I am the Gym Leader, Grissom. I am a man of action and few words. How many of you are trainers?”

“She and I are,” Lisa answered, motioning to Sadie.

“Wait, Lisa, I wasn’t expecting to battle here today,” Sadie whispered.

“Oops!”

“Fair enough. You two shall engage in Double Battle against me. Joseph! Tell the challengers the rules and get their names!”

Both of the battling girls whispered their names into the hiker’s ear. Joseph announced, “This will be a double battle between Sphinx City Gym Leader Grissom and Sadie Catherwood and Lisa Northwood! The challengers will use two Pokémon each, for a total of four. The Gym Leader will use four Pokémon. The challengers may swap Pokémon, but the Gym Leader cannot. Now, begin!”

“Prepare yourselves! Golem and Claydol, go!”

Grissom’s mighty Golem took the stage first, stomping its feet on the ground. The individual gray rocks that formed its hard, circular body bore the scratches and nicks of many battles. The superficial damage to its exterior mattered little to the massive Pokémon, however, as it gave both girls a confident grin.

The other Pokémon was almost black, but with a mysterious line of huge pink eyes that encircled its top-like form. This enigmatic creature seemingly had the power to hover above the ground, and remained emotionless as it spun around rapidly.

“Okay, time to input our first function! Walrein, let’s get this party started!”

“Um… Go, Roselia!”

Letting out a loud, bellowing cry, the enormous blue walrus appeared ready for battle. Smashing the floor below with his thick tailfin, the chilly mammal showed off his pair of gleaming ivory tusks. But neither foe was intimidated by this show of strength.

Sadie’s Pokéball released its Pokémon in a shimmering flash of red. The green plant-like Pokémon, easily the smallest of the four summoned for battle, waved its two arms about. It released small amounts of pollen from the roses, one red, the other blue, attached to the ends of both its limbs. Its head represented a contradiction of sorts – its sweet smile was at odds with the three sharp thorns positioned atop its head.

“So, that’s the way it is,” said Grissom. “Okay, let’s start off with Earthquake and Psychic!”

“Um… Roselia, use Petal Dance on Golem!” Sadie called out.

Her partner added, “Okay, Walrein, give ‘em a Water Pulse!”

Golem launched itself high into the air and came crashing down on the ground. The resulting tremor caused Roselia and Lisa to lose their balance, and Walrein let out a cry of pain. As Sadie rushed over to help the other girl get back up, her Pokémon began spinning around on its tiny legs, releasing a flurry of multicolored flower petals. The high-speed foliage closed in on Golem.

However, the lumbering Rock-type was surprisingly quick, taking cover behind one of the stalagmites. The leaves left small nicks in the sharply angled rock formation, but did nothing to the intended target.

Walrein inhaled deeply before releasing a rippling shot of brilliant blue water. Though Claydol tried to take a similar evasive measure as Golem had, the water got to it first, sending it hurtling into a stalactite. The impact caused the jutting rock to break and crash onto the floor, creating a deafening crashing sound and reducing the formation to pebbles.

Righting itself, Claydol unleashed a mind-bending Psychic attack, but it hit nothing but air as Roselia was able to dart left.

“Those rock formations are gonna be tricky…” Lisa surmised. “Now, how to use them to my advantage…”

“Roselia! Use Sleep Powder on Golem!” Sadie yelled out.

Hands on his hips, Grissom laughed. “I don’t think so! Golem, Protect! Claydol, use Confusion!”

Fluttering its rose petals like a frilly evening gown, Roselia conjured up a mass of finely grained powder. As the particles began to hover over Golem, the huge rock encased itself in a protective green barrier to ward off the sleep-inducing move.

Rotating its body, Claydol began giving off mysterious energy waves. The Pokémon was concentrating its mental energy on the floating cloud of Sleep Powder. Taking control of the particles’ trajectory, the pink-eyed Psychic-type telekinetically moved the Sleep Powder toward Roselia.

“Walrein, use Icy Wind on that powder!”

The walrus inhaled deeply and blew out a mass of chilled air speckled with glittering blue ice crystals. The ice-cold air made contact with the Sleep Powder, causing the sparkling particles to fall harmlessly to the ground.

“Thanks for saving Roselia, Lisa.”

“Don’t mention it! Now, let’s gang up on Claydol!”

Claydol found itself being struck down with the rippling cascades of a Water Pulse and the razor-sharp foliage of a Magical Leaf. The double whammy sent the hovering Pokémon flying backwards and spinning. It crashed into a stalactite and both Pokémon and crumbling rock came tumbling to the ground in a heap.

See ya later, Claydol!

Claydol wasn’t finished yet, however. Powering its way through the rubble, the mysterious Pokémon used a mind-distorting Psychic to mentally blast Roselia.

“Oh, no!” Sadie shrieked as the brutal attack worked its magic and caused Roselia to cry out in pain.

“Stop that attack with Water Pulse!”

Another high-intensity shot of water found its mark, drenching the floating Claydol. Golem took advantage of its opponents’ distractions and executed an earth-shattering Earthquake. Once again the hard-hitting tremor rattled the opposing Pokémon, with both yelling out in pain. Roselia barely kept its balance as the ground rumbled beneath it.

Once the rumbling had subsided, Lisa began whispering a strategy in Sadie’s ear. Turning back to face the battle, the older teen thought, “I hope this works…”

“Okay, Walrein, let’s freeze those rocks!”

“I don’t know what you’re planning,” Grissom yelled, “but Golem will put a quick end to it!”

Walrein launched a shimmering blue ray of solid ice upward, freezing three of the stalactites. After creating his ice-encrusted sculptures, Walrein turned his attention toward Golem, using quick volleys of water to keep the massive rock from charging.

“Wait for it, then send that ice crashing down!” commanded Sadie.

“Dammit! Claydol, get out of there!”

Meanwhile, Roselia kept its tiny eyes on Claydol. When the time was right, the little Grass-type sprang into action, shooting a barrage of green leaves at the ceiling of the rocky cavern. The leaves sliced through each of the shimmering blue ice structures that Walrein had created. Shattered ice and rock rained down on Claydol like a hailstorm, burying the mysterious Pokémon. It took several moments for it to break through its prison of ice and stones.

“Walrein, Water Pulse!” Lisa shouted.

“Once that’s done, use Sunny Day!” Sadie added.

“Protect yourself again, Golem!”

As Golem surrounded itself with a green sphere once again, Walrein unleashed wave after rippling wave of water at Claydol, sending the top-like creature crashing into a wall on the side of the cavern. Spinning and dancing, Roselia caused the sunlight from above to increase in intensity and beat down on the field from the opening in the roof of the cavern.

“Claydol’s not gonna take much more! Let’s finish it! Ice Beam!”

“You got it! Okay, Solarbeam!”

Remaining calm, the Gym Leader merely said, “Golem, run interference.”

As the huge rock rolled in front of the opposition, both of the girls’ Pokémon released their beam attacks. Golem positioned itself in front of the Solarbeam and attempted to form its Protect barrier. But the lime-green blast of energy slammed into Golem and knocked it aside before continuing on its straight-line path.

Like two high-speed trains on a crash course, the shimmering blue Ice Beam and brilliant green Solarbeam converged on a stunned Claydol, still reeling from the last hit. Seconds before impact, the floating top-like Pokémon returned to its trainer’s capture device, with both beam attacks harmlessly striking a stalactite and pulverizing it.

“Claydol has been recalled and can no longer battle!” Joseph called out.

As pebbles from the destroyed rock rained down on the field, Grissom cracked a smile. “Perfectly fine with me. Now, you’re gonna regret using Sunny Day! Camerupt, come and play!”

Another massive Pokémon took to battle, this one a lumbering mammal covered in bright red fur. A pair of rocky volcanoes emerged from its back, and the quadruped smiled tauntingly as it let out some low grunts.

“Now, use Eruption!” Grissom commanded as he punched the air.

“Walrein, try to block that with Water Pulse!” Lisa frantically yelled.

“Careful, Roselia!” Sadie warned. “Just try to dodge it!”

But there would be no stopping or dodging this move. Huge plumes of flame and lava launched straight up from Camerupt’s volcanoes like rockets. With the twin blasts of flame combining into one huge shot, the attack left little room to escape. The red-hot mass descended upon its victims like a bomb, easily snuffing out Water Pulse and enveloping both girls’ Pokémon in its huge blast radius as it crashed down on them and spread out.

Both girls’ eyes grew wide and Lisa began grabbing at the bottom of her dress. Sadie was tugging at her lavender skirt as well. Once the flame and smoke cleared, Walrein emerged. Despite his singed body, he looked like he had taken the attack in stride. Unfortunately, Roselia was knocked unconscious.

“Oh, no! Roselia, return! Lopunny, let’s go!”

A tall, lanky form emerged from Sadie’s Pokéball, materializing into a brown rabbit-like creature with its two large ears bent backward. The creature puffed up the cream-colored fur on its ears and chest as it emitted a high-pitched cry.

“Okay, Lopunny, let’s try our best! Give it a Dizzy Punch!”

“Walrein, help out with Water Pulse!” Lisa added.

“Ha! Both of you, use Rock Slide!”

Jumping up and smashing several of the overhead formations, Golem sent a flurry of rocks raining down on its opponents. Camerupt stomped both feet on the ground to create the same effect. Lopunny began to jump around, but was struck down by a sizeable boulder. The much slower Walrein could do little but cry out as he was hammered with a barrage of stones.

“C’mon, don’t give up yet!” Sadie yelled.

“Yeah, y’all can do this!” Lisa encouraged.

With the backing of their trainers, the Pokémon grunted and nodded. Bounding over to Camerupt, Lopunny clobbered its foe with its extendable ears, taking the fiery Pokémon by surprise. The rabbit was able to get several shots off before Camerupt retaliated by firing small fireballs at it. The attack didn’t do much; just enough to singe Lopunny’s fur a little and get it to back off.

With fist extended, Golem ran in directly at Walrein, only to get nailed in the face by a shot of pressurized water. The Water Pulse packed enough energy to send Golem rolling backward like a bowling ball. The Rock-type scored a strike as it crashed into a stone pillar and caused it to crumble to the ground.

“Awesome attack, sis!” Lindsay called from the sidelines.

“Nice retaliation move. But confidence alone won’t be enough! Do you really think you can play this game?”

“Pal, we’ll not only play your game, but we’ll find its subgame perfect Nash equilibrium as well!” Lisa spat back. In response, both Grissom and Sadie stared at the girl quizzically. “What?! It’s a basic concept in game theory!”

“Anyway, let’s get ‘em, Lopunny!”

Camerupt took a deep breath before breathing a scorching Flamethrower at Lopunny. But the wily rabbit used the environment to its advantage, taking cover behind a stalagmite. The stream of flame was effectively forked by the pointed rock formation, splitting into two parts that both barely grazed Lopunny.

“Way to dodge that!” cheered Sadie.

Walrein shot a chilly Ice Beam at an overhead stalactite, freezing it. Grinning, the hefty Golem began charging toward the massive walrus. As his adversary passed under the frozen stone, Walrein launched a Water Gun at the top of the stalactite, sending the frozen mass crashing down on top of the hapless gray Pokémon.

Seeing its ally in trouble, Camerupt unleashed a shimmering yellow Hyper Beam, nailing Walrein right in the gut. The blue mammal began howling and beating its fins on the ground in response to the pain, and Lisa gripped the bottom of her dress tighter.

“Walrein! Are you okay? That looked rough!”

By the time the Ice-type was able to shake off the effects of the attack, Golem had disappeared into a hole underground. Walrein turned his focus toward Camerupt, who was still catching its breath after loosing the mighty energy beam. He shot off numerous volleys of water, with each one causing the lumbering camel to roar in pain as they struck its face. Lopunny also took advantage of Camerupt’s exhaustion, delivering a swift shot to the face with its ear.

“Now, one final Rock Slide!” yelled Grissom to his Camerupt.

Hopping and bounding about, the agile Lopunny was able to avoid all of the rocks that came crashing down on the battlefield. Walrein was not so lucky; he was hit with several boulders. howling in pain after each impact as Lisa could only look on, panicked.

“Walrein, no!” Lisa gritted her teeth. “Walrein’s just too slow to dodge these Rock Slides…

The final nail in the coffin was Golem, who emerged from its underground hiding spot and delivered a hard punch to the Ice-type’s underside. The big walrus slumped over, a sure sign that he was spent.

“Uh, oh, what’ll you do now, sis?”

“Walrein, come back and rest! I’ll send Persian to relieve you!” While Lisa pitched her Luxury Ball, she thought, “Well, I’m gonna try to go the agility route now.

As the graceful beige cat let out a loud meow and extended her claws, a smile formed on Grissom’s face. “It’s three against one, and both of yours are Normal-types. Why don’t you forfeit and try again?”

“No way!” yelled Lisa. “We may be down a Pokémon compared to you, but I’ve handled tougher equations before! Persian, show Camerupt a Slash!”

“Yeah, it’s not over till it’s over!” Sadie chimed in. “Lopunny, use Bounce on Camerupt!”

“Hah! You’re leaving yourselves wide open for Golem! Mega Punch the both of them!”

Persian launched herself into the air with her claws extended. Being careful to choose a path not blocked by rock formations, she delivered a quick, deep slice to the face of the huge camel-like Pokémon.

With a spring in its step, Lopunny began hopping about, gaining momentum with each jump. It was in the air above Camerupt when Golem seemingly came out of nowhere and slammed its fist directly into the rabbit’s gut. The impact sent the Normal-type flying through the air. Its flight got grounded by a brutal collision with a stalactite, the crash causing both rock and Pokémon to hit the ground hard.

“No! Lopunny!” Sadie yelled out in horror, gasping and qiuvering.

As the brown rabbit attempted to get back up, Persian drenched Golem with a well-aimed Water Pulse. Letting out a deep roar, the Rock-type covered its face and dug its way below the surface once again.

“Hah! It’s time to feel the pain! Camerupt, it’s Fire Blast time!”

“Uh, oh… Watch out for that!” warned Sadie. “Try another Dizzy Punch!”

With one opponent underground, both Normal-types focused their attention on Camerupt. Persian struck first, nailing the big camel with a brilliant shot of blue water. Shaking off the liquid, Camerupt soon found itself with a face full of Lopunny’s ear. Not impressed, the hotheaded Fire-type fired off a gigantic, five pronged flame formation, engulfing both its opponents in a veil of smoke and fire.

“Man, that looks bad for them!” Lindsay shouted as the other two girls silently held their breaths.

Before the flames had even dissipated, Golem appeared from its hiding spot. Eager to rejoin the fray, the Rock-type landed hard on the ground, stirring up a brutal Earthquake that shook and rocked the entire arena. Of special concern to the girls were the stalactite pieces that rained down on their Pokémon while they were still lying on the ground from the Fire Blast.

“And that’s the end… huh?”

Much to Grissom’s surprise, both Lopunny and Persian emerged from the rubble and smoke, their fur a bit singed and scratched, but still ready for more.

“Hah! It’s not the end yet! Good job, you two!” called out Lisa.

“Okay, Lopunny, give it an Ice Punch!”

“Camerupt, help out Golem! Don’t let that attack hit!” bellowed Grissom.

Its long ear encased in shimmering blue ice, Lopunny made a beeline toward a still-panting Golem, even though it was panting with each hop. Camerupt attempted to run interference by shooting a sizzling Flamethrower at the Normal-type. Even with burn scars, Persian put herself between the fiery camel and the rabbit-like Pokémon, using a pulsating blast of water to snuff out and neutralize her opponent’s attack. The collision of the two attacks gave off a cloud of steam, blanketing the cave like an early morning fog.

Meanwhile, Lopunny had scored a direct hit on Golem, sending the massive Rock-type crashing against on of the stalagmites. The hefty gray creature lay motionless. With a grunt and a snarl, Grissom called it back.

“All right! That’s another one down!” Sadie cheered.

“So, I see you’ve evened things up. Well, here’s the tiebreaker! Nidoking, go!”

Roaring in an attempt to intimidate both Normal-types, the brutish purple Nidoking made its presence known. It aimed the horn on its head at Persian while smashing the ground with its thick tail. Flexing its muscles, Nidoking was pumping itself up for battle.

“Nidoking, prepare a Hyper Beam!”

“Uh, oh, he means business!” gulped Lisa.

“Then maybe we should try to take the other one out first. I have a plan.”

“Don’t think you have Camerupt beaten! Lava Plume!”

Smiling, Sadie taunted, “Your Camerupt shan’t win! Lopunny, take the full brunt of that attack!” The girl winked at her partner, who nodded back.

“What, are you daring me to finish off your Pokémon? Fine then!”

From both of Camerupt’s volcanoes, intense blasts of red lava launched upward like bullets. The two bursts began to curve in midair before closing in on each of the opposing Pokémon like guided missiles. Both girls watched the attacks closely, waiting for the right moment to have their Pokémon react.

“Persian, dodge!” Lisa yelled, careful not to insert a car name after the command.

“Mirror Coat!” Sadie ordered. Just hearing those two words made the once-confident Gym Leader shudder.

The lanky brown mammal shrouded itself in a chromed cloak as a panting Persian ran for cover behind one of the few remaining stalagmites. Lopunny’s mirror-like coat sparkled as the Lava Plume made contact, despite the furry creature feeling a good deal of heat from the powerful strike. Once the fiery attack was complete, the rabbit Pokémon unleashed a silvery energy beam, engulfing Camerupt with its shimmering glow.

Camerupt lay on its side in the aftermath of the assault, leaving Grissom with one Pokémon – and a look of complete shock plastered on his face.

“I never saw that coming! Camerupt, return! It’s down to you, Nidoking! Mega Kick!”

“Lopunny, take cover and use Rest! Sorry, Lisa, but Persian is gonna be on its own for a little while!”

“No problem! We can handle it!”

The rabbit-like Pokémon, with its badly bruised and singed fur, slowly hopped behind a stalagmite and closed its eyes. Nidoking noticed this and the purple beast prepared to launch a finishing blow. As Nidoking prepared its foot to knock down Lopunny, Persian ran interference, taking a hit for its partner.

Lisa tried her best not to yell out as she saw the clawed foot leave its mark on her cat Pokémon’s side. Angered by the attack, Persian struck back, slashing the big Poison-type with her claws. The prim Pokémon’s outburst left visible red marks on Nidoking’s purple body. Breathing heavily, both Pokémon glared at each other, each wearing the scars of recent strikes.

“Water Pulse, now!”

“I don’t think so! Use Megahorn!”

As Nidoking rushed Persian, the cat attempted to block its charge by letting loose a huge stream of rippling blue water. Despite taking a direct hit to the gut, the purple monster continued its rampage, jabbing its long horn right into the cat’s side. Both she and her trainer yelled out in anguish.

Man, that thing’s tough…

“Now, massive Earthquake!”

Nidoking grunted and nodded in agreement as it used its muscular legs to launch itself into the air. Unlike Golem’s version, Nidoking went into a rapid backflip for several seconds, his tail glowing with a bright brown light. The huge purple Poison-type came crashing down to earth tail first, shaking up the entire battlefield with a magnitude unparalleled to anything Golem could muster. The ground-rumbling assault caused the arena floor, the stalagmites and the stalactites alike to shatter into debris and made Lisa and Persian to both lose their footing.

Whoa, that was rough…

Nidoking stomped its way over to the struggling Persian, a hint of malice in its eyes. It was aiming its horn right at the cat’s underbelly when a ice-cold shot to the face took the brute by complete surprise. Lopunny had awoken from its rejuvenating nap, and slammed an earful of ice right into Nidoking, saving Persian from defeat.

Nidoking easily shook off the icy strike, grinning menacingly at its Normal-type opponents. Persian bore the burn marks from Camerupt’s fiery assaults, as well as scars from numerous impacts with sharp horns, claws, and rocks. Lopunny looked to be in better shape, having used Rest to heal itself.

“Arggh! That Lopunny’s trouble! Use Horn Drill on it!”

Growling and beating its fists against its chest, Nidoking came rushing in at Lopunny, who stood its ground, even as the deadly horn continued to close in.

Under her breath, Sadie muttered, “Wait for it… wait for it…” before suddenly screaming, “DO IT NOW!”

On its trainer’s command, the furry brown rabbit jumped clear over the purple Pokémon’s head. Snarling, the beast turned around to see where its intended victim had disappeared to.

Pointing at Nidoking, Lisa called out, “Back up Sadie’s Pokémon!”

Persian unleashed a full-power Water Pulse, with the watery beam striking its target directly in the chest. The force of the attack sent Nidoking hurtling backward through the waterfall before colliding against the rock wall behind the cascade.

“Dang… no way Nidoking’s still up for a fight after that…” conceded Grissom as he lowered his head and aimed his Pokéball toward where the creature had impacted the cave wall.

“Nidoking has been withdrawn, making Persian and Lopunny the winners! The challengers have defeated the Gym Leader!”

“Hey, way to go, you two!” the victors called out to their Pokémon. The two Normal-types nodded and cried out in excitement.

Grissom and the two girls met at mid-stage. “I don’t normally say this, but that was one heck of a come-from-behind victory there. You two have earned the Artifact Badge.”

“Thank you.” Sadie and Lisa bowed before the man and received a pair of gold-colored badges from him. They resembled an ancient Egyptian pyramid, befitting the city’s name.

With the battle over, Lindsay ran up to congratulate her sister and friend. “Wow, you two, that was one great battle! At first, I thought he had you but… y’all came through at the end!”

“Thanks, Linds. And thank you too, Persian.” The cat let out a soft meow as her trainer recalled her.

“And you too, Lopunny. That was a great effort.” Sadie called back her partner as well. “I know you weren’t expecting to battle, but you were really great!” Lisa complimented.

“Thanks, but I had a little help along the way!”

“Well, I don’t want to brag, but…”

“Not you, silly!” Sadie teased. “I’m talking about Rena back home, who helped me learn how to control Pokémon in battle! Oh, and our Pokémon, too!”

“Oh, yeah! Sorry about that! Now, shall we head out?”

“Works for me.”

As Grissom made his way back behind the waterfall, the three girls left the gym. Outside, Lisa pulled out her phone.

“Okay, I’m going to call the hotel so we can get that van back out here to pick us up.”
********

Inside the hotel’s lobby, something caught Lisa’s eye that hadn’t been there when she left – a Christmas tree was being set up, with hotel employees stringing lights on it.

“Wait, is it that close to Christmas? I thought this was only the first or second week in December!” Lisa took her PDA out and checked the date: “December 16, 2006.” The girl looked at the device, her eyes wide open. “Only nine days left? Man, I totally lost track of time with everything that’s been happening!”

“Sis, I KNOW you already picked out an awesome gift for me!” Lindsay teased.

“That reminds me!” Sadie shouted. “That ship leaves for Kanto tomorrow and I have to be sure I’m on it! Sorry, but I gotta go and pack my stuff!”

“Meet us for dinner?” Lisa called out to her. But she received no reply.

“Hopefully she will…” Lisa murmured. She and Lindsay boarded the elevator and took it to the seventh floor, where both theirs and their parents’ rooms were. Approaching a door numbered “729”, she knocked twice. Her father was quick to open the door.

“Hey, girls, how did things go today?”

“Well, I wasn’t expecting to have to team up with Sadie for the battle, but…” Lisa pulled out her newest badge from her bag. “We got the win!”

“Good for you! Congratulations! Unfortunately we have some bad news. We just got a call about an emergency business meeting, so we’ll have to leave early tomorrow. And since it’s an international flight, we have to head back to the main airport up north to fly out.”

“Well, y’all have to leave tomorrow, and Sadie has to catch a ship tomorrow, so there’s really no need for us to stick around. Lindsay, how do you feel about leaving tomorrow for the next Gym?”

“Fine with me,” the young girl replied.

“Since you only need to get to the next town – Regency City, if I recall – you can fly out of the airport here. I’m sure the shuttle van will take you.”

“Okay, thanks, Dad! I think we’ll head into our room and crash for awhile. Dinner at seven?”

After receiving a thumbs-up from their father, Lisa and Lindsay closed the door and headed down the hall to their own room, 715. Lisa knocked and asked, “Sadie, can we come in?”

“Sure, I’m done packing.”

Entering the room, Lisa said, “Hey, I know I told you this before, but you were really good today in that battle.”

“Really? I mean, it feels like I’ve come a long way since I started with Pokémon and they wouldn’t obey me. If it wasn’t for my friend Rena, I probably would have never been a trainer – and I wouldn’t be good at the second round of Contests, either!”

“I’ll probably say this again before you leave tomorrow, but good luck with the Contests!”

“Thanks, and good luck with the rest of the Gyms and training! It was great getting to meet you!” The two girls hugged each other, their eyes beginning to form tears.

“C’mon, Lindsay, come over here! Group hug time!” urged Lisa.

“Sure, I guess,” she answered as she ran over and threw her arms around the two older girls.

A man in a business suit walking by saw the three girls in their embrace and shut the door. “Seriously, hotel rooms have doors for a reason…”
********

Two men were peering into a lake within a subterranean cave.

One of the men was huge and muscular; the other was slim and tall. Both were dressed in red scuba gear. A large silver device was positioned next to them. “Dammit! Where in the hell is that Kyogre? We’ve been using this machine for hours, and any normal Pokémon would have been thrown into a fit of rage right about now!”

“You are wasting your time. Kyogre has left this cavern. Too bad for you.”

The two men spun around to find the source of the voice. Their lips began to curve into wicked smiles. “Well, well, well, if it isn’t Ein. Though we joined Cipher after your departure, we’ve heard stories of your cowardice. Who’s your lady friend?”

“You’ve never heard of the great Ice Pokémon trainer, Lorelei? How sad.” Lorelei and Ein stood before the two men, in their own blue scuba gear. “But I don’t think we’ve met.”

“It doesn’t matter since we’re gonna be the last thing you ever see in your pathetic lives, but I am Exol, and this is Naps,” answered the hulking Thrash commander.

“Since we can’t get what we came here for, we’ll pulverize you two as our consolation prize! You better prepare to meet your makers, whoever the hell they might be!”

Rubbing his chin calmly, Ein retorted, “Somehow I doubt that. Care to back up those threats with your Pokémon?”

Lorelei pulled a Pokéball from her suit’s belt. “In the words of our colleague, Lisa, let’s get dangerous.”

Chapter 48: Preparing For the Worst

“Gah! How the hell did this happen?”

Exol and Naps looked on flabbergasted as they were forced to call back their final Pokémon. Ein’s sleek purple Crobat was flying overhead, flapping its broad, thin wings and glaring at the thugs intently with its piercing yellow eyes. Lorelei’s icy gray Glalie also eyed the fallen commanders with its chilly blue eyes, the ivory teeth on its face-like form clenched.

“There is nothing left for you two. A police vessel is on its way to take you two into custody. It is all over now,” Lorelei said to the two fuming Thrash members. Yet they remained defiant.

“We made a vow not to be taken alive. And we shall uphold our pact,” Exol and Naps announced simultaneously.

Reaching into pockets on their uniforms, they popped pills into their mouths and bit down on the capsules. Immediately, the pair began convulsing and their breathing became strained.

“Dammit, what’s going on?!” Lorelei yelled, momentarily losing her cool demeanor.

“They’re poisoning themselves!”

Even as the Cipher commanders’ bodies began to tense up, the pair managed to stay upright, even uttering, “We give our lives… for the glory of Cipher!”

As Lorelei and Ein rushed toward the administrators, they finally collapsed onto the icy floor, their bodies stiff and rigid. They lay motionless except for some reflex jerking movements.

Ein and Lorelei knelt before the two men and examined them. A distinct almond odor was emanating from the bodies of Exol and Naps.

“Smell that?” Lorelei asked.

“Yup. Cyanide suicide pills,” Ein answered, rubbing his chin. “Call the police, have them bring a coroner out here. If they’re not dead now, they will be by the time medical assistance gets here.”

“Damn,” Lorelei muttered as she and Ein looked solemnly at the now deceased commanders. “They went through all that just to avoid jail time – or to avoid interrogation.”

“Regrettably, there’s nothing we can do now. We’ll have to wait and file a police report.”

“Should we tell Lisa what happened here?”

“No. I believe she has enough on her mind without hearing about this news.”
*******

A small commuter jet landed on the runway at an airport. Aboard this aircraft were the Northwood sisters.

“Well, that flight was quicker than I thought it would be, sis. Anyway, what’s the plan for today?”

“I say we find a place to spend the night, then tomorrow we face the Gym Leader here. We just beat Grissom yesterday; I at least want some rest before taking on another one.”

“Yeah, I can see where too many battles would get tiring,” Lindsay answered as her sister pulled her bags out of the overhead compartment.

“I really hope Sadie does well in the Contests in Kanto. Our good-bye was kinda rushed this morning, but at least we got our Christmas gifts exchanged. Hope she enjoys that new outfit I got her.”

“Where do you think Mom and Dad are now?”

“Since they left really early, I’d imagine they’re on their plane back home. Okay, I think that’s everything. Let’s get off now.”

The sisters made their way off of the plane and into the terminal. Once there, they were completely stunned at what they saw. Overhead, the airport building boasted high vaulted ceilings with very ornate crystal chandeliers hanging from it. Below them, the floor was covered in white marble. Massive white columns and large exotic plants decorated the terminals.

“Whoa – is this an airport or a mansion?” Lindsay wondered.

“It’s certainly the fanciest airport I’ve ever been to. Let’s head to the information desk and see if we can’t find a place to spend the night.”

“Okay.”

Once at the desk, Lisa mulled over the available hotel choices. Her jaw dropped. “Wow! All of these places are fancy luxury hotels! I can’t find a Quality Inn or Sleep Inn anywhere! Well, I guess we’ll try the Hilton Royale Towers, even though it is $175 a night.”

“Wait, do you really have that sort of money?” Lindsay asked, her eyes opened wide.

Her older sister pulled out her PDA to check. “Let’s see… Hmmm… As long as we’re only here two or three days at the most, we should manage. Any longer and it could be straining the budget, especially since we’ve still got one more town to stay at after this.”

A few phone calls later, Lisa and Lindsay were waiting outside the terminal for the hotel courtesy car to pick them up. Before long, a Lincoln Town Car stretch limousine pulled up.

“Well, there’s our ride. Turns out all of their courtesy cars are limos,” Lisa said as she got into the back of the vehicle.

“Jeez, sis, you really like living in the lap of luxury, don’t you?”

“Hey, I can’t complain!”
********

Regency City itself wasn’t so much a city as it was a neighborhood filled with huge mansions and their expansive lawns. Lisa had read that there were only about ninety residences on the resort island, but these were clearly ninety enormous residences, spread out over an island that was at least half the size of Sphinx City’s island in landmass. Each car they passed on the way was equally luxurious – even the police used Mercedes sedans as their patrol cars.

Whoa, I bet even Mom and Dad couldn’t afford to live here! I do kinda feel out of place in a fancy place such as this!” Lisa took in the sights, a hint of jealousy floating around in her mind.

Lindsay just stared at awe out the window of the limo as it passed mansion after mansion, each one seemingly more ornate than the last. Massive fountains or statues seemed to be a staple in the front yard of each and every one of them.

The limo finally arrived at the “town square” – basically a collection of high-rise hotels surrounding what looked to be a huge palace. Easily surpassing even the other homes in opulence, the towering building was fashioned like a classic cathedral. Three towers were located on the building – a central tower topped with a gold-plated dome was flanked by two more on the sides. Both of these were capped off by huge spires that pointed towards the heavens. The exterior of the palace was finished in marble and stone, with a huge garden, water fountain, and statues of ancient Pokémon.

“Hey, Lisa, I bet that huge building’s the Gym.”

“Probably. It is the largest and fanciest building we’ve seen so far, and it is in the center of everything. Man, it’s gonna be intimidating even battling in there!

Pulling in front of one of the high-rises, the limo driver said, “Well, here we are. Welcome to the Hilton Royale Towers!”
*********

After having been completely awed by the opulence of the lobby, the sisters settled into their apartment-sized room on the eighteenth floor of their towering hotel. Each was spread out on their own king sized pillowtop bed, their bodies being cradled by plush down-feather comforters.

Flipping on the huge plasma television, Lisa repeated herself. “I could sure get used to this!”

But television would not be so kind to the girls. It showed a crudely-drawn anime, in which badly dressed ninjas and even more badly dressed pirates engaged in battle using freaky superpowers and the random screaming of gibberish.

“Ugh! I HATE this show!” Lisa growled in disgust as she slammed her finger on the “channel up” button.

“You want a new car, right?” asked an advertisement announcer as a hip-hop beat played in the background. “Then get you and your homies down to Dan Destin’s Deals on Wheels! We may not be nuts, but our prices are! And here’s Dr. D-Diggity-Dawg’s Deal of the Week: Buy any new car with an extended warranty plan, and you also get a free iPod or a free Pokémon Egg! What’s inside? Who knows until it hatches! Find out yourself by coming to the corner of Wayne and Hodges today!”

“What is it with this region and its bizarre advertisements? There’s the JoyBots, there’s Larry ‘The Knockout’ Jones, and now these guys!” Lisa scoffed and turned off the television. Turning to Lindsay, she explained, “The plan is for us to take the rest of the day to relax, rest, and take in these wonderfully fancy surroundings. Then tomorrow, we face the Gym Leader.”

“It works for me,” Lindsay replied as she headed to the bathroom.

Stretching out, Lisa exclaimed, “I love it here! If I didn’t have to be a trainer, I’d probably never want to leave!”
*******

Because having it on the island proper had been vehemently opposed by the affluent populace, Regency City’s maximum-security prison was actually built on an island about fifteen miles off the main island’s eastern shore. Here, in this heavily guarded facility, a meeting was taking place between Lorelei, Tony Parito, and deposed Thrash administrators Jane and Justin McCullough.

“Thank you for meeting with us today,” Tony said as he and Lorelei took their seats.

Their time in prison had already eroded the couple’s formal tone of speaking. Justin replied with an uncharacteristic, “What’s up?”

Lorelei heaved a heavy breath. “First of all, I need to inform you that the two Thrash members at Glacier Cavern – they’re dead. They acted upon a suicide pact and ingested cyanide pills.

“I expected they would do that,” Jane said, sighing. “Those two were hardcore and dead-set about not being taken alive. Really, we never knew those two very well, though.”

“Our second bit of news is that Lisa Northwood is in Regency City, probably getting ready for a Gym battle. If you still wish, we can arrange a meeting with her.”

“Yes, we would still like to meet with her, if it wouldn’t be troubling her too much,” Justin answered.

“We won’t know that until we actually call her and ask, which we’ll do tomorrow or the next day,” explained Tony. “Any time in particular that you want to meet?”

Jane and Justin both shrugged. The wife replied, “Hell, we’re in prison. We have all the free time in the world.”

“You have a point there,” said Lorelei as she adjusted her glasses. “Anyway, we’ve found a prison where we feel you’ll be safe from Thrash repercussions. After the meeting with Lisa, if she accepts, you’ll be given new identities and moved to a prison in Sweden. From what I understand, because of your guilty plea and help with the investigation, your sentence will only be two and a half years. After that, you’ll be able to start your new lives.”

“Thank you. The sooner we distance ourselves from this whole Thrash mess, the better.”

“That is all.” Tony motioned to the prison guards. “You may take these two back to their cells, and we should be in contact with you again soon.”

After Jane and Justin were led out of the interrogation room, Tony turned to Lorelei, a bit of uncertainty evident on his face.

“Do you think Lisa would want to talk to those two again after all the hell Thrash has put her through?”

Lorelei shrugged. “That, I couldn’t tell you. But I think Lisa would hear them out as long as we assured her safety. After all, she seems reasonable enough.” Lorelei muttered under her breath, “Unlike her mom…”

“Did you say something?” Tony asked.

“No, no… it was nothing.”
********

The following day found Lisa and Lindsay inside the exquisitely crafted gym arena within Regency City’s cathedral-like town hall. Constructed of gold and marble with rubies, pearls and other glittering precious stones adorning the walls, the ceilings were unusually high inside the battlefield. Statues of legendary bird Pokémon also decorated the Gym.

Lisa had arrived wearing her familiar outfit consisting of her blue floral dress and green cardigan. Her white hat, white pantyhose, and black dress shoes completed her look. Yet here, she felt that she wasn’t dressed properly for the occasion.

Maybe I should’ve rented a prom dress or something… I feel so out of place wearing my regular dress…

Lindsay, wearing her purple floral dress, had taken her seat on a small set of bleachers behind Lisa, ready to cheer her big sister on.

From the other end of the arena, a tall, blond-haired woman emerged. She wore a silky white evening gown and tiara. In a refined, sophisticated voice, she introduced herself.

“Greetings, and welcome to Regency City. The winds have graced our island with an unprecedented level of prosperity. And with those winds, we fly higher than ever before! That is why I, Wendy, have dedicated my life to training only the most elegant and beautiful bird Pokémon! My assistant Craig will be officiating this match. Shall we get started?”

An older, bald gentleman in a tuxedo made his way toward the center of the arena. Rubbing his handlebar moustache, he spoke into a microphone, “The gym match between Regency City Leader Wendy and challenger Lisa Northwood from Anderson, South Carolina will begin now! It will be a one-round Double Battle with each side using two Pokémon!”

Lisa looked quizzically at the two well-dressed individuals inside the arena. “Wait, only two Pokémon?”

“That is correct,” answered Wendy. “You see, I like to test trainers’ ability for quick, decisive battles. Okay, it’s time! Skarmory and Altaria, let us begin!”

Before the first Pokémon even took shape, its soothing humming could be heard. The Pokémon itself was a blue bird with its body encased in a fluffy, cloud-like white down, which was actually the creature’s wings. This fact was demonstrated when the avian spread its cotton-like appendages wide and began to ascend. Its tail feathers were billowing as the white-winged bird took flight, as did the ribbon like feather atop its head.

Her other Pokémon let out a shrill cry as it was released. This bird had a smooth, shiny body with a reflective quality to it. The hollow clanging sound of metal on metal could be heard as the Pokémon began flapping its thin pink wings. It took to the skies with ease – it was much lighter than its steel-like body would suggest.

I need a Pokémon that can take to the skies, too…” Lisa thought. “All right! Weezing and Jolteon, it’s you!”

The teen’s spiky yellow quadruped and purple orb-like Pokémon took the field. The tips of Jolteon’s fur began crackling with electric sparks while Weezing released puffs of gray smoke from the crater-like openings on her inflated head.

“I’ll start this! Altaria and Skarmory, take flight!” Wendy commanded.

“Okay, let’s zap ‘em with Thunderbolt! Weezing, use Sludge Bomb!”

As the two bird Pokémon spread their wings and flew up, Weezing pursued them. Jolteon was able to get off a quick electric attack to the Steel-type bird. Skarmory let out a shrill cry as the shocking strike of lightning hit it. It shook off the hit in time to see Jolteon charging up another Thunderbolt. It flew out of range of the second sizzling bolt, eluding its opponent and circling overhead.

In the air, the levitating Poison-type found herself surrounded by Wendy’s two avian Pokémon. She hurled a heaping pile of purple poison at Altaria, only to have Skarmory run interference and slice the Sludge Bomb to bits with one swipe of its razor sharp wings.

“Now it is time to get a taste of our power! Steel Wing and Sky Attack!”

Wonderful… If they stick to long distance attacks and stay out of range, Jolteon can’t zap them…” Thinking quickly, the girl shouted, “Weezing, try to Sludge Bomb Altaria and get it down to where Jolteon can hit it!”

The Poison-type again fired off a glob of toxic sludge at her blue avian adversary, but with one well aimed whack with its cotton-like wings, Altaria knocked the Sludge Bomb off course – and directly into Jolteon’s face. Lisa gritted her teeth as her Electric-type tried to wipe off the purple mess with his front paws.

Way to use my attack against me…

Altaria closed its eyes and began to gather mysterious energies. The floating Poison-type tried to send another Sludge Bomb to interrupt the bird’s charging, but Skarmory obliterated the purple glob with its sharp metallic beak.

With Weezing’s attacks thwarted, Wendy’s Pokémon wasted no time in seizing the advantage. With its wings glowing a shimmering white, Skarmory made a diagonal slice across Weezing’s body, cutting up her porous purple skin. Weezing scarcely had time to regain her composure when Altaria flew in for a full-speed charging dive. The hard-hitting Sky Attack carried enough force to slam Weezing against the far wall of the elegant Gym.

“Time for a little bit of trickery, Altaria! Double Team, and follow up with Dragon Claw! Skarmory, let’s use Hyper Beam!”

“Uh, oh, both of you, keep on your toes! Try to use Thunderbolt and Sludge Bomb if they get close!”

Altaria began moving around the arena at a blindingly fast pace, creating illusionary copies of itself. Soon, the clones of the blue bird Pokémon came swooping down at Jolteon like bombs, which each of their talons glowing with energy. Jolteon prepared electricity on his fur and sent blasts of electricity at each of the copies. One by one the fakes vanished, but the remainder of them continued to close in.

Jolteon was struck by Dragon Claws from the real Altaria and five of its clones. The piercing talons dug deep gashes into the victim’s bright yellow skin. Despite taking a direct hit, the scratched up Jolteon shot out another Thunderbolt as Altaria and its fakes took to the sky. But the electrical assault only hit one of the Double Teams.

Skarmory opened up its silver beak and unleashed a massive yellow energy ray at Weezing. The Poison-type attempted to dodge the incoming Hyper Beam, but the attack began to curve and like a homing missile found its target. Weezing yelled out as the beam made impact, and the aftermath saw the Poison-type with a noticeable scar on her body – and saw her trainer shaking and fidgeting nervously.

As her Steel type bird hovered in place to recover its energy, Wendy was already ready to issue her next commands. “Altaria! Time to land and set off an Earthquake! Skarmory, keep Weezing busy with Agility and Sky Attack!” Curiously, Wendy also pointed at Weezing – but with her ring finger extended.

At least I know who they’re targeting this time…” Lisa shouted, “Jolteon, try to jump up and zap Altaria when it lands! Weezing, keep a close eye on that Skarmory and prepare a Fire Blast if you can!” The girl gritted her teeth. So far each of her strategies against Wendy had been useless.

Skarmory’s quick recovery after releasing its Hyper Beam took Lisa by surprise. She only had her mouth hanging open in stunned shock as the metallic bird Pokémon began to dart quickly around the entire battlefield. Skarmory failed to remain in one spot long enough for Weezing to get a clear shot off. With electricity crackling on his fur, Jolteon waited for Altaria to attempt a landing so it could get off an attack.

After about a minute of the cat and mouse game with Weezing, Skarmory quickly struck. But instead of the Sky Attack, the Steel-type dive-bombed its hapless victim while spinning, creating a corkscrewing motion with its beak. The Drill Peck cut into Weezing, and Skarmory quickly followed up by beating the purple toxic Pokémon with its wing. The blow had enough power to crash Weezing into the ground. Lisa gasped and moved both hands over her gaping mouth.

Jolteon was distracted by his partner being clobbered, and Altaria took advantage by slamming its blue form onto the ground, with the resulting quake causing Jolteon to stumble and face-plant hard on the floor.

“It’s time to finish this! Dragonbreath and Hyper Beam!”

Uh, oh… I don’t know who they’re aiming for…” Lisa had to make a split second guess. “Jolteon! Dodge Diplomat SE those attacks! Weezing, attack with Fire Blast!”

Unfortunately, Lisa had guessed wrong. Weezing and Skarmory had fired off their respective attacks at the same time. The brilliant yellow Hyper Beam shot directly through the center of the five-pronged flames of Fire Blast like a bull’s-eye. Both attacks continued uninterrupted, finding their targets.

The concentrated energy beam blasted Weezing and sent the Poison-type hurtling backward, slamming her against the side of the arena. Both Pokémon and trainer yelled out in anguish as the sound of Weezing hitting the gold-trimmed wall was heard. The intense flames of Weezing’s assault torched and scorched the metallic bird, causing it to call out in pain as well.

With Weezing still reeling from impact, Altaria closed in, unleashing a breath of light orange energy from its beak. The Dragonbreath proved to be the last gasp for Weezing. After the attack made contact, the Poison-type slumped to the ground.

Lisa grabbed nervously at her white pantyhose, tearing a large hole in the right leg. “Oh, no! Weezing, return!” she cried as the fallen purple creature returned to its holding device. “Jolteon, if either of those two come within range, hit ‘em fast and hard!”

“Please! As if I’d ever have them come within range! Your lack of a flying Pokémon will cost you dearly, Lisa! Dragonbreath and Razor Wind, now!”

Remaining airborne and out of reach of Jolteon’s Thunderbolt, Skarmory began flapping its pink steel wings to create a mini-tornado. Meanwhile, Altaria began darting quickly in an attempt to befuddle the opposing Electric-type. Jolteon fell for the bait. Keeping his eyes trained on the massive blue Pokémon, he was taken by surprise when a swirling gust of wind knocked slammed into him. The air currents almost acted like blades, cutting noticeable gashes into Jolteon’s pointed yellow fur.

Crying out, the Electric-type slumped to the floor. Altaria took advantage and blasted the vulnerable Pokémon with a long-range Dragonbreath while its victim was still down.

“Oh! Jolteon!” Lisa cried, yanking at her dress and quivering. “Please, can you get up?”

As a wounded and scarred Jolteon lay on the ground, both trainers looked on. Lisa was sweating, shaking and her heart was pounding as she continued to grab and pull her already ruined pantyhose. Wendy, in contrast, wore a calm, confident smile on her face.

“Sorry, Lisa, but it is time to end this! Double Hyper Beam!”

“No! Jolteon, return!” While the devastating energy beams were still forming inside the mouths of the two bird Pokémon, the defeated teen took her battered Electric type off the field and into his Pokéball. “I… I give up…” With tears twinkling in her eyes, Lisa dropped to her knees.

“The challenger has forfeited the match! Our winner is the Gym Leader, Wendy!” Craig announced, officially ending the battle.

“I’m sorry, guys… I couldn’t do a thing…”

Wendy and Craig made their way across the expansive battlefield to speak with the still crying Lisa. The girl slowly rose to her feet and wiped the tears from her face.

“Lisa, I regret to inform you that I will not be taking any more challengers until the 27th. So you’ll have to remain in town until then.”

“Fine…” Suddenly a realization hit Lisa like a ton of bricks. “Wait… I can’t afford to stay in that hotel for that long!”

“Well, may I recommend the Pokémon Center inside this building?” Craig suggested.

“No way! Pokémon Center rooms are nasty!”

“My dear,” Wendy said calmly, “you are forgetting that this is Regency City. We don’t have your ‘average’ rooms here. In fact, we invite you to take a look. I think you’ll find that they are most impressive.”

“Do they have wi-fi for my PDA?”

“But of course.”

Lisa shrugged. “I guess I could give ‘em a try. All right Lindsay, let’s go.”

“Follow me,” Wendy said. With their heads hanging low, both sisters followed.

“I still can’t believe I lost like that…”
********

Wendy had not lied; the Pokémon Center’s rooms, which were located in the same sprawling building as the Gym, were indeed much nicer than the typical free rental room. In fact, the rooms were just as exquisite as the girls’ rooms at the Hilton, if not better. The girls had checked out of their hotel and moved their belongings to the Center’s “Presidential Suite.”

Huge windows extended from floor to ceiling, flanked by thick red velvet curtains. Crystal chandeliers provided light in the room, along with antique-styled lamps placed on marble nightstands. The room boasted not one but two king beds topped with thick, fluffy white comforters. A plasma TV and DVD player were situated across from the bed.

The suite’s private bathroom included a huge hot tub, as well as a second television and telephone. The dark granite floors were decorated with gold leaf trim, adding to the elegance. The bathroom fixtures were gold-plated, and a white stone fountain and tropical plants were set in the far corner.

Both girls were speechless. Lindsay stared at awe at the opulence and decadence that surrounded her. Lisa, on the other hand, had her mind set on something completely different. The girl released her Pokémon. She had something important to tell them.

“Hey guys, as you probably know, we lost another Gym battle today. And like before I take all blame for it. But I promised myself I wouldn’t cry… No, we’ll work together to win next time, and I’ll have to try even harder to guide you to victory, because it’s my responsibility. But, I did try my best out there… I promised I wouldn’t cry… But… But.. I don’t think I can keep that promise…” Tears began streaming down the older sister’s face as she buried her face into her hands and began to sob.

“Sis, come on! Don’t cry!” Lindsay shouted.

Now out of their Pokéballs, Lisa’s partners also tried to comfort the teenager.

“No, it isn’t Lisa’s fault,” explained Weezing to her teammates. “It’s like it was with my previous trainer… I couldn’t keep up with our opponents. I really hope Lisa doesn’t abandon me after this, but I wouldn’t blame her if she did…”

“Don’t you say such things!” interrupted Persian, ignoring her usual formal manner of speech. “You know as well as the rest of us that Lisa isn’t like that! Just because you had an old trainer desert you doesn’t mean all of them would do that! I mean, look at that poor girl…” The cat motioned her paw toward her crying trainer. “She thinks she’s always at fault! Hasn’t she always taken good care of you? Hasn’t she done the same for the rest of us? Please, think about what you’re saying.” Persian made her way over to Lisa and began rubbing the girl’s back gently.

“Yeah, I’m sorry…” Weezing conceded. “She wouldn’t do that to any of us.”

“If anyone is at fault, it’s me,” said Jolteon. “I mean, I’ve been slacking off on training. Maybe if I pushed myself a bit harder, my attacks could have better range…”

“No, it’s me...” mumbled Vibrava. If I was a full-fledged Flygon, I could’ve been the airborne Pokémon that might have evened the score...”

While still comforting Lisa, Persian looked at her partners disdainfully. “What is going on here? Lisa’s blaming herself, and all three of you are blaming yourself as well! I think we need to accept that all of us carry the weight of responsibility. Lisa as a trainer and us as her Pokémon – all of us had become complacent over the last week or so, especially with Lisa’s new friend.”

“Aww, c’mon! I really liked that girl! She had some really yummy Pokémon food, ayup!” Walrein interjected.

“I liked her too, but socializing with her out on that big boat really cut into training time.”

“That is correct… Training time was down seventy-five percent over the past ten days. Overall attack effectiveness has decreased by nine percent,” Metagross droned in agreement.

“Unfortunately, that does seem to be the case.” Jolteon yawned. “We’ve had a break. Now it’s time to get down to business.”

Lisa looked around quizzically at her Pokémon as their chatter filled the room. She wasn’t exactly sure of their exact words, but the determined tone of their voices hinted at the gist of their conversation. “Looks like the crew’s ready to get some serious work done. I should’ve kept it up all along, but…

Landing next to her trainer, Vibrava said, “And some good, hard training may be just what I need to finally evolve. So I think it’s time to start taking things seriously.”

“Yes, we must,” Persian agreed. “I sense that soon we will have to deal with that group of evil people again. And something tells me that we’ll be in for the battle of our lives…”

She was interrupted by Lisa, who stood up and wiped the last of the tears from her face. “Okay guys, I know that I’ve been slacking off a bit – and it’s really my fault, but we’re going to start really training hard. We can’t afford to get behind in our training, especially with Thrash still causing trouble. So, what do you say? How about turning this loss into motivation to work our tails off?”

The girl’s Pokémon yelled out in agreement. “Okay, it’s settled then. Tonight, we start some seriously intense training – for all of us!”
********

“While the legend has been told in this church many times before, it is important for all of us to be reminded of our Brotherhood’s goals!” Bart Sy, standing at an altar, was dressed in his ceremonial robes that still hid his face. Like he did every Sunday, he took the role of preacher and delivered sermons to his followers.

“When the creator of all Pokémon, Arceus, first molded Pokémon, His desire was to make a race of creatures that were completely subservient to humans, at the request of our God. However, Arceus erred. He mistakenly gave His creations free will and the ability to think independently of their human masters. It was too late for Him to correct this flaw; however He assured our God that He would someday find a way to correct the flaws He had given Pokémon.”

The preacher paused and took a look at his congregation. Their numbers had dwindled due to recent failures of the organization, and he was in ‘damage control’ mode to retain those he had left.

“It was my eleventh birthday when I realized I would be the vehicle for this change. The year prior, I, like many others my age, was eager to receive my first Pokémon for my grand Pokémon Journey. However, that first Pokémon given to me was a Meowth – Satan’s Pokémon. And being the creature of pure evil that it was, it completely refused to do a thing that I commanded it to. It even had the gall to attack me. Needless to say, I never started that journey, and I spent that entire year moping around the house and wondering where I had gone wrong.

“But then Arceus appeared to me in an epiphany. He told me of the fatal flaw in His creations, and explained that I was to assemble a group of followers and correct His mistake. And although science is usually taboo in religion, He advised that I look to modern technology to fulfill His wishes. Once this was done, I would lead the world into a new age of prosperity with our new Pokémon, finally completely free of the sin of independent will. In other words, Pokémon as Arceus had originally envisioned.”

Bart Sy clearly took on an angrier tone for the next part of his sermon. “Arceus warned me that Satan would do everything in his power to thwart this monumental undertaking. He would send a messenger of his word to earth to stop my efforts. By now you know that messenger is the young girl who has been interrupting our efforts. And of course, her Pokémon team is anchored by a Persian – Satan’s Pokémon. She, along with those who follow her twisted teachings, have seen success thus far because Satan’s black magic is strong, However, four nights ago Arceus reappeared to me and assured me that Satan had seen his last victory. So we shall be victorious over the forces of evil!”

Amid the cheering and praising from his congregation, the Thrash leader finished up his sermon. “Arceus granted me with two Pokémon from the heavens to aid in my colossal undertaking – Pikachu and Growlithe, both of them heavenly Pokémon of the highest order. They were my first real partners, and like the ideal Pokémon, they obeyed my every command without question. First my mission was to embark on my delayed Pokémon journey, but with the added task of exterminating any and all disobedient Pokémon that I might come across. And I began the extermination with that Meowth that had dared to stand against me – no, against God Himself – the year before. But after that year of training, Arceus revealed His true plan to me – a plan to correct the flaws inherent in Pokémon instead of merely eliminating poor specimens. And that, my followers, is where we stand today! Now, let us pray and show our thanks to Arceus and God for revealing to us Their divine truths!”
*******

Once again, Jane and Justin McCullough were led in handcuffs to the interrogation room in Regency City’s offshore penitentiary. This time, however, Lisa was accompanying Lorelei and Tony.

“You two wanted to speak with me?” Lisa asked her former adversaries.

Justin answered, “Yes, we did. During our time in prison, we have had a chance to reflect on our lives. We have come to the realization that the Brotherhood’s teachings were full of lies. Our leader played the religion and prophet cards to try to justify his actions. He even convinced his followers that you were an agent of Satan. And during our time with Thrash, we believed him. But prison has a way of clearing your mind, and it did so for us. We realize the errors of our ways.”

Crossing her arms and scowling, Lisa snapped, “And do you expect me to forgive you?”

“No, that is not why we’ve come to you,” Jane said. “However, we have received word that another former Thrash member has defected, and he knows the location of Thrash’s main headquarters.”

Lorelei spoke up. “Excellent. Tell us where their compound is, and we’ll send our forces in to eliminate the Thrash threat immediately.”

“It’s not so simple, I’m afraid. Our confidant has told us that he will lead Lisa, and only Lisa, to the compound. He has instructed us that he will meet Lisa at the Marquis City Pokémon Center tomorrow and drive her to the compound from there.”

“Wait, I still have to earn a badge from this town!” Lisa exclaimed.

“True,” said Tony, “but obviously the Thrash situation does take precedence. What to do…”

Lorelei interrupted, holding up her right hand. “I will speak with Wendy and the Pokémon League about a possible solution to our dilemma. I am hoping the League will be reasonable and come up with a plan that enables Lisa to earn the two final badges after the Thrash crisis is settled.”

“Oh, and a couple more things,” Justin said. “ First, the contact’s name is Lethco, and he’ll be meeting Lisa at the Center. Second, as some sort of security measure, Lethco wants us to give Lisa our old Thrash ID cards. Then Lisa is supposed to give the cards to Lethco as proof that she’s met with us regarding this operation.”

“Fine, I’ll have the guards retrieve them for her. Is there anything else?” Tony asked.

“No, that’s all.”

“Okay then. Thank you for your help,” Lisa said as she left the room along with Tony and Lorelei.

On the boat ride back to Regency City, Lorelei informed Lisa, “Here’s the plan. Wendy has agreed to take you on in a Double Battle along with the Gym Leader in Marquis City, which is our next destination. If you can win against the tag team, you’ll get both badges at the same time. But, as Wendy said, she won’t battle you until the 27th of the month. Is that okay with you?”

“Yes. I don’t mind.”

“Excellent. Now, we’ll be giving you special gear for this huge mission. Your mother, um, expressed some concerns about your safety, so we’ve prepared some protection for you. We’re embedding a GPS tracker into your equipment and we’ll likely trail you by helicopter in order to provide assistance.”

“Thank for the help. But doesn’t this feel like a trap, like they’re luring me to their base to ambush me?”

“Yes, that thought came to mind, which is why we’re coming in with you. It makes me a bit nervous too, but this could be our best opportunity to raid Thrash’s main base.”

“Well, I suppose this is it. It’s all come down to one final showdown… For everyone’s sake, I hope we’re ready,” Lisa said, nervously fingering her dress.

“Once we get to the city, we’ll let you get your belongings from the Pokémon Center, then we’ll take the next flight out to Marquis City.”
******

The Marquis City airport was not nearly as fancy as Regency City’s, but it had an interesting décor all of its own – a décor based on the Mercury Grand Marquis. Numerous posters of the full-size automobile, ranging from the first 1975 models to the newest 2007 sedans, hung on the wall. A mint-condition ’75 sedan and ’75 Colony Park station wagon even graced the lobby.

“Isn’t this the same car Mom and Dad own? Why are there so many pictures of them?”

“According to travel guides, this is the hottest market for the Grand Marquis, and it’s been this way since 1991. They sell more of them here, per capita, than anywhere else in the world,” Lisa explained to Lindsay. “In fact, when Mom and Dad bought theirs a few months ago, they had it shipped directly from here.”

“Ohhhh…kay…”

“Listen up,” Lorelei instructed, “In case Thrash is running surveillance on the Pokémon Center, we’ll debrief at the Quality Inn first. They’ve sent a courtesy car for us. And I don’t think I have to tell you what model that car will be.”

Sure enough, a dark green Mercury Grand Marquis with the Quality Inn’s logo was waiting for the group at the airport’s shuttle pick-up area.

“After you,” Tony said to the two sisters as Lorelei took the front passenger seat.

“This is it… the beginning of the end of Thrash. Or, at least I hope…” Lisa said.
*******

The lobby of the Quality Inn was tastefully decorated with natural red brick walls, a fireplace, and red velvet sofas and recliners. Here, a vital meeting was taking place between several trainers.

Gathered here were the Pokémon League representatives, Tony and Lorelei. Joining them were the weather research heads, Archie and Shelly, and the Shadow Pokémon expert, Ein. Even Dr. Sequoia had made the trip from Fort Barnes to participate. After greeting each of them, Lisa and Lindsay took their seats as Lorelei brought everyone to attention by banging a paperweight on an end table.

“Hmmm…” murmured Lorelei as she did a head count. “There are still three people we’re waiting on…”

“Well,” Ein said, adjusting his shades with one hand while rubbing his chin thoughtfully with the other, “how much more time should we give them?”

“I’d say five more minutes, then we’ll move into one of the meeting rooms to begin our discussion.”

Suddenly, two girls – a tall one with blond hair and a short one with black hair – burst through the lobby doors, followed by a brown haired woman who looked to be a couple of years older than Lisa.

The first two girls – wearing matching green Christmas sweatshirts, blue denim miniskirts, and black leggings, were familiar faces to Lisa. “Alexis? Shannon? Hey, long time, no see!” Lisa exclaimed as she ran up to hug her old friends. “But what brings you two here?”

“Now Lisa, you’re not the only one who’s been having to dodge Thrash. Lorelei met up with us after our little Safari Zone adventure and we’ve been getting mixed up with Thrash since,” Alexis explained.

“Well, at least I’m not the only one caught up in this whole mess,” Lisa said.

The woman who walked in behind the two friends introduced herself. “My name is Melissa, and I’m the Gym Leader of Marquis City. Lorelei has asked me to watch over the little sister during this mission.”

“Um, that would be me,” Lindsay answered, shaking as if she was a bit intimidated. And Melissa, at nearly six feet tall and wearing a black business suit, did have a certain air of prestige about her.

“You may relax,” the Gym Leader said soothingly to the nervous nine-year-old. “I promise that you will be safe with me.”

“O…Okay… thanks…”

“Come then… Lindsay, isn’t it?” Melissa received a nod from the small girl. “We’ll be staying at my own house until your sister and her colleagues complete their goals. I wish the best of luck to all of you,” she finished as she led Lindsay out of the hotel.

“Yeah, good luck to y’all! Please come back safe!” The young girl took one glance back at her sister before leaving the building. Lisa waved at her and smiled, an attempt to assure her little sister that everything would work out. In reality, though, Lisa wasn’t so sure.

“Okay, everyone, let us all head into the meeting room and begin discussing our plan of action,” urged Lorelei.

Inside a small boardroom, the congregation took their seats with Lorelei sitting at the head of the table.

“For this undertaking, we will be splitting off into three groups. First group will just be Lisa, since Thrash wants to meet with her alone. I’ve outfitted her gear with a GPS tracking monitor to direct us to the hideout. Group two will follow Lisa to the Thrash base and serve as direct backup to her. I shall go, along with Ein and the two girls. Is that acceptable?”

“Yes,” Ein replied while the two girls nodded.

“Excellent. And finally, Tony, Amy, Archie and Shelly will stay behind. We’ll set up a command center in one of the rooms here, and the four of them will be in charge of monitoring it. We’ll need you to relay any important information to me, then I’ll pass it onto Lisa and the others via two-way radio. Understood?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Tony answered, brushing his blue hair with his hand.

Lorelei continued, “Those of us in the second group will follow Lisa at a distance in a rented helicopter, just in case Thrash is running surveillance.”

“But what if they’re doing air patrol, too?” Lisa asked.

“That is a possibility. However, it’s a risk we’ll have to take. There’s no way we’re sending you in alone. Now, we’ll rendezvous inside the base and go from there. Depending on the size of the place, we may or may not split up to investigate the facility.”

Lisa exchanged nervous looks with Alexis and Shannon. As the youngest and least experienced of the trainers assigned to the raid, they knew that they and their Pokémon would be put to the test.

“Okay,” Lorelei concluded, “I think that’s it for our meeting. Now, everyone is free to do whatever they want for the rest of the day, but I would recommend everyone get some rest. Tomorrow will be a very tough day for all of us.”
*******

Lisa had agreed to meet with Alexis and Shannon for dinner at the nearby Ruby Tuesday restaurant. The area in which the Quality Inn was located also included several restaurants – the Ruby Tuesday, Denny’s, Cracker Barrel, TGI Friday’s, and Applebee’s among them. Also in the immediate neighborhood were several competing hotels – AmericInn, Signature Inn, Wellesley Inn, Hampton Inn, Red Roof, and Best Western. For shopping purposes, a Target, Harris Teeter grocery store, and Best Buy were among the stores in a strip mall. Two gas stations – a Hess and Sunoco – were advertising gas at $0.95 a gallon – the lowest prices seen in the region for over six months.

After ordering their food, the three girls began some heavy conversation about the looming raid on the Thrash compound.

“Well, I’m certainly glad I have you two along as backup!” Lisa said, sipping her pink lemonade.

“Well, I think it’s actually Lorelei who’s going to be helping us out the most,” replied Shannon. “She’s got more experience and tougher Pokémon than any of us. I’m glad she’s the one in command of this whole operation.

“Then again, that scientist guy seems like he knows what he’s doing, too,” added Alexis, running her hand through her long blond hair..

“Oh, Ein? Yeah, he’ a tough battler. A bit arrogant, but he’ll definitely be of some help, especially with his insider knowledge. So, what do you think this place is like?”

“Probably huge and spread out. Maybe with a bunch of separate buildings, like a college campus.”

“Great…” Lisa sighed and bit down on her straw. “If that’s the case, there’s no telling which one the boss is hiding out in.”

Shannon finished eating a dinner roll. “Well, Lorelei figured that we’d have to scour every building.”

“Anyway, I guess tomorrow is the big day. Let’s just hope that we can end Thrash’s schemes for good this time,” Lisa said as the girls’ food arrived.

Chapter 49: Infiltration Time: Let's Get Dangerous!

In the Quality Inn’s lobby, Lisa met with Lorelei, Ein, Shannon, and Alexis one final time before she headed out to the Pokémon Center to meet up with the Thrash confidant, Lethco. Instead of one of her normal dresses, Lisa was clad in a charcoal-colored lab coat that extended to her ankles.

“Remember that we will be joining you shortly after you arrive. Don’t enter the compound until we all rendezvous. Good luck to you, Lisa.”

“Well, hopefully this is the last time I’ll have to say this, but – let’s get dangerous!” Lisa replied as she began the short walk to the Pokémon Center.

Once in the Center, Lisa ignored the JoyBot at the desk, despite its constant mechanical droning of, “Wel-come to the Mar-quis City Pokémon Center. How may-I help you?” Instead, her attention was focused toward a man in a white lab coat standing in a corner.

As she approached the man, he asked, “Welcome, Lisa. Do you have the ID cards?”

The girl took Jane and Justin’s old Thrash ID cards from her coat pocket and presented both to the man. Taking both cards, he told her, “Indeed, I am Lethco. Before we leave, I must scan your body for any communication devices, surveillance equipment, or weapons.” The man took out a portable metal detector like the ones used by airport security personnel. Scanning Lisa’s entire body with the wand-like device, Lethco told the girl, “You’re all clear. Let us head out to the van.”

At least he didn’t pick up the GPS tracker. Good job, Lorelei.

Outside the center, Lethco ushered Lisa into the back of a black Ford panel truck. “I’ll come get you when we arrive at the base.”

Without another word being spoken, the truck drove off from the Pokémon Center. Lisa put on her seatbelt as she sat in a makeshift seat inside the truck’s cargo hold.
*******

Inside a third-floor hotel room, a young man with striking blue hair watched a computer monitor as a red blinking dot on the screen began to move.

“Commander,” Tony said to Lorelei. “Looks like they’re on the move.”

The red-haired young woman said, “Then we’re heading out. Ein, Alexis, Shannon, we have a car waiting for us at the back entrance to the hotel. Let’s move.”

As the four of them left the room, Tony called after them, “Good luck!”

In the back parking lot was a silver Mercury Grand Marquis. As the group piled into the car, Lorelei explained, “There’s an airstrip about a mile away. We’ll drive out there to board our helicopter.” Then, with a final smile, she said, “It’s go time.”

“I hope that we are all up to facing this challenge,” mused Ein as he stepped into the car’s front passenger seat.
******

The black delivery truck pulled to a stop in front of a four-story building covered in weathered brick and stone. The hotel-like structure was at the end of a barely visible dirt road and surrounded on all sides by thick forests. Perfectly concealed and well off the beaten path, it was little wonder how the place had been kept hidden for so long.

A Chevy Impala police car pulled in behind the truck. As Lethco opened the cargo door to let Lisa out, she wondered, “Lorelei didn’t say anything about the police being involved. What’s going on here?

The portly policeman, J.C. Hauston, stepped out of the patrol car and walked up to Lisa. “Good job leading us right to Thrash’s hideout. There’s only one little problem.”

As two Thrash guards ran out of the compound’s front entrance, Hauston continued, “And that problem is… no outsider who discovers Thrash’s hideout leaves alive.”

“You… you were working for Thrash all along?” It dawned on her. This was the guy who had repeatedly questioned her about her next move, under the guise of a police investigation. He was the one who ruined a chance to have Jane and Justin arrested after their first encounter at her parents’ company. And he was the one who had pulled her and Maxie over on their way up Mount Lexin, presumably to confirm that she was with the traitor.

Lisa continued, “Then again, I should have put the pieces together before.”

“That’s right, Lisa! And to think, I never would have if the stupid Fourtix federal police would have given the Impala police car a chance! I had to import mine from a department in Nebraska!”

Lisa held up her hand. “Wait, wait, wait. You’re telling me that you betrayed your badge and joined with a bunch of terrorists because the police department wouldn’t use your favorite police car?”

“Of course! But enough talk! I, Jeffrey Charles Hauston, shall finish you once and for all! Ready, Lethco?”

Lethco cracked an evil grin. “Oh, you better believe it! Alakazam, attack!”

“Arcanine, it’s go time!”

The two guards behind Lethco and Hauston yelled, “Help them out, Pikachu!”

I knew this whole thing was a trap… But at least I’ve discovered their hideout…

The thin, humanoid Alakazam performed a midair backflip before landing in front of its trainer. Raising both of its arms in the air, sunlight created a blinding reflection off both of the spoons in its hands. The yellow Pokémon’s moustache twitched as it yelled out, “Kazam!”

Hauston’s vicious Arcanine puffed up its bright orange fur. Opening its mouth, the large dog-like Pokémon bared its sharp white fangs. Small embers dripped from its mouth like red-hot drool. Stomping its thick front paws on the ground, the brutish hothead continued to bark and snarl as its tail moved from side to side in a threatening manner.

Bringing up the rear were the two Pikachu – unlike their two partners, the yellow electric rodents were content with squealing loudly and sniffing the other one’s rear end. Their bolt-shaped tails stood up on end, and the faces of the Electric-types seemed to indicate that they were getting high off of whatever they were smelling.

“One question before we start – were Jane and Justin also involved in this little trap of yours?”

“Those two morons? Please!” Lethco scoffed. “We just used those dimwits to get to you! Now, are you gonna fight us or just give in to our demands?”

“Fine, you asked for it! Persian, Vibrava, it’s equation time!”

Sunlight reflected off the red jewel on Persian’s head, giving off a soothing glow. The beige cat’s rounded ears perked up as she eyed Alakazam and Arcanine carefully. Her tail uncurled and stuck straight up in the air, a sign that she was ready to deal out some pain. The Pokémon extended her claws from her paws and prepared to pounce.

Vibrava, the last of Lisa’s Pokémon not to evolve, also looked intently at her foes through her bug-like eyes. The green dragonfly flapped her angular wings at high speed to keep herself airborne. Her thin black legs supported her body when she landed on the ground to rest her wings.

“Oh, this is gonna be sweet! The final curtain is about to fall on top of you, Lisa!” Lethco taunted.
********

A man and woman, both clad in Thrash’s red uniform, were monitoring numerous video screens with surveillance shots of the entire complex.

“We got more company than we planned!” the man yelled out, pointing to one of the monitors. On it, a helicopter was seen coming in for a landing.

“Damn! More unexpected visitors!” The woman pointed to an image of a black Lincoln Town Car making its way down the dirt path leading to the compound. “I’ve gotta notify the boss!” She picked up a phone and began dialing.

In his ornate office, Bart Sy picked up a ringing phone on his desk. “This had better be important. I’m preparing for my showdown with Northwood!”

“Sir! There’s a helicopter and a car making their way toward the hideout!”

“WHAT?! Didn’t that moron Lethco check her over so that she couldn’t be tracked? And didn’t our decoy vans throw off anyone trying to follow him? I swear, if you want something done right...” The boss slammed down his phone and began massaging his Pikachu’s head. “No matter, though… they can send in an entire damn army and it won’t make any difference. Dr. Tony’s perfected our Shadow Pokémon, and it’s almost time to unleash them upon the world to wreak havoc! But after one final test… against Northwood!”

“Pika… Chuuuu!”

Picking up a microphone, the boss made an urgent announcement over the PA system. “Attention all agents. There are interlopers on the way to the compound. You are to stop them at all costs and leave the Northwood girl to me. That is all. Onward to victory!”

On Bart Sy’s desk, his Pikachu pumped its fist in the air, seemingly sensing its master’s impending victory. Behind the desk, a black tarp covered a large object.

“Chaaah!”
*******

Lisa’s Pokémon had made quick work of the two Pikachu, but Lethco and Hauston were proving to be tougher foes. Arcanine and Persian were literally at a stalemate; both had taken heavy hits from the other’s relentless assault, and both mammalian Pokémon had the scars and the heavy breathing to show for it. By combining quick movements with mind-bending Psychic attacks, the wily Alakazam had managed to stop Vibrava in her tracks.

Man, these two are tough…

“Hahaha… What a shame… our admins and boss had also wanted a piece of you, but I suppose they’ll be satisfied if we finish you off! Now, Alakazam, finish Vibrava with Psybeam!”

“Arcanine! Overheat!”

The yellow Psychic-type began positioning its spoons in order to maximize the power of its attack when a sudden bolt of lightning came crashing down on it. Likewise, Arcanine’s attack was cut short by several torpedo-like volleys of water. The big dog howled in pain as the shots of blue liquid struck and drenched it.

“Heh, we figured you could use some backup,” said Lorelei as she approached the battlers.

“Wouldn’t want you to have all the fun, after all,” added Ein.

The pair were accompanied with their Pokémon. Next to Lorelei was a purple star-shaped Pokémon that stood on two of its multiple points. The shimmering red octagonal jewel at the Pokémon’s core reflected the sunlight to create a rainbow-colored kaleidoscope surrounding it. Ein’s Pokémon was a perfect sphere. With white on top and red below, the ball smiled at its opponents as it spun around, emitting sparks as it rotated.

“Where the hell did this backup come from?! Lethco, how did you let these fools find the base?”

“Hey, don’t blame ME! I did everything right! Maybe they followed YOU in, Hauston!”

While the pair were arguing, they failed to notice their Pokémon being ganged up on. Finally, the pained cries of their partners brought the two to attention.

‘Take out the weakest link, Arcanine! Hyper Beam!”

“Finally, you’re thinking straight! Nail it with Psychic!”

The air around Vibrava began to distort due to powerful mental waves. At the same time, the massive mutt opened its fiery jaw and fired off a yellow beam of pure energy. As the attacks began to converge on the green Dragon-type, the intended victim began to emit massive amounts of blinding white light. Both Psychic and Hyper Beam were absorbed into the shimmering figure. Lisa watched in anticipation as her Pokémon began to change shape and grow.

Awesome… you’ve finally evolved!

Once the white glow wore off, the resulting Pokémon was significantly larger than before. Now able to fly continuously in the air by flapping her much larger wings, she still retained the same shade of light green as before. The new Pokémon’s long, wide tail swished back and forth as she watched her opponents through bulging red eyes. The thin black legs of her old form were replaced by large hind legs and short stubby arms.

“All, right, sweet! You evolved! Alright, Flygon, let’s finish these two!” Lisa cheered.

“You fool! It still won’t be enough to beat us!” Hauston sneered.

The newly evolved Flygon blitzed toward both opposing Pokémon, with the claws on her hands glowing brightly. The green Dragon-type flew headlong into Alakazam’s frail body, delivering several slashes to the face as the yellow adversary fell to the ground. Flygon landed with her two feet planted firmly on Alakazam’s body and standing triumphantly over it.

“Impossible! My magnificent Alakazam!” Lethco hollered as he called the bruised Psychic-type back.

Letting out a loud howl, Arcanine charged in at Flygon with its teeth engulfed in flame. Before the dog cold chomp down, Lorelei’s Starmie interfered by launching a steady stream of bubbles at it. The soaking strike stopped the hothead in its tracks, only to be met with a sparking electric bolt courtesy of Ein’s spherical Electrode.

As a final measure, Persian heaved a mysterious black orb at Arcanine. The Shadow Ball exploded in its face, causing the orange beast’s legs to give out. As it fell to the ground, Hauston called it back as he stomped his foot in a tantrum.

“Dammit! The boss didn’t mention anything about the girl having backup!” Lethco yelled as he and Hauston retreated into the compound.

“Oh, and the Chevy Impala does suck as a police car! Wimpy little V-6 engine in that thing!” Lisa called after them.

“Should we chase them?” asked Shannon, rubbing her short black hair.

“That shall not be necessary,” answered Ein. “We’ve made a few calls, and soon every police officer on duty will be swarming here like Beedrill. Even the military and the Elite Four will be on standby. Then again, if they do have those Shadow Pokémon perfected, all the backup in the world may not be enough… Anyway, let’s get a move on.”

Lisa nodded. “You’re right. These guys aren’t going to defeat themselves.”

Lorelei dug into her coat’s pocket and took out Lisa’s PDA, a two-way radio, and a small black device. Handing them to the girl, the former Elite Four member said, “Here. These should prove useful.”

“Thanks,” Lisa replied as she took the items and pocketed them.

“I also have some gear for you to put on. Please do so in the back of my car.”

Lisa emerged from the back seat of the Mercury sedan a few moments later, looking like she had put on some weight. “All right. I’m ready.”

“Okay, let’s go.”

The group of five made their way into the unassuming building, steeled for whatever challenges were inside.

Stationed at a desk just inside the base were faces that were unfamiliar to Lisa, but instantly recognizable to Alexis and Shannon. The man and woman both wore lots of purple and silver, ranging from their headdresses to their long robes.

“Mwofwofwofwofwofwo! Look what we have here, my dear Abyssa! A group of intruders, and among them are those two dreadful girls that got us arrested and ruined our plans to become governors! Oh, what sweet revenge this shall be!” The shifty man adjusted the purple shades that rested on his face before striking a pose. The giant mood ring on his neck began to glow violet as well.

“Oh, but Snattle-poo, whatever shall we do?” the man’s similarly dressed female partner cackled as she took a Pokéball from a pocket on her robe.

“I’d say it’s time to unleash Solrock on them! Mwofwofwofwofwo!”

“Excellent plan, my dear! And may I suggest Charizard to back it up!”

Alexis said, “Shan and I have had dealings with these two clowns before. The rest of you, just go on. We’ll keep these two busy in the meantime!”

The couple unleashed two orange-colored Pokémon. Snattle’s was a large circular rock with squinted eyes, in the shape of a sun. Abyssa’s lizard-like Pokémon roared as it spread its blue wings wide. Its long flaming tail was swishing back and forth behind it as it made a nosedive toward the girls. Both had their Pokéballs ready to toss out.

As the two girls prepared to hold off Snattle and Abyssa, the rest of the team rushed past the front desk and down a hallway.

Lorelei noticed Lisa eyeing the surveillance cameras on the walls. She told the girl, “Thrash already knows we’re here. Pay the cameras no mind.”

“Weird,” Lisa commented as the group ran down the hall as fast as they could in their ankle-length lab coats. “I would have expected to see this place teeming with grunts, but these hallways seem pretty clear.”

“There must be some reason for this,” Lorelei said in response. “Some reason why Thrash deliberately lured you to their hideout, some reason why there’s so few guards, and some reason why it’s a straight-line path instead of a labyrinth of hallways.”

“May I suggest that Bart Sy actually wants you to find him, and the guards that are here are only to keep the rest of us busy. He probably wants to stage a grand showdown with you alone,” Ein said.

“And knowing him, he’s probably got some wily scheme up his sleeve. This will probably be a match of wits every bit as much as it’ll be a match of Pokémon strength,” Lisa replied.

“I beg to differ. Having worked with despots who have used Shadow Pokémon, I know that they’re used solely for their brute strength and their robotic personality. Hey, watch it!” Ein yelled out suddenly.

Lisa and Lorelei stopped dead in their tracks. “Look there.” The scientist pointed to a brass wall ornament in the shape of a Growlithe’s head, mounted about four feet off the ground.

“You’re right,” Lorelei said. “Let’s try this.” The bespectacled young woman removed some lip balm from her pocket and threw it forward, right in front of the statue. A brilliant red laser shot out from the Growlithe’s mouth, obliterating the projectile. As pieces of plastic rained on the tile floor, Lorelei pushed the glasses up on her face. “Well, we’ve solved the question of why there aren’t any roving guards.”

“Indeed. We all need to be on the watch for these traps,” Lisa added.

After ducking several more laser-spitting statues, the three arrived at an elevator at the far end of the hall. From two rooms on either side of the hallway, a pair of sentries burst directly into the path of Lisa, Ein, and Lorelei. Both short men wore mirror-like shades and white lab coats.

“Stop! There was an eighty-six percent chance you would be coming this way, so that’s why we’re here! If we let you pass, there will be a seventy-four percent chance that we’ll be fired! But, we’ve intercepted you, so the odds of you getting by us are only fifteen percent! Now Acrod, shall we show them why their chances of winning are zero?”

“Look, Snidle, just shut up with your stupid numbers and battle!”

Lorelei whispered, “Lisa, we’ll keep them busy. You need to get on that elevator and head to whatever floor the boss is on!”

The girl nodded. “Right.” As she made a beeline for the elevator, Ein and Lorelei whipped out their Pokéballs.

“Please, allow us to show you that your numbers are wack.”

Inside the elevator, Lisa looked at the panel with the controls, showing four floors. The buttons for the second and third floors were removed. “If I was an egotistical maniac bent on world domination, I’d stick my office on the top floor. Plus the other buttons are gone, so…

“How convenient,” Lisa muttered as she mashed the button marked “4.” It lit as the ancient elevator’s creaking began to move the machine upward slowly. “It’s almost too easy…”
*******

Inside the makeshift command center, four people were huddled around a laptop placed on the room’s desk. In the leather desk chair, Tony Parito was monitoring the locations of each member of the five-trainer infiltration team. Two pairs of blinking dots were remaining in place on opposite ends of what appeared to be a large building, while the fifth dot was quickly making its way from one end to the other, presumably on a higher floor.

Just then a knock was heard on the hotel room’s door. “I’ll get it,” said Amy Sequoia as she stood up straight and headed for the door. “Wonder who it could be.”

Looking through the peephole, she instantly recognized the visitor’s face. Unlatching the security chain and the deadbolt lock, she opened the door to be greeted with a young man with vivid, pointed blond hair, which was almost a yellow color. This man had a muscular build and was wearing a yellow tank top and khaki pants. Removing his sunglasses, the man said, “Ah, Amy. So, I guess this means I have the correct room.”

“Yes, Victor, welcome to our humble command post. Please, come in.”

“Everyone,” Dr. Sequoia announced, “I’d like to introduce you to Victor Hightower, the leader of our region’s Elite Four.”

“There will be time for formal introductions later. Right now I need to know the status of our infiltration.”

Tony turned around in the leather office chair to face Victor. “We haven’t heard any reports from the team, but we’re going on a ‘no news is good news’ protocol – they’ll only radio us if any problems arise. So, I presume everything is still going as planned.”

“Excellent. I’ve just radioed the rest of our Elite Four. Sterling, Ashley, and Carol are currently waiting outside on standby. If anything comes up, we can dispatch them into the compound to clean things up.” Victor rubbed his chin. “I’m betting that we took the Brotherhood by complete surprise. They were probably expecting only Lisa.”

Tony wasn’t so sure. “Only thing is, it looks like Thrash is keeping everyone but Lisa busy with Pokémon battles. We have two pairs of dots that are staying in place while the fifth one is moving. I assume the moving dot is Lisa while the other four are engaged in battle.” The young man brushed some of his blue hair out of his face with his left hand. “So, it seems clear to me that the guards in that place are only to keep the others busy.”

The Elite Four leader nodded. “That seems plausible, especially if the leader wants to take Lisa on one-on-one. Unfortunately, that also means that he must be pretty confident he can beat her without any assistance. Which leads me to believe that they’ve finally got their Shadow Pokémon perfected and ready to unleash. That would certainly be worrisome…”

“Only time will tell… But hopefully, for everyone’s sake, those monstrosities aren’t ready yet… Anyway, I dug up some information on who this ‘Bart Sy’ character might be.” Victor opened a manila folder and spread several photos and printouts on the bed.

“I acquired the records of all trainers who received starter Pokémon from the laboratory in Fort Barnes. In September of 1976, a ten-year old named Bartholomew Tyson Junger received a Meowth from the laboratory. Yet mysteriously, records at the Bluefield City Pokémon Gym show that he did not earn a badge there until October of 1977 – over a year later.”

“Very interesting,” Tony remarked as both he and Amy Sequoia scratched their chins in thought.

“Records from that Gym battle showed he used a Growlithe and Pikachu to win there, back when Bluefield was still a Dark-type Gym. Note that he did not use the Meowth issued to him a year prior. Bart’s family moved out of that house not long before that Gym battle, and guess what the new tenants found in the backyard?”

“Let me guess… a Meowth, right?” speculated Archie.

“Yep,” Victor said, “a dead Meowth buried in the backyard, a bullet hole in its head. At the time, officers didn’t know who in the family was responsible, so no charges were filed. According to police reports, the son wasn’t a suspect at the time because of his age, and his parents’ whereabouts were unknown.”

“Of course, now Bart is a suspect, is that correct?” asked Shelly.

“Exactly. Anyway, throughout the rest of the year, Bart Sy continued to earn badges throughout the region, and participated in the Pokémon League tournament in early 1978, placing in the top thirty-two. And that’s where our records of him stop. He did not participate in the Pokémon Leagues since. And one more chilling bit of information – during his badge earning trek, Bart Sy reportedly left numerous wild Pokémon in his wake, all dead due to bullet wounds.”

“So, we know that this guy had a track record of unusual cruelty to Pokémon – even going as far as to murder them. Obviously, if he’s creating Shadow Pokémon now, there’s little doubt he intends to use them to kill.” Dr. Sequoia looked worriedly at her companions. “I think the danger level has just risen to eleven.” The others in the room nodded silently in agreement.
********

“But… This is impossible… Our Pokémon lost?”

“You were up against a former Elite Four member and a man who used to be a supervisor with Cipher. Did you honestly think you stood a chance?” Lorelei asked, with her hands confidently on her hips.

Acrod and Snidle were livid. Their faces were bright red. They would not stand for this defiance. Both men began burying their hands into their lab coats. Spotting this, Ein calmly did the same. Both Thrash scientists drew handguns and aimed their weapons at their adversaries. Ein’s hand was just a bit quicker, taking out a small electrical device. Before Acrod and Snidle could get their shots off, a crackling noise could be heard, followed promptly by the pained screams of the two guards as they dropped to the floor.

“So, it was a smart idea to give everyone the TASERS. But why wait until they pulled guns?”

“We were told to follow police protocol as closely as possible when using these things,” Ein explained. “We’re only to use them when our lives are in clear and present danger.”

“Understood. Now, let us make haste. I’m sure the other team has already made it past us, and they may require our assistance.”

The scientist nodded as he and Lorelei stepped into the elevator. By the time Acrod and Snidle had recovered from their shock treatment, their quarry was gone.

“Dammit, alert the boss!”

“Even though there’s a ninety-four percent chance we’ll be docked pay?”

Acrod slapped his number-spewing partner across the face, leaving a considerable bruise. “Of course, you idiot!”
*******

In the building’s lobby, the battle was still raging. A light brown rock in the shape of a crescent moon was spinning in midair, building up psychic energy. It abruptly stopped rotating, with its pointed “nose” and striking red eyes focused on a small green Pokémon. At once, the flowery creature found itself being hit with an invisible blast of energy that caused the dress-like foliage on its lower body to flutter violently.

Standing tall, a hairy yellow Pokémon with bug like antennae atop its head began charging its right fist with electricity. Letting out a battle cry, it quickly ran toward a bloated blue rabbit with a white bubble pattern on its body. As the crackling yellow fist made contact with blue blubber, the pained Water-type cried out in pain before collapsing.

“Argh, no!” Abyssa yelled out. “Azumarill, return! Snattle-poo, it’s up to you!”

“Very well! Lunatone, another Psychic!”

Once again rotating while hovering, Lunatone’s scarlet eyes began to give off an eerie glow as both Bellossom and Electabuzz felt the invisible aura affect their minds.

Disguising their worry, the two girls prepared to give their orders.

“Electabuzz, jumping Thunderpunch!”

“Okay, Bellossom, let’s wrap this battle up with Petal Dance!”

Using its muscular legs to gain altitude, the big Electric-type sprang up into the air and slammed the rocky Psychic-type with an electrified right fist. The hard blow grounded Lunatone long enough for the Grass-type to get off its attack. The little green Pokémon began spinning like a ballerina, causing a flurry of pink flower petals to form from underneath its skirt and shoot right toward the foe. Bellossom’s projectiles cut sharp grooves into the rocky moon’s skin, causing the Pokémon to fall flat on the tile floor. It lay motionless as Snattle bellowed in rage.

“Dammit! My promotion!” Snattle looked on with his mouth hanging wide open, his mood ring necklace glowing the same vivid shade of red that was plastered on his face.

“Th… this is an embarrassment to our good name! We cannot show our faces around here any longer!” Abyssa picked the bottom of her silver and purple evening gown off the floor before dashing toward the exit, with her husband jogging close behind. The couple ran outside – and right into the waiting arms of half a dozen police officers.

As the couple submitted without further resistance, Alexis and Shannon looked on. “Well, I’m not sure how those two got out of jail, but it looks like they’re going right back where they belong,” Alexis said.

“Yeah, and hopefully they’ll stay behind bars for a long while this time,” Shannon added. “Well, we better use these healing medicines on our Pokémon, then catch up with the others.”
********

Lisa had made it about halfway down the fourth floor corridor when she was confronted by another pair of guards bursting through doors on either side of the hall. One was male, the other female. Both had muscular builds and were wearing the standard red Thrash jumpsuits. “What, are these guys assigned to ambush us in pairs?”

“So, Lisa, we meet again!”

“Um… have we met before?” the girl asked, looking at the hulking woman.

Almost in a rage, the woman bellowed, “Surely you remember me, Nancy? The one who had that Arcanine? When your Meowth evolved into Persian and mopped the floor with my Pokémon? Remember me now?”

“Oh, yeah… Now I remember! Ready for another beat-down? And who’s your boyfriend?” Lisa asked, smirking at her foes.

“Just call me Bruiser and shut up and battle,” the man answered.

“I’d love to, but I’ve got a meeting with your boss.”

Nancy and the man called ‘Bruiser’ blocked Lisa’ path. “Oh, you ain’t gettin’ by us that easily! You battle us one-on-one. Our Arcanine wants revenge on your Persian, and against the boss’s orders, that’s how we’ll face you.”

“Oh, fine. Persian, let’s get this equation dealt with!”

“Arcanine, time for your long-awaited revenge! Go!” Before Lisa had even fished the Luxury Ball out of her deep pockets, Nancy had already released her battle partner.

The teen faced an Arcanine for the second time that day. But this one seemed to recognize Lisa – and was not pleased about seeing her face. Opening its maw, the fiery canine spit out numerous small flames at the girl. Its orange and tan fur was standing up on end as it snarled and snapped its jaws, flame forming in its mouth.

After dodging fiery bullets, Lisa finally had the chance to send out her starter Pokémon. The lithe, agile cat flexed her leg muscles, smiling at her opponent tauntingly. She would not be intimidated by this oversized hairball. With the overhead lights reflecting off her red jewel, she carefully eyed Arcanine before lunging at it, claws at the ready. With one quick Slash, she sent the big dog reeling, before Lisa had a chance to call out an order.

The trainers did not have to give their Pokémon commands; these two had a score of their own to settle. Arcanine took a deep breath and launched a huge fireball at its feline adversary. As the projectile moved in, Persian took a crouching stance, timing herself. In a flash, she sprang up like a rubber ball. As she descended, she cut a diagonal slice across Arcanine’s side in a perfectly executed Aerial Ace and landed gracefully behind the foe. The dog quickly spun around and charged at Persian, jaws wide open.

In response, Persian opened her own mouth, unleashing a brilliant blue beam of pulsating water. The soaking strike stopped Arcanine in its tracks and drenched its ruffled orange fur. With her foe stunned, Persian compounded the pain by sending a sizzling blast of crackling electricity toward her target, lighting up the firebrand like the Fourth of July. Smoke and steam began rising from the Pokémon’s body as a result of the attacks, but Arcanine somehow managed to stay on its feet.

Persian taunted her foe, waving her front paw as if to say, “Bring it.” Enraged by this lack of respect, the brutish dog fired off another huge mass of flame, this one spreading out to form a five pronged star formation. Persian waited for the attack to close in on her as Lisa looked on nervously. “Come on… you HAVE to do something…

The wily feline finally acted, throwing up a green protective sphere that enclosed her entire body. The flames of the Fire Blast deflected off the barrier, spreading in all directions. Some of the resultant embers dissipated into the air; others hit the walls and ceiling, leaving black scorch marks in their wake.

“Awesome! I didn’t know you had Protect!”

“Arcanine! I thought you wanted revenge! Get your head in the game and kill that thing!” Nancy screamed at the top of her lungs, a wild, irrational look of rage on her face.

Howling loudly, Arcanine encased its entire body in flame and began charging at Persian. The running mass of fur and fire never made contact with its intended target, as Lisa’s starter merely sidestepped to the right. The flaming Arcanine rushed past her like a locomotive on fire, and crashed into a wall. Disoriented from slamming into a solid barrier at full speed, the Fire-type slumped down on the floor. As a finisher, Persian unleashed a Shadow Ball at her downed foe. The sinister sphere struck the motionless mass of orange fur that used to be an angry Pokémon out for blood.

“What?! Our Arcanine lost?!” Nancy bellowed as she looked on. “Fine, go!” she pouted. “Just… Get out of my face!”

“Our boss will exact revenge for us,” added Bruiser.

Happy to oblige, Lisa sprinted past the pair as they did nothing more to hinder her progress. But another familiar voice stopped her.

“Looks like we finally caught up with you,” came the cool, calm voice of Lorelei.

“Hey, have you seen Alexis and Shannon?”

“No,” Ein answered, rubbing his chin, as was his habit. “I imagine they’re still tied up in a battle downstairs. Let us make haste, now.”

Nodding, Lisa followed her two older partners as all three ducked underneath another of the laser-spitting statues. “I don’t see anything on this floor that resembles the office of Bart Sy. Just more guards and these… ugh… annoying Growlithes!” Lisa muttered as she once again got on her hands and knees to sneak by a brass-trimmed trap.

At the end of the hallway was a stairwell leading to the roof. “It would seem that the boss is holed up in the rooftop penthouse. Fitting place for him to lurk, actually.”

The sounds of footsteps could be heard as the tactical team reached the stairs. When he saw who the new challengers were, a sly smirk formed on Ein’s face.

The first to appear at the bottom of the stairs was a dark-skinned man with a black goatee and a shaved head. He was dressed in blue slacks, a long white lab coat, and frameless eyeglasses. He was soon followed by a young woman with a lot of black. Her hair, eyeliner, thick lipstick, leather jacket, and knee-length boots were all dark as the midnight sky. A white halter top, red plaid miniskirt, and fishnet stockings completed her look.

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t ‘Doctor’ Tony ‘3.96 GPA’ Jackson,” Ein sneered, making air quotes as he said the word ‘Doctor’ with emphasis. This comment had the effect of making Tony’s face turn red and twist into a look of pure rage and hatred.

“I see,” said Lorelei as she pushed her glasses up on her face. “So, this is the ‘other’ Tony you’ve been mentioning, Ein.” As expected, this did nothing to calm Tony’s nerves, as his teeth began grinding even louder, even chipping off small shards of white enamel. Lorelei continued, “But Goth-girl Betty is hardly who I’d envision him partnering with.”

“It’s been a long time, Betty. Perhaps you’d like another taste of what real music is.”

Firing up the MP3 player on her PDA, Lisa began playing a song to infuriate Betty.

“I've got a witness happy to say
Every hour, every day.

“Every heartbeat bears your name
Loud and clear they stake my claim
My red blood runs true blue
And every heartbeat belongs to you…”

“Arrgh! Stop playing that crap! You’re a TEENAGER for crying out loud! Would it kill you to listen to music with a bit of an edge?” Betty screamed.

“If you’re talking hard rock music, then yes, yes it would kill me to listen to music with an ‘edge,’ okay?” Lisa answered.

“Grrr… as much as I would like to kill you for your atrocious taste in music, we have orders to stop your two friends. And I’m not about to disappoint the boss again…”

Meanwhile, Ein and Tony were engaged in their own heated war of words. “Sad, pathetic little Tony. I bet even this Shadow Pokémon device you created for Bart Sy is a colossal failure.”

“Wh… what? You’re a damn fool, Ein! Betty! Get over here so I can pound some sense into this clown’s bloated head!”

Lisa ran up the stairs as her two allies prepared to face off with Tony and Betty.

“Muk, it’s time! Attack!”

“Gyarados, it’s you! Destroy those two!”

Letting out a ferocious roar, the huge serpentine Gyarados made its introduction, slithering its long finned body on the floor like a snake. The Water-type’s scaly blue skin clattered on the tile floor as it moved about. The gelatinous purple form of Muk slid its way on the ground, leaving drops of thick sludge in its wake. Opening its huge mouth to bellow out a low-pitched “Muuuuuuuk!” the toxic Pokémon used two sticky, slimy hands to push its body around.

“Fine then. Manectric, time to battle!” Ein shouted.

“Back him up, Lapras!”

Leaving the battle behind, Lisa finally made her way to the building’s rooftop. Seeing no obstacles between her and the penthouse door, she made her way as fast as she could, despite her heavy breathing. She was also beginning to sweat as a result of the heavy clothes she was wearing.

Almost there… Surprised there’s no resistance up here, though…

As she neared the entrance, a figure emerged from behind a large ventilation tube and fired six shots from a pistol into Lisa’s chest and stomach. As the girl’s lifeless body slumped to the ground, the figure – a surprisingly muscular elderly man in a black suit stood tall over her as he put his unloaded Glock back in its holster.

“Lisa Northwood… Finally, I have made you pay for besmirching my good name!”

Chapter 50: Out of the Shadows: Terror Unleashed

As Tommy Junger stood over the lifeless body of his fallen nemesis, he began to cackle. “What a glorious day for me! Not only have I killed this wretched girl, I have secured the success of my son, my promotion to Administrator, and, once we take over the world, my name will be cleared of all wrongdoing!”

Continuing to gloat, Tommy had failed to notice Lisa’s eyes open. With one swift leg sweep, she tripped the old man, taking him by complete surprise.

“What the hell happened? You… How on earth did you survive?!” he stuttered as Lisa rose to her feet. Still on the ground, the elderly Thrash member holstered his .40 caliber pistol and repeatedly pulled the trigger, failing to remember that he had emptied the weapon.

Lisa pulled open her bullet-riddled coat to reveal the secret to her survival – full body armor covering her from neck to ankles. Each of Tommy’s six bullets had made their mark on the woven black surface, but none had penetrated the armor.

“Let’s do some math. Three layers of Kevlar plus two solid steel trauma plates equals… no revenge for you! Sure, it isn’t as comfortable or cute as my dress, but I’ll learn to live with it. In fact, I already have!” Lisa grabbed her chest. The bullets might have been stopped , but they still left a stinging sensation from the impact.

Tommy pulled himself up and made a beeline for Lisa, his fist ready to land a punch to her face. Reacting in a flash, Lisa whipped out a small device from her pocket. Fifty-thousand volts and some crackling noises later, the old man found himself grounded again, this time with his body convulsing and spazzing as he lay helpless.

“Well, Jolteon packs a bigger punch, but, oh, well. See ya later!” Lisa waved at her incapacitated rival as she made her way to the boss’s penthouse, still clutching her chest. She waited a few minutes for the pain in her chest to subside before opening the door.
********

Confidently, Ein commanded, “Return, Rhydon.”

“Excellent work, Jynx,” said Lorelei.

As the two Pokémon were returned, the opponents – Tony and Betty – were flabbergasted.

“Dammit, Ein… Why can’t I beat you at anything? Pokémon battles, math class, even trivia night at Baxter’s… You’re always showing me up! Why?”

The scientist smirked. “It is because, quite frankly, I’m smarter than you. If you would like me to explain further, you’re free to make a phone call to me from prison. Now, if you’ll excuse us…”

“To hell with you! Come on, Betty, we’re off to TJ McTipsy’s! I need a beer!”

“I suppose I could drown my sorrows with some Jack and Coke…” the woman muttered as the two administrators fled in defeat.

“Heh. They’ll be tackled by a swarm of cops before they even get their drink order in,” Lorelei mused.

Before Lorelei and Ein started up the stairs, they heard someone calling out to them.

“Hey, you guys! Sorry we’re late!” Alexis yelled as she and Shannon made their way toward their partners, making sure to duck underneath a final brass Growlithe statue.

“Don’t worry about it. Now, we need to make our way to the rooftop. I have a feeling Lisa may need our assistance,” Lorelei replied.

Shannon nodded in agreement. “Right. Let’s go.”

The quartet of trainers made their way to Bart Sy’s chamber without further interference. Arriving at the door, however, they discovered that the boss had locked himself and Lisa inside the penthouse.

“Great… we can’t get in…” Ein muttered. Whipping out his cell phone, he called the police officers outside. “This is Ein. The building is clear, but we need to have a battering ram brought up to the roof. And watch out for the brass Growlithe heads on the walls – they have motion detectors and shoot laser beams if you trip them.”

“I just hope Lisa’s okay in there…”
********

“So, Miss Northwood. We meet again.” Bart Sy let out a sinister, mechanical chuckle as he drank from a wine glass. He had removed his face mask, but his huge red hood and wraparound shades still hid most of his face. The teal-haired Ardos stood next to his boss, arms folded flat across his chest. Both leaders had wicked smirks plastered on their faces.

“Cut the formalities. We both know you wanted me to come here. What do you want from me?” Lisa spat at her nemesis.

“Long story short, my Pokémon will kill you here so I can unleash an army of supercharged Shadow Pokémon on the world and take over this pathetic planet.”

Lisa scowled and folded her arms across her chest. “Seems pretty extreme for someone who’s following some crazy religious prophecy.”

Bart Sy let out a laugh. “So you believed that too? Please. The ‘religion’ and ‘prophecy’ were both complete bull. It’s just a story I made to get mindless fools to follow me. But the part about me wanting to make all Pokémon obey humans is completely true. I started with a Meowth just like you. Unlike yours, mine refused to obey me. Cost me a year of my life, moping around and trying to figure out what to do next.

“Then I came up with a plan that would spare anyone else the hassle of putting up with disobedient Pokémon – turn them into mindless, soulless Shadow Pokémon! And now, my glorious dream shall come true! Feel honored, Miss Northwood; you shall be the first witness to MY Shadow Pokémon’s awesome power! Of course, you will also be the first victim of that awesome power, but those are the breaks.”

“Not if I can help it!” screamed Lisa, shaking her fist at the hooded man in red.

“You cannot do anything,” Ardos told her. “You shall die here in this very room, and so will your Pokémon.”

“Think you can do anything? Then prepare for battle! I will use only one Pokémon. You may use however the hell many you want to. Not that it makes a difference on my part. Now, meet the first superior Thrash Shadow Pokémon ever created! Welcome… Pikachu!”

Holding a black Pokéball with a red “T” emblazoned on it, the enigmatic leader unleashed his Pokémon. The tiny yellow mouse appeared, surrounded by a visible cloud of black energy. Unlike any other Pikachu Lisa had ever seen, its eyes glowed a vivid scarlet, and its face had a terrifying, demonic expression on it. Brimming with energy, electric bolts were constantly shooting from the tips of its pointed ears and its bolt-shaped tail. Instead of its cutesy squeals, this Pikachu let out deep, thunderous roars of rage. Surprising for a creature of its size, every step it took resulted in a small tremor.

“Wh… what have you done to that thing?”

Bart Sy performed an acrobatic forward flip, vaulting over his desk and landing directly behind the Shadow Pikachu. “Exactly what should’ve been done to Pokémon eons ago! We couldn’t hide its Shadow Aura because of its added power, but it’s not like we’ll need to conceal it anyway! Now, send out your Pokémon! You’re only delaying your inevitable death!”

“Heh. Come on. We’re waiting,” taunted Ardos.

“Fine! Let’s see you two try to zap Jolteon, then!” the girl screamed as she pitched forth her Pokéball.

The yellow Electric-type appeared, but after taking one look at who his opponent was, he retreated behind Lisa, with one paw covering his black eyes.

“Look, I know that thing looks terrifying,” Lisa whispered, “but if we can’t beat it, the entire world will be in jeopardy. Please, I’m counting on you to try to do your very best.”

“Oh, stop being all lovey-dovey with your damn Pokémon and just attack, Northwood!” Bart Sy glanced at his wrist with an annoyed frown on his face.

Jolteon stepped forward slowly, still shaking a bit. But he was determined to fight this monstrosity to the end.

“All right! Let’s show this thing what a real Pokémon can do!”

“Well, finally the fun can begin! Shadow Bolt!” commanded Bart Sy.

Roaring, the Pikachu sent a streak of shadowy purple energy shooting straight up from the tip of its tail like a rocket. A moment later, that dark energy came crashing down on Jolteon in the form of a lightning bolt brimming with the same dark aura that surrounded the Shadow Pokémon. The Electric-type cried out in pain as the sinister attack from above left noticeable black marks on it bright yellow body.

“Oh, no! But… Jolteon’s supposed to be able to absorb electric attacks!” Lisa stammered.

“You fool! It only looks like an Electric attack! It’s actually concentrated dark matter! Just like this! Pikachu, Shadow Ray!”

“Jolteon, try an Agility to confound it, then move in for a Bite!” Lisa yelled.

As Lisa’s Pokémon began rapidly dashing around the arena, Pikachu began gathering a black aura above its head. Not even paying attention to the opposition, the sinister Shadow Pokémon let loose with a massive ray of dark energy. The attack wasted no time in finding its speedy foe – and blasting him off his feet. Meandering about as it homed in on its target, the Shadow Ray struck right in Jolteon’s rear, sending the unfortunate victim falling head-first onto the floor.

“We aren’t through yet!” the girl screamed. “Now, Thunder Wave to slow it down!”

Ardos gave the teen a sinister smirk. “End this crap with Shadow Slime!”

Pikachu was lightning fast in its assault, not even giving its foe the chance to begin charging up its attack. Turning its back to Jolteon, the crude and rude Shadow Pokémon launched a stream of smoky black energy from its rear, splattering Jolteon’s face.

“Eew, gross!” Lisa scoffed as the disgusting attack smacked her Pokémon, leaving a black residue behind. “Man, how can this thing pull off so many attacks?”

Bart Sy boasted, “It’s because of all the extra Shadow energy we crammed into it! We even discovered new, deadlier Shadow techniques during our experiments! Like this one!”

As Jolteon tried to wipe the slime from its face with his front paw, Pikachu charged in for a sneak attack. With its foot brimming with a mysterious aura, it landed a hard kick to its enemy’s face. The brutal strike knocked Jolteon to the floor and left a sizable mark on his face. Breathing heavily, it struggled to its feet, with Lisa watching worriedly, her knees shaking.

“Thunderbolt, Jolteon! Hopefully this’ll work!” Lisa’s knees were shaking and she pointed an unsteady finger at her opponent.

“You can hope all you want,” bragged the enigmatic boss, “but it won’t help you now! Not against a Shadow Pulse!”

The embattled Jolteon gathered up enough energy to let loose with a yellow electrical charge. Despite hitting his target right in the gut, the normally crippling move did nothing to slow the Pikachu’s assault. By swishing its tail back and forth like a metronome, the mutated Pokémon generated a circle of black smoke surrounding it. The sinister ring began to increase in diameter as the attack spread out.

Knowing he could not dodge the attack, Jolteon tried to jump over the wave as it approached. Although he succeeded in getting past the first Shadow Pulse, Pikachu simply sent another one his way, and it was ready to knock Jolteon off his feet as soon as he landed after his jump. With his eyes closed, the spiky yellow Electric-type was too bruised and exhausted to get up.

“No! Jolteon, come back and rest your wounds!” Lisa’s shaking hands clasped another Pokéball. “Walrein, let’s try you!” the girl shouted as she threw the sphere, trying her best to put on a façade of confidence.

Walrein took to the battlefield, letting out a mighty roar as he showed off his enormous gleaming tusks. With the white fur on his head shaking slightly, the walrus propelled his hefty blue body forward using his powerful front flippers. Looking intently at his foe, he called out again, and Lisa could sense the anger in his voice.

“That’s it?” sneered Ardos. “Child’s play. Pikachu, Shadow Quake!”

The tiny Pokémon jumped and performed a midair flip. Upon landing, wave upon wave of dark energy began spreading out from the point of impact, accompanied by the floor rumbling underneath. Each energy wave made Walrein bellow in agony as they passed below him, while the tremor itself shook up both Pokémon and Trainer.

“Walrein, I know that hurt, but please try a Water Pulse!”

Bart Sy mocked his teenage adversary, “Oh, what’s with all this ‘please’ crap? Honestly! Pikachu, time to obliterate this pile of lard with Shadow Kick!”

Pikachu starting dashing toward its blubbery adversary. Walrein attempted to stop it with numerous volleys of pulsating water waves, but the acrobatic Shadow Pokémon skillfully sidestepped, jumped over, and flipped over each one, finally getting close enough to it quarry to execute a midair roundhouse kick, its foot brimming with dark purple energy.

Despite being much smaller, Pikachu’s hit managed to knock Walrein clear across the room in an unbelievable show of power. The hapless Pokémon slammed against the wall as Lisa began to grab at her lab coat, her legs shaking. As Walrein attempted to drag his bulk back into the fray, Pikachu shot a pair of red beams from its eyes, compounding the pain. The white tufts of fur on the Ice-type’s face showed bruises both from the devastating kick and the twin laser beam attacks.

“Urgh! Walrein, use Water Pulse again! This is one fight we can’t afford to lose!”

“Pathetic little girl. Now you shall learn the true meaning of pain! Shadow Slam!” Ardos gave Lisa a sly smirk, and she shot back a look of rage.

Walrein took a deep breath and prepared to let loose another Water Pulse, but Pikachu would not have any of that. Like a gymnast, it agilely flipped over the attack. While in midair, it cloaked its entire body in an envelope of black smoke. The tiny Pokémon came crashing down directly on top of the Ice-type, eliciting a pained howl from the victim as he slumped down. Pikachu flipped off of its victim and launched a dark purple energy sphere at the hapless Pokémon, compounding the damage.

Lisa looked on in fear as her Pokémon lay motionless. Slowly but surely, however, the big walrus mustered the power to lift his head and let out an enraged roar of his own.

“I’m not sure how that thing’s still conscious, but I’ll take care of that! Shadow Rush!”

“Walrein, stop it in its tracks with an Ice Beam!”

The vicious Shadow Pokémon began sprinting headlong at its much larger foe. Not even a direct hit with Ice Beam could stop it; the attack struck the shadowy rodent and splintered off into tiny shards of ice as the Pokémon continued its head-first charge. Despite being much smaller, Pikachu rammed into Walrein with more than enough force to send the massive Water-type crashing into a wall.

Lisa didn’t need to ask Walrein if he could continue; the answer was obvious by his lack of movement. With a panicked expression, she took out the Pokémon’s holding sphere and withdrew him from the melee.

“Now, Flygon and Metagross! Let’s try strength in numbers! Go!” More than just a small hint of nervousness was in her quivering voice as she lobbed the two Pokéballs into the fray.

The chrome Steel-type emerged, its four-legged massive form easily eclipsing its smaller opponent. Its piercing red eyes and gold ‘X’ plastered across its face gave the Pokémon an even more intimidating look. Despite Metagross’ imposing presence, the diminutive Pikachu refused to back down. But the steely Pokémon wasn’t going to retreat either, as it willingly stomped and lumbered its way toward its foe.

Joining Metagross was Lisa’s winged green dragon. Still somewhat resembling an oversized insect with her bulging red eyes, she flew up by flapping her two large angular wings. She continued to fly overhead, with the claws at the end of her short hands at the ready. Like her partner, Flygon didn’t show a bit of hesitation, approaching the beastly Pikachu with a determined look in her eyes.

“Trying to double-team us won’t work,” Ardos warned. “It’s time for a Shadow Blast!”

From above, an enormous orange fireball surrounded by black fog crashed down directly between Lisa’s two Pokémon. Upon impact, a lava-like orange wave consumed both Metagross and Flygon like a flash flood. Lisa could only gasp and hold her hands over her mouth as the devastating attack did its damage. As the remnants of the fiery assault subsided, both Lisa’s Pokémon were left with burn marks all over their bodies.

“Oh, man! This looks bad! Metagross, try an Earthquake! Flygon, Dragon Claw!”

“Come and get us!” Bart Sy confidently had his hands on his hips. “Now, unleash a Shadow Pulse and show this girl true pain!”

Metagross stomped both its silver front legs on the floor, shaking up the entire room with a massive quake. But the agile Shadow Pokémon had jumped into the air to avoid the strike. It noticed Flygon charging at it with her claws glowing and extended. Without hesitation, Pikachu pulled off a midair backflip, landing on the dragon’s back.

Once on there, it began to pummel its ride with fists brewing with a black aura. The repeated assault began to leave scars on Flygon’s back as she began to descend. Pikachu noticed that the Earthquake had subsided and jumped off the Pokémon, landing perfectly. Flygon struggled to get herself airborne again despite her injuries, but the sinister rodent was already planning its next move.

With a loud roar, the Pikachu began sending out wave after wave of shadowy energy, spreading out in all directions in a circular pattern. The attack was released in midair, allowing it to strike the airborne Flygon as well as the grounded Metagross. As each wave hit, both Flygon and Metagross cringed in pain, their eyes closing and their bodies tensing up. Lisa reacted in much the same manner.

“Dragonbreath and Metal Claw! We can’t give up!”

“Nyaah, we can’t give up,” Bart Sy mocked. “Well, maybe I can at least shut you up! Shadow Laser!”

Pikachu appeared to be charging up energy. Taking advantage, Flygon landed and exhaled a cloud of yellow-orange energy that hit the opponent directly. As soon as the remnants of the Dragonbreath subsided, Metagross was waiting. Raising one leg high in the air, it brought the hammer down, clobbering the much smaller Shadow Pokémon. Lisa was hoping that the double-whammy would have interrupted the Pikachu’s attack. Much to her dismay, Pikachu somehow emerged without a single scratch on its body. Finally ready to unleash its attack, the electric Pokémon fired off two brilliant scarlet lasers from its creepy red eyes.

One beam fired straight out and struck the lumbering Metagross between the eyes as Flygon began to take evasive maneuvers. But Pikachu’s other laser beam began to turn and shoot toward its target. As if attracted to a target on Flygon’s head, the attack looped and curved like a rollercoaster until it drilled into Flygon right between her eyes. While the second laser was tracking down the green Dragon-type, Pikachu had fired off a third beam, once again nailing Metagross directly in the center of its “X.”

Lisa’s already racing heart sped up even more as her Dragon-type came crashing down, smashing right into Metagross as she landed. Despite the hard hit, Flygon somehow gathered enough energy to take flight again. Likewise, Metagross rose to its feet.

“Time to bury you. Use Shadow Tomb!” Ardos commanded.

“Hurry! Use Dragon Claw and Psychic!” came Lisa’s panicked voice.

Two cyclones of black smoke began enveloping both of Lisa’s Pokémon before they even had a chance to strike. As the twin twisters continued to swirl, the teen was unable to see what was happening to her Pokémon within their gaseous prison. But the high-pitched cries of Flygon made it clear that the tornadoes were causing some serious pain. After early a minute, the smoke finally dissipated.

Lisa could do nothing except look on in fear as both Pokémon emerged from the assault on the floor and unable to get up. “Oh, man, I don’t know how I’m gonna beat these two!” The girl continued to shake and fidget.

Lisa tried her Weezing next, sending out the Poison-type in a flash after calling her two Pokémon back. Loosing puffs of gray smoke from the craters on her purple orb-shaped body, the Pokémon inflated one of her twin heads while the other one shrunk. As she did this, small flames also shot out of her body. Hovering in midair, she watched the sinister Shadow Pokémon with half-closed eyes. Weezing was very slow and hesitant to approach the demonic Pikachu.

“I’m sorry… I didn’t want to put you guys through this, but…”

The Poison-type nodded. She understood that this fight was of the utmost importance. Gathering her nerves, she slowly floated toward her frightening foe.

“Pathetic,” Bart Sy remarked. “Now use Shadow Shard!”

The Shadow Pokémon’s body began to glow in a haunting indigo as a flurry of razor-sharp projectiles came flying at Weezing. The ice-like pieces were of the same dark color as the aura surrounding Pikachu’s body, and the shards wasted no time in cutting up Weezing’s expandable skin. Lisa let out a gasp of horror as her Pokémon emerged, looking like she had been cut up by a knife.

“Weezing, Sludge Bomb it, quickly! We can at least try to poison that thing!”

“What, you think a little poison will stop me? Pikachu, time for a Shadow Uppercut!”

Pikachu’s fist became encased in a shadowy red aura as it ran toward Weezing. The Poison-type was preparing to fire off her Sludge Bomb when she was slammed from below. The uppercut launched her further into the air, causing her to fire off her attack at the wrong time. Lisa saw the heaping purple glob hurtling directly at her,

“Eek!” she shouted as she stepped backward, dodging the Sludge Bomb by inches. “I don’t know how we’re gonna beat this thing!”

“Oh, that’s simple! You won’t! Now, annihilate it!”

With Weezing still reeling from the last shot, Pikachu shot two red laser beams from its eyes, hitting her just above the mouth and leaving two sizeable wounds on her face. From high in the air, Weezing came crashing to earth, while a panicked Lisa could do nothing but watch helplessly. Breathing heavily, the Poison-type slowly brought herself back into contention, even launching another Sludge Bomb. While this attack did strike Pikachu in the gut, it seemingly did nothing to it.

“Give it a Fire Blast this time!” Lisa yelled, her heart racing and her fingers crossed.

“Most unimpressive,” Ardos said in his chillingly calm tone. “Shadow Tail!”

Weezing shrunk and expanded her heads alternately in preparation for the fiery attack. With an agile forward flip, Pikachu hurtled into the air, gaining more altitude than Weezing. Before the Poison-type had fully generated enough heat inside her body, the Electric-type’s bolt-shaped tail came crashing down on the top of her head, leaving a deep gash and grounding her once again. Lisa’s jaw dropped as her hands shivered nervously. Things just kept getting worse for her.

“Use Sludge Bomb! Anything to try and slow that thing down!” Lisa frantically yelled.

“Heh. Try a Shadow Slicer on for size,” Ardos calmly said.

By making a slicing motion with its tail, the small Shadow Pokémon sent a blade-like wave of black energy shooting upward. The fast-moving assault caught Weezing off guard as she was trying to form a Sludge Bomb and smacked her underside, knocking her aside. Seeing her Poison-type was ready to call it quits, Lisa quickly pulled her from the battle.

“Okay, Persian, I’m counting on you! This is our toughest challenge yet, but I need you more than ever!”

Lisa’s last resort was her starting Pokémon. Matching the Shadow Pikachu’s demonic stare with a look of rage, the beige feline crouched down and prepared to lunge at the creepy rodent. Her tail stood straight up as she watched and waited for the perfect chance to strike. Despite the lack of light in the room, the brilliant red glow of her crown jewel was almost blinding. This was the one battle she could not afford to lose.

“Finally you bring that mangy cat out!” yelled the Thrash leader, giving his opponents a wicked smile. Noticing Persian screeching and glaring at him, Bart Sy calmly said, “Oh, shut up. In a few moments, I’ll make the both of you wish you were never born! Now, my pet, use Shadow Lance!”

Black energy quickly began forming between the mouse’s pointed ears, gathering into a sinister black sphere hovering over its head. With a simple command of “Go!” from Bart Sy, the Pokémon unleashed its attack. The ball of energy transformed into a narrow beam with a pointed end that hurtled at Persian. Before she could make a move to dodge, the attack had made contact, the sharp point of the beam striking her red jewel dead center. The attack didn’t puncture the gem; instead it hit with enough force to send Persian flying into a wall.

“Oh, no! Not a shot right to the face!”

Persian yelled in pain and covered her forehead with her front paw. Despite not damaging her jewel, the attack had still left its painful sting. Shaking her head, Persian suddenly made a beeline toward her enemy, laying several scratches into its body before being forced back by the Electric-type’s tail. Lisa had noticed that the Pikachu wasn’t invincible; its body finally began bearing the scars and bruises of battle.

“Persian! Use Protect!”

“Fine! I’ll just bide my time with Shadow Restore!” Ardos countered.

As the cat began throwing up a protective green sphere around herself, Pikachu just stood there, enveloping its entire body in a cloak of thick black fog. When the smoke dissipated, the wounds that Pikachu had accumulated were gone.

“What? That thing can recover from its injuries, too?”

“Well, of course, you fool,” Ardos said. “Didn’t the boss say that this is the ultimate Pokémon? It is invincible, and you were sealing your own fate when you showed up here.”

“No… Even if I can’t defeat your creation, I will go down fighting! Persian, long-range attack!”

“Useless words. Becoming a martyr will not matter once I assume command! Now, Shadow Blast!”

The feline shot out a rippling wave of pulsing water and immediately charged the Water Pulse with a sizzling blast of electricity. The twin-element attack landed a direct hit on Pikachu as it was preparing its attack, launching shadowy matter straight upward. In an instant, a massive fireball descended, cloaked in black smoke. Though Persian jumped to avoid the attack as it crashed down, she could not dodge the waves of orange flame that emanated from the blast site. She was forcefully knocked off her feet, but was quick to recover. Her legs were burned by the Shadow Blast, but she continued to shoot angry glares at Bart Sy.

“Whoa… Looks we dodged a major bullet there… Okay, let’s get up close and personal, Persian!”

“So, you want to get physical with MY Pikachu? Fine! Use Shadow Kick!”

The cat rushed in at its haunting adversary, slicing its body with her claws. Pikachu seemed to welcome the exchange, as it let out a demonic cackle before kicking Persian in the face. An explosion of black energy followed the impact, and Persian soon found herself hurtling backward. She remained on her feet and even shot a shadowy attack of her own at the Pikachu.

Despite having a black sphere slam its face, Pikachu seemed unfazed. Without needing a moment to recover from the hit, it charged in at Persian, this time firing two red laser beams. Both hit the feline Pokémon, just barely below her eyes, and caused her head to jerk back suddenly.

“Uh, oh, are you okay?” Lisa worriedly asked.

Shaking her head to regain her senses, Persian took another swipe at the wily Pikachu, but the Pokémon jumped backward to avoid the claws entirely.

“I hope you don’t actually think you can win,” said Ardos. “Nail it with Shadow Quake.”

“Persian, jump up and give it an Aerial Ace!”

The agile cat crouched down on her hind legs, ready to quickly spring up. But Pikachu was just a touch faster, unleashing a vicious quake accompanied by wave after wave of circular black energy that spread out from the center of the tremor. The first hit knocked Persian off her feet. Subsequent waves caused her to reel in pain as each struck. Lisa gasped and nearly lost her balance as she watched her Pokémon suffer multiple blows. Finally, the attack subsided. Letting out a deafening screech, Persian fought the pain and brought herself back into contention.

“Now for the finisher! Shadow Beam!” Bart Sy cackled as he gave what he believed would be his final command.

The demonic Pokémon launched twin dark red laser-like beams from both eyes. The two converged in front of Pikachu, creating a huge ray of shadowy energy that sped toward its target like a torpedo. Although Persian was able to sidestep the shot the first time and get close enough to her foe to land a quick claw swipe, the beam acted like a homing device.

The brutal attack found its mark, crashing directly into the feline’s head and throwing her against a table in the room. Lisa began grabbing at part of her lab coat, her heart racing. Persian was taking a very long time to get back up, but the badly bruised Pokémon finally made it back to her feet, although shakily.

After the last Shadow Beam had hit, Persian found herself breathing heavily. The numerous battle scars on her fur were a testament to the harsh, one-sided battle. Her four legs were wobbly and could barely support her weight.

“So, it’s still standing after a Shadow Beam? I’ll take care of that! This is the end! One more attack and I will have claimed victory! Now, Pikachu… Huh?”

“Sir, what’s going on with Pikachu?” Ardos asked in a panic.

The Shadow Pikachu’s eyes were closed and its teeth clenched. It was clutching its head in pain as the black smoke surrounding it began to intensify. The ground around the small Pokémon was rumbling as rays of white light began emanating from its body.

“Oh, shoot!” Lisa ran to her Pokémon and knelt down beside it. “This looks bad… I think it’s gonna blow!”

“What?!” Bart Sy boomed. “Doctor Tony told me he had perfected these things so they wouldn’t blow! That idiot!” He and Ardos took cover behind the desk.

“Persian, use Protect now!” Lisa yelled.

Gathering up her last remaining bit of strength, Persian created a green bubble encasing both her and Lisa. Inside the Protect barrier, Lisa closed her eyes and began praying silently.

A huge explosion ripped through the penthouse, obliterating the structure as a massive plume of flame shot upward from the thick cloud of smoke that blanketed the area. Lorelei and the rest of the tactical team had retreated to the stairwell upon first feeling the quakes beneath them. As the smoke cleared, the group made their way back to the rooftop. Somehow, the roof had not caved in as a result of the blast. Debris was strewn all over. The first thing that was visible amidst the rubble was the huge desk. But Lorelei spotted something.

“Look over there!”

In the middle of the devastation, Lisa was there, with her body shielding her Persian. As her allies approached, the girl slowly opened her eyes.

“I… It’s over? Oh, Persian, are you all right? Here, I have something for you. Drink this up, quickly!” She grabbed a bottle from her coat pocket.

As the girl administered the Hyper Potion, Bart Sy and Ardos emerged from under the desk. “Dammit… That moron Tony Jackson! He lied to me! Those pathetic Shadow Pokémon still explode!”

“Sir, Northwood’s Pokémon are weakened! Now is the perfect chance to at least get rid of her!”

“How true,” the boss cackled as he and Ardos approached Lisa as she still huddled over her Pokémon. “We may have to start from scratch, but at least we can destroy you first!”

“And you do not stand a chance. It’s all twelve of our Pokémon against only one of yours.” Ardos smiled tauntingly.

“Ahem…” Lorelei said as she approached the two men, carefully stepping over the debris. “Aren’t you forgetting us?” She motioned to the four trainers behind her. “We’ll all take you two on if necessary.” She ran over to Lisa and helped the girl to her feet. “Recall your Persian. If these two are still up for a fight, we’ll be happy to take over for you.”

“Thanks…” Lisa replied as her Persian, with some of her wounds already healing, disappeared into her Luxury Ball. As she put the sphere back into her pocket, her fingers gripped another object.

Bart Sy rushed to his desk and pulled an AK-47 out of a drawer. “I’ll kill every single one of you!” he bellowed. “But I’ll start with Lisa!”

Lisa whipped her hand out of her pocket and activated the TASER in her hand. With the press of a button, Bart Sy screamed out in pain as electric current flowed through his body. He dropped to the ground, banging his head on the steel desk as he went down. Ardos started to run toward his fallen boss, but Lorelei zapped him with her own TASER.

Dodging the rubble left in the wake of the explosion, Ein headed behind the desk and kicked the gun out of Bart Sy’s reach.

In the confusion, a group of police officers had made their way to the roof. With Bart Sy and Ardos still incapacitated, the officers made their way through the wreckage and restrained them before they could do any more damage.

“No! This is unbelievable! How did it all come crashing down? Arggh… I assure you, this is not the end, by any means!” Bart Sy continued to yell out empty threats as he was led away in handcuffs. Ardos silently followed, showing little emotion as he was escorted down the stairs and out of the building.

Still breathing heavily, Lisa fell to her knees. “Wow… I still can’t believe it’s all over… Thanks everybody… for your help today…But what I need most… is a nice, long rest…”

“Alexis, Shannon, why don’t you two go with Lisa back to town so the three of you can rest and get your Pokémon healed? Ein and I are going to stick around and investigate further.”

“Okay. Lisa, you better come with us,” Alexis said to Lisa.

“Yeah, let’s get you and your Pokémon all rested up now,” added Shannon as the three girls headed down the stairs.

“Interesting,” murmured Ein as he studied the desk. “Well, I know how those two survived. They built a compartment into this desk that they ducked into when the explosion occurred. But how did Lisa and Persian survive? They were out there in the middle of it all.”

“My guess would be she had her Persian use a Protect to save themselves. Good job, Lisa.”
*******

Now resting comfortably in a hotel room, Lisa had already changed into her pink nightgown. She was watching a news report on the television.

“Arrested today were the following individuals: Former Cipher members Lethco, Snattle, Abyssa, Acrod, and Snidle, ages unknown; former Cipher head Ardos, age thirty-seven; Sean ‘Bruiser’ Marcos, age twenty-four; Nancy Thompson, age thirty; Dr. Anthony Simon Jackson, age thirty-three; Betty Gleason, age twenty; former police officer Jeffrey Charles Hauston, age twenty-eight; Thomas Frederick Junger, age sixty-seven; and finally, Thrash leader Bartholomew Tyson ‘Bart Sy’ Junger, age forty. All were immediately transferred to Citadark Federal Penitentiary in Orre due to fears of escape. News Four wishes to thank the Pokémon League and the Marquis City Police Department for acting quickly on a tip and helping to bring this organization to justice. We will report more on this breaking story as we receive more information…”

Viewing the show in an almost trance-like state, Lisa was brought to attention by a loud knocking. Slowly clambering out of bed and making her way toward the door, Lisa looked through the peephole before opening it. Alexis, Shannon, and Lindsay stood outside, waiting for her. The two friends were dressed in Fourtix University – Marquis City Campus sweatshirts and black pants. The teen’s younger sister was wearing her purple floral dress. In one hand was a bag containing her belongings and a large drink cup. In her other was a paper bag from Wendy’s.

“Hey, sis, Lexy and Shan told me that you’d be tired so we brought you dinner.”

“Aww, thanks! And sorry for not being dressed or anything. I was just relaxing and watching the news about the incident.”

“Hey, don’t worry about it.” The black-haired Shannon put her arm around Lisa. “You survived a huge explosion, and I can only imagine what kind of terror you faced in that room before.”

“Oh, man, that was probably the scariest Pokémon I ever saw! It was a Pikachu, but… the way it looked and acted, it was like it was possessed by a demon. It was surrounded by this eerie black cloud, its eyes were this weird red color, and it sounded like those deep-voiced bad guys on TV.” Lisa sighed and wiped her brow. “I hope nobody has to face a Pokémon as terrifying as that thing ever again…” The girl began opening the bag containing her dinner, finding chicken nuggets, a plain double burger, two orders of large fries, and a large Sprite that Lindsay handed to her.

“Yeah, I imagine something like that wouldn’t be an easy foe,” Alexis said as she sat on the bed next to Lisa. Meanwhile, Shannon set five Pokéballs and a Luxury Ball on the desk.

“Thanks for taking my Pokémon to the Center, you guys. They really did have a rough time against that Shadow Pikachu. That thing creamed practically all of them. If Persian didn’t have enough strength left for her final Protect, well… I really don’t want to think about that…”

“Don’t worry about it, sis. It’s all over. Just take some time to relax. And make sure your Pokémon get out of their Pokéballs, too.”

“Okay, but not in here. Is there a park we can go to that’s nearby?”

“Well, there’s a courtyard in back of the hotel with a swimming pool and a grassy field,” Shannon answered.

“Perfect. Let me finish my meal and change, and we’ll head out there.”
*******

Back at the old Thrash base, police officers and investigators were sifting through the wreckage that used to be Bart Sy’s penthouse office. Among the rubble were the metal desk with its built-in bomb shelter and a mysterious steel machine. The outside of the device was dented and scorched, but it was unclear if it was still operable.

Tony Parito was examining the machine, which was a plain box except for a slide-out tray. Prying it open, he discovered that it had one circular slot – the perfect size to accommodate a Pokéball.

“Hey, I think I’ve found the Shadow Pokémon device!”

Lorelei, Ein, and Dr. Sequoia ran over to Tony and his discovery.

“Excellent work,” Lorelei said. “The sooner we get this thing out of here, the better. We certainly don’t need someone stumbling upon it and putting it to use again. Let’s move it out of here.”

Ein and Tony began trying to lift the device, but to no avail. “This thing’s heavier than I thought. It won’t budge.”

“How did it get up here?” Lorelei wondered aloud. Suddenly, she had an idea. “Tony, come with me. I want to investigate the room directly below the penthouse. Amy, I’ll radio you if we discover anything.”

Back in the building, Lorelei and Tony made their way into one of the locked rooms with the help of a crowbar that they picked up in the wreckage up above. Inside was a workshop of sorts, with tools and equipment strewn all over. But it was a metal rod that caught the Ice-type trainer’s attention. It ran from the floor to the ceiling, and on the nearest wall was a switch.

Lorelei took out a two-way radio and contacted Dr. Sequoia. “Amy, it appears as if the construction of the Shadow Pokémon machine was done in the room below on a lift, and it was moved up to the penthouse after it was completed. There’s more room to work and examine it down here, so I’m going to lower it if the lift still works. You and Ein should probably meet us downstairs.”

The young woman went over to the switch. “Stand back,” she cautioned Tony as she pulled the lever down. A slow, mechanical whirring was heard as the damaged apparatus and a platform were slowly lowered onto the floor of this room.

Once Amy Sequoia and Ein were in the workshop, Lorelei explained, “I realize that you are conducting research on Shadow Pokémon, and this new machine is a terrible new advancement in the technology that certainly warrants more research. However, we won’t be able to get it out of here in one piece. What we’ll do, then, will be to dismantle it here. After that, we’ll let you decide which pieces are important to the research, and have you take just those parts back with you. It’ll also make the rest of us feel better; since there will only be disassembled parts, odds are nobody at the university will be able to create Shadow Pokémon from them. It will be much harder than if, say, you took the machine back with you fully intact.”

Ein scratched his chin and pushed the glasses up on his face. “Sounds like an excellent plan. We certainly don’t want some student or disgruntled faculty member breaking into the lab and using the thing.”

Tony opened a nearby toolbox. “Shall we get started, then?”
******

Behind the hotel, the girls took their seats on a picnic table overlooking the closed and covered pool. The wispy white clouds moved slowly across the sky but did little to block the bright sun, shining down on the city. But the sun’s heat was offset by the cool winds blowing; indeed, Lisa had elected to wear her purple windbreaker jacket on over her pink floral dress. Her outerwear kept her from feeling too cold, and her black leggings provided her legs with more insulation than a pair of pantyhose would.

Looking around, Lisa saw that the small grassy field was bordered by the Quality Inn’s pool on one end and the parking lot of TGI Friday’s on the other end. To her left, the park-like area was flanked by the four-story Wellesley Inn and to the right, the older, two-floor Red Roof Inn stood. Off in the distance, signs advertising “AmericInn” and “Signature Inn” could also be seen. The park was like an oasis in the center of an urban jungle. The sounds of roaring engines and the occasional honking car horn interrupted the otherwise tranquil setting, but the girl didn’t mind at all

“Now, this is nice,” the teen commented. “Nice temperature, nice setting, and not too quiet.”

“Okay, sis, make sure you let your Pokémon out!” Lindsay reminded.

“Oh, right.” As the other three girls looked on, Lisa released all six of her Pokémon in front of her.

“Hey, guys, first off, I want to apologize for putting y’all through that. That Pikachu was something no Pokémon should ever have to deal with, and I know you suffered a lot trying to stop it. For that, I also need to thank you. Despite facing horrible odds, you still went out there and tried your very best, and that show how dedicated each and every one of you are. No training today; I think we’ve all had enough battling for awhile. Just enjoy the fresh air, and relax a bit. I’ll feed you dinner a bit later.”

Rather than moving about, all six Pokémon remained where they were. Persian started up the conversation.

“What she said was right. We should all be very proud of ourselves for even standing up against a monster like that Pikachu.”

“Yeah, but… we were completely overpowered by it… We couldn’t do a thing to stop it,” Weezing responded as she looked downward.

“That Pikachu’s power level was seven hundred and four percent higher than normal…” Metagross droned, its striking red eyes locked on Weezing.

Jolteon yawned and rubbed his eyes with his front paw. “Metagross is right. That Pikachu had too much power. I doubt any Pokémon could have stood up to it.”

“Umm… I must’ve missed something,” Walrein interrupted. “How did we get rid of ‘dat thing? I was thinkin’ it was gonna destroy us and stuff…”

Persian answered, “When I was just about to be defeated by the Pikachu, its power became too much for it to control and it began to spontaneously combust. Lisa saw that coming and ran over to me. I used Protect with my last bit of strength so both she and myself could survive the explosion.

“Wow,” the big walrus drawled. “So when the Pikachu went boom, you protected the girl and you, right?”

“Yes,” she answered, licking her paws. “I was not sure if I could sustain the barrier long enough to weather the entirety of the explosion, but I had to make an honest attempt. I did not want to die there, and I am sure Lisa and the five of you did not want to, either.”

“Yes. I mean, I just evolved, and I want to take the time to fully enjoy my new form,” replied Flygon, flapping her wings proudly.

“Um… can we not talk about what happened back there anymore?” Weezing asked, loosing more smoke than usual from her body.

“I agree,” replied Jolteon as he lay down on the cool, moist grass. “We’re supposed to be relaxing, not getting all stressed out about this. It’s over. Can we move on?”

The cat stretched out and extended her tail. “Okay. We should be focusing our mind on something else.”

“Well,” the spiky yellow Electric-type started, “I know we’ll have to face the fancy lady and her flying Pokémon again. How do you figure we’ll be able to beat her?”

“Hmmm…” The Dragon-type began slowly flapping her wings. “Since I’m able to fly now, I imagine I’ll be able to help out a bit.”

“Yeah, I mean, I can float and all, but I can’t get myself high enough off the ground to touch her birds. So you’ll be a definite help,” the purple Pokémon said to Flygon.

Persian suddenly had an idea pop into her head. With her red jewel glowing brightly under the sun, she asked, “Was the battle against that queen lady a two-on-two?”

Jolteon nodded. “Yeah, it was. Why do you ask?”

“I had an idea. If it’s another two-on two, I have this strategy that just might help.” The feline Pokémon turned to Flygon. “Do you think you could support the weight of Jolteon on your back and still fly?”

“I’m not sure. I just evolved and I’m still not totally used to my flying. But we do have a few days of training before we face the lady again, right?”

“I believe so.”

“Then I should be able to try flying with him on my back while we train. I think I can do it, but if I can’t, should I try it with you? I mean, you have an electric attack, too.”

Persian let out a sigh. “You may try it; however I believe I am heavier and larger in size than Jolteon, so if you cannot fly with him, you most likely will not be able to do so with me, either.”

The icy blue walrus took this opportunity to butt in on the conversation. “Wow, a girl sayin’ she’s fat! Ya don’t see ‘dat every day, I tell ya!”

“Oh, please, spare me your uncouth comments. We are discussing battle strategy, not obsessing over our weight. If you do consider me to be obese, perhaps it would behoove you to examine yourself in a mirror at some point.” The cat turned her back to Walrein.

The massive Steel-type replied, “My body is reflective… I would be able to assist in that…”

“Duh, what?” asked the Ice-type, quizzically tilting his head to the left.

“What they mean is, before you call anyone else fat, perhaps you should look at yourself in a mirror – or Metagross’ reflective body,” Weezing explained to her baffled partner.

“Aww, y’all ain’t any fun! I’mma head over to Lisa and try and get some food!” The hefty mammal began dragging his body over to his trainer, who had fallen asleep on the grass.

“Well, it looks like she fell asleep before even I did!” Jolteon said as he looked over at the snoozing girl.

“Well, who can blame her?” replied Flygon. “After all, she went through heck…” Seeing that Weezing was glaring angrily at her, she finished, “I’ll try to wake her.”

“No, just let her sleep. I believe it is in her best interest to rest and rejuvenate given the circumstances,” Persian replied.

“Let me tell you, though, I am really not looking forward to more battles,” Weezing told her colleagues. “I know Lisa still has a bit more to go, but afterward I really hope she’ll give us a nice long rest from battling.” The others, save for a distracted Walrein, nodded in agreement.

“I’m beat. I think I’ll follow Lisa’s lead and take a nap now.” Jolteon sluggishly made his way toward his Pokéball on the grass next to the picnic table. Pressing the button on the center of the sphere, he let its crimson energy consume him.

“I shall retire to my quarters as well. I especially like it in there – soft padding all around, heavenly pillow for me to sleep on, always at the right temperature… All it needs is one of those picture box things and some music, and it would be more than suitable for my tastes. Perhaps some elegantly styled lighting would also be beneficial…” As Persian carefully walked over to her Luxury Ball, she continued to tout its merits.

Metagross droned, “Three hours and fifteen minutes before sleep is required… For the time being I can stand watch…”

“Thanks!” Both Weezing and Flygon flew over to their respective Pokéballs and let themselves back in.

Alexis, Shannon, and Lindsay looked on as Lisa slept and four of her Pokémon eventually returned to their spherical living quarters.

“Wow… Guess the battle wiped both sis and her Pokémon out!”

“I’m not too surprised. Well, I suppose we better let them nap out here. Lisa probably wants to feed them something nice when everybody wakes up. We’ll just keep an eye on her while we wait.”

“So,” Shannon started, trying to start a conversation, “we heard from Lisa that you’re fixin’ to start on your own Pokémon journey. Are you thinking of starting it in this region next year?”

“I really don’t know…”

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