Lurking in the Shadows


South of the Orre region is the region known as Fourtix. Except for the dormant volcano to the north and a secluded underwater cavern off the southeastern coast, the temperatures in the region usually remain pretty constant. A large mountain range separates the region into a western and eastern part, with the eastern region being decidedly larger. Most of the region consists of grasslands, forest, or water. Most of the routes connecting cities are still dirt paths, though some are paved. Many businesses, including those that cater to travelers, have set up shop in Fourtix’s cities and on its busier routes. It is here, in this otherwise unassuming area of the world, that a new threat is waiting for its chance to strike.

In the southwest part of the region sits a quaint town known as Fort Barnes. Though the old fort for which the town is named is long gone, the town has a new claim to fame- a research-only facility affiliated with Fourtix University, whose main campus is in Bluefield City to the north.

During one summer night in Fort Barnes, all was calm and quiet- perhaps too quiet. All of the lights in town - even the streetlights, as part of the town's "green" initiative - were shut off save one - one located deep within the town’s massive research facility. Under the single fluorescent light unit, the head researcher, Dr. Amy Sequoia, was working on a top-secret project. Already an accomplished researcher at the age of twenty-two, she would occasionally stop to run her hands through her jet-black hair. A white lab coat rested on her tall frame, concealing a brown turtleneck and black Capri pants. She was completely preoccupied with the research project on her computer, her tired, dry eyes completely focused on the flickering screen in front of her. The room itself was mostly a collection of bookshelves filled with technical journals, as well as numerous computers.

Soon another set of lights appeared in the town - but these belonged to a vehicle. A Ford Club Wagon, colored black with a red pinstripe, pulled up outside the lab's front door. Shutting off the massive machine's engine, a team of operatives exited the van. Two of the agents walked up to the entrance, turned around, and addressed the remaining dozen infiltrators. The larger of the two spoke first, only loud enough so that the entire group could hear.

“We will split up into two teams as discussed at headquarters. Alpha team, follow me. Beta team, follow him,” he ordered as he handed one of two papers to the other man. “Both of us have the floorplan and details of every security measure within this lab, so stay close so nobody triggers an alarm.”

The other commander took out a small object from his pocket. A bright red laser emerged from the device's tip as the agent aimed it at the crack between the entrance's double doors. Upon breaking the lock, the team made their way inside the lab.

“Here is where we split up. I shall be contacting you when we are ready to move out. Let us proceed.”

Once both teams had left the lobby, a tiny figure made its way, sight unseen, across the tiled floor of the lobby and out of the door.

Without making a noise the “Alpha” team made their way down the lab’s darkened corridors until they found the private work room, concealed within the twisting hallways of the research facility. Several figures crept silently behind Dr. Sequoia and then one of them put her in a headlock. The young woman gasped as she was pulled backwards by the man's hand. Dr. Sequoia attempted to scream, but one of the intruders took out a handgun, a clear warning for her to shut up.

Before she knew it, she was staring at a team of high-tech spies. Clad entirely in black except for red “T” logos emblazoned on their headgear, she could not determine their identity. The leader released a vicious black four legged Pokémon, with an orange snout and curved white horns, who snarled at the professor. Despite the darkness, drool was visibly dripping off the creature's razor-sharp fangs, its demonic pointed tail wagged back and forth in a very violent manner. The professor's heartbeat began to accelerate as she was quivering. “What's going on? Who are these people?

“We have come for some vital research as well as the Pokémon currently housed in this facility. I strongly recommend you do nothing to resist. We will not hesitate to eliminate you in short order,” the commander threatened in a deep, mechanically altered voice.

“Houndoom, if she has any Pokémon here for protection, sniff them out!” The canine - like creature did as instructed and began scouring the room.

The professor was gasping for breath until the knee of one of the agents met her abdomen. Writhing in pain, she bit her lip to keep from screaming out. Three of the men tied her up with some jumper cables and put duct tape over her mouth. One of the shorter agents ran over to the computer and began to furiously type on the keyboard.

Don't tell me they're after - THAT research...” she thought to herself as she fell to the floor.

After a few moments, the agent at the computer ran back to her leader. “Boss! Big problem! The research ain’t here!”

The black Pokémon also came walking up to the leader.

“Any Pokémon?” The dog shook its head.

“Damn! We’ll have to cut our losses,” the man replied as a bright red light engulfed the Pokémon as it disappeared from view. “Pick her up and drag her to the lobby,” the leader ordered. “Make her deactivate security as well!” Pulling out a two-way radio, he then said, “We're moving out. Meet us in the lobby.”

“You heard the boss. Where's the switch to shut off the security system?”

After flipping a switch on the wall using her head, Dr. Sequoia was forced to accompany the team to the lobby of the lab, with the leader still holding the barrel of his gun to her back. There, the group was able to rendezvous with the other infiltration team.

“We didn't find any Pokémon and we scoured this entire damn place!” reported the other group's leader.

“If there are any Pokémon here, point them out, now!”

Looks like I don't have any choice!” She motioned with her body toward a large black metal desk in the back of the lobby. The leader ran over to it, opened a drawer, and shoved about a dozen red and white spheres into a bag. “There must be more here! Tear this room apart until we find them!”

Look at this! What are these people doing to my lab? What do they want?

His subordinates did as they were ordered. They knocked over desks, threw furniture across the room, and tore through carefully sorted forms and books. This was one time where the soundproof walls of the lab worked against it. Finding nothing, and seeing that the sun was just starting to show its face, the leader called out, “Blast! For a Pokémon Lab, this place is seriously lacking in the Pokémon department. Return to base!”

He threw the young researcher into a closet at the end of a nearby hallway. Slamming the door shut, the commander was ready to head out, but he noticed the victim hitting the door and letting out muffled screams.

“Shut up in there!” he ordered, cocking his gun so that the professor could hear. “I don't want to have to resort to murder, but if you force my hand...”

He led his team out to their vehicle. The operatives piled into the large fifteen-passenger van before it sped off.

“Meow?” A tiny figure, still obscured by the darkness, made its way through the glass doors and into the building. Seconds later, a strong gust of wind blew both doors shut.

In a large two-story ranch-style house in town, a teenage girl was just getting up out of her bed, unaware of what had happened just a half mile down the road.

Chapter 1: At the Beginning

As the sun rose over the sleepy town, a girl was already awake, sitting at a desk in her room. The girl had one of her textbooks on her desk, as well as a legal pad and a TI-89 calculator. She was not particularly tall and was of a medium build. She had styled her long brown hair fairly quickly, letting two locks drape down over her shoulders while the rest of the hair hung down in back. She had taken no time to apply makeup or anything of the sort; she had more important matters to attend to. Adjusting a pair of reading glasses, she began to bury her face in a book entitled, “Number Theory Algorithms, Theorems, and Conjectures.”

Her room was adorned in pink, but was strangely devoid of dolls, boy-band posters, or anything of that nature. On one wall was a poster with the first million digits of pi. On the opposite wall she had hung the periodic table, overlooking a brown bench with several test tubes, beakers, and a Bunsen burner. She had three computers- a Windows laptop, a Mac desktop, and a second desktop running Linux. A rack of servers rested in a “sunroom” addition to her room. On her bookshelf stood an eclectic mix of high level math books, car shop manuals, and Quality Inn hotel directories, the oldest dating to 1955. A small TV and VCR rested next to the bookshelf, with a Nintendo GameCube sitting on top of the VCR.

Still wearing her pink nightgown, she mulled over a question printed in her book, playing with a pencil in her right hand while her chin rested on her left one. “Hmmmm… If I take the third derivative of the beta function and substitute sufficiently large primes for x and y…”

“Lisa!” a voice called out. The girl turned around to find her father, a man in his early forties with dark brown hair and a light beard, standing at her door. “Lisa, you know your mother and I have to take this job in Spartanburg, which is why we decided that it’s time for you to start training Pokémon. You passed the trainer qualifying exam four years ago, but then you decided to go to college back home. Don’t know why you took the test if you were just gonna head back to South Carolina, but, whatever.”

The man shrugged. “Anyway, we’ve been back here since May, and all you’ve been doing since then is studying your math. Don’t you think it’s time? I mean, you’re fifteen now. Most other trainers your age already have four years of experience under their belts. And remember that Professor Sequoia at the lab did send those postcards to you, asking you to come by her lab and choose a Pokémon for yourself. You go to visit her lab on a regular basis; I would have thought you would have done this on your own.”

Lisa ran her hand through her long brown hair. “I suppose so, maybe it would be good if I got out of the house for awhile,” she lied. “Of course I realize I’m older than the others! Man, there’s a REASON I haven’t taken a Pokémon yet! Oh well, as my old professor said, just nod and agree, and hopefully they’ll get off your case.” Instead of voicing her protest, she simply mumbled, “After all, this is like the seventy-fourth postcard she sent me, and most of them were forwarded to South Carolina over the past four years. Okay, I guess it’s finally time to respond to her. Just as long as I get the keys to the Caprice,” she said, referring to her car, a 1989 Chevrolet Caprice Classic in mint condition, which had been her parents’ car previously. “There’s no way I’m leaving this house unless I’m behind the wheel…

“Um, Lisa, when most start out Pokémon training, they proceed by foot.”

Please tell me this is some sort of bad joke…” Unfortunately, she knew better. Her father wore that look… His unblinking stare, slight frown, and arms folded across his chest told Lisa that his word was final and there would be no negotiations. The girl still couldn’t believe her ears, though. “On foot?! Are you serious?” Jumping up from her chair in a flash, she almost tripped over the legs of the seat. Lisa ran over to her closet and opened it up with a loud slam. Motioning toward the small collection of shoes on the floor, he exclaimed, “I only have one pair of shoes that aren’t heels, and those happen to be ballet flats! I can’t possibly walk all that way in heels!”

The teenager looked up at her father, lower lip quivering, but the man firmly stood his ground. “You are leaving today, and that is final. And, honey, we bought you a pair of sneakers…”

No! Ain’t gonna happen! Me wearing sneakers is madness!” Angrily, Lisa shouted, “Dad, I told you, I never wear sneakers. Tomboys do that, and I do not want to be lumped into that category. I’ll take my chances with the heels.”

“Fine,” her father replied as he left the room. “Wear what you want, I’m just trying to make it a little easier on you… Jeez, Lisa, will you ever change?”

The girl’s mind began to wander as she set herself on the bed. Thoughts of her past life came rushing in like a hurricane. “I still don’t see why they couldn’t have taken me back to South Carolina with them… I mean, let me stay at our place in Anderson! At least there I can walk to Applebee’s or any number of stores and restaurants on Clemson Boulevard when I need a meal. Plus, I’d be near my college, where I can check up on everyone that I graduated with. My sister is still back home, living with Grandma. I don’t see why Mom and Dad didn’t simply transfer her to schools here, yet they made ME move with them…”

“Lisa!” her father admonished. “Are you getting packed or are you daydreaming again?! Get down here or we’ll drag you to the professor’s place! If your mother and I miss this flight…”

”Sorry, I’ll get on it right now!” Lisa started packing about five of her favorite outfits into vacuum-sealed bags and placing them into her dark purple backpack. “I love these awesome bags!” Lisa had been using them for years. She appreciated that with them, she could carry a whole suitcase’s worth of clothes in something that was much smaller and easier for her to handle.

In a smaller yellow handbag she placed her cell phone, PDA, and TI-89 calculator, as well as her wallet, keys, and several small books. She then put on her favorite outfit. This consisted of a knee-length blue dress with a purple and green floral print. Over this she put on a light green cardigan. She also put on white stockings and a pair of black open-toe dress shoes. To complete her look, she also put on a white wide-brimmed hat with purple ribbon trim. “Well, with my cutest outfit on, it looks like I’m all set to go. We’ll see how this turns out… Not that I’m expecting too terribly much…

The girl sighed. “This is ridiculous… I might be only fifteen, but I’m a college grad and the owner of a math tutoring businesses. I shouldn’t be made to do something like this… And they expect eleven year olds to do this stuff? Is this government out of its freaking mind? Oh, whatever... Better make this call, then.”

”Hello? Is this Miss Laura Hess? Yes, this is Lisa Northwood… I need to ask you a favor. I’m going to be on leave for an undetermined amount of time, so I need you and the other tutors to cover for me while I’m gone… I’m sorry, but my parents are making me do something where I won’t be able to take calls… Listen, if any really difficult questions come up, just give me a call and I’ll try to answer as fast as I can… Okay, thank you. And also, if by mid-February I’m not back, I need you to send me an electronic copy of our firm’s financial records so I can file our tax returns. Thanks again, and hopefully I’ll be back as soon as I can!”

“Lisa Kimberly Lynn Northwood! Downstairs, NOW!”

“Okay, I’m coming!”

Hanging up the phone, the girl grabbed both bags and made her way down the carpeted stairs. “Well, it’s about time,” scolded Lisa’s mother, a blond-haired woman who was rather tall, once her daughter had walked into the kitchen. “Since you’ve spent so much time just fooling around, you’ll have to have this granola bar and this bottle of cranberry juice for your breakfast,” the mother told Lisa, motioning to the food sitting on the kitchen’s granite countertop.

“Okay, Lisa,” her father spoke up, “I know I’ve been a little pushy this morning, but I feel that this Pokémon journey is something you need to do. It seems hard, I know, but in the end I think it’ll make you a better person and teach you many lessons.”

“But, Dad, that’s what I went to college for!”

“Lisa, I’m talking about life lessons – the things they can’t teach you in a classroom. Honestly, it’s time to set the algebra and calculus aside and step out of your comfort zone…”

The girl sulked. “But I like my comfort zone! It’s so comfortable!”

The man gave his daughter a disapproving frown. Lisa grew silent. She knew better than to interrupt people, especially her own parents. Heaving out a sigh, he continued, “And that’s the problem. You’ve never really challenged yourself before. Well, that changes today! You do understand that we both love you, and only want to do what’s best for you. And right now, we think that training Pokémon would help you grow as a person.”

Lisa relented. She knew her father was right. “All right, I see your point. I suppose if it’s for the best…”

Her mother then said, “Now, we were going to give you some money to get you started, but considering you’ll still be earning money from your tutoring company, as well as the standard Pokémon League trainer stipend, you should be fine money-wise – even if you were to spend every night at the Ritz.”

“Yeah, thanks anyway, Mom.”

“Well, I think we’ll be heading off now. Good luck on your journey, honey, and be sure to call us every now and then!”

“But not too often,” added Lisa’s father. “No, all kidding aside, I do hope that you get something out of this.”

Lisa received hugs from both of her parents before they headed to the door. Turning around one last time, her mother added, “Good luck, and don’t forget we love you!”

“Love you too, bye!” Lisa waved back. Picking up her breakfast, she then made her way toward the door, thinking, “Well, here goes nothing… I hope you two are right…

The girl activated the house’s high-tech security system. “Ain’t nobody gonna be stealing my car or my computers while I’m out doing this…” she mumbled to herself. Receiving three electronic chirps from the white control panel, Lisa locked the door to her house and set off toward the laboratory. As she stepped off the porch, she received a final wave from her parents as they backed out of the driveway in their brand-new Mercury Grand Marquis. The gleaming four-door sedan then drove off, headed north and to the region’s only international airport. Soon enough, the black full-size car had disappeared over the horizon.

Suppose it’s too late to turn back now. Fine, let’s get this over with…

En route to the lab, the girl was walking down a red brick walkway, passing a number of two-story houses and their well-manicured front lawns. Having not even walked a mile, Lisa’s feet were already beginning to hurt. “This Pokémon training stuff had better be worth it,” she muttered under her breath. The way to the laboratory was fairly direct, as there was only one main road through town.

Finally, the two-story lab came into view. It was a rather bland building, with a beige stucco façade and no ornamentation whatsoever - just a huge tan block with the occasional window. When Lisa finally arrived at the lab, she knocked but got no response. Then she noticed that the large glass doors were ajar, and she entered.

Upon entering the lobby, confusion and fear gripped the girl, as her face was frozen in a wide-eyed stare. “Wha… what happened here?! This place looks like a disaster area! I hope the professor and Meowth are all right…

She saw the lab in complete disarray. Shelves were broken, tables were overturned, and papers were strewn all over the white tile floor. The teen looked around, her eyes wide open in shock as she observed the damage around her. “Who would do something like this? And worse, what if they’re still here?

Then Lisa heard muffled screaming coming from a back room. She ran back there and found Dr. Sequoia tied up and gagged. “Dr. Sequoia, is that you? Geez, what happened here?!” Lisa exclaimed.

The tied-up researcher was startled awake by Lisa’s outburst. Not immediately recognizing the voice, she began to curl up, not knowing who was in the lab. “Did those invaders come back to finish the job?” The door opened, and Dr. Sequoia was prepared to accept her fate.

However, instead of an armed intruder, she was met with the face of a fifteen-year-old who was familiar to her. Breathing a sigh of relief, she said, “Wait… You’re Lisa Northwood, aren’t you?” Lisa nodded.

Once Lisa had freed her, the professor began to explain what had transpired. “Last night, I had been up late working on a project when these thugs in black somehow got in the lab and took me hostage. They were after something on my computer, and ended up ransacking a good part of the lab looking for Pokémon as well. I know that some of them were stolen.” The young researcher was out of breath after her explanation. Sweat was dripping down her forehead and her knees were shaking.

“You need to calm yourself,” Lisa advised. “Can I get you a glass of juice or something?”

“Yes, please…”

Lisa walked over to a refrigerator and poured some orange juice into a nearby glass. The researcher took the glass and began to drink. After finishing her juice, she had a calmer demeanor, no longer quivering or sweating. “Well, I’m feeling a little better now… Long time, no see. Are you here to ask about my research? You know, of everyone in town, you seem to be the only one who understands half of it.”

Lisa let out a small laugh and rubbed the back of her head. “Well, you know, we brainiacs have to stick together, ya know? Actually, I’m here about getting my first Pokémon. My folks are saying I need to do something besides college for a change.”

Dr. Sequoia was taken aback. “This girl had been receiving notices to claim a starter Pokémon for five years and chooses today, of all days, to finally take one?” But the professor, remaining the consummate professional, simply replied, “After seventy-nine replies you decided to take me up on my offer? Unfortunately, you picked the worst time to do so. I’m sorry, but because of the incident last night I don’t have any Pokémon to hand out…”

“Oh, that’s a shame…” Lisa interrupted nonchalantly before she was cut off.

“Meowth meow meow meowth…”

A tiny cat with light tan fur and a gold charm on its forehead emerged from under a stack of papers and went over to Lisa and looked at her, shaking its whiskers intently. It then used its huge brown feet to jump up into Lisa’s arms and smiled with its huge eyes, looking up adoringly at the teenage genius. This Meowth had a red bow on its head.

“Well, hi there! It has been almost a month since I last visited, hasn’t it? Oh, I hope you weren’t too scared by what happened here!”

“It seems that this little Meowth managed to avoid being taken by those thugs. I know it isn’t the typical Pokémon I give out to new trainers, but would you be willing to take this Meowth and train her well? I guess from all those times you’ve visited me to check up on my research, she’s already taken a shine to you.”

“Um… okay. Aww, there you are, you cutie!” Lisa started to rub the Meowth lightly behind its ear. Meowth began to purr contently. The girl and the Pokémon had indeed developed a rapport during the time that Lisa had lived in Fort Barnes, though none of their interactions had revolved around battling.

Professor Sequoia left the room then returned with a differently colored Pokéball and a small device. “When I caught this Meowth, I used this Luxury Ball, but sometimes I noticed she likes to walk outside of it. Still, I better give you this in case something happens and you need to call her back into the ball,” she said, giving Lisa the black capturing sphere and a small data cartridge.

“Also, here is an upgrade for your PDA that contains a Pokédex function. It was actually developed by your father’s company. Use it to gather data on any Pokémon you meet. Oh, and here are a few additional Pokéballs. You passed the trainer qualifying exam, so you should still remember how to use these.” She then handed the girl five red and white balls.

“Well, I think you better be on your way before those thugs return. I wish you the best of luck on your adventure! I’ll call the police and have them investigate the matter. Don’t worry! I’ll be fine! Just be careful out there!”

“Thanks, professor!” Lisa and her new Meowth both waved back before taking the route out of town.

Well, Meowth and I do go back a ways… maybe this journey won’t be so bad after all… besides, there IS supposed to be a nice Comfort Inn two towns ahead, so at least I’ll get a decent room…

As they walked out of town, Lisa started to sing quietly, which seemed to relax her Meowth.

“We were strangers
Starting out on a journey
Never dreaming what
We’d have to go through

Now here we are
And I’m suddenly standing
At the beginning with you.”

You know, it’s really weird. I mean, I don’t think I sound bad singing like this, but for some reason, everyone at those college karaoke parties couldn’t stand my voice! I got booed right off the stage each time! Maybe I just have a thing for these love songs, I don’t know…

Lisa took one last look at Fort Barnes. This wasn’t her permanent home, but for a small town it wasn’t too bad. Lisa noticed a sign that read “Route 501: To Chromo Town.”

“Chromo Town. I guess that’s our next destination. Well, we might as well get started.” She thought to herself, “I really hope I’m not getting myself in too deep… but at least I have a familiar partner by my side…

“Meowth meow meow!”

The pair had just reached the grassy field just to the north of town. With the lab and residences of Fort Barnes plainly in view, Lisa abruptly stopped and Meowth walked face-first into her trainer’s legs.

“Oops, sorry for not warning you that I was gonna stop!”

Lisa plugged the upgrade chip into her PDA, then decided to try it out on her new Pokémon. She aimed the device at Meowth then hit “Info.” The machine beeped and an image and text appeared. A pleasant female voice started up as well. “Meowth, the Scratch Cat Pokémon. Meowth is a nocturnal Pokémon that loves to wander the city streets at night and collect shiny objects like coins.”

“Guess we better start working on your attacks… Let’s start by giving that bush over there a Scratch.”

The small cat extended her long, pointed claws then delivered a single swipe at the small hedge, causing some of its foliage to come loose. “Good job!” she complimented. Lisa started to feel a breeze and noticed a large green leaf float by. “Okay, Meowth, let’s try moving targets this time! Scratch the leaf!”

Meowth’s first attempt missed, but the cat concentrated its focus on the floating green object before leaping at it with her claws at the ready. This time, the kitten was dead-on and sliced the leaf in two. “Excellent work! Now let’s try multiple Scratches! Target that bush again!” This time Lisa observed as Meowth made five quick swipes at the plant.

“Good job! Okay, now go after that leaf!” she directed while pointing at another floating green object in the sky. The feline jumped up at it, her claws ready.

On a four-lane highway, a black Mercury Grand Marquis was making its way north. Inside the sedan, a woman in the passenger seat turned to her husband. “Douglas, you know, Lisa really didn’t want to leave home. Are you sure we shouldn’t have just taken her with us?”

“You know, Brooke, it was tempting, but honestly, that girl hasn’t seen a challenge in her life. She breezed through school and college, she’s earning a five-figure income, and basically she’s had everything handed to her. She has no idea of what the real world is like. She hasn’t had to scratch and claw her way to success like we had to. I figured that Pokémon training was something that would test her physically as well as force her to realize there’s more to life than being sheltered and spoiled.”

“I suppose you do have a point there, but I’m just worried it might be a bit too dangerous for her, if you know what I mean.”

Keeping both hands firmly on the steering wheel, Douglas answered, “True, but the League lets kids younger than her journey into the world, so it can’t be that dangerous. Besides, there’s something about Lisa… once she gets into Pokémon training, I’m sure she’ll try her hardest to excel. She’s always wanted to be the best at whatever she tried to do, and while this is a bit different, soon she’ll realize it’s another challenge to conquer.”

Resting her hand on her door’s armrest, Brooke looked forward again. “True, I mean, that’s what drove my brother to Pokémon training success all those years back. Perhaps that desire for success is something that runs in the family.”

“Okay! That’s good for now!” the teenaged trainer called out to her tiny cat Pokémon. “I sorta lost track of time there, but I think we should get going here. After all, I don’t need environmentalists coming after us for destroying the plant life here.”

Meowth nodded and, after swiping at a tree trunk one last time, she ran over to Lisa.

“Maybe I should give you a nickname, Meowth. How about, ‘Quadratic Formula’?”

Meowth scowled at her trainer, apparently not accepting the name.

Lisa continued to suggest nicknames. “3.14159? Pythagorean Theorem? SOHCAHTOA? Isosceles Triangle? System of Equations? What, you don’t like ANY of them?!”

Meowth had rejected every one of her proposed nicknames, each time sticking her tongue out at her shocked trainer. Dejected, Lisa finally mumbled, “Fine, I’ll just call you Meowth for the time being. Man, I never was any good at nicknames!”

Meowth seemed to agree to this plan, as it was painfully obvious that any nickname suggested by Lisa would be nerdy in a mathematical way.

“Okay, Meowth, I suppose it’s time we got going.” The pair proceeded to walk down the grassy path, which was overgrown and filled with weeds and small shrubs.

Chapter 2: Of Rivals and Parolees

Lisa turned to take one last look at the town, when she noticed something gleaming hurtling right toward her. She had to dive into the grass, just barely avoiding a tire iron flying past. “What in the heck?! Why is someone trying to kill me?!” she yelled out as she hit the dirt.

She got up, picked her hat off the ground and put it back on. Dusting herself off, she took a look at her legs. “Good. At least I didn’t rip my stockings.”

Then she noticed a figure emerging from the town. Whoever it was, they were laughing like a madman. As the figure approached, Lisa got a closer look at it, and recognized it immediately. The figure was an old man, in his late sixties. He was bald, with a scruffy white beard. He removed his sunglasses, revealing a pair of sinister eyes that glowed bright red. He wore a black suit with red tie, as well as a nasty smirk on his face.

Lisa knew this man as Tommy Junger. He used to work for her father, but then attempted to commit health insurance fraud against the company. Upon his release, Tommy then proceeded to kidnap several of her father’s employees and held them for ransom. Once he was captured for that, Tommy got fifteen years for kidnapping and extortion. Her jaw dropped. This was the last person Lisa ever expected to see again.

Tommy spoke up. “So we meet again, little missy. You’re probably wondering how I’m free. Let me just say that those stupid parole hearing board members are easily bribed and/or intimidated. And now, it is time you repaid some debts that your parents were responsible for. I’ve been stalking you, and I hear you’re starting on a Pokémon journey. Well now, I couldn’t just let you do that, now could I? Since Mommy and Daddy can’t save you, I think I’ll have fun tearing you apart!”

Shaking, sweating, and wide-eyed, Lisa took a step back from her attacker. “How’s he been getting away with this?! Man, I am gonna regret this!

Pulling out a pistol, the elderly man cackled. “Thought I wouldn’t be armed? Wrong! Time to die now, you stupid little… Ow! What the hell?”

Acting on instinct, Meowth leaped up and gave Tommy a hard scratch to the left hand, causing his grip on his gun to loosen.

“You damned little…” The enraged felon grabbed the Pokémon and struggled with her. While he was distracted, Lisa picked up the gun and threw it as far as she could.

“What the hell did you do with my gun? Oh, whatever. There’s more than one way to exterminate a pest!”

Seeing that Tommy had pried Meowth’s claws away from his arm, she ran headlong at him. “NO!” Lisa tackled Tommy before he could throw her Pokémon to the ground, and the three of them hit the dirt. “You’re not hurting my Pokémon! She had nothing to do with you!”

Furious, Tommy threw Lisa off of him. “How dare you! Houndour, Oddish! I will tolerate nothing less than total annihilation! Destroy her!” Tommy ordered his Pokémon around with all the pleasantness of a drill sergeant. “I didn’t waste all that time stealing you for you to turn out to be useless!

Don’t tell me this guy started training Pokémon just to get at me…

Tommy released two red and white orbs. A flash of red energy released a black dog- like creature with a red snout. It snapped and barked loudly, revealing sharp white teeth with drool dripping from them. Upon seeing that its opponent was the diminutive Meowth, the canine began salivating even more, with extra slobber leaking from its mouth. Crouching down on all fours, Houndour prepared not only for a battle, but a tasty meal as well.

His other Pokémon was a short blue Pokémon with green leaves sticking out of its head. This round Pokémon walked around in a meandering manner on two stubby feet, nearly tripping over them. Its eyes were merely dots on its deep blue form, and its vacant look wasn’t all that intimidating.

Jeez… I think I’m in way over my head here…” Staring down her elderly nemesis and both his Pokémon with an angry glare, she yelled out, “Grrr… Two against one isn’t fair! Why don’t you battle like a man?”

“All’s fair in love, war, and revenge, sis. And I think the last two apply equally here!”

Great, my first official Pokémon battle, and I am painfully outmatched… but he’s not getting away with this!” Turning to her tiny Pokémon, Lisa said, “Okay, Meowth, I guess this means we have to take this guy on now. Watch yourself, this guy’s tricky and doesn’t play by the rules. Let’s target that Houndour with your Scratch!”

Meowth nodded, then the small cat Pokémon leapt at Houndour, with claws bared. Before she could strike, however, the Oddish rammed into her at full force, knocking Meowth aside.

“Oh, no!” Lisa cringed as Meowth was came crashing down on the grassy plain, barely avoiding hitting a tree.

Houndour started to gather flames at its mouth, and fired a series of small orange fireballs at Meowth, who couldn’t get out of the way in time. The velocity of the assault knocked the Pokémon over, while the intense heat of the attack left her body with black scorch marks.

“Not another hard hit!” the worried girl cried, tugging at the lace trim that adorned the bottom of her dress. “Meowth, are you okay?!”

“In a few seconds, it won’t be!” her adversary proclaimed, going after the tire iron. “Damn! I would have rather had the gun, but this’ll have to do…”

The girl’s knees began to shake as she nervously fingered the hem of her dress. “Please be okay… I don’t want it to end like this…

After a few tense moments, Meowth struggled to get to her feet. Meanwhile, Houndour launched another series of bright Embers at Meowth. Before the Pokémon could recover from the first devastating hit, the Oddish drew a ball of green energy from the tiny cat Pokémon and absorbed it into its own body. Both of Tommy’s Pokémon charged headlong at Meowth, knocking the small cat Pokémon backwards and sending her skidding along the dirt path before the Pokémon finally fell onto her back. Scarred and scratched, Meowth was now in a bad way, but she had a look of determination on her face.

I can’t take both of these Pokémon on at once… I’m gonna need some serious help… Meowth, try Scratching the Houndour again, but this time watch out for Oddish, too! I know you're hurting, but this guy's a bad seed and we can't lose to him!” Lisa was breathing heavily. She knew that her life was riding on this battle. If Meowth fainted, Tommy would not hesitate to bludgeon the both of them.

The elderly man began to cackle sadistically. With a low, booming tone, he issued one final command to his Pokémon. “Finish her!”

Uh, oh, this is bad, really bad…

Meowth once again jumped toward Houndour. Lisa could see the Oddish rushing in toward her Pokémon to knock her off balance. Just then…


A blob of poisonous slime came flying at Oddish. The purple goop knocked Oddish to the ground, allowing Meowth to land a strike on Houndour. A round purple Pokémon, floating a couple feet off the ground, appeared seemingly from out of nowhere. Lisa activated her Pokédex. The newcomer wore a smile on its face and a skull and crossbones symbol on the lower part of its body. Its spherical form was laced with numerous crater-like openings, which loosed puffs of gray smoke at regular intervals.

“Koffing, the Poison Gas Pokémon. The gases that are mixed in this Pokémon’s body are less dense than air, causing it to float. The chemicals inside can ignite or explode without warning.”

“Koffing, huh? Are you here to help me?”


Meowth nodded. “Meowth, meow, meow!”

“Okay guys, let's get him together!” Looking at the newcomer, the newbie trainer thought, “I might stand a chance now… I hope…

Tommy just sneered. “You think some gas-bag will stop me? Attack, you two incompetents!”

Lisa thought to herself, “This guy needs to learn a lot about training. I may be new at this, but even I know to treat Pokémon with care and respect.

“Let's go! Meowth, continue using Scratch on Houndour! Koffing, use that last attack...”

Lisa consulted her Pokédex. “Koffing now can use Tackle, Sludge, and Smog.”

“Okay, so it's called Sludge. Use Sludge on his Oddish!”

Despite being injured, Meowth leapt in for another attack. Houndour began to flame at the mouth again. “Watch out, it's gonna shoot fire at you! Try to dodge the strike!”

Using a series of acrobatic moves, Meowth darted left and then right, dumbfounding the Houndour as to which way to fire its attack. The kitten Pokémon landed a direct hit to its head, which seemed to do serious damage, as the strike disrupted another Ember attempt and caused the black Pokémon to cringe.

Growing a small smile, Lisa observed, “The head must be the weak point. Quickly, Meowth, and use a series of Scratches to its head!”

Meanwhile, Koffing and Oddish were exchanging attacks, but it appeared that Koffing was gaining the upper hand. Oddish was becoming more exhausted and disoriented with each strike, as the purple filth from Koffing’s attack was accumulating on its small form. The little Grass-type was stumbling about, barely able to stay on its feet.

“Meowth, let’s keep up the attack on Houndour, just watch out ‘cause you’re already hurt!”

Meowth was continuing her tactic of quickly jumping in for Scratch strikes and jumping away before Houndour could inflict serious damage. A few errant Embers still hit her, but it was clear the tables had turned. Meowth went in for the final strike, swiping at Houndour several times with her claws until her canine foe collapsed out of exhaustion.

Now I’ve got a chance to even the score…

“Nimrod!” Tommy screamed as he called Houndour back into its holding device. “What the hell am I paying you for?!” He raised his weapon in a threatening manner.

I didn’t know you could pay Pokémon – aw, whatever…” the girl thought to herself. “Good, Meowth! Now help Koffing put the hammer down on Oddish!” Lisa was able to give this command with more confidence now.

Meowth bared her claws and hit Oddish square on the head, then jumped aside as Koffing fired another heap of purple sludge at the plant Pokémon, finally doing it in.

“Yes! We won! I'm so proud of you guys! Take that, Tommy!” Lisa and her two Pokémon cheered, but the celebration would be short-lived.

The old man withdrew his Pokémon and raised the tire iron, muttering, “I’m surrounded by idiot Pokémon…” Then he turned his focus on Lisa, with a look of pure hatred. “You may have beaten my Pokémon, but I will inform my son about you. Once I tell him about you, he'll be happy to destroy you in battle. On second thought, why don't I save him the trouble and just bash your face in now...”

The girl began backing away from the man as he kept approaching her, murderous intent clearly in his eyes.

Suddenly, he turned tail and ran into the bushes, just out of sight of a passing Ford Crown Victoria.

Oh, man,” Lisa thought, breathing heavily, “he sure arrived at the right time! I thought I was gonna die!

The person in the car pulled up next to Lisa and rolled down the window.

“Hello, there, I am Officer Perkins. Is everything okay?”

Lisa nearly collapsed but was able to use the car as balance. “Now it is. My name’s… Lisa Northwood. I… just started my Pokémon journey but got ambushed by this guy I knew from before. He… he tried to kill me,” she answered.

“Whoa! Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah,” the girl replied, struggling to her feet. “I just… need… to regain… my composure…”

“Well, don’t push yourself. Were your Pokémon injured?”

“Y… yeah…”

“Here, give both Pokémon these Potions. They’ll tide them over until you can get to the next Pokémon Center.”

“Wait! Any chance you could drive me to the next town first?” She looked up at the officer with a hopeful expression on her face.

”Sorry, but I’m headed in the opposite direction. I could take you back to Fort Barnes if you’d like.”

Lisa considered the offer, but realized that backtracking wouldn’t save her any time. “No, that’s okay,” she replied, trying to hide her disappointment. “Hopefully the cop scared Tommy off so he won’t be coming back after me…

“Are you sure about that?”

“Yeah. Thanks for your help. Bye!”

As the car sped off, Lisa used the potions on the Pokémon. “Man, if he was just headed in the other direction, I would’ve gone with him!” She looked north, dreading the long way it would be until she reached the next town. Letting out a sigh, she thought, “This is way more than I bargained for…

“Koffing koff koff!”

Meowth looked at Koffing then jumped and grabbed for Lisa's supply of empty Pokéballs. “Huh? Do you want to join us?”

Koffing smiled at Lisa and so did Meowth.

“Okay then! Welcome to the team!” Lisa took out a Pokéball and placed it in front of Koffing. With a flash of red light, it disappeared into the Pokéball.

“Boo-yah! We caught a Koffing!”

“Meowth meow meow!”

Weird…” thought Lisa before continuing on her way.

Hiding behind a large tree, Tommy pulled out a cell phone. “Listen, there’s a girl coming your way that knows about the lab invasion. That is already too much information. Intercept and eliminate her. She’s got on this ridiculous hat and some butt-ugly blue dress. You can’t miss her. Just make sure you get the job done. I’m off.”

After several uneventful minutes of walking through the grassy plains, Lisa saw a tiny purple Pokémon with buck teeth. Smaller than Meowth, the little rodent-like creature let out several high-pitched squeaks with its curled tail standing nearly straight up. Every time the teenage newbie tried to sidestep to get around the Pokémon, it ran in the same direction to block her path.

Looks like I have no choice but to battle…” She activated her Pokédex. “Rattata, the rat Pokémon. Rattata travel in large groups and feed off anything they can find.” The Rattata charged in at Lisa and if not for her quick movement would have taken a bite out of her foot.

“Hey, watch it! These are open-toed shoes, and there's only a thin layer of nylon protecting my feet! Meowth, shall we teach it a lesson?”


“Alright, we'll lead off with a Scratch attack! Let's get it on!”

Meowth charged at the small purple Pokémon but the target quickly jumped aside. Rattata turned to taunt Meowth but it gave the little cat enough time to deliver a hard claw strike. Rattata retaliated by tackling Meowth full force with its small body, knocking the cat Pokémon aside. The kitten quickly got back up and growled at its purple adversary.

“Use it again!”

Meowth charged in as before, and Rattata jumped out of the way, causing the beige Pokémon’s lunge to go wide left. Undeterred, Meowth leapt in again, this time landing a strike that caused the Rattata to collapse. Before it did, it let out a loud squeak. Lisa turned around and saw a huge purple mass headed right toward her at a high rate of speed. Her eyes grew wide and her jaw dropped. “Okay… this is definitely NOT good…

“Meowth, return! We've got to get out of here before its friends eat us up!”

Man! I did NOT sign up to be chased down and torn apart by rodents! I cannot believe this stuff is happening to me!

Meowth returned to her Luxury Ball and Lisa started to run. Well, she ran as fast as a girl in a dress and heels could run, which wasn’t all that fast. Panting heavily, she ignored the pain in her feet. She continued looking back and saw the group of Rattata approach her. Just then she spotted a building with a red roof and quickly ducked inside seconds before she would have been ambushed. Lisa stood inside the door, heart still racing. “Geez, I’m gonna get killed out there!”

An attendant behind the desk spoke up. She had blond hair and wore a white button-up blouse and black skirt. “Welcome to the Chromo Town Pokémon Center. Are you okay?”

“Wow, this is Chromo Town? I guess you… get places fast when there's… a pack of Rattata chasing you... Oh, sorry. I'm Lisa Northwood, and… I'm a beginning Pokémon trainer. Could you look over my Pokémon and heal them up?” she asked between heavy breaths, handing over her two Pokéballs. “Any place where I can get cleaned up?”

“There’s some showers upstairs.”

“Thanks.” Humble as this place was, Lisa was glad to finally be in some sort of shelter – a place where neither wild Pokémon nor crazed fanatic could get to her.

The girl had elected to simply rinse herself off and put on the same clothes rather than shower with soap and change clothes. She would just be headed back out again in a few hours.

Waiting for her Pokémon to finish healing, Lisa began to think about her chance encounter with the Koffing, and why it was hanging out near Fort Barnes. “It didn’t seem like the normal area for wild Koffing to hang out, and if it was owned by someone else, wouldn’t it have waited around for its trainer?” She suddenly yelled out, “I can’t get my thoughts straight with all that’s happened!”

The teen decided to step out to get some fresh air. This would turn out to be a mistake as two men in black jumpsuits and ski masks were waiting for her. One of them grabbed the girl and covered her mouth while the other pulled out a handgun.

“Hey, what are you… Mmmmmffff!” As the girl struggled against the burly thug, she thought, “This is the third time TODAY that my life’s been put in danger! Why did I have to go on this journey, anyway? I’m just gonna get killed!

“Well, well, well, looks like someone stumbled upon a crime scene she shouldn’t have. And now, you must pay the price. Blame this on your own bad luck!”

“I suggest you let that girl go, now!” a female voice commanded.

Whoa… who’s that?

As Lisa continued to struggle, three people approached. All looked like they were in their thirties. The first was a tall man with red hair. He wore shades and a long red and gray robe. The second man was shorter, wearing a black suit and sporting slick black hair. The third person was a woman, wearing a black blouse and purple skirt. She had short red hair that she had tied up in the back, and she had on wide-rimmed glasses.

“Who the hell are you three, and how dare you interrupt our important discussion?!”

“We do not feel that is important to discuss. Now, let that girl go, immediately!” the woman answered in her own way.

“Fine then!” the man holding Lisa spat. “Let’s show these losers who they’re dealing with!” He took out a gun and approached the mysterious trio along with his partner, Lisa firmly in his grasp.

“Okay, guys,” the woman said to her partners, “as much as I’d like to get my hands dirty, I’ll let you two go all Walker, Texas Ranger on them.”

Both nodded as they prepared to face off against the criminals. In the time it took for both thugs to aim their weapons, they found themselves disarmed. The man in the robe had smacked one of the thugs’ guns out of his hand, while the one in the suit had performed a roundhouse kick to dislodge the other weapon. Lisa, along with both men, hit the dirt.

Getting back up, one of the men yelled, “What the hell… Fine, we’ll settle this the old fashioned way!”

Still on the ground, Lisa watched as the men began their fight. The redheaded man ducked to avoid a sucker punch, then performed a leg sweep to knock the rogue onto his back. The one with black hair jumped to the right to avoid a spinning kick before punching his adversary right in the lip. Both crooks got back to their feet, not finished yet despite having bloodied faces.

“Argggh… Who are you, anyway?”

The men responded not with words, but with simultaneous roundhouse kicks that knocked their opponents out cold, just as a police officer arrived on the scene. The enigmatic trio then approached the officer and flashed some badges. Nodding, the officer picked up and restrained the criminals. As they were being shoved into the squad car, the woman helped Lisa to her feet.

“Come on, let’s get back inside. Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine, thanks to you,” the girl answered as she dusted off her dress. The two of them returned to the lobby of the Pokémon Center, followed by the two men.

Adjusting her glasses, the woman spoke up. “Are you perhaps from Fort Barnes?”

“Um...yes, yes I am...” Lisa stammered, a bit intimidated by the young woman. She had an air of elegance and power about her as she stood nearly erect, arms folded across her chest.

“Do you know about what happened to Professor Amy Sequoia in the town's research center?”

“I know she was attacked. I was the person who found her and untied her. I got my first Pokémon from her.”

“We would like to speak with you about her. There's a Denny's across the street. We'll buy lunch and discuss what happened last night. It is of the utmost importance.”

“Okay, you got it!” Lisa didn’t know what to make of these three, but she figured she would at least hear them out.

The center's attendant spoke up. “Your Pokémon are ready.”

“Thank you.” Lisa took her Pokéballs, then let Meowth out of its Pokéball. Then she went with the three strangers out of the Pokémon Center and toward the restaurant.

Chapter 3: A Life-changing Lunch and Lisa's First Loss

Lisa walked to the restaurant ahead of the three enigmatic people. She didn't notice them finishing up a call on their cell phones. “Well, looks like Miss Northwood's background checks out,” whispered the red-haired man. “Should we tell her the situation?” He received a nod from his two companions.

Lisa and the three mysterious entities sat down at a booth inside Denny's. After ordering their food, the woman began to talk.

“We've conducted a background check on you and everything checks out, so I feel confident we can reveal this information to you. But first, please allow us to introduce ourselves. My name is Lorelei, highly regarded as the cool ice mistress. I was born on a remote island called Four Island, and until recently I trained in the Kanto Region.”

The man in black told her, “My name is Giovanni, from the Kanto Region, as well.”

The man in red was the last to speak up. “My name is Eldes, and I hail from the Orre region.”

Okay, but why are these three approaching me?” The girl looked around nervously. She tried to smooth out the wrinkles in her dress. She ran her hand through her hair, trying to get the dirt off it and get rid of some of the tangles. Her face turned red and she began to sweat.

The three of them flashed badges, seemingly ignoring Lisa’s obvious nervousness. They read, “Pokémon League Enforcement Team.” Eldes then explained. “All three of us are part of the Pokémon League's crack investigative group, commonly referred to as the Pokémon G-Men. Giovanni and I were both top officials in dangerous criminal organizations, but we have given up our evil ways. We are now working with the Pokémon League to repay our debts for the evil tasks we had orchestrated.”

And the League trusts you? Ah, I guess I'm not one to judge...

Lorelei added, “And I was once part of the Pokémon League Elite Four that served the Kanto and Johto regions. However, after a certain incident on my home island,” she said, glaring at Giovanni, “I decided that my position on the Elite Four was compromising my ability to keep my home island safe. The Pokémon League allowed me to give up my position as long as I served on the G-Men and found a suitable replacement for the Elite Four. I eventually found such a trainer. His name was Will. Weird dresser, but he's got major skills with Psychic Pokémon. Well, why don't you formally introduce yourself?”

“My name is Lisa Northwood. I'm fifteen and originally from Anderson, South Carolina. My parents recently took a business trip back to the States and sent me off to train Pokémon. I was set to receive my starter Pokémon when the lab was attacked. Fortunately, the thugs missed one Pokémon - my little Meowth, so I was given her as my starting Pokémon.” Lisa was softly petting her Meowth between bites of the rolls that were on the table.

With a distinct Italian accent, Giovanni spoke up in a low-pitched yet commanding voice. “We were sent here to investigate the attack on Dr. Sequoia. With her being a Pokémon Ambassador, one who distributes Pokémon to starting trainers, this attack on her was top priority. Also she had been doing research on Shadow Pokémon. I better let Eldes explain that.”

Shadow Pokémon? What's that all about?” wondered the teenager. “Oh, wait, looks like this other guy is gonna explain.

The mysterious man in red talked in a low, solemn voice as he reflected on his past actions. He was perhaps the most enigmatic of all. “In the Orre region, a group called Cipher found a way to seal off a Pokémon’s heart and turn them into battle machines called Shadow Pokémon. Cipher had planned on using the Shadow Pokémon to take over the world. However, that would not come to pass. A young man captured back all of them, defeated Cipher, and restored their hearts. But then the second Cipher wave happened, and this is where I was involved, along with my brother and father. We had captured a legendary Pokémon, Lugia, and turned it into our “Shadow XD Project,” which we believed could not have its heart restored. But we were wrong.”

Lisa’s eyes grew wide. She had only been half paying attention, but this latest bit of information caught her interest. “Really? Sounds like y’all were involved in some really intense stuff. But closing a Pokémon’s heart sounds like a horribly cruel act.” With a hint of anger in her voice and on her face, she told Eldes, “I cannot believe that anyone would try something so despicable.”

Letting out a sigh, Eldes replied, “You are right, Lisa. I realized that fact too late… Anyway, like before, a young boy broke us up and restored the Pokémon, including the XD Lugia, before setting them all free. My father and I learned the errors of our ways, and turned ourselves in. I was given a chance to redeem myself by joining with the Pokémon League and helping them to stop others who have had similar goals of malice involving Pokémon. My brother still vowed never to give up the plan. I fear that the research on Shadow Pokémon was what those criminals were after, and that my brother is somehow involved.”

Giovanni explained his past, and like Eldes seemed to look at his past actions with regret. “I am the former head of Team Rocket. In the past, it was a highly organized gang of criminals. Though most of our activities focused on making money and obtaining Pokémon illegally, our top scientists and I were involved in a most sinister plan to create the world’s most powerful Pokémon.”

Lisa looked intrigued. “Well, what became of that plan?”

Looking down at his plate, Giovanni answered, “The result was Mewtwo, a Pokémon of incredible power- too much for us to control. It escaped and destroyed our lab, and reportedly nobody has seen it since. And for the sake of everyone I hope nobody does. Anyway, the team was dismantled by a young trainer, and I took to training in secret until my conscience took over and I turned myself in. After serving some time, I was made an offer, like Eldes, to join the Pokémon League to battle against those who wish to use Pokémon for evil. It is something I should have done long ago… Oh, and let me warn you that on more than one occasion, some fools have tried to resurrect Team Rocket. All of these attempts have failed, and each “rebirth” of Team Rocket has been more feeble than the last. But rest assured that I have severed all ties with any group that calls itself Team Rocket.”

The food then arrived. While enjoying her burger and fries, Lisa continued to listen. Her Meowth, meanwhile, was grabbing for her food. “Aww, does my cute little kitty want a fry? Does she? There you go! Enjoy!”

“Meow meow!”

Meanwhile, Giovanni just finished a conversation on his phone. “That was the professor. She told us that she had sent the research documents to Fourtix University before the attacks and also that the only Pokémon that were stolen were starters and a few of her personal Pokémon.”

Lisa looked up, a bit puzzled. “Wait, she has Pokémon besides her own?”

Lorelei fielded this question. “Yes. As a Pokémon Ambassador, she also holds on to all Pokémon that belong to trainers that she gave out Pokémon to, whenever they're not in the trainer's party. They're kept at her ranch on the outskirts of Fort Barnes, where the criminals failed to strike. That's why I suspect that the Shadow Pokémon research was the real goal of the attack. Oh, and yes, if you ever get more than six Pokémon, they are automatically transported to Dr. Sequoia's ranch in your name. You will be able to swap out Pokémon at any Pokémon Center.”

Eldes finished up a chicken strip and started to speak. “Lisa, while the Pokemon League does not like to put new trainers in mortal danger, I fear that this time we have no choice, unless we take drastic actions that will change who you are. The organization that orchestrated the invasion apparently knows that you've had contact with the professor after the incident. And regardless of how much information Amy Sequoia might have told you, they believe that the knowledge you have threatens their operation, and so they will stop at nothing to eliminate you.”

“But she told me next to nothing!” the girl shrieked, eyes growing wide.

“Please keep your voice down. I understand that fact, but the criminals think that you do. Therefore, like it or not, you've been recruited to fight against these criminals. It isn't a matter of choice, but a matter of survival. I apologize that you've been dragged into this against your will, but it's too late to turn back now.”

The teenager visibly tensed up and began to quiver and sweat. “No way... NO WAY! This can't be happening! My parents - and I - thought that this would just be a fun little adventure... Now it's a fight for survival! I can't believe this! How did all this happen so fast!?

Giovanni continued, “If it is any consolation, the trainers who uprooted Team Rocket and Cipher were younger than you, so age shouldn't be a factor. With that said, I understand that it's still a dangerous situation, so you will have the assistance of the three of us if you need it. May I see your cell phone?”

“Sure,” she answered, handing the phone to the Italian gentleman. After working with the girl's phone for a few minutes, he handed it back to Lisa.

“Our numbers are registered in your phone, and yours in ours. If you need us, we will try to get to you as fast as we can, though obviously we can't show up immediately. With this said, are you up to taking on this challenge? Or would you prefer to cease training and enter our Witness Protection Program?”

I have the perfect chance to give up this training right here and now... but what would Meowth and Koffing think? And what would my parents think? ‘Oh, your daughter ran afoul of some terrorists and now she’s in hiding under some fake name?’ No, that ain’t gonna fly with them. They expect me to train Pokémon, but maybe there’s some way ...” Lisa put on a poker face. “Well, I really don’t want to commit to fighting a group of terrorists, but I would like to see I can somehow keep training but stay out of this whole mess,” she answered, even while wishing she wasn’t backed into this corner. Her fidgety hands would have told the story if they had not been concealed under the table.

Giovanni answered, “Fair enough, but please be aware that your chances of remaining incognito for very long are slim.”

“Yeah, but I can’t picture myself being put somewhere where I won’t be able to live my daily life. And I’m worried that if I do enter witness protection, my life as I know it will be no more.”

Lorelei spoke up. “That is understandable. Moving on, you are aware that, by virtue of receiving a starter Pokémon and Pokédex upgrade from Ambassador Sequoia, that you are officially inducted into the Pokémon League? There are ten Gyms throughout the region, and each will be vital to improving the skills of you and your Pokémon. We’ll be contacting each of the leaders, so you’ll have people you can turn to if you get in over your head.”

“Okay,” the girl mumbled, her eyes darting around the room to see if Tommy was in getting a meal. She was half hoping he was, just so her companions could go all Chuck Norris on him.

“The first gym is in Bluefield City, which is north of here, through Chromo Forest. It's also where Fourtix University is so you may want to check in there and make sure there isn't any sort of attack happening there. But now, we need to be heading to the lab. We will be in contact if anything comes up. Farewell.”

The three of them paid the food bill, then got up and left the restaurant and headed south. After finishing up her lemonade, Lisa sat back in the booth and began to take a nap. Despite trying to forget about Tommy and the other attackers, memories of them kept coming back into Lisa’s mind. Tossing and turning in the cramped booth, she soon attracted the attention of a waitress. “Ma’am, I’m sorry, but unless you’re going to place another order, I’ll have to ask you to leave.”

“I guess I’ll head out now,” she muttered as she groggily rose and stumbled out of the restaurant.

Reluctantly, Lisa headed out of the restaurant. Seeing nothing except modest residential houses and an apartment building, she decided to head on north with Meowth in tow. She had contemplated spending a few more hours in town, but figured that she better keep moving so she could hopefully make it to the next town by nightfall.

As she walked past two-story ranch after two-story ranch, Lisa began thinking about the whole deal with the criminals, and she had her doubts. “Why did I have to get involved in this mess? Why would three powerful trainers believe that I, being a mere rookie, would stand a chance? True, they did tell me that the trainers who broke up Cipher and Rocket were young like me, but still… Why should I even bother? It just doesn’t make sense… Maybe I should've taken them up on their offer to just quit... I wouldn't be risking life and limb that way...” With these thoughts firmly in her mind, Lisa and Meowth headed to the dirt path that led out of the small community. Before she could get out of town however, someone jumped out in front of her.

“What the…”

The burly man wore a red jumpsuit, his face obscured by a black hat. On his chest was a large white “T”. With a wicked smile on the lower part of hidden face, the man cackled. “I saw you talking to those three Pokémon League dimwits and I know you're working with them. That will NOT be tolerated, little missy. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Buster, part of the glorious Brotherhood of Thrash, commonly known as Team Thrash. I don't know why people call us that though. It's not like we play basketball or anything...”

Thrash? Is that what this group is called? What a stupid name...” she mused. “Um... maybe it's because you guys operate as a group or, in other words, a TEAM?” Lisa replied with a sarcastic tone, just in case Buster couldn’t take the hint.

“Hmm, maybe that's why. But, Brotherhood does sound a lot cooler... Bah! Enough of this! I’m going to nip this little problem in the bud!”

Buster threw a black sphere at Lisa’s Meowth. The ball opened in midair, and red energy beams emerged from it, striking Meowth with powerful blasts of energy. The suffering feline began to cry out in pain.

“No! What do you think you’re doing?!” Lisa shouted out, concerned for Meowth’s safety. “What's that thing doing to her?!?

“What I’m doing, little girl, is destroying your Pokémon so you have no chance to stand against us!” Buster proclaimed, smirking as he placed his hands on his hips.

How dare you do that to Meowth! She had nothing to do with this! Grrr... I just can't stand here doing nothing...” The girl pulled out a Pokéball, shouting, “I won’t let you! Koffing, go! Use Sludge on that device!” Lisa quickly sent out her levitating gaseous Pokémon, who quickly hit the sinister ball with thick purple slime. The machine stopped emanating its red beams, and Meowth fell to the ground.

“Meowth! are you okay? Let me help you!” Worried, Lisa ran over to her injured Pokémon and quickly used the last of the healing potions she had received on her. Meowth sprang to her feet, but had dropped the “cute kitten” image. She now glared at Buster with a look of sheer hatred in its eyes. But the criminal matched Meowth with a look of equal rage directed at Lisa.

“How dare you! That energy-sapping device was a lab prototype! I’ll get majorly chewed out… unless I eliminate you and redeem myself! Growlithe and Mankey, attack! Destroy her!”

One of his Pokémon was a canine Pokémon, but this one was different from Tommy’s Houndour. Orange fur covered most of this creature’s body, with white tufts on the tail and on the muzzle. The little dog barked ferociously and bared its teeth, with its tail rapidly moving back and forth.

The other creature was monkey-like in looks and movement, jumping about violently. Its off-white fur was apparently hiding its mouth, as only its eyes and a pig-like snout were visible. Growing angry, the Pokémon began shaking its fists and jumping around even more frantically.

Now I'll make you pay!” the teenager thought. “Finally we get to battle! Meowth, Koffing, you're up! Now you’ve made me mad, pal! Okay, guys, let's use Sludge and Scratch, both on Mankey!”

Mankey leapt up to avoid Meowth's claws but a purple blob of sludge hit it from above, knocking it back to earth. There, Meowth got in a few strikes before Growlithe fired small embers from its mouth, making contact with her. The cat retreated a bit but then bared her claws again.

Lisa remembered something from Koffing's Pokédex description, about how the gases could ignite and trigger an explosion. “Let's try a little spontaneous combustion!

Buster laughed. “Ain't you gonna strike? Growlithe, use Ember again! Trigger them to come at us!”

Growlithe began to gather flames at its mouth.

“Koffing, Smog now!” After issuing this command, Lisa hung back and waited for the pyrotechnics.

The gaseous purple Pokémon released a cloud of purple gas right at Growlithe. The instant it touched the flames, a huge cloud of black smoke emerged and both Growlithe and Mankey went flying.

Both of Lisa's Pokémon were far enough away that they only felt a little force on them and were able to stand their ground. Mankey landed hard on a rock and appeared incapacitated. Buster held up Mankey’s Pokéball and called it back, bellowing out something unintelligible.

“Now that’s what I call an explosive development!”

Growlithe landed in some bushes, then burned a hole through them and emerged. It was panting heavily, but had a look of anger and determination on its furry face. Flames dripped from its mouth like drool.

“Ember again, and finish them both off!”

“How stupid can this guy be? Another Smog, then after the explosion, Meowth, give it a Scratch if it hasn't gone down!”

Once again, the mix of fire and putrid gas triggered a big explosion, but somehow Growlithe managed to withstand it.

“Okay Meowth, finish it!”

As Growlithe struggled to its feet, Meowth rushed in and with a few well-placed swipes of her claws managed to knock Growlithe out. The Thrash agent recalled hi staggering and disoriented Pokémon. “Hear me well, little girl! You have not heard the last of us!” He ran off toward a dark, mysterious forest that loomed on the horizon.

Lisa called back to him, “And I'll be waiting!”

The girl turned her attention to her Pokémon. “That was great work, guys. Although I have a feeling this Thrash group may be behind the lab attack, so I better keep an eye on them. Koffing, return!” After summoning Koffing back into her Pokéball, Lisa continued north out of town, passing by a rusted out old route marker that read “502.” Leaning against the sign, she looked for any sort of bench or table where she could rest up. Seeing nothing of the sort, she sulked and threw her hands up in anger.

“It’s like they make no effort to make these routes user-friendly! I mean, come ON!”

Grudgingly continuing her long hike, thoughts of the recent ambushes flowed into her mind. Her face was visibly contorting into an angry expression just thinking about the group. Lisa had an answer to one of her questions, and that made the other two questions moot. She now had a reason to battle the Thrash organization. They had tried to hurt her Pokémon one too many times, and there would be no forgiving that.

Lisa continued to walk the dirt path toward the foreboding forest entrance, just a short distance away, when suddenly, a small brown bird dove in and snatched her hat. Flapping its tiny wings to gain altitude, the feathered creature's flight was slowed by the extra weight of the hat.

“What in the heck was that?” Lisa jumped up in surprise. That hat had been a gift from her best friend before she moved out to Phoenix. Lisa had always thought it looked cute on her. Getting down to business, the girl commanded, “Meowth, jump up and Scratch it! Help me get my hat back!”

Meowth used her speed to leap high into the air, then descended on the thieving Pokémon with her claws extended. The surprised bird dropped the white wide-brimmed hat, and Lisa quickly ran over to pick it up and put it back on. “Now that THAT'S settled, I suppose I better find out more about this birdie...” The girl activated her Pokédex. “Pidgey, the Tiny Bird Pokémon. Pidgey are typically docile and would rather not fight.”

Pidgey landed and began cooing at Lisa and Meowth angrily.

“Guess this one does wants a fight, though. Not everybody fits the mold, I suppose…” Lisa said as both Pidgey and Meowth stared each other down.

“Okay, I think we'll start by weakening it with a Scratch attack. If we target the wings, we may be able to ground the bird and keep it from taking to the skies. Let's go!”

The brown bird Pokémon attempted to take flight, but Meowth was able to leap up, then slam Pidgey's wings with her sharp claws. Pidgey landed, but countered by whipping up a blinding cloud of sand. Meowth used her tail to gain height and jump over the sand, finally landing with several quick swipes at Pidgey. The nimble cat landed aside.

Suddenly, Pidgey started to glow a bright white. The trainer could visibly see it change form. When the glow wore off, the bird had grown in size and changed in appearance, now sporting a plume of red feathers atop its head, not to mention a more confident look in its black eyes.

Oh, snap...” Lisa used her Pokédex to identify the newly evolved Pokémon. “Pidgeotto, the Bird Pokémon. Pidgeotto are not only more powerful than their less-evolved form, they are more aggressive as well.”

Well, this ain’t good…” Trying to hide her doubts, the girl put on a façade of confidence and shouted, “Don't back down, it may have evolved but we can still take it on. Use a Growl to weaken it first, then go for another Scratch to the wings!”

The little cat let out a surprising loud growl, which seemed to disturb the Pidgeotto. While the opponent was reeling, Meowth jumped in the fray and delivered a hard Scratch strike to the bird's wings. At this time, Lisa observed that the scratches and opened wounds that the bird had sustained before evolution had carried over to its current form. “Well, at least we're not starting from scratch...” She called out, “Okay, we'll use another Scratch on it and maybe that'll do the trick!”

This time, however, the Pidgeotto flew right at Meowth for a high speed Tackle. Both Scratch and Tackle struck the other Pokémon and both combatants were sent flying off. The two Pokémon looked severely weakened.

“It’s go time!” Lisa pulled out one of her Pokéballs and threw it at the injured bird. The Pidgeotto was drawn into the Pokéball with a flash of red energy, then the red and white orb landed on the ground. It wobbled for a few seconds, but it seemed like hours. Finally the ball clicked shut, emitting a low tone confirming the capture.

“Yes! I caught Pidgeotto!”

“Meowth meow meow!”

Lisa walked through a small building and entered a dark forest. The trees branched out so far it was nearly impossible to see the sky above the green foliage. The dirt path was almost completely overrun with weeds and grass.

“Great. Doesn't the DOT do highway maintenance around here?” The girl threw her hands up in exasperation and dread. She figured that this dark, dense forest probably had more than its fair share of surprises.

“I better let Pidgeotto and Meowth rest for now...”

Suddenly she felt something crawl up her leg.

“Eeew! Get off me!” She shook off a yellow worm Pokémon with a large red nose. The tiny white stinger was aimed threateningly at Lisa, though the insect's vacant black eyes showed no indication of its disposition.

“Weedle, the Hairy Bug Pokémon: Weedle uses its stinger to defend against predators. It contains a strong poison.”

Lisa looked down and saw something she did not want to see at this point. “Gah! You lousy bug! You put a run in my pantyhose! I really liked this pair! Now you'll pay!” Grabbing her Pokéball, the girl said, “Sorry, I was gonna let you rest, but I need your help! Pidgeotto, go!”

Lisa released her newly caught bird Pokémon. “Use Sand-Attack so it can't aim its stinger at you!”

The brown Pokémon eyed the girl carefully, in particular focusing on her hat. It took a flurry of needles whizzing past to snap it back to reality.

Pidgeotto landed and used its wings on the dirt to blow up a large cloud of sand directly at Weedle. The bug Pokémon hurled itself stinger-first but missed and hit a rock, its pointed stinger caught in a crack in the gray stone.

“Now, hit it with Gust while it's immobilized!”

Weedle could make no move to avoid the blowing tornado. It instead managed to take the attack. In a fit of desperation, it fired some white silk out of its rear at Pidgeotto.

“Fly up to dodge it then use Gust for the final KO!”

Again staring quizzically at its trainer, the bird didn’t notice the incoming String Shot until the last minute. However, the agile Pidgeotto easily gained enough altitude to avoid the attack then delivered a final Gust to incapacitate the bug Pokémon.

“Oh, yeah! Lisa Northwood the exterminator racks up another win for cute outfits everywhere!” Lisa recalled Pidgeotto and watched the Weedle retreat back into the high grass with its remaining strength. “That's what you get for trying to mess with a girl's outfit!”

Pidgeotto landed and began to coo at its new trainer, looking expectantly at the white hat atop her head.

Bending down, Lisa commented, “Wow, you must really like this hat, huh? Maybe later I’ll let you try it on…”

Just then another girl appeared from the grass. She had long blond hair and was wearing a red blouse and a black skirt. She was quite a bit taller than Lisa. “Hmm, I wonder what this girl wants?

“I saw your battles earlier, and I must say I'm impressed. My name is Alexis and I live here in this forest.”

“My name is Lisa and I just started training my Pokémon after I left Fort Barnes.”

“So you got a Pokémon from Professor Sequoia! So did I! I was wondering if you would battle with me using only our starting Pokémon.”

“Sure. I'll lead off with my Meowth,” Lisa said as she recalled Pidgeotto.

“Let me introduce you to my Squirtle! Go!”

Lisa looked at the little blue turtle and activated her Pokédex. “Squirtle, the Tiny Turtle Pokémon. Squirtle prefers defense, often retreating into its shell before launching powerful blasts of water.”

The reptilian creature rubbed its round head with its stubby left hand while staring at Meowth with its big brown eyes. A small curled tail stuck out from beneath its small brown shell.

That shell could be a problem... Meowth's claws probably can't penetrate that,” the teen realized. “Okay, we must hit it before it retreats into its shell. Quickly, use several Scratches on it!”

Meowth was able to hit Squirtle a few times with her claws before the small Water-type ducked into its shell. The cat looked at her trainer expectantly, but both were baffled as to how to penetrate the turtle’s protective covering.

“Water Gun now!” shouted Alexis at the small brown shell that held her Pokémon.

Squirtle used a shot of water to force Meowth off it. Meowth went flying into a tree. Bouncing off, the cat stumbled a bit before shaking her head to regain her balance.

Ouch! I hope she's okay!” the girl grimaced as she watched the attack hit her Pokémon.

Before she could recover, Squirtle blasted its opponent with more water before shrinking back into its hard, protective armor.

Grrr... As long as it remains inside that shell, I can't do a thing about it...Unless I try to chip away at its strength slowly...” Finally coming up with a plan “Okay, go in for another Scratch!”

Meowth jumped on top of the shell and continued to scratch away at it. Squirtle once again used Water Gun to force Meowth off it. However, this move also forced the shelled Pokémon out of hiding. Meowth took advantage, rushing in and swiping at her enemy. A swift punch to the face ended her assault. Both Pokémon were breathing heavily, both becoming exhausted.

“Next attack will settle it! Use Scratch!” Lisa commanded.

“Now use Water Pulse!” Alexis yelled.

The small turtle released a long, continuous stream of water, with ripples of energy running through it. The powerful long range attack hit Meowth before she could strike, causing the cat Pokémon to fall to the ground out of exhaustion.

I... I lost...?

“Oh, no!” Lisa cried, running over to her fallen partner. Lisa dropped to her knees and started to cry. “I… I can’t believe I lost… I’m so stupid! I’m pathetic… I can’t do this…” she whimpered. Lisa, with her head buried in her dress sobbing uncontrollably, was a sad sight indeed.

How could this happen? I... I never lost at anything... I... I failed... I'm useless... I... I'm sorry... Meowth...

After about a minute she realized that Alexis was still there. “No!” Lisa thought to herself, “She probably thinks I’m the world’s biggest idiot for breaking down like that!” Attempting to save face, Lisa stood up and turned to the girl that had beaten her, still fighting back tears.

“Wow, you just creamed me! You must be really good! Though you probably think I’m some sort of crybaby…”

“No, not at all. And you were pretty good, too. If you were just a bit faster, you would have had me. But, Lisa, you do realize that everyone loses sometimes, don’t you? It’s a fact of Pokémon training that someone’s going to defeat you. It’s hard to swallow at first, but you have to get used to it and accept that fact. Sorry if that sounded like a lecture, but I don’t want you getting hurt and embarrassed later on. You seem like a pretty nice person. Why don't you come to my place and rest up?”

Lisa took a moment to think. “There's something about this girl Alexis. Even in victory, she didn’t get up in my face and brag about it. In fact, she went out of her way to help me feel better about losing. I can tell she’s a really nice person. Of course, losing still feels like crud, but…” Lisa realized that she still hadn’t answered Alexis. “Crud, I've gotta say something!”

“Oh… Okay, sounds good,” she stammered quietly.

The two girls walked back to Alexis’ house, Lisa carrying her injured Meowth, still holding back tears. “I'm sorry for battling you so hard... Don't worry, we'll get you healed soon...”

Chapter 4: Rest Before the Fire

At the house, Alexis prepared a meal while Lisa took a shower in the bathroom. “Sorry, but I gotta get this gunk off me!

Finally free of the dirt that her body had accumulated, Lisa emerged from the bathroom wearing a green dress underneath a blue jacket – the reverse of the colors she had worn before. Placing her white hat back on her head, she opened up her cell phone.

“Mom, Dad, we got a problem…”

“Now wait a minute, how is this our problem?” was the response of the man on the other end.

“Well, part of it involves a former employee of yours; Thomas Junger, does the name ring a bell?”

“Yeah, that was the scumbag that tried to con us and kidnap our staff! But what does he have to do with your journey?”

“He tried to end my journey early by knocking me over the head with a tire iron. Fortunately he wasn’t able to hit me, but still… Nobody told me I would be risking my life here!” the girl shouted into the phone. She had purposely left out the detail of the gun; she didn't want to hear her parents' reaction to that fact.

“Everything all right in there?” called Alexis from the kitchen.

“Yeah, just talking with my parents!” Lisa answered. Turning back to her phone, she continued, “And apparently there’s a whole gang of criminals after me. I had to fight one of them earlier today. I don’t want to have to go through all this! This is too much to ask from any teenager, let alone me!”

“Lisa,” Mr. Northwood sternly responded, “you’re trying to hype up the situation so you can come home, aren’t you?”

“But I…”

“Don’t interrupt, young lady! Listen, I’m sure the ‘criminal gang’ you speak of is like the old Team Rocket, mostly harmless. And I’m fairly sure that your ‘meeting’ with Tommy was only with a look-alike, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Remember, he lived in South Carolina most of his life. What would he be doing over there? You are not weaseling your way out of this like you did summer camp. You’re older now and should be able to handle this. I mean, jeez, you handled four years of college in just two.”

‘But this is totally different!” the girl protested.

“Yes, and different is good. Just stick with it for awhile, you’ll soon warm up to it, just like your uncle Bill did.”

“But, Dad… I… lost… a battle today…”

“Well, good for you, Lisa!” was her father’s elated reply.

“Wait, losing’s a good thing? How do you figure that, Dad?!”

“Lisa, losing forces you to acknowledge your weaknesses and shows you what you need to do to get better. I know it’s a major blow to your ego, but honestly, you need some challenges in your life. Best thing for you to do is to recall how you lost and try to use that to help you better your skills.”

“Well, I’ll try, Dad. Anyway, guess who I ran into today.”

“Yeah, yeah, the guy you thought was Tommy, I know. It’s not him, just a case of mistaken identity. Anyone can make that sort of mistake. Listen, we’re in the middle of Charlotte-Douglas Airport and this isn’t a good time to call. So, we’ll call back later. Bye!”

“Yeah, bye…” the girl muttered. “I was going to tell you I met members of the Pokémon League but you won’t ever let me talk! Why do I even bother calling you?

Lisa covered her mouth to try and stifle the loud, sustained scream of anguish that followed. After she finished yelling, the teen gathered her wits and put on a façade of contentment as she got ready to have some lunch.

Stretching out and yawning, the girl made her way to the kitchen, where the blond-haired girl had fixed some turkey sandwiches.

Sitting over lunch, the two girls started a conversation. “So, Lisa, tell me a bit about yourself.”

Moving her hand to her face and stroking her chin, she started, “Well, I’m originally from South Carolina, and I’ve currently got a college degree in math.”

The other girl stood up with a surprised look. “College already? And you’re how old?”

“I’m fifteen,” Lisa replied, now rubbing the back of her neck, face turning a bit red. “This is the one thing I hate about being a child genius… Everyone’s in awe at the fact I’ve got a degree – well, except the Pokémon League officials, I suppose. Maybe I should just tell people I’m a really smart math nut, and leave out the college degree thing…

“Man, I’m only eleven, and I’ll admit I’m no good at math! Still…” she pondered as she took her seat again, “what’s a girl like you doing something like Pokémon training?”

Lisa sighed. “It’s my parents, but especially Dad. He doesn’t think I’m being ‘challenged’ enough,” she explained, making air quotes with her fingers as she said the word “challenged.”

“Well, you do have to admit, training does challenge you to step outside the box…”

“Doesn’t anyone think being a Resident Assistant for a bunch of freshman students is a challenge, especially when I’m younger than any of the students?! It’s hard juggling twenty-one hours of coursework, being a member of Student Senate and RHA, and keeping the quiet hours and alcohol policies enforced!” The girl was clutching clumps of her brown hair in her hands.

Once again, Alexis rose out of her seat, this time holding up her left hand. “Whoa, whoa, calm down there! I admit all of that sounds challenging; maybe that’s something you need to explain to your parents.”

“I’m sorry for that. But it’s too late to tell them now. After all, they’re already back in the Carolinas. Anyway, Alexis, are you taking the Pokémon League challenge? You should, you're very good,” Lisa started while taking a sip of a glass of fruit punch.

“I've been thinking about it. I think I'll set out in the next couple days or so. By the way, I noticed your Meowth doesn't have any long-range attacks. When it gets better I'll teach it how to use a Water-type attack called Water Pulse.”

Lisa cracked a smile for the first time since her loss. “Cool, thanks! I think it would help me a lot. I've been up against criminals who use Fire-type Pokémon.” She wasn’t expecting this other girl to do so much for her.

Alexis sat upright in her seat. “Team Thrash? Those guys have been skulking around the forest here lately. It’s hard to do anything with them patrolling the forest. Makes me think they’ve got something going on here.”

“Yeah, probably. I suspect they were behind the attack at Professor Sequoia's lab as well.”

“Yeah, I heard about that. From what I've heard, they are armed with guns as well as Pokémon and won't hesitate to shoot to kill. Better watch out. Oh, wait, hang on, let me check on your Pokémon.”

“I’ll come with you.” The two girls made their way to a back room in the house. Sitting on a brown leather sofa, the cat was happily eating some food that was laid out for her in a red dish.

“See, as long as the injuries aren’t too serious, a nice little rest is sometimes enough to get Pokémon feeling at a hundred percent again. Okay, I think your Meowth is feeling well enough. Let's teach her Water Pulse now.”

“Okay, sounds like a plan.”

Outside, the two girls had set up a mock firing range with empty cans of Mountain Dew and generic grape soda. For most of the afternoon, the girls set out to work with Meowth to try to get her to unleash large amounts of water in one concentrated shot. The first few attempts were feeble, as they amounted to little more than random spitting. The Pokémon let out a whimpering cry as she lowered her head.

“Don’t worry about it; it’s not easy for a non-Water-type to master a Water-type attack. From what I understand, your Meowth has to learn to store large amounts of water in her mouth and release it all in one concentrated blast.”

“Yeah, don’t worry, Meowth,” Lisa said, kneeling down and petting her Pokémon. “We’ll work hard so you can master that attack. Ready for another try?”

Perking up her ears, the feline Pokémon smiled and winked at her trainer. “Meow!”

On a stretch of Interstate 85 near Gaffney, South Carolina, a burgundy Buick Lucerne made its way down the southbound lane. As the four-door car moved to the left to pass a truck marked “D.M. Bowman” the woman in the front passenger seat spoke up. “Honey, Lisa sounded just a bit concerned when she called us back at the airport. You don’t think she’s in any sort of danger? I mean, she did mention Tommy, and you know how much trouble he’s been.”

“Well, I really don’t think it’s him. There are plenty of grumpy old guys around, and she probably just ran into one of them. But you know Lisa. She’s always trying to make things out to be worse than they actually are. Remember that summer camp incident? We had to foot a $290 hotel bill for that girl simply because she couldn’t be bothered to camp outside for one night!”

“I don’t know, she sounded awfully concerned. Now I know she has a tendency to be a drama queen, but there was something about her tone this time. And what you said about Team Rocket – you were really downplaying them. That girl who ended up defeating them did have an easy time of it, but she was incredibly strong. My point is, our daughter might really be in danger.”

Calmly, the man said, “Look, I told Lisa she was going to train Pokémon, and I’m not going back on that. She’s a smart enough girl; I’m sure she can handle it.”

His wife let out a heavy sigh. “I hope you’re right…”

By nightfall, Meowth had learned how to store enough water to shoot out Water Pulses of decent size and power. “It’s not yet a full-powered attack, but don’t worry,” Alexis assured. “It’ll get stronger with time. Oh, and do you see those rippling pulses that accompany the shots of water? I’ve heard that they contain psychic energy that will sometimes cause the target to become confused.”

“Confusion? Huh… What’s that like?” inquired Lisa, a puzzled look on her face.

“It’s a very strange thing indeed. The confused Pokémon doesn’t know what to attack. It may go after the target as normal, or it may attack itself, its allies, or even the trainers. It’s a really bizarre condition, but it’s short-lived. It may last long enough to turn the tables in battle though, so it’s a fairly useful tactic.”

As Meowth’s proficiency with the attack progressed, she started to unleash her water blasts with more intensity and speed. She also learned how to aim the attack with a good deal of accuracy. Not once did she accidentally drench the girls while aiming for a can, though a few bushes in the yard did get soaked.

“Your Meowth’s a quick learner!” Alexis complimented.

“Thanks. I think this one’s got a lot of determination after what she’s been through. Two trainers tried to do some serious harm to her. The first was a guy that used to work for Dad. He had already had been convicted of serious crimes. The second one was part of that Thrash group. So, I think Meowth just wants to do her best to stop these criminals.”

Alexis looked up and noticed the sun was beginning to set, creating a vivid sky colored in hues of yellow, orange, and red. “Wow, what a lovely sunset. But I guess that means that it’s time to call it a day. Let’s head inside and get some dinner!”

“Hey, that is a pretty sky. Okay, Meowth, you ready to take a break?”

“Meow, meow!” Wearing a weary smile, the cat motioned towards Lisa’ bag.

“Yeah, I guess you do want a rest after a long day of training. Okay, return!” Lisa took out the Pokémon’s Luxury Ball and recalled Meowth in a flash of red light. “Okay, we’re ready.”

After stretching out in front of the television for a bit, the two girls ate dinner. “My parents are out of town at a wedding. They’ll be back tomorrow afternoon and I’ll ask them then about going on the League challenge,” said Alexis while eating a slice of turkey from her microwave dinner. “And I really can’t cook all that well, so that’s the reason for the lousy meal.” The girl was running her blond hair through her fingers. “But I can cook well enough to sustain me if I go on this journey.”

“No, it’s perfectly fine… It’s not like I can cook either.”

“Really? How do you expect to eat while you’re on the road?”

“I’ve done some research,” Lisa answered, “and if I can keep a steady pace, I think I can manage to pass by a restaurant at least once a day. Only question is, is there going to be a hotel at the end of the day?”

The other girl nearly fell out of her seat. “Whoa, whoa, whoa! You may be this rich girl with all this money, but don’t you think that staying in hotels and eating in restaurants takes away from the ‘journey’ aspect of the ‘Pokémon journey’?”

“Wait… wha… What?” Lisa stammered. “I can’t be expected to do stuff like that! I thought this was all just about the training, that a system would be set in place to make sure trainers were properly fed and housed!”

“Well, according to my parents,” Alexis answered, a slight hint of annoyance in her voice, “this is also a journey to build your strength and character. It’s not enough just to make your Pokémon battle. You’ll be engaged in a battle of sorts as well. Only your battle will be providing for yourself as you try to make it through this region. And if you cop out and take the easy way out, do you really gain anything in the end?”

“I… I… really don’t know…” Lisa trailed off.

“Well, I shouldn’t hold that against you. I mean, sounds to me like you were thrown into this situation out of the blue, instead of actually wanting to set out training Pokémon. But, I do think that the whole journey will be a lot more rewarding if you try to challenge yourself to do new things.”

Lisa decided to throw her clothes into the washing machine before settling on the couch to watch some anime DVDs with her new friend. She had taken yet another shower and now wore a pink nightgown. “Well, at least for one night, I’ll be able to relax a bit.

For awhile, the two just sat silently on the couch watching several different series, becoming engrossed in the action on the flat-screen TV in front of them. When Alexis had put in her DVD of ‘Cardcaptor Sakura,’ Lisa finally spoke up. “You know, this version of ‘Cardcaptor Sakura’ is so much better than the one they showed on TV back home,” she commented while taking a bite of some potato chips.

“Yeah, from what I heard, they completely butchered the show in the US. At least in this region, they decided to leave well enough alone.”

“You know, once this journey thingie is over, I may need to look into buying some of my anime from stores around here!”

Silence once again took over as the girls once again became absorbed in the show. Both were sitting casually, with their heads resting on one of their hands. “Alexis seems like a nice enough girl, but I really can’t think of anything to talk with her about…

Yawning, Alexis told her companion, “Okay, I think I’ll head to bed. Don’t stay up too late.”

“Okay, Mom!” Lisa joked, before letting out a yawn of her own. “Well, scratch that – I guess I’ll be headed to bed, too.”

“All right, see you in the morning.”

The next morning, Lisa had put on her favorite blue floral dress. Along with it, she also wore her green cardigan, white hat, and, of course, a pair of white pantyhose. Slipping her feet into her black heels, she made her way downstairs to the dining room.

Stretching out as she entered the large room with cream-colored walls, the girl made her way toward the table, where Alexis had laid out a few strips of bacon for breakfast.

“Wow! Looks good!” Lisa exclaimed as she took her seat.

“Thanks!” her new friend replied as she also sat down.

“You know, I think I’ll set out today. The next town isn’t too far away and I’m hoping I can make it there by nightfall.”

“Well, Lisa, I’ll be a couple hours behind you, hopefully. But I think I’ll get the okay from my parents; it’s been a year since I got my Squirtle and I’ve had a lot of time to train her!”

After they finished eating, Lisa gathered her bags and both girls walked out to the main forest path. “Okay, looks like I’m off! Good luck on your own journey! Though next time we battle, I’m gonna win!” shouted Lisa as she began walking off.

“Well, I've got to return to the house and prepare to set out on my adventure. Hopefully I'll see you soon!”

“Bye! Take care!” The two girls waved at each other before heading their separate ways.

After making a new friend, Lisa was re-energized. She began to sing quietly to herself.

“And we can build this dream together
Standing strong forever
Nothing's gonna stop us now...”

But upon seeing the hike ahead, her excitement – and her singing – were abruptly cut off. The teen sulked as she looked at the path that lay before her. It was no different from before – a jagged, uneven dirt trail flanked on both sides with forests of towering green trees. The arcing branches and full leaves allowed little sunlight to reach the walkway below. “Oh, wonderful!” she shouted, throwing her hands in the air. “More stupid forest to work my way through! They could’ve built a mall here, but no…”

As she reluctantly began her hike, the girl’s mind began to wander. Inside her head, thoughts of her aching feet were fighting with the conversations from yesterday for Lisa’s attention, but her meandering train of thought was interrupted by a shrill voice.

“Hey girlie, I see you got Pokémon! What do you say to a battle?” A young boy, wearing a ball cap, white T-shirt, and blue shorts had jumped out in front of Lisa.

The girl gasped and took a step backward before recovering her wits. Frowning and placing her hands on her hips, she replied in an annoyed tone, “Excuse me, I have a name, you know, and that was rather rude of you. But, if it's a battle you want, I'll be glad to work out that equation. Koffing, you're up!”

Once the Poison-type was released from her holding device, she looked at its trainer apprehensively, frowning and staying close to Lisa’s side. The teen whispered, “Don’t worry, I won’t let anything bad happen. Just try to do your best.”

With those words of encouragement, the purple sphere gave Lisa a small smile before taking her position a few feet directly in front of her trainer, ready for the battle.

“Hah! As if that's any match for my Rattata! Go!” The rodent-like Pokémon was an all too familiar sight, especially considering the Rattata mob from the previous day. It opened its mouth and squeaked, showing off two short teeth. Standing on all fours, the tiny creature glared at its airborne opponent. Though the end of its tail was still curled, the appendage itself stood straight up.

The two purple Pokémon were ready for combat. “Okay, we'll start out by using Sludge!”

Koffing began spitting out large chunks of dark purple slime, but the Rattata easily darted around all of them and used a jumping Tackle on the airborne Poison-type. Although Koffing was hit directly, she simply brushed off the attack.

“Ha! Like that speed?”

“It's pretty fast... We'll have to find some way to slow it down. Let's let loose a Smokescreen to conceal ourselves then move in with another Sludge!”

A cloud of thick black smoke soon surrounded Rattata, and Lisa lost sight of it. “All right, let's launch some Sludge directly into the smoke cloud!”


Several large blobs of Sludge were fired into the cloud surrounding Rattata. The smoke eventually cleared, revealing a severely weakened foe, but one that was still willing to fight. The rodent-like Pokémon continued to squeak at

“Rattata, we have one more chance! Quick Attack!”

“Koffing, use Smog at the incoming Rattata!”

As Rattata ran toward Koffing, the purple orb prepared a poisonous cloud. The second after Rattata slammed into Koffing's expandable body, she let out a cloud of Smog. The tiny Pokémon suddenly developed a pained expression on its face and came crashing back to earth. Sluggishly tumbling about and gasping for air, it was unable to continue battling.

“Oh, no! Rattata!” The boy recalled his Pokémon, hung his head in shame, and muttered, “Beaten by a girl... no, worse, a girly-girl in a dress! I'll never live this down! Please don't tell anyone about this!”

“Fine, as long as you stop it with calling us 'girly'. I think you've found out that girls are not to be taken lightly.” With her arms folded across her chest and a scowl on her face, Lisa was clearly annoyed at this brat’s attitude.

“Ummm... okay... I'm sorry...” The boy ran away and disappeared into the forest.

“Rude much?” scoffed Lisa as she walked off in the other direction. She felt her handbag begin to wobble and vibrate, and without warning her Meowth appeared in front of her.

“Well, hi, there! Do you want some fresh air? Okay, let’s go. I really want to get out of this forest as soon as I can…”

“Meow meow!”

The pair attempted to make their way through the forest as quickly and quietly as possible, not making any noise that would disturb the Pokémon hiding within. Soon, trainer and kitten were presented with a tough choice. The path forked in two directions. The road to the left appeared to be the main one, as it was essentially the same as the path they had been on. In contrast, the route to the right was narrower, darker, and had much taller grass.

However, Lisa noticed something on the main walkway – Pokémon. A small purple Rattata was fleeing from a slightly larger yellow rodent who was launching electrical sparks at its prey. Eventually, the predator managed to strike down its hapless opponent with a bolt of electricity. The aggressor began punching its stunned foe before throwing its entire chubby body on the unconscious Rattata.

“No way am I getting involved in that mess… looks like a couple rats fighting over cheese. Let’s take this other path, even if it doesn’t look as nice. Careful, Meowth, the grass looks pretty thick and tangled here.”

However, it did not take long for the dark, sinister path to end in a clearing. But something was weird about it – the grass in this location appeared to be freshly cut. After observing the neatly manicured green grass for a moment, the girl looked up to see something just as suspicious. Her eyes grew wide as the sprawling sight spread before her.

Lisa was faced with a mysterious complex in front of her. It was surrounded by high stone walls topped with barbed wire. At the corners of the facility were what appeared to be guard towers. Oddly enough, despite the high security measures, Lisa found the front gate to be unlocked. “Well, doesn’t this place look rather suspicious…” Letting her curiosity get the better of her judgment, the girl entered the sinister installation.

As Lisa tried to pass the open gate of the facility, she felt something pull her back. “What’s that?!” She spun around and noticed that one of the loops on the decorative tie on the back of her dress was caught on a wire.

Wiping her brow, Lisa whispered to herself, “Oh, man, that had me scared for a minute!” She freed herself then took a closer look at the complex.

On either side of the complex stood a row of wood barracks. Between them was what appeared to be a boot camp or basic training camp. A fence of barbed wire was mounted horizontally about a foot off the ground. A high wall with three ropes draped over it was behind that. Beside the wall was a rock-climbing wall. The facility also boasted a weapons firing range. At the forefront, however, was a large red brick building flying the Team Thrash flag. A large Ford van was parked in front. Lisa watched as people and Pokémon alike were using the facilities for intense training. “Looks like some sort of boot camp. I better get out of here before something happens…

Suddenly Lisa felt two sets of arms grab her and cover her mouth. She started to let out a muffled scream, but stopped when one of the two uniformed men revealed a gleaming blade. Her heart stopped beating momentarily as she was taken by surprise. “What’s going on?!”

“I can’t believe you fell for that! You know, you really are a dumb girl. With those heels on we could hear you coming from a mile away!” cackled the man holding the knife.

Great… now I’ve been captured by these guys… what else could go wrong?! And where’s Meowth? She better be okay!” The girl began to squirm again, but she stopped as soon as the knife was placed on her neck. “Well, that’s it, I’m gonna die here…” she realized as she submitted to her captors. Lisa tried to suppress tears as she silently walked toward the brick building, with the guards dictating her every move.

As they approached the structure, Lisa tripped on a small rock. One of her captors removed her shoes and flung them aside. “It’ll be easier walking you to your holding cell without those cumbersome things on. But first…”

Both guards placed handcuffs on Lisa’s hands and feet, then slipped on gas masks. One of them took out a Pokéball and sent out the same plant Pokémon that Tommy had used against her. “Oddish! Use Sleep Powder on the girl!” The short blue Pokémon used its stubby feet to jump, releasing fine white particles from the plume of green leaves atop its head. That was the last thing Lisa remembered before blacking out.

“Meow?” Behind some bushes, the tiny cat had witnessed the whole incident. She kept herself hidden until she could see no guards. Once the way was open, she began making her way toward the main building.

Chapter 5: Evil Camp of Doom

When Lisa came to, she found herself seated on a concrete floor, still restrained by handcuffs and chains, in a cold, dark prison cell. Her bag, purse, and hat had been placed on a table outside the cell, with imposing steel bars and two burly guards preventing Lisa from getting to them. Accompanying the guards was a yellow mouse-like creature. Its beady black eyes moved back and forth in a shifty manner, with its bolt-shaped tail sticking straight in the air.

Lisa did a quick look- over of her outfit. Her clothes were left wrinkled but undamaged. Her stockings, while filthy on the bottom of her feet, had no holes. She sighed in relief, but was perfectly aware of the fact that the condition of her hosiery did nothing to improve her situation.

Another man rushed in. Lisa recognized him as Buster, the first Thrash member she battled. “You!” he announced, pointing to one of the guards. “The boss sent me to relieve you. You and your Pikachu may leave.”

“Right, Buster!” The man whipped out a Pokéball and summoned his Pokémon back into it before heading up the stairs.

“Oh, what irony is this?” Buster gloated. The very girl that handed me my most embarrassing loss is now caged under my direct supervision. We’re going to have a fun ol’ time!” He walked right up to the prison door, smiling wickedly at Lisa. The girl slid her body backward, not wanting to be anywhere near the man.

“Well, I guess you don’t want to play right now. Fair enough.” Buster noticed his partner beginning to rifle through Lisa’s backpack. “Stop that!” he commanded.

“Ah, come on, let me have some fun, too. Besides, ain’t nothing in here but a bunch of clothes and some fancy electronic stuff.”

Buster instructed, “I was told by the boss that he wants to be the one to go through her stuff, and nobody else!”

“Fine…” the other guard muttered.

Inside her dank cell, Lisa thought to herself, “Great... How am I gonna get out of this sitch? However, that one guard may be right. With those heels on, they can hear my footsteps coming and prepare for it. So the whole unlocked gate was just a ruse to trap me... Man, I’m stupid!” Lisa bowed her head and began to sob. “I… can’t believe this…”

“Shaddup! We’re not going to listen to your crying crap all damn day!”

“Yeah, just keep quiet and don’t bother us, or there’ll be hell to pay!”

The two men began conversing among themselves. “Hey, I caught a glimpse of the boss’s Pokémon. Call me crazy, but didn’t he used to have much stronger ones?”

“Yeah, but his boss, the guy in charge of everything, made all of his top officers turn in their Pokémon for some sort of experiment. Apparently the Pokémon he gave as replacements are first evolutions… Wonder what the heck he was gonna do with them in his experiments, though…”

Lisa turned away from the men and faced the gray concrete wall in front of her. She had no idea how she was going to get out of this. Her efforts to lay low had failed, and this was the price she would pay. The girl began praying silently, hoping her calls would be answered. Buster took notice and sneered. “Don’t waste your time. You ain’t got a prayer! Ha, I’m funny!”

Not in the least…” Gritting her teeth, Lisa’s growing anger gave her the strength to ask her captors, “So, what is it that you intend to do with me?”

“To tell you the truth, that ain’t for us to decide. Whenever the boss gets done with his important work upstairs, he’ll come fetch you himself. But I can imagine it’ll likely involve torture and finish up with your death. Have fun with that!”

Lisa shuddered, curling herself into a ball. So her fate would be death – that is, unless some sort of miracle happened to save her from this fate.

Suddenly Lisa heard the footsteps of someone in heels. The guard looked up, yelling, “What the hell’s that noise?”

Suddenly a pair of black dress shoes came flying at him followed by a barrage of coins. Both shoes hit him square on the head, knocking him down. Then Lisa spotted a familiar Pokémon. “Meowth! How’d you get in here?”

“Dammit! That cat’s gonna die!” growled Buster as he pulled a butcher knife from a holster on his belt. “Get up and help me catch this mangy fleabag!” he yelled to his partner, who was still rubbing his head in pain.

From inside the cell, Lisa watched nervously as the two guards lunged toward her Pokémon. Her entire body was shaking and her forehead was drenched in sweat. “Meowth, watch out!”

Using her jumping skills, the cat barely avoided being clocked by a guard’s right fist. As Buster tried to make his way toward the alarm switch, Meowth gave him several scratches to the face before jumping aside, narrowly dodging a swipe with the knife.

“Dammit, Pete, get your gun out!”

“A gun? Oh, no!” Lisa shrieked, her eyes opened as wide as they would go.

The second guard, now identified as Pete, fumbled for the handle of his gun. But Meowth would have none of that. The wily Pokémon planted her foot squarely in the man’s face, sending him falling backwards and crashing through a table.

“We can’t let that girl escape! The boss’ll be really mad if we do, and I don’t want to listen to his barking all over again!”

Still with gun in hand, Pete took aim at Meowth. But with the kitten constantly on the move, he couldn’t get a clean hit on her. One errant bullet missed his partner.

“Wha… Watch where you’re aiming that damn thing! Hit the cat, not me, nimrod!”

“Sorry, but that thing’s so fast… And I’m out of bullets!” As Pete reached into his pocket for more ammo, Meowth pulled off her version of a roundhouse kick, slamming her foot right into the face of the armed man. A bloodied Pete fell over backward, tumbling over a chair during his descent.

Though one of the men had been knocked unconscious, Lisa still looked on worriedly. Meowth wasn’t outnumbered anymore, but she was still out-muscled by the remaining guard. With Lisa still in handcuffs, she couldn’t begin to even wipe the sweat that now drenched her forehead, much less aid her tiny Pokémon.

“Why has nobody else come down here? Why the hell’d the boss make this room soundproof?” Buster wondered aloud as he lunged for the security alarm once again. Meowth leaped into the air and landed hard on Buster’s back, causing the guard to scream and fall to the floor only a few inches from his goal.

Getting back up, Buster took a look at his left arm. During that last hit, he had accidentally cut his own arm. Now boiling over with anger, he bellowed, “You little impudent! Now the gloves come off!”

Ripping open his shirt, the thug revealed his chiseled body. “I’ll beat you into submission, you fu-”

His threat was cut short when Meowth landed on his head and dug her claws deep into his face.

Buster clutched his face with both hands and yelled out in pain. Meowth delivered one final kick to his rear. The big man’s body slammed against the wall and his body slowly fell to the ground after the painful impact.

And just like that, there was silence. The two men lay on the floor, not moving. Lisa perked up. She knew this was her one chance at freedom – if the locks to her cell could be undone.

The cat Pokémon quickly jumped onto the cell door and used one of her claws to pick open the lock. After about a minute and a half the lock clicked open. Lisa, still restrained, struggled to her feet and hobbled to the cell door and forced it open by using the weight of her body and her handcuffed hands. As soon as the door was open, Meowth worked on picking the handcuff locks. As soon as she was free, Lisa bent down and hugged her Pokémon.

“Wow! You really are a great little Pokémon! Thanks a lot for your help! Wait, those look like my shoes!” Lisa said, looking at the two strappy black heels that had aided her escape. “Did you wear them all the way down here?”

Meowth nodded. “Meow meow!”

Lisa had to chuckle a bit at the thought of her Meowth wearing her shoes. But then she got back to business. She returned her shoes to her bag and pulled out a pair of soft white ballet slippers. She slipped them on. “These won’t make nearly as much noise as my dress shoes. I’m going to take these guys by complete surprise. Sorry, Meowth, but until I find a way back outside, I’ll need you back into your Pokéball.”

After recalling her Pokémon in a flash of red light, Lisa put on her bag, purse and hat and started walking down a dark corridor, then up some stairs. Just then she heard footsteps – most likely belonging to a couple of Thrash guards making their way down the stairs. Silently, Lisa sent out her Koffing.

“Okay, I need you to blow a Smokescreen in that direction,” Lisa said, pointing up the stairs. "But I need you to do it silently, without alerting those two guards heading toward us.”

Without making a noise Koffing blew a thick black cloud up the stairs. Lisa could hear the guards coughing. “Hey, what is that?!”

Lisa quickly summoned Koffing back into her ball and ran up the stairs while the guards were still blinded. As she headed up the stairwell she heard the guards. “Stupid leaky pipes! Why doesn't the boss keep this place maintained?”

Lisa reached the top of the stairs and burst through the door. She found herself in a plain-looking office. The muscular man at the desk jumped out of his office chair. “What?! You!? How did you escape? No matter. So, you are Lisa, the girl who's been snooping around Team Thrash's business. I am Fred, the team's Mission Commander! I am also the most incredible dog Pokémon Master you will ever meet! Awooo! Ruff! Ruff!”

The oddly barking man approached Lisa. Wearing all black except for the trademark red “T” logos on his helmet and shirt, it appeared as if he was wearing body armor underneath his clothes. He also wore a mysterious metal device on his back. As Fred continued to talk, Lisa pressed two buttons on her PDA – a voice recorder and a panic button.

“In case you were curious, we were the ones who headed up the attack on Sequoia’s lab. But the boss put those two newbies in charge instead of me… No! I've said too much! Whatever! You will battle me now! They call me the Dog Master, and I shall show you why! Growlithe and Poochyena, attack! Destroy her! Arf! Arf! Arf!” He called forth two dog- like Pokémon, one being the fiery orange Growlithe and the other being a small gray Pokémon with unusually large fangs. Both canines snarled and bared their teeth, a look of pure anger in their eyes.

“I hope you don't think you will get away with this. Meowth and Koffing, let's get started! Aim for Growlithe with Smog and Fury Swipes!”

The quick Meowth landed four harsh blows by slashing its claws, then jumped out of the way. Growlithe readied an Ember, but then Koffing's Smog hit, triggering a large explosion that rocked both opponents.

“Get a taste of Thrash technology!” Fred yelled, sticking a large syringe into Poochyena. The gray Pokémon began to glow. When the light wore off, Lisa could see she now faced a fully evolved form of the little wolf Pokémon, growing significantly in size. It started to bark and snarl furiously. Its red eyes immediately struck fear into Lisa, as she began quivering. Her Pokémon, however, stood strong.

“Like that? With this serum, we can force evolution whenever we like!”

“You creeps! You're fooling around with the natural biology of Pokémon! There's no telling what consequences it will wreak on its body chemistry!”

“Ah, go tell it to your lab professor, brainiac!” Fred sneered, arrogantly flexing his muscles.

“Koffing, continue using Smog on that Growlithe. Meowth, give Mightyena a wake up call. Use Pay Day, then Water Pulse to accelerate the coins.”

“Foolish girl! Growlithe, use Ember! Mightyena, Bite! Arf! Arf!”

Mightyena charged in at Meowth with teeth bared, but was sent backwards by a blast of water and coins launched by Meowth. It landed next to Growlithe just as Smog ignited another Ember attempt, triggering another explosion. When the smoke cleared, Growlithe was lying on the ground, completely spent. Mightyena was still in the fight. The hulking hothead recalled his fiery orange dog.

“Attack, Houndour! Get your dinner!” As soon as Fred sent his third dog-like Pokémon out, he injected another chemical into it. The Pokémon didn't evolve but it suddenly developed an extremely angry look on its face. Snapping its jaw furiously, the little Pokémon fired multiple Embers – right at Lisa. Only quick jumping kept her from getting torched.

“Hey, watch where you firing that!” she shouted, her face red with anger. “What did you do to that Pokémon?”

“Meet our Rage Inducer! It instantly raises the level of rage and hatred in a Pokémon, enabling me to do this! Houndour, Frustration! Awooooo!”

The vicious black dog rushed in, knocking both of Lisa's Pokémon and sending them flying.

“No!” Lisa looked on in horror as her Pokémon slammed against a wall. Lisa’s heart was racing and she was nervously fingering at her dress, trying desperately to figure out her next move.

Wearing scars from the recent hits, both of them looked badly hurt, but also had a look of determination on their faces.

“Yes! Wahahahaha! Like that, loser?!”

Both of Lisa's Pokémon eventually struggled back into contention. Lisa quivered as she stammered, “We can't take another hit like that... Okay guys, we need to hit that Houndour with a Water Pulse and Smog!”

Meowth was the first to strike with a Water Pulse, doing some serious damage to Houndour.

“Ember followed by Frustration! Ruff!”

Man, this guy is stupid… and his barking is getting really annoying...” Lisa thought to herself as Koffing's Smog triggered yet another explosion. Out of the smoke Mightyena came running and slammed into Koffing, followed by a barrage of small flames that struck Meowth.

All four Pokémon were severely weakened by the last few attacks. Each was breathing heavily. Both Lisa and Fred were tense, their fists locked and staring at the battling Pokémon with unwavering concentration. The battle had been deadlocked, and it was anyone’s game.

“Use Frustration and finish her! Awooo!”

“Dodge that then go after Mightyena with Scratch and Sludge!”

Both of Lisa's Pokémon jumped aside right before impact and went after Mightyena. After Scratch hit, Mightyena jumped aside but started to glow white again. This time, it reverted to its Poochyena form and promptly fainted.

“Ha! See ya!” Lisa taunted, pointing at her adversary.

“Gah! No! Houndour, finish her with a supercharged Frustration!”

As Houndour rushed in, Meowth launched a watery blast at Houndour, stopping it in its tracks. The Houndour fainted out of exhaustion, and Fred recalled it. “Damn you! You defeated my glorious dogs, you little bi-”

“Yes! We defeated him!” Lisa cheered, pumping her fist in the air.

“Don't be so sure! My little rapid-fire friend says otherwise!” Fred growled, reaching under his desk. He emerged with a Mac-10 machine gun and pointed it at Lisa. Suddenly he looked out of his window and noticed a large police truck smash through the base's front gates. A large group of police cars quickly followed. Fred quickly ran over to a console on the far wall. He flipped a red switch, opening up a skylight in the roof. He pressed a button on his gear. Two wings came out of the pack as well as two exhaust pipes. Using his jet-pack, Fred made his escape, but not before telling Lisa, “You have not seen the last of me... Unless I get chewed out so badly I break down...”

Just then a SWAT team broke down the door, followed by an investigator. The investigator walked up to Lisa. “I understand that you are the girl chosen by the Pokémon League to combat the Thrash threat. I am Agent Morgan. Once you are ready, meet me by my police cruiser.”

“Okay. Wait, which one's yours?”

“Mine is the Chevrolet Caprice. The rest of these officers use Plymouth Gran Furys.”

“Wait, I thought both the Caprice and Gran Fury were discontinued.”

“Yes, but there is a man who specializes in restoring those old police cars and... Just meet me at my car, okay?”


After recalling her Pokémon and putting her dress shoes back on, Lisa made her way past the old Plymouth police cruisers, eventually finding the one Caprice, an older, box- style one. Lisa figured it was probably an ‘88 or ‘89, similar to hers. Agent Morgan motioned for her to step into the front passenger seat. As she got in, she saw other officers escort the other Thrash agents out of the facility in handcuffs. She saw that one of them was the man named Buster, and she gave him a sly smirk as he was led past. He shot back an angry scowl before being shoved into the back of a Gran Fury police cruiser.

Inside the Caprice, Lisa immediately pulled out her PDA. “I just so happened to get a voice recording of the leader, Fred, during his pre-battle rant.” She played back the recording for Morgan.

Fred's voice came on. “In case you were curious, we were the ones who headed up the attack on Sequoia’s lab....”

“Thank you, um... what's your name?”

“Oh, sorry, It’s Lisa Northwood.”

“Anyway, thank you, Lisa. This recording is very incriminating.”

As he was taking notes the recording kept playing. Just then something caught Morgan's attention. “Wait, play that last part back.”

Lisa rewound the digital recording a few seconds. “Don't be so sure! My little rapid-fire friend says otherwise!”

“Excellent. We got him down for attempted murder as well. Lisa, let me download this into my laptop, then I'll send you on your way. I don't want to hold you up since I believe they'll try again to get that research data.”

After the download was completed, Lisa bid farewell to the investigator, then made her way north. Emerging from the forest on a dusty dirt road marked “Route 503”, she could see the next town in the distance. “That must be Bluefield City, the home of the first gym and the region's university.”

Lisa noticed a bulletin board. One flyer caught her attention. It read: “Fourtix Region Calculus Challenge: To be held Oct. 28 at 9:00 AM. Registrations accepted until start of event. Event to be held in New Math Building in Fourtix University.”

“That's tomorrow! I guess I should take a little break after what I've been through at this base.” Lisa released her Meowth from its Pokéball. “I see you're all rested up, sweetie. Let's get you a little exercise now.”

Lisa and Meowth headed down the road to the next town, Lisa once again singing.

“Now with you, out of the blue
Love appeared before my eyes with you
A dream come true
I never thought I'd realize what love was
what love was, what love was...”

Meowth just rolled her eyes as Lisa continued singing those cheesy songs she seemed to like so much.

Lisa walked down the short path to the next town. The city’s taller buildings loomed on the horizon as large gray blocks. The path into town was a desolate dirt path with tall weeds on either side, along with a few large leafy trees. Not much was there and she believed she would just be able to stroll into town…

But that would not be the case. A group of small Pokémon appeared, a mixture of blue and purple ones. The purple ones appeared to have larger ears and horns. The Pokédex identified them as male and female Nidoran. Before she could take another step, a larger purple Pokémon jumped out between the Nidoran and Lisa. It let out a loud cry and began waving its head angrily. A sizeable horn was located on its forehead. Lisa flipped on her Pokédex.

“Nidorino, the poison pin Pokémon: Nidorino is known for its aggressive nature. It prefers attacking with its horn, which can inject a poison into an enemy.”

“It’s probably trying to defend those Nidoran. Well, since I don’t feel like being poisoned, guess I better fight Poison with Poison. Koffing, you’re up! Use Smokescreen then Tackle!”

Koffing created a thick cloud of black smoke, and Lisa completely lost sight of the Nidorino. It let out another loud cry, and the other Nidoran retreated into the thick brush. Meanwhile, Koffing had already struck Nidorino with a Tackle. It attempted to retaliate with a Horn Attack but Koffing floated up and out of the way.

“Good work! Now, hit it with another Tackle while it’s still blinded!”

Koffing attempted another Tackle but was stopped short when Nidorino jabbed its huge horn into Koffing’s expandable body, which sent Koffing hurtling backwards. Koffing quickly recovered and came headlong at Nidorino again. Nidorino once again used Horn Attack, and both Pokémon were sent reeling from the attacks. As both Pokémon struggled to continue the fight, Lisa realized that Koffing could not sustain another direct hit like that, even with Nidorino weakened. Even though she already had a Poison-type, it was time…

“Go, Pokéball!” Lisa threw the spherical capturing tool at Nidorino, who was drawn into the orb by a flash of red energy. After wobbling for a few seconds, the ball clicked shut.

“All right! I caught Nidorino!”

Having caught another Pokémon, Lisa recalled Koffing and took the final few steps into Bluefield City.

Next Part ---->